British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 7

Testimony of Herbert Stone, cont.

7962. Cannot you express any opinion?
- I should say that at different times she was going at different speeds.

7963. Well, what speeds? What was the greatest speed?
- I could not say.

7964. She was in a sea covered with ice?
- Yes.

7965. You could not make any way; at all events you did not make any way at this time; you were standing stationary?
- Yes.

7966. You thought she was steaming away?
- Yes.

7967. In the same condition of water that you were lying in?
- Yes.

7968. Did you really think so?
- I did. The only confirmation I had of it was the bearings of the compass. Two ships remaining stationary could not possibly alter their bearings.

7969. You were swinging round?
- We were slowly swinging.

7970. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) When you saw her disappear, did you think something had happened to her?
- No, nothing except that she was steaming away.

7971. Did you make any report to the Captain about this disappearance?
- When I sent Gibson down at two o'clock I told him she was disappearing in the S.W.

7972. (The Commissioner.) Did you say to Gibson "Tell the Captain she is disappearing," or did you say "Tell the Captain she has disappeared," which did you say?
- I could not have said that she had disappeared, because I could still see her stern light. I saw this light for 20 minutes after that.

7973. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) After she had disappeared, did you not make any report to the Captain?
- No.

7974. Are you sure?
- Not until about 20 minutes after that again.

7975. Well, you did, you see?
- I thought you meant at that moment.

7976. I beg your pardon. Twenty minutes later you reported to the Captain. How?
- About 2.40 by means of the whistle tube. I blew down again to, the Master; he came and answered it, and asked what it was. I told him the ship from the direction of which we had seen the rockets coming had disappeared, bearing S.W. to half W. the last I had seen of the light.

7977. In view of the fact that when you saw her stern light last you thought nothing had happened to her, why did you make this report to the Captain?
- Simply because I had had the steamer under observation all the watch, and that I had made reports to the Captain concerning her, and I thought it my duty when the ship went away from us altogether to tell him.

7978. (The Commissioner.) But why could not have you told him in the morning? Why wake up the poor man?
- Because it was my duty to do so, and it was his duty to listen to it.

7980. It was of no consequence if the steamer was steaming safely away?
- He told me to try and get all the information I could from the steamer. I got none and I thought it my duty to give him all the information I could about the steamer.

7981. Were you anxious about her?
- No.

7982. Was he anxious about her?
- No, as far as I could judge from his answers and instructions.

7983. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) I want to take you back. You remember those 20 minutes you told me you were talking to Gibson - not all the time, but you and he were from time to time having a conversation about the ship, after the eight rockets, that was between 1.40 and 2 o'clock; it was 20 minutes?
- Yes.

7984. Did anything of that sort pass? Did you say something of this sort to Gibson: "A ship is not going to fire rockets at sea for nothing"?
- Yes, I may possibly have passed that expression to him.

7985. Well, do you think you did?
- Yes, I think I did do so; it is quite possible.

7986. And were you talking about the ship all the time until she disappeared?
- No.

7987. Are you sure?
- Yes.

7988. Did you say this to Gibson, "Have a look at her now; it looks queer; she looks to have a big side out of the water"?
- No, I did not say she had a big side out of the water; he remarked it to me.

7989. He remarked that to you?
- Yes.

7990. Did you say, "Have a look at her now; it looks queer"?
- That is at the time when I told him the lights appeared to be altering their position with regard to one another. Yes.

7991. Did you think it looked queer?
- I merely thought it was a funny change of her lights, that was all. That was before I had looked at her through the binoculars.

7992. In view of the fact that this vessel had been sending up rockets, and in view of the fact that you said it looks queer, did not you think at the time that that ship was in distress?
- No.

7993. Are you sure?
- I did not think the ship was in distress at the time.

7994. It never occurred to you?
- It did not occur to me because if there had been any grounds for supposing the ship would have been in distress the Captain would have expressed it to me.

7995. (The Commissioner.) Never mind about the Captain. You are being asked about what you thought yourself. Do you mean to tell us that neither you nor Gibson expressed an opinion that there was something wrong with that ship?
- No, not wrong with the ship, but merely with this changing of her lights.

7996. Well, about this changing of her lights?
- That is when I remarked that the lights looked queer. The lights, I said, not the ship.

7997. The lights are what I call part of the ship. The whole thing, lights and all, make up the ship. You want me to believe, do you, that, notwithstanding these rockets, neither you nor Gibson thought there was anything wrong on board that ship; you want me to understand that?
- Yes.

7998. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) I went back for a moment, but I want now to take you to the later period, when you spoke to the Captain and told him that the steamer had disappeared?
- Yes.

7999. Will you tell me whether the Captain made any reply to that, and, if so, what?
- He again asked me if I was certain there were no colours in those lights whatsoever. I again assured him that they were all white, just white rockets.

8000. Can you explain why it was that the captain should again ask you if you were sure there were no colours in the lights?
- No.

8001. Have you no idea? You are a sailor?
- Yes.

8002. You had been taking part in this matter, so to speak?
- Yes.

8003. You were an onlooker paying careful attention, keeping those lights under observation, and then this question again comes from the Master. What did you think he meant by such a question?
- I did not know, except that he had the thought in his mind that they may have been company signals of some sort.

8004. But do you really mean that?
- That thought may have been in his mind; I did not say it was in his mind.

8005. Was it in yours?
- That they were company's signals?

8006. Yes?
- No, not that they were. They may possibly have been.

The Commissioner:
Would there be any significance in the lights if they were coloured as distinct from white, Mr. Aspinall?

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
As I understand it, white lights are distress signals; company's lights are very often coloured.

The Commissioner:
Would distress signals be coloured?

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
I have not got the exact wording of the regulation in my mind.

The Attorney-General:
I do not think there is anything about that in the regulations.

Mr. Laing:
I have them here.

The Commissioner:
"Rockets or shells throwing stars of any colour or description, fired one at a time at short intervals."

Mr. Laing:
Private signals are dealt with by section 733.

The Commissioner:
What is a private signal?

Mr. Laing:
A company's signal.

The Commissioner:
What sort of signal is it?

Mr. Laing:
It is a made up signal to show what particular line the ship belongs to.

The Commissioner:
But how is the signal different from distress signals?

Mr. Laing:
I think they burn different coloured flares or candles, or something of that sort. Sometimes they throw rockets. They throw balls, I know, sometimes - Roman candles.

The Commissioner:
But Roman candles do not go up in the air.

Mr. Laing:
No, but they throw up balls. It is dealt with by section 733 of the Merchant Shipping Act.

8007. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) After this conversation with the Captain through the tube, did you later see anything more?
- Yes.

8008. What did you do?
- At about 3.20, just before half-past three, as near as I can approximate, Gibson reported to me he had seen a white light in the sky to the southward of us, just about on the port beam. We were heading about west at the time. I crossed over to the port wing of the bridge and watched its direction with my binoculars. Shortly after, I saw a white light in the sky right dead on the beam.

8009. (The Commissioner.) How far away?
- At a very great distance I should judge.

8010. What do you mean by a very great distance?
- Such a distance that if it had been much further I should have seen no light at all, merely a faint flash.

8011. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Was it the same character of light as the rockets, or something quite different?
- It was so far away that it was impossible to judge.

8012. Did you think it could have come from the steamer you had been looking at before?
- No.

8013. It was something different, you think?
- Yes, because it was not on the same bearing, unless the steamer had turned round.

The Commissioner:
And were these lights rockets?
- I think not.

8014. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Did anything further happen between that time and the end of your watch?
- Nothing further.

8015. Your watch ended at 4?
- Yes.

8016. At 4 did you see the navigation lights of a steamer?
- After 4 o'clock.

8017. When after 4?
- Just after 4 o'clock - a few minutes possibly. The Chief Officer relieved me. I gave him a full report of everything I had seen and everything I had reported to the Master, his instructions, when the steamer disappeared, and the way she was bearing - the whole information regarding the watch. He looked over on the port beam, and he remarked to me, "There she is; there is that steamer; she is all right." I looked at the steamer through the glasses, and I remarked to him "That is not the same steamer; she has two masthead lights." I saw a steamer then just abaft the port beam showing two masthead lights apparently heading much in the same direction as ourselves.

8018. Do you know what that steamer was?
- No.

8019. That could not have been the steamer you have been telling us about I suppose?
- I should say not.

8020. I want you to consider this. You gave a full report, full information to the Chief Officer, and then he looks over the side and he says "There is that steamer; she is all right." According to the story you have told us you know, when you saw this other steamer's stern light disappear you thought she was all right. What was there in your story to the Chief Officer which led him to make this observation: "There is the steamer; she is all right"?
- I do not know what led him to make that observation.

8021. Why should he have said it, in view of the evidence you have given us here today you know? Do not you think you told the Chief Officer that you were fearful the steamer you had seen had gone down?
- No. I told him the steamer had steamed away from us in a south westerly direction.

Examined by Mr. SCANLAN.

8022. Did you obtain a certificate from the Board of Trade as a mate?
- As a first mate in steamships, yes.

8023. Was that certificate given to you after examination?
- Yes.

8024. When did you obtain that certificate?
- Last, December twelvemonth.

8025. Is not part of the subjects of examination the signals of distress and the signals to be made by ships wanting a pilot?
- Yes, the articles.

8026. That is one of the subjects in which you are supposed by the Board of Trade to be qualified before you get the certificate?
- Yes.

8027. I suppose before you sat for that examination, you read something about signals?
- I learned them.

8028. Do you mean to tell his Lordship that you did not know that the throwing up of "rockets or shells, throwing stars of any colour or description, fired one at a time at short intervals," is the proper method for signaling distress at night?
- Yes, that is the way it is always done as far as I know.

8029. And you knew that perfectly well on the night of the 14th of April?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
And is not that exactly what was happening?

8030. (Mr. Scanlan.) You have heard my Lord put that question. That was what was happening?
- Yes.

8031. (The Commissioner.) The very thing was happening that you knew indicated distress?
- If that steamer had stayed on the same bearing after showing these rockets -

8032. No, do not give a long answer of that kind. Is it not the fact that the very thing was happening which you had been taught indicated distress?
- Yes.

8033. (Mr. Scanlan.) You knew it meant distress?
- I knew that rockets shown at short intervals, one at a time, meant distress signals, yes.

8034. Do not speak generally. On that very night when you saw those rockets being sent up you knew, did you not, that those rockets were signals of distress?
- No.

8035. (The Commissioner.) Now do think about what you are saying. You have just told me that what you saw from that steamer was exactly what you had been taught to understand were signals of distress. You told me so?
- Yes.

8036. Well is it true?
- It is true that similar lights are distress signals, yes.

8037. Then you had seen them from this steamer?
- A steamer that is in distress does not steam away from you, my Lord.

8038. You saw these before this steamer steamed away from you?
- I saw them at the same time the ship started to alter her bearings.

8039. (Mr. Scanlan.) But for a long time while this ship was stationary like your own, you noticed at frequent intervals that she was sending up rocket after rocket?
- No.

8040. I thought that you told my learned friend that you had counted the rockets. Here is what you said. You said you had not your binoculars when the first rocket went up and you did not see the stars. Then you took your binoculars and you saw two other rockets and in each case you saw stars?
- Yes.

8041. Did not those come in fairly quick succession one after another?
- Yes.

8042. What do you mean by saying that you did not see them coming in quick succession one after another?
- I said that the ship was altering her bearing from the time she showed her first rocket; she commenced altering her bearing by the compass.

8043. Is not this accurate? When you came on to your watch at twelve o'clock this ship was stationary?
- Yes.

8044. And except for a change in her position towards 2.40 she was stationary all the time?
- No she was not stationary.

8045. Was she moving?
- She started to move as soon as I saw the first rocket. She was stationary up to that time. She was stationary by our compass, at least so far as I could tell.

8046. Do you mean to say she was swinging about?
- She was not swinging so far as I could tell; she was steaming away.

8047. But have not you said to Mr. Aspinall that you only noticed her steam away towards four o'clock?
- Certainly not; I made no such remark, I think.

8048. When did you send word to the Captain that you noticed her steaming away.

8049. (The Commissioner.) It is 2 o'clock?
- At 10 minutes past 1. I reported to the Master that she was altering her bearings, which was the same thing.

8050. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Altering her bearings did not mean steaming away?
- I do not see how two ships can alter their bearings when stopped.

The Commissioner:
You need not press this any further.

Mr. Scanlan:
No, my Lord.

Examined by Mr. HARBINSON.

8051. Did you notice this ship had a list?
- No, I did not.

8052. Are you sure?
- Yes.

8053. Did you tell Gibson to look through his glasses, and that the ship had a list?
- No; he remarked to me that it looked as if she had a list to starboard.

8054. Did you look?
- I looked.

8055. (The Commissioner.) Did you notice it?
- I did not. I remarked to him that it was owing very probably to her bearing and her lights were changing possibly. She had no list as far as I could see.

Examined by Mr. LAING.

8056. Did you ever see this vessel's green light?
- No.

8057. If she was going away S.W. she must have gone under your stern?
- No, she went across our bow.

8058. Were you turned round?
- We were slowly swinging.

8059. She could not cross your bow showing you a red light?
- Why not?

8060. Well, I do not think so; I may be wrong?
- That is the light she would show, her red light.

8061. If you turn round - heading W.S.W. I think you said?
- We were heading E.N.E. at the beginning of the watch and slowly turned round to W.S.W. When I lost sight of this steamer we would be heading then about W.S.W. and she would be about 2 points on our port bow. I saw then her stern light, not her red light. She shut in her red light.

8062. You must have seen her green light if it was showing, before she shut in her stern light?
- If she shut in her red light. I did not say she shut in her stern light. She did not shut her stern light in at all the whole period.

8063. You are head E.N.E.?
- Yes.

8064. She is abeam of you?
- She is on our starboard beam.

8065. With her red light open?
- Yes.

8066. Then you turned round?
- We slowly swung to port the other way, swinging through to southward.

8067. You came round that way?
- Yes, and brought her head -

8068. Right round this way?
- Yes to W.S.W.

8069. And she goes away to the S.W.?
- Yes as near as I could judge. That was approximate.

8070. She must open her green light to you?
- No.

8071. (The Commissioner.) Is not that so? She must have opened her green light to you?
- To steam away to the S.W.?

8072. Yes.
- No.

8073. Just follow it. Take that red book which perhaps makes it plainer, and put the two little boats on it.

8074. (Mr. Laing.) (Demonstrating with models.) Here is your ship heading E.N.E.?
- Yes.

8075. Here is a vessel showing her red light on your starboard beam?
- From the appearance of her lights, she was more that way, heading in the same direction as ourselves.

8076. Showing a red light?
- Yes.

8077. Now you began to turn round through the southward?
- Yes.

8078. Like this?
- Yes.

8079. How far did you get?
- To W.S.W.

8080. That is about it?
- Yes.

8081. Now where does she go to?
- To the S.W.

8082. She must, to go to the S.W., go round here?

8083. (The Commissioner.) She went across your bows?
- It was merely our swinging that brought her across our bows.

8084. Never mind, she did come across your bows.

Mr. Laing:
She must have done.

8085. (The Commissioner.) How did she do it without showing her green light?
- I did not see her green light at all. She ported. She shut in her red sidelight and showed her stern light.

8086. (Mr. Laing.) And came round like that?
- I did not see the green light.

8087. (The Commissioner.) She must have shown her green light, you know?
- We are heading W.S.W. and the steamer's stern was S.W. ahead of us. All we would see is her stern light. I did not see any sidelight, at all after she started to steam away.


8088. What kind of steamer did you judge her to be from the appearance of the lights you saw?
- A smallish steamer.

8089. Judging from the appearance of the lights, could she possibly have been the "Titanic" in your opinion?
- Not by any means.

8090. (The Commissioner.) Have you heard of any other steamer that was in that neighbourhood at that time?
- No.

8091. I daresay you have been asking everywhere for this steamer?
- There was no one to ask; no one to give us information about it.

8092. Have you been trying to find out?
- Only by watching the newspapers.

8093. Have you found it?
- No.

8094. You know the "Titanic" was there?
- Yes.

8095. (Mr. Robertson Dunlop.) And there was another steamer which you say was there the next morning?
- I saw three steamers the next morning.

8096. You said there was a steamer heading the same way as you were. How many funnels or masts had the steamer which you saw the next morning?
- I could not see anything about her, except her two masthead lights.

8097. Had the steamer which you have referred to, whose lights you saw, one masthead light or two?
- The first steamer I saw had one masthead light.

8098-9. If she had had a second masthead light could you have failed to see it?
- I think not; I was bound to have seen it.

8100. For how long had you this vessel's stern light under observation?
- From just about 1 o'clock to the time I lost her, I should say. The last light I saw must have been her stern light. It may have been the light at the end of an alleyway, or some bright light on deck.

8101. About how long do you think she was showing her stern light?
- About an hour.

8102. When you saw she was altering her bearing, was she also altering her distance?
- She appeared to be gradually getting further away from us.

8103. And what was the furthest she got away from you before you lost her lights?
- I could not say; it would depend upon the height of her lights above the waterline.

8104. Have you any idea how far away she was when you last saw her stern light?
- It is a very hard thing to say; I have no idea.

Re-examined by the SOLICITOR-GENERAL.

8105. (The Solicitor-General.) May I ask one question, my Lord? (To the Witness.) Do you suggest there was any time when you saw nothing but the stern light and the masthead light of this steamer without any other lights from her deck?
- No, I suggest no such thing.

8106. You do not suggest that?
- No.

The Commissioner:
I thought he did.

8107. (The Solicitor-General.) It is clear now he does not. (To the Witness.) And when you say you saw the light which you call her stern light, you mean you saw a number of lights at the afterend of her and you supposed one was the stern light?
- I took the brightest one to be the stern light.

8108. You have been asked questions how far the ship was away. Do you know any means on a dark night at sea by which you can see whether a light is a very powerful light some way off or a less powerful light not so far off?
- Yes.

8109. How would you do it?
- A powerful light generally throws a glow around it, into the surrounding atmosphere. The more moisture there is in the air the greater the glow you will see around this light.

8110. How much glow was there round these lights?
- Very little.

(The Witness withdrew.)