British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 8

Testimony of George F. Stewart

Examined by the SOLICITOR-GENERAL.

8565. Your name is George Frederick Stewart?
- Yes.

8566. Were you the Chief Officer on board the "Californian"?
- Yes.

8567. And on Sunday, 14th April, at what time did you go off watch?
- Eight o'clock.

8568. Eight o'clock in the evening?
- Yes.

8569. Then, as we have heard, the Third Officer came on duty at 8 and took the 8 to 12 watch?
- Yes.

8570. I think you turned in, did you not?
- Yes, I turned in about half-past 9.

8571. Then your next turn of duty would come at 4 o'clock in the morning?
- Yes.

8572. Did you go on duty at 4?
- Yes.

8573. On the Monday morning?
- Yes.

8574. Relieving Mr. Stone?
- Yes.

8575. Did you find that your ship was stopped?
- Yes.

8576. And did Mr. Stone report to you what had happened on his watch?
- Yes, he told me very briefly.

8577. What did he tell you?
- He told me he had seen a ship four or five miles off when he went on deck at 12 o'clock, and at 1 o'clock he had seen some rockets.

8578. Did not he say how many?
- No, he did not say.

8579. Did not he say what sort of rockets?
- I asked him; he said they were white rockets.

8580. This ship would have been in the ice or near the ice too?
- Yes.

8581. Did you realise that your ship had stopped because the ice was dangerous?
- Well, it was not safe to go on at nighttime.

8582. When Mr. Stone told you that he had seen a ship some miles off which had been throwing up rockets, what did you suppose the rockets must have been for?
- I asked him what he did. He said the moment she started firing the rockets she started to steam away.

8583. (The Commissioner.) What steamed away?
- The ship that was firing the rockets.

8584. Fired the rockets and then started to steam away?
- Yes.

8585. (The Solicitor-General.) Did he tell you that five rockets had been observed, and then three more?
- I do not think he did.

8586. Just to return to the question I put to you - because you have not quite answered it. I ask you, as an experienced Officer, when you were told this ship which was in the ice had been throwing up white rockets at night, what did you suppose she was throwing up her rockets for?
- I thought what had really happened was she had seen a ship firing rockets to the southward, and was replying to them.

8587. (The Commissioner.) Will you repeat that to me? What did you think?
- I thought the ship he saw firing rockets was replying to some other ship to the southward.

8588. Replying? Do you reply to another ship by firing rockets?
- Well, my Lord, he told me he had called him up repeatedly by the Morse lamp and the ship did not answer.

8589. But I do not understand this replying by means of rockets. Did you ever hear of such a thing?
- Well, I never heard of such a thing, but he might have replied to let them know he had seen them.

The Commissioner:
You are supposing now something you have never heard of happening before.

8590. (The Solicitor-General.) Let me follow. Did it not enter your head when you heard this, that those might be distress signals?
- Yes.

8591. It did?
- Yes.

8592. What made you think they might be distress signals?
- Because they were rockets.

8593. They were from the description just what you would expect if they were distress signals?
- They were white rockets.

8594. And did Mr. Stone tell you he had reported to the captain?
- He told me he had reported to the captain, yes.

8595. At 4 o'clock - of course it was still dark - did you take the glasses and scan the surrounding water?
- Yes.

8596. Did you see anything?
- Yes, I saw a steamer to the southward.

8597. At 4 o'clock in the morning?
- Yes.

8598. What was it you saw at 4 o'clock in the morning?
- I saw two white masthead lights and a few lights amidships.

8599. Did you ask Mr. Stone whether this steamer you saw then was the one he had seen?
- Yes.

8600. You did?
- Yes, I did, and he said he had not seen that steamer before.

8601. So that, according to him, it was not the same steamer?
- Well, he did not know; he said he had never seen that steamer till I pointed it out to him.

8602. Now, just think a moment. Did not you ask Stone if he had thought that was the ship that had fired the rockets?
- Yes, I believe I did.

8603. You think you did?
- Yes.

8604. You gave a statement, you may recollect, to the Receiver of Wrecks?
- Yes.

8605. And when you asked Mr. Stone that question what did he say in reply?
- He said, "I do not know; I do not think I have seen that steamer before."

8606. I will put this to you. Is not this right? Did not you say, "I asked Stone if he thought this was the ship that had fired rockets, and he said" - that is, Stone said - "he did not think it was." Is that right?
- I do not know.

8607. (The Commissioner.) Did you read the statement that you signed?
- Yes.

8608. Just look at that paper and read from it what it was you signed. (A document was handed to the Witness.) Is that the paper you signed?

8609. (The Solicitor-General.) Is that your signature at the end?
- Yes.

8610. Will you kindly read what you will find at the back of the first page and then on the top of the second page?

The Commissioner:
Read it out.

8611. (The Solicitor-General.) "This was 4 a.m." Do you see that?
- "He called the captain, and the latter asked him whether they were company's signals. Stone replied he did not know. I asked him during our own talk were they distress signals, and he said he did not think they were. He said he had informed the captain on three occasions at intervals."

Go on. What I asked you to do was to read at the bottom of the page and the top of the next.

The Commissioner:
Mark it with a pencil.

The Solicitor-General:
Yes, I will. (To the Witness.) I beg your pardon. I was pointing to the wrong place. I think I have marked it now for you in the margin with pencil. (Handing the document to the Witness.)

8612. (The Commissioner.) Now read it aloud.

The Witness:
"I looked to the southward and saw a light. On looking through the glass I saw two masthead lights and a lot of lights amidships, apparently a four-masted steamer. This was 4 a.m. I asked Stone if he thought this was the ship he had seen, and he said he did not think it was."

8613. (The Solicitor-General.) He told you he did not think the ship you had pointed out was the ship that had fired the rockets?
- Yes, he did not think it was.

8614. Did you call the captain a little later on?
- Yes.

8615. About what time?
- About 4.30.

8616. When you called the captain did you tell him what Stone said he had seen?
- I told him that the second mate told me he had seen rockets in the middle watch.

8617. Not a rocket, but rockets?
- Rockets.

8618. What did the captain say to you when you said that?
- He said: "Oh, yes; I know."

8619. (The Commissioner.) Is that all he said?
- He said. "Yes, I know, he has been telling me."

8620. (The Solicitor-General.) That was all he said?
- That is all he said.

8621. Did the captain come on the bridge?
- At once.

8622. You were still stopped. Did you hear from him what his plans were?
- He talked about the possibility of going through the ice and proceeding on our voyage.

8623. Did not you ask him whether he was not going to see what that ship was that had thrown up rockets?
- Yes, after he had spoken about proceeding on the voyage I asked him if he was going to the southward to see what that ship was.

8624. When you asked him that, was the ship you referred to a ship that you thought had been in distress?
- Yes.

8625. When you asked him that, what did he say?
- He said, "No, I do not think so; she is not making any signals now."

8626. What time was it that this happened?
- Half-past four.

8627. When he came on the bridge could you see the ship that you had pointed out?
- Yes.

8628. That is the ship that Mr. Stone said he did not think was the ship that had thrown up the signals?
- Yes.

8629. Did you and the captain look at this other ship together?
- Yes.

8630. Did you tell the Captain that Mr. Stone, who had been on watch, thought this was not the ship that had thrown up the signals?
- No.

8631. You did not?
- No.

8632. Did the Captain say this: "No, she looks all right; she is not making any signals now"?
- Yes, I believe those were his exact words.

8633. When the Captain said: "She looks all right," what was he referring to?
- She just looked like an ordinary steamer stopped.

8634. The Captain was referring to the vessel you had picked up?
- Yes.

8635. Did not you tell the Captain that according to Mr. Stone, who had been on watch, that was not the steamer that had thrown up the rockets?
- No.

8636. You did not?
- No.

8637. Had you forgotten it?
- I do not know; I did not tell him that.

8638. If Mr. Stone, who was on the watch when it happened, was right, there was no comfort to be got from the fact that that steamer looked all right?
- He told me the steamer that had fired rockets had steamed away to the South-West, and he last saw her about two o'clock, just faintly with glasses; she steamed away from him.

8639. Then did you suppose that the steamer which you could see at 4.30 was the same steamer?
- I thought she might have drifted back - that she had found that she could not get through the ice.

8640. (The Commissioner.) Now, think about what you are saying. Do you want me to understand that you thought it was possible that the ship which had steamed away after throwing up the rockets had drifted back and was there before your eyes?

The Solicitor-General:
At half-past four?

8641. (The Commissioner.) In the morning? Do you want me to believe that?

The Witness:
I thought she might have come back, or she might have known something about the other ship.

8642. Have you ever made that suggestion to a living soul until now?
- I do not believe so.

8643. It comes out for the first time in the last minute?
- I thought all the time that that ship had something to do with it or knew something about it.

8644. But you never told anybody so until now?
- No.

8645. (The Solicitor-General.) On that day you thought she might have drifted back?
- Or go back.

8646. Did you say drifted?
- Yes, but I did not mean it in that sense of the word.

8647. You did not mean drifted back?
- No.

8648. (The Commissioner.) What did you mean?
- That she had come back.

8649. She had steamed back?
- Yes.

8650. (The Solicitor-General.) Anyhow, you and the Captain at half-past four in the morning were talking about this steamer as though it was this steamer which had thrown up the signals, although the Officer of the watch who had seen the signals told you it was not?
- Yes.

8651. And you never told the Captain of that mistake?
- No.

8652. (The Commissioner.) Did you ever say to Stone afterwards, "Why, that is the steamer of last night, and it has drifted back"?
- No.

8653. (The Solicitor-General.) It was a little later than that that your wireless people heard that the "Titanic" had sunk?
- Yes.

8654. When you heard that did it occur to you that the steamer that had been sending up distress rockets might have been the "Titanic"?
- Not the steamer we saw.

8655. That is not what I asked you. I will put the question again, if I may. When you heard that the "Titanic" had sunk that night, did it occur to you that that steamer which you had heard had been sending up rockets, might have been the "Titanic"?

8656. (The Commissioner.) Now, come; answer that question?
- No, I did not think it could have been the "Titanic."

8657. (The Solicitor-General.) Have you ever ascertained what the steamer was which was sending up rockets, if it was not the "Titanic"?
- No.

8658. It is your business to write up the logbook from the scrap log?
- Yes.

8659. Who keeps the scrap logbook, and where is it kept?
- It is just kept for the day, that is all.

8660. I am not sure that I understand. You do not mean there is a new scrap logbook for every day?
- It is all bits that are torn out and destroyed. The logbook is written up every day and the Officer signs it.

8661. Do you mean that at the end of the day when you have written up your log from the scrap logbook, you tear out the page of the scrap logbook and destroy it?
- Yes.

8662. (The Commissioner.) Day by day?
- Yes.

8663. (The Solicitor-General.) Are you quite sure of that?
- Yes.

8664. That was the practice, was it, on this ship?
- Yes.

8665. Now let me tell you at once why I press you about this. While you have been out of this room we have had in that box the Third Officer, and I have been asking the Third Officer why he did not turn back in the scrap logbook and read what was written for the previous day. He did not suggest to me that it would probably be torn out you know. Now do you suggest it is torn out day by day?
- Yes.

8666. Always?
- Always.

8667. (The Commissioner.) Is it a book with a back to it?
- No, it is only a small book with a paper back.

8668. Never mind; it is a book with a back to it. Is it the size of a penny memorandum book?
- It is about that wide and that long. (Demonstrating.)

8669. It is a sort of diary - something like a diary?
- Yes.

8670. And it is bound in a paper cover?
- Yes.

8671. So that if you wanted to do so you would have to tear out each page and throw it away?
- Yes, cut it out with a knife about a quarter of an inch from where the book is sewn into the cover.

8672. (The Solicitor-General.) Why do you do that?
- Because we only keep the one log.

8673. But why?
- By the company's instructions.

8674. (The Commissioner.) I never heard of this. Are you instructed by your owners to destroy the scrap log as the voyage goes along?
- Yes, my Lord.

8675. (The Solicitor-General.) Day by day?
- Yes.

8676. (The Commissioner.) Does your steamer belong to the same company that practically owns the "Titanic"?
- We belong to the Leyland Line, my Lord.

8677. Yes, I know, but is that part and parcel of the International Marine?
- A part of it, my Lord.

8678. That is to say, it belongs to the same company that the "Titanic" belonged to?
- I cannot say as to that, my Lord.

8679. I daresay you do not understand the arrangements between them, but you are part and parcel of the International Marine?
- Yes.

8680. And the "Titanic" was part and parcel of the International Marine?
- Yes, my Lord.

8681. Am I to understand that those instructions are given to all the steamers controlled by that company, that is to say, to the White Star, the Leyland Line, and others?
- I cannot say that, my Lord.

8682. (The Solicitor-General.) You are speaking of your own steamer?
- Yes.

Continued >