British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 11

Testimony of Charles Lightoller, cont.

13547. Then you mean at that time when he said 11 o'clock you had already formed a very rough judgment that you would get to meridian 49 deg. by about half-past nine?
- No, not till afterwards.

13548. Was it after he reported to you about his calculation, about 11 o'clock, that you checked it in your head?
- Yes.

13549. (The Commissioner.) I have taken it down differently. I had understood from you that when Moody told you that you would reach this ice-field about 11 o'clock, you had already calculated in your own mind that you would get there about 9.30?
- No, My Lord, I am sorry I conveyed a wrong impression.

13550. I have no doubt you are right, and I am wrong about it, but when did you come to the conclusion that you would get there as soon as 9.30?
- I really could not tell you the exact time. It was some time about 7 or 8 o'clock, probably. I really cannot remember, but I know it was after Mr. Moody had given me this time of his.

13551. I do not know what time it was that Moody told you you would reach the ice at 11?
- It was some time shortly after that I came on deck. I cannot remember the exact time.

13552. (The Solicitor-General.) When you got this time suggested to you, 11 o'clock, as I follow you, you made the calculation in your head?
- Exactly.

13553. You did not make a calculation on paper?
- None whatever.

13554. I daresay you can make the calculation back for us now.
- When the "Titanic" did strike the iceberg it was in longitude 50° 14' W.

13555. So she had passed the 49th meridian and passed the 50th?
- Exactly.

13556. If she struck the iceberg at 50º 14' W. at 11.40, 20 minutes to 12, given her speed, it is not difficult to say approximately when she passed the 49th meridian?
- It works out somewhere about half-past 9.

13557. That is what I thought. Then, of course, that was very important for you, as you were on the bridge and in charge until 10 o'clock?
- Yes.

13558. And being on the bridge, and in charge, would it be your responsibility to determine any question about reduction of speed?
- If I thought it necessary I should advise the Commander.

13559. But you thought the weather was clear enough and you could see?
- Perfectly clear.

13560. (The Commissioner.) What is a growler?
- A growler is really the worst form of ice. It is a larger berg melted down, or I might say a solid body of ice which is lower down to the water and more difficult to see than field ice, pack ice, floe ice, or icebergs.

13561. You did not know but what there might be growlers there. They are not nearly so visible as an iceberg, are they?
- No, naturally they will not be - that is, to distinguish them from icebergs with regard to size.

13562. A growler, I understand, is an iceberg which is very much submerged in the water and shows very little on the surface. Is that so?
- Their relative amounts above water and below are naturally the same.

13563. Yes, they are; but an iceberg is a mountain of ice standing up out of the water?
- Exactly.

13564. A growler is the same thing, but instead of standing high out of the water it stands a very little way out of the water; is that so?
- Yes, that is so, My Lord.

13565. Now can you see a growler ahead of you nearly so well as you could see an iceberg?
- No, My Lord.

13566. Now when you were in the vicinity of the ice, as you believed you were at 9.30 entering the dangerous field, did not it occur to you that you might run foul of a growler?
- No, My Lord, I judged I should see it with sufficient distinctness to define it - any ice that was large enough to damage the ship.

13567. (The Solicitor-General.) 21 knots is about 700 yards a minute. Is your view that you could see a growler at a safe distance at nighttime going at that pace?
- I judged that I could see a growler at a mile and a half, More probably two miles.

13568. (The Commissioner.) Is this leading to the suggestion that the look-out men are to blame?
- Not at all, My Lord. I must explain this if you will allow me.

The Commissioner:
Perhaps I interrupted.

13569. (The Solicitor-General.) I am glad he should add it. (To the witness.) Tell us what you were going to say?
- In the event of meeting ice there are many things we look for. In the first place a slight breeze. Of course, the stronger the breeze the more visible will the ice be, or rather the breakers on the ice. Therefore at any time when there is a slight breeze you will always see at nighttime a phosphorescent line round a berg, growler, or whatever it may be; the slight swell which we invariably look for in the North Atlantic causes the same effect, the break on the base of the berg, so showing a phosphorescent glow. All bergs - all ice more or less have a crystallised side.

13570. It is white?
- Yes; it has been crystallised through exposure and that in all cases will reflect a certain amount of light, what is termed ice-blink, and that ice-blink from a fairly large berg you will frequently see before the berg comes above the horizon.

13571. Now let me follow. Was there any breeze on this night?
- When I left the deck at 10 o'clock there was a slight breeze - Oh, pardon me, no. I take that back. No it was calm, perfectly calm.

13572. And there was no breeze. Was there any?
- As far as we could see from the bridge the sea was comparatively smooth. Not that we expected it to be smooth, because looking from the ship's bridge very frequently with quite a swell on the sea will appear just as smooth as a billiard table, perfectly smooth; you cannot detect the swell. The higher you are the more difficult it is to detect a slight swell.

13573. That means, then, does it not, that if you are on the bridge and you are relying on the fact that there may be a slight swell you really cannot tell from the bridge whether there is a swell or not - a slight swell?
- We look at it rather the other way - that, though the sea may appear smooth, we pretty well know that there is a swell, though it may not be visible to the eye, nor yet have any effect on the ship. It is a most rare occurrence -

13574. You mean there nearly always is a swell in the North Atlantic?
- This is the first time in my experience in the Atlantic in 24 years, and I have been going across the Atlantic nearly all the time, of seeing an absolutely flat sea.

13575. Do you agree from that experience that this was an occasion when it was an absolutely flat sea?
- Absolutely flat.

13576. (The Commissioner.) Not in fact, but to all appearance?
- In fact, My Lord.

The Solicitor-General:
He means in fact, My Lord.

13577. (The Commissioner.) Do you mean there was no swell at all?
- I mean to say that the sea was so absolutely flat that when we lowered the boats down we had to actually overhaul the tackles to unhook them, because there was not the slightest lift on the boat to allow for slacking, unhooked.

13578. (The Solicitor-General.) You have told me about the speed and about the direction. Now, there is a third thing. What about the temperature?
- The temperature had fallen considerably. As a matter of fact I happen to know exactly how much because when I relieved Mr. Murdoch after dinner he made the remark to me that the temperature had dropped 4 degrees whilst I was away at dinner.

13579. This is when you are at dinner in the middle of your watch?
- In the middle of my watch.

13580. He came and took your place?
- Yes.

13581. Your watch is from 6 to 10?
- Yes.

13582. What you have described hitherto, noticing the course and speed and giving directions to the Junior Officer and getting his calculations, did that happen before you went off to dinner?
- As far as I remember I asked for these calculations immediately after coming on deck. Yes, I think I am right in saying that I asked for these calculations immediately after coming on deck.

13583. That would be just after six o'clock?
- Yes, I have got it, I think. I asked for the calculations immediately after coming on deck and they were given to me about half-an-hour or three-quarters of an hour afterwards. It is very difficult to remember.

The Solicitor-General:
I quite follow, and you are helping us considerably.

13584. (The Commissioner.) Would that be about seven o'clock?
- No, I do not think that fits in with the time I went to dinner.

13585. When did you go to dinner?
- Dinner is at half-past six.

13586. Then it would be more like a quarter to eight?
- No I did not go to dinner at half-past six my Lord. Mr. Murdoch goes to dinner at half-past six and relieves me, I think, at five past seven, and I relieved him, I think, at 7.35.

13587. (The Solicitor-General.) That means that Mr. Murdoch, the first Officer, would be taking your place for half-an-hour between seven and half-past?
- Exactly.

13588. And after that you were in continuous charge, in fact, until ten o'clock?
- Exactly.

13589. (The Commissioner.) And from 7 to half-past seven there was a fall of four degrees in the temperature?
- Yes, My Lord.

13590. (The Solicitor-General.) Did you observe that at the time as something pretty sharp?
- Yes, a pretty sharp drop. It had been going down previously to that before I left the deck.

13591. When did you notice the fall in the temperature beginning seriously?
- Probably about half-past six.

13592. Very well; the fall in the temperature began at half-past six and a drop of four degrees between seven and half-past?
- Yes.

13593. Did you notice what the actual temperature was a little later by the thermometer?
- Yes, later on in the watch I think the Quartermaster two or three times told me what the temperature was in order that I might know when it got near to freezing point to send word to the engine room and the carpenter with regard to fresh water.

13594. Can you tell me what was the temperature which you were given and at what time?
- When Mr. Murdoch mentioned it to me as far as I recollect it had fallen from 43 degrees to 39.

13595. This is Fahrenheit I suppose, is it not?
- Yes; and then I sent word down to the carpenter about nine o'clock; it was then 33 degrees, and I sent word to the carpenter and to the engine room - for the carpenter to look after his fresh water; that is to say, he has to drain it off to prevent the pipes freezing - and to the engine room for them to take the necessary precautions for the winches.

13596. It is 33 degrees at nine o'clock. That is only one degree above freezing?
- One degree, exactly.

13597. What did that circumstance, the serious drop in temperature, indicate to you as regards the probable presence of ice?
- Nothing.

13598. You do not think it indicates anything?
- Nothing whatever; you may have it any time in the year, summer and winter, going across the Atlantic. It is not quite so noticeable in winter because the air generally is cold.

13599. (The Commissioner.) That may be, but is it not the fact that when you are approaching large bodies of ice the temperature falls?
- Never in my experience, My Lord.

13600. It does not go up I suppose?
- Well, though it may seem strange, it is quite possible for it to go up if the ice happens to be floating in slightly warmer water, or if the wind were to come round from the southward. You will frequently be passing through a cold stream, and if the wind comes from the southward you will almost invariably look out for a fog, owing to the warm wind striking the cold water. The atmosphere may be comparatively warm. The moment the wind comes back again to the northward you expect the weather to clear, and it will get very much colder, of course.

13601. (The Solicitor-General.) I have put together the facts you have given me. Have I got them right - that there is a drop of 10 degrees Fahrenheit in the course of two hours? You say it was 43 degrees when you went to dinner?
- That is 7 o'clock.

13602. And it was 33 degrees when you sent the message to the carpenter?
- About 9 o'clock; that is right.

13603. That is a drop of 10 degrees Fahrenheit in two hours?
- Yes.

13604. And a continuous drop?
- Yes.

13605. Does not that indicate anything at all as regards the probable presence of ice?
- Absolutely no indication whatever.

13606. Then I may take it that that fact of the temperature did not in itself make you any more cautious?
- Oh not the slightest.

13607. Well, it was now nine o'clock, and you had worked out in your head that you would probably get the 49 degrees meridian by half-past nine?
- Just let me correct that. It must have been a few minutes before nine, because I remember the Commander came on the bridge at five minutes to nine, and I told him then that I had already sent word round, so it was perhaps ten minutes or a quarter to nine, as a matter of minutes.

13608. Then that is a drop of ten degrees in less than two hours?
- Slightly less.

13609. (The Commissioner.) Did you draw his attention to the drop in the temperature?
- Yes, My Lord.

13610. Was anything said between you and him about it?
- Yes, My Lord.

13611. What was said?
- The Commander when he came on the bridge remarked that it was cold, and naturally I agreed with him, and also I mentioned in the course of conversation that I had sent round - I think I told him the temperature, and I told him I had sent to the engine room and the carpenter, Merely to indicate that the necessary duty had been done.

13612. Is that all that took place?
- No, My Lord. We had a conversation with regard to the weather.

13613. But had you no conversation with regard to ice?
- Well, I was coming to that, My Lord.

13614. (The Solicitor-General.) Had not you better tell us as accurately as you can what passed between him and you when he came on the bridge at five minutes to nine?
- I will.

13615. If you please.
- At five minutes to nine, when the Commander came on the bridge (I will give it to you as near as I remember.) he remarked that it was cold, and as far as I remember I said, "Yes, it is very cold, Sir. In fact," I said, "it is only one degree above freezing. I have sent word down to the carpenter and rung up the engine room and told them that it is freezing or will be during the night." We then commenced to speak about the He said, "There is not much wind." I said, "No, it is a flat calm as a matter of fact." He repeated it; he said, "A flat calm." I said, "Yes, quite flat, there is no wind." I said something about it was rather a pity the breeze had not kept up whilst we were going through the ice region. Of course, My reason was obvious; he knew I meant the water ripples breaking on the base of the berg.

13616. You said it was a pity there was not a breeze?
- Yes, I said, "It is a pity there is not a breeze," and we went on to discuss the weather. He was then getting his eyesight, you know, and he said, "Yes, it seems quite clear," and I said, "Yes, it is perfectly clear." It was a beautiful night, there was not a cloud in the sky. The sea was apparently smooth, and there was no wind, but at that time you could see the stars rising and setting with absolute distinctness.

13617. On the horizon?
- On the horizon. We then discussed the indications of ice. I remember saying, "In any case there will be a certain amount of reflected lights from the bergs." He said, "Oh, yes, there will be a certain amount of reflected light." I said, or he said; blue was said between us - that even though the blue side of the berg was towards us, probably the outline, the white outline would give us sufficient warning, that we should be able to see it at a good distance, and, as far as we could see, we should be able to see it. Of course it was just with regard to that possibility of the blue side being towards us, and that if it did happen to be turned with the purely blue side towards us, there would still be the white outline.

13618. (The Commissioner.) Then you had both made up your minds at that time that you were about to encounter icebergs?
- No, My Lord, not necessarily.

13619. It sounds very like it, you know?
- No, not necessarily, My Lord.

13620. You were both talking about what those icebergs would show to you?
- As a natural precaution. We knew we were in the vicinity of ice, and though you cross the Atlantic for years and have ice reported and never see it, and at other times it is not reported and you do see it, you nevertheless do take necessary precautions, all you can, to make perfectly sure that the weather is clear and that the Officers understand the indications of ice and all that sort of thing. That is a necessary precaution that is always taken.

13621. (The Solicitor-General.) There are one or two things about that I should like to be clear about. I caught you saying that you or the Captain said it was a pity there was not a little breeze because it would have shown an iceberg?
- Yes, it would have assisted.

13622. Then you both realised at the time, did you, that since it was a flat calm it would be more difficult to see the ice?
- As far as the case of the berg was concerned, yes, it would be more difficult; naturally you would not see the water breaking on it if there were no wind; and so you would not have that to look for.

13623. Do you remember when the Captain was on the bridge with you, did you tell him that as you made it out you would get to the danger zone, to the ice region about half-past nine?
- No.

13624. Was anything said about the time when you would get to it?
- Not that I remember.

13625. Mr. Moody had made a calculation which he had reported to you and you thought his calculation gave the position too much west?
- Yes.

13626. Did not you say anything about that to the Captain?
- Oh, no.

13627. Had you had any further calculation made at all?
- No.

13628. What was the basis upon which you were proceeding? Were you proceeding on the basis that you would expect to reach this region by half-past nine, or that you would not expect to reach it until 11 o'clock?
- I was working on the half-past nine. I probably thought that Mr. Moody had based his calculation on the actual position of some berg or number of bergs.

13629. How long was the Captain on the bridge with you? You say he came on the bridge with you about five minutes to nine?
- About 25 minutes or half-an-hour.

13630. If it was half-an-hour that would carry you to within five minutes of half-past nine?
- Yes.

13631. And during that time whilst he was with you was there any discussion between you at all as to speed?
- None.

13632. You were going full speed ahead at this time?
- Yes.

13633. About 21 1/2 knots as you think?
- Yes.

13634. And no question was raised between you as to speed at all?
- No question at all.

13635. The Captain left you about 20 or 25 past 9, you say. Did he say where he was going to, or where he had been, and so on?
- Yes. The Captain said, "If it becomes at all doubtful" - I think those are his words - "If it becomes at all doubtful let me know at once; I will be just inside."

13636. (The Commissioner.) If what becomes doubtful?
- The general conditions, My Lord, I suppose he would mean - if it were at all doubtful about the distance I could see, principally.

13637. You were relying at this time exclusively upon the look-out; you were not taking any measures to reduce the speed?
- None, My Lord.

13638. And therefore you were relying for safety entirely on the look-out?
- Yes.

13639. Now tell me again what this observation of the Captain meant, because I do not understand it.
- With regard to the word "doubtful"?

13640. Yes; what did he mean?
- It is rather difficult to define. It means to say if I had any doubt at all in my mind.

13641. What about?
- About the weather, about the distance I could see - principally those two conditions it would refer to. If there were the slightest degree of haze to arise, the slightest haze whatever, if that were to any degree noticeable, to immediately notify him.

13642. (The Solicitor-General.) I will take what you have just said. You said if the slightest degree of haze was to arise - that would be what was meant - you were to notify him?
- Immediately; yes.

13643. And then did you understand, and do you represent, that if the slightest degree of haze arose it would at once become dangerous?
- Well, it would render it more difficult to see the ice, though not necessarily dangerous. If we were coming on a large berg there might be a haze, as there frequently is in that position, where warm and cold streams are intermixing. You will very frequently get a little low-lying haze, smoke we call it, lying on the water perhaps a couple of feet.

13644. Do not misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that it would be necessarily dangerous in the sense that there would necessarily be an accident, but there would be a risk of danger, would not there?
- If there was any haze?

13645. Yes?
- Undoubtedly.

13646. The slightest haze?
- The slightest haze would render the situation far more difficult.

13647. Far more dangerous?
- Far more dangerous if there were ice.

13648. You told me that with those conditions of the weather you think that a growler might have been seen a mile and a half?
- Yes.

13649. If you could see a low-lying growler in those conditions a mile and a half, how far off do you think you could see an iceberg?
- A good sized iceberg?

13650. Yes. An iceberg big enough to throw ice upon your fore deck?
- Well a matter of 50 feet.

13651. 50 feet? You mean an iceberg 50 feet out of the water?
- Yes.

13652. How far off would you have seen an iceberg as big as that?
- At least a mile and a half or two miles - that is more or less the minimum. You could very probably see it a far greater distance than that. If it were a very white berg, flat topped or the flat side towards you, under normal conditions you would probably see that berg 3 or 4 miles away.

13653. I think I must press you a little about this. The Captain leaves you and says, "If it becomes at all doubtful let me know at once"?
- Yes.

13654. Surely that had reference to the risk of ice had it not?
- Yes, undoubtedly; undoubtedly that was referring to ice.

13655. Just taxing your memory now, do not you think there was any further conversation between you and the Captain during that half hour, about the risk of ice and the presence of ice?
- I have no doubt there was more conversation, Most probably we were conversing the whole time the Commander was on the bridge, but the actual words I really cannot recall to my mind except what I have given you.

13656. What was the very first thing you did after the Captain went in about half-past nine? Did not you send a message to the crow's-nest?
- Yes, I did.

13657. What was it?
- To keep a sharp look out for ice, particularly small ice and growlers.

13658. That was half-past nine?
- And I think I told them to pass that word on until daylight - to keep a sharp look out till daylight.

13659. Now did you send that message to the crow's-nest immediately after the conversation with the Captain?
- Shortly afterwards I think it was.

13660. (The Commissioner.) It was only five minutes you know between the Captain leaving the bridge and your sending that message, if you have given the right times?
- Yes, it was probably about that, My Lord, as near as I can remember.

13661. Now did you send that message in consequence of your conversation with the Captain?
- No, I thought it was a necessary precaution. That is a message I always send along when approaching the vicinity of ice or a derelict, as the case may be. If I know we are approaching the vicinity of a derelict, I send the word along to let them know what to look out for. It is just the same with regard to a Lightship, say the Nantucket Lightship; I tell them to keep a sharp look out for the Nantucket Lightship to give them an idea what they are looking for.

13662. What time was it dark on this night?
- I think about half-past six, between half-past six and seven.

13663. (The Solicitor-General.) Was this the first time during this watch, six to ten, when you had sent any message to the crow's-nest about any ice?
- The first; yes.

13664. And was it the only time as far as you are concerned?
- The only time.

13665. But as you have explained to us, it was a message you said they were to pass on to the men who relieved them?
- Yes.

13666. Cannot you tell us at all whether that message was in any way caused by or suggested by the conversation you had with the Captain?
- No, in no way whatever. It was not. I see your point, that having been talking with the Commander I should naturally take this precaution, but I may say that it was in no way suggested by the conversation with the Commander.

13667. Very well, I think you caused that message to be sent to the crow's-nest by one of the Junior Officers who was with you on the bridge?
- Yes, Mr. Moody.

13668. Did you hear him send the message?
- I did. I told him to repeat it.

13669. You heard him send it, and when he first sent it did he send it quite accurately?
- No, not quite.

13670. And did you then make him repeat it accurately?
- Yes.

13671. Now just tell the Court what was the difference, what was it you wanted to be right?
- Well, I told Mr. Moody to ring up the crow's-nest and tell the look-outs to keep a sharp look out for ice, particularly small ice and growlers. Mr. Moody rang them up and I could hear quite distinctly what he was saying. He said, "Keep a sharp look out for ice, particularly small ice," or something like that, and I told him, I think, to ring up again and tell them to keep a sharp look out for ice particularly small ice and growlers. And he rang up the second time and gave the message correctly.

13672. Of course if there was no swell so that you could not at all rely on the breaking of the water against the edge of an iceberg or growler, it would be particularly hard to see would it not?
- It would be more difficult if it was not of any size.

13673. Whereas an iceberg that is more out of the water, on a fine night you thought would probably show you some white side or white edge?
- Yes.

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