British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 11

Testimony of Charles Lightoller, cont.

13674. And on a fine night you would be able to see the whiteness?
- Yes.

13675. Was that the reason you repeated the message about growlers?
- Yes.

13676. Now we come to the last half-hour of your watch, from 9.30 to 10, I think. Just tell us what you were doing as regards ice, looking for ice during that time?
- At 9.30 or about 9.30 I took up a position on the bridge where I could see distinctly - a view which cleared the back stays and stays and so on - right ahead, and there I remained during the remainder of my watch.

13677. Were you looking out?
- Keeping a sharp look-out, as sharp as was possible.

13678. Looking out for ice?
- Looking out for ice and watching the weather; watching the conditions generally to see there was no haze which would rise that I should not notice, and, of course, keeping a sharp look out for ice as well.

13679. Were the conditions of the weather such that a haze might arise locally in one particular part of the field in front of you?
- Then I should have seen it.

13680. You thought that might be so and you were looking out?
- It could possibly have been so.

13681. Did that happen so during the rest of your watch?
- No, it was perfectly clear.

13682. Were you using glasses?
- Part of the time, yes.

13683. Do you in practice at night use glasses for the purpose of scanning the track you have to follow. Do you mean it was exceptional to use them?
- I mean to say that on this occasion, knowing there were no lights round the icebergs, you would naturally have a pair of glasses in your hand, but where there are lights about you do not use glasses; you pick them up with your eyes first.

13684. Supposing anybody's duty is to look out for ice at night what is your view as to the usefulness of glasses?
- With regard to picking up ice?

13685. Yes?
- It is rather difficult to say. I never have picked up ice at nighttime with glasses, so it is really difficult for me to say.

13686. (The Commissioner.) What were you using them for on the bridge?
- To assist me in keeping a look-out.

13687. Then you were using them; you were looking out for ice?
- I was looking out for ice.

13688. And you were using the glasses?
- Occasionally I would raise the glasses to my eyes and look ahead to see if I could see anything, using both glasses and my eyes.

13689. The question I understand is this: Do the glasses help you to detect ice?
- Well I should naturally think so, My Lord.

The Solicitor-General:
I am not quite certain whether you heard what the witness said.

The Commissioner:
He says "I should think so."

The Solicitor-General:
I meant before that; his previous answer.

The Commissioner:
I understood him to say that he does not use glasses as a Rule when he is on the bridge at night, but he did on this occasion.

The Solicitor-General:
I am anxious we should have it quite fair to him of course. I understand the witness to say that as a matter of fact he never has picked up ice with the help of glasses; it has never been his experience to see ice through glasses; but I gather he was both using his eyes and using glasses.

The Witness:

The Commissioner:
Put it to him in your own way, because the impression on my mind at present is this, that in his opinion glasses are useful for the purpose of seeing ice. That is the impression on my mind.

13690. (The Solicitor-General.) You see, Mr. Lightoller, I want to get your own view. You will tell us candidly and fairly, I am sure. First of all, in your own experience, when you have used glasses, have you in fact found ice with the help of glasses?
- Never. I have never seen ice through glasses first, never in my experience. Always whenever I have seen a berg I have seen it first with my eyes and then examined it through glasses.

The Solicitor-General:
I think that is what he said.

13691. (The Commissioner.) You are quite right, and do you say the same thing of ships' lights?
- There is no doubt about ships' lights. Personally I do not bother about glasses at all. I prefer to rely on my own eyes.

13692. (The Commissioner.) I am told that is right, and then if you want any detail you take the glasses up to examine the lights that you have already seen with the naked eye?
- Exactly, My Lord.

13693. (The Solicitor-General.) As I understand you, if it was a question of a light, you have no doubt at all that you would pick it up in the ordinary course with your eyes if you have good eyes before you would get your glasses on to it?
- Yes.

13694. But in regard to icebergs, you do not feel so sure?
- No.

13695. And on this occasion, during this half hour, you were, in fact, using sometimes your eyes and sometimes your glasses?
- Yes, exactly.

13696. That brought you up to the end of your watch at 10 o'clock. Was the speed of the ship maintained up to that time?
- As far as I know.

13697. I mean you gave no orders to stop it?
- None whatever.

13698. Did the night continue clear and calm?
- Perfectly calm, up to 10 o'clock, and clear.

13699. And so far as those conditions are concerned, was there any change up to the time you handed over the ship?
- None whatever. If I might say one fact I have just remembered?

13700. Do?
- Speaking about the Commander, with reference to ice, of course, there was a footnote on the night order book with regard to ice. The actual wording I cannot remember, but it is always customary. Naturally, every commander, in the night order book, issues his orders for the night, and the footnote had reference to keeping a sharp look out for ice. That is initialed by every Officer.

13701. Who was it that took the ship over from you at 10 o'clock?
- Mr. Murdoch.

13702. Mr. Murdoch, the first Officer: Just one further thing - You have spoken about the change in the temperature, and you have brought the change in the temperature down to 33 degrees at about 9 o'clock. Then you had another hour. Did you notice whether it went colder?
- I did; 1 degree.

13703. That would be getting down to freezing point?
- That was exactly freezing.

13704. 32 degrees. Do you remember what time you noticed it had got down to 32 degrees?
- No, I could not say. Most probably it was about 10 minutes to 10, when the quartermaster took the temperature of the air and the water by thermometer.

13705. Is that the duty, in the ordinary course, of the Quartermaster at 10 minutes to 10?
- Yes, every hour it is registered.

13706. At 10 minutes to the hour?
- Yes - every two hours I should say.

13707. When you handed over the ship at the end of your watch to Mr. Murdoch, just tell us, as carefully and fully as you can, what was the report you made to Mr. Murdoch? What was it you passed along to him?
- I should give him the course the ship was steering by standard compass. I mentioned the temperature - I think he mentioned the temperature first; he came on deck in his overcoat, and said, "It is pretty cold." I said, "Yes it is freezing." I said something about we might be up around the ice any time now, as far as I remember. I cannot remember the exact words, but suggested that we should be naturally round the ice. I passed the word on to him. Of course, I knew we were up to the 49 degrees by, roughly, half-past 9; that ice had been reported. He would know what I meant by that, you know - the marconigram.

13708. I will tell you what I want to know. Did you say anything to him at 10 o'clock about a calculation having been made by the Junior Officer or anything of that sort?
- I may have done; I really cannot recollect it now, I may have told him that Moody worked it out 11, or I may have told him half-past 9.

The Commissioner:
You yourself knew the boat was already in the ice region at this time?
- Yes.

13709. Did you tell Murdoch so?
- Yes, My Lord, as I say when he came on deck.

13710. What did you say to him?
- That we were up around the ice, or something to that effect; that we were within the region of where the ice had been reported. The actual words I cannot remember; but I gave him to understand that we were within the region where ice had been reported.

13711. (The Solicitor-General.) During your watch and while Mr. Murdoch had been off duty you had caused this calculation to be made and Mr. Moody had given you 11 o'clock?
- Yes.

13712. You thought half-past nine?
- Yes.

13713. And here you had sent a message up to the crow's-nest asking them to keep a sharp look-out for ice, especially small ice and growlers?
- Yes.

13714. You are handing the ship over at 10 o'clock to Mr. Murdoch who was on the bridge at the time of the accident. Now what I want to know is what was it you told him, as fully as you can, about ice?
- I am very sorry, but my memory will not help; I cannot recollect word for word, Merely that I gave Mr. Murdoch to understand that we were in the ice region; as to the actual words I said to him, I may have put it many ways - I cannot remember how I did.

13715. I follow you cannot give us the actual words, and your memory does not serve you to say whether you told him anything about your view that you had passed the meridian or Mr. Moody's view that you would not reach the position until 11 o'clock?
- No, I really could not say.

13716. Did you say anything to him about your conversation with the Captain and the order the Captain had given?
- Oh! Undoubtedly.

13717. You did?
- Oh, undoubtedly.

13718. You would report to him that the Captain had been on the bridge?
- Yes.

13719. As far as you remember did you report anything about orders as to speed?
- No orders. No orders were passed on about speed.

13720. (The Commissioner.) Did you tell him what message you had sent to the crow's-nest?
- Yes, I did.

13721. You told Mr. Murdoch that?
- Yes, I told Mr. Murdoch I had already sent to the crow's-nest, the carpenter, and the engine room as to the temperature, and such things as that - naturally, in the ordinary course in handing over the ship everything I could think of.

13722. (The Solicitor-General.) We have to get at what is Mr. Murdoch's state of mind, with your help, because he is not here?
- I quite see.

13723. The captain had said to you only half-an-hour or 35 minutes before that if it got at all doubtful you were to send for him, and that he would be close by?
- Yes.

13724. Did you tell Mr. Murdoch of that message?
- Oh, undoubtedly.

13725. The captain's room, I think, is just at the side of the bridge there?
- On the side of the bridge, and the window facing right on to the bridge. The bridge is in clear view from his chart room.

13726. You have had great experience of the North Atlantic at all times of the year. Just tell me, when a liner is known to be approaching ice is it, or is it not in your experience usual to reduce speed?
- I have never known speed to be reduced in any ship I have ever been in in the north Atlantic in clear weather, not on account of ice.

13727. Assuming that the weather is clear?
- Clear.

13728. I think that is all you can tell us as far as your duties on the bridge are concerned. You had some duties to discharge before you turned in, had not you?
- Yes, I have to go round the decks and see everything is all right; what we call "going round."

13729. There is nothing material there?
- Nothing in reference to the case, no.

13730. Did you go to your room and turn in?
- Yes.

13731. And had you turned in at the time of the impact, the collision?
- Yes.

13732. I mean your light was out?
- Yes, My light was out but I was still awake.

13733. You were still awake?
- Yes.

13734. If you were awake you felt something, I suppose? Just describe to us what it was you felt?
- It is best described as a jar and a grinding sound. There was a slight jar followed by this grinding sound. It struck me we had struck something and then thinking it over it was a feeling as if she may have hit something with her propellers, and on second thoughts I thought perhaps she had struck some obstruction with her propeller and stripped the blades off. There was a slight jar followed by the grinding - a slight bumping.

13735. (The Commissioner.) You could not tell from what direction the sound came?
- No, My Lord. Naturally I thought it was from forward.

13736. I understand you to say you thought it was the propellers?
- On second thoughts it flashed through my mind that possibly it was a piece of wreckage, or something - a piece of ice had been struck by a propeller blade, which might have given a similar feeling to the ship.

13737. (The Solicitor-General.) As to this grinding noise which you speak of which followed the slight shock, can you give us any help at all how long the grinding sound or sensation continued?
- Well, I should say a matter of a couple of seconds, perhaps - a few seconds, very few.

13738. I understand it was not violent at all?
- Oh, no, not at all.

13739. (The Commissioner.) You were lying down at the time?
- Yes, My Lord. I had just switched the light out. I was going to sleep. I had switched the light out and turned over to go to sleep.

13740. (The Solicitor-General.) But you were awake?
- I was awake.

13741. When this occurred your mind naturally searched for a probable cause?
- Yes.

13742. Did you think of ice?
- I did.

13743. Just tell us what you did, in order?
- I lay there for a few moments, it might have been a few minutes, and then feeling the engines had stopped I got up.

13744. From where you were lying could you hear the ring of the telegraph?
- No.

13745. So that you did not know of the order given to stop the engines?
- No.

13746. But you felt that they had stopped?
- I did.

13747. And you got up?
- Yes.

13748. Did you go to the bridge?
- Not exactly the bridge; I went out on deck. The bridge, you know, is on the same level.

13749. On to the boat deck?
- On to the boat deck on the port side.

13750. Is your room on the port side?
- My room is on the port side.

13751. What did you find was the condition of things?
- Everything seemed normal.

13752. Was the ship going full speed ahead?
- Oh, no, but I mean the conditions on the bridge.

13753. It was my fault. What did you find was the position of the ship?
- I, first of all, looked forward to the bridge and everything seemed quiet there. I could see the first Officer standing on the footbridge keeping the look out. I then walked across to the side, and I saw the ship had slowed down, that is to say, was proceeding slowly through the water.

13754. This is all on the port side?
- All on the port side.

13755. Did you see any iceberg?
- No.

13756. Of course, if the iceberg passed the starboard side of the vessel, you were on the opposite side?
- Yes.

13757. When you came out on deck was the ship already stopped or slowing down through the water?
- She was proceeding slowly, a matter of perhaps six knots or something like that.

13758. Were the engines still stopped?
- I could not exactly say what the engines were doing after once I got up. It was when I was lying still in my bunk I could feel the engines were stopped.

13759. Can you help us as to whether the engines were put full speed astern?
- No, I cannot say I remember feeling the engines going full speed astern.

13760. When you looked over the side you thought she was going through the water about six knots?
- Yes, four to six knots. I did not stay there long.

13761. Just tell us what you did.
- After looking over the side and seeing the bridge I went back to the quarters and crossed over to the starboard side. I looked out of the starboard door and I could see the Commander standing on the bridge in just the same manner as I had seen Mr. Murdoch, just the outline; I could not see which was which in the dark. I did not go out on the deck again on the starboard side. It was pretty cold and I went back to my bunk and turned in.

13762. At that time you thought nothing was the matter?
- I did not think it was anything serious.

13763. (The Commissioner.) Well, you did think, as I understand, that she had fouled something with her propeller blades?
- Either bumped something or fouled something.

13764. Was not that serious?
- No.

13765. I should have thought it was?
- Well, it is in a way, My Lord. If it was sufficiently serious I knew I should be called. But what I mean to convey is, I had been on deck and looked both sides and had not seen anybody about, that is to say, everything was clear; there was nobody coming towards the quarters to call us or anything. The Quartermaster had not left the bridge. I knew that if they wanted us it was a moments work for the Quartermaster to come along and tell us. Judging the conditions were normal, I went back and turned in.

13766. You thought it was safe enough to turn in?
- Oh, quite.

13767. (The Solicitor-General.) You say the first Officer and the Captain were both on the bridge?
- As I should judge from their figures.

13768. That was your impression?
- Yes.

13769. Is it usual to find the first Officer and the Captain both on the bridge in the ordinary course?
- Oh, yes; there is nothing uncommon about it, nothing whatever.

13770. Of course the first Officer is the Officer of the watch?
- Yes.

13771. You have told us how the Captain came to you while you were on your watch and I suppose you thought he had come to the first Officer in the same way?
- Well, of course I knew the bump had brought him out.

13772. (The Commissioner.) Was the Captain dressed?
- That I could not say. I do not think there was any doubt about his being dressed, because in the ordinary conditions, as the Captain said, he would be just inside, he would not turn in under those conditions. He would just remain in his navigating room where his navigating instruments are: chart books, etc., where he would be handy to pop out on the bridge.

13773. (The Solicitor-General.) Nobody blames you for turning in, you understand.
- No.

The Commissioner:
Oh, no.

13774. (The Solicitor-General.) But it is to get your point of view. You had noticed the ship had stopped, or at least the engines had stopped?
- Yes.

13775. And that she was going only six knots through the water?
- Yes.

13776. In mid-Atlantic?
- Yes.

13777. No other ship near?
- No.

13778. Did not that strike you at all?
- Oh, yes. I knew perfectly well that some extraordinary circumstance had occurred; that is to say we had struck something or our propeller had been struck.

13779. (The Commissioner.) Your curiosity was not sufficient to remain in the cold?

13780. To go on to the bridge?
- No, it was not a case of curiosity; it was not my duty to go on to the bridge when it was not my watch.

13781. (The Solicitor-General.) How long were you in your room after that before you did turn out?
- It is very difficult to say. I should say roughly about half-an-hour perhaps; it might have been longer, it might have been less.

13782. Did you go to sleep?
- Oh, no.

13783. (The Commissioner.) What on earth were you doing? Were you lying down in your bunk listening to the noises outside?
- There were no noises. I turned in my bunk, covered myself up and waited for somebody to come along and tell me if they wanted me.

13784. (The Solicitor-General.) Time is very difficult to calculate, especially when you are trying to go to sleep, but seriously do you think it was half-an-hour?
- That I was in my bunk after that?

13785. Yes?
- Well I did not think it was half-an-hour, but we have been talking this matter over a very great deal, and I judge it is half-an-hour, because it was Mr. Boxhall who came to inform me afterwards we had struck ice, and previous to him coming to inform me, as you will find out in his evidence, he had been a considerable way round the ship on various duties which must have taken him a good while. It might be less, it might be a quarter-of-an-hour. You will be able to form your judgment.

13786. He is the fourth Officer?
- Yes.

13787. How would his time of duty run?
- He was on duty till 12 o'clock.

13788. Ten to 12?
- Eight to 12.

13789. It was Mr. Boxhall who came to your room and gave you the information?
- Yes.

13790. What was it he told you?
- He just came in and quietly remarked "You know we have struck an iceberg." I said "I know we have struck something." He then said "The water is up to F Deck in the mail room."

13791. (The Commissioner.) Well, that was rather alarming, was it not?
- He had no need to say anything further then, Sir.

13792. (The Solicitor-General.) "The water is up to F deck in the mail room." It is quite fair of you to have told us why you thought it was longer, but I want to see we get it right from your point of view. I see when you gave your statement about this matter at that time your impression was it was a shorter time than half-an-hour?
- Did I?

13793. Yes, I have got down here six minutes?
- Oh, there must be some mistake, I think, in that.

13794. When you got that news it did not take you very long to turn out the second time?
- No, it did not.

13795. Did you go on deck?
- After dressing.

13796. Now just tell us what you saw, and what you found was the condition of things there?
- At this time the steam was roaring off.

The Commissioner:
You will be some little time yet, Mr. Solicitor?

The Solicitor-General:
Yes, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Very well. You have him on deck, and I think this is the time to rise.

(The Witness withdrew.)