British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 12

Testimony of Charles H. Lightoller, cont.

14086. And that is the position?
- Yes, somewhere about that. I cannot say exactly whether the third funnel was clear of the water or not. I am under the impression that was the position. I noticed the ship was quite at that angle. (Describing.)

14087. (The Solicitor-General.) Would you indicate with your other hand whereabouts you are when you are looking at it?
- Here. (Pointing.)

14088. You are somewhat about there?
- Somewhere about here.

14089. (The Commissioner.) You are, in fact, on a level with the top of No. 2 funnel?
- About that, My Lord.

14090. (The Solicitor-General.) As you looked at it then, could you tell us whether there were any lights burning on the part that was not submerged?
- I do not think so.

14090a. Your recollection is that there were not?
- Yes.

14091. (The Commissioner.) When the ship reached that point that you have just described, were many people thrown into the water?
- That I could not say, My Lord.

14092. (The Solicitor-General.) Did you continue watching the afterpart sufficiently to be able to tell us whether the afterpart settled on the water at all?
- It did not settle on the water.

14093. You are confident it did not?
- Perfectly certain.

The Solicitor-General:
Your Lordship knows a lot of Witnesses have said their impression was the afterpart settled on the water.

14094. (The Commissioner.) I have heard that over and over again. (To the witness.) That you say is not true?
- That is not true, My Lord. I was watching her keenly the whole time.

The Commissioner:
I had a difficulty in realising how it could possibly be that the afterpart of the ship righted itself for a moment.

The Solicitor-General:
Your Lordship may remember, perhaps, that the baker, who was on the ship at this moment we are now dealing with, and was climbing aft, said he heard the rending of metal - of metal breaking.

The Commissioner:
Yes, he was the man who got to the poop.

14095. (The Solicitor-General.) Yes, he climbed right aft; at this moment he would be on the poop. (To the witness.) Your evidence is that the ship remained stiff?
- Yes.

14096. Now just carry it on, did you continue watching her until she disappeared?
- I did.

14097. Just tell us what happened, as you saw it?
- After she reached an angle of 50 or 60 degrees, or something about that, there was this rumbling sound, which I attributed to the boilers leaving their beds and crushing down on or through the bulkheads. The ship at that time was becoming more perpendicular, until finally she attained the absolute perpendicular - somewhere about that position (Describing.), and then went slowly down. She went down very slowly until the end, and then, after she got so far (Describing.), the afterpart of the second cabin deck, she, of course, went down much quicker.

14098. You have spoken of these rumblings which you heard, which you attributed to the boilers losing their places. Did you hear anything which you would call an explosion?
- No. The only thing that I should attribute to explosions - which might have been attributed to explosions - was when I was, in the first place, sucked to the blower, and, in the second place, just, shortly before the forward funnel falling, there was an up-rush of certainly warm water, but whether it was caused by an explosion or what, I could not say.

14099. Of course, if you were under water at that time you were not in a very good position to hear it?
- No.

The Commissioner:
I do not know what the explanation of this supposed explosion is. What was it that exploded?

14100. (The Solicitor-General.) What would you say, Mr. Lightoller?
- It was either the cold water reaching the boilers, if boilers do not explode under those circumstances, which is quite an open question. Some say they do and a great many capable men certainly say they do not explode. If her boilers did not explode it was not from that, and must have been the rush of imprisoned air; and the heat would be caused merely through its coming from the stokehold.

14101. (The Solicitor-General.) One of the other Officers has some information to give your Lordship. (To the witness.) That was how it struck you and how you saw it at the time?
- Yes.

14102. You say you saw some six people who had got to this collapsible boat. Were they men?
- Yes.

14103. I think you said they were standing on it?
- As far as I remember yes, standing or kneeling.

14104. What happened to you?
- I climbed on to it.

14105. Then just tell us what was the course of events after that from your point of view?
- There were several people in the water round about us who struggled towards the boat and swarmed towards the boat and got on to it during the night occasionally. Of course we could not paddle that boat about; it was absolutely water-logged.

14106. I suppose it was shut up in the sort of sense that that little profile which is in your hand is shut up?
- Yes, just upside down like that bottom up (Describing.) Do you mean she was shut up like that?

14107. Yes?
- No, she is a flat boat like that. She consists of the shape of the boat and two bottoms divided into compartments which contain air. When the boat is turned over it is quite flat on the surface of the water.

14108. Like a raft?
- Exactly.

14109. There are six and you yourself were there and others got to it?
- Yes, as far as I know during the night. I did not count them. It was merely an estimate from other people. There were nearly 28 or 30 people on this raft in the morning.

14110. (The Commissioner.) Do not you know how many were taken off to the "Carpathia"?
- No, My Lord, I do not. We were taken into a lifeboat before we went on board the "Carpathia."

14111. (The Solicitor-General.) That is between the going down of the "Titanic" and dawn?
- Yes.

14112. (The Commissioner.) When were you taken off this collapsible boat?
- Just at daybreak.

14113. By what boat?
- I do not know the number.

14114. Were you all taken by one boat?
- Yes.

14115. And how many were in the boat that took you off when you got on board?
- I counted those myself; standing in the stern I counted 65 heads.

14116. That included those that had been taken from the collapsible?
- Including those taken off that boat, 65 heads. I could not myself see anyone who sat in the bottom of the boat. I judge there were at least 75 in the boat.

14117. Which boat are you talking of?
- The lifeboat; I do not know the number.

14118. (The Solicitor-General.) I have the evidence of the chief baker, a man named Joughin, who kept afloat in the water till dawn and he had told us at dawn he saw an upturned boat and made his way to it, and I think someone gave him a hand and kept him up in the water for some time. Is that the collapsible boat you are speaking of?
- I do not remember his being there.

14119. (The Commissioner.) How many were on this collapsible boat when you were transferred to the lifeboat?
- I did not count them, My Lord, but I have been given to understand since from the men who saw it and the men on the raft, that there were 28 or 30 on there.

14120. And then when you got into the lifeboat, the total number then on the lifeboat when you were added to those that were already there was 75?
- 75.

14121. So there would have been about 45 on this lifeboat when you approached her or when she approached you - that is right?
- Yes. I may say there were two lifeboats approached us.

14122. Did not you all get into one?
- We all got into one. This being the lighter one of the two, I chose it.

14123. You all got into her?
- Yes.

14124. (The Solicitor-General.) According to your figures about 45 people were on that lifeboat when you were taken off and put on board her?
- If the figures that there were 28 or 30 on the raft were correct. I do not vouch for those.

The Solicitor-General:
May I give your Lordship the reference. Joughin, on page 142 tells you what his view is of this boat.

The Commissioner:
That is the baker.

The Solicitor-General:
Yes. At Question 6085 he says, "Just as it was breaking daylight I saw what I thought was some wreckage, and I started to swim towards it slowly. When I got near enough I found it was a collapsible not properly upturned, but on its side, with an Officer and I should say about 20 or 25 men standing on the top of it. (The Commissioner.) With an Officer and what? - (A.) I should say roughly about 25 men standing on the top - well on the side, not on the top. (The Solicitor-General.) Do you know which Officer it was? - (A.) Yes, Mr. Lightoller. (Q.) Mr. Lightoller and you think about 20 or 25 people? - (A.) Yes. (The Commissioner.) Men, he said. (The Solicitor-General.) Yes, Men, My Lord? - (A.) Yes, all men."

14125. I daresay you will remember he said there was not room for him, and somebody recognised him. I think one of the cooks was on it, and held out his hand and helped to keep him afloat for a bit, and later on there was a lifeboat which approached and according to Joughin called out that there was room for 10 people. Do you remember that?
- No.

14126. (The Solicitor-General.) Your Lordship sees Question 6106, "They got within about 50 yards and they sung out that they could only take 10. So I said this to Maynard, 'Let go my hand,' and I swam to meet it, so that I would be one of the 10"?
- The only reference to numbers was this; when I saw the boats I could faintly distinguish them. I had my whistle in my pocket. I whistled by way of showing it was an Officer that was calling, and I asked them if they could take some of us on board, and I said if they could manage to take half-a-dozen - because we were sinking then - it would lighten us up so that we could continue afloat. That was the only reference to numbers I heard.

14127. I understand you cannot actually give us the number of the boat which this was?
- No, I never inquired.

14128. Were you transferred to her, and did you take command of her?
- I did.

14129. I think I can identify it, My Lord. It must have been boat No. 14, because your Lordship will find that a man named Scarrott has given evidence on page 26. I am not quite sure. (To the witness.) On this upturned collapsible boat, when the morning came and the lifeboat appeared, had any women got on to it at all?
- None.

14130. You are sure about that?
- Quite.

14131. Then I am afraid I am wrong about it. It must have been the other one.

The Commissioner:
The reference to page 26 is not right?

14132. (The Solicitor-General.) No, My Lord, I am sorry. (To the witness.) Could not you give us the name of anybody who was on board the lifeboat that you were transferred to and took charge of. You see, we want to trace it out?
- Oh, yes, Bride was on board, the marconi operator, of course; that is the boat that Phillips was on. There were two or three died during the night.

14133. (The Solicitor-General.) I think I can get at it, My Lord. (To the witness.) Did you ascertain that the lifeboat that helped you had already got some people from another collapsible?
- No, I do not think that was the boat; it was one of the later boats to be taken on board the "Carpathia," and therefore would be one of those that was turned adrift. It was the last boat to get to the "Carpathia," as a matter of fact, I think.

14134. Sooner than occupy more time about it now I will have it looked at, and we will try to work it out. If I may say so, the distribution of people in boats and what they did after the calamity does not appear to be very important.

The Commissioner:

14135. (The Solicitor-General.) It is important what happened to the boats before the calamity. We will leave it, Mr. Lightoller, and try to work it out. There are just one or two general things we want to know. Can you help us at all about this. There were third class passengers who, in the ordinary course of things would not use that boat deck at all. Now, as far as you saw, was anything done to help those third class people to get a fair chance. What happened?
- I am not in a position to say what was done, because I never went to a place that would justify me in saying whether anything was or was not done. There is merely the fact that I know there were plenty of third class passengers on the deck, and third class women that I helped in.

14136. You are sure of that?
- Oh, I am quite sure - great numbers of them. I naturally noticed - I could pretty well distinguish.

The Commissioner:
I suppose, Sir John, there are actual records of the numbers saved, about which there can be no doubt?

The Solicitor-General:
Yes, My Lord; the Attorney-General gave the figures.

The Commissioner:
I know in his opening he did, and I suppose they will be proved.

The Solicitor-General:
They can be proved.

The Commissioner:
The observation is that the percentage of third class passengers saved is much smaller than the percentage of first class passengers?

The Solicitor-General:

The Commissioner:
There is no doubt about that, apparently, if the Attorney-General's figures were right.

14137. (The Solicitor-General.) That is the position, yes. (To the witness.) There are two or three things one wants to ask about - those lights which you saw. You have told me about seeing a light and calling the passengers' attention to it?
- Yes.

14138. Now how did it bear?
- A white light about two points on the port bow; whether it was one or two lights I could not say. As to whether it was a masthead light or a stern light, I could not say. I was perfectly sure it was a light attached to a vessel, whether a steamship or a sailing ship I could not say. I could not distinguish any other coloured lights, but merely it was a white light, distinct and plain.

14139. Do you know whether your ship was swinging?
- I do not know.

14140. (The Commissioner.) Can you form any estimate of the distance of the light from the "Titanic"?
- Yes, My Lord; certainly not over 5 miles away.

14141. Was there any field ice or pack ice about the "Titanic" about this time, anything that could be seen anywhere?
- No, My Lord.

14142. Then there was nothing to prevent a vessel, as far as you could see, coming to the "Titanic"?
- Not as far as I could see. You are speaking of the nighttime?

14143. I am speaking of the time when you saw this light?
- Yes, My Lord.

14144. (The Solicitor-General.) How soon did you observe the light?
- I think it was when I was working at No. 6 or 8 boat - No. 6 boat, I should say, when I was helping the people into No. 6 boat.

14145. Did you observe it yourself, or was your attention called to it?
- No, I noticed it.

14146. And, as you said, you called attention to it?
- Yes.

14147. Other people saw it, too, I suppose. Did you continue to see it when you looked from that time forward until the ship went down, or did it disappear?
- I cannot say how long I noticed it. I saw it perhaps half-an-hour, probably about half-an-hour. I can recollect seeing it for about half-an-hour.

14148. Have you any recollection of thinking that it had disappeared?
- No.

The Commissioner:
Are you going to ask him about the rockets.

14149. (The Solicitor-General.) Yes, My Lord, I am going to ask him about that now. (To the witness.) Throughout the time that you saw this light, as far as you can judge, did it remain stationary, or did it move at all?
- Perfectly stationary as far as I can recollect.

14150. Now, then, about signals from your boat. You have rockets on board, have you not? Were they fired?
- You quite understand they are termed rockets, but they are actually distress signals; they do not leave a trail of fire.

14151. Distress signals?
- Yes. I just mention that, not to confuse them with the old rockets, which leave a trail of fire.

14152. Those are distress signals?
- Actual distress signals.

14153. What sort of light do they show?
- A shell bursts at a great height in the air, throwing out a great number of stars.

14154. What is the colour?
- Principally white, almost white.

14155. How are they discharged; are they discharged from a socket?
- In the first place, the charge is no more and no less than what you would use in a 12-pounder or something like that. In the rail is a gunmetal socket. In the base of this cartridge, you may call it, is a black powder charge. The hole down through the centre of the remainder is blocked up with a peg. You insert the cartridge in this socket; a brass detonator, which reaches from the top of the signal into the charge at the base, is then inserted in this hole. There is a wire running through this detonator, and the pulling of this wire fires that, and that, in turn, fires the charge at the base of the cartridge. That, exploding, throws the shell to a height of several hundred feet, which is nothing more or less than a time shell and explodes by time in the air.

14156. Had you yourself anything to do with sending up these distress signals?
- No, My Lord.

14157. Did you hear any order given about them?
- No.

14158. You merely saw they were being sent up?
- Yes.

14159. I think it was Mr. Boxhall, who is here, who had something to do with sending them up?
- I believe so.

14160. Did you notice at all how many were sent up or at what intervals?
- I should roughly estimate somewhere about eight at intervals of a few minutes - five or six minutes, or something like that.

14161. One at a time?
- Yes, all fired from the starboard side, as far as I know.

14162. You had a Morse apparatus on your ship?
- One on each side.

14163. For sending signals by flash?
- Exactly.

14164. Was that made use of?
- It was on the port side.

14165. The side you were on?
- Yes.

14166. Who did that? You did not do that?
- No.

14167. Was the morse signalling at the same time as the rockets or earlier or later?
- I really could not say whether it was during the signalling or after.

14168. Have you been in a ship where distress signals have been used before? Do you know their use?
- Yes.

14169. Are there signals of a definite kind and appearance that are known as distress signals?
- Yes, there is no ship allowed on the high seas to fire a rocket or anything resembling a rocket unless she requires assistance.

14170. If you had seen signals like those sent up from another ship would you have known for certain what they were?
- I have seen them and known immediately.

14171. We have heard something about companies' signals. Do they resemble these at all?
- In no way, to my knowledge.

14172. Would you have any difficulty in distinguishing one from the other?
- I never have had.

14173. I think you told my Lord as far as you could see there was no ice at this time within range of sight?
- No.

14174. When the dawn broke in the morning was there ice about then?
- There were several icebergs scattered about.

14175. (The Commissioner.) But anything in the nature of pack ice?
- Not that we saw then.

14176. (The Solicitor-General.) Did you see anything of the sort you call "growlers"?
- No.

14177. What you saw were bergs then?
- Bergs.

14178. What sort of distance did you see them off?
- I should say the nearest must have been at least 10 miles away. That is a pretty rough estimate. I cannot say with any degree of accuracy now what the nearest was, it may have been less.

14179. What sort of height would you judge?
- They ranged from a matter of 50 or 60 feet to perhaps 200 or 300 feet.

14180. There is one other matter. The Commander uses a megaphone, of course - a speaking trumpet?
- Yes.

14181. After these boats had been launched and left the side ship, did you hear any orders or call given to any of them?
- Yes.

14182. By whom?
- By the Commander.

14183. Through the megaphone?
- Yes.

14184. Did that happen more than once?
- More than once, yes.

14185. What was the order?
- To come back.

14186. Was he hailing any particular boats?
- No. I heard the Commander two or three times hail through the megaphone to bring the boats alongside, and I presumed he was alluding to the gangway doors, giving orders to the boats to go to the gangway doors.

14187. (The Commissioner.) When was this?
- During the time I was launching the boats on the port side, I could not give you any definite time.

14188. (The Solicitor-General.) You heard the orders given and you heard the orders repeated; could you gather at the time whether they were being obeyed or not?
- No.

14189. You did not know one way or the other?
- I did not know anything at all about it.

14190. I think that exhausts what I want about the actual incident?
- May I say one thing, Sir, which I forgot yesterday?

14191. Do?
- You were questioning me with regard to speed and asking had the Commander mentioned anything about speed. I have since recollected one particular instance if it does bear on the case at all. The Commander mentioned the fact and said: "If it does come on in the slightest degree hazy we shall have to go very slow." That was when he came on the bridge from 9 to half-past, when we were talking. You were particularly asking if there was any reference to speed. That was the only one.

14192. You have told us already that as far as your watch is concerned, it remained perfectly clear?
- Yes.

14193. Mr. Murdoch unfortunately has lost his life and some of the others, and you had better just tell us - did you hear after the accident in the course of that hour and a half or two hours from any of your superiors any information at all about how they did come to run into this iceberg?
- None whatever.

14194. No reference to what the weather had been after 10 o'clock?
- No. The weather was perfectly clear when I came on deck after the accident, and the slightest degree of haze on the surface of the water would have been very noticeable, or, rather, I might put it the other way; it is proved that there was no haze by some of the boats noticing from the waterline this vessel's lights. I think that has been mentioned, and if there had been the slightest degree of haze they would not have seen them.

14195. As far as you saw, did you see any change in the weather conditions at all while you were working, helping to get these boats out?
- Absolutely none.

14196. Right up to the time the ship went down is it your view that the conditions were the same as they were between 6 and 10?
- Precisely.

14197. Can you suggest at all how it can have come about that this iceberg should not have been seen at a greater distance?
- It is very difficult indeed to come to any conclusion. Of course, we know now the extraordinary combination of circumstances that existed at that time which you would not meet again once in 100 years; that they should all have existed just on that particular night shows, of course, that everything was against us.

14198. (The Commissioner.) When you make a general statement of that kind I want you to particularise: What were the circumstances?
- I was going to give them, My Lord. In the first place, there was no moon.

14199. That is frequently the case?
- Very - I daresay it had been the last quarter or the first quarter. Then there was no wind, not the slightest breath of air. And most particular of all in my estimation is the fact, a most extraordinary circumstance, that there was not any swell. Had there been the slightest degree of swell I have no doubt that berg would have been seen in plenty of time to clear it.

14200. Wait a minute: No moon, no wind, no swell?
- The moon we knew of, the wind we knew of, but the absence of swell we did not know of. You naturally conclude that you do not meet with a sea like it was, like a table top or a floor, a most extraordinary circumstance, and I guarantee that 99 men out of 100 could never call to mind actual proof of there having been such an absolutely smooth sea.

14201. But the swell got up later on?
- Yes, almost immediately; after I was in the water I had not been on the raft, the upturned boat, More than half-an-hour or so before a slight swell was distinctly noticeable.

14202. We hear of one lady having been very sea-sick?
- In the morning there was quite a breeze and we maintained our equilibrium with the greatest difficulty when the rough sea came towards us, and before we got the lifeboat alongside the "Carpathia" - I am pretty familiar with boats.

14203. Do not let me interrupt you; you were going to particularise the circumstances which you say combined to bring about this calamity. There was no moon, no wind, and no swell; is there anything else?
- The berg into which we must have run in my estimation must have been a berg which had very shortly before capsized, and that would leave most of it above the water practically black ice.

14204. You think so?
- I think so, or it must have been a berg broken from a glacier with the blue side towards us, but even in that case, had it been a glacier there would still have been the white outline that Captain Smith spoke about, with a white outline against, no matter how dark a sky, providing the stars are out and distinctly visible, you ought to pick it out in quite sufficient time to clear it at any time. That is to say, providing the stars are out and providing it is not cloudy. You must remember that all the stars were out and there was not a cloud in the sky, so that at any rate there was bound to be a certain amount of reflected light. Had it been field ice, had we been approaching field ice, of more or less extent, looking down upon it it would have been very visible. You would have been able to see that field ice five miles away, I should think. Had it been a normal iceberg with three sides and the top white with just a glimpse of any of the white sides they would have shown sufficient reflected light to have been noticeable a mile and a half or two miles distant. The only way in which I can account for it is that this was probably a berg which had overturned as they most frequently do, which had split and broken adrift; a berg will split into different divisions, into halves perhaps, and then it becomes top-heavy, and at the same time as it splits you have what are often spoken of as explosions and the berg will topple over. That brings most of the part that has been in the water above the water.

14205. Is there any other circumstance you wish to point out?
- No, I think that is all.

14206. Just let us put that together. It is dark, in the sense that there is no moon, with a bright, starlight sky perfectly clear, but there is no wind or swell, and if there had been there would have been some motion of the water against the bottom iceberg, which would have been noticeable?
- Yes.

14207. The iceberg, in your opinion, had probably quite recently turned turtle?
- Yes.

14208. And was displaying black ice with nothing white about it - that is it, is it not?
- That is about it.

14209. Does that, in your opinion, account for the man on the look-out not seeing the iceberg?
- Yes.

14210. Can you suggest what steps ought to be taken, or can be taken, to avoid the recurrence of such a calamity?
- I believe there are several.

14211. Let me put my question in another way?
- I understand your Lordship.

14212. But I will put it in another way - could you suggest any means that can be taken to enable the look-out man to see an iceberg of such a kind under such circumstances?
- It has been proposed to put searchlights on, but until we have practical experience with searchlights, I should be very loth to pass an opinion upon that.

14213. Is there anything else you can suggest?
- No, I do not think so, My Lord.

14214. (The Solicitor-General.) Supposing a ship, in these circumstances, did not go so fast through the water, would that make it less likely that these conditions would produce so serious an accident?
- Of course, if the ship was going slowly, the impact would be less.

14215. (The Commissioner.) If the ship had been doing what the "Californian" was doing, dead stopped, no calamity would have happened?
- No; had we seen the ice pack before we got into contact with the berg, or if we had seen one of the bigger bergs, or anything except just happening to find that one particular berg.

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