British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 12

Testimony of Charles H. Lightoller, cont.

14309. They are there for use when he thinks it desirable to use them?
- Precisely. You see, if I may point out, binoculars, with regard to lights, are extremely useful; that is to say, there is no doubt you will distinguish a light quicker. If you set a man to look out for a certain light, and he reports a light it is quite a matter for us to ring him up on the telephone and ask, "What character is that light?" The man may, on a clear night, see the reflection of the light before it comes above the horizon. It may be the loom of the light and you see it sometimes sixty miles away. He may just make sure of it with the glasses, because there is any amount of time - hours; there is no hurry about them on a clear night at all. You make absolutely certain then about the light, and so as to be in that position we ring him up to say exactly what it is; but when it comes to derelict wrecks or icebergs, the man must not hesitate a moment, and on the first suspicion, before he has time to put his hand to the glasses or anything, one, two, or three bells must be immediately struck, and then he can go ahead with his glasses and do what he likes, but he must report first on suspicion.

The Commissioner:
I took you off your line.

Mr. Scanlan:
Yes, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
You were asking him about the mile and a-half to two miles, and I want you to follow it.

14310. (Mr. Scanlan - To the witness.) What you said was that you could see an iceberg with the naked eye for from a mile and a-half to two miles, and I put it to you that with the glasses you could probably see it at a greater distance, and you agreed?
- I agree.

14311. Of course the same thing would apply to the look-out man as to you?
- Yes.

14312. At the rate of speed at which the "Titanic" was travelling, how long would it take you to cover the distance of a mile and a half?
- It works out at about five minutes - something about that.

14313. So that it is a matter of great consequence, do you agree, to have binoculars for look-out men?
- Do you want me to pass an opinion as to whether look-out glasses ought to have been in that crow's-nest? Is that it?

14314. (The Commissioner.) I do not think so; I will put it in the same form to you. He wants to know whether the look-out man ought to have the binoculars glued to his eyes?
- Oh, no, your Lordship, certainly not.

The Commissioner:
I do not know how you are to get those binoculars used advantageously unless they are fixed on to the man's eyes.

Mr. Scanlan:
I sincerely hope I did not put a question which raised that view as to my meaning, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Let us understand, Mr. Scanlan. This Witness, as I understand, says this: "Binoculars are put into the crow's-nest to be used, but not to be all the time at the eyes of the man who is on the look-out," and that is what I call being glued to his eyes.

Mr. Scanlan:
Yes, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
And the binoculars are only had recourse to when by the naked eye something has already been discerned; that is what I understand.

Mr. Scanlan:
Yes, My Lord, but which cannot be described or which the man cannot understand.

The Commissioner:
He wants to know more particularly what it is.

14315. (Mr. Scanlan - To the witness.) For the purpose which my Lord has been explaining to you is it not very desirable to have glasses provided for look-out men so that they can use them when necessary?
- It is a matter of opinion for the Officer on watch. Some Officers may prefer the man to have glasses and another may not; it is not the general opinion.

14316. I am not talking about the opinion of Officers in general, but the particular opinion which you entertain as to the usefulness of glasses?
- Yes - now I can answer you decidedly - certainly I uphold glasses.

14317. For look-out men? I am glad you do. Do you know now that a complaint was made at Southampton by the look-out man that glasses were not provided in the crow's-nest?
- I know of no complaint.

14318. Do you know there were not glasses in the crow's-nest?
- I do.

14319. You say there was no complaint made. You mean -

The Commissioner:
No, he does not; he says he knows of no complaint.

The Witness:
I meant to convey that impression, that there was no complaint - there was no right to make a complaint.

14320. Do you mean to tell me that if the look-out man goes into the crow's-nest and finds that here are no binoculars in the pocket or box or whatever it is, he has no right to come and say so?
- Yes, he has the right to come and report, and there the matter ends.

The Commissioner:
I call that complaining.

14321. (Mr. Scanlan - To the witness.) So far as you know it was not reported that there were not glasses?
- It was reported.

The Commissioner:
It is only a question of words.

Mr. Scanlan:
That is so.

The Commissioner:
He does not think a report is a complaint.

Mr. Scanlan:
I meant it in the sense of a report taken.

The Witness:
There was a report; I am sorry I misunderstood you.

14322. Can you explain to my Lord why, when such a report was made, glasses were not provided for the look-out man on the "Titanic"?
- No, I cannot offer you any explanation.

14323. If it had been a matter in your discretion, would you have provided glasses then?
- Had they been on the ship I might have done.

14324. Were there glasses on the ship available for the use of the look-out man?
- That I cannot say.

14325. Had you glasses on the bridge?
- We had.

14326. How many pairs?
- A pair for each senior Officer.

14327. How many pairs altogether; you have five or six Officers?
- A pair for each senior Officer and the Commander, and one pair for the bridge, commonly termed pilot glasses.

14328. So that there would be from time to time during the whole course of the voyage a pair of glasses available?
- On the bridge.

14329. On the bridge that could have been handed up or given to the look-out man.

The Commissioner:
Mr. Scanlan, I want you to know what is passing in my mind. It appears to me that whether those glasses were there or not made very little, if any, difference, because the man would not have them to his eyes, and when he did sight this thing it was too late to use glasses.

Mr. Scanlan:
My instructions are, My Lord, up to the present that the utility of glasses consists in this: you sight something, and do not know what it is; then you apply the glasses, and you are able to say whether it is an iceberg or a derelict.

The Commissioner:
That is quite right.

Mr. Scanlan:
That seems to be a most important thing, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
What I am pointing out to you is this: Here the thing was sighted at a time when lifting up glasses and looking to see what it was would have been of no use whatever; they were right on it.

Mr. Scanlan:
Except this; we do not know but that before the man discerned this object as an iceberg he may have seen some object, a speck, or a mast, or something.

The Commissioner:
That is not my view of the evidence; I think the look-out man rang out three bells the moment he saw something ahead.

Mr. Scanlan:
We are in this position yet, that we have not had here the identical man who rang the bells and who shouted, "An iceberg ahead, sir." So that it must be a surmise. I think I have indicated my point.

The Commissioner:
You are quite right.

The Witness:
I should like to point out that when I speak favourably of glasses it is in the case of a man on whom I can rely, but if I have a man in a case like this which Mr. Scanlan speaks of, a derelict or an iceberg, who is to put the glasses to his eyes before he reports, I most utterly condemn glasses. The man must report first and do what he likes afterwards.

The Commissioner:
I believe Mr. Scanlan that is right, it would be quite improper for a man who sees something ahead with his eyes, to wait until he has used glasses before he reports.

Mr. Scanlan:
Surely, My Lord, that would depend on the distance at which the object was seen; if it were seen 10 miles ahead with the ship going as slowly as some of those ships go.

The Commissioner:
We need not contemplate a case of that kind, it was not this case. Here the iceberg was right close to the ship.

Mr. Scanlan:
I shall be prepared at a later stage in the case to offer your Lordship evidence on this point, and it is in that view that I have pressed the matter so far.

The Commissioner:
Quite right.

14330. (Mr. Scanlan - To the witness.) This night you have described as being a particularly bad night for seeing icebergs. Is not that so?
- I do not think I mentioned that word "bad," did I?

14331. You did not mention that word, but I wish you not to misunderstand me. I am not purporting to give your exact words. You said it was realised at the time that it would be more difficult on account of there being no wind, and the sea being a level calm?
- Yes, that is right.

14332. Added to that you had the condition of there being no moon?
- Yes.

14333. And the other conditions which you described to my Lord. Were not these circumstances which would indicate to any experienced Officer that it was necessary to take extra precautions for safety?
- As a matter of fact we were unaware of the sea being flat. All the precautions were taken which we thought necessary.

14334. Do you say you were not aware then that the sea was flat?
- No.

14335. At all events, it was more difficult then than under normal circumstances to see an iceberg. You observed that yourself from six to ten?
- Yes.

14336. Although there were abnormal difficulties you took no extra precautions whatever.
- Have I said so?

14337. I suggest to you that you took no extra precautions whatever?
- But I did.

14338. Tell me what?
- I took the precaution, as I think I mentioned in my evidence, of taking up a position on the bridge in which everything ahead was clearly in view and maintaining that position for the remainder of the watch.

14339. That is so far as you were concerned for the remainder of your watch?
- Yes.

14340. And you think you would have seen an iceberg before the man in the crow's-nest?
- I do not know whether I should have seen it before them or not; I should have seen it in sufficient time to clear it quite sufficient.

14341. Can you give any explanation of the man who succeeded you not seeing it in sufficient time to clear it?
- I am afraid I cannot.

14342. If the weather conditions were as clear as you said they were while you were there?
- I am afraid I cannot give you any explanation.

14343. In addition to those conditions which you describe as abnormal you had a certainty that you were rushing into icebergs - into an ice-field?
- Oh, no.

The Commissioner:
That is your picturesque way of putting it.

14344. (Mr. Scanlan.) I will put it in less picturesque language, My Lord. (To the witness.) When you got the first warning that there were icebergs ahead your course was set in a particular direction; that is to say, the course of the ship?
- At noon, yes.

14345. Did you follow practically that course all through that day?
- Oh, no.

14346. Did the course which you followed lead you into the region from which the presence of ice was reported to you?
- The course set at noon?

14347. Yes?
- No.

14348. Did the course you were following up to the time you left your watch at 10 o'clock lead necessarily to a place where you expected ice?
- Where there was a possibility of seeing ice.

14349. Not only a possibility of seeing it, but a possibility and almost a certainty of running into it?
- Oh, no.

14350. (The Commissioner.) I do not think he could say that. (To the witness.) Before you left the bridge did you know you were making for a locality in which ice was to be expected?
- Quite so.

14351. (Mr. Scanlan.) Because you so stated to Mr. Murdoch when you were leaving the watch according to your evidence here yesterday?
- Yes. Let me explain my point and we will get it far clearer. You see we were making for a vicinity where ice had been reported as you say year after year, and time and again, and I do not think for the last two or three years I have seen an iceberg although ships ahead of us have reported ice time and time again. There was no absolute certainty that we were running into an ice-field or running amongst icebergs or anything else, and it might have been as it has been in years before ice reported inside a certain longitude.

14352. (The Commissioner.) I can understand that; it does not follow that because ice is reported you are going to have a collision with an iceberg?
- That is what I wish to convey.

14353. You need not trouble about that at all as far as I am concerned. The point which I understand is being put to you at present is this, that you knew you were steering into what I may call an ice-field, a district in which there were icebergs and growlers and field ice. That is what you want to put, Mr. Scanlan?

14354. (Mr. Scanlan.) Yes, it is, My Lord. (To the witness.) You knew you were heading there when you left the watch?
- Yes.

14355. Do you not think, then, it would have been desirable, especially as you say the conditions were abnormal, to have slackened speed?
- It has never been done in my experience.

14356. We have heard it from the Officer -

14357. (The Commissioner.) You do not answer the question?
- I answer from experience, no.

14358. (Mr. Scanlan.) We had evidence a few days ago from an Officer on another company's steamers that they have a regulation about taking extra precautions when they get into an ice-field, or when ice is reported ahead of them. Does your company, the White Star, issue any regulations to their Captains and Sailing Officers as to what they ought to do when they come into an ice region?
- No.

The Commissioner:
I should like to know this, Mr. Scanlan, if you can tell me. Do the German boats issue any such regulations?

Mr. Scanlan:
My knowledge does not extend to that, I regret, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
I doubt whether you will find any such regulations issued to regular liners. There was one witness who was here from the "Mount Temple," the Canadian Pacific line, a steamer which belongs, I suppose to the railway company.

Mr. Scanlan:
Yes, but a big carrying passenger steamer.

The Commissioner:
Are there such instructions issued to any regular British lines or German lines crossing the Atlantic?

Mr. Scanlan:
I do not know as to any German line, My Lord, but I have been informed that it is a customary thing to give instructions for British lines.

(After a short adjournment.)

14359. (Mr. Scanlan.) Can you tell us at what speed the "Titanic" was going when you left the bridge at 10 o'clock?
- About 21 1/2 knots.

14360. What was the indication from which you make that calculation?
- I judge from what I remember of the revolutions. I think, as far as I remember, the revolutions were 75, and I think that will give an average of about 21 ½.

14361. The speed was taken down, I understand, in the log?
- Yes, that would be kept in the scrap log.

14362. I do not suggest that you wanted to make a record passage on this occasion, but had not you all in mind the desirability of making a very good first trip, from the speed point of view?
- No, I am afraid not, because we know that in the White Star, particularly the first voyages - in fact you may say pretty well for the first 12 months - the ship never attains her full speed.

14363. Were not you on this occasion taking as much speed as you could get out of the "Titanic"?
- Oh, no, not at all; I am under the impression she was under a very reduced speed compared with what she was capable of doing.

14364. What maximum speed do you think you could have attained?
- Well, just as a matter of hearsay, or rather, what we estimated roughly, for instance myself, I judged that the ship would eventually do about 24 knots.

14365. Did you say yesterday that you were going at as high a speed as you could in view of the coal you had on board?
- Did I say so yesterday?

14366. Yes?
- I was not on the stand yesterday.

The Solicitor-General:
Yes, you were.

14367. (Mr. Scanlan.) You were being examined yesterday?
- Oh, yes; I beg your pardon. Not only with regard to shortage of coal, but I understand several boilers were off.

14368. Do you know any reason for those boilers being off?
- Merely that there was no wish for the ship to travel at any great speed.

14369. There was no reason, I take it, why you should not go fast; but, in view of the abnormal conditions and of the fact that you were nearing ice at ten o'clock, was there not a very obvious reason for going slower?
- Well, I can only quote you my experience throughout the last 24 years, that I have been crossing the Atlantic most of the time, that I have never seen the speed reduced.

14370. You were asked by my Lord this forenoon how an unfortunate accident like this could have been prevented in what you describe as abnormal circumstances?
- Yes.

14371. Is it not quite clear that the most obvious way to avoid it is by slackening speed?
- Not necessarily the most obvious.

14372. Well, is it one way?
- It is one way. Naturally, if you stop the ship you will not collide with anything.

14373. There was no reason why you might not slacken speed on this voyage, you were not running to any scheduled time?
- No.

14374. If you happened to be on the bridge in command yourself could you take it on your own responsibility to slacken speed, or would you require to communicate with the Captain?
- Communicate with the Captain.

14375. And the speed, therefore, could only be diminished by the Captain's orders?
- No, I would not go so far to say that the speed could only be diminished by that. Let me give you an instance. Suppose I had seen the smallest scrap of ice, supposing we had passed a little bit of the field ice that was knocking about on the other side of this pack ice, had I seen any indication of the vicinity; proof positive of the vicinity of ice, I should very probably have telegraphed myself at the same time that I sent word to the Commander.

14376. At the same time, as a matter of propriety and etiquette between Officers and Master; the proper thing, I take it, is to go to the master and make your suggestion to him and then let him decide?
- Well, I want you to fully understand me. In the ordinary course of events, hazy weather, weather coming in hazy - I am not speaking particularly of ice now - or nearing land, or anything for which you think it is desirable to slacken speed, or will be shortly desirable to slacken speed, you would communicate that to the Commander; but our instructions from the White Star do away with the necessity of notifying the Commander in any immediate danger; we immediately act, as I believe Mr. Murdoch did.

14377. Just tell me what your instructions are from the White Star?
- Well, I cannot quote you them word for word. They are in the Regulation Book, which I have no doubt you will be able to get.

14378. Is there anything mentioned in those instructions about what you should do when you are in a region in which ice has been reported?
- There is nothing that refers particularly to ice.

14379. Are you quite sure of that?
- I think I may say I am sure of that.

14380. Nothing at all in the regulations?
- But there is a regulation that covers ice and everything else.

14381. I take you to the regulation that covers ice. What is prescribed for you to do then?
- You do not quite understand me. There is no regulation that particularly alludes to ice; but in all instances everything must be sacrificed to the safety of the ship, and no thought of making a passage - that is to say a fast passage - must be at any time entertained.

14382. Is there no specification of certain dangers with instructions to the commanding Officer as to what he is to do then - I mean, like haze, fog, and ice?
- Oh yes; there are fog regulations.

14383. Under what head do the ice regulations come?

The Commissioner:
There are none, I understand.

Mr. Scanlan:
What I gathered from him, My Lord, was that the ice regulations would be found in a certain category of regulations for certain circumstances of danger.

14384. (The Commissioner.) Are there any such regulations?
- Not referring to ice, My Lord.

14385. (Mr. Scanlan.) None at all. Now, in your evidence in America, you narrate a conversation which took place between yourself and the Captain when he was on the bridge with you. Senator Smith asks you, "Was anything else said?" and you say "Yes; we spoke about the weather, the calmness of the sea, the clearness - about the time we should be getting up towards the vicinity of the ice, and how we should recognise it if we should see it, freshening up our minds as to the indications that ice gives of its proximity. We just conferred together generally for 25 minutes"?
- That is right.

14386. The principal thing you had been talking about was ice?
- Naturally.

14387. Did you decide, then, when you first saw ice you would stop or slacken speed?
- No.

14388. Do you mean to say that the policy of the Captain and you was to go right ahead at 21 1/2 knots?
- No, I do not mean to infer that.

14389. Unless there was a haze?
- No, not necessarily unless there was a haze. Had we come across ice, as I just said, in any degree, whether the Commander had been on the bridge or not I should have acted on my own initiative.

14390. You freshened your minds up as to the indications?
- Quite so.

14391. You had a purpose in doing that. Would it not have been desirable then to have communicated the points of knowledge that you had evolved to the look-out men?
- Oh! no.

14392. You did not think it was necessary to communicate with them?
- No.

14393. Although from a look-out point of view they were of greater consequence than the men on the bridge?
- Pardon me, not at all.

14394. Well, they ultimately discovered the ice you know, and the men on the bridge did not?
- You say the men on the bridge did not. I may say I discussed that immediately on the "Carpathia" with the look-out men - not necessarily discussed it, but asked them questions whilst their minds were perfectly fresh, and the look-out man told me that practically at the same moment he struck the bell he noticed that the ship's head commenced to swing showing that the helm had been altered probably a few moments before he struck the bell, because the ship's head could not have commenced to swing at practically the same time he struck the bell unless the ice had been seen at the same moment or a few moments before he saw it.

14395. I take it then that your position is to justify the conduct of the Captain and those who were navigating the "Titanic" from 11 o'clock till the collision?
- Yes.

14396. In going ahead at 21 1/2 knots, although you all knew that you were in the presence of ice?
- Well, you hardly state it correctly when you say we knew we were in the presence of ice. We did not, we only had reports to go on.

14397. You had no reason to disbelieve those reports?
- On the contrary we had, having so many years gone across and never seen ice though it is repeatedly reported.

14398. I suggest to you it would have been a much safer thing to have believed the reports which you had from a number of sources as to the presence of ice, than to have acted in disregard of the warnings you had received from other ships, and gone ahead at the rate of 2l 1/2 knots an hour until the collision occurred?
- In the view of after events, of course, we form a totally different opinion. It would naturally have been safer, we can see now, not to have gone ahead at all.

14399. And that is what, at all events, in the light of your present knowledge, good seamanship would have dictated?
- Not necessarily good seamanship.

14400. Extra good seamanship?
- No, not seamanship at all.

14401. In the light of the experience you have had, it is what you would do now?
- In the view of our reports we have had in other voyages, if I say in the light of good seamanship or extra good seamanship, we should have stopped, the thousands of ships that have crossed the Atlantic would likewise have stopped, and then you come to the end of your tether.

14402. I do not say they would have stopped?
- Well, or slowed down.

14403. The warning you had had at half-past one led you to understand that you would be right up against the ice, so to speak, from 10 to 11?
- The position where it had been reported.

14404. I could understand your going ahead at 21 1/2 knots up to 10 or half-past 10: What I fail to understand is why from half-past 10, when you knew you were about the place where you were led to believe ice was to be found, you still proceeded at 21 ½ knots?
- That I cannot answer for after 10 o'clock.

14405. After half-past 10?
- Between half-past 9 and 10.

14406. You can answer for going ahead then?
- As far as I understand the same speed was maintained.

14407. You said something a moment ago, "As you know now" or "in view of what has happened." May I take it with the knowledge that you have now, and in view of this accident, what you would do now would be to slacken speed, or stop?
- In view of what has occurred naturally we shall take every precaution that suggests itself to our minds in the future to avoid a repetition of such an accident.

14408. Would not one of the precautions be what Captain Smith said to you on the bridge between nine and ten, "we should have to go very slowly"?
- He was speaking about haze.

14409. I know he was speaking about haze, but is not that what you should have done in adopting precautions?
- No, I do not see it. It would have cleared the accident, I quite agree with you, had we been going very slowly, but we have to take in view the experience of years, what we have always done.

14410. You are not quite following me. I am sure you intend to?
- I do; I wish to help you all I can.

14411. I do know that. But you said that since the accident with the knowledge that you now have, you would have adopted extra precautions, I mean, at all events, from half-past nine onwards. Would not one of those precautions be going very slowly - diminishing speed?
- I am afraid I cannot give you any definite answer to that.

14412. Am I to understand, even with the knowledge you have had through coming through this "Titanic" disaster, at the present moment, if you were placed in the same circumstances, you would still bang on at 21 1/2 knots an hour?
- I do not say I should bang on at all; I do not approve of the term banging on.

14413. I mean drive ahead?
- That looks like carelessness you know; it looks as if we would recklessly bang on and slap her into it regardless of anything. Undoubtedly we should not do that.

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