British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 15

Testimony of Harold t. Cottam, cont.

The Commissioner:
The "Virginian," I suppose, was out of reach.

The Solicitor-General:
She did not, of course, get to her, but she could hear, and it reads, "12.27 M.G.Y." (that, I think, Means the "Titanic".) "calls C.Q." - it says "C.Q." here - "unable to make out his signal; ended very abruptly, as if power suddenly switched off. His spark rather blurred or ragged. Called M.G.Y. and suggested he should try emergency set, but heard no response."

The Commissioner:
Very well. This document is evidently a shortened account of the messages received by different ships.

The Solicitor-General:
That is it.

The Commissioner:
After the time when this gentleman stopped recording in the procès-verbal of the "Carpathia."

The Solicitor-General:
That is right. I think your Lordship may take it that where times of the clock are printed on the document they are actually copied from an entry.

The Commissioner:
From some information from some ship.

The Solicitor-General:
Yes, from one or other of the ships.

Sir Robert Finlay:
It is a document of very little value.

The Commissioner:
Well, that may be. At present, Sir Robert, I do not see, except as part of the story, that it is of any significance. It is after the accident. It is part of the story, but it is really of very little assistance in this Inquiry.

17148. (The Solicitor-General - To the witness.) After that time did you continue to try to call up the "Titanic" from time to time?
- I did, at frequent intervals.

17149. And, as we know, you did not get any further communication?
- No.

17150. I do not think we need go through what follows. You had a number of messages, I see, to a number of ships finding that they also were going to the same spot?
- Yes.

17151. And when was it you heard that the disaster had occurred? I suppose you did not know till you actually came there and saw the boats?
- No, I did not know that the "Titanic" had gone down.

17152. (The Commissioner.) There is this signal or extract, I do not know where it comes from: "Daybreak. 'Carpathia' arrives on the scene of the disaster." What time is daybreak, New York time?
- I cannot remember, I am sure.

17153. (The Solicitor-General.) You must have taken enough interest to see the boats when they came in sight?
- Yes.

17154. Had day broken?
- No, it was not daybreak; it was pretty dark when the boats were picked up. Day broke just after that, just after we had picked the first boat up.

The Commissioner:
It does not matter.

17155. (The Solicitor-General.) I do not think it matters at all. (To the witness.) And the boats were picked up, as we know?
- Yes.

17156. No doubt you had a great many messages to send after you had got these poor people on board?
- Yes, I did.

17157. As far as I have been able to check it at present, the only other matter I want is this one thing. Will you take this message in your hand and tell me whether it is a message which you sent, after rescuing these people, from the "Carpathia." Do you recognise it (Handing document to the witness.)?
- Yes I do.

17158. Just read the message out, will you?
- "To Captain 'Olympic.' Mr. Ismay orders 'Olympic' not to be seen by 'Carpathia'; no transfer to take place. (Signed.) Rostron, Captain of 'Carpathia.'" [No Answer.]

17159. Is that the Captain of the "Carpathia"?
- Yes.

17160. (The Commissioner.) Let me see it. Is this what you call a chit?
- Yes; that is a chit of paper.

17161. Pinned or stuck on to an ordinary form?
- Yes, pasted on an ordinary form.

17162. There is nothing written on the form?
- Only the number of words you will see there in red ink.

17163. "To Captain 'Olympic.'" Now, where was the "Olympic" at this time?

17164. (The Attorney-General.) A long way?
- The "Olympic" was heading towards the scene of the catastrophe at that time.

17165. "Mr. Ismay's orders, 'Olympic' not to be seen by 'Carpathia.'" What is the meaning of that? Do you know what it means?
- I presume it was not advisable for the survivors of the "Titanic" to see the "Olympic," the sister ship to the "Titanic."

17166. Why not? I do not understand it at all.

The Solicitor-General:
It would appear, I suggest, though Mr. Ismay will no doubt explain it to you, that Mr. Ismay was giving a direction as to the course, or the respective courses to be taken by the two ships, that they were not to come within range of one another.

The Commissioner:
The "Olympic" and what?

The Solicitor-General:
And the "Carpathia." Of course, the "Olympic" is a White Star ship.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I understand it was merely this: The "Olympic" is so very like the "Titanic" that if the survivors on the "Carpathia" had seen the "Olympic" it might have been supposed, "Here is the 'Titanic,' not lost after all." I mean it was some idea of that kind, sparing the feelings of people on board the "Carpathia."

The Attorney-General:
We only want the message.

The Commissioner:
The only thing is, it was unintelligible to me.

The Attorney-General:
It is something which Mr. Ismay will, no doubt, explain when he comes, but it was desirable to have it now.

Sir Robert Finlay:
May I see it, My Lord. (The same was handed to the learned Counsel.)

Examined by Sir ROBERT FINLAY.

17167. No one hears a message coming on the marconi system unless he has the apparatus to his ear?
- No, he does not.

17168. There is no signal, no sound to call attention?
- There is no detector to show.

17169. Of course, you were the only operator on board the "Carpathia"?
- I was.

17170. You are asleep for, say, eight hours, and you do not keep on the apparatus at meal times?
- No, not exactly.

17171. Nor all the time otherwise?
- Oh, no, there is no necessity; in some parts of the ocean, of course.

17172. And while you do not happen to have it on, whatever number of hours out of the 24 that may be, no message would be taken up?
- No, no message would be registered at all.

17173. Now with regard to this document, which is headed: "Procès -verbal of the s.s 'Carpathia'" - was this prepared by you?
- No, this was not.

17174. Who prepared it?
- It was prepared by our company from the procès -verbals of the various ships that were in the vicinity of the catastrophe at the time.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Will your Lordship look at the second paragraph of the covering letter of the 7th May, 1912?

The Commissioner:
Yes.

Sir Robert Finlay:
"We annex hereto a copy of the procès-verbal of the 'Carpathia' station, dating from the time at which this vessel first entered into communication with the 'Titanic,' which was some five hours previous to the collision, until the 'Carpathia' arrived in New York with the survivors some four days later." This is not the procès-verbal of the "Carpathia" at all.

The Witness:
Well, it is in a sense; it is a reconstituted procès-verbal

The Commissioner:
It is not anything of the kind. The first three entries on page 3 are, as I understand, taken verbatim from the procès-verbal of the "Carpathia"?
- Exactly.

The Commissioner:
And none of the others are taken from the procès-verbal at all because there is no procès-verbal of the "Carpathia."

17175. (Sir Robert Finlay - To the witness.) That is so, is it not?
- That is so.

17176. You had nothing to do with this letter saying that a copy of the procès-verbal of the "Carpathia" was annexed?
- Nothing at all.

The Commissioner:
It is, as I understand, a compilation?

The Attorney-General:
That is what it is.

The Commissioner:
Of a number of messages recorded by a number of ships.

The Attorney-General:
We have had it put together. It is only right to say this. Your Lordship will understand this document of the 7th May was prepared in answer to a request made by us. As your Lordship knows, we have been working at very great pressure, and we asked the company to let us have, as soon as they could, some information with regard to the messages of the "Carpathia." They prepared this, and in their office they call it a procès-verbal It is stated later on that it is a log of further communications effected. There is no doubt about it. It is a compilation, as your Lordship says, from documents in their possession, every one of which can be produced and will be produced.

The Commissioner:
They can be; I hope they will not be.

The Attorney-General:
It may not be necessary.

The Commissioner:
It is immaterial.

The Attorney-General:
Except up to a certain point.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I understand you do not regard some of the times put there as right?

The Witness:
Not so much the times; it is the entries opposite the times I do not agree with.

17177. You said in regard to one entry it was false. Which entry was that?
- It may not have been the time.

17178. Something about it was false. Which entry was that?
- The one at 12.28.

17179. What is false about that "12.28 a.m. 'Titanic' calls 'C.Q.D.' His signals blurred and end abruptly." What is false about that?
- Well, he did not do that at all. His last message was, "Come as quickly as possible; our engine room is filling up to the boilers," and his signals were perfectly right to the end of the message.

17180. Then this is purely imaginary?

The Solicitor-General:
Sir Robert, I do not think you could have been following.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I have been following only too well.

The Solicitor-General:
I do not know whether you were following too well, but if you were following you would have heard me read from the procès-verbal of the "Virginian" and explain to my Lord that this entry, 12.28 a.m., was copied from the "Virginian" procès-verbal , and was there in their records.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Be it so.

The Solicitor-General:
Do not call it imaginary.

Sir Robert Finlay:
It is purely imaginary, so far as the "Carpathia" is concerned.

The Commissioner:
Yes, that we understand, but apparently it was information which has been gathered from another ship.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Oh. yes.

The Commissioner:
And which the marconi Company have placed at the service of the Board of Trade.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, that is it, information to us.

Sir Robert Finlay:
So be it. In that sense there is no objection whatever.

The Commissioner:
And any way, Sir Robert, it appears to me immaterial.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I will not spend time upon it.

The Commissioner:
What happened after the event does not matter much.

17181. (Sir Robert Finlay.) With regard to hours, can you help me about hours - with regard to the first message, here it is put in "11.20 p.m. Heard 'Titanic' calling 'S.O.S.' and 'C.Q.D. Answered him immediately" and so on. I understand you to say that time should be, you think, 10.35?
- 10.35 exactly.

The Attorney-General:
I think the witness explained. I do not know whether you caught it, that he had said in America 11.20. That appears here.

17181a. (Sir Robert Finlay.) I had. (To the witness.) How do you get at the 10.35?
- I had another chit of paper with that on. I got it directly after Cape Cod had finished the first round of press. I know he finishes at half-past 10 so that I know it must have been at 10.35.

17182. This is New York time you are speaking of?
- Yes, New York time right throughout.

17183. Where did you have this chit of paper?
- It was on the desk in the "Carpathia" when I left her.

17184. When you left her?
- Yes.

17185. Had you that in New York?
- I had not the chit of paper, no; it was in my bag; I have found it since.

17186. You have found it since?
- Yes.

17187. In America in giving evidence you said 11.20; is that so?
- Yes.

The Attorney-General:
About 11.20 New York time.

17188. (Sir Robert Finlay - To the witness.) Since that you have found a bit of paper which shows it was 10.35?
- Yes, not only that; the mere fact of my standing by directly after the first round of press proves that it was somewhere near 10.35.

17189. I am not finding fault with you in the slightest degree. When did you write down this chit?
- It must have been when I was working at the time of the catastrophe. I cannot remember when I wrote it down, or I should have had it all the time.

17190. Have you got it?
- It is somewhere in my bag, I think.

17191. Is your bag here?
- No.

17192. Where is your bag?
- It is at the office, the marconi office.

The Commissioner:
Well, I do not know that it is of much importance, but you might get it for us at some time.

The Attorney-General:
What is it that is wanted?

The Commissioner:
The piece of paper upon which he made the right record of the time?

The Attorney-General:
Yes, 10.35.

Sir Robert Finlay:
You can get that for us.

The Witness:
I think I can - I will try.

17193. The only other question I have to ask you is about the last message. In New York I think you said "It was 11.55 New York time when I received the last message from the 'Titanic'"?
- It was exactly.

17194. How do you fix that time; did you make a note of that?
- By the clock.

17195. Did you make a note of that?
- Oh, yes.

17196. (The Commissioner.) Where?
- I memorised it. There is no written note or record of details of the catastrophe at all.

17197. (Sir Robert Finlay.) You did not make a chit of that?
- I did not.

17198. You remember it?
- I do, distinctly

17199. That would be New York time?
- New York time.

17200. Was your clock New York time?
- Yes.

17201. It was?
- Yes.

Mr. Cotter:
With your Lordship's permission can I ask the witness a few questions.

The Commissioner:
Not on this part of the case. If you want to ask him about some other part, yes. You will not help me at all by interfering in this.

Mr. Cotter:
It is affecting the crew.

The Commissioner:
Oh, yes; anything of that kind you can ask.

Examined by Mr. COTTER.

17202. Do you remember the survivors being taken on the "Carpathia"?
- I do, some of them.

17203. How long after they had been taken on board was it when you sent the list of names of the passengers saved to New York?
- I cannot remember, I am sure.

17204. Do you remember ever sending a list of the crew saved to New York?
- I do, yes.

17205. When was that? Do you remember?
- I cannot remember I cannot remember times at all. I have no records, and I could not tell you.

17206. Was it the same day, or the day after, or when you got to New York?
- I should say it would be on the Tuesday, I could not say for certain.

17207. Did you send a list of the crew at the same time as you sent a list of the passengers; I mean the details, the names?
- No; the first and second class passengers went to the "Olympic"; the crew went to the "Minnewaska."

17208. How long after?
- I do not know; I cannot remember.

17209. Was it 24 hours?
- I could not say, I am sure; I have no record of it.

The Attorney-General:
Does your Lordship wish to ask this Witness any questions?

The Commissioner:
No.

The Attorney-General:
What I propose to do is this. What I have asked the marconi Company to do is to prepare in form a document with a copy of the messages - not a translation of them, but a copy of the messages which were received by the "Titanic" or sent by the "Titanic" from the 12th to the 14th up to shortly after the striking. That, I think, is the important matter which your Lordship asked for.

The Commissioner:
Yes.

The Attorney-General:
We will have the messages on one document so that you will see with what ships the communication was being made, from what ships ice reports were being sent, and at what time.

The Commissioner:
You will let me have a copy of that?

The Attorney-General:
Yes, we will have it printed so that my friends can also have it.

The Commissioner:
I wish to direct Sir Robert Finlay's attention to this. I should like, opposite each one of those messages, a reference to the evidence showing whether the message was communicated to the bridge or not - the evidence that bears on that point.

The Attorney-General:
So far as it is before the Court?

The Commissioner:
So far as it before the Court; because my anxiety is to know, as I said yesterday, what was the state of Captain Smith's and the Officers' knowledge of these messages at the time of the disaster.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, I quite appreciate that.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I will see that is put in, My Lord. As I understand it, your Lordship would like to have a reference, opposite each message, to the evidence bearing on the point whether it was communicated to Captain Smith or the other Officers.

The Commissioner:
I prefer the expression "to the bridge."

Sir Robert Finlay:
I said, "To Captain Smith or the other Officers."

The Commissioner:
Very well.

The Attorney-General:
That must be checked.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Oh, certainly.

17210. (The Commissioner - To the witness.) Can you explain to me why, if the "Virginian" heard the message from the "Titanic" at 12.28, New York time, you did not hear it? Would it be perhaps that you had not the cap, or whatever you call it, on your head?
- Well, I had the telephone on my head the whole time, because I was waiting for a message -

The Commissioner:
Can you explain to me, Mr. Attorney, why that message of 12.28, which as I understand is obtained from the procès-verbal of the "Virginian," was not heard by the "Carpathia"?

The Attorney-General:
We have to work out what 12.28 "Virginian" means.

17211. (The Commissioner.) Of course you have, because it does not mean exactly the difference of one hour 55 minutes; it depends upon the position. (To the witness.) But what I cannot understand is why, if the "Virginian" was hearing these signals from the "Titanic," you were not hearing them. I can understand it, you know, if you had not got the instrument over your ears at the time. When you run from the office to the bridge are you able to keep this instrument on your head?
- Oh, no, My Lord.

17212. Then if you were running to the bridge you might put it off your head and you would not hear?
- Well, yes, if I put it off my head to go to the bridge I would not hear.

17213. And you were running to the bridge at this time, were you not?
- No, I did not run to the bridge then.

17214. I thought you were going to the bridge to communicate the messages?
- I did most of them.

17215. Then if messages came while you were on your way to the bridge or on your way back from the bridge you would not hear them?
- No, I would not; but I was waiting to give the "Titanic" a message at the same time that he sent me this one.

The Commissioner:
I am afraid you do not quite follow, but I do not think it matters.

The Attorney-General:
While your Lordship's mind is upon it, you had better just look at this: We have here the procès-verbal of the "Virginian," which I will hand up to you and you will see there written out, "12.27 M.G.Y. calls C.Q.; unable make out his signal; ended very abruptly, as if power suddenly switched off - his spark rather blurred or ragged. Called M.G.Y., and suggested he should try emergency set, but heard no response." (The same was handed to the Commissioner.)

The Commissioner:
That is enough. It justifies the extract that is put in here.

The Attorney-General:
It is obvious, if you look at it, that it has not been made after the event. It is there in the middle of the page, in its proper order.

(The Witness withdrew.)