British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 16

Testimony of Joseph B. Ismay, cont.

18556. All the eight on that side?
- Yes.

18557. Did you see how many passengers were put into this collapsible?
- No, I did not see at the time.

18558. Did she appear to be full?
- She was very fairly full.

18559. Would you tell us what happened after you got the women and children in?
- After all the women and children were in and after all the people that were on deck had got in, I got into the boat as she was being lowered away.

18560. There was no order to you to get in?
- No, none.

18561. Did any other passenger get in?
- One.

18562. That is a Mr. Carter?
- Mr. Carter.

18563. Am I right, then, in this, that there were women and children and some members of the crew to man the boat and two passengers, yourself and Mr. Carter?
- Yes, and four Chinamen were in the boat.

18564. Four Chinamen who, we have heard, were discovered after the boat was lowered?
- Yes.

18565. That, your Lordship will remember, is Rowe's evidence. Did you see Mr. Andrews at all between the time of the impact and your leaving the vessel?
- I did not.

18566. Before you got into the boat was any attempt made to call up other passengers to come up on to the boat deck?
- That I do not know; I was never off the boat deck.

18567. You do not know?
- I do not.

18568. Am I right then, Mr. Ismay, that you did not hear any such order given and you did not enquire whether any such order had been given?
- Of passengers coming up from down below?

18569. Yes?
- No, I did not.

18570. And you did not inquire whether any such order had been given?
- I did not.

18571. Did you think then when you left the vessel that she was rapidly going down?
- I did.

18572. Before you left the vessel did you see the rockets being sent up?
- I did.

18573. That went on for some time?
- For some time.

18574. When you got into the boat and she was lowered, how were you sitting?
- I was sitting with my back to the afterend of the boat.

18575. Facing the bow?
- Facing the bow.

18576. And did you assist with the oars?
- I did.

18577. Did you see any light?
- We saw a light a long way from us, which, I think, was a little bit on our starboard side.

18578. That is a little bit on the starboard side of the "Titanic" or your boat?
- Of both.

18579. You were heading the same way?
- Yes.

18580. Did you pull towards it?
- We did.

18581. But without success?
- We thought we gained on her, and then she seemed to draw away from us again.

18582. Then the light disappeared?
- In daylight, yes.

18583. I say the light of the vessel disappeared?
- Yes, when daylight came.

18584. Not till daylight came?
- If you will excuse my saying so, I do not think it was a steamer at all; I think it was a sailing ship we saw.

18585. (The Commissioner.) Am I to understand that you do not think it was the "Californian"?
- I am sure it was not.

18586. I am rather sorry to hear that?
- This was on the starboard side of the ship. I understand the "Californian" was seen on the port side of the ship - or the ship that was supposed to be the "Californian." This light I saw was on the starboard side.

18587. Never mind about what side it was at all; have you come to the conclusion that the vessel whose lights were seen for so long a time was not the "Californian"?
- No, Sir.

18588. I thought you said you had come to that conclusion?
- No, I said that the light that we pulled for I do not think was the "Californian's" light.

18589. Then was there more than one light visible?
- The only light I saw was the one we rowed for.

18590. Was there any other light visible?
- I saw no other light. This was one plain, white light.

18591. (The Attorney-General.) There was very little wind that night?
- Very little.

18592. Practically a dead calm, we have been told?
- Yes, up to a certain hour in the morning, when the wind did get up.

18593. A sailing vessel would not have been making any way at all, or practically none?
- Well, very little.

18594. The "Californian" is of course a vessel under the control of your company, the company of which you are president?
- Financially, yes; so far as the management of the company is concerned I have nothing to do with it.

18595. I did not suggest you had, but it is one of those in the Leyland Line, the controlling interest of which is in the American Trust?
- Quite.

18596. Did you continue pulling towards it all the time?
- Yes, for a very long time.

18597. Did you continue pulling towards it till daylight?
- No.

18598. Do you mean you gave it up?
- We gave it up because the wind got up; a little sea got up and we were making no progress at all.

18599. Did you see the lights of the "Carpathia" before daylight?
- No.

18600. You only saw her when day broke?
- Yes.

18601. Can you tell me how long it would take to stop the way of the "Titanic"?
- No, I could not tell you that, but I think we have the information with regard to the "Olympic."

18602. What is it?
- I could not tell you.

18603. Then we will get it from somebody else. Have you considered the use of binoculars at all for your look-out men?
- Yes, I have.

18604. You did use them, and supplied them, on the "Oceanic," I think?
- I believe we did; I cannot speak from any absolute knowledge.

18605. We have heard that they were supplied?
- Yes.

18606. And that they were supplied also on the "Titanic"?
- I believe they had them on the run round from Belfast to Southampton; but I am simply repeating what I have seen in the papers, in the evidence.

18607. Had your company come to the conclusion that binoculars were of assistance to the look-out men?
- I believe up to the year 1895 we used to supply look-out glasses to the look-out men, and since that date I think it has been left to the discretion of the commander whether he gives them look-out glasses or not.

18608. But if he elects to do it then you supply them?
- We certainly would if they are asked for.

18609. Have you considered the use of searchlights?
- I have not.

18610. That has never been considered by you?
- It has never been considered by us at all.

18611. Do you give any special instructions to your captains with respect to what they should do when approaching ice?
- No, we give them a general instruction that the safety of the lives of the passengers and the ship is to be their first consideration.

18612. Yes, those are your general instructions?
- General instructions which are contained in our book of Regulations.

18613. But there are no special instructions, if I understand you correctly, with reference to the approach of ice?
- No, not that I know of, not that I can think of.

18614. Have you also considered in your company the question of the track that the vessels should follow?
- Yes, we follow the track which has been agreed to by all the various steamship companies, which, I think, was agreed to in 1895 - I really do not remember the year.

18615. Those are the tracks indicated on the chart?
- Yes.

18616. And you always follow those?
- We do.

18617. Do you get any special reports from your captains if they meet with ice on those tracks?
- Yes, they would report it.

18618. There is a letter which it is simpler I should read upon this. There is a letter from your firm, Ismay, Imrie and Co., of April 26th of this year, to the assistant Secretary of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade: "Sir, - We beg to acknowledge receipt of your communication of the 25th instant advising us of the question to be asked by Mr. Rowlands in the House of Commons on the 29th idem regarding Track Rules in the North Atlantic, and have to say that definite routes, according to the season of the year, have been agreed upon by the principal companies concerned, both British and otherwise, and that in abnormal times a variation of these routes is arranged by mutual assent. The details are circulated by Lloyd's for general information, and we think you are aware that the idea is not only to avoid ice as far as practicable, but also to obviate risk of disaster by keeping outward and homeward steamers on separate tracks. At the end of each voyage Commanders furnish us with a Track Chart, which is checked by our Marine superintendent, and any deviation from the Rule has to be explained, but when such deviation has been in the interests of safety, their action is always approved, and the only cases we can bring to mind where they have been censured is when other reasons, such as shortening the distance have obtained." I suppose that correctly states your view?
- Quite true.

18619. I notice in that letter you say "in abnormal times a variation of these routes is arranged by mutual assent"?
- I think on two occasions, when ice has been reported on the southern track we have adopted a more southern route, gone further south. I think it has been done on two occasions.

18620. So that I mean when ice is reported apparently what you do is to go further south, to get away from it?
- Yes, if a great deal of ice is reported on the track then we should go further south. That would be done by mutual consent of all the steamship companies interested in the tracks.

18621. That would mean this that when you have a report of ice upon the tracks which you usually follow you give directions then to your captains to go further south?
- No; I mean if there was a small quantity of ice reported on the track we certainly would not do it; if there was an abnormal quantity of ice reported on the track then we probably would, in conjunction with the other steamship companies, agree to follow a more southern route.

18622. Do you mean that is only done if the other companies assent?
- If any one steamship company suggested going a more southern route it would be very difficult indeed for any of the other steamship companies to decline to fall in with that suggestion. But that would only be done in the event of an abnormal quantity of ice being reported.

18623. The more southern route being taken then to avoid the ice that is reported?
- That is right.

18624. (The Attorney-General.) Your Lordship will remember there was one question (it is a small point.) which we said we would put to Mr. Ismay when he came, about the marconigram. It is at page 384. I said I would put it to him. I think it is pretty clear what is meant. If your Lordship will look at page 384, Question 17165, there was a Marconigram produced which contained these words: "Mr. Ismay's orders olympic not to be seen by 'Carpathia'"?
- Captain Rostron came into my room on board the "Carpathia" and told me he had received a Marconigram from Captain Haddock that the "Olympic" was coming to us as quickly as possible. He suggested that it was very undesirable that our passengers on board the "Carpathia," who were just settling down, should see the "Olympic," as it would only probably harrow their feelings; the "Olympic" coming to us could do no good whatever, and I therefore entirely agreed with his suggestion that it was undesirable the ship should come to us.

The Attorney-General:
I believe the whole of the marconigram is at Question 17158. I attribute no importance to it. The explanation seemed fairly obvious, but we said we would ask Mr. Ismay so that he could explain.

18625. (The Commissioner.) Are any sailing orders given to your captains before they leave England?
- No special orders.

18626. No sailing orders are given to them before they sail on a voyage?
- No. We always receive a letter from the Commander of the ship from his last port, to say that everything is satisfactory on board the ship.

18627. (The Attorney-General.) There are letters which are sent, as I understand, by the firm to their captains giving them general directions. I have not referred to them?
- That is when they are put in command.

18628. I mean, there is nothing in any of these letters, so far as I have seen, which have been supplied by you, relating specifically to ice?
- No, certainly not; those are general instructions.

18629. They are general instructions that they must regard the safety of passengers?
- It is a general letter given to all our commanders when they are first appointed to the command of a ship.

18630. As far as I know, those are the only instructions which are given, at any rate in writing?
- Those are all.

The Attorney-General:
I did not trouble your Lordship with them, because I did not think they assisted as they do not relate to ice.

Examined by Mr. SCANLAN.

18631. Is it the case that since the disaster to the "Titanic" a more southern route, both Westward and Eastward, has been agreed to by the companies?
- Yes, it is.

18632. And at the present time are your ships and other liners in the Atlantic taking a more southern route than the one which was taken at the time the accident happened to the "Titanic"?
- They are.

18633. I think the difference in mileage which this alteration makes is about 150 miles?
- I could not tell you that.

The Commissioner:
What do you mean by that; does it lengthen the voyage by 150 miles?

Mr. Scanlan:
Yes, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
How much further south is it?

Mr. Scanlan:
I was going to ask that question, My Lord.

The Witness:
I could not tell you that.

The Commissioner:
I am told they would get to a point about 180 miles South; that is to say, the turning point is about 180 miles further south than the turning point in the old route.

18634. (Mr. Scanlan.) Yes. (To the witness.) I suppose working on this track, you would be out of the region of the disaster to the "Titanic"?
- Yes; but I think I am correct in saying that ice has been reported on this track.

18635. Since?
- I believe so.

18636. But of your own knowledge you do not know?
- No.

18637. (The Commissioner.) How much further south would you have to go to sight the azores?
- I am afraid I could not answer that, My Lord.

18638. (Mr. Scanlan.) Did your Company or did you yourself move in having this route altered?
- I do not know what was done; I was in America at the time the alteration was made.

18639. (The Commissioner.) But have not you asked?
- No, I have not.

The Commissioner:
Is there anyone who can tell us, Sir Robert?

The Witness:
Yes, Mr. Sanderson will be able to tell you.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Mr. Sanderson will tell us.

The Commissioner:
What does he say? Who was it suggested the alteration?

Mr. Sanderson:
The matter was under discussion amongst the British lines, and about that time a telegram came from the Germans and asked if we would join with them in adopting a more southern track, and we then got together and agreed on a Southern track, which has subsequently been altered again.

The Commissioner:
That is while Mr. Ismay was in America?

The Witness:
I was in America at the time.

Mr. Scanlan:
I have the route map showing the alteration.

The Commissioner:
I have it; I have the altered route.

18640. (Mr. Scanlan.) During the voyage had you any conversation with the Captain as to speed?
- I had no conversation with the Captain with regard to speed or any point of navigation whatever.

18641. Or as to the time of landing?
- Or as to the time of landing.

18642. And you gave him no instructions?
- Absolutely none.

18643. On either of those points?
- No.

18644. When you had the conversation with reference to speeding up, who was present?
- Mr. Bell only and my secretary.

18645. Mr. Bell, your secretary, and yourself?
- Yes.

18646. What is the name of your secretary?
- Mr. Harrison.

18647. Is he a survivor?
- He is not.

18648. I think it was decided then that some day in the course of the voyage you would run the ship up to her full speed?
- It was.

18649. And you expected then to take 28 knots out of her?
- I beg your pardon!

18650. You expected then that she would do 78 revolutions?
- Yes.

18651. Who suggested that it was possible for you to arrive in New York on Tuesday?
- Nobody.

18652. I thought you said in answer to the Attorney-General, that Mr. Bell said that you could arrive on Tuesday night?
- That we could not arrive - we could not arrive in New York on Tuesday.

18653. Did you fix with him the time it was suitable to arrive?
- I told him I thought we should arrive at the ambrose lightship about 5 o'clock on Wednesday morning.

18654. Had you made any calculations to enable you to come to this conclusion?
- I had not.

18655. Now, Mr. Ismay, I want to ask you this question: What right had you, as an ordinary passenger, to decide the speed the ship was to go at, without consultation with the Captain?

The Commissioner:
Well, I can answer that - none; you are asking him something which is quite obvious; he has no right to dictate what the speed is to be.

Mr. Scanlan:
But he may as a super captain.

The Commissioner:
What sort of a person is a "super captain"?

Mr. Scanlan:
I will tell you as I conceive it, My Lord. It is a man like Mr. Ismay who can say to the chief engineer of a ship what speed the ship is to be run at.

The Commissioner:
I do not know that he did. You know the Captain is the man who must say all those things.

Mr. Scanlan:
I daresay, My Lord, but I think it is important that this conversation and this decision was not arrived at with regard to the speed of the ship in the presence of the Captain, but was arrived at at a meeting between this gentleman and the Chief Engineer.

The Commissioner:
I suppose the Captain would or ought to know hour by hour what his ship is steaming?

Mr. Scanlan:
I should think, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Never mind, we will not argue about it. The question you put to him is answered by me. You take my answer that he had no right at all to do anything of the kind.

Mr. Scanlan:
I will take it that that would be his answer, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
I do not know whether it wuld.

18656. (Mr. Scanlan - To the witness.) Were the designs for the "Titanic," the plans and designs, submitted to you?
- They were.

18657. The builders' plans?
- They were.

18658. Those plans included the plans for the davits and lifeboats?
- Yes, they would be on the plan.

18659. Did you examine those yourself?
- I could not say whether I did or not.

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