British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry
Testimony of Joseph B. Ismay, cont.
18660. I want to draw your attention to a statement which appeared in the "Daily Mail" of April 18th. Let me put this to you: Is it correct to state that in the original plans and designs there was provision made for having four lifeboats on each pair of davits for the "Titanic," which would have meant a total of over 40 boats?
- I have no recollection of it whatever.
What is that? Is this the "Daily Mail's" statement?
It is, My Lord.
Do tell me again what it is, because I do not understand it.
This is a statement of an alleged interview - I can see your Lordship does not believe everything the "Daily Mail" says -
There is a great deal that I believe.
We all believe a great deal in it, My Lord - of an alleged interview between a representative of this paper and the designer of the "Titanic," the Right Honourable a. M. Carlisle, who was the late general manager of Messrs. Harland and Wolff, who built the "Titanic" and partly designed her. If your Lordship allows me to submit this point to the witness, I think it is of very great consequence. Amongst other things in this newspaper it was stated: "In working out the designs of the 'Olympic' and the 'Titanic' I put my ideas before the davit constructors and got them to design me davits which would allow me to place, if necessary, four lifeboats on each pair of davits, which would have meant a total of over 40 boats."
A total of what?
I do not know what is the meaning of it. I thought you said four lifeboats.
How are four lifeboats equal to 40?
18661. (Mr. Scanlan.) I mean, to place four lifeboats on each pair of davits, which would have meant a total of over 40 boats. (To the witness.) Did you personally examine the designs for the lifeboats?
- I did not.
18662. Who of your Company did examine the designs?
- The design would be submitted to us by the shipbuilders.
18663. Will you tell me who, amongst your officials, would be responsible for accepting or rejecting a design of this kind?
- I never saw any such design and I do not know that anybody connected with the White Star Line saw such a design.
18664. If there was a question of accepting or rejecting a design which provided for greater lifeboat accommodation than you had on the "Titanic," I want to ask you whether it is you yourself or some subordinate of yours, or some associate of yours -?
- It would be done jointly between the shipbuilders and the managers of the White Star Line.
18665. Evidently you were not the manager who was responsible for examining this design?
- I saw the design I have no doubt; I saw the design with the rest of the ship.
18666. I suggest to you that a design was submitted which would have provided sufficient lifeboats to take off everybody on board, and was rejected by the White Star Line?
- I tell you I have never seen any such design.
18667. (The Commissioner.) Have you ever heard of it before?
- No, I have not.
18668. (Mr. Scanlan.) Of course, I take it this is what you say, that you have no recollection of seeing the design at all?
- No; I have no recollection of seeing any design which showed the "Titanic" fitted up for 40 boats.
18669. Or the fitting up of boats at all?
- Oh, yes.
18670. You did see it?
- Oh, yes.
18671. (The Commissioner.) But I want to know. (To the witness.) Have you ever until today heard that there was a design for the "Titanic" by which she was to be provided with 40 lifeboats?
- No, My Lord.
18672. (Mr. Scanlan.) I take it your statement is, you personally have not seen it. Can you give any explanation of this circumstance that, while the boat capacity, according to your calculation and that of the Board of Trade, was to give accommodation to 1,178 passengers and crew, there were only 703 in all saved?
- Can I give any explanation?
18673. Yes; what do you attribute it to?
- I presume that the people were not put into the boats.
18674. Whose fault was that; whom do you blame for that?
- I cannot blame anybody for it.
18675. Why were they not put into the boats?
- That I cannot answer.
18676. I think the information you had from those you consulted on the ship before leaving her was that the ship was not likely to sink?
- I had no conversation with anybody in regard to the ship sinking.
18677. In regard to whether or not the ship was likely to sink?
18678. You had no such conversation?
18679. When you were examined in America were you asked with regard to this. It is on page 924. Senator Smith asked you: "Did the Chief Engineer of the 'Titanic' state to you the extent of the damage? - (A.) He said he thought the damage was serious, but that he hoped the pumps would be able to control the water. (Q.) How long was it after the impact? - (A.) I should think it would be perhaps half-an-hour afterwards - 35 or 40 minutes." I want to know, were you told at any time before you left the ship, by the Chief Engineer or the Captain, or by any of the Officers of the ship that the ship was doomed?
- No, I was not.
18680. We have heard a good deal in the course of this Enquiry of people being unwilling to leave the ship in the lifeboats. Do not you think if those in charge of the ship knew that she was doomed, and was about sinking, that they should have given this information to all the passengers?
That is not a question to ask him. That is a question for me.
18681. (Mr. Scanlan.) So far as you know, I take it from your evidence that there was no general intimation conveyed to the passengers that the "Titanic" was sinking, and could not be kept afloat?
- Not that I know of.
18682. You have ordered additional lifeboat accommodation for all your ships, I understand?
18683. That is one of the first things you did on reaching America, according to your statement over there?
- We have.
18684. And do you now in all your ships provide sufficient lifeboat accommodation to accommodate every passenger and every member of the crew?
18685. Have you made any alteration in the manning of your ships in order to provide a greater number of men to lower and navigate your lifeboats?
- I have no knowledge in regard to it.
18686. Do you know whether or not this has been done?
- I do not.
18687. Does it not strike you, being a large shipowner and a man of great experience in shipping, that, seeing it took your crew on the "Titanic" over two hours to lower nineteen boats, including the collapsibles, and to give accommodation to 703 people, in order to have adequate provision for taking away say 2,500 people, you would require drastic alteration in the crew?
18688. (The Commissioner.) Will you paraphrase "naturally," and tell me exactly what you mean by it?
- If you wanted to get the same number of boats out in the same length of time you would naturally want a greater number of crew to do it.
18689. If you wanted what?
- If you wanted to get the extra boats out in the two hours you would want more men to do it.
18690. Are you talking about a possible 40 boats?
- Yes, or whatever extra number of boats you put on.
18691. Then your "naturally" comes to no more than this, that it takes more men to work more boats?
- Yes, if you want to put them out in the same length of time.
18692. (Mr. Scanlan.) Do you mean extra deckhands?
- I do not think it is absolutely necessary to have a deckhand to lower a boat.
18693. To lower or man the boats?
18694. You think that would require a greater number of men experienced in the manning and lowering of boats?
- For the number of boats we had on board the "Titanic"?
18695. No. You state now that you have altered your system. Formerly you provided accommodation for a limited number. In the case of the "Titanic" it was for 1,100. The "Olympic" is a boat of the same size, and you had, I daresay, a similar provision on her, and now you have provision for 3,000, say - 2,500 to 3,000 - on the "Olympic." Do you agree with me in this, that it is necessary to have a larger number of trained men to look after those boats?
This question, again, is put in the interests of your union.
If I may respectfully say so, it is put in the interests of this Enquiry, and to assist your Lordship.
You know you are asking a question that does not assist me; it does not assist me at all. It is quite obvious that if you have more boats, you must have more skilled men to attend to them. You are asking something that is quite obvious.
18696. (Mr. Scanlan.) I will ask another question, My Lord, which, I think, will show the justification of my insisting on the point. (To the witness.) You have doubled the boat accommodation on the "Olympic," is not that so?
- I do not know whether it has been doubled or not; I know it has been considerably increased.
Are you going to ask whether they have doubled the men on that?
I am not going to put it just that way, My Lord.
That is what it is leading to, and it has nothing to do with this Enquiry.
18697. (Mr. Scanlan.) If I may respectfully say so, My Lord, it is not just that that I am going to ask. (To the witness.) Can you tell my Lord what alteration, if any, has been made in the crew of the "Olympic" and your other ships to correspond with the increase you have made in boat accommodation?
I will not have that question asked. I am not going to inquire into any such matter.
18698. (Mr. Scanlan.) Very well, My Lord. (To the witness.) We have had it from a captain of a ship of the Canadian Pacific Railway fleet, the "Mount Temple," that his company issue instructions in regard to ice-fields that their captains are not to enter an ice-field under any conditions. I am reading from page 194 of the examination of James Henry Moore?
"Those instructions we usually get, that we are not to enter field ice, no matter how light it may appear." That is it?
18699. (Mr. Scanlan.) Yes, My Lord. (To the witness.) I take it you do not issue any similar instructions to your captains?
- We do not.
18700. He is also asked at Question 9264, "When you got warning there was ice ahead, what precautions did you adopt?" And then, at Question 9267: "Do you make any change in the look-out?" and the answer is: "If we expect to see ice we always double the look-out." You do not give any similar instructions to your captains about that. May I ask how many men they have on the look-out?
Sir Robert Finlay:
Yes; I think the next two questions should be read on that.
"On this occasion, in daylight, when you were warned there was ice ahead, did you double the look-out?
- (A.) No, because I made sure I could pass that ice. (Q.) At night, even going at 11 knots, do you double the look-out?
- (A.) No, unless we expect to see ice."
Sir Robert Finlay:
No; but it is the next question. "If you expect to see ice, do you double the look-out?
- (A.) Oh, yes. (Q.) When you double the look-out, just explain to my Lord what you do. (A.) Put an extra hand on the forecastle head, besides the look-out in the crow's-nest. (Q.) In ordinary circumstances, have you two men in the crow's-nest?
- (A.) Only one. (Q.) And one on the forecastle head. - (A.) Yes, or on the forward bridge. We have a look-out on the forward bridge. (The Commissioner.) Not in ordinary circumstances. (Mr. Scanlan.) No. (To the witness.) In ordinary circumstances have you any man stationed at the forecastle head? - (A.) No. (Q.) Supposing there was ice ahead of you, would you double the look-out?
- Certainly! There was only one man on the look-out."
18701. (Mr. Scanlan - To the witness.) You do not issue any similar instructions to your captains?
- We carry two look-outs always.
18702. (The Commissioner.) In the crow's-nest?
18703. (Mr. Scanlan.) But you do not issue instructions; you carry two look-outs for fair weather and foul weather?
18704. Who are there constantly day and night?
18705. What I am trying to get from you is this: Do you take any extra precautions in circumstances of danger such as the proximity of ice?
18706. You do not?
18707. I put it to you that it would be a reasonable precaution and justified by your recent experience, to give such an order?
- That is a matter which is entirely in the hands of the Commander of the ship; he can put extra look-outs if he wishes to, at any time.
18708. But do not you think it is a matter on which you might give instructions to your Captains?
- I think it is unnecessary to give those instructions.
18709. You think the Captains should do it themselves?
- If they think it necessary.
18710. And double the look-out?
- If he thinks it necessary.
18711. Did you know that on the night of the accident the weather conditions made it difficult to keep the look-out and to see ice? Did you know that?
- I did not.
18712. And that the state of the weather was giving considerable anxiety to the Captain, or giving some anxiety to the Captain and to Mr. Lightoller?
- I did not.
Does Mr. Lightoller say the weather was giving him any anxiety?
He describes the weather conditions as being quite abnormal, My Lord.
Yes, because it was so good.
My recollection is that he said you could see perfectly well.
He states this, My Lord, if your Lordship will look at page 303, at Question 14197: "Can you suggest at all how it can have come about that this iceberg should not have been seen at a greater distance?
- (A.) 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." Then your Lordship asks: "When you make a general statement of that kind, I want you to particularise. What were the circumstances?
- (A.) I was going to give them, My Lord. In the first place there was no moon. (Q.) That is frequently the case?
- (A.) 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." Then, again, your Lordship continues: "Wait a minute. No moon, no wind, no swell?
- (A.) 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. (Q.) But the swell got up later on?
- (A.) 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." At other points of his evidence also, My Lord, this point is brought out. Of course, he does state, in spite of that, that it was easy to see; but what I suggest is that this statement from Mr. Lightoller, taken in conjunction with the evidence of the three men who have spoken to a haze, shows that it was very difficult to see that night.
Sir Robert Finlay:
I must point out that Mr. Lightoller is there speaking by the light of what he knew.
I know. As I understand, Mr. Lightoller, if you had put fifty men on the look-out in those peculiar abnormal conditions that he talks about, this berg would not have been seen.
That is so, My Lord.
That is right, is it not?
I do not think it is, My Lord.
Well, two could not see it - three could not see it, because there was a man on the bridge - and according to him they could not see it because it could not be seen; therefore, it seems to me to follow that if you put 50 men on the look-out they would not have seen it.
I wish to recall this to your Lordship's recollection. One man saw it - that is the man in the crow's-nest, Fleet.
He saw it when it was too late.
He stated to your Lordship that if he had had glasses he could have seen it in sufficient time to have made the difference.
I know. At present my opinion about glasses, and I may tell you at once (I may have to change it.) is that they are intended to examine things which the eyesight has already picked up.
Yes, My Lord.
That is my notion about binoculars.
That is exactly the position I am instructed to take up, but in the evidence of Fleet, what he said in America and what he said here practically - he was not the most communicative witness we had.
Who was this?
Fleet, the man who looked at us all - the suspicious man.
Yes, I remember.
He said in America that when this object was first sighted by him it was about the size of two tables. What he said to me on that point was that it appeared a very small object.
Sir Robert Finlay:
But he also said that the moment he saw it he reported it as an iceberg.
I do not know.
Sir Robert Finlay:
Yes, he did.
What I submit is that a man of this kind -
Like fleet, a man in Fleet's position would not report this as an iceberg until he had looked at it for some time, and if he had had glasses when the small object appeared to him he could have decided earlier that it was an iceberg, and given warning.
He says he did report directly he saw the object.
These men in the crow's-nest were to ring three bells directly they saw anything ahead.
He says he did.
They were not to stop to look at it through glasses or do anything of the kind. What they were to do was to ring a warning bell and report what they saw.
In any case if your Lordship is not with me on that point, let me emphasise this; the people on the bridge did not see the iceberg at all. The man in the crow's-nest did. It might be that if the look-out had been doubled, and if there had been a man on the bows that he could have seen it.
Well, you were crying in aid Lightoller, and my notion of the effect of Lightoller's evidence is that no number of men on the look-out would have made any difference.
He was not asked the question, like that, My Lord.
No, he was not.
That is his evidence.
That is what his evidence comes to. I will not say what I think of Mr. Lightoller's evidence at present.
If there was any difficulty whatever experienced that night in seeing ahead, do not you think it would have been the proper thing to have doubled the look-out.
I am quite certain it would have been done.
18713. Do not you think, as ice was reported in your track, and as you expected to be in the presence of ice, that the look-out should have been doubled?
- I do not.
18714. Is it still your view that your captains and Officers are discharging their duty in crossing the Atlantic, when ice is reported to them, in going ahead at full speed and taking no extra precautions?
- So long as they can see the object far enough ahead to be able to avoid it.
18715. So long as they can see the object far enough ahead?
- To be able to clear it.
18716. To be able to avoid it. Now, if you accept this statement from Lightoller that this was not a good night for seeing ahead, but that these circumstances he mentioned to my Lord, prevented anyone from seeing ahead, do not you think it would have been a wise precaution, at all events, to slacken speed?
Sir Robert Finlay:
I must object to the question being put in that form. Mr. Lightoller did not say it was known at the time it was not a good night; he says they afterwards found out when they got down to the water that it was a dead calm.
Well, I see no objection to the question.
Sir Robert Finlay:
But it involves an assumption as to what Mr. Lightoller said. But I leave that in your Lordship's hands.
18717. (Mr. Scanlan.) If it was the fact on the night of the collision that it was impossible to see ahead with certainty a sufficient distance to enable you to turn the course of the ship in order to escape this iceberg and the ice which you were warned of as being in your track, do not you think the speed of the ship should have been slackened?
- If it was certain they could not have cleared the object in going at that speed, certainly the speed ought to have been reduced.