British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 17

Testimony of Harold A. Sanderson, cont.

The Witness:
We occasionally replace one of the regular ships with a boat that is not regularly employed, and if she is less than 17 knots the Postmaster-General exercises his right to send the mails elsewhere.

19278. (The Solicitor-General.) One other question with regard to speed. What is, in fact, the White Star record from Southampton to New York, the voyage which the "Titanic" was going; or from Queenstown to New York, I think you count it?
- The best speed that the "Olympic" has ever done - and that is our fastest ship - is, I think, something less, going West, than 22 knots.

19279. (The Commissioner.) We were told between 21 and 22?
- It is nearer 22 than 21. That is my recollection. The best speed the other way is 22 1/2 knots.

19280. (The Solicitor-General.) I daresay you could provide us with the time - days and hours?
- I could.

19281. No doubt the White Star keeps a record showing what is the best done by the White Star and we shall see how this matter stands?
- I can give it to you. The fastest passage the "Olympic" has ever made from Queenstown to New York is 5 days, 7 hours, 29 minutes.

19282. And the other way?
- Strangely enough, I have not got it.

19283. Well, you can give it to us later on?
- Excuse me, she does not call at Queenstown coming the other way. That is the reason. I can give it to you from New York to Plymouth, if you want it.

19284. It is as well we should see it?
- From New York to Plymouth her fastest passage is 5 days, 14 hours, 32 minutes.

19284a. Mr. Ismay told us that he and Mr. Bell, the Engineer, arrived at the conclusion that the "Titanic" might hope to reach New York at five o'clock on Wednesday morning?
- I think his idea was that they should not try to arrive before that.

19285. Quite right, not before that. Just assume that. Now will you tell me what that would be in days and hours from Queenstown?
- I am afraid I should have to work that out. I can tell you something which perhaps would answer your purpose. We have had it worked out from the time of the accident to the "Titanic," that all she would have required to go in order to make a five o'clock landing on Wednesday morning would be twenty knots from the point of the accident.

19286. I should also like to know, if you could give me, what it would work out in days and hours from the time she left Queenstown. I do not remember what time she did leave Queenstown?
- I am sure Captain Bartlett could work it out for us.

19287. That brings us to No. 8, which is the question about the tracks, and on that I think some evidence has been given. This agreement of the 15th November, 1898, which Mr. Ismay produced, was negotiated between your Company and the other steamship Companies, I understand?
- It was, in London.

19288. Apart from the question of choosing a suitable track, is it desirable in the North Atlantic trade that the different steamers should keep to the same track following one another?
- Very.

19289. So that they may be within touch in case of need?
- And to avoid the risk of collision.

19290. So as to avoid those on the return journey?
- To avoid meeting ships.

19291. Was it you who arranged the new track, after the disaster, with the other companies?
- I cannot say that. We were directly responsible for it, but when this accident happened, and we then for the first time heard that ice had got down to this southern track, we immediately got in touch with the Cunard Company. That is our usual procedure. We try to come to an agreement with them in the first instance, and, having done that, we get in touch with other British lines, and send a recommendation over to the Continent, and get them to agree to what the British lines have provisionally agreed to. But the Continental lines were as quick as we were on this occasion, and while we were still talking with the Cunard Company, within a few hours of our first taking the subject up, we got an urgent wire from them to join with them.

19292. (The Commissioner.) From whom?
- From the German lines; the German lines communicate on behalf of all the Continental lines. They asked us to join in taking a specially Southern track, and we put forward a suggestion, and after a little wiring backwards and forwards we agreed on a new track, and sent the ships down to it.

19293. (The Solicitor-General.) Can you help us about this new arrangement. We have got the old one. Is there a formal agreement and a chart?
- No.

19294. Then in what form is it?
- We arrive at it in this way. The only tracks which are fixed are those two which you have marked on the chart. But it occasionally happens, rarely however, that on this Southern track we do come across ice in considerable quantities. It is then understood that as soon as that information reaches us, word is passed round and we go to the southern track, which is South of that one on the chart. Since 1898 I think only three times, to the best of my recollection, have we had to do that. We have gone down to this specially Southern track which is not marked, by agreement, but on this occasion we went South even of that track.

19295. (The Commissioner.) Which track?
- After this "Titanic" accident we went South even of that track, and only a couple of weeks ago we got word that ice was on that track, and we went South of that again; and in communicating with the Hydrographic Office at Washington we got word from them only as late as this morning that it is practically impossible to go sufficiently far south to avoid all risk of meeting ice, because icebergs have been sighted from Bermuda.

19296. Then my suggestion yesterday that you should sight the azores would not take you out of possible danger?
- It would seem not from what the Hydrographic Office tell us.

19297. Is there anywhere, as far as you know, where you are out of the reach of icebergs?
- I think so. I think in a short time it will be safer to go North. We shall see no ice in the North directly. It is passing South; it will be all going away from the Northern track.

19298. I am not talking about this particular track, but is there any track, say, for the months of March and April which will be absolutely safe from ice?
- I think it is a very rare thing, almost an unheard of thing, to meet ice on our southern track, the track which the "Titanic" was on, in March.

19299. What about April?
- In April we have met it, unfortunately. It is unusual so early as April.

19300. (The Solicitor-General.) Is it a later month in the year when you might expect to meet it on the southern track more constantly?
- Yes.

19301. What is the month?
- May and June, I think, are the months that you are more liable to meet ice to the southward.

19302. You said something to my Lord which I want to follow up. First of all, let me be sure that I have got what you said rightly. Did you say, "It occasionally happens that ice is met with on the southern track in considerable quantities"?
- It has happened two or three times since 1898. I am speaking of icebergs.

19303. When you say it occasionally happens, May I take it that means that you get reports of it from your Captains?
- Or from other ships in the agreement.

19304. Are reports made then to the White Star Company by their Captains about such a matter as this?
- Always.

19305. Are they reports in writing?
- They are by wire.

19306. Do you keep a file of them?
- They would be filed away. We have not a special file for those particular telegrams. The practice is, as we receive them we communicate them to the other signatories and they to us, and if the occasion seems urgent we immediately agree on a new track and send the ships further south.

19307. Have you looked to see whether in the month of April the White Star had any reports from any of its Captains about ice?
- I am quite sure we had none.

19308. You are sure you had none?
- Prior to the sailing of the "Titanic" we heard nothing about ice.

19309. That means, no doubt, that you have looked or had search made?
- Yes.

19310. That is prior to the sailing of the "Titanic." Now, since the "Titanic" disaster have you had reports of ice from your Captains in the North Atlantic?
- I do not think our ships have reported ice on this Southern track, but as I have said it has been reported on this exceptionally Southern track, and, of course, ships going to Canada continually see it.

19311. You said something had happened three times since 1898. I think it was the shifting of the track?
- Yes, going to this extreme southern track; one that is not marked on the chart.

19312. On each occasion has it been done by arrangement and agreement between the companies?
- Yes, arranged by telegram. I am speaking from memory when I say three, I believe that is correct.

19313. And arranged apparently in the same sort of way in which it has been arranged this time?
- That is right.

19314. Take the present arrangement to go on a more southerly track which you indicate, is that to go on until you agree to stop it or is it to go on for a given length of time? What is the arrangement?
- I should think we will keep it up very likely until the next change would come about in the ordinary course, which would be august.

19315. Is that when you go North?
- Then we go North. Unless somebody suggests we should go North sooner than that it would not be considered.

19316. Then, if it occasionally happens that you meet with ice on this Southern track, of course a message to a Captain of your ship that there is ice near the southern track, is obviously a matter of great importance. He would recognise it as such?
- Undoubtedly.

19317. Now, would you tell me, as far as your knowledge of the conduct of the White Star Line goes, do you, or do you not, reduce speed if you have news that ice is in your track, in front of you?
- In clear weather I have no hesitation in saying they do not reduce speed. I do not believe that any ships reduce speed. That is only an opinion.

The Commissioner:
That leads me to ask you to get information, or ask this Witness for information, as to the conduct of other liners in the same circumstances.

The Solicitor-General:
We had it in mind, My Lord.

19318. (The Commissioner - To the witness.) Can you give me any information about that?
- We will try to get it, but I think it is very difficult to get any Master of any ship in active service to come into Court and say that he would do what is before him as having brought about an accident.

19319. It is not what he would do. What he would do now is one thing, but what did he do in circumstances like these because of reports of ice - did he slow down or not?
- My opinion is he did not. I do not think you can possibly prove it except by getting the logs of other ships that had reports of ice, and seeing whether they did slow or not.

19320. I have heard that these large Atlantic liners - take fog, for instance - pay no attention to fog, but steam just as quickly when they get into fog as when they are not in fog. Is that true?
- My Lord, any man that told you so was either a very ignorant or a very vicious man. It is absolutely untrue.

19321. I am told that they pay no attention to fog, but steam ahead as fast as they can?
- He told you what was absolutely untrue.

19322. Fog is different from ice, of course, because ice in clear weather can be seen. Do you say if they can see the ice they do not slow down at all?
- I believe not.

19323. (The Solicitor-General.) You say in clear weather. Does your answer extend to night as well as day?
- Yes, in clear weather at night I am advised by our Commanders that they would expect to see ice at a safe distance to avoid it going at full speed.

19324. (The Commissioner.) It is with reference to this point that I want, if possible, to get the logs or some reliable information about what other liners were doing in this region on the 14th April last?
- No doubt logs can be obtained, My Lord, but it goes without saying that having regard to the agreement we have with the other companies, which is very rigidly adhered to, all the ships belonging to the companies in that agreement were in fact following the same track West-bound that the "Titanic" was following.

19325. I want to know what speed they were going?
- That you can only get from their logs, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
When we get their logs we can see that.

19326. (The Solicitor-General - To the witness.) I suppose we may take it that whether there is a message about ice or whether there is not, the keenest look out would be expected to be kept on one of your liners?
- I hope so.

19327. In your view what is the importance of getting a message sent to a Captain that there is field ice in his track if it does not have any effect on his speed or his course?

The Commissioner:
They were icebergs here.

The Solicitor-General:
The message was field ice.

The Commissioner:
And icebergs.

The Witness:
I think it would be given to him as a warning to be on the look out for it, or if he thought fit, if the case was sufficiently urgent, to alter his course.

19328. (The Solicitor-General.) What is in your mind when you say, "If the case was sufficiently urgent"?
- If there was a large quantity of ice. I do not imagine if he was merely told there were a few icebergs about that he would necessarily alter his course; he would expect to see them.

19329. Supposing he was told that there was a great quantity of field ice?
- I think he would consider whether he would alter his course or not, and in fact he did alter his course.

19330. (The Commissioner.) You mean by a slight alteration of the turning point?
- That is right, My Lord.

19331. That made a very slight alteration?
- It took him several miles South.

19332. How many?
- I believe he was seven miles South of the track. Probably in his judgment he thought that was sufficient.

19333. Well, I cannot put my judgment against his. Do you think that alteration was a deliberate alteration or was it an accidental alteration?
- I am quite certain it was deliberate. I cannot conceive that a Commander or a ship Officered as the "Titanic" was officered could run on past the normal turning point for 50 minutes by accident.

19334. (The Solicitor-General.) Rather confirming that, My Lord will remember that when the new course was set, the new course was set on a line which I think differed by one degree from the course on the chart, which would tend to bring them back at last on to the track; it would recover their position. (To the witness.) I think I should ask you this: Has your Company given any further directions to your Captains since this disaster with any reference to ice?
- No, we have not given any special written directions, but we have taken occasion to speak to each of our Commanders in regard to this lamentable occurrence, and impressed upon them the necessity for carrying out the Company's wishes in regard to safe navigation.

19335. But what are the Company's wishes supposing that a ship finds itself in similar circumstances, a clear night and capable of going 22 knots - what are the Company's wishes?
- We should expect our Commanders, who are all men of great experience, to exercise prudence and discretion, and to err on the safe side, and that is what we impress upon them. That is what we think is the lesson we have learned from this accident.

19336. It depends upon the circumstances of each case, as I follow you?
- I think so.

19337. I just call your attention to the last part of this question, "Had the master any, and, if so, what discretion as regards the track to be taken?" We understand Mr. Ismay's view about that, but will you do this for me. Will you look in the records of your Company and see if you can show the Court an example of one of your Masters reporting exercising his discretion in departing from the track?
- I have no doubt we can do it.

19338. We should like to see it?
- We can do it in two ways. Occasionally we get a report from a Commander that he has departed from his track for certain reasons. On other occasions we notice from the track that he has followed that he has departed from it. If there is no explanation forthcoming we ask, and we invariably commend him if there is good reason.

19339. I think you might produce an example of that for us?
- Yes.

19340. I do not think the next questions are matters which this gentleman will wish to concern himself with, My Lord. No. 9 is plainly not a matter for him, nor No. 10.

The Commissioner:
No, those are matters which happened on board.

19341. (The Solicitor-General.) Yes. (To the witness.) I might ask you a question about No. 11. Mr. Ismay has given some evidence about the binoculars. Do you agree in what he said about them?
- Generally, yes. I think Mr. Ismay believes a little more in binoculars than I do.

19342. We have been told by the look-out people that there were binoculars on the "Olympic"?
- Coming from Belfast to Southampton.

19343. On the "Olympic" I am speaking of?
- Oh, I beg your pardon, yes.

19344. And that there were not binoculars on the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

19345. Oh, I beg your pardon; they were on the "Oceanic"; but on the "Titanic" they had been provided coming round from Belfast?
- Yes.

19346. (The Commissioner.) What had become of them?
- They must have been a pair of bridge glasses which were sent forward (I am only assuming this.) by one of the Officers to the look-out, to look out for some particular purpose, I presume, at night.

19347. As I understand, a special box or bag is provided in the crow's-nest for the very purpose of carrying binoculars?
- It is a proper thing that there should be a bag there, because obviously at times, even when a particular ship is not supplied with glasses for the look-outs, glasses will be sent forward by the bridge Officer to the look-out for the purpose of trying to pick up, or helping him to pick up, some particular light, and it would be a proper thing for him to have a bag or a box to put his glasses in when he was not actually using them.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Your Lordship will recollect it was proved the glasses used between Belfast and Southampton were marked "Second Officer."

19348. (The Commissioner.) Yes, that is true. (To the witness.) You used an expression that to my mind is a little ambiguous. The binoculars are useful, you said, to enable a look-out man to pick up. Now that is not the view at present I am disposed to take?
- To pick up a light.

19349. What do you mean by picking up a light? My impression is they pick up first with their eyes and then use the glasses afterwards to get better or closer information as to what the light is?
- I entirely agree, My Lord, for ordinary purposes, but I do think if they were looking for a light which is at a great distance they would probably, if they were looking in the right direction, pick that light up quicker with the glasses than they would with the naked eye.

Sir Robert Finlay:
It is a light the position of which is known.

The Commissioner:
I see - I understand.

19350. (The Solicitor-General.) Not searching the horizon for what you can see but knowing you ought to find a particular light on a particular bearing?
- Yes.

19351. (The Commissioner.) Looking for a light which you expect to see?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
Yes, that I understand.

19352. (The Solicitor-General.) As a liner is approaching the British Islands, for instance, it is always a point to pick up the first light which is on the main land wherever it is - the fastnet, or whatever it is?
- Yes, and presuming he has had good observations he knows pretty accurately where to look for it.

19353. There is a reference in this same Question No. 11 to searchlights. Has your company had any experience of searchlights at all?
- Very little. We had a searchlight fitted on the "Teutonic" many years ago when she went down to the Naval Review. It was used, I think, then more for purposes of illumination. It certainly has never been used; it was taken off the ship and never was used on the Atlantic, and I think I am right in saying that our nautical staff would be very much opposed to it.

19354. (The Commissioner.) Are searchlights used, so far as you know, in any vessels other than men-of-war?
- I never heard of it being fitted except perhaps for ships going through the suez Canal. I believe they have a searchlight fitted for lighting up the canal ahead of them, but I am only speaking from hearsay.

19355. Those are not wanted for sighting icebergs?
- No.

19356. (The Solicitor-General.) About the binoculars, I meant to have asked you this. Since this disaster has your company taken any steps to provide binoculars for the crow's-nest?
- We have.

19357. For all your vessels?
- We have ordered binoculars to be given to all the look-outs for much the same reason that we have put all these extra boats on. There is a popular cry that they want to have glasses, and we are going to satisfy them.

19358. Have you had enough experience of it to know whether your look-out men use them? If you do not know, you had better say you do not?
- I cannot speak of my own knowledge.

The Solicitor-General:
In the same way the next questions do not affect this gentleman, I think.

The Commissioner:
Which are they?

The Solicitor-General:
Nos. 12, 13, 14 and 15 - in fact all of those. The one which does affect him in a way is the second part of No. 19, but I think your Lordship has probably got sufficient evidence about it. "Did the boats, whether those under davits or otherwise, prove to be efficient and serviceable for the purpose of saving life."

The Commissioner:
I do not think you need ask this Witness about that.

19359. (The Solicitor-General.) There is one circumstance which I think has come to our knowledge which I might ask him about. (To the witness.) Do you know whether those "Titanic" boats which were taken on board the "Carpathia" were found, any of them, when they reached New York to have suffered - to have sprung or buckled at all?
- I have not heard so.

The Commissioner:
Question 20 he knows nothing about?

19360. (The Solicitor-General.) No, except that I am going to hand to your Lordship a list of the crew, which will give your Lordship the rating. We want to divide them up amongst the different classes. (To the witness.) You will recognise the bundle, Mr. Sanderson, I think?
- Yes.

19361. It is particulars of the crew, showing their rating and the departments to which they belonged. We can have it analysed to your Lordship, if you wish. I do not think the remaining matters touch this Witness at all.

Sir Robert Finlay:
There is the second part of Question 24.

19362. (The Solicitor-General.) Yes. I will pass to the second part of Question 24. The question is, "Was the construction of the vessel and its arrangements such as to make it difficult for any class of passengers or any portion of the crew to take full advantage of any of the existing provisions for safety?" (To the witness.) Your attention has been directed to the class question in the course of this Inquiry, I daresay?
- It has.

19363. What do you say about it?
- I say that the "Titanic" was as simple as it was possible to make any ship of her size carrying three classes of passengers. I do not think there was a simpler or more straightforward ship afloat than the "Titanic" for getting from one part of the ship to the other.

19364. Since the disaster and this class question has been raised have you considered it particularly?
- I have thought a great deal about it; I have heard it with great surprise.

19365. It is a question which is naturally raised, but as far as you and your advisers are concerned you could not suggest any improvement in that regard?
- I really do not know how we could make a ship more straightforward and simple.

The Solicitor-General:
I think that is all my Lord.

(The Witness withdrew.)