British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 19

Testimony of Edward Wilding, cont.

20346. Have you got any theory as to the extent to which the outside of the ship was damaged in No. 4?
- There is a space between the stokehold plate on which the men stand and the tanktop, and the inference that I drew from the evidence that was given by Dillon was that an attempt was being made to pump out this water which the engineers found coming in, and that that was the reason why they sent aft. They had only one pump in No. 4 boiler room, and the reason they sent aft for those additional pumps was to get additional pumping power on to No. 4 boiler room with a view to keeping it down. That would, in general terms, agree with the evidence given by Mr. Ismay as to his conversation with the Chief Engineer, that he hoped to keep it under by pumping. I admit the evidence is circumstantial.

20347. What I wanted to ask you is this. A difficulty is felt as to how No. 4 could have been injured in the skin of the ship if the wound terminated, as from Barrett's evidence apparently it did terminate, just above the watertight compartment forward of No. 5?
- From a calculation which I will refer to in a moment, I cannot believe that the wound was absolutely continuous the whole way. I believe that it was in a series of steps, and that from what we heard Barrett say in his evidence it was the end of one of the series of wounds which flooded the different spaces; that before the ship finally cleared the iceberg as the helm was put over, she would be tending to swing her side into the iceberg, and that a very light contact was made in No. 4. It seemed very probable, quite apart from actual direct evidence of the fact; that is, that after the ship had finished tearing herself at the forward end of No. 5, she would tend to push herself against the iceberg a little, or push herself up the iceberg, and there would be a certain tendency, as the stern came round to aft under the helm, to bang against the iceberg again further aft.

20348. Is the ship broadening at all as far aft as that (Pointing to the model.)?
- Practically parallel.

The Commissioner:
What do you mean by that?

Mr. Rowlatt:
Getting wider, My Lord. It ceased, as I understand.

20349. (The Commissioner.) Mr. Wilding, if this evidence of Cavell's is correct, do you draw the inference that in some way or other there was an injury to the skin of the ship as far aft as the No. 4 boiler section?
- I believe that to be correct; the whole body of evidence tends that way, Barrett's in particular.

20350. If the double skin had been carried up higher, would the water have come into No. 4?
- Certainly not, My Lord; the injury was evidently a very slight one.

20351. And, therefore, if in your design you had carried the double skin a little higher, that injury, at any rate, would not have been of any consequence?
- Yes, and probably from the comparatively small extent of the injury at the forward end of No. 5 boiler room would also have been prevented in the bunker.

20352. In the forward end of No. 5?
- Yes, in the forward end of No. 5 probably.

20353. That is as near as possible to No. 4?
- I do not think No. 4 would have been injured, not from the flooding, but with the ship being as she was, I believe that no bulkhead arrangement possible forward would have saved the ship, because of the red dotted line which I have drawn across as the result of the earlier calculations.

20354. From the way this ship was constructed her life could not possibly have been saved if No. 5 was flooded?
- Even if No. 6 was flooded, your Lordship means.

20355. Yes, I beg your pardon. If No. 6 was flooded, the life of this ship, having regard to her construction, had gone?
- Absolutely, My Lord, and, of course, No. 6, and all the compartments forward of it.

Yes, of course, I mean that.

20356-7. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Now can you give me your view upon this point - if you do not think you can give any view upon it, do not, but I will ask you. You know what the evidence is as to the sort of wound the ship had?
- Yes.

20358. And you know how long she floated?
- Yes.

20359. And roughly, how she went down?
- Yes.

20360. Does it throw any light to your mind upon the question of whether the watertight doors in the bulkheads were or were not shut?
- No. The same scale, if I may so use it, of the sinking is not sufficiently definite, because closing the watertight doors between e and F deck would only have made a delay of a few minutes, perhaps five or ten minutes. The evidence is not accurate enough upon that.

20361. Now, there is one thing I want to ask you upon this plan in order to get it quite clear. On the top of the blue document, a sketch or section, you show her floating with the waterline below the top of the bulkheads, but you have flooded No. 1 hold, No. 3 hold, and No. 6 boiler section?
- Quite right.

20362. You mean that, do you?
- Yes, that is quite correct; that is what the plan shows.

20363. Therefore, that is two adjoining watertight compartments flooded, one being a boiler section, and also another flooded?
- Yes.

20364. You have three compartments flooded, two adjoining?
- Yes, and it would be quite fair to say that the effect of flooding No. 1 hold would be much the same as the effect of flooding No. 2 hold, the smaller space being counteracted by the difference in leverage, and therefore the evidence of these two plans goes to show that the ship would have floated at the time of the accident if any three of these forward compartments had been flooded - any three instead of any two.

20365. Now that is having regard to the actual waterline with which she started?
- The estimated waterline at the time of the accident.

20366. The other calculations you made in the course of the building were, of course, upon an a priori assumption?
- Yes, as to the moulded line there is one other flooding plan I would like to put in.

20367. (The Commissioner.) You mean a deeper line?
- A much deeper line.

20368. And greater immersion in the water?
- Yes, My Lord. This is a similar plan trying to illustrate, as far as I can, the accident as to what I understand happened; conditions d and E.

20369. (Mr. Rowlatt.) What shall we call the document itself?
- Flooding plans d and E.

The Attorney-General:
If your Lordship would not mind putting on the blue ones A, B, C, and call them flooding plans A, B, C, that will identify them.

The Witness:
The first ones put in.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, those will be flooding plans A, B, and C.

The Commissioner:
They are marked a, B, and C.

The Attorney-General:
Then will your Lordship call them flooding plans A, B, and C, and the last ones that were handed up will be flooding plans d and E, and the other is flooding by compartments.

The Commissioner:
That identifies them properly.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, My Lord.

20370. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Now, what does this plan show?
- This plan shows the condition of things shortly after, as far as I can make out, or about the time that Dillon was driven out of No. 4 boiler room and shortly after Barrett was driven out of No. 5. You will see the forepeak, No. 1 hold, No. 2 hold, and No. 3 hold, and No. 6 boiler room are completely flooded; that there is a considerable amount of water in No. 5, that corresponding to the fact that there was a rush of water, according to Barrett's evidence, through the pass. He said before he went there, there was a considerable rush of water through the pass, Meaning that some considerable amount of water was in there; and, according to Dillon's evidence, the water was just above the stokehold plates. That is the condition shown by the blue tinting and the black waterline. That water would then, from the wound in the forward cross bunker in No. 5, be still rising in No. 5 boiler room, and when it reached a little more it would give what is indicated in red, the red water, and what I want to point out on this plan in particular, and the reason why it was made, is that to carry all the bulkheads up to D deck would not have saved the ship in this particular, if this water in No. 4 boiler room was merely accidental and the bulkhead not actually damaged, as I believe, because the water would then have been able to run over the top of the bulkhead between Nos. 5 and 4, even if it had been carried up the deck higher than it was.

20371. You mean to say that if the wound came as far aft as No. 5, carrying up the watertight bulkheads to D deck, that would not have saved this ship?
- That is right, and that was the real point altogether of that plan.

20372. (The Attorney-General.) It is only carrying it up to D?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
If it had been carried up to C deck, the ship would have been saved or might have been saved?

The Attorney-General:
Yes, I think it would.

20373. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Did you hear my Lord's suggestion, that if you could have carried the watertight bulkheads up to C deck the ship might have been saved?
- Provided that there was not the damage I believe there to have been in No. 4, but if the damage existed in No. 4 it was only a question of delaying it perhaps an hour - this damage that we were referring to a few minutes ago.

20374. (The Commissioner.) If you could by pumping have kept the water in No. 4 under control, then it would not have mattered?
- If you could have done, but the evidence is that it rose in spite of their pumping, My Lord. I have no doubt that the engineers in No. 4 were doing their best to pump.

20375. Were there any sluice valves between No. 4 boiler room and No. 3?
- Does your Lordship mean in the watertight bulkhead?

20376. Yes.
- Nothing whatever. The watertight bulkhead was not pierced by actual watertight pipes.

20377. It is suggested to me that if there had been sluice valves the water in No. 4 might have been allowed to flow from No. 4 to No. 3, and so on, to the afterpart of the ship, and that the pumps then would have been able to get it under control?
- Your Lordship will remember that the watertight bulkheads are in coal bunkers. A sluice valve is only a small watertight door, and it would mean putting the watertight door in the coal bunker, which is even a worse thing than having a watertight door for trimming the coal through, to which you were taking so strong objection earlier in the day. It would be very difficult to keep a watertight sluice valve in condition inside the bunker.

20378. Are sluice valves put in ships now?
- I believe they are in some warships. I do not think they are often put in merchant ships.

20379. Are they put in merchant ships at all?
- Not to my knowledge; it is not our practice at any rate.

20380. Now I want to ask you a question, not upon this point, but it has been suggested to me; you know the hatchway in No. 1 hold?
- Yes, I know it.

20381. Now suppose that hatchway had been trunked from the Orlop deck to the G deck, would that have been of any advantage? You will remember that immediately after the accident water was seen coming through that hatchway, and that it went down into the tunnel?
- But we have had evidence that at an earlier time it was seen in the bottom of the tunnel, coming up.

20382. Yes, but what I want to ask you is whether it would have been an advantage if the hatchway had been trunked, by which I understand made watertight, from the Orlop deck up to the G deck?
- I do not think in this case it would have made the least difference, because the water, as we know, was going into No. 6 boiler room - I think, if your Lordship will look at the last plan I put in (Flooding plans d and E.) it shows that the water is above D deck at the extreme forward end, and therefore would have gone down the hatchway instead of coming up from below.

20383. There is a suggestion made to me - I am not sure that I quite appreciate it - but the suggestion made to me is that, if the hatchway had been trunked, the life of this ship would have been prolonged at least half-an-hour longer?
- If the hatchway had been trunked?

20384. Yes?
- I should just like to look at that. (After referring to the plan.) I have now looked at the plan. As the water was rising up the spiral stair, that is outside the proposed trunk as well as inside the proposed trunk, I do not think it could have lengthened the life of the ship by more than a few minutes, five or ten.

20385. Supposing you had had both the hatchway trunked and the spiral staircase trunked?
- The spiral staircase, My Lord, had to be open to give access to the firemen for their accommodation. That is what it was for. You had to let the firemen out from the top of the spiral stair at G deck into their quarters.

20386. You mean to say that you could not seal the top of the spiral staircase with anything that would be watertight?
- Not very well. The Board of Trade would probably have refused to allow us to use it in that case for the voyage.

20387. I do not quite see myself how the firemen would have got through the sealed cover unless they could see a sort of horizontal watertight door in it. Do you think that the life of this ship would have been lengthened if the hatchway in No. 1 had been trunked from the Orlop deck up to the G deck?
- Up to the saloon deck?

20388. Up to the G deck?
- You mean a trunk between?

20389. A trunk between the Orlop deck and the G deck?
- That is to say, to prevent the space between the Orlop deck and the G deck being flooded?

20390. Yes?
- That is the intention.

20391. Yes?
- A few minutes; that is all. I may say that a watertight hatch trunk - a trunk hatch as distinct from a watertight bulkhead - is not as a Rule capable of standing any great head of pressure. When once the water got up as high as the top of the trunk it would probably collapse - I mean, in the normal course of things.

20392. Are any of these decks watertight?
- None whatever, except the weather deck.

20393. For instance, the Orlop deck is not watertight; the G deck is not watertight.

20394. (Mr. Rowlatt.) The Orlop deck, you told us yesterday, was watertight only just in the forepeak?
- Yes, in the forepeak.

20395. And then the after deck?
- And in the three after-holds, I think.

20396. You explained that to us yesterday?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
In the forepeak it is a tank top?

Mr. Rowlatt:
Yes, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
I was not talking about the forepeak. I was talking about the watertight compartment just aft of the forepeak.

20397. (Mr. Rowlatt - To the witness.) None of the decks in No. 1 hold are watertight, are they?
- None whatever. There is no watertight deck in any of the cargo holds in the ship.

20398. Now, just a question about the strength of the watertight bulkheads. Were these watertight bulkheads strong enough to resist the pressure of water which would be upon them in the event of one side of them being flooded?
- They were; they were so designed.

20399. Just tell me, what does that pressure depend upon?
- The height of the top of a bulkhead above its connection to the tank top.

20400. What you have got to calculate for is a depth of water reaching to the top of the bulkhead that you are dealing with?
- Quite right.

20401. If it gets above that it is immaterial?
- It is immaterial.

20402. (The Commissioner.) It flows over?
- If the water can get over the top it does not matter.

20403. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Just to get it quite clear. I think you have told me that it does not matter how much water there is behind the bulkhead, so to speak; it is only the depth that matters for hydraulic pressure?
- Yes, the pressure depends entirely upon the depth.

The Commissioner:
The pressure comes from outside.

Mr. Rowlatt:
Yes, it depends entirely upon the depth of water.

20404. (The Commissioner.) Yes. That is to say, if you had a thin coating of water of an inch, the pressure would be the same?
- Yes, that is so; the fore and aft extension of the water behind the bulkhead.

20405. The fore and after extension of the water does not matter?
- Not in the least.

20406. If it was only fore and aft to the extent of an inch, the pressure would be the same?
- Quite right.

20407. The pressure comes from the outside?
- The pressure comes from the vertical head.

20408. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Therefore, what you have to deal with at the bottom of any of these bulkheads is to take the height of the bulkhead, and then to make it strong enough at the bottom and all the way up to hold the amount of water that is represented by the distance to the top?
- Quite.

20409. Now, just to clear up one matter about the bulkhead between No. 5 and 6 boiler section. You know there has been some confusion about a hole there, an injury to the bulkhead. Just tell me, you have heard this fire in the bulkhead described?
- I have.

20410. In your judgment would that injure the bulkhead as a watertight arrangement?
- Not materially. The evidence as to the actual character of the fire has not been very definite, but it would have to be a much more alarming fire than anything that has been described to destroy the watertightness of the bulkhead. It might weep very slightly a few bucketsfull an hour, that could easily be handled by the pumps.

20411. It did not materially affect it?
- Not materially.

(After a short adjournment.)

20412. (The Commissioner.) There is a question I want to ask you, Mr. Wilding, with reference to the construction of the "Mauretania." Assuming that the side bunkers on one side of the ship were to be flooded and full of water, and there was a large roll, would that imperil the safety of the ship?
- I am afraid it would want more detailed calculation than I could make mentally.

20413. It is suggested to me that she would become so unstable that she might roll over?
- If sufficient length of the one side was flooded, undoubtedly. It is a question of the fore and aft extent to which the side is laid open. If only a short length was flooded she would list. The greater the length flooded, the more she would list, and if you flooded her a sufficient length she would probably roll over.

20414. (Mr. Rowlatt.) You mean the longitudinal bulkhead is divided transversely also by watertight divisions?
- Yes.

20415. Into bunkers?
- Certainly, and, of course, flooding one division -

20416. Would not matter?
- Would not matter - only a small list.

The Commissioner:
But if the bunkers were flooded by reason of a rip going alongside the ship and filling several, it is suggested to me that the effect of that would be to cause a list on the side where the rip was, of such a kind as to imperil the life of the ship, if there were any considerable roll in the water.

20417. (Mr. Rowlatt - To the witness.) Did you hear that?
- It would depend entirely on the length whether it would or not, My Lord. If it was 300 feet amidships, probably; if 300 to 400 feet of the middle, probably.

20418. (The Commissioner.) I do not know that it is very material, but I would like to know whether the Officers of these ships are obliged to become American subjects?
- No, My Lord; I know they are all English subjects. Some of them were members of His Majesty's Naval Reserve, who can only be English subjects.

The Commissioner:
Somebody suggests that they are of necessity American subjects.

20419. (Mr. Rowlatt - To the witness.) You wanted to say something more about the longitudinal bulkheads?
- It occurred to me, My Lord, that I would like to bring to your Lordship's notice a paragraph in the Report of the Committee which was appointed by the President of the Board of Trade to consider and report upon the spacing and construction of watertight bulkheads. The Committee reported in 1891, and it is, I believe, the standard to which the Board of Trade refer in their rules as being satisfactory for watertight subdivisions. They have a paragraph in it relating to this question of longitudinal bulkheads. It is paragraph 6, on page 7. "A compartment subdivided by one or more longitudinal bulkheads should be treated as one compartment only unless the owners satisfy the Board of Trade that the vessel will not have her stability seriously reduced, or list, so that any part of the bulkhead deck at the side is under water, in the event of the space between a longitudinal bulkhead and the vessel's side, or of two such adjoining spaces on the same side of the vessel being open to the sea. If the Board of Trade be not satisfied in the above respect, trimming valves should be fitted to each such longitudinal bulkhead, each valve being workable from above the bulkhead deck, and having an index showing whether it is open or closed." That is that this Committee, which was regarded by the Board of Trade as giving the standard, was not inclined very much to encourage watertight longitudinal division.

20420. As I understand, the danger indicated there is that if the vessel lists, among other things, that will reduce at the side the height of the transverse watertight compartment?
- Reduce at the side the height of the top of the transverse bulkheads above water.

20421. It might bring it below the waterline?
- Yes, and thus let the water get along the deck.

20422. There is one other thing I think you wanted to tell us upon the points you have left. Have you made any calculation as to the volume of water that came in through the apertures of this vessel?
- Yes. I referred this to this condition B on the plan I put in, and corresponding very nearly to condition D on the third plan. Assuming the forepeak and Nos. 1, 2 and 3 holds and No. 6 boiler room flooded, and that the water has risen to the waterline which is shown on those diagrams, it would mean that about 16,000 tons of water had found their way into the vessel. That is the volume of the water which would have to come in. As far as I can follow from the evidence, the water was up to that level in about 40 minutes. It may be a few minutes more or less, but that was the best estimate I could make. When the inflow started the evidence we have as to the vertical position of the damage indicated that the head would be about 25 feet. Of course, as the water rose inside, that head would be reduced and the rate of inflow would be reduced somewhat. Making allowance for those, My estimate for the size of the hole required (and making some allowance for the obstruction due to the presence of decks and other things.), is that the total area through which water was entering the ship, was somewhere about 12 square feet. The extent of the damage fore and aft, that is from the foremost puncture to the aftermost puncture in the cross bunker at the forward end of No. 5 boiler room, is about 500 feet, and the average width of the hole extending the whole way is only about three-quarters of an inch. That was my reason for stating this morning that I believe it must have been in places, that is, not a continuous rip. A hole three-quarters of an inch wide and 200 feet long does not seem to describe to me the probable damage, but it must have averaged about that amount.

20423. You mean, if there was a considerably thick hole, that hole could not have gone as far along the ship as four compartments?
- Yes, that is so. It can only have been a comparatively short length, and the aggregate of the holes must have been somewhere about 12 square feet. One cannot put it any better than that.

20424. I suppose it is possible that a piece of ice made a hole and then got itself broken off?
- Yes, quite probable.

20425. And then another piece of ice made another hole, and so on?
- Yes, that is what I believe happened.

20426. We know that in these watertight bulkheads there are watertight doors?
- Yes.

20427. At the bottom of the ship, descending vertically?
- Yes.

20428. And capable of being actuated from the bridge?
- Capable of being actuated from the bridge, amongst other places.

20429. In the alleyways, I think, sliding laterally?
- Yes.

20430. Because they could not descend vertically through the next deck?
- Yes.

20431. And actuated by hand either on that deck or on the deck above?
- Quite right.

20432. Of course, these watertight doors are metal things?
- Cast iron or steel plates.

20433. Working in cast iron?
- Or cast steel.

20434. Can you describe to the Court how it is they are watertight doors?
- I have a model which will perhaps describe it.

20435. How does that fit in a watertight way; just describe it?
- The model is one of the vertical doors on the tank top. In the cast iron frame there is a fairly loose fitting groove which allows the door to slide pretty freely up and down like that. (Illustrating.) On the face of the door, and forming part of the casting, and machined in the fitting shop so as to produce a good fit - the back of the door is also machined to be a good fit - there are a number of tapered wedges. In the door frame are a number of lugs with the under side also machined, forming corresponding wedges tapered the same way, so that when the two wedges come together they will fit. As the door comes down it is quite free until the wedges are opposite their corresponding lugs in the frame, and then the wedges engage and wedge home. There are 6 on each side, 12 in all; they wedge home the machine -backed surface of the door against the machined surface of the frame. Those two machined surfaces, carefully prepared, pressed carefully together, Make a very good means of obtaining watertight work.

20436. The principle being that in the earlier stages of its descent it is perfectly loose?
- Not loose, but perfectly free vertically.

20437. And no danger of sticking. When it gets to the bottom the wedges force the machined edges at the back against the corresponding machined surface of the frame and so make it watertight?
- Yes.

20438. Supposing at the bottom there was a little bit of coal or something which prevented it getting quite down?
- The door is falling; it is falling freely until it overlaps that place, and the door would smash through any small thing. This is not a very big model, but it will smash through a lead pencil if I let it go.

20439. Supposing the door, having overlapped the step at the bottom still nevertheless is prevented by some little obstacle from getting down quite as far as is intended?
- As this is falling with a rush, until the wedges actually press it home, the distance through which there is contact is only a matter of an inch or so - except just during that last inch when the door is stopped - the weight of the door would be sufficient to clear any obstacle.

20440. Overcome anything like a piece of coal?
- Yes; it would simply knock it out of the way. Some of the big doors weigh, I think, 15 cwt., three-quarters of a ton, so that it would want a pretty substantial obstacle.

20441. Some of us saw those doors being closed, and, of course, they did not fall with a drop like a guillotine, but they descended gradually?
- They descended gradually.

20442. Just explain how that was?
- In order to give time after the automatic release from the bridge or by the float, so that no one coming through the door, or just passing through the door, should be injured, a hydraulic cataract cylinder, something like a gun recoil cylinder, was arranged, so that the earlier part of the drop shall be comparatively slow, depending on the leakage of a fluid back past the piston in the cylinder. To the last 18 inches or 2 feet there is a bye -pass round the piston, and the door is practically free to fall quickly just for the last 2 feet or so.

20443. I suppose in the earlier part it is still falling with irresistible force, only retarded?
- It is falling with just the same weight, but retarded.

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