British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 21

Testimony of Bertram F. Hayes

Examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL.

The Attorney-General:
May I say with reference to this Witness and the next they are master Mariners who I am calling at the request of my friend, Sir Robert Finlay. I am going to call them and examine them pursuant to the course we have followed throughout, but I desire to guard myself against its being thought or being argued hereafter that I am in any way bound by what they are going to say, and, Moreover, I shall contend at a later stage that, whatever their views may be on that particular point upon which I am calling them, they must be disregarded. With that reservation, I propose to ask them questions which I think will afford your Lordship some information which you may require.

Sir Robert Finlay:
It is highly necessary that these gentlemen should be called now, if they are going to be called at all, as they are sailing this week. I regard their evidence as extremely material, and, of course, I quite agree that the Attorney-General is not to be prejudiced in any argument hereafter by following the ordinary course of his putting the witnesses into the box.

21793. (The Attorney-General.) In any event, I agree with my friend to this extent, that your Lordship would desire to have the facts before you, whether it must be taken into account on one material point, which you will have to consider later, is another matter which we can argue then. (To the witness.) You are a Master mariner?
- I am.

21794. You have held an extra Master's certificate since 1897?
- Yes.

21795. You are also a Commander in the Royal Naval Reserve, Active List?
- Yes.

21796. You went to sea originally, I think, in 1880 in sailing ships?
- Yes.

21797. You joined the White Star Line in March, 1889?
- Yes.

21798. You were two years in the New Zealand service and were then transferred to the Atlantic service?
- Yes.

21799. As Fourth Officer of the "Teutonic" in 1891?
- Yes.

21800. You were appointed Commander of the "Britannic" in 1899?
- June, 1899.

21801. And, as I understand, you were three years in the transport service?
- During the south African War.

21802. With that exception you have been in the Atlantic service ever since you were appointed as Fourth Officer of the "Teutonic" in 1891?
- With the exception of one voyage to Australia, which is included in those three years.

21803. And two years, I think, you were in command of the "Laurentic," a Canadian boat?
- Yes.

21804. Since you have been sailing to New York do you remember sailing on any other tracks than the tracks referred to in the agreement of 1898?
- No.

21805. Are they always followed?
- They are always followed by our ships, so far as I remember.

21806. Now, I want to ask you with reference to ice reports. Since the marconi system has been installed have you received ice reports by wireless telegraphy?
- Innumerable ones.

21807. Giving the position in which the ice is when they first telegraph to you?
- Yes.

21808. When you are approaching an ice region, that is to say, the position in which ice has been reported to you, do you take any precautions?
- I take precautions according to the weather.

21809. Supposing the weather is clear?
- We keep an ordinary look-out, which is always an excellent one.

21810. Do you mean the ordinary look-out in the crow's-nest?
- Yes, and on the bridge; and I personally stay round.

21811. You do not put anybody in the bows?
- Not in clear weather.

21812. Not in clear weather or fine weather?
- Clear weather must be fine.

21813. Do you mean not when you can see clearly, but when you have a smooth sea?
- I do not take the sea into consideration at all. It is as long as the weather is clear.

21814. Did you proceed at the same rate of speed?
- At the same rate of speed.

21815. You made no alteration?
- No alteration.

21816. Is that the practice in your Line, so far as you know?
- it is the practice all over the world so far as I know - every ship that crosses the Atlantic.

21817. To make no alteration in speed, notwithstanding that you may have been advised of the presence of ice?
- Ice does not make any difference to speed in clear weather. You can always see ice then.

21818. The experience of the "Titanic" shows you cannot always?
- There were abnormal circumstances there which nobody has ever experienced before.

21819. But you said you can always see it?
- In clear weather I am talking of.

21820. Now I want to ask you, at night - supposing you are steaming at night, and it is reported that along the course you are following you will come into an ice-field, according to your view would you make any reduction in the rate of speed?
- None, till I saw the ice.

21821. None till you saw the ice?
- No.

21822. If you saw it too close it would be too late?
- But you would not see it too close in clear weather.

21823. What?
- You would not see it too close in clear weather. That is my experience.

21824. Of course, I am only asking you according to that. Is this right then? Supposing the weather is clear, and a proper look-out is being kept, you would be able to see ice at sufficient distance to enable you to avoid it?
- Certainly.

21825. That is what you mean?
- That is what I mean.

21826. Whatever your rate of speed?
- Whatever my rate of speed.

21827. And supposing you have an iceberg which is 60 to 80 feet high from the sea level, how far off do you think you would see that on a clear night?
- Six or seven miles, I should say. I have seen it 10 miles.

21828. What is it that you see; what is it first calls your attention to the fact that there is an iceberg there?
- You see a light there; the ice is light.

21829. You mean light against the horizon?
- It is like looking at that piece of paper on the wall; you can see the brightness.

21830. Colour - something which attracts your attention?
- The brightness of it attracts your attention.

21831. And is that the way you distinguish it at night?
- That is the way you distinguish it any time; you see the colour of it. It is differentiated from land in the daytime.

21832. Have you ever been very close to an iceberg yourself?
- Not in clear weather. I have steamed in between them. They have been scattered all over about the course on either bow, and I have gone on my course steering between them, at nighttime.

21833. I should assume that was in the daytime from what you tell me?
- At nighttime approaching Belle Isle.

21834. (The Commissioner.) Going full speed?
- Going full speed.

21835. (The Attorney-General.) What is your full speed?
- 18 knots; the "Laurentic" was 18 knots.

21836. That was on the Canadian service?
- Yes.

21837. Of the White Star Line?
- Of the White Star Line.

21838. (The Commissioner.) That is in the track North?
- Yes, by Belle Isle.

21839. (The Attorney-General.) Where you would meet more ice and expect to meet more ice than on this track?
- Yes.

21840. Is that your invariable practice?
- Everybody's invariable practice, as far as I know.

The Commissioner:
No, not everybody's, because we have had evidence about the Canadian Pacific boat, I think it was.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Not on this point, My Lord.

Mr. Scanlan:
It is page 194, My Lord.

The Attorney-General:
Oh, certainly, we have had evidence about it.

The Commissioner:
I think the master of the "Mount Temple" stated that he had standing directions never to go -

Sir Robert Finlay:
I think it was not to enter field ice, and that is why I said, "Not on this point."

The Commissioner:
Very well.

Sir Robert Finlay:
It is on page 194.

The Witness:
May I say, in his evidence at Washington, he said he stopped when he came to the ice? Therefore he saw it before he stopped.

The Attorney-General:
It is Question 9263. You see I asked this Witness these questions particularly about icebergs. The particular question to which your attention is directed is 9263. That does relate to field ice. I am going to ask you a question about that now. I think so far as the evidence goes we have had no evidence that steamers are stopped because they see icebergs.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Or are warned of them.

The Attorney-General:
Or are warned of them; but they do stop if they are warned of field ice or see field ice.

The Commissioner:
They stop before they come to the field ice.

The Attorney-General:
What I am referring to is this answer by Mr. Moore, the Captain of the "Mount Temple": "We are not to enter field ice at any time, no matter how light it may appear." That is what I had in my mind.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I think it stops there - they are not to enter field ice - because it is given more in detail in our rule, which was issued to vessels using that track, the Northern track, to Canada, and it was pointed out that even if there is a lane it may very likely be a lane which does not go very far. It is no use to enter the ice.

The Attorney-General:
It does not really stop there, it goes further. The next is: "When you got warning there was ice ahead, what precautions did you adopt? (A.) I simply steered down. I went down further to the southward," and he says his highest speed was about 11 knots.

Sir Robert Finlay:
He is asked, "Did you decrease your speed? (A.) Not at all; it was daylight."

21841. (The Attorney-General.) He steered further to the southward, and his speed was only about 11 knots. Then he is asked if he makes any change in the look-out, and he says, "If we expect to see ice we always double the look-out." That is how it stands, I think. We shall have to consider later the evidence already given. (To the witness.) I only want to get your view. Supposing you had had a report of field ice ahead, not of icebergs, would you still steam full speed ahead?
- Till I saw that ice in clear weather, yes.

21842. Even at nighttime?
- On a clear night.

21843. What I do not quite understand is this: Where there was an iceberg of from 60 to 80 feet from the sea level, and it was not seen until within half a mile away, how do you account for that if it was a clear night?
- I was not there on that night.

The Commissioner:
That is my difficulty.

The Attorney-General:
I agree.

The Witness:
There must have been some abnormal conditions which misled them.

The Commissioner:
Or there was a bad look-out.

The Attorney-General:
Either one or the other.

The Witness:
I do not think there was, My Lord. I have known the two men, and there is no carelessness.

21844-5. (The Attorney-General.) I am not going to ask you to say there was a bad look-out on another White Star Line boat; do not think that?
- No, not against the men.

Examined by Sir ROBERT FINLAY.

21846. Just one or two questions. What do you say with regard to the use of glasses, or binoculars, by the look-out man?
- They are a source of danger, Sir. They spoil the look-out.

21847. How is that?
- The look-out man when he sees a light if he has glasses is more liable to look at it and see what kind of a ship it is. That is the Officer's business. The look-out man's business is to look out for other lights.

21848. The look-out man ought to be looking about while the Officer on the bridge finds out what kind of a light it is?
- Yes, it is his business to find out what kind of a light it is, what way it is going, and so on.

21849. Has Mr. Ismay sailed on ships in which you have been?
- Several times.

21850. Has he ever in any way interfered with the navigation?
- No, Sir.

21851. Did he go simply as an ordinary passenger?
- He was treated simply as an ordinary passenger.

The Commissioner:
As far as I know there is no evidence that he interfered, unless the taking of the telegram from the Captain and keeping it in his pocket, can be regarded as interference. There is no evidence that Mr. Ismay interfered; the evidence goes the other way.

The Attorney-General:
I do not want to mislead, or for my friend to be under any misapprehension with regard to that. Your Lordship's question to me I agree with - there is no evidence that he interfered in any way with the navigation of the vessel, but I do not agree that he was an ordinary passenger, or treated as an ordinary passenger.

Sir Robert Finlay:
He was, of course, the Chairman.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, and he was apprised of the icebergs.

Sir Robert Finlay:
And although Chairman he simply travelled as any ordinary passenger travelled. He took no part whatever in the directing of the ship, and never interfered in the slightest way.

The Attorney-General:
I do not want to argue it, but we have to bear in mind that the ice report was given to him for a specific purpose, and to no other passenger on the vessel.

Sir Robert Finlay:
For a specific purpose?

The Attorney-General:
Yes, there is evidence as to that.

Mr. Scanlan:
There is the evidence also as to the discussion between him and the Chief Engineer.

The Commissioner:
At Southampton.

Mr. Scanlan:
At Queenstown, before he left.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I wish really to appreciate the situation. The Attorney-General says that the ice report was given to Mr. Ismay for a specific purpose. I do not quite know what that means. That message related not merely to ice, but also to a tramp vessel said not to be under control, but I cannot trace any evidence as to any specific purpose for which that message was handed to Mr. Ismay.

The Attorney-General:
I do not think my friend is accurate in his recollection of the facts, but I do not want to discuss the matter now. My impression is that Mr. Ismay admitted definitely to me that he knew it was given to him because it was an ice report, and a serious one. That is my recollection.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I only wish to be clear as to what my friend means. Is it his suggestion that this telegram was handed to Mr. Ismay by the Captain in order that Mr. Ismay might advise him?

The Attorney-General:
Oh, no.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Is that the suggestion?

The Attorney-General:
No, I never made it.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Then I do not know what the suggestion is.

The Attorney-General:
I am sorry my friend did not appreciate the point; I thought I had already made it pretty clear. If he does not know I will tell him; I have no objection to telling him - that the object of giving him the telegram was because he, as Chairman of the Company, was there; that it was looked upon as a very serious report; that it was given to him because it was a very serious report; it was given to him to consider and apprise himself of the facts, and that it was then handed back, as we know from the evidence later on, to the Captain at seven or a quarter-past seven.

The Commissioner:
With a request.

The Attorney-General:
With a request; and the object of giving it to him, I certainly shall suggest, was that if he had any directions to give with regard to it that that was the time for him to give them. He was told what was happening.

The Commissioner:
The real point of the matter is that he did not.

The Attorney-General:
I quite agree to that.

The Commissioner:
It is, to my mind, an extraordinary thing that the Captain, instead of pinning that thing up in the chart room, as I should have thought he ought to have done, should hand it to anybody - Mr. Ismay or anybody - to keep in his pocket. That is a very extraordinary thing.

The Attorney-General:
Of course, it is, and at a later stage we will discuss it.

The Commissioner:
Yes, it will have to be discussed.

The Attorney-General:
It is extraordinary there was never a word exchanged about it.

Sir Robert Finlay:
There must certainly have been if your views are right.

The Attorney-General:
I am not certain that there was not, if you challenge me to say it.

Sir Robert Finlay:
If my friend is going to say that he will have to deal with the evidence.

The Attorney-General:
I know. We have the evidence of one person who has been called.

Sir Robert Finlay:
If Mr. Ismay's word on that point is impeached it is another matter, and I will deal with that at the proper time.

(The Witness withdrew.)