British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 21

Testimony of Frederick Passow

Examined by Mr. BUTLER ASPINALL.

21852. Do you hold a British Master's certificate?
- Yes.

21853. Have you held it since 1880?
- Yes.

21854. I believe you have been in command as Master for the last 28 years?
- Yes.

21855. Have you been serving during all that time in the Inman Line?
- Yes, the Inman Line, and now the American Line.

21856. The Inman Line, as we know, has become an American line, and you passed on from the British company's service into the service of the American company?
- Yes.

21857. I think you have crossed the Atlantic some 700 times?
- About that. I have never kept an accurate record, but about 700 times.

21858. And at the present moment you are in command of the "St. Paul"?
- Yes.

21859. She is one of the American Inman Line boats?
- Yes.

21860. What speed boat is she?
- About 20 knots.

21861. I think I can shorten your evidence in this way: Have you heard the evidence of the last gentleman who was in the box?
- Yes.

21862. Did you hear the statements of fact that he spoke to?
- Yes.

21863. And the expressions of opinion that he uttered?
- Quite so.

21864. Do you agree or disagree with the statement of facts?
- I agree with it.

21865. With regard to the expression of opinions do you agree or disagree?
- Yes.

Examined by Sir ROBERT FINLAY.

21866. What routes have you followed on the Atlantic?
- In my first experience, before I was in command of a ship, we used to sight Cape Race all the year round. There were no special routes. Then after that we had orders to go not less than thirty miles south of the Virgin Rocks, and then from 1898 we have used the present routes.

21867. In going over the Virgin Rocks would that take you over the Great Bank?
- Yes, winter and summer.

21868. You were making for New York?
- Yes.

21869. How far south of the Virgin Rocks do you say you went?
- Not less than thirty miles.

21870. Since 1898 you have followed the usual tracks?
- Yes, of all the other lines.

21871. The tracks agreed upon by them?
- Yes.

21872. Do you see a great deal of ice on the tracks you follow?
- On the Northern track we see a great deal.

21873. You have had a very large experience of ice?
- I have had a very large experience of ice.

21874. I do not know whether your Lordship caught the last answer of the witness. He said that on that track, which he described as going 30 miles south of the Virgins, they saw a great deal of ice, including field ice. You have had a very large experience of ice?
- Yes, a large experience of ice.

21875. Did you ever slacken your speed for ice as long as the weather was quite clear?
- Not as long as it was quite clear - no, not until we saw it. If it was field ice of course we kept out of it if we could. We get into it sometimes.

21876. Was that the same by night and by day?
- The same by night and by day, as long as the weather was absolutely clear.

21877. What do you say with regard to the use of binoculars for the look-out men?
- I never heard of it until I read it in the paper the other day. We have never had them - I never have.

21878. Do you think it would be a good thing?
- I do not think it would be any advantage, because the men would not use them in cold weather anyway, and we do not rely upon them very much. We always see everything first before the look-out men do.

21879. Have you in your time ever seen field ice on the present tracks - the tracks that have been followed since 1898?
- Never once, only isolated bergs.

Examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL.

21880. I want to understand one thing. You said you never altered your speed, because you could always depend upon seeing the ice in sufficient time?
- As long as the weather is perfectly clear.

21881. Has the disaster to the "Titanic" caused you in any way to modify your view?
- I do not think so. Of course, I was not there and I did not see what they looked like. But I have never seen an iceberg of that size that you could not see on a perfectly clear night, and far enough off safely to clear it. I have seen a piece, quite a small piece, that you could see some distance off.

21882. (The Commissioner.) If you are right, and if this was - as we have been told by a great many Witnesses it was - a perfectly clear night, how do you account for the collision?
- I cannot account for it at all. They say it looked like a black iceberg, but I have never seen a black iceberg. I never saw anything but a white one, and that you can see on the darkest night. You can see field ice, too, on the darkest night in time enough for you to get out of the way of it.

21883. We have had an explanation given of it by Mr. Lightoller. He said that the sea was absolutely flat - there was not, as I understood him, even a swell - and that the consequence of that was that there was no surf of any kind round the base of the iceberg. By the base, I mean, the margin on the waterline, and that, therefore, one of the best indications for the seeing of ice was absent. What do you think about that?
- I think you would see the surf round it at a shorter distance than you would see the iceberg, if it was a large one. The ice has a phosphorescent appearance.

21884. I should have thought that, as a seaman, you would have had some sort of explanation to suggest?
- I cannot think of anything, because they say the ice was dark blue, almost black. I never saw an iceberg like that in my life, and I have seen a good deal of ice too.

21885. Does that lead you to infer that they are mistaken when they say it was black?
- I would not like to say that, My Lord. I do not know, of course; I was not there, but I never saw an iceberg of that kind.

21886. Have you ever seen a growler?
- These low bergs?

21887. Yes?
- Very seldom.

21888. What is the colour of a growler?
- White.

21889. The same as an iceberg?
- The same as an iceberg, only a smaller one. That is what I understand by a growler - a low-lying berg. We always see those.

21890. If there was any haze I suppose it would be seen from the bridge?
- The berg?

21891. No. If there was any haze the haze would be seen?
- Immediately. As soon as there is the slightest beard on the green light and we are in the ice region we slow down, because you cannot say how far you can see, but when it is absolutely clear we do not slow down for ice.

21892. Of course, if there had been a haze you could have accounted for it?
- Yes.

21893. Would a bad look-out account for it?
- Yes, but I do not believe there are bad look-outs on any Atlantic steamers. I do not believe that.

21894. There were two men in this crow's-nest and there were two Officers, I think, on the bridge. You do not suppose there could have been a bad look-out?
- No, I should not think so. I never knew a bad look-out on these steamers, especially when you are in the ice region - not necessarily because ice was reported, but from longitude 44 to 51 we are always looking out for it.

21895. If a haze comes on, is it the duty of the man in the crow's-nest to report it to the bridge?
- No, Sir, it is not; we would know it quicker than he would, or just as quick, because we always see the little blur on the green light.

21896. It is the business of the man on the bridge to notice it?
- Yes.

21897. And to give directions accordingly?
- Call the Captain of the ship immediately.

Further examined by Sir ROBERT FINLAY.

21898. May I suggest one question with regard to what the witness said as to what Mr. Lightoller said? You said that you thought that if there had been a swell the white of the waves breaking at the foot of the iceberg would not be seen further than the iceberg itself?
- I do not think it would be seen as far, unless there was a sea on. Then you would see the breakers just like breakers breaking on the beach.

21899. I am speaking only of an ordinary swell?
- No, I should think you would see the berg first.

21900. You are speaking of the icebergs of which you have experience - white icebergs?
- Yes.

21901. Suppose you had a black iceberg?
- I would not see it, I suppose.

21902. Would the white of the waves, if there was a swell, be seen further under those circumstances?
- Oh, yes, of course, according to the amount of sea.

21903. You were speaking of the white icebergs with which you are familiar?
- Quite so, yes.

Further examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL.

21904. I understood you to say that you had never seen a black iceberg. Is that so?
- Yes.

21905. Have you ever heard of one?
- Never till I read of it in the papers.

(The Witness withdrew.)