British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 24

Testimony of Richard O. Jones

Examined by the SOLICITOR-GENERAL.

23590. Are you Master of the steamship "Canada"?
- Yes.

23591. I think that is a vessel belonging to the Dominion Line?
- Yes.

23592. Have you been her Master for some nine years?
- Yes.

23593. Of course, you hold a Master's certificate. How long have you held it?
- Twenty-eight years.

23594. And I think we may assume you have been going to sea longer than that?
- Yes.

23595. Have you been for the last 27 years with the Dominion Line?
- I have.

23596. Is that a line of steamers between this country and Canada?
- Yes.

23597. And have you been in that Canadian service for some years?
- Twenty-seven years.

23598. Let us take April, 1912, the month in which this calamity happened, did you sail as Master of the "Canada" from Portland (Maine.) in that month?
- Yes.

23599. I think on the 7th of April?
- On the 7th of April I left Portland.

23600. Bound for Liverpool?
- Yes.

23601. Did you get any messages on your voyage about ice?
- Yes, several.

23602. Which was the day?
- On the 9th I had a message from the "Tunisian."

23603. That is an Allan Line steamer, is it not?
- Yes.

23604. A wireless message, I suppose?
- Yes.

23605. Just tell us what it was shortly?
- I have a copy in my pocket.

The Solicitor-General:
The "Tunisian" was bound East, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
I understand the "Canada" was going to Liverpool.

23606. (The Attorney-General.) No, the "Tunisian" that sent the message was going East. This vessel was bound West, so that they were crossing ships?
- They were both bound East.

23607. (The Solicitor-General.) It is my mistake entirely. They were both bound East. Will you read the message?

The Witness:
At 8.45 p.m., G.M.T., 43° 22' N. and 54° 12' W.

23608. (The Solicitor-General.) Cannot we limit it to the ice message, because it complicates it so.

The Commissioner:
What are you going to do?

The Solicitor-General:
I understand this gentleman will tell you he had a message about icebergs in a particular locality.

The Witness:
We received a message from the "Royal Edward" reporting bergs in 42° 48.'

The Commissioner:
What did you do?

23609. (The Solicitor-General.) I think I understand what your Lordship wants. (To the witness.) You told us you got several messages - more than one?
- There were two from the "Tunisian."

23610. Never mind; you got more messages than one about ice?
- Yes.

23611. Did you come up to the ice; did you see it?
- Yes.

23612. Tell us what you did when you found yourself in the neighbourhood of the ice. That is what we want to know?
- It was some hours later when we came to the ice.

23613. Whenever it was, what did you do?
- When I saw the ice I stopped.

23614. (The Commissioner.) This was pack ice?
- Yes.

23615. (The Solicitor-General.) What sort of ice?
- Pack ice.

23616. You stopped altogether, did you?
- Yes, I stopped altogether. I let my ship run her way off, and then I gave her a touch ahead, so as to get close to the ice, so as to inspect it.

23617. Was this in daylight or at night?
- At night, 11 o'clock at night.

23618. Then you say you gave your ship a touch ahead to get close to the ice to have a look at it?
- Yes.

23619. What did you find?
- Broken ice and lanes between them, so I decided it was safe for me to go through.

23620. (The Commissioner.) To go through?
- Yes, My Lord.

23621. (The Solicitor-General.) At what speed did you go through?
- Oh, very slow; I picked my way clear of the broken pieces.

23622. And did you succeed in getting through?
- Yes, I was through about daylight the next morning, about six o'clock.

23623. After you got the messages about the ice did you continue going on full speed ahead until the ice was reported by the look-out?
- Yes, certainly.

The Commissioner:
Now I see the object.

23624. (The Solicitor-General.) That is the point. (To the witness.) Is that in your opinion the usual practice?
- Certainly, always.

23625. (The Commissioner.) What speed were you going at?
- 15 knots.

23626. (The Solicitor-General.) Is that your full speed?
- Yes.

23627. What was the weather?
- Dark and clear.

23628. (The Commissioner.) Suppose you had had a 22-knot boat would you have gone 22 knots?
- I should think it would be just as safe to go full speed with 22 knots.

23629. (The Solicitor-General.) What was the distance at which the ice was picked up. You are going your 15 knots, and it is reported, and then you say you stopped and ran on to reach it. Do you know how far ahead of you it was seen and reported?
- Well, I saw the glare of it; I should say about three miles off.

23630. You did yourself?
- Yes, and I saw the ice itself fully a mile and a half.

23631. Then I understand you stopped, let your vessel come to a stop, and then felt your way on to inspect it?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
I think there was some evidence that it was inadvisable to go up these lanes.

The Attorney-General:
Unless you can see your way through.

Sir Robert Finlay:
It is in the Regulations issued for vessels of the Canadian line by the White Star particularly, and I have it in my hand. It is to this effect: It is unsafe to enter lanes because you never know whether there may be an exit or not. I will just read the material words: "The ice is often very heavy, and should not be entered" - that is field ice - "unless it is obviously in loose patches. Lanes in the ice often come to an end, and it is unwise to enter them unless clear water can be seen beyond."

The Commissioner:
You get into a cul de sac.

23632. (Sir Robert Finlay.) Yes, you may.

The Witness:
I do not mean I followed the lanes, My Lord, but I cut across.

23633. (The Solicitor-General.) You went up to get close to the ice and to see what it was like?
- Yes, and there the ice was in streaks stretching North and South and the lanes between.

23634. (The Commissioner.) And you had to cross the lanes, not follow them?
- Yes.

23635. (The Solicitor-General.) You would be about seven hours in amongst the ice altogether, I make it from what you have told us?
- Yes, nearly seven hours.

23636. And of course going slower and picking your way?
- Yes.

23637. Did you come to the conclusion that it would be safe to cross the ice-field?
- Perfectly safe. The fact remains that the paint was not taken off the ship's bow.

23638. Nobody suggested that. Perhaps you might tell us this. I think, My Lord, will think it is relevant. You have been crossing the Atlantic year after year constantly. What do you say in this period of the year in the month of April, as to the probability of meeting ice?
- How far east do you mean?

23639. Do you expect to meet it?
- Oh, certainly.

Sir Robert Finlay:
He is on the Northerly track; he is in the Canadian trade.

23640. (The Solicitor-General.) Where was it you met the ice, about?
- On this occasion?

23641. Yes?
- In 40° 20' W. and 42° N.

The Solicitor-General:
I appreciate it was not necessary to get the details of bearings before but I think this last bearing is worth having.

The Commissioner:
He was very much North of the spot where the "Titanic" came to grief.

23642. (The Solicitor-General - To the witness.) Will you give it to me again. What is the latitude?
- 42 N.

Mr. Laing:
43 N.

23643. (The Solicitor-General.) You said 42, did you not?
- It is 42 N.

23644. (The Commissioner.) Someone has written on this chart 43° 22'?

The Witness:
I made a mistake my Lord a moment ago; it is 43 N.

The Attorney-General:
He means 43 N.; he made a mistake just now when he said 42.

The Commissioner:
It is considerably North of the "Titanic."

23645. (The Solicitor-General.) Yes, My Lord; he is 60 miles North. (To the witness.) I think you said your longitude was 49° 20' W.?
- Yes, when we got out of the ice.

23646. With your experience on a clear night, have you always been able to detect ice by this ice blink?
- No, not by the ice-blink; the ice-blink does not always occur.

23647. Then if it is not the ice-blink which enables you to see it, what do you see it by?
- You see the ice itself.

23648. Can you suggest to us at all why it should be, if a good look-out is kept, that a ship would not see ice until she is close upon it?
- No.

23649. You cannot imagine?
- No; I have always seen ice in plenty of time on a clear night.

Examined by Mr. SCANLAN.

23650. (Mr. Scanlan.) There is one point I wish to ask this Witness. (To the witness.) In clear weather what distance ahead can you see an iceberg at night?
- It depends upon the light. If it is a moonlight night you might be able to see it six to twelve miles.

23651. Supposing it is not moonlight, but the stars are clear?
- I should say at the very least a mile and a half to two miles.

23652. You would not say six or seven?
- No, it depends on the berg, too.

23653. And what provision had you for a look-out on your ship?
- Two men on the look-out.

23654. Where?
- One in the crow's-nest and one on the stem head.

23655. Was your one man on the stem head put on at night?
- Yes, he was put on that night just as we got on to the ice track.

23656. Did you consider it a proper precaution to put a man at the stem head when ice was reported?
- It had been always our custom; we have always done that for the last twenty-seven years.

23657. At night?
- Yes.

23658. Whether ice is reported or not?
- In the ice track.

23659. Are your look-out men supplied with binoculars?
- No, they are not.

23660. Not in the crow's-nest?
- No.

23661. (The Commissioner.) Nor at the stem head?
- No, My Lord.

Examined by Mr. CLEMENT EDWARDS.

23662. Your boats are controlled by the International Mercantile marine?
- Yes.

23663. Have you any sailing directions?
- Yes.

23664. Do they say anything about navigation in the ice region?
- Yes.

23665. Have you a copy of them with you?
- No, I have not.

23666. Can you remember broadly what these directions are?
- We have special instructions with regard to ice.

23667. What are they?
- I deviate according to my own discretion to avoid ice.

23668. You have a general discretion with regard to the navigation of a ship under any circumstances, have you not?
- Yes.

23669. Can you remember what are the particular directions with regard to ice?
- Yes, we have instructions to deviate from our course.

23670. You have instructions to deviate?
- Yes.

23671. Under what circumstances?
- To avoid ice.

23672. Are there any special circumstances set forth in the directions under which you may deviate?
- If ice is reported?

23673. If ice is reported?
- Yes.

23674. Is it possible to get a copy? Is your ship in London now?
- No, she is in Liverpool.

The Commissioner:
I have no doubt a copy of the sailing directions can be obtained at the office of the International Marine.

The Attorney-General:
We have got that, My Lord.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I believe it has this direction.

The Commissioner:
Will you read it? (To the witness.) Just listen and see if it is the sailing direction.

23675. (Sir Robert Finlay.) This is supplied to me as an extract from the instructions given to the Commanders in the Canadian service respecting field ice: "Field ice may be met off the eastern end of the bank across the bank and along the south coast of Newfoundland. Thin ice is often very heavy and should not be entered unless it is obviously in loose patches. Lanes in the ice often come to an end, and it is unwise to enter them unless clear water can be seen beyond. It is usually the safest course to go South to get round the field ice, and Commanders have permission to use their discretion to deviate from the track under such circumstances?
- Yes.

23676. Are those your directions?
- Yes.

23677. (The Commissioner.) Are those the directions you were talking about?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
Very well; then there they are.

23678. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) You were in the service of the Dominion Line before it became acquired by the American Trust?
- Yes, for 27 years.

23679. Are those sailing directions as to navigation in the ice-fields the same as or different from the instructions which you had when the Dominion Line Company had control?
- Practically the same.

23680. Not quite?
- Perhaps not worded exactly the same. The meaning is the same.

Examined by Sir ROBERT FINLAY.

23681. You were asked as to the Dominion Line vessels being under the control of the International Mercantile marine?
- Yes.

23682. That was formed, I think, in 1902?
- Yes.

23683. Ten years ago?
- Yes.

23684. You have been in that trade for 27 years?
- Yes.

23685. Was your practice before 1902 exactly the same as it has been since?
- Exactly the same.

23686. Now, I want to know what those messages were; what sort of ice did they report?
- Field ice and bergs.

23687. Perhaps you will refer to the messages and just tell us?
- Shall I read it out?

23688. If you please, so far as it relates to ice. What vessel is this from?
- This is from the "Tunisian" from the "Royal Edward."

23689. Reporting a message which they had from the "Royal Edward"?
- Yes. "The 'Royal Edward' this morning reports bergs 42-48 N., 49-40 W., and passed through ice-field in 42-35 N. and 50-18 W., extending N. and S. as far as visible. Some of this ice is heavy and dangerous."

23690. Where were you at the time you got that message?
- Between 52 and 53 W. and 43 N.

23691. Did you receive another message later on from the "Bulgaria"?
- Yes.

23692. What was that?
- "Nine p.m. hazy, pack ice in 42-24 N. and 50-6 W."

23693. The weather is "hazy." I thought it was "heavy"?
- Well, it is "heavy." "Heavy pack ice in 42-24 N. and 50-6 W., large bergs in 42-31 N. and 40-50 W."

Sir Robert Finlay:
It is 49, is it not?

The Commissioner:
What is this for?

23694. (Sir Robert Finlay.) To show the nature of the message he received, reporting not only field ice, but also bergs and pack ice?
- It is 49.50. It is a mistake in the telegram here.

23695. What was your position when you got your second message about the ice?
- About 51 W.

23696. And N.
- Forty-three N.

23697. Forty-three N. and 51 W.?
- About that.

23698. Were you still going East at full speed?
- Yes.

23699. What was the state of the sea?
- Calm and clear.

23700. Was there any swell?
- There might be a light swell, yes; but the sea was smooth.

23701. If there was any swell it was moderate?
- Yes; I mean to say there was no wind, the surface of the sea was calm; there might be a little swell.

23702. Then you got through the ice across the lanes in the way you have described?
- Yes.

23703. Now, will you just explain to me about this ice-blink. That is not always seen?
- No, not always.

23704. What is it; how is it produced?
- By a reflection of the light. I suppose it is the reflection of the light on the ice.

23705. The reflection of what light?
- It might be a star.

23706. Is it a sort of shimmer?
- Yes, a kind of a flicker.

23707. Is the lowering of the temperature, in your experience, a sign of icebergs or produced by them?
- It is no guide to the vicinity of icebergs, none whatever.

23708. Where you have ice about, in your experience, are you liable to have fogs?
- Very liable.

23709. Does that, in your judgment, afford any reason for the practice you have always pursued as to speed?
- Yes, we always make what speed we can.

23710. Just tell us, in your own way, what effect that fact has on your practice as to speed?
- Well, we always try to get through the ice track as quickly as possible in clear weather.

23711. If fog came on while you were there?
- It would increase the danger very much. We have to slow down or stop.

23712. With regard to this question about glasses for the look-out men, the binoculars, do you think it is desirable to have them?
- No, I do not.

23713. What is your reason for that?
- In the first place, it is very difficult to focus the glasses, and if the glasses are not properly focused the man might as well have a blank tube to look through.

(The witness withdrew.)