British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 25

Testimony of William D. Archer, cont.

24345. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) That may be due to the fire, My Lord. This is what I said on Friday, My Lord; you will find it at page 649 of the Notes: "(Mr. Clement Edwards.) There is one point I ought to clear up. I inadvertently, I am afraid, rather misled the Court the other day. In the mass of evidence it is a little difficult to tell what has come formally before the Court and what has come before me in another form, and I did say that Barrett, in his evidence, as far as I remember, had spoken about a hole being bored in a watertight compartment between sections 5 and 6. That was not given in evidence. I have caused very careful enquiries to be made, and even supposing the statement to be correct, I am given to understand it would not in the least degree interfere with or detract from the strength of that bulkhead as affected by the fire. (The Commissioner.) Very well, then, in any event, it becomes immaterial." (To the witness.) Have you those measurements?
- Yes, I have some measurements here.

24346. It is not a question of having some. Have you the measurements or not on which you based your calculations as to the strength of the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

Mr. Edwards:
And do those figures show what ought to be the measurements in different parts of a ship of the size of the "Titanic"?

24347. (The Commissioner.) Have these measurements any reference to the strength of the bulkheads?
- No, My Lord.

24348. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Have these measurements any reference to the strength of the hull of the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

24349. What system did you adopt in arriving at measurements above and beyond the scale figures which you find for ships in your scale C, and which you find for ships of the size, within the limits of Lloyd's measurements; in other words, there are measurements in existence for ships of a certain size - we know that - and there are scale measurements. What method did you adopt in arriving at figures and measurements beyond that scale up to the size of the "Titanic"?
- I have endeavoured to explain how I did it. It is a very difficult thing to explain.

The Commissioner:
He did explain it. He gave what he considers, and what I daresay is, a good explanation, but if you want to know whether I understood it, the answer must be "No."

Mr. Edwards:
Probably, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Did you understand it?

Mr. Edwards:
I follow your Lordship's courageous example, and say "No."

The Commissioner:
Did you understand it?

Mr. Edwards:
I did not fully understand it, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
I hoped you would say "Yes," and then I was going to ask you to explain it to me.

24350. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) One always sees the red light with you, My Lord. (To the witness.) What I want to get at is this: Where do you take your figures or other measurements from for ships above what I call scale measurements? It is quite a simple question. As I understand you arrive at a definite conclusion as to the bendability of a ship of this size, and, therefore, to use an ordinary expression, you arrive at her total strength by a series of calculations?
- Yes.

24351. And those calculations in their turn are based upon a series of measurements?
- Yes.

24352. We know what the measurements are in the case of ships of a limited size. What I want to get at is, where do you get the measurements for ships and where does your department get the measurements for ships, for the purpose of this calculation, for sizes above the scale size?
- We got the measurements from the drawings of the "Titanic."

24353. You have got the drawings there, and I will take two or three examples. You took the drawings of the "Titanic," which show you that plates are of a given thickness in a given part of the ship?
- Yes.

24354. Those plates presumably will be thicker in the case of the "Titanic" than in a ship of 10,000 tons?
- Yes.

24355. What I want to get at is this. Take the case of the plates by what system do you test the efficiency of the plates of extra thickness for a ship of this size as compared with the plates of a given thickness for a ship of 10,000 tons?
- I do it in the manner I have already described. I treat the ship as a beam or girder. I assume that the tendency to bend the ship is equal to the displacement of the ship multiplied by her length and divided by 30, and I work out the stress in tons per square inch on the gunwale. Shall I give you the figure I arrived at, Sir?

24356. If it will help, certainly do so, please?
- I arrived at a figure of 9.9 tons per square inch on the shear strake of the bridge of the "Olympic."

As I endeavoured to describe I drew out a smaller vessel having the scantlings of Lloyd's Rules, and I treated her in exactly the same way, and I arrived in that case at a figure of 12.2 tons per square inch for a vessel having Lloyd's scantlings, the inference being that the "Olympic" was stronger than the Lloyd's vessel.

24357. That is to say, the "Olympic" for 46,000 tons was stronger per inch than Lloyd's for 10,000 tons?
- That is so, yes.

Mr. Edwards:
But you have no measurements of Lloyd's for a ship of 46,000 tons.

The Commissioner:
He has said No. He has told us that so often.

24358. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) And therefore there is no comparison between the two?
- There is a comparison of stresses, but not of scantlings.

24359. In relation to this general calculation of the ship as a girder, did you consider how far the strength of the ship was detracted from by that hollow space where there are spiral stairs running down to the firemen's tunnel?
- I do not quite appreciate what you mean by a hollow space.

24360. You know the plan of the "Titanic"?
- Yes, I have a general idea of it.

24361. In the case of the "Titanic" there are no decks running the whole length of the ship, are there?
- I beg your pardon, I think there are.

24362. Have you a plan of the "Titanic" before you?
- Yes, I have a plan here.

24363. I am not on the superstructure decks, but do not all the other decks for all practical purposes terminate immediately at the spiral staircase leading down to the firemen's tunnel?
- No.

24364. Which do not?
- C deck does not terminate.

24365. That is the shelter deck?
- The so-called shelter deck.

24366. Is not that broken by the spiral staircase?
- No, I think not.

24367. How in the world does the spiral staircase find its exit, then?
- I think the spiral staircase finds its exit apparently on D deck. But may I say in any case, whether it finds its exit there, it only makes a comparatively small hole in the deck, and does not stop the deck.

Mr. Edwards:
That is what I am coming to.

The Commissioner:
Are you sure it was that that you were coming to?

Mr. Edwards:
Perhaps not, My Lord, perhaps I have put my foot in it.

(After a short adjournment.)

Mr. Edwards:
My Lord, I have had an opportunity during the adjournment to go through a number of these letters, and, broadly, they disclose this. There are a number of letters missing, to which I shall make reference in a moment, but, broadly speaking, there was on the part of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade a series of suggestions made to Messrs. Harland and Wolff as to the greater height of the bulkheads, and it was pointed out that they were not conforming, in the plans, to the Regulations, and there appears to have been a good deal of discussion as to the height to which these bulkheads should come and as to the watertighting of the spiral staircase, and so on. If I may say so, I regard the correspondence as of the very highest importance in relation to this Enquiry and future safety, and I was going to ask that your Lordship should consider at once a request that the Board of Trade will cause copies of all the essential letters to be made, together with those letters, if they can get them, which are missing from this correspondence.

The Commissioner:
Very well, if you will mark those letters that you think are important, I have no doubt that the Board of Trade will cause them to be printed.

Mr. Edwards:
There is one bundle here, My Lord, of some 25 documents in all. I think every one of them ought to be copied and the intermediate letters to which reference is made here, which are missing, ought, if possible, to be found and put in their right places.

The Commissioner:
You speak of 25. I have no idea how many there are. Do you want them all printed?

Mr. Edwards:
All in the one bundle.

The Commissioner:
Do you want any in the other bundle printed?

Mr. Edwards:
Certain of them which I will mark as your Lordship suggests.

The Commissioner:
There is no objection to printing them?

The Attorney-General:
No, My Lord.

Mr. Edwards:
I think, if I may say so, it is very important from the point of view of certain officials of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade that these letters should be made part and parcel of the proceedings. (To the witness.) Now, Mr. Archer, there are here a number of letters with which you are familiar. But before I come to these letters I want to ask you one or two questions about the Rule and Circular 1401. I also want to ask you about the Report of the bulkhead Committee of 1890.

The Commissioner:
1891, is it not?

24368. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Yes, My Lord; it sat pursuant to a Minute of March, 1890. (To the witness.) Had you anything to do with the drawing up of Circular 1401?
- Yes.

24369. Are you responsible for its draughtsmanship?
- For its draughtsmanship, yes.

24370. Apart from Messrs. Harland and Wolff, has any discussion arisen with any firm of shipbuilders and yourself as to the precise meaning of this Rule?
- I cannot recollect that any discussion has arisen as to the meaning of it.

24371. I will come to the discussion you had upon it with Messrs. Harland and Wolff in a moment or two; but take that circular in conjunction with Rule 16. What were those Rules based upon? Were they based upon the Report of the bulkheads Committee of 1891?
- No.

24372. When you are asked to decide whether there is an efficient and watertight system of efficient and watertight bulkheads in a ship, to what do you refer? What is your standard? What is your test of efficiency?
- I am not asked whether there is an efficient system. The question is not put to me.

24373. By Rule 16 there is to be an efficient and watertight engine room and stokehold bulkhead, as well as a collision watertight bulkhead?
- Yes.

24374. What is your test of efficiency? Or, I will put it in this way; have you any standard by which to test the efficiency of a watertight bulkhead?
- We have two standards; we have the standard laid down by the Committee of 1891, and the standard in Lloyd's Rules.

24375. You do, then, sometimes refer to the Report of 1891?
- Yes.

24376. Is it not the fact that in that Report of 1891, part of the test of an efficient watertight system was that there should be watertight decks?
- In the bulkheads Committee of 1891?

24377. Yes?
- If there is any requirement in the Report of the bulkheads Committee that there ought to be watertight decks, it has escaped my memory; there may be such a thing.

The Commissioner:
Read it to us, Mr. Edwards.

24378. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) The Committee were asked by the minute, My Lord, to report: "As to the manner in which ships shall be subdivided, so that they may float in moderate weather with any two compartments in free connection with the sea; and what Rule there should be as to the proportion of freeboard of the watertight deck next above, to which such bulkheads are attached, as shall be sufficient to enable the ship so to float." Upon which the Committee reported: "(1.) Vessels may be considered able to float in moderate weather with any two adjoining compartments in free communication with the sea, if fitted with efficient transverse watertight bulkheads, so spaced that when two such compartments are laid open to the sea, the uppermost watertight deck to which all the bulkheads extend, and which we will call the bulkhead deck, is not brought nearer to the water surface than would be indicated by a line drawn round the side at a distance amidships of 3/l00ths of the depth at side at that place below the bulkhead deck, and gradually approaching it towards the ends, where it may be 3/200ths of the same depth below it. This line we may call the margin-of-safety line." Do you know if in any of the ships it was insisted upon that they should have a watertight bulkhead deck?
- Not watertight in the sense of resisting pressure from below.

Leave out the question of watertight in regard to pressure, but watertight in the sense of water not being able to percolate.

The Commissioner:
To flow over.

24379. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) That is so, My Lord, yes, to flow over.

The Witness:
No, we do not.

24380. And do you insist upon a watertight deck in the sense that there should be no openings in the deck up through which the water may come?
- No.

24381. Can you say, in view of that recommendation, if you use that as a standard, why the Marine Department do not do so?
- I think that the term "watertight deck" as used in this recommendation of the bulkheads Committee has been used under a misapprehension.

24382. You mean "watertight" does not mean watertight there?
- Yes, that it was used by mistake.

24383. Do you mean tight without the water, or what?
- I mean the bulkheads Committee never intended that the deck to which the bulkheads came should be an iron watertight deck all through.

24384. (The Commissioner.) Then what did they intend?
- As far as I can understand, My Lord, they were referring to the deck being watertight, so that water shipped above should not get through it from above.

24385. It does not occur to me that is the way to read it?
- I speak with great deference on the matter.

24386. You may be right?
- I can hardly think as a practical man they did intend that to be so.

24387. You do not think it is practical?
- No, My Lord.

24388. Are there any ships with watertight decks?
- I do not know of any that are absolutely watertight; they are generally made practically watertight.

24389. Practically watertight is near enough, you know. Why are they so constructed if it is not practicable?
- They are so constructed to prevent water coming from above down into the cargo; but they always have hatchways in them which will not be watertight from below, that is, any pressure from below would force the hatch covers up. They cannot withstand any pressure from below, but they can keep water from going from above below through the hatch.

24390. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) You notice the term here is used "watertight bulkheads" and "watertight compartments." Can you conceive of a watertight compartment that is open on its top side?
- It is not in one sense watertight; but, colloquially, it is termed a watertight compartment even though it is open at the top.

The Commissioner:
I suppose you can have a watertight cistern, cannot you?

Mr. Edwards:
When you speak of a watertight cistern, My Lord, I believe it is that cistern which is covered in at the top.

The Commissioner:
Is it? Are there not watertight cisterns which are not covered in at the top?

Mr. Edwards:
Not strictly, My Lord, I should think.

The Commissioner:
By "watertight" I mean a vessel from which water cannot escape.

Mr. Edwards:
But when you are speaking of the watertight compartment of a ship -

The Commissioner:
You seem to have a notion that the word "watertight" could only apply to a vessel which has some sort of a watertight bulkhead or cover, or side, or bottom all round it.

Mr. Edwards:
I was only treating it in reference to the Report of the Committee which clearly had it in mind that a watertight bulkhead was one thing, and that that watertight bulkhead was only part and parcel of another thing which was a watertight compartment.

The Commissioner:
If you mean by "watertight compartment" a box, of course, you must have the top watertight as well as the sides and bottom. I only want to know. Is it customary to have in these big ships a watertight deck covering what are called the watertight compartments?

Mr. Edwards:
I am told that in a number of cases it is so; I cannot say. I cannot give your Lordship definite information about it. But what I want to see is, what is the attitude of the Board of Trade towards it?
- We have the words of the bulkheads Committee.

24391. (The Commissioner.) My attention is called to these two expressions, the one in the minute and the other in the answer to the Questions. The minute, which issued from the Board of Trade itself, referred to a watertight deck in the first paragraph?

The Witness:
Yes, My Lord.

24392. Now, was that a mistake?
- In my view it is a mistake.

24393. It is dated 7th March, 1890. Do you see that the Board of Trade itself in the minute which they sent to the bulkheads Committee use the very expression "watertight deck next above"?
- Yes.

24394. Was that a wrong expression to use?
- In my opinion it was.

24395. Well, who was responsible for that?
- I cannot say, My Lord; it was long before I entered the service of the Board of Trade.

24396. Well, it is 22 years ago?
- Yes.

24397. Then there were two mistakes, one made by the Board of Trade in 1890, and the other made by the Committee in replying to the minute of the Board of Trade?
- Speaking with great diffidence, that is my view of the matter.

24398. I am asking you a question now, which is suggested to me. Has it been the practice not to make the deck above the watertight compartments, at the top you know, watertight?
- That has been the practice in the mercantile marine.

24399. It is a practice which was not, I think, followed on the whole length of the two Cunard boats we have heard of, the "Mauretania" and the "Lusitania"?
- I believe not, My Lord.

24400. In those ships, I think in the case of all but one of the watertight compartments, Most of the watertight compartments had a watertight deck at the top?
- That is so, I believe.

24401. And they, you say, were exceptions to the ordinary practice?
- Yes, they were exceptions.

24402. Now, will you take this plan of the "Mauretania" and the "Lusitania," which were exceptions from the ordinary practice. Just look at it, and tell me where the watertight deck is. (Handing a plan to the witness.) Is it at the top of all the watertight compartments or at the top of some of them only?
- So far as I understand the plan, it is not quite at the top of the compartments at all; it is shown lower down in the ship. I see they are marked in the foremost compartment in the next deck above the waterline, but the watertight bulkhead extends three decks above that again. In the next compartment I find a watertight deck situated at about the level of the waterline. In the next compartment there appears to be no watertight deck at all. The fourth, in a cross bunker, is situated a few feet above the waterline, and the bulkheads again go two tiers, about 16 feet higher up still.

24403. That is to say, the bulkheads in the "Mauretania" and the "Lusitania" in many instances, are considerably higher than the watertight deck?
- Much higher.

The Commissioner:
Have you seen these plans, Mr. Edwards?

Mr. Edwards:
No, My Lord, but I have seen others.

The Attorney-General:
I think it is so in all cases, from the plan.

The Commissioner:
In all what cases?

The Attorney-General:
The bulkheads are carried above the deck.

The Commissioner:
The Attorney-General says, Mr. Edwards, that in all cases the watertight bulkheads are carried above what may be called the watertight deck so that you do not get a watertight deck at the top of what might be called the watertight compartment.

Mr. Edwards:
That, of course, would be another reason for using the term "watertight," bulkhead is quite a distinct thing from the compartment.

24404. (The Commissioner.) Just let me ask you this, Mr. Archer. Is it not better to have a watertight deck, even though it is below the top of the watertight bulkhead rather than have no watertight deck at all?
- Yes, My Lord, it is an advantage to have a watertight deck.

The Commissioner:
That, I think, is what you want, Mr. Edwards.

24405. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Yes, My Lord. (To the witness.) In your view there is nothing impracticable in running the whole length of the ship at some point a watertight deck. I am now using the term watertight deck in its literal sense?
- When you say "impracticable," my answer is that it is not absolutely impracticable, but that in the majority of cases, especially in vessels which carry cargo, it would seriously impair the commercial efficiency of the vessel.

24406. Is not that a point with which the bulkheads Committee dealt, and did not they differentiate cases of the different classes of carrying capacity of vessels? That is to say, do you see why, in a vessel of the size of the "Titanic" there is any impracticability at all in a watertight deck going the whole length of the vessel - that is to say where you have the hatches with your watertight doors?
- In my opinion it was not impracticable to fit a watertight deck in the "Titanic"; but I am not at all sure that watertight doors are the proper way of closing them. That is a detail.

24407. Some battening or something of that sort could be made, whether it be a door or something else. I did not use the word "door" in the ordinary sense. That is to say, that any disadvantage through the loss of cargo space which you speak of as one of the elements of impracticability, could easily be got over by a system of watertight battenings in the hatches?
- No, not watertight battenings, I think.

24408. Casing or trunking, or what you will?
- I am of opinion that it was practicable to fit the watertight deck on the "Titanic," but that it would have entailed difficulty in working the cargo.

24409. Why do you say that?
- Because if you are going to fit watertight shutters as you suggested, those watertight shutters would be very liable to damage when hauling cargo up and down, and they would also take a considerable time to close down watertight. Further, if, instead of fitting these watertight covers, the hatch is trunked up watertight as high as the top of the bulkhead, which would perhaps be a better plan; you would require, if you want to stow cargo, not only in the holds, but in the between decks, to have watertight doors in this trunk, and it would be difficult to pass the cargo through those watertight doors.

24410. Did not you recommend the trunking of the hatchway in the "Titanic," as a matter of fact?
- I recommended it in one case, yes.

24411. I think you recommended the trunking of No. 1 hatchway?
- Yes.

24412. Would not that be open to precisely the same objection that you are now putting as to the interference with cargo of watertight decks?
- No, I think not, because I think there was no cargo to be carried in the space to which the trunk went. That is my recollection of the matter.

24413. (The Commissioner.) That was in the forepart of the ship?
- That was in the forepart of the ship.

24414. That went down to the engineers' accommodation?
- To the firemen's passage.

Mr. Edwards:
It is shown on the plan as cargo space, is it not, Mr. Archer? I think you will find it is shown as cargo space there.

24415. (The Commissioner.) Can you find a trunk there on the plan?
- No, My Lord, the trunk was not fitted.

24416. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) He asked for it, My Lord, but it was not fitted. It is shown as a cargo space?
- No. If I may say so, the trunk was to be fitted from the E deck to the D deck, and there was no cargo stowed upon E deck.

24417. You were considering the advisability of trunking the hatchway on the level of E deck?
- Yes.

24418. (The Attorney-General.) E deck to D deck, I think he said?
- Yes, from E deck to D deck.

24419. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) But down there, that space which you propose to trunk, you would have had to have lowered and raised the cargo from No. 1 hold?
- Yes, that is right.

24420. Now, what is the distinction between trunking a deck higher or lower where cargo is passed into a hold? What is the difference from this point of view which you are suggesting of making things impracticable?
- There is no difficulty in passing the cargo down into a hold at the bottom, but if it passes through 'tween deck spaces in which you also require to stow cargo, you must have some way of passing the cargo through the side of the trunk into those 'tween deck spaces.

24421. That is only a question of putting protections on the side, is it not, so that they do not get worn away?
- That is it; I do not say the thing is insuperable, but I say there are practical difficulties.

24422. Apart from that consideration, roughing the edges of the opening, do you see any other element which would detract from the practicability of a watertight deck?
- No, I do not.

24423. None at all?
- No.

24424. Now in the light of the "Titanic" experience, do you think that a very great advantage might be obtained from the point of view of greater safety, in having a watertight deck?
- Yes, I do.

24425. Now the relative sinkability of a ship which has had its side opened to the sea depends, does it not, upon the height to which water may be allowed to come in the so-called watertight compartment. That is to say, if you have two watertight compartments filled - that is, to the height of the waterline, still the "Titanic" might have floated?
- Yes.

24426. Now, supposing you had had a watertight deck below the waterline here, the chances are that three or four of the compartments might have been filled, and still she would have floated?
- That is so, but might I be allowed to point out the great objection to taking a deck below the waterline. If the damage had occurred not below the deck, but above the deck, there would be a danger in many vessels that they would capsize.

24427. Would you explain why?
- Because, if I may put it in a rough and ready way, you have admitted water above this deck and you have a space in which there is no water, but a space filled with air, and there would be a big air bubble, which tends to turn the ship over.

24428. There might be a possibility of getting a little top-heavy?
- Yes, if you get a deck below the waterline.

24429. But that could be easily relieved, could it not by a valve arrangement to let the water through. If that were the particular danger, you might get some compensation by having an opening in the floor?
- In the deck, do you mean?

24430. Yes?
- Then your deck would be no use.

24431. I am suggesting that it might be used under all circumstances except the particular one of danger which you point out?
- Yes, if you can avoid that danger of a ship capsizing, the watertight deck below the waterline is useful.

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