British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 26

Testimony of John B. Ranson

Examine by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL.

24957. You are the master of the "Baltic"?
- Yes.

24958. She sailed from New York on 11th April for Liverpool?
- Yes.

24959. And did you receive a report of ice on 14th April?
- Yes.

24960. Had you received any report before?
- From several ships.

24961. On Sunday, 14th April, did you receive more than one report?
- No; I received one report from a steamer called the "Athinai."

24962. Did you communicate with the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

24963. The reason I am asking you in particular about this is that we have got the message which you sent to the "Titanic" in an affidavit which you made. I only want to know is that correct?
- Yes.

24964. You said: "On Sunday, 14th April, reports were received by wireless from a number of steamships of having passed ice and bergs in positions varying from 49.9 W., to 50.20 W., on the outward Southern track"?
- Yes.

24965. Was that right?
- They were not sent to me officially. The operator gets those, and he transmits those to the different ships as they are passing along. I get just a list. They were not official; they were simply sent by the different steamers as we passed to the operator, and he makes out a list of them and sends them to me. They are not signed at all by the Captains of the other ships; they were not official.

24966. They were messages received from other ships to him to transmit?
- To transmit to me. He would send to me. They were from the operators, but they were not sent to me specially, except this "Athinai" - that was. That was an official message signed by the Commander.

24967. The message you are referring to is the one that has been mentioned a good many times, which is on page 2. That is the last one we gave his Lordship when we were giving the messages that were received before the disaster. That is the one "Have had moderate, variable winds and clear, fine weather since leaving. Greek steamer reports passing icebergs and large quantity of field ice today in latitude 41.51 N., longitude 49.52 W.. Last night we spoke German oiltank steamer 'Deutschland,' Stettin to Philadelphia, not under control, short of coal." Then you give the latitude and longitude. "Which is to be reported to New York and other steamers. Wish you all success." That is the one you sent to the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

24968. Passing on the message which you had received from the Greek steamer?
- Yes.

24969. And that is the one which was acknowledged by the "Titanic," signed by Captain Smith?
- Yes, that is the one.

The Attorney-General:
Your Lordship will remember that is the one which was given to Mr. Ismay; that is the one in question.

The Commissioner:
Yes.

24970. (The Attorney-General.) That message had been received by you, and was addressed to you personally as the Captain of the "Baltic"?
- Yes.

24971. That is the one which you transmitted to the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

24972. Does that mean you did not transmit any of the others?
- The operator sends all of them; he makes a list of all the different ships, and that was the only one I received that day, on the 14th. I had had several from other ships.

The Commissioner:
This has all been proved.

24973. (The Attorney-General.) Yes, this has. There is one question I want to ask him. (To the witness.) Did you receive a message from the "President Lincoln" on that day?
- No, I do not remember it; not addressed to me.

You are quite right. I do not think we have heard of this one. I have only just heard of it myself. I think that is on the 13th.

24974-5. (Sir Robert Finlay.) He says he does not remember.

The Witness:
I do not remember.

The Commissioner:
What are you trying at present to establish?

The Attorney-General:
I want to find out about another message of which hitherto we have heard nothing.

The Commissioner:
I will tell you what occurs to me - perhaps I ought not at this stage to mention it. It appears to me that the Captain of the "Titanic" received undisputed evidence of quite a sufficient kind to communicat e to him the fact that there were icebergs in this region.

The Attorney-General:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
And I do not think the matter is carried any further by showing that he received other messages as well.

The Attorney-General:
If I may say so, I agree; but it was because we have said hitherto there was no other message. I do not say I can prove it, because I have only just heard it, but it looked as if there was another message; but I will not bother about it. I quite agree with your Lordship's view, if I may say so.

The Commissioner:
I do not want to say anything that may prejudice Sir Robert Finlay's position at present, but that is my feeling, Sir Robert, at present.

Sir Robert Finlay:
There is no dispute as to the two messages, one from the "Baltic" and the other from the "Caronia."

The Commissioner:
There is no dispute, you told me long ago, as to either of those two, and my feeling at present is those two were in themselves amply sufficient to apprise the Captain of the danger of icebergs.

Sir Robert Finlay:
They inform him that there are icebergs in the latitude and longitude indicated.

The Commissioner:
Whether he was right to steam straight ahead relying upon his ability to avoid an iceberg if he saw it is another matter altogether.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Another matter altogether.

The Commissioner:
But I am satisfied that he had ample information.

The Attorney-General:
I am very much obliged to your Lordship; it will save a considerable time.

Sir Robert Finlay:
It has been admitted a long time ago; as to the fact of those two messages there is no doubt.

The Commissioner:
My feeling is the two messages are quite enough.

The Attorney-General:
I do not think you are on the same point as I am, Sir Robert. This has not been admitted, and it has not been proved. That is the point I am on; but my Lord says it is unnecessary to prove any more.

The Commissioner:
Did he receive any message, or would you be in a position to prove that he received any message indicating the existence of icebergs to the south of his course?

The Attorney-General:
No.

The Commissioner:
You see what I mean?

The Attorney-General:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
There was a course open to him when he received the "Baltic" and the "Caronia" message. That course was to go in a Southerly direction.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
If he did in fact receive messages showing there were icebergs to the south of him that might possibly excuse him for not having taken the southerly course, because he would simply be running into the same kind of danger that he was already in.

The Attorney-General:
The message I am referring to is a little to the Northward; but I will not trouble about it.

Examined by Mr. SCANLAN.

24976. What is the practice of your Company; what instructions do you get in regard to ice reported in the track you are pursuing?
- Will you repeat that?

24977. I think it is probably unnecessary. I will take it your ship belongs to the White Star Company?
- Yes.

24978. Very well; we know what their practice is. What is your individual practice if ice is reported?
- How do you mean, clear weather or foggy weather.

At night?

24979. (The Commissioner.) At night, in clear weather?
- We go full speed whether there is ice reported or not.

24980. As far as you know, is that the practice of all liners on this course?
- It is.

24981. (Mr. Scanlan.) Do you double the look-outs at night?
- No, not in clear weather.

Examined by Sir ROBERT FINLAY.

24982. With regard to your speed, you know the practice in the Atlantic; if the weather were clear and ice reported, do you keep up your speed?
- We keep up our speed.

24983. And is that your invariable practice?
- It has always been my practice.

24984. (The Commissioner.) What is the speed of your boat?
- Sixteen knots.

24985. (Sir Robert Finlay.) You said the speed of your boat the "Baltic" was 16 knots?
- Yes.

24986. Have you been on other boats in the Atlantic?
- Yes.

24987. Faster boats?
- Yes, the "Oceanic," the "Majestic," and the "Teutonic."

24988. How many knots an hour would they make?
- Twenty to twenty-one.

24989. Is the practice you have spoken of one which prevailed with regard to ships of that class as well as your boat the "Baltic"?
- Yes.

24990. You know, of course, the Atlantic well?
- Yes.

24991. Was that practice always pursued by all masters of liners?
- Yes, for the last 21 years to my knowledge.

24992. I think Mr. Ismay has more than once travelled by your boat?
- Yes, he has travelled numerous times. I cannot say how often. Possibly half a dozen to a dozen times. I cannot remember.

24993. Has he ever in any way taken part in directing the navigation of the boat or ever been consulted by you or by any of the Officers?
- Never.

24994. (The Commissioner.) It would be very irregular?
- He went out of his way to avoid it - he never came near us on board the ship.

24995. It would be a very irregular thing for the Captain to consult Mr. Ismay or anybody else?
- It would, very much.

24996. (Sir Robert Finlay.) And he certainly never did it?
- Never.

24997. And none of the Officers were ever so irregular as to consult him?
- No.

24998. Now you have told us about the speed which was kept if ice was reported. Did you keep your course as well as your speed?
- Yes, I always keep my course whether ice is reported or not, on the track.

24999. (The Commissioner.) You know what the messages were - take only the "Baltic" and the "Caronia" - that were received by Captain Smith?
- Yes, I know some of them.

25000. I am taking those two, the "Baltic" and the "Caronia"; they indicated icebergs in the region through which he was travelling. Now, was it a proper thing, in your opinion, for him to leave the bridge, knowing that he was going through that region?
- Well, if it was a perfectly clear night, My Lord, I think it would be perfectly right as long as he did not go too far away from the bridge. On a perfectly clear night I should certainly say it was all right. Certainly not if there was any doubt about the weather at all, as to coming on thick.

The evidence, as I remember it, is that before going into his own room, he said to the Officer on the bridge, "If there is any change let me know at once" - I think something to that effect.

The Attorney-General:
Yes.

25001. (The Commissioner.) Do you think it was a seamanlike thing for him to go away from the bridge, Merely leaving that message behind him?
- Well, if he only went to his room, I think so, it is not very far away - the chart room is right on the bridge - he can be called immediately. The night was clear. I would do it myself.

The Commissioner:
Was it into the chart room he went?

25002. (The Attorney-General.) Yes.

The Witness:
It is on the bridge.

Sir Robert Finlay:
He was absolutely close at hand, My Lord.

The Attorney-General:
Oh, yes.

25003. (The Commissioner.) If he comes out in a hurry, summoned by the Officer on the bridge from a comparatively light room in which he is, can he see as well from the bridge as he would do if he had been stationed there?
- Certainly not, not when he first came out, till he got his eyesight.

25004. How long does it take him to get his eyesight?
- In a few minutes we get it, coming out of a white light.

25005. Do you mean minutes or seconds?
- Minutes sometimes it takes, if it is a very dark night.

25006. Minutes may make all the difference?
- Yes, but an Officer on the bridge can inform him what he sees when he comes on it.

Sir Robert Finlay:
May I ask a question?

The Commissioner:
Yes.

25007. (Sir Robert Finlay - To the witness.) You have been a good deal in the Atlantic trade. Have you been on the Northern route?
- I have been on what we call the winter track up to August.

25008. I was thinking for the moment of the route which takes you just to the south of the Virgins, in the Cape Race direction, you know that well?
- Yes.

25009. Are you sometimes for days there in the ice region?
- No, we take a very short time to get through it there.

25010. How long does it take?
- About 12 hours.

25011. Through ice in that region?
- Yes.

25012. I suppose there is more ice there than there is South?
- Oh, yes, considerably more, it is melted before it gets there.

25013. Where do you get most ice?
- North - to the straits of Belleisle, but I have never been there, I have never been to Montreal.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I did not refer before to the message of the "Caronia," may I just at this point mention it. It has nothing to do with this Witness.

(The witness withdrew.)