British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 28

Testimony of Gerhard C. Apfeld

Examined by Mr. ROWLATT.

25575. Are you the marine superintendent of the Red Star Line?
- I am.

25576. Is that a Belgian line of steamships?
- Yes.

25577. You live in Belgium?
- Yes.

25578. They sail from Antwerp to New York, Philadelphia, Boston and baltimore, do not they?
- Yes.

25579. They carry passengers and mails?
- That is right.

25580. Have you experience at sea?
- Yes.

25581. How many years?
- I have been 39 years at sea, and five years Marine superintendent.

25582. How long have you been in the Red Star Line?
- 32 years.

25583. When you have been navigating in the region of ice, have you changed your course or speed?
- Never. I slow her down in the case of fog or thick weather, otherwise not.

25584. Is that the case, although ice has been actually reported to you?
- I would not slow her down.

25585. Have you examined the deck logbooks and the engine logbooks of the steamers of your line running the Atlantic passage during April last?
- I have.

25586. What steamers are those?
- The "Finland," the "Manitou," the "Kroonland," the "Zeeland," and the "Vaderland," and the "Menominee."

25587. Do those logbooks show whether those vessels passed ice?
- Some of them.

25588. Which of them? Can you remember? - The "Lapland" and the "Manitou"?
- The "Lapland," the "Finland," and the "Manitou," and I believe the "Zeeland."

25589. They all passed ice?
- Yes.

25590. Where were they going to, to New York?
- They were going to New York except the "Manitou" and the "Menominee," which were going to Boston.

25591. Did they change their course or their speed?
- Absolutely not. The "Manitou" slowed down after she entered the field ice. She went into field ice at full speed for about an hour and then the field ice became thick, heavy lumps amongst it, and her Captain slowed her down for about an hour. He reduced speed for fear of damaging the propeller.

25592. What date was that?
- I think it was the 14th or 15th.

25593. The 14th, the very day of the "Titanic" going down. I thought it was the 12th?
- Yes, the 12th.

25594. You think it was the 12th?
- Yes.

25595. You have the logbook if necessary here, have you not?
- Yes.

25596. Can you tell us what boats these ships carried, the "Lapland," the "Vaderland," the "Zeeland," and so on?
- Yes, the "Vaderland," the "Zeeland," have 14 lifeboats and two gigs under davits.

25597. (The Commissioner.) Two emergency boats?
- Yes. The "Lapland" has nine collapsible boats, the "Zeeland" has seven collapsible boats, the other three had eight collapsible boats.

25598. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Here is the list. (Handing same to Witness.) I think you have added some since the wreck of the "Titanic"?
- Yes, since then.

25599. Look at the list. There is a list of ships and boats, and are those that are underlined in black the ones which have been added since the "Titanic" went down (Handing same to Witness.)?
- Yes, all above the black line were there before.

25600. All under the black line have been added?
- Yes.

25601. (Mr. Rowlatt.) I was wrong; it is not underlined; it was under the line. I do not know whether that shows it; I do not think it does, but for what percentage of the passengers and crew do you provide boats?
- Before the disaster to the "Titanic" about 50 percent, roughly speaking.

25602. Are there any regulations in Belgium as to the boats which must be carried on passenger steamers?
- No, we go by the regulations of the American law and the Board of Trade.

25603. (The Commissioner.) The British Board of Trade?
- Yes.

25604. (Mr. Rowlatt.) That is because you call here?
- We call at Dover.

25605. You get a passenger certificate from our Board of Trade?
- We do.

25606. That involves a certain survey?
- Yes.

25607. Do your steamers follow the tracks agreed in 1898?
- We do, yes.

25608. I think in your early days you went further North, did you not?
- We reported in former years at Cape Race.

25609. You went to Cape Race so as to signal?
- Yes; we went North of the Virgin Rocks and reported at Cape Race.

Examined by Sir ROBERT FINLAY.

25610. Can you tell me anything with regard to temperature as an indication of being near icebergs?
- Absolutely none. I have tried that so often. I have gone across the banks, where I had the temperature down to 28 or 31 bright clear weather, night and day, and absolutely no ice. At other times I have been close to ice.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I do not know whether your Lordship caught the last answer.

The Commissioner:
Will you repeat it?

25611. (Sir Robert Finlay - To the witness.) Will you repeat what you said? I understood it was to this effect. He began by saying that he had often been in a very low temperature, absolutely no ice, and then he was going on. (To the witness.) Just repeat what you said?
- Sometimes we took the temperature, and on passing a mile and a half or two miles from a mile of icebergs, and found a temperature up to 55 and 56 degrees. One of our Captains during the April voyage marked in his logbook what temperature he had.

25612. Was that the "Finland"?
- That was the "Finland," yes.

25613. Is that the log? (Handing same to Witness.) - Yes, the Captain made an entry in the logbook.

The Commissioner:
I think, Sir Robert, that the effect of the evidence so far is that a fall in the temperature cannot be relied upon as indicating the presence of ice.

Sir Robert Finlay:
If your Lordship pleases. Then I need not trouble. There is an illustration there that they passed icebergs with certain temperatures.

The Attorney-General:
I think the only comment I should make with regard to the evidence is this. Speaking for myself, having considered it, and more especially having regard for some observations of your Lordship during the course of the evidence, I think it would rest thus, that it does not necessarily follow that a fall of temperature would indicate the vicinity of ice. But there is this comment to be made - it is the only comment which I propose to make - that if you are approaching a region in which you expect to find ice, in consequence of reports which you may have received, a fall of temperature then may be an indication to you, but by itself not, I agree.

25614. (Sir Robert Finlay.) Perhaps you will read that entry from the log of the "Finland"?
- "At 2.50 p.m. to 4 p.m. passed nine large icebergs between latitude 41º 28' N. and 40º 58' N., and longitude 46º 7' W. and 46º 42' W." It says, "We were nine miles off the iceberg when we had a temperature on one occasion of 42 degrees"; when he came close to the iceberg, one mile, he had the same temperature of 42 degrees. The same night he passed several other bergs where he had 56 degrees, 12 miles off and again one mile off, the same temperature. Absolutely, you cannot tell by that.

25615. You have told us the practice is not to reduce speed. Is that the practice of all your captains of the Red Star Line?
- Yes, all of them.

25616. And, as far as you know, in other lines too?
- I believe every captain will give you the same answer; they will not slow down unless it becomes thick or hazy.

Mr. Harbinson:
My Lord, the witness has told us of the practice; would your Lordship ask him what the speed of the vessels is?

25617. (The Commissioner.) Yes, quite right. (To the witness.) What is the speed of your vessels?
- 15 1/2 to 16 knots, the New York boats.

(The witness withdrew.)