British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 28

Testimony of Arthur H. Rostron

Examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL.

25353. Are you Master of the "Carpathia"?
- Yes.

25354. You have been a great many years at sea, I think - how many?
- 27.

25355. Altogether?
- Altogether.

25356. You have filled every rank in the merchant Service up to Master?
- Yes.

25357. The "Carpathia" is a vessel belonging to the Cunard Company?
- Yes.

25358. How long have you been Master of the "Carpathia"?
- Since the 18th January.

25359. Of this year?
- Yes.

25360. Before that had you been Master of another vessel of the same line?
- Yes, the "Pannonia."

25361. At what date did you sail on the "Carpathia" from New York - on what date before the "Titanic" disaster?
- The 11th April.

25362. On the 11th April you left New York and you were then bound for Liverpool, Genoa, Naples, Trieste and Fiume?
- No, Gibraltar.

25363. Can you tell me the number of passengers you carried approximately?
- We had about 125 first, about 65 second, and 550 third.

25364. How many boats did you carry?
- Then we had 18 boats.

25365. Lifeboats?
- Lifeboats.

25366. Were they all under davits?
- No.

25367. How many had you under davits?
- 12 boats under davits.

25368. Were the rest on houses, or how?
- No, the rest were inboard; 12 boats were under davits and the other boats were inboard of those boats.

25369. Can you tell me what the carrying capacity of those boats was in persons?
- 68 and 72; about 68 was the average.

25369a. And how many passengers could the "Carpathia" carry; how many was she certified to carry, do you know?
- About 1,050, I think it was at the time. I am not quite sure of those numbers because I have been absolutely unprepared for these questions. I cannot give you anything definite.

25370. You have just returned?
- Yes, I arrived here last night.

25371. Is this your first arrival since the "Titanic" disaster in this country?
- Yes.

25372. Will you allow me, Captain, at the earliest opportunity to express to you on behalf of His Majesty's Government how deeply grateful we are to you for your conduct and for the great number of lives which you were instrumental in saving?
- Thank you very much.

25373. I take this opportunity of stating it in Court, because it is the earliest moment at which His Majesty's Government has been able to get into communication with you.
- Thank you very much.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I desire to make the same acknowledgment on behalf of the White Star Company.

The Commissioner:
My colleagues and I entirely agree with these observation of the Attorney-General.

25374. (The Attorney-General.) Can you tell us the tonnage of the "Carpathia"?
- 13,600.

25375. That is the gross tonnage?
- The gross tonnage.

I am not going into further detail as to that; your Lordship appreciates why. I thought you would like the facts.

The Commissioner:
I should like to know the number of the crew.

25376. (The Attorney-General.) Can you tell us the number of the crew?
- Well, the number varies from about 300 to 335. It all depends upon the number of passengers we are carrying at the moment.

25377. Do you know at all how many there were on this particular voyage, when you started this particular voyage on the 11th April?
- 325, I think.

25378. That, I think, will give all the particulars your Lordship wants at the moment in this matter. (To the witness.) Now you started on the 11th April from New York, and you received wireless messages from the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

25379. Would you tell me, before you received any messages from the "Titanic," had you had any ice reports?
- Wireless?

25380. Yes?
- None; we had received the ordinary reports on shore from the office, which came through from other ships.

25381. Do you mean the Hydrographic Office at Washington?
- No, from our Company's office in New York.

25382. I hardly expect you to remember in detail the wireless messages that were received from the "Titanic," but we have got them?
- The first message I received was merely a verbal message. As soon as the marconi operator received the message he left the instrument room and ran up to me at once, so it was merely a verbal message.

25383. Will you just tell us as far as you can, was the first message that you got a distress signal?
- Yes, a distress signal.

25384. That was the first message you received?
- An urgent distress message. The marconi operator told me when he called me.

25385. I am going to help you with regard to the time by reference to the evidence which you gave very soon after the disaster, in New York. I am reading the evidence given at the Commission in America: "At 12.35 a.m. on Monday I was informed of the urgent distress signal from the 'Titanic.'" 12.35 was ship's time?
- Yes.

25386. (The Attorney-General.) If your Lordship has the last procès-verbal which I gave you, the corrected one, you will find at the bottom of page 4 the first one. New York time. 10.35 p.m.; "'Titanic' time approximate" we have got it, "12.25 a.m. C.Q.D. call received from 'Titanic' by 'Carpathia'" - I cannot say whether it was "C.Q.D." or "S.O.S."

25387. It is the urgent distress message?
- Yes.

25388. They might have used the one or the other. I see. Just tell us how you received that?
- I was just in bed, as a matter of fact, and the first Marconi Operator came to my cabin and came right up to me and woke me - well, I was not asleep, as a matter of fact - and told me he had just received an urgent distress signal from the "Titanic" that she required immediate assistance; that she had struck ice, and giving me her position. I immediately ordered the ship to be turned round.

25389. That is the wireless which your Lordship sees. "Titanic" said, "Come at once, we have struck a berg; it's a C.Q.D. O.M., position 41.46 N., 50.14 W." The position in which the "Titanic" was when she struck the berg, according to that message, would make her approximately, not exactly to a mile, about 58 miles from you when you got the call?
- Yes, the true course was N. 52 deg. W., 58 miles from me when I turned her round.

25390. At what speed could you travel?
- Ordinarily about 14. We worked up to about 17 1/2 that night. That was about the highest speed we made that night.

25391. You gave instructions at once, I understand?
- I immediately sent down to the Chief Engineer and told him to get all the firemen out and do everything possible.

25392. And those orders were continued - that is to say, those instructions were carried out until the time you arrived at the position indicated by the message?
- Yes.

25393. When you got to the position indicated can you tell us first of all, did you pass any ice?
- I was passing ice. May I put it in my own words?

25394. Yes, do?
- At 20 minutes to 3 I saw the green flare, which is the White Star Company's night signal, and naturally, knowing I must be at least 20 miles away, I thought it was the ship herself still. It was showing just for a few seconds and I passed the remark that she must still be afloat. Naturally before this I had got the wireless message that the engine room was filling, so I felt it was a case of all up.

25395. That was the last message you ever got?
- The last message I received was that the engine room was filling, probably not exactly in those words, but to that effect.

25396. You are quite right, we have the exact message. It has been read?
- That was 20 minutes to 3.

The Attorney-General:
If your Lordship will look at page 8, the message in the middle: "Last signals heard from 'Titanic' by 'Carpathia' - 'Engine room full up to boilers."

The Commissioner:
I want to know, or perhaps the Captain will tell me: What do you read that as meaning - "full up to boilers"? I think we have had that message before?

The Attorney-General:

The Commissioner:
But I do not know whether anyone can tell me exactly what the message means. What is "full up to boilers"?

The Attorney-General:
Your Lordship will see, as throwing a little light on it, if you look at the preceding page, the last message but one on page 7: "1.35 a.m. 'Titanic' time; 'Baltic' hears 'Titanic' say, 'Engine room getting flooded.'" Then this message apparently is 10 minutes after.

The Commissioner:
Yes, but what does "full up to boilers" mean?

Sir Robert Finlay:
The suggestion was made that "engine room" there must have been used in a loose sense - it did not refer to the engine room proper, but to the boiler section.

The Commissioner:
That may be, and I think that is right, but what does "full up to boilers" mean? Does it mean the water was above the boilers or under the boilers?

Sir Robert Finlay:
Well, it reached the boilers.

The Commissioner:
Reached a set of the boilers?

Sir Robert Finlay:
I think so.

The Attorney-General:
Including all the boiler sections?

Sir Robert Finlay:

The Commissioner:
It is suggested to me, Mr. Attorney, that it means this, that the water had travelled along the ship, from forward, aft as far as the boilers.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I think that is what it must mean.

The Attorney-General:
As far as the boilers? But, according to the evidence, it was there long before this - in some of the boiler sections. Is there any evidence that before this time (which was 1.45) the water had reached as far aft as the last boiler?

The Attorney-General:
No, not before that.

The Commissioner:
It is suggested by one of my colleagues that the meaning of this expression is that water aft had got as far aft as the aftermost boiler.

The Attorney-General:
In other words, that the water was in all the boiler sections?

The Commissioner:

The Attorney-General:
Yes, of course it might mean that. There are no boilers in the engine room proper, and, therefore, it cannot mean those.

25397. (The Commissioner.) No, that is so. (To the witness.) How do you understand that message? You have got the message in your mind?
- Well, I really understood that message to mean that there was water in the engine room probably as high as the boilers, on a level with the boilers.

25398. There are no boilers in the engine room?
- No, there are not boilers in the engine room, certainly.

The Attorney-General:
We tried to elucidate this before, your Lordship will remember.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I think your Lordship will find that Mr. Wilding said that the water would not get into the engine room until the ship took the final plunge.

The Commissioner:
Is it not the fact that all the engineers went down?

Sir Robert Finlay:

The Commissioner:
I cannot suppose that there was any depth of water in the engine room at that time. Not one engineer came up to the surface, as far as I know.

The Attorney-General:
Oh, yes, they were seen on deck undoubtedly.

The Commissioner:
When were they seen on deck?

The Attorney-General:
Almost at the last.

The Commissioner:
As I understood, they were working in the engine room as long as it was possible to work.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, I should gather from the evidence that what happened was when the water began to rise they came up on deck, but not till then; they remained there as long as they possibly could.

The Commissioner:
1.45 is more than half-an-hour before the foundering.

The Attorney-General:

Sir Robert Finlay:
It was only at the last moment that any of the engineers came up.

The Commissioner:
And not one of them was saved, I think.

Mr. Laing:
No, My Lord.

25399. (The Attorney-General.) I am sorry we interrupted you, Captain. We had got to this. Your last message had come from the "Titanic" at about a quarter to two: "Engine room full up to boilers," this message which we have read?
- Yes.

25400. You were making all speed towards her?
- Yes.

25401. Will you go on and tell us?
- At twenty minutes to three I saw a night signal, as I was saying, and it was just about half a point on the port bow, practically right ahead. At a quarter to three I saw what we knew was an iceberg by the light from a star - I saw a streak of light right on the iceberg. We saw it, I cannot say the distance off, but some distance - not very far; and from then on till four o'clock we were altering our course very often to avoid the bergs. At four o'clock I considered I was practically up to the position, and I stopped, at about five minutes after four. In the meantime I had been firing rockets and the Company's signals every time we saw this green light again. At five minutes past four I saw the green light again, and I was going to pick the boat up on the port bow, but just as it showed the green light I saw an iceberg right ahead of me. It was very close, so I had to port my helm hard-a-starboard and put her head round quick and pick up the boat on the starboard side. At 10 minutes past four we got alongside.

25402. Let me just understand that. You had got up by about four o'clock?
- Four o'clock I considered I was in the position.

25403. You got up to the first of the boats then?
- At four o'clock I could not see anything, but I knew I must be somewhere in the vicinity.

25404. Because of the signals?
- Well, yes, I had seen the signals, but I knew I had run my distance then, so I stopped her; and a few minutes after I saw the boat's light again. That was the first time I knew really it was a boat and not the ship herself.

25405. And you intended, as I follow you, to pick her up on the port bow?
- Yes, on the port side; that was the lee-side; but just after I saw his light I saw an iceberg right ahead. Then, of course, I starboarded - I could not port - to get away from the berg; so I starboarded to make it more convenient for the boat I was going to pick up, and I picked it up on the starboard side.

25406. How close was the iceberg which you saw?
- Well, when we had stopped, when daylight broke, it was something less than a quarter of a mile away.

25407. I should like to follow that to understand it. Had you seen that iceberg before?
- No, it was the first I saw of it. We were close up before we saw it.

25408. Was day breaking at all?
- No, it was perfectly dark at the time.

25409. And you had men on the look-out?
- Yes, we had doubled our look-outs.

25410. Had you men in the crow's-nest?
- Yes.

25411. When you say you doubled the look-out, does that mean you had also men in the eyes of the vessel?
- Yes.

25412. Right on the stem?
- Yes.

25413. Two?
- Two, and one on the look-out, one in the crow's-nest and two in the eyes.

25414. Is that your practice?
- No, we have one in the crow's-nest and one forward.

25415. Your practice is to have one in the crow's-nest and one forward?
- At night.

25416. Do you take any particular precautions if you have received ice reports?
- Always.

25417. Is that what you do?
- Yes. Immediately I started round, before I knew we should be up to the ice; in fact, as soon as I got this report, and I had put her on the course for the "Titanic's" position, I doubled the look-outs at once, and took all the precautions I possibly could.

25418. Was that the first iceberg that you had seen?
- Oh, dear, no.

25419. I mean, on this particular night?
- Oh, no; the first iceberg we saw was at a quarter to 3.

25420. I wanted you to tell us about that. You saw one at a quarter to 3?
- We saw about half a dozen - in fact, More than that. I was moving about to get between them up to 4 o'clock.

25421. No ice-field?
- No ice-field. We were not up to the ice-field then.

25422. Only icebergs. Take the first one you saw about a quarter to 3; how far off was it when you first saw it - when it was reported to you?
- I should think it was about a mile and a half to two miles away.

25423. And with regard to the others, I think you say you saw about six up to 4 o'clock?
- Yes, about six.

25424. Did you see all those at about the same distance?
- Yes, about the same distance - from one to two miles.

25425. Then, I understand, when you came to the last one - you will correct this if I am wrong - as far as I gather from your evidence, you did not see that till it was somewhere about a quarter of a mile off?
- That is so; at daybreak I saw it was between 25 and 30 feet high.

25426. Will you explain to us a little more in detail why it was that you did not see this iceberg, the one which you found about 4 o'clock, earlier?
- I cannot tell you; we were all on the look-out.

25427. It was rather low?
- It was low.

25428. Twenty-five to 30 feet. I do not know whether you can tell us what the height of your forecastle was from the waterline?
- Yes; the forecastle head would be just about 30 feet.

25429. Your two men were on the look-out then in the eyes of the vessel?
- Yes.

25430. No report had been made to you?
- No.

25431. Who was it saw it first, do you know?
- Yes, I saw it first.

25432. Before the look-out men?
- Yes, we saw all the icebergs first from the bridge.

The Commissioner:
I do not understand that.

25433. (The Attorney-General.) You were on the bridge with your Officers, I presume?
- Yes, the whole time.

25434. And each time, if I follow you, that an iceberg was seen, you picked it up first on your bridge?
- Either one of my Officers or myself, before the look-outs.

25435. Did you pick it up by sight, or by naked eye, or with binoculars?
- At first with the naked eye.

25436. Do you find that you pick them up better with the naked eye than with binoculars?
- It all depends. Sometimes yes, at other times not; it depends.

25437. How was it neither of the look-out men saw it or reported it to you? Why did not they see it before you?
- Well, of course, they had all had warning about keeping a look-out for growlers and icebergs, previous to going on the look-out, and on the look-out also. You must understand, unless you know what you are looking for, if you see some very dim indistinct shape of some kind, anyone could take that as nothing at all - merely some shadow upon the water, or something of that kind; but people with experience of ice know what to look for, and can at once distinguish that it is a separate object on the water, and it must be only one thing, and that is ice.

25438. So that what it really comes to is this, if I follow you correctly, that it requires a man with some knowledge of icebergs, some experience of picking them up before he can detect them at night?
- Precisely.

25439. That is to say, before he could detect them unless they were very close to him?
- Yes.

25440. Do you employ on the "Carpathia" special look-out men, or are they some of your seamen who are told off as look-out men?
- No, the seamen take it in turns, the whole watch right through. There are no special look-out men.

25441. So far as you know, had any of these men any experience in being amongst icebergs?
- Not to my knowledge, but I should imagine some of them must have had, because several of them have been in the Cunard Company for years.

25442. On this North Atlantic track?
- Oh, yes.

25443. And if they had been on this track for some years they must have seen icebergs?
- I think so, yes, they must have done.

25444. Does it mean that on your bridge you and your Officers were quicker in detecting them than any of the men on the look-out?
- Well, about 75 percent, of the objects that are seen at sea every day or night are picked up from the bridge first. Naturally the Officer will take more interest in these things than a look-out man. I always trust to the bridge preferably to the men.

25445. (The Commissioner.) That is the point I had in my mind. I do not see any advantage in putting men in the eyes of the ship if you can pick up things from the bridge before them?
- It does not necessarily say we shall pick them up quicker from the bridge, but naturally an Officer is more on the qui vive; he is keener on his work than a man would be, and he knows what to look for. He is more intelligent than a sailor.

25446. (The Attorney-General.) And he has to act?
- He has to act, certainly.

25447. He relies upon his eyesight, assisted by the look-out?
- Yes, that is the position; we are assisted by the look-outs.

25448. If I followed correctly what you said, you rely in the main upon what is seen from the bridge by the Officers?
- Yes.

25449. Of course, it may be that the Officer is, for the moment, attending to something else; his attention may be distracted by something else which is happening, and in that case he would have to depend on the look-out?
- Well, the only thing is, supposing an Officer is looking on the port side and there is an object on the starboard side, and the seaman happens to be looking on the starboard side, naturally he might detect it first and he would report it.

25450. (The Commissioner.) Were you on the bridge?
- I was.

25450a. You cannot account to me for your seeing some of these bergs a couple of miles away, but not seeing this particular one till it was about a quarter of a mile away?
- No.

25451. You cannot account for it?
- No.

25452. It happened to yourself?
- I cannot account for it at all.

25453. It did happen to yourself?
- Yes, it did happen.

25454. (The Attorney-General.) That would seem to indicate a considerable risk in going through the ice region, does it not?
- Yes.

25455. (The Commissioner.) Is that a common experience, that when you are amongst icebergs you will detect one two or three miles away and another not till it is within a quarter of a mile? Is that within your experience?
- No, I do not think it is common experience. I think it is rather uncommon, as a matter of fact.

25456. (The Attorney-General.) Rather uncommon?
- I think so.

25457. I want to understand this a little more if we can. If I correctly followed you, you said you only saw this one at about a quarter of a mile distance from you by the streak of a star upon it?
- No, the first one I saw was about one and a half to two miles away; that was the one we saw at about a quarter to three with the streak of the star. That was the first one we picked up; it was a large one.

25458. That one we understand, but this last one that you saw about 4 o'clock when you were getting ready to pick up the boat on the port side, was there anything at all special about the colour of that iceberg?
- No, but I suppose it must have been because of the shadow or something of that kind that we could not make it out before. I cannot account for it.

25459. Does it sometimes happen?
- Yes, very often.

25460. It may be, the iceberg presents to you a luminous appearance?
- Yes.

25461. Or it may be, it presents to you a dark appearance?
- Exactly.

25462. That is what you would ordinarily expect when you are looking out for icebergs, is it?
- Yes.

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