British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 28

Testimony of Arthur H. Rostron, cont.

25463. You cannot tell from which side you are going to see it?
- No.

25464. Or how it is going to present itself to you in appearance?
- No.

25465. So that if I follow what you have said, you would always have to be prepared for an iceberg which presented a dark appearance to those who were looking out for it?
- Yes.

25466. (The Commissioner.) I do not understand where the shadow comes from; there is nothing to create a shadow. There were no clouds in the sky?
- No, My Lord, there were no clouds, but the shape of the iceberg itself might account for it. Now this iceberg was about 30 feet high and the sides were rather precipitous. If the side had been more of a slope, do not you think that slope would have given off some shadow?

If you have a greater surface and there is anything in the theory about "blink," you would have more blink if you had a greater surface, and so you might have a dark place if the iceberg itself had a crevice in it or a break. I can imagine that, but I do not know where the shadow comes from.

25467. (The Attorney-General.) I do not profess to know sufficiently about it. It may depend upon the angle of refraction. I do not profess to be able to explain it better than that. (To the witness.) At what speed were you going when you saw this iceberg about a quarter of a mile from you?
- I should think we were making something about 15; the engines had been stopped for about three minutes - probably between 13 and 15 knots at the time.

25468. But slowing all the time?
- Oh, it was slowing all the time - yes.

25469. You starboarded, you have told us?
- Yes, I starboarded, and we picked up the boat on the starboard side.

25470. Will you tell me, when you starboarded, how close did you get to the iceberg?
- When daylight broke I consider the iceberg was then a little under a quarter of a mile away.

25471. I am not quite sure that we have got it correctly yet. When you saw this iceberg I rather understood that it was then about a quarter of a mile away from you?
- Between a quarter and half a mile.

25472. Then you say, although your engines had stopped and had been stopped for something like three minutes, you were still making somewhere about 13 to 15 knots?
- Yes.

25473. Then I want to know how close it was - you had an iceberg within your range of vision then - you went to the iceberg when you starboarded?
- This was the boat over here. (Describing.) I did not know the distance off. Here was the iceberg right ahead. I was coming along there; I saw the iceberg right ahead here, and I saw the light was on my port bow. Of course, I could not see the boat itself, but only the light when he showed the flare. I came along here and starboarded, and brought her here. Then I saw the light on my starboard side. I saw the light showing. It was getting close. I went full speed astern. I went a little bit past the boat before I could get the way off the ship, and I came back again, because they sang out from the boat that they had only one seaman, and could not handle her. I brought the ship back to the boat. When the boat was alongside of me daylight broke, and I found the berg was about a quarter of a mile off.

25474. Had you been any closer to the berg than that?
- No, that was the closest I had been.

25475. That answers what I wanted to know. Bearing round like that in answering the helm, she was still about a quarter of a mile from you?
- Yes.

25476. You picked up that boat. Altogether how many boats did you pick up?
- We got 13 lifeboats alongside, two emergency boats, two Berthon boats. There was one lifeboat which we saw was abandoned, and one of the berthon boats, of course, was not launched from the ship, I understand. That made twenty altogether.

25477. My impression is there is one collapsible still unaccounted for in that?
- Oh, yes; I beg your pardon, one bottom up; one that was capsized. That was in the wreckage. That was the twenty.

25478. You picked up and actually took on board the "Carpathia" 13 of the "Titanic's" lifeboats?
- Precisely.

25479. One of them you saw; the occupants of the boat were rescued and taken on your boat, but the boat was left in the water?
- Yes, she was damaged.

25480. You did not bother any more about her?
- No.

25481. That made the 14 lifeboats. Then there were the two emergency boats; were they taken on board the "Carpathia," or abandoned?
- I cannot say which were the boats we took up. I took them as they came along, and after the whole thing was over we got as many boats as we could. I did not notice which they were.

25482. There were two emergency boats, and besides that there were -?
- The two Berthon boats.

25483. The two collapsibles?
- Yes; and there is one berthon boat which we saw amongst the wreckage bottom up. It was reported to me that there was another Berthon boat still on board the ship.

25484. That makes 19 out of the 20?
- No, excuse me.

It makes the 20 if you reckon the one still left, but I am not reckoning that. It comes to the same thing. If you reckon that one in, of course it accounts for the lot.

The Commissioner:
The one collapsible boat was not launched in the proper sense of the word; it got into the water, very likely?

25485. (The Attorney-General.) Yes; Bride's evidence was with regard to that. That is quite right; that made the 20. (To the witness.) I do not know if you have the figures available, but can you tell us how many persons were taken on board the "Carpathia" from these various boats?
- It was reported to me that 705 was the number of survivors, and we took three dead bodies from one of the boats, and also, not counting the 705, there was another man, a passenger we took up from the boat, who died two or three hours after we got him on board.

25486. That is not counted in the 705?
- No.

25487. There were 705 survivors?
- Yes, we landed in New York 705.

25488. And then there were four, three were dead and one died?
- Yes, he died two or three hours after coming on board.

The Attorney-General:
We make it 711 somehow; I do not know how.

The Commissioner:
This is 709.

The Attorney-General:
There is some discrepancy in this; I will try to clear it up. There are 705 of which we have a list. There are six persons who were saved whose names did not appear in the list of the 705, but according to our knowledge now were actually saved by you, so that that would make 711 altogether were saved. That is not including either the three bodies found or the one which died shortly after.

The Commissioner:
I do not know that it matters.

The Attorney-General:
I am trying to give you the figures so that your Lordship can answer one of the questions. That is the point of it. It involves going into some detail through the evidence in America, but the substance of it is this: the 705 who survived and were landed at New York are included in a list which we have got from the "Carpathia" from America, but besides that there are six persons who were saved on the "Carpathia" who are not included in that list.

The Commissioner:
Who prepared the list?

The Attorney-General:
We have the names from cables; they are among the first class passengers who were saved according to the cable information which we have. What I am dealing with is the evidence which was taken in America. We cannot do more than that.

The Commissioner:
What is the importance of ascertaining the exact number?

The Attorney-General:
I do not think anything, except that as far as possible we want to give you the figures as accurately as we can.

The Commissioner:
There is a question directed to it?

25489. (The Attorney-General.) Yes. It is desirable to know, so far as we can know. I think the difficulty is that more apparently were saved than Captain Rostron had included in the particular list. I do not know that he made out the list, but it was made out.

The Witness:
The Pursers made out the list.

The Commissioner:
But it is very small.

The Attorney-General:

The Commissioner:
At most, six.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, it does show that six more were saved than that list would indicate. There were some first class passengers which would make altogether 711. That is the position. I do not think it is worthwhile spending time on it.

The Commissioner:
Seven hundred and eleven living persons from the "Titanic" were landed in New York.

25490. (The Attorney-General.) Yes, by the "Carpathia." (To the witness.) Now, from the time that you began to take the passengers on board the "Carpathia" from the boats, was it daylight?
- Daylight was breaking just as we were taking the passengers up from the first boat. By the time we got them on board there was sufficient daylight for us to see the boats in the immediate vicinity of the ship.

25491. I want to ask you some questions about that. You saw the other boats when you were taking the persons out of the first boat?
- No, it must have been a quarter of an hour after I got them all on board that I saw the other boats. It was not sufficiently light to see the other boats. They were within a range of four or five miles.

25492. The passengers from the first boat you had got on board before you saw any more?
- Yes, before we saw any more boats.

25493. In the meanwhile was it becoming lighter?
- Yes, it was getting lighter all the time.

25494. Did you see them all very quickly one after the other?
- Yes, daylight broke very quickly, and we picked them up here and there within a range of four or five miles, as I say.

25495. I want you to give the Court your impression with regard to these boats, as to whether or not they were full, or whether they could have accommodated more persons, so far as you could see?
- Several of the boats could have accommodated a good many more people, and two or three boats were rather crowded, I thought.

25496. I need not pursue that in detail, because we have more exact evidence of it, but I thought it was right to ask you. That agrees, your Lordship sees, with evidence which we have got. (To the witness.) Did you see any wreckage at all of the "Titanic"?
- The only wreckage we saw there was very small stuff - a few deck chairs and pieces of cork from lifebelts, and a few lifebelts knocking about, and things of that description, all very small stuff indeed. There was very little indeed.

25497. Any bodies in the water?
- We only saw one body.

25498. Would this be between four and six o'clock or something like that?
- When we got up to the wreckage it would be about twenty minutes to eight, or a quarter to eight, or something like that.

25499. But you had been close to the spot for some time, had you not?
- Yes, but we had not seen this wreckage. We had been dodging about picking up the other boats. I had not any idea where the wreckage was. As soon as we had finished taking the passengers from the boats I cleared off to another boat to pick them up, and was dodging about all over the place to pick them up. It was only when we got to the last boat that we got close up to the wreckage. It was close up to the wreckage. It would be about a quarter to eight when we got there.

25500. (The Commissioner.) I understand you to say those boats were spread over an area of five miles?
- Four to five miles, yes.

25501. (The Attorney-General.) In the morning, when it was full daylight, did you see many icebergs?
- Yes, I sent a Junior Officer to the top of the wheelhouse, and told him to count the icebergs 150 to 200 feet high; I sampled out one or two and told him to count the icebergs of about that size. He counted 25 large ones, 150 to 200 feet high, and stopped counting the smaller ones; there were dozens and dozens all over the place; and about two or three miles from the position of the "Titanic's" wreckage we saw a huge ice-field extending as far as we could see, N.W. to S.E.

25502. About two to three miles from the "Titanic's" wreckage?
- Yes.

25503. Had you seen anything at all of that ice-field before it became daylight?
- Oh, no, nothing; it was quite daylight before we saw the ice-field.

25504. You must have been close to it?
- We were then about four or five miles from it when we first saw it.

25505. In the full daylight?
- In full daylight, yes. We saw the bergs in the ice-field, but we did not see the field itself. There were numerous bergs among the ice-field.

25506. You had not seen those till daylight?
- No, we had not seen those till daylight; they were too far away.

25507. As I understand, from what you tell us, you saw six bergs from a quarter to 3 to 4 o'clock?
- Yes, we passed those to get up to the position.

25508. The number of icebergs of which you have told us, you did not detect at all in the night?
- Well, we passed a lot of them on our way to the position; we must have done, because they were astern of us; they were all round us.

25509. That is what made me ask you the question; because it would seem to indicate you were in amongst the icebergs without knowing it?
- Yes, we had not the faintest idea.

25510. And, therefore, they were not easy to pick up by the eye?
- No, they were very hard to pick up, as a matter of fact.

25511. We know the one you have told my Lord in detail about was only a quarter of a mile off; were the others close to you?
- Do you mean the others that we saw?

25512. No; what I want to know is this: When it got daylight, as I understand you, there were a number of icebergs all round you?
- Yes.

25513. Of which really you had only seen, so far as you know, this one which you had starboarded to avoid, when you were going to pick the boat up?
- Yes.

25514. You had only detected that one in the night?
- No, those that we saw on our way to the position were included in those we could see at daylight. We must have passed some of those on our way, because they were right in the course which we had come.

25515. Did I understand there were six altogether that you saw?
- Yes, that we knew of.

25516. I am dealing with the number of icebergs you saw. From a quarter to 3 to 4 o'clock you picked up with the eye six icebergs?
- Yes.

25517. When it cleared up and got daylight, and you were more or less in the same place, you found yourself surrounded by icebergs?
- Yes.

25518. You have told us there were a great many, and some of them 150 to 200 feet high?
- Yes.

25519. But the point I wanted to be quite clear about was that these icebergs must have been close to you without your seeing them?
- They must have been, yes.

25520. I wanted to know if you could tell us how far off the nearest one was, leaving out the one which was only a quarter of a mile from you, of which you have told us in detail? How far off was the nearest berg, so far as you can tell us, of 150 to 200 feet high when full daylight came and you could see plainly?
- Somewhere about three or four miles.

25521. That would be about the closest?
- Yes, that would be about the nearest.

25522. That would seem to indicate that it must have been particularly difficult to pick them up by the eye that night?
- Under certain circumstances, yes. Of course, it all depends what you are looking for. If you know what you are looking for, you pick them up better than a man who does not know what he is looking for.

25523. Was there anything, so far as you know, peculiar in the atmospheric conditions that night?
- No, I never saw a clearer night. It was a beautiful night.

25524. So far as you could see, you ought to have been able to pick them up easily, or comparatively easily?
- Comparatively easily, yes.

25525. If you are looking out for them?
- If you are looking out for them.

25526. If you are not particularly directing your attention to picking up icebergs, you might not see them, although they are close to you?
- That is so. May I give you one more instance?

25527. Yes, do.
- We starboarded for this iceberg, which we saw ahead. When daylight broke and we were picking up the passengers from the first boat, I was looking round and 200 yards on my port quarters I saw a lump of ice twenty feet long and ten feet high, which we had not seen at all.

25528. I think there is only one other matter I want to ask you about. You have navigated for a good many years on this North Atlantic track?
- Yes.

25529. And you have often seen icebergs on this track?
- Yes.

25530. Have you seen them during this particular month, April, on this track?
- I never remember seeing ice in April on the track.

25531. Supposing you had had a wireless message giving you the position of icebergs, and an ice-field or ice-fields, which you would reach in the ordinary course of things within a few hours, what precautions would you take when approaching that region, if any?
- A great deal would depend. Do you mean at nighttime?

25532. Yes?
- Well, it is very hard to say what I should do, but I think I should do my best to get out of it, to avoid that position. But if an iceberg is reported, it is no use altering your course and trying to avoid it when you do not know where it is. From the time it was reported near the vessel it may have drifted four or five or ten miles, and you might as well keep on your proper course. But if it is an extensive ice-field, we know it covers some area, and of course with an ice-field, I think I should try to get out of it; otherwise I do not know.

25533. You mean you would not go out of your course?
- Yes, for an ice-field, but for an iceberg, no. I do not think I should. I should rely upon keeping a look-out, and the weather and things of that kind.

25534. You would attempt to keep out of the way of ice-fields and alter your course, but for icebergs you would go on your course and depend upon picking them up with your eye, and then avoiding them when you have picked them up?
- Yes.

25535. I think you have already told me, but I should like to make quite sure of it, that you would take special precautions with regard to the look-out by putting men in the eyes of the vessel?
- Yes.

25536. When you had an ice report?
- Yes.

25537. As well as having a man in the crow's-nest?
- Yes.

25538. (The Commissioner.) Do you put two men in the crow's-nest, or one?
- I only put one.

25539. (The Attorney-General.) And two in the eyes?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
In the "Titanic" they had two in the crow's-nest, and it occurred to me it would be almost better to have only one. I do not know whether that is right.

The Attorney-General:
The same idea in your Lordship's mind would apply to the two men in the eyes.

The Commissioner:
I am not sure.

The Attorney-General:
They cannot talk so easily, I agree.

The Commissioner:
In the crow's-nest they are rubbing shoulder to shoulder.

25540. (The Attorney-General.) Yes, it is not quite so easy, I agree. (To the witness.) I have one other matter I want to know. Supposing you had had a report of the character that I have indicated to you of icebergs and an ice-field in the regions which you are bound to cross, when you approach that region, would you take any precautions with regard to the safety of your vessel?
- Well, a great deal would depend on the weather and the atmospheric conditions.

25541. (The Commissioner.) Suppose it is perfectly clear?
- If it is a perfectly clear night, and I was sure of my position and everything else, unless I knew there was a lot of ice about, I should feel perfectly justified in going full speed.

25542. (The Attorney-General.) But if you thought there was a lot of ice about you would not do it, I gather?
- No, I would not. For one or two bergs I should feel perfectly justified in going full speed.

25543. (The Commissioner.) I suppose it is a matter for the judgment of the man in charge of the ship?
- Absolutely.

25544. (The Attorney-General.) Which again, I suppose, Must depend upon the atmospheric conditions as to whether he can see clearly ahead?
- Yes. We have to take a whole lot of things into consideration in a thing of that kind. It is not one or two; it is many.

The Commissioner:
Do you want to ask him anything, Mr. Scanlan?

Mr. Scanlan:

Examined by Sir ROBERT FINLAY.

25545. You gave evidence in America?
- Yes.

25546. May I put one passage to you? You were asked this by Senator Smith. I am reading to you from the evidence in America. "Captain, is it customary to take orders from a director or a general Officer of the Company aboard? - (A.) No, Sir. (Q.) From whom do you take orders? - (A.) From no one. (Q.) Aboard ship? - (A.) At sea, immediately I leave port until I arrive at port, the Captain is in absolute control and takes orders from no one. I have never known it in our company, or any other big company, when a director or a managing owner would issue orders on that ship. It matters not who comes on board that ship, they are either passengers or crew. There is no official status and no authority whatever with them." That is correct?
- That is correct.

25547. Did you know Captain Smith?
- Yes.

25548. He was a very experienced Officer, I think?
- Yes, very.

25549. Of very high standing?
- Very high, indeed.

Mr. Bucknill:
My friend, Mr. Dunlop, unfortunately, is unable to be here at the present moment, and he has asked me to apply to your Lordship for leave to read an affidavit, it is a very short one, which Captain Rostron made.

The Commissioner:
Just postpone it for a minute.

Mr. Bucknill:
Captain Rostron made it.

The Commissioner:
Oh, yes.

25550. (Mr. Bucknill.) Perhaps I had better read it and ask him if it is correct. (To the witness.) On the 4th June did you make an affidavit in New York?
- Yes.

25551. Did you say then: "I approached the position of the "Titanic" 41.46 N. L., 50.14 W. L. on a course substantially N. 52 W. (true), reaching the first boat shortly after 4 a.m. It was daylight at about 4.20 a.m. At 5 o'clock it was light enough to see all round the horizon. We then saw two steamships to the northwards, perhaps seven or eight miles distant. Neither of them was the 'Californian.' One of them was a four-masted steamer with one funnel, and the other a two-masted steamer with one funnel. I never saw the 'Mount Temple' to identify her. The first time that I saw the 'Californian' was at about eight o'clock on the morning of 15th April. She was then about five to six miles distant, bearing W.S.W. true, and steaming towards the 'Carpathia.' The 'Carpathia' was then in substantially the position of the 'Titanic' at the time of the disaster as given to us by wireless. I consider the position of the 'Titanic,' as given to us by her Officers, to be correct." You swore that?
- Yes.

25552. (The Attorney-General.) Does that state all the vessels that you saw? I think it stated two steamers?
- No; I saw one more, but it was during the night previous to getting out of the "Titanic's" position. We saw masthead lights quite distinctly of another steamer between us and the "Titanic." That was about quarter-past three.

25553. The masthead lights?
- Yes, of another steamer, and one of the Officers swore he also saw one of the sidelights.

25554. Which one?
- The port sidelight.

25555. Do you know of any identification of that steamer at all?
- No; we saw nothing but the lights. I did not see the sidelights; I merely saw the masthead lights.

Mr. Bucknill:
May we have the distance and bearing of these lights that he saw, as far as he can remember?

25556. (The Commissioner.) You did not see the additional lights yourself, the sidelight?
- I saw the masthead lights.

25557. Did you see the lights your Officer spoke of?
- I saw the masthead lights myself, but not the sidelight.

25558. What time was it?
- About a quarter-past three.

25559. And how was the light bearing?
- About 2 points on the starboard bow.

25560. On your starboard bow?
- On my starboard bow; that would be about N. 30, W. true.

25561. I should like to ask you one or two questions. When the boats came up, or when you got alongside the boats, were the people in the boats wearing lifebelts?
- Everyone we saw in the boats was wearing a lifebelt.

25562. Can you give me any idea what the thickness of these lifebelts is?
- About 4 inches - 3 to 4 inches.

The Attorney-General:
We can produce one, if your Lordship wishes.

25563. (The Commissioner.) No, that is quite sufficient. I am asking for this reason. It is said by, at all events, one of the witnesses that one reason why the lifeboats did not carry more than they in fact carried, was that all the people in the lifeboats were wearing lifebelts, and you cannot stow them so closely as you could stow people without lifebelts. I suppose there is some truth in it?
- There is some truth in that.

25564. You saw the passengers that you landed at New York, and must have conversed a good deal with them?
- No.

25565. Did you not?
- No, I did not speak to half a dozen passengers the whole time.

25566. Did you hear no explanation at all as to why these boats were not better filled?
- No. The only explanation I got was when the boats first left the "Titanic" the people really would not be put in the boats; they did not want to go in, and I understand that some of the boats that left first had fewer people in. That is all I know about it.

25567. That is what I wanted to know. You heard that explanation given yourself?
- Yes.

25568. I wish you would tell us again what you know about the collapsible boats. There were four collapsible boats on board the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

25569. How many came alongside your ship, or did you get alongside of?
- Two.

25570. Did you see any collapsible boat adrift?
- We saw one adrift bottom up amongst the wreckage of the "Titanic."

25571. Then you only know of three boats?
- We only know of three collapsible boats.

25572. As to what became of the other boat you know nothing?
- Nothing whatever, My Lord.

25573. What condition were those collapsible boats in that you did come alongside of?
- In perfect condition.

25574. There were people in them, I suppose?
- Oh, yes, they were full. Both the collapsible boats we took alongside were full of people.

The Commissioner:
Thank you very much for your evidence.

(The witness withdrew.)