United States Senate Inquiry

Day 1

Testimony of Harold T. Cottam

(The witness was sworn by the chairman.)

Senator SMITH.
Mr. Cottam, what is your full name?

Mr. COTTAM.
Harold Thomas Cottam.

Senator SMITH.
Where do you reside?

Mr. COTTAM.
Liverpool, England.

Senator SMITH.
How old are you?

Mr. COTTAM.
Twenty-one.

Senator SMITH.
What is your business?

Mr. COTTAM.
Marconi telegraphist.

Senator SMITH.
How long have you been engaged in that business?

Mr. COTTAM.
Three years.

Senator SMITH.
Where have you been employed?

Mr. COTTAM.
The Marconi Co. all the time.

Senator SMITH.
How extensively; that is, how many different employments?

Mr. COTTAM.
I went to sea first. Then I was taken off there and worked for the British post office for a time.

Senator SMITH.
In what capacity?

Mr. COTTAM.
As telegraphist, on one of their land stations.

Senator SMITH.
Under the British post-office authorities?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Where?

Mr. COTTAM.
Liverpool.

Senator SMITH.
How long were you thus employed?

Mr. COTTAM.
About 14 to 16 months.

Senator SMITH.
Then what did you do?

Mr. COTTAM.
I was taken off there and went away to sea again, on the Australian run.

Senator SMITH.
On what boat?

Mr. COTTAM.
The Medic, White Star.

Senator SMITH.
How long were you on the Medic?

Mr. COTTAM.
Two voyages.

Senator SMITH.
Were you wireless telegrapher at that time?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Two voyages?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Out and right back?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes; return voyages.

Senator SMITH.
From Liverpool.

Mr. COTTAM.
To Australia and back to Liverpool again.

Senator SMITH.
What kind of apparatus was there on the Medic?

Mr. COTTAM.
A Marconi, sir.

Senator SMITH.
What type of instrument or equipment?

Mr. COTTAM.
A one and a half watt set, sir.

Senator SMITH.
What was the maximum wave length?

Mr. COTTAM.
A standard wave length, sir; 2,000 feet.

Senator SMITH.
You were in charge of the wireless on that boat?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes.

Senator SMITH.
Chief in charge?

Mr. COTTAM.
Only one man, sir.

Senator SMITH.
What was your next employment?

Mr. COTTAM.
On the Carpathia, sir.

Senator SMITH.
How long were you on the Carpathia?

Mr. COTTAM.
I joined her in Liverpool, last February, sir.

Senator SMITH.
You have been with the Carpathia ever since?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Did you ship with her from New York?

Mr. COTTAM.
From Liverpool, sir.

Senator SMITH.
From New York the other day?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
What day?

Mr. COTTAM.
I do not remember the day. About the 10th or 11th, I think, sir.

Senator SMITH.
On her last outward voyage?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Where was she headed for?

Mr. COTTAM.
Gibraltar, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Did she have a wireless equipment?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
What kind?

Mr. COTTAM.
Marconi, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Up-to-date equipment?

Mr. COTTAM.
No, sir; it was an older type.

Senator SMITH.
What was the maximum distance with which that equipment could be operated successfully?

Mr. COTTAM.
Two hundred and fifty miles.

Senator SMITH.
Did you obtain satisfactory results from 250-mile experiments?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
On the Carpathia?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
You were on the boat last Sunday?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
What were your hours of employment?

Mr. COTTAM.
There are no stated hours. There is only one man on the boat.

Senator SMITH.
I understand; but what periods during the day and night are you expected to be at your instrument?

Mr. COTTAM.
It all depends on where you are. If you were in the vicinity of New York or thereabouts you would be expected to be on duty all the time.

Senator SMITH.
Night and day?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Is that practicable?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
In making the voyage from New York to Gibraltar, after you have gotten out to sea, there is no rigid rule which requires you to be at your post?

Mr. COTTAM.
No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
No regulation of the British Government?

Mr. COTTAM.
No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
No direction by the Marconi Co.?

Mr. COTTAM.
No, sir; but you are more or less responsible for communications which are expected.

Senator SMITH.
You are responsible for communication?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir; if there is a ship expected, sir. If a ship is expected to pass at 3 o'clock in the morning you should be at duty at that time to establish communication.

Senator SMITH.
Has it been your custom to go to the apparatus at regular times?

Mr. COTTAM.
No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Are you employed at anything else on the boat?

Mr. COTTAM.
No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
What wages do you receive?

Mr. COTTAM.
Four pounds ten a month.

Senator SMITH.
Four pounds ten shillings a month?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
And board?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
And room?

Mr. COTTAM.
The room is attached to the operating room.

Senator SMITH.
Is that the average wage of wireless telegraphers in England?

Mr. COTTAM.
I can not say that it is.

Senator SMITH.
To whom do you report aboard ship?

Mr. COTTAM.
To the captain.

Senator SMITH.
Personally?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes.

Senator SMITH.
And from whom do you take orders?

Mr. COTTAM.
From the captain, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Personally.

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes.

Senator SMITH.
From anyone else?

Mr. COTTAM.
No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
From the officer on watch? Do you take orders from him?

Mr. COTTAM.
No, sir; not without I have the authority of the captain.

Senator SMITH.
Not without the direction of the captain?

Mr. COTTAM.
No.

Senator SMITH.
Would you take orders from anyone except the captain of the ship while you were aboard ship? Suppose Mr. Marconi or some officer of the Marconi Co. gave orders to you by wireless which you should pick up, would you consider it your duty to take them from the officers of the Marconi Co. while you were at sea?

Mr. COTTAM.
Not before the captain of the ship, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Then I am to understand you have no specified hours when you shall be in attendance at your instrument?

Mr. COTTAM.
During the whole of the day, sir; not necessarily at night.

Senator SMITH.
During all the day?

Mr. COTTAM.
The whole of the day, daytime, but not at nights.

Senator SMITH.
Do you have liberty to retire at nights when you please?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
And what has been your custom in that regard, what time would you retire?

Mr. COTTAM.
While at sea I should retire about midnight.

Senator SMITH.
Where is this instrument located on the ship?

Mr. COTTAM.
In the Carpathia, sir?

Senator SMITH.
Yes, where?

Mr. COTTAM.
On the after part of the ship.

Senator SMITH.
On what deck?

Mr. COTTAM.
On an island above the second class smoking room.

Senator SMITH.
What have you there, a room?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Or two rooms?

Mr. COTTAM.
One room.

Senator SMITH.
And you say you were at liberty to retire at night when you please?

Mr. COTTAM.
Everything depends on circumstances.

Senator SMITH.
What would it depend on?

Mr. COTTAM.
If I had work to get off and I could not get it off before the early hours of the morning I should have to stay up to attend it.

Senator SMITH.
That is commercial work?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Sending messages for your passengers?

Mr. COTTAM.
Or for the captain; yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
At night you are not open for commercial business?

Mr. COTTAM.
Never have done it; only with the captain, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Or official business?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Are you able to get the best results in the daytime or in the night ordinarily?

Mr. COTTAM.
In the night.

Senator SMITH.
Can you tell why that is - why that is so?

Mr. COTTAM.
Owing to a certain state of the atmosphere. I do not know what the state is.

Senator SMITH.
And yet at night you undertake to do no business, or are your customers lacking at night?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
The passengers on the boat do not seek to do business at night?

Mr. COTTAM.
No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Have you any rules which require you to use your instrument or put it in position to be used for distress calls every hour of the day or any hour of the day?

Mr. COTTAM.
There is nothing in the Marconi system that would detect the signals if the operator is not present.

Senator SMITH.
That is, no warning or alarm?

Mr. COTTAM.
No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Is that true of the more modern equipment?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
They have an alarm?

Mr. COTTAM.
No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
They have none?

Mr. COTTAM.
No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
What were you doing last Sunday evening about 10 o'clock?

Mr. COTTAM.
Receiving the news from Cape Cod, the long-distance station.

Senator SMITH.
Receiving news from Cape Cod?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
What kind of news?

Mr. COTTAM.
General news.

Senator SMITH.
General news for the accommodation for passengers on ship?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Have you specified hours for that purpose?

Mr. COTTAM.
We are not obliged to take the news, sir.

Senator SMITH.
You are not obliged to take it?

Mr. COTTAM.
That is right.

Senator SMITH.
But on this occasion you did take it?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
How long did you take it?

Mr. COTTAM.
I did not start to take it.

Senator SMITH.
How far were you from Cape Cod?

Mr. COTTAM.
I could not tell you the exact distance.

Senator SMITH.
About how far? What was the required wave length? Can you tell, or did you do any sending?

Mr. COTTAM.
No transmitting.

Senator SMITH.
No transmitting; just receiving?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
After you finished the Cape Cod business, what did you do then?

Mr. COTTAM.
At the latter end of the news from Cape Cod, he was sending a lot of messages for the Titanic.

Senator SMITH.
What time was that?

Mr. COTTAM.
About 11 o'clock.

Senator SMITH.
What had you been doing just preceding the message from the Titanic?

Mr. COTTAM.
Reporting the day's communications to the bridge.

Senator SMITH.
Had you closed your station for the night?

Mr. COTTAM.
No.

Senator SMITH.
What do you do when you close your station; anything?

Mr. COTTAM.
No; there is nothing particular done.

Senator SMITH.
Nothing?

Mr. COTTAM.
No.

Senator SMITH.
You do not have to detach any battery wires?

Mr. COTTAM.
Switch the charging battery out, the storage battery. We switch that out for the night.

Senator SMITH.
Switch the storage battery out?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes.

Senator SMITH.
Does that "kill" the instrument?

Mr. COTTAM.
No.

Senator SMITH.
Can you receive messages with that out?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes.

Senator SMITH.
But you can not send them?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes.

Senator SMITH.
You can both receive and send them?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes.

Senator SMITH.
Well then what in reality have you done when you shift this battery connection?

Mr. COTTAM.
I have taken them off charge, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Does that lessen the likelihood of your getting any signal of any kind?

Mr. COTTAM.
No, sir; not in the least.

Senator SMITH I believe you told us how far this equipment on the Carpathia would send a message with accuracy, did you not?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
About 250 miles, I think you said?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes.

Senator SMITH.
Was there any thunder or lightning or cloud that night?

Mr. COTTAM.
No.

Senator SMITH.
Sunday night?

Mr. COTTAM.
No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
It was clear?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
How did you happen to catch this communication from the Titanic?

Mr. COTTAM.
I was looking out for the Parisian, to confirm a previous communication with the Parisian.

Senator SMITH.
You had been in communication with the Parisian that day?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
At what time?

Mr. COTTAM.
I can not say. At some time in the afternoon, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Not a distress signal?

Mr. COTTAM.
Oh, no, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Some commercial or business communication?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
How far was the Parisian from you?

Mr. COTTAM.
I do not know, sir.

Senator SMITH.
You have no means of knowing?

Mr. COTTAM.
No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Her position was not stated?

Mr. COTTAM.
No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
You had been in communication with the Parisian that afternoon?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
And this Sunday evening you were looking out for further communication from that boat?

Mr. COTTAM.
No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Well, how did you happen to be at your instrument?

Mr. COTTAM.
I say, I was confirming, or attempting to confirm a previous communication with the Parisian - I was not sure of her communication.

Senator SMITH.
Did you hear the captain of the Carpathia today?

Mr. COTTAM.
No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
He said you were about to retire.

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
And caught this message rather providentially?

Mr. COTTAM.
Yes, sir.

Continued >