United States Senate Inquiry

Day 1

Testimony of Arthur H. Rostron

(The Witness was sworn by the chairman.)

Senator SMITH.
Please give your full name and address.

Mr. ROSTRON.
Arthur Henry Rostron, Woodville, Victoria Road, Crosby, Liverpool.

Senator SMITH.
What is your business, Captain?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Seaman.

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

Mr. ROSTRON.
Twenty-seven years.

Senator SMITH.
What positions have you filled?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Every rank in the merchant service up to captain.

Senator SMITH.
In what companies or on what lines?

Mr. ROSTRON.
First of all I was two years as a cadet on the training ship Conway in the Mersey, Liverpool, after which I went under sail as an apprentice with Williams & Milligan's ships. I was an apprentice for three years, after which I was second mate, after passing my examinations. Then, after getting my mates certificate, I went as mate on another sailing ship. Then I passed for extra master and joined the Cunard Steamship Co. in 1895.

Senator SMITH.
You are now captain of the Carpathia?

Mr. ROSTRON.
I am now captain of the Carpathia, Cunard Line.

Senator SMITH.
How long have you been captain of the Carpathia?

Mr. ROSTRON.
My appointment on the Carpathia dates from the 18th of January.

Senator SMITH.
Of this year?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Of this year; yes sir.

Senator SMITH.
Were you captain of any other vessel?

Mr. ROSTRON.
The whole of last year, from the 1st of January of last year, I was captain of the Pannonia.

Senator SMITH.
Of the same line?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Of the same line. Previous to that I was captain of several other smaller cargo boats running between Liverpool and the Mediterranean.

Senator SMITH.
What day did you sail with the Carpathia from New York last?

Mr. ROSTRON.
The 11th of April.

Senator SMITH.
And where were you headed?

Mr. ROSTRON.
We were bound for Liverpool, Genoa, Naples, Trieste, and Fiume.

Senator SMITH.
How many passengers did you have on board the Carpathia when you sailed from New York?

Mr. ROSTRON.
That I am not prepared to answer, sir. I can not give you the exact number.

Senator SMITH.
About how many?

Mr. ROSTRON.
One hundred and fifty first; 50 second; and about 560 or 575, third. That is approximately.

Senator SMITH.
Your first stop would have been Gibraltar?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Gibraltar; yes sir.

Senator SMITH.
What time in the day did you leave New York?

Mr. ROSTRON.
At noon on Thursday.

Senator SMITH.
I wish you would tell the committee what occurred after that day, as nearly as you can, up to the present time.

Mr. ROSTRON.
We backed out from the dock at noon on Thursday. We proceeded down the river, the weather being fine and clear, and we left the pilot at the pilot boat and passed the Ambrose Channel Lightship about 2 o'clock p.m. I can not give you the exact time, now, because, as a matter of fact, I have not looked at a single date or time of any kind. I have not had the time to do so.

Senator SMITH.
I mean approximately?

Mr. ROSTRON.
From that up to Sunday midnight we had fine, clear weather, and everything was going on without any trouble of any kind.

At 12:35 a. m. on Monday I was informed of the urgent distress signal from the Titanic.

Senator SMITH.
By whom?

Mr. ROSTRON.
By our wireless operator, and also by the first officer.

The wireless operator had taken the message and run with it up to the bridge, and gave it to the first officer who was in charge, with a junior officer with him, and both ran down the ladder to my door and called me. I had only just turned in. It was an urgent distress signal from the Titanic, requiring immediate assistance and giving me his position.

The position of the Titanic at the time was 41 46' north, 50 14' west. I can not give you our correct position, but we were then -

Senator SMITH.
Did you give the hour?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes, 12:35; that was our apparent time. I can give you the New York time, if you would rather have it?

Senator SMITH.
Yes; please do so.

Mr. ROSTRON.
The New York time at 12:35 was 10:45 p. m. Sunday night.

Immediately on getting the message, I gave the order to turn the ship around, and immediately I had given that order I asked the operator if he was absolutely sure it was a distress signal from the Titanic. I asked him twice.

Senator SMITH.
Just what was that signal?

Mr. ROSTRON.
I did not ask him. He simply told me that he had received a distress signal from the Titanic, requiring immediate assistance, and gave me his position; and he assured me he was absolutely certain of the message.

In the meantime I was dressing, and I picked up our position on my chart, and set a course to pick up the Titanic. The course was north 52 degrees west true 58 miles from my position.

I then sent for the chief engineer. In the meantime I was dressing and seeing the ship put on her course. The chief engineer came up. I told him to call another watch of stokers and make all possible speed to the Titanic, as she was in trouble.

He ran down immediately and told me my orders would be carried out at once.

After that I gave the first officer, who was in charge of the bridge, orders to knock off all work which the men were doing on deck, the watch on deck, and prepare all our lifeboats, take out the spare gear, and have them all ready for turning outboard.

Immediately I had done that I sent for the heads of the different departments, the English doctor, the purser, and the chief steward, and they came to my cabin, and then I issued my orders. I do not know whether you care to hear what my orders were exactly.

Senator SMITH.
Yes, sir; we would like to hear them.

Mr. ROSTRON.
As a matter of fact, I have them all written down here. We carry an English doctor, an Italian doctor, and a Hungarian doctor. My orders were these:

  • English doctor, with assistants, to remain in first class dining room.
  • Italian doctor, with assistants, to remain in second class dining room.
  • Hungarian doctor, with assistants, to remain in third class dining room.
  • Each doctor to have supplies of restoratives, stimulants, and everything to hand for immediate needs of probable wounded or sick.
  • Purser, with assistant purser and chief steward, to receive the passengers, etc., at different gangways, controlling our own stewards in assisting Titanic passengers to the dining rooms, etc.; also to get Christian and surnames of all survivors as soon as possible to send by wireless.
  • Inspector, steerage stewards, and master at arms to control our own steerage passengers and keep them out of the third class dining hall, and also to keep them out of the way and off the deck to prevent confusion.
  • Chief steward: That all hands would be called and to have coffee, etc., ready to serve out to all our crew.
  • Have coffee, tea, soup, etc., in each saloon, blankets in saloons, at the gangways, and some for the boats.
  • To see all rescued cared for and immediate wants attended to.
  • My cabin and all officials' cabins to be given up. Smoke rooms, library, etc., dining rooms, would be utilized to accommodate the survivors.
  • All spare berths in steerage to be utilized for Titanic's passengers, and get all our own steerage passengers grouped together.
  • Stewards to be placed in each alleyway to reassure our own passengers, should they inquire about noise in getting our boats out, etc., or the working of engines.
  • To all I strictly enjoined the necessity for order, discipline and quietness and to avoid all confusion.
  • Chief and first officers: All the hands to be called; get coffee, etc. Prepare and swing out all boats.
  • All gangway doors to be opened.
  • Electric sprays in each gangway and over side.
  • A block with line rove hooked in each gangway.
  • A chair sling at each gangway, for getting up sick or wounded.
  • Boatswains' chairs. Pilot ladders and canvas ash bags to be at each gangway, the canvas ash bags for children.

I may state the canvas ash bags were of great assistance in getting the infants and children aboard.

  • Cargo falls with both ends clear; bowlines in the ends, and bights secured along ship's sides, for boat ropes or to help the people up.
  • Heaving lines distributed along the ship's side, and gaskets handy near gangways for lashing people in chairs, etc.
  • Forward derricks, topped and rigged, and steam on winches; also told off officers for different stations and for certain eventualities.
  • Ordered company's rockets to be fired at 2:45 a. m. and every quarter of an hour after to reassure Titanic.

This is a copy of what I am sending to our own company.

Senator SMITH.
We would like to have you leave a copy of that with the committee, if you can.

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes, sir; I shall do it with pleasure.

One more thing:

  • As each official saw everything in readiness, he reported to me personally on the bridge that all my orders were carried out, enumerating the same, and that everything was in readiness.

This was at 3:45. That was a quarter of an hour before we got up to the scene of the disaster. The details of all this work I left to the several officials, and I am glad to say that they were most efficiently carried out.

Senator SMITH.
I should judge from what you say that you made 19 1/4 knots from the time you got the signal of distress from the Titanic, until you reached the scene of the wreck or loss?

Mr. ROSTRON.
No, it was 58 miles, and it took us three and a half hours.

Mr. UHLER.
From 12:35 to 3:45?

Mr. ROSTRON.
No; 3:45 is when they reported to me. I have not got to the time of arrival at the scene of action yet. I stopped my engines at 4 o'clock, and I was then close to the first boat.

Senator SMITH.
Just proceed, in your own way.

Mr. ROSTRON.
After interviewing the heads of the departments, I went on the bridge and remained there. While I was up there made inquiries making sure that my orders were all being carried out, and that everything possible was being done.

At 2:40, I saw a flare, about half a point on the port bow, and immediately took it for granted that it was the Titanic itself, and I remarked that she must be still afloat, as I knew we were a long way off, and it seemed so high.

However, soon after seeing the flare I made out an iceberg about a point on the port bow, to which I had to port to keep well clear of. Knowing that the Titanic had struck ice, of course I had to take extra care and every precaution to keep clear of anything that might look like ice.

Between 2:45 and 4 o'clock, the time I stopped my engines, we were passing icebergs on every side and making them ahead and having to alter our course several times to clear the bergs.

At 4 o'clock I stopped.

At 4:10 I got the first boat alongside.

Previous to getting the first boat alongside, however, I saw an iceberg close to me, right ahead, and I had to starboard to get out of the way. And I picked him up on the weather side of the ship. I had to clear this ice.

I am on the scene of action now. This is 4:10 with the first boat alongside.

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