United States Senate Inquiry

Day 1

Testimony of Arthur H. Rostron, cont.

Senator NEWLANDS.
How many died after you rescued them?

Mr. ROSTRON.
None. No passengers died. Only the one seaman.

Senator SMITH.
Do you know who took the lifeboats from the Carpathia?

Mr. ROSTRON.
No.

Senator SMITH.
It was probably done by the owners?

Mr. ROSTRON.
No; I had previously to this sent a wireless to the White Star Line asking them to send a couple of tugboats down to quarantine to take these boats away, as I would not be able to come into dock with those boats up in the davits or on the forecastle head. There were none there, and so I was worrying about these. It was a dirty night, coming up the river last night, and I was worrying about what I was going to do with the boats. I had the boats lowered half way to the water, to avoid any waste of time. When we got right off the dock, I asked them to send some tugboats out to take the boats away, as I could not dock until they were gotten out of the way. After that I do not know anything about them.

Senator SMITH.
Some complaint has been made because the message of the President of the United States, which was sent the Carpathia, was not answered. Do you know anything about that?

Mr. ROSTRON.
I heard last night that there was a message about a Maj. Butt. I asked my purser this morning if he remembers any message asking if Maj. Butt was on board, and it was answered: "Not on board." That is the only thing I know about that message of that name. I do not remember anything else.

Senator SMITH.
Was there any attempt to communicate with the Carpathia from any Government vessel?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes; from the Chester. I got a message from the Chester. The exact words of it I quite forget now; but there was something in it about the President; something, as far as I remember, about his being anxious about the passengers, if I remember right. I was rather worried at the time, as it was foggy, and these messages came up to me on the bridge. I had my hands full. He gave me his position and told me he was coming to take the names of the passengers and wanted my position. I answered him with my position and asked him if he could take the passengers names.

I told him the names of the first and second cabin passengers and crew had already gone. I said: "Can you take third class names now?" I got a reply back: "Yes, yes."

Senator SMITH.
From the Chester?

Mr. ROSTRON.
From the Chester. Those are the two messages I got from the Chester.

Senator SMITH.
Was there any attempt made by anyone to influence you in sending or receiving wireless messages?

Mr. ROSTRON.
From the very commencement I took charge of the whole thing and issued orders that every message sent would be sent under my authority, and no message was to be sent unless authorized by me. My orders were: First of all, the two official messages. The two official messages were to the Cunard Co. and the White Star Co., as regards the accident, telling them that I had got an approximate number of passengers aboard and was returning to New York. That was to the White Star Co., and the other one was to our company, of course, telling them that I was proceeding to New York unless otherwise ordered, and considered New York the best, for many considerations.

After those two messages were sent, I sent a press message to the Associated Press, practically in the same words as I had sent to the companies, over my signature.

Those were the three first messages that were sent. After these messages were sent, we began sending in the names of the first class passengers. This was by the Olympic on Monday evening. We got the first, and I think all the second off by the Olympic. Then we lost touch.

Senator SMITH.
You lost touch?

Mr. ROSTRON.
We lost touch; yes.

Senator SMITH.
When was that?

Mr. ROSTRON.
The hour I could not tell you. It was Tuesday morning some time very early in the morning, between 1 and 2, I think.

Senator SMITH.
How many operators did you have on the Carpathia?

Mr. ROSTRON.
One.

Senator SMITH.
Was he in constant service from the time you received this first message from the Titanic?

Mr. ROSTRON.
He was constantly at his instrument, the whole time.

Senator SMITH.
How old a man was he?

Mr. ROSTRON.
He is a young man. I should think he is about 25 years old.

Senator SMITH.
Under whose employ?

Mr. ROSTRON.
The Marconi Co.

Senator SMITH.
What is his name?

Mr. ROSTRON.
I can not tell you. I do not know his name.

Senator SMITH.
Did you know, of your own knowledge, of the attempt of the President of the United States to communicate directly with your ship?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Absolutely not; nothing whatever of that.

Senator SMITH.
I guess that there was no intention whatever of either ignoring his message -

Mr. ROSTRON. (interposing)
My word, I hope not, sir.

Senator SMITH. (continuing)
Or neglecting it?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Absolutely no intention of any such thing, sir. It never entered the minds of anyone.

Senator SMITH.
And no one attempted in any way to put a censorship over the wireless service on your ship?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Absolutely no censorship whatever. I controlled the whole thing, through my orders. I said I placed official messages first. After they had gone, and the first press message, then the names of the passengers. After the names of the passengers and crew had been sent my orders were to send all private messages from the Titanic's passengers first in the order in which they were given in to the purser; no preference to any message.

Senator SMITH.
You picked up a message from the Californian, did you not?

Mr. ROSTRON.
No, we did not pick up a message. Wait a minute. We knew the Californian was about, because the operator had told me he had heard the Californian reply to those signals. That is all.

At 8 o'clock in the morning he hove in sight. This was at the wreck, and I left him when I returned to New York at 8.50, I think it was, when I put on full speed to come back. He was searching the vicinity of the wreckage, and I left for New York.

The next day I got a message from the Californian saying:

Have searched position carefully up to noon and found nothing and seen no bodies.

Senator SMITH.
Did your wireless work right up to the time you intended to use it last?

Mr. ROSTRON.
I do not follow your question, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Did your wireless fail you at all?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Never. The only thing is that we were not fitted up with a long-distance installation. It is only a short-distance outfit, for what we call ship messages, and close to land stations.

Senator SMITH.
How far can you communicate?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Under good conditions, 200 miles. We only reckon, under ordinary conditions, on 150 miles. Fog, mist, haze, snow, or any other unfavorable weather conditions make it so that we may not get more that 90 to 100 miles.

Senator SMITH.
It was rather accidental, then, that you happened to be within the radius of your instrument when you got the Titanic?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes; we were only 58 miles away from them.

Senator SMITH.
It was providential?

Mr. ROSTRON.
The whole thing was absolutely providential. I will tell you this, that the wireless operator was in his cabin, at the time, not on official business at all, but just simply listening as he was undressing. He was unlacing his boots at the time. He had this apparatus on his ear, and the message came. That was the whole thing. In 10 minutes, maybe he would have been in bed, and we would not have heard the messages.

Senator SMITH.
It was a very remarkable coincidence

Mr. ROSTRON.
It was very remarkable, and, as I say, the whole thing was providential, as regards our being able to get there.

Mr. UHLER.
You could receive from a long distance, but you could not send a response?

Mr. ROSTRON.
We can always take from a long distance, yes.

Mr. UHLER.
You have a low powered machine?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes.

Senator SMITH.
From what you have heard from the passengers or crew of the Titanic, do you know whether any of them saw the Titanic sink finally?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes, several of the passengers to whom I have spoken saw the ship sink.

Senator SMITH.
Do you remember who they were?

Mr. ROSTRON.
I think Mrs. Thayer was one.

Senator SMITH.
Mrs. J. B. Thayer?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes; and her son Jack; and Mrs. Wagner. [Widener]

Senator SMITH.
And Col. Gracie?

Mr. ROSTRON.
I do not remember. I do not know the names of any of the people who were saved. I never came across them.

Senator SMITH.
You never talked with them?

Mr. ROSTRON.
I had no opportunity to do so.

Senator SMITH.
You were kept very busy?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes.

Senator NEWLANDS.
Captain, how many more lifeboats could you accommodate on the Carpathia than you have now?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Under the present conditions, and of course if they were ordinary lifeboats, I do not believe we could take more than six, at the very outside. Of course, that is absolutely lumbering the deck up as it is.

Senator NEWLANDS.
It would be lumbering the deck up, and you would only have space for 26 in all?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes.

Senator NEWLANDS.
And that would lumber up the deck to some extent?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes. Not the passenger decks. It has nothing to do with the passenger decks. It would be the deck space that is not utilized by the passengers that would be lumbered up, not the promenade decks.

Senator NEWLANDS.
I see. Would that additional number work much additional inconvenience upon the deck?

Mr. ROSTRON.
No: I do not think so.

Senator NEWLANDS.
Take the case of the Titanic, whose tonnage was more than three times as great as that of the Carpathia, which had, I believe, the same number of lifeboats as the Carpathia?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes, sir.

Senator NEWLANDS.
How many additional lifeboats could that vessel accommodate without inconvenience?

Mr. ROSTRON.
I have not the faintest idea, sir, what the Titanic was like. I believe she is a sister ship of the Olympic. I have seen the Olympic once, when she was at the end of our dock. I have no idea of her construction. That is all I have seen of her.

Senator NEWLANDS.
You think she could accommodate considerably more, do you not?

Mr. ROSTRON.
If she could not accommodate them she could be made to accommodate them. If they build the ship knowing that she is only to carry 16 lifeboats they will utilize the space otherwise.

Senator NEWLANDS.
How do you account for the fact that the Board of Trade of England, as the size of these ships has increased, has not compelled an increase in the number of lifeboats? Your maximum, as I understand, is 20 boats, is it not?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes, I believe it is. But they have compelled a different construction of the ship itself. That is where the thing has come in.

Senator NEWLANDS.
You regard each ship itself as a lifeboat?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes, sir.

Senator NEWLANDS.
That expectation was not realized in the case of this ship?

Mr. ROSTRON.
It has been an abnormal experience as regards the Titanic.

Senator SMITH.
Have you any kind of knowledge at all regarding the force of the impact which wrecked the Titanic?

Mr. ROSTRON.
I know nothing about it, sir. I have not asked any questions about this kind of business. I knew it was not my affair, and I had little desire to make any of the officers feel it any more than they did. Mind you sir, there is only this: I know nothing, but I have heard rumors of different passengers; some will say one thing and some another. I would, therefore, rather say nothing. I do not know anything. From the officers I know nothing. I could give you silly rumors of passengers, but I know they are not reliable, from my own experience; so, if you will excuse me, I would prefer to say nothing.

Senator SMITH.
I think that is all, Captain, and I want to thank you for your courtesy in appearing before the committee and giving us the information at your disposal.

Senator NEWLANDS.
As to the equipment of these lifeboats, what are the requirements as to food and compass, and so on?

Mr. ROSTRON.
They are all supplied with compass, and with water breakers and with bread tanks.

Mr. UHLER.
And with mast and sail?

Mr. ROSTRON.
And with mast and sail.

Mr. UHLER.
And gear?

Mr. ROSTRON.
And all of the necessary gear.

Senator NEWLANDS.
Do you know whether those conditions were complied with with reference to these boats on the Titanic?

Mr. ROSTRON.
As far as I can see, yes. I can tell you this, that I saw myself both water and biscuits in the boats, not all, of course, but one or two where the men were working about when we secured them. We put them on board our ship and we had to secure them, and under certain circumstances, we had to come up against the boat and look into them, and there were two or three boats where I did see both water and bread in the boats; and all of the boats had the bread tanks. That I know for certain. And they also had water breakers.

Senator SMITH.
We are very much obliged to you, Capt. Rostron.

Mr. ROSTRON.
You are quite welcome, sir. If there is anything further I can do, I shall be very glad.