United States Senate Inquiry

Day 10

Testimony of Joseph G. Boxhall, recalled

(Testimony taken separately before Senator Burton on Monday, April 29, 1912.)

Senator BURTON.
I understand you have testified before the full committee about the radiograms relating to ice?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Yes, sir. I have stated upstairs, or in Senator Smith's presence, this afternoon that I did not hear of any ice reports the day of the accident.

Senator BURTON.
None were reported to you?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I did not hear any. There were none reported to me. I do not think any were reported during my watch on deck, or I should have heard it.

Senator BURTON.
When was your watch on deck?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I was on deck on Sunday morning from 8 o'clock until noon, and I was on again from 4 until 6, and then I was on again from 8 until the time of the accident.

Senator BURTON.
You made an entry on the chart as to ice of which you had received information, did you not?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Yes.

Senator BURTON.
When was that?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I can not get the day, but it was probably a couple of days before, when we had a radiogram from the captain of La Touraine, giving his position at 7 o'clock Greenwich time, and I worked out our position at 7 o'clock Greenwich time and wrote out the time for Capt. Smith.

Senator BURTON.
You made an entry of that on the chart?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Yes; and showed the captain the position the captain of La Touraine had given us.

Senator BURTON.
Do you recall what that position was?

Mr. BOXHALL.
No, sir; but I recall this much, as I remarked to Capt. Smith, that those positions were of no use to us because they were absolutely north of our track. You will understand these French boats do not keep the recognized tracks we do. French boats are always to be found to the northward. Therefore I plotted all these positions out. He had given us the position of a derelict, or something, and when I plotted this derelict and these various icebergs he had seen I could almost form an opinion of this track he had taken, and I said, "They are out of our way."

Senator BURTON.
About how far north of your track?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I could not say; but considerably north. He had gone right across the Banks.

Senator BURTON.
Twenty or thirty miles?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I would not like to say any distance. He had gone across the Banks, and we did not get on the Banks, at all.

Senator BURTON.
You did not check that up with any special care after you had put that location down, because you thought it out of your course?

Mr. BOXHALL.
It was put down just as carefully as I should have put it down if it had been on our course. I did not know exactly where she was until I saw the actual position on the chart. The captain saw me, and he was there alongside of me where I was putting the positions down, or shortly after I put them down, anyhow, he read the telegram and looked at it, and these positions satisfied him.

Senator BURTON.
Did you receive any messages that informed you of ice in your track?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Not to my knowledge.

Senator BURTON.
Not when you were on watch?

Mr. BOXHALL.
No, sir; and I do not think there were any received at all of ice on our track, or the word would have been passed around right away; everybody would have known it. As soon as these messages are received, where, there is ice one of the junior officers of the watch plots the positions on the chart.

Senator BURTON.
What is the custom as to making observations? Does the same person take the observations who also makes the computations as to where you are?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Sometimes. It just depends on the state of the weather, and it depends a lot on the captain. Some captains will not allow their senior officers to go inside of the chart room and work these observations out, leaving the junior officer on the bridge. Others do.

Senator BURTON.
What was the case on the Titanic?

Mr. BOXHALL.
In this case I think it was optional; of course, with a fair amount of regard for the weather. Sometimes the officers went inside, and sometimes they did not.

Senator BURTON.
The captain of the Mount Temple maintains that the course as conveyed by the distress signal was wrong; that the Titanic was actually eight miles distant from the place indicated. What do you say as to that?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I do not know what to say. I know our position, because I worked the position out, and I know that it is correct. One of the first things that Capt. Rostron said after I met him was "What a splendid position that was you gave us."

Senator BURTON.
You gave them what position?

Mr. BOXHALL.
41 46', and 50 14'.

Senator BURTON.
And you are satisfied that was correct?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Perfectly.

Senator BURTON.
You computed it yourself, did you?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I computed it myself, and computed it by star observations that had been taken by Mr. Lightoller that same evening; and they were beautiful observations.

Senator BURTON.
Who made the computations on them?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I did. You asked me if the officer who took the observations and the one who made the computations compared their results?

Senator BURTON.
Yes.

Mr. BOXHALL.
I do not see what there is to compare. The officer who takes the observations always is the senior officer.

Senator BURTON.
He writes those down, does he?

Mr. BOXHALL.
He simply takes the observations with his sextant. The junior officer takes the time with the chronometer, and then is told to work them out.

Senator BURTON.
That is, another person works them out?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Yes. If he does not think these things are correct, he tells you to work them over, and you have to do it.

Senator BURTON.
Would there not be some danger of your mistaking a figure, or something of that kind, that is written down by another person?

Mr. BOXHALL.
When you take stars you always endeavor, as they did that night, to take a set of stars. One position checks another. You take two stars for latitude, and two for longitude, one star north and one star south, one star east and one star west. If you find a big difference between eastern and western stars, you know there is a mistake somewhere. If there is a difference between these two latitude stars you know there is a mistake somewhere. But, as it happened, I think I worked out three stars for latitude and I think I worked out three stars for longitude.

Senator BURTON.
And they all agreed?

Mr. BOXHALL.
They all agreed.

Senator BURTON.
What time did you do that?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I really do not know what time it was. I was working these things out after 8 o'clock, and Mr. Lightoller took them before 8 o'clock.

Senator BURTON.
About how long was that before the collision?

Mr. BOXHALL.
The collision was at 11.43, I think.

Senator BURTON.
And how long before the collision did you make this computation?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I suppose about 10 o'clock. Yes; I finished before 10 o'clock, because I gave Mr. Lightoller the results when I finished.

Senator BURTON.
And the result as to the position of the ship was arrived at by computing your speed after 10 clock to the time of the collision?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Yes.

Senator BURTON.
You are very sure it was right, and Capt. Rostron said it was?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Capt. Rostron said it was a very, very good position. After I had worked these observations of Mr. Lightoller's I was taking star bearings for compass error for myself, and was working those out. That is what kept me in the chart room most of the time. I was making computations most of the time.

Senator BURTON.
Did you yourself receive these messages relating to ice?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I received those I copied.

Senator BURTON.
What did Murdoch mean by the expression "I intended to port around it?" What is the meaning of that expression?

Mr. BOXHALL.
That is easier described than explained. (Mr. Boxhall explained on a diagram the meaning of the term referred to.)

Senator BURTON.
How near was the wireless station to the bridge?

Mr. BOXHALL.
The wireless station was in the after part of the officers' quarters, between the second and third funnels.

Senator BURTON.
And to whom did you give the longitude and latitude?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I took it down on a piece of paper, and the wireless operator had the receivers on his ears. It is the usual thing, whenever I go into a Marconi office, and the operators are busy listening, not to interrupt them. Whatever I have to say I write down.

Senator BURTON.
You wrote it down and handed it to him?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Yes.

Senator BURTON.
And he sent it immediately, did he?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I judge so.

Senator BURTON.
How much did the Titanic draw at that time?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I could not say what the draft was when we left Southampton; probably 33 feet.

Senator BURTON.
You are very positive you saw that ship ahead on the port bow, are you?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Yes, sir, quite positive.

Senator BURTON.
Did you see the green or red light?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Yes; I saw the side lights with my naked eye.

Senator BURTON.
When did you see them?

Mr. BOXHALL.
From our ship, before I left the ship. I saw this steamer's stern light before I went into my boat, which indicated that the ship had turned around. I saw a white light, and I could not see any of the masthead lights that I had seen previously and I took it for a stern light.

Senator BURTON.
Which light did you see first?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I saw the masthead lights first, the two steaming lights; and then, as she drew up closer, I saw her side lights through my glasses, and eventually I saw the red light. I had seen the green, but I saw the red most of the time. I saw the red light with my naked eye.

Senator BURTON.
Did she pull away from you?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I do not know when she turned; I can not say when I missed the lights, because I was leaving the bridge to go and fire off some more of those distress rockets and attend to other duties.

Senator BURTON.
Then your idea is that she was coming toward you on the port side?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Yes.

Senator BURTON.
Because you saw the red light and the masthead lights?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Yes, sir.

Senator BURTON.
Afterward you saw the green light, which showed that she had turned?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I think I saw the green light before I saw the red light, as a matter of fact. But the ship was meeting us. I am covering the whole thing by saying the ship was meeting us.

Senator BURTON.
Your impression is she turned away, or turned on a different course?

Mr. BOXHALL.
That is my impression.

Senator BURTON.
At a later time, when you were in the boat after it had been lowered, what light did you see?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I saw this single light, which I took to be her stern light, just before I went away in the boat, as near as I can say.

Senator BURTON.
How long did you see this stern light?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I saw it until I pulled around the ship's stern. I had laid off a little while on the port side, on which side I was lowered, and then I afterwards pulled around the ship's stern, and, of course, then I lost the light, and I never saw it anymore.

Senator BURTON.
Her course, as she came on, would have been nearer to your course; that is, your course was ahead, there, and she was coming in toward your course?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Yes, sir; she was slightly crossing it, evidently. I suppose she was turning around slowly.

Senator BURTON.
Is it your idea that she turned away?

Mr. BOXHALL.
That is my idea, sir.

Senator BURTON.
She kept on a general course toward the east, and then bore away from you, or what?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I do not think she was doing much steaming. I do not think the ship was steaming very much, because after I first saw the masthead lights she must have been still steaming, but by the time I saw her red light with my naked eye she was not steaming very much. So she had probably gotten into the ice, and turned around.

Senator BURTON.
What do you think happened after she turned around? Do you think she went away to avoid the ice?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I do not know whether she stayed there all night, or what she did. I lost the light. I did not see her after we pulled around to the starboard side of the Titanic.

Senator BURTON.
Then you lost track of her?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Yes.

Senator BURTON.
And you saw her no more after that?

Mr. BOXHALL.
No, sir. As a matter of fact, Capt. Smith was standing by my side, and we both came to the conclusion that she was close enough to be signaled by the Morse lamp. So I signaled to her. I called her up, and got no answer. The captain said, "Tell him to come at once, we are sinking." So I sent that signal out, "Come at once, we are sinking."

Senator BURTON.
And you kept firing up those rockets?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Then leaving off and firing rockets. There were a lot of stewards and men standing around the bridge and around the boat deck. Of course, there were quite a lot of them quite interested in this ship, looking from the bridge, and some said she had shown a light in reply, but I never saw it. I even got the quartermaster who was working around with me - I do not know who he was - to fire off the distress signal, and I got him to also signal with the Morse lamp - that is just a series of dots with short intervals of light - whilst I watched with a pair of glasses to see whether this man did answer, as some people said he had replied.

Senator BURTON.
You saw nothing of the hull of the boat?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Oh, no; it was too dark. I have already stated, in answer to a question, how far this ship was away from us, that I thought she was about 5 miles, and I arrived at it in this way. The masthead lights of a steamer are required by the board of trade regulations to show for 5 miles, and the signals are required to show for 2 miles.

Senator BURTON.
You could see that distance on such a night as this?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I could see quite clearly.

Senator BURTON.
You are very sure you are not deceived about seeing these lights?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Not at all.

Senator BURTON.
You saw not only the mast light but the side lights?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I saw the side lights. Whatever ship she was had beautiful lights. I think we could see her lights more than the regulation distance, but I do not think we could see them 14 miles.

(Witness Excused.)