United States Senate Inquiry

Day 1

Testimony of Harold T. Cottam

(The witness was sworn by the chairman.)

1521. (Senator Smith.) Mr. Cottam, what is your full name?
- Harold Thomas Cottam.

1522. Where do you reside?
- Liverpool, England.

1523. How old are you?
- Twenty-one.

1524. What is your business?
- Marconi telegraphist.

1525. How long have you been engaged in that business?
- Three years.

1526. Where have you been employed?
- The Marconi Co. all the time.

1527. How extensively; that is, how many different employments?
- I went to sea first. Then I was taken off there and worked for the British post office for a time.

1528. In what capacity?
- As telegraphist, on one of their land stations.

1529. Under the British post-office authorities?
- Yes, sir.

1530. Where?
- Liverpool.

1531. How long were you thus employed?
- About 14 to 16 months.

1532. Then what did you do?
- I was taken off there and went away to sea again, on the Australian run.

1533. On. what boat?
- The Medic, White Star.

1534. How long were you on the Medic?
- Two voyages.

1535. Were you wireless telegrapher at that time?
- Yes, sir.

1536. Two voyages?
- Yes, sir.

1537. Out and right back?
- Yes; return voyages.

1538. From Liverpool.
- To Australia and back to Liverpool again.

1539. What kind of apparatus was there on the Medic?
- A Marconi, sir.

1540. What type of instrument or equipment?
- A one and a half watt set, sir.

1541. What was the maximum wave length?
- A standard wave length, sir; 2,000 feet.

1542. You were in charge of the wireless on that boat?
- Yes.

1543. Chief in charge?
- Only one man, sir.

1544. What was your next employment?
- On the Carpathia, sir.

1545. How long were you on the Carpathia?
- I joined her in Liverpool, last February, sir.

1546. You have been with the Carpathia ever since?
- Yes, sir.

1547. Did you ship with her from New York?
- From Liverpool, sir.

1548. From New York the other day?
- Yes, sir.

1549. What day?
- I do not remember the day. About the 10th or 11th, I think, sir.

1550. On her last outward voyage?
- Yes, sir.

1551. Where was she headed for?
- Gibraltar, sir.

1552. Did she have a wireless equipment?
- Yes, sir.

1553. What kind?
- Marconi, sir.

1554. Up-to-date equipment?
- No, sir; it was an older type.

1555. What was the maximum distance with which that equipment could be operated successfully?
- Two hundred and fifty miles.

1556. Did you obtain satisfactory results from 250-mile experiments?
- Yes, sir.

1557. On the Carpathia?
- Yes, sir.

1558. You were on the boat last Sunday?
- Yes, sir.

1559. What were your hours of employment?
- There are no stated hours. There is only one man on the boat.

1560. I understand; but what periods during the day and night are you expected to be at your instrument?
- 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.

1561. Night and day?
- Yes, sir.

1562. Is that practicable?
- Yes, sir.

1563. 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?
- No, sir.

1564. No regulation of the British Government?
- No, sir.

1565. No direction by the Marconi Co.?
- No, sir; but you are more or less responsible for communications which are expected.

1566. You are responsible for communication?
- 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.

1567. Has it been your custom to go to the apparatus at regular times?
- No, sir.

1568. Are you employed at anything else on the boat?
- No, sir.

1569. What wages do you receive?
- Four pounds ten a month.

1570. Four pounds ten shillings a month?
- Yes, sir.

1571. And board?
- Yes, sir.

1572. And room?
- The room is attached to the operating room.

1573. Is that the average wage of wireless telegraphers in England?
- I can not say that it is.

1574. To whom do you report aboard ship?
- To the captain.

1575. Personally?
- Yes.

1576. And from whom do you take orders?
- From the captain, sir.

1577. Personally.
- Yes.

1578. From anyone else?
- No, sir.

1579. From the officer on watch? Do you take orders from him?
- No, sir; not without I have the authority of the captain.

1580. Not without the direction of the captain?
- No.

1581. 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?
- Not before the captain of the ship, sir.

1582. Then I am to understand you have no specified hours when you shall be in attendance at your instrument?
- During the whole of the day, sir; not necessarily at night.

1583. During all the day?
- The whole of the day, daytime, but not at nights.

1584. Do you have liberty to retire at nights when you please?
- Yes, sir.

1585. And what has been your custom in that regard, what time would you retire?
- While at sea I should retire about midnight.

1586. Where is this instrument located on the ship?
- In the Carpathia, sir?

1587. Yes, where?
- On the after part of the ship.

1588. On what deck?
- On an island above the second class smoking room.

1589. What have you there, a room?
- Yes, sir.

1590. Or two rooms?
- One room.

1591. And you say you were at liberty to retire at night when you please?
- Everything depends on circumstances.

1592. What would it depend on?
- 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.

1593. That is commercial work?
- Yes, sir.

1594. Sending messages for your passengers?
- Or for the captain; yes, sir.

1595. At night you are not open for commercial business?
- Never have done it; only with the captain, sir.

1596. Or official business?
- Yes, sir.

1597. Are you able to get the best results in the daytime or in the night ordinarily?
- In the night.

1598. Can you tell why that is - why that is so?
- Owing to a certain state of the atmosphere. I do not know what the state is.

1599. And yet at night you undertake to do no business, or are your customers lacking at night?
- Yes, sir.

1600. The passengers on the boat do not seek to do business at night?
- No, sir.

1601. 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?
- There is nothing in the Marconi system that would detect the signals if the operator is not present.

1602. That is, no warning or alarm?
- No, sir.

1603. Is that true of the more modern equipment?
- Yes, sir.

1604. They have an alarm?
- No, sir.

1605. They have none?
- No, sir.

1606. What were you doing last Sunday evening about 10 o'clock?
- Receiving the news from Cape Cod, the long-distance station.

1607. Receiving news from Cape Cod?
- Yes, sir.

1608. What kind of news?
- General news.

1609. General news for the accommodation for passengers on ship?
- Yes, sir.

1610. Have you specified hours for that purpose?
- We are not obliged to take the news, sir.

1611. You are not obliged to take it?
- That is right.

1612. But on this occasion you did take it?
- Yes, sir.

1613. How long did you take it?
- I did not start to take it.

1614. How far were you from Cape Cod?
- I could not tell you the exact distance.

1615. About how far? What was the required wave length? Can you tell, or did you do any sending?
- No transmitting.

1616. No transmitting; just receiving?
- Yes, sir.

1617. After you finished the Cape Cod business, what did you do then?
- At the latter end of the news from Cape Cod, he was sending a lot of messages for the Titanic.

1618. What time was that?
- About 11 o'clock.

1619. What had you been doing just preceding the message from the Titanic?
- Reporting the day's communications to the bridge.

1620. Had you closed your station for the night?
- No.

1621. What do you do when you close your station; anything?
- No; there is nothing particular done.

1622. Nothing?
- No.

1623. You do not have to detach any battery wires?
- Switch the charging battery out, the storage battery. We switch that out for the night.

1624. Switch the storage battery out?
- Yes.

1625. Does that "kill" the instrument?
- No.

1626. Can you receive messages with that out?
- Yes.

1627. But you can not send them?
- Yes.

1628. You can both receive and send them?
- Yes.

1629. Well then what in reality have you done when you shift this battery connection?
- I have taken them off charge, sir.

1630. Does that lessen the likelihood of your getting any signal of any kind?
- No, sir; not in the least.

1631. I believe you told us how far this equipment on the Carpathia would send a message with accuracy, did you not?
- Yes, sir.

1632. About 250 miles, I think you said?
- Yes.

1633. Was there any thunder or lightning or cloud that night?
- No.

1634. Sunday night?
- No, sir.

1635. It was clear?
- Yes, sir.

1636. How did you happen to catch this communication from the Titanic?
- I was looking out for the Parisian, to confirm a previous communication with the Parisian.

1637. You had been in communication with the Parisian that day?
- Yes, sir.

1638. At what time?
- I can not say. At some time in the afternoon, sir.

1639. Not a distress signal?
- Oh, no, sir.

1640. Some commercial or business communication?
- Yes, sir.

1641. How far was the Parisian from you?
- I do not know, sir.

1642. You have no means of knowing?
- No, sir.

1643. Her position was not stated?
- No, sir.

1644. You had been in communication with the Parisian that afternoon?
- Yes, sir.

1645. And this Sunday evening you were looking out for further communication from that boat?
- No, sir.

1646. Well, how did you happen to be at your instrument?
- I say, I was confirming, or attempting to confirm a previous communication with the Parisian - I was not sure of her communication.

1647. Did you hear the captain of the Carpathia today?
- No, sir.

1648. He said you were about to retire.
- Yes, sir.

1649. And caught this message rather providentially?
- Yes, sir.

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