Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

FIRST DAY

 

ALFRED SEVERIN GENSEN TOFTENES

Chief Officer, ss. Storstad.

Sworn.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

762. You were the chief officer on the Storstad?
- Yes, sir.

763. How long had you been aboard?
- About three years and five months.

764. What certificate had you?
- Master's.

765. You joined in what capacity?
- Third officer.

766. You then became what?
- Second, after about six months.

767. You susbequently were promoted to chief officer?
- Yes, sir.

768. How long had you been Chief Officer before this accident?
- About five or six weeks.

769. How long have you been going to sea?
- Since 1895, with the exception of about three years.

770. Were you on the bridge at the time of the collision?
- Yes, sir.

771. Was it your watch?
- Yes.

772. When had you gone on watch?
- Twelve o'clock.

773. Was it your regular watch?
- From 12 to 4.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

774. I want to be accurate; when you talk about 12 o'clock you mean what time?
- Sydney time, Intercolonial time.

775. Is that an hour later than Montreal time?
- An hour ahead, sir.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

776. Who was on the bridge with you?
- The third officer.

777. Is he regularly on the bridge during your watch?
- At night, yes.

778. What other men were on duty?
- A naval seaman at the wheel.

779. Who else was on deck?
- Two sailors, the lookout and another sailor.

780. At what speed were you running when you approached Metis Point?
- About 10 knots.

781. That is your full speed?
- Yes.

782. What was your draught when you left Sydney?
- Twenty-five and six mean.

783. Do you remember your draught forward and aft?
- Yes.

784. What was it?
- 26 aft; 25 forward.

785. You were fully loaded?
- Yes.

786. How much cargo of coal did you have on board?
- I could not say exactly to the ton; about 10,400 tons of cargo.

787. About how far off was Metis Point when you had it abeam?
- About four miles.

788. At what hour were you abreast of Metis Point?
- About 1.30.

789. Did you yourself take the time?
- I could not say that now.

Lord Mersey:
That means 12.30, does it, Montreal time?

Mr. Haight:
12.30 Montreal time.

Chief Justice McLeod:
The witness is speaking of eastern time all through, is he not?

Mr. Haight:
Yes, Sydney time.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

790. What course did you steer when Metis Point was abeam?
- West to quarter south.

791. Magnetic?
- Magnetic.

792. Did you order that course when Metis Point Light was abeam?
- Yes.

793. How long did you run on that course?
- For six miles.

794. How did you measure that distance?
- By patent log.

795. That, then, would show merely your distance run through the water.
- Through the water.

766. [sic] To find your distance over ground you have to make some allowance for current?
- Yes, sir.

797. You know what the condition of the tide was?
- About half ebb.

798. What would the actual movement of the water be?
- About a mile or a mile and a half down.

799. In other words, although the tide was rising and supposed to be flood, the current counteracted it, and there was some current actually down?
- Yes.

800. After your log showed that you had run through the water six knots on a course west to quarter south, was any change made in your course?
- I changed quarter of a point.

801. What was the new course that you took?
- That would be west for south magnetic.

802. How long did you run on that course?
- Five miles.

803. How did you measure it?
- By the patent log.

804. Did you make any change in your course then?
- Yes.

805. What was it?
- To west by south.

806. When did you first see the Empress and what lights were showing then?
- I saw her about 2.35 or 2.30.

807. When was it with reference to your third change of course to west by south?
- Somewhere about the same time.

808. Do you remember whether it was before or after?
- I could not say for sure.

809. At any rate, it was shortly before or shortly after?
- Close on the same, yes.

810. What light did you first see?
- The two masthead lights.

811. Did you subsequently see a coloured light on the Empress?
- Yes.

812. What was the first coloured light that showed?
- A green light.

813. How long did the green light come into view after you had first seen the red light?
- I could not estimate the time exactly; 7 or 8 minutes, probably less than that.

814. When you first saw the masthead lights could you tell which way they were open?
- Yes.

815. Which way were they open?
- The starboard side.

816. That means that the forward light of the range was to the starboard of the after light, as you looked at them?
- Yes.

817. If I do not explain it with sufficient nautical clearness, just state what you mean when you say that the Empress's ranges were open to starboard?
- I mean that her lowest light was on my right side.

818. The lowest light showed to the right of the higher light?
- Yes.

819. Which is the lower-light, the forward or the aft?
- Forward.

Lord Mersey:
What does that indicate, Mr. Haight?

Mr. Haight:
That means that as he looked at the two range lights, the foremost light being to the right hand side of the after light, she was on a course that would carry her across his bow. He would show a green light when the range was open that way.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

820. How much were her range lights open? That is, were they very nearly shut, fairly well open, or how?

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

821. I should very much like to ask the witness a question. Do you remember this?
- Yes, my Lord, I do remember it, but I could not estimate distances or times exactly.

Lord Mersey:
This evidence is not of much value, to ask him how much these two lights were open. If you are asking me to believe that he remembers such a thing, you are asking me to believe something that I cannot believe. He does not remember such things; he can say they were open and in what direction but he cannot say how much.

Mr. Haight:
He cannot, of course, say with accuracy, but if they were almost in line or fairly well open, he should, perhaps, remember. However, I will not press the question further. (To witness). How far away, as well as you can estimate, was the Empress when you first saw her green light?
- She might have been three miles away, but I would not form an actual estimate of it.

822. And how would the green light bear from you as well as you can recollect when it first came into view?
- About a point and a half on our port bow.

823. Did you subsequently see any other coloured lights on the Empress; if so, what?
- Yes, after some time she changed her course and I saw her red light, her port light, on my port bow.

824. When she changed her course what first happened?
- Her range lights came into line, and then her red light came in sight.

825. How far did she swing with reference to the red light? Did the green shut out or did the green continue to show?
- No, her green light shut out.

826. How far do you think, as near as you can remember, the Empress was from you when she swung to starboard, showed both lights and then showed only the red?
- Oh, she would probably be two miles off; a mile and a half or two miles.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

827. What in your opinion was she doing?
- Changing her course so as to clear us.

828. How did you suppose she was going to clear you?
- She was, so far as I could see then, just keeping on my port side, going clear on my port side.

829. Then she intended, according to your opinion, to pass you port to port?
- Yes, My Lord.

830. Is it your view that she was laying her course so as to pass you port to port?
- Yes, My Lord.

831. That is what you thought?
- Yes.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

832. When you saw the red light only of the Empress, what light were you showing to her?
- Two masthead lights and my red light.

833. How much was she on your port bow then?
- About a point or a point and a half.

834. Were they in your judgment in a position such that if the two courses were maintained, the vessels would pass with ample room?
- They would.

835. How long did you continue to see the red light of the Empress?
- Two or three minutes.

836. Then what happened?
- Fog shut her in.

837. Which steamer was enveloped in the fog first, you or the Empress?
- Empress.

838. When the fog enveloped the Empress, did you hear any whistle from her?
- Yes.

839. What did she blow?
- One long blast.

840. Are you sure of that?

Lord Mersey:
Are you?

Mr. Haight:
Yes, My Lord; I want to see if the witness is.

The Witness:
Yes, I am sure of it.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

841. The Master of the Empress has stated that he never blew a signal of one whistle. Does that change your recollection of it or refresh it?
- Not a bit.

842. When the fog enveloped the Empress, did you give any order?
- I slowed my engines, slow speed.

843. Did you blow any whistle after he blew his long blast?
- Yes, I blew one long blast.

844. When you slowed the Empress was out of sight in the fog; she had been shut out?
- Yes, she had been shut out.

845. What was the next order you gave to your engines, if any?
- Stop.

846. When did you give that?
- One or two minutes after the 'slow' order.

847. Why did you give it?
- Because I knew there was a ship in the vicinity, and the fog was coming out.

848. Had the fog enveloped you when you gave your stop order?
- No.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

849. Will you tell me again why you gave the 'stop' order?
- The Empress was blowing in the fog, blowing her fog signals, and I could see the fog was coming out from the land and would eventually envelop us, and so I would not have too much speed or headway on my ship.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

850. About what speed does the Storstad make when she is running slowly?
- About five miles.

851. And according to your recollection she would run slow in about two minutes?
- Two minutes.

852. What whistles did you hear from the Empress after you had rung your telegraph to stop your engines?
- Three short blasts.

853. How did the whistles bear from you, as well as you can estimate it? Could you tell whether they were starboard, port or ahead?
- I could tell they were on the port side; I would not say exactly to a point.

854. What signal did you blow, if any, after that?
- We might have blown several single blasts after that; I could not say how many; I did not count them.

855. Can you recollect how many signals you heard blown by the Empress after you heard her first signal of three whistles?
- I could not say for certain.

856. You heard her blow three more than once?
- Yes.

857. But you are not sure how many times?
- No, I am not sure how many.

858. Do you remember whether he was blowing a long signal of two whistles?
- I do not.

 

By Sir Adolphe Routhier:

 

859. You understood the meaning of the three short blasts; what was it?
- That her engines were going astern.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

860. After you had rung your telegraph for 'stop,' what was the next order that you gave with reference to your steering or your engines?
- Some minutes afterwards I gave an order to the man at the wheel to port a little.

861. How long had your engines been stopped, do you think, when you gave that order?
- Four minutes, probably; four or five minutes.

862. What happened?
- The ship would not answer her helm.

863. The last whistle which you had heard from the Empress; how did it bear from you, starboard or port?
- On the port side.

864. Why did you order your wheel ported?
- Because the ship being stopped so long, I was afraid of her losing headway so much that she might take a sheer on the current.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

865. You must explain that.

Mr. Haight:
I understand he was afraid that the engines being still so long, he would lose steerage way and become so nearly stationary that his vessel's head might be deflected by the current and sheer one way or the other. (To witness) : When you gave the order to port, what happened? Did she swing to starboard?
- No, she didn't swing.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

866. She did not answer at all?
- No.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

867. How much was your wheel put over?
- I don't know if it came hard over, but it came almost so.

868. Do you know whether the first officer was at the wheel at that time?
- He was standing by the binnacle, close to it.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

869. Was it put hard-a-port?
- I do not know, my Lord, if it was hard.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

870. You were standing where at that time?
- By the port side of the engine telegraph.

 

By Chief Justice McLeod:

 

871. She did not answer the helm?
- No.

872. How do you account for that?
- That she had lost her headway.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

873. After you had ordered your wheel to port and you found that she would not swing to starboard, what order, if any, did you give as to the blowing of a whistle, or did you give any?
- I did.

874. What order was it?
- To blow two long blasts.

875. Were the two long blasts sounded?
- Yes, they were.

876. Did you then give any order to your engines?
- Yes.

877. What was it?
- Slow ahead.

878. Why did you give slow ahead?
- In order to keep the ship in the same direction.

 

Lord Mersey:

 

879. What did the two long blasts mean?

Mr. Haight:
My vessel is not under steering way, she is practically dead in the water.

Lord Mersey:
Immediately after giving the order, he ordered his engines -

Mr. Haight:
Slow ahead.

Lord Mersey:
What would the effect of that order be?

Mr. Haight:
To start the Storstad slow ahead.

Lord Mersey:
Then that would be an order that would contradict the two blast signals; I mean to say the two blast signals and the order slow ahead are inconsistent.

Mr. Haight:
The two-blast signal is blown at a time when it tells us the exact truth.

Lord Mersey:
But immediately afterward, it does not tell the exact truth.

Mr. Haight:
I understand that the position is to indicate what your precise physical condition is when it is blown, rather than how long you are going to maintain it. (To Witness) Why did you order your engine slow ahead?
- I was afraid my ship would swing broadside on the channel.

880. You mean swing to port?
- Swing anyway.

881. One way or the other?
- Yes.

882. Up to the time that you had ordered your wheel to port and she would not swing, what was your course magnetic?
- West by south.

883. Are you sure that that course had been maintained from the time it had been first taken?
- I am.

884. Did you yourself look at the compass?
- I did, at the time when the helm was put over to port.

885. And it was then reading west by south magnetic?
- West by south.

886. What is the variation of your compass?
- The deviation, you mean?

887. The deviation?
- About half a point.

888. It actually read by your compass -
- West by south for south.

889. After you had started your engines slow ahead, did you have any communication with the Captain?
- About the same time I spoke down to the Captain through the speaking tube.

890. What did you say to him?
- I told him we were about six miles off Father Point and that it was getting thick.

891. Did you say anything about a vessel in the vicinity?
- I did not.

892. Did you consider that there was any danger of collision then?
- I did not.

893. Had you heard up to that time any whistle from anybody on your starboard side?
- No.

894. Had you seen any vessel on your starboard side?
- No.

895. What answer did the captain make?
- He said: All right, I will go up.

896. Did he come up?
- He did.

897. What was the first thing he did when he came up?
- I do not know.

898. Did he come up amidships?
- He came up on the starboard side.

899. Do you know which way he went?
- I could not say; I did not see him.

900. After you had blown your signal of two whistles did you hear any further whistle from the Empress?
- I heard three short blasts just before we saw her lights.

901. Where was the captain when you heard that last signal of three blasts?
- By the engine room telegraph.

902. And what next did you see or hear from the Empress?
- I saw her masthead lights.

903. Where did it bear from you?
- About three points on my port bow.

904. What was the next light you saw?
- The green side light.

905. Can you form any judgment as to how far off that masthead light was when you first saw it?
- I could not.

906. In the knowledge of your boat, could you approximate it; one length or two lengths or half a length? Could you give any idea at all?
- Between one and two lengths, I should say.

907. Which way was the Empress moving, if she was moving at all?
- She was moving forward.

908. How fast do you think she was moving?
- I would not like to say any speed, but she was moving fast.

909. How did her speed compare with yours, as well as you could judge it?
- She would be moving faster than us.

910. Were you on the bridge when the vessels came together?
- I was.

911. Under your order to put your engines ahead, how long were they turning slow ahead, do you think, before you heard the last signal and saw the Empress?
- It might have been a half a minute.

912. And when the Empress' light first showed up was any order given to the engine room?
- The engines were put full speed astern.

913. Who executed that order?
- The captain.

914. He rang the telephone himself?
- Yes.

915. What was the next order to your engines?
- I do not know that.

916. Did you hear any call from the Empress?
- I did.

917. What was it?
- Don't go astern.

918. Was any answer given to that?
- The captain answered: I am going full speed ahead.

919. Was that just before or just after the vessels came in contact?
- Just after the crash.

920. Will you please indicate by the models the relative position of the two vessels when they actually came in contact?

(The Witness then marked on paper the point of collision of the two steamers as shown by the models, and the paper was handed to the Court.)

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

921. About how long do you think your engines were going full speed astern before the vessels actually came together?
- A couple of minutes.

922. I understand you to say that the steamers were about a length and a half away. The length of your boat is what?
- The distance would be about 600 feet.

923. Would you reverse two minutes before you came together if you were so short a distance away?
- It might have been less; I could not say the exact time.

924. When your engines were put full speed astern after you saw the light of the Empress about 600 or 700 feet away, what was the heading of the Storstad?
- West by south magnetic?

925. Do you think that under your reversed engines your heading was changed materially before you came together? If so, how much?
- It might have changed up to quarter or half a point, but no more.

926. Had the telegraph been rung full speed ahead after the vessel touched while you were still on the bridge?
- The telegraph was rung, but what was rung on it I cannot say.

927. The captain had ordered full speed?
- Yes.

928. Where did you go and what did you do?
- I went off the bridge and went forward to see what the damage was.

929. To what point forward did you go?
- To make sure whether we were going to float or sink.

930. Did you go clear up on the forecastle head or did you go up between the hatches, or where did you stop?
- I went as far as I could forward, over one of the hatches.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

931. What damage did you want to see, damage to your own boat or damage to the Empress?
- The damage to my own boat.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

932. Were you ordered forward to examine your damage and sound your ship?
- I do not know, I did not hear such an order.

933. You went anyhow?
- Yes.

934. What soundings did you take?
- No. 1 hold.

935. Did you sound the peak?
- It was not worth while; it was all in pieces.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

936. Was the damage below the water line?
- I couldn't say that; I think it would be.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

937. No. 1 hold remained dry?
- Yes.

938. When you got on to the forward deck, did you notice the relative position of the two steamers then?
- Yes.

939. Had your position changed in reference to the Empress?
- Yes, a great deal.

940. How had it changed?
- They were turned almost parallel to one another, heading the same way.

941. And had that change in the relative position been due to the change in your heading, or was it the change in the heading of the Empress?
- I do not know, but I should say to both.

942. Do you know whether your bow was swung to starboard?
- I do not know.

943. By the time you got forward the vessels were heading in approximately the same direction?
- They were.

944. How did they separate?
- They separated about in the same direction; the Empress went ahead of us.

945. How was her starboard quarter with reference to your port bow as the boats separated?
- Her starboard side was slid along our port bow for some time.

946. Did you see any part of the Empress as the boats separated? From your position on the forward deck near No. 1 hatch, what did you see last of the Empress as she went off in the fog?
- I saw the after part of the hull.

947. Starboard quarter, port quarter or stern?
- Starboard quarter and stern.

948. Could you see any quick water under her stern?
- I could.

 

By Chief Justice McLeod:

 

949. You saw the damage done to the Empress, did you?
- No, I did not see the damage done.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

950. By the time you got forward, had your bow come out from the wound in the Empress?
- No, I do not believe it had. It had not come out.

951. How did it happen that you did not get a look at the Empress side? Was there time?
- There was not time: I would not get too near.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

952. You were concerned looking after your own engines?
- My own ship, yes.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

953. Captain Kendall has testified that as the vessels came together he was absolutely dead in the water and that in his judgment the Storstad pierced his side and immediately backed away. From what you saw immediately before and immediately after the collision, what, in your judgment, is the reason why the vessels did not stay together, if your captain, as you have stated, had ordered his engines full speed ahead?
- The speed of the Empress drew the ships apart.

954. How far could you see the Empress away from you as she disappeared in the fog? Could you form any judgment of the distance; whether it was the same as when you had first seen her?
- I could not say anything about that. As soon as she was clear of our bow I left her, I went aft again.

955. Where did you go?
- On the boat deck.

956. What was being done on the boat deck?
- Boats were swung out.

957. Had they been swung out when you got there?
- Yes.

958. How many boats did you have?
- Four.

959. What was their total capacity?
- I do not know.

960. There were three life boats and a gig?
- Yes.

961. And how many people would the life boats carry?
- About 30 in each.

962. And the gig, about how many?
- About 15.

963. What was the total of your crew?
- 36.

964. Were you able to see the Empress when you got back on the boat deck?
- No.

965. Do you know what was being done with your engines when you came out on the bridge and went to the boat deck?
- I do not.

966. What was subsequently done to get track of the Empress and to render service to the people on board? Did you blow any whistles?
- I heard a whistle blow from our ship.

967. Did you receive any answer?
- Not that I heard.

968. How did you first locate the Empress?
- We heard the cries from the people in the water.

969. Whereabouts did the cries bear from you? Which side?
- On the port side, about abeam, or forward of the beam.

970. How did you manoeuvre your vessel in order to be near them?
- I do not know that.

971. Where were you when the Storstad was being manoeuvred into position, forward or aft?
- I was forward once, and then I came aft.

972. How close did you take the Storstad to be to the Empress? Could you see her?
- No, I did not see her.

973. When did you first see her?
- I do not think I did see her after the collision; if I did it was when she sank.

974. Did you go out in any of the boats?
- No.

975. How many of your boats were launched?
- Four.

976. Who commanded them?
- The second officer had one.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

977. That would be all of them?
- That would be all.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

978. How many trips did your boats make?
- They all made two trips and one of them made three; I do not know if the others had more than two.

979. How many people approximately were brought to the Storstad by your four boats? How full were your boats, do you remember?
- I could not say.

980. Did any of your boats make more than two trips do you know?
- One made three; I do not know if the rest did.

981. Did any of your men man any of the Empress boats?
- They did.

9S2. How did that happen?
- The first of the Empress boats that got alongside, there was somebody, a man in charge, whoever it was, I do not know, who asked if we had a fresh crew to give him and he got three men.

983. Was his boat empty then when he asked for a crew?
- He asked for that as soon as he came alongside.

984. How many men did you put into that boat?
- Eight-

985. Did you man any other boat?
- Yes.

986. How many men did you put into that?
- Five.

987. How did that happen?
- When they came alongside with the boat they would not go out with it again.

988. Did they all leave the boat?
- They all left the boat.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

999. Who left the boat?
- The crew from the Empress that brought the boat alongside.

 

By Chief Justice McLeod:

 

1000. These boats belonged to the Empress?
- Yes.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

1001. Did they go on the Storstad?
- Yes.

1002. And then the boat was left alongside the Storstad?
- Yes.

1003. Do you mean to say that they refused to go out from the Storstad again in that boat?
- They did.

1004. Why?
- They said the boat was too heavy for them.

1005. Did they say that the boat was so heavy that they could not conveniently pull it?
- They said so.

1006. What did you think of that?
- I did not know what to think of that.

1007. What do you think now?
- I do not think it was too heavy.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

1008. Did your men make a trip in that same boat?
- Two.

1009. How many people did they bring back alive?
- I do not know, but there were 30 or 40, I believe.

1010. Had the boat living people on both trips?
- I do not know what they had the last trip - if they had any living.

1011. At least your men had no difficulty in rowing the boat?
- Not a bit.

1012. Had you ordered the crew into the boat from the Empress?
- Yes.

1013. What kind of lights have you; are they oil or electric?
- Electric lights.

1014. What is the power of the masthead light?
- The lamps are 32 candle power.

1015. How far can these lights be seen from the mastheads in clear weather?
- Eight or ten miles.

1016. How are your side lights, oil or electric?
- Electric.

1017. How far will they show in clear weather?
- Four or five miles.

1018. When the Storstad was manoeuvring to get up close to the Empress was there anybody astern on the boat to indicate to the Captain how far he could safely back up?
- Yes, I was.

1019. What information did you give him, if any, from the stern?
- I sang out several times that I thought he was as near as he dared go.

1020. You thought you were getting as close as you could go?
- The Empress had sunk and I did not know exactly where.

1021. Could you hear people closely?
- I not only heard them but I could see them.

1022. You were afraid of going into the people with the propellor and you backed no further?
- Yes.

1023. Captain Kendall has given the impression that you backed away about a mile from them. Are you able to form any judgment as to how far away you were when the vessel was sinking? Hid you see any lights?
-

Lord Mersey:
He never saw any vessel after she struck.

The Witness:
No.

 

(The witness withdrew.)