British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 14

Testimony of Joseph G. Boxhall, recalled

Further examined by Sir ROBERT FINLAY.

16907. You gave evidence the other day. Were you present when Mr. Lowe gave his evidence after you had been called?
- Not all the time.

16908. Did you hear him speak about this chit on the chart room table?
- No, I have not heard it till just now.

16909. You have heard of it today?
- Yes, just this moment.

16910. Had you read his evidence?
- No.

16911. Is it only today, just now, that you have got to know about the chit, with "ice" and the position marked?
- That is all that I have heard of it, just this moment.

16912. Can you tell us anything about that chit?
- Yes. The mentioning of it has refreshed my memory, and I remember writing it out.

16913. (The Commissioner.) You wrote it?
- Yes, and it is the position of the "Caronia's" ice. I copied it off the notice board to save taking the telegram itself down. I copied it on a chit and took it into the Captain's chart room, and put it on the chart, and that is the ice that I must have put down between 4 and 6 in the evening.

16914. (Sir Robert Finlay.) You have heard, I daresay, of the message sent from the "Amerika" to the "Titanic" for transmission to Cape Race?
- Only since I have read the evidence - that is all I had not heard of it before.

16915. Did you ever hear anything of any such message?
- Not- on board the ship.

16916. It is only in the evidence, since that you have heard of it?
- Yes, I think reading over some of the Washington evidence or some of the telegrams that were read over in Washington was the first I heard of it.

16917. The evidence in America?
- Yes.

16918. Now, with regard to the "Mesaba" message, you were on the 8 to 12 watch, I think?
- Yes.

16919. Did any message from the "Mesaba" ever come to your knowledge, or did you ever hear anything about it?
- I never heard anything of the "Mesaba's" message until the night we arrived in New York on the "Carpathia," and someone who had been talking to the Captain of the "Mesaba" had heard him say, or he told them that his ship had warned us that night; that was the first of the "Mesaba's" message that I heard.

16920. The "Mesaba's" message would have reached you about 10 o'clock, if it was transmitted to the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

16921. You were on duty then?
- Yes.

16922. You never heard about it?
- No, I never heard a word about the ship.

16923. Was there any message during the time you were on duty, from 8 to 12 received by any of the Officers on the bridge?
- Not to my knowledge.

16924. You know of none. Was Captain Smith on and off the bridge during your watch?
- Frequently.

16925. At what intervals did he come on the bridge?
- The first that I remember seeing of Captain Smith was somewhere in the vicinity of 9 o'clock, but from 9 o'clock to the time of the collision, Captain Smith was around there the whole of the time; I was talking to him on one or two occasions.

16926. Were you talking to him on the bridge?
- Sometimes in the Officers' chart room and sometimes at his chart room door.

16927. What were you talking about?
- I was discussing some stellar bearings I had had. I was also standing at his chart room door while he pricked off the 7.30 stellar position of the ship.

16928. Was anything ever said by the Captain about any such message as that that the "Mesaba" sent?
- No, none whatever.

16929. You know what the message was?
- Yes, I have read it this morning.

16930. It is a message of a somewhat startling character?
- Yes, it is.

16931. It is a message that would have been mentioned in conversation if it had been received?
- Undoubtedly.

16932. Was the position of the vessel pricked off?
- Yes, the Captain pricked the position.

16933. At what time?
- It would be pretty nearly 10 o'clock, I should think.

The Solicitor-General:
He did it then, but it was the position found at 7.30.

16934. (Sir Robert Finlay.) Yes, he pricked it off at 10 o'clock, but it was the position the ship was in at- 7.30?
- Yes, the stellar position at 7.30.

16935. The observations having been taken at 7.30?
- Yes.

16936. In the absence of the Commander, would it have been your duty to open any message sent to the bridge?
- I would have taken it to the senior Officer of the watch, and let him open it. Very often on dark nights they tell us to take them inside, and we open them inside and tell them the contents of the message.

16937. But you have never heard of any such message from the "Mesaba"?
- No, nothing at all.

Examined by the SOLICITOR-GENERAL.

16938. You were one of the Junior Officers?
- Yes.

16939. You are called the fourth Officer. Do the Chief and First and Second Officers count as Senior Officers?
- Yes.

16940. And one or other of those three, as I understand, is always responsible on the bridge?
- Yes.

16941. So that you or any other Junior Officers would merely be there as subordinate to them?
- That is true.

16942. You would never be in charge, I mean?
- No, not at any time.

16943. Now I put to you the same question as I put to Mr. Lightoller. Can you tell us whether you know of more than one ice message?
- Yes, the messages that I can recall are the "Caronia's," the "La Touraine," and there was another ice message which came shortly after the "La Touraine." I pricked the two of them off at the same time, but I cannot think where it was from.

16944. (The Commissioner.) "I recall the 'La Touraine' and another shortly after the 'La Touraine'"?
- Yes.

16945. "And the 'Caronia'"?
- And the "Caronia." They are the only three messages that I can remember.

16946. Now can you remember anything about the message shortly after the "La Touraine"?
- No, only this, that the ice positions which it gave were to the north of the track; they were in all three cases.

The Commissioner:
I am told the "La Touraine" was far away north.

16947. (The Solicitor-General.) I asked this Witness the question before. Yes, it was a long way off. (To the witness.) But you do not suggest that the "Caronia" message was so far away from your track as to be unimportant?
- No, but it was to the north of the track.

16948. You say it was latitude 42, and latitude 42 is your turning point?
- Yes, but that is longitude 47; that is two degrees east.

The Commissioner:
That would be 10 miles, would it not, north of the track?

16949. (The Solicitor-General.) As I make out, about that. (To the witness.) But we have been told, Mr. Boxhall, that this ice tends to set from north to south?
- Yes, with the Labrador current.

16950. So that it is coming down from the north in a southerly direction, and this is a message of ice in latitude 42?
- Latitude 42, yes.

16951. About 10 miles north of the track you were going?
- Yes.

16952. And a message is sent in respect of ice in that position two days before?

The Commissioner:
Is there to be any evidence as to the speed at which these bergs go south?

The Solicitor-General:
I do not know, My Lord. I daresay Mr. Boxhall can help us about it a little.

16953. (The Commissioner - To the witness.) Have you any notion how quickly these bergs travel when there is no wind?
- No, I have not. I cannot remember any details of the set of the current just at present.

16954. (The Solicitor-General.) We will see if we can get any information, My Lord. (To the witness.) Is it a question of wind or a question of current?
- It is a question of current.

16955. (The Solicitor-General.) It is not wind, your Lordship sees. (To the witness.) Whether there is a wind or no wind, the current will flow?
- Yes, but invariably we find a strong easterly set there; very often we find that the Gulf stream -

16956. (The Commissioner.) The current changes?
- Yes.

16957. It is not constant?
- No, it is not; we can tell that by the temperature of the water.

16958. (The Solicitor-General.) No doubt we can get the current chart- and show you, but I should like to put to you this. You say you saw the "Caronia" message?
- Yes.

16959. The "Caronia" message was a message that said there was this ice in latitude 42 on 12th April. Do you realise that?
- I do not remember the date of it.

16960. But it is important, is it not?
- Yes.

16961. And you were going to pass about 10 miles south of that spot two days later?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
That does not convey much to me, unless I know how the ice would have moved in the meantime.

16962. (The Solicitor-General.) I cannot prove all that at once, of course (To the witness.) But as you understood the matter and understand it now, does that ice tend to be moved by the current southerly?
- No, it did not strike me that it would be moving southerly. I have never heard of ice so far south as that before, and I have invariably found that the Gulf Stream is much stronger there than the Labrador stream is, as far south as that.

16963. Have you ever heard of ice as far south as 42 degrees before?
- No, I cannot say that I recollect ice being down as far south as 42 degrees.

16964. (The Solicitor-General.) I want to put two or three questions to you, in order because I want you to follow what I am suggesting. You say you know of some reports of ice, and that you examined them. Is that right?
- Yes, that is true.

16965. Now, did you or did you not gather from any of those reports that the ship would soon be in the region of the ice?
- No, I cannot say that I had paid particular attention to the ship's position that night; I had been too busy working it out, and I did not look it out on the chart; I did not realise the ship was so near the region of the ice.

16966. Up to the time of the accident had you seen several reports about ice?
- I have seen the reports I have told you about.

16967. Had any of those reports that you had seen conveyed to your mind that your ship would soon be in the region of the ice?
- Yes, they did convey that to my mind.

16968. Now, which of them?
- The whole lot of them.

16969. Do you mean the message from "La Touraine" showing ice on the bank of Newfoundland?
- No, with the exception of "La Touraine." She was too far north, of course.

16970. Then it was not the "La Touraine" message?
- No.

16971. Then if it was not the "La Touraine" message that conveyed to your mind that the ship would soon be in the region of the ice, what was it?
- It must have been the "Caronia's" message.

The Commissioner:
It was the only one that I know of that he had which would indicate ice in that neighbourhood, because I do not know what this middle message was, the one that came after the "La Touraine."

16972. (The Solicitor-General.) Then it was your view that the "Caronia" message did not show that there would be ice to the north of you, but that you would get to the region of that ice?
- The positions from the "Caronia" message when I plotted them on the chart were all to the north of the track.

The Commissioner:
They were, but that is not the question.

16973. (The Solicitor-General.) Let me put it to you again. I do not want to treat you in any way but quite fairly. We will leave the "La Touraine" out?
- Yes.

16974. Did any of the messages that you saw about ice convey to your mind that your ship would shortly be in the region of the ice?
- Yes.

16975. Which one?
- This "Caronia" message.

The Commissioner:
According to his evidence, the "Caronia" message was the only one which was of any significance. There was "La Touraine" and then another one after the "La Touraine," about which we know nothing - I know nothing.

The Solicitor-General:
I cannot trace that at all.

The Commissioner:
And then comes the "Caronia" and that is all.

16976. (The Solicitor-General.) Are messages about ice, so far as they are material to the ship, put up on a notice board?
- Yes, as a Rule.

16977. Was that done on this occasion?
- Yes, I particularly remember now seeing the "Caronia's" message on the notice board.

16978. Do you remember seeing any other message except the "Caronia's" message on the notice board?
- No, none that I remember - no other ice reports or other messages that I remember. I must add that there was a message which has come from somewhere or other about a tank steamer. I think we had two or three reports of a German tank steamer that was drifting about on the track without coal.

16979. (The Commissioner.) But not about ice?
- No.

16980. (The Solicitor-General.) Listen to this message. I am going to read it to you and see if it reminds you of anything. "A German oil tank steamer 'Deutschland,' Stettin to Philadelphia, not under control"?
- Yes, I had that in my mind.

16981. Do you know that is part of the message from the "Baltic" about ice?
- Yes, I have seen that message today, or heard it read out.

16982. Does your recollection serve you now to show that the message I am referring to is a message that was on the notice board?
- No, it does not.

16983. (The Commissioner.) You said you remembered seeing a message about a tank steamer on the notice board?
- Yes, but this message on the notice board about the tank steamer had been there two or three days, and this "Baltic's" message I find today was only received on the Sunday.

Sir Robert Finlay:
There were other messages about the tank steamer, My Lord.

16984. (The Solicitor-General.) Perhaps Sir Robert will prove that. (To the witness.) The "Baltic" message - which, of course, was a message to you about ice in this very neighbourhood?
- Yes.

16985. Does also happen to contain a reference to a tank steamer?
- Yes.

16986. Now I am not speaking about tank steamers, but messages about ice. Just give us your recollection. In your recollection was there one message or more than one message about ice on the notice board?
- There is only one message I can recall and that is the "Caronia's" message.

16987. Do you mean that, so far as you remember, there was no other message, or that you cannot remember the terms of more than one?
- I cannot remember any more than the one.

16988. The one message?
- That is all.

16989. I must call your attention to the answer which you gave on the 22nd May, on page 354, Question 15318. You are asked by Mr. Asquith this question, "At the time when you came on watch at 4 o'clock" - that is 4 o'clock in the afternoon of Sunday?
- Yes.

16989a. ". had you heard anything about ice being in the neighbourhood? - (A.) Yes, I had seen reports of ice, and put them on the chart." Is that right?

Sir Robert Finlay:
I think if you read the next question and answer -

16990. (The Solicitor-General.) I am going on. Is that right?

The Witness:

16991. Had you received more reports than one and put more than one report on the chart?
- Yes.

16992. About ice?
- Yes.

16993. Then the next question was, "Reports which had been received earlier on the same day, do you mean?
- (A.) No, I cannot say from my own recollection that they were received on Sunday, but subsequently I have heard that some of them, or one of them, that I put on the chart was received on the Sunday, and that I put it on between 4 and 6. All the ice marked on the Captain's chart I put down myself." What I want to know is, your recollection serving you candidly, do you remember whether there were on the notice board more than one report about ice?
- There must have been more reports on there, because I spoke about reports yesterday that we had had on leaving Southampton or leaving Queenstown about the ice, and those undoubtedly would be on the notice board.

16994. (The Commissioner.) Are these reports not taken down from time to time; do they remain on the notice board?
- The reports received for the ensuing voyage are kept there all the voyage.

16995. (The Solicitor-General.) That is the best you can tell us about it?
- That is the best I can tell you.

The Commissioner:
This passage you have read does not appear to be perfectly clear, because it may refer, reading the whole of it, to reports about ice on an earlier date.

16996. (The Solicitor-General.) Of course it may be. As I gather from the witness, whatever be the period to which they refer, it does show there was more than one report about ice on the notice board. That is how it stands, does it not?
- Yes.

16997. Now there is another matter. You say that it was you who wrote out this chit of paper?
- Yes.

16998. Now, do not hurry about it. Just think a minute, because I have a reason for asking. What was the message from which you got that position?
- Something about west-bound steamers reporting ice from latitude 42º to longitude 49º to 51º.

16999. That is the "Caronia" message?
- That is the "Caronia" message.

17000. Are you sure?
- Yes, I feel pretty sure of that.

17001. Then just follow this. We will just test it. If that is the case, then you would already reach the eastern boundary of the danger zone some time before the collision?
- Yes.

17002. Do you know that another of your Officers looked at that chit, and made a calculation in respect of it?
- No, I did not know.

17003. (The Solicitor-General.) It is so, My Lord; there is a reference to it.

The Witness:
Yes, I have heard that just now. That is what reminded me of this chit. I have heard that only a moment or two ago.

17004. Now what I am referring to. Mr. Lowe says he saw this chit, which you speak of, and he says he made calculations. 'I ran this position through in my mind, and worked it out mentally, and found that the ship would not be within the ice region during my watch, that is from 6 to 8." Do you still think it was the "Caronia" message?
- Oh, yes, I feel perfectly confident that it was the "Caronia" message.

17005. Because you mean the "Caronia" message would show reaching the place at some time like half-past 9?
- I did not calculate it out; I had not the slightest idea when she would reach the region of the ice or of the "Caronia's" position rather.

17006. How could that be; I thought you told us the other day that it was you who had worked out these positions and marked them on the chart?
- There is no need to work them out at all; you just prick them off on the chart.

17007. Did you do that?
- Yes, I pricked them off.

17008. This particular message?
- Yes.

17009. Then that would mean you would mark the line on the chart?
- No, that is not necessary to mark a line, just mark the positions, the two longitudes, the boundaries of the ice.

17010. Do you remember what time it was you wrote this chit?
- No, I cannot recall that, but I have been told I did it between 4 and 6 in my watch on deck.

17011. Who told you that?
- Some of the other Officers - I do not remember who. They said the ice was marked down there in the 4 to 6 watch. I know there was no one else did it on my watch on deck but me, from 4 to 6.

17012. Then, as I understand it, after that, as far as you are concerned, your attention was not called to any other message about ice?
- No, none whatever.

17013. Not to the "Californian" message at half-past 7?
- No.

17014. Were you on duty then?
- No, I was not on duty until 8 o'clock.

17015. You came on at 8?
- Yes.

17016. You did not hear about that?
- No.

17017. And not the "Mesaba" message, which, if it came, came later?
- No, I never heard anything at all about the "Mesaba" message.

(The Witness withdrew.)