British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 17

Testimony of Joseph B. Ismay, cont.

The Attorney-General:
It cannot have been, on that statement.

Mr. Scanlan:
As far as my information goes the design was for the purpose of supplying those boats, the "Olympic" and the "Titanic," with additional accommodation.

The Attorney-General:
Then it must have been before July, 1911.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I think Mr. Wilding, who will be called - I think my friend is going to call him -

The Attorney-General:
I am going to call him, but at the same time it is desirable that this should be cleared up.

The Commissioner:
I want it cleared up now.

The Attorney-General:
My friend, Mr. Scanlan, attributes some importance to it. We will take care that Mr. Carlisle, as far as we can, shall be called before the Court, and then we can get the answers from him. I know nothing about it at the present moment, except that I have heard the suggestion, and did mean to put some questions to Mr. Ismay about it, not as to 40 boats, but as to a larger number of boats having been at one time spoken of and shown in plans for the "Titanic" or the "Olympic."

The Commissioner:
You were pointing out that when this vessel was constructed, this Advisory committee did not exist.

The Attorney-General:
No, not quite. What I said was this: Mr. Scanlan said his point was that this related both to the construction of the "Olympic" and the "Titanic," and I said if that was the case then it cannot have been in consequence of the recommendation from the advisory committee, which was not made till July, 1911.

Sir Robert Finlay:
It was not in consequence of it.

The Attorney-General:
Nor in anticipation of it, because it was not appointed till April, 1911.

The Commissioner:
But although not appointed it may have been in contemplation.

The Attorney-General:
To some extent it is always in contemplation; that a Committee may be appointed is always in contemplation.

The Commissioner:
But a Committee on this particular matter?

The Attorney-General:
I think your Lordship will see there have been a good many.

Sir Robert Finlay:
My information is what I have given here. I am not sure that I was right in saying four boats; it may have been two boats, double -banking.

The Attorney-General:
I have heard of two.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Two on each side; and it was purely in view of its being required.

The Commissioner:
Have you a copy of the letter that you say you read?

Mr. Scanlan:
In the "Daily Mail," my Lord?

The Commissioner:
Yes.

Mr. Scanlan:
What I referred to yesterday was an interview, and I have it here.

The Commissioner:
That is what I mean.

The Attorney-General:
That is an interview with Mr. Carlisle?

Mr. Scanlan:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
Will you let me have it?

Mr. Scanlan:
Certainly, My Lord.

(The same was handed in.)

The Commissioner:
Have you any other information besides that contained in this letter or communication?

Mr. Scanlan:
I hope your Lordship will accept the statement I have made. Some of the information I have is quite confidential, but the information I have enables me, with a sense of responsibility, to make the statement.

The Commissioner:
I quite accept that; but I thought your information was to be found in this document which you have handed up.

Mr. Scanlan:
No, it is not all there.

The Commissioner:
It does not seem to bear it out. Perhaps you have not seen it, Sir Robert.

Sir Robert Finlay:
No.

The Commissioner:
"When working out the designs of the 'Olympic' and the 'Titanic'" (this is what Mr. Carlisle is reported to have stated.) "I put my ideas before the davit constructors" (who they are I do not know.) "and got them to design me davits which would allow me to place, if necessary, four lifeboats on each pair of davits, which would have meant a total of over 40 boats. Those davits were fitted in both ships, but though the Board of Trade did not require anything more than 16 lifeboats, 20 lifeboats were supplied." Now, I understand that to mean this: "I did ask the davit constructors to design me davits which would hold or accommodate 40 boats, and they did it, and those davits were, in fact, supplied to the 'Olympic' and the 'Titanic,'" and there the matter stops. He says nothing more. That is right, is it not, Mr. Scanlan, as far as it goes?

Mr. Scanlan:
That is the interview there, My Lord.

18985. (Sir Robert Finlay - To the witness.) Did you ever hear anything of that kind?
- No.

18986. It is quite new to you?
- It is.

18987. Now then, with regard to the number of boats. You are familiar with the Board of Trade Rules?
- Yes.

18988. And with the recommendations which were made by the advisory committee which reported in July, 1911?
- Yes, I think I know the figures.

18989. Can you tell us how the number of boats on board the "Titanic" compared with either the Board of Trade Regulations or the Recommendations of that Advisory committee in July, 1911?
- In the cubic capacity?

18990. Yes?
- The Board of Trade, I think, would call for 9,500 cubic feet. We had 11,300 or 11,400 cubic feet. Owing to the construction of the "Olympic" and the "Titanic," the bulkheads being carried and the wireless installation, I think the Board of Trade would have asked us to supply 7,500 cubic feet, whereas we had 11,300 cubic feet.

The Commissioner:
What has it to do with the marconi installation?

Sir Robert Finlay:
I suppose the facilities for calling help, My Lord. Perhaps your Lordship will allow the witness to answer. I was about to make my own suggestion.

18991. (The Commissioner.) Perhaps you will repeat it to me, and I shall then understand it.

The Witness:
The Board of Trade take the ordinary emigrant ship and the "Titanic" size.

The Attorney-General:
I think I may make this observation in public which I had made to my friend. I understand from my friend's question now put to Mr. Ismay that Mr. Ismay is asked to give information to the Court with reference to the boat accommodation and the Board of Trade Rules and compliance with the Board of Trade Rules. That, of course, involves to some extent the construction. I understood from Mr. Ismay himself, and from what has been suggested to us, that Mr. Ismay was not able to speak to these matters, that they did not come into his department, and that he did not enquire into them, and therefore we purposely refrained from putting questions to him; but if he is put forward as a gentleman who does know, then we must go through the whole matter with him.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I was only asking Mr. Ismay very generally. Mr. Sanderson knows a great deal more about the details.

The Attorney-General:
It is a little unfortunate to ask him generally.

The Commissioner:
Would it be more convenient for me to wait until Mr. Sanderson comes?

Sir Robert Finlay:
If your Lordship pleases, certainly.

The Attorney-General:
It means I must go into it, if my friend does.

The Commissioner:
Very well, I will wait.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I merely say what I think your Lordship will find will be proved by Mr. Sanderson, that the accommodation on board the "Titanic" was considerably in excess of that required by the Board of Trade Rules, and was considerably in excess of that that would have been required under the recommendations of the Committee which reported in July, 1911.

The Attorney-General:
I agree it is in excess of the Board of Trade requirements.

Sir Robert Finlay:
And of the recommendations of that Advisory committee in July, 1911, as applicable to a vessel with such watertight compartments as the "Titanic" had.

The Attorney-General:
Yes.

Sir Robert Finlay:
That is, as I understand it, what Mr. Sanderson will say.

The Attorney-General:
That is what I opined - that it carried more boats than were required by the Board of Trade Regulations.

18992. (Sir Robert Finlay - To the witness.) Now, since this deplorable accident, I think a number of rafts have been carried as well as more boats?
- Yes, I believe that is so.

18993. Rafts with air tanks below, so as to be able to carry a number of people upon them, and boats?
- Yes.

18994. You were asked a question on a very important subject, that was the desirability of securing continuous service by the same crew approximately for a series of voyages in the same vessel?
- Yes.

18995. Has your Company taken steps to endeavour to secure that end?
- Some years ago we were very anxious to try to get the men to stick to the Company and to stick to the ships. With that in view, we offered a bonus of £2 10s to every sailor who could show ten V.G. discharges in the year, and to every fireman and trimmer we offered a bonus of £5 if he could show ten V.G. discharges in the year. That we continued for certainly three years, but, the result was so unsatisfactory that we eventually gave it up, so few of the men ever earned the bonus.

18996. Were your Company most anxious to secure such continuous service if it could be achieved?
- That was the object we had in view in offering the bonuses to the sailors and the firemen and trimmers to remain by the ship and with the Company.

18997. And are you still anxious to secure it if it can be done?
- Certainly.

18998. The difficulty is not with you?
- Not at all.

18999. To what extent have you been successful in securing continuous service; do you know?
- No, I could not answer that.

19000. Now, I think there is only one other matter I want you to tell me about. You were asked about a conversation with Mr. Bell that took place at Queenstown?
- Yes.

19001. And it was suggested, if I followed the questions, that you had given some orders to Mr. Bell as to the speed?
- No, I had given no orders.

19002. Will you just repeat again exactly what took place between you and Mr. Bell?
- Mr. Bell came into my room, and I spoke to him with regard to the coal which he had on board the ship. I also said that there was no chance of the ship arriving in New York on the Tuesday; that we had very much better make up our minds to arrive there on the wednesday morning and be off the lightship at 5 o'clock, and if the weather was fine and right in every respect on the Monday or Tuesday we then could take a run out of the ship.

19003. Was that all?
- That is all.

19004. Did you ever contemplate that being done without communication with the Captain?
- Certainly not.

Re-examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL.

19005. I want you to direct your mind for a moment to the instructions given to the commanders in the Canadian service respecting field ice. I see from that extract which was read by my friend, Sir Robert Finlay: "It is usually the safest course to go South to get round the field ice, and Commanders have permission to use their discretion to deviate from the track under such circumstances." That is, of course, dealing with the track to Canada?
- Yes.

19006. The object of those instructions, I suppose, is to tell the Captain that he should get away from the field ice, and that he should go South in order to get away from it?
- Yes.

19007. So that if a Captain is pursuing his course along the track and is advised of field ice, he ought to go South to get away from it?
- He ought to take steps to avoid it.

19008. It is suggested here that the safest course would be to go South?
- That naturally would be the safest course.

19009. That would be the natural thing; and it is right to say that you finish up with this, that "Commanders have permission to use their discretion to deviate from the track under such circumstances"?
- Yes.

19010. You have no such instructions to commanders in the Atlantic service - that is to say from New York?
- Not in regard to field ice, but there is the general instruction.

19011. Would this document get before Captain Smith at all?
- I could not answer that question.

19012. It would not be supplied to him by your Company?
- I could not answer that.

19013. Just follow me for a minute, and either you can answer me or one of my friends - anybody representing your Company. What I am anxious to know from you, or somebody on behalf of your Company, is whether there are instructions of any kind given to your commanders on the route travelling from New York to the United Kingdom with reference to ice. Are there any instructions of any kind? If so, I should like to see them?
- Not that I know of.

The Commissioner:
I thought you said coming from the United States to the United Kingdom. You mean both ways?

The Attorney-General:
What I meant to say was trading between.

Sir Robert Finlay:
There are no such special instructions; that is left to the judgment of the Commander.

The Attorney-General:
I understood that was the case from what Mr. Ismay said yesterday, but I was not quite sure from some of the questions today whether it might be suggested that similar instructions, or those instructions were given to the commanders.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Oh, no; I said expressly that those instructions with regard to field ice were for vessels going further North on the Canadian route, and that as regards the routes with which we are dealing there were no special instructions with regard to ice.

19014. (The Attorney-General.) Very well; that makes it quite clear. (To the witness.) It is in contemplation that on a voyage from the United Kingdom to New York an ice-field might be met?
- So far as I am aware, it has hardly ever been known for field ice to come down there.

19015. "Hardly ever been known" means it has been known?
- It may have been known, but I cannot give you any reliable information with regard to that.

The Commissioner:
The chart does not indicate such a thing.

The Attorney-General:
As what?

The Commissioner:
As field ice as far south as the track.

The Attorney-General:
No, field ice not, but icebergs certainly.

The Commissioner:
Oh, yes; I thought you were dealing with field ice.

The Attorney-General:
I was on the question of ice, and the one question I was putting was on field ice, but I am directing it also to icebergs.

The Commissioner:
Icebergs are marked a good deal further south.

The Attorney-General:
Your Lordship sees "field ice between March and July."

The Commissioner:
Somewhat to the North of the track.

19016. (The Attorney-General.) A little to the North of the track - not much, very little; but icebergs, of course, as shown by the chart, have been seen within this line in July and august, and the line there indicated is South of the track to New York. (To the witness.) Are you aware of that?
- Am I aware of what?

19017. That on the chart it is indicated that icebergs have been seen within a dotted line on the chart in July and august which is South, a good deal South, of the track to New York?
- I have not seen the chart, but I have no doubt that is so.

19018. I do not want to ask you about the chart, because that is for my Lord. Why I am directing your attention to it is for this purpose: It seems to indicate, at any rate, that you may meet ice?
- Certainly.

19019. If you follow the track when you have turned the corner and follow the track to New York, you may meet ice, either field ice, I suppose - infrequently apparently - or icebergs?
- Certainly icebergs, but I should hardly think it was possible for field ice to be there.

The Commissioner:
When they are indicating icebergs South of the track, what the chart says is: "Icebergs have been seen within this line in April, May and June."

The Attorney-General:
Yes, I was looking at the one a little above it, but your Lordship is quite right. That is more southerly still.

The Commissioner:
I do not see any corresponding indication of field ice below the etched mark which is described as "Field ice between March and July."

The Attorney-General:
No, I do not think there is anything.

The Commissioner:
There is an indication on the chart that icebergs are occasionally seen South of what you may call the iceberg line. There is no indication on the chart that field ice is occasionally seen South of that.

19020. (The Attorney-General.) I agree that is so. (To the witness.) I suppose you have had reports from your vessels of meeting icebergs on the voyage to the United States before?
- Oh, yes.

19021. Had you had any during this particular year?
- Not to my knowledge.

19022. From any of your vessels?
- Not to my knowledge.

19023. Would they be brought before you in the ordinary course?
- No, they would not.

19024. Who would know about them?
- I should think either Mr. Sanderson or Mr. Buchanan.

19025. Have you enquired at all whether there were any reports of icebergs before this voyage received by your Company?
- No.

The Commissioner:
My attention is drawn to a book which is called "The United States Pilot, East Coast, Part I., 2nd Edition, 1909," in which on page 34 this passage occurs: "To these vessels" (that is to say, the larger liners crossing between America and Europe.) "one of the chief dangers in crossing the Atlantic lies in the probability of encountering masses of ice, both in the form of bergs and of extensive fields of solid compact ice released at the breaking up of winter in the arctic regions and drifted down by the Labrador Current across their direct route." Now, that does not agree with the evidence that I have heard so far that probably compact ice will be found across the direct route. I thought it was a very rare thing.

The Attorney-General:
So far as the evidence goes I thought so too.

The Commissioner:
I am speaking of the evidence. So far as the evidence goes it surely is not the fact that you will probably meet fields of compact ice in the direct and ordinary route between England and New York.

The Attorney-General:
No, not according either to the evidence or the information that we have.

The Commissioner:
I understood the object of adopting this track was because, generally speaking, it avoids field ice.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Yes, in fact I am told by men who have passed a great many years there - 18 years - they have never seen field ice on this track.

The Attorney-General:
May I see the book?

The Commissioner:
Here is the book. I am told they are the Admiralty Sailing Directions. (Handing the book to the Attorney-General.) Can you tell me this: Were the routes the same at the time that these regulations were published as the routes that are followed now?

The Attorney-General:
Oh, yes, because those regulations which are referred to are November, 1898.

The Commissioner:
I have another book now, called "The Nova Scotia South East Coast and bay of Fundy Pilot, 6th Edition, 1911."

The Attorney-General:
There is no doubt the answer to the question you have put is that this book of 1909 is some nine years after that agreement as to the track which my friend read and has put in.

The Commissioner:
The one I have in my hand is published in 1911, and there is exactly the same statement in it. The Admiralty Hydrographic Office publishes it. All I can say is the paragraph in that book published by the Admiralty does not agree with the chart. It gives this startling information, Sir Robert, that a steamer following the ordinary route, the fixed route between Europe and america, will probably meet compact field ice on that route. To me it is most extraordinary.

Sir Robert Finlay:
It is contrary to all our information, and, as I gather from what my friend the Attorney-General said, it was contrary to his.

19026. (The Commissioner.) These books would be on board the ship, of course?

The Witness:
I do not know.

The Commissioner:
I am told these books would be on board the ship, but at present they appear to me to be quite inconsistent with the chart.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
And quite inconsistent with the evidence that I have heard, and I cannot understand how a route between Europe and america could be laid down through a region in which you will probably meet compact field ice - it is a most extraordinary thing - and that that route should be agreed by all the large lines of steamships.

The Attorney-General:
The effect of the evidence and the information, at any rate, which has been laid before the Court and which is in our possession to lay before the Court, if it had become necessary, is that you do not expect to encounter field ice on this voyage, but you ought to, I will not say, expect, but to know, that in all probability you will encounter icebergs at this time.

The Commissioner:
Yes, that is a different matter altogether.

The Attorney-General:
That is how I think the matter stands, so far as our information goes. We have also got the monthly Meteorological Charts, which indicate facts according to the reports which have been given from time to time during the month.

The Commissioner:
By the word "probable" I understand that it is more usual than not.

The Attorney-General:
I should not have thought that.

Continued >