British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry


Account of Ship's Journey across the Atlantic/Messages Received/Disaster
The Collision

Mr. Lightoller turned over the ship to Mr. Murdoch, the first officer, at 10 o'clock, telling him that the ship was within the region where ice had been reported. (Lightoller, 13710) He also told him of the message he had sent to the crow's nest, and of his conversation with the Master, and of the latter's orders. (13720)

The ship appears to have run on, on the same course, until, at a little before 11.40, one of the look-outs in the crow's nest struck three blows on the gong, (Hichens, 969) which was the accepted warning for something ahead, following this immediately afterwards by a telephone message to the bridge "Iceberg right ahead." Almost simultaneously with the three gong signal Mr. Murdoch, the officer of the watch, gave the order "Hard-a-starboard," and immediately telegraphed down to the engine room "Stop. Full speed astern." (Boxhall, 15346) The helm was already "hard over," and the ship's head had fallen off about two points to port, when she collided with an iceberg well forward on her starboard side.

Mr. Murdoch at the same time pulled the lever over which closed the watertight doors in the engine and boiler rooms. (15352)

The Master "rushed out" on to the bridge and asked Mr. Murdoch what the ship had struck. (Hichens, 1027) (Boxhall, 15353)

Mr. Murdoch replied: "An iceberg, Sir. I hard-a-starboarded and reversed the engines, and I was going to hard-a-port round it but she was too close. I could not do any more. I have closed the watertight doors." (15355)

From the evidence given it appears that the "Titanic" had turned about two points to port before the collision occurred. From various experiments subsequently made with the s.s. "Olympic," a sister ship to the "Titanic," it was found that travelling at the same rate as the "Titanic," about 37 seconds would be required for the ship to change her course to this extent after the helm had been put hard-a-starboard. In this time the ship would travel about 466 yards, and allowing for the few seconds that would be necessary for the order to be given, it may be assumed that 500 yards was about the distance at which the iceberg was sighted either from the bridge or crow's-nest.

That it was quite possible on this night, even with a sharp look-out at the stemhead, crow's nest and on the bridge, not to see an iceberg at this distance is shown by the evidence of Captain Rostron, of the "Carpathia." (Rostron, 25401)

The injuries to the ship, which are described in the next section, were of such a kind that she foundered in two hours and forty minutes.