United States Senate Inquiry

Day 1

Testimony of Arthur H. Rostron, cont.

Senator SMITH.
You are picking up these people now?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes.

Senator SMITH.
Please describe that in your own way.

Mr. ROSTRON.
We picked up the first boat, and the boat was in charge of an officer. I saw that he was not under full control of this boat, and the officer sung out to me that he only had one seaman in the boat, so I had to maneuver the ship to get as close to the boat as possible, as I knew well it would be difficult to do the pulling. However, they got alongside, and they got them up all right.

By the time we had the first boat's people it was breaking day, and then I could see the remaining boats all around within an area of about 4 miles. I also saw icebergs all around me. There were about 20 icebergs that would be anywhere from about 150 to 200 feet high and numerous smaller bergs; also numerous what we call "growlers." You would not call them bergs. They were anywhere from 10 to 12 feet high and 10 to 15 feet long above the water.

I maneuvered the ship and we gradually got all the boats together. We got all the boats alongside and all the people up aboard by 8:30.

I was then very close to where the Titanic must have gone down, as there was a lot of hardly wreckage but small pieces of broken-up stuff nothing in the way of anything large.

At 8 o'clock the Leyland Line steamer Californian hove up, and we exchanged messages. I gave them the notes by semaphore about the Titanic going down, and that I had got all the passengers from the boats; but we were then not quite sure whether we could account for all the boats. I told them: "Think one boat still unaccounted for." He then asked me if he should search around, and I said, "Yes, please." It was then 10:50.

I want to go back again, a little bit.

At 8:30 all the people were on board. I asked for the purser, and told him that I wanted to hold a service, a short prayer of thankfulness for those rescued and a short burial service for those who were lost. I consulted with Mr. Ismay. I ran down for a moment and told them that I wished to do this, and Mr. Ismay left everything in my hands.

I then got an Episcopal clergyman, one of our passengers, and asked him if he would do this for me, which he did, willingly.

While they were holding the service, I was on the bridge, of course, and I maneuvered around the scene of the wreckage. We saw nothing except one body.

Senator SMITH.
Floating?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Floating, sir.

Senator SMITH.
With a life preserver on?

Mr. ROSTRON.
With a life preserver on. That is the only body I saw.

Senator SMITH.
Was it male or female?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Male. It appeared to me to be one of the crew. He was only about 100 yards from the ship. We could see him quite distinctly, and saw that he was absolutely dead. He was lying on his side like this (indicating) and his head was awash. Of course he could not possibly have been alive and remain in that position. I did not take him aboard. For one reason, the Titanic's passengers then were knocking about the deck and I did not want to cause any unnecessary excitement or any more hysteria among them, so I steamed past, trying to get them not to see it.

From the boats we took three dead men, who had died of exposure.

Senator SMITH.
From the lifeboats?

Mr. ROSTRON.
From the lifeboats; yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Do you know from which boats they were taken?

Mr. ROSTRON.
No, sir; I am only giving you the general news now. We took three dead men from the boats, and they were brought on board. Another man was brought up - I think he was one of the crew - who died that morning about 10 o'clock, I think, and he, with the other three, were buried at 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

Senator SMITH.
At sea?

Mr. ROSTRON.
At sea.

Senator SMITH.
Did they have anything on their persons by which they could be identified?

Mr. ROSTRON.
One of my own officers and the Titanic's officers identified the bodies, as far as possible, and took everything from them that could be of the slightest clue or use. Nothing was left but their clothes. There was very little taken, of course. But, as regards details, I can not give you much. I have been too busy.

Senator SMITH.
You have not the names of these men?

Mr. ROSTRON.
We have the names.

Senator SMITH.
You have not them here with you?

Mr. ROSTRON.
I have not got them with me; no, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Were they men or women?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Men. There were several ladies in the boats. They were slightly injured about the arms and things of that kind, of course; although I must say, from the very start, all these people behaved magnificently. As each boat came alongside everyone was calm, and they kept perfectly still in their boats. They were quiet and orderly, and each person came up the ladder, or was pulled up, in turn as they were told off. There was no confusion whatever among the passengers. They behaved magnificently - every one of them.

As they came aboard, they were, of course, attended to. My instructions had already been given to that effect.

Senator SMITH.
Captain, how many lifeboats were there?

Mr. ROSTRON.
We had 15 lifeboats alongside with passengers in them.

Senator SMITH.
Of both types?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Wait a moment, please.

There were 15 lifeboats alongside. We accounted for those with passengers in them. There was one lifeboat that we saw that was close to the ship, but it had been abandoned because it had got damaged, and was in a sinking condition. The officer had taken all the people out of that lifeboat, and left it absolutely vacant. There was no one in it. It was empty.

Senator SMITH.
What type of boat was it?

Mr. ROSTRON.
That was a lifeboat. It had been damaged. We had two berthon boats.

Senator SMITH.
Collapsible boats?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Hardly collapsible; it is a flat raft boat, with collapsible canvas sides, about two feet deep.

Senator SMITH.
To hold how many people?

Mr. ROSTRON.
One of those boats would hold 60 to 75 comfortably.

Senator SMITH.
How many of those were there?

Mr. ROSTRON.
We accounted for two. One of these berthon boats capsized. That was three.

Senator SMITH.
As these boats were emptied, and the occupants taken aboard the Carpathiawhat was done with the boats?

Mr. ROSTRON.
The boats were kept alongside.

Senator SMITH.
Just in what shape were they left afloat, or were they in some way taken on the decks?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes, sir; I am going to tell you that now. As the people came out, we left the boats alongside. Of course lots of gear had been knocked out of the boats and thrown out of the way of the people as they were getting up; so, while they were holding this service and while I was cruising around, I had had all of my boats swung out, ready for lowering over, and while they were getting all the people aboard from the boats, I got the spare men and some of my officers, and swung my boats inboard again, and landed them on their blocks and secured them, and swung the davits out again, disconnected the falls again, and got up the Titanic's boats. While I was cruising around, I was also getting these boats up. I got seven of the Titanic's boats up in our davits, and six up on the forecastle head with the forward derricks; so that is 13 boats in all.

Senator SMITH.
What did you do with these boats?

Mr. ROSTRON.
We pulled them up the davits.

Senator SMITH.
Did you bring them into port?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes; and last night, previous to coming into the dock, we got some tenders off and lowered all the boats in the water, and these tenders took them away. Where they took them I do not know. But we had these boats still left on the forecastle head, and they would have been put into the dock during the day.

Senator SMITH.
Have you examined those boats personally?

Mr. ROSTRON.
I have only been in one or two of them; looked at them.

Senator SMITH.
Can you tell from what you saw of them whether they were marked Titanic?

Mr. ROSTRON.
They were all marked "Titanic," as they came up.

Senator SMITH.
Were they apparently new boats?

Mr. ROSTRON.
They were all brand new.

Senator SMITH.
They were all brand new?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes; as far as I could see. They appeared to me to be absolutely new boats.

Senator SMITH.
All conforming to the regulations of the British Board of Trade?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Absolutely.

Senator SMITH.
And as good as you would have had if you were to specify them yourself?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Quite.

Senator SMITH.
Did you see any bodies afloat, except as you have described?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Only one; no more - no others.

Senator SMITH.
Did you have any information as to whether the passengers or crew of the Titanic had made use of their life preservers?

Mr. ROSTRON.
I had very little opportunity of being amongst the passengers or any of them.

To tell you the truth, I have been on the bridge, or about my duties most of the time. I had, however, one or two conversations with the passengers on Tuesday afternoon. That was the only time I had anything to do with the people, as I heard then that all the people on the Titanic, as far as they could see, had lifebelts on. They had all been supplied with lifebelts.

Senator SMITH.
I assume that you kept watch to see whether there was any of these people afloat?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Precisely. I was cruising all around the vicinity of the disaster.

Senator SMITH.
How long did you cruise around there?

Mr. ROSTRON.
In the actual vicinity of the disaster?

Senator SMITH.
Yes.

Mr. ROSTRON.
Half an hour.

Senator SMITH.
During that time was there a swirl or any unnatural condition of the sea?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Nothing whatever. The wind and sea were then beginning to get up. There was a moderate breeze blowing then, and a little slop of the sea.

Senator SMITH.
Have you any idea how much depth of water there was about that point?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes; about two thousand and odd fathoms.

Senator SMITH.
Two thousand and odd fathoms?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes; I looked on the chart.

Senator SMITH.
Have you concluded that you did not see the ill-fated ship at all?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Oh, no; we arrived an hour and a half after she went down; after the last of her was seen.

Senator SMITH.
What was the last message you had from the ship?

Mr. ROSTRON.
"Engine room nearly full."

Senator SMITH.
"Engine room nearly full"?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes.

Senator SMITH.
At what hour was that?

Mr. ROSTRON.
That would have been about 1 o'clock. That would be 25 minutes after.

Senator SMITH.
Was that all?

Mr. ROSTRON.
That was the last message we got. It was either "Engine room nearly full," or "Engine room full," or "Engine room-filling." The exact words I could not give you. The impression was quite enough for me, as to the condition the ship was in.

Senator SMITH.
And you then told them how near you were?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Yes. From the very first I sent a message to the Titanic - telling them, "Coming immediately to your assistance. Expect to arrive half-past 4-" No; it was, "Expect to arrive in four hours," because I had not then got up full speed.

Senator SMITH.
Did you personally know the captain of the Titanic?

Mr. ROSTRON.
I knew him; yes.

Senator SMITH.
How long had you known him?

Mr. ROSTRON.
I had met him 15 years ago. I have only met him about three times altogether.

Senator SMITH.
In your company, who is the master of a ship at sea?

Mr. ROSTRON.
The captain.

Senator SMITH.
In absolute control?

Mr. ROSTRON.
In absolute control, legal and otherwise. No one can interfere.

Senator SMITH.
I suppose if this had not been so, you would not have felt it proper to have gone off your course quite so far?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Quite so.

Senator SMITH.
Are there prescribed routes at sea that are so definite in their character as to be well understood by mariners?

Mr. ROSTRON.
They are. I may state this: That the position given me by the Titanic was absolutely correct and she was absolutely on her track, bound for New York.

Senator SMITH.
What would you call that course, Captain, that the Titanic was taking for New York, as to whether it would be northerly or southerly?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Oh, she was then - I forget the true course now, but she had passed what we call the corner on the great circle. It is some years since I was in the North Atlantic trade. I have been in the Mediterranean trade, and I have forgotten.

Mr. UHLER.
He is not speaking of your compass course.

Mr. ROSTRON.
I am giving the true course.

Mr. UHLER.
He is asking whether the Titanic was on the northerly course or the southerly route?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Oh. He was on the southerly route.

Senator SMITH.
What do you mean by that?

Mr. ROSTRON.
He makes a great circle on the most southerly route, to avoid all ice, as nearly as possible. That is 42 north and 47 west. That is what we call the first corner. That is the great circle track from Queenstown down to the corner. From there he takes a straight course - I forget, now, the actual course.

Senator SMITH.
Do you regard the route he was taking as entirely practical and appropriate at this time of the year?

Mr. ROSTRON.
Quite so. This is most exceptional.

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