United States Senate Inquiry

Day 5

Testimony of Charles H. Lightoller, cont.

Senator FLETCHER.
With reference to the changing of the route, in crossing the ocean with a passenger steamer like that, have you ever known a ship to change her route by reason of the presence of icebergs?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
No, sir. We receive our orders; the routes are laid down. As a matter of fact, these routes are laid down by some of your naval men in the United States, and we adhere to them. We have an ice route. When ice is very prevalent and we know that a lot of ice is coming down from the north and we have been notified of it, we sometimes are instructed to take what we call the ice track, or extreme southern route, coming west.

Senator FLETCHER.
What track is that?

Senator BOURNE.
Who issues those instructions?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
The company.

Senator BOURNE.
To take the other route?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
The company.

Senator BOURNE.
Do they come from the managing director, or does the captain use his own discretion?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
No; they come from the company.

Senator BOURNE.
What officer of the company?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I do not know.

Senator FLETCHER.
Suppose you are in mid-ocean when you receive this information?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I never have been, to my knowledge. You get it before you leave port.

Senator FLETCHER.
You get these orders before you leave port?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Yes.

Senator FLETCHER.
That is, of course when you are advised, previous to leaving port, of the location of the ice?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Exactly.

Senator FLETCHER.
Where the ice is located after you have left, and when you are warned of the fact that you are approaching ice have you ever known of instances when the route would be changed by the commander in order to avoid the ice?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
No; I have never known the route to be changed by the commander. When we have the absolute position of anything, that is reliable, when the latitude and longitude is given by ship immediately ahead of an iceberg or a derelict - of course, a derelict is still more dangerous than an iceberg - some commanders will alter their course a few miles just to avoid this derelict, particularly if it is in the nighttime. You have the position of that one derelict and if you cross there at nighttime you might haul a little to the southward or northward.

Senator FLETCHER.
In other words, in the observance of proper precautions -

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
That is it, exactly.

Senator FLETCHER.
In the observance of proper precautions a commander would not be obliged to stick to a track laid out on his chart, notwithstanding he might be advised of icebergs or derelicts or some obstruction on the track? He ought to vary and alter his route?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
No; I do not say what he ought to do, at all. I have never been a commander yet.

Senator FLETCHER.
You are speaking as an expert?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Not at all.

Senator FLETCHER.
In connection with the navigation of passenger vessels?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Every man has a different idea with regard to navigation. Each man has his own individual idea with regard to the safety of which he exercises to the utmost to keep the ship from danger in its various forms.

Senator FLETCHER.
You understand you are required; and the commander and all officers are required, to exercise precautions to avoid dangers and accidents?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Yes.

Senator FLETCHER.
All necessary precautions you are required to take?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Yes, sir.

Senator FLETCHER.
That is the rule you feel compelled to abide by under all conditions?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Yes.

Senator FLETCHER.
Do you know whether or not the passengers were notified that the ship was sinking, and were aroused from their cabins or berths?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Of that I have no absolute knowledge. I can merely be guided by the circumstances which occurred. The purser - as a matter of fact, both the pursers - and the purser's assistants, of whom I believe there were four - two pursers and four assistants, and two doctors, were there. Both pursers I was very friendly with, and knew them both intimately, ashore and afloat. They were both thoroughly capable men.

I draw the conclusion that everyone was notified, by the manner and under the circumstances under which I met them last. It was obvious to me that everything with regard to their duty had been done by the mere fact that shortly before the vessel sank I met a purser, Mr. McElroy, "Mr. Barker, Dr. O'Loughlin, and Dr. Simpson, and the four assistants. They were just coming from the direction of the bridge. They were evidently just keeping out of everybody's way. They were keeping away from the crowd so, as not to interfere with the loading of the boats. McElroy, if I remember, was walking around with his hands in his pockets. The purser's assistant was coming behind with the ship's bag, show that all detail work had been attended to. I think one of them had a roll of papers under his arm, showing that they had been attending to their detail work.

That is why I draw the conclusion. They were perfectly quiet. They came up to me and just shook hands and said, "Good-bye, old man." said good-bye to each other, and that is all there was to it.

Senator FLETCHER.
Did any of them get in boats?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
No, sir

Senator FLETCHER.
Did any of them survive?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
No, not one.

Senator FLETCHER.
You say some man told you, just before the ship went down, that he passed toward the stem and did not see anyone?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
No, I did not say that he did not see anyone. I said he said he did not see any women.

Senator BURTON.
Pardon me, but you were to give the name of a person who went to and fro?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Oh, yes That was S. Hemming, lamp trimmer.

Senator BURTON.
Is he here?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
He is here.

Senator FLETCHER.
What was the name of the person who you say went along the ship and saw no women?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Mr. Hemming; that is the man.

Senator FLETCHER.
Oh, was that the man?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Yes.

Senator BURTON.
Excuse me for interrupting -

Senator FLETCHER.
I was just asking that so as to get the name of that individual. Now, Officer, how do you account for the fact that there were no people? Where were the other people who were not in the boats?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
That I have been unable to fathom. I have tried to find out for my own edification, but I can not fix it up. Perhaps this man Hemming would be able to throw some light on it. That is why I gave you his name, so that you might ask him. He is the man who walked to the after-end of the boat deck. I did not. He may be able to give you some more information. He may be able to clear it up, but I can not.

Senator FLETCHER.
You can not yourself account for the people that were not in the boats?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I can not.

Senator FLETCHER.
I will get you to state, not only from your actual knowledge of the immediate effect, but also from your experiences as a navigator and seaman, what the effect of that collision was on the ship, beginning with the first effect, the immediate effect; how it listed the ship, if it did; what effect it had then, and what, in your opinion, was the effect on the ship that resulted from that collision.

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
The result was she sank.

Senator FLETCHER.
I understand that. But what was the immediate effect?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Immediate effect was she began to go down by the bows.

Senator FLETCHER.
But what did the boat do first? Did she tremble, did she shake, did she keep on her course, or what was the immediate effect? Was she obstructed?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I do not know. I was in my berth. I do not know what course she kept on. There was a slight shock.

Senator FLETCHER.
You were awake?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Yes.

Senator FLETCHER.
What was the immediate effect?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
A slight shock, a slight trembling, and a grinding sound. She did not make any alteration in her course, so far as I am aware.

Senator FLETCHER.
So far as you could see, the blow did not come from beneath the surface, but came straight along the ship?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I could not see anything -

Senator FLETCHER.
But so far as you could feel?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
So far as I could feel, there was a slight shock and a grinding sound. That was all there was to it. There was no listing, no plunging, diving, or anything else.

Senator FLETCHER.
What was done then with reference to the ship; was her speed lessened then?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I was below; I do not know anything about that.

Senator FLETCHER.
You could not tell that?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I could not tell you officially; I know I came out on deck and noticed that her speed was lessened; yes.

Senator FLETCHER.
Was she not actually stopped entirely from going forward?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
No; she was not. That is why I said, in my previous testimony, that the ship was apparently going slowly, and I saw the first officer and the captain on the bridge, and I judged that there was nothing further to do.

Senator FLETCHER.
You said a while ago that apparently certain of these compartments were pierced?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Yes, sir.

Senator FLETCHER.
Tell us what you mean by a compartment being pierced. Was it simply, in your judgment, a hole driven in these different compartments, or were sheets of steel ripped off the bottom of the ship?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I can only express it as I have expressed it before. She was ripped open.

Senator FLETCHER.
To what extent was the ripping, as far as you could judge?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Nos. 1, 2, and 3, and the forepeak.

Senator FLETCHER.
What width and what length?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I have not the slightest idea, sir.

Senator FLETCHER.
Could anything have been done to prevent the ship sinking?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Nothing further than was done.

Senator FLETCHER.
Was there anything done to prevent it?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Yes; the watertight doors were closed.

Senator FLETCHER.
That was the only thing that could have been done at that time?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
All they could do was to take the way off the ship and close the doors.

Senator FLETCHER.
The lifeboats and the belts were all sound and in good condition?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Perfect condition.

Senator FLETCHER.
Were you running the ship with the purpose and the view of arriving in New York at any particular time?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I had nothing at all to do with that, sir. I do not know anything about that.

Senator FLETCHER.
Did you hear anybody discuss it?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
No; we figured to get in Wednesday morning. There was no object in getting there any earlier.

Senator FLETCHER.
You can not say whether it is customary, according to your experience and observation, to lessen the speed of a ship under those conditions, approaching icebergs?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Under circumstances existing as they were then; at other times, when I have approached ice with conditions approximately the same as they were in this case, as near as I can tell, we have gone at the ordinary rate of speed at which we had been going during the voyage.

Senator FLETCHER.
Was there any panic aboard the ship?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Not the slightest.

Senator FLETCHER.
At any time?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
At no time.

Senator FLETCHER.
The regulations prohibit the use of any light on board the ship except those prescribed by law?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Steaming lights, yes; only What are prescribed by law.

Senator FLETCHER.
Do you know what lights they are?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Masthead light, side lights, and stern light.

Senator FLETCHER.
Are those lights of any assistance in enabling the lookout to look out and see an object in front?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
No; they are not for that purpose at all

Senator FLETCHER.
In your opinion, a searchlight that night would have revealed this iceberg?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Oh, no; I did not say so.

Senator BOURNE.
Have you an opinion on that, as to whether a searchlight would have revealed the iceberg?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I think it would have assisted us, under those peculiar conditions, very probably. The light would have been reflected off the berg, probably. Yet it is difficult to say. I do not know. A searchlight is a peculiar thing, and so is an iceberg. An iceberg reflects the light that is thrown on it, and if you throw the light on an iceberg it turns it to white, and if you throw it on the sea it turns it to white.

Senator BOURNE.
But would you not get the contrast with the shadow outside?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
But, you see, the shadow will be directly the other way; the other side of the berg from the searchlight.

Senator BOURNE.
But would you not get the shadow where it goes off at the end of the iceberg?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
How could you, if you were looking at it directly? The shadow would be on the other side.

Senator BOURNE.
But you would get the break at the end of the iceberg?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Well, I do not know. I dare say it might have been an advantage. Of course it would have been an advantage to try it, anyhow.

Senator BOURNE.
Taking a ship of the Titanic's tonnage, going at a speed of 21 knots, in what distance could you stop it if you reversed the engines?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Reversed the engine full speed astern?

Senator BOURNE.
Yes.

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I forgot what the stopping time was. We tried it in Belfast. I suppose about a minute and a half, maximum.

Senator BOURNE.
And within what distance; what part of a mile?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
A quarter of a mile; about a quarter of a mile.

Senator FLETCHER.
I did not quite understand that. You say if she were going at the rate of 21 knots she could be stopped in a quarter of a mile?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
If she were going at 21 knots and you put the telegraph full speed astern, I think that the way would be off the ship. as we call it when the ship is not going through the water, in about a minute and a half, and that she would cover in that time approximately a quarter of a mile.

Senator NEWLANDS.
When you struck that iceberg, was the iceberg in the exact position in which it was located on the chart?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
That I could not say, sir.

Senator NEWLANDS.
You say it would not have been customary under those circumstances to slow up the steamer. What did you rely upon; simply the sight to catch any object ahead?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Seeing the object; yes.

Senator NEWLANDS.
You spoke of not relying upon the lookout.

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I spoke about relying on the lookout in this manner. This is what I wish thoroughly understood, that the officer does not rely on the lookout to the extent of sitting down and having a smoke or anything like that. He keeps his own lookout.

Senator NEWLANDS.
But at the same time, he utilizes the lookout?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
I want to let you go, and yet I want to ask another question. Do you know of any evidence or report as to water on the upper deck of the Titanic?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Yes; before she went down the water was up to the top of the bridge.

Senator SMITH.
When did you first note water on E deck?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I did not note it.

Senator SMITH.
Did you see any water there at all?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I did not look there.

Senator SMITH.
Did you hear Mr. Boxhall's testimony?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Part of it.

Senator SMITH.
Did you hear him say that he saw lights ahead of the Titanic that night?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Yes. I know he did, anyway.

Senator SMITH.
And gave signals?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Yes; I saw the signals.

Senator SMITH.
Did you see the lights on the boat?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Ahead of the Titanic?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Two points on the port bow.

Senator SMITH.
About how far distant, in your judgment?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Four or 5 miles away. I would say 3 to 4 miles, roughly. I did not stop to look at them.

Senator SMITH.
How many lights?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I could not say; one, as far as I could see with the naked eye.

Senator SMITH.
In your course?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I do not know how the ship was heading then.

Senator SMITH.
Well, was it in your course?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
You are speaking of the time after we struck?

Senator SMITH.
Is that when you saw this light?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Yes, sir; when we were getting the boats out.

Senator SMITH.
You did not see it before then?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I was not on deck.

Senator SMITH.
You did not see it up to the time you left the deck at 10 o'clock?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
No, I did not.

Senator SMITH.
But you did see a light -

Mr. LIGHTOLLER. (interposing)
Two points on the port bow during the time in which I was getting out the boats.

Senator SMITH.
Do you know what it was?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I do not.

Senator SMITH.
The captain wants me to ask you if you know what was the compass bearing of that light?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
I do not.

Senator SMITH.
Did you ever know, in your experience as a seaman, or have you ever known, the steam whistle to be used to detect the presence of ice by means of an echo?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Certainly not.

Senator SMITH.
Nothing of that kind was attempted on the Titanic?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER.
Certainly not.