United States Senate Inquiry


Reporting Disaster


Numerous wireless messages of an official character were given to the operator on the Carpathia on Monday morning, April 15, with explicit instructions from the captain to send them immediately, and, if necessary, relay through other vessels.

Captain Rostron's testimony on this point before the committee on April 19, 1912, the day following his arrival in New York, is unqualified upon this point, and is as follows:

From the very commencement I took charge of the whole thing and issued orders that every message sent would be sent under my authority, and no message was to be sent unless authorized by me. My orders were: First of all, the two official messages. The two official messages were to the Cunard Co. and the White Star Co., as regards the accident, telling them that I had gotten approximate number of passengers aboard and was returning to New York. That was to the White Star Co., and the other one was to our company, of course, telling them that I was proceeding to New York unless otherwise ordered, and considered New York the best for many considerations.

After those two messages were sent, I sent a press message to the Associated Press, practically in the same words as I had sent to the companies, over my signature.

Those were the three first messages that were sent. After these messages were sent, we began sending in the names of the first class passengers. This was by the Olympic on Monday evening. We got the first, and, I think, all the second, off by the Olympic. Then we lost touch.

I controlled the whole thing through my orders. I said I placed official messages first. After they had gone and the first press message, then the names of the passengers. After the names of the passengers and crew had been sent my orders were to send all private messages from the Titanic's passengers first in the order in which they were given in to the purser; no preference to any message.

The question having arisen as to the authority exercised over the operator of the Carpathia, the chairman of the subcommittee sent the following cablegram to Captain Rostron:

NEW YORK, May 4, 1912.

To Captain ROSTRON,
Cunard Steamship "Carpathia," Gibraltar:

Original wireless message sent by Bruce Ismay addressed Islefrank, New York City, immediately after he boarded Carpathia Monday morning, April 15, containing these words, "Deeply regret advise you Titanic sank this morning after collision iceberg, resulting serious loss life. Further particulars later," signed Bruce Ismay, is now in my possession. Ismay under oath waived secrecy and I desire cable from you containing contents of that message and any memoranda thereon showing hour and date when sent by Carpathia operator and through what ship or shore station. Also whether relayed through other ship station. Also whether operator was forbidden by you to communicate such message or any other message via steamships Californian and Olympic. Also whether operator was prevented by you from sending this message or any other concerning accident. Cable answer collect to me, Washington.

Chairman Senate Subcommittee.

And received the following reply:

GIBRALTAR, May 18, 1912.

Chairman Senate Subcommittee, Washington:

Ismay's telegram begins "Islefrank, New York; deeply regret advise you Titanic sunk this morning, 15th, alter collision with iceberg, resulting serious loss of life; further particulars later. Bruce Ismay, Exe." (ends). Purser asked my permission to send it, which I granted. As it was official message, Ismay mentally very ill at time, our purser asked him to add last three words; now find sent through Sable Island 17th April. Message given to purser afternoon of 15th; purser took message to Operator Cottam personally and gave my permission to send early as possible. I did not forbid relaying message to any ship. On contrary, particularly mentioned doing all possible to get official messages, names of survivors, then survivors' messages away by most convenient means. By Olympic were sent my messages signed by self to Cunard, Liverpool, and New York, White Star, and press messages, Ismay's, almost identical with mine; worked Olympic as long as possible. Only messages I prevented sending were further press messages. I desire full investigation my actions.


10.40 p. m.

Notwithstanding the specific instructions of the Captain to the Wireless Operator on the morning of April 15 regarding the transmission of Mr. Ismay's message to Mr. Franklin in New York, the evidence shows that the message in question was not received by Mr. Franklin until about 9 o'clock Wednesday morning, April 17. The original message, in the possession of the committee, shows that the message was transmitted from the Carpathia, April 17, via Halifax. Our investigation discloses the fact that the message was delivered to Mr. Franklin in New York promptly after its receipt by the Postal Telegraph & Cable Co.

The message in question is as follows:

STEAMSHIP "CARPATHIA," April 17, 1912 (via Halifax).


Deeply regret advise you Titanic sank this morning, after collision iceberg, resulting serious loss life. Further particulars later.


This message was received by Mr. Franklin in New York about 9 a.m. April 17.


The record further discloses the first official information concerning the disaster communicated to the public by the officials of the White Star Line was received from Capt. Haddock, of the Olympic, at 6.16 p.m. Monday, April 15, as follows:

Carpathia reached Titanic's position at daybreak. Found boats and wreckage only. Titanic had foundered about 2.20 a.m. in 41.46 north, 50.14 west. All her boats accounted for. About 675 souls saved, crew and passengers, latter nearly all women and children. Leyland Line steamship Californian remaining and searching position of disaster. Carpathia returning to New York with survivors; please inform Cunard.


Notwithstanding this information in possession of the officials of that company, a telegram was sent to Representative J. A. Hughes, Huntington, W. Va., dated New York, April 15, 1912, rending as follows:

Passengers will probably land there Wednesday all safe.


8.27 p.m.

The committee have been unable to fix the identity of the author of this telegram. We find, however, that this message was delivered to the Western Union branch office, in the same building as the offices of the White Star Line, 11 Broadway, at 7.51 p.m., on that day, but are left wholly in doubt as to the person who sent it or the purpose of the author in sending such a message. Whoever sent this message, under the circumstances, is guilty of the most reprehensible conduct.


The committee does not believe that the wireless operator on the Carpathia showed proper vigilance in handling the important work confided to his care after the accident. Information concerning an accident at sea had been used by a Wireless Operator prior to this accident for his own advantage. That such procedure had been permitted by the Marconi Co. may have had its effect on this occasion. The disposition of officials of the Marconi Co. to permit this practice and the fact of that company's representatives making the arrangements for the sale of the experiences of the operators of the Titanic and Carpathia subjects the participants to criticism, and the practice should be prohibited. The committee are pleased to note that Mr. Marconi approves of such prohibition.