Page 172 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 27 - 31
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have been, and any Court would have said that Mr. Murdoch was guilty of the grossest possible negligence in not trying to avoid that berg. What happened was this: One must work it out by seeing how the thing presents itself to those who have to deal with it. The Commissioner: Nobody could blame Mr. Murdoch for trying to avoid the berg; all I say is, and all I mean is that, if Mr. Wilding is right, then starboarding the helm was not a wise thing to do. Sir Robert Finlay: Your Lordship will forgive me; as it turned out, a great many lives were lost, but no one could have foreseen that. The Commissioner: No. Sir Robert Finlay: What one has to apply one's mind to is this: Suppose Mr. Murdoch had held straight on, only stopping and reversing, what would any Court have said about his conduct? He could not then have brought home to the mind of the Court that if he had starboarded he would have been caught by this point of ice which would have ripped up his side like a sardine knife. He would have been told: "You are guilty of the grossest possible negligence; if you had starboarded, you would in all probability have avoided that berg." The Commissioner: But in point of fact, he did not avoid it by starboarding. Sir Robert Finlay: I know he did not. The Commissioner: What it did was to rip up the whole side of the ship. Sir Robert Finlay: We are upon the question of whether he did the right thing, and I say, not only could he not be blamed, as your Lordship has said, for starboarding, but he would have deserved the severest blame if he had not starboarded. One cannot judge of the thing by the light of after events. What happened was this. By starboarding, as one of the look-out men said to the other, it appeared as if it were a near shave. They avoided the body of the berg, but there was this projecting spike which caught the starboard bow under the water, ripped up the vessel for some six watertight compartments, so that the vessel ultimately sank. That was an extraordinary accident, a very extraordinary accident, and all the circumstances are circumstances that I daresay never happened in the history of the world before and may never happen again. The Commissioner: But you know we are getting away from the point to which I wanted to direct your attention. With the knowledge that there was a possibility of finding icebergs right in the track, how is the speed of 22 knots an hour justified? That is the point. Sir Robert Finlay: I am coming back to that, if I have made clear my position that not only could he not be blamed for starboarding, but he would be deserving of the severest blame if he had not. I very confidently submit that to the judgment of the Court when this question comes to be considered, but I will go on at once now to the question of speed. The Commissioner: I do not think the starboarding has anything to do with it at present. What I mean is that that speed ought not to have been on the ship in the face of those Marconigrams. Sir Robert Finlay: With great deference I submit, when the evidence is looked at, the Court cannot come to that conclusion. Can it be said that Captain Smith was guilty of negligence by doing that which had been done by every vessel in this trade for a long series of years? I will call attention presently to the evidence on the point, because I think the effect of the evidence must a little have faded from your Lordship's mind, having regard to what your Lordship said a few minutes ago. But before calling attention to the evidence as to the uniform practice, I desire to call attention to the fact that it had worked well and given admirable results in practice, and I will test that by taking three sets of tables coming from perfectly different quarters. Will your Lordship take first the table produced by the Board of Trade? Your Lordship will find it at page 580, Question 22142. These are the statistics produced by the Board of Trade, and they show that from 1892 to 1901 three and a quarter million passengers were carried across the Atlantic, that system of keeping full speed, though ice is reported, being maintained all the time. During that time only 73 were lost. From 1902 to 1911 six million passengers were carried across the
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