Page 183 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 27 - 31
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this, that it brings him nearer to the object. Sir Robert Finlay: A little nearer it does. The Commissioner: And nearer to the waterline. Sir Robert Finlay: I was going to say, the great advantage of having a man in the bows is where you have a boat where the stem is only 14 feet from the water, as in the “Nimrod,” Sir Ernest Shackleton’s boat. There, as he says, you see an iceberg much better if you are near the waterline, and you are there; but here the difference is only 30 feet. The stem, I suppose, is 60 feet above the water, and the crow’s-nest is some 30 feet higher. The Attorney-General: I thought 40 feet from the deck was the evidence. Sir Robert Finlay: Not from the forecastle. The Attorney-General: From the well deck, you mean. Sir Robert Finlay: I think so. All I mean is that the great object of having a man on the stem ceases to exist when you have got a stem as high as it is necessarily in a vessel like the “Titanic.” The conditions are absolutely different from those of the “Nimrod.” In certain other cases, of course, they put a man on the stem, having one man in the crow’s-nest. Of course, my Lord, it is a very vexed question whether it is better to have your two men together or only one man at each place. Your Lordship called attention at this point, I think, as the case was going on, and there is a good deal to be said either way. On the whole I submit that the balance inclines in favour of the practice of having two men, because they are a certain check on one another. They may talk but, on the other hand, if a man is by himself he may doze, and undoubtedly two pairs of eyes are better than one; and no man is likely to go to sleep if his fellow is there by his side, seeing what he is doing. I admit the point may be an arguable one, but my submission is that, on the whole, the practice on the “Titanic” was the sounder practice in having the two men together. Then Question 14399: “And that is what, at all events, in the light of your present knowledge, good seamanship would have dictated? - (A.) Not necessarily good seamanship. (Q.) Extra good seamanship? - (A.) No, not seamanship at all. (Q.) In the light of the experience you have had it is what you would do now? - (A.) In the view of our reports we have had in other voyages, if I say in the light of good seamanship or extra good seamanship, we should have stopped, the thousands of ships that have crossed the Atlantic would likewise have stopped, and then you come to the end of your tether. (Q.) I do not say they would have stopped? - (A.) Well, or slowed down.” I need not read further on that page. Then on page 330, and this is the last passage I propose to read from Mr. Lightoller’s evidence at Question 14413 - I must read the answer immediately preceding, “I do not say I should bang on at all,” that was the phrase in the question - “ I do not approve of the term banging on. (Q.) I mean drive ahead? - (A.) That looks like carelessness, you know; it looks as if we would recklessly bang on and slap her into it regardless of anything. Undoubtedly we should not do that. (Q.) What I want to suggest to you is that it was recklessness, utter recklessness, in view of the conditions which you have described as abnormal, and in view of the knowledge you had from various sources that ice was in your immediate vicinity, to proceed at 21 ½ knots? - (A.) Then all I can say is that recklessness applies to practically every commander and every ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean. (Q.) I am not disputing that with you, but can you describe it yourself as other than recklessness? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) Is it careful navigation, in your view? - (A.) It is ordinary navigation which embodies careful navigation. (Q.) Is this your position, then; that even with the experience of the “Titanic” disaster, if you were coming within the near vicinity of a place which was reported to you to be abounding in ice, you would proceed with a ship like the “Titanic” at 21 ½ knots? - (A.) I do not say I should. (Q.) At nighttime, and at a time when the conditions were what you have described as very abnormal, surely you would not go on at 21 ½ knots? - (A.) The conditions were not apparent to us in the first place; the conditions of an absolutely flat sea were not apparent to us till afterwards. Naturally I should take precautions against such an occurrence.”
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