Page 184 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 27 - 31
P. 184
With regard to the question which is implied in what Mr. Scanlan said there as to what he would do in the future, may I say this, that of course by the light of this very great calamity it may be that your Lordship may see your way to making some recommendation with regard to the future. I feel sure, having regard to what has fallen from your Lordship, in the course of this case, that no such recommendation will at all trench upon what must always be, as your Lordship pointed out, the great security in cases of this kind, namely, the vigilance and judgment of the Commander of the ship. No rigid Rule can be laid down; but I am perfectly certain (and I think I speak not only for those whom I represent, but for everyone sailing the seas) that any recommendation which the Court may make with regard to the future will, of course, receive the most respectful and the most careful attention from those engaged in this traffic. What I am upon is this, that with all respect I say that it is impossible upon this evidence to say that there was any negligence on the part of those who were on board the “Titanic,” and who were merely following that practice which had been followed by everyone engaged in the Atlantic trade for a long series of years, and followed, as the statistics show, with most excellent results in the way of absence of casualty. Then Question 14419 is: “And what precautions would you take if you would not slow up or slow down? - (A.) I did not say I would not slow up. (Q.) Cannot you say whether you would or not? - (A.) No, I am afraid I could not say right here what I should do. I should take every precaution, whatever appealed to me. (Q.) I suggest to you, if you acted carefully and prudently, you would slow up, and that if you did not slow up you would be acting recklessly. You know you have described the conditions of abnormality as having been apparent at the time while you were on your watch. You have told my Lord that at great length; and in your conversations with the Captain did not you discuss that? You have said that you did not recognise that the sea was flat. I want to recall this to your mind.” Then the Note is read to him first with regard to freezing - a conversation with the Commander on the bridge about the cold, and he says: “We then commenced to speak about the weather. He said, “There is not much wind.” I said, “No, it is a flat calm, as a matter of fact.” He repeated it; he said, “A flat calm.” I said, “Yes, quite flat, there is no wind.” I said something about it was rather a pity the breeze had not kept up whilst we were going through the ice region. Of course, my reason was obvious; he knew I meant the water ripples breaking on the base of the berg? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) Was not all that amply sufficient to let you and the Captain know that you were in circumstances of extreme danger? - (A.) No. (Q.) I do not think anything would convince you that it was dangerous that night? - (A.) I have been very much convinced that it was dangerous. (Q.) I mean that the conditions you have described were dangerous? - (A.) They proved to be. (Q.) What I want to suggest is that the conditions having been so dangerous, those in charge of the vessel were negligent in proceeding at that rate of speed? - (A.) No.” Now, the whole of those questions ignore the fact, which I shall show on the evidence existed, namely, this: that those on the bridge of the “Titanic” could not from that height know that there was this absence of swell which was the fatal feature in the tragedy. That there was no wind, they knew; that there was no swell, they did not know, because, as has been said, you cannot, looking down from that height, see that there is no swell, and it was only when the boats were lowered into the water that they saw that it was an oily sea, perfectly flat and no swell, a condition, which, as Sir Ernest Shackleton, I think, said, might never occur again. The Commissioner: Do you draw a distinction between no wind and no swell? Sir Robert Finlay: My Lord, the terms are not always used with perfect accuracy. Sometimes the term is used in one way and sometimes in another, but the idea I wish to convey is this, as was explained, I think, by Mr. Lightoller, in answer to a question put by your Lordship, that although they knew there was an absence of wind, they did not and could not know that there was no swell. If there had been a swell there would have been the water breaking at the foot of
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