Page 188 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 27 - 31
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enable you without any doubt to avoid obstacles without slowing down. Sir Robert Finlay: I entirely agree. The Commissioner: The whole object of slowing down is to enable you to avoid the objects which are in your way, and if you can avoid the objects in your way without slowing down, you do not slow down; at least, I should think not. Sir Robert Finlay: I entirely agree. The Commissioner: It does not appear to me to matter in the least whether the ship is going 11 knots or 50 knots, if it be true that you could always avoid the obstacle. Of course, you must first assume that it is true that you can always avoid an obstacle; if you can, then the speed is of no consequence; but if you cannot, or if there is a danger of you not being able to avoid the obstacle, then it becomes most important to reduce the speed. Sir Robert Finlay: Then, of course, comes the practical application of what your Lordship has mostly justly characterised as a truism. The experience of the Atlantic trade and the statistics show that you can in clear weather in all ordinary circumstances see a berg in time to avoid it. Here there were abnormal circumstances which, as has been said by several witnesses, might never occur again, or might not occur once in a hundred years, that led to the accident, and that alone. I say with some confidence that no one can take these three sets of statistics with regard to the absence of casualties, the very small number of deaths on passages across the Atlantic relatively to the enormous traffic when this system was being uniformly pursued of going right ahead in clear weather at the same speed - no one, I say, can look at those statistics and fail to see that they were perfectly justified, these men of experience in this particular branch of navigation, the North Atlantic, in their belief that in clear weather you could see the ice in time to avoid it. If that were not the case you could not have had such statistics as those which are before the Court. The experience in this matter is worth any amount of theory about it. Here you have this uniform practice of 20 years and you have, I venture to say, an extraordinary absence of casualty. It is perfectly impossible that you could have had that low percentage of casualties if the system on which they were proceeding was not a sound one. And it was sound, because in clear weather you could see a berg in time to avoid it. That is my submission to your Lordship on that part of the case. The whole importance of the matter is when one comes to translate the general proposition, which your Lordship justly characterised as a truism, into practice. The practical question is, can you in clear weather see a berg in time to avoid it? And the answer I say is demonstrated, by the experience of 20 years, to be that you can; and the answer to the question, “How did the ‘Titanic’ not see it in time?” is supplied by the fact that the circumstances were extraordinary and abnormal, and such as may never occur again. The Commissioner: You have not overlooked the fact that this was what you might call an abnormal ship. She was a very long ship, and a very big ship, and the circle in which she could turn was a large one. Sir Robert Finlay: Yes, my Lord. The Commissioner: It was not easy for that ship to turn a circle which would enable her to avoid anything in front of her. Sir Robert Finlay: She was a big ship, undoubtedly. The Commissioner: And that was a circumstance known to the Captain. Sir Robert Finlay: But your Lordship recollects there were a great many other ships not very much less. I forget the lengths of the “Lusitania” and the “Mauretania,” but they are not very far short. For all practical purposes I do not suppose there is much difference. The Commissioner: I am told they were about 90 ft. shorter than the “Titanic.” Sir Robert Finlay: That does not make very much difference. Then your Lordship recollects the great big German liners. It is not as if this were a new departure altogether. This was a gradual growth; it had been going on. May I call your Lordship’s attention to that Table which
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