Page 215 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 27 - 31
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expression - the side where it has been torn off if the rupture was at all recent is much darker; where it has been exposed for a long time to the sun and air it is white, so that one side is darker than the other. But even then, as the witness who testified to this said you have a white glimmer over the top of the black side, coming from the white side, which is the other side. I think that what Captain Rostron says must refer to that. But in any case his experience, dating from the beginning of the year 1911 in the American trade does not compare with that of the many Commanders who have been called before the Court, and who are all unanimous about this that a black berg is a very rare thing. The Commissioner: Very well. You have dealt now, I think, with all the evidence upon that part of the case. Sir Robert Finlay: Except Sir Ernest Shackleton. The Commissioner: Oh, yes, except Sir Ernest Shackleton. Sir Robert Finlay: Sir Ernest Shackleton’s evidence is at page 719. I will read his evidence, which will include that which bears directly upon this point. “(Q.) You have had a large experience of ice? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) I want you to help the Court with your views, as a result of your experience, first of all with regard to the visibility of ice in clear weather. Take icebergs first? - (A.) That entirely depends on the height of the iceberg. Take an iceberg of about 80 feet high, and the ordinary type of iceberg that has not turned over, you could see that in clear weather about ten to twelve miles. (Q.) At night? - (A.) Not at night, no. I would say, providing it was an ordinary berg, about five miles on a clear night. (The Commissioner.) At night? - (A.) Yes, at night. (The Attorney-General.) You said provided it was an ordinary berg? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) Are there bergs which present a different appearance in colour? - (A.) There are many bergs I have seen that appear to be black, due to the construction of the berg itself, and also due to the earthy matter and rocks that are in all bergs. In fact, in the South many of these so-called islands, and charted as islands, must have been big bergs with earthy matter on them. Again, after a berg has capsized, if it is not of close construction, it is no more porous, and taking up the water does not reflect light in any way. (Q.) Have you had large experience of this particular track? - (A.) Not much, only four or five times.” It turned out afterwards that he had crossed four or five times as a passenger. He had been only once across except as a passenger, and that was when he was 17 years old in an early voyage. The other experiences, four or five times, were as a passenger. And may I say at once with reference to Sir Ernest Shackleton’s evidence that Sir Ernest Shackleton is a recognised expert with regard to South Polar ice; he did most admirable work there, and work of the most interesting kind. The book that he wrote about it is a most fascinating book; but the conditions under which he worked with regard to ice were absolutely different from those which prevail in the North Atlantic, where his only experiences were as a passenger on four or five occasions. Going to the South Pole - he got very near it - he had got into great masses of ice. He had to thread his way through them, turning and twisting, to use his own expression, to get through; sometimes he got a run of a few miles; at other times he had to go with constant evolutions. That is a very different thing indeed from the conditions which prevail in the North Atlantic, although if the icebergs continue to encroach further South in the manner in which they have recently been showing a tendency to do the conditions may be more assimilated to those of the South Pole. But at all events at present trade with the South Pole has not developed. So that what Sir Ernest had to do was to thread his way through these great masses of ice where there were no other vessels about at all, with a vessel, the “Nimrod,” of 300 tons with her bows only 14 feet from the water, while the crow’s-nest was 90 feet from the water; so that it is obvious that the position of the man on the stem so near the water, having regard to Sir Ernest’s evidence, would be of much greater value for the purpose of seeing a berg as they approached it. “Have you had large experience of this particular track? - (A.) Not much, only four or five
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