Page 109 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 32 - 36
P. 109
know what happened), I will take the order of events without referring to the evidence which no doubt is present to your Lordship’s mind and those who are assisting you. Fleet, one of the two look-out men in the crow’s-nest sees the iceberg, he sees it after being told at half-past nine - or rather the preceding look-out man having been told at half-past nine - to keep this special look- out for icebergs and growlers, which is passed on to him at ten o’clock, when he goes on duty. He has been on duty for an hour and forty minutes with his mate Lee in the crow’s-nest, looking out for ice, the ship travelling all the time at this speed of 22 knots. I should think if you have to peer into the darkness with the vessel proceeding at that pace, an hour and forty minutes must be rather a strain, but two hours seems to be accepted as quite a fair time for a man to be acting on the look-out, and I make no comment on that except this, that it might have a tendency to make a man a little slacker during his last half hour. But that is all surmise. We have no evidence to indicate that it was, except the fact of what happened; but at 11.40 he suddenly sees an iceberg. He then goes to the bell. He strikes it with a signal three times, “Something ahead.” Your Lordship remembers he then goes immediately to the telephone, he telephones to the bridge - they have one of those loud-speaking telephones there - he reports through the telephone to the bridge, “Iceberg ahead.” The answer is, “Thank you,” and then the helm is hard-a-starboarded. According to the evidence of Hichens, the Quartermaster, the order is given “Hard-a-starboard,” at once when the telephone message comes through. It is so close in point of seconds that it is really very difficult to say whether that did actually happen or whether the order may have been given by Mr. Murdoch, having seen the iceberg himself - it is so close in point of time that really I do not think anyone can determine that, and if it assists in any way the case of the White Star, I am perfectly ready to assume that Mr. Murdoch saw it quite as quickly as the look-out men, and that the order was given by him “Hard-a-starboard” on his own initiative, and not on the report that was given from the look-out. It really is only a question of two or three seconds, and you cannot do more than to say that the helm was hard-a-starboarded at once. Your Lordship will remember he had just got it over - I think it is 40 degrees to get it hard a-starboard - he had, in fact, just got the helm right over when the vessel struck. She had meanwhile veered two points to port - that is the position. We know according to the evidence of the turning circle how long it would take her. I have not the figures before me, but I think I am right in saying it takes 37 seconds at this pace for her to turn the two points to port. Therefore, she, having turned the two points to port must have taken 37 seconds, and I do not think that I am adding too much or treating them unfairly when I say if you add three seconds for the report of what takes place you get as nearly as you will ever be able to get the time that had elapsed between the report of Fleet and the striking of the iceberg; that is between the sighting of the iceberg and the striking of the iceberg at most 40 seconds must have elapsed. That I think is the position of the discussion on the evidence such as we know it. Now that means this, that the furthest distance at which the iceberg was seen from the vessel was 466 yards - anything from 450 to 500 yards is the extreme distance that you can put it. I say 466 because it is two-thirds of 700 yards which I was assuming she was travelling per minute. Therefore, what we have got established is that this vessel going along at this pace, travelling at this 700 yards a minute, only sees the iceberg at a distance of 466 yards, and that that is not enough. However quickly the men may act at the helm, however swiftly the order is given, and however quickly the officer in charge acts, you cannot navigate that vessel with her 850 feet length out of the way of that iceberg in time. In the statements which I have been making in regard to these matters, I think I am stating facts proved on the evidence which are beyond all question and beyond all controversy. It has been suggested during the course of the case - I only make the reference to get rid of it so far as I am concerned - that if the order had not been given “Hard a-starboard” and the vessel had gone straight on to the iceberg, it was indicated by Mr. Wilding as in his opinion, and, of course, I accept it not only as the opinion of a highly skilled gentleman who has been of the greatest
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