Page 126 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 32 - 36
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The Attorney-General: Yes. I think it was Mr. Passow, and certainly Mr. Ismay did as I understood him, and his evidence establishes it, and Mr. Sanderson was taking the same view, and really what they are saying and the way they are looking at it (and that is the reason why I am dwelling upon it) does strike one as rather strange, because I think it is a little appalling that they should take the view that that would be right now notwithstanding what has happened and notwithstanding the lesson that they have learned, for we now know that not only on board one vessel, the “Titanic,” did they not see this iceberg, but they got into all this difficulty through the speed that they were going. And yet, notwithstanding all that, this is to be treated, apparently, as one of those very rare and exceptional things which one cannot be expected to foresee, and which would not alter their practice. The only reason why I am dwelling upon it is that I do ask your Lordship in any event and with all respect, at any rate to condemn the continuance of such a practice, so that not only may you make it possible to foresee, but that we may foresee. If that is not done we may have another similar catastrophe; and therefore it is that I am asking your Lordship to state emphatically what your view, if you agree with it, and the view of those assisting you, would be upon this. My Lord, one other distinction has been drawn by these witnesses, and it is not unimportant; I have no doubt it is present to your Lordship’s mind. Witnesses were asked questions: Supposing you had a report of an iceberg or icebergs, would you reduce your speed? and then they have said, with the qualifications and assumptions to which I have just referred, that they would not, but they made this qualification, some of them at any rate, that that would not apply to an ice- field. Your Lordship will remember the broad distinction that was drawn between the ice-field and the icebergs. Of course, I am not an expert in these matters, but, so far as I am able to gather from the evidence, the reason is this, that you may be meeting an iceberg, or two icebergs, or three icebergs, without the proximity of an ice-field; but if you know that there are icebergs and ice-fields in the vicinity, then you do know that you are in the region in which there must be a considerable amount of ice. And there is the further difficulty which has been explained by some of those who were on the Canadian Lines, that if you get into an ice-field and are surrounded by it there may be trouble to your propeller if you continue along your way; you may get into a lane and find it closed, and you may not be able to get in, or you may not be able to get out, and you have got ice close up against the propeller of your vessel which may affect the vessel, and which at any rate it is very advisable to avoid. Now, my Lord, in this case the reports that the Captain had got were of both ice-fields and ice- bergs, and therefore all those precautions which ought to have been taken and which would have been taken by those who thought icebergs or ice-fields were to be avoided, should have been taken in this particular case. I am not going to make any comment upon the instructions that were issued. Your Lordship will remember that we have had a good deal of evidence about them. Apparently both with the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company and other Canadian lines, where they would presumably expect to meet more field ice, there is a specific direction with regard to field ice. With the lines trading with the United States they have merely a general one - I say general because it has no specific reference to ice. I am not inclined myself to quarrel with that view, at any rate, so far as to suggest that there is anything wrong or blameworthy in their not having given specific instructions as to ice. No doubt these vessels would encounter, and do encounter ice, and the Commanders have to exercise their judgment it is left to them, and, if necessary, they have to deviate their course in order to avoid the ice. Your Lordship will remember we were told that that is what they do, and there were some reports produced with regard to it. I am not going into that matter save to say this: that it certainly would be desirable in any event, whatever view your Lordship may take of this case and of the conduct of those who were responsible for the navigation, that some instructions should be given, if you think fit to make the recommendation to the Masters of vessels, that when they have reports of this character
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