Page 13 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 32 - 36
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whether one would appreciate the fact that there was no swell by looking at the rail, for I doubt whether there would be any appreciable movement of the rail even if there were a swell. And there is distinct evidence to the fact that from the deck you could not realise that there was no swell, and that that fact was realised only after the people got down to the water. Your Lordship reminded us yesterday of one piece of evidence, that it was so still that it affected the disengaging of the falls. I had just read what Charles Joughin, the baker, says about its being like a pond, and he had the best opportunities of observation, because you will remember he was swimming about, and he gave a very interesting account. The Commissioner: I remember it very well; he went through a strange experience. Sir Robert Finlay: Yes, and he was a very plucky fellow, because he recognised the perfect propriety of the action of the man who shoved him off the raft he was endeavouring to get on. Joughin said in a disinterested way, which few people could emulate, that he now realised that if he had got on it he would probably have caused the upset of the raft, because it was full to its utmost capacity, and he thought the man was quite right in shoving him away. Then Fleet, on page 410, deals with this point also at Question 17246: “The sea, we know, was very calm? - (A.) The sea calm.” This is an examination by the Attorney-General. I am taking now Lightoller and Pitman. Mr. Lightoller is on page 305, at Question 13569, and eight questions on: “(The Solicitor-General.) I am glad he should add it. (To the Witness.) Tell us what you were going to say? - (A.) In the event of meeting ice there are many things we look for. In the first place, a slight breeze. Of course, the stronger the breeze the more visible will the ice be, or, rather, the breakers on the ice. Therefore, at any time, when there is a slight breeze you will always see at nighttime a phosphorescent line round a berg, growler, or whatever it may be; the slight swell which we invariably look for in the North Atlantic causes the same effect, the break on the base of the berg, so showing a phosphorescent glow. All bergs - all ice more or less - have a crystallised side. (Q.) It is white? - (A.) Yes; it has been crystallised through exposure, and that in all cases will reflect a certain amount of light, what is termed ice-blink, and that ice- blink from a fairly large berg you will frequently see before the berg comes above the horizon. (Q.) Now, let me follow. Was there any breeze on this night? - (A.) When I left the deck at 10 o’clock there was a slight breeze - Oh, pardon me, no; I take that back. No, it was calm, perfectly calm. (Q.) And there was no breeze. Was there any? - (A.) As far as we could see from the bridge the sea was comparatively smooth. Not that we expected it to be smooth, because, looking from the ship’s bridge very frequently with quite a swell on, the sea will appear just as smooth as a billiard table, perfectly smooth; you cannot detect the swell. The higher you are the more difficult it is to detect a slight swell. (Q.) That means, then, does it not, that if you are on the bridge and you are relying on the fact that there may be a slight swell, you really cannot tell from the bridge whether there was a swell or not - a slight swell? - (A.) We look at it rather the other way - that, though the sea may appear smooth, we pretty well know that there is a swell, though it may not be visible to the eye, nor yet have any effect on the ship.” That, I submit, bears out what I ventured to submit in answer to your Lordship’s question just now, “It is a most rare occurrence? (Q.) You mean there nearly always is a swell in the North Atlantic? - (A.) This is the first time in my experience in the Atlantic in 24 years, and I have been going across the Atlantic nearly all the time, of seeing an absolutely flat sea. (Q.) Do you agree from that experience that this was an occasion when it was an absolutely flat sea? - (A.) Absolutely flat. (The Commissioner.) Not in fact, but to all appearance? - (A.) In fact, my Lord. (The Solicitor- General.) He means in fact, my Lord. (The Commissioner.) Do you mean there was no swell at all? - (A.) I mean to say that the sea was so absolutely flat that when we lowered the boats down we had to actually overhaul the tackles to unhook them because there was not the slightest lift on the boat to allow for slacking unhooked.”
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