Page 140 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 32 - 36
P. 140
The Commissioner: Let me make it clear as we go along. There is a vast amount of evidence, and very good evidence too, good in quality and a great deal in quantity, to show that it has not been for a quarter of a century or more the practice to alter the speed merely because ice is to be seen, because experience tells them that they can always avoid it. But then there arises the natural question: then why did not you avoid this? Sir Robert Finlay: That brings us to the abnormality. The Commissioner: Yes, then comes the excuse for not avoiding it, the abnormality. Sir Robert Finlay: May I put it as the reason why we were not successful in avoiding it? But before I pass from the practice, might I call attention to the fact that not only is there a vast body of evidence all consistent, but there is no contradiction from anyone engaged in that trade? The Commissioner: It may be that I am quite satisfied that they were following a well known practice which was justified by experience - as you pointed out in your speech, justified by the excellent results in the absence of accidents, in following that course. That may be; but why did not they see it? Sir Robert Finlay: That brings me to answer your Lordship’s second question, and that relates to this. The circumstances were abnormal in two respects: in the first place the swell, if it had existed, as everyone believed it did exist, would have shown a distinct ripple at the foot of the berg, not so great, of course, as there would have been if there had been wind, but still perfectly noticeable. May I state one other point - that there would have been a second indication, which was also referred to, between Mr. Lightoller and the Captain, and that is this, that if you have got a berg which turns its black side to you, you get a light over the top, owing to the fact that the other side is white: but here we had that very rare phenomenon, a black berg with no white side. Now, what I am putting to your Lordship is this - and I submit, when the evidence is looked at, it is clear - that this catastrophe arose from the fact that the “Titanic” was properly pursuing the regular practice in relying on what experience has shown to be the case, that you can see the bergs in time to avoid them. She did not see the berg in time to avoid it, because you had the extraordinary fact that two things, each rare in itself, a black berg and no swell, coincided; and thereby the ship did not get warning before she was upon it. May I say one word with regard to the conversation with the Captain. We are now entirely in your Lordship’s hands as to what took place upon that occasion, but what I wish to put before your Lordship is that it is clear that conversation related only to the absence of wind. I will show your Lordship - I am not going to make a speech, of course, but to refer to one or two questions and answers - that they never knew until they got to the water that there was no swell, and the combination - the extraordinary combination - was a black berg and not even a swell. Will your Lordship kindly look at page 305, Question 13569. The Solicitor-General is examining. “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.) Is it 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 bergs 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
   135   136   137   138   139   140   141   142   143   144   145