Page 17 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 32 - 36
P. 17
The Commissioner: The point is that such circumstances are sometimes found. Sir Robert Finlay: Sometimes, but very rarely, and the combination of an iceberg just capsized, in all probability, so that it was black - the combination of that which is a very rare thing, so rare that many gentlemen who have spent their lives on the Atlantic have never seen it, with the entire absence of swell, which is also a very rare thing, is, of course, still more unlikely to happen. Then, my Lord, Sir Ernest Shackleton, at pages 720 and 721, is asked about this at Question 25063. I will read the latter part of the answer. I need not read the question nor the earlier part of the answer, but at the top of page 721 he says: “Of course, that particular night was an abnormal night at sea, in being a flat calm; it is a thing that might never occur again. The Commissioner: I suppose by the expression “a flat calm” he means no swell? Sir Robert Finlay: Yes, obviously, my Lord, of course no one would say that in the Atlantic you may not have an absence of wind. The Commissioner: I am quite sure of this, that in the Atlantic with no wind, but a great swell which you may have, nobody in his senses would call the sea a flat calm; I would not. Sir Robert Finlay: No, my Lord. The Commissioner: I am told that a seaman would call it a flat calm. I have been sitting in a ship with no wind when I have seen the rail go up to the sky and down again - and it never occurred to me that anyone would call that a flat calm. But I am told it would be called a flat calm. Sir Robert Finlay: It would not be a flat calm for practical purposes for anyone who was not proof against seasickness. The Commissioner: Is Sir Ernest Shackleton, by any chance, here? Sir Robert Finlay: The next answer, I think, makes it as clear as if he were here himself, my Lord: “(Q.) That is what Mr. Lightoller says. You say apparently it is very rare to get such a flat calm as there was that night?” The Commissioner: And his answer is: “I only remember it once or twice in about 20 years’ experience - the sea absolutely calm, without a swell.” Sir Robert Finlay: Yes, “as it was recorded to have been.” The Commissioner: I suppose if you talk about the sea being absolutely calm it does mean an absolutely flat sea? Sir Robert Finlay: That explains what he means when he talked about a flat calm in the previous answer. It demonstrates that Sir Ernest Shackleton, when he talks of a flat calm there, meant not even a swell. The Commissioner: He speaks in the very next question about the swell. Sir Robert Finlay: Yes. (Q.) And if I followed correctly what you said earlier, it would make it more difficult to pick up an iceberg with the eyes? - (A.) Decidedly. (Q.) If you had this calm sea? - (A.) Yes, decidedly so. (Q.) Although it was a clear night? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) There would be no indication of the water breaking around it? - (A.) No, there would be none in a condition like that. It takes very little sea and very little swell, with the Northern bergs, which are submerged about seven times to one above, for what we call a splash to get up and give you an indication.” Now, my Lord, I submit that is enough to show the great rarity of this phenomenon, the absence of swell. The absence of swell is proved to have existed. The presence of the black berg is proved to have existed, and it is proved that that is a most unusual phenomenon; and the combination of the two, of course, was extraordinary. There was a fatality about this which might not occur in 100 years or more. The Commissioner: There is the other phenomenon: assuming that there was a good look-out, as I am disposed to think there was, there is undoubtedly the fact that this berg was not seen until
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