Page 93 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 32 - 36
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“Titanic’s” rockets. Mr. Dunlop: Yes, and I submit not. The fact that we saw eight and saw white rockets does not show they were the “Titanic’s” rockets because that happens to be the number which her witnesses say they sent up, or the colour which they sent up, because if they were answering rockets as is the theory of the witnesses from the “Californian,” you would expect to find precisely the same coincidence; or you might find the same coincidence. For every rocket on the “Californian” sent up there was one sent up in reply from the intermediate steamer. The Commissioner: But you do not signal at night by means of rockets in the same way that you would signal in the daytime by means of flags, do you? Mr. Dunlop: Oh, no. The Commissioner: I mean you do not carry on conversations by means of rockets. Mr. Dunlop: No, but if rockets are sent from a vessel herself in distress and the steamer seeing them wishes to acknowledge them, if she has not got the means of acknowledging them in any other way she will or may very likely fire rockets. At any rate that is the theory of the witnesses from the “Californian.” That is the view they formed at the time. It may be now that we know what, in fact, was happening that their theory was wrong, but we are now dealing with the conduct of the men at the time, and we must judge that conduct, I submit, by the views that they formed at the time. Their theory is, I submit, quite consistent with the colour of the rockets and the number of the rockets, if, as they say, these were rockets fired in answer to rockets from a vessel herself in distress. It may be the vessel which the “Californian” saw firing these rockets, being between the “Californian” and the “Titanic,” was herself seeing the rockets from the “Titanic” and taking that means of acknowledging that she had seen them. The Attorney-General: When I was putting some questions to Gill, the donkeyman, dissented from the suggestions which I have made that nobody who saw the rockets attached any importance to them at the time or thought they were signals calling on the “Californian” to render immediate or any assistance. The Commissioner: That is not in accordance with the conversation that took place - “A ship does not fire up rockets for nothing.” There was a conversation between the two men to that effect. The one says to the other, “A ship is not sending up rockets for nothing.” Mr. Dunlop: Those men have their conversation. Both said to each other, and said when they came here, that they were not signals from a vessel in distress. True, they made that observation that they were not sending them up for fun, and I do not suggest that she was. On their theory, it was far from fun she was indulging in, but this vessel was sending up rockets in answer, as they thought, to some other vessel which may have been in distress. So satisfied were Stone, the Second Officer, and Gibson, the Apprentice, that the vessel whose rockets they were seeing was not in distress that although after five minutes past two they saw two or three more rockets, according to their evidence, they thought there was no need to tell the Master, much less to call him. I submit that is very significant that they should have seen two or three more, knowing that the Master was remaining below, and should not have reported these additional rockets to him. That only shows that what they were seeing did not at the time convey to their minds that the rockets were rockets from a vessel in distress. That appears at Questions 7588 and 7601. It is easy for critics who were not there, speaking with the knowledge that comes after the event, to say that these men ought to have attached importance to them at the time. It is very easy to say that, but one must remember that these men were watching the steamer herself. They saw what her movements were, and what she was doing, and the rockets, taken in conjunction with what they saw led them to think that the steamer which they saw was not in distress. And the opinion of men on the spot is generally more reliable and more accurate than the opinion of persons who were not. The steamer they saw disappearing in the distance as she steamed away to the South-West may
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