Page 94 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 32 - 36
P. 94
or may not have been the steamer which the Fourth Officer of the “Titanic” said he saw approaching not answering his Morse signals, and afterwards steaming away. It is significant that the same witnesses who described the firing of these rockets say that as soon as the vessel which they saw began to fire rockets she at the same time began to steam away to the South-West and steamed away until gradually her lights were lost sight of in the distance. That is the evidence, and the reports made at the time by the Second Officer and by Gibson. If that is true the vessel that was firing these rockets cannot have been the “Titanic,” because the “Titanic” at this time was lying stopped, and the fact that they saw this vessel steaming away at the same time as they saw the rockets no doubt was the factor which led them to suppose that the vessel that they saw was not herself in distress, but was going off in answer to some other vessel which was away to the Southward of her. Now, my Lord, I want to deal, if I may quite shortly, with the case on the assumption that the vessel which was seen, and whose rockets were seen was the “Titanic.” I am going to ask your Lordship to judge of Captain Lord’s conduct by the circumstances as they were present to his mind at the time these events happened. Captain Lord was a young Captain, some 35 years of age, who had worked himself up in the Leyland Line by his care as a navigator. For some six years he had been in command of Leyland Line steamers, and he had shortly before been promoted to command the “Californian,” a fairly large passenger steamer of over 6000 tons. As a Captain, his first care and duty was the safety of his own vessel. On the 14th of April he was on duty all day. He had never been in ice before or in the neighbourhood of icebergs. Icebergs had been reported to him by East-bound steamers. He was keeping a sharp look-out for ice, and he passed various icebergs that day, as are recorded in the log. After darkness set in he ran into thick field ice, which obliged him to stop his ship at 10.21. While taking every precaution for the safety of his own vessel and her crew, he was not unmindful of the safety of other vessels. He was in no way callous up to that time, because by means of his wireless apparatus he communicated to vessels in the neighbourhood the position of the icebergs that he had passed earlier in the evening, and when he stopped in the ice he communicated the fact to the “Titanic,” which he knew was somewhere in the neighbourhood, showing that he had regard for the safety of other vessels besides his own. Between 10.21 and 12.15 he saw that the field ice extended in all directions. He said it extended as far as the eye could reach. It was thick ice; it was ice that was crunching and grinding against the ship’s sides with such a noise that the donkeyman, Gill, was unable to sleep. He was, therefore, in a position in which it was obviously dangerous to move his ship or his rudder or propeller, a danger which he would not have been justified in running especially in the dark except in the case of clear and unmistakable necessity. At 11 o’clock he sees this mysterious steamer which, rightly or wrongly, he judged at the time and said at the time was a cargo boat and not a passenger boat. He watched her approach. At 11.30 he saw her stop owing to the field ice, as he thought, and the fact that she did stop just as he had stopped would no doubt confirm the wisdom of his resolution not to move his engines till daylight. At 12.10, according to the evidence, the Third Officer was relieved by the Second Officer. The Third Officer goes to bed. So does the Marconi operator; neither of those two are suspicious at all that anything was taking place. At 12.15 the Master goes to his chart room with his clothes and boots on, to lie down after he had been 17 hours on duty. He gives orders to be called at daybreak, because he had decided not to get underway before daybreak; and he told the Second Officer to tell him if the mysterious steamer either came nearer or moved away. If it came nearer he might have to shift his position. If she steamed away, and it was safe for her to do so, that might affect his decision not to proceed on his voyage till daylight; therefore, he gives this direction to be informed as to the steamer’s movements, not that he has any idea that the vessel is in danger, but because her movements may affect his. At about 1 o’clock in the morning the Second Officer, speaking through the speaking tube,
   89   90   91   92   93   94   95   96   97   98   99