Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters

Part 6 out of 6

second cabin passenger lists were sent, when the wireless

Senator Smith said some complaint had been heard that
the Carpathia had not answered President Taft's inquiry for
Major Butt. Captain Rostron declared a reply was sent,
"Not on board."

Captain Rostron declared he issued orders for no messages
to be sent except upon orders from him, and for official business
to go first, then private messages from the Titanic survivors
in order of filing.

Absolutely no censorship was exercised, he said. The wire-
less continued working all the way in, the Marconi operator
being constantly at the key.

Guglielmo Marconi, the wireless inventor, was the next

Marconi said he was chairman of the British Marconi Company.
Under instructions of the company, he said, operators
must take their orders from the captain of the ship on which
they are employed.

"Do the regulations prescribe whether one or two operators
should be aboard the ocean vessels?"

"Yes, on ships like the late Titanic and Olympic two are
carried," said Marconi. "The Carpathia, a smaller boat,
carries one. The Carpathia's wireless apparatus is a short-
distance equipment."


"Do you consider that the Titanic was equipped with the
latest improved wireless apparatus?"

"Yes; I should say that it had the very best."

"Did you hear the captain of the Carpathia say, in his testimony,
that they caught this distress message from the Titanic
almost providentally?" asked Senator Smith.

"Yes, I did. It was absolutely providential."

"Is there any signal for the operator if he is not at his post?'{'}

"I think there is none," said Marconi.

"Ought it not be incumbent upon ships to have an operator
always at the key?"

"Yes; but ship-owners don't like to carry two operators
when they can get along with one. The smaller boat owners
do not like the expense of two operators."


Charles Herbert Lightoller, second officer of the Titanic,
followed Marconi on the stand. Mr. Lightoller said he
understood the maximum speed of the Titanic, as shown by
its trial tests, to have been twenty-two and a half to twenty-
three knots. Senator Smith asked if the rule requiring life-
saving apparatus to be in each room for each passenger was
complied with.

"Everything was complete," said Lightoller. "Sixteen
life-boats, of which four were collapsible, were on the Titanic,"
he added. During the tests, he said, Captain Clark, of
the British Board of Trade, was aboard the Titanic to inspect
its life-saving equipment.

"How thorough are these captains of the Board of Trade
in inspecting ships?" asked Senator Smith.

"Captain Clark is so thorough that we called him a nuisance."


After testifying to the circumstances under which the life-
boats were filled and lowered, Lightoller continued. "The
boat's deck was only ten feet from the water when I lowered
the sixth boat. When we lowered the first, the distance to
the water was seventy feet."

"If the same course was pursued on the starboard side as
you pursued on the port, in filling boats, how do you account
for so many members of the crew being saved?" asked Chairman

"I have inquired especially and have found that for every
six persons picked up, five were either firemen or stewards."


Thomas Cottam, of Liverpool, the Marconi operator on
the Carpathia, was the next witness.

Cottam said that he was about ready to retire Sunday night,
having partially removed his clothes, and was waiting for a
reply to a message to the Parisian when he heard Cape Cod
trying to call the Titanic. Cottam called the Titanic operator
to inform him of the fact, and received the reply. `Come
at once; this is a distress message. C. Q. D.' "

"What did you do then?"

"I confirmed the distress message by asking the Titanic
if I should report the distress message to the captain of the

"How much time elapsed after you received the Titanic's
distress message before you reported it to Captain Rostron?"

"About a couple of minutes," Cottam answered.


When the committee resumed the investigation on April
20th, Cottam was recalled to the stand.

Senator Smith asked the witness if he had received any
messages from the time the Carpathia left the scene of the
disaster until it reached New York. The purpose of this
question was to discover whether any official had sought to
keep back the news of the disaster.

"No, sir," answered Cottam. "I reported the entire
matter myself to the steamship Baltic at 10.30 o'clock Monday
morning. I told her we had been to the wreck and had picked
up as many of the passengers as we could."

Cottam denied that he had sent any message that all
passengers had been saved, or anything on which such a
report could be based.

Cottam said he was at work Monday and until Wednesday.
He repeated his testimony of the previous day and said he
had been without sleep throughout Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
and until late Wednesday afternoon when he had been
relieved by Bride.

"Did you or Bride send any message declaring that the
Titanic was being towed into Halifax?"

"No, sir," said the witness, with emphasis.


In an effort to determine whether the signal "C. Q. D."
might not have been misunderstood by passing ships, Senator
Smith called upon Mr. Marconi.

"The `C. Q.,' " said Marconi, "is an international signal
which meant that all stations should cease sending except
the one using the call. The `D.' was added to indicate danger.
The call, however, now has been superseded by the universal
call, `S. O. S.' "


Harold S. Bride, the sole surviving operator of the Titanic,
was then called.

Bride said he knew the Frankfurt was nearer than the
Carpathia when he called for assistance, but that he ceased
his efforts to communicate with the former because her operator
persisted in asking, "What is the matter?" despite Bride's
message that the ship was in distress.

Time after time Senator Smith asked in varying forms why
the Titanic did not explain its condition to the Frankfurt.

"Any operator receiving `C. Q. D.' and the position of the
ship, if he is on the job," said Bride, "would tell the captain at

Marconi again testified to the distress signals, and said
that the Frankfurt was equipped with Marconi wireless.
He said that the receipt of the signal "C. Q. D." by the
Frankfurt's operator should have been all-sufficient to send
the Frankfurt to the immediate rescue.


Under questioning by Senator Smith, Bride said that
undoubtedly the Frankfurt received all of the urgent appeals
for help sent subsequently to the Carpathia.


The first witness when the investigation was resumed in
Washington on April 22d was P. A. S. Franklin, vice-president
of the International Mercantile Marine Company.

Franklin testified that he had had no communication
with Captain Smith during the Titanic's voyage, nor with
Ismay, except one cable from Southampton.

Senator Smith then showed Mr. Franklin the telegram
received by Congressman Hughes, of West Virginia, from
the White Star Line, dated New York, April 15th, and addressed
to J. A. Hughes, Huntington, W. Va., as follows:

"Titanic proceeding to Halifax. Passengers probably
land on Wednesday. All safe.


"I ask you," continued the senator, "whether you know
about the sending of that telegram, by whom it was authorized
and from whom it was sent?"

"I do not, sir," said Franklin. "Since it was mentioned
at the Waldorf Saturday we have had the entire passenger
staff examined and we cannot find out."

Asked when he first knew that the Titanic had sunk,
Franklin said he first knew it about 6.27 P.M., Monday.

Mr. Franklin then produced a thick package of telegrams
which he had received in relation to the disaster.

"About twenty minutes of two on Monday morning,"
said he, "I was awakened by a telephone bell, and was called
by a reporter for some paper who informed me that the
Titanic had met with an accident and was sinking. I asked
him where he got the information. He told me that it had
come by wireless from the steamship Virginian, which had
been appealed to by the Titanic for aid."

Mr. Franklin said he called up the White Star docks,
but they had no information, and he then appealed to the
Associated Press, and there was read to him a dispatch from
Cape Race advising him of the accident.

"I asked the Associated Press," said Mr. Franklin, "not
to send out the dispatch until we had more detailed information,
in order to avoid causing unnecessary alarm. I was
told, however, that the story already had been sent."

The reassuring statements sent out by the line in the early
hours of the disaster next were made the subject of inquiry.

"Tell the committee on what you based those statements,"
directed Senator Smith.

"We based them on reports and rumors received at Cape
Race by individuals and by the newspapers. They were
rumors, and we could not place our finger on anything


"At 6.20 or 6.30 Monday evening," Mr. Franklin continued,
"a message was received telling the fateful news
that the Carpathia reached the Titanic and found nothing
but boats and wreckage; that the Titanic had foundered at
2.20 A.M. in 41.16 north, 50.14 west; that the Carpathia
picked up all the boats and had on board about 675 Titanic
survivors--passengers and crew.

"It was such a terrible shock that it took me several
moments to think what to do. Then I went downstairs to
the reporters, I began to read the message, holding it high
in my hand. I had read only to the second line, which said
that the Titanic had sunk, when there was not a reporter
left--they were so anxious to get to the telephones.


"The Titanic's equipment was in excess of the law," said
the witness. "It carried its clearance in the shape of a
certificate from the British Board of Trade. I might say that
no vessel can leave a British port without a certificate that
it is equipped to care for human lives aboard in case of
accident. It is the law."

"Do you know of anyone, any officer or man or any official,
whom you deem could be held responsible for the accident
and its attendant loss of life?"

"Positively not. No one thought such an accident could
happen. It was undreamed of. I think it would be absurd
to try to hold some individual responsible. Every precaution
was taken; that the precautions were of no avail is a
source of the deepest sorrow. But the accident was unavoidable."


J. B. Boxhall, the fourth officer, was then questioned.

"Were there any drills or any inspection before the Titanic
sailed?" he was asked.

"Both," said the witness. "The men were mustered and
the life-boats lowered in the presence of the inspectors from
the Board of Trade."

"How many boats were lowered?"

"Just two, sir."

"One on each side of the ship?"

"No, sir. They were both on the same side. We were
lying in dock."

The witness said he did not know whether the lowering
tackle ran free or not on that occasion.

"In lowering the life-boats at the test, did the gear work

"So far as I know."

In lowering a life-boat, he said, first the boat has to be
cleared, chocks knocked down and the boat hangs free.
Then the davits are screwed out to the ship's side and the
boat lowered.

At the time of the tests all officers of the Titanic were

Boxhall said that under the weather conditions experienced
at the time of the collision the life-boats were supposed
to carry sixty-five persons. Under the regulations of the
British Board of Trade, in addition to the oars, there were
in the boats water breakers, water dippers, bread, bailers,
mast and sail and lights and a supply of oil. All of these
supplies, said Boxhall, were in the boats when the Titanic
left Belfast. He could not say whether they were in when
the vessel left Southampton.

"Now," repeated Senator Smith, "suppose the weather
was clear and the sky unruffled, as it was at the time of the
disaster, how many would the boat hold?"

"Really, I don't know. It would depend largely upon the
people who were to enter. If they did as they were told I
believe each boat could accommodate sixty-five persons."

Boxhall testified to the sobriety and good habits of his
superior and brother officers.


Boxhall said he went down to the steerage, inspected all the
decks in the vicinity of where the ship had struck, found no
traces of any damage and went directly to the bridge and so


"The captain ordered me to send a carpenter to sound the
ship, but I found a carpenter coming up with the announcement
that the ship was taking water. In the mail room I
found mail sacks floating about while the clerks were at work.
I went to the bridge and reported, and the captain ordered
the life-boats to be made ready."

Boxhall testified that at Captain Smith's orders he took
word of the ship's position to the wireless operators.

"What position was that?"

"Forty-one forty-six north, fifty fourteen west."

"Was that the last position taken?"

"Yes, the Titanic stood not far from there when she sank."

After that Boxhall went back to the life-boats, where there
were many men and women. He said they had been provided
with life-belts.


(1) Shows normal....}


"After that I was on the bridge most of the time sending
out distress signals, trying to attract the attention of boats
ahead," he said. "I sent up distress rockets until I left the
ship, to try to attract the attention of a ship directly ahead.
I had seen her lights. She seemed to be meeting us and was
not far away. She got close enough, so she seemed to me, to
read our Morse electric signals."

"Suppose you had a powerful search light on the Titanic,
could you not have thrown a beam on the vessel and have
compelled her attention?"

"We might."

H. J. Pitman, the third officer of the ship, was the first
witness on April 23d. By a series of searching questions
Senator Fletcher brought out the fact that when the collision
occurred the Titanic was going at the greatest speed attained
during the trip, even though the ship was entering the Grand
Banks and had been advised of the presence of ice.

Frederick Fleet, a sailor and lookout man on the Titanic,
followed Pitman on the stand. Fleet said he had had five or
six years' experience at sea and was lookout on the Oceanic
prior to going on the Titanic. He was in the crow's nest
at the time of the collision.

Fleet stated that he had kept a sharp lookout for ice, and
testified to seeing the iceberg and signaling the bridge.

Fleet acknowledged that if he had been aided in his
observations by a good glass he probably could have spied
the berg into which the ship crashed in time to have warned
the bridge to avoid it. Major Arthur Peuchen, of Toronto,
a passenger who followed Fleet on the stand, also testified
to the much greater sweep of vision afforded by binoculars
and, as a yachtsman, said he believed the presence of the iceberg
might have been detected in time to escape the collision
had the lookout men been so equipped.


It was made to appear that the blame for being without
glasses did not rest with the lookout men. Fleet said they
had asked for them at Southampton and were told there were
none for them. One glass, in a pinch, would have served in
the crow's nest.

The testimony before the committee on April 24th showed
that the big steamship was on the verge of a field of ice twenty
or thirty miles long, if she had not actually entered it, when
the accident occurred.

The committee tried to discover whether it would add to
human safety if the ships were fitted with search lights so that
at night objects could be seen at a greater distance. The
testimony so far along this line had been conflicting. Some
of the witnesses thought it would be no harm to try it, but
they were all skeptical as to its value, as an iceberg would
not be especially distinguishable because its bulk is mostly
below the surface.

One of the witnesses said that much dependence is not
placed upon the lookout, and that those lookouts who used
binoculars constantly found them detrimental.

Harold G. Lowe, fifth officer of the Titanic, told the
committee his part in the struggle of the survivors for life
following the catastrophe. The details of this struggle have
have already been told in a previous chapter.


In great detail Guglielmo Marconi, on April 25th,
explained the operations of his system and told how he had
authorized Operator Bride of the Titanic, and Operator
Cottam, of the Carpathia, to sell their stories of the disaster
after they came ashore.

In allowing the operator's to sell their stories, said Mr.
Marconi, there was no question of suppressing or monopolizing
the news. He had done everything he could, he said,
to have the country informed as quickly as possible of the
details of the disaster. That was why he was particularly
glad for the narratives of such important witnesses as the
operators to receive publication, regardless of the papers that
published them.

He repeated the testimony of Cottam that every effort
had been made to get legitimate dispatches ashore. The
cruiser Chester, he said, had been answered as fully as
possible, though it was not known at the time that its queries
came from the President of the United States. The Salem,
he said, had never got in touch with the Carpathia operator.

Senator Newlands suggested that the telegrams, some
signed by the name of Mr. Sammis and some with the name
of Marconi, directing Cottam to "keep his mouth shut"
and hold out for four figures on his story, was sent only as
the Carpathia was entering New York harbor, when there
was no longer need for sending official or private messages
from the rescuing ship. There had been an impression before,
he said, that the messages had been sent to Cottam when
the ship was far at sea, when they might have meant that
he was to hold back messages relieving the anxiety of those
on shore.


Ernest Gill, a donkey engineman on the steamship Californian,
was the first witness on April 26th. He said that Captain
Stanley Lord, of the Californian, refused later to go to the aid
of the Titanic, the rockets from which could be plainly seen.
He says the captain was apprised of these signals, but made no
effort to get up steam and go to the rescue. The Californian
was drifting with the floe. So indignant did he become, said
Gill, that he endeavored to recruit a committee of protest
from among the crew, but the men failed him.

Captain Lord entered a sweeping denial of Gill's accusations
and read from the Californian's log to support his contention.
Cyril Evans, the Californian's wireless operator,
however, told of hearing much talk among the crew, who
were critical of the captain's course. Gill, he said, told him
he expected to get $500 for his story when the ship reached

Evans told of having warned the Titanic only a brief time
before the great vessel crashed into the berg that the sea was
crowded with ice. The Titanic's operators, he said, at the
time were working with the wireless station at Cape Race,
and they told him to "shut up" and keep out. Within a
half hour the pride of the sea was crumpled and sinking.

Members of the committee who examined individually
the British sailors and stewards of the Titanic's crew prepared
a report of their investigations for the full committee. This
testimony was ordered to be incorporated in the record of the

Most of this testimony was but a repetition of experiences
similar to the many already related by those who got away
in the life-boats.

On April 27th Captain James H. Moore, of the steamship
Mount Temple, who hurried to the Titanic in response to
wireless calls for help, told of the great stretch of field ice
which held him off. Within his view from the bridge he
discerned, he said, a strange steamship, probably a "tramp,"
and a schooner which was making her way out of the ice.
The lights of this schooner, he thought, probably were those
seen by the anxious survivors of the Titanic and which they
were frantically trying to reach.


Steward Crawford also related a thrilling story in regard
to loading the life-boats with women first. He told of several
instances that came under his observation of women throwing
their arms around their husbands and crying out that they
would not leave the ship without them. The pathetic recital
caused several women at the hearing to weep, and all within
earshot of the steward's story were thrilled.


Stories that Mr. Andrews, the designer of the ship, had
tried to disguise the extent of danger were absolutely denied
by Henry Samuel Etches, his bedroom steward, who told
the committee how Mr. Andrews urged women back to their
cabins to dress more warmly and to put on life-belts.

The steward, whose duty it was to serve Major Butt and
his party, told how he did not see the Major at dinner the
evening of the disaster as he was dining with a private party
in the restaurant. William Burke, a first class steward, told
of serving dinner at 7.15 o'clock to Mr. and Mrs. Straus,
and later Mrs. Straus' refusal to leave her husband was
again told to the committee. A bedroom steward told of a
quiet conversation with Benjamin Guggenheim, Senator
Guggenheim's brother, after the accident and shortly before
the Titanic settled in the plunge that was to be his death.

On April 29th Marconi produced copies of several messages
which passed between the Marconi office and the
Carpathia in an effort to get definite information of the
wreck and the survivors.

Marconi and F. M. Sammis, chief engineer of the American
Marconi Company, both acknowledged that a mistake
had been made in sending messages to Bride and Cottam on
board the Carpathia not to give out any news until they had
seen Marconi and Sammis.

The senatorial committee investigating the Titanic disaster
has served several good purposes. It has officially established
the fact that all nations are censurable for insufficient, antiquated
safety regulations on ocean vessels, and it has emphasized
the imperative necessity for united action among
all maritime countries to revise these laws and adapt them to
changed conditions.

The committee reported its findings as follows:


No particular person is named as being responsible, though attention
is called to the fact that on the day of the disaster three distinct warnings
of ice were sent to Captain Smith. J. Bruce Ismay, managing director
of the White Star Line, is not held responsible for the ship's high speed.
In fact, he is barely mentioned in the report.

Ice positions, so definitely reported to the Titanic just preceding the
accident, located ice on both sides of the lane in which she was traveling.
No discussion took place among the officers, no conference was called to
consider these warnings, no heed was given to them. The speed was not
relaxed, the lookout was not increased.

The supposedly water-tight compartments of the Titanic were not water-
tight, because of the non-water-tight condition of the decks where the
transverse bulkheads ended.

The steamship Californian, controlled by the same concern as the Titanic,
was nearer the sinking steamship than the nineteen miles reported by her
captain, and her officers and crew saw the distress signals of the Titanic
and failed to respond to them in accordance with the dictates of humanity,
international usage and the requirements of law. Had assistance been
promptly proffered the Californian might have had the proud distinction
of rescuing the lives of the passengers and crew of the Titanic.

The mysterious lights on an unknown ship, seen by the passengers on
the Titanic, undoubtedly were on the Californian, less than nineteen miles

Eight ships, all equipped with wireless, were in the vicinity of the Titanic,
the Olympic farthest away--512 miles.

The full capacity of the Titanic's life-boats was not utilized, because, while
only 705 persons were saved, the ship's boats could have carried 1176.

No general alarm was sounded, no whistle blown and no systematic
warning was given to the endangered passengers, and it was fifteen or
twenty minutes after the collision before Captain Smith ordered the
Titanic's wireless operator to send out a distress message.

The Titanic's crew were only meagerly acquainted with their positions
and duties in an accident and only one drill was held before the maiden
trip. Many of the crew joined the ship only a few hours before she sailed
and were in ignorance of their positions until the following Friday.

Many more lives could have been saved had the survivors been concentrated
in a few life-boats, and had the boats thus released returned to the
wreck for others.

The first official information of the disaster was the message from
Captain Haddock, of the Olympic, received by the White Star Line at
6.16 P. M., Monday, April 15. In the face of this information a message
reporting the Titanic being towed to Halifax was sent to Representative
J. A. Hughes, at Huntington, W. Va., at 7.51 P. M. that day. The
message was delivered to the Western Union office in the same building as
the White Star Line offices.

"Whoever sent this message," says the report, "under the circumstances,
is guilty of the most reprehensible conduct."

The wireless operator on the Carpathia was not duly vigilant in handling
his messages after the accident.

The practice of allowing wireless operators to sell their stories should
be stopped.


It is recommended that all ships carrying more than 100 passengers
shall have two searchlights.

That a revision be made of steamship inspection laws of foreign countries
to conform to the standard proposed in the United States.

That every ship be required to carry sufficient life-boats for all passengers
and crew.

That the use of wireless be regulated to prevent interference by amateurs,
and that all ships have a wireless operator on constant duty.

Detailed recommendations are made as to water-tight bulkhead construction
on ocean-going ships. Bulkheads should be so spaced that any
two adjacent compartments of a ship might be flooded without sinking.

Transverse bulkheads forward and abaft the machinery should be
continued watertight to the uppermost continuous structural deck, and
this deck should be fitted water-tight.


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