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Posts Tagged ‘Captain Rostron’

Upon hearing of the Titanic’s sinking, Senator William Alden Smith called for an immediate investigation. The senate agreed to Smith heading a subcommittee to hear testimony.

One of the first aspects to catch Senator Smith’s attention was correspondence by Bruce Ismay to hold White Star’s RMS Cedric over so he and the crew could immediately return to England. One of these messages was: “Most desirable Titanic crew aboard Carpathia should be returned home earliest moment possible. Suggest you hold Cedric, sailing daylight Friday unless you see any reason contrary. Propose returning in her myself. Please send outfit of clothes, including shoes, for me to Cedric. Have nothing of my own. Please Reply. Yamsi” {Ismay backwards}

Senator Smith left Washington, DC and arrived in New York City as Carpathia was docking. He immediately spoke with Bruce Ismay, who was willing to cooperate.

The hearings began at 10:30am on April 19th at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel {owned by John Jacob Astor}. Bruce Ismay was the first witness called. A week into the hearing the proceedings were moved to the new caucus room of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. They were the first hearings to be held in that room.


Included is a small sampling of Frederick Fleet’s Testimony:
Senator Smith: Did you make any request for glasses on the Titanic?
Fleet: We asked (for) them in Southampton (England), and they said there was none for us. . . .
Smith: You had a pair of glasses from Belfast to Southampton?
Fleet: Yes, sir, but none from Southampton to New York. . . .
Smith: Suppose you had glasses such as you had between Belfast and Southampton, could you have seen this black object (the iceberg) at a greater distance?
Fleet: We could have seen it a bit sooner.
Smith: How much sooner?
Fleet: Well, enough to get out of the way.

Testimony lasted for over seventeen days, ending on May 25th, with eighty-two witnesses called and over eleven hundred pages of testimony taken.

Issues covered included but were not limited to:

–confusion of crew
–weight capacity of lifeboats
–lifeboats not filed to capacity
–no boat drills for passengers
–why there were not enough lifeboats on board {due to outdated British Board of Trade Regulations}
–ice warnings not heeded
–ice warnings not properly posted
–Titanic trying to set a record
–Captain Smith was blamed for traveling too fast and not slowing down in ice
–failure of nearby ships to respond to the distress signals
–treatment of passengers in the different classes
–efforts to identify the mystery ship believed to be seen

Final testimony ended when Senator Smith visited Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic, to interview it’s crew. The Olympic was now in Port in New York.

The final report was published on May 28th. Senator Smith and the American Senate Investigation was criticized in Britain for their lack of knowledge concerning shipping and sometimes foolish questions.

Here is a portion of the testimony of Second Officer Lightoller, as he was questioned by Thomas Scanlan:
Scanlan: “Although there were abnormal difficulties you took no extra precautions whatever.”
Lightoller: “Have I said so?”
Scanlan: “In view of the abnormal conditions and of the fact that you were nearing ice at ten o’clock, was there not a very obvious reason for going slower?”
Lightoller: “Well, I can only quote you my experience throughout the last twenty-four years, that I have been crossing the Atlantic most of the time, that I have never seen the speed reduced.”
Scanlan: “Is it not quite clear that the most obvious way to avoid it is by slackening speed?”
Lightoller: “Not necessarily the most obvious.”
Scanlan: “Well, is it one way?”
Lightoller: “It is one way. – Naturally, if you stop the ship you will not collide with anything.”
Scanlan: “What I want to suggest to you is that it was recklessness, utter recklessness, in view of the conditions which you have described as abnormal, and in view of the knowledge you had from various sources that ice was in your immediate vicinity, to proceed at 21 ½ knots?”
Lightoller: “Then all I can say is that recklessness applies to practically every commander and every ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean.”
Scanlan: “I am not disputing that with you, but can you describe it yourself as other than recklessness?”
Lightoller: “Yes”
Scanlan: “Is it careful navigation in your view?”
Lightoller: “It is ordinary navigation which embodies careful navigation.”

Immediately upon the end of the American Senate Investigation, Bruce Ismay and the Titanic crew returned to England. There they appeared before the British Inquiry, conducted by the British Board of Trade. Due to their own outdated laws, there were few repercussions. Lord Mersey presided over the hearings with several experts. The hearings were opened in the Wreck Commissioner’s Court, Royal Scottish Drill Hall, Buckingham Gate, Westminster, on 2nd May, 1912. Ninety-eight witnesses were questioned during May and June. The final report was published towards the end of July. The employees of the White Star Line have been noted as trying to avert any testimony that would damage the shipping line and Captain Smith. The British Inquiry cleared Captain Smith and the White Star Line of any negligence in the loss of the Titanic. There are over eight thousand pages of documents on the Titanic with the British Board of Trade. One very important piece is “Correspondence dealing with the original plans of the Titanic, showing the ship was originally to be fitted with 32 boats. This would have given capacity for over 2,000 people, significantly greater than the 1,178 that were ultimately provided for.”

Both inquiries placed little blame on anyone. Senator Smith did blame Captain Smith for not slowing down in those ice conditions. The British inquiry stated that “maintaining speed and course in such conditions was common practice.”

Both inquiries blamed Captain Stanley Lord of the Californian. Stating “could have rescued all aboard the Titanic if he had taken immediate action to steam towards the liner firing the distress rockets.”

Both investigations presented recommendations for safer travel. Including:
–regular lifeboat drills
–twenty-four hour radio watch on every liner
–all ships accommodate lifeboats for everyone on board
–ship construction should feature watertight decks
— transverse and longitudinal watertight bulkheads as well as high double bottoms
–speed should be reduced in fog, ice or other zones of possible danger

After the inquiries many first class male passengers came under scrutiny for surviving, especially J. Bruce Ismay and Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon.

The Titanic disaster also led to the following changes:

1914 establishment of International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea

International Ice Patrol established

The Titanic disaster marked the end of the Edwardian Era. The general feeling of confidence ended, including faith in technology. The rich began to question the meaning of their wealth and the chivalry seen the night of the sinking has not been seen since. Nobody believed in an unsinkable ship after the Titanic disaster.

Note: James Cameron used the Senate Records when writing his script for the hit movie, Titanic. Mr. Cameron has written. “Those scenes in my film are scripted and staged precisely as the event was described by witnesses.”

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Before Carpathia even arrived in New York, The White Star Line made efforts to recover the dead from the Titanic disaster. Four ships, including the Mackay-Bennett, were chartered to retrieve the bodies left in the disaster area.

John Snow and Company Ltd, Halifax’s largest funeral directors, were hired to assist with funeral arrangements.

The MacKay-Bennett left Halifax on Wednesday, April 17 for the disaster area. Many vessels reported seeing bodies or wreckage in the Atlantic waters. The crew arrived in the area on Saturday, April 20.

These ships searched for the disaster site for six weeks. The MacKay-Bennett gathered so many bodies they were overwhelmed and quickly ran out of supplies to embalm the corpse. For this reason many third class passengers and crew members were returned to the sea. First class passengers were given priority to be preserved in packed ice and embalmed and placed in a casket. Captain Larnder justified this by saying these first class passengers were wealthy men with large estates to be settled.

Some of the bodies were so badly disconfigured that identification would be impossible. They were wrapped in a cloth and weighted down to be recommitted to the sea. Rev. K. C. Hind conducted a service for the bodies before they were returned to the sea. Each body that was preserved was given a number and the possessions on their body were bagged with the same number.

The Minia, Montmagny and Algerine assisted the MacKay-Bennett in recovering the bodies. The last body recovered was saloon steward, James McGrady. A month later the RMS Oceanic came across Collapsible lifeboat A while on a transatlantic voyage. This lifeboat had three bodies inside.

These vessels retrieved three hundred and twenty eight bodies. One hundred and nineteen of these bodies were buried at sea.

John Jacob Astor IV, the richest man aboard Titanic, was found. His remains were released to his son, Vincent.

The remaining two hundred and nine bodies were brought to the Canadian port of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Most of the victims of the Titanic disaster were never recovered, including Captain Edward J. Smith.

Fifty-nine bodies were returned to their families for burial.

One hundred and fifty bodies were not identified and returned to Halifax for burial. The city’s Mayflower Curling Rink was turned into a temporary morgue. Three different cities in Halifax were prepared to bury the victims. The burials began on May 3rd with many Halifax families turning out to pay their respects.

One hundred and twenty-one bodies were buried at Fairview Lawn Cemetery. Nineteen were buried in the Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery and ten in the Baron de Hirsch Jewish Cemetery. Headstones were erected by the White Star Line that fall with the victim’s body number {in hopes of identification} and date of death. Some families or groups did commission more elaborate gravestones. Memorials have been erected to Captain Smith, the Titanic musicians and the Titanic engineers.

Fairview Lawn Cemetery also holds the dead from the Great Halifax Disaster of 1917.

Years later when the Titanic wreckage was found pairs of shoes were found lying with the debris on the seabed.

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