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American Inquiry and Investigation into the Loss of the Titanic - 1912

Report No. 806 by Mr. Smith of Michigan , from the Committee on Commerce. May 28, 1912

Ownership of Steamship “Titanic”

We find that the Titanic was a White Star steamer and was owned by the Oceanic Steam Navigation Co., of England, all the stock of which company is in turn owned by the International Navigation Co. (Ltd.), of England, and the stock of that company, in turn, is owned by the International Mercantile Marine Co., an American corporation, organized under the laws of New Jersey.

Mr. J. Bruce Ismay, of Liverpool, England, is president of the International Mercantile Marine Co., and Mr. P. A. S. Franklin, of New York City, is vice president of that company in the United States.

Questioned by Senator Smith: Mr. Joseph Bruce Ismay Giving Evidence at the American Inquiry into the Titanic Disaster

Questioned by Senator Smith: Mr. Joseph Bruce Ismay Giving Evidence at the American Inquiry into the “Titanic” Disaster. The Illustrated London News (18 May 1912) p. 729. GGA Image ID # 1032087e3c

Mr. Joseph Bruce Ismay, a survivor of the “Titanic” disaster, Managing-Director of the White Star Line and President of the International Mercantile Marine Company, was the chief witness at the Senatorial Inquiry. The hearings under Senator Smith, of Michigan, began in the hall-room of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York, immediately after the arrival of the Carpathia with survivors, and was transferred to Washington. It was arranged that the first sitting of the British Commission of Inquiry should be held on Thursday, May 2, at the Scottish Hall, Buckingham Gate. The members of this Commission are Lord Mersey, chairman, appointed a Wreck Commissioner of the United Kingdom on April 26; and the following assessors — Rear-Admiral the Hon. S. A. Gough-Calthorpe, Captain A. W. Clarke, Commander F. C. Lyon, Professor J. H. Biles, and Mr. E. C Chaston. Captain the Hon. C. Bigham is the secretary. In the photograph, Mr. Ismay is seen in the center, with his hand to his mouth.

General Particulars of the Steamship “Titanic”

The Titanic was built by Harland & Wolff, of Belfast, Ireland. No restriction as to limit of cost was placed upon the builders.

She was launched May 31, 1911. She was a vessel of 46,328 tons register; her length was 882.6 feet, and her breadth was 92.6 feet.

Her boat deck and bridge were 70 feet above the water line. She was, according to the testimony of President Ismay, "especially constructed to float with her two largest water-tight compartments full of water."

The vessel, fully equipped, cost £1,500,000 sterling, or about $7,500,000.

At the time of the accident the vessel carried insurance of £1 ,000,000 sterling or about $5,000,000, the remaining risk being carried by the company's insurance fund.

The Titanic was a duplicate of the Olympic, which is owned by the same company, with the single exception of her passenger accommodations, and was built to accommodate 2,599 passengers, with additional accommodations for officers and crew numbering 903

Trial Tests Steamship Titanic”

The committee finds from the evidence that between six and seven hours was spout in making trial tests of this vessel at Belfast Lough on Monday, the 1st day of April last. A few turning circles were made, compasses adjusted, and she steamed a short time under approximately a full head of steam, but the ship was not driven at her full speed.

One general officer of the steamship company was on board during the trial tests, while the builders were represented by, Mr. Thomas Andrews, who had superintended the building of the vessel. Mr. Andrews conducted certain tests at Southampton and represented the builders both at Southampton and on the first voyage.

With a partial crew, the ship sailed from Belfast, immediately after the trial, for Southampton, where she arrived on Wednesday, April 3, about midnight. She made fast with her port side to the wharf, where she remained until April 10, about 12 o'clock noon, when she sailed for Cherbourg, Queenstown, and New York.

Only Two Lifeboats Lowered

Many of the crew did not join the ship until a few hours before sailing, and the only drill while the vessel lay at Southampton or on the voyage consisted in lowering two lifeboats on the starboard side into the water, which boats were again hoisted to the boat deck within a half hour.

No boat list designating the stations of members of the crew was posted until several days after sailing from Southampton, boatmen being left in ignorance of their proper stations until the following Friday morning.

Certificate of British Board of Trade

On Wednesday morning, the day the ship sailed from Southampton, Capt. Clark, a representative of the British Board of Trade, came aboard and, after spending a brief time, issued the necessary certificate to permit sailing.

Boat Davits and Lifeboats on the Steamship "Titanic"

Boat-Deck Plan of the Titanic

Pig. 1—Boat-Deck Plan of the “Titanic," Showing How Lifeboats Were Located, 60 Feet above the Water. There Were 16 Large Boats, to Be 8wung out by the Davits before Lowering, and Two Sea Boats, Already Swung out and Ready for Instant Use in Case of Man Overboard or Other Emergency. It Is Obvious That There Was Room for More Boats on This and Other Decks of the Liner. Popular Mechanics Magazine (June 1912) p. 806-a & 807-a. GGA Image ID # 1082947e52

The Titanic was fitted with 16 sets of double-acting boat davits of modern type, capable of handling 2 or 3 boats per set of davits. The davits were thus capable of handling 48 boats, whereas the ship carried but 16 lifeboat; and 4 collapsible, fulfilling all the requirements of the British Board of Trade.

The Titanic was provided with 14 lifeboats, of capacity for 65 persons each, or 910 persons; 2 emergency sea boats, of capacity for 35 persons each, or 70 persons; 4 collapsible boats, of capacity for 49 persons each, or 196 persons. Total lifeboat capacity: 1,176. There was ample life-belt equipment for all.

The Departure of the Steamship “Titanic”

The ship left Southampton Wednesday, April 10, at 12.15 p. m., with the ship's complement of officers and crew numbering 899 persons.

As the Titanic left the wharf at Southampton the moorings of the New York were carried away by the backwash from the Titanic's starboard propeller, causing a delay of about half an hour.

The Titanic arrived at Cherbourg late the same afternoon. The Titanic left Cherbourg and proceeded to Queenstown, Ireland, arriving there on Thursday about midday, departing for New York immediately after embarking the mails and passengers.

Summary of Passengers and Survivors

Including the crew, the Titanic sailed with 2,223 persons aboard, of whom 1,517 were lost and 706 were saved. It will be noted in this connection that 60 percent of the first-class passengers were saved, 42 percent of the second-class passengers were saved, 25 per cent of the third-class passengers were saved, and 24 percent of the crew
were saved.

A complete and exhaustive list of passengers and crew is presented under a different section.

Weather Conditions during the Voyage

During the entire voyage the weather was clear, with the single exception of 10 minutes of fog, and the sea was calm throughout the voyage, with sunshine the whole of each day and bright starlight every night. No untoward incident marred the trip. Greetings were frequently exchanged with passing vessels by appropriate signals.

Ice Warnings

On the third day out ice warnings were received by the wireless operators on the Titanic, and the testimony is conclusive that at least three of these warnings came direct to the commander of the Titanic on the day of the accident, the first about noon, from the Baltic, of the White Star Line.
It will be noted that this message places icebergs within 5 miles of the track which the Titanic was following, and near the place where the accident occurred.

The second message was received by the Titanic from the Californian, of the Leyland Line, at 5.35 p. m. New York time, Sunday afternoon, reporting ice about 19 miles to the northward of the track which the Titanic was following.

The third message was transmitted from the Amerika via the Titanic and Cape Race to the Hydrographic Office in Washington, D.C., reporting ice about 19 miles to the southward of the course being followed By the Titanic. 

The fourth message was sent to the Titanic at 9.05 p. m. New York time, on Sunday, the 14th of April, approximately an hour before the accident occurred.

The message reads as follows: We are stopped and surrounded by ice.
To this the operator of the Titanic replied : Shut up. I am busy. I am working Cape Race.

While this was the last message sent by the Californian to the Titanic, the evidence shows that the operator of the Californian kept the telephones on his head, and heard the Titanic talking to Cape Race up to within a few minutes of the time of the accident, when he "put the phones down, took off his clothes, and turned in."

The Baltic's operator on that Sunday overheard ice reports going to the Titanic from the Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm, and from the Amerika, while the Carpathia on the same day overheard the Parisian talking about ice with other ships.

Ice Both to Northward and Southward Steamship “Titanic” Track

This enables the committee to say that the ice positions so definitely reported to the Titanic just preceding the accident located ice on both sides of the track or lane which the Titanic was following, and in her immediate vicinity.

No general 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, and the only vigilance displayed by the officer of the watch was by instructions to the lookouts to keep “a sharp lookout for ice."

It should be said, however, that the testimony shows that Capt. Smith remarked to Officer Lightoller, who was the officer doing duty on the bridge until 10 o'clock ship's time, or 8.27 o'clock New York time, "If it was in a slight degree hazy there would be no doubt we should have to go very slowly"  and "If in the slightest degree doubtful, let me know."

The evidence is that it was exceptionally clear. There was no haze, and the ship's speed was not reduced.


The speed of the Titanic was gradually increased after leaving Queenstown. The first day's run was 464 miles, the second day's run was 519 miles, the third day's run was 546 miles. Just prior to the collision the ship was making her maximum speed of the voyage—not less than 21 knots, or 24 ¼ miles per hour.

The Collision

Illustration of the Damage Done to the Titanic Caused by an Iceberg

Illustration of the Damage Done to the Titanic Caused by an Iceberg. ln all probability a massive, projecting, underwater shelf of the iceberg with which she collided tore open several compartments of the Titanic, the rent extending from near the bow to amidships. The energy of the blow, 1,161,000 foot-tons, was equal to that of the combined broadsides of the Delaware and North Dakota. Scientific American (27 April 1912) p. 381b. GGA Image ID # 10a4a3ccf2

At 11.46 p. m. ship's time, or 10.13 p. m. New York time, Sunday evening, April 14, the lookout signaled the bridge and telephoned the officer of the watch, "Iceberg right ahead."

The officer of the watch, Mr. Murdoch, immediately ordered the quartermaster at the wheel to put the helm "hard astarboard," and reversed the engines; but while the sixth officer standing behind the quartermaster at the wheel reported to officer Murdoch "The helm is hard astarboard," the Titanic struck the ice.

The impact, while not violent enough to disturb the passengers or crew, or to arrest the ship’s progress rolled the vessel slightly and tore the steel plating above the turn of the bilge.

First Damage Reported

The testimony shows that coincident with the collision air was heard, whistling or hissing from the overflow pipe to the forepeak tank, indicating the escape of air from that tank because of the inrush of water.

Practically at once, the forepeak tank, No. 1 hold, No. 2 hold, No. 3 hold, and the forward boiler room, filled with water, the presence of which was immediately reported from the mail room and the racquet court and trunk room in No. 3 hold, and also from the firemen's quarters in No. 1 hold.

Leading Fireman Barret saw the water rushing into the forward fireroom from a tear about two feet above the stokehold floor plates and about twenty feet below the water line which tear extended two feet into the coal bunker at the forward end of the second fireroom.

Serious Nature of Damage Realized

The reports received by the captain after various inspections of the ship must have acquainted him promptly with its serious condition and when interrogated by President Ismay, he so expressed himself. 

It is believed, also, that this serious condition was promptly realized by the chief engineer and by the builders' representative, Mr. Andrews, none of whom survived.

Flooding of the Vessel

Under this added weight of water the bow of the ship sank deeper and deeper into the water, and through the open hatch leading from the mail room, and through other openings, water promptly overflowed E deck, below which deck the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth transverse bulkheads ended, and thus flooded the compartments abaft No. 3 hold.

Water-Tight Compartments

SS Titanic - Longitudinal Section Showing Decks and Watertight Bulkheads.

SS Titanic - Longitudinal Section Showing Decks and Watertight Bulkheads. How to Save a Big Ship from Sinking (1915) p. 121. GGA Image ID # 10a2deecbc

The Titanic was fitted with 15 transverse water-tight bulkheads, only 1, the first bulkhead from forward, extended to the upper most continuous deck, C; bulkheads Nos. 2, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 extended to the second continuous deck, D; and  bulkheads Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 extended only to the third continuous deck, E.

The openings through deck E were not designed for water-tight closing, as the evidence shows that flooding over deck E contributed largely to the sinking of the vessel.

The bulkheads above described divided the ship into 16 main water-tight compartments, and the ship was so arranged that any 2 main compartments might be flooded without in any way involving the safety of the ship.

As before stated, the testimony shows that the 5 extreme forward compartments were flooded practically immediately, and under such circumstances, by reason of the non-water-tight character of the deck at which the transverse bulkheads ended, the supposedly water-tight compartments were NOT water-tight, and the sinking of the vessel followed.

Distress Calls Sent Out

No general alarm was sounded, no whistle blown, and no systematic warning was given the passengers. Within 15 or 20 minutes, the captain visited the wireless room and instructed the operator to get assistance, sending out the distress call, C. Q. D.

Distress calls heard

This distress call was heard by the wireless station at Cape Race that evening at 10.25 p. m. New York time, together with the report that she had struck an iceberg, and at the same time was accidentally overheard by the Mount Temple, which ship was  immediately turned around toward the Titanic.

Within two or three minutes a reply was received from the Frankfurt. Within 10 minutes, the wireless operator of the Carpathia fortunately and largely by chance heard the Titanic's C. Q. D. call, which he reported at once to the bridge and to the captain.

The Carpathia was immediately turned around and reported her latitude and longitude to the Titanic, together with the fact that she was steaming full speed toward the stricken ship.

The Frankfurt, however, did not give her latitude or longitude, and after waiting 20 minutes, asked the operator of the Titanic, "What is matter?" To this the Titanic operator replied that he was a fool.

In view of the fact that no position had been given by the Frankfurt, and that her exact distance from the Titanic was unknown at that time, the answer of the operator of the Titanic was scarcely such as prudence would have dictated.

Notwithstanding this, however, the Frankfurt was overheard by the Mount Temple to report "Our captain will go for you".

Communication was promptly established with the Olympic and the Baltic and the Caronia, some 800 miles to the eastward, overheard the Titanic's C. Q. D. call.

The wireless messages of the Titanic were recorded in part by the Cape Race station and by the Mount Temple, and in part by the Baltic.

The Mount Temple last heard the Titanic after the accident at 11.47 p. m. New York time. The Baltic and the Carpathia lost touch about the same time, the last message they received being "Engine room getting flooded". The Virginian last heard the Titanic's signals at 12.27 New York time, and reported them blurred, and ending abruptly.

First Press Report

The information is contained in a report received by the Associated Press from Cape Race, and communicated by them to the public, and also to Vice President Franklin of the White Star Line, and later verified from his office in Montreal.

Vessels in Vicinity of Steamship “Titanic”

At this time the committee thinks it advisable to invite attention to the reported positions of the vessels in the vicinity of the Titanic when her calls of distress were being sent out.

The Californian, of the Leyland Line, westbound, was in latitude 42° 05' north, longitude 50° 07' west, and was distant in a northerly direction 19 ½ miles according to the captain's figures.

The Mount Temple, of the Canadian Pacific Railroad line, westbound, was in latitude 41° 25' north, longitude 51° 14' west, and was about 49 miles to the westward of the Titanic and on her return to the Titanic's position passed an unknown schooner.

The Carpathia, of the Cunard Line, eastbound, was 58 miles away, and she steered a course north 52° west to reach the Titanic.

The Birma, a Russian ship, was 70 miles off at 12.25 a. m. on Monday, the 15th of April.

The Frankfurt, of the North German Lloyd Line, eastbound, was in latitude 39° 47' north, longitude 52° 10' west, 153 miles to the southwest.

The Virginian at midnight was about 170 miles distant from the Titanic.

The Baltic, of the White Star Line, eastbound, was about 243 miles southeast of the Titanic's position at about 11 o'clock Sunday evening, New York time.

The Olympic, of the White Star Line, eastbound, at 12.14, New York time, was about 512 miles to the westward, in latitude 40° 22' north, longitude 61°  18' west.

Steamship Light Seen from Steamship “Titanic”

Sixteen witnesses from the Titanic, including officers and experienced seamen, and passengers of sound judgment, testified to seeing the light of a ship in the distance, and some of the lifeboats were directed to pull for that light, to leave the passengers and to return to the side of the Titanic.

The Titanic fired distress rockets and attempted to signal by electric lamp and Morse code to this vessel. At about the same time the officers of the Californian admit seeing rockets in the general direction of the Titanic and say that they immediately displayed a powerful Morse lamp, which could be easily seen a distance of 10 miles, while several of the crew of the Californian testify that the side lights of a large vessel going at full speed were plainly visible from the lower deck of the Californian at 1 1 .30 p. m., ship's time, just before the accident.

There is no evidence that any rockets were fired by any vessel between the Titanic and the Californian, although every eye on the Titanic was searching the horizon for possible assistance.

The Steamship “Californian’s” Responsibility

The Leyland Line SS Californian of 6,223 Gross Tons Appearing on the Scene

The Leyland Line SS Californian of 6,223 Gross Tons Appearing on the Scene. Scribner's Magazine (March 1913) p. 362. GGA Image ID # 1031be7ef6

The committee is forced to the inevitable conclusion that the Californian, controlled by the same company, was nearer the Titanic than the 19 miles reported by her captain, and that 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.

The only reply to the distress signals was a counter signal from a large white light which was flashed for nearly two hours from the mast of the Californian. In our opinion such conduct, whether arising from indifference or gross carelessness, is most reprehensible, and places upon the commander of the Californian a grave responsibility.

The wireless operator of the Californian was not aroused until 3.30 a. m., New York time, on the morning of the 15th, after considerable conversation between officers and members of the crew had taken place aboard that ship regarding these distress signals or rockets, and was directed by the chief officer to see if there was anything the matter, as a ship had been firing rockets during the night.

The inquiry thus set on foot immediately disclosed the fact that the Titanic had sunk. Had assistance been promptly proffered or had the wireless operator of the Californian remained a few minutes longer at his post on Sunday evening, that ship might have had the proud distinction of rescuing the lives of the passengers and crew of the Titanic.

International Signals of Distress at Sea

The committee deems it important to emphasize the meaning of signals of distress and includes in its report the international code, which is as follows:

Signals of Distress - When a vessel is in distress and requires assistance from other vessels or from the shore, the following shall be the signals to be used or displayed by her, either together or separately:

In the daytime:

  1. A gun or other explosive signal fired at intervals of about a minute.
  2. The international code signal of distress indicated by NC.
  3. The distant signal, consisting of square flag, having either above or below it a ball or anything resembling a ball.* (*This is purely a code signal, and is not one of the signals of distress given in the Rules of the Road, the needless exhibition of which entails penalties upon the master of the vessel displaying it.)
  4. The distant signal, consisting of a cone, point upward, having either above it or below it a ball or anything resembling a ball.
  5. A continuous sounding with any fog-signal apparatus.

At night:

  1. A gun or other explosive signal fired at intervals of about a minute.
  2. Flames on the vessel (as from a burning tar barrel, oil barrel, etc.).
  3. Rockets or shells, throwing stars of any color or description, fired one at a time at short intervals.
  4. A continuous sounding with any fog-signal apparatus.

Steamship “Titanic” Lifeboats Cleared Away

When Captain Smith received the reports as to the water entering the ship, he promptly gave the order to clear away the lifeboats and later orders were given to put women and children into the boats. During this time distress rockets were fired at frequent intervals.

The lack of preparation was at this time most noticeable. There was no system adopted for loading the boats; there was great indecision as to the deck from which boats were to be loaded; there was wide diversity of opinion as to the number of the crew necessary to man each boat; there was no direction whatever as to the number of passengers to be carried by each boat, and no uniformity in loading them.

On one side only women and children were put in the boats, while on the other side there was almost an equal proportion of men and women put into the boats, the women and children being given the preference in all cases.

The failure to utilize all lifeboats to their recognized capacity for safety unquestionably resulted in the needless sacrifice of several hundred lives which might otherwise have been saved.

The Capacity of Lifeboats Not Utilized

The vessel was provided with lifeboats, as above stated, for 1,176 persons, while but 706 were saved. Only a few of the ship's lifeboats were fully loaded, while others were but partially filled. Some were loaded at the boat deck, and some at the A deck, and these were successfully lowered to the water.

The twentieth boat was washed overboard when the forward part of the ship was submerged, and in its overturned condition served as a life raft for about 30 people, including Second Officer Lightoller, Wireless Operators Bride and Phillips (the latter dying before rescue), passengers Col. Gracie and Mr. Jack Thayer, and others of the crew, who climbed upon it from the water at about the time the ship disappeared.

Lifeboat devices

More Life Saving Boats.

More Life Saving Boats. © Cincinnati Post. Wreck and Sinking of the Titanic (1912) p. 184. GGA Image ID # 108ea3c86e

Had the sea been rough, it is questionable whether any of the life boats of the Titanic would have reached the water without being damaged or destroyed. The point of suspension of the Titanic's boats was about 70 feet above the level of the sea.

Had the ship been rolling heavily, the lifeboats as they were lowered would have swung out from the side of the ship as it rolled toward them and on the return,  roll would have swung back and crashed against its side.

It is evident from the testimony that as the list of the Titanic became noticeable, the lifeboats scraped against the high side as they were being lowered. Every effort should be made to improve boat handling devices, and to improve the control of boats while being lowered.

Conflict in Lifeboats Reports

In the reports of the survivors, there are marked differences of opinion as to the number carried by each lifeboat. In lifeboat No. 1, for instance, one survivor reports 10 in all. The seaman in charge reports 7 of the crew and 14 to 20 passengers. The officer who loaded this boat estimated that from 3 to 5 women and 22 men were aboard.

 Accepting the minimum report as made by any one survivor in every boat, the total far exceeds the actual number picked up by the Carpathia.

No Distinction between Passengers

The Last Goodbyes - Placing Women in the Lifeboats.

The Last Goodbyes - Placing Women in the Lifeboats. Wreck and Sinking of the Titanic (1912) p. 177. GGA Image ID # 108e86a1fa

The testimony is definite that, except in isolated instances, there was no panic. In loading boats, no distinction was made between first, second, and third class passengers, although the proportion of lost is larger among third-class passengers than in either of the other classes. Women and children, without discrimination, were given preference. 

Your committee believes that under proper discipline the survivors could have been concentrated into fewer boats after reaching the water, and we think that it would have been possible to have saved many lives had those in charge of boats thus released returned promptly to the scene of the disaster.

Conduct on lifeboats

After lowering, several of the boats rowed many hours in the direction of the lights supposed to have been displayed by the Californian. Other boats lay on their oars in the vicinity of the sinking ship, a few survivors being rescued from the water.

After distributing his passengers among the four other boats which he had herded together, and after the cries of distress had died away, Fifth Officer Lowe, in boat No. 14, went to the scene of the wreck and rescued four living passengers from the water, one of whom afterwards died in the lifeboat, but was identified.  

Officer Lowe then set sail in boat No. 14, took in tow one collapsible boat, and  proceeded to the rescue of passengers on another collapsible lifeboat.

The men who had taken refuge on the overturned collapsible lifeboat were rescued, including Second Officer Lightoller and passengers Gracie and Thayer, and Wireless Operators Bride and Phillips, by lifeboats No. 4 and No. 12, before the arrival of the Carpathia.

The fourth collapsible lifeboat was rowed to the side of the Carpathia, and contained 28 women and children, mostly third-class passengers, 3 firemen, 1 steward, 4 Filipinos, President Ismay, and Mr. Carter, of Philadelphia, and was in charge of Quartermaster Rowe.

Ship sinking

The ship went down gradually by the bow, assuming an almost perpendicular position just before sinking at 12.47 a. m., New York time, April 15. There have been many conflicting statements as to whether the ship broke in two, but the preponderance of evidence is to the effect that she assumed an almost end-on position and sank intact.

No Suction

The committee deems it of sufficient importance to call attention to the fact that as the ship disappeared under the water there was no apparent suction or unusual disturbance of the surface of the water.

Testimony is abundant that while she was going down there was not sufficient suction to be manifest to any of the witnesses who were in the water or on the overturned collapsible boat or on the floating debris, or to the occupants of the lifeboats in the vicinity of the vessel, or to prevent those in the water, whether equipped with life belts or not, from easily swimming away from the snip’s side while she was sinking.

Captain Rostron

Mrs. J.J. Brown Presenting Trophy Cup Award to Capt. Arthur Henry Roston, for His Service in the Rescue of the Titanic.

Mrs. J.J. Brown Presenting Trophy Cup Award to Capt. Arthur Henry Roston, for His Service in the Rescue of the Titanic. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division (LC-USZ62-121013). GGA Image ID # 100c6a1f54

The committee deems the course followed by Captain Rostron of the Carpathia as deserving of the highest praise and worthy of especial recognition.

Captain Rostron fully realized all the risk involved. He doubled his lookouts, doubled his fireroom force, and notwithstanding such risk pushed his ship at her very highest limit of speed through the many dangers of the night to the relief of the stricken vessel.

His detailed instructions issued in anticipation of the rescue of the Titanic are a marvel of systematic preparation and completeness, evincing such solicitude as calls for the highest commendation.

The precautions he adopted enabled him to steer his course between and around icebergs until he stopped his engines at 4 o'clock in the morning in the vicinity of the accident, where he proceeded to pick up the Titanic' s lifeboats with the survivors.

On the scene of the wreck

Grieve Not - the Spirit of Manhood Still Lives.

Grieve Not - the Spirit of Manhood Still Lives. © St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Wreck and Sinking of the Titanic (1912) p. 192. GGA Image ID # 108edcce25

The first boat was picked up at 4.10 a. m. Monday, and the last of the survivors was on board by 8.30 a. m., after which Captain Rostron made arrangements "to hold service, a short prayer of thankfulness for those rescued, and a short burial service for those who were lost."

Upon the arrival of the Californian upon the scene, about 8 o'clock in the morning, the captain of the Carpathia communicated with her commander, stating that all of the passengers had been rescued from the boats but that he thought one was still unaccounted for- and arrangements were made whereby the Californian made an exhaustive search in the vicinity for this missing boat.

Captain Rostron stated that the Carpathia picked up 15 lifeboats and 2 collapsible boats. Evidence was given before the committee by at least one occupant of every lifeboat, satisfying the committee that the 16 lifeboats with which the Titanic was equipped were all accounted for. Thirteen of these lifeboats were hoisted on board and carried to New York by the Carpathia.

After arranging for a thorough search of the vicinity by the Californian, Captain Rostron headed his vessel for New York, reporting immediately by wireless to the officials of his company in New York.

Bodies not visible

The committee directs attention to the fact that Captain Rostron, of the Carpathia, although four hours in the vicinity of the accident, saw only one body, and that Captain Lord, of the Californian, who remained three hours, in the vicinity of the wreckage, saw none.

The failure of the captain of the Carpathia, of the captain of the Californian, and of the captain of the Mount Temple to find bodies floating in that vicinity in the early morning of the day following can only be accounted for on the theory that those who went down with the ship either did not rise to the surface or were carried away or hidden by the extensive ice floe which during the night came down over the spot where the ship disappeared, while those bodies which have been found remote from the place where the ship went down were probably carried away from the scene by the currents or by the movement of the ice.

Wireless Service

Numerous wireless messages of an official character were given to the operator on the Carpathia on Monday morning, April 15, with explicit instructions from the captain to send them immediately, and, if necessary, relay through other vessels.

Public Information

The record further discloses the first official information concerning the disaster communicated to the public by the officials of the White Star Line was received from Capt. Haddock, of the Olympic, at 6.16 p. m. Monday, April 15, as follows:

Carpathia reached Titanic's position at daybreak. Found boats and wreckage only. Titanic had foundered about 2.20 a. m. in 41.16 north, 50.14 west. All her boats accounted for.

About 675 souls saved, crew and passengers, latter nearly all women and children. Leyland Line steamship Californian remaining and searching position of disaster. Carpathia returning to New York with survivors; please inform Cunard.  Signed, Haddock.

Notwithstanding this information in possession of the officials of that company, a telegram was sent to Representative J. A. Hughes, Huntington, W. Va., dated New York, April 15, 1912, reading as follows:

Titanic proceeding to Halifax. Passengers will probably land there Wednesday all safe.  Signed,  White Star Line

The committee have been unable to fix the identity of the author of this telegram. We find, however, that this message was delivered to the Western Union branch office, in the same building as the offices of the White Star Line, 11 Broadway, at 7.51 p. m., on that day, but are left wholly in doubt as to the person who sent it or the purpose of the author in sending such a message. Whoever sent this message, under the circumstances, is guilty of the most reprehensible conduct.

Information Withheld

The committee does not believe that the wireless operator on the Carpathia showed proper vigilance in handling the important work confided to his care after the accident.

Information concerning an accident at sea had been used by a wireless operator prior to this accident for his own advantage. That such procedure had been permitted by the Marconi Co. may have had its effect on this occasion.

The disposition of officials of the Marconi Co. to permit this practice, and the fact of that company's representatives making the arrangements for the sale of the experiences of the operators of the Titanic and Carpathia subjects the participants to criticism, and the practice should be prohibited. The committee are pleased to note that Mr. Marconi approves of such prohibition.


Time to Get Busy.

Time to Get Busy. © St. Louis Republic. Wreck and Sinking of the Titanic (1912) p. 245. GGA Image ID # 10949b5928

The committee finds that this accident clearly indicates the necessity of additional legislation to secure safety of life at sea.

By statute the United States accepts reciprocally the inspection  certificates of foreign countries having inspection laws approximating those of the United States. Unless there is early revision of inspection laws of foreign countries along the lines laid down hereinafter, the committee deems it proper that such reciprocal arrangements be terminated, and that no vessel shall be licensed to carry passengers from ports of the United States until all regulations and requirements of the laws of the United States have been fully complied with.

The committee recommends that sections 4481 and 4488, Revised Statutes, be so amended as to definitely require sufficient lifeboats to accommodate every passenger and every member of the crew.

That the importance of this feature is recognized by the steamship lines is indicated by the fact that on many lines steps are being taken to provide lifeboat capacity for every person on board, including crew; and the fact of such equipment is being widely advertised.

The President of the International Mercantile Marine Co., Mr. Ismay, definitely stated to the committee: We have issued instructions that none of the ships of our lines shall leave any port carrying more passengers and crew than they have capacity for in the lifeboats.

Not less than four members of the crew, skilled in handling boats, should be assigned to every boat. All members of the crew assigned to life boats should be drilled in lowering and rowing the boats, not less than twice each month and the fact of such drill or practice should be noted in the log.

The committee recommends the assignment of passengers and crew to lifeboats before sailing; that occupants of certain groups of state rooms and the stewards of such groups of rooms be assigned to certain boats most conveniently located with reference to the rooms in question; the assignment of boats and the shortest route from stateroom to boat to be posted in every stateroom.

The committee recommends that every ocean steamship carrying 100 or more passengers be required to carry 2 electric searchlights.

The committee finds that this catastrophe makes daringly apparent the necessity for regulation of radiotelegraphy. There must be an operator on duty at all times, day and night, to insure the immediate receipt of all distress, warning, or other important calls.

Direct communication either by clear-speaking telephone, voice tube, or messenger must be provided between the wireless room and the bridge, so that the operator does not have to leave his station.

There must be definite legislation to prevent interference by amateurs, and to secure secrecy of radiograms or wireless messages. There must be some source of auxiliary power, either storage battery or oil engine, to insure the operation of the wireless installation until the wireless room is submerged.

The committee recommends the early passage of S. 6412, already passed by the Senate and favorably reported by the House.

The committee recommends that the firing of rockets or candles on the high seas for any other purpose than as a signal of distress be made a misdemeanor.

The committee recommends that the following additional structural requirements be required as regards ocean-going passenger steamers the construction of which is begun after this date:

All steel ocean and coastwise seagoing ships carrying 100 or more passengers should have a water-tight skin inboard of the outside plating, extending not less than 10 percent of the load draft above the full-load waterline, either in the form of an inner bottom or of longitudinal water-tight bulkheads, and this construction should extend from the forward collision bulkhead over not less than two-thirds of the length of the ship.

All steel ocean and coastwise seagoing ships carrying 100 or more passengers should have bulkheads so spaced that any two adjacent compartments of the ship may be flooded without destroying the floatability or stability of the ship.

Water-tight transverse bulkheads should extend from side to side of the ship, attaching to the outside shell. The transverse bulkheads forward and abaft the machinery spaces should be continued water-tight vertically to the uppermost continuous structural deck.

The uppermost continuous structural deck should be fitted water-tight. Bulkheads within the limits of the machinery spaces should extend not less than 25 percent of the draft of the ship above the load waterline and should end at a water-tight deck.

All water-tight bulkheads and decks should be proportioned to withstand, without material permanent deflection, a water pressure equal to 5 feet more than the full height of the bulkhead.

Bulkheads of novel dimensions or scantlings should be tested by being subjected to actual water pressure.

Senator William Alden Smith

Senator William Alden Smith, who conducted the Senatorial Inquiry into the "Titanic" Disaster in New York and Washington. Library of Congress (LC-DIG-hec-15852). GGA Image ID # 103254c02e

The Titanic Disaster Hearings

The Titanic hearings were conducted by a special subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee and chaired by Senator William A. Smith (R-MI).

The hearings began on April 19, 1912, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. The next week the hearings 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. A total of 82 witnesses testified about ice warnings that were ignored, the inadequate number of lifeboats, the ship’s speed, the failure of nearby ships to respond to the Titanic’s distress calls, and the treatment of passengers of different classes.

The hearings concluded on May 28, 1912, when Senator Smith visited the Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic, at a port in New York, to interview some of its crew. When the Titanic sank, the Olympic was about 500 miles away.

The subcommittee hearing transcripts, which were published in 1912, are over 1,100 pages long. They were issued as Senate Document 726, 62nd Congress, 2nd session, and are called: “Titanic” Disaster: Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Commerce, United States Senate, Sixty-Second Congress, Second Session, Pursuant to S. Res. 283, Directing the Committee on Commerce to Investigate the Causes Leading to the Wreck of the White Star Liner “Titanic.”

There is an index to the testimony broken out by topic–such as “collision, the effect of” and “ship light in the distance.” Spawned by the popularity of the movie on the Titanic, a paperback reprint of the hearings was published in 1998 by Pocket Books, called The Titanic Disaster Hearings: The Official Transcripts of the 1912 Senate Investigation. This paperback is an exact reprint of the hearing transcripts.

Other congressional documents issued in 1912 as a result of the Titanic investigation include:

The final report issued by the committee that contains the panel’s conclusions about the causes of the disaster. The report was issued as Senate Report 806, 62nd Congress, 2nd session, and is called: “Titanic” Disaster: Report of the Committee on Commerce, United States Senate, Pursuant to S. Res. 283, Directing the Committee on Commerce to Investigate the Causes Leading to the Wreck of the White Star Liner “Titanic,” Together with Speeches Thereon by Senator William Alden Smith of Michigan and Senator Isidor Rayner of Maryland.

The investigative report issued by the British Government, which was reprinted as Senate Document 933, 62nd Congress, 2nd session, and called Loss of the Steamship “Titanic”: Report of a Formal Investigation into the Circumstances Attending the Foundering on April 15, 1912, of the British Steamship “Titanic,” of Liverpool, after Striking Ice in or near Latitude 41º 46´ N., Longitude 50º 14´ W., North Atlantic Ocean, as Conducted by the British Government.

A law (37 Stat. 639) to award medals of honor to the captain, officers, and crew of the ship Carpathia, which picked up the survivors of the Titanic.

A law (37 Stat. 644) to establish a memorial to Archibald W. Butt and Francis D. Millet, commissioned officers who went down with the sinking of the Titanic.


Excerpts from "Investigation Into Loss of S.S. Titanic -- American Inquiry," in Report No, 806 62d Congress, 2d Session, by Mr. Smith of Michigan, from the Committee on Commerce, 28 May 1912 [Pursuant to S. Res. 283].

"Titanic Disaster Hearings: The Official Transcripts of the 1912 Senate Investigation" United States Senate Reference on the Titanic Hearings and Aftermath. Retrieved 2 May 2019. URL:

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