WASHINGTON. May 28. The Titanic disaster of April 15th, in which 1517
souls went down amid icebergs off the Banks of Newfoundland, was the theme
of speech, report and proposed legislation in the Senate today.
Senator William Alden Smith of Michigan submitted the report of the
investigation by the Senate Commerce Committee, a feature of which was
the condemnation of the captain of the steamer Californian for not going
to the aid of the sinking vessel, and delivered a speech in which he personally
took much stronger ground in reviewing the disaster and introduced measures
designed to safeguard life in ocean traffic.
One of the most important recommendations was for stricter inspection
of vessels by the Federal steamboat inspection service and the meeting
of all requirements of American navigation laws by every vessel clearing
from an American port.
It was one of the noteworthy days of the present session of Congress.
Almost all of the Senators were in their seats. The galleries were crowded.
The Senate passed a joint resolution extending the thanks of Congress
and appropriating $1000 for a medal to Captain Arthur H. Rostron of the
Carpathia and also a vote of thanks to the Carpathia crew.
The resolution was introduced by Senator Smith. It was adopted immediately.
ICE WARNING IGNORED.
The report is largely a review of the evidence and contains recommendations
for legislation. 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 ships high speed.
In fact, he is barely mentioned in the report.
On the whole, the report is impassive and Senator Smith in his speech
went more fully into a discussion of the causes of the disaster than does
The committee agreed upon these principal conclusions.
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
The Californian, controlled by the same concern as the Titanic, was
nearer the Titanic than the nineteen miles reported by her captain, and
her officers and crew saw the distress signals of the Titanic and
failed to respond in accordance with the dictates of humanity, international
usage and the requirements of laws.
The committee concludes that the Californian might have saved all the
lost passengers and crew from the ship that went down.
Eight ships, all equipped with wireless, were in the vicinity of the
Titanic, the Olympic farthest away, 512.
The mysterious lights on an unknown ship, seen by the passengers on
the Titanic, undoubtedly were on the Californian, less than nineteen miles
The full capacity of the Titanics lifeboats was not utilized, because
while only 706 persons were saved, the ships boats could have carried
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 Titanics wireless
operator to send out a distress message.
The Titanics crew was only meagerly acquainted with its positions
and duties in case of 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.
Ice positions so definitely reported to the Titanic, says
the report, 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 of the vessel was not relaxed, the lookout
was not increased.
The committee concludes that the Titanics lights were visible to the
Californian before she struck the iceberg, and that the Californian must
have seen the distress rockets fired from the bridge of the Titanic. The
DISTRESS SIGNALS IGNORED.
The committee believes many more lives could have been saved had the
survivors been concentrated in a few lifeboats and had the boats thus released
returned to the wreckage for others.
The committee is forced to the inevitable conclusion that the
Californian, controlled by the same company, was nearer the Titanic than
the nineteen 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 on the commander
of the Californian a grave responsibility.
The wireless operator of the Californian was not aroused until
3:30 a.m., [April] 15th, after considerable conversation between officers
and members of the crew had taken place aboard the 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 at once disclosed the fact that
the Titanic had sunk. Had assistance been properly proffered or had the
wireless operator of the Californian remained a few minutes longer at his
post on Sunday evening, the ship might have had the proud distinction of
saving the lives of the passengers and crew of the Titanic.
The only mention of J. Bruce Ismay occurs in a review of the messages
to the White Star offices in New York reporting the disaster. The first
official information, the committee says, was the message from Captain
Haddock of the Olympic, received from the White Star line at 6:16 p.m.,
Monday, April 15th. Attention is called to the fact that 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 committee does not believe the wireless operator on the Carpathia
was duly vigilant in handling his messages after the accident, and declared
the practice of allowing wireless operators to sell their stories should
It is commended that all ships carrying more than 100 passengers have
two searchlights; that a revision be made of steamship inspection laws
of foreign countries to the standard proposed in the United States; that
every ship be required to carry sufficient lifeboats for all passengers
and crews; that the use of wireless be regulated to prevent its use by
amateurs, and that all ships have a wireless operator on duty constantly.
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
the report says.
The committee deems the course followed by Captain Rostron of the Carpathia
as deserving of the highest praise and worthy of special recognition. His
detailed instructions, issued in anticipation of the rescue of the Titanic,
were a marvel of systemic preparation and completeness evincing such
solicitude as calls for the highest commendation.
San Francisco Chronicle
May 29, 1912
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