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index > rms titanic > the final seconds before collision: a 12 part series - part 5 of 12

THE FINAL SECONDS BEFORE COLLISION: PART 5 OF 12


By Bruce A. Trinque

Part 5 – Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall

American Inquiry:

Q: Where were you when the collision occurred?
A: I was just approaching the bridge.

Q: On the port side or the starboard side?
A: Starboard side.

Q: Did the collision occur on the or the starboard side?
A: On the starboard side, sir.

Q: And you were on the deck at that time?
A: On the deck, sir.

Q: Approaching the bridge?
A: Just approaching the bridge.

Q: Could you see what had occurred?
A: No, sir; I could not see what had occurred.

Q: Did you know what had occurred?
A: No, not at all. I heard the sixth officer say what it was.

Q: What did he say that it was?
A: He said we had struck an iceberg.

Q: Was there any evidence of ice on any of the decks, to your knowledge, after that collision?
A: Just a little on the lower deck. On the open deck I saw just a little, not much.

Q: Do you know whether anyone was injured by that impact?
A: No, I do not know; I have never heard.

Q: Did you continue to go toward the bridge after the impact?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: How far did you go?
A: At the time of the impact I was just coming along the deck and almost abreast of the captain’s quarters, and I heard the report of three bells.

Q: What kind of a report? Describe it.
A: The lookout’s report.

Q: What was said?
A: Three bells were struck.

Q: Three bells?
A: That signifies something has been seen ahead. Almost at the same time I heard the first officer give the order “Hard astarboard,” and the engine telegraph rang.

Q: What did the order mean?
A: Ordering the ship’s head to port.

Q: Did you see this iceberg at this time?
A: Not at that time.

Q: Did it extend above the deck that you were on?
A: Oh, no, sir; it did not extend there.

Q: A little lower?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: Do you know whether it struck the bow squarely?
A: It seemed to me to strike the bluff of the bow.

Q: Describe that.
A: It is in the forward part of the ship, but almost on the side.

Q: On which side?
A: It is just where the ship begins to widen out on the starboard side.

Q: How far would that be from the front of the ship?
A: I do not know.

Q: About how far?
A: I could not say in feet.

Q: How far would it be from the eyes?
A: I do not know. I could not say.

Q: You could not describe that?
A: No, you could measure it on the plans, though.

Q: About how far?
A: I could not say how many feet. I have no idea of the number of feet.

Q: But it was not a square blow on the bow of the ship?
A: No. sir.

Q: In ordinary parlance, would it be a glancing blow?
A: A glancing blow.

Q: Was the blow felt immediately?
A: A slight impact.

Q: How slight?
A: It did not seem to me to be very serious. I did not take it seriously.

Q: Slight enough to stop you in your walk to the bridge?
A: Oh, no, no, no.

Q: So slight that you did not regard it as serious?
A: I did not think it was serious.

Q: Did you proceed to the bridge?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: Whom did you find there?
A: I found the sixth officer and the first officer and the captain?

Q: The sixth officer, the first officer, and the captain?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: All on the bridge together?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: What, if anything, was said by the captain?
A: Yes, sir. The captain said, “What have we struck?” Mr. Murdock, the first officer, said, “We have struck and iceberg.”

Q: Then what was said?
A: He followed on to say – Mr. Murdock followed on to say, “I put her hard a starboard and run the engines full astern, but it was too close; she hit it.”

Q: That was before she struck?
A: No; after.

Q: That was after she struck?
A: Yes.

Q: He said that he put her hard a starboard?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: But it was too late?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: And he hit it?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: What did the captain say?
A: Mr. Murdock also said, “I intended to port around it.”

Q: “I intended to port around it”?
A: “But she hit before I could do any more.”

Q: Did he say anything more?
A: “The water-tight doors are closed, sir.”

Q: What did the captain say?
A: Mr. Murdock continued to say, “The water-tight doors are closed, sir.”

Q: Mr. Murdock continued to say, “Are they closed”?
A: No; “They are closed.”

Q: “The water-tight doors are closed”?
A: “Are closed.”

Q: Do you understand by that that he had applied the –
A: I saw him close them.

Q: He had applied the electricity?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: And by that had closed the water-tight compartments?
A: Yes, sir; and the captain asked him if he had rung the warning bell.

Q: What did he say?
A: He said, “Yes, sir.”

Q: What is the warning bell?
A: It is a small electric bell which rings at every water-tight door.

Q: And he said that that had been done?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: What else did he say?
A: We all walked out to the corner of the bridge then to look at the iceberg.

Q: The captain?
A: The captain, first officer, and myself.

Q: Did you see it?
A: I was not very sure of seeing it. It seemed to me to be just a small black mass not rising very high out of the water, just a little on the starboard quarter.


British Enquiry:

Q: Was the first intimation that there was ice about the striking of the three bells, so far as you were concerned?
A: No, when we struck the berg; that was the first.

Q: Do you mean you felt the shock before you heard the bells?
A: No, I heard the bells first.

Q: Did you hear an order given by the First Officer?
A: I heard the First Officer give the order, “Hard-a-starboard,” and I heard the engine-room telegraph bells ringing.

Q: Was that before you felt the shock, or afterwards?
A: Just a moment before.

Q: Let us be clear about that. The order, “Hard-a-starboard,” came between the sound of the bells and the collision?
A: The impact, yes.

Q: Did you go on to the bridge immediately after the impact?
A: I was almost on the bridge when she struck.

Q: Did you notice what the telegraphs indicated with regard to the engines?
A: “Full speed astern,” both.

Q: Was that immediately after the impact?
A: Yes.

Q: Did you see anything done with regard to the watertight doors?
A: I saw Mr. Murdoch closing them then, pulling the lever.

Q: And did the Captain then come out on to the bridge?
A: The Captain was alongside of me when I turned round.

Q: Did you hear him say something to the First Officer?
A: Yes, he asked him what we had struck.

Q: What conversation took place between them?
A: The First Officer said, “An iceberg, Sir. I hard-a-starboarded and reversed the engines, and I was going to hard-a-port round it but she was too close. I could not do any more. I have closed the watertight doors.” The Commander asked him if he had rung the warning bell, and he said, “Yes.”

Q: Did the Captain and the First Officer go to the starboard side of the bridge to see if they could see the iceberg?
A: Yes.

Q: Did you see it yourself?
A: I was not too sure of seeing it. I had just come out of the light, and my eyes were not accustomed to the darkness.

Discussion:

Although not on the bridge when the lookout’s report of the iceberg was made and during the collision, Fourth Officer Boxhall was out on the deck nearby. He stated that he was almost abreast of the captain’s quarters when he heard the three bells from the crow’s nest, and Boxhall also said he had heard “almost at the same time” the order being given to go hard-a-starboard and the sound of the engine-room telegraph. Furthermore, he felt the impact of the iceberg against the ship’s hull even before he could enter the bridge. This indicates a very compressed time frame, conflicting strongly with the British Enquiry calculation of a thirty-seven second interval between the helm order and the actual collision.

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