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The Final Seconds before Collision: Part 11 of 12
By Bruce A. Trinque

Part 11 – Able Bodied Seaman Joseph Scarrott

British Enquiry:

Q: Shortly before the ship struck the iceberg did you hear the bell strike in the crow's-nest?
A: Yes.

Q: What did you hear?
A: Three bells.

Q: Do you know what time that was?
A: Not to be exact I do not, but it was round about half-past eleven.

Q: Shortly after that did you feel anything?
A: Yes.

Q: What did you feel?
A: Well, I did not feel any direct impact, but it seemed as if the ship shook in the same manner as if the engines had been suddenly reversed to full speed astern, just the same sort of vibration, enough to wake anybody up if they were asleep.

Q: Did you feel anything besides that?
A: No.

Q: Did you feel the ship strike anything?
A: No, not directly.

Q: "Not directly," you say?
A: Not as if she hit anything straight on - just a trembling of the ship.

Q: How soon did you feel this vibration after you heard the three strikes on the gong?
A: As I did not take much notice of the three strikes on the gong, I could hardly recollect the time; but I should think it was - well, we will say about five or eight minutes; it seemed to me about that time.

Q: Where were you at the time?
A: Just about the forecastle-head.

Q: Did you remain there?
A: No.

Q: Where did you go?
A: I rushed down to tell my mate that was in the bath room just at the bottom of the ladder. He asked me to give him a call if anything was doing.

Q: What did you do after that?
A: Rushed on deck with the remainder of those that were in the forecastle. The shock caused everybody to turn out, and we came on deck to see what was the cause of the vibration.

Q: Did the boatswain give any orders to the hands?
A: Yes.

Q: What was his order?
A: "All hands on deck; turn out the boats and take the covers off and place the covers amidships."

Q: When you got on deck did you see anything; did you see any ice or iceberg?
A: Oh, yes, when we first came up.

Q: Tell me what you saw.
A: When we came up, that was before the boatswain's call, we saw a large quantity of ice on the starboard side on the forewell deck, and I went and looked over the rail there and I saw an iceberg that I took it we had struck. It would be abaft the beam then - abaft the starboard beam.

Q: Was it close to?
A: No, it seemed the ship was acting on her helm and we had swung clear of the iceberg.

Q: But how far away from your beam was the iceberg, a ship's length or two ships' length?
A: Not a ship's length.

Q: You speak of this ship as if answering her helm - as if answering under which helm?
A: Under the starboard helm - under the port helm.

Q: Get it right?
A: Under port helm. Her stern was slewing off the iceberg. Her starboard quarter was going off the icebergs, and the starboard bow was going as if to make a circle round it.

Q: … She was acting as if under port helm, her head going to starboard?
A: That is correct.

Q: … Had your ship headway on at the time - or not do you think?
A: I cannot say.

Q: You do not know?
A: No.

Q: … You have told us that somewhere on your starboard beam, within a ship's length of you, was the iceberg. How high was the iceberg as compared with your vessel?
A: I should say about as high as the boat deck; it appeared to be that from the position of it.

Q: How high from the water would that be - 90 feet?
A: I cannot say.

Q: … What was the shape of this iceberg?
A: Well, it struck me at the time that it resembled the Rock of Gibraltar looking at it from Europa Point. It looked very much the same shape as that, only much smaller.

Q: Like a lion couchant?
A: As you approach Gibraltar - it seemed that shape. The highest point would be on my right, as it appeared to me.


Discussion:

Able Bodied Seaman Scarrott’s testimony about the time interval between the ringing of the crow’s nest bell and the vibration from the ship’s hull – supposedly from the impact with the iceberg – is extraordinarily long: 5 or 8 minutes. So incompatible is this with the evidence from any of the other witnesses that is tempting to speculate that the vibration, characterized by Scarrott “as if the engines had been suddenly reversed to full speed astern,” was in fact due to the Titanic’s engines rather than the collision. However, Scarrott’s description of how “The shock caused everybody to turn out” appears to point towards the impact as being the source of the vibration. Perhaps Scarrott simply made a very poor estimate of the time interval involved.

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