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The Final Seconds before Collision: Part 6 of 12
By Bruce A. Trinque

Part 6 – Quartermaster Alfred Olliver

American Inquiry:

Q: Where were you when the collision occurred?
A: I was stand-by quartermaster on the bridge. I had been relieved from the wheel at 10 o’clock, and I was stand-by after 10 o’clock. I was running messages and doing various other duties. I was not right on the bridge; I was just entering the bridge. I had just performed an errand and was entering the bridge when the collision occurred.

Q: Just state what happened.
A: When I was doing this bit of duty I heard three bells rung up in the crow’s nest, which I knew that it was something ahead; so I looked, but I did not see anything. I happened to be looking at the lights in the standing compass at the time. That was my duty, to look at the lights in the standing compass, and I was trimming them so that they would burn properly. When I heard the report, I looked, but could not see anything, and I left that and came and was just entering on the bridge just as the shock came. I knew we had touched something.

Q: Just describe what that shock was.
A: I found out we had struck an iceberg.

Q: Did you see that iceberg?
A: Yes; I did, sir.

Q: Describe it.
A: The iceberg was about the height of the boat deck; if anything, just a little higher. It was almost alongside of the boat, sir. The top did not touch the side of the boat, but it was almost alongside of the boat.

Q: What kind of a sound was there?
A: The sound was like she touched something; a long, grinding sound, like.

Q: How long did that sound last?
A: It did not last many seconds, sir.

Q: How far aft did the grinding sound go?
A: The grinding sound was before I saw the iceberg. The grinding sound was not when I saw the iceberg.

Q: Where was the iceberg when you saw it, abeam or abaft?
A: Just abaft the bridge when I saw it.

Q: … Did you notice the course of the berg as it passed you?
A: No, sir; I did not notice the course of the berg as it passed us. It went aft the after part of the ship. I did not see it afterwards, because I did not have time to know where it was going.

Q: Do you know whether the wheel was hard aport then?
A: What I know about the wheel – I was stand-by to run messages, but what I knew about the helm is, hard aport.

Q: Do you mean hard aport or hard astarboard?
A: I know the orders I heard when I was on the bridge was after we had struck the iceberg. I heard hard aport, and there was the man at the wheel and the officer. The officer was seeing it was carried out right.

Q: What officer was it?
A: Mr. Moody, the sixth officer, was stationed in the wheelhouse.

Q: Who was the man at the wheel?
A: Hichens, quartermaster.

Q: You do not know whether the helm was put hard astarboard first, or not?
A: No, sir; I do not know that.

Q: But you know it was put hard aport after you got there?
A: After I got there; yes, sir.

Q: Where was the iceberg, so you think, when the helm was shifted?
A: The iceberg was away up stern.

Q: That is when the order “hard aport” was given?
A: That is when the order “hard aport” was given; yes, sir.

Q: Who gave the order?
A: The first officer.

Q: And that order was immediately executed, was it?
A: Immediately executed, and the sixth officer saw that it was carried out.

Q: How long did this sound continue; can you tell that?
A: I can not say exactly, but I should say it was not many seconds.

Q: Could you tell how far aft the sound continued?
A: I could not say how far aft, sir, because I do not know where it started and where it finished. I do not know.

Q: You could not tell about that?
A: No, sir.

Q: Was it 100 feet? Did it rub against the boat behind where you were?
A: Not behind where I was. It did not, to my knowledge, rub behind where I was; it was before.

Q: You can not tell, then, for how many feet it rubbed against the boat?
A: No, sir.

Q: But you think it got away from the boat before the place where you were?
A: Yes, sir.

Discussion:

When Quartermaster Olliver mentioned tending the lamps on the “standing” compass, this was very probably a reference to the “standard” compass, mounted on a platform above the First Class Passengers’ Lounge, some 200 feet behind the bridge. What is not clear in the testimony is whether Olliver was actually at the standard compass when he heard the three bells from the crow’s nest, or whether he was simply indicating that he was absent from the bridge on that errand and, perhaps, was already returning. In the latter case, Olliver could have been quite near the bridge when the three bells sounded. Depending on which interpretation is applied, Olliver’s testimony could possibly support either the 37-second interval based upon the British Enquiry report or the much shorter time period proposed by Pellegrino.

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