An account is not always an account

Jul 10, 2001
Hi all, this is a point which can show that the accounts we can read are maybe not always the accounts that are MEANT.

As it is said, Fleet compared the iceberg with two tables. Here are the words (I have added how I would interprete the way they were spoken):

Senator Smith: "How large an object was this when you first saw it?"
Fleet: "It was not very large when I first saw it."
Smith: "How large was it?"
Fleet: "I have no idea of distances or spaces."
Smith: "Was it the size of an ordinary house? Was it as large as this room appears to be?"
Fleet: "No, no. It did not appear very large at all."
Smith (now unpatient and a bit angry, pointing in a provocating way to his table):"Was it as large as the table at which I am sitting?"
Fleet (insulted): "It would be as large as those two tables put together when I saw it at first."

I believe Smith wanted to provokate Fleet because Smith was a bit upset about his very poor account. What Fleet says is usually held to be his own description but, in fact, the idea of comparing it with the size of a table was suggested to him by Senator Smith; the words were more or less put into his mouth. For this reason this account is not very useful for any clues.

Generally spoken: we can read all accounts because someone put down the words - but not the way they were spoken. I am sure we could find more examples that accounts cannot be interpreted only by their words...

Best regards Henning

Jason D. Tiller

Dec 3, 2000
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Hi Henning,

Thanks for posting that. That's an interesting way of looking at Fleet's account.

Good photo in your profile, by the way!

Best regards,


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