Lookout Lee said the haze was so bad there was nothing in sight ahead, and Fleet was asked:
Q - Was this haze ahead of you?
A - Yes.
Q - Was it only ahead, did you notice?
A - Well, it was only about 2 points on each side.
Q - When you saw this haze did it continue right up to the time of your striking the berg?
A - Yes.
The American Practical Navigator (Bowditch)
Chapter 33, Ice Navigation 3312.
On a clear day with excellent visibility, a large iceberg might be sighted at a distance of 20 miles. With a low-lying haze around the horizon, this distance will be reduced. On dark, clear nights icebergs may be seen at a distance of from 1 to 3 miles, appearing either as white or black objects.
I believe the iceberg that was near the Carpathia may have been the same one that struck the Titanic. Captain Rostron saw it very close to the ship. He doubled the lookouts but it did not make any difference as he said - "We saw all the icebergs first from the bridge."
"Just after I saw his light (Boxhall's green light) I saw an iceberg right ahead. Then, of course, I starboarded, I could not port to get away from the berg; so I starboarded to make it more convenient for the boat I was going to pick up, and I picked it up on the starboard side."
Q - How close was the iceberg which you saw?
A - Well, when we had stopped, when daylight broke, it was something less than a quarter of a mile away.
Q - I should like to follow that to understand it. Had you seen that iceberg before?
A - No, it was the first I saw of it. We were close up before we saw it.
Q - Was day breaking at all?
A - No, it was perfectly dark at the time.
Q - And you had men on the look-out?
A - Yes, we had doubled our look-outs.
Q - Was that the first iceberg that you had seen?
A - Oh, dear, no.
Q - I mean, on this particular night?
A - Oh, no; the first iceberg we saw was at a quarter to 3.
Q - I wanted you to tell us about that. You saw one at a quarter to 3?
A - We saw about half a dozen, in fact, more than that. I was moving about to get between them up to 4 o’clock.
Q - Take the first one you saw about a quarter to 3. How far off was it when you first saw it? When it was reported to you?
A - I should think it was about a mile and a half to two miles away.
Q - And with regard to the others, I think you say you saw about six up to 4 o’clock?
A - Yes, about six.
Q - Did you see all those at about the same distance?
A - Yes, about the same distance. From one to two miles.
Q - Then, I understand, when you came to the last one, you will correct this if I am wrong, as far as I gather from your evidence, you did not see that till it was somewhere about a quarter of a mile off?
A - That is so; at daybreak I saw it was between 25 and 30 feet high.
Q - Will you explain to us a little more in detail why it was that you did not see this iceberg, the one which you found about 4 o’clock, earlier?
A - I cannot tell you; we were all on the look-out.
Q - It was rather low?
A - It was low.
Q - Twenty-five to 30 feet. I do not know whether you can tell us what the height of your forecastle was from the waterline?
A - Yes; the forecastle head would be just about 30 feet.
Q - Your two men were on the look-out then in the eyes of the vessel?
A - Yes.
Q - No report had been made to you?
A - No.
Q - Who was it saw it first, do you know?
A - Yes, I saw it first.
Q - Before the look-out men?
A - Yes, we saw all the icebergs first from the bridge.
Q - And each time, if I follow you, that an iceberg was seen, you picked it up first on your bridge?
A - Either one of my officers or myself, before the look-outs.
Q - Did you pick it up by sight, or by naked eye, or with binoculars?
A - At first with the naked eye.
Q - How was it neither of the look-out men saw it or reported it to you? Why did not they see it before you?
A - Well, of course, they had all had warning about keeping a look-out for growlers and icebergs, previous to going on the look-out, and on the look-out also. You must understand, unless you know what you are looking for, if you see some very dim indistinct shape of some kind, anyone could take that as nothing at all. Merely some shadow upon the water, or something of that kind; but people with experience of ice know what to look for, and can at once distinguish that it is a separate object on the water, and it must be only one thing, and that is ice.
Q - So that what it really comes to is this, if I follow you correctly, that it requires a man with some knowledge of icebergs, some experience of picking them up before he can detect them at night?
A - Precisely.
Q - That is to say, before he could detect them unless they were very close to him?
A - Yes.
I believe this is what happened with Fleet and Lee. They both saw a dark patch in the sky, but they could not identify it and likely could not focus their attention on it before losing it again in the dark. When it finally came closer they realized it was something worth reporting and rang the bell. Fleet could say with honesty that he did see the iceberg far away (as he told Lightoller this) but when he actually rang the bell is another matter as he understandably may have hesitated before he rang the bell, but by then, it was too late.
25455. (The Commissioner.) Is that a common experience, that when you are amongst icebergs you will detect one two or three miles away and another not till it is within a quarter of a mile? Is that within your experience?
- No, I do not think it is common experience. I think it is rather uncommon, as a matter of fact.
25458. That one we understand, but this last one that you saw about 4 o'clock when you were getting ready to pick up the boat on the port side, was there anything at all special about the colour of that iceberg?
- No, but I suppose it must have been because of the shadow or something of that kind that we could not make it out before. I cannot account for it.
25459. Does it sometimes happen?
- Yes, very often.
25460. It may be, the iceberg presents to you a luminous appearance?
25461. Or it may be, it presents to you a dark appearance?
25466. (The Commissioner.) I do not understand where the shadow comes from; there is nothing to create a shadow. There were no clouds in the sky?
- No, My Lord, there were no clouds, but the shape of the iceberg itself might account for it. Now this iceberg was about 30 feet high and the sides were rather precipitous. If the side had been more of a slope, do not you think that slope would have given off some shadow?
If you have a greater surface and there is anything in the theory about "blink," you would have more blink if you had a greater surface, and so you might have a dark place if the iceberg itself had a crevice in it or a break. I can imagine that, but I do not know where the shadow comes from.
I believe the iceberg was unsettled by the collision and the top half crumbled and broke off. When Boxhall looked over the side he said:
"I fancied seeing this long-lying growler....It looked to me as if it was very, very low....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......it seemed to me to be very, very low lying.....It looked to me to be very, very low in the water.....In my own opinion I do not think the thing extended above the ship's rail."
Q - Above the ship's rail?
A - No.
Q - And how far was this rail above the water's edge?
A - Probably about 30 feet.
Q - About 30 feet?
A - No. Hardly 30 feet.
Q - The distance from the water's edge to the boat deck was how far?
A - I could get that measurement from the plan.
Q - About 70 feet, was it not?
A - From the boat deck it was about 70 feet to the water's edge. The boat deck is one deck above A. This rail I mean is on the C deck.
Imagine the Titanic hitting that head on! Although that is well to the north. The icebergs near the Titanic must have been well on their way to melting and would collapse much easier. Major Peuchen saw the ice that fell on the deck. He said: "It looked like shell ice, soft ice."
I think the ice would have been soft and unstable at the top, and perhaps the collision caused large chunks of the iceberg to fall off like this:
Some described the iceberg as blue which might represent an iceberg that has capsized like this:
The berg was still in the Labrador Current as the air and sea temperature was nearly freezing. I can tell you that it was still quite hard and needed to be kept in respect …
I agree with you that the ice would had been more fragile at the pinnacle top, and the collision caused chunks of ice to fall off … Titanic took probably a list to Starb'd when she hit that helped ice to fall on deck.