Senator William Alden Smith

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Senator William Alden Smith led an investigation lasting from April 19 to May 25, 1912. During this investigation, more than 80 people were interviewed and the United States and Britain were questioned. One witness in the United States inquiry was Second Officer Charles Lightoller. On the stand Lightoller defended Captain Smith’s refusal to slow down the ship before the collision. Others testified to general confusion.

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The passengers were unaware of the chaos due to no warnings and the risk of lowering the lifeboats with no experience. One ship’s crew, the Californian, testified. During the sinking, the Californian was 20 nautical miles away from the Titanic. They said to have seen a small ship in the distance, but thought it was too small to be the Titanic. Instead of communicating through the radio, Captain Stanley Lord demanded more Morse code through lamps. The ship in this distance disappeared by 2:00 a.m. and the Californian moved on (Tikkanen 20 and 21). Overall, the United States blamed the British Board of Trade. Others blamed the failure to slow down the Titanic after ice warnings but the most controversial testimony was from the Californian crew (Tikkanen 21).

During the days of the Californian testimony, presiding judge Sir John Charles Bigham, Lord Mersey, concluded that the Titanic sunk because of the collision with the iceberg at an excessive speed. However, Captain Smith was not blamed for this. The Californian was criticized for being only five to ten miles away and not being there to rescue the Titanic passengers (Tikkanen 22).

As result of the court testimonies between the United States and Britain, together they established the International Conference for Safety of Life at sea in London in 1913. This required there to be a lifeboat capacity of all passengers, lifeboat drills, and 24 hour radio watch. They also established the International Ice Patrol to warn people of ice in shipping lanes as well as break up the ice for the ships (Tikkanen 23).

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Senator William Alden Smith. (2019, Jul 26). Retrieved December 6, 2022 , from
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