1914 Murdoch Saves Liner from Iceberg by Senan Molony


Vicki Logan

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I very much enjoyed the new article Sean. The disaster of the Titanic had so many repercussions and made significant changes in maritime rule. It was interesting to note that other captains paid heed to the downfall of the Titanic, how the ship hit the iceberg and took care not to duplicate the situation. Thanks for the new article to mull over.
Vicki Logan
 
Mar 3, 1998
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I have to thank Senan for the information about the Royal Edward, but conclusions drawn from this incident -- both now and in 1914 -- are misleading.

Those familiar with the effects of mass and momentum will immediately recognise the vast difference between a 46,000 GRT ship steaming at 22 knots and a 11,000 GRT ship steaming ahead dead slow. When a ship displaces as much as Titanic did and travels at such a high rate of speed, ramming a berg stem on is not a prudent action to take. Talking about an earlier incident where the steamship Arizona survived an encounter with an iceberg by ramming it stem on, Joseph Conrad said, "And, even if she had been engined to go twenty knots, there would not have been behind that speed the enormous mass, so difficult to check in its impetus, the terrific weight of which is bound to do damage to itself or others at the slightest contact." The entire context in which this quote was given is located in the FAQs section of my website, for those interested.

I think that the comparison between the Royal Edward and Titanic was hyperbole typical of the period. How else can one make newsworthy a near miss? Or, how better to turn a costly misfortune into a heroic achievement?

There is one fact in the article that caught my interest...the fact that even though the ship was reported steaming dead slow in fog, the berg was sighted two ship's lengths away and the engines were thrown into reverse, the ship still hit the berg with enough force to damage the stem. Something about that doesn't add up for me, but then again, I wasn't there and it's impossible to draw accurate conclusions from newspaper accounts. I am left, however, with the suspicion that the incident was played up so that the actions of the crew wouldn't be brought into question.

When seen with a practical eye, there is really no connection between the decisions made by Murdoch and Wotton. Ramming the berg stem on was not an option for Murdoch. Better than anyone else on board save Captain Smith, Murdoch knew that he had too much mass and too much speed going into the collision. If anyone learned anything from the Titanic disaster, it was to slow down. What saved the Royal Edward was not the decision to take the berg stem on, but rather to run at dead slow in an area of reduced visibility.

Inger, if you're reading this post, would you pass it on to Sen for me...I'm unsure whether or not I have his current address.

Parks
 

Erik Wood

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I find both the article and Parks post very interesting. For obvious reasons I tend to agree with Parks assesment of the article. Mass, speed and water born momentum are a nasty combination.

In my mind this is furthering the theory that Titanic should have rammed it head on. Something that in Maine in April I plan to present a piece on.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Erik,

I am confused by your comment. On the one hand, you say that you tend to agree with my assessment, which essentially is that Titanic should not have rammed the berg stem on. In the following paragraph, though, you say that this furthers in your mind the theory that Titanic should have rammed the berg. Am I reading you correctly, because it seems to me that you are saying two different things.

There is no precedent that I am aware of that involved a ship of Titanic's size driving stem on into an obstacle at full speed. Every example cited of ships having survived an encounter with an iceberg by taking it on the nose involves a much smaller vessel travelling at a reduced rate of speed. If anyone can provide me with an example that is different from this, please let me know. Titanic was not designed to take such an impact at that speed and I am not aware of any simulation that has been done since that might indicate how Titanic's structure would have been impacted by such a collision. Therefore, no one can make the assumption that Titanic's collision bulkhead would not have failed (with even more disasterous consequences) as a direct result of a stem-on collision. From what I am able to determine, I doubt that the damage would have been restricted to the forward portion of the bow. Even if the collision bulkhead had held, you would still be faced with the same problem as Titanic ultimately faced...the loss of bouyancy from the forward compartments (remember the Fireman's Passage and the cargo holds).

Also, there remains a possibility that Titanic suffered more damage to her bottom than is generally assumed. That possibility might even pertain to a stem-on scenario. Also, Titanic's foundering was unusual, in that she stayed afloat for well over 2 hours after the collision, sinking on an even keel. The kind of damage that might have been sustained in a stem-on collision to a ship of Titanic's size and speed might have caused her to sink even faster and more horrifically.

I have to cut this short, as I have a meeting I need to be at right now. I can talk more later, if you like.

Parks
 

Erik Wood

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Parks said:Am I reading you correctly, because it seems to me that you are saying two different things.

No it means that I am a doof. What I meant to write was that I agree with what you said, and the paper tends to further the theory that Titanic should have rammed the berg, which in my opinion is a false theory that goes against Naval Engineering. Sometimes I think faster then I can type and I have a bad habit of forgetting to proof read.

Sorry for the confusion.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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For very well written description of passenger ships hitting icebergs = prior to Titanic, see Appendix II of "Comparative Naval Architecture of = Passenger Ships," by Philip Sims (M), Naval Sea Systems Command. This can be = found at: http://www.skibstekniskselskab.dk/download/WMTC/C8(D29).pdf Also = refer to a referenced database of iceberg collisions at http://researchers.imd.nrc.ca/~hillb/icedb/ice/bergs2.pdf which = includes incidents of ships striking icebergs which being ice of glacial origin, = also including the smaller categories of growlers and bergy bits.

=20
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Samuel,

Too bad we don't have statistics on those vessels which never arrived at port and whose fate is unknown.

I have read through the IIP's database before, but scanning through it this time, I was struck by what happened to the Moen in 1885. The iceberg fell onto the bark after the collision, cutting the vessel in two. A good example of the instability of bergs.

Erik,

I was hoping that was the case. In my own haste, I was too short with a couple of things:

- When I discussed the possibility of a grounding, it was to bring up the point that there may have been a significant shelf or spur of ice beneath the surface upon which Titanic could injure herself. If the collision was stem on, that underwater hazard would still be there, complicating the damage that impact with the above-water would have wrought. Depending upon the shape of the berg, it's conceiveable that Titanic could have grounded herself hard upon an unseen projection of the berg, well before she collided with the above-water portion. No matter...Murdoch had no way of knowing the shape of the berg below the water, so his only real course was to avoid colliding with what he could see of it. As far as I can tell, he was successful in this.

- The other point that I wasn't completely clear on was that the manner in which the ship was damaged was such that the transverse stability of the ship was not impaired. Because of this, the ship remained afloat and stable long enough to evacuate most of the souls aboard. In a stem-on scenario, one cannot assume that the ship would have survived the impact with no degradation in her transverse stability. Different situation, different outcome, more than likely.

Parks
 

Erik Wood

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Parks said:I was hoping that was the case.

You hope that I was a doof??
happy.gif
Well my wife can tell you that I am a doof.

In Maine I am going to go over the head on collision theory in my power point presentation, and show some scenrios and pictures of which a head on collision occured with various objects including the Detroit River light a nearly three story structure.

In regards to how this effects a grounding scenario I tend to agree with you. What I find more interesting is the possibility that if the ship had rammed it head on she could have tore her bottom out getting there. This is an area of research that I have not been in. As of late I have been constrating on what I believe occured.

Hit a semi-solid object at 22 knots would have been or could have been catastrophic to the structural make up of the vessel. The berg might crumble but the damage done the the stem and the keel would be significant. This would mean in my mind that as flooding progressed the ship (aka the keel) would be under far more strain then previously thought. This would also mean that the foundering could occur much quicker in the evening, because that kind of blunt force trauma to a vital area of the ship would compromise it's ability to stand up to flooding. Not to mention what kind of cracks and other external damage would occur after hitting something at 22 knots.
 

Inger Sheil

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Inger, if you're reading this post, would you pass it on to Sen for me...I'm unsure whether or not I have his current address.
No worries, Parks - I know Sen will be delighted to get the feedback on it, and will pass it on. Both his work and home addresses are the same, so you should be able to get through to him. I haven't read the article yet, but will be keeping your remarks in mind (and that sardonic comment of Joseph Conrad on "The new seamanship: when in doubt try to ram fairly - whatever's before you. Very simple.")

Great story, though - I can see why it appealed to the journalist in Sen as well as the historian!
 

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