A Few What Ifbs


Jan 8, 2001
309
0
171
55
Hello all!

Just thought I'd add a few more what if's? and see what all of you think. First of all, what if she had lit all her boilers a day early? How much speed did it add to her on the Sunday the 14th? In other words, is it possible if she would have lit all the boilers on Saturday morning that she would have reached the ice field before dusk on the 14th? Another "what if?" that I have been really curious about: What if instead of steaming North-Northeast after the collsion, she steamed West? How close was she to the large ice field ahead? Could she have docked along side the ice field and saved everyone? I'm especially interested in hearing what David Brown has to say about this! I am very fascinated by his new theories from the excerp of his new book! I have not yet purchased it, but I am planning on getting it soon. Thanks in advance for your replies all!

Michael
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,641
457
453
Easley South Carolina
My understanding is that the Titanic was already well IN to the icefeild at the time of the collision, which fact is borne out by the survivors finding themselves surrounded by ice when daybreak came. The Carpathia steamed through ice, narrowly missing some bergs iduring her run north to the Titanic's position.

No way she could have docked with any of the icebergs. There was nothing to tie the ship to and she would have drifted away in very short order. Besides, after the collision, closing with even more ice and risking further damage in the process from ice shelves and spurs was the very last thing they would ever want to do. Further, which iceberg would you chance? They were of irregular shape and size from flat growlers to monoliths with sheer cliffs and prone to turning over without warning because melt off would unbalance any one of them.

Not the sort of place where you want to drop off people where they would likely never be found.

I don't think steaming west would have done anything except complicate the search for the lifeboats once the Carpathia arrived on the scene.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Jan 8, 2001
309
0
171
55
Actually, by ice field, I meant sheet of ice. I read somewhere that the survivors reported seeing a sheet of ice (ice floe? not sure about the correct term) as far as the eye could see at sunrise. In fact, in Beesley's book, he wondered if maybe they could have made a few runs with the lifeboats and dropped passengers off and went back for more. The thing he didn't mention was how far the ice sheet was from where the sinking occurred, but I imagine it couldn't have been more than a mile or two.

Michael.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,641
457
453
Easley South Carolina
Don't put too much stock in guessing distances at sea. They can be very deceptive, especially when you have no frame of reference by which to judge their distance or size. After a 20 year career at sea, I've had opportunities to learn this first hand. In any case, how much time would have been lost trying to find the right ice floe? Time better spent getting the boats away with whomever they could be filled with. Not that this idea would have been seriously entertained by Smith and Company...and for the reasons I already outlined.

Further, launching and recovering boats is a very time consuming process. and time was a much needed commodity that they didn't have enough of. As it was, the steaming they did do only aggravated things and likely sped up the sinking. The time spent searching for a suitable floe would have only done the ship in sooner then she already was.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Jan 8, 2001
309
0
171
55
Michael, you're probably right. But, at any rate, I believe there was just one long sheet of ice in the vicinity per Beesley's account. BTW, is a long sheet of ice an ice floe? or field ice? or some other term? I forget! Of course, when you say "the time spent searching for a suitable floe would have only done the ship in sooner than she already was" makes sense as Smith would not have known in the dark if there were one or many ice floes and how expansive it or they were.

Michael.
 
Dec 4, 2000
3,242
502
278
To Michael F. Koch --

Based on the fuel actually loaded in the bunkers, Titanic did not have enough coal to maintain more than 22 knots on its maiden voyage. I know that the belief in a high-speed, record-setting run is dear to the Titanic myth, but it was not possible given the fuel available. The reason is that achieving each knot of speed takes more fuel than the previous one. Going just two knots faster might have left the ship "out of gas" (really, coal) before it reached New York.

Titanic's bunkers weren't even half full when it sailed because of the coal strike. Captain Smith was aware of the fuel shortage and used the Baltic message in an attempt to persuade Bruce Ismay not to do anything foolish. That message is usually called an "ice warning," but the information about ice was secondary to the warning about the ship Deutschland that had run out of coal and was effectively a derelict floating in the shipping lanes. The obvious implication to Ismay was that Titanic could become the same unless the fuel was managed carefully-- no speed run on Monday.

Regarding steaming more directly toward Halifax, that's the wrong "what if?" to be asking. The right one is why move a damaged ship at all?

History does not reveal its alternatives. We can never know if Titanic would have floated until morning--but that does seem to have been the belief of key people. For instance, Chief Engineer Bell told Ismay the pumps were "holding their own" more than ten minutes after the accident. Bell does not seem to have thought the ship was sinking at that time.

While I cannot prove it, I strongly suspect that the ship would have remained afloat long enough to transfer passengers and crew to rescue vessels on April 15. Thus, the deaths that resulted were the direct result of steaming from 11:50 pm until at least midnight, and probably until about 12:08 am. The inescapable conclusion is that Titanic's dead did not dies as the result of some horrible accident, but were killed by an inexcusable act of gross negligence.

Putting people onto the ice has been a successful technique, but not under the circumstances surrounding Titanic. It works well when the ship is beset. Ernest Shackleton resorted to the ice when his ship, Endurance, was crushed in Antarctic waters. However, the shapes and instability of free-floating icebergs would make it virtually impossible to accomplish on the open ocean.

While the pumps were"holding their own," there was no reason to attempt a risky transfer of people to an iceberg. After it became apparent that the ship was absolutely going to sink, there was not enough time even if such a transfer had been possible. It would have taken many hours longer than the ship actually floated to have ferried all 2,200 people from ship to berg.

If there is one question that I could ask of one person involved in the Titanic disaster, it would be this of Captain E.J. Smith: "What the Hell were you thinking when you started the ship moving again?"

-- David G. Brown
 
Jan 8, 2001
309
0
171
55
To David G. Brown,

Thanks a lot, David! Thanks for the excellent info! I knew there was a coal strike but didn't realize how bad indeed it was! As far as steaming on, I agree it was foolish to steam on to Halifax with her being damaged and all! But regarding dropping the passengers off on the ice, I meant ice sheet not ice berg! The name escapes me, not sure if it's called ice floe, field ice or what, but I heard somewhere that in the vicinity, there was an ice sheet as long as the eye could see and about 5 miles wide directly in Titanic's original patrh (west). If she were close enough, perhaps she could have ferried passengers back and forth on the lifeboats. I know they probably didn't have enough time, but it's interesting to think about anyway!

Michael.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,641
457
453
Easley South Carolina
Mike, in your next post to me, I think you pretty much answered your own question on searching for a floe that would be suitable, and David covered the rest of the ground. Beesley may have seen all sorts of what you might consider to be suitable candidates, but all else aside, remember that it was in daylight.

The Titanic didn't have daylight to play with and that would have been a handicap of insurmmountable preportions. I've stood night watches underway (Low visibility details) and I've been involved in a night time search and rescue operation. You couldn't see diddly squat, even with searchlights to help out.

On the speed record thing, the beleif that the Titanic was trying to better the Olympic's time may be valid, but the popular myth holds that she was trying to get the transatlantic speed record and this one is pure bilgewater. The Olympic Class liners weren't even remotely capable of reaching the speeds neccessary to pull this off. At best, they could do about 24 knots going all out. The Mauratania and Lusitania could do 26.5

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
1,280
4
0
David Brown wrote:

>Titanic's bunkers weren't even half full when it >sailed because of the
>coal strike.

Hi, David!

What is your source re: the half empty bunkers? Many thanks.

All my best,

George
 
Jan 8, 2001
309
0
171
55
Michael, yes I knew Titanic couldn't approach the Cunarders speed wise, I was just wondering if Titanic would have been at full speed on the morning of the 13th, if she would have reached the ice field before sunset. Also, I realize it was too dark for her to see the ice floes but was just wondering for the fun of it how close she would have been to that large one. Thanks for your many replies!

George, loved your appearances in the A&E documentary! Your sincerity for the passengers really touched me! That series got me hooked on Titanic the more than even "ANTR"!

Michael K.
 
Dec 4, 2000
3,242
502
278
George Behe --

Spent about an hour composing a complete answer to your question. Pushed the "post" button and the damned thing must have struck a cyber-berg because it never arrived at its intended destination.

Suffice to say, I've overstated by saying the bunker was "barely half full." It was over half full, but my numbers show it contained just enough to make the trip to New York at 22 knots.

If I can find that errant message, I'll re-post it.

-- David G. Brown
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
1,280
4
0
Thanks, David! It's just that I've never seen any indication that Titanic's bunkers were anything less than fully loaded (especially since the bunkers of a number of other vessels had been raided in order to supply Titanic for the maiden voyage.) If Titanic had truly been short of coal, I think Smith would have informed Ismay of that fact and that Ismay would not have testified that Titanic's speed trials were still scheduled to take place on Monday or Tuesday. I'll look forward to reading your long posting on the subject.

And Michael, thanks very much for your kind words about the A&E documentary -- I appreciate it very much.

All my best,

George
 

Pat Cook

Member
Apr 27, 2000
1,277
1
0
Enjoying all this stuff, guys!

I just happen to be rechecking something and ran across the Survey report of Titanic. This states that the ship had onboard 5892 tons of coal 'which is sufficient to take the ship to it's next coaling port' says the form. As you all know, this was signed off by Clarke. Now, does anybody know how many tons she was capable of holding?

Best regards,
Cook
 
Dec 4, 2000
3,242
502
278
George & Pat--

Let's go for a ride down the coal chute that leads into Bruce Ismay's mind...

My references show the bunkers held somewhat more than 8,000 tons. I doubt anyone every made an accurate measurment of the exact amount the bunkers could hold. This estimate must have been a calculation based on the physical size of the bunkers. My guess (with no evidence to back it up) is that Olympic-class ships needed about 4,000 tons for a 16-knot passage across the Atlantic. That would have given the ships a round-trip possibility at the minimum speed for a Royal Mail Steamship.

I have a copy of the Bd of Trade form showing that the ship had 5,892 tons of coal aboard. That number looks so veeerrryyy correct that I doubt its veracity. Not that anybody lied. But, in the real world how do you count coal coming aboard a ship from a variety of sources? Answer: you estimate the amount by "eyeball" and write down a number that will not arouse suspicion. There is no harm in this system. Mr. Clarke, the Bd of Trade surveyor, was not really reporting the actual tonnage, but rather certifying that the ship had enough fuel to make its next coaling port...which was true.

The amount of coal in the bunkers must be reduced by the burn while in port...say 450 tons more or less. And, for prudence, the remaining 5,400 tons must be reduced by 10% as a safety reserve. No captain wants to enter port just as the last shovel of coal goes into the boilers. You want to have a 10% reserve, just in case. Rough weather can substantially increase the amount of fuel needed to cover the same distance. This 10% reserve is a modern number from my personal experience, but just wait...

That brings us down to about 4,900 tons...or a little more than half of the bunker capacity...of coal available for the trip.

An estimated fuel burn of 650 tons per day at 22 knots is accurate enough. The actual amount would vary depending upon the type of coal, the sea conditions, etc. Dividing the amount of coal in the bunkers by the daily burn produces a most curious result: 7.54 days of fuel available. That is precisely what would be needed for the trip to New York at 22 knots. It also shows there was no margin of safety for any high-speed publicity stunts, even if they were the brainchild of the chairman of White Star Lines.

I should note that fuel burned does not rise linearly with speed. Rather it take ever larger amounts of fuel for every quarter knot of increased speed. On one boat that I commanded we burned about 100 gallons per day at 10 knots, but 285 gallons at 18 knots, for example.

This tells me a couple of things. First, that somebody at White Star did the same calculations and filled the ship with exactly the right amount of fuel and not one sackful more. That is exactly the sort of careful provisioning I would expect of a shipping company during a coal strike. (Curiously, I have had a shipowner owner put a similar amount of fuel in the tanks in order not to purchase an extra gallon of fuel.)

The other thing it tells me is that 88 years ago skippers also looked upon 10% as a minimal amount of fuel to have on hand at the end of a voyage. Discovering that gave me a "warm fuzzy" feeling of kinship with Captain Smith, et. al. on Titanic.

Back to Mr. Clarke's report. Running out of coal was a problem for 1912 steamships. Coal takes up a lot of room for its fuel value. Bunkers were made as small as possible to leave space for the cargo that earned the ship's money. Proof that ships did "run out of gas" comes from that famous Baltic message at 1:42 pm on April 14.

Most historians have called Baltic's message an "ice warning," but this is not an accurate description. The information it contained about ice was relatively dated and only confirmed what Captain Smith already knew about the ice. It did not add any new information.

The new...and critical...information in the Baltic message was about Deutschland, a ship that had run out of coal and was drifting helplessly in the shipping lanes. The use of the now archaic nautical word "spoke" tells me that Deutschland was the real point of the Marconigram. Ships "spoke" one another in 1912 only by coming alongside and yelling. "Speaking" another ship was a popular thing to do among windjammer crews that often did not see another vessel in months. Because the captain of Baltic chose this word, he put special emphasis on the Deutschland situation. It indicates that the drifting ship's captain had shouted a request to be reported by radio to other ships on the shipping lanes. (Deutschland's skipper was probably worried about those damned high-speed mail boats flashing across the Western Ocean at 22 knots.)

Captain Smith started his career in sail, so would have instantly recognized both the use of the word "spoke" and its meaning. Smith was obviously a master (pun intended) of handling his boss, J. Bruce Ismay. He knew that Ismay would never accept criticism from his inferiors (such as a captain employed by his company). So, Smith showed Ismay the Baltic Marconigram regarding a ship out of coal. The implication for Ismay's planned Monday speed run was obvious enough, yet there was no insubordination on Smith's part.

By handing the Baltic message to Ismay, Smith showed more than his concern for the coal shortage. He also established the "pecking order" aboard Titanic. Smith was master of the ship, but Ismay was master of Smith. This relationship between the two men comes into play a few hours later when an unexpected emergency (aka "iceberg") required strong leadership. Smith had always deferred to Ismay. It was the British way. But, the result was that Titanic was led by a committee, not a commander, and that made all the difference.

-- David G. Brown
 
Dec 2, 2000
1,513
1
223
Dear David,
I will admit to needing help with this.

4000 tons needed to make the trip
400 tons 10% extra needed
---------------------------------
4400 tons required minimum

450 tons 10 In port expense of fuel
650 tons 10-11 noon one day
650 tons 11-12 noon one day
650 tons 12-13 noon one day
650 tons 13-14 noon one day
650 tons 14-15 noon one day
650 tons 15-16 noon one day
650 tons 16-17 noon one day
-------------------------------------------
5000 tons to be used at 22 knots for 7 days

===========================================
5892 tons amount loaded
5000 tons to be used at higher speed
-----------------------
892 tons reserve (19.84% of 5000 ton usage!)
(22.3% of 4000 ton usage!)

Sorry to be difficult, but David, I lived in a third world country for nearly two years and when there is a fuel shortage, not counting the coal or the gas or the oil is not what happens.

Being a business with many ships to manage, knowing exactly how much coal was removed and put aboard the Titanic would have only been good business sense. Otherwise, individuals could steal it and take it home to use.

I can agree with your theory about the handing of the Baltic message of Smith to Ismay and his reasons for it, but your theories on the shortchanging of Titanic in the area of coal when loading and that they were just "guessimating" (my word) the amount in a time of great shortage everywhere in the UK does not make any sense to me.

I am in the midst of reading your book, perhaps the answers or logic is contained in there somewhere.

Enjoy your day.
Maureen.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,641
457
453
Easley South Carolina
Just a quick note, Mo, bear in mind that the Titanic wasn't steaming at full speed for the entire trip so coal usage would have been correspondingly lower earlier on. Of course, once boilers were lit off, fual consumption would have gone up. (Shrug)

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Dec 2, 2000
1,513
1
223
I love you Michael...You are so great, but I understood what you were saying...or trying to say and I knew somehow that you had not had that bolting cup of coffee yet! (giggles)

But, I figure it this way, you ahve definitely pu tup with a lot from me, so I can let a lost cup of coffee go to the side.

Thanks for helping me with my brain cells...BTW coffee does nothing for that...but a good smart friend does.

Enjoy your day kind sir!
Maureen.
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
1,280
4
0
Hi, David!

Many thanks for the detailed exposition of your theory about Titanic's coal reserves and their possible affect on her speed.

>My references show the bunkers held somewhat more than 8,000 tons.

For the sake of completeness, could you please tell us which references this data came from? Many thanks.

>I have a copy of the Bd of Trade form showing that the ship had 5,892
>tons of coal aboard.......

>The amount of coal in the bunkers must be reduced by the burn while in
>port...say 450 tons more or less. And, for prudence, the remaining 5,400
>tons must be reduced by 10% as a safety reserve. .....

>That brings us down to about 4,900 tons...or a little more than half of
>the bunker capacity...of coal available for the trip. ......
>An estimated fuel burn of 650 tons per day at 22 knots is accurate
>enough. ......

Titanic did not travel at 22 knots *throughout* the voyage, though -- she only achieved that speed during the last few hours of April 14th. That being the case, I think you've overestimated the rate at which Titanic consumed her coal supply and that she had more coal in her bunkers on April 14th than you believe.

> Dividing the amount of coal in the bunkers by
>the daily burn produces a most curious result: 7.54 days of fuel
>available. That is precisely what would be needed for the trip to New
>York at 22 knots. It also shows there was no margin of safety for any
>high-speed publicity stunts, even if they were the brainchild of the
>chairman of White Star Lines. ......

You've stated that Titanic had about 4,900 tons of 'operating coal' in her bunkers (plus 500 tons of 'reserve coal'), yet your computation of Titanic's fuel consumption does not permit her to draw upon the extra 500 tons for her speed trials. (Granted, Titanic would not have 'squandered' that extra coal on a speed trial if she had faced storms etc. during her crossing -- but that wasn't the case.)

Significantly, in his unpublished manuscript "Fifth Night Out," Don Lynch says that Titanic steamed out of Southampton with a nine day supply of coal in her bunkers (a figure which is at variance with your own estimate of a seven day supply.) This amount of coal would have allowed plenty of leeway for Titanic to rack up a speed trial on Monday and achieve an early arrival in New York to boot.

Third Officer Pitman testified that there was not enough coal in Titanic's bunkers for the ship to be driven at full speed throughout her maiden voyage -- but then Titanic *wasn't* driven at full speed throughout that entire period; rather, her speed had been *steadily increasing* throughout the voyage. Since Titanic had not been eating up the coal during the first half of her maiden voyage,
she might well have been capable of finishing the *second half* of her journey at full speed ( and thereby beating Olympic's record.) Indeed, Harold Sanderson testified that, from the point of the accident, Titanic would only have had to steam at a speed of 20 knots to achieve a 5 a.m. Wed. arrival in New York -- and we know that Titanic was doing 2 1/2 knots better than that at the time of the collision.

>This tells me a couple of things. First, that somebody at White Star did
>the same calculations and filled the ship with exactly the right amount
>of fuel and not one sackful more. That is exactly the sort of careful
>provisioning I would expect of a shipping company during a coal strike.

The coal strike was ending, though. According to Don, "On April 9th six thousand miners had returned to work in Flintshire alone. All across England thousands more were doing likewise.... Whatever excess coal might have been used during the maiden voyage could easily have been replaced in New York. The Titanic's next scheduled departure from Southampton was May first, a full three weeks from the end of the strike. Experts estimated that by that time coal would be fully available, and at usual prices."

You've done a remarkable job of analyzing the evidence, David, and I admire you very much for presenting such an original and thought-provoking scenario. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, though, because I still think the evidence for Titanic's projected early arrival in New York is pretty darn convincing.

All my best,

George
 
Dec 4, 2000
3,242
502
278
Help!!

I answer most of the questions about my theory in my book. In the first chapter I point out that Titanic would have experienced fuel savings early in the voyage when the engines were turning fewer revolutions.

The absolute size of Titanic's bunkers is immaterial to the point. The 8,000 ton figure came from several secondary souces. Frankly, I did not research it beyond determining that the bunkers could have carried more coal than was loaded.

Titanic had sufficient fuel for its maiden voyage, but not enough for the spectacular high-speed run that is part of the popular myth.

Without any increase in speed, the ship would have reached New York reasonably close to Ismay's published time on Tuesday. By increasing speed above 22.25 knots Ismay obviously planned a bit of a larger publicity stunt.

I don't believe his intention was to beat Olympic's best crossing, per se. Beating the older sister's time would have occurred if Ismay had gotten his way, but that was somewhat of a side issue. The public did not view Olympic as a speed queen. Rather, I believe Ismay wanted it to appear that Titanic was so fast that it always came in ahead of schedule. Schedules are the heart of the passenger business. Even today, the public doesn't worry so much about how fast the airplane flies, but whether or not it will arrive on time. Ismay knew that extablishing Titanic as being on time would create enormous good will among the travelling public. On time, every time.

My fuel calculations were done by working forward from the amount recorded in the Bd. of Trade report. It would have been easy to start at New York and figure back to the original amount of fuel, but that process would have been dishonest. Instead, I started with the fuel known in the bunkers and used reasonable estimates of fuel burn, etc. The results show two things:

1. White Star carefully loaded the ship with a safe and prudent amount of fuel, but not any extra beyond about a 10% safety margin of the fuel in the bunkers.

2. It was imprudent to attempt any sustained operation above 22 knots given the amount of fuel aboard. Imprudent does not mean impossible, but lighting the extra boilers on Sunday was not particularly a good idea from a safety standpoint.

With regard to the number of days of fuel aboard, that depends upon how you want to do the calculation. At 10 knots, the ship probably could have steamed nearly round trip. At 20 knots it might have had 9 days supply. But, at 22 knots...the amount aboard appears to have been just right.

With regard to the fuel reserve, I calculated 10% of the fuel aboard. This gave a smaller reserve (540 tons) than the more proper reserve of 10% of the ship's bunker capacity which would have been in excess of 800 tons, or just over a day of steaming at 22 knots. Note how closely this larger reserve tallies with Maureen's calculations.

Foregive me, but I feel like I'm swatting faeries off a pinhead by slicing and dicing the fuel situation so many ways. The point is that the ship did not have a full load of fuel and that it was imprudent to waste what it did carry on a publicity stunt.

Add to that the ice.

Captain Smith wasn't about to slow down because of the ice, but I'll bet he didn't exactly shout "huzzah" when Ismay suggested speeding up just as the ship entered the area known to have dangerous ice. Even if Ismay just wanted another quarter knot of speed, it was a stupid idea given the circumstances...and Captain Smith knew it.

What was he to do? I doubt Ismay would have taken kindly to being told he was about to do something stupid. Using the Baltic message regarding Deutschland to cajole Ismay was a brilliant move on the captain's part. And, it might be argued that it worked.

Consider this...it is possible that Ismay planned to increase the speed sometime on Sunday, April 14. (Perhaps during Sunday dinner to impress his table mates?) But, because of the Baltic message, Ismay may have decided to wait until daylight on the 15th. That would have been an easy concession for him to make because the ship was alread in a position to arrive ahead of its published schedule.

-- David G. Brown
 

Similar threads