A Last Bright Shining Lie

Richard Stagg

Feb 20, 2013
Joseph Bell, so far as we know, was not a Scotsman. He was born in Cumbria, apprenticed in Newcastle and then spent his life in Liverpool and eventually Southampton. (There was a famous Scottish Joseph Bell, who was a surgeon.)

Stephen Carey

Apr 25, 2016
I've just noticed this page after doing some research on the Titanic, which started with cold-starting the ship (not normally done except when leaving dry-dock). Seeing your article made me think of what would happen as the ship started to plunge, so I checked the position of the auxiliary seawater intakes in the main engineroom (starboard side, outboard of the IP cylinders, and underneath the auxiliary condenser. To run the generators, steam and seawater are the basic commodities, so losing one or the other would put the lights out. From Ken Marschall's excellent paintings and a couple of Youtube animations, plus drawing a line on the ship's profile view, it seems that they would run out of seawater when a line is drawn from the forward base of the 3rd funnel, to the bottom of the ship normal to the forward end of the 4th funnel - or shortly before. Watching the animations, the lights stay on until just that time - they suddenly go out, which would be when the seawater failed (assuming the boilers weren't being stoked at a 45 degree angle and they were relying on the steam reserve present in the drums of the Scotch boilers). A failure in the seawater to the condensers would immediately raise the generator exhaust pressure and they would stop dead. Lights out. No battery backup. By this time, all the boiler rooms are under the flooded level, bearing in mind that No1 boiler room furnaces weren't lit at that stage of the passage. If I were the Chief Engineer of the ship I would have sent all hands - including officers - up top and asked for volunteers to stay with me to keep things going as best we could. As soon as the seawater pump started to lose suction, I would be up those ladders like a rat up a drainpipe - assuming they were in the right direction for a 45 degree trim! Almost immediately after the lights went out she broke in two, so it's debatable if anyone could have got out at that stage. However I would agree that the majority of the engineers would at this stage be on deck with only 2 or 3 still down below. It made me think, and that is always a good thing... One other thing is that the Titanic didn't have emergency batteries except for the radio room, and a battery room is not shown on the plans or the Titanic forum pages. Once you lose the generators, it all goes dark and quiet. And another is that Dillon was by no means a "virtual engineer". He was an uneducated stoker newly joined on the ship, and his job was shovelling coal - no more, no less. He would have known nothing about the machinery apart from being given orders, whereas a ship's engineer had gone through a 5 year apprenticeship in a shipyard or enginebuilder's, chosen for his academic and engineering excellence. You cannot compare them as in any way equal - as is the case still today. One thing that has always perplexed me though, is the manifest ignorance of anyone at the enquiry on the workings of the engineroom and boiler rooms of the ship, which could have instantly been cleared up by getting the Chief Engineer(s) or any senior engineer(s) from the Olympic to give evidence. Why was this not done, instead of relying on naval architects, deck officers and stokers who generally know nothing about the machinery and its workings? Beats me... Stephen Carey