Blame on Captain Smith

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John M. Feeney

Member
Phil wrote: 'The title "commodore" was honorary and given to the senior captain of a merchant ship company. It's not the same as a military/ royal navy rank.'

Hi, Phil: Not entirely true, as I understand it. The White Star Line previously *had* official Commodores, so designated by the company. Cunard had them still, and continued the practice. Smith was indeed "honorary" commodore, by virtue of his standing, but he was never officially so named by his line, as the title had been dropped by White Star some time prior to Smith's tenure as Senior Captain.

(E.J. was formally referred to only as "Captain Smith", as opposed to others -- Commodore Sir Arthur Henry Rostron, Commodore Sir James Bisset, etc.)

David: While I'm essentially swatting at side issues, I do see precisely where you're going with this. And it *is* quite tantalizing. Whether two or twenty men were nominally posted to the lookout, they needed to actually BE there, LOOKING OUT. Adding more might achieve nothing, but subtracting from the *minimum* expectation is downright disastrous!

I'm looking forward to this white paper immensely.

Cheers,
John
 
J

John M. Feeney

Member
I wrote: "Some other calculations I did show Titanic would actually have had to SLOW DOWN significantly to come in as *late* as 7:00 a.m. Wednesday (9:40 T Local time)."

Oops! 7:00 a.m Wednesday (New York Time) would actually have been about 8:40 a.m. Titanic's Local Time, NOT 9:40.

The rest is correct, since 57 hours is right for that time.

Sorry,
John
 
E

Erik Wood

Member
It is actually required by law that at least one person on the bridge (aside from any other lookout) be dedicated to looking forward at all times.

I too will be looking forward to Dave's paper.

Erik
 
David G. Brown

David G. Brown

RIP
Ships are required to maintain lookout by sight, hearing, and all other means appropriate to the situation. Today, if you have radar you must use it even during clear weather.

A lookout is defined as a trained member of the crew who is assigned the job of looking out and has been given no other duties which would interfere with his primary responsibilities.

Courts have been consistent in ruling that the officer of the watch cannot be his own lookout because his other duties interfere. Thus, Murdoch cannot be thought of as legally satisfying the requirement for adequate lookout because he had other duties as senior officer of the watch.

I have a friend searching his library for the original source of this next. My friend works as an accident prevention specialist for the Passenger Vessel Association. According to him, it has been proven that in fog or when surrounded by ice, lookouts should be rotated every 20 minutes at most. For some reason, people stop perceiving things under foggy conditions or when there is a lot of ice. I'm curious to find the source of this research, which is quite modern. Captain Smith would not have been aware of this phenomenon. Still, it may be one more reason that Fleet and Lee were not able to give adequate advance warning of the berg.

For those who are looking forward to my "white paper" on this subject...don't over-anticipate. In all honesty, this research does not promise any startling breakthroughs. You won't be learning anything "brand new." It is pretty dull plodding through testimony and putting it in order with regard to the known facts. I have already dis-proved my most exciting hypothesis--that Titanic was "lost" that night. This is not to downplay the work, just to alert everyone that not all research is exciting.

Where I am going is very familiar territory for airplane crash investigators. In a significant number of crashes the ultimate explanation is loss of situational awareness caused by a series of rather trivial events. The classic event of this nature was Eastern flight 401 that slammed into the Everglades while attempting to land at Miami. The crew became distracted by a burned out indicator light bulb worth less than a dollar. In effect, nobody was flying the plane. More and more, I am of the opinion that the situation on Titanic's bridge that night was exactly the same--nobody was driving the ship.

--David G. Brown
 
Paul Rogers

Paul Rogers

Member
Hi John and Phil - thanks for your clarification.

I have taken from your posts that:
(1) Smith was not a Commodore, although he was the senior Captain of WSL, as the latter had let the title lapse.
(2) The issue of Smith's retirement is in doubt at this time; no-one can prove the case one way or the other.

That's my digression out of the way. David - I'm afraid that I too can't wait to read your paper, however "dull" and "plodding" you say it's going to be!

Regards,
Paul.
 
P

Philip Kellingley

Guest
John

Do you have evidence that the commodore title had been dropped by WSL? I have two separate sources that say that WSL had named him Commodore - but the dates given differ by 4 years! However, I still stand by the fact that Smith was an "honorary" commodore (by tradition).

I still have a problem with why Smith was in the position he was in. If, as John says, WSL didn't name him commodore there must have been a reason. As his contract gave him a bonus for keeping his ships safe (uniquely, apparently) and given his previous unfortunate record of damaging other vessels is it possible that WSL didn't trust him fully? But, if that is so, why would they keep him as senior captain? Just a case of age?

Phil
 
J

John M. Feeney

Member
Phil: I was afraid you might ask that. ;^)

I *should* have evidence of that (in some form), but unfortunately I *think* it's buried deep in the archives of Mark Taylor's Titanic-Discuss list (somewhere) -- just something I recall in passing. So if you have documented evidence of your own, please don't go by my say-so.

I will try to track that one down for you, but I'm REALLY afraid it's going to be an elusive pursuit. (Nevertheless, I'll give it my best.)

I have the suspicion it may have come from a news article submitted by Mark Baber there. Mark, have you got your "ears on" -- ring any bells? (Mark is certainly far better versed in White Star Line's overall history than I am.)

The development, as I recall, stemmed from a prior *official* Commodore of the line resigning under somewhat questionable circumstances, after which White Star did not formally declare a Commodore in succession. (I agree that Smith was definitely considered the "honorary commodore" of the line.)

Cheers,
John
 
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John M. Feeney

Member
Phil: Hm! My memory's pretty good. :)

The article I was referring to can be found right here on the ET Message Board, in "General Titanica » Archive through 2 March, 2002 » A mystery about Titanic's mast flags?"

That particular item, a New York Times article indeed provided by our illustrious Mr. Baber, is located at https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/cgi-bin/discus/show.cgi?tpc=5921&post=41053#POST41053

As it makes clear, the official Commodore rank -- which conveyed a significant salary increment in addition to the prestige -- was dropped by White Star in 1882, only to be re-instituted in 1920. (But see article.)

Captain Smith was, by all accounts, the "honorary" commodore of the White Star Line, but according to that article he'd have been a much more "fat and happy" man as the official one.

Cheers,
John
 
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Nathan Lee Casteel

Guest
Hello it was not Captain Smith's fault for two reasons. One the wireless room did Not do their job by delivering the last message to Captain Smith and the bridge and that ship I believe was the Mesaba and also I remember that one of the wireless operators said "Shut Up" to another ship known as the Californian. Second reason is that Smith didn't want Ismay getting mad so he kept it on track.

Nathan
 
A

Adam McGuirk

Member
Uh excuse me but when ever a ship sinks it is the captains fault , Nathan. Even though he might not have seen the wireless message, it is a FACT that he had recieved other ice warnings that day and he knew Titanic was steaming into a well known north Atlantic ice field. I bet if he would have seen the message that didn't get to him than he still probally would have kept on going, but we will never know. And the Ismay part..We don't know 100 percent that the conversation that took place in the movie took place in real life, though I am inclined to believe it did. Even if they did Smith had the experience and knowledge to say look Mr Ismay we're stopping that is that. He didn't. There is no way to shield Captain Smith, he failed in many aspects through the Titanics voyage and lucky for him he didn't survive because I don't think he would have wanted to face Smith # 2 at the inquires.
Adam
 
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Jemma Hyder

Guest
Adam,

Uh excuse me.. to say that whenever a ship sinks the captain is too blame is extremely shallow. I do not dispute the legalities above that state a captain is ultimately responsible for his ship, or that he is outranked by an owner or whatever. But for you to try and imply that it was simply Smiths actions that caused the whole disaster is juvenile. There a thousand and one FACTS that contributed to the Titanic disaster that had absolutely squat to do with EJ. For you to sit and make assumptions that Smith would have toddled into an ice field at full speed having seen the Ice Warning is nothing short of offensive. Did you know him personally? do you have a source you can cite that suggests he would have taken this attitude? I think you might benefit from a wake up call. The movie was very pretty and very entertaining. But you quite obviously have begun to regard at it as authoritative primary evdience judging by all of your posts. I suggest you obtain a copy of one of the inquiries if you do not already have one. Although they aren't nearly as attractive to look at as Kate Winslet in the buff, some parts are quite interesting.

Jemma
 
A

Adam McGuirk

Member
Jemma I know that E.J. wasn't 100 percent the cause of the wreck. Murdoch flawed a few times and there are many things that E.J. failed too do.. That my friend is a fact!
Take a look at what Eric Wood said a couple of months ago when this started......

"Regardless of the outcome in terms of death, Captain Smith was responsible for the overall safe and prudent navigation of his ship. No matter how you look at it, Smith did not do his duty in several respects." Wood is a sea captain so obviously he knows what he's talking about. Like he said Smith was responisble for the overall safety of the ship which I don't care how you look at it, he failed!

You said.. "For you to sit and make assumptions that Smith would have toddled into an ice field at full speed having seen the Ice Warning is nothing short of offensive. Did you know him personally? do you have a source you can cite that suggests he would have taken this attitude?"

I am not stating 100 percent that he would have kept on going he could have stopped but he did recieve plenty of ice warnings that day and kept on going so what makes you think he would have all the sudden stopped after that one?

I have read pieces of Lightollers, Fleets, and Lowes testimony.

Jemma, I know that not everything that went wrong that night can be directly blamed on Smith, but I don't care how you look at it, he failed in many ways

Adam

P.S. Jemma, nothings as attractive as Kate Winslet
 
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Jemma Hyder

Guest
Adam,

From a legal point of view maybe Smith is responsible, but as I sad before actually pinning the entire disaster on an individual based on their actions is, after 90 years irrelevant.

You did say that had Smith seen the warning then you "bet" he would have kept going. It's a bold assumption to make, especially when you can't really substantiate it. You say you believe that because he has seen plenty of other warnings and kept on going...

I think you have over estimated how many messages Smith actually saw. If you want me to actually go over with you which ones he saw and which ones he had no idea of, then you can email me privately and I'd be happy to dicuss it with you.

Smith may have failed, so did numerous other individuals, but there are plenty of contributing factors to the disaster that have nothing to do with any individual at all. That's why I think it is unfair to "Blame" anyone for the disaster.

If you can get hold of one of the enquiries in full they're great to have, although a bit pricey.

Happy


Kate's not really my type lol but I can see where you're coming from. I'd rather gawp at Cameron's choice for 5th Officer Lowe ;)
 
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