Bruce Ismay & Captain Smith

Samuel Halpern

Samuel Halpern

Member
This entire issue was extensively covered in a joint 2 part article that I and Mark Chirnside wrote called: "Speed and More Speed," that appeared in THS's Titanic Commutator, Issues 182 & 183 last year.

Stanley, the Beesley mileages are not entirely correct. The ship's 1st day's run was actually 484 nautical miles, not 386 as Beesley had quoted in his book. Also, the purser [most probably Reginald L. Barker] actually mentioned to Beesley that the 519 mile run for day 2 was a disappointment.

>>they may not have been trying to smash any records but, at the same time, they did not want to make a late arrival in New York.<<

I agree. There were on track for beating Olympic's maiden voyage crossing performance, and even if they never increased speed beyond what they carried that Sunday night, they would have arrived at the Ambrose lightship late Tuesday night and discharged passengers at the dock early Wednesday morning. It was noticed by several passengers that Titanic's engines were running faster Sunday night than at any other time during her entire voyage. The list includes: Mrs. Mahala D. Douglas, Mr. C. E. Henry Stengel, Mr. Lawrence Beesley, and Mr. George Rheims.

Hi Jim. As you know Smith shared the Baltic ice report with Ismay on Sunday. This was a day after Ismay was delighted that they apparently were well on there way to bettering Olympic's maiden voyage performance. To quote a passage from our article:
Bruce Ismay was certainly no navigator, nor was he an expert about weather conditions in the vicinity of icebergs and field ice. But he did have more than one conversation with Captain Smith during the voyage, and we know that Captain Smith handed him that ice warning received earlier from the Baltic, the one that Ismay showed to Mrs. Ryerson. Ismay was certainly no average first class passenger, nor was he treated as one despite what he wanted others to believe. More than likely, it was Captain Smith who would have confided to Ismay that fog or haze can form in the vicinity of ice, and if that were to happen, they would be forced to slow down or even stop. But it is also likely that he would have told Ismay that if the weather remained clear with perfect visibility, it would be better to get through the region as quickly as possible before any fog or haze could start to develop. It was generally believed that the presence of icebergs by themselves posed little danger as long as they can be seen in time to be avoided.
 
J

John Knight

Member
"It was noticed by several passengers that Titanic's engines were running faster Sunday night than at any other time during her entire voyage. The list includes: Mrs. Mahala D. Douglas, Mr. C. E. Henry Stengel, Mr. Lawrence Beesley, and Mr. George Rheims."

Sam, do you know how they could tell this? By the sound? I am guessing.
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
>>Sam, do you know how they could tell this? By the sound? I am guessing.<<

The sound and the vibration. Any seasoned traveler, be it crew or passenger would be able to do this.
 
Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
I wonder what prompted the people mentioned to remember the sounds and sensations caused by the engines? That is - apart from spending an horrific few freezing hours in an open boat and witnessing the sounds and sights of friends and travelling companions meeting their deaths - was it the exhilarating feeling of speed? or was it as a contribution to the proof of culpability?
What you say is correct Michael but as an engineer, you will know there are other circumstances which can also cause the same sensations.

Cheers!

Jim.
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
>>I wonder what prompted the people mentioned to remember the sounds and sensations caused by the engines?<<

Probably the fact that Titanic was a new ship, had the more or less usual slow start followed by the gradual workup as the engines were run in. Had it been any other trip, the ship would have been running at or near her expected service speed practically from the start, and I doubt it would have rated any special notice as there would have been little difference to notice.

>>What you say is correct Michael but as an engineer, you will know there are other circumstances which can also cause the same sensations.<<

I can think of a few, and I'm not even an engineer. Just an ordinary deckplate sailor.
 
J

John Knight

Member
That is what made me wonder. I guessed the speed build up would have been gradual. Therefore less likely to have been noticed.
 
David G. Brown

David G. Brown

RIP
There are other reasons for people to notice machinery sounds and vibrations beyond just increasing speed. These things become increasingly noticeable as other distractions disappear--distractions like the motion and noise of a ship in a seaway. On a calm day you hear lots of things you never notice when the going is rough. As we know, the sea conditions were becoming "oily calm" as the night wore on. That alone could account for some or all of the impressions of greater vibrations from the engines.

-- David G. Brown
 
Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
Quite right David. Also, on a new ship like some new cars! things become loose - hence the name 'shake-down cruise'?

Sorry Michael! perhaps I 'engineered' the question?

Cheers!

Jim.
 
J

John Knight

Member
I do see your points David and accept you may well be correct.
However, I remain unconvinced. The conditions, although becoming 'Oily calm,' were never in the slightest rough previously, as far as I am aware.
The ships size too would have made the conditions even less noticeable, again as far as I am aware.
I guess we will never know.
 
David G. Brown

David G. Brown

RIP
John, I'm unconvinced that any one answer about the sensations of greater engine speed is correct. My intention is just to point out the importance in not forcing the evidence to fit a pre-made conclusion. Those sensations could have been from greater RPMs, or because the sea was getting calmer, or because as Jim suggests something vibrated loose. They could have come from a less skilled quartermaster over-steering and correcting. The engineers could have started up some seldom-used equipment, such as making a routine test of the bilge pumps. Or, they might have been natural harmonics of the ship which the witnesses noticed for the first time during the voyage because they finally walked into the right spot where the vibrations were noticeable. And, they could have been a bit of ex post facto memory embellishment that often accompanies eyewitness accounts of major events. We really do not have enough information to say with any level of certainty what caused those independent observations. What we know is that some non-technical people thought the ship was going faster that night...and that's good enough to raise any historian's curiosity. After all, the most probable answer to the mystery is the obvious--Titanic was going faster than ever.

-- David G. Brown
 
J

John Knight

Member
Hi David, I totally agree with your point about not forcing the evidence to fit a pre-made conclusion. It was this which prompted me ask my original question.
I also fully see your other very well made points. I am not going to make a call on the speed of the ship though as I just do not feel I have found enough evidence.
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
>>After all, the most probable answer to the mystery is the obvious--Titanic was going faster than ever. <<

A possibility which I might point out is well supported by known navigational data and testimony. The ship was going faster then she had at any point in the voyage. In point of fact, she had been gradually working her way up to that all along.
 
Samuel Halpern

Samuel Halpern

Member
The totality of evidence, not just some passenger perceptions, show that Titanic's speed was increased as late as 7 PM Sunday night. Those observations only support the other evidence that is available. And, if you believe what Ismay said, it was planned to increase her speed further on Monday or Tuesday for brief trial period once those 5 auxiliary boilers were put on line.

The increase in speed took place despite warnings of ice ahead. It was all part of the plan of working her up. The presence of ice ahead was not going to change how the ship was navigated unless forced to do so. Smith was determine to stay the course and speed until a clear and present danger was actually seen, whether that be ice or a deterioration in seeing conditions. Smith thought that they would have sufficient warning to avoid any serious incident. He and others that followed that practice were proven wrong. The view was probably best expressed by Ismay himself when he testified:

“I see no reason why a Commander should not go full speed in the ice region as long as he can see sufficiently far ahead of him to enable him to clear any object which he may encounter.”
— J. Bruce Ismay, at the Limitation of Liability Hearings in New York, June 1914.

Despite the Titanic disaster, he still held to that belief 2 years after that fateful event.
 
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