But this ship can't sink... only in the movies


Mar 28, 2002
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Sorry if I'm covering old ground here.

Three of us were conversing at the Titanic Bar in Palma, Majorca on New Year's Eve and the subject of the Ismay / Smith / Andrews discussion of the Titanic's imminent demise (in the movies at any rate) came up. In the movies, Andrews is seen unrolling his blueprints and demonstrating to Captain Smith and J Bruce Ismay what damage has been inflicted on the ship. The exchange is almost the same in almost all of the movies:

(Paraphrasing) "Too many compartments have been flooded for the ship to stay afloat. She will sink."
"But this ship can't sink!"

Did this really happen? According to Ismay's testimony at the US and British Inquiries, Ismay merely asked the captain what had happened and was the ship seriously damaged.

If this is the case, Smith would have already had a diagnosis from Andrews on the fate of the Titanic. Ismay came along later and would not have been present at "the blueprints" discussion.

Maybe I'm jumping a bit ahead of myself here. As I understand the timeline of events, Smith, Andrews and Ismay were all in their private quarters when the Titanic struck the iceberg. Smith was the first to the bridge, Andrews didn't notice the collision and Ismay was woken by the impact. If Ismay had done as he testified, he went straight to the bridge to find out what had happened. This would have taken only a few minutes. During this time, if Andrews had to be fetched and a damage assessment done, surely Smith wouldn't have known how damaged the ship was?

Ismay didn't mention seeing Andrews when he first went to the bridge. Had he been notified at this point? In fact, Ismay never mentions seeing Andrews at all that night, so the "But this ship can't sink!", followed by "I assure you she can" or any words to that effect are surely a Hollywood creation?

Cheers,

Boz
 

Bob Godfrey

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Maybe a Hollywood creation, but not Pinewood. In ANTR Smith and Andrews are alone in the chart room during the blueprints scene, and it's the Captain who proclaims that the ship is unsinkable. Ismay does provide a similar reaction later, when Smith is passing on Andrew's findings to the officers assembled on the bridge. Andrews is not present:

"Captain! Aren't you exaggerating the danger?"
"I'm afraid not, Sir."
"Well, where's Andrews?"
"I'm acting on his advice. This ship is going to founder."
"But she can't!" etc
.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Too many assumptions as to what Capt. Smith knew or did not know when Ismay made his first trip to the bridge I'm afraid. Pulling out blueprints and all that make a good movie, but I don't think there is any evidence that anything like that actually happened.

According to the testimonies, Ismay got out of bed a few minutes after the collision, having been awakened by it. His first impression was that the ship dropped a propeller blade, as a few others had assumed. He then stepped into the hallway and asked a steward what had happened, and the steward did not know. According to Ismay, he then put on a coat and went up to bridge and saw Capt. Smith. He asked him what had happened and Smith told him that they struck ice. When he asked if it were serious, Smith replied that he thought it was. The time when this happened was several minutes after the collision, and probably was after the carpenter came up and reported to Smith that they were taking on water. However, this did not mean they already knew the ship was going to sink.

Ismay then went downstairs and found C/E Bell who also told him that he thought it was serious but hoped the pumps would control the water. Ismay estimated that this conversation took place about 30 to 40 minutes after the collision. At this point, according to Ismay, he went back up to the bridge and heard the Capt. given orders the load the boats, or something to that affect. We also know that the order to uncover the boats came somewhere near or little before midnight, the order to get passengers on deck with lifebelts on came around 12:15 (Joseph Wheat, Jack Thayer), and the order to load the boats came around 12:25 (Gracie and others).

We also know the Capt. Smith had personally went on an inspection tour of the ship and was seen meeting up with Andrews down below (Stewardess Annie Robinson). From time estimates (Annie Robinson, Charles Mackay) we can say that Smith's inspection took place between about 12:10 and 12:20, and when he came back the order was given to load the boats. It is probably during this inspection that the true extent of damage was realized. We know from 4/O Boxhall that when he met Smith on bridge to tell him about the progress of getting the boats swung out Smith told him: "Mr. Andrews tells me he gives her from an hour to an hour and a half." Luckily, Andrews underestimated how long she would remain afloat.
 

Jeremy Lee

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What I think that both Smith and Ismay knew something serious had happened, but no one realised the severity of it until the inspection. Still, they might still get carried away by all the 'unsinkable' theories.
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Hi, Jeremy!

The sad thing is they felt secure enough to restart the ship and head north - before they knew how bad the damage was.

Roy
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I have to wonder about that restarting part and just how far it really went. We have Gracie and Beesley testifying to it, but we also have testimony from the engine room that looks a lot more like trial manuevering or possibly an attempt to clear local ice then an attempt to get north.
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Hi, Michael!

Charlotte Collyer heard the engines restarting as well. She wasn't too impressed with what she heard.

>> . . . we also have testimony from the engine room that looks a lot more like trial manuevering or possibly an attempt to clear local ice then an attempt to get north.

Scott and Dillon, right? Let me see if I've got this straight . . .

Scott: (after the collision) STOP; then SLOW AHEAD for 10 minutes, then STOP; then SLOW ASTERN for 5 minutes, then STOP.

Dillon: (after the collision) STOP for 1/2 minute; then SLOW ASTERN for 2 minutes, then STOP; then SLOW AHEAD for 2 minutes, then STOP.

Yikes!

The way I've approached this was to sketch out Beesley's movements from the time he first noticed the ship had started moving again (observing from the Boat Deck), through his two conversations with folks down on D Deck, when the engines were still running. I don't see how he could have done all the things he said he did in under 10 minutes - probably closer to 15, or even 20 minutes. Of course, he wouldn't necessarily have been aware of the engines switching between AHEAD and ASTERN in the meantime, or whatever they did.

With that, Scott's estmates seem to fill the bill better than Dillon's, who seems to me just too glib with his very precise timings.

So Michael, what are your thoughts, sir? :)

Roy
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Scott and Dillon, right? Let me see if I've got this straight . . .<<

That's about the size of it. Since they were in the best possible position to know, the bridge watch team notwithstanding, my bet is that this testimony is probably as close to what actually happened that we;ll ever get.

>>With that, Scott's estmates seem to fill the bill better than Dillon's, who seems to me just too glib with his very precise timings.<<

Maybe. I wouldn't get too wrapped up in time estimates to the point of accepting same as some sort of Gospel Truth. The catch here is that people in general aren't especially good at estimating the passage of time. At best, you get an approximation. (Unless somebody was using a stopwatch.) What we can know from the testimony is that the ship did get moving again. What we don't know exactly is what she did or why.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Roy: A Beesley timeline from my unpublished work.

11:15 PM Beesley climbs into his top berth to read and noticed increased vibration of the ship.
11:40 PM Collision (Beesley calls it about 11:45 PM)
11:42 PM Engines stop and then reverse slowly for a minute or two.
11:43 PM Beesley leaves cabin to go up 2nd class staircase to boat deck to investigate why engines stopped.
11:46 PM Beesley out on the boat deck. Sees nothing unusual.
11:48 PM Beesley goes down to 2nd class smoking room to inquire onlookers.
11:51 PM Beesley goes back down to cabin to read again.
11:55 PM Beesley decides to go back up to boat deck after dressing more warmly.
11:57 PM Beesley on boat deck looks over side of ship and notices ship moving ahead slowly. Sees streaks of foam on sides.
12:06 AM Beesley goes back down to his cabin for last time. Notices an officer starting to uncover boat No. 16 on the port side as he was leaving the boat deck. Also notices a slight tilt toward the bow.
12:08 AM Beesley meets 3 ladies concerned about not hearing engines. Assures them that ship was moving again. Vibration of machinery down below can be felt on bathroom wall.
12:18 AM Beesley gets up to go back on deck for 3rd and last time along with other passengers.
12:20 AM Beesley sees lifeboats 9, 11, 13, and 15 being readied for swinging out. Estimates time at 12:20.
12:47 AM First rocket fired.
01:30 AM Boat 13 (with Beesley) launched.
 

Jeremy Lee

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The 17 minutes between the collision and 11.57pm when the ship was still moving made a lot of difference.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Just to clarify, seeing the ship moving ahead does not mean that the engines were still running at that time. It takes quite a bit of time for the ship to come to a stop after the engines are cut. When Beesley went down the stairs and met those 3 ladies the vibrations from the main reciprocating engines were obviously not heard. That is why they asked. Beesley, who just came from above, suggested going to the bathroom wall where the vibrations from the ship's machinery could easily be felt. And what was felt on the wall at that time may not have been the vibrations of the reciprocating engines. Directly below them were the four dynamo engines running full and also on D deck just forward of them by the 2nd class pantry were the two emergency dynamo engines that were also running at that time. It is most likely the vibrations from these engines that were the pulse of the ship at that time. My guess, taking other events and timing into consideration, is that the main reciprocating engines were stopped for good about the same time that Beesley came on deck and noticed the ship was moving. This would be about the time the carpenter reported flooding in the forward holds. Recall that Boxhall initially reported seeing no damage following his initial inspection forward. The engine restart probably happened after shortly after Boxhall was asked to find the carpenter to sound the forward ballast tanks. A minute or so later, the carpenter reached the bridge and reported the ship was taking on water in the forward holds. Following this report, I would guess that the engines were ordered to stop for the last time having run only a couple of minutes at most, as observed by Dillon. In my opinion, a lot of what Scott said makes little sense.

By the way, Dillon never was asked how long it was between the first stopping of the engines and the restart. I do not accept his time estimates as precise, but the sequence makes sense and fits observations. Scott's timing seems to me to be overly long at times. And I wonder what he actually had time to see. Once the WTDs closed where was Scott? His place was the turbine room. He describes being ordered aft to open the last WDT to get one his mates out of the aft tunnel space. This he describes as going up from the turbine room and down one of the escapes aft because all the doors were closed. He then comes back to the turbine room and his told to open all the WTDs going aft from the turbine room one at a time and leave them open which he and others do. So I ask when did he get a chance to see everything he said about all those subsequent engine telegraph orders especially being in the turbine room when the WTDs dropped shortly after the collision? Somebody please explain.
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Hi, Michael!

>>I wouldn't get too wrapped up in time estimates to the point of accepting same as some sort of Gospel Truth.

I'm not. In fact, one of the things that put me off about Dillon was that his estimates seemed a little too precise. . .a half-minute here, two minutes there. . .Makes me wonder how much work he was doing while he was, oh, so carefully watching his watch. And how he could have gotten away with it. Scott's figures, on the other hand, I took as ballpark figures only.

The striking differences between Dillon and Scott's recollections doesn't disturb me too much. My own experience when I'm trying to remember something is that any big distraction will drive whatever it is right out of my head. I also tend to remember newspaper articles on the opposite side and corner of the page they're actually on. No, I'm not dyslexic, but the mind does play funny tricks. And those two guys, Dillon and Scott, had plenty of distractions that night, what with their ship sinking and all.

Hi, Sam!

Thank you for posting your timeline, sir; I appreciate it!

One thing I see that's missing that probably doesn't affect your overall timings much, if at all, is that, after Beesley left the 3 women, he encountered some gentleman, then joined him in trying to roust some other guy they thought was drunk in his bunk. No big deal - I just didn't see it. :)

This is what Charlotte Collyer had to say about the engines restarting. Any idea what she actually heard?

"They tried to start the engines a few minutes later but after some coughing and rumbling there was silence once more."

Doesn't sound promising, does it? . . .

Roy
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Yeah, Beesley did do that, but my objective was to set times of his going up and down to the boat deck and if I could match those to other events.

Regarding Collyer's statement, those engines did not make coughing sounds. It was an inclosed system with nothing that vented to the atmosphere. So I have no idea as what she was describing. Rumbling may be a descriptor of a slow vibration. At slow ahead, the RPMs would be about 30 per minute, or 1 revolution every 2 seconds.

Dillon responded in a concise and smug manner to the questions being asked. He seemed very confident in his answers. But he was not looking at a clock or watch. He was giving his best estimates. He also said the WTDs came down 3 minutes after the collision, but I find that a little on the long side. Murdoch was seen near the WTD switch when Olliver came on the bridge just as the ship struck the ice. And Boxhall said he saw him closing them when he entered the bridge seconds after the impact. Allowing Murdoch some reaction time and a few seconds to ring the warning bell before pulling the switch, I would guess that the doors started on their way down within 15 to 20 seconds of initial impact. Those doors take about 45 seconds to close shut. So I would call it closer to 1 minute after striking the ice, not 3 minutes, for the WTDs to close. In any event, you have to look at all the inputs you find to get a good feel for the timing and sequence of what happened that night. I like to find things that tend to match up. That's why I look at events in the stokeholds, engine rooms, on the bridge, up in the nest, what passengers said, etc. You have many pieces of great puzzle and the trick is to see how many can be made to fit.
 
Feb 24, 2004
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>>my objective was to set times of his going up and down to the boat deck and if I could match those to other events.

Okay, I see now! Sorry for being a pain.

>>Regarding Collyer's statement, those engines did not make coughing sounds. . . .So I have no idea as what she was describing.

Vague, descriptive language? Grasping at straws, trying to make sense out of something she didn't really understand?
 

matthew ewing

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I don't think anybody will really ever know what was said that night. many of the people that were there have died in the sinking or since died. but, i'm sure they all knew what was to come.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>off topic: this guy roy keeps typing this under all of my replies. why?<<

Because he can and because anything you or anyone else posts here is fair game for response, question, discussion and debate. Forums invite that sort of thing.

If you can handle that, then so long as you abide by the rules, post away.

If you don't like that, then don't post.

Your call.

>>I don't think anybody will really ever know what was said that night. many of the people that were there have died in the sinking or since died.<<

Good thing we can access the Inquiry Transcripts on line, thanks to the yeoman work of people like Rob Ottmers, Bill Wormstedt, etc. Want to read what a lot of the people on Titanic said and recalled saying and hearing? Go to http://www.titanicinquiry.org/
 

Paul Lee

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Hi Sam,
I was wondering how the observations of QM Olliver fit into your Beesley timeline?

-----
Olliver arrived on the bridge just as the berg was passing by; a little time later, as the ship was almost stopped, the Captain rung down half speed ahead. The Captain then orders Olliver to find the carpenter and get a draft of the ship, and finds him in the E deck passageway. Returning to the bridge, Olliver is then sent to give a message to the chief engineer, and he finds him in the engine room. The engines are stopped by this time, and Olliver
is with the engineer for a few minutes. Of course, the engines may have been retstarted after this.

How long would it take for Olliver to descend to E deck, and then return to the bridge? 5 minutes?
Probably less. And how long did it take for him to
find the Carpenter?

In 5 minutes, someone could walk maybe 1500 feet. Judging by the Carpenter's location reported by other people, he must have been somewhere at the foreward end of E deck, near the stairs that led down to the mailroom. As the crow flies, this would be something like 40-50 feet below the bridge. And then, how long would it take for Olliver to go back to the bridge and then down to the Engine room? A walk down Scotland Road would be 300 feet, and then down a ladder. I haven't estimated how long it would take to descend a ladder, but all the above makes me think that Olliver traversed a distance of, roughly, 500 feet as the crow flies, a walking time of 100 seconds, give or take a lot of margin of error.

Interestingly, Olliver noticed that the door to boiler room 1 was open when he got to the engine room, and that it was dark inside. Dillon testifies that the doors foreward of the engine room (up to and including the door between boiler room 3 and 4) were opened after the engines were stopped, although if he were opening doors, he may have missed engine movements. To make timings generous, we could say that Olliver may have arrived just after the door to boiler room 1 had been opened, and boiler room 2 was being worked on. And how long would it take to raise a watertight door? About a minute perhaps?

Dillon's testimony seems a bit unclear about the time between the collision and the order to open the doors, but it seems to be 3 minutes.

I'll have a re-read of Hendricksons and Barretts testimony to see if I can get any idea of when the lights in the boiler rooms went out and when they came back on to see if that helps.

The timeline could be like this, rounded up to the nearest minute:

11:40 collision- Olliver arrives on bridge
11:41/2 Titanic is almost at a halt; Captain Smith orders half speed ahead. Olliver is told to find the Carpenter.
11:43 Watertight doors forward of recip.engine rooms ordered raised.
11:44 Olliver finds the Carpenter; watertight door leading from engine room to boiler room 1 raised.
11:45 Olliver returns to the bridge and is told
to deliver a message to the Chief Engineer.
11:58 Olliver arrives in Engine room; engines have now stopped by this point.
 

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