Captain Smith's actions before collision


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Don Tweed

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Bill,
Yes in Butlers' book there is an appendix chapter, The Conundrum of Cptn. Smith, that deals with his mental state.
Ernie,
Yes, I agree that movies do implant a mental picture on the mind and they are hard to escape.
Kuntz' book on the senate hearings shows Cptn. Rostrons' actions that night very well, but as Monica said, to compare the two is not really fair game.
When I post hear I think out loud. What comes up, comes out. Which is why I love this sight.
Our discussions, and everyone throwing their ideas into the pot and stirring vigorously makes it fun and interesting.
Best Regards To All, Don
 

Don Tweed

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One more thing,
Linda,
You might want to go to your nearest bookstore or library and find the book A Night to Remember by Walter Lord.
If you have a general interest in Titanic I cannot think of a better book to build a foundation on. He also has a second book, The Night Lives On, that further enhances the first book.
Best Regards, Don
 

Tad G. Fitch

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Any suggestion that Captain Smith was in a state of shock during the sinking, or that Chief Officer Wilde is not mentioned by any survivors is simply not supported by the eyewitness accounts.

The eyewitnesses support that Captain Smith was active in overseeing the loading of the lifeboats, going below to check on things, checking in with the wireless men, checking in with Boxhall and the firing of rockets/morseing of the ship on the horizon, encouraging his crewmembers, etc.

The same is true of Chief Officer Wilde, who was very active in the loading of the lifeboats, contrary to popular belief. During Bill Wormstedt, George Behe and my research into the sequence in which the lifeboats were lowered, we found many references to Captain Smith actively participating in the process of loading, or overseeing the loading of lifeboats, and even more referencing Chief Officer Wilde's very active participation in the loading of the lifeboats. Wilde really only vanishes from eyewitness accounts after the loading of Collapsible D. That is not surprising, considering that only one witness survived to tell of Sixth Officer Moody's involvement in the attempted launch of Collapsible A, and only a few were able to recall First Officer Murdoch's presence there. Most of the people who would have seen them died, so it is not surprising that Wilde slipped through the cracks of the historical record at this point.

Why the myth of Captain Smith being in a daze, and that Chief Officer Wilde is absent from survivor accounts continues to persist is beyond me. There are several threads that have discussed this very topic in the past on here. Bill Wormstedt's website contains our lifeboat launch article, which does show the officer movements during the loading:

http://home.comcast.net/~bwormst/titanic/lifeboats/lifeboats.htm

Kind regards to all,
Tad
 

John Flood

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I could be wrong, but I think the first suggestions of Captain Smith being in a state of shock, came from people who watched the 1997 movie. I don't recall anyone ever saying that he was is a state of shock during the sinking prior to that, and I don't recall reading it in any books either. Just goes to show the power of movies/TV!
 
Mar 22, 2003
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"What they did not know was that by the time of the accident, they were already in the icefield."

I assume Michael that your use of the term "icefield" was meant to imply a region of scattered ice and icebergs, not that vast solid icefield made up of heavy pack ice that was seen in the morning after the sun came up.
 

Ernie Luck

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Hi Tad and John.

I could be wrong, but I think the first suggestions of Captain Smith being in a state of shock, came from people who watched the 1997 movie

I am pretty certain that Cameron entertains that view. He expressed it at a function about six months ago, which was reported in the press. I remember making an angry response on this site somewhere and Michael 'S' responded by saying you can't believe everything you read in the media.

That's true of course, but it ties up with the way Cameron portrayed Capt. Smith in the movie.

The power of the movie mogul, eh!!
 
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Sam, I'm not quite sure what you're driving at. They knew they were closing in on the region of reported ice, (Hence the reasons for the special instructions to the lookout.) but the first evidence they had that they were actually in it was when something went "CRUNCH" along the ship's side. The impression I have...and a highly subjective impression at that...was that the ice the survivors saw in the morning came as something of a surprise.
 

Kyrila Scully

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John, I read the account (of Smith's being in shock when Lightoller asked about loading the lifeboats with women and children) prior to seeing the movie, and I saw the movie on the day it opened. I took note of everything in the movie compared to what I already had read about the ship and its passengers and crew. At the time, my Titanic book collection was quite limited as many of the books came out after the film.
 

Kyrila Scully

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Hi, Bill. No, I don't think it was Butler's book, because I nearly didn't buy his book, and it was over a year after the film that I did finally buy it, but only because he was to be a guest in my home to speak with people about his book. I think you know the reasons why I would not give the information in his book much credence in this discussion.

Kyrila
 
Mar 22, 2003
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I believe it is the use of the term "ice field" and what those words mean to someone. There was a large solid field of heavy pack ice that was seen in the morning that stretched as far as the eye could see. The Titanic did not reach it but had come to a stop within 2 to 3 miles from it. I know Michael, I'm being picky.
 

Don Tweed

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Meanwhile, back at Pandoras' box,
I am simply asking questions and in no way are these hard held beliefs on my part. Just curious.
I know it has been said that many, if not all, of the officers were not aware of the lifeboat drill held by Harland & Wolf at Belfast, where the lifeboats were tested with the equivelant of 65 people lowered from the boat deck. Would Smith, Wilde, Murdoch and Lightoller have filled the boats to their capacity if they had known?
Smith and Wilde and a few more knew the liner was doomed, why then not fill them? Or have some sort of backup plan to get as many as possible off the ship.
Pure speculation on my part and wondering aloud.
As a great man once said, "The answer to all these Titanic riddles will never be known for certain. The best that can be done is to weigh the evidence carefully and give an honest opinion. Some will still disagree, and they may be right. It is a rash man indeed who would set himself up as final arbiter on all that happened the incredible night the Titanic went down."
Best Regards, Don
 

Mike Poirier

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I am trying to think- who was it that saw Captain Smith near the Wideners stateroom in and around the time of the sinking. Was it Frauenthal?
 

Linda Kuai

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Does being in a state of shock means being inactive...that's a subjective opinion I suppose. He could have been active...and been confused at the same time. I mean...I think it was said that most of the passengers were in denial at the beginning...the gravity of the situation did not sink right away. And I think that was probably true of the Captain...otherwise...why did he launch those lifeboats out half-full?

I also heard that in light of the new evidence...of the bottom hull that they found...one of the new theories of the sinking was that the officers did not expect the Titanic to sink so quickly...and maybe they thought that help would arrive in time...thus the reason for the life-boats being launched half-full.

And thank you Mr. Standart for the explanation about the ice field. That makes much more sense now.

Thank you, Mr. Tweed...I think I will get that book...I've seen it referenced here many times. Must be good!
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Linda
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Hi, Linda!

>>one of the new theories of the sinking was that the officers did not expect the Titanic to sink so quickly
Not so new. Smith, Murdoch and Moody were the only officers actually on the bridge at the moment of impact. Boxhall arrived just moments afterwards and no doubt Wilde was made part of the loop at some point. Lightoller, Pitman and Lowe were all asleep, more or less, and didn't join the proceedings until close to half an hour later. That scene in ANTR, where Smith addresses all the officers and informs them of their "precarious" situation, didn't actually ever happen. I tend to believe Lightoller's testimony when he said he had no idea things were so dicey while he was loading the first boats.

>>and maybe they thought that help would arrive in time

Well, there was this ship's lights they could see off to the north . . . And a lot of them did say, "You see that ship? That ship's going to come to our rescue." Ah, if only they'd had telepathy, along with telegraphy.

>>I think it was said that most of the passengers were in denial at the beginning

Durn tootin'! Although "denial" could imply that they were shutting out the truth. They just didn't know. But again, that's not a new theory. It's something they later said over and over.

>>And I think that was probably true of the Captain...otherwise...why did he launch those lifeboats out half-full?

What would have happened if he'd put out a general abandon-ship order and every single passenger and crew member had piled onto the upper decks, looking for a seat in those lifeboats that didn't exist? It wouldn't have been pretty.

Roy
 
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Hi, Don!

>>I know it has been said that many, if not all, of the officers were not aware of the lifeboat drill held by Harland & Wolf at Belfast, where the lifeboats were tested with the equivelant of 65 people lowered from the boat deck. Would Smith, Wilde, Murdoch and Lightoller have filled the boats to their capacity if they had known?

Ooops! Smith, Wilde and Murdoch all served on the Olympic, which had the same type of lifeboats as the Titanic. Should we believe they sailed the Olympic for a year without knowing of the H&W weight tests?

Roy
 

Don Tweed

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Good point Roy. So why did they not fill them?
As you have stated, panic would have followed and the story as we know it might be quite different. It is just so sad that close to 500 more could have been saved.
Best Regards, Don
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>I believe it is the use of the term "ice field" and what those words mean to someone.<<

Well, yeah, that could be a bit confusing.

>> There was a large solid field of heavy pack ice that was seen in the morning that stretched as far as the eye could see. The Titanic did not reach it but had come to a stop within 2 to 3 miles from it.<<

You know, sometimes I wonder about that.

This is just speculation but currents being what they are, such fields can open and close randomly. They could have been in the midst of a very dense grouping that broke up by morning which they couldn't have seen for the darkness of the night. That's not my take on it, but they could have been. Personally, I think that they went into a large open area where there was one BIG roadblock in the way, and perhaps surrounded by some low lying pack ice such as what Duke Collins has proposed. It may not have been much but it was enough to ruin their trip.

>> I know Michael, I'm being picky.<<

Nothing wrong with that.
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>>And I think that was probably true of the Captain...otherwise...why did he launch those lifeboats out half-full?<<

Linda, I think you may be going where angels fear to tread with that one. Not that it bothers me. Thinking outside of the box and going where angels fear to tread is a hallmark of the group I've been running with for the past six years now.

Having said that, from their point of view, they boats may well have been rather more full then we might be inclined to think. The boat capacities were based on some assumptions about how the volumn of space that an average person would take up. The problem with that one is that averages aren't always a reflection of reality. Especially if you have a very large person or persons who take up more space then assumed by the guy with the sliderule who crunches the numbers.

In other words, a boat with a reletively low number of fairly large people would tend to look a lot more "full" then a similar boat with the same number of smaller people.

Mind you this is but *one* down and dirty take on the situation and the issues here tend to be rather complex. Another factor to consider is the number of people who willingly stood back thinking the ship safer then an open boat out on the dark cold North Atlantic. Some simply didn't believe, much less understand, just how much trouble the ship was really in, even when they saw the water closing over the bow or flooding the decks below.

Then there is the question of how much the officers really knew about what the boats were really capable of. I'm more then just a bit skeptical of the officers being ignorant of the testing done in Belfast. It's not outside the realm of possibility that they were uninformed, but there is the fact that some of them had served on the Olympic and would have had a decent understanding of what was possible with that ship and her equipment. Titanic being a sister had similar equipment and capabilities.

Personally, I think they knew a bit more then they were ever willing to admit, but playing dumb would make a wonderful cover. In fairness, the possibility of simple miscommunication can't be ruled out, so that would give any such a certain ring of truth.
 

Don Tweed

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Hey Michael,
As Roy stated Smith, Wilde and Murdoch served on Olympic and knew of the boats capacity. But, I am guessing here, Lightoller did not. Lights had to steer around Wildes' cautiousness and Smiths' passivity to begin loading the boats.
Why did the top two officers hesitate in the loading?
Also, their knowledge of the capacity may have been just and afterthought having never had to use them on Olympic.
I really believe that with all that was happening that night, a hundred thoughts must have been flooding their minds, and to stay focused was very hard indeed. They all faced the idea this could very well be their last night on earth, but all held up very well with that fact in mind. One only would have to be in their shoes that night to really come to grips with the reality of the situation.
How would I have handled it? I do not know.
Thankfully, I have never had to stare death in the face and worry about my life, as well as the lives of thousands under my care.
Best Regards, Don
 
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>>Why did the top two officers hesitate in the loading?<<

I'm not so sure they really hesitated at all. The collision took place at 11:40 and the best evidence tends to indicate that the first boat was launched at about 12:40.

Between that time, there was the accident, what appears to be time when the ship started making way again, stopping for the last time as damage became apparant, damage assessment, the information conveyed to Captain Smith, weighing options, then making the decision to begin clearing away the boats to get them ready for launch and then the decision to actually begin evacuating the ship.

If there was any hesitation, in my own opinion, it was because Captain Smith had to gather facts and weigh his options, then once the order given, the work had to be accomplished to clear away the boats. The latter would have been a bit tedious, but not excessively time consuming however, loading them would have been. Especially with passengers who didn't understand the danger and who were understandably reluctant to get into the boats in the first place.

Also, keep in mind that boat operations of any kind are rather dangerous and that a decision to trade the ship for the boats is not made lightly. One's chances of survival are vastly improved if you can stay with the ship. The boats are a last resort and amounts to trading the frying pan for the fire, and Captain Smith would have known that. You just don't do that unless you really have no other option.
 

Linda Kuai

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Mr. Standart...do you think that it's possible that the ship may have sunk quicker than initially thought...and that it caught them by surprise?
 
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