Collision Sinking which contributed most to the loss of so many lives


Aug 28, 2008
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We have Ismay, an arrogant businessman, urging Capt Smith to increase speed despite numerous ice warnings which he was aware of, we have the lookouts who misplaced the binoculars so they went up without them, we have Capt Smith who had a good reputation but whose total lack of experience in dealing with any crisis at sea played a role in the haphazard evacuations of the passengers, (in fact, he went inot a kind of daze/shock) Ismay's decision to have fewer lifeboats in order that the 1st class passengers would have private promenades and more luxuries, the lack of training of the ship's officers in charge to load all the lifeboats to the maximum and over, since they were all tested beforehand in Ireland with 30 extra adult men and were built to handle overloads instead of being sent away 1/3 full in some cases, the failure of the design of the so called wateright compartments that were not watertight at all but had no caps/tops or lids on them, but allowed water to slop over from one compartment to the next thus causing them to fail, the rivets which became brittle in the cold and failed, the calm of the sea which resulted in no waves breaking against the berg which was described as a blue berg or black berg having turned over in the water and was clear and therefore invisible until you were right on top of it, the 37 seconds the bridge had to try to save the ship; instead of turning away, which they did not have time to do, if they had just rammed it head on w/o reducing speed which only "burbled" the water and lessened the strength of the ship, they could have stayed afloat for several hours, the "mystery" ship clearly visible to all on the decks but who turned away and never came to help, the lack of assistance from Capt Stanley Lord who ignored the distress rockets and went back to sleep instead of rendering aid although they were within a few miles and much closer than the Carpathia, and given all these circumstances and more, which of these factors was the greatest contributor to the number of lost lives?
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Ismay - Not a factor.

Lookouts without binoculars - Not a factor in spotting icebergs.

Capt Smith in a kind of daze/shock - Total rubbish.

Ismay's decision to have fewer lifeboats - The ship carried more than what was required by outdated BOT regulations.

Failure to load all the lifeboats to the maximum -passenger were reluctant to enter the early boats thinking it safer to stay on the ship. There was no evacuation plan except for boat assignments for the crew.

Watertight compartments that had no caps/tops or lids on them - there are no lids on what are called watertight compartments then or now.

Rivets which became brittle in the cold and failed - The rivets and steel were not brittle.

No waves breaking against the berg - a condition that was anticipated well in advance.

If they had just rammed it head on - that's like saying I'll let my car crash head on to an obstruction in the road in the hope there will be less damage than trying to turn and avoid.

The "mystery" ship who turned away and never came to help - assuming there was a mystery ship that was in a position to help.

Lack of assistance from Capt Stanley Lord who ignored the distress rockets and went back to sleep - what he was told initially was not very alarming, and what he was told later was too late.

Which of these factors was the greatest contributor to the number of lost lives?

None. The greatest contributor was the failure to take the ship well to the south before turning westward to NY as some other captains had done that day to avoid the known region of ice altogether.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>which of these factors was the greatest contributor to the number of lost lives?<<

As Samuel pointed out, none of the above. Much of what you said is firmly engrained in the Titanic mythos but the reality has little to do with that.
 

Tad G. Fitch

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As Sam already pointed out, the myth that Captain Smith was "dazed and confused" as the ship sank is completely baseless. In the course of Bill Wormstedt, George Behe and my research into the lifeboat launch sequence, we found numerous examples of Captain Smith actively supervising or participating in the lifeboat loading and evacuation. Sam's research also supports that he was very active after the sinking, inspecting the ship and touring for damage, updating and giving orders the wireless men, checking in regarding the ship on the horizon, etc. In short, he was fulfilling the responsibilities that were expected of him. There really is nothing to the myth of his inaction.

Kind regards,
Tad
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Tad, that also becomes apparent the more survivor accounts one reads. They report Captain Smith at a variety of locations throughout the morning, and not a single one I've read to date describe him as looking "dazed and confused" - very much the opposite, in fact.

Roy
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Tad, that also becomes apparent the more survivor accounts one reads.<<

It becomes even more apparant when one reads the testimony offered at the inquiries. For somebody who was supposedly dazed and confused, Captain Smith was strangely everywhere and involved.

The one thing he wasn't doing was micromanaging. It might have been better if he had intervened in a few instances but that amounts to Monday Morning quarterbacking and assumes he was aware of every single thing that wasn't going quite right.

The simple fact of the matter was that whatever they had which passed for a plan was out the window the instant they accidentally used an iceberg for a can opener. They didn't have the expected luxury of time to work things out and get everybody transfered to the rescue vessels that it was believed that they would have time to wait for. With only two hours to live, they had to make things up as they went.

While I don't quibble with the fact that it could have been better...it can always be better...if Captain Smith had been dazed and confused, it's a cinch that things would have been a lot worse.
 

Kevin Perez

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Is it correct to say so many people went down with the ship is because the boats were not filled to capacity and in the midst of chaos on board, I could imagine some passengers were turned off by the idea in entering a tiny lifeboat in the middle of the ocean and thus stayed on the ship until the very end, and when they realized the danger as the ships bow made a plunge, it was too late, right? I could imagine that's how it was in the first two hours.

Boy, aren't we ever arrogant, even in life-threating situations? Were people THAT stubborn? What does that say about us in that time period?
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Were people THAT stubborn?<<

Errrrrr...put yourself in the position of a society lady in one of those ankle clinging skirts who's being asked to abandon a large warm ship in favour of a cold open boat in the middle of a dark night on the North Atlantic.

It's super dark out there, bone chilling cold, and even though you can't really see diddly squat, you know it's 70 feet to the ocean and a death sentence if you slip and fall.

How eager would you be to climb into that boat?
 
Mar 22, 2003
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How many were told that getting into the boat was just a formality and that they will be back in the morning? The truth that the ship was actually doomed seemed to be known by Wilde and Murdoch, but not by Pitman, Lowe, or Lightoller in the early stages even as distress signals were going up. We also know that Smith confided with Boxhall when he was asked, but Boxhall did not take part in loading the boats.
 

Kevin Perez

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I won't argue about that. But I'm talking about in the LATER stages in the sinking, Mike. Unless you're telling they were still people who believe the ship would stay afloat even with its bow going below the sea.
 
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>>But I'm talking about in the LATER stages in the sinking, Mike. <<

It wouldn't have been that apparent even fairly late in the sinking. Keep in mind that the final plunge happened when all the stability curves went into the negetive and would have been percieved as quite sudden. Up until then, the process looked rather slow.

As it happens, fairly late in the sinking, people were figuring it out and there was no lack of people willing to take to the boats. The problem here is that by this time, it was too late.
 

Erik Wood

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One of the many odd conversations in Titanic mythology is that of Captain Smith and his actions both immediately preceeding the accident and then those after the accident.

I find it odd that so many who know so little about maritime life contribute so freely to a topic they know nothing about. Of course at this point I must defer to Captain Gittins, but there are certain things that are true no matter the flag of the ship.

There are certain things a Captain (a good Captain) does not do. One of those is interfere in a evolution he has set forth unless there is a good reason. And unless I am mistken we don't have evidence that any one officer was not following or doing a very poor job of following the orders that Captain Smith set in motion. As a master of a ship, interference can be something as simple as his/her presence and I know that this particular topic has occurred sometime in the past.

In a emergency a Master's place is to provide direction and guidance and then watch as his/her orders are carried out. I find it somewhat disturbing that there are those who feel his (Captain Smith's) place was putting people in a lifeboat. That isn't reality.

As others (holy moly I am agreeing with Sam!!) have already pointed out Smith was more then proactive in the evacuation of his vessel and in obtaining information regarding the condition of his ship.

One of the other things that Sam points out is that some officers view of the general situation was different then others. This in my mind illustrates my point. Smith ordered the vessel to be abandoned so his officers carried out that order. Regardless of whether they agreed or understood the true nature of the situation. The reality is it wasn't their responsibility or even right to know. Their captain gave them an order and in good maritime fashion they followed their masters orders.

One of the things I have always discussed in the past is what I consider to be the proper protocol of shipboard operations something that has been severly lacking in the Titanic discussion ever since there has been a Titanic discussion.
 

Jim Currie

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Well said Erik!

You seem to have been reading my mind.

I have read in these pages pontification after pontification with not a little exasperation as I'm sure many professionals have done before me and will do so after I'm gone.

Sure! knowledge of all things nautical is not the exclusive domain of the professional seafarer. Anyone who is intelligent enough to read and be able to understand what they are reading can accumulate a great deal of knowledge. This is patently obvious by some of the learned and accurate contributions of some of the highly qualified members herein.

However until a person has been there, seen it, done it and got a drawer-full of 'T' shirts to prove it - there will always be the missing 'X+' factors. These can only be obtained by practicing a profession - every profession.

As you suggest Erik, the understanding of 'proper protocal' on board a deep-sea ship is paramount to having a better 'feel' for the situation. It is also essential to 'fill-in' gaps in continuity resulting in a better understanding of 'what went on'.

As a seafarer yourself; you will doubtless be aware of and have often experienced that other nebulous but no less important 'gut feeling' factor.


Cheers!

Capt. Jim Currie, Master Mariner (FG).P.T.B.S.A.
Post Titanic But Still Ancient).
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Capt. Jim Currie, Master Mariner (FG).P.T.B.S.A.
Post Titanic But Still Ancient).<<

You mean, you weren't commanding the Roman Fleet against Cleopatra's at Actium?
wink.gif


While no deck officer myself, I've spent enough time at sea to know that if a good captain is effectively doing his job and doing it right, he'll look like he's hardly doing anything at all.

The whole image of Captain Smith being stunned and ineffective makes for a nice story to add to the drama of the Titanic mythos but doesn't hold up well when reading primary source material such as the inquiry transcripts. He was well involved but he wasn't a micromanager who was in everybody's face.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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One has to ask where and how did some of those impressions of an ineffective Capt. Smith come about? Some of it may have come from Lightoller and Boxhall. Their interactions with Smith after the collision seem to follow a pattern of the officer going to the captain with a suggestion followed by the order to "carry on." We see this in Lightoller's description of going above Wilde to Smith asking him permission to start loading the boats. We see this in Boxhall asking Smith if he should get some distress signals and start sending them up after seeing the lights of a steamer off their port bow. They both tended to paint themselves in a very proactive light, and therefore Smith is shown in a reactive mode rather than being a proactive leader.
 

Erik Wood

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That is indeed a very good point. To one that I have no real answer. The loading of the boats however could be seen two ways. One is that Smith had no way of knowing that his previous order (to have them swung out) was completed. So Lightoller going to Smith to ask permission to load the boats, was Lightoller's way of telling Smith that the previous order had been carried out, and the next step in the evolution (which required the masters consent) need an affirmative response from Smith.

But the rockets.....
 

Jim Currie

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No Michael! and I've never shot an albatross either!

Sam is probably right in that it came from a landsman's interpretation of what was going on.

Since the evidence wasn't actually verbatim, how can we know exactly the expressions used by individuals to Smith after completing a given task? e.g. "Excuse me sir - it's getting a bit 'hairy' around here. Don't you think we should be putting those poor sods in the boats?" as opposed to:
" Sir - All the boats have been prepared for embarkation do you wish us to proceed embarking passengers first?".

Somehow I think the latter form fits the bill and is an approximation to what Erik is describing.

Cheers,

Jim.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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There is plenty of evidence that Capt. Smith was not reactive despite some impressions that Lightoller or Boxhall may have given. Two examples,

QM Hichens: I heard the Captain say "Get all the boats out and serve out the belts." That was after 12.

AB Poingdestre: I was going up on to the boat deck to go towards my own boat, and I heard the Captain pass the remark, "Start putting the women and children in the boats," and then I went to my boat, No. 12.

One has to also keep in mind the noise of the escaping steam that was going on for quite some time, and some orders may not have been heard by everyone.
 

Ernie Luck

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It was very interesting to read the expert opinions expressed here, particularly about Captain Smith; a hero of mine.

Schuyler Johnson's post which started these discussions could have been a straight take from the script of Cameron's Titanic and we know what a jaundiced view of Smith he had. In his defence he had a movie to make and in journalistic phraseology " never let the truth get in the way of a good story".
 

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