Could Titanic have been one of the great mysteries ever?


Sep 11, 2015
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I'm not very big on hypothetical situations, but this is one I've always thought about. Imagine a (very possible) situation in which Titanic sideswipes the iceberg, opens up her entire starboard side, quickly develops a heavy list, rolls over, capsizes and then sinks. I don't know how fast the ship could have sunk, but I imagine there must have been a way in which this happened relatively quickly. Further imagine that it's the middle of the night and most people are asleep, and that Phillips and Bride had been unable to fix the wireless apparatus since 11pm Saturday night. So here's what we have:
1.Titanic sinks very quickly (Basically as fast as it could have plausibly happened.)
2.There is very limited wreckage to be found on the surface. (I assume this would occur if Titanic doesn't split apart, and capsizes before she sinks.)
3.There are no survivors. (It is impossible to launch lifeboats, and the few who can dive into the water die quickly from hypothermia.)
4.There is no distress signal, and no one has heard from Titanic since the wireless apparatus failed at 11pm Saturday night.
Basically Titanic disappears. Would this be one of the great mysteries in world history? Would people just assume she hit an iceberg and sank quickly? When would people even know she was missing and begin a search, and at that point would the small amount of wreckage and bodies have scattered too far and wide to ever be found? Would the wreck ever be found with little idea of where to look? Is the scenario I describe even possible? You can even vary the scenario. In one the Californian sees the lights of a ship that quickly go out and never reappear. In another the Californian never sees Titanic's lights. It's all hypothetical, so use your imagination!
 
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Jack Dawson

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Hi gentlemen, I think PTAI has a point about the Naronic. At the same time though, just about every ship that sank has a mysterious element to it; or many unanswered questions. Sometimes all we have to go on are theories and cryptic clues. The USS Cyclops for example, disappeared in 1918 and has never been positively identified. The final days of the schooner Carol Deering is still as much a puzzle now as it was in 1921 when it was discovered abandoned.

I think that while (in keeping with your hypothetical scenario) such a mysterious loss of the Titanic would assure it a place in history, I believe that it is what we know about the sinking, and especially the people on board that keeps Titanic in our hearts.
 
Sep 11, 2015
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The Naronic is certainly the perfect example of what I'm describing. I remember discovering the Naronic mystery a few years ago when reading (I think) The Sway of the Grand Saloon. The Naronic is very interesting, as are the myriad other ships that have disappeared through the ages. I think if Titanic had disappeared in such a manner though, she would still be a household name, unlike all of these other examples. But this thread doesn't just have to be about how famous Titanic would have been had she disappeared. It can also be about the plausibility of the scenario I described, or how such a scenario might have played out.
 

PITAI

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In that case, I'd speculate that we'd still be looking for the Titanic. It took us quite a while to find her when we had a general idea of where she was. If she just vanished, there are thousands of miles where she could be, though we may have narrowed down the search area to the location of the ice fields out of intuition. The search for her would be fairly intense given her pedigree (largest ship on its maiden voyage carrying the day's elite), though I am still doubtful she'd turn up.
 
Sep 11, 2015
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Hello PITAI - I agree under these circumstances Titanic would have been extremely hard to locate. I'm sure people would have used reports of the ice field to narrow it down like you say, but it would have been tough. However, I do wonder about the reports of Titanic (or at least some large hunks of metal) initially being found by the British or U.S. navy while performing sonar mapping of the Atlantic floor. If these reports contain any truth (a big if), maybe they would have found Titanic anyway. Although if those reports are true, it makes me wonder why they didn't find the Naronic too. It most likely sank only 100 miles from where Titanic met her fate.
 
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Nov 13, 2014
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I tried to imagine how and why Titanic would have sunk under the circumstances you described. Capsizing, sinking very quickly, no survivors... Sounds even more dramatic than the 18 minutes of terror that sank Lusitania, and she got away with 767 survivors, even more than Titanic. Don't forget Lusitania was sunk by a firedamp explosion triggered by a torpedo, and Titanic sank in peacetime.

There is a famous image that shows Titanic with a 300 ft. gash running all the way from the forepeek to boiler room 5. If the damage was really that serious and streched out all the way to the stern, then we have your scenario.

The problem is, ice cannot tear a ship open like this. It would have to cut solid steel like paper. I can't imagine any scenario that triggers such immense damage.
 

Adam Went

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Interestingly enough, I think it's the 2 hours and 40 minutes of drama we actually have which has helped to drive the Titanic story on. There's just so many stories within that story, and it played out over such a length of time - as opposed to the 18 minutes of the Lusitania, for instance - that it's created a very important element of what has kept Titanic in the minds of people. If she had sunk within minutes, I think it would definitely be more of a mystery but I question whether the wreck would have the same fame that it would have today. As to whether or not she would have been found, even the technology of the modern world isn't always foolproof when it comes to objects disappearing - the recent tragic case of flight MH370 comes to mind here - but I suspect that the wreck would still have been found by now.

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Michael! An interesting conversation. I love the idea of using the imagination and do so a great deal when trying to link facts with a time gap between.

Just a few points:

Ice very rarely if ever punches a hole in a ship or rips a gash along her side. 99% of hull breaches due to ice are the result of distortion of the steel which in turn causes failure of a shell plating joint or joints. In the case of Titanic, that would have been riveted seams and butts. In modern vessel it would be failure of plating in the vicinity of welded joints or failure of the actual welds.

If a passenger ship overturns in a very short time due to the breach of a single compartment then it is more likely to have been caused by a sudden shift of weight upward as when very many people make their way to the exposed upper decks.

It is highly unlikely that Titanic would have become an unsolved mystery like the "Marie Celest" etc. Unlike the classic mystery vessels, she was fast and following a prescribed route. Her ETA New York pilot would have been known. Her Noon position on April 13 would also be known. It is highly probable that Captain Smith would have been keeping New York Office informed of progress on a regular basis and an update would be due after Noon each day. It did not take long to locate and recover bodies after she did sink; even though bad weather intervened. I am therefore sure that had she suddenly turned-turtle as they say, there would have been enough floating evidence to show that she had done so. To lessen that chance, there would have needed to have been a SW gale during or shortly after the sinking.

As a matter of interest; I am convinced that US and UK politicians of the day deliberately manipulated the situation and approved final reports that diverted attention from evidence that showed exactly where the wreck ofTitanic might be found.
Before the technology to hunt for Titanic's wreck became available, poor old Boxhall's ashes were scattered in the wrong place. When the technology was available, wreck hunters simply accepted the popular 1912 manipulated version of events. Had they properly analysed the evidence, they would have been able to narrow the search area to within 2 miles of the exact spot.

Jim C.
 
Nov 13, 2014
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It seems highly unlikely to me that there was such a cover-up by the government. The most important thing is: why would they? There was no technology available to locate the wreck, so there was absolutely no reason to perform such a scheme. Lazy-pants as politicians are, if such a scheme costs more money than they gain from it, it simply does not happen.

And I also question your claim that the search area could have been narrowed down to 2 miles from the wreck site. The ONLY person to claim Titanic was further east than the SOS position was Captain Moore (Mount Temple). He said the actual sinking site might have been 8 miles more to the east. But we don't know if he meant 8 miles from the SOS position, or 8 miles east of the 5-mile wide ice field directly east of the SOS position.
Anyway, when the wreck was found, it was revealed to be 13 miles east of the SOS position. Moore was the ONLY one to get it right, quite logic that Ballard didn't rely on him while establishing the search area. I have The Discovery of the Titanic.
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Christophe! I respond to your last post as follows:

[I]It seems highly unlikely to me that there was such a cover-up by the government.

On Saturday, May 18, 1912, Day 18 of the US Senate Inquiry into the disaster and 33 days after the disaster, Captain John J. Knapp, the USN Hydrographer presented a report which included a plot of the ice and the position of ships relative to it. He was able to develop that plot from ice reports given to the US Hydrographic office long before May 18. At least 4 of the reports he used to build his chart came from vessels reporting an impenetrable ice barrier more than 20 miles long trending north-south and close to 50 degrees longitude West during the 24 hours 6 am April 14 to 6 am April 15. Despite this, there is no representation of that barrier on any of Captain Knapp's charts or plots. All of them show the eastern edge of the ice to be about 9 miles farther to the west.
Now I don't know about you, but I cannot believe that a man of Captain Knapp's qualifications and experience doubtlessly assisted by several highly qualified naval cartographers and navigators would ignore such obvious anomalies. Either the good captain and his staff were grossly incompetent or negligent or they were instructed by a higher authority to present a report that best suited the bulk of the evidence. My money is on the latter.

You ask "The most important thing is: why would they?"

That's an easy question to answer.

If Captain Knapp had presented a chart showing a narrow band of solid ice extending north-south and close to or at Longitude 50 degrees west between latitudes 41-50'N to 41-35'N then the accepted distress position of Titanic was 12.8 miles too far to the west. This would present Titanic's 4th Officer Boxhall as incompetent. This in turn would call into question the evidence of the hero of the hour, Captain Rostron of Carpathia who declred Boxhall's position to be 'splendid'. The knock-on effect would be a questioning of the competence of Carpathia's navigators and her captain's declarations as to his ship's speed. Knowing lawyers, a huge can of worms would be opened. Additionally, the position of the villain of the piece, Captain Lord and that of his ship the Californian would have to be completely re-assessed.
Politicians hate untidyness!

"And I also question your claim that the search area could have been narrowed down to 2 miles from the wreck site."

That's another easy one. The evidence for it comes from Captain Rostron of the Carpathia.

Captain Rostron said that at 5 am on April 15, when daylight was 'full', he could see the eastern edge of the ice 4 or 5 miles way to the west. He then said that when he arrived at the position of the floating wreckage, the eastern edge was then 3 or 4 miles away. If Captain Knapp had shown the eastern edge of the ice to be at or near 50 degrees west longitude where it really was then future wreck hunters had simply to combine other ice spotting evidence with the latitude of the distress position to develop a very narrow search area.

The ONLY person to claim Titanic was further east than the SOS position was Captain Moore (Mount Temple). He said the actual sinking site might have been 8 miles more to the east. But we don't know if he meant 8 miles from the SOS position, or 8 miles east of the 5-mile wide ice field directly east of the SOS position.

Two inaccuracies in your statement. Moore was not the only person, Captain Lord of the Californian voiced the same opinion. Captain Moore knew exactly where his ship was relative to the west side of the pack ice and clearly saw Carpathia on the far side and to the eastward. Moore did not have radar but you would be surprised as to how accurate an experienced seaman can judge distances. Keep in mind that if he knows how high his eye. However, we have a very good idea of how Captain Moore arrived at that number.
Mount Temple was west of the pack ice. Her navigating Officer obtained an accurate longitude just before 6 am and then sailed north. That longitude place Mount Temple at 50-09.5'W. At 7-30 pm he was still on that longitude and close to 41-47 'N . On her way southward,Californian passed between Mount Temple and the western side of the pack ice. If Carpathia was about 3 miles or less east of the eastern side then simple arithmetic gives you an answer close to that of Captain Moore.

As for Captain Lord; consider the following from Day 8 of the US Inquiry, Captain Lord of the Californian giving evidence:

7039. I should like to understand from you, if you say that the position indicated [ Titanic's distress position] to you was wrong, what do you say was the position? A: - The position where I left the wreckage was 41º 33' N., 50° 1' W.

If the ice reports indicating a north-south barrier was correct then Lord left the wreckage about a mile east of the eastern side of the pack ice.

Anyway, when the wreck was found, it was revealed to be 13 miles east of the SOS position. Moore was the ONLY one to get it right, quite logic that Ballard didn't rely on him while establishing the search area.

As I pointed-out, Moore was not the only one to question Titanic's distress position. In fact, I think you will find somewhere in the transcripts of the Inquiries that a questioner 'worried' Boxhall on the very question and that the latter invoked the name of Rostron as proof-perfect. In reality, if Ballard had done as I have done and closely examined all the evidence, he would have been able to re-produce the following chart:

View attachment 1595

Keep in mind that the ingredients for compiling the above chart were available to 'experts' from day 1 and have been available to everyone else since the public were allowed access to the transcripts of the Inquiries.

Jim C.
 
Nov 13, 2014
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Mount Temple was west of the pack ice. Her navigating Officer obtained an accurate longitude just before 6 am and then sailed north. That longitude place Mount Temple at 50-09.5'W. At 7-30 pm he was still on that longitude and close to 41-47 'N .

Moore's longitude cannot have been very accurate. As an experienced navigator, he wanted to be sure if his position matched with Titanic's SOS position. He took his sextant and sighted the sun when it was precisely at the east. He determined longitude, but because the sun was still quite low above the horizon, the margin of error was big.

Also, your report still doesn't give any reason for the cover up to take place. Politicians are lazybones, if hiding Titanic's true location was too much work or costed more money than they earned from it, they simply didn't do it. If you can tell me why such a cover up would be better than not interfering with the case, I may change my thoughts.

PS: The attachment isn't working.
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Christophe!
You write:

"Moore's longitude cannot have been very accurate. As an experienced navigator, he wanted to be sure if his position matched with Titanic's SOS position. He took his sextant and sighted the sun when it was precisely at the east. He determined longitude, but because the sun was still quite low above the horizon, the margin of error was big."

Here is exactly what Captain Moore said :

"Yes, sir. My observation [prime vertical sight at 6-52am]was this: My fourth officer took two observations, and of course, he is a navigator, and also, an extra master's certificate is held by him, which is a better certificate than mine, and he took those observations both times, and both of them tallied. One came 50º 9 1/2' west and the other came 50º 9 3/4'.

Captain Moore did not take these sights, his navigator did. We know for an absolute certainty that it was bright, clear morning with a very 'hard' horizon. As a former navigator who has carried out an uncountable number of sextant observations in the past, I can tell you without fear of contradiction that the sights taken that morning would be as accurate as circumstances permitted. The navigator would have pre-calculated the time when the sun would be bearing due east. He would also have the determined the approximate altitude of the sun for that time pre-set on his sextant. Before this, he would have determined the exact compass error. He would take the exact altitude of the sun above the horizon when it bore due east. Additionally, just to be sure, he would take more than one reading and calculate both separately to get comparison. The resulting position would have a margin of error less than 0.5 nautical miles.

Also, your report still doesn't give any reason for the cover up to take place. Politicians are lazybones, if hiding Titanic's true location was too much work or costed more money than they earned from it, they simply didn't do it. If you can tell me why such a cover up would be better than not interfering with the case, I may change my thoughts.
[/I]

The hard physical, geographic facts are there for all to see Christophe and cannot be denied. Yet they were ignored. Do you disagree? If not then why were they ignored?
As I wrote earlier, I do not believe for one minute that Captain Knapp and his officers were so incompetent as to miss those glaring discrepancies. If you agree to that too then there can be but one other explanation and that is that the original report of Captain Knapp did not meet the political requirements of his masters therefore it was amended to exclude vital information. Why would they do that?

This was absolutely nothing to do with money and all to do with political reputation. The US Senate Sub-committee Inquiry was conducted by politicians guided by 'experts'. The vessel involved was not a US registered vessel therefore jurisdiction could and was challenged. The press were reporting everything that went on daily therefore the public's perception of the truth was being manipulate and formed by them. Captain Rostron of Carpathia was interviewed on day 1 and from that day onward, he was treated as a god-like hero by the press and politicians alike. If the final report of the Senate Committee did not closely match press and public opinion then the competency of the Senate Committee members would be called into question. As would he wisdom of the then US President.
!912 was election year in the USA. President William H. Taft (R) was in office and was aiming to be re-election in November of that same year. His personal friend Major Archibald Butt was lost in the disaster as were several very prominent wealthy Americans. He was inundated by letters from the public demanding that an inquiry should take place in the US. He gave in to the demands and Senator William Alden Smith (R) was appointed to head a Senate Committee hearing into the disaster.
Politicians only remain politicians if the public vote for them. Hydrographic Officers only remain as such as long as they are thought to be competent.
The rest is history.

attachment isn't working.

try this:

Plot of Vesel positions April 15..JPG

Jim C.

Plot of Vesel positions April 15..JPG
 
J

Jack Dawson

Guest
Well, I'm no expert but consider the Waratah. Complete mystery, although circumstantial evidence points to it simply capsizing. 200 souls gone without a trace. *poof* into thin air.

There are no movies, no longstanding public fascination with it. I DO think a large part of the interest in Titanic is that we know more about the people aboard her.
 

Alex F

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Nov 8, 2013
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Mount Temple was west of the pack ice. Her navigating Officer obtained an accurate longitude just before 6 am and then sailed north. That longitude place Mount Temple at 50-09.5'W. At 7-30 pm he was still on that longitude and close to 41-47 'N .

Moore's longitude cannot have been very accurate. As an experienced navigator, he wanted to be sure if his position matched with Titanic's SOS position. He took his sextant and sighted the sun when it was precisely at the east. He determined longitude, but because the sun was still quite low above the horizon, the margin of error was big.

The "Birma" came to the same point. Without error.:)
 

Alex Clark

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I imagine if she'd disappeared without trace it would be like the Franklin expedition in a massive scale. Imagine a liner beset in the pack ice off Labrador with 2000 people dragging boats across the ice. :/ Obviously that's stretching things a tad. But as we are imagining...
 

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