Death of Captain Smith


Mike Spooner

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If boat No1 was launch at about 1.05am under the supervision of 1st officer Murdoch and lookout man George Symons was put in charge with only 12 in. You cannot blame the ones in the boat for such a low figure as that decision has been made a senior officer.
Weren't the early boats told to row for a light of a ship about 5 miles away, drop of the passengers and row back for more!
Is it not a wise decision to follow a senior officer orders?
I to do not believe the £5.00 bribery from Duff Gordons to the crew members was not the case. It was no more that a good will gesture for saving his life.
 

Mike Spooner

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I am sorry to say re-reading: Is it a wise decision to follow a senior officers orders! I should of said: Is not the wisest decision to disobey a senior officer orders!
 

Ada

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Dec 8, 2018
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Yes they did. What would the point be in sending the Bosun and hands to open the side doors in a sinking ship?
I'm one of the people who suspects that while this was in the testimony, no such events really took place. No boat managed to pick up any passengers that way and said Bosun never shouted to the boats below or ordered the passengers under his care to jump into the water or go to a different part of the ship. None of the survivors mentions being a part of this hypothetical group of passengers sent to the doors with the Bosun.

It seems awfully convenient that all of them would be dead with no witness left behind. Because none of the surviving passengers testified that there was an attempt by their lifeboat to pick any remaining passengers through the doors.

So the testimony is either fiction, or at best this strategy has failed entirely and was never given any serious followup attempts.


Well, this debate was done before , I think I can make a concise summary of the arguments that would follow:

Argument A1: "No real attempts were made to evacuate people this way".
Argument B1: "You have the testimony about the Lightoller's order and sending the Bosun etc."
Argument A2: "Nobody corroborated that, none of the passengers recall their lifeboats making an attempt to pick people up. In the end we know that nobody was picked up. Almost all lifeboats instantly rowed away from the ship".
Argument B2: "Lightoller had little reasons to lie in court, he was already seen as a hero during the hearings".
Argument A3: "The hearings themselves made him the hero. He could have lied to protect his image".
Argument B3: "Well, the doors on the wreck are opened. So someone did open them during the disaster, which corroborates what Lightoller said".
Argument A4: "The ship broke in half, then both parts hit the bottom at a considerable speed. Parts have been scattered quite wide, crushed inside or hatches blown aweay by the impact. The doors were likely blown open by that impact."

And so it can go for some more time, people already had this debate.

Al that being said, don't you think that I might have just a wee bit of first hand knowledge of what you are lecturing me about?
Of course not. Neither of us has any first hand knowledge, because neither if us was there to see the disaster happen. I respect your experience as a mariner, but when it comes to events in 1912, we are both in the same boat (pun intended) and both have to rely only on witness accounts and the photos of the wreck to draw our conclusions.

I think we can agree on 2 facts at least:
- No person was saved by going through these doors during the disaster.
- The doors on the wreck are open.

People can be stupid and selfish, but one thing that should be said is that we generally tend to learn from past mistakes and disasters and come better organized and prepared to the next such event. I'd rather find myself on a sinking ship now, than in 1912.

Likewise, if I had to be at a school shooting, I'd rather be in 2018 at Marshall CHS now than in 1999 at Columbine CHS. It took the police 4 hours from the start of the shooting to fully declare Columbine secured. In contrast, the Marshall shooter was disarmed and arrested 9 minutes after he started shooting.

Planning and preparation cannot always prevent a disaster, but they save lives and diminish the effects. Especially in situations where every second counts.


Having said all that, a sufficiently stupid or inept leader can make the best plans fall apart. Costa Concordia case in point.
 

Jim Currie

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Apr 16, 2008
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I'm one of the people who suspects that while this was in the testimony, no such events really took place. No boat managed to pick up any passengers that way and said Bosun never shouted to the boats below or ordered the passengers under his care to jump into the water or go to a different part of the ship. None of the survivors mentions being a part of this hypothetical group of passengers sent to the doors with the Bosun.

It seems awfully convenient that all of them would be dead with no witness left behind. Because none of the surviving passengers testified that there was an attempt by their lifeboat to pick any remaining passengers through the doors.

So the testimony is either fiction, or at best this strategy has failed entirely and was never given any serious followup attempts.


Well, this debate was done before , I think I can make a concise summary of the arguments that would follow:

Argument A1: "No real attempts were made to evacuate people this way".
Argument B1: "You have the testimony about the Lightoller's order and sending the Bosun etc."
Argument A2: "Nobody corroborated that, none of the passengers recall their lifeboats making an attempt to pick people up. In the end we know that nobody was picked up. Almost all lifeboats instantly rowed away from the ship".
Argument B2: "Lightoller had little reasons to lie in court, he was already seen as a hero during the hearings".
Argument A3: "The hearings themselves made him the hero. He could have lied to protect his image".
Argument B3: "Well, the doors on the wreck are opened. So someone did open them during the disaster, which corroborates what Lightoller said".
Argument A4: "The ship broke in half, then both parts hit the bottom at a considerable speed. Parts have been scattered quite wide, crushed inside or hatches blown aweay by the impact. The doors were likely blown open by that impact."

And so it can go for some more time, people already had this debate.


Of course not. Neither of us has any first hand knowledge, because neither if us was there to see the disaster happen. I respect your experience as a mariner, but when it comes to events in 1912, we are both in the same boat (pun intended) and both have to rely only on witness accounts and the photos of the wreck to draw our conclusions.

I think we can agree on 2 facts at least:
- No person was saved by going through these doors during the disaster.
- The doors on the wreck are open.


People can be stupid and selfish, but one thing that should be said is that we generally tend to learn from past mistakes and disasters and come better organized and prepared to the next such event. I'd rather find myself on a sinking ship now, than in 1912.

Likewise, if I had to be at a school shooting, I'd rather be in 2018 at Marshall CHS now than in 1999 at Columbine CHS. It took the police 4 hours from the start of the shooting to fully declare Columbine secured. In contrast, the Marshall shooter was disarmed and arrested 9 minutes after he started shooting.

Planning and preparation cannot always prevent a disaster, but they save lives and diminish the effects. Especially in situations where every second counts.


Having said all that, a sufficiently stupid or inept leader can make the best plans fall apart. Costa Concordia case in point.
A powerful argument. I reply as follows:

No one is claiming that there was any real attempt to use the doors. However that does not mean there was no intention to do so.
Titanic had a port list for most of the time and before the boats were launched was already tipping by the head.
Consequently the starboard side was the high side. It follows that if there had been intention to use gangway doors, they would have used the starboard side, aft ones. Perhaps that's why a megaphone was used to direct a boat from the port to starboard side? As far as I can gather, only the Bosun and a few hands were sent below to open the side doors. There would be absolutely no mileage in it for anyone lying about this. Since the Bosun and his men did not survive, we have only the evidence of those who did.

Almost all the boats did not move away from the sinking ship. The evidence tells us that at least 6 stopped within
150 yards of the sinking ship until after she sank. That was a third of the total number of full size boats.

Lightoller was most certainly inflating his role in the evacuation. He would have had nothing to do with the evacuation plan per se. That was the job of the Captain the Chief Officer with the blessing of the Company Superintendent.The initial order to open doors would come form the Chief Officer or the Captain himself. I can hardly see Smith knowingly allowing Lightoller to give a general order for side doors to be opened, given that Smith knew at a very early stage what the sinking process was and how long it would take. It follows that by admitting he gave such an order, Lightoller was being an unthinking action-man.

As to the doors being blown out by the impact with the sea floor? How do you know this? And what doors are involved? When the wreck hit the bottom, the main parts were full of water and the pressure inside was equalized with the outside . What would "blow" the doors open?

We certainly have to rely on witness statements to know what happened back in 1912. However, it takes particular knowledge combined with practical experience to paint a clearer picture of what was being described by these long dead witnesses. Practice on board the Titanic and other ships in 1912 did not drastically alter in the 50 years following the event.

You quote the Costa Concordia. The Report into that disaster clearly showed that the passengers on board the Titanic acted in a more orderly calm way than did their "enlightened" modern counterparts. I was actually briefly involved with someone at Southampton University on that very loss. I can assure you, the press and Italian Government involvement did not service to the quest for truth. However, this site is about Titanic so we'll let it rest there.
 

Ada

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Dec 8, 2018
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You quote the Costa Concordia. The Report into that disaster clearly showed that the passengers on board the Titanic acted in a more orderly calm way than did their "enlightened" modern counterparts. I was actually briefly involved with someone at Southampton University on that very loss. I can assure you, the press and Italian Government involvement did not service to the quest for truth. However, this site is about Titanic so we'll let it rest there.
Agreed. Though there were many factors behind that, not just the "spirit of the age".

While the Titanic crew were vague about the severity of the situation, the passengers of the Concordia were flat out lied to, with a bilingual message to the extent that "The situation is fully under control, our technicians are fixing this as we speak". There is even a recording of a female member of the crew addressing the passengers after the hit where she tells them to go back to their cabins.
Then the Concordia lied to their own crisis center by saying that all they have is a blackout and that again everything is under control. They already knew they struck the rocks.

So when some time later suddenly the announcement was made to abandon ship, this stunned the passengers and caused instant panic. I'd say the conflicting announcements and lack of decisiveness on the part of the crew caused the panic.

I strongly believe this was not the passenger's fault (or their culture or age they lived in), it was the Costa Concordia crew and their announcements.

Stupidity and ineptitude are the greatest dangers man has ever faced.
 

Ada

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Dec 8, 2018
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No one is claiming that there was any real attempt to use the doors. However that does not mean there was no intention to do so.
I wasn't there, and I suspect that no such action was taken, but that is only conjecture on my part. Thus, I can concede that it might have been an intention to do so. However, if there was an intention, it had not been carried out. And that is the most important factor when we are talking about the planning and decision-making during the evacuation.

If Lightoller's strategy was to send out half-empty lifeboats with the hope of loading them with additional people through the gangway doors, then why doesn't he check on the bosun? Why nobody is sent with some followup orders to the gangway doors?

As far as I can gather, only the Bosun and a few hands were sent below to open the side doors. There would be absolutely no mileage in it for anyone lying about this. Since the Bosun and his men did not survive, we have only the evidence of those who did.
It would be surprising that no passengers were sent with the bosun. I mean once he opens the doors, who is he going to evacuate if there's nobody with him?

This was at a time when all hands were needed to help with the boats on the boat deck and to handle the incoming wave of 3rd class passengers. At that time a group of crewmen and a bosun are sent on some throwaway task and immediately forgotten. Nobody makes even a single check or followup on them, not to mention trying to recall them. if there was really a bosun sent with some crew there, it seems a terrible waste of manpower at a critical moment. Which is one more reason why I think its unlikely that this took place.


As a counterexample - we know of a substantiated instance of a a very real similar attempt. The attempt to uee the windows on the promenade to evacuate passengers. But in that case there was a group of passengers directed to go there with the crewmembers responsible for opening these windows. We also have eye-witness accounts of people from that group. We have no such witnesses for any attempts to evacuate via the doors.

Hence, I'm fully convinced that there was a real attempt to use the promenade windows. I have no such firm belief about the gangway doors.

Almost all the boats did not move away from the sinking ship. The evidence tells us that at least 6 stopped within
150 yards of the sinking ship until after she sank. That was a third of the total number of full size boats.
Agreed. But if the gangway doors were a serious and vital part of the evacuation, then some of the people in charge of the lifeboats should have been given direct orders to approach the doors once the lifeboat is in the water. There seems to have been no such order and there was certainly no attempt to load any passengers through it.

Lightoller was most certainly inflating his role in the evacuation. He would have had nothing to do with the evacuation plan per se. That was the job of the Captain the Chief Officer with the blessing of the Company Superintendent.The initial order to open doors would come form the Chief Officer or the Captain himself.
We stand in agreement here.

As to the doors being blown out by the impact with the sea floor? How do you know this? And what doors are involved? When the wreck hit the bottom, the main parts were full of water and the pressure inside was equalized with the outside . What would "blow" the doors open?
I don't know if the doors were blown open. The only thing we know for certain is that on the wreck the doors are opened. When and how this came about is by necessity only speculation.

The assumption that this is the result of the impact (or the stress on the ship on its way to the bottom) is conjecture, I freely admit. But the assumption that the doors were opened by the bosun is no less of a conjecture.

We certainly have to rely on witness statements to know what happened back in 1912. However, it takes particular knowledge combined with practical experience to paint a clearer picture of what was being described by these long dead witnesses. Practice on board the Titanic and other ships in 1912 did not drastically alter in the 50 years following the event.
Fair enough, no argument here.

Also, I do not want to give the impression that I think the Titanic crew were terrible and that they handled this in the worst way possible. Many things were done well.

The electric engineers, as well as the stokers and all engine room crew did a stellar job and their sacrifice give passengers more time. Some of the stewards did a great job at informing large amount of passengers about the situation and making sure they get out on the deck without panic, but properly clothed and equipped with lifebelts (we have survivor accounts to that extent). Overall the crew managed the emotions of the passengers well, little to no panic took place for most of the sinking.

With all that said, some officers made wrong decisions, especially during the launching of the lifeboats. Too many empty seats increased the death toll. Lightoller meant well, but made the wrong call. Murdoch, after launching his initial lifeboat, changed his mind and made the correct call.

You quote the Costa Concordia. (...) However, this site is about Titanic so we'll let it rest there.
 

Seumas

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You won;t get any argument from me over that one... not after 25 years of investigating ship-haps. ;)
Jim, just how often does some Para Handy character end up in charge of one of the world's big passenger ferries, cruise liners, ore carriers or oil tankers and causes havoc upon the waves ?
 

Jim Currie

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Jim, just how often does some Para Handy character end up in charge of one of the world's big passenger ferries, cruise liners, ore carriers or oil tankers and causes havoc upon the waves ?
Seriously? None whatsoever, Seamus.

In most cases, It very much depends on the individual's personality after qualification. Because each one receives exactly the same technical training and his or her certificate is only issued after the most rigorous of both written and practical examination. The academic standard requirement is very high. Each written stage is allocated a total of 1000 marks and the Candidate must achieve at least 70% total before being allowed to move on. To give you an example of the standard. In my later days. a Cadet could leave after 2 years and go to University and obtain a Bsc in Nautical Science. This did not exempt the candidate from any of the requirements for a Certificate.

Significantly, the Perishers submariner Command course in the RN, not only assessed a Candidate's technical ability but also mental stability.

I have found that in 99% of the cases I handled, accidents were exactly that. Usually a train of seemingly unconnected events arriving at full speed against the buffers.
It is always easy to allocate blame, but if there were no accidents, the London Coffee Pot which is Lloyds would be out of business. I suppose that's why I occasionally have a little chuckle to myself when I see armchair experts being wise after the event. Why I can be a bit of the pain in the posterior for some of our members?;)
 
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