Did Capt. Smith have any other incidents?

James Hill

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Feb 20, 2002
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in Leo Mariotts book Titanic i have found that asides from the Olympic incident he was also involved with the Republic (1) running aground at New York plus 3 crew were killed in a boiler accident on the same day.in 1890 he ran a ship aground of Rio De Janeiro.in 1901 aboard the Majestic and 1906 aboard the Baltic they expirenced onboard fires.he ran the Adriatic aground in New York.he nearly crushed a tug in New York and had the Hawke collision.i belive none of it i think Marriot dosent see the heroic inicent man he was.the Hawke colision,the cappsise of the Germanic (which was due to cold weather)and the tug incedint is what i belive.the Germanic incident is not in Marriots book i found it in Titanic Destination Disater.
 

Kyrila Scully

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It doesn't make sense to me that a man with such a record of incidents should be the preferred captain of the upper class, earning the nickname, "The Millionaires' Captain."

Kyrila
 

Mark Baber

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i belive none of it

Believe it (or at least most of it), James. Except for the Rio grounding and the Baltic fire, I have copies of contemporary New York newspaper accounts confirming all of these incidents and that Smith was in command at the time.

Republic (1) running aground at New York plus 3 crew were killed in a boiler accident on the same day.

27 January 1889: Approaching New York on her final White Star sailing, Republic I ran aground off Sandy Hook and was refloated five hours later. After she docked a 9 foot (2.74 m) length of 38 inch (0.97m) boiler flue exploded, scalding ten crew members, three of them fatally. Republic's captain, Edward J. Smith, reported that damage to the ship was slight. (Sources: The New-York Times, 28 January 1889; Eaton & Haas' Falling Star.)

in 1890 he ran a ship aground of Rio De Janeiro.

I have not yet found any contemporary reference to this incident, although I also haven't looked too hard for this one. It is, though, also referred to in Eaton & Haas' Falling Star; they identify the ship as Coptic, which Smith commanded for one voyage in 1890. Maybe it's time for a research trip to Brazil. ;-)

in 1901 aboard the Majestic

7 August 1901: The second of two fires in a linen closet on Majestic I forced breakfasting saloon passengers (including John D. Rockefeller, Jr.) to flee to the promenade deck until the smoke cleared. No injuries were reported, nor was there any serious damage done to the ship. Smith was Majestic's commander at the time. (Source: The New York Times, 8 August 1901.)

and 1906 aboard the Baltic they expirenced onboard fires.

Eaton & Haas' Falling Star mentions a 1906 fire on Baltic in Liverpool, but doesn't mention Smith. He was, though, Baltic's commander that year, moving on to Adriatic when she entered service in 1907.

he ran the Adriatic aground in New York.

4 November 1909: Arriving at New York with 881 passengers on board, Adriatic II went aground at 3:20 a.m. on a sand bank at the entrance to the Ambrose Channel. She was freed, undamaged, at 8:10 a.m. due to the combined effect of a rising tide and the discharge of water ballast. Adriatic's commander was Capt. Edward J. Smith. (Sources: New York Herald, 5 November 1909; The Evening Post (New York), 4 November 1909.)

he nearly crushed a tug in New York and had the Hawke collision.

The tug collision on Olympic's maiden arrival in New York and the Olympic-Hawke collision are well documented, as is the fact that Smith was Olympic's captain on both occasions.

the Germanic incident is not in Marriots book

Possibly beacuse it had nothing to do with Smith; Germanic's commander was Edward R. McKinstry. Sources: The New York Times and New-York Daily Tribune for various dates in February 1899.

and i found it in Titanic Destination Disater.

It's also described in great detail in Eaton & Haas' Falling Star.

Mind you, I'm drawing no conclusions as to Smith's ability as a seaman from any of these incidents; I know that there are strong arguments to be made that some---perhaps all---were not attributable to his personal skills. However, they DID occur.
 
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Philip Kellingley

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As someone who has an interest in Brazil (indeed, part of my car number plate is "RIO") I'm curious about Smith grounding a ship in Rio but I can't discover the name of it. The only printed reference I've seen is in one of the E&H books and I trust their sources about as far as I trust some of their arguments. Does anyone have any definitive information?

Thanks

Phil
 

Mark Baber

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In Falling Star, Eaton and Haas state that Coptic, with E. J. in command, went aground at Rio in December 1890.

As far as accuracy goes, Falling Star is a pretty good book. Over the years I've dug out a fair number of contemporary newspaper articles for the incidents they describe (particularly ones that occurred in or near New York) and haven't found any significant inaccuracies. A couple of details they give may be off by a bit, but in general Falling Star is a pretty reliable source.
 
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Philip Kellingley

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Thanks for your suggestions - I am aware of the Falling Star claims (although I think I read it in one of their later books). It concerns me that they often quote their previous books as sources rather than give the source of the original document. This is a very dubious practice which makes me reluctant to trust them. I'd like some pointer to a contemporary record - but I don't think my Portuguese is advanced enough to try distance searching through Brazilian record offices (although a country with the level of red tape and documentation like Brazil will have records somewhere).

Phil
 
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Andrew Parodi

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I think I read somewhere that Captain Smith had many other accidents (I don't know the technical terms since I know so little about shipping), and that they were basically the same sort of mistakes that would later sink Titanic. Does anyone know anything about this?
 
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Daniel Ehlers

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According to "Titanic: An Illustrated History", it states, more or less (I don't have the book handy right now), that the Olympic's Hawke collision just a few months prior his "only major incident in 20-something years as commodore of the line."

Whether or not this is true, I cannot say...
 

Jason D. Tiller

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Hi Daniel,

You're correct. Captain Smith had no other accident before the Olympic and Hawke collision.

"When anyone asks me how I can best describe my experiences of nearly 40 years at sea, I merely say "uneventful". I have been never been in an accident of any sort worth speaking about. I never saw a wreck and have never been wrecked, nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort. (Captain Edward J. Smith, 1907)

Best regards,

Jason
happy.gif
 

Dave Gittins

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Captain Smith had a number of accidents other than the Olympic/Hawke incident.

All were inshore accidents, involving running aground in narrow channels, except for an accident in which Olympic got mixed up with a tugboat in New York. The New York Times dismissed the incident as "a playful touch", that carried away the tug's ensign staff, but according to some accounts that I've no primary sources for, the tug was badly damaged.

Whether these accidents have any connection with the final disaster is another thing, except that some may point to a gung ho approach to ship handling. Lightoller approvingly describes Smith bringing Majestic into New York at full speed "with only a matter of feet to spare between each end of the ship and the banks."

On the open ocean, Smith did as most captains did. He took his ships from A to B at close to top speed, trusting to his lookouts to spot trouble in time and slowing only for fog or heavy rain.
 
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Andrew Parodi

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Originally posted by Dave Gittins:
"All were inshore accidents, involving running aground in narrow channels".

That's what I heard, that he ran into things. I think I read it in the book called Last Log of the Titanic (I'm not sure if I have that title right, but it was something along those lines). This book says that most things people believe about the Titanic crash are wrong.

Basically, the author said that Captain Smith, and everyone on board, had an over-confidence in Titanic, and that over-confidence is the greatest cause of wrecks.
 

Mark Baber

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27 January 1889: Approaching New York on her final White Star sailing,
Republic I runs aground off Sandy Hook and is refloated five hours
later. After she docks a 9 foot (2.74 m) length of 38 inch (0.97m)
boiler flue explodes, scalding ten crewmembers, three of them fatally.
Republic's captain, Edward J. Smith, reports that damage to the ship is
slight. Later in 1889, Republic will be sold to Holland America and
renamed Maasdam; still later, she'll be sold several more times and have
several other names before being broken up in Genoa in 1910. (Sources:
The New-York Times, 28 January 1889; Eaton & Haas' Falling Star;
Bonsor's North Atlantic Seaway.)

4 November 1909: Arriving at New York with 881 passengers on board,
Adriatic II goes aground at 3:20 a.m. on a sand bank at the entrance to
the Ambrose Channel. She is freed, undamaged, at 8:10 a.m. due to the
combined effect of a rising tide and the discharge of water ballast.
Adriatic's commander is Capt. Edward J. Smith. (Sources: New York
Herald, 5 November 1909; The Evening Post (New York), 4 November 1909.)

There's also a mention in Eaton & Haas' Falling Star of Coptic's runing aground at Rio in December 1890, while under Smith's command.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Captain Smith was oaver-confident on the night of April 14, 1912. That does not mean foolhardy. His confidence was built upon thousands of hours at sea, including North Atlantic crossings in ice season.

His accident record was by no means unique. Although only 100-odd years ago, he navigated before any electronic aids, before most lighted floating aids, before most deepwater approach dredging, and before many areas of the world had been charted. It was common for ships to "strike" and/or "touch-and-go" in his era.

My point in bringing up his career history was in regard to his re-starting the engines. His experience told him that grounding (i.e. "striking" the bottom) was not necessarily a serious event. His experience with past accidents may have set him up for making a bad decision.

-- David G. Brown
 
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Andrew Parodi

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Originally Posted By: David G. Brown: "My point in bringing up his career history was in regard to his re-starting the engines. His experience told him that grounding (i.e. "striking" the bottom) was not necessarily a serious event. His experience with past accidents may have set him up for making a bad decision."

That was my point too, that he had had experience with (and survived) the same situation that would sink Titanic.

>
 

Erik Wood

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Apr 10, 2001
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Captains Smiths decision to restart his engines was also prompted by other concerns. Like the safety of his passengers.
 
Apr 11, 2001
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The Toronto Daily Stars on April 18th carries an interesting story about Smith in 1906, as Master of the Baltic, which nearly came to a terrible end in the fog off the coast of Ireland. I am not familiar with this story- anyone have more details? Combined with the Olympic-Hawke disaster, E.J. would seem to have a sort of curse upon him.
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Mike Poirier

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Dec 31, 2004
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Hello Shelley
I wonder if anyone has taken a tally of how many accidents and near accidents had under his belt?!
Mike