What would have been the effect on the Titanic of a head-on collision with the iceberg in view of the extensive damage caused by the side-swipe. Would it have stood a better chance of remaining afloat (longer)?
Perhaps it's urban legend, but I read somewhere that a ship called Atlantic (-?- Atlantis? Antartica? Started with an "A") actually did strike an iceberg head-on about eight years before Titanic and limped into port. I'll look through my books and see if I can find it again. It will take some time as I have about 60-70 books.
I also have another book written by Ellen White several years before Titanic sank where she had a dream about a ship striking an iceberg head-on and she described the after effects.
I have a listing of all known iceberg collisions...as a matter of fact, there are more ship-iceberg collisions that can practically be accounted for here. My point is that there are many variables involved in a collision and unless you simulate or model Titanic's collision exactly, the results will be meaningless.
I'm going to back up what Parks said by disagreeing with him to some extent. Several incidents involving head-on ship collisions seem to indicate that this is the most survivable encounter for a ship. One took place between the French liner Niagara and an iceberg on Thursday prior to Titanic's less fortunate encounter.
However, Parks is right in saying that we have no idea what Titanic might have done...or not done...in a head-on with its iceberg. There are too many variables.
There is one other thing. This sort of speculation goes nowhere because we learn nothing from it. History is not a record of what might have been. Titanic slid over the ice...and sank.
There is no way to know exactly what would happen, but one may make the argument that the ship would have stayed afloat long enough for rescue ships to arrive. Titanic may or may not have sunk, and it may or may not have required towing to the nearest port.
Naval architect Edward Wilding guessed that the ship would have survived. This appears in questions 20271-20284 of the British Inquiry.
From Wilding's testimony: "I am afraid she would have crumpled up in stopping herself. The momentum of the ship would have crushed in the bows for 80 or perhaps 100 feet...but I feel sure the ship would have come in."
Wilding speaks of a "fair blow." What exactly does this mean? If he means the exact center (or close to it) of the iceberg, than wouldn't it be difficult for Murdoch to achieve this? Could Titanic be steered that precisely in such a short space of time? The rudder always responded to the helmsman's movements several seconds later.
Wilding also posited that damage would have reached the second bulkhead; consequently, only two compartments would be open to the sea. Titanic would certainly remain afloat in this condition.
Naval architects Bedford and Hackett declared in their RINA publication, "...survival in the case of a head-on collsion seems almost certain. We can be sure that, at the least, she would have floated much longer allowing the passengers to remain on board for rescue by the ships coming to her assistance."
However, there would have been devastating casualties. Would Murdoch have been exonerated? Certainly not.
When questioned about Murdoch running into the berg straght-on, White Star attorney Robert Finlay said, "Yes (1300 people may have been saved versus 300 firemen killed), but no one would have known what the result of starboarding would have been and any Court would have said that Mr Murdoch was guilty of the grossest possible negligence in not trying to avoid that berg."
If Murdoch had hit the berg head-on, the Court would have claimed, "You are guilty of the grossest possible negligence; if you had starboarded you would in all probability have missed the berg."
The most important variable in considering the effects of a head-on collision is the iceberg. No one knows the exact size of that ice mass. I wonder how difficult it would have been for Murdoch to achieve a direct hit on the iceberg? Perhaps an off-center hit would change the dynamics of the collision.
I know that topics like these are great for discussions, but I have to urge caution. Murdoch was 100% correct in trying to avoid certain danger. No officer in his right mind deliberately tries to run into an iceberg. Second guessing his quick reaction to a developing situation is really an insult to the profession of ship driving.
Murdoch did the only thing he could do under the circumstances. No one can ask more of a human being.