Forward Anchor Crane Mystery

Dec 23, 2017
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The title to this topic might sound misleading, but i will explain in a moment.

We are all familiar with the bow section of the wreck, with the iconic forward anchor crane perfectly straight forward.

The theory that most of us are familiar with is from JC, when in 2001 he discovered the forward #1 cargo hatch forward of the ship with a big ding in the side of it.

It was clear that the reason for its placement is when the ship hit the bottom, the escaping water blew the 21 ton hatch clean off, then the down blast following the ship hit the hatch and it was pushed back down and forward of the ship.

JC's theory is that since we have the anchor crane turned around, and a big ding, that the hatch hit the crane and spun it around.

The following part of this topic is taken from memory from a Titanic Channel episode called "The Anchor Crane Mystery". Sadly Titanic Channel closed down some time back and the episode remains unavaible on any other platform. To save this video in some form, i will do my best to explain it.

Ken Marschall in the video states that he himself does not believe this theory.

His doubt is that since the crane is perfectly 180 degrees around, not off at all, that humans must have been involved somehow. He also points that the the front part of the crane, which is relatively thin compared to the center rod, is not damaged at all when you think of a 21 ton hatch smacking it enough to turn the heavy center pole completely around.

Since we know during Olympic's history the crane was moved only a handful of times (there is only one picture im aware of it being the same position as Titanic's wreck) then it remains plausible of the crew moving it.

Ken argues that since the weather was great, there was no reason why the crew could not be working and the crew for one reason or another rotated it. But Ken also says the reason why this theory is sketchy is because there are no accounts of anyone noticing it being around. However Ken thinks there are no other reason for it to be swung out there, unless humans were involved in some form. Ken thinks that the ding in the cargo hatch might be from some bolts holding on longer than the others.

I myself think that due to the lack of any light that far forward, it would seem unlikely that someone would notice it. But you would sink that boat #1 or collapsible C might have saw something.

Anyways hope some people find this interesting in a "lost" Titanic channels episode
 
Mar 18, 2008
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I am not sure why anyone should have mentioned it if it was turned. On the other side what was the use of turning it?. It might have been the hit on the ocean floor which makes it turn around.
 

B-rad

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I've heard the theory that it was turned so that someone could swing down and look for damage in the forepeak area....(hummm) I myself have suggested the unprovable suggestion, which its neither here nor there, that it was turned in case Titanic was to be towed, so they could feed a towing wire through the hawse pipe. Again a mere suggestion in the realm of hypotheticals. ;)
 

Harland Duzen

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I remember questioning this when the video first came out, but I also assumed it turned from impacting the sea floor.

Off the top of my head, maybe when the Bow detached from the stern and it swung downwards underwater, the force of water pushing against it maybe spun it around?
 
Mar 18, 2008
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The crane was hold in position by falls.
Here a picture from Titanic when leaving Belfast April 2nd 1912. While during at sea the crane would be hold by the same falls (starboard and port side) in that position.
10358978_10152691560706066_8886315614173809705_o.jpg


Here is a picture from Olympic in Belfast April 1st 1911 with the crane the other way again holing in position by the falls.
25498521_1979607745640094_2531476456340885990_n.jpg


Having a look at the wreck like these two pictures we see the falls are not there. I guess it has more to do with the sinking and hitting the bottom.

1016508_586829218006448_2051188181_n.jpg
28235204_1572069692910243_1845966148877707727_o.jpg


As a side note, the only one claimed to have been let over the side with a lantern to have a look for a damage was greaser Alfred White. He did not said how it was done. However his story changed with every version, the version where he was let over the side is full of contradictions and there is no mention about it in his letter.
 
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Jim Currie

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The proper name for it is a derrick, not a crane,

Like all derricks, it had a topping lift and two steading guys. The topping lift consisted of a wire rope rove through what was know as a double purchase ... a four-fold block. The steading guys were composite - a wire pendant attached to manila rope through blocks.
While at sea, the anchor handling derrick would not normally be topped and rigged. It would normally have been lowered down fore and aft onto a special crutch. the rigging removed and then and secured against heavy seas.
Perhaps it was landed on top of the hatch and when the hatch was displaced, it, broke the derrick lashings, If this happened with the bow downward, the derrick would rotate on it's gooseneck and point forward,
 
Dec 23, 2017
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The proper name for it is a derrick, not a crane,

Like all derricks, it had a topping lift and two steading guys. The topping lift consisted of a wire rope rove through what was know as a double purchase ... a four-fold block. The steading guys were composite - a wire pendant attached to manila rope through blocks.
While at sea, the anchor handling derrick would not normally be topped and rigged. It would normally have been lowered down fore and aft onto a special crutch. the rigging removed and then and secured against heavy seas.
Perhaps it was landed on top of the hatch and when the hatch was displaced, it, broke the derrick lashings, If this happened with the bow downward, the derrick would rotate on it's gooseneck and point forward,
Thanks for correcting the proper terms!

I thought i remember Ken saying that there was also a locking mechanism of some sort for holding it in place also?
 

Seungho Kang

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Here is the cargo hatch in its current position:
44502

There is a dent that might have been caused by the hatch hitting the anchor crane and swinging it around
Would this be an explanation?
 
Dec 23, 2017
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As brought out in the what Ken thinks, he thinks that given the fact that there is no damage on the crane itself relitive to a 21 ton hatch smaking it, he doubts that this is the source on why its spun around
 

Scott Mills

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I've heard the theory that it was turned so that someone could swing down and look for damage in the forepeak area....(hummm) I myself have suggested the unprovable suggestion, which its neither here nor there, that it was turned in case Titanic was to be towed, so they could feed a towing wire through the hawse pipe. Again a mere suggestion in the realm of hypotheticals. ;)
I like this theory, a lot. But count me as someone who believes Titanic made way for Halifax for a brief period of time after the collision. Given that, and given I do not believe Titanic's crew was aware of the severity of Titanic's condition for at least 30 minutes after the collision (perhaps longer), your suggestion that it was moved in preparation for a potential tow line fits well.
 
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Bob_Read

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There is no need to involve the crane (davit) to tow the ship. The 3 in. diameter wire hawser would be fed out of the forward hawse pipe to be towed. The simplest theory that is consistent with the evidence is that as a result of the tremendous force of the bow plowing into the sea bed that the guys snapped allowing the crane to rotate forward.
 

Scott Mills

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Probably, and both Occam and Bayes's razors are very sharp, but on it does seem prima facie odd that crane was moved exactly 180 degrees. This tends to set off alarm bells in the minds of human beings because our minds are keyed to expect certain patterns when other humans are responsible for a state of affairs rather than the 'chance' of hydrodynamic forces.
 

Bob_Read

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Hydrodynamic forces were not responsible for the rotation of the crane. Kinetic forces were. When the bow plowed into the bottom traveling forward and the resistance to forward movement of the crane was removed by the snapping of its guys, the crane continued to rotate forward until its momentum was arrested.
 
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Scott Mills

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That may be, and even still the 'critique' as it were remains the same, just substitute 'hydrodynamic forces' for kinetic forces; however, I was referring to the theory that the water expelled on impact, which blew off the hatch, and then the trailing down blast of water knocking the hatch into the crane , which moved the crane into its present position.

At the end of the day, I am agreeing with you! The simplest answer is that the crane/davit was moved as the result of the natural interaction between the ship and what occurred during the sinking process. It would take extraordinary evidence to suggest otherwise. My only point is that the position of exactly 180 degrees keys into the part of the human brain that is always seeking patterns which can be explained by human rather than 'natural' causes (i.e. see the 'face on mars'). It's a type of pareidola or matrixing.

Still, if the crane had been moved into its present position by humans, this would fit well into my own conclusions about what happened immediately after Titanic's collision/grounding on the ice. ;)
 

Bob_Read

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Hi Scott: To entertain any theory about the crane being moved by the crew you would have to put forth some reason why they would do that when the only function of the crane was to deploy or retrieve an anchor. No need for either in waters that are 2.5 miles deep.
 

Scott Mills

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Are there any other uses it could be put to? Like was suggested earlier in this thread--rigging to send someone over the side of the ship to inspect damage to the forepeak? How about the rigging of collision mats? I assume on a ship the size of Titanic this would necessitated the use of a crane.

Now having said that, do not get me wrong. The simplest and vastly more probably explanation is that the crane was moved by natural forces during the sinking process. What we are doing right now is engaging in speculation based on pareidola--or the propensity for the human mind to find 'human influence' in very natural patterns.
 

Bob_Read

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Scott: Damage was inspected from the interior of the ship. I have never seen any period reference to the presence of collision mats aboard Titanic and I’ve been studying it for over 40 years. I am aware of no other uses for the crane other than that for which it was designed. I guess we are left with the unexciting possibility that it just rotated as a result of the collision with the bottom.
 

Scott Mills

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Bob, see the testimony of Edward Wilding on day 19 of the BoT inquiry: TIP | British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry | Day 19 | Testimony of Edward Wilding, cont.

He was a naval architect aboard Titanic for her trials. His testimony seems to imply that Titanic did have collision mats, but it was his opinion that given the size of the damage to Titanic's hull, the number of crew it took to rig these mats, and the speed at which Titanic foundered, that they would have been of no use.

Also, it is certain that White Star Line's RMS Republic had collision mats, and attempted to use them after she collided with the SS Florida in 1909--she sank anyway. While this does not prove that Titanic had collision mats, it does prove that at least some of White Star's vessels carried them a mere three years before the Titanic disaster.

As for examining the damage, it would seem pretty strange to me... unless someone were going to attempt to inspect damage to the outer hull in advance of an attempt to rig a collision mat.

Edit:

I am also kind of curious... would there have been any utility in terms of increasing or preserving buoyancy to a ship sinking slowly by the head to intentionally drop her anchors--and by drop I mean intentionally just jettison them?
 
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Bob_Read

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Scott: If you are going to give a reference from the Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry either copy and paste it or give the starting number of the particular statement. I’m not going to comb through an entire day’s testimony to find one obscure point. Where are we going with this? Does this journey have a destination or are we just wool gathering? I have no appetite for that.
 

Scott Mills

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Scott: If you are going to give a reference from the Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry either copy and paste it or give the starting number of the particular statement. I’m not going to comb through an entire day’s testimony to find one obscure point. Where are we going with this? Does this journey have a destination or are we just wool gathering? I have no appetite for that.
The link was specifically to Edward Wilding's testimony on that day, all you needed to do was ctrl-f and type in "collision mat;" however, fair enough! I will reproduce the relevant sections here:

20732. Again, I stand humbled on my arithmetic. Has it occurred to you that there was anything which might have been done by the ship's carpenter or any other person to repair it or to prevent the inflow of water?
- We know the hole must have been spread over a length of 200 feet. With a hole of only 12 square feet area, which you can localise actually within a few feet, something might have been done, but when it is spread in unknown positions, over a length of 200 feet, I am afraid nothing could be done.

20733. That is to say, one area could be dealt with by one man?
- No, it would require 50 or 60 men, at any rate, to handle a collision mat.

20734. That is to say, the difficulty, where there is a number of apertures, is having the requisite number of people to go?
- No, it is a difficulty to locate where they are.

20735. I know, but the question of locating them rather depends, does it not, upon a sufficient number of persons being sent?
- I do not think the number of people has much to do with it. Let me put it in this way. The only way you can locate them is this; you cannot get down inside because the water and the cargo is there; you can only get at them by trial and error - by putting something in the nature of a collision mat outside the ship, and in the case of trial and error it is a slow process.

20736. It is a process which might be expedited if a number of persons are working on it?
- I do not think, beyond a very moderate number, it would have much effect. Fifty or 60 would probably do it as fast as 500 or 600.

20740 . With regard to No. 6, where Barrett was, where water was coming in in fair volume, do you see any mechanical difficulty in having stemmed the wound there?
- Something might perhaps be done in the way of a collision mat; but let me point out that the water got into No. 6 so very quickly (we have had in evidence how fast it came in.) that it would have risen to a fatal height if I may use the word long before anything could be got outside over the skin of the ship, to check the inflow.

20741. But the collision mat could have been got there - the fatal height anyhow wherever it was was not reached until twenty minutes past two, the time of the sinking, that is the test of the fatal high water?
- The fatal time, that is, the time when nothing that human ingenuity could do could prevent the ship sinking, is found at a much earlier time than the actual sinking of the ship.

20742. Supposing a long time before that collision mats could have been got out?
- I do not think so. My experience with rigging them shows that it must have been practically up to the fatal time before it could be done.
Edit.

Note he specifically states here that, for the purposes of rigging a collision mat, locating the proper point on which to place the mat cannot be done from the interior of the ship, and must be done from the outside of the ship, with a significant amount of trial and error.

Also worth noting, he does not specifically say "Titanic had collision mats on board;" however, one might think he would have responded with, at some point, "doing so would be impossible for Titanic had no collision mats." Then add to that the fact that at least some White Star ships carried them a mere three years prior, I think the implication (and an implication is not an establishment of fact) is that Titanic did have them.
 
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