George Kemish & Speed Sources


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Jan 5, 2001
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Hi!

I would very much appreciate some help on this. In his most recent book (Ghosts of the Titanic, Avon Books, 2000, page 223) Charles Pellgrino writes:

quote:

'During the Saturday afternoon of April 13, George Kemish had heard a proposal to bring the Titanic up to twenty-three knots...'

He also links Kemish's statement with a possible Tuesday night arrival. While Kemish's account seems plausible based on my own assessment of the available evidence with regard to Titanic's speed performance, I would appreciate it if anyone could tell me the exact source? I am guessing it might come from Kemish's account given to Walter Lord, or perhaps an obscure newspaper account somewhere.

My other point regarded 23¼ knots -- the speed it is claimed Titanic briefly attained after leaving Belfast. I don't doubt it's plausible, but I wonder if anyone can point to a primary source documenting this speed?

Best regards,

Mark.​
 

Dave Gittins

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My reaction is that if Kemish said the words attributed to him, it signifies zilch. Ismay admitted to his desire to try the ship out on the Monday or Tuesday. As the trial never took place, so what? Anyway, it's from Pellegrino.

The 23¼ knots has always bothered me. I've only seen it in Eaton and Haas, who, as so often, quote no source. Personally, I think it's highly unlikely, for several reasons.

Titanic had only a skeleton crew of firemen and trimmers, about equal to one of her normal stokehold watches. To hit 23¼ knots they'd need most or all of the boilers and some enthusiastic stoking.

The engines were brand new. Why thrash them?

Nobody at the inquiries mentions the burst of speed. In fact, both Lowe and Lightoller expressed their wish to see what the ship could do. They never hint that she had already exceeded 23 knots.

Unless E & H can produce a credible source, I'd put it down to a tall tale swallowed by some paper.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi Dave!

Thanks for your replies. Admittedly Pellegrino is the source, but even he must have found the Kemish information somewhere. Since it ties in with my own beliefs, based on other sources, I was hoping for a primary source. The plan is particularly interesting since it was discussed earlier in the voyage.

Thank you also for outlining your beliefs on the fast run. I used to find the 23¼ knot report quite credible, but recently I've come to doubt it too. It's plausible, but I'm worried that there's apparently no primary source. I don't think E&H would just make it up -- but I do think it would be nice if their books had some form of sourcing, if not individual footnotes. Why do you think their books are a bit bare in that regard? Perhaps it's the publisher's preferred format.

Best.

Mark.
 

Steven Hall

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My other point regarded 23¼ knots -- the speed it is claimed Titanic briefly attained after leaving Belfast. I don't doubt it's plausible, but I wonder if anyone can point to a primary source documenting this speed?

There is a few quotes (in various publications) about Titanic making 23.25 knots (for a short burst) from Belfast to Southampton. I dare say that each time it has been (progressively) quoted, the source always finds its way back to the original reference. Read something often enough and it starts to become an accepted fact.

I was told the original source for the quote was an entry witnessed in the Titanic’s scratch log taken from the ship after here arrival at Southampton. The log was apparently lost during the blitz.

Could the ship had made 23.25 knots ? Your research (Mark on the Olympic) would provide better supportive evidence for the pro/con on whether it was possible.

As we all know doing research, what do you keep and what do you discard. What happened between the (commencement of her) trials/ return back to Belfast/ later departure and her arrival at Southampton remains a research blackhole for as long as I remember.
People can cut and dice what available (documented) information around and thereby draw their own conclusions. The shame is that often unsubstantiated facts are (often to quickly) discard because it does not fit into an individuals version of what happened.
Was the 23.25 knot push pencilled into the scratch log / or was it even taken off the ship at Southampton & if it was - was it lost in the blitz. (? ? ?)

What colour was the toilet tissue in first class - white 2 ply. (? ? ?) Why did the Titanic’s swimming pool have no spring board ? Speculation is endless.


Your coming publication will be an important source for future researchers - so I understand why you want to get to the stern (bottom) of the 23.25 run.

Steve
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi Steve!

Thanks for your post. I am fascinated by the 'scrap log' source -- particularly if it was destroyed in the Blitz. If it was lost in 1940-41 then modern researchers must have relied on pre-war information. Might I ask your source?
smile.gif


I certainly think 23¼ knots was possible, but like Dave says it would have taken some effort by the stokers and a good number of boilers. From memory about twenty were working on the run. If Titanic was lightly loaded (and what about the currents?) it would be more plausible, I guess. Olympic was doing 23+ knots for a day in 1911, at 78 r.p.m. when heavily loaded (but with a current) -- but I'm not sure if the engines would/could have acheived that without practically all the main boilers online. I think it's quite possible, but I'd like an engineering mind to comment on boilers/steam pressure/engine performance.

I'm flattered by your comments, though I'm not sure I merit them. I hope I've uncovered some good stuff, especially since a reprint of the initial print run already seems likely, but I should admit that I was only able to use secondary sources for the 23¼ knots. As editing progresses, I'll be making sure that I'm as critical as possible when reviewing my text. Recently I've come to doubt it more, simply because of the boilers operating at that time.

In closing I should give you a heartfelt vote of thanks -- I was worried that no-one would even have a hint as to what the source was. As usual, Steve, you've come up with some fascinating stuff!

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Steven Hall

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Mark,
when dealing in second or third-hand accounts your always left wide open for critical analysis of the material.
The readers of published works are primarily the casual one and their expectations are good valve and entertainment. (though entertainment is not quiet the word, though I cannot quickly think of an appropriate term) Ninety nine point nine percent of the readers are not enthusiasts or serious researchers so quoting only on documented sources leaves you limited in what you can work with.
Most people are more interested in what happens in Albert Square (Eastenders) or whether Colonel O’Neil will ever kiss Major Carter in Stargate. Reading a book is usually relegated to the bedside table or the train / bus trip to work.
The author has to sometimes think outside the conventional sphere often to get to the pay dirt. Yes, there is a fine line between fact / speculation or diving into the realms of fantasy.
An example that immediately comes to mind: CHARIOTS OF THE GODS. (Erich von Daiken) This work based on factual locations, specific speculation on what was observed at these locations and written / recalled stories etc still captures the imagination of people 30 years after publication. I was going to say nothing was carved in stone regarding facts - though much was actually carved in stone regarding the books prime theme. (LOL) This is not how a factual book should be written - though it does have a valuable lesson on thinking laterally.
My point, consider all available information and try and back engineer what did / or could have happened - and or which lead to certain known facts. Unfortunately many people from that period could not read or write, so observations have been verbally handed down - not written down. Somewhere in all the mist is the truth. (though beware of the deliberate smoke and mirrors)
As you do more and more research - the sources start to dry up. It’s those the keep digging long after others have quit and retired to the pavilion that find the gold. Wait and see how popular and individual can get when they walk into the saloon waving a large nugget. (a quality publication)
Sorry - I have not addressed the reason for the response. Let meet dig up where I got the original information on the scratch log. (though it is also a second hand account and to wit - demands rejection by the Titanic purist)
Here is another little pearl: Titanic’s starboard shaft had vibration problems during her basin trials (mmmm) - perhaps brought about by her elder sisters necessary appropriation of parts ?

Steve
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi Steve!

You mention some good points with regard to research. I can sympathise with a lot of the problems you can encounter. The 'Peskett report' uncovered a lot of stuff with Olympic's early changes, and I just hope something like that will one day surface with Titanic!

Best regards,

Mark.
 
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