God himself couldn't sink this ship


Nov 23, 1996
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John:

To further your point in "English" quoted from a 1906 construction/sales brochure for the Cunard Line's "Cunard Hotels" - Caronia and Carmania

"Both the "Caronia" and "Carmania" are fitted with the "Stone-LLoyd" system of Safety Watertight Doors, and are thereby rendered PRACTICALLY UNSINKABLE.

Of all the improvements which have recently been perfected in connection with marine work, this is, perhaps, the most ingenious and most important, and by reason of its excellence and paramount utility, it is one which will commend itself very highly to all those who travel by sea.

The watertight doors situated below or about the water-line are actuated by the system which enables the doors to be closed by the captain on his bridge turning a handle, which after causing sufficient notice to be given by means of gongs to enable anyone to move away from the vicinity of the doors, ensures their immediate closure.

At the first possibility of danger, therefore, the whole of the doors can be simultaneously shut, and should men be confined in any of the compartments, they only have to turn a handle, when the door will at once open, and then automatically shut behind them. Thus all necessary communication can be carried on between compartments with the certainty that the doors will not remain open until the captain considers it safe that they should do so.

The system is entirely operated by hydraulics, the power of which can be imagined by the fact that each door closes with a force equal to about three tons.

It is interesting to know that the system has been invented , and is f=being developed be a firm of English Engineers, Messrs. J. Stone and Co., Ltd. of Deptford, London."

End of Quotation

IMO, White Star advertising was just keeping up with there rival Cunard. As Cunard had been calling ships "PRACTICALLY UNSINKABLE" for years even prior to the "Lusitania" and "Mauretania: entering service.
 

Allan Clarke

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Feb 27, 2002
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Hello,

I believe Captain Smith played it safe and was wise in not telling the passengers that the ship was going to sink. But there is strong evidence that he didn't tell his senior officers, either. Lightoller said that he initially didn't think the Titanic would go down, at least not before help could arrive. He only came to the inevitable conclusion as time went on. Murdoch's statement to Steward Hardy that he thought she was gone indicates to me that he, too, was not aware of the ship's imminent demise from the very beginning. I believe Lightoller suggested that had he known the situation from the get-go, he would have taken more risks - that is to say, he would have put more people in the boats than he actually did. That might have resulted in a few more people surviving. Of course, he himself acknowledged how difficult it was to persuade passengers to get into the first lifeboats, so how he would have put more pressure on them, I don't know. It also brings up the possibility of an "overloaded" boat being tipped and even more people being killed. Over all, I think they did a darn good job under the circumstances.

Cheers,
Allan
 
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Tom Pappas

Guest
It goes without saying that Lightoller's reminiscences may contain an element of self-serving exculpation of whatever guilt he may have experienced for denying salvation to so many.

I get the sense that Lights possessed above-average intelligence, and could couch his answers to the inquiries to shade his meaning in any way he felt necessary or desirable.

So if he wanted to create the impression that he wasn't aware of the ship's peril until late in the proceedings, I have no doubt that he could accomplish it.
 

Erik Wood

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Aug 24, 2000
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I had to edit Steven's recent post for a copywrite issue. I only took out the picture and did not edit any of the body of his post. If Steven did have permission to use the picture he did not mention it and with my permission will be allowed to do so if he has the permission of the person holding the rights.
 

Allan Clarke

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Feb 27, 2002
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Hi,

If Captain Smith didn't tell Lightoller that the ship was going to sink in a couple of hours, I can understand why, at the beginning at least, the Second Officer had confidence in the ship. From all accounts, the ship did not show any real signs of imminent sinking for some time. As Lightoller said, she was new and her bulkheads were sound. Once he was busy with the lifeboats, he would have been focussed on his duties. Of course, he would eventually pick up on the obvious. I suppose, when the distress rockets were fired, everyone could figure out that the jig was up; but even then, not many would think that she would founder, and very few would have been able to construct a time frame for the event. Lightoller used the water coming up the stairs to gage how much time he had to work with.

I don't attach any blame to Lightoller for his "women and children only" approach to loading the lifeboats. When he told Senator Smith that this was not a rule of the sea, but the rule of human nature, he was reflecting the accepted social norms for that time. Post the Titanic disaster, a lot of this came under attack, especially by the women's activist movements. But I think the vast majority of people from 1912 agreed with his views.

Another point worth noting is that he sent men to open the lower gangways. His idea was to fill up the lifeboats from these areas when they were safely in the water. It made sense, even if circumstances prevented the plan from being implemented.

For my part, I think the survivors from the overturned collapsible boat owed their lives to Lightoller's skills in keeping the thing from tipping the whole lot into an icy abiss. I don't think he should have felt guilty for what happened and I hope he didn't.

Cheers,
Allan
 

Erik Wood

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Aug 24, 2000
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I posted this once before and it is a bit arrogant on my part. My officers only need to know what I tell them. If I give them an order, all they need to know is how to carry it out. In my view Smith most likely didn't tell his officers of the situation becuase putting folks in lifeboats at 1 in the morning in freezing tempratures should have been enough to clue them in that something wasn't right, and in the Captains view the passengers safety was more important then there comfort. Remeber that putting passengers in lifeboats is the last resort, that means in the view of the Captain the ship is unstable and unhabitable and that for the safety of life the passengers need to leave. Smith was lucky and had calm conditions. Doing so in the middle of the night in 30 degree weather is a good indication that something is bad. If it was truely a precaution why didn't Smith wait until day light??

Some of this is hindsight we know what happened. Looking back we can see that the ship was going to sink, Smith obviously felt that was a very strong possibility or he would have delayed (longer then he did) in lowering the boats.

Regardless of Lightollers impression of the ships condition, he knew the Captain decided the ship needed to be evcuated and as a skilled officer and sailor he knew that doing so at night was probably more then a precaution. Keeping the passengers in a relaxed state was paramount, Smith not giving information to his Senior Officers kept them out of the loop with the exception of lowering the boats and left them to worry about the job he had assigned them, and not about the ships current and eventual condition. Officers couldn't accidently spill information because they didn't have any information to spill. Another question is, who told Lightoller's and the others it was a precaution to lower the boats???

Again, Smith was looking (as every Captain should) at the big picture. He has to rub his magic ball and see how his current decision will affect his current orders and the condition on the ship in the future. He has to look at saving as many lives as he can, he knows he can't give everybody a seat, so he has to give some of them a seat.

I agree with Tom's statement about Lightollers ability to hide what he knew. He was trying to save his license and his company and did a fairly decent job. I believe (don't quote me) Lightoller once said it was a whitewash (that could have been the Mersey bit I am thinking of).
 

Allan Clarke

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Feb 27, 2002
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Hi,
I think your views are well spoken, Eric. And, I agree with both you and Tom that Lightoller was a very clever man, who was careful with every word he spoke. He wanted to make sure that he and all the Titanic's crew - and with it the fair name of the Company - came out of this mess as clean as possible. Who could blame him? And you are right, Eric, Lightoller wrote about taking out the whitewash brush at Mersey's Inquiry. Nonetheless, I admire him for his efforts to explain to those who had zero knowledge of the sea what their situation was that horrific night. For my part, it was his story that was most enlightening and compelling, and, after reading what he said, I felt for him and the crew (echoing Mr. Bride's comment on Phillips) a great reverence.
All the Best.
Allan
 
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Melissa E. Kalson

Guest
Hello all.. I refer this question to Captain Wood.. I have never been on an ocean liner or a cruise ship for that matter. But I had heard that while on board it was mandatory for all passengers to participate in lifeboat drills. Is this so and if a passenger doesn't participate what then? I don't remember where I heard this or when but I'm curious because at some point I would love to overcome my fear of water and take a cruise (and a transatlantic crossing). Sincerely, Melissa K.
 

Erik Wood

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Aug 24, 2000
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It is international maritime law that abandon ship drill is done within the first 24 hours of sailing from a U.S. port for vessels over a certain tonnage. The passengers when they arrive in there cabin should find there lifejackets and the needed instructions laid out on there bed.

When told, they are instructed to report to there muster station (the ship is usually broken up into three sections). Once there they are instructed on how to put on the lifejacket (and then required to properly put it on), they are then escorted to there boat and a muster is taken.

Those not reported as attending are paged to the Chief Purser and that person is hand walked through the scenrio that they missed. It has been quite some time since I have done a world cruise but I know that it is also required at different times, even though the passengers may be the same.
 
Nov 23, 1996
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Eric:

As for the picture that was removed since you didn't change the text of the post and I quoted directly from this original Cunard brochure. It doesn't change at all what I wanted to say in this post.

It was added to show the actual Cunard Line advertishing brochure, from which the text was quoted from.

Given the image I posted was a page, from what looked like a book I can see were this issue arose.

This text/image comes from a very rare original Cunard Line advertishing brochure that I have in my personnel collection:

"Cunard Hotels" - Published by Cunard Steamship Lines, Printed by Hudson & Kearns, Ltd, Ptrs London S.E. copyright circa 1906 (97 years old)

I don't want to cause any trouble on this issue as I like many other enjoy this board to much, and would have nothing to do at night without it.

This is also the main reason that most of the photographic images I post from my personnel collection are watermarked, as being from the S. Anderson Collection of postcards and photographs.
 

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, all!

You know, I've been thinking about my earlier discussion with Tom, and I'm not so sure that the intentions of White Star's Olympic/Titanic press puffery were as 'unintentional' as Tom momentarily convinced me that they might be.

In 1910 White Star (via the New York Times) relayed the following information about Olympic/Titanic to the general public:

"In short, so complete will be the system of safeguarding devices on board this latest of ocean giants that, when she is finally ready for service, it is claimed that she will be practically unsinkable and absolutely unburnable."

Could someone please tell me what White Star's purpose was in claiming that the Olympic and Titanic were "absolutely unburnable?" (The fact that the claim itself is patently absurd is immaterial; the question is, "What was White Star's *purpose* in making that claim?")

Is my original use of the phrase "... to deliberately delude its prospective passengers" really so very far off the mark? Upon reflection, I don't think so.

Comments are welcome.

All my best,

George
 

Remco Hillen

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Dec 13, 1999
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Hello,

I've been meaning to ask this question for quite a while; this thread seems to be a good place for it:
What did people in those days(Board of Trade, shipbuilders, shipping lines, passengers etc)think of a possible fire onboard? There was quite a bit of wood on ships back then.
When that burns, it burns good!
To compare with nowadays: the cruiseship Millenium has a restaurant which has wooden fittings from the Olympic; this room had an extra wall build around it; otherwise it wouldn't have passed the safety tests.

Which options could cause the evacuation of a ship according to the Board of Trade?
Only collisions with a object, causing sinking? Not fire or anything else?

I hope I'm not pulling away from George's subject, but I've been wondering about this for ages
happy.gif


Regards,
Remco
 
Mar 3, 1998
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It occurs to me that no one would step foot on an airliner if they thought that particular aircraft was "crashable" (crashes only happen to others). If someone were to ask my opinion, I would say that in my view, the mindset is the same (calm fears by taking up the safety), it's just that a few more decades' worth of familiarity with technology has taught publicists not to be so boisterous with their claims.

I see nothing nefarious in any claims in the early 1910s about a ship being "practically unsinkable." Naive from our modern perspective, maybe, but I wouldn't call it nefarious.

Parks
 
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Tom Pappas

Guest
Hi George!

As an author, you know that (competent) journalists choose their words very carefully. Allow me to restate the snippet you quoted, with some emphasis added:
quote:

In short, so complete will be the system of safeguarding devices on board this latest of ocean giants that, when she is finally ready for service, it is claimed that she will be practically unsinkable and absolutely unburnable.
To me, this demonstrates clear intent to put the reading public on notice that they are not to take the shipline's hyperbole at face value. So although White Star may have hoped that people would think of their vessels as unsinkable, the writer took steps to dilute that impression. Would I, as a reader of that newspaper, come away from that article with the impression that the Olympics were unsinkable? I doubt it.

Best regards,

Tom​
 

Erik Wood

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Aug 24, 2000
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I would have to agree with Tom. But this coming from someone who knows that no ships are unsinkable. I always regard claims and reports made by the media (most of them know very little if anything about ships and there opertaion) in relation to ships, there operation with a huge grain of salt. 9 out of 10 times media reports that come from souces like CNN or other major media outlets are wrong. A perfect two expamples are my recent report in another thread about the QE2 failing it's health inspection, and the Norwalk Virus that was found on several ships. In both cases the media and there supposed expert claimed things that where both in accurate but in one case impossible, and completely over dramatized both incidents.

Newspapers and other media outlets (IMO) are in the business of making money, they do this by reporting what they hear, and what they think is important and what will catch headlines, very rarely is this accompanied by any indepth research on the subject they are reporting. This example of a ship being unburnable or unsinkable is a perfect example.

When someone calls something unburnable or un anything, I refer to a "Flinestones" episode where Fred joined the Volunteer fire department because all the houses where made of stone, what happened, there was a fire that destroyed something and nobody was prepared for it based off the assumption that something was unburnable.
 
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Tom Pappas

Guest
Good points, all, Cap'n!

Each news outlet has its own style, too. When the plague bacteria escaped from the lab in Texas, MSNBC and CNN screamed, "Plague virus stolen from lab!" (The fact that it's not a virus completely eluded them, and they pepped up their headline with "stolen" in the total absence of suspected foul play). FoxNews, to their credit, led with "Black plague bacteria missing from Texas lab," and immediately pointed out the fact that one must be bitten by a vector to contract the disease - my idea of careful journalism.
 

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Tom!

>So although White Star may have hoped that people >would think of their vessels as unsinkable,

IMO, that is the true answer to my question, "What was White Star's *purpose* in making that claim?"

>the writer took steps to dilute that impression.

That's very true -- but in doing so the writer makes it clear that he was not the *originator* of the claim of unsinkability/unburnability. That being the case, who *was* the originator? Was that person a representative of (or acting with the blessing of) the builder, or was he a representative of (or acting with the blessing of) the owner? There is evidence to support both points of view, and -- IMO -- there is no realistic third choice.

>Would I, as a reader of that newspaper,
> come away from that article with >the impression that the Olympics were unsinkable? >I doubt it.

But do you honestly believe that every person who read that newspaper article analyzed it as carefully as you just did and came away from it with the same opinion that you hold today? I'm sure there were plenty of people in 1912 who doubted White Star's claim of Olympic/Titanic unsinkability/unburnability, but the record shows that plenty of the latter vessel's passengers and crewmen *did* believe the unsinkability myth -- and IMO *that* is exactly what White Star wanted.

In closing, I'll go on record by saying that I don't believe the Titanic unsinkability myth would ever have existed in the first place if White Star publicity material and personnel had not used that word (with and without qualification) in their dealings with the Line's passengers.

(Tom, I think that pretty much exhausts my own opinions and research contributions to this topic, so now I'll turn the discussion over to other folks who might wish to add their own thoughts to the mix.)

All my best,

George
 

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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P.S. I wrote:

>But do you honestly believe that every person who >read that newspaper ....

Tom, the more I thought about my wording of the above phrase the more I began to dislike it. I didn't mean to sound confrontational or anything, because I've really been enjoying our exchange of opinions.

All my best,

George
 
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Tom Pappas

Guest
Chí¨re Georges,

Oh yeah!? Well, stick it in your ear (LOL!)

I love a good mashing of minds, as long as each party respects the other as a person, regardless of belief system or point of view. I don't mind a bit, and I can take as good as I give!

AS LONG AS THEY DON'T RAISE THEIR VOICES, because the first one to do so, I have been taught, loses the debate. I know I get a little strident from time to time, and my friends know I mean nothing personal by it. As far as your comments above: no fault, no foul.

Best regards,

Tom
 

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