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Head on Collision

Discussion in 'Collision / Sinking Theories' started by Timothy McCulloch, Apr 19, 2002.

  1. If Murdock had the ship hit the Iceberg head on. Now tell me if I'm right about this?
    That Molly Brown, who's cabin was in the forward most on A-deck, would have been killed along with a few other Passengers?
    I'm not sure if this is correct. But some people have said it would happen and some people said it wouldn't. Can someone set me straight about this issue?
  2. Hi Tim,

    I'm fairly new to the board, but there ALOT of info on collision theories floating around...no pun intended...

    My lay-person's take on it is that those in the most immediate danger, had there been a head-on collision, would have been the "black crew". Firemen, stokers, etc. Their quarters were on the lower decks, towards the forecastle.

    Check out David Brown and Roy Mengots' theories. They are meticulous researchers, and their results are well-written, informative, and approachable. I'm not a tech-head or rivet counter, but their theories make sense to me.

    Check it out, and let me know what you think.

    Happy researching....

    Lisa Harrod
  3. Joshua Gulch

    Joshua Gulch Member

    In a head on collision at 22 knots, it's highly doubtful the ship would have crumpled in as far as A-deck. Most of the theories concerning such a collision have shown the bow buckled inwards as far as the forecastle (to the foremast).

    So Mrs. Brown and the other First-Classers would be fine. Those killed and injured would be Steerage and crew within the very bow.

  4. Taking into consideration the way the bulkheads worked and were designed it probably would have been best to have hit the iceberg head on. The first two compartments would have flooded for sure but the ship would have remained afloat as it was designed to withstand up to four of the compartments in certain circumstances. Apparently Murdock did not take that into consideration in his split-second decision to turn the ship. As for who would have been killed I would definitely have ot agree with Josh, only the steerage and the firemen in the very front of the ship.
  5. Hi there,

    A Head-on collision, as I understand it, would've crumpled perhaps 100 ft or so of the ship, my number may be wrong so go easy on me....and most definitely anyone in the compartments involved would have been killed but rather a few die then 1500 or so.

    "The Needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few"

    A cliche' which I won't comment on the origin but it would have worked here.

    I suspect that if Murdock had just ordered Hard-Astarboard perhaps the ship would have missed the berg, maybe it wouldn't have...we'll never know.

    But perhaps a sea-faring individual would.

  6. Paul Rogers

    Paul Rogers Member

    When suggesting that Murdoch could have hit the 'berg head-on and saved 1500 people, one needs to keep something in mind: He was trying to miss the damn thing!

    I don't imagine that Officers achieved rapid promotion for ramming inanimate objects, wrecking brand new liners or killing a goodly number of crew and 3rd class passengers. Murdoch was doing what *any* person would have done in those circumstances - trying to avoid any collision at all. He did not have the benefit of knowing before the event what the consequences of his decision would be.

    If, in the future, someone walks in front of my car, I think I'll just run them over. I won't swerve, just in case I hit a bus queue and kill 20 more people instead. I'm sure the Police will appreciate my logic; as sure as I am that I'll have the memory and reflexes to go against training and human nature at the time.

  7. Great point Paul!
  8. Maureen,

    Yeah great point..now go back to sleep.

    I was not attempting to show that running into a massive object, such as an iceberg, was better than missing it because like you said, there was no way of knowing the consequences of his actions later, I DID mention however that if he had just ordered hard a starboard instead of that and full speed astern, he might have missed that berg...of course there are too many "Ifs" to even speculate on that anymore.

    Umm and it really wasn't necessary to use a human being analogy against an 882ft long vessel moving at 22 1/2 knots through ice strewn water because if I was heading down a street and someone was standing in the middle of the street, of course I would try to avoid them.....but of course, if I was going fast enough to hit a human being in the first place without being able to stop or avoid them, then I don't deserve to be behind the wheel of a car in the first place......

    Maureen Honey, wake up now.

  9. Whether or not the ship would have missed the berg by just going hard a starboard is a dicey proposition at best. We don't know exactly how far away the berg was sighted or how much time elapsed between sighting and actually putting the rudder over. When time is short and distances are likely even shorter (you can kiss your depth perception good-bye in the dark of the night!) just putting the rudder over could just as easily have resulted in the ship being ripped open from stem to stern.

    Had that happened, Titanic the legend might well have become Titanic, the mystery.

    Michael H. Standart
    sir john adams likes this.
  10. Paul Rogers

    Paul Rogers Member


    Firstly, Sir, it appears that you feel I was attacking you with my reply to your post. I am sorry that I did not make myself clearer, for this was not my intention at all. Please accept my sincere apologies if I have upset you through my poor choice of words.

    My post originally replied to Eric's comment:

    "Apparently Murdock did not take that into consideration in his split-second decision to turn the ship."

    You then posted:

    "The Needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few. A cliche' which I won't comment on the origin but it would have worked here."

    In my reply, I was attempting to inject a note of reality into the thread - that hitting the 'berg head-on was never going to be an option for Murdoch, unless he had been right on top of it before it was signted.

    I felt that my "car" analogy was a fair one in the circumstances but, as per the Board's current catchphrase, "your results may vary." Fair enough and, again, perhaps my choice of words was poor.

    Regarding your "Hard a starboard" comment, I left that for a sea-faring individual to answer, as you had suggested. I have to confess that I didn't truly understand your suggestion: Murdoch DID go hard-a-starboard, and there is considerable dispute over whether he actually ordered a crash stop, as you will no doubt know. Therefore, I chose not to comment on that element of your post.

    One thing I must say: I feel very strongly that your comments to Maureen in your reply were very unfair and more than slightly rude. No-one deserves to be patronised in that manner and I think that you owe her an apology. JMHO.

    I do not wish to clutter up the Board with any more arguments. (There's been far too much of that recently, and I'm damned if I'm going to be dragged down as well.) However, please email me privately should you wish to continue the conversation. My email address is on my Profile.

  11. Inger Sheil

    Inger Sheil Member

    I'm reminded of the scathing comments with which Joseph Conrad greeted the idea of ramming an iceberg head on when he wrote in 1912:

    ...in the whole tone of his insistent statement there was suggested the regret that the officer in charge (who is dead now, and mercifully outside the comic scope of this inquiry) was so ill-advised as to try to pass clear of the ice. Thus my sarcastic prophecy, that such a suggestion was sure to turn up, receives an unexpected fulfilment. You will see yet that in deference to the demands of "progress" the theory of the new seamanship will become established: "Whatever you see in front of you--ram it fair. . ." The new seamanship! Looks simple, doesn't it? But it will be a very exact art indeed. The proper handling of an unsinkable ship, you see, will demand that she should be made to hit the iceberg very accurately with her nose, because should you perchance scrape the bluff of the bow instead, she may, without ceasing to be as unsinkable as before, find her way to the bottom. I congratulate the future Transatlantic passengers on the new and vigorous sensations in store for them. They shall go bounding across from iceberg to iceberg at twenty-five knots with precision and safety, and a "cheerful bumpy sound"--as the immortal poem has it. It will be a teeth-loosening, exhilarating experience.

    I'd be careful with your tone, Bill. I don't know if you have the sort of friendly rapport with Maureen that would permit you to refer to her as 'honey' and tell her to go to sleep - I'm assuming you do, because if that's not the case then your remarks are a grotesque breach of the board's etiquette, and potentially very offensive.

    Haven't we had enough drama here lately?
  12. Guess its a grotesque breech of the board's etiquette. Do not know him on or off the board, email or otherwise.

    And I still like Paul's post and loved the Conrad stuff Inger.

  13. Okay Paul............Poin t Taken:

    Maureen, I sincerly and quite humbly apologize for my "breach of board etiquette". I have always stood by the notion that "When I am wrong, I say I'm wrong", I was a little unnerved by Paul's post and while you did or have done absolutely nothing to me, I had no right biting your head off like I did and I sincerly apologize for it. I would have done this in Email but I only consider it fair that since I did it in public, I apologize the same way....I have been on this Website for a very long time and have no desire to be shown the door....Again, my apologies, it shall not happen again. I do believe however, and agree with alot of you, that alot of these discussions are getting out of hand emotionally so I shall commence with marching to the beat of my own drum and offer opinion, not criticism for an event where criticism is no more than water under the bridge at this point.

    NO, I do not wish to carry on this whatever it is in mail, I just wish to stay here and give opinions on whatever I am able to.

    However, I will say this....I believe this "What if he had hit the iceberg head on?" discussion is good if you are looking at this from hindsight to say "Yeah, he may have saved 1500 lives if he hit the berg head on" but like you said, he was out to miss the damn thing, I'll bet we all wish he had missed it while some of us think if he had hit the berg head on, things would be different but of course, things being the way they are, they are not.

    Side note to Maureen:
    Anyone here who knows me knows that I would never do what I did with Malicious intent, again I'm sorry..

  14. A little something to consider with the idea of ramming an iceberg, I have to wonder if such would have merely caved the bow in.

    Seems questionable as you can only see what's above the surface. This cannot speak to such as ice shelves, spurs, and rams lurking unseen below the surface ready to rip you some new openings in places where you don't want them. Think of the bow being caved in...assuming you get that far...but the double bottom being shredded or caved in and with inner hull breaches going all the way back to Boiler Room Five or even Four.

    Comfy thought, isn't it?

    Michael H. Standart
  15. Comfy thought, isn't it?


    But "Thank you for that fine forsenic evidence Mr. Standart" happy.gif

  16. Paul Rogers

    Paul Rogers Member


    Thanks very much for your post. I hope we can all put this behind us. happy.gif

    I will take more care when posting from now onwards. The trouble is, when I'm typing, I'm imposing my tone of voice on the text. Of course, no-one else can actually "hear" how I'm saying the words, which can lead to unfortunate misunderstandings. (And bearing in mind what I do for a living, I really should not have been caught out like this!)

    Let's get back to the subject at hand. Mike: That's an interesting point. If the damage had been that severe, I guess she would have gone down even faster. As Bill said, NOT a comfy thought!

  17. I didn't think it would be. One can only guess at all the unknowns though, and with an iceberg, only a small portion is actually visible. Maybe you'll get as far as what you can see...and maybe not! Often, it's what you don't see that can spoil your plans for the day.

    Michael H. Standart
  18. Thanks Bill, apology accepted and no bad feelings.

    And Paul is a really great guy here as well. I think his thoughts are great to ponder.

    What I see is that it must be difficult for a navigator and agaisnt his instincts, like it would be for an airplane pilot when they get into a spin or deep turn and lose their sense of where true horizon is in fog and bad weather. If they trust what they know they will be destroyed. That is why it is critical to use the instruments rather than your sense of what to do when flying a plane because your body will lie to you, your instrument panel shouldn't.

    It is really hard to trust an instrument you "know" is wrong, but is actually right. In that vein, it would be hard for a master mariner to hit a berg straight on. It would be against his gut.

    In his head hitting would not be best and therefore harder to do, because your deeper gut is telling you "NO".

    Not sure if I am close, but that it what I get from what Paul is saying. (Now Watch Paul have fun with my understanding...SMILE).

    I am not an expert, but I think he's got a great theory there.

    I am an American (right side driver) and was recently in Australia and no matter how white my Aussie friend looked or how far his knuckles gripped the front panel of the car, I still wished to avoid the cars by swerving to the right. Hmmmmm...... But we were only doing about 100 kph. Navigation was just as bad, but I will not go into that part. Let's put it this way, he only has to take nerve medicine a few times a year now since I left. (SMILE) My instinct in an emergency was to swerve....but my instinct was wrong about what was the best side to choose.

    So I think in an emergency we are taught to trust our gut....but our gut may be lying to us.

    But Michael makes a good point as well. Hitting head on may have caused all kinds of problems. He knows about ships more than me. But it makes a lot of sense that the double hull ran the length of the ship I think. If anything that may have cut their time alloted to maybe more like an hour or less rather than nearly three.

    But one thing that I think about is that most of the head on accidents involving head on collisions with ice, where the vessel survived the impact, were much smaller vessels with slower speeds. Does anyone know or have information for ships of higher speeds and larger size versus the slower speeds and smaller sizes?

    I would imagine that Titanic would have either tried to cut through the berg or the berg would have cut through Titanic stem to stern.

    Mike you've studied the ice bergs a bit, are they more likely to contain spikes and stuff the deeper they set in the water or what? I know absolutely nothing about icebergs accept they are made of ice....rocks and ......are 1 part up and 7 parts down or something like that.

    Like Titanic sat deeper in the water than Oceanic...is that true? And would hitting head on at 13 knots in a smaller ship make a difference?

    Anyway, this is a great thread. I am enjoying all of the posts here. This is educational. Thanks.

  19. I'm not familier with the Oceanic's draft unfortunately. (A photo of the ship I have seems to indicate about 30 feet.)The Olympic's had a navigation draft at full load of 34 feet 7 inches.

    A slower rate of speed would make a difference in the extent of damage, but much would depend on the watertight subdivision and how much damage the ship took in the first place. If the inner hull is not breached, few problems. If it is breached, big problems. (Ask the Titanic!) Also, the strength of the structure itself would be a factor, as would any stresses on the internal framing, thicknesses of the hull plating etc. You may not have as much caved in, but if enough bulkheads are breeched, you better have a seat in the boat or be a good swimmer. Any way you look at it, things get complicated.

    On the ice itself, recall that these things are unstable, turn over frequently and unpredictably, and their shape will vary considerably depending on what melts away or cleaves away. You just don't know what's lurking beneath the surface waiting to do a number on you. That's the factor that seems to be lost whenever the suggestion comes up that the ship would have been better off ramming the berg.

    I hope this makes some sense, but it's been a long day and I'm whupped!

    Michael H. Standart
  20. Titanic would have been better off not touching the iceberg. That's the only thing we can say for certain. I am reminded of Sancho Panza in the musical version of Don Quixote -- "Whether the stone hits the pitcher, or the pitcher hits the stone..it's going to be bad for the pitcher."

    -- David G. Brown