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Helm orders

Discussion in 'Collision / Sinking Theories' started by Aaron_2016, Oct 11, 2017.

  1. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    I'm still baffled by the infamous helm order. If we accept that Boxhall heard the bell, and the helm order, and felt the collision all within 10 seconds of each other, and if we accept that Hichen's began turning the wheel when he heard the ice crunching against the ship, then I have to wonder, what on earth was the point in ordering hard a-starboard in the first place? She did not have time to turn and the lookouts believed it was the collision which caused her helm to shift. James Cameron's film tries to make sense of this bizarre order by suggesting the engines were going full astern and this would make her turn in relative time but much slower, but if the order full astern was not given before the collision then it means the helm order was not given 37 seconds before, but much much sooner, and if the helm was shifted by the collision itself then the order 'in my opinion' was not given at all, as it was too late to do anything and the order would simply swing the stern into the iceberg. Anyone else make sense out of the initial helm order, assuming it was given.

  2. Scott Mills

    Scott Mills Member

    Frankly, none of the testimony from the bridge about the sequence of events that led up to the collision is credible. And I do not mean this in the sense that her bridge crew may have been trying to obfuscate the truth--though they might have been--but from the standpoint of the malleability of memory it would be absolutely remarkable if anyone on the bridge managed to retain a clear and accurate picture of both the events and the passage of time between various actions.
  3. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    It just baffles me how the most important seconds of the disaster could be so vague and contradictory. None of the key witnesses gave clear answers. e.g. Fleet kept saying "I have no idea, sir." Lee kept saying there was a dense haze which made it impossible to see anything ahead. Boxhall changed his story at least three times. Hichens originally made no mention of any helm orders given. He just heard the telegraph ring and felt the collision, and when he testified he changed his story and read out what may have been a pre-written statement which described the helm order and his attempt to turn, and then when he was pressed on the matter he became so vague that the examiner was practically leading the witness. Then we have Olliver who was approaching the bridge at the same time as Boxhall and yet Olliver never heard any orders before the collision. Olliver was not called to give evidence at the UK Inquiry and lookout Lee was mysteriously "detained" in America and did not attend the US Inquiry. It all sounds very suspicious.

    The way I see it, the company needed to prove that the Titanic was perfectly justified at maintaining a high speed and was able to turn to avoid any danger ahead. If it was made public that the iceberg suddenly appeared out of the darkness and that no orders at all were given to avoid it because they were going too fast then it may have appeared as negligence and open a flood of lawsuits against the company. The best answer was to say they reversed engines and turned the helm away. Without that, it was goodbye White Star.

    Last edited: Oct 11, 2017
  4. Scott Mills

    Scott Mills Member

    Well, allow me to retort. :D

    My own dissertation, while being in Political Theory, dealt heavily with the social character of memory. Because of this I am pretty damn familiar with how memory works. Turns out a lot of it is social and it is almost never completely accurate. In fact, because memory is social people very often create false memories. These false memories can vary in character and range from you filling in gaps in your memory with things other people describe to outright wholesale memory creation.

    Importantly with this phenomena we aren't talking about fuzzy memories where the person doing the remembering is not sure about what they remember. Instead, people remember things that literally never happened, or they did not actually experience, and swear that these things happened. This phenomena is made "worse" in this case because of how we understand people react to traumatic events--they immediately begin to share their experiences and begin processing their emotive reactions.

    It is precisely this phenomena that leads the police, for example, to immediately separate witnesses to accidents or crimes before getting statements; however, in the case of Titanic, instead of isolating survivors and getting statements immediately, the surviving crew were stuck together for days on Carpathia where they certainly dealt with their trauma like most people do and talked to each other about their experiences. In the process putting memories in each other's heads and creating a shared story about the events.

    On top of there is plenty of great research on how our perception of time becomes completely distorted in circumstances of great stress... "my life passed before my eyes" is all too real. This means that you cannot really trust descriptions about event duration unless it is corroborated by some other evidence, or someone was literally staring at a stop watch.

    Finally, the bridge crew specifically would have been under a lot of pressure to tell the story of the disaster that puts them (and their employer) in the best light possible so that they could be absolved of blame. So, "we put the engines in reverse, did everything we could to avoid the collision..." needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Particularly the "full astern" order, as this seems to me to be something that could be conveniently added for the laymen.

    But, now that I've explained this to you, I am firmly convinced there is another layer to this. I believe there is evidence to suggest that the bridge crew purposefully lied about a number of things related to the disaster. This probably includes the exact nature of the events leading up to the collision, but more importantly I think there was an intentional untruthfulness about what occurred in the first 45 or so minutes after the collision.

    For example, it is pretty clear that Titanic resumed making way after the collision. The question whose answer lies buried with the surviving officers is: for how long did Titanic resume its forward momentum and for what purpose.
    Aaron_2016 likes this.
  5. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    Cheers. Boxhall was a key witness and the distance he walked is a good way to measure the timing. He left his room when the bell rang.

    Q - Where were you at that time?
    A - Just coming out of the officers quarters.
    Q - How soon after you heard the bells did you feel the shock?
    A - Only a moment or two after that.
    Q - Did you hear an order given by the First Officer?
    A - I heard the First Officer give the order, “Hard-a-starboard,” and I heard the engine room telegraph bells ringing.
    Q - Was that before you felt the shock, or afterwards?
    A - Just a moment before.
    Q - Let us be clear about that. The order, “Hard-a-starboard,” came between the sound of the bells and the collision?
    A - The impact, yes.
    Q - How far did you go?
    A - At the time of the impact I was just coming along the deck and almost abreast of the captain's quarters....

    That would mean all of the events took place inside a 10 second walk. The impact he felt was the moment the iceberg was passing his location which caused a jolt in boiler room 4 under his feet. I believe that would mean all of the orders he heard were given when the iceberg was already passing the starboard bow.


    I believe his timing makes me suspect no orders were given before the collision. It just happened and they immediately reacted when it was too late to do anything, except stop the engines and try to swing the stern out of the way to protect the propellers.

    Last edited: Oct 11, 2017
  6. In the Titanic saga there are liars, damned liars, and Joe Boxhall. His testimony has twisted the historical record of the accident into an impossible, improbable, and imponderable event. Yet, what he said was based on truth which makes it all the more difficult to sort things out.

    First, he heard bells while in two locations 40 or more feet apart. Then, he forgot to mention the assigned duties which caused him to walk out of the officers quarters. That's not surprising because he also lied about his assigned duties that took him forward past the bridge and down into the well deck. He neglected to describe the sounds of the bells he heard, which were distinctly different. Ol' honest Joe lied about being on the bridge when Murdoch made his report to Captain Smith -- he made up the famous "port around" business. He must not have been too bothered by that because he also lied about running off on his own after the accident. He did, however, get the name of his ship correct.

    Boxhall got away with his cockamamie concoction of claptrap because the general public. news reporters and Senator Smith were ignorant of timekeeping at sea. They assumed a 24 hour day while Titanic's day was 24 hours and 47 minutes long on the night of April 14th. Because of their lack of knowledge, the landsmen questioning him were also ignorant of the 24 minute setback of crew clocks in place at the time of the accident.

    The truth is that Boxhall walked out of the officers quarters at about 11:32 o'clock in crew time, which was 11:56 o'clock in unaltered April 14th time. (See Scarrott) That was precisely when he should have started for the compass platform to do the 48th compass check of the day as required by White Star/IMM rules. It is also why the other quartermaster assigned to the bridge, Olliver, was on the compass platform.

    ding - ding - ding

    It was just then the lookouts rang 3-strokes on their bell warning of danger ahead.

    Both Boxhall and quartermaster Hichens claimed the ship turned left on starboard helm. The QM was specific that the turn was two points. If so, that was a course change and, as such, must have been ordered by Captain Smith to avoid the ice ("haze" in lookouts' testimonies) ahead of Titanic.

    Five to eight minutes after the first warning bells (per Scarrott) the ship struck the ice. During that time span Boxhall walked aft from the officers quarters to the ladder and went up onto the platform. He then completed the compass check and the two point course change before coming back down the ladder and walking forward on his next assigned duty.

    The compass check had to be done at 12:00 o'clock in April 14th time, or 11:36 by the crew clocks set back 24 minutes. Once every hour White Star/IMM rules required the Fourth Officer to "go the rounds" of the hands in the Starboard Watch. So, Boxhall would have gone forward to the companionway abreast of the captain's quarters to go down to the forecastle where he knew those men would be. It was there where he heard a second set of bells, those of the engine order telegraphs. He then continued down the ladders to B deck as his duty required.

    Olliver came back to the bridge a bit behind Boxhall. He did not hear any telegraph bells, but was there at 12:04 O'clock in April 14th hours when Titanic struck on the iceberg. Subtracting the 24 minute setback, the crew clocks said 11:40 o'clock.

    Olliver heard Murdoch's "hard a port" helm order just as the ship touched. Boxhall was on the ladders, so did not. But, the fourth officer felt the ship quiver underfoot. When the Fourth Officer came out on B deck he saw the berg at the "bluff of the bow" where it dumped ice into the well deck. Moments later he was seen by at least one member of the Starboard Watch observing that ice. Acting on his own volition Boxhall properly went below to check on third class passengers in the bow.

    The one thing ol' lying Joe did not do was go back on the bridge to hear First Officer Murdoch say anything to Captain Smith. The whole of Boxhall's testimony about that meeting is bovine excrement. None-the-less, it has become the official version of what took place. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

    So, there was a two point turn on starboard helm that night prior to impact on the iceberg. It was not an attempt to avoid The Iceberg, just a course change to go more south around the ice field seen ahead of Titanic. A minute or so later, that turn proved fatal as it set up the collision with the iceberg.

    And, that gives us the motive for Boxhall's prevarications. He did not want to admit that he had quite deliberately per Captain Smith's orders conned Titanic into collision with an iceberg.

    -- David G Brown
    Aaron_2016 likes this.
  7. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    The clock difference makes sense because Quartermaster Rowe said he looked at his watch during the collision and noted it was 11.40pm. He also reeled in and read the log line immediately after the collision, but he was supposed to read it 20 minutes later at midnight not at 11.40pm. Perhaps it was midnight. He also said - "I remained until 25 minutes after 12, when I saw a boat on the starboard beam." But the first boats were lowered about 20 minutes after that time. That would mean his watch was off by 20 minutes or so. When he got into Collapsible C he said - "It was 1.25 when I left the bridge to get into the boat", but that boat was lowered about 20 minutes after that. Albert Pearcey was also in this collapsible boat and he looked at the time immediately after the collapsible touched water and he said - "It was 20 minutes to two when we came away from her.....I looked at the time.....One of the passengers had the time." Q - And it was 20 minutes to 2? A - Yes." But that collapsible was lowered around 20 minutes later at 2am. All of this suggests that 11.40pm was not the actual time of the collision, and was much more likely to be midnight.

  8. >>The truth is that Boxhall walked out of the officers quarters at about 11:32 o'clock in crew time, which was 11:56 o'clock in unaltered April 14th time.<<

    The "truth"? It is more the false claims of a D.G.B.
    If Boxhall was going to call the watch - where is the proof that he was on B Deck at the time of collision? We are waiting for over 1 year now for the evidence by the way - he could have stated that at the inquiry. "I was going to call the next watch" such a simple statement.

    And by the way as already stated several times Hichens mentioned the helm orders aboard Carpathia.

    If we go with Dillon who was in the main engine room it was not long. His timing of the orders (including stop, slow ahead & slow astern) took about a total of about 6.5 minutes while on the other hand Scott (who was in the turbine engine room) stated a time total of about 29 - 35 minutes (which is way to long).
  9. Scott Mills

    Scott Mills Member

    Forgive my ignorance here, but what became of Titanic's log and scrap log? Shouldn't the collision and what led to it have been entered into the logs? Shouldn't some of what transpired in the 30 to 45 minutes after the collision also have been entered into the logs? Furthermore, shouldn't the logs and charts have been evacuated in one of the lifeboats when it became clear the ship was going to founder?

    As someone who has not spent a day on the sea in his life, I was under the impression that it was the duty of the officers to preserve the logs and charts of a foundering ship, at least when saving it would not endanger anyone's life. For example, saving Lusitania's logs would have been much more difficult than saving Titanic's log book given how quickly Lusitania went down; however, Captain Turner was actually attempting to save Lusitania's logs/charts when he was washed off Lusitania's bridge.

    Since no one ever cites Titanic's logbook, scrap log, or charts, and I have never seen any mention of which lifeboat they might of come off the ship on, I assume no attempt was made to save it. Is this correct?

    If so, why has this never been a topic of conversation? Either at one of the official inquiries or subsequently?
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
  10. According to Hichens the time of the collision (11:40 p.m. ATS) was entered in the scrap log.

    It was, there was the theory/thought that it might have been QM Wynn who took it with him in his kit bag which was pitched off the Carpathia when taken aboard. According to Wynn he had only clothes (underwear) in it.
  11. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    The US Inquiry asked 3rd officer Pitman about the logbook.

    Q - I would like to know whether you are sufficiently advised, of your own knowledge, to say whether the ship's log was preserved or taken from the Titanic?
    A - Not to my knowledge; I did not go into the chart room, so I do not know.
    Q - Do you know whether Mr. Lightoller, the second officer, Mr. Boxhall, the fourth officer, or Mr. Lowe, the fifth officer, took possession of the ship's log?
    A - I can not say, sir.
    Q - What officer had charge of the log of the ship?
    A - Well, the fifth and sixth usually keep that. Which log do you mean? We keep two or three. The scrap log is kept on the bridge; the fifth and sixth look after that. The chief officer’s log is copied from that. Which do you mean?
    Q - All of them.
    A - The fifth and sixth keep the scrap log, as everything happens on the bridge, alterations of courses, deviations, and that sort of thing, and it is copied from there into the chief officer's log, which is really the official log.

    They asked him again.

    Q - Do you know if any of the logs were saved?
    A - None, sir. We had something else to think of besides log books, sir.

    They also asked Mr Franklin - (Vice president of the International Mercantile Marine Co.)

    Q - Do you know whether any record, document, or part of the ship's equipment has been saved?
    A - I have not heard of a thing being saved.
    Q - Do you know whether the log of the ship has been saved?
    A - I do not.
    Q - Have you heard anything about it?
    A - We have.
    Q - From whom?
    A - From the second officer.
    Q - From anyone else?
    A - But a minute. You had the officer on the stand yourself. That was the man I am referring to.
    Q - That was the third officer.

  12. Scott Mills

    Scott Mills Member

    Of course they had something else to think of. :/ This is very striking to me. Captain Turner on Lusitania thinks, "these need to be preserved"--it's his duty, they will be needed to make sense of what happened later, or even they will exonerate me. Does it matter?

    On Titanic with two and half hours to evacuate the ship, they had "other things" to think about, which prevented them from carrying papers from the bridge and placing them in a lifeboat. This speaks volumes--to me at least.

    Where there is smoke there is usually fire. Ergo, I think it is a fair assumption that they were intentionally "lost." Ultimately, this makes me even more convinced that all is not right in the Kingdom of Denmark when it comes to the official narrative of the foundering of Titanic.

    Its pretty clear that much of what was said by the officers of Titanic, at least when it comes:

    • What led to the collision
    • The collision
    • The first 30 to 45 minutes after the collision
    Is a self-serving obfuscation of the facts at best, or an outright fabrication at worst.
  13. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    My great uncle was the master of a merchant ship which sank by enemy fire in 1918. There were no survivors yet they still found time to grab the ship's papers and throw it into a lifeboat which was found by another ship. Incredible that they thought more about saving the ship's papers than saving themselves with only minutes to spare as the ship was on fire and sank quickly. Yet nobody on the Titanic thought about saving the ship's logs. Very suspicious if you ask me.

    Scott Mills likes this.
  14. Scott Mills

    Scott Mills Member

    My grandfather was an engineer in the USN for 36 years, including the Second World War. Now he was never on a ship that foundered, and wasn't even bridge crew, but he talked a damn lot about the things that got placed in "his" log (if it weren't for him I wouldn't have guessed a Chief Engineer kept any sort of 'log'") or how COs would use the threat of log entries as punishment for junior officers.

    He also talked about the sorts of things that did, or did not, make it into the official ship's log. So given that, your story does not surprise me. And is part of the reason I just assumed that there was a duty to preserve the log where practical. This was clearly taken to the extreme on Lusitania and your great uncle's story where logs were either preserved, or an attempt was made, even when it was extremely impractical.
    Aaron_2016 likes this.
  15. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    Can anyone source where Hichens spoke on the Carpathia and said he turned the helm both ways? He was asked at the UK Inquiry:

    Q - She never was under a port helm?
    A - She did not come on the port helm, Sir. On the starboard helm.

    Yet we have multiple witnesses who stated quite confidently that she was under a port helm.

  16. Scott Mills

    Scott Mills Member

    Of course we do! For many of the reasons we discussed. I know David believes no "port around" maneuver was attempted, and he knows a damn site more about commanding ocean vessels than I, but my brain still insists that such a maneuver had to take place. Just playing ship simulator :D I know that this is the quickest way to swing the stern of a ship.

    So it seems based on this "experience" alone that damage to the entire starboard side of the ship would have ensued if it had not been done. Of course, David has a good explanation of why that would not necessarily be the case, but, as I said, my brain struggles to accept this explanation as likely; however, I am in close agreement with David on most things Titanic related.
  17. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    Thanks. Forgive me on speaking on his behave, but I believe Jim believes the Titanic did not turn northwards and the helm was not turned 'hard a-port' which would swing the stern away. I believe the opposite. I believe the only helm order given was hard a-port which swung the stern away immediately after the impact. It would be by far the quickest way to swing the stern out of the way. Porting around the iceberg would be sensible if the ship were going at 5 knots but not at 22 knots. They just would not have time to react, let alone attempt to swing the bow and then the stern away. If Hichens had turned the wheel one way, he would immediately have to turn the wheel hard over the other way but according to Olliver the order hard a-port was given after the collision and when the iceberg was much further aft and by the time the order was obeyed and the wheel was turned hard over the opposite way the iceberg would have come and gone. Boxhall made no mention of the hard a-port order and this leads me to believe it was given after he left the bridge and possibly when the order 'half speed ahead' was given. As David does not outrule the possibility that they may have intended to steam towards Halifax and were setting a new course. This could account for the order 'hard a-port' and 'half speed ahead'.

    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017
  18. Scott Mills

    Scott Mills Member

    That is the short and sweet of it. I believe that this is exactly what they did. Initial assessment of the damage, in the days before hand held radios was, no visible damage. When reports of flooding started they were piecemeal and only mentioned the forward three compartments.

    There is plenty of circumstantial evidence that even Andrews did not know about the flooding in BR5 until at least 35 minutes after the collision. During that time, I think Titanic and her officers, perhaps with the input of the Managing Director of White Star (if you believe there is any merit to Lightoller's granddaughter's recent revelation) decided to make way towards Halifax.

    This would explain a lot of things.

    • Why the Titanic made way after the collision
    • Why the Titanic sank more quickly than surviving reports of the initial damage seem to suggest she should
    • The origin of the infamous "Titanic Still Afloat" article (and the reported/rumored communication of this to White Star New York via Cape Race)
    • Statements made by one survivor, whom Walter Lord believed was Ismay's mistress, in a BBC interview that she was very resistant to abandoning ship as she believed they were headed to Halifax
    • The convenient "loss" of Titanic's log, scrap log, and charts
    • The attempt by Ismay to get Titanic's crew back out on the ocean "homeward bound" before any American inquiry could be held

    If I ever start that book I tell myself I will someday write, this is what I would argue--currently pre-research anyway.
  19. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    I have my hesitations about the journey to Halifax because there was an oil tanker that requested a tow to Halifax that night and her signals brought some confusion when mixed with the Titanic's signals, and the Carpathia was originally going to steam for Halifax instead of New York and this also brought some confusion among the wireless traffic. It is however possible that the Titanic was intending to steam for Halifax, or possibly was trying to draw closer to the other ship that could be seen a few miles away. Another possibility is that they realized there was field ice ahead and decided to turn away or attempted to turn around to make sure their ship did not drift into the ice field which could have brought further damage.

    Harland Duzen likes this.
  20. Scott Mills

    Scott Mills Member

    I don't know if its authenticity was ever verified, but there was some discussion rather recently (as these things go) about a possible copy of a message forwarded by the Cape Race line to White Star's New York office about having trains ready and Halifax for Titanic's passengers--if I recall correctly.

    Then in 2010 Louise Patten (Lightoller's granddaughter) revealed--depending on whether or not you credit this revelation--that both she and her grandmother were told by Lightoller later in life two things happened on Titanic. First that a "steering error" had caused the collision. This is interesting to me because Patten took this to mean that Hitchens "turned the wrong way" making the collision unavoidable. Now on the one hand this is interesting because, just doing my own research, Hitchens had never before helmed a large liner. On top of that, this was his first trip working for White Star and his previous line did not use the anachronistic helm ordering terminology White Star did. So, for example, a port turn would have been just that... "hard a port."

    Given this I can see very clearly in my mind: a new helmsman (first voyage with the line) helming a large ocean liner for the first time presented with a "hard over order," which under normal circumstances would have been mindless; however, this would have been a high stress collision avoidance maneuver where he would have been given an order he was not quite used to "hard-a-starboard" for a port turn. So he panics and turns the wheel the wrong direction, where an officer notes, grabs the wheel (as in the film) and attempts to correct the error, but its too late. Additionally, this "narrative" would also explain some of Hitchens' very odd behavior later that night (asking who the officer in charge was, being very defensive, etc.) and later in life. Then again, this could just be a normal reaction to having been the guy at the helm when the collision occurred.

    You could also claim that Patten misunderstood this story, and instead the "turning error" was exactly what David argues: a two point turn minutes before the collision to avoid the "haze," but straight into the offending ice.

    The most interesting bits of Patten's story though is her claim that it was the assessment of the surviving officers that the damage to the ship was survivable had they not, at the behest of Ismay, began making half-speed ahead towards Halifax within minutes of the collision.

    Now there are many here who argue that Patten is a novelist, and she was just trying to sell her new novel set on Titanic. That is the difficulty when trying to judge the veracity of oral histories. Unfortunately, everyone who was on the ship that night is no longer with us, so we cannot ask the people themselves.

    Now I tend to believe Patten because her narrative fits mine. I put it together with the potential telegraph evidence/newspaper article, surviving testimony/witness accounts, and statements made Edith Russel/Rausbaum. Edith states in a recorded interview her experience of being evacuated--which essentially involved Ismay tossing her down the stairs to waiting crewmen. The most interesting parts of this to me were, in that interview she discusses a conversation she had with a steward about collecting her luggage when Titanic arrives in Halifax. This, in and of itself, is interesting.

    It gets more interesting when you find out that Edith and Walter Lord engaged in a long correspondence around the time Lord was researching A Night To Remember. During that correspondence Edith stated privately to Lord that she was on Titanic as the mistress of one J Bruce Ismay. More importantly Lord thought this claim was credible.

    So we have:

    1. Plenty of evidence the crew of Titanic did not fully realize the severity of the damage until 30+ minutes after the collision;
    2. Plenty of evidence that Titanic made way after the collision at half speed for between 10 and 35 minutes;
    3. A survivor, who may have been Ismay's mistress, making a tangential comment about a conversation with a steward about baggage in Halifax;
    4. Infamous article about Titanic heading to Halifax the day after the disaster;
    5. Potential communication from Titanic about getting trains to Halifax;
    6. Louise Patten's 'revelation' regarding what she and her grandmother were told by Lightoller about Titanic, including that the crew decided to head to Halifax;
    So at the risk of beating a dead horse, where there is smoke, there is usually fire. You aren't going to win a criminal prosecution on this evidence, certainly, but there is enough here that I think people should be interested in trying to find out if there is some evidence out there that could prove (or disprove) the assertion that Titanic's crew may have helped, at a minimum, hasten the ships sinking by steaming for Halifax before a proper understanding of the damage to Titanic's hull had been arrived at.