How and when they got away


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Pat Cook

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Apr 26, 2000
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Hey, Catia and Michael,

I believe it WAS on the Ranger website that I ran across your old nickname, Michael. Every so often, during an idle moment, I run some of the names I chat with here (and other places) online to see what turns up.

Personally, regarding what could've been done to save more lives, I'm not sure we can rule out anything - more lifeboats, more drills, etc. However, that being said, I firmly believe the BIGGEST culprit that night was the 'Unbelievability Factor'. The passengers didn't believe the ship was sinking, the crew didn't believe the ship was sinking - Lightoller and Pitman both testified to that and Boxhall, as he was literally firing off the distress rockets, asking Captain Smith, "Is it serious?" (Walter Lord, ANTR)

People would be placed into the boats and get right back out again. Some wouldn't go in at all. I sometimes think the officers lowered the boats half filled just to keep from losing THOSE they HAD!

Of course, if there HAD been more boats, they perhaps could've felt safe in rowing back among the others after the ship went down. Sadly, we'll never know. Everything was against them, even recent history - the Olympic being broadsided by the Hawke and remaining afloat, obviously unsinkable. And here was the Titanic, celebrated as being BETTER than the Olympic. Of COURSE, it couldn't sink! Why, that's...unbelievable!

Best regards,
Cook
 
Sep 12, 2000
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Hello Pat!

I agree with your theory about the unsinkable part. If I had the choice of dangling some several stories over icey waters to get into a very tiny little boat hanging from small thread- like ropes (my imagined sight of them) and staying on a ship that couldn't sink....you better believe that I would have been one of those who chose to stay warm and "safe" on board.

Monday morning quarterbacking is always the wiser advice though.
Maureen.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Hi Pat, if you ever get into the Delphi Forums, you'll find me posting on Absolute Best Cat, Archaeology, Ancient/Classical History, and History and Archaeology SIG. My photo is on my sig line too. Just hope it's not too scary.

Maureen, I quite agree with the unbeleivability factor which Pat mentioned. Who would want to chance a small cold boat on the dark open ocean when the ship looked so warm and safe. One can hardly blame people for saying; "You're not getting ME into THAT thing!"

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Sep 12, 2000
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Dear Mike Standart,
What exactly are the Delphi Forums? What are the history postings, are they to do with Titanic? What kind of cat is the best cat?

Can you imagine all these people jumping in and out of boats and then there are these people like me velcroed to the railing refusing to go and you are Capt Smith and in charge of all of this..... good grief.
Maureen.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Maureen, The Delphi Forums are run by Prospero Technologies, and it's one of the oldest of it's kind on the web. The forums are just that. A place for people to meet on-line and chat about subjects and affairs of mutual interest. There are a few Titanic Forums there, but they haven't been active for a very long time. Apparently, few people there have the interest in the subject that we do. For Titanic forums, Encyclopedia Titanica is THE place to be.

The Titanic has been discussed on the History And Archaeology SIG Forum which is hosted by a feild archaeologist named Mark McConaughy, but only in passing. The history postings I mentioned are scattered about on a number of different forums.

Like all such, one has to be wary of kook fringe stuff, and some of the forums are little more then flamewar zones. One of the nastiest is the Nordic History Forum which is a white supremacist board. If you go to the Delphi Forums, stay away from that one. However, some of the best forums are the ones I mentioned in my earlier post.

Absolute Best Cat is a cat lovers forum. Our household is a cat household...eleven in all...so we've been a part of it for a long time.

BTW, I can imagine an abandon ship scenerio. Hell, I trained for such when I was in the Navy, and had to. When you sail on warships, you have to expect that some bad guy is going to try to do you dirty sooner or later. As for Captain Smith, I wouldn't trade places with him for all the gold in Fort Knox. The anguish he had to be facing in his final hours had to be incredible.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

Erik Wood

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Aug 24, 2000
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Michael,

I would have to agree with you. I would not want to be Smith at all. I have made some pretty hard decisions and I hated it. I dislike the whole thing the way things went and the fact that because of my orders someone had to die so that others might live. It sucked. Smith though new he was going to die. I couldn't imagine being him.

Erik
 
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Bill DeSena

Guest
Hi shipmates!

Well just a bit of personal trivia since we're throwing nicknames about,...mine was 'the angel of death.' Pretty grim I know but after a solid week finding an 802 every night on my beat the Sergeant pronounced that either I was killing them or I must be the angel of death, hence the sobriquet!

The study of crowd dynamics is a fascinating one from the social/psychology points of view. I had the fortune as a police officer to directly observe human behavior in a number of mob scenes, eg. the Dan White Riot, The Earthquake of 1989, Gulf War Protests, etc.. Then after my police service I returned to college and studied sociology and psychology which gave me the chance to compare the research scientists have done of crowds with my actual experience of them. Some interesting dynamics are associated with crowd behavior.

Conformity: People rarely want to step out of the norms of behavior for the group their in and in the case of passengers being mustered on the boat deck of a perfectly new, powerful vessel with an advertised reputation as unsinkable to act flippantly about the loading of lifeboats is normal behavior. It was non-conformist to act otherwise and I think the lack of displayed anxiety from the crew initially added to cement the idea in people's minds that this boat drill was nonsense.

Rumors: Rumors are deadly ask anyone who has experienced the negative effect of bad rumors spreading on a ship and they'll tell you that 'scuttlebutt' is something that all skippers try to discourage. In a riot one rumor has the effect of oil on a fire. When the rumors began to spread that the iceberg caused minor damage people figured the lifebelts and boat stations to be a convenient moment for a drill. Their contemptuous attitudes about getting into the boats and the reluctance to leave the safety and warmth of their cabins were potentiated by the rumors that spread around.

Misinformation/no information: Crowds with wrong, misleading or worse no information from a trusted source become even more dangerous. First there is the disorder factor of people rushing about doing strange activities and then the sense of urgency without a defined purpose and reason for it coupled with faulty information creates a scene of chaos that becomes a killer all by itself.

Herd mentality: Confusion and terror produces a herd mentality. People loss their reason and become a part of the mob running around without direction and purpose. One person starts running and screaming and the crowd follows them until they become blocked by an obstacle. The people rushing around looking for an empty boat my had done better if they had been able to think of trying to throw more floatable things into the sea, mattresses and other items that could float.

Well I guess that's why I always avoid events with large crowds you never know when something will cause them to panic and once your in the midst of one its hard to get out of and save yourself.

Regards
Bill
 
Sep 12, 2000
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Erik,

I can not imagine being in a position like that...it must be very hard and yet necessary. But each person who joins understands I guess the chances they face. I respect you Sir! Maureen.
 

Erik Wood

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Aug 24, 2000
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Bill,

I would have to agree that the crews behavior has a lot to do with passenger reactions. I have found that sometimes keeping information from my passengers helps me in controlling them. They tend to be excitable especially if they think something is up. When I was a Chief I had to deal with a rather large brawl on the Festival me and about four officers and over twenty stewards had to break up a one hundred person fight. The mood changed quickly as I walked in with officers behind me so I sort of kind of know what you are talking about.

Maureen,

Having to choose to let someone die to save others is not at all an easy task and even though I know it was the right one I still fee quilty about it. Because of my actions a man died. Good or bad it does not matter. It feels the same.

Erik
 
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Bill DeSena

Guest
Hi All,

For my next experiment I'm doing a lifeboat drill on my boat this weekend with my daughter's friends as the passengers. They were all enjoying watching my antics with the model in the pool so much I thought this would be a good chance to role play with some live researchers,...oh the fact that their all teenagers and are getting to spend the day in swimsuits on a yacht doesn't have anything to do with their willingness to take part in research about the Titanic. :)
Regards
Bill
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Hello Erik, sounds like you had a really ugly scene on the Festival. I don't suppose your people ever figured out how it got started, did they? The master at arms must have had quite a time looking in to it.

Just out of curiosity...and you certainly don't have to answer this one if you feel uncomfortable about it, but what was the incident you were involved in where an individual died? Whatever it was, I don't envy you the choices you had to make or the orders you had to give.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Sep 12, 2000
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On a somber note, Erik, If two trains were going to hit unless a switch was pulled but to pull the switch meant you had to leave your infant son on the tracks of one of the oncoming trains. But thatwas the only way to save hundreds...what do you do. These are tough choices and I not only respect you and Bill and others who have done this sort of thing, but I admire folks who do these sort of decisions and yet can handle the pressures of life in other areas as well.

I worked on a case at my job last year that really changed me. I understand just a little of what you have gone through. You are a terrific person Erik and your passengers are very lucky to have you aboard!

On the light side of life...I think that this business of a lot of young ladies on a yacht in bathing suits is quite a harsh way for poor Bill to have to spend his weekend. I think that we should get together a collection so Bill can go to the movies...who will sacrifice their weekend to go out on a yacht with several young ladies dressed in bathing suits so that you can save them and save Bill.
(he he) Bill, I am so glad youhave a sense of humor here. Thanks for your experiments. They are very informative! Maureen.
 

Erik Wood

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Aug 24, 2000
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Michael,

It started with an uncontrolled fire in the engine room that later spread to the boiler room. We had wetted down the decks above but I had people that I knew were trapped in main control and in a strainer compartment. I got to the point that I either had to drop CO2 full well knowing that it would kill those in the strainer compartment or send in another fire team to try to get them out. My fire teams had taken a beating getting to main control and trying to fight the fire in the boiler room and the engine room. The man trapped in the strainer compartment an oiler named Robert Michaels had hidden in there when he heard the explosion and fire alarms. I didn't have comms with him but the the Chief Engineer and 3rd Assitant in Main Control said they could hear him crying for help and banging the strainer compartment hatch. I made the choice to drop CO2 in the space which killed him and nearly two others. After the fire I went to Roberts family and told them of the situation and the decision that I made which was harder then making the decison but they say they understood so they say.

I am a known stickler for dicispline and as far as the Festival I knocked a few head and got a stern talking to but the Captain told me thank you. Poor Bill has to spend a weekend on a yacht with lots of women. I have over 500 on my ship. The Master at Arms told me the fight was over a woman. Go figure. Somebody got hit his friends hit one guy the other guys friends got into it.
You know how it goes.

Erik
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Good God, a mainspace fire? Been there, done that on the USS Ranger back in '83, and I'm not eager to repeat the experience. I wasn't on a fire team myself, but I was involved in support and some of the clean-up. I was on a fire team a year and a half earlier when some idiot torched the Wardroom on the 03 level of the ship. Fortunately for the arsonist, the crew never found out who he was. He'ed have never made it off the ship alive.

It took all night to beat that one down, you couldn't see anything and it was hotter then Hell itself. My team made an attempt to get up to the wardroom and was driven back by the heat. The heat was so intense, it actually made a noticable bulge in the flight deck!

A fire is every sailors very worst nightmare, an engine room/boiler room fire being above and beyond the call of nightmare. I don't envy you the choices you had to make. You were caught in a very desperate situation. I know it's not much comfort, but you did what you had to do. If you hadn't, more lives could and likely would have been lost...to say nothing of the ship itself. I wish I could say I didn't quite understand the problems you faced, but I do, all too well.

In re the cause of the fight on the Festival, I understand that one too. During my naval career, when things like that threatened, I made it a point to get way away from where trouble was brewing. It saved me a lot of greif.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Sep 12, 2000
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Erik and Michael. You speak of dealing with fires aboard ships as a sailors worst nighmare. I know that this has been discussed before, but there was a fire aboard the Titanic. Do you think that fighting this fire for as long as it seemed to take to get it under control weakened the energy levels of several of the crew who were dealing with this day after day? Would it have worn you out to fight a fire and then hit an iceberg with passengers aboard. How would you deal with this? Also, how do you deal with this sort of thing on a Navy vessel versus a cruise ship? Would there be a difference? Anybody who wishges can respond, but I thought these guys shared. DO you have any ideas on this?Maureen.
 

Erik Wood

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On a cruise ship is general practice to keep it hush hush if it will not impact passengers but that line is sometimes are to find. If you know it close to or will get to a passenger common area then you move all the passengers to the safest part of the ship. Fighting the fire itself is done by the engineering and damage control staff. Who usually by the time you find out about it are already there fighting. As a rule of thumb I let the Chief Engineer make the calls if he wants my advice I will give it. He is the one on scene and he is the one the knows what is really going on. My job becomes to listen and look at the big picture. Moving passengers putting the ship into the wind or out of the wind. Calling for help. Wetting down decks above. Stuff like that. I don't know about Navy ships.

Erik
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Coal bunker fires were a common problem in those days, but my understanding is that it was finally put out about a day after the Titanic left Southhampton. I'll have to double check my sources on that. I don't think it made much of a difference on the crews energy levels. By the 14th, the fire was just a bad memory. Mostly, they just removed the coal manually, then smothered the burning coal with water.

Coal fires are no longer a problem now, however, the mainspace fire scenerio is one we trained for relentlessly in the Navy as they can get out of control real fast. Liquid fuel is funny that way. When I was on the Ranger, the one we had started with a fuel transfer to the bunker under 4 Main Machinary Room...only for some reason, the transfer pump wasn't shut off when it shouldn't have been. The pressure built up until the fuel blew off the cap to a sounding tube and literally gushered up to come raining down on the boilers and steam pipes. The time from the "leak" to ignition and total involvement of the spoace was about two and a half minutes.

About the only way you can deal with it is try to flood the space with CO2 or Halon gas and hope it smothers the flames. If that doesn't work...it didn't on the Ranger, then you have to send hose teams in to try and drown it. It's a nasty and time consuming job. Not only do teams have to go down and drown it, other teams with fully charged hoses have to set boundries in adjoining spaces to keep it from spreading.

Bottom line; to deal with a fire like this, or any other kind, you need time, manpower and a lot of water. A hell of a lot of water!

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Sep 12, 2000
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Did the shifting of the coal provide an even heavier list than would have been had the fire never occured on the Titanic?

And do the pumps pump out the water after you use it for the fire? Could the water have been pumped then and if so, could it have been recycled on that ship? Maureen.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Hello Mo, I rather doubt that shifting the coal would have been that much of a factor if the trimmers were doing their job.

As to pumps, ultimately yes, they would have been used for dewatering, even if only to let the water run out of the bunker and into the drainage system.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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