How much time between spotting of iceberg and the collision


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Mar 22, 2003
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Let's not confuse spotting distance with time to turn two points measured from the instant the helm order was received. This has been discussed quite recently in another thread. Truth is we really don't know when the iceberg was first spotted. We can only speculate.
 
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Keith R E Hall

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According to fleet's conversation with another passenger the distance was 1760 Yards and it took 37 second to strike the ship. The ship took 29 seconds to start turning. So the collision was unavoidable.
 
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Keith R E Hall

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no but i recall a letter i found in handwriting posted on a site but i am trying to remember but don't forget this may not be a legitimate source (anyone can write a handwritten letter and post it on the web). The letter looked authentic to me and you are right about his testimony. The letter i read may not be a real legitimate document. I will try and find it if i find it i will post it here.
 
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Gary L Rounds

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Gentlemen,
I've just stumbled onto this site from a link having to do with a Carnival cruise ship plowing through huge swells (nobody can agree on whether the pic is bogus or not). I became a member so I could read and maybe sometime (when I'm much smarter) respond to some of them.

I love cruising and must admit to an intense fascination with the actions and consequences of these actions that led up to the loss of the Titanic.

Several years ago, while cruising on the Carnival Elation, the movie that was shown in the showroom on a huge screen was THE TITANIC. Some time later I had the opportunity to ask the Captain of the Elation (sorry, I don't recall his name) why did the officer in charge scream "Hard to Starboard". I had seen the movie in a theatre previously and that always bugged me. Why would the Captain of the Titanic turn in the direction of the iceberg?

His answer was just what I expected: "This act would pull the starboard part of the ship behind the centerline AWAY from the berg".
I'm way over my head here with Captains and book writers posting, so I won't bother you with trivial questions. I do want to say I enjoy these postings immensely and the critically-minded thinking of those performing the "post-mortem" on this tragedy.

Thank you very much,

Gary L Rounds
Cruisaholic
 

Dave Gittins

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Gary, the helm orders of 1912 were not what they are today.

Go to the explanation on my site. You'll see that the order really was to turn away from the berg. Some say that Murdoch later tried to do as your captain described and swing the after part of the ship away from the berg by ordering hard-a-port. I won't open that can of worms.

http://users.senet.com.au/~gittins/wheel.html
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Matthew, you might want to re-read what I put in my first post:
quote:

The Mersey Wreck commission found that the ship's head would have taken 37 seconds to come around two points if the rudder was put over and the engines reversed...said data being aquired by trials with the Olympic.
At best, this established a baseline of what was possible once the rudder was actually put over. This doesn't take into account such potential delays as spotting the berg in the first place, identifying it for the danger it posed, formulating a plan of action to deal with it, and then acting on that plan of action. While all of this would have happened fairly quickly, it helps to be mindful of the fact that not everything entered into evidence is exactly what it seems, some of it is contradictory, (Nobody from the engine room testifies to the engines being reversed up to the time of the collision) and not every conclusion reached is a valid one.

Beware of pat answers. They have a nasty habit of being wrong.​
 
Mar 22, 2003
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That famous 37 seconds was with the engines running ahead not reversed.

From Wilding's testimony at the BOT Inquiry:
quote:

She was running at about 74 revolutions, that corresponds to about 21 1/2 knots, and from the time the order was given to put the helm hard over till the vessel had turned two points was 37 seconds.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>That famous 37 seconds was with the engines running ahead not reversed.<<

I stand corrected on this point. Thanks.
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Feb 24, 2004
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This is a question, not a challenge. :)

Why do we take it that the Olympic's 37-second response time had anything to do with the Titanic in its unique predicament?

Fleet said both in America and in London that he noticed the Titanic had turned two points to port while he was *still on the phone* to the bridge. That conversation, even when one reads it aloud slowly, takes less than 10 seconds, suggesting the possibility that the wheel had been turned maybe 40-45 seconds *prior* to Fleet's taking notice.

I don't think Fleet was aware of any turning tests done with the Olympic when he testified in the US.

Would a *partial* turn of the wheel (i.e., not full over) have had any effect on the ship's visible response time? That is, would it have begun its turn quicker? It's been a long time since I've hung around ships.

Seems to me that, if we're going to apply the results of the Olympic's test, we would need to start counting the 37 seconds just *after* Moody replied "Thank you" to Fleet. And if those results conflict with what all the guys down below remembered (which they seem to), then perhaps something is wrong with our basic presumptions somewhere?...

Guys, I'd appreciate your input.

Roy
 
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My own input would be that if we're going to use the 37 second figure, it would behoove us to make sure that the underlying assumptions behind them are valid and this may well not be the case.

>>Would a *partial* turn of the wheel (i.e., not full over) have had any effect on the ship's visible response time? That is, would it have begun its turn quicker?<<

No quicker then if the rudder had been put hard over in my opinion. Less rudder angle equals a longer turn rate, not a shorter one.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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A few points of clarification here.
1. I believe Fleet said she started to turn before he got off the phone. The famous two points is amount turned at the time she struck the ice, not the time he got off the phone.
2. 37 seconds is time from receiving hard astarboard order for the ship to turn 2 points. When that order was given, assuming it was that, and the completion of the phone call from the cross nest are two different things. The order may well have ocurred prior to the lookout report, thus explaining why the ship appeared to have started to turn. In other words, Murdoch saw the berg about the same time as the lookouts and took action before the phone call completed. There is evidence that there was a small delay in answering the phone on the part of 6/O Moody who would be responsible for seeing the helm order carried out first.
3. The ship was also ordered to go to hard aport. Exactly when this order ocurred is an open question. Did it happen before she struck the ice or a few seconds afterward? Testimonies are not too reliable with regard to exact timing, or for that matter, the actual sequence of events themselves. The implications of this is tremendous in figuring out what exactly did happen.
 
Jun 10, 2004
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In Leslie Reade's book, he interviewed Fred Fleet. Fleet told him that he saw the iceberg but did not understand what it was, so took no action until it became clearer. Reade got the impression that Fleet had never grasped the significance of what he was saying. It may be that Fleet watched the iceberg for as long as a minute (Reade could not get a definite elapse of time from Fleet, but it definitely seemed that Fleet was talking about many seconds, not moments), probably anguishing over whether to sound the bell or not.

This does not seem to have been widely commented on. I can't give you a reference from the book, it was a library copy I was reading, but the interview was in a later chapter, covering the later lives of those concerned. Fleet's later life was sad; he eventually committed suicide.

One other point; the description of a two-point turn was surely just an estimate, it might have been three points, or one point. Reading the trial record, you get the impression that Hitchens made a casual estimate, but then felt obliged to appear more sure of himself when he was pressured by the counsel.

Besides, there seems to be quite strong arguments that the ship was not actually turning hard to port as she struck - her stern did not hit the iceberg/pack ice. Would it not have taken some seconds for such a large ship to steady up after a hard turn, before hitting?
 
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>>This does not seem to have been widely commented on...<<

I'm not sure why it would raise a lot of eyebrows. If Mr. Reade had in fact carried out this interview, it would have been several decades after the actual event so it's reliability would be a bit suspect.

>>Fleet told him that he saw the iceberg but did not understand what it was, so took no action until it became clearer.<<

If that's in fact true, then that doesn't reflect at that well on Fleet. It's not the lookouts job to understand what's in front of him. It's his job to report what's in front of him. They can at least evade now and ask questions later that way.

>>One other point; the description of a two-point turn was surely just an estimate, it might have been three points, or one point.<<

Probably, but it did come directly from the man who was at the helm at the time and who would of nesseccity had his eyes on the compass. It also seems fairly well corroberated. Whether or not any of these people were actually truthful about what they said is a whole 'nother smoke. For my own money, I think they were honest about what they saw and testified to even if not always verifiably accurate.

>>Would it not have taken some seconds for such a large ship to steady up after a hard turn, before hitting?<<

Yes it would. You're starting to see some of the light here, Grasshopper. The thing here is that among other factors, the ship's own inertia and mass are working against her, so it takes a few seconds for the rudder to actually become effective. Since it's a given that the stern recieved no damage, it's my beleif that they ported the helm just befor going onto the ice. I may be wrong on this, but if any of our more seasoned Big Ship drivers has some insights to offer on that, I'm open to being educated.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Fleet to Reade:
quote:

I saw this black thing looming up; I didn’t know what it was. I asked Lee if he knew what it was. He couldn’t say. I thought I better ring the bell. I rang it three times.

How much time was spent before he rang the bell is speculative. He also said in the inquiries that he said to Lee "there is ice ahead" before ringing the bell. This makes sense since he reported "iceberg right ahead" to Moody on the phone. It obviously came close enough for him to finally realize what he was looking at. How long did that take? Your guess is as good as mine, but I'm assuming it was a matter of a few seconds, certainly not minutes.

The more interesting question is when did Murdoch first see the berg?

You are correct Malcolm in that the 2 points was not a precise value. Fleet said it was about 1 to 2 points. Hichens said about 2 points and he would have been looking at the steering compass during the collision. Anything in that range is probably close enough.

As far as turning characteristics, it all depends on when a shift in helm is ordered and the response of the rudder. Not to get into all the details here, my own analysis shows that a full rudder shift from 40° left to 40° right would take about 15 seconds, and that the ship would continue in its initial turn to port for about 20 seconds after the start of the helm shift before starting to swing the other way. It is the shift in rudder that would stop the hard turn to port. (see Fig. 16 in: http://web.nps.navy.mil/~me/tsse/TS4001/support/1-11-1.pdf)​
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Hi, Sam!

>>Your guess is as good as mine, but I'm assuming it was a matter of a few seconds, certainly not minutes.

What happens when you figure Olliver and Scarrott into the mix? Between the two of them, they point to a time gap of between 5 to 8 minutes between Fleet's bell and his phone call to Moody. They were in completely different parts of the ship, yet they received the same impression. Most people have tended to write their testimony off (individually) as having been "mistaken." But what if they weren't? Personally, I don't have a great deal of confidence in the testimony of *anyone* connected with the Titanic's bridge. We've been trying to make the traditional story "work" for 93 years now, and no matter how we slice it, or rationalize it, it refuses to work.

Roy
 
Mar 22, 2003
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It would be a very big mistake to write off the testimonies of those two witnesses. In fact Olliver's in particular I believe is key to understanding the actual timing of events. When the 3 bells were struck by Fleet, Olliver was on the standard compass platform finishing trimming the lamps. When he heard the 3 bells he looked up and not seeing anything, went forward onto the bridge. He arrived on the bridge just as the ship struck the ice. Allowing for walking the 230 feet and some reaction time, we are getting to about 50 seconds between the two events.

Scarrott said he was on the forecastle head when 3 bells were struck. He said he rushed down to tell his mate at the bottom of ladder that something must be going on when the ship struck. He then rushed up with everyone else and actually got to see the ship's stern slewing off the iceberg on their starboard quarter, which proves that the ship was under port helm at by that point in time. The confusion regarding Scarrott has to do with what time the three bells were struck. Scarrott maintained all along that he did not take much notice of the time, and was guessing that the bells came about 11:30. When pressed about the time between the 3 bells and the collision he said: "As I did not take much notice of the three strikes on the gong, I could hardly recollect the time; but I should think it was - well, we will say about five or eight minutes; it seemed to me about that time." Now to put this in proper perspective. At 11:30 7 bells were struck as was normal to do. And we know from an abundance of witnesses that the ship impacted with the ice at 11:40. To me what he remembered was the ship striking about 5 to 8 minutes after hearing bells rung. But which bells? Most likely this was the 7 bells that were struck at 11:30, not the 3 bells from the crow's nest that came within a minute of the collision. It is very easy to get confused when you aren't paying too much attention to matters such as time. It certainly doesn't take 5 to 8 minutes to rush down from the forecastle deck to E deck where his mate would have been. And 5 to 8 minutes is about 2 to 3 miles of steaming at 22.5 knots. A 70 foot berg 2 to 3 miles away would be about 1/4 to 1/3 of a degree in size, less than the diameter of a full moon, and with only the black sea as a background, no stars behind it. On a clear moonless night, the best you could hope for is seeing that kind of object within about 1/2 mile or less, a distance that Reginald Lee estimated for first sighting. (See also Leo Shubow, "Iceberg Dead Ahead!" Boston: Bruce Humphries, Inc., 1959.)

The real question is when did Murdoch order a hard-astarboard and when did he order hard-aport as witnessed by Olliver after coming onto the bridge? Fleet said he was on the phone for about a 1/2 minute (for a conversation of about 10 seconds). Hichens said it was about a 1/2 minute between 3 bells and Murdoch's hard-astarboard order. The numbers here do fit. What doesn't fit is the ship striking the berg at about the same time that Murdoch gives a hard-astarboard order. What doesn't fit is Boxhall hearing 3 bells while coming out of the officer's quarters and the ship striking the berg when he gets halfway to the bridge.

Cheers.
 
Oct 28, 2000
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Warning to traditionalists--this will be unpleasant.

Scarrott was specific that 5 to 8 minutes evolved between the lookouts' bell and the accident. He even mentioned that 7 bells had struck prior to the crow's nest bell.

Boxhall heard the warning bell as he came out of the officers quarters on his way to the compass platform where Olliver was already working on the lamps. Both men should have been on the platform to perform the compass check required every half hour by IMM/White Star regulations, paragraph 253.

"253. Steering and Compasses.-- He (the officer of the watch) must pay particular attention to the steering and the course the ship makes. He must steady the ship on her course by standard compass every half-hour, and must compare the compasses every Watch, the comparisons to be entered in Compass Comparison Book for reference. He will also ascertain the deviation as often as possible."

Under paragraph 253, a junior officer had to walk about 230 feet aft of the bridge and climb the standard compass platform every half hour, day or night, fair weather or foul. That's 8 trips per watch, or 48 trips a day. On Titanic, the only communications between the compass platform and the bridge was a one-way bell pull similar to the ones used for summoning stewards. The bell rang inside the wheelhouse.

Scarrott's 5 to 8 minutes between warning bell and impact is easily accounted for by Boxhall's 50 second walk/climb to the platform, the delay waiting for Olliver to complete working on the lamps, and a couple of minutes for the actual compass evolution, and then the 50 second walk back to the bridge.

Hichens was very specific in talking only about what took place before impact. His testimony stops there in terms of information. But, he was specific enough about the two point turn. This suggests that the ship steadied up on a new heading after being hard a-starboard.

And, the physics behind rudder-steered vessels confirm that Titanic must have been steadied up prior to impact. Had it been in a hard left (starboard helm in 1912) turn, the accident would have been quite different. The bow forward of hold #3 would likely have escaped damage while the berg would have bumped and scraped along the starboard side all the way aft.

Which means that while Hichens told the absolute truth about a "hard a-starboard" helm command, he did not tell all of the truth. He left out two critical words spoken by Murdoch. Those words were "two points." The command must have been, "Hard a-starboard two points" for the accident to have happened as it did. In a simple hard-over turn, the QM has no need to watch the compass as it spins. Hichens would have stood holding the wheel against the stop and waiting for a second order to center the helm. But, with a "two point" turn, Hichens would have been studying the compass and turning the wheel to "meet" the swing of the ship. He would have known...as he did...the amount of turn made by the ship.

Fleet and Lee both said the ship headed straight at the fatal berg, which was dark. This confirms a steady course. Why did they discuss what they were seeing? And, why was it necessary to use the telephone to make their second report?

The answer is that Titanic successfully avoided the berg for which the lookouts rang their warning bell. This berg was 2 to 3 miles distant when they made their report, so must have been a "bright" or "white" berg. Two to 3 miles was the distance the other mariners who testified at the BOT hearings thought a berg should be spotted.

The fatal berg was dark. Fleet and Lee had to discuss what they were seeing because the ship turned right toward it. They had no bell code for, "berg to port coming ahead." So, the phone became necessary.

Murdoch delayed making the turn to avoid the first "white" berg simply because Boxhall and Moody were performing the routine compass check. The turn to avoid the first berg was made at more-or-less the last moment, but the ship was then pointed at a second, dark and fatal berg.

The problem that allowed the accident was something known as "loss of situational awareness." It is now recognized as the single greatest human factor in transportation accidents. Of course, it was unrecognized in 1912. Titanic's bridge design prevented the necessary flow of information and communications required for effective bridge team management. This is a key part of my current article in Professional Mariner.

Two bergs? Damned right. It is a physical impossibility to make the accident work with a single berg in the manner the distorted traditional story recorded events. The way ships steer won't allow it. It is necessary to find an answer that accounts for the head-on approach, the "hard a-starboard" helm command, and the physical location of damage on the hull of the ship. The only set of circumstances which allows every witness to tell the truth...and the damage to be where the damage was...is a two-berg scenario.

Now, why was one berg white and the other dark? And, why were they in such close proximity? The answer is simple. They were once parts of the same larger piece of ice. The fatal berg had "calved" a short while before the accident and now presented its former underbelly to Titanic. The formerly submerged ice was still darker than the weathered ice of the upright first berg. The calving put the fatal piece only a couple hundred yards from the larger white piece.

Boxhall did hear bells, three times in fact, when he came back to the bridge. Murdoch operated the engine telegraph. He pulled it back for one ring, pushed it forward for a second ring, then pulled it back to Astern Full for the third ring.

Please note that the above two-berg theory is based on making everyone's testimony true. The old single berg concept makes Scarrott and Olliver liars. It requires Titanic to have maneuvered more like a school bus than a ship. And, it requires an iceberg to suddenly appear out of nowhere.

I submit that my 2-berg version is admittedly just speculation. However, the one-berg version made famous all these 9 decades is quite simply preposterous. It did not happen because it could not have happened.

-- David G. Brown


PS - Lest I be accused again of "revising" history, that is not my purpose or goal. It is not "revisionist" to demand an accurate retelling of events instead of slavish adherence to physical impossibilities.
 

Steven Hall

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I have been talking about there being two bergs for the last 7 years.
It is good to see someone else talking about it.
The way the ship turned - the point where the berg was sighted etc suggested to me years ago a two berg scenario.
It was the only way the whole situation could have ended the way it did.
 
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