Iceberg as life raft


Feb 24, 2004
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>>I recognize that my arguments that the iceberg transfer option is logically obvious is counter factual since I have yet to see any 1912 discussion of it quoted by anyone on this board or in any historical materials.<<

Here's a little item I found in the library's microfilm collection. Dave Billnitzer includes virtually the same article (supplied by George Behe) on his website. Check the subsection titled "Seals".

http://home.earthlink.net/~dnitzer/Frameset.html

Best wishes!

Roy


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THE SEATTLE DAILY TIMES, April 26, 1912, p. 2:

SHIP REPORTS PASSING MANY BODIES ON BERG

NEW YORK, Friday, April 26.--Officials of the North German Lloyd liner Princess Irene, which docked just before midnight, told today of a wireless message which they intercepted on Wednesday, in which a ship--the name not learned--reported that in passing fifty miles from the scene of the Titanic disaster she had sighted an iceberg on which were the bodies of more than a dozen men; all wore life belts and the bodies were huddled in groups at the base of the berg. It was the opinion of officers of the ship that the men had climbed on the mass of ice and had frozen to death as they were swept southward. No attempt was made to take off the bodies.


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Jun 12, 2004
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To which I have to ask; "Why?"

>>Captain Smith had no say whatever in the number of boats the ship was provided with. This decision was made at the corperate level by White Star and Harland & Wolff simply gave the customer what they wanted.<<

No, but he did have a final say as to how, when, and if those lifeboats would be loaded. His was also the final words as to whom would and would not be put in them. Wasn't it his order to shoot for "women and children first"? That may have been the correct protocol and proper etiquette at that time, but, as I understand it, none of the loading and/or lowering could have been done without his orders to do so. In that sense, he did hold some responsibility over those lifeboats.
 
Jun 12, 2004
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If the account addressed in this article is true, then it appears that several of those in the water had considered the icebergs as well. The only question I have is how they would have been able to see it in the pitch-blackness of night. All were dead when daybreak opened.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
>>The only question I have is how they would have been able to see it in the pitch-blackness of night.<<

Not very well. Trust me. I know!!!! And in freezing water, I doubt these people did much in the way of swimming. If the article is true...(And be careful as a lot of accounts published then were little more then sensational bovine excrement)...then it's just as likely that clusters of bodies were washed up on some pack ice and bergs.
 

Inger Sheil

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Thanks for posting that, Roy!

I'm familiar with this one, and would say it's right up there with the garbled account of Collapsible A that had reports of men starving to death in a raft and being found with cork in their mouths that they had tried to eat in desperation. An unnamed ship, a wireless report for which we do not have the wording, etc etc. This is second hand hearsay, from an anonymous source, reported in the media.

Any iceberg used as a refuge would have had to have been close to where the ship went down, and yet there is no report of one being sighted by those who survived that could have harboured swimmers. While other lifeboats rowed away from the 'epicentre', Lowe and the crew of 14 returned and rowed around the debris and bodies until daybreak...they didn't sight anyone on bergs.

The idea that the men could swim to a berg they located in the dark and then clamber aboard - given how cold the water was, how quickly hypothermia sets in and how slippery ice would be - defies credibility. Groves is reported many years after the fact to have seen figures - 'seals' - moving on nearby icebergs...this was only mentioned decades after the events (as an aside, I must remember to look up the exact wording of that letter when I get around to viewing the Lord papers in Greenwich), and I regard it with extreme skeptisism. I'm doubtful even that there were seals in that environment - I'm not at all sure that you'd find them in any large numbers that far from their usual hauling out points (one reason why the Samson story rung hollow). Perhaps someone more versed in pinniped behaviour would care to comment.
 
Jun 12, 2004
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Considering pitche-black, that make me wonder how Fleet and Lee were even able to see the dreaded 'berg at all before it was literally swiping past them. If it hadn't been for the forward mastlight, they probably wouldn't have. What was the deal with moonlight? That's an issue that's been in debate for a long time.
 

Inger Sheil

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No moon, no moonlight.

'Dark', but perhaps 'pitch black' is too extreme - it was too dark, for example, for Beesley to see and recognise a woman in the same boat that he knew until he heard her voice.

Fleet described it later as a looming black shape. Objects that went higher than the horizon line from the viewer's vantage point would have obscured stars behind them (it was such a clear night that observers could see stars vanishing on the horizon). There would have been some glances of starlight - this is how some bergs were spotted from the Carpathia, but not all were seen - they were surprised at daylight to find that they had stopped quite close to one.
 
Feb 24, 2004
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G'day, Inger!

Great to talk with you again, my friend! What has it been -- two or three years? :)

>I'm doubtful even that there were seals in that environment - I'm not at all sure that you'd find them in any large numbers that far from their usual hauling out points (one reason why the Samson story rung hollow). Perhaps someone more versed in pinniped behaviour would care to comment.

Goodness, I'm no expert on seals, even though we have plenty of them in our waters. But one of the other victims of that 1912 ice season was the eastern Canadian sealing fleet. Here's a short clip from another article I stumbled on:

************

Awful Record of Tragedy.

Never in the history of Newfoundland has there been a winter so disastrous to steam and sail vessels. Since November, no less than twenty sailing craft, of from 100 to 300 tons burden, have gone to the bottom, seven of them car[r]ying their whole crews down as well as some sixty-three passengers. The crews of the remaining thirteen were rescued from the sinking hulls in the nick of time.

Two steamships also sunk [sic] with all hands. The first was the steamship Kampfiore, coal-laden from Sydney, which it is believed was crushed by ice in February blizzard off Cape Race and sank with her whole crew of eighteen men. The second was the Erna, a 3,000-ton liner purchased in England and remodeled for use in the seal fisheries. She is now forty-eight days out from Glasgow with fifty-one people and all hope for her survival is abandoned.

This season has been the severest in the annals of the seal fisheries. The sealing fleet this year comprised twenty-three steamships, from 500 to 3,000 tons, and all report ice conditions worse than ever before. As a result, the seal catch this season will be only about 170,000 against 330,000 last year.

***************
So, it would appear that the Grand Banks seal population wasn't being quite as "set upon" by humans as in some years past?

I'm not quite sure where that business about its having been a warm spring in the Arctic got started, but from mid-December 1911, into the spring of 1912, *all* of North America was in "crisis mode" from unbelievably severe cold weather. Of this, the newspapers gave ample documentation. For instance, Butte, Montana, was described in one paper as being "an oasis of warmth in a desert of frigidity", with a temperature of 33 degrees F. Unusual for Butte in the winter, but unusual for the rest of the country as well.

Best wishes, Inger!

Roy
 

Inger Sheil

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Hallo Roy - my apologies! I dashed off a response to you on Saturday morning just as visitors were pulling into the drive way and thought I'd posted it...apparently not.

I'm very fond of seals (if only because they often attract Great White Sharks), but have no real idea - and have often meant to ask - whether one could expect to find them in any numbers around the area where the Titanic sank. I can't even recall the author who raised a skeptical eyebrow at the reports that the Samson was purportedly sealing anywhere near the site, given that it was the open sea (don't think it was Reade, but I haven't checked yet). Some pinnipeds - if my limited knowledge is correct - do tend to cover fairly large distances...I know there are reports of sea elephants, for example, seen a fair way off from their usual habitats. I could be absolutely wrong, but it does seem strange for seals to be in that particular location, unless they were moving with the ice.

Very interesting accounts and comments you make about the severity of the weather. James Moody remarked in his letters from the Oceanic during the winter of 1911-1912 that it had been a particularly harsh one on the North Atlantic mail boat run - in some crossings, everyone aboard was seasick (as opposed to just the steerage passengers whom, he wrote, were always seasick). Moody was quite accustomed to severe weather - he had rounded the Horn both in sail and steam quite a few times, and had experienced savage storms at sea - so for him to comment on it suggests that it may well have been a particularly rough winter.

All the best -

Inger
 
Jun 12, 2004
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Inger,

Thinking about it, I sent you an email not to long ago. It was long. Did you receive it? I would like to continue our correspondence. Please let me know. If you haven't, I'll send it out again. I have trouble sometimes with my emails.

--Mark
 

Inger Sheil

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Hallo Mark -

Apologies - I do recall getting an second email response from you. Has been a hectic couple of weekends, and I haven't had the chance to get back into my 'stockpiled' longer emails. I'll try and answer today or tomorrow.
 
Jun 12, 2004
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>>Objects that went higher than the horizon line from the viewer's vantage point would have obscured stars behind them (it was such a clear night that observers could see stars vanishing on the horizon).<<

Yeah, I can visualize that. Of course the mast-light probably did illuminate a few close by. I am curious as what the range of that light was. Still, I'm that visual ability was extremely limited that night. Quite scary for those who knew icebergs lingered about and had no idea where they all were. Seeing silhouettes no doubt added to apprehension.

Thanks Inger!
happy.gif
 
Jun 12, 2004
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No problem. It has been a while since I received a response. I knew you're busy, but wasn't sure whether or not you had a desire to continue correspondence. When you're just getting to know someone, you can't always be sure. Didn't mean to push, if it appeared that way. By the way, how goes the book? I guess I can ask that through email.
 
Feb 24, 2004
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G'day, Inger!

>>I'm very fond of seals (if only because they often attract Great White Sharks), but have no real idea - and have often meant to ask - whether one could expect to find them in any numbers around the area where the Titanic sank.

Again, not speaking as an authority, I would think it would depend on the type of seal. Some of those little Northern critters migrate thousands of miles between warm and frigid waters at different times of the year. I can't say I was surprised by Lord's presuming the figures he saw climbing onto the ice were seals. It seemed quite logical to me, particularly if he didn't wish for them to be anything else.

>>I can't even recall the author who raised a skeptical eyebrow at the reports that the Samson was purportedly sealing anywhere near the site, given that it was the open sea (don't think it was Reade, but I haven't checked yet).

Yes, it was Reade who demolished the Samson "theory." Did you ever locate a copy of his book, by the way? I found mine through the internet at a shop in Hampshire, England.

>>Very interesting accounts and comments you make about the severity of the weather.

Don't know what it was that got me curious about the 1912 weather. I remember making some offhand crack a few years ago to the effect that "El Nino" sank the Titanic. As it turns out, conditions that year were just ghastly. Even Gracie commented on the sheer volume of ice in the North Atlantic. I've in my possession a couple of articles that break down into dollars the awful damage inflicted on Atlantic shipping, of which the Titanic was merely the last straw. Enquiries and transcripts aside for a moment, if you were in the merchant marine and you saw that virtually every ship was coming into port with significant ice damage, wouldn't that be a topic you might want to discuss a bit amongst your mates? I find it hard to accept that the Titanic officers existed in a protective bubble.

Below are just some headlines, covering about a week's time, that I collected from one of our local newspapers. I think even these offer a pretty good picture of what weather conditions might have been like that winter.

Best wishes, Inger!

Roy

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THE SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, January, 1912:

January 3:

“Cold Snap Stiffens Local Market”
“…celery beds in some portions of California have been frozen”
(Great Bend, KS) “Four Frozen to Death”
“Snowbound Brakemen Live on Jackrabbits”
(Walla Walla, WA) “Snow Pleases Farmers”
“Four-Inch Blanket Expected to Help Wheat Crop”

(Cordova, AK) “…blinding snow storm…”

January 4:

“Nome Coal Runs Short”

January 6:

“Cold Weather Forecast Today”
“Records Broken”
“Temperature of 35 Below Zero in Duluth Expected to Be Lowered”
“Suffering Is Intense”
“Wave Extends From Great Lakes to the Rockies, South to Kansas and North to Montana”
“People Living on Short Rations Appeal for Help”

January 7:

“Cold Wave Causes 12 Deaths and Suffering Throughout Country”
“Eleven Are Dead in New York City--38 Below, Record”
“Country Is Swept By Wave of Intense Frigidity--No Relief in Sight”
“One Dead in Chicago”
“Amarillo, Texas, Reports 10 Below--Lodging Houses and Shelters Crowded--Street Car Traffic
Demoralized and Trains Are Late”

January 11:

“Cold Wave Again Grips Northwest”
“Train Schedules Are Demoralized”
“23 Below in Minneapolis”
“Butte remains today an oasis of warmth in a desert of frigidity. The temperature there was 33 degrees above zero.”
 

Inger Sheil

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Roy, I feel like a ning-nong - I knew your name was familiar, but I'd forgotten that it was you that helped me years ago try to track down a copy of Reade! After chasing it on Ebay and the ABE for some time, a very dear and generous friend bought me a copy quite a while back.
quote:

Yes, it was Reade who demolished the Samson "theory." Did you ever locate a copy of his book, by the way? I found mine through the internet at a shop in Hampshire, England.
Apologies, my wording was vague on this point. I know it was Reade who demolished the Samson theory, based on port records and (among other things) the unlikelihood of a vessel in international waters fearing being caught 'illegally' sealing. I was trying to recall the name of an author who raised doubts about seals being in the area that the ship sank - I don't think it was a point Reade made, but I haven't checked.

I've never been a marine mammal person, but am now quite intrigued by what seals might have been sighted on ice flows and bergs in that location. Elephant seals would seem to be the most independant of the land - they go open ocean foraging for up to months at a time, never coming close to shore and sleeping underwater (according to one site). Their dives average 300 m but can apparently be as deep as as 1500 m and stay submerged for more than an hour. Mark Baber posted a report of an elephant seal sighted from one of the mail boats on the North Atlantic run, so it would seem that they weren't seen in great numbers and it was an event of note when they were spotted. I've been looking at other possibilities, such as Grey Seals. In the North Pacific/Arctic waters the Largha Seal (Phoca largha) and Ribbon Seal (Histriophoca fasciata.) do live in pack ice, but their ranges does not include the North Atlantic.

Bearded Seals (Erignathus barbatus) might be a remote possibility - they're circumpolar in Arctic and Sub-Antarctic waters, although their range doesn't seem to normally extend that far south, and they usually inhabit shallow water and moving ice. They also tend to be solitary.

Harp Seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus) might be a good candidate - they inhabit the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans from northern Russia, to Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada. They're closely associated with pack ice, are quite gregarious and cover long distances during migration to more southerly summer feeding zones.

Hooded seals (Cystophora cristata) are also associated with pack ice, and it tends to mark the limits of their range, although some have been found in much more southerly regions. Again, though, they tend to be more solitary.

I remember the 'El Niño' theory in circulation a few years ago...around about the time the world was experiencing its effects again. I haven't come across a mention in any correspodence from the deck officers refering to the problems of ice that year, but certainly they felt it had been an very hard winter on the run - Moody's surviving correspondence in particular springs to mind. He doesn't mention ice among the conditions encountered on the North Atlantic, but even that late winter/early spring in Southampton was miserable - during March when the Oceanic was laid up he made the comment that when it wasn't raining, it was hailing.

Thank you for posting all those headlines - it does look like it was a miserable winter indeed! I wonder what weather stations on both sides of the Atlantic were recording?

All the best -

Inger​
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Hi, Inger!

I seem to recall one of the survivors mentioning that, when their port boat was lowered into the water, they could see the big ice floe and possibly some of the bergs. I meant to look it up last night, but became distracted. I believe it was in Reade.

Congratulations on acquiring your copy, by the way. :)

Best wishes!

Roy
 

Inger Sheil

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Cheers Roy - I was well chuffed! Can't seem to have a discussion about the Californian without some sort of reference to Reade.

I'll have a hunt around too and see if I can find the account to which you refer...it rings some vague bell, but I can't recall where I've heard it or how reliable it was. It is possible, as there were certainly bergs around - the people in the Boat 2 could actually hear the water lapping around the base of one, and it was pointed out as a potential hazard.

From Boxhall's US Testimony:
quote:

Mr. BOXHALL. I saw nothing; but I heard the water on the ice as soon as the lights went out on the ship.

Senator SMITH. That water, you think, was on the ice, after the boat went down? That is, you could hear something?

Mr. BOXHALL. Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH. In that vicinity?

Mr. BOXHALL. A little while after the ship's lights went out and the cries subsided, then I found out that we were near the ice.

Senator SMITH. You could hear it?

Mr. BOXHALL. Yes.

Senator SMITH. Does your statement also cover the field ice?

Mr. BOXHALL. Yes; it covers all the ice, sir. I heard the water rumbling or breaking on the ice. Then I knew that there was a lot of ice about; but I could not see it from the boat.

quote:

Senator NEWLANDS. Just let me ask you one question. You say you could not see any of those icebergs until dawn, but you heard the lapping of the water?

Mr. BOXHALL. Will you repeat that question?

Senator NEWLANDS. I understand you to say that you could not see any of those icebergs until dawn, but that you heard the lapping of the water against the icebergs?

Mr. BOXHALL. Yes; that is what I said.

Senator NEWLANDS. That was a clear night was it?

Mr. BOXHALL. Perfectly clear; starlight. You could almost see the stars set.

Senator NEWLANDS. How do you account for the fact that you could not see the icebergs, if the night was so clear?

Mr. BOXHALL. I do not know. I do not know what it was about it. I could not understand. Of course, sound travels quite a long way on the water, and being so close to the water, and it being such a calm night, you would hear the water lapping on those bergs for quite a long, long ways.

Mahala Douglas reported in her US Inquiry Affidavit:
quote:

Several times we stopped rowing to listen for the lapping of the water against the icebergs.

James Johnston reports hearing and even seeing the nearby berg:
quote:

3513. Did you go back towards the wreck at all? - Well, we might have pulled a little bit back. When we were all quiet he said, "Listen," and what we heard was the swish of the water against another iceberg.

quote:

3519. Was there any suggestion by anybody that you should go back in the boat? - Yes; the Officer asked a question as to going back, but at that time we were just close to an iceberg, and the ladies said, "No," I think; they thought it was dangerous.

3520. Did anything more pass in the boat - a conversation about going back, that you heard? - I was not listening. I was told by the Officer to listen, and I heard the swish of the water, and when we looked there was an iceberg right in front of us.

3521. You saw it? - Certainly; we were close to it.

I also wonder about the mysterious darkened boat or ship that Gardiner used to bolster his theory. One survivor purportedly saw it pass close to the lifeboats, a dark shape that he assumed was a blacked out boat. It would make rather more sense if it was an iceberg. Certainly the ice was there, and was seen in the morning, but whether it was actually visible from the ship is another question.

All the best -

Inger​
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Hi Jason: It is interesting that several observers of the iceberg said it was dark in color, suggesting that it had recently capsized. However, we really don't know that for certain. Under just reflected starlight there would not be much color to see in the first place.

The following is what several witnesses said about the color:

QM Olliver (on the forebridge): "It was not white, as I expected to see an iceberg. It was a kind of a dark-blue. It was not white."

QM Rowe (on the afterbridge on the poop): Nothing distinctive about the color, it looked "just like ordinary ice."

Lookout Fleet (up in the crows nest): "Well a black object."

Lookout Lee (up in the crows nest): "It was a dark mass that came through that haze and there was no white appearing until it was just close alongside the ship, and that was just a fringe at the top."

Of course as the berg came close to the ship the lights from the ship would illuminate the berg somewhat and affect the color that one saw. So when QM Rowe saw the berg it would have been in reflected light coming from the ship. Same is true as the berg passed the foremast where the crows nest was. Ahead of the ship, there would be very little light coming from the ship to reflect off of the berg.
 

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