Icebergs and Field Ice


Jul 9, 2000
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>>One wonders what, if any, allowance was made during subsequent (and prior) trial tests.<<

You would think that somebody would consider doing that but I'm inclined to doubt it. Trial protocols in my observation tend to reflect whether or not a given piece or collection of equipment actually works rather then see what's possible in some real world scenerios. When trying to evaluate the "real world" any such trials tend to be staged dog and pony shows.

Witness the brief trials done with the Titanic. They were adaquate to see if everything worked but hardly extensive enough to tell them anything else. Likewise with the Olympic when they tested the assumed manuevering orders that were allegedly given on the Titanic. Everybody was on station ready to rock 'n roll!

The problem with a set up like that? It did not reflect the actual conditions on the Titanic when the accident happened. The engine room crew wasn't ready to rock 'n roll. The ones on watch were just minding the store while the off duty sections were in their racks counting sheep!
 
Oct 28, 2000
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The conditions established for the Olympic tests in no way matched those in Titanic on the night of April 14, 1912. While they are an historical curiosity, I find them of dubious value in explaining events on the doomed liner. Those trials seem designed to give the public a "feel good" sense of investigative thoroughness while discovering nothing.

-- David G. Brown
 
Jan 5, 2001
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quote:

Those trials seem designed to give the public a "feel good" sense of investigative thoroughness while discovering nothing.

I don't think that's the case at all. Any data can be valuable...the problem as I see it is that it's the great unknown as to how long it took Titanic's engineers to respond. Bearing that qualifier in mind, any information from the Olympic's performance may help shed light on her near-sister's abilities. It's just important to remember the differences between such trials and the real-life scenario, but I don't agree with your implication that the Olympic tests can be dismissed entirely as a case of 'learning nothing.'

Best wishes,

Mark.​
 
Jul 14, 2000
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Quote Mark Chirnside: "...my limited knowledge of Olympic is fuzzy enough in that regard. "

Mark, you've probably forgotten more about Olympic than I'll ever know in my lifetime. (Yes, that's a compliment.)

I have no doubt the White Star Line was handing out breath mints to every member of Olympic's crew the day the Board of Trade came along for a ride to ask questions regarding the ship that cannot be named openly. wink wink, nudge nudge. (starts with a T)

Any attempt at realism would have been futile and more simply it would have been mostly an effort to look competent and professional for the investigators. I agree that even with the circus atmosphere aboard during the trials, some interesting information could be found. Knowing that Olympic is the single best Titanic simulator ever built is reason enough to consider the various distances, times, and speeds which were recorded as meaningful. If nothing else than points of reference for comparisons.

Yuri
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Any attempt at realism would have been futile and more simply it would have been mostly an effort to look competent and professional for the investigators.<<

I'm not so sure it would have been futile, but it would have helped had they run through a number of different scenerios to determine what was actually possible under the circumstances. The base assumption they were operating under was that the accident happened in a certain way...vis a vis...putting the rudder over and reversing the engines before the collision, even though they had testimony on record that the engines were not reversed until after the collision. (Thank you very much Dillon and Scott!)

False assumptions plus flawless logic equals some really impeccable sounding bovine excreta. (Also known as the GIGO factor!)
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Ah, but Yuri -- I specialise in dis-information.
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Thanks. As you say, Olympic's close similarity to Titanic makes interesting points of reference.

Best wishes,

Mark.
 
Oct 28, 2000
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Olympic was the best simulator for Titanic ever built. And, had it been used properly much of the mysteries surrounding the ill-fated ship's maneuvers might have been solved. But, it is patently obvious that they had no such intention when they took Olympic out to "simulate" events on Titanic. And, the results of those alleged "trials" have no relevance to the real accident.

As Michael mentioned, the handling of the engines was wrong, as was the starting speed for the tests. Nothing matched the reality of Titanic that fatal night. So, the results are curious, but also useless as forensic evidence regarding what did happen.

What they did would be the same as studying an auto accident on icy roads at 60 miles an hour by taking a similar car onto a dry pavement at 40 miles an hour. The results would tell a lot about that model of car, but nothing useful about how it handled in the actual accident.

The single best evidence of Titanic's maneuvering ability is probably Frank Browne's photo of the S-shaped wake trailing behind as the ship allegedly checked its compasses. The turns are sharp and clean, showing good response to the rudder for a vessel of Titanic's dimensions.

In the end, I believe that the alleged "trials" of Olympic were little more than a publicity stunt to take public attention away from what did happen on Titanic. There are lots of potentially troubling aspects to what the various witnesses said. In particular, Hichens claim the ship was turning left won't produce the actual accident. And, the lookouts were quite specific that Titanic made a straight head-on approach to the berg unitl extremis, the point where no maneuver would have sufficed. Finally, the only specific account of what Murdoch said on the bridge comes from Olliver who only heard "hard a-port" which would have turned the ship toward the iceberg, not away.

As far as engine orders go, there was absolutely no attempt made to sort out this critical area of the accident. All White Star ships were to record engine orders and their times both in the bridge log and in the "bell book" in the engine room. This practice was to sort out engine orders if there should ever have been an incident--and to prove whether or not the bridge made the order claimed and/or if the engine room responded correctly.

The failure of the British inquiry to sort out the engine orders was not accidental. It was quite obviously a deliberate omission. Screw-ups in engine orders were a common cause of maritime casualties and this was common knowledge among shipping companies, merchant officers, and maritime lawyers. Sorting out the "bells" sent down from the bridge would have been a first-order task of any investigation actually interested in the truth.

So, when they took Olympic out for those trials they not only did not follow the bells sent by Murdoch, in theory they did not even know them. What sort of results do you get when the experimenter doesn't even know the basic criteria of the experiment?

All we learned from the Olympic experiments is that the class of ships was about as nimble as any other long, narrow hull of the era. And, that was already well-demonstrated on April 11, 1912 before Titanic's accident. Nothing new was learned by the BOT "trials" that was not already known about the ships. And, in particular, nothing of any sort was learned about how Titanic might have handled under the real helm and engine orders prior to the accident.

The real significance of the Olympic "trials" is not the data that came out of them. The true significance lies in learning why those trials were deliberately so far from reality. What was the purpose in not doing serious forensic recreation of actual events? Why did they study irrelevant scenarios? Why? Why? Why?

--David G. Brown
 
Jan 5, 2001
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I don't agree with that at all. You make some valid points, David, but...as I've said qualification is important. Despite any of our wishes, we only have the available data to go on.

quote:

The single best evidence of Titanic's maneuvering ability is probably Frank Browne's photo of the S-shaped wake trailing behind as the ship allegedly checked its compasses. The turns are sharp and clean, showing good response to the rudder for a vessel of Titanic's dimensions.

Undoubtedly that's true as far as it goes. A picture speaks 1,000 words as per that cliche. However, we know what people thought of Olympic's abilities. Captain Smith, for instance, said Olympic steered 'very well.' I'm not sure that there are any clear instances where Olympic's turning abilities were considered inadequate, bearing in mind that she steamed around two million miles during her career. Nor was Britannic's rudder design altered (or Olympic's changed at a later date). Were there worries, this would seem to have been a relatively low-cost change...after all both Aquitania and Berengaria had new rudders by the early 1930s and I am sure other liners did too.

Best wishes,

Mark.​
 
Jul 14, 2000
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Well we know from the Rev. Brown pics of Titanic making S turns on the way to Ireland that Titanic was capable of making tight turns while underway.
(very tight considering the pictures)

And we know that rudder response is a function of ship's speed. That is the faster the ship is moving ahead, the quicker, and more pronounced the turns. So following that logic, since Titanic was moving faster on the night of the accident than it was going from France to Ireland, Titanic should have been able to make even quicker, tighter turns at the time of the accident.

What does this tell us? It tells me that considering Titanic's speed April 14th, the evidence of the Rev. Brown pics, and the testimony of passengers and crew on Titanic, that impact with ice came within split seconds of any helm changes. Had Hichens thrown the helm 'hard over' even 15-30 seconds before the impact, Titanic should have responded almost immediately by heeling into either a wicked starboard or port turn. Such an aggressive turn made at such a fast speed would, in my opinion, have resulted in a pronounced rolling of the vessel which would have been noticed by everyone onboard. This would have been a grabbing on to the wall or railing kind of manuever. But no one testified to any such experience.

Thus the proposition that Hichens put the helm 'hard over' 30 or so seconds before the impact becomes difficult to accept.

Anyone agree?
 
Jan 5, 2001
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quote:

Just out of curiousity, what specific parts do you take issue with and why? The hints of a cover up or that nothing useful was learned?

The brevity of my post was indicative of how busy I've been this afternoon. While I've been busy at my desk working, message alerts popped up (I rarely have it turned on...probably for the better) and I responded when I really did not have the time to provide a complete reply. The problem was evidently that I was unclear.

I'm not indicating that the Olympic experiment replicated what happened on Titanic. As I've said, David makes some valid -- and perceptive -- points. However, I don't agree with the implication that there was nothing useful learned. Any data we have on these vessels is invaluable, because -- as I've said -- we can only live with what we have.


Best wishes,

Mark.​
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Anyone agree?<<

Don't know. The thing I have a problem with is the conclusion reached through the "hard a starboard, engines reverse, hard a port, port around the 'berg" scenerio which on close examination has holes big enough to pitch an elephant through. Especially since nobody from the engine room supports engine reversal until after the accident. That, in my mind is what makes the testing done with the Olympic suspect. If the assumptions under which the test were conducted are bogus, so too will be the results. They may provide a useful datum, but won't reflect the accident that actually occured.

I remember doing the simulations at the Maine Maritime Acadamy a couple of years ago where we tested, among other things, the traditional scenerio, and it took something along the lines of two and a half minutes for everything to happen from the first rudder command I received to the end of the test.

Yu can see a couple of the plots of what we did at http://home.comcast.net/%7Ebwormst7/Symposium/bridge.html Take note of the RUN 2 overlay. It helps to know that the tick marks on the plot indicate 20 seconds of elapsed time.

Granted, it wasn't a perfect test, but it was still enough to give us some sense of what was broadly possible and also a good indication of just what ain't so. Some more testing was done in the new simulator last April (Which I'm itching to get my hands on BTW!
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). If the plots from all the test runs are now worked out and available, perhaps it would be useful to post them here.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>I don't agree with the implication that there was nothing useful learned.<<

Ah...okay...I see where you're coming from but for some of the reasons I've stated, I'm rather on the fence on that issue. Any datum can be useful and it's certainly better then nothing. Especially when it's not likely that we'll ever be able to get an Olympic class liner to do any actual tests with. The first one was scrapped and the two vessels still extant are no longer operable.

I suppose it would be too much to hope for that some information on the handling characteristics of these ships survives in an archive somewhere.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Ah...trial data, eh?<<

That would be nice. I would think that if anything really extensive was done from the start, it was with the Olympic. As the first of the class, the builders would have to find out if the actual performance matched up with what the slide rules told them. Unfortunately, it looks like any documentation vanished in the eather along with Harland & Wolff's archives.
 
Jul 14, 2000
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Mike, I wish we could rent a large vessel and take her to sea along with an giant inflatable Iceberg. Then spend a few days just making run after run at the thing. It would be even better if we could do it on a cold night in April.

How much could that cost?
 
Jul 14, 2000
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Mike, Mike, Mike, we don't pay for it silly. We just smile for the camera and pontificate in grand style, using lots of technical words, about our latest theory. The richer than God cable channel pays for it all my friend, not us.

Haven't you figured that out by now?? ;)

Yuri
 

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