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The September '07 issue of the SMITHSONIAN periodical has a brief article on icebergs (w/photo). Titled... "A Frigid Dead Zone? Hardly"
It reads in part..."New research show that icebergs are hot spots of marine life. Enriched with dirt that was collected when the ice was still part of a glacier, a melting berg slowly releases trace metals that help phytoplankton, grow, feeding krill, fish and seabirds".

So on one hand the iceberg taketh life, as in the case of the TITANIC...while on the other hand giveth life.

Michael Cundiff
NV, USA
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>>So on one hand the iceberg taketh life, as in the case of the TITANIC<<<

The iceberg is not to blame for the loss of life on April 15, 1912. It didn't collide into the ship. The ship collided into the berg. Those in charge were prewarned and fully aware of what dangers were head of them. They made a conscious decision not to take any special precautions.
 
Apr 30, 2007
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but they did take some precautions even if they weren't deemed 'special' ie. suppressing light emitting from forward hatches and warning the look outs to keep a special watch for "ice". Didn't they also steer a course further south of the normal track?

Not sufficient to avoid a collision but enough I would think to ward off any modern day theoretical charges of negligence.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Not sufficient to avoid a collision but enough I would think to ward off any modern day theoretical charges of negligence.<<

Don't be so sure about that. Exactly this assertion was made in 1912 by the people who filed suit for damages against White Star and in the U.K. at least, they were able to make it stick enough so that some damages were collected. In the modern day, it's pretty much a given that a loss of or damage to the vessel in conditions like this would legally be considered de facto evidence of negligence. The difference would be in whether or not it was sufficiantly actionable to constitute criminal negligence.
 
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I was thinking more of criminal negligence where the bar of culpability is set higher and hence more clear cut than the mine-field of civil negligence. I'm no legal wizard so my comments are general but as it's not the case that those in charge took NO precautions it's hard to level a charge of committing a crime.

The acid test here is was there a 'wanton disregard' for life? The precautions taken suggests not. Against that is the 'reasonable man test' which is where not slowing down would count against them.
 
Oct 28, 2000
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Without rancor, I would like to rhetorically ask Steve S. and the group in general, why the "reasonable man" test has any validity when it comes to the speed of Titanic? To me, this is one of those fictions used by the gang of thugs known as lawyers to separate honest men from their money. It is the modern equivalent of "stand and deliver."

Seriously, what does the average person know about the open ocean? At the peak of seafaring in terms on numbers of ships and sailors, not more than a fraction of a percent of the population had any knowledge of the open sea. Today, that fraction is far less. So, it is easy to flummox the "reasonable man" with a totally bogus argument simply because the poor bloke hasn't a clue as to reality.

Lord Mersey knew he could not let Captain Smith off the hook, but he obviously did not want to expose any serious bridge management errors (if he understood that concept) to public scrutiny. So, he blamed the accident on speed, thereby deceiving the mostly landlocked public evermore.

How fast was Titanic going? It was going only slightly faster than an automobile is allowed to drive through a school zone in the U.S. Actually, it was slower than some states require in school zones.

Speed was not the factor in Titanic's accident that has been claimed. But, because the reasonable landlubber would believe speed was a major contributing factor, "going too fast" has become set in the concrete of mis-history.

The problem at sea is not speed so much as maneuver. Slowing down while maintaining course only lengthens the time before impact. It may also lessen the force of the blow, but given the softness of Titanic's iceberg encounter that does not seem a primary factor. Slowing by itself cannot and will not prevent a collision with a fixed object lying dead ahead.

The only way to avoid something is to steer around it. And, licensed mariners are taught to do this early on when they determine risk of collision exists. They are also taught to make larger maneuvers rather than small ones. Slowing down is not a primary action, although it is permitted and may be required under some circumstances.

The question of liability does not revolve around the red herring of speed, but around the ship's location. Why was Titanic where it was at that moment when ice met steel? This is the real question. Given the ice information available to Captain Smith, why was he so far north?

Had Captain Smith maintained the great circle through "The Corner" and gone down to 41 West before joining the rhumb line to New York, we would not be on this forum. The increased distance would have been negligible (Sam H. can probably give it to us in inches).

Even suggesting this action is second-guessing Smith, and second-guessing is something I abhor because we know lots of facts about what did take place. Captain Smith could not have known about the fatal iceberg or the fate of Titanic (he was not Nostradamus) at 5:45 p.m. when the ship turned "The Corner."

Getting back to the liability issue, what if Captain Smith did take actions (more than one) to avoid the ice that night? And, what if those actions were taken too late to prevent disaster? Would public knowledge of those actions have been beneficial the White Star or not? Would these actions have shown prudence? Or, would they been used by the highwaymen of the bar against White Star as proof of gross negligence?

-- David G. Brown
 
Apr 30, 2007
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"...what does the average man know about the open ocean"

Very little, but then what does any group of 12 persons making up a jury know about most cases put before them? The point is that both sides must make their case so that the "average man" is informed enough to make a judgement. That's the system we have, flawed as it is. Of course it would be more beneficial if all Juries were made up of 'experts' in the field of whatever case they're hearing but the danger then is that bias can creep in because 'experts' tend to have pre-conceived ideas and theories all of there own.

With no expertise in the maritime field myself (and hence an 'average person') I take the following view of events. Once the berg was spotted, the bell rung, the call made and the ship's helm swung to starboard the clock started ticking. At 22 knots the ship approached the vicinity of the berg and caught it a glancing blow. Had the ship been going at half that speed the time elapsed prior to collision would been twice what it was. By the time the ship reached the berg the swing to port would have been more pronounced than it was.

I agree that speed is not the issue per se but speed relative to what it could (and possible should) have been is. With no moon and no swell it should have been clear that low lying bergs were going to be harder to spot than would normally be the case with less time to manoeuvre around them.

Suppressing all artificial light to enhance vision from the bridge was prudent. Having glasses on the bridge was prudent. Warning the look out men to keep a 'sharp look out for ice' was prudent. Maintaining the same daytime speed on a moonless night whilst knowingly approaching an ice field with large bergs - well, to the average man, maybe not the most sensible thing to do.

Basically the Capt had two sensible options - go South and maintain speed or stay on track and reduce night-time speed when in the area where bergs were reported. He chose a more risky third option, to stay on track AND maintain speed throughout. Not prudent but in view of the other prudent steps taken I would acquit him of gross negligence.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Had the ship been going at half that speed the time elapsed prior to collision would been twice what it was.<<

So far, so good.

>> By the time the ship reached the berg the swing to port would have been more pronounced than it was.<<

Actually, this is not a given. At a slower speed, the rudder would have been robbed of the slipstream which gave it it's effectiveness. Slowing buys you time and lessens the impact if in fact the collision is unavoidable, but it does not increase manueverability.
 
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I accept that manoeuvrability would have reduced at half speed but I don't believe it would have halved with the ship ending up at the berg in exactly the same position.

I'm not clever enough to work it out but based on what is known of the ships turning circle stats and of the approx time that it took from the telephone call to collision (speed is already known) is it possible for a nautical fellow to approximate the relative positions and hence demonstrate that less speed would have more than likely resulted in no collision.
 
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Samuel Halpern wrote: "... The iceberg is not to blame for the loss of life on April 15, 1912. It didn't collide into the ship. The ship collided into the berg..."

Was there a cartoon showing the iceberg, wringing its 'hands' and dripping all over the dock of Lord Mersey's court, pleading "Not guilty, m'lud! It was Them that rammed Me!"
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>but I don't believe it would have halved with the ship ending up at the berg in exactly the same position.<<

Maybe not, but this misses the point. The point being that a ship just doesn't handle like a car. A lot of the members here know that even if they don't quite understand that. On some level, there's still the thinking that a ship will handle like a car. Slower means more manueverable for a land vehical, but it means nothing of the kind for a vessel moving through that reletively frictionless medium known as water. A medium where hydrodynamics and your own inertia can actually work against you.

The Titanic was a very straightforward monohull design and which depended on her rudder for manueverability. Deprive that rudder of the slipsteam of water flowing across it, and it loses it's effectiveness.

>...and hence demonstrate that less speed would have more than likely resulted in no collision.<<

That's putting the cart before the horse. The idea is to see by the evidence what's possible, not decide ahead of time what the conclusion is going to be before you even start the experiment.

Having said that, yes, it's possible to at least simulate what's possible in various conditions and it's been done. See http://home.comcast.net/~bwormst7/Symposium/bridge.html for some experiments we did at the MMA Titanic Symposium back in 2004. More work has been done since then to see what it would take to miss the berg, though I don't know if slowing the ship was part of the scenerio.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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If the ship had been going slower the energy of impact would have been much less. For example, suppose the speed was reduced from 22 knots to 16 knots, the impact energy would have been only about 1/2 as much as it was. It is possible that the damage to the ship might have been such that she might have stayed afloat, or maybe for a much longer amount of time.

In addition, slower speed means more time to react to a developing situation if reaction time was an issue to begin with. Rudder effectiveness basically affects how quickly a ship enters a turn. What actually turns the ship on a circular course is the hydrodynamic forces on the hull that is set up. The turning circle of the Titanic would not have been very different at half its speed, and we have that in evidence. It would take about twice as long to get around.
 

Will C. White

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Sam-Interesting, and if you postulate that less energy equals less damage over a shorter distance, then perhaps (operating on memory now after a long day) you don't get water as far aft initially as BR5; perhaps even BR6 stays dry or is less compromised. Anybody know if there's a computer model up and running right now that this idea could be plugged into? WILL
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Anybody know if there's a computer model up and running right now that this idea could be plugged into?<<

We could probably run this on the simulator at the Maine Maritime Acadamy if ever we manage to have another symposium there. The machine there is plenty capable of doing the job and it would at least, handle like a real ship.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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I think what Will was asking about Michael is a computer model that could predict damage effects and the interaction of a collision as well as the turning characteristics of a ship.

Will. I'm not so sure the impact area would be very different, but at lower speed the damage resulting from contact should be less since the energy of impact is less. In other words, fewer popped rivets and opened seems.
 

Will C. White

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Sam-True, damage would be less, but the trick is, does it extend as far, or even in the same place? Plates and rivets that opened to the sea in reality may not at the postulated slower speed. Most energy equations are a curve, not a straight line, so if you change one factor (speed), then all the other factors change; that's why I asked about the computer model. Just as a hypothetical, maybe the slower speed punches a whomping big hole in the No. 2 hold alone, or perhaps the hit is further aft and the boys in BR's 3 & 4 get an ugly surprise. Too bad they didn't have some type of fenders that flew off in contact like the tires do on open wheel race cars when someone smashes one up. You have to admit, this is still one of the great engineering puzzles of all time, right up there with the pyramids.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>I think what Will was asking about Michael is a computer model that could predict damage effects and the interaction of a collision as well as the turning characteristics of a ship.<<

In that sense, one might wonder if the supercomputers used by Gibbs and Cox for the finite stress analysis would be up to the job. I would think so and computers have advanced quite a bit since then. The trick would be working out the correct perameters for the simulation.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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quote:

The trick would be working out the correct perameters for the simulation.
Absolutely! And that is the problem with any simulation. What parameters to use, and maybe more importantly, what assumptions to make? A change of only a 1/2 second could shift things by 20 ft. What computer models could show is what is possible and what is not. At best, that is probably the most we can expect. An example is the work done at JMS for the "Achilles Heel" THC show. Stress curves and bending moments were calculated under various flood conditions as well as sea state conditions. The results confirmed that the Titanic was subjected to far greater stresses during the sinking process than under the worst condition that the Atlantic could bring upon it. The study thereby killed the theory that ship might have been built too weak to stand up to the most severe service conditions of the Atlantic. By time the ship broke in two, it was already becoming unstable and subjected to stresses that far exceeded its design strength by some margin.​
 
Oct 28, 2000
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Sam's discussion of how computer modeling can kill a theory (largely mine, darnit) is spot on. However, theorizing cannot change reality.

As an historian, it is as foolish to ask the outcome of a slower speed impact for Titanic as it would be to ask if the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg would have been different had General Lee used his Stuka dive bombers. Lee had no airplanes and Captain Smith of Titanic did not have the option to slow down.

In computer modeling of historic events the options studied must match the options available. Titanic was "RMS" and as such had a contractual responsibility for fast mail delivery. The same was implicitly true of the contracts between the passengers and the ship. Slowing down was not an option.

Since slowing down was not an option on the ocean that night it cannot be part of an historically valid computer simulation. Speed of the simulation must remain fixed at 22 knots.

Slowing down is only an option in court where truth has no standing.

Not only was slowing down not an option, it would have been Captain Smith's worst choice. By itself, going slower does not prevent risk of collision. Perhaps the results would have been less, but Titanic would still have run into the ice at a slower speed. Why is this reality so roundly ignored in hypothetical discussions of the accident? The only goal of safety is to prevent as many accidents as possible at any speed.

The act of slowing down by itself does not prevent risk of collision. It does not prevent the accident.

What does prevent risk of collision? The only answer is "opening the range" between ship and the danger. This requires altering course. Only by appropriately changing course could Titanic have avoided risk of collision and made a safe passage on the night of April 14-15, 1912.

I can "model" the appropriate action by Captain Smith in my head without ever turning on my computer. So can anyone reading this message. The result of an appropriate course alteration made in good time and with due regard to other surrounding dangers would be no collision. That's a pretty simple equation, just a zero. Nothing. Nada.

And, altering course would add less time to the voyage than slowing to bare steerageway for 6 or 8 hours while transiting the ice field. Altering course would be infinitely faster than stopping. Bluntly, the fastest safe way to get to New York was changing course. Slowing down was more dangerous and would have taken more time.

--David G. Brown
 
Mar 22, 2003
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I agree with Dave Brown that the best option would have been to change course, and sooner rather than later. The real question (speaking with hindsight of course) is why didn't Capt. Smith do that after reaching the corner knowing that ice lay ahead? It is quite clear that the ship's officers expected to be up to the ice that night. Lightoller said he thought they may encounter ice by about 9:30 pm and that an estimated made by Moody showed them up to the ice around 11:00 pm. Even if they didn't run into an iceberg, they probably would have been forced to slow or even stop once that icefield was sighted, or to take a much more radical course change than was necessary.

If Smith, for example, would have done the same as Capt. Moore of the Mount Temple and continued down to 41° 15'N at 50° 00'W from the corner (about 6 and 1/2 hours at 22 knots) and then head on a rhumb line to Nantucket Shoals LV instead of keeping to the usual rhumb line track for westbound steamers, then we would not be discussing any of this. The difference in total crossing distance works out to about 10 nautical miles, or about 30 minutes of steaming. The Titanic would still have made Ambrose on Tues night and easily beat Olympic's maiden voyage crossing record. As Dave Gittins had said, "Maybe you can't teach an old seadog new tricks."
 
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