If you were capt Smith


James Hill

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Feb 20, 2002
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how would you handle the situation i would as my grandad told me
send out a CQD,SOS combinded message,sound siren
fire of all distress rockets
crew to boat stations,lifebelts on,5,6 boiler rooms have 18 minutes to draw fires and get out.
1,bread sack,barrel of fresh water,biscuits,compass,lantern and 2 flares in each lifeboat.
all passengers in lifebelts,1st,2nd,3rd c passengers to their own boat staitons,all 20 boats pull away from ship quickly,crew must throw overboard a dozen empty crates,chairs,doors,liferings,crew must built 2 rafts made out of,deckchairs-tied together with rope-held together with netting-4 ropes hold netting.band move out on deck and play to sooth peoples nerves with the song (thats played in the 53 film)and everyone must await there fate.

what would you do its all i can think of.i bet im wrong on the time the firemen had to draw the fires.and stictly WOMAN AND CHILDREN FIRST.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Hi James, on the matter of sounding an alarm, under the circumstances, that was the very last thing that Captain Smith wanted to do. The deficit in lifeboat seats as opposed to those needing those seats wasn't exactly a state secret, and to sound the alarm almost certainly would have led to a panic that would have cost more lives.

It was a hard call to make. Smith was caught quite literally between the Devil and the deep blue sea and he knew people were going to die no matter what course he chose so he had to ask himself "How do I save the most lives without causing a general panic?"

The answer was to play things down, keep it cool, and get away as many people who arrived on the Boat Deck as they could.

A pretty cruel choice, but when you're long on problems and short on options, you do what you have to.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Certainly Smith could not raise a general alarm. James is assuming from the 1953 film that he could sound a siren and also that the passengers had boat stations. I'm afraid the film is wrong on both counts. (I've just seen the film, so I know it fairly well). In any case, as Mike says, he would not want to start a panic.

I think that he should have been far more careful to give clear orders to his officers. Five minutes with them would have been time well spent. Then he should have quietly supervised, unobtrusively seeing that the boats were filled. The officers seem to have acted very much on their own initiative. Lowe even left the ship without orders. Of course, all this really gets back to the lack of training that was the norm with White Star. While I personally don't think Captain Smith performed well, the problems were much deeper than the matter of one man's ability.
 

Erik Wood

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I think that he should have been far more careful to give clear orders to his officers.

I can't say that I agree with that. Smith gave the only order he needed to. Women and children first. His officers had the intelligence to know what that meant and did there job. There isn't to much after this point for Smith to do. He has to remain as a back round figure in order to preserve some resemblence of order. A captain can't be everywhere all the time, it is demanded that officers act on there own initiative. Sometimes a situation needs to be fixed now with questions asked later.

No matter what Lightoller says, if he didn't think the ship would sink he wouldn't have asked Smith if he could get the boats off. To much information can be a bad thing.

I think Lowe left the ship because he realized that none of the other officers where all that eager to leave. Until Lowe left Pitman was the only deck officer in the water at this point. Lowe left in good conscious.

Did Smith perform well...I haven't decided on that one yet. Personally I think he did the best he could under the circumstances. Could he have done better?? Probably. But then again we can all do better.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi!

No matter what Lightoller says, if he didn't think the ship would sink he wouldn't have asked Smith if he could get the boats off.

In his autobiography, 'Lights' mentioned that even at a later stage he thought the ship could still be saved from sinking. Surely he might just have thought that the ship had been badly damaged at 12.25 a.m., even if not sinking?

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Tracy Smith

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I don't think a captain's job is to micromanage everything down to the smallest detail. Like Erik said, Captain Smith gave an order of what he wanted accomplished, then he stepped back and trusted his officers to do the jobs they were trained for. Captain Smith was the "what", and his officers were the "how".

Micromanagement is never a preferred command style, no matter what kind of organization.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Too much attention to minor details is certainly a sign of a poor manager. We all know the boss who watches the consumption of paper clips because he's incompetent with big issues.

But Smith did not manage the big issues. The officers were not told the ship would sink or that Carpathia was coming. The boats were loaded slowly and then sent wandering about instead of keeping together and watching for Carpathia. If Boxhall had not had the sense to take some flares along, anything could have happened, such as boats being run down.

I would like to ask Captain Wood how the delay in sending CQD could be excused. In a similar situation, with a damaged ship dead in the water, wouldn't you at least call Pan within a few minutes?
 

Kyrila Scully

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Apr 15, 2001
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Well, I don't know that the lifeboats were sent wandering about. In researching for my Molly Brown script, I found quotes that the women passengers had to remind Hitchens that the Captain ordered them to row toward the light (presumably the Californian) and stay together.
 

Erik Wood

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Apr 10, 2001
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"I would like to ask Captain Wood how the delay in sending CQD could be excused. In a similar situation, with a damaged ship dead in the water, wouldn't you at least call Pan within a few minutes?"

Ah, I knew that question was coming. More then glad that it did too.

Mr. Gittins caught me. There isn't an excuse that I could offer if it where I. However, I will say this. Smith waited for a full (I think) 45 minutes to send out his call for help. At 1141 I don't think that Smith knew his ship would sink. At this point he thought that he could bring her in. This being said, a call for either assistance or a call to the company (by today's standard) is necessary. I can't nor can anybody else say with any amount of certianty what Smith did or didn't know before he sent out his distress call.

Besides, Smith doesn't want to lower boats if he doesn't have to. The era and clientel the Smith are carrying have some effect on his decision making as it should to some extent. If you are calling for help then abandonment is usually around the corner. The thing is, back in the olden days when marconi was still somewhat in it's infancy there was no such thing as a pan pan that we know today. Through a good 90% of Smith's career there was no means of communication like marconi.

As a mariner I have to trust that Smith knew what he was doing or at least had a general idea. I haven't seen any evidence that can sway me in one way or the other. So, I am ASSuMEing that Smith knew what he was doing. Sending out a call for help from a brand new ship isn't something you want to do. Smiths focus should have been on determining what state his ship was in. Which as George Behe has pointed out a couple times. We know he was lurking about.

In the Ectasy fire the Captain didn't call for help until the fire was out of control. Even then at the begging of the Coast Guard he refused to have his passengers leave the ship (later found out because the company refused to let him do it).

"But Smith did not manage the big issues. The officers were not told the ship would sink or that Carpathia was coming."

To me Smith did manage the big issues, he made the assement that the ship would sink or at least would more then likely sink, he sent out a distress call and told his officers to lower the boats. I think those are the three biggest issues.

From a somewhat arrogant point of view on behalf, my officers don't need to know anything accept what I tell them. Obviously ordering the ship abandoned would mean that at least I (as Captain) think the ship will founder. Smith told his officers what to do and left them to do it. If I recall rightly he placed Wilde in charge of lowering the boats (that may not be correct I know that now days the Chief is in charge of lowering boats).

My officers are not here to know everything, they are here to do what is told. In most of my ship board emergencies I have never had a gathering of all of my officers and issue blanket orders to all of them. As I see them I issue them orders. Telling everybody everything just complicates things and is un needed in my opinion.

"The boats were loaded slowly..."

I think Mr. Standart answered this question best in a earlier post:

quote:

"It was a hard call to make. Smith was caught quite literally between the Devil and the deep blue sea and he knew people were going to die no matter what course he chose so he had to ask himself "How do I save the most lives without causing a general panic?" The answer was to play things down, keep it cool, and get away as many people who arrived on the Boat Deck as they could.

But my own opinion is Smith needed to keep things on the low side to prevent panic. The same reason why we have Muster stations instead of boat stations today.

This is fun, this is a good debate and I am learning alot.​
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Lurking behind this discussion is the problem of communications created by the sheer size of Titanic in a pre-walkie-talkie and nacent telephone era aboard ships. Think about standing at one end of a football field and trying to get information to the other--without yelling. What would you do?

Smith had very limited communications. Shouting orders and information was out of the question because yelling always...and I use the word "always" from first-hand knowledge...upsets the passengers. The crew should never yell anything in a dicey situation. So, all information had to travel by runner either as a spoken-and-repeated instruction or as "word of hand," a written note.

Under the circumstances, Smith could not have exercised anything close to the control over his officers that a modern captain is able to do. Today, we routinely use walkie-talkies when docking or performing other routine evolutions. Yelling isn't necessary when you can talk quietly and be heard from the pointed end to the blunt end of the ship.

Not only was the walkie-talkie two World Wars in the future, but Captain Smith's telephone system was rudimentary at best. Modern ships have sound-powered phones everywhere. Titanic had a limited number of instruments that were somewhat clumsy to operate.

In the end, Smith's communication during the foundering was whatever discipline he had instilled in his officers prior to the emergency. He must have done something right in that regard because all of the officers and true seamen in the crew performed well in launching lifeboats.

-- David G. Brown
 

Erik Wood

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I think the fact that they where British also had a lot to do with it. The Brits are somewhat known for being excellent sailors as well as having the discipline to carrying out difficult tasks.
 
Aug 10, 2002
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I suspect that Capt. Smith had great confidence in his officers and their ability to get the job done. I'd have sent out a radio message to get people started in my direction first off, it could always be cancelled later. Also Titanic didn't have walkie talkies, P.A. system or even General Alarm Bells. Communications onboard were rather primative.
Regards,
Charles Weeks
 

Erik Wood

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When comes to issuing a pan pan or a mayday I think it depends on skipper to skipper. If I recall rightly (which means I am probably wrong) the master of the QE2 waited for a while to see if his engineers could fix a boiler problem before calling for help. Eventually the Sea Venture came to his aid.
 
Aug 10, 2002
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I believe the state of the art of communications at the time in question plays a big part in the Master's decision. Communications even radio was pretty primitive in 1912. Also open to anyone to hear (Sarnoff for example) today we have more reliable, faster & more private means of communicating. Sat. Com for instance. By the way has anyone given any thought to what our more instant means of communication could do to the notion of Privity and Knowledge of the Owner?
Regards, Charlie
 
J

John Meeks

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Charles...welcome to the board, by the way...!

What an interesting hypothetical question you raise there! Could more have been done if Andrews was in direct e-mail contact with his engineering dept. in Belfast? Has this, in fact, come into play in more recent emergencies?

I would love to know....

Regards,

John M
 

Jason D. Tiller

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Dec 3, 2000
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I agree with Erik on Captain Smith's performance that night. As Erik said he did what he had to do, and then he left his officers to do their duties while he supervised.

Erik, you are correct on Wilde being in charge of the boats.

Best regards,

Jason
happy.gif
 

Erik Wood

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Apr 10, 2001
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I thought it was Wilde. I spent some time thinking and discussing this convesation with a few others and I have to stick by my statements above.

This is a good thread and I hope the lively and friendly debate continues.
 
May 9, 2001
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Ok, for the non-mariners like me out there:
What is a "Pan"? Some kind of call for help?

It has been my opinion of late to regard Capt. Smith's actions in the final hours as being under appreciated by history. You see, he was a very experienced mariner. He knew more about ships and the sea than many modern captains today just by virtue of having grown up and matured his skills of seamanship in the days of sail and steam. His career spanned a very unique period of marine history. The transition from sail to steam and the introduction of wireless communications near the latter half of the 1900's symbolizes the end of the old age of seafaring and the dawn of the modern age.

I don't support the idea that Smith was an 'old salt' who failed to reckognize the usefullness of the Marconi system. On the contrary, Smith was in and out of the wireless shack that night. Smith used the wireless system to his advantage that terrible night. Just think, had Smith not personally ordered the Marconi men to send CQD and call for help, then Carpathia might not have been there early that next morning.

Also, regarding Smith's last moments, I tend to feel that Smith and Murdoch, and IMHO Andrews as well, were probably in and around the bridge when the end came. I see them trying to continue the evacuation to the last minute until the ship takes a sudden lurch forward, downward, and causes the bridge and officers quarters to be rapidly submerged, where the captain and others are trapped unexpectedly and perish.

I don't feel Smith is excused from driving his ship recklessly through a known field of ice. But that lack of judgement does not necessarily result in Smith also being a bumbling, disoriented, near-senile old man wearing a captain's uniform. He was arogant and negligent for not posting more lookouts and slowing down. But he was, and should be remembered as such, a very experienced sailor and skipper who knew all too well the seriousness of his situation after midnight, and acted to the best of his abilities to prevent panic, preserve life, and keep his stricken vessel afloat as long as possible.

Yuri
 

Dave Gittins

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Yuri, a Pan signifies a situation just short of a Mayday, such as sick or injured crew or a potential Mayday situation.

I'm afraid I have to disagree on Smith and radio. If he had taken more interest in radio, he would have seen that there was a proper system for getting messages to the bridge. It can be proved that he was given only two of the relevant ice warnings that came in. (I discount Bride's vague tale about the first warning from Californian). Smith's steaming ahead is not as culpable as it is usually assumed to be. One of the warnings he saw was two days old. His big mistake was assuming that ice could be seen in time to avoid it. That simple error is at the heart of the story.

A captain who valued radio would have ordered a CQ on the evening of April 14th and asked other ships about the state of the ice. Captain Lord was getting just such information from Parisian. Then there's the 35 minute wait before sending CQD.

Smith was no orphan. Captain Rostron's supervision of his radio room during his return to New York left much to be desired. Poor old Cottam didn't even get fed for more than 24 hours and was allowed to work himself into a stupor. As a result, the night of Tuesday 16th was wasted.

Like you, I'd like to think that Captain Smith went down doing his duty, but it seems that we'll never know the truth.
 
May 9, 2001
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Smith may have not realised that the wireless messages sent to Titanic were being delayed or even ignored by Bride and Phillips due to a backlog of customer traffic. Like many things on a ship, the captain can only trust that all the little things get done once he has given the order to do so. In that case, it would perhaps fall to the other officers on watch to take the initiative and pay a curious visit to the marconi room and ask about any undelivered messages, or about sending out requests for information from other ships ahead.

I still find it possible that Smith was more progressive toward new technology than resistant. His lifetime saw a period of continual new discoveries, new inovations and new ideas. That period in history was remarkable for the number of new industries, and expansion of the technological frontiers. Smith was a part of that culture. He had skippered progressively bigger and more state of the art ships for many years. The resource of the wireless system onboard for information and communication must have been known to him very well. At least I see it that way. But that don't make it gospel of course.

Yuri
 

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