Ismay and the speed of the Titanic


Dec 2, 2000
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>>But statements such as the one quoted above is where I take issue.<<

Fine...then please be so kind as to offer some sound reasons based on the evidence as to why you take issue with it and...if you have a basis for it...any alternative theories you may have based on your read of the evidence. David Brown has been doing the same thing for several years now.

Could he be mistaken on some points?

Of course he could be.

Does he know that?

Damn right he does...which is why he's more then willing to give opposing viewpoints a fair hearing. He'll argue something to death, but he can be persuaded. I've seen that happen right here on this forum, and that's because he's willing to consider all possibilities and change his opinion based on where the evidence goes.

That now returns us to the following question: How do you explain getting the ship underway again befor a *complete* assessment of the damage was even made? It's not something that a good seaman would do without one helluva good reason. Ismay appears to be the wildcard in this hand but if his part was zero in all of this, then what happened to prompt Smith to do something that most every mariner considers to be a brain dead manuever?

What do you think happened?
 
Apr 7, 2001
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"Ismay appears to be the wildcard in this hand but if his part was zero in all of this, then what happened to prompt Smith to do something that most every mariner considers to be a brain dead manuever?"

Because people make mistakes. Have you ever conducted research into malpractice lawsuits? I recently had the UNpleasure of reading about a lawsuit where a doctor left a surgical instrument inside a body. (http://www.ericturkewitz.com/cases/index.htm) Professional mistakes happen all the time.

To say that the doctor was influenced by someone else is nothing short of ridiculous. He could have been intoxicated or under drugs, he could have had a personal problem that interfered with his thinking, or he was just plain careless. We are talking about a doctor who is entrusted with lives. People under the gun can and do make mistakes.

Bruce had superb analytical skills, but he wasn’t assertive or driven to be a seaman (I honestly believe he went into shock after hearing the news of his ship). It was not his nature to invade navigation of ships. If anything, Bruce went down to see Engineer Bell to see if anything else could be done to save her. Might I say he was sorely disappointed in Bell’s response.
 

John Knight

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Jun 4, 2004
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"Fine...then please be so kind as to offer some sound reasons based on the evidence as to why you take issue with it and...if you have a basis for it...any alternative theories you may have based on your read of the evidence. David Brown has been doing the same thing for several years now."

I took issue with the statement "However, Ismay's input into the speed of Titanic between 11:40 and midnight has a direct bearing on the sinking of the ship." because of the language used. Forgive me, but that is a statement of fact. The wording tells me what happened, there is no ambiguity. Maybe that was not the intention.
Davids theory may well be correct and I see his reasoning but he does not know for sure.
Do you not agree that if indeed the ship was moved after the accident that it could have been because of input from Andrews? There is enough testimony to show that he spoke with Captain Smith very soon after the collision. Why is that possibility any less valid?
As I said, it is not ideas and theories that concern me, what does is when I am told via a statement that something did happen when it is not possible for us to know for sure.
What would have been wrong in saying; 'I believe that Ismay had a direct input into the speed of the Titanic between 11:40 and midnight. This input, if it happened, would have a direct bearing on the sinking of the ship'?
Regards,
John.
 
Apr 1, 2005
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David,
You make the statement "there isn't one ten-thousandth the proof for it that there is for my interpretation that ismay was involved in Titanic's making way for Halifax."
Your proof as i understand it lies in the fact that Ismay spoke with Smith, Smith moved the ship after Ismay had left and a message was sent to the white star offices.

on the point of the message, Parks Stephenson on 18 jun 2004 posted this message

"There is no evidence that Titanic mentioned Halifax at all in her out going wireless traffic."

If this is right how do we know that the movement Titanic makes is for Halifax?

If you are right that Ismay ordered Smith to move Titanic then
1/ why did Smith not explain the dangers and refuse until he had the full damage reports, if as has been suggested that the decision was beyond making sense, it seems to me to make even less sense that he would have done it just because Ismay told him to.
2/ why if Ismay had ordered him to move did he leave the bridge before the order was carried out?, it seems that it would be human nature to wait and see the order carried out?
3/ and why if Ismay believed there was nothing wrong did he immediately go to see bell?
4/ to believe that Ismay in the relatively short, finds out why the ship has stopped, hears Boxhall's report and convinces Smith that the right action is to move the ship seems hard to believe.

on another point you have previously said
"why would smith have moved the Titanic? the only logical reason is "ice"".
what has made you change your opinion and what reason do you not believe the other possible explanations for moving Titanic, to get closer to shipping lanes,to check for damage etc?

I think the hardest thing for me to believe is not just that Ismay ordered Smith to move the ship but the fact that Smith would have done it knowing the risk he was taking.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>I took issue with the statement "However, Ismay's input into the speed of Titanic between 11:40 and midnight has a direct bearing on the sinking of the ship." because of the language used. <<

I'm well aware of that. That's not what I asked. What I'm asking is if you have a credible alternative based on the same evidence? (Or perhaps better evidence?) It's no big deal if you don't and certainly not de facto evidence that David's position is correct, but I'm just plain curious.

Who knows? You may have something in mind which better explains the facts that we do know. If that's the case, I'd be willing to give it a hearing. Exchanging ideas is part of what this forum is all about.

>>Do you not agree that if indeed the ship was moved after the accident that it could have been because of input from Andrews? There is enough testimony to show that he spoke with Captain Smith very soon after the collision. Why is that possibility any less valid?<<

Not necesserily. Andrews was a naval architect and his known input was in the matter of the nature of the damage and it's significance. He was the one who delivered the bad news after checking things out. Why would he advocate moving the ship when he knew it had an hour or so to live? It just doesn't strike me as all that likely for a builder to advise moving the ship when the imperative would have been to get the people off. An imperative that Andrews was known to be well aware of. Further, he didn't have the power to say "Make it so." The owner as a practical matter would have.

>>Because people make mistakes.<<

Yes they do, and it could be just that simple too.

>>To say that the doctor was influenced by someone else is nothing short of ridiculous.<<

In this case, that may well be, but can any of us say the same in all cases? I wouldn't make a leap like that. Further, why assume that Ismay may not have done some influencing of his own? It *may* have been out of character, but that's no barrier to reacting badly and urging a rash course of action in a crisis. He was not at his best that night.
 

John Knight

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"I'm well aware of that. That's not what I asked. What I'm asking is if you have a credible alternative based on the same evidence? (Or perhaps better evidence?) It's no big deal if you don't and certainly not de facto evidence that David's position is correct, but I'm just plain curious."

Hello again. The simple answer to your question is no. My alternative theory was put forward as an illustration based on possibility. Don't get me wrong, I can see what David is saying but his wording was the main cause of my response.

However I guess it doesn't hurt to add that I have not read anything about Bruce Ismay that would make me think he would give such an order. Also in my initial post
https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/5811/100599.html?1132959505
I asked certain questions that have not been fully answered.

An intriguing thread this.
Regards,
John.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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There is one very good reason why Ismay would have wanted Titanic to steam to Halifax. From a business standpoint, ramming an iceberg was a damned dumb stunt. It would cause squeamish ticket buyers to look to other, presumably safer trans-Atlantic lines. But, if Titanic were to have clomped into a berg, then rescued itself, the story could have been "spun" so that Titanic would have appeared a super ship that was not only unsinkable, but invulnerable as well.

Speculation?? You damned bet the above is pure speculation, but it fits the economic need of White Star Line at 11:50 p.m. on April 14, 1912.

Never lose sight of the fact that nobody on Titanic knew that back in 1912 Titanic sank, which is the knowledge we bring to all discussions. Ismay knew only that he had a public relations nightmare on his hand instead of a triumphant maiden voyage. Boxhall had just returned with a "no damage" report. Titanic did not yet appear wounded.

Something else that must be understood is the difference between Ismay's job and that of Captain Smith. Ismay was charged with running White Star Line at a profit. He had no direct interest in running Titanic safely. Smith, on the other hand, was legally charged with the safety of Titanic and had no direct interest in the profitability of White Star.

Given the roles the two men played in the drama, Ismay would have been wrong if he did not make some attempt at mitigating the economic impact of the accident on White Star. He would have been out of line as the head of the company if he did not at least bring up the possibility of steaming for Halifax. It was his job to do so.

Captain Smith held the legal responsibility and authority for the ship's safety. Why he would have acquiesced cannot be known since dead men cannot defend their actions. In the past I've suggested several possibilities. He may have wanted to take the ship away from ice. Or, Smith may have wanted to get closer to the shipping lane which he thought was north of his location.

As mentioned earlier, it is wrong to give Ismay or Smith the knowledge of Titanic's fate during their meeting after the accident. Titanic still looked solid as a church. Even after the decision to re-start the engines was made Chief Engineer Bell had enough confidence to tell Ismay that the pumps were holding their own. Things looked good, damned good prior to midnight aboard Titanic. The truth was quite different, but the perception was that the ship would triumph over the ice.

Sometimes the best way to win an argument with the boss is to agree with his stupid idea when you can turn the result in your favor. Smith obviously knew how to handle Ismay, else the captain would not have been such a favorite with the company.

Whatever went through Captain Smith's mind, however, there is no doubt that immediately prior to re-starting the engines he had been in deep and private conversation with Ismay. Whatever Ismay said in that conversation must have had an influence on Captain Smith.

As far as proof that Titanic was headed for Halifax goes, the evidence is obvious. It is true, however, that there is no written record of any message from Titanic to White Star in the Marconi archives. Given the machinations of Mr. Marconi himself and testimony that ship's records of distress traffic were altered, the lack of a written message is not proof one was not sent. However, there is plenty of other circumstantial evidence in headlines from Paris to San Francisco that somebody in mid-Atlantic on the night of April 14/15, 1912 sent a message that Titanic had struck a berg, all were safe, and the ship was heading for Halifax. That such a message got to White Star and was acted upon cannot be debated because the train dispatched to Halifax was very real. Finally, Halifax is the closest major port to the accident scene, so would have been a logical choice as the destination of a wounded ship.

Frankly, what I'm suggesting in all of this somewhat sickens me. It indicates that social status and company hierarchy had greater value than seamanship and knowledge in 1912. It also leads to the conclusion that all 1,500 deaths were totally avoidable. Titanic might well have floated until everyone was transferred to Carpathia or other rescue ships. But, the ship's engines were re-started and Titanic reacted as anyone with nautical training would have predicted--it sank.

Those 1,500 dead people are the reason for this forum, although we tend to overlook the gruesome reality that they were flesh and blood like us. History owes them the truth...we owe them the truth...even when it sticks in our throats to say it.

-- David G. Brown
 

John Knight

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“Something else that must be understood is the difference between Ismay's job and that of Captain Smith. Ismay was charged with running White Star Line at a profit. He had no direct interest in running Titanic safely. Smith, on the other hand, was legally charged with the safety of Titanic and had no direct interest in the profitability of White Star.”￾

An amazing piece of assumption if ever there was one. I am impressed that you think Ismay would not have considered safety as a selling point for his ships I am sure you agree there is contrary evidence. Captain Smith having no interest about whether the company he worked for was viable or not assumes he cares not about his job or those of his colleagues.

“History owes them the truth...we owe them the truth...even when it sticks in our throats to say it.”￾

Yes it does, it owes everyone the truth. That is my point, you nor I know the truth.
Regards,
John.
 

Paul Rogers

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Is it absolutely certain that Titanic moved again after the collision/allision, as David implies? I was under the impression that the testimony conflicted on this point (as on so many others).

If we cannot be certain about this, then all further speculation on this thread would appear to be moot (if not uninteresting).
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Is it absolutely certain that Titanic moved again after the collision/allision, as David implies?<<

There are several points of corroboration on that one, Paul. There's Dillon and Scott in the engine room who testified to engine orders given and carried out as well as the accounts of Colonel Gracie (That couple he saw promenading in the wind...which can only happen on a windless night when the ship is moving.) and Beesley who was quite specific about the ship getting underway again post collision.

>>An amazing piece of assumption if ever there was one. I am impressed that you think Ismay would not have considered safety as a selling point for his ships<<

That's not what David said. Take note of the "He had no direct interest in running Titanic safely." part of the statement. That doesn't mean he would be disinterested in the safety of the ship. The thing is, with all the post collision news being good up to that point, why be worried about it when it looked like the ship was holding her own?

>>Captain Smith having no interest about whether the company he worked for was viable or not assumes he cares not about his job or those of his colleagues.<<

Again, that is not what David said. Beware straw man arguments. What David said was "Smith, on the other hand, was legally charged with the safety of Titanic and had no direct interest in the profitability of White Star." This does not mean that Smith was, by extension, disinterested in the profitability of the line.

What all this does mean is that both men had differing priorities and that they both acted in a manner consistent with dealing with them. Captain Smith's absolute top priority, and one that has a solid foundation in custom and in law, is the safety of his ship and everyone under his command. All other conditions were secondary to that imperative. As a sailor, this is something I understand right down to my bones.

Ismay's first concern, as the managing director of the line was the profitability and the financial viability of same. This is not something I have a problem with in and of itself. I expect it of the CEO of the company I own stock in, and the stockholders rightly expected it of Ismay back in 1912. He would have been remiss in his duty had he not seen to that.

Unfortunatlely, the two priorities tend to come in conflict from time to time and in most instances, the one who manages the money tends to win out. Sometimes they get away with it.

Apparantly, in Titanic's case, they didn't.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Ismay seems to have saved his personal life, and lost his corporate life. Fairly easy, 100+ years on to criticise, but who's to say his personal life ultimately meant more than his corporate life? Who, that night, wouldn't have stepped into a lifeboat if the possibility were offered, and you knew what the consequences of refusing such an offer were? I simply don't know.
 

John Knight

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"That's not what David said. Take note of the "He had no direct interest in running Titanic safely." part of the statement. That doesn't mean he would be disinterested in the safety of the ship. The thing is, with all the post collision news being good up to that point, why be worried about it when it looked like the ship was holding her own?"

"Beware straw man arguments. What David said was "Smith, on the other hand, was legally charged with the safety of Titanic and had no direct interest in the profitability of White Star." This does not mean that Smith was, by extension, disinterested in the profitability of the line."

Having a direct interest in whether ones ship is safe or not and the bearing of that on ticket sales and having a direct interest in whether the company one is employed by is profitable or not and the bearing of that on ones financial future can hardly be called indirect interests.

"What all this does mean is that both men had differing priorities and that they both acted in a manner consistent with dealing with them."

Is a statement that neither you nor I know the truth of for sure. It is my contention that both men had a direct interest in the safety of the ship and the profitability of the company. For them to have acted or thought otherwise would not only be a neglect of their duties it would also be a neglect of their personal lives.
Regards,
John.
 
Apr 7, 2001
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"It *may* have been out of character, but that's no barrier to reacting badly and urging a rash course of action in a crisis. He was not at his best that night."

True, being out of character is no barrier to someone reacting badly but that’s just it Michael. Ismay was not a seaman as we know him and my belief is that it was darn near impossible for him to have given ANY course of action, rash or otherwise. He was crippled in the capacity as navigator. What would he have suggested, “turn the boat around?”￾ His (lack of) knowledge of seamanship did not lend him the cleverness he needed that night, despite the instruction he received from his father and the schools. He was instructed on running a company, not a boat. And as a ship owner he did not have use for the terms latitude, longitude, degrees, knots, bow, stern, port, starboard, hard a-port, hard a-starboard, or any other sea jargon. If he gave a suggestion, I would say that he sat and listened to Smith and the others to hear what they thought best, then agreed to what was decided. That does not make it one of his own suggestions. He was taking another person’s suggestion and agreeing with it.

Let us suppose (and this is ONLY a supposition, not my real belief. I made it up so that we could talk it out) Ismay made the suggestion to reverse the engines. That would be quite a fancy calculation on Ismay’s part, correct? And just how much knowledge of seamanship would that have required? Quite a bit I would guess, and I am sorry but I just don’t see him having that much sea knowledge. At least not BEFORE the Enquiries.

This is an honest question coming from me, and it is - - I would like to know what you think Ismay could have suggested as a ship owner and non-seaman, that night?

Did Smith and the others disregard what they thought was right, just for Ismay, a non-seaman? Or if they had the same thoughts as Ismay, did they all agree to something fatal?
 
May 12, 2005
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As badly as Bruce Ismay may or may not have behaved (and I’m of the opinion that he’s guilty of nothing but overconfidence), it still does not make sense to blame him for Titanic’s speed through the ice, or for the ship’s restarting after the collision. Captain Smith was in charge and made the ultimate decision in navigating. If Ismay had an influence on Smith, then it was Smith’s fault for listening to him.

Should Ismay have been waving telegrams about and bragging all over the place? No, but it’s understandable. Did he suggest increased speed, or a desperate attempt to reach Halifax? Likely but there’s no way to prove it. Still, why all the blame on Ismay? If Ismay is guilty of undue influence on Smith, in the final count, it was Smith who compromised his judgement as a mariner to yield to him.

Ismay may well have been the behind-the-scenes rascal people want him to be. But the more astonishing point is that a man of Smith’s experience and knowledge made the terrible decisions that he did, whether they were prompted or not. He, of course, paid the price for his negligence. But so did 1500 other people.
 

Henry Loscher

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Hello all,

I will add my 2 cents worth regarding Ismay and Captain Smith. I would have thought that Capt. Smith would have been thinking about finding out how badly the ship was damaged first and foremost after the collision. I believe Ismay was also concerned about the damage. I am working from memory, but I thought that Ismay was informed that Smith thought the ship was badly damaged. After learning this, Ismay then went to see Bell and was informed that the pumps should be able to cope with the water. Later we find Ismay working as a crew member helping with the loading of the lifeboats. Maybe helping is the wrong word, because Lowe told Ismay to "get the hell out of it" as he was getting in the way. So much for Ismay's nautical knowledge.

From this I would speculate that after finding out the seriousness of the situation, Ismay was preoccupied with getting people into the lifeboats not in problems with navigation.

I agree that Ismay probably had no seaman's knowledge and why would he have suggested starting up the engines with a possible aim of making Halifax. After all Smith was the Captain. If Lowe could put Ismay in his place, why couldn't Smith do the same? Of course this is pure speculation, but I have been reading a lot of this in the forum.

Again, working from memory, I thought that the wireless message saying the Titanic was heading, or I think it was being towed, to Halifax was due to the jumbling of 2 wireless messages and did not come from the Titanic or the White Star line. Of course, hearing that the Titanic was heading for Halfax was the reason that the White Star Line sent the train there, and not due to some plan on Ismay's part.

We will never know what possessed Smith to order the engines restarted, some accounts say this lasted only a short time. Also, it is most probable that Titanic was pointing to the north east after maneuvering to avoid hitting the iceberg. Would Ismay have known the direction the ship would have to have been turned to head for Halifax? I think not. And most probably the ship steered NE after the engines were restarted and that is the direction she remained until sinking. This may be deduced by the reported northerly position of the mystery ship or the California with respect to the port side of the Titanic.

Regards,
Henry
 

Noel F. Jones

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May 14, 2002
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"His (lack of) knowledge of seamanship did not lend him the cleverness he needed that night, despite the instruction he received from his father and the schools. He was instructed on running a company, not a boat. And as a ship owner he did not have use for the terms latitude, longitude, degrees, knots, bow, stern, port, starboard, hard a-port, hard a-starboard, or any other sea jargon."

If I may intercede:

In my experience ship managers who had come up 'through the office' would necessarily have garnered enough knowledge of navigation, ship-handling and industry and shipboard terminology to intelligently interpret and, where applicable, pronounce authoritatively upon, such as casualty reports, newbuilding specifications, contingency deployments, contentious court pleadings and personnel matters arising from operational incidents. They were nobody's fools when it came to managing the minutiae of their daily stock-in-trade.

I cannot speak for today's lot!

Noel
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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I agree with Noel.

Reading the transcripts, I was struck by Ismay's selective ignorance where navigation is concerned. He seems to know about engine revolutions and speed. He even offers a reason for keeping up speed in the ice region. "I presume that the man would be anxious to get through the ice region. He would not want to slow down upon the chance of a fog coming on."

Ismay professed not to understand latitude and longitude, so the Baltic message meant nothing to him. This from a Harrow scholar and a ship owner's son. Pull other leg, Bruce!

For all that, I don't think Ismay was to blame for the accident. Captain Smith had frequently shown that he was a hard driver.
 
Apr 7, 2001
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Noel Jones wrote: "In my experience ship managers who had come up 'through the office' would necessarily have garnered enough knowledge of navigation, ship-handling and industry and shipboard terminology to intelligently interpret and, where applicable, pronounce authoritatively upon, such as casualty reports, newbuilding specifications, contingency deployments, contentious court pleadings and personnel matters arising from operational incidents."

May I ask, when you refer to “ship managers”￾ are you referring to ship owners, because they are each different posts and have vastly different duties. Managers would seem to have more first-hand daily applications with nautical terms than a ship owner. A ship owner would utilize financial terminology, be concerned with some human resource wisdom, and of course, be active in the building and repairing of ships. I also believe Bruce had little interest in the navigational procedures of a ship, and squarely left that to his officers and quartermaster.
 
Apr 7, 2001
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Dave Gittens wrote: "He seems to know about engine revolutions and speed. He even offers a reason for keeping up speed in the ice region. "I presume that the man would be anxious to get through the ice region. He would not want to slow down upon the chance of a fog coming on.""

I did state Ismay had a little sea knowledge BEFORE the Enquiries. Obviously at some point he realized he needed to know the terms, and so he got them defined. I believe Bruce was the type that if there was something he absolutely did not need to know about navigating a ship, he did not bother to learn it. I believe he had little patience for minute navigational details, but had great patience for monetary details, and rightly so, because his patience depended on the well-being of his family company.

Also, I want to clarify that I said Bruce had little sea knowledge, not NO sea knowledge. I could scratch the term knots from the list because I am not sure exactly which terms he knew before the Enquiries.
 

Noel F. Jones

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"May I ask, when you refer to “ship managers”￾ are you referring to ship owners, because they are each different posts and have vastly different duties. Managers would seem to have more first-hand daily applications with nautical terms than a ship owner."

A shipowner who has come up 'through the office' so to speak, would also definitively be a ship manager.

"A ship owner would utilize financial terminology,...."

Quite. But it is by micro-managing the minutiae (indeed of any business) that you arrive at a successful balance sheet and dividend.

Noel
 

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