Last Log of the Titanic


Nov 12, 2000
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It has been a while since I have read a Titanic book from start to finish in one sitting, but I did with this book. The Last Log is another one of the many ‘alternate theories’ of the sinking books that are so in vogue these days, but unlike most others of it’s ilk, this one has real teeth.

I am a complete layman in things nautical, but Brown enabled me to understand every point he was trying to make, even some of the more arcane concepts like Bernoulli’s Principle and lolling. The author has written one of the most knowledgeable accounts from a mariner’s perspective that I have ever read.

In addition, Brown has gathered much of the conflicting testimony and arranged it into a cohesive whole. I did not agree with all of his conclusions (and some of them are way out there), but I have to acknowledge that his version of events is completely credible.

For one, First Officer Murdoch’s actions are finally recognized for what they were, that of one of the most competent officer’s to ever command a bridge. Ismay also gets a great deal of coverage, and although his part in the story is much, much darker, the author avoids the ‘sinister villain’ oversimplifications the White Star Line chairman has received at the hands of many other authors.

On the other hand, Brown does make some incredible claims, often with little or no supporting evidence. One of the largest, that Titanic was dodging ice for hours before the final collision. Another being that when the ship ported around the berg, it almost collided with a huge ice field just beyond. To my understanding, there was very little eyewitness evidence to support these claims.

Some members on the Titanic Mail List were initially put off by the in-your-face attitude of the editorials adapted by the publisher as a selling ploy. But don’t let that stop you from reading this book. It’s that good. Highest recommendation.

anybody else have a chance to read this yet? would be very interested to hear other people's opinions, especially from some of the nautically minded members.

all the best, Michael (TheManInBlack) T
 

George Behe

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David Brown wrote:

>Posting extra lookouts would
>have upset Titanic's normal watch schedule, so was not something that
>would have been done without some unusual necessity.

Hi, David!

I guess we'll never really know how seriously the captain and each of the bridge officers regarded the ice danger that night. (It clearly wasn't seriously enough, though.)

>My point is that
>Murdoch did not take initiative on that particular night in the face of
>an overall threatening situation that he, Lightoller and Smith had all
>recognized.

I'd have to agree with you there (although others have a different opinion.)

>Captain Smith's instruction to be called if anything became "doubtful"
>is captainspeak. .... I have said the same thing when leaving the wheelhouse
>for the necessary room. It indicates nothing beyond Captain Smith's
>recognition of his position as sole command. And, it did not go beyond
>the ship's standing orders.

Interesting. Researchers have always assumed that Smith's instruction to Murdoch was made as a special concession to the presence of ice. Although I think that's still a strong possibility, your statement has certainly cast Smith's instruction to Murdoch in a new and interesting light.

> While none of this is
>concrete proof of anything other than the existance of icebergs, it does
>suggest that Titanic's berg sloped inward, possibly to a point. It would
>be difficult for this shape to have scraped the boat deck.

Possibly, but the testimony of QM Rowe suggests that the berg did indeed have a nearly vertical face; he felt certain that the berg would strike the wing of the docking bridge as it swept past the stern. (It missed by a scant few feet.) Granted, the boat deck was slightly higher than the level of the docking bridge, but still....

>Ice on the boat deck need not have come from the iceberg. Venting steam
>would have quickly condensed in the cold night air.

I've heard this speculation before and, although I suppose it's not impossible, I still regard it as rather unlikely. I seriously doubt that any appreciable amount of 'condensed' ice would accumulate on the vent pipes as a result of steam blowing off for just half an hour or so -- or at least not enough ice to deceive a crewman about its true origins. (I can't prove this, of course -- but then the opposite viewpoint can't be proved either.) :)

>As to what Bell told Smith, we have no record. We do know there was
>direct telephone communication possible between the two men........
>At one point, Smith chose to send a written message to Bell rather than
>use the telephone. This raises some interesting questions about the
>communications between the two men. Why would Smith use an
>old-fashioned, cumbersome personal note in an emergency? I did not dig
>too deeply here, but I believe this incident is a rather strong
>suggestion that the two men never really discussed the situation in any
>detail, and they probably never spoke at all.

I completely agree with you. Although Captain Smith was seen to go below decks and head toward the cabin of Chief Bell, there's no indication that he found the Chief there (at which point he went forward looking for Thomas Andrews.) It's my own belief that Chief Bell may not have had any personal contact with Smith until just before the end (when he was seen standing near the bridge along with the other senior department heads.) I agree with your suggestion that Bell had something to do with the bridge's releasing of the WT doors, but I also suspect that this phone call to the bridge was taken by a junior crewman and implemented by a junior officer instead of by Smith himself. As you say, the actual implementing of emergency measures to save the ship seems to have been left to Chief Bell without much input from Captain Smith.

>Smith, on the other hand, seemed not to recognize that his ship was in
>any way damaged even as late as midnight.

I think Smith was below decks at this time conducting his search for Bell (and Andrews.)

> It was only
>after the bulkhead between Boiler Rooms #5 & #6 collapsed that the
>actions of the deck officers change to evacuating the ship.

Here I must disagree. Despite the claim (made by modern marine forensic experts) that the bulkhead collapsed at around 12:30 a.m. or so, in reality the bulkhead collapsed just seconds before Fred Barrett escaped from the flooding boiler room and hurried up to A deck, where he quickly left the ship in lifeboat #13; boat #13 was launched shortly after 1:30 a.m. -- long after the evacuation had begun.

>The owner is always a de facto co-captain when on board. ("Owner"
>meaning anyone representing the company.) Captains have an uneasy
>relationship with owners at best. I have witnessed an "owner" standing
>on a pier screaming at a captain who was a few minutes late because the
f>og was too thick to enter port even with radar. Don't look to the
>Titanic record for this. Talk to passenger vessel masters about their
>experiences with owners.

This would seem to add credence to the testimony of Mrs. Lines, who saw Bruce Ismay expressing some pretty definite sentiments to Captain Smith re: Titanic's early arrival in New York.

>However, I do not have a crystal time ball. Being human, my book must be
>imperfect. And, that is a challenge to serious Titanic researchers. Take
>what I have written as a starting hypothesis and challenge it. You will
>do me great honor by correcting my work.

Beautifully expressed, David -- the attitude of a truly objective scholar and historian. It's a pleasure to have you here on the bulletin board.

On a separate note, Inger wrote:

> I’m certainly anyone following the debate knows that all this is done
>with tremendous respect —

Hi, Inger!

No question about that -- ever. The respect goes in both directions.

>I was quite touched, for example, to find that
>in spite of our occasional sparring you referred to me as a ‘friend’ in
>a letter written to the nephew of one of the Titanic’s survivors.

Er... well....harumph... (blush) .... now you've gone and exposed me for the big softy that I really am. :)

Seriously, though, Inger, none of this stuff is worth sacrificing a friendship over. We can never have too many friends, and I've always been pleased to count you among mine. (Mind you, you're one of my more feisty friends, but still....) ;-)

All my best,

George
 

George Behe

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Michael wrote:

>On the other hand, Brown does make some >incredible claims, often with
>little or no supporting evidence. One of the >largest, that Titanic was
>dodging ice for hours before the final collision.

Hi, Michael!

Actually, there's nothing incredible about this claim at all. The ice chart that accompanied the Senate Inquiry proves that David's statement is absolutely true; outlying bergs were strung all along the track that Titanic followed for the last hour or two before the collision took place.

All my best,

George
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Hello Mike "The Man In Black" ,

While I'm not certain that the Titanic was into the icefeild as early as 9:30 pm as stated in the book, she was without a doubt well into it by the time she struck the iceberg. With the rising of the sun, the survivors found themselves in seas filled with icebergs as far as the eye could see.

Overall, David's book is a very interesting read, and he goes to a lot of trouble to explain some pretty arcane stuff (Like refraction and ice blink) which is sorely lacking in most books on this subject. Whether I end up agreing with his premise in whole or in part, I can see that the gent went to a lot of trouble to put together a thought provoking work. I'm looking forward to the rest of it.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Nov 12, 2000
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Hi all,

George wrote:
The ice chart that accompanied the Senate Inquiry proves that .... outlying bergs were strung all along the track that Titanic followed for the last hour or two before the collision took place.

and Michael S. wrote:
While I'm not certain that the Titanic was into the icefield as early as 9:30 pm as stated in the book, she was without a doubt well into it by the time she struck the iceberg.

I can understand the logic of what you two are saying. what confuses me is that, to my knowledge there is no testimony from any witnesses that there was anything to report until the fatal berg. if the ship was constantly dodging ice for an hour or more before the collision, why is no mention made of this in any of the testimony?

it seems hard to believe that everyone involved with the navigation of the ship from the look-outs to the quarter masters to the deck officers, that none of them let something slip during the many grueling hours of the inquiries.

another thing that has always bothered me is this huge icefield that materializes around the survivors in the lifeboats the following morning. to my knowledge (admittedly limited) no eyewitnesses reported seeing ice from the decks of the ship, or from the lifeboats during the entire time the ship was sinking. I realize it was dark and visibility limited, but several of the lifeboats rowed quite a ways off from the ship. I'm thinking particularly of the lifeboat which was sent towards the 'mystery ship'.

if ice was all around them, why did no one see any of it till morning? I had always assumed (and we all know about that word, right:)) that the icefield drifted up to the lifeboats, or the lifeboats drifted into the icefield (or both) in the hours after the Titanic was already gone. or am I being hopelessly uninformed here???

Michael (TheManInBlack) T
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Someday, I'm going to have to go back to my real job...but for the moment I can't get around Titanic any more than it could get around its iceberg.

Thanks to all who have taken the time to respond to my posting of excerpts from the book. Most sincere "thanks" to all who have purchased a copy. Writing is by nature a lonely craft. It is great fun for me to receive such rapid feedback...even the comments that force me to take another forkful of humble pie.

Regarding the ice striking the boat deck. Not likely for one reason -- the safety boat (Lifeboat #1) which was kept "swung out" for immediate use. Having been made of wood, contact with an iceberg would have reduced it to uselessness. However, it was apparently unscathed. Also, the shape of the superstructure would have required a blunt impact on a square corner at the forward end...which would have caused enough noise and structural movement to have awakened even sound sleepers. Nobody described such noises or the shudder and sway of a superstructure striking a couple million pounds of ice.

Never forget that many of the statements by witnesses were designed to improve the self importance of the speaker...without regard to the truth. I believe (a hedge word allowing me to change my mind) that no ice fell on the boat deck because that would have required other events which were not recorded. In other words, I currently believe those stories to be fabrications.

Regarding the ice field behind the berg--it was very real to Captain Lord that night as he sat surrounded by ice. It was equally real to rescue ships in the morning that were forced to pick their way through it. If an ice field existed prior to the accident...and in the morning after the accident...it logically existed between those two times. We don't need eyewitnesses on this one, although I believe that the "haze" reported by the lookouts was eyewitness confirmation of the field of ice.

Owners and captains have never gotten along. As the owner-operator of my own business, I've found myself in some horrible arguments. Lost one once. It wasn't pretty.

Call me if it becomes at all questionable.

-- David G. Brown
 

Inger Sheil

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Feisty? George, like I keep telling Geoff, I'm an absolute lamb...wouldn't say 'boo' to a goose ;-)

Regards,

Inger
 

George Behe

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David Brown wrote:

>Regarding the ice striking the boat deck. Not >likely for one reason --
>the safety boat (Lifeboat #1) which was kept >"swung out" for immediate
>use.

Hi, David!

Perhaps I should clarify what I meant. I don't believe that the iceberg actually *made contact* with the boat deck -- I believe that fragments of ice tumbled downward off of the upper parts of the berg and 'bounced' over onto the forward boat deck. Since we know that ice fragments also tumbled into the open portholes of several staterooms, it seems reasonably clear (to me, anyway) that the face of the berg was pretty close to the side of the ship.

All my best,

George
 

George Behe

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Michael wrote:

>.... what confuses me is that, to my knowledge >there is no testimony from
>any witnesses that there was anything to report >until the fatal berg. if
>the ship was constantly dodging ice for an hour >or more before the
>collision, why is no mention made of this in any >of the testimony?

Hi, Michael!

(Pssst. Hey, buddy. Come closer. Yeah, that's it. Look under my overcoat at this little book I keep here. Terrific stuff! Brilliant author! It's just what you want to read on a cold winter's night. It's called "Titanic: Safety, Speed and Sacrifice." It might suggest answers to many of your questions. Now, are you also in the market for a nice watch? How about some gold jewelry? Here, step into the shadows a little more -- I don't want anyone to see me giving you great deals like this....) :)

All my best,

George
 
Nov 12, 2000
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Hi George,

sorry, I make it a point of never looking under another guy's overcoat. and what is the book doing hiding under there anyway, it's a good book:).

actually, I have read TSS&S. and I thought you made solid arguments for your first and last theories, but I admit I felt your arguments for the middle theory were the weakest of the three.

this is the chapter where you show that Fleet warned the bridge of ice three times before the fatal accident, and you also describe comments from survivors who say they saw ice sooner.

the reason I have some problems with these survivor comments is that they were mostly taken from newspaper accounts. the reporters of the time were notorious for 'spicing up' and otherwise exaggerating the material reported to them to make a better story and sell more papers.

I am uncomfortable depending on evidence like that because it is difficult, if not impossible, to know what the survivors said and what the reporters embelleshed.

still, its been a while since I read your book. I will go back and reread that chapter again.

all the best, Michael (TheManInBlack)T

p.s. by the way, you don't happen to have an original deck chair hidden under that coat somewhere do ya?
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Regarding ice on the boat deck and in the portholes:

To my knowledge, nothing precludes the appearance of iceberg ice in either location. Ice in portholes forward of the #1 funnel is highly probable. Aft of that, the probability drops quickly to zero.

Ice on the boat deck is more difficult to explain because it requires pieces to have been "thrown" from the top of the berg. We can discount some abominable snowman as the perpetrator, leaving only the force of the impact as the logical cause.

I postulate that the iceberg must have tipped toward Titanic as the ship slid across the underwater ice shelf. This supposition is based on the notorious instability of icebergs as noted in Bowditch and other sources. If the berg did tip toward the ship, then a mini-avalanche might have occurred, expaining ice on both the well deck and boat deck. Logically, the well deck would have received the greater load because the force of the impact was greater there than farther aft because by the time the bridge passed the berg the ship was sliding off the shelf.

I'm not a fan of the above hypothesis, but no where it is written that Dave Brown has to like the truth. However, I would caution researchers not to rely on statements about ice on deck (or anywhere else) that are not backed up by a second, independent source. Claiming to have touched a piece of the fatal berg would give the speaker an "authority" greater than that of a mere survivor.

Little "white" lies plague historians. For instance, first-hand accounts of night actions during the American Civil War are filled with descriptions of full moons. In fact, when reading these documents you get the idea that the moon never set from 1861 to 1865. In truth, it turns out that people were simply embellishing their stories with colorful details. The basic truth is there, just decorated a bit.

Regarding photos of The Iceberg That Sank The Titanic, again we need to view such claims with caution. There must have been icebergs with paint from Titanic, Niagara, and Californian floating around that morning. All three ships had recently struck ice in that vicinity. And, if there were three, there were probably more ships that left a bit of paint on the ice. There is probably no harm in believing that we have seen a photo of The Berg, however. It fits the same morbid curiosity as looking into the eyes of a serial killer...

-- David G. Brown
 
Dec 2, 2000
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G'Day , Michael "The Man In Black".

Actually, the lack of credible statements regarding passangers seeing ice iosn't that much of a surprise at all. It was COLD out that night, and even with no wind, the ship's motion would have put a 22.5 knot wind blowing constantly across the decks. Ask anyone who lives in places like the American midwest or Iceland(I've been to both places) about the "joys" of windchill, and you can easily see why few poeple would want to go out on deck.

Those souls hardy enough to try it wouldn't stay out there for long and even then, their vision would be seriously impaired by the white lights glaring out from cabins, and public rooms like the smoking room, lounge, reading room, the restaurant and so on. being effectively blinded, they wouldn't see anything unless it was really close.

David, I'm up to page 83 in your book and I have to say it's a reconstruction that is not only facinating, but quite unique. I don't think anyone has tried anything quite like it. I'm especially impressed with the effort you make to explain such things as ships handling characteristics and why they act as they do.

One point of question however...and this is not a swipe at you by the way...but just how well DID Murdoch or any of the other officers know and understand how the ship behaved? Would they have known that the turbine had no reverse gearing? I would hope so, but I have to wonder. Having been involved in the sea trials of a new construction warship back in 1989/90, I know that just the preliminaries took three days in which systems were tested and the handling characteristics were fully explored. As such, I was stunned when, several years ago, I found out that the Titanic's trials were done in less then a day. Captain Smith had his experience with the Olympic to draw from as did Murdoch, but was he involved in the trials for that ship? Or did he just have some routine transits to draw from?

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Dec 2, 2000
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David, a quick note on the berg photo, as I stated, I'm extremely skeptical of the photo taken from the Bremen for the reasons you outlined as well as the author's firm conviction that this is THE berg that done the deed. I was merely wondering if you had seen it. (Shrug)

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

George Behe

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Michael wrote:

>sorry, I make it a point of never looking under >another guy's overcoat.

Hi, Michael!

That's probably a very wise precaution. :)

>actually, I have read TSS&S. and I thought you >made solid arguments for
>your first and last theories, but I admit I felt >your arguments for the
>middle theory were the weakest of the three.
>this is the chapter where you show that Fleet >warned the bridge of ice
>three times before the fatal accident, and you >also describe comments
>from survivors who say they saw ice sooner.
>the reason I have some problems with these >survivor comments is that
>they were mostly taken from newspaper accounts.

I absolutely agree with you that it's wise not to take *any* newspaper interview as absolute gospel. My great regret is that I was unable to personally interview any of the survivors in question before they passed away. I didn't like being forced to rely almost exclusively upon their 1912 newspaper interviews re: the early iceberg sightings, but under the circumstances I'm afraid I didn't have much choice. Even so, I think that the similarity of all of these independent interviews definitely makes them worthy of serious consideration.

> I will go back and
>reread that chapter again.

I don't want to give anyone the impression that I claim to have *proved* that multiple icebergs were seen by Titanic's lookouts before the collision. However, I *do* think I've uncovered enough evidence to suggest that it's a very real possibility. Unfortunately, in the absence of a notarized deathbed confession by Fred Fleet, it's unlikely that we'll ever know the absolute truth of the matter.

>p.s. by the way, you don't happen to have an >original deck chair hidden
>under that coat somewhere do ya?

That's why I walk with a limp, old chap. :)

All my best,

George
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Okay, I have to get this book David. It speaks on every single question that I have posted on this Board and Michael Standard is reading that book and boning up on all the answers and now I have to do the same!

Wait, do I have to look under George's overcoat to get one of these books or can I just seek one through amazon.com?
happy.gif


I just want to say that I am so grateful to you David Brown for not only allowing Phil to post some excerpts, but for you to actually poke your head in on us while we make fools of ourselves on this Board...well...just George and Michael.
happy.gif
happy.gif


BTW, George, I want my deck chair back!
Maureen.
 

Jason D. Tiller

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I definitely have to get this book as well. Thanks to David Brown for being able to post some stuff from his book.

Some of that information I didn't know, but don't tell that to Maureen or I won't get my piece of cheesecake.
happy.gif


Best regards,

Jason
 
Dec 4, 2000
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To all -- I'm having the time of my life exchanging ideas with everyone. As a writer, some projects are just work like driving a cab or pearl diving in a local restaurant. The Last Log Of The Titanic, grabbed hold of me, my life and my computer for about four years. It is a welcome relief to see it so well received.

Answering Michael H. Standart--

You are right. It was cold enough to keep all but sleepless Eskimos inside that night, especially considering the wind created by the ship's forward motion.

Regarding how much the officers knew about their new ship -- not much. However, there was general knowledge of Olympic among the senior officers. They knew pretty much how it would handle under most conditions. Unfortunately, no one had any experience with close-quarters maneuvering in Titanic. Would a few days of practice have made a difference? We will never be able to know.

And, to Maureen Zottoli--

No one ever makes themselves a fool by asking questions. Fools are afraid to ask, so remain ignorant all their lives.

-- David G. Brown
 

Gary Watson

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David,

Forgive me, if I don't dig out my history books. But, I believe, the Titanic, as well as the Olympic, went thru sea trails for at least 8 hours. I would think they would've tried close cornering, aspecially, with the Olympic, as she was the first of the class. The Titanic, as you know, was almost virtually identical. I'm sorry, it would take some time for me to find out who was abroad for the sea trails.

Best Regards,
Gary

P.S. I will pick up the book.
 

George Behe

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Hi, David!

I've taken a quick look through my notes and have come up with several more accounts which bear on the 'ice on deck' scenario.

The first comes from one of Spencer Silverthorne's newspaper interviews (which, despite its source, is consistent with what Silverthorne said elsewhere.) Silverthorne felt the initial shock of collision and stepped outside the first class smoking room onto A deck to see what had happened; he saw the berg (the peak of which was about fifteen feet higher than the boat deck) passing aft beside the ship and scraping occasionally against its side as it did so.

Pierre Marachal (in his personal deposition which is on file at the PRO) saw small pieces of ice lying on the aft end of A deck outside the first class smoking room.

Elmer Taylor (in his privately published memoir) said that he walked all the way forward on the starboard side of B deck and found chunks of ice lying on the deck inside the railing; he took one ice fragment down to his stateroom and showed it to his wife, after which he went to the cabin of his friend Fletcher Williams and jokingly offered to put the ice fragment in Williams' highball.

(I've already mentioned QM Rowe's testimony that the face of the berg missed striking the aft docking bridge by mere feet.)

The ice fragments that were observed on A and B decks could not have fallen from the steam vent pipes on the ship's funnels. Although you might disagree with me, I still submit that the face of the berg was close enough to the Titanic's side that ice fragments were jarred loose from its upper regions and tumbled down onto the Titanic's upper decks (both fore and aft.)

By the way, David, the fact that I disagree with a few of your points is neither here nor there. I (like so many other people here) intend to purchase a copy of your book; it's clearly a good investment and will be a worthwhile addition to anyone's Titanic library.

All my best,

George
 
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Responding to Gary Watson --

Olympic was put through the conventional round of sea trials. Titanic was given only enough trial to prove that the steering gear worked and that the propellers wouldn't fall off. Time was short, as was money, and coal. There seemed little need for extensive testing of what was (despite the publicity) essentially a duplicate of one already in service.

We may be putting too much emphasis on sea trials. Large ships in 1912 were not expected to do much maneuvering on their own. Tugs were always on hand to push and pull them around the harbors. Once at sea, steering a straight line is more important than fancy maneuvers.

In a hundred crossings, Murdoch might never have ordered a turn of more than a few degrees. So, even with thousands of hours of experience on the bridge he would still not have learned the close-quarters handling of Titanic.

Honestly, Murdoch performed well during his moment of trial. He tried to whip an 882.5 foot ship around danger like he was driving a modern jet ski...and he damned near succeeded.

-- David G. Brown
 

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