Lightoller at the helm

A

Aly Jones

Member
Lightoller had been known for going through ship wrecks during his sea career, what do you think his reaction would be towards the berg? Would you think he would try a head on? Murdoch and lightoller have different personalities.
 
Tim Gerard

Tim Gerard

Member
I don't think things would've been much different if LIghtoller or even Wilde were on watch. I can't imagine any officer willingly ramming the ship head on into an iceberg, when he can turn and have a chance of missing the danger entirely.

If everything else played out the same, including Lightoller surviving, his testimony at the inquiries as senior officer on watch during the iceberg collision would have been very interesting.
 
Julian Atkins

Julian Atkins

Member
Hi Aly,

I've stated this before elsewhere, but at the relevant time Murdoch was the only Officer on the bridge - Moody being with Hichens in the wheel house and the other Quartermaster Oliver being on the compass platform further back, and Captain Smith had retired to his quarters for over 2 hours 15 minutes if not longer. And they were racing along at 22 knots or more.

Compare this to The Californian going at 11 knots per hour with Captain Lord on the bridge with Groves. 2 Officers watching out on the bridge; Captain and 3rd Officer and with extra lookouts.

Other ships took a course to avoid the ice such as The Mount Temple and the Carpathia, and there are other examples.

As to your direct point, if Lightoller was alone on the bridge as Murdoch was, and unless his eyesight was a great deal better than Murdoch's, I doubt if anything would have panned out differently. If anything, it might have been worse as Lightoller via his attempts to fail to answer questions truthfully at the USA Inquiry exhibited a degree of complacency, and a marked ambivalence with the truth.

The only difference Lightoller could have made was to reduce the speed and post more lookouts, and veer to the south on a different course; and the reduction of speed and veering off course was only something Captain Smith could sanction.

When Moody went off the bridge there is a good case for arguing Murdoch ought to have asked Captain Smith to come on the bridge - or at least require Boxhall to assist him, if it was not already known that Boxhall was on 'light' duties being already not quite well, and so useless for this purpose.

Again compare this to what Captain Lord and Groves did on The Californian and other ships did.

Cheers,

Julian
 
A

Aly Jones

Member
Hi Julian,
Yeah they were not being careful, were they? It seems they had this unsinkable crap in their heads believing that nothing could sink this ship. Like you mention all other ships were taking it easy that night.
Since lightoller had been shipwrecked many times before, (and none of the others haven't) I just thought he might had known their was no escaping the collision and may stop the ship and let her hit berg head on softly. It's just a thought, not stating facts.

Was Boxhall on light duties that night directed by Smith or any senior officers?
 
Tim Gerard

Tim Gerard

Member
Hi Aly,

Captain Smith's order was to maintain speed and heading and to get him if things get questionable, or some wording to that effect. Lightoller having previously been shipwrecked, I can see him getting the captain and telling him visibility conditions are not good and talking Captain Smith into letting them slow down a few knots. I know Lightoller testified at the US Senate inquiry about not being apprehensive about visibility conditions, but I'm not sure how much I actually believe that.

If the ship does maintain speed and heading, I don't think much would change if Lightoller was on watch instead of Murdoch. Maybe he manipulates fhe engines differently, but in the short time between "iceberg right ahead" and the collision, I don't know how much of a difference it makes.
 
Samuel Halpern

Samuel Halpern

Member
Visibility was perfect that night. You couldn't ask for better conditions. It's like driving a bus on an open road at night with unrestricted visibility. Only difference is that you were told there were problems in the road ahead and would have to slow down if you continued on the same road. Instead of taking an alternate but longer route to avoid any of the problems reported ahead, Smith decided to remain on the planned route. So if you are the driver, when do you start to slow down? When it gets to be about the time that you expect road conditions to worsen, or when you actually start to see something that requires you to slow down or turn off the road you are on? That is what they faced.
 
Julian Atkins

Julian Atkins

Member
Hi Sam,

I know you take the view Captain Smith would have carried on regardless had he been informed of the unposted ice warnings and Marconigrams pilling up on Phillip's and Bride's desk, but surely had they been taken to the bridge and posted in the chart room they might have had some influence?

Cheers,

Julian
 
Tim Gerard

Tim Gerard

Member
You could say conditions overall were too perfect, flat calm sea with no wind. There was no moon, no light from the moon to bounce off any icebergs. And there was no wind or waves to cause water to break at the base of icebergs, which would have made them easier to see. Normally a sailor would love when there's no wind and the sea is that calm, but in the Titanic's case it ultimately ended up working against them.
 
Samuel Halpern

Samuel Halpern

Member
All of what you point out were well known and discussed that night between Smith and his OOW. All the officers and Capt. Smith expected to come up to ice that night. One estimate expected ice to be seen by around 11pm. Capt. Smith did not order any additional steps to be taken. He did not change course. He did not lower speed. He did not order the posting of additional lookouts. He did not place the engine room on standby in case last second engine orders had to be given. He did not remain on bridge along with his OOW, instead going inside to his quarters. He treated the expectation of meeting ice ahead as no big deal despite discussing the implications of a clear, calm and moonless night on their ability to spot ice in sufficient time to avoid. His only concern was the development of reduced visibility which occasionally happened as one approached regions of ice.
 
Kareen Healey

Kareen Healey

Member
Hello everyone,

Let me just add my grain of salt over your many answers to Aly.

First of all, I'm a harder believer in the view of Tim Maltin with whom I had chat 2 years ago, and I think that this is a thermal inversion that prevented Fleet and Lee from seeing the iceberg in time to avoid collision. Lightoller himself had said that there were something strange :

"(...)extraordinary combination of circumstances that existed at that time which you would not meet again once in 100 years ; that they should have existed just on that particular night (...)"

Boxhall took the same view :

"I do not know why we couldn't see this iceberg, I do not know what it was about ; I could not understand".

But I think that this is the view of Lawrence Beesley that reflects most what actually happened :

"(…) The complete absence of haze produced a phenomenon I had never seen before: where the sky met the sea the line was as clear and definite as the edge of a knife, so that the water and the air never merged gradually into each other and blended to a softened rounded horizon, but each element was so exclusively separate that where a star came low down in the sky near the clear−cut edge of the waterline, it still lost none of its brilliance. As the Earth revolved and the water edge came up and covered partially the stars, as it were, it simply cut the stars in two, the upper half continuing to sparkle as long as it was not entirely hidden, and throwing a long beam of light along the sea to us. (…) And next the cold air! Here again was something quite new to us. (…) it was just a keen, bitter, icy, motionless cold that came from nowhere and yet was there all the time;(…) the stillness of it if one can imagine cold being motionless and still was what seemed new and strange. And these the sky and the air were overhead; and below was the sea. Here again something uncommon: the surface was like a lake of oil, heaving gently up and down with a quiet motion that rocked out boat dreamily to and fro (…).

A little further he said that there was something he couldn't understand, but that science will explain someday.

That was my first point.

Secondly, I don't think that Captain Smith would have done better than Murdoch did (o.k, I admit, I'm having a little crush on him and the opposite for Lightoller who had increased the casualties by not filling the boats with people and ordered the doors being open, a very "fine welcome" for the sea water that had sunk the ship faster) even if he was present on to the Bridge for he smashed over eight ships during his days at sea : here is an extract of the book by Commander Richard L. Patton "The Final Board of Inquiry : A Cold Case Investigation Into the Loss of RMS TITANIC" at page 33 :

" (...) Captain Smith was directly involved in at least ten prior significant maritime incidents while sailing under authority of his certificate and while in command of several different White Star Line ships. Captain Smith was in command during four groundings of various ships including RMS OLYMPIC, one serious collision while commanding TITANIC sister ship Olympic with HMS HAWKE in which the Admiralty Court found White Star to be at fault, another two near-miss collisions, one involving the damaging and near crushing of a tug while docking OLYMPIC in the Port of New York and the other while commanding the TITANIC when it nearly collided with the docked liner NEW-YORK, caused by TITANICs excessive speed in a shallow channel while departing the Port of Southampton on 10 April 1912 (...)".

We easily can conclude that if he had survived the wreck, he would have lost his Master and his job as well like the Rules allowed the Board of Trade to do so. And for me, they should have done it just after the smashing of the OLYMPIC in 1911. It could have changed nothing for the TITANIC's faith, but from the moment you introduce a new variable, things are different -- but how much, that is the question.

Furthermore, there was a crucial factor not to forget in the cause of accident : the Senior Officers had learned their trade on sailing ships, which had short Length over All (LoA) and lack of any technology (electricity, coal, on-board compasses, telegraphs, Wireless, etc.). And while they were at ease with something they knew well, technology came up and ships built happened to be 5 or 6 times much longer than all they knew until then. For they didn't had continuing training just as the officers today, they didn't have any idea how to pilot big ships like OLYMPIC' s class. It makes me think of the Sea Shanty named "A Sailor Ain't A Sailor Anymore"
(If you like Sea Shanties, you will love them !)

The main point I want to get at here is the following : imagine if your great grand-parents which only had a buggy and an old horse to travel, were being given today's car that "talk" to you every time you cross the white lane without flashers ; that turns the wheel by itself ; which has a GPS and able to tell you when you need to buy some gas, and so on. First time your grand-parents sits in this car, maybe they wouldn't be able to know how to start it and how to move it as well. The same thing happened with the Officers : the technology and LoA of the TITANIC contributes to the accident for the Officer have no clue on how to manage it.

And fourthly, Sam was right (his book is my "Bible" that I keep near me every time I need information about TITANIC -- a scientific monographs you can absolutely relie on) in saying that officers were educated to avoid obstacles, not to ram on them. If you have already drive a car, imagine you hit the road and see upon it let's say a fallen tree, what are you going to do ? Tell yourself that you should collided with it for you don't know what is in the ditch that are each side of the road, or are you going to hit the wheel hard to turn left of right to avoid the tree ? Asking the question is answer to that question, I think.

And as far as Lightoller is concerned, I think he would have done the same thing as Murdoch, for they had the same abilities and the same maritime education.
 
Georges Guay

Georges Guay

Member
Visibility was perfect that night. You couldn't ask for better conditions. It's like driving a bus on an open road at night with unrestricted visibility. Only difference is that you were told there were problems in the road ahead and would have to slow down if you continued on the same road. Instead of taking an alternate but longer route to avoid any of the problems reported ahead, Smith decided to remain on the planned route. So if you are the driver, when do you start to slow down? When it gets to be about the time that you expect road conditions to worsen, or when you actually start to see something that requires you to slow down or turn off the road you are on? That is what they faced.

You’re the driver a fully packed tourist bus. You travel through a pitch dark night but the visibility is perfect. You roll on a zigzagging mountain damp road and while climbing the temperature drops down. You have summer tires and your brakes are believed to be so so. You fly at maximum speed on the cruise control. Your GPS is out of order.

Then, you’re advised that there is a log train stuck across the road somewhere not too far ahead. You guess that the train will show some emergency lights well in advance but a seated close by passenger who is a retired railway worker, doubt that you will be able to see the stop train in time in that remote area.

When do you start to slow down; when it gets to be about the time you expect road conditions to worsen, or when you actually start to see something that requires you to slow down, or turn off the road you are on? :)
 
Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
Lightoller had been known for going through ship wrecks during his sea career, what do you think his reaction would be towards the berg? Would you think he would try a head on? Murdoch and lightoller have different personalities.
Standard reaction, Aly..... Avoid it by turning toward clear water! That would apply to whoever was on the bridge at the time. Evidence tells us that Murdoch did exactly that.
I suggest everyone places themselves in Murdoch's shoes .

When the three bells went, Murdoch, like any other bridge officer, would look ahead...see nothing or a vague shape and raise his binoculars. He must have seen the dark form of the berg. IF the berg was as AB Scarrot described it....a high side to the left tapering down to the right and the left side of the High side was sheer, then the Murdoch or any other officer would automatically head for the open water to the left....hence the helm order.
According to the evidence, he was going to port around it. This is where interpretation comes in...Was he going to port ...or going to port.? One is a noun and the other is a verb. Whatever he was going to do, he didn't have time to do it and there is evidence somewhere pointing to that very fact.
 
Georges Guay

Georges Guay

Member
Who told you that the water on the starboard side was not as clear as on the port side? If the berg would have been sighted fine on the port bow, Murdoch would have ported the helm whereas fine on the starboard bow, he would starboarded the helm. If the berg was sighted dead ahead, he would have starboarded the helm.

As a real seaman not a hoax, Murdoch certainly knew the meaning of propeller transverse thrust (also known as propeller walk, propeller effect, propeller asymmetric thrust, asymetric blade effect, ...) which is the term for a propeller's tendency to rotate about its vertical axis. A propeller is called right-handed or outward turning if it rotates clockwise in forward gear when viewed from the stern. Such a propeller configuration will push the stern to starboard, thereby altering the bow to port and consequently, turning the vessel counter-clockwise to port. A left-handed or inboard turning propeller acts analogically to the right-handed but with all rotation directions reversed. Titanic had a right-handed starboard and a center propellers and a left-handed port propeller. As a result, the right-handed propellers transverse thrust superseded and Titanic was turning faster and shorter to port than to starboard, as any other right handed propeller vessel would.

Therefore, if Murdoch sighted the berg dead ahead, he would intuitively order the helm to be starboarded by taking advantage of the outward turning propellers transverse thrust.

Deuxio, Murdoch who was an authentic seaman not a practical joke, knew very well that if he kept the helm hard-a-starboard, Titanic would crush the berg all along the starboard side and risk to amplify damages. As soon as it became apparent that the vessel would not clear the berg, he ordered the helm hard-a-port like any other clever deck officer would. The stern got around the berg and Titanic finished her course, miles away on a northerly heading, on the surface and partly buried in the mud of the abyss.
 
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