Murdoch's Mistake


Jamie Bryant

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Aug 30, 2003
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Had Murdoch used Titanic's speed to his advantage, then i am confident that the ship would have survived. Instead of ordering the engines "Full Astern" and Hard to Starboard, he could of just ordered the starboard engine to be put full astern, and the port, full ahead. While at the same time having the helm hard to starboard. We know from her sea trials that with these precautions in effect, Titanic would have cleared the berg completely.

JB
 
A

Alicia Coors

Guest
A couple questions:

a) How long would it take after issuing the engine orders before the ship got clear?

b) How much time was there in the event, before the ship struck the ice?

If a > b, u r scrood.

Witnesses testified that Murdoch said that he tried to port around the iceberg. Why do you think he failed, and how does your answer conflict with the course of action you propose?
 
Jan 17, 2004
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Jamie,

No offense intended here, but as the old cliche goes, hindsight is 20/20. For us sitting here at our computers 92 years later, it's easy to say what Murdoch should or shouldn't have done. If EJ had simply told Ismay to mind his own business, and then wisely slowed the ship down, they might have had plenty of time to port 'round the ship. That is just one of what is probably hundreds of "what ifs" that could have been applied to the situation.

Unfortunately, none of the "what ifs" were applied in the actual situation. I believe Officer Murdoch did the best he could in the scenario he was presented with. I'm sure he knew all about her sea trials, and had a good idea of how the ship handled. Unfortunately, he only had precious few seconds to decide how to react. I'm sure he thought the decision he made was the right one. It's easy to point out today what he did wrong, or what he might could have done better. I dare say that not many of us, if any, could have done any better under the circumstances. Officer Murdoch was, it seems, a fine gentleman and an able seaman. I prefer to think of him that way, and not place any more blame on him than is necessary.

Just my thoughts on the matter.

-Chris Holder
 
Dec 31, 2003
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Titanic ported the visable iceberg - and probably fortunately - with 'success'. It seems there simply was not enough time to avoid first grounding on its unseen 'shoulder' or 'shoreline' - perhaps extensive. Yet, Titanic was freed from it also due to the same decisive action. Only grounding can account for many details - witnessed then and forensic now - of the accident and its tragic consequences. 'Heroes all'.
 

Jamie Bryant

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Aug 30, 2003
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There are several accounts, which inform us of the time that Fleet and Lee first saw the iceberg. Some reports say 11:25! While the other is of course 11:40pm - according to the log.

I do understand that Murdoch's actions were standard for the time, but what i am saying is that had he done what many have suggested, and use the ship's speed to his advantage, along with results from her sea trials the ship should have cleared the iceberg, of course pending that there was enough time in which to do so. Although there are reports indicating an 11:25 sighting, the official one is 11:40. There are also other ways in which Wilding calculated, such as hitting the berg head on, in which case she would have survived, but the natural instinct was to try and turn the ship. In the film they make a reference to her rudder being either too big or too small, can anyone explain this.

Jb
 
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Alicia Coors

Guest
Those were rhetorical questions, Jamie. The reason I asked them is that your finding the answers for yourself might bring you closer to the reality of Murdoch's situation.

There was not enough time for the engine orders to be carried out before the collision (if he issued them at all, which is doubtful). It takes a long time to reverse the engines - at least a minute, or even longer if the engineers aren't on station. Meanwhile, Murdoch would have known that disturbing the flow across the rudder reduces its effectiveness. A seasoned professional mariner probably wouldn't have considered reversing them until the rudder didn't matter any more.

As far as a head-on encounter: why would an officer risk his ship (not to mention his career) if he thought there was a chance of avoiding the obstacle?
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>There are several accounts, which inform us of the time that Fleet and Lee first saw the iceberg. Some reports say 11:25!<<

Sources please. Be specific with the cite.

>>While the other is of course 11:40pm - according to the log.<<

Mmmmmmmmm...what log??? The Titanic's log was never recovered.

Jamie, it helps to know that Murdoch was was an officer on the Olympic befor he was posted to the Titanic and had more experience in handling this particular class of ship then just about anyone aboard short of Captain Smith.

Another point to ponder: While we can be reasonably certain that the much talked about "Crash stop" was ordered, what evidence is there that the engines were actually reveresed??? Nobody who was in the engine room at the time backs this up.

On the question of Titanic's rudder, you may want to read This Brief Article by Captain Charles Weeks as well as go through Sparks Titanic FAQs. They both address a lot of the questions you have. I strongly suggest you thoroughly read them.
 

Jamie Bryant

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I'm just wondering, but wouldn't a sudden reversal of the engines, considering she was doing 22.5 knots, cause a slight vibration throughout the ship?

JB
 

Erik Wood

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It would probably do more then rattle your fillings. Common things are knocking the shaft loose, bearing breakage, prop blade dropping and the knocking of personnel to the deck.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Chapter 4 of Eaton and Haas describes Titanic's trials off Belfast Lough. In it they report that after lunch on 2 April 1912 a major stopping test was conducted. Titanic was put "at full speed and, when precisely alongside the buoy ... the telegraph handle was quickly put to 'full astern'. The entire vessel shuddered as the stress of full speed astern was imposed on her hull. At a 20-knot speed, Titanic took a bit less than half a mile - about 850 yards - to come to a complete stop."
 
Mar 3, 1998
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There is a fair amount of risk involved whenever one questions the testimony of an eyewitness to the event, especially if the eyewitness is one of Titanic's experienced crew. On the one hand, we have Boxhall's stated observation that the engine-order telegraphs indicated FULL ASTERN when he arrived on the bridge. On the other, we have the majority of observations from both crew and passenger complement alike which belie the assertion that Titanic's engines were crashed back.

What should one conclude from this? (My own conclusions are not important but available elsewhere for those interested.)

Parks
 

Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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I had a thought that the Engineering staff knew the dangers of a crash stop from full speed ahead, and mildly "disobeyed the order" by gradually bringing the ship to a halt, or slowing down before going full astern.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Paul,

I don't know how better to say this...Engineers would not disobey, no matter how mildly, a telegraphed order from the bridge. They would instead respond with alacrity.

Parks
 

Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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Fair enough. But I can't help but think, with a mild analogy, that if you drive a car at 25 mph and then go into reverse straight away, your engine would be wrecked. :)

Cheers

Paul

 
Mar 3, 1998
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Paul,

I agree that it's not a desirable course of action. A deck officer knows this better than most and does not select that option without full knowledge of the consequences. Likewise, the engineers know that the man on the bridge is the only one to call the shots. FULL ASTERN is given for a reason and that reason is probably more important than anything that might come out of a sudden reversal of the engines.

Just to keep this in perspective...Titanic performed a crash back in 1912 as part of her sea trials. We performed a deliberate crash back as part of the acceptance trials for the USS Iwo Jima in 2002. The engines aboard ship are designed to handle such an event; otherwise, it would not be a traditional requirement of the builder's trials. It's not a pleasant event, but necessary to prove that it can be done, if needed.

Parks
 

Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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Hi Parks,
I guess I was subconsciously mirroring what I had read in "Last Log of the Titanic", which I thought was a pretty sound book!

Best wishes

Paul

 
Mar 3, 1998
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Paul,

Dave might want to weigh in on this, because I don't remember what part of his book you drew your concerns from.

Dave, if you're out there, could you respond to Paul?

Parks
 
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Alicia Coors

Guest
An analysis that I consider to be very important to the whole question of the sequence of events is Bruce A. Trinque's The Final Seconds before Collision. Note particularly the testimony of Barrett, Beauchamp, Dillon, and Scott, all of whom place the noise of the collision as nearly simultaneous with the first order telegraphed to their work spaces - which by all their accounts was STOP. The joker here is that Dillon and Scott were referring to the engine telegraph, while Barrett and Beauchamp would only have been able to see the stoking telegraph. It is significant to note that if an order to REVERSE engines had been received, the stoking telegraph would not have changed, because as long as power is required, steam would need to be produced. Therefore, the fact that the stoking order was STOP strongly suggests that the engine order was the same (and virtually simultaneous, because the engine crew would have signaled the stokeholds in the process of stopping the engines). The sequence of Murdoch's orders would logically have been:

Starboard helm (to start the port-around)
Port helm (to swing the stern clear)
(Collision)
Engines stop (to protect the prop shafts)
Engines astern (to stop the ship after the collision)

This sequence is corroborated by all the testimony that comes to mind, with the exception of that of Hichens, and Boxhall's recollection of Murdoch briefing Smith. But Hichens' confusion on the spacing of commands and collision might make his version of events suspect, and Boxhall places the crow's nest bells, collision, engine telegraph and helm orders as almost simultaneous, which makes the accuracy of any of his recollection problematic.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Alicia,

I would have Murdoch ordering STOP on the engines just before impact, but that's based on my own interpretation of the evidence.

By the way, the shiphandling manual that I used to qual says that when a navigational hazard is close, order the engines to STOP -- but do not lock the shafts -- in order to reduce the risk of the props destroying themselves on the hazard. Only the engine command would apply to Titanic...she did not have an easy means for decoupling the shafts from the recip engines.

Parks
 

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