Mystery behind why Titanic starting moving again


TitanicLove

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I'm curious, is there a previous conversation, or information regarding the Titanic moving again for about 5 minutes after it hit the iceberg. I believe the orders below was to move slowly, and some speculated it was to see if the propellers were damaged, and some think Titanic was attempting to sail towards the light in the distance.

So did Titanic officially stop at 11:47?

And I wonder, how far did it travel in those five minutes? If I recall the book Titanic Safety Speed and Sacrifice, there are reports that three icebergs were passed before the final one was hit. The ice field map was full of icebergs and the Titanic sank in the middle of the field. That would mean there's a chance they might've started moving again in order to clear the Titanic of the iceberg they hit, including maybe others in the vicinity.

Forgive me for any ignorance on ships, I do not know how far it might've traveled in that time, so I am only speculating as to WHY they would start moving the ship again. This detail fascinates me because there is never any mention of this in any of the film versions (all of them), nor any reference to it in many books, and yet, it took place and seems significant to me. Moving a mortally wounded ship for another 5 minutes is certainly worthy of more attention.
 

Adam Went

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Hi TL,

The order was given for full astern in the attempt to avoid the iceberg, and I believe they were stopped very shortly after hitting the iceberg. Any further movement the Titanic made after that was purely down to the momentum she already had when she hit the iceberg - which, when you consider her sheer size and weight and the momentum that would entail, might well have meant she sailed a fair distance away from the iceberg she had struck.

It wasn't like the case of the Lusitania where a brief attempt was made to beach the ship only for all power and control over the direction of the ship to be lost.

Cheers,
Adam.
 

TitanicLove

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Thank you for your reply Adam. I was referencing what Walter Lord wrote about in his follow-up book THE NIGHT LIVES ON, page 68-69. If you don't have access to the book, he basically cites a few people (Greaser Fred Scott, Lawrence Beesley, etc) that the Titanic stopped after the collision, but that it started up again "briefly" for a few minutes before stopping again.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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There is zero evidence to support the claim of 4/O Boxhall that a full astern was ordered prior to the collision. The available evidence shows that the ship did not go astern until after the accident, and that was most likely to take the way off the ship to bring it to a stop. There are several accounts (Scott, Dillon, Olliver) that the engines were indeed put ahead again for a very short time shortly after the ship came to a stop. We do not know exactly for how long that was, or why that was. The reason for doing so is open to speculation.
 

TitanicLove

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There is zero evidence to support the claim of 4/O Boxhall that a full astern was ordered prior to the collision. The available evidence shows that the ship did not go astern until after the accident, and that was most likely to take the way off the ship to bring it to a stop. There are several accounts (Scott, Dillon, Olliver) that the engines were indeed put ahead again for a very short time shortly after the ship came to a stop. We do not know exactly for how long that was, or why that was. The reason for doing so is open to speculation.
Isn't that strange? The inquiry was so detailed, with so many questions about what happened, so isn't it odd that the crew wouldn't get into WHY they started to move again for a few more minutes? It's almost as if they passed over this bit of information for some reason. I remember watching a documentary with Bill Paxton narrating it. I remember in this documentary the blame fell on Ismay. It suggested that he even went down to speak to one of the engineers - asking his own professional opinion on whether the ship could continue with the damage. It might be that Ismay ordered Smith to keep moving, but that after a second damage report reached them, probably from Andrews, they decided it would be better to stop.

All my life I always thought the Titanic hit the berg and then stopped for the last time, but apparently not. It moved again one more time, briefly, and then stopped. Like you said, who knows why, it'll forever be a mystery, but I'd love to know what they were thinking.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Isn't that strange? The inquiry was so detailed, with so many questions about what happened, so isn't it odd that the crew wouldn't get into WHY they started to move again for a few more minutes? <<

Not really. it wasn't their place to do so. The officers gave the orders and were under no obligation whatever to explain their reasons for it.
 

Adam Went

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Samuel:

From a logical point of view, it makes little sense to me that an order would come from the bridge to plow ahead for a couple more minutes, and then another order to reverse the engines to pull the ship up.

Cheers,
Adam.
 
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May not make sense to us, Adam...and it doesn't make a lot of sense to me either. Forging ahead with a ship which has just hit something without knowing what if any damage there is to the hull is...from a damage control standpoint....a very bad idea.

In fairness however, the people on the bridge may have had a compelling reason to do so. Some bit of information which went with them to their graves.
 

TitanicLove

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No matter what, I'll always find it strange, and even more strange that it's been ignored in so many Titanic books and films. It's as if no one cares, or most people don't know about this, as was the case with me. I didn't know about it until recently, and this was after years of reading Titanic books and watching the films/documentaries. I feel like Ismay might have pressured them to start up again, but they stopped when the damage report came in. I wonder..... did more water enter the ship because it moved forward for 5 more minutes? Or does it not make any difference? Someone who knows a little about ships might be able to answer this. If it increased the flooding, then one could argue that this attempt to move forward probably cost them an extra 5 or 10 minutes, maybe even more.
 
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>>No matter what, I'll always find it strange, and even more strange that it's been ignored in so many Titanic books and films. <<

It wasn't considered to be a massively big deal in 1912 so it's not surprising that nobody would bother fussing about it now. The evidence was that the ship didn't make way for very long and this may well have been to get clear of something. Given the circumstances, this would hardly be unreasonable.

The answer to this question is lost to history but I think it's making a mountain out of a molehill.
 

Adam Went

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We know that continuing to plow the ship along when water is rushing in only increases the volume of water entering the ship; Lusitania and Britannic are prime examples of that. It's true that it might have been some secret the officers took with them, but why? What could be such a big secret? Anyway, some of the officers survived, including some of the crew that was on the bridge when the ship struck the iceberg.

The only possible explanation I can think of is that they wanted to clear the ship of the iceberg and immediate area to avoid any further mishaps, and then stopped the engines once they realised the damage was serious.

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Scott Mills

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Adam,

We have been talking about this--well arguing about it--for quite some time. I am of the opinion that Titanic continued making forward progress on a course toward Halifax for around 10 minutes. Not wanting to repeat the argument in its whole, my analysis relies on witness statements from men like Gracie and Beasley, the recollections of Scott and Dillon who were the only survivors from the engine room, Ismay's admission that Chief engineer Bell confided in him that the pumps would keep the ship up, and the general evidence that Titanic's crew did not know the true damage to their ship until at least 45 minutes after the collision.

Also the "Titanic Safe and Going To Halifax" news that broke on the 16th on both sides of the Atlantic, Jack Phillips parents receiving a telegram to the same effect, and the fact White Star's New York office making arrangements for boat trains to ferry passengers from Halifax to New York add to my suspicions.

Finally there was the 2010 "revelation" by Lightoller's granddaughter that Lightoller confided to his family that Ismay so ordered Titanic to resume its course, and some evidence--coming from a woman who may have been Ismay's mistress--that a rumor of "going to Halifax" was present on Titanic why the ship was foundering add critical circumstantial evidence.

In any case, I'd direct you to our resident David Brown's books Titanic Myths, Titanic Facts and Last Log of the Titanic (part of which is available on this website) for a discussion of these issues. I cannot say that I agree with all of his assertions, but he and I are definitely on the same page as far as this issue goes. Furthermore, his analysis is excellent and well supported.
 
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I too can't understand why no-one makes a fuss anout this. I have literally only just heard this piece of information - why on earth is it considered unimportant? What I don't get is why they thought it safe to move again when the boat was taking on water so quickly - anyone with common sense would realise that moving with water inside would cause the water to slosh around and possibly flow over the top of the water-tight doors, not to mention the fact that moving forwards would force water into the punctured amd already-partially-flooded hull! I am not sure that this decision to move again didn't seal the fate of the Titanic - perhaps if they hadn't moved they may have stayed afloat long enough for another ship to rescue them.
 

Adam Went

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Michael:

I'm glad we agree but then surely the forward momentum the ship already had at the time of striking the iceberg would have been enough to guide the ship away from immediate danger, without having to use the engines again?

Scott:

Thank you for pointing out some sources - it is undeniable that the Titanic continued to move forward for a short time after the sinking, my issue is with the how and why.

In an attempt to answer your points, we must remember first of all that neither Gracie or Beasley were officers of the ship, and as such they were not privy to what was or was not being said on the bridge in the minutes after the collision with the iceberg. The man who could best answer to that, First Officer Murdoch, went down with the ship.

I also believe that the extent of the damage to the ship was known fairly early on, certainly by anyone who was in the vicinity of where the iceberg struck but particularly by Thomas Andrews after he went for an inspection of the damage - he knew better than anyone what damage the ship was capable of staying afloat with and he actually gave an estimate of the ship's survival time that was under what the eventual time was.

Certainly not all of the crew would have been aware, or believed the seriousness of the situation within the first 45 minutes or so, but many of them were aware very shortly afterwards - the time elapsed between the striking of the iceberg and evacuation action being taken is down to the time it took to assess the damage, to deal with the increasingly curious passengers and to prepare the lifeboats, etc.

Finally, whilst I don't mean to doubt the honesty of Lightoller's grand-daughter, it is dangerous to believe stories which have been handed down through generations. In historical study you encounter this all of the time, as generations go by the truth of the stories tend to become somewhat distorted. A bit like a game of chinese whispers.

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>....but then surely the forward momentum the ship already had at the time of striking the iceberg would have been enough to guide the ship away from immediate danger, without having to use the engines again?<<<

Possibley, but then they might have seen something else which was a cause for concern or even decided to be well away from a place of known danger as a matter of "Better safe then totally screwed above and beyond the level a which we already know we ARE screwed.

Perfectly mundane reasons really. Unfortunately, the officers in the best possible position to know didn't live to tell their side of the story.
 

Adam Went

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Hi Michael,

True enough, and I don't wish to sound like a broken record or make a bigger deal out of something than there needs to be, but the crew on the bridge had no way of knowing whether they were sailing the ship into even more danger by continuing to move forward or not. As it is, a number of passengers who were on or near the deck when the ship hit the iceberg stated that the iceberg disappeared pretty quickly back into the darkness; the Titanic was after all moving along at a decent rate.

I don't recall hearing of a statement by Frederick Fleet or any other crew member to that point who stated that after the Titanic struck the initial iceberg, there was any other bergs in the immediate vicinity which they felt to be a danger to the ship and/or the lifeboats and subsequent survival of passengers. If you or anybody else is aware of statements contrary to this, i'd be interested to hear them.

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>If you or anybody else is aware of statements contrary to this, i'd be interested to hear them.<<

I'm not aware of any such statements. It may very well be that they never volunteered anything because they were never asked. If Dillon and Scott are any indication, the actual manuvering may not have been all that much and didn't last for long in any event. If there's any truth to what either said (Yes, I know there are problems with their testimony) then it may well have been the people up topside who were overstating things.
 

Adam Went

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Michael:

Perhaps there was simply some confusion amongst the crew in the immediate aftermath of striking the iceberg - that would be understandable enough. I find it difficult to believe that the surviving crew would not have been asked in more depth about this and their movements/manouvers in the minutes following the collision - if not by the inquest or other subsequent investigations, by the likes of Walter Lord in the 1950's when many of them were still alive, including Frederick Fleet.

Just another of those Titanic anomalies I guess!

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Just another of those Titanic anomalies I guess!<<

The sensible course of an investigation would have asked the very questions you would have thought to ask, but some of what happened can ahrdly be called sensible. The upside to the U.S. Senate investigation was that it got the information while it was freshest in the minds of the witnesses. The downside to it is that there were some breathtaking oversights which were amaturish in the extreme.

As an example, I'll point to the treatment of the whole sorry Californian affair which was, to put it politely, slipshod.

One may argue that Smith came to the historically correct conclusion but it was based on the evidence of Captain Lord (The guy who stood accused) Ernest Gill (A paid informant who sold his story to a newspaper first!) and a radio operator who didn't see a bloody thing.

A properly conducted investigation would have started with interviewing all of the officers and extend if necessery to interrogating as many of the crew as could be found to have knowledge of what transpired that night. As a navyman who knows just how probing a formal investigation can be, I was stunned when I first found out just how many obvious witnesses Smith & Company didn't even bother looking up. Say what you will about Lord Mersey, he didn't make such silly mistakes.

Given the bungled treatment of a matter as serious as what the Californian was accused of, I'm not surprised that matters of equal or (argueably) lesser importance were at times handled with equal carelessness.
 

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