Note to Chief Engineer

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Do we have any idea what this note said? Bell told Smith it would be done as quickly as possible. A few mins later they open all the watertight doors, and all the engineers end up in boiler room 4. What were they up to?
Supporting Sam's speculation is article 25 of the IMM/WSL Rules. It states:

25. Ballast Tanks.--The ballast tanks are never to be filled or pumped out at sea or in port except by the express instructions or permission in writing of the Commander...

This rule clearly requires a written order, "word of hand," from the Captain to the Chief Engineer to shift ballast.

In addition, Rule 25 states, "Whilst ballast tanks are being filled, the Carpenter must take frequent soundings to avoid undue pressure or overflowing."

We know that one of the first members of the crew to be roused out was the carpenter.

-- David G. Brown
Ahh, that is a nice bit of supporting evidence David. Are there any other orders which must be taken by hand in the rule book? Is there anywhere you can see a rule book? Of course that speculation seems most likely, but it would be good to know if there were any other orders which had to be taken by hand.

Though, before we get carried away, would the steam being let off lead the bridge to send a written note due to difficulty in being heard? Indeed, I thought the carpenter was roused and was taking soundings long before the note was sent (he was up almost straight away, the note was sent 20 mins later).
Quartermaster Olliver was first sent to rouse out the carpenter within 4 minutes of impact. The carpenter, however, was already awake and active. The two men met in Scotland road where the carpenter was already setting to his work sounding the ship.

Olliver returned to the bridge just in time to see Captain Smith telegraph "Half Ahead" (Olliver's words) and for Titanic to begin moving again. The captain then visited the Marconi office and, afterward, check the clinometer.

It was after noting what Hichens said was a 5 degree list to starboard that the carpenter came to the captain with a report of flooding. Smith responded by stopping the engines (per Olliver) and sending "word of hand" to Chief Engineer Bell via Olliver.

The curious part of the written message is Bell's treatment of it. The quartermaster was kept standing around for a short while before he Bell responded to the captain's note. Bell dismissed Olliver almost routinely with a reply that said little more than that the engineers would get around to it.

-- David G. Brown
Yes, if I remember rightly, Bell had forgotten that Olliver was even there. Didn't he leave him waiting and then asked him what he was doing waiting. I guess he probably had a lot on at that moment in time. Oh, would he have been on watch at the time of the ice berg? If not he may have been in the middle of getting up to speed and so was distracted.

Interestingly I see a lot of people saw Farquharson, his second, but only Olliver seems to have seen Bell. In fact, everyone reported to Farquharson early on and it was Farquharson who ordered everyone up on deck much later. Farquharson also appears on deck with a number of engineers. This makes me wonder what Bell was up to. He clearly wasn't people managing, that seems to have been left to Farquharson. I guess he was getting his hands dirty trying to get things done. Or at least only managing the engineers.
One thing I was thinking is - what if Olliver got it wrong? He doesn't name the man he claims is the Chief Engineer. Would he have know who the Chief was? Is it possible he handed it to Farquharson? I just find it interesting that Bell appears in no other testimony (well, there are only a couple from down there, so it is possible he was just out of the way) which makes me wonder whether he was either very busy somewhere or something had happened to him. Pure speculation of course, and Ollivers testimony does state it was the Chief engineer.

EDIT - just been reading that the Chief didn't hold a watch. So would he have been up at that time of night?

Jim Currie

How about: 'Please advise total coal supplies and range of steaming at half speed ahead'?

The fore going would be valid up until it was clear that Titanic would not be going anywhere.
Remember - up until midnight, Phillips thought they might have to return to the builder's yard!

Jim Currie


I can't find where Olliver states he had just returned to the bridge in time to see Smith at the telegraph. Nor can I find where he states the ship started to move - how would he know that?

Olliver only states the engines were put half ahead when he was on the bridge after the impact - not how long after but when the vessel was almost stopped. He said he saw Smith work the telegraphs therefore he must have been standing right beside him other wise he would not know what engine order was given. The engines were stopped when he was below so when Smith did this, it must have been at least 20 minutes after impact.
The CQD was sent shortly after that. So between impact and that time, there would be little urgent need to rectify heel or trim until the full story was known. Perhaps my coal query guess is near the mark?
When did the port list start to show?
As far as I read Olliver this is what happen:

He was just coming onto the bridge when the ship hit the iceberg. He could not say whether the ship was reversed, but he did see the captain order half speed. That appears to be pretty soon after hitting the ice. That also fits with Dillon seeing the engines go back and forward in the first 5 mins or so. He was then ordered to seek the carpender. As soon as he arrived on the bridge he was sent to the engineer. As soon as he arrived back he was sent to the boats.
>>'Please advise total coal supplies and range of steaming at half speed ahead'?<<

Range of steaming at half ahead would be greater than range of steaming at full ahead. They had more than enough coal on board to reach NY at full ahead plus about a day extra. I seriously doubt that was on Smith's mind while in the midst of trying to assess the extent of damage.

The suggestion from Richard about the steam blowing off is a possibility. Smith could have called the engine room from the wheelhouse phone, but if the steam was that loud making it difficult to do even that, then a request sent by written message to Bell is a possibility. They had a silent blow-off pipe for venting steam directly to the condensers when needed. I'm just not too sure on how much they could use that and still prevent some of the safeties from opening.

Jim Currie

Hi Sam!

Yes, I know about the increased range. What prompted me to mention it was that Bride stated Phillips told him he (Phillips) knew about the berg and that Titanic had been 'damaged in some way' and expected they would have to return to Harland and Wolff's, Belfast. Notice he used the word 'expected' but omitted the word 'might'. Possibly Phillips was speculating but I hardly think he would infer such a thing unless he had been discussing it with someone else shortly after impact - Boxhall?
Had that been contemplated, Boxhall would have been asked by Smith the distance to the nearest suitable port in Ireland to disembark the passengers before carrying on to Belfast - probably Cork
Smith did not at that time have full knowledge of the extent of damage. He did know the damage was to the fore part of the ship. Consequently, he would be thinking that any speed he made had to be somewhat less than full speed.
He would also be aware that the weather he had so far experienced was freakish and could not be expected to last, so a weather delay had to be one of his considerations.
Additionally, he would be considering his best options as to safe haven v. repair facilities including a suitably sized dry dock. Obviously the builder's yard would be a first choice if, as first thought, the damage was minimal.
The only possible issue with that is Olliver said that as soon as he returned to the bridge from the engine room the order to put the lifeboats out was given. Would that have happened if Smith was still thought they could sail to Ireland?

I thought they were going to make for Halifax (isn't that Nova Scoia and thus the nearest port USA side from the Titanics position) where rail cars were going to take the passengers onto New York. Then I guess the ship would have headed for Ireland. I think they would do anything to prevent having to take the passengers back to the UK. They would probably never sail with them again. However, if that was the case, and the ship could not refuel at Halifax then that may have promted smith to ask about coal reserves to get there and back to Ireland.

Jim Currie

I see what you mean Richard. However, there is a great deal of conflicting evidence as to what were the exact engine orders. Greaser Scott's evidence as to engine orders and timing contradicts that of Dillon and both contradict Boxhall.
Olliver's first task as you say was to find the carpenter. This would be done when the ship was almost at a stand-still i.e. when the stop order was given or just before it was given following the first astern movement. The next ahead movement would be given to change the ship's head not necessarily to make progress through the water. There is a 'trick' on a ship which tells you when she has stopped making headway. It's to do with the propeller wash.
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