Note to Chief Engineer


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Richard Brown

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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?
 
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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
 

Will C. White

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David-Too bad they hadn't roused out Fleet and Lee a bit earlier-sleeping up top like that-LOL. Getting over the crud. WILL
 

Richard Brown

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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).
 
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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
 

Richard Brown

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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.
 

Richard Brown

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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

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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

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David;

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?
 

Richard Brown

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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.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>'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

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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.
 

Richard Brown

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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

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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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Olliver's movements have to be imputed from his testimony and other events which impinge upon his actions. He was on the bridge when the initial All Stop order was given. He heard Murdoch report to Smith after which the captain sent Olliver to find the carpenter.

There is no mention of whether or not the ship was still shooting forward at the moment when Olliver was dispatched to the carpenter. Smith seemed less interested in the ship's way than in its flooding.

Olliver found the carpenter in Scotland Road, so there was no need for him to search around. The quartermaster returned promptly to the bridge arriving just in time to see Captain Smith operate the engine telegraphs to re-start Titanic's engines. Olliver thought the order was Ahead Half.

It would seem that Bruce Ismay's appearance on the bridge came while Olliver was seeking the carpenter. Olliver was quite specific about who was on the bridge to hear Murdoch's report, but the quartermaster never mentioned the meeting of Smith and Ismay.

After returning, Olliver waited at his post until the Captain returned from the Marconi office. Before Smith returned he noted the 5 degree list. That, and an unexpected outpouring of bad news from the carpenter immediately preceded Smith's ordering the engines to Stop, which Olliver witnessed.

The captain then wrote that "word of hand" which Olliver carried to Chief Engineer bell.

There are no hard time references in Olliver's testimony. You have to guesstimate how long his various activities would have taken to accomplish. One man's guess is as good as another's. Here's how I see it. The times are minutes and seconds after impact on the berg.

00:00 Impact
00:25 Engines ordered All Stop
01:30 Olliver sent to find carpenter
04:00 Ismay arrives on bridge
05:00 Olliver finds carpenter; gives instructions
06:30 Olliver arrives on bridge again
07:00 Ismay leaves bridge for engine room
07:00 Captain Smith telegraphs Ahead Half
08:00 Captain Smith visits Marconi office
10:00 Smith comes back to bridge
10:30 Hichens says captain notes 5 degree list
11:00 Carpenter reports flooding
12:00 Chief Of Wild reports peak tank flooding
13:00 Captain Smith orders All Stop
13:00 Smith writes out "word of hand"
14:00 Olliver takes note to C. Engineer Bell
14:00 Smith orders Wilde to prepare lifeboats
-----------------

Regarding coal...Titanic did not have a full load when it left Southampton. However, there was a good deal of fuel still aboard at the time of impact. The expenditure in tons of fuel would have been greatly reduced at slower speeds, so I doubt that anyone was seriously concerned about the ship's range to a port of safety.

No captain in his right mind, however, would have turned back for Europe when Halifax was so much closer. Assuming that a ship with a bloody nose could make port on its own steam, any sane man would have gone the shortest distance to safety. Smith was hardly a fool. Halifax would have been his choice for a port of refuge.

Halifax had another benefit--it was technically a British port. Arriving there would have prevented any American intervention into the Titanic affair.

----------------------

I've looked into contemporary (1912) views of operating damaged ships. The Admiralty had learned an expensive lesson in the Victoria/Camperdown incident. Steaming the damaged Victoria ahead was acknowledged to have been a significant factor in the rapid sinking of the ship with heavy loss of life. A respected naval architect had produced a white paper studying what happens when a ship with a damaged bow is steamed forward. His conclusion was that it sinks, and quickly. All of this was common knowledge on that April night.

Captain Smith would hardly have been unaware of the danger of steaming Titanic toward any port, near or far. Bruce Ismay may not have been as knowledgeable about such things.

I find it more than curious that the ship's engines were re-started after Ismay's visit to the bridge. Smith was obviously not happy about that (in my opinion) because he personally operated the engine telegraph to re-start the engines. This took any of his subordinates off the hook for being held responsible should steaming have caused rapid foundering. And, Smith stopped the engines within seconds of receiving bad news from the carpenter and postal clerk about flooding.

-- David G. Brown
 

Richard Brown

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OK, Scott states that all four telegraphs ring down stop. This happens after the collision and before the watertight doors come down. He can read these in the engine room. However, from that point on as far as I can tell he can no longer see either the telegraphs or the engines; the watertight door has come down. So for him to still be able to see the telegraphs either he was actually on the engine room side or the door had to come up again. He does say that he went down to the turbine room and then up the escape - does that indicate that he came from the main engine room first?

Now Dillon, who is in the engine room the whole time and so I think is more likely to be able to tell what the engines are doing, claims he saw stop, astern, stop and then ahead. He tells this from seeing the engines move (I assume they move in the opposite direction for astern). Scott has to be estimating if he is stuck in the turbine room (which doesnt have a telegraph), or is hearing this second hand. Basically, with the door closed, how can he tell?

Boxhall is more supportive of Dillon as far sequence goes. He said the telegraphs rung and then they hit. He said it read full astern. This contradicts Scott, but I don't think it does Dillon. Dillon only said the engines stopped, he didn't see the telegraph. He said they then went slow astern. Of course the engines would appear to stop before they started to reverse right? That may take a couple of minutes (he said the first time they stopped for only half a min). He only mentions the telegraph went once. Though he is not clear whether he heard a telegraph order for each stage.

Oh, and is it possible that if the telegraph ring went a second before the impact that Dillon heard it before and Scott heard it after? As in would the sound travel faster than the shudder (I guess it should but.....). Would this explain their discrepency.
 

Richard Brown

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I still think that Olliver saw the Captain telegraph soon after he hit the iceberg (going from his testimony), not after he had headed below to talk to anyone.

Indeed, Olliver states that they went half ahead after hitting the ice. He was not on the bridge, and as far as I can tell from his testimony he did not go on until he had a reason. I assume he stayed at his post just off the bridge awaiting for messages. Indeed, he only hears things, he doesn't see them. So when he talks about going onto the bridge and seeing the captain order half ahead he prob means he left his post to take messages etc. This could have been only mins after the collision. In the testimony Olliver specificly states that he did not see the Captain signal stop (prob off doing other things by then).

I am only going from his testimony, you perhaps have a better source?
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Great discussion guys.

The entire Halifax affair started long after Titanic sank. Rostron had some first thoughts of bringing the survivors to Halifax, and some of that came out in wireless messages from Carpathia in the morning. If Titanic was seriously but not fatally damaged, my guess is that Halifax would be a viable option. But in any case, I doubt they would have taken her all the way back to Ireland after already completing 2/3 of the crossing.

It's too bad (for us) that Olliver was not more specific about when he saw Smith move the telegraph handles. He was on and off the bridge several times following the collision. But I have a feeling it had nothing to do with changing the ship's head, but rather to move away from some nearby ice in case they needed to launch the boats. (There was that 30 ft berg that Carpathia nearly struck just as she was about to pick up boat #2. And boat #2 could not have been too far from the wreckage.) Beesley reported in his book that he noticed the ship moving ahead slowly a little before he went down from the boat deck. He said he saw streaks of foam along the ship's side. On his way to the staircase entrance he noticed someone starting to take the cover off boat #16. This was before the order went out to have passengers come up with belts on. From Boxhall, Lightoller and Pitman, we know the order for all hands to turn out to uncover the boats came close to 20 minutes after the collision. So it may be that Olliver saw those engine orders after returning from the engine room, and then was told by Wilde to find the boatswain to get the men to uncover the boats. He also said he did not know when the order to stop come after seeing that, only that the ship was stopped "when we took to the boats."

Jim, when you back the engines to stop forward movement the prop wash would be sent forward once headway was taken off. The thought just occurred to me that the foam witnessed by Beesley may have been that, which still suggests that the ship was moving ahead just a little before they started to uncover the boats.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>He [Olliver] was on the bridge when the initial All Stop order was given. He heard Murdoch report to Smith after which the captain sent Olliver to find the carpenter. <<

Was he when the initial all stop order was given? If the original all stop order was given by Murdoch about the same time the initial helm order was given, then that would be before the ship struck. Hichens said he heard the telegraph bells ring and was given the order to get the helm over, and that was before she struck. A stop command was sent from the engine room to the stokeholds and orders given to the stokers to shut everything up just moments before the crash came.

Olliver was very clear that the only engine order he saw given after the ship struck was ahead half. There was one question asked by Burton after Olliver had told him that he saw Smith ring ahead half that seems to lead to some confusion.

Senator BURTON. Did you see the captain ring to the engines to stop?

the transcribed response was, Mr. OLLIVER. To stop.

But what may be missing in the transcription is a question mark in Olliver's response.

Burton had already been told by Olliver that Smith rang ahead half. Olliver had also told him that the engines were not ordered reversed while he was on the bridge. Then a bit later Burton asks him, "Did you see the captain ring to the engines to stop?"

and Olliver, puzzled by that question, responds, "To Stop?"

which is immediately followed by,

Senator BURTON. How long did he go ahead half speed?
Mr. OLLIVER. Not very long, sir.
Senator BURTON. One minute, two minutes, five minutes?
Mr. OLLIVER. I could not say the number of minutes, because I had messages in the meantime.
Senator BURTON. But you know he went ahead half speed?
Mr. OLLIVER. Yes, sir; I know he went ahead half speed.
Senator BURTON. Then he stopped?
Mr. OLLIVER. I could not say whether he stopped. The ship was stopped when we took to the boats.

Obviously from we see above, Olliver did not see Smith ring stop after he saw him ring ahead half. That is why I believe what was missing in the transcript is a question mark by Olliver's response to Burton's first question about seeing Smith ring stop.

Now have I confused everyone?
 
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