Other icebergs seen by Titanic

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James Douglas Smith

Forgive me if I am merely repeating a question that has already come up on another strain, but in reading Geoffrey Marcus's book, Maiden Voyage, I have noticed that he cites several instances of "near misses" between icebergs and ships on the North Atlantic route--at least one of which involved Officer Murdoch. Invariably these were hushed up by the officers. And I began to wonder: perhaps the Titanic had similar experiences during her maiden voyage prior to her encounter at 11:40. Is there any chance that she had already dodged an iceberg or two, or any evidence that the lookouts had even sighted other icebergs before then? After all, in The Night Lives On, Walter Lord asserts that Titanic had been steaming through ice-infested waters for over two hours.


Inger Sheil

Feb 9, 1999
Hallo James -

George Behe has published a work that deals with this idea - 'Titanic: Safety, Speed and Sacrifice' (not sure of the order of the alliterative words in that title). If you search through past threads you'll find that this has been discussed fairly exhaustively. It is a possibility, and there are some reports that the lookouts claimed to have given the bridge prior warnings either that they had sighted ice or that they suspected ice was in the area. Unfortunately the material comes through second hand, fairly garbled reports.

Regarding Murdoch having been involved in a 'near miss' between his ship and an iceberg on a previous voyage, I think you'll find that the incident in question actually involved Murdoch, while an officer on the Arabic, taking action to avoid another vessel - not an iceberg. It was his decisive action that prevented the collision and possibly saved both ships (or at least the windjammer).

Marcus' work, IMHO, is still one of the best overviews of navigational practices on the North Atlantic during the era - it makes for fascinating and deeply disturbing reading.

~ Inger

George Behe

Dec 11, 1999
Hi, James!

>And I began to wonder: perhaps the Titanic had >similar
> experiences during her maiden >voyage prior to her encounter at 11:40. Is there >any chance that she had
> already dodged an iceberg or >two, or any evidence that the lookouts had even >sighted other icebergs
> before then?

Yes, it's a distinct possibility, since (while on board the Carpathia) a number of survivors claimed to have overheard Titanic's lookouts discussing their sightings of icebergs prior to the 11:40 p.m. collision.

>After all, in The Night Lives On, Walter Lord >asserts that Titanic had been steaming through
> ice-infested waters for over >two hours.

That's absolutely true. The Senate ice chart shows that Titanic steamed right *through* a belt of icebergs during the hours preceding the collision; it's hard to believe that this could have occurred without the lookouts seeing at least one of those bergs.

All my best,

May 8, 2001
James. George Behe may have written about this story in his "Forewarnings" book as well, but I don't have it (yet) so I will go off the cuff with another account I read and found most interesting.
I remember reading, in Eva Harts book I believe, that her mother woke her father the night before when she heard a grinding noise against the ship, and made him get up investigate it. He came back embarrassed and very angry that it was not that "dreadful thing" she was bracing for, but the next day several passengers approached her and asked about it. That night, (I think) she heard it again and she woke him up once more. He almost wouldn't get up, but she insisted which is a good thing as it saved Eva and her lives.
Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
G'day James...I'll have to throw in with the others that it's entirely possible that they saw icebergs befor they finally saw the iceberg which finally crashed the party. The U.S. Senate report has chart#1 in which the reported ice appears to extend at least as far to the east as it runs from north to south. Bear in mind that what this chart has is the reported ice. God only knows what was missed. All things considered, I'm surprised the Titanic made it as far as she did.

The proposition that bergs were actually spotted earlier is not without it's problems though. Aside from the second hand nature of the source material, it's very difficult to see much of anything out on the open ocean at night even under the best of conditions. Nevertheless, it's impossible to rule this theory out. If they saw one or more befor the fatal berg, it may very well have been a near miss situation.

Michael H. Standart
Oct 28, 2000
All of what Michael says regarding seeing things at night is quite true. Even so, I am certain that Titanic's lookouts must have spotted icebergs and notified the bridge about them prior to "The" iceberg at 11:40 pm. If nothing else, we can apply simple logic. At the time of the accident, Californian was actually inside the ice line only a few miles to the north and had found the path completely blocked. After Titanic sank, Carpathia accomplished a brilliant "broken field run" through icebergs, growlers, and bergy bits. Now, the ice was there before the accident...and after the accident...that's pretty good evidence it was there during the accident as well.

Just yesterday I found a couple of references from crew testimony regarding icebergs around the ship when it was stopped prior to 11:50 pm. One berg was located not far off the starboard side about in way of the engine rooms. This berg was mistaken as "the" iceberg by people who arrived late on deck and did not know the real deadly berg had passed astern immediately following the accident. This means the ship was surrounded by ice immediately after the accident--more proof of the conditions.

-- David G. Brown
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