Porting around In relation to the groundingcollision


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Mike G. Anderson

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Having speed-read through David Brown's Last Log of the Titanic which I recieved as a gift yesterday, (Which was fantastic by the way, very thought provoking. It really pulls together many of the discussions on this board into a single, cohesive work.) I found myself questioning the grounding theory. While it seems logical, I wondered if there was an alternative impact scenario. Specifically, the mention of "impulse and momentum" caught my eye. The book reads that "a few light taps seem unlikely...given that the ship was making more than 22 knots at impact...", in regard to the hull of the ship rebounding on the iceberg in the event of a sideswipe. However, because the ship was turning to starboard/on port-helm when the impact occured, with the forepeak nearly past the berg, it would seem that the full momentum of the ship would not be pushing the ship against the ice. If I am not mistaken, the momentum of the ship was carrying the the ship away from the berg and the "torque" (Poor word choice, I'm not sure of the correct term.) of the rudder was pushing the bow towards it. Because the full momentum of the ship was not placed on the starboard bow, is it possible that the rebound effect could be minimised to a slight rumble, as felt by the passengers?

Also, I'm not quite sure if this falls into place, but it seems generally accepted that the berg was a "black berg", recently capsized. This assumption seems to be upheld in the book, as the berg is said to have looked like a path through the "haze" of the pack ice. Yet, an explanation for the ice on the well deck was that the softer ice above the waterline crumbled when the berg's balance shifted. Yet if the ice was recently submerged, wouldn't the visible ice have a "crystalline structure...[that is] much denser, with smaller gas pockets [than white, above water ice]," thus being much less likely to crumble because of a shift in weight, requiring actualy impact to break off?

If any of you could point out what I missunderstood, or simply missed in my reading, it would be much appreciated. Likewise if you think I made a completely erroneous statement or took a quote out of context, a correction would be welcome. In any case, these are just random thoughts from a layman, curious to hear a response to landlubber logic.
 
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Tom Pappas

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I have always wondered how an iceberg made of fresh water (glacial in origin) could melt underneath if the temperature of the water it was in was near the freezing point of sea water. We know there was sea (pack) ice in the vicinity, so this seems likely.
 
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Let me 'splain, as they say...

As to the "port around," five years ago when I wrote that I was trying to make Titanic perform a maneuver that seemed to defy logic. I knew that the conventional story of a sweeping left turn (starboard helm) sideswipe would have yielded a totally different accident than developed. And, I could not accept that Murdoch might have actually wanted to hit the iceberg square on the nose. So, I worked a scenario that more-or-less answered these problems, although admittedly in a clumsy fashion.

The "grounding" concept came from a series of echo-tours that I was running. We took people ashore to view a heron and American bald eagle nesting area. This required a deliberate grounding of a metallic vessel on a shingle beach. The similarity of the descriptions of the accident by Titanic survivors to my much smaller deliberate grounding set my mind to racing. The more I studied the iceberg event, the better that concept seemed as an explanation for how it was possible to do so much damage with so little apparent impact.

As to icebergs melting...my research says the top melts faster due to weathering (sun, rain, warm air) until the bergs reach the Gulf Stream. Then the game gets more exciting. Titanic's berg had just reached the Gulf Stream, so was just begining to feel the effects of those warm waters. However, it had been exposed to years of weathering which had undoubtedly resulted in numerous capsizes over the years of its existence. Icebergs are not stable in the water. As they melt, their equilibriums are upset and sudden capsizes are quite common as a result. A capsize does not have to be a "bottoms up" event. The berg may only roll 45 degrees, exposing dark ("black") unweathered ice while not completely submerging the weathered softer ice that has been above the waterline. The dark side of the berg was toward Titanic, but the ship rotated its bow toward the berg under port helm (right rudder) during the accident making possible contact between softer, exposed ice and the ship's steel topsides.

At the time I wrote the book I was of the opinion that the lookouts were fooled by the appearance of the field ice into thinking it was haze. My experience in the pilot house has been that most dangers are seen early enough, but all too often they are mis-perceived as something quite different from what they are. Seeing ice, but thinking it to be haze would be an example of this.

Since writing that book, I've spent an enormous amount of time learning from the members of this forum and doing additional research into the events surrounding the accident. I am quite proud to say that I have changed my opinions about many of the details surrounding the items under discussion here. That is the humbling nature of research, it shows you the errors in your thinking.

For instance, I do not now believe that Murdoch ever tried or intended to try to "port around" the iceberg. The "hard a-starboard" left turn was completed only seconds before...but before... the ship became aware of the iceberg. After studying in detail Murdoch's engine orders I have had to change my opinion entirely on his intentions. Murdoch intended to hit the berg head-on, but this did not happen for any of a number of reasons. When he felt the ship strike on the starboard side, Murdoch had no options left except to put on right rudder (port helm) and try to clear the midships and stern.

Five years ago, the only way I could make the "port around" maneuver plausible was to extend the time between the lookouts' first alarm and impact. That never seemed exactly right. Today, I have found a better time frame for the accident is about 55 to 65 seconds between the alarm bell and impact. Five years ago, I tried to make Titanic perfomr two-point maneuvers in 37 seconds. Today, I am of the opinion that the tests done using Olympic (from which the 37 seconds comes) were irrelevant to what really happened.

Authors do not always recognize the best (or worst) parts of their books. It took Parks Stephenson to recognized the importance of my proposal that Titanic "grounded" on the iceberg. He and I collaborated on the Grounding White Paper for SNAME. That was two years ago. At the time I still thought we were making an unique contribution to Titanic research.

Since then, I have discovered that the widely-held belief in the seafaring community was that Titanic ran over (i.e. "grounded") on an underwater extension of the iceberg. Nate Robison found one example written by a U.S. Navy officer contemporary with the sinking. This week I found a 1926 edition of "Bowditch, American Practical Navigator" which describes exactly the kind of accident that I proposed for Titanic in "Last Log." This book even gives the experiences of a ship called Nessmore that survived an accident much like Titanic's.

My finding of the '26 edition of "Bowditch" was not accidental. Currently, I am working with a consortium of researchers and authors to sort out the events of Titanic's accident. Part of my research is to locate insofar as possible contemporary thoughts on the maneuvering of ships, ice dangers, etc. Other members of this team effort include Captain Erik Wood, Nate Robison, Captain Charlie Weeks, and the crew of the Titanic in Topeka event last fall.

This new work is in the negotiation stage with a publisher, which pretty much ties our hands as to what we can and cannot say in public. Publishers are pretty demanding that they receive first rights to the ideas contained in the works submitted.

In the meantime, I stand by the overall concepts presented in "Last Log." If anyone has specific questions, please shoot them along and I will attempt to answer them.

Finally, "Last Log" has been one of International Marine's best efforts in terms of buyer acceptance--sales. My undying and heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has purchased a copy, who has received a copy as a gift, or who has read a copy from their library.

-- David G. Brown
 
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Tom Pappas

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Here is a question about "Last Log":

Senator SMITH. When she struck this obstacle, or this black mass, was there much of a jar to the ship?

Mr. FLEET. No, sir.

Senator SMITH. Was there any?

Mr. FLEET. Just a slight grinding noise.

Senator SMITH. Not sufficient to disturb you in your position in the crow's nest?

Mr. FLEET. No, sir.
----------------------------------------
The Attorney-General: It looked as if she was going to clear it, and then did you feel a blow?

Lee: As she struck on the starboard bow there was a certain amount of ice that came on board the ship. That was the forewell deck. It seemed as if she struck just before the foremast.
----------------------------------------------

It seems to me that if Titanic's hull had grounded on the iceberg, it would have been displaced upwards by no small measure. Fleet and Lee, atop their perch some 100 feet above the fulcrum point, would have been suddenly pitched a foot or more abaft by the lever arm. Their testimony reveals no such motion.
 
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Mike G. Anderson

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David,
All that seems very logical, thank you for clearing that up. I do indeed think that the Titanic grounded, but I just wanted to bring up a thought.

Sorry to ask another question without providing any answers, but there's one other thing I do not understand. (This all assuming that you mean the 55-65 second time frame is the iceberg warning, as opposed to the "black mass" warning.) I was reading through an article, Hard-A-Starboard by Nathan Robinson. (I can't seem to find it on the main page at the moment, but I think I remember the gist of it.)It seemed to say that starboard helm command was a course change. This seems to be what put the ice berg "right ahead". This seems to click into place with what David said about the hard a-starboard" being completed before the berg was sighted. But the article didn't seem to provide a solid reason for the course change, or one that I could comprehend anyway. In any case, is this what is currently seems to be the course of events? And what was the reason for the course change?

Anyway, sorry to ask more question. But thanks in advance.
 
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<font color="#000066">Their testimony reveals no such motion.

Tom,

You might be overlooking the following:

"...The ship seemed to heel slightly over to port as she struck the berg...very slightly to port as she struck along the starboard side."
Lookout Reginald Lee

You can interpret that as you will, but I read Lee's recollection as indicative of the starboard side lifting slightly.

Parks
 
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Thanks to Parks for finding lookout Lee's quote on the ship lifting on the starboard side during the accident. To me, this is a fairly substantial "smoking gun" for the grounding theory. However, the very lack of violent impact is the strongest argument for grounding. Please see the "White Paper" that Parks and I produced. It has the details, so there is no need to repeat them here.

With regard to the "hard a-starboard," Mike is right on the money. Pared to the bone, my theory is that Titanic turned left two points (22 1/2 degrees) to avoid the "haze" (code word in the crew's testimony for field ice) right across the bow. Nobody saw the berg until the Oh sh.. moment. I am totally convinced that Hichens told the truth about receiving starboard helm commmands prior to impact. However, he was in the process of completing that course change at the time of the lookouts' warning bell. Note that both Lee and Fleet both said the ship was going straight at the berg until just as Fleet picked up the phone to the bridge. In his testimony Hichens also confirmed that the ship had completed a left turn prior to the warning from the lookout.

I have just located a 1926 copy of "Bowditch, American Practical Navigator." The ice navigation section seems to be a thinly disguised discussion of Titanic's accident, although the ship is never mentioned. Another British ship, the Nessmore, is used as a stand-in. This vessel stove in her bows on an iceberg. The textbook says, "On docking her a long score was found extending from abreast her forerigging all the way aft, just above her keel. Four frames were broken and the plates were almost cut through. The ship evidently struck a projecting spur after her helm had been put over, as there was clear water between her and the berg after the first collision."

During the BOT inquiry Captains Cannons and Braes spoke of seeing icebergs at three miles on dark nights. Maybe they did. However, In the ice navigation section the 1926 "Bowditch" book says, "On a clear, dark starlight night, an iceberg is rarely discernible at a greater distance than a quarter of a mile." At 22 knots, Titanic traveled roughly 37 feet per second. If the berg was not seen until the lookouts rang their bell, it was at a range of 2,200 feet or one-third of a mile.

At the time when I was writing "Last Log" I was quite skeptical of some testimony by key witnesses. It did not seem to make sense. Today, I realize that I should have been more skeptical of my thinking and less of the people who survived Titanic. As I delve into the testimonies of the survivors I become more and more convinced that any inconsistencies come not from their words, but from the interpretations of those statements by government officials, news reporters, and historians--particularly historians. It has become the norm in Titanic research to go back only as far as the Lord Mersey's final report which is replete with mistakes and distortions (e.g. that the ship sank intact). Thanks to Rob Ottmers, however, we all have equal access to the "raw data" of the investigations. If the availability of the original transcripts does not result in wholesale changes to the traditional story of the accident and sinking...then a great resource has been wasted.

-- David G. Brown
 

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Dave!

>In his testimony Hichens also confirmed that the >ship had completed a left turn prior to the >warning from the lookout.

Could you please quote the testimony where Hichens made this claim? The reason I'm asking about this is that Hichens said the following at the British Inquiry:

943. Up to the time of the collision did she vary from her course at all? - Not that I am aware of, not more than a degree on either side.

>During the BOT inquiry Captains Cannons and Braes >spoke of seeing icebergs at three miles on dark >nights. Maybe they did.

If I recall correctly, Rostron told the British Inquiry that he was able to spot bergs at a distance of two miles that night.

>In the ice navigation section the 1926 "Bowditch"
> book says, "On a clear, dark starlight night, an >iceberg is rarely discernible at a greater
>distance than a quarter of a mile."

IMO, Rostron's testimony suggests that visibility on the night of April 14/15 was one of those rare exceptions to Bowditch's general rule of thumb.

Hope you'll have a Happy New Year, old chap.

All my best,

George
 
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George -- The easy question is the visibility of icebergs. Obviously, those that could be seen at some safe distance were seen in time to be avoided. For some reason, one particular iceberg was not seen in time to be avoided. How many other "near misses" were never recorded because nobody knew they took place? Or, because nobody wanted to admit being so foolish?

Rostron performed marvelously that night, without doubt the best of any captain involved. However, I am coming to believe that he was not immune from spinning a sea story or two when it enhanced his reputation. And, while I hesitate mentioning Captain Lord in the same paragraph with Rostron...I must point out that neither Californian nor Titanic saw the ice in time that night. It would appear that two-thirds of the ships in the story proved the 1926 "Bowditch" to be correct. I'll go with the odds on this one, while still tipping my hat to Captain Rostron.

Your quote from Hichens would have been accurate if the ship had been performing Mobius loops or steaming straight-as-a-die for New York. Hichens simply said he steered the course as given to him, which was the truth. If I quibble with him it would be over the "degree or two" of wandering. His testimony suggests he might have been steering about 3 degrees "high" (to the right) of his course at the time of the accident.

Honestly, there was a point at which I became so frustrated with Hichens testimony that I wanted to call him not a liar, but a damned liar. Then, I decided to assume for argument's sake that he spoke only the truth and nothing less. I forced myself to align his testimony with that of other eyewitnesses. It now became clear that Hichens often "slanted" his testimony to his favor, but at the moment I cannot find a place where he lied (knowingly told an untruth).

With regard to language, and specifically seaman's language...I've found that the questioners often did not understand precisely what they were asking. As pointed out here, a ship may steer in many directions without the quartermaster departing from his course--if the new directions are posted on the course board and the man at the wheel does his job correctly. A ship does not depart from its course just because it changes direction of travel.

Olliver's testimony has several instances of the questioner using nautical language imprecisely. The best is when Olliver was asked when the helm was hard over to port. He answered that the berg was, "up astern," which was the truth. In quartermaster talk the helm was not hard over until the steering wheel came against the stop. The senator asking the question, however, really wanted to know when the order was given. Similarly, many historians have misinterpreted Olliver as saying the turning of the helm did not start until the iceberg was astern, while the man was referring to the moment when the helm was actually "hard over."

In "Last Log" I pointed out that the use of the word "struck" or "to strike" by sailors had a very specific meaning in 1912--to go aground or to touch the bottom. The use of this word consistently throughout their testimony is a good indicator of how they viewed the accident, as a sort of touch-and-go grounding. Unfortunately, land-bound investigators, reporters, historians, and even some surviving passengers misunderstood the use of "struck" by sailors. They took it to mean a sideswipe of the bow and a myth of titanic proportions was born.

Incidentally, the 1926 "Bowditch" is quite careful to use the word "strike" in its correct nautical form. When retelling the Nessmore story, the book says it "ran into a berg" to describe the stoving of the bow; and later says "The ship evidentally struck a projecting spur..." to describe damage to the bottom near the keel. By using the correct verbiage, "Bowditch" was able to explain the dual nature of the accident. The bow ran into the berg, but Nessmore's bottom struck on the spur.

--David G. Brown
 

George Behe

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Hi, Dave!

>How many other "near misses" were never recorded >because nobody knew they took place? Or, because >nobody wanted to admit being so foolish?

According to "Titanic: Safety, Speed and Sacrifice," the correct answer is three. :)

>It now became clear that Hichens often "slanted" >his testimony to his favor, but at the moment I >cannot find a place where he lied (knowingly told >an untruth).

That might well be true. However, you originally said:

>In his testimony Hichens also confirmed that the >ship had completed a left turn prior to the >warning from the lookout.

I don't mean to belabor the point, but -- to the best of my knowledge -- Hichens never confirmed such a thing at all. (If I'm mistaken, though, I hope you'll point me to the pertinent page in the Inquiry where Hichens testified to that effect.)

All my best,

George
 
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George -- My notes are closed for the holidays. However, Hichens does quote some steering compass readings in regard to the accident. Memory tells me that he described a turn of about 19 degrees.

My approach these days is to limit my research to original sources. This means primarily to the transcripts of the hearings. And, I have chosen to accept that everything said in those transcripts is true unless there is uncontrovertable proof to the contrary. The result has been enlightening, but not always in keeping with what I call the "Titanic Cannon"--the generally-accepted-as-true version of the story.

So, I am accepting that Hichens turned left prior to the accident. He said he did and that's that. What Hichens did not know...because he was inside a blind box...was the relationship of that turn to the fatal iceberg.

--David G. Brown
 
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Tom Pappas

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PS: I was looking for some evidence of a backward lurch of the crow's nest resulting from the bow being driven upwards. I always took Fleet's observation to be the natural consequence of a starboard turn (Murdoch's port around maneuver).
 

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Dave!

>George -- My notes are closed for the holidays.
>However, Hichens does quote some steering
>compass readings in regard to the accident. >Memory tells me that he described a turn of about
>19 degrees.

I've just reviewed Hichens' entire body of testimony from both boards of inquiry; Hichens described a turn of about two points to port, but he said that this turn took place *after* the lookout's three warning bells. In other words, I'm afraid Hichens said nothing to support your contention that he "confirmed that the ship had completed a left turn *prior* to the warning from the lookout."

Here is an edited version of the pertinent testimony (with extraneous questions and answers having been deleted):

969. (The Attorney-General.) I think we can get at it in this way. What was the first notice to you that there was something ahead? - Three gongs from the crow's-nest, Sir.

972. That meant something ahead? - Yes.

973. How long was that before the order came "Hard-a-starboard"? - Well, as near as I can tell you, about half a minute.

981. Then it means this, that Mr. Moody, the Sixth Officer, got a telephone message after the three bells had been struck? - Immediately after.

982. You did not hear what was said to Mr. Moody, but you heard him acknowledge the message, and say "Thank you"? - Yes. I heard Mr. Moody repeat, "Iceberg right ahead."

983. To whom did he repeat that? - To Mr. Murdoch, the First Officer.

984. "Iceberg right ahead"; is that what he said? - Yes.

985. Repeating what he had heard from the telephone message? - Yes.

986. And then what happened? - I heard Mr. Murdoch rush to the telegraph and give the order, "Hard-a-starboard."
----------------

948. Had you had any instructions before she struck? Had you been told to do anything with your helm before she struck? - Just as she struck I had the order "Hard-a-starboard" when she struck.

949. Just as she struck, is that what you said? - Not immediately as she struck; the ship was swinging. We had the order, "Hard-a-starboard," and she just swung about two points when she struck.

951. Had you time to get the helm hard a starboard before she struck? - No, she was crashing then.

952. Did you begin to get the helm over? - Yes, the helm was barely over when she struck. The ship had swung about two points.

954. (The Commissioner.) Do let me understand; had she swung two points before the crash came? - Yes, my Lord.

955. (The Attorney-General.) I am not quite sure that I understand what you had done to the helm before this. You had got an order, "Hard-a-starboard"? -"Hard-a-starboard," yes.

956. You proceeded at once to put the wheel hard-a-starboard? - Immediately, yes.

957. Before the vessel struck had you had time to get the wheel right over? - The wheel was over then, hard over.

958. (The Commissioner.) Before she struck? - Oh yes, hard over before she struck.
----------------------

All my best,

George
 

John Hemmert

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An amusing "side note" on bergs "rolling"... Sometimes the roll can apparently have VERY spectacular results. This bit is from "The Autobiography of a Seaman" - Admiral Lord Cochrane, Lyons Press, NY, 2000.:
Page 19 (From Chapt. III "The Voyage of the Thetis"):
"One night, finding the temperature of the atmosphere rapidly decreasing, the squadron was proceeding under easy sail,with a vigilant look-out for icebergs. At dawn we were close to a block of these, extending right across our path as far as the eye could reach. The only alternative was to alter our course and pass to the leeward of the group, to which, from the unwonted sublimity of the sight, we approached as nearly as seemed consistent with safety. The appearance of icebergs is so well known that it would be superfluous to describe them. I shall only remark that on passing one field of great extent we were astonished at discovering on its sides three vessels, the one nearest to us being a polacca-rigged ship, elevated at least a hundred feet; the berg having rolled round or been lightened by melting, so that the vessel had the appearance of being on a hill forming the southern portion of the floe."

Now THAT was an "ice ledge"! Imagine the shock of the ship's crew when they were passing the berg (supposing they were going around it) and it rolled, scooping them clean out of the water, and a full 100 feet up!

-John.
 
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A polacca is a two, or three-masted vessel of a design that originated in the Mediterranean. Originally, the word applied to a type of hull design, but later it referred to a particular type of square rig. Given the origin of this type of vessel, it is almost astonishing to read of it around icebergs. However, if it came there in search of fish, the story would make sense. So would the ships being caught on the iceberg. I might imagine they came alongside in search of fresh water in the solid form. If so, consider this quote from the 1926 edition of "Bowditch:"

"Ice is brittle, especially that in bergs, and it is wonderful how little it takes to accomplish their destruction. A blow of an ax will at times split them..."

Imagine somebody swinging an ax to break loose a chunk of hard water and...whooossshhh! Men, ships, everthing is 100 feet in the air.

-- David G. Brown
 
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George -- Your post about Hichens was the subject of day-long ruminations. Tonight as I started to put them onto the computer screen I had what must be called a "titanic epiphany" regarding the man's testimony. What struck me is extremely simple and it solves all of the problems surrounding the ship's maneuvers, but it will require finding some shred of evidence. As of the moment, I have none. And, I am aware that to every problem there is a simple and elegant solution that is...wrong. Allow me some time to study my thoughts before I attempt to insert my #11 boot in my #9 mouth again.

Until moments ago, my approach had been to take each of Hichens's statements and project them forward to see how accurately they predicted future events that we know took place. For instance, his answer to Q948 would have produced an increasing rotation of the midbody and stern toward the iceberg. That would have produced a completely different accident than the one that took place, so Hichens had to have misspoke himself. Indeed, in Q949 he corrects himself with a more plausible situation.

Looking at Q949, we have him describing a ship that turned two points to crash into an iceberg, striking first with the forefoot. For Hichens to have been correct, this requires First Officer Murdoch to have been an incompetent and the lookouts to have been unable to tell their port from dead ahead. Two points is 22.5 degrees, a healthy amount of rotation which implies either a much larger iceberg than anyone described or that Murdoch turned left for a danger on his port side. In other words, Hichen's statment predicts two things that are not likely to have occurred.

That does not mean Hichens lied. It only means he got things confused. His confusion (deliberate or not) is obvious in his statements about when the helm was put over. Sometimes before and sometimes after the accident. Look at his answers to Q951 and Q952; then compare that with his answers to Q957 and Q958.

Which brings me back to my first paragraph and the taste of shoe leather...why did Hichens waffle about this matter? And, why does his description of what happend in the moments surrounding the telephone call match the real motion of the ship around the berg except for the direction of the helm order?

I don't know the answers to those questions yet. Until I do, I have to let it lie. More to come, I promise.

-- David G. Brown
 

John Hemmert

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Oct 16, 2002
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Hi David,

Just a few stray thoughts -
First, regarding Titanic's grounding on the berg. Some other evidence may point towards this. The fact that a fairly "pyramid" shaped berg managed to leave ice on the forward well deck (All the photos of the supposed guilty berg seem to indicate strongly sloped sides) seems to indicate that Titanic trod on the berg's shelf. That would have "levered" the berg's top down in an angle inclined more towards Titanic's hull. This would have taken the near side of the berg and brought it into a more perpendicular angle, resulting in it slamming somewhat into Titanic's side; resulting in ice being sheered off by the rivetted hull. Aided & abetted, no doubt, by titanic's speed, which would have translated into energy that would have made Titanic's relative mass increase considerably. I'd imagine the nefarious "suction effect" would have helped somewhat also. (What's really needed here is a mechanical engineer with a strong background in physics, and a good computer...)
Second: One day, the proof may actually be found. With Titanic's bottom punched up enough to have resulted in that one crew ladder being shoved upwards & bent, I'd imagine the ocean bottom at the site of impact may have Titanic's bottom hull plating littered about at the actual impact site. Which should also show just where the actual impact occurred, geographically, given that Titanic steamed onwards for a while afterwards.
Third: I managed to track down the Camperdown/Halifax Marconi "Process Verbal" logs for 1905-1910. (They're at Dalhousie University in Halifax)Was hoping that the 1912 ones would turn up, but it appears that they are either still in private hands, or have been destroyed. (The 1905-1910 ones were owned privately by a collector for some years before donation to the University.) Pity that, a logged Marconi transmission from Titanic to Halifax just a few minutes after the time of impact could have made for some interesting reading. Maybe they'll turn up one day though. I'll have to keep looking.

Ciao!
John.
 

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Dave!

>More to come, I promise.

Thanks very much -- I'm looking forward to hearing about your latest discoveries (the ones you whetted my appetite for in your private email.) :)

Earlier in this thread you shared the following information with us:

>During the BOT inquiry Captains Cannons and Braes >spoke of seeing icebergs at three miles on dark >nights. Maybe they did. However, In the ice >navigation section the 1926 "Bowditch" book says, >"On a clear, dark starlight night, an iceberg is >rarely discernible at a greater distance than a >quarter of a mile."

An interesting development has just taken place though, in that Captain Lewis Collins contacted me privately today and has given me permission to share the following information.

The ice navigation section of the 1958 Bowditch H.O. Pub No 9, page 759 states: "On a clear, dark night an iceberg will seldom be picked up visually at a distance greater than one-fourth of a mile, . . . . "

However, the ice navigation section 3412, page 469 of the 1995 edition of Bowditch states: "On dark, clear nights icebergs may be seen at a distance of from 1 to 3 miles, appearing either as white or black objects . . . ."

Although Captain Collins disagrees with the notion that icebergs appear white on a dark night, it would seem that modern editions of Bowditch support the testimony of Arthur Rostron and other 1912 mariners by confirming that icebergs can be seen on a dark night from a much further distance than was claimed in earlier editions of the nautical textbook. (Whether or not this new information will alter your views re: the elapsed time between the sighting of the berg and the actual collision is another matter, of course.)

Anyway, I hope this new information will be of interest.

All my best,

George
 
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John,

Your thoughts largely parallel my own. After viewing the picture of the berg in Henning Pfeifer's article, the final piece of the puzzle clicked into place for me -- the puzzle of how the ice ended up on deck. No matter which theory about the nature of the collision one chooses to believe, there is no evidence that would indicate a point of impact between Titanic's upper works and the berg that would cause ice to shower down onto the deck, as has been depicted in all the Titanic movies. Pfiefer's picture shows almost an entire face of the berg cleaved off. Based on this, I would assert that the ice that ended up on Titanic's deck (and in some of her portholes) was thrown there when a large portion of the berg facing the ship cleaved away.

Even if this were to be taken as fact, though, it still wouldn't prove the exact nature of the collision. The face of the berg in Pfeifer's photo had to have been unstable for such a large section to cleave off the way it did. Either a grounding strike or a sideswipe might have been enough to fracture that face of the berg; if Titanic hadn't hit it, it might have cleaved under its own weight at some point shortly thereafter.

More importantly, though, the ice on deck and the theory that it originated from a portion of the berg that cleaved off during the collision doesn't disprove the grounding theory. Until such time as it can be proven that the ship didn't ground on the berg, then I'm going to continue to investigate that possibility.

Could the berg have been 'tipped' toward the ship during a grounding? Possibly, but that would be difficult to prove. At this point in time, I would rather spend my energy looking for physical damage that would be indicative of a grounding strike. If possible, I'd like to examine the tank tops in BR #4 for evidence of compression damage.

Just before his 2001 expedition, I briefed James Cameron on the White Paper that Dave Brown and I put together to frame our grounding theory. Cameron took it seriously enough that he made a dedicated effort to examine the Fireman's Passage with one of his ROVs. I was supposed to join the expedition in order to advise in this effort, but an ROV troubeshooting team bumped me the day before I was to join the ship. Cameron proceeded with the exploration anyway and penetrated the interior of the fo'c's'le as far as the top of the spiral staircase. Like Leading Fireman Hendrickson did 89 years before, Cameron looked down the staircase to the Passage at the foot of the steps. Unfortunately, though, he was unable to manoeuvre the ROV down the spiral without silting out his camera. I've seen the video that he took, but it is frustratingly inconclusive.

There may be evidence that can be found down there. I think Cameron will be going back to the wreck in the future. Next time, we might have a little better luck. Of course, reaching the bottom of the ship introduces a new set of problems...how does one differentiate grounding damage from the damage suffered when the bow section struck the ocean floor? I won't know the answer to that question until we see what we can find.

Parks
 
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