Porting Around The Berg


Sep 22, 2003
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Im not sure whether or not this has a thread already, i did try looking though. anyway I was simply interested in: Does anyone here Favor this theory, Not Sure but Open to it, or opposes it.

Heres a Short Description of it from "Collins, Captain L. Marmaduke. The Sinking of the Titanic, An Ice Pilot’s Perspective" Pg 37:

Rounding an object “close aboard” requires precise judgment and adaptability. To avoid or minimize contact damage should iceberg, for example, be encountered unexpectedly at close quarters, the rudder must be hard over away from the iceberg. The engine speed must be increased, if not already at full speed ahead. The instant the bow clears or hits the iceberg, the rudder must be put hard over the other way and the engine speed maintained. This is vital in preventing the hull abaft the pivot point from striking the iceberg. (Collin's Does not favor this theory, and explains why on following page, I simply liked his description best)

Evidence in Favor of theory:

Senator BURTON. Just where were you when you saw the iceberg?

Mr. ROWE. On the poop, sir; underneath the after bridge.

Senator BURTON. You were located practically right on the stern of the boat?

Mr. ROWE. Right on the stern, sir; the poop.

Senator BURTON. And the iceberg, when the boat rubbed against it, was right near, was it?

Mr. ROWE. Yes, sir.

Senator BURTON. How far, would you say?

Mr. ROWE. It was so near that I thought it was going to strike the bridge.

Senator BURTON. Did it strike the bridge?

Mr. ROWE. No, sir: never.

Senator BURTON. Only 10 or 20 feet away?

Mr. ROWE. Not that far, sir.

Senator BURTON. Did you notice the iceberg when the boat got clear of it?

Mr. ROWE. No, sir; I went on the bridge then, to stand by the telephone.

Senator BURTON. Could you hear the ice scraping along on the boat where you were?

Mr. ROWE. No, sir.

Senator BURTON. So you do not know whether it was rubbing against the hull there or not?

Mr. ROWE. No, sir.

Senator BURTON. What is your best judgment about that?

Mr. ROWE. I do not think it was.

Senator BURTON. You are positive you heard no rubbing?

Mr. ROWE. Yes, sir.

Senator BURTON. Do you not think that if the helm had been hard astarboard the stern would have been up against the berg?

Mr. ROWE. It stands to reason it would, sir, if the helm were hard astarboard
(http://www.titanicinquiry.org/USInq/AmInq07Rowe01.html or Pg 522-523 in CIS Senate Hearings Reprint)

Mr. OLLIVER. I know the orders I heard when I was on the bridge was after we had struck the iceberg. I heard hard aport, and there was the man at the wheel and the officer. The officer was seeing it was carried out right.

Senator BURTON. What officer was it?

Mr. OLLIVER. Mr. Moody, the sixth officer, was stationed in the wheelhouse.

Senator BURTON. Who was the man at the wheel?

Mr. OLLIVER. Hichens, quartermaster.

Senator BURTON. You do not know whether the helm was put hard astarboard first, or not?

Mr. OLLIVER. No, sir; I do not know that.

Senator BURTON. But you know it was put hard aport after you got there?

Mr. OLLIVER. After I got there; yes, sir.

Senator BURTON. Where was the iceberg, do you think, when the helm was shifted?

Mr. OLLIVER. The iceberg was away up stern.

Senator BURTON. That is when the order "hard aport" was given?

Mr. OLLIVER. That is when the order "hard aport" was given; yes, sir.

Senator BURTON. Who gave the order?

Mr. OLLIVER. The first officer.

Senator BURTON. And that order was immediately executed, was it?

Mr. OLLIVER. Immediately executed, and the sixth officer saw that it was carried out.
(http://www.titanicinquiry.org/USInq/AmInq07Olliver01.html or Pg 527-528 of CIS Senate Hearings Reprint)

350. When you got on deck did you see anything; did you see any ice or iceberg? - Oh, yes, when we first came up.

351. Tell me what you saw. - When we came up, that was before the boatswain's call, we saw a large quantity of ice on the starboard side on the forewell deck, and I went and looked over the rail there and I saw an iceberg that I took it we had struck. It would be abaft the beam then - abaft the starboard beam.

352. Was it close to? - No, it seemed the ship was acting on her helm and we had swung clear of the iceberg.

353. But how far away from your beam was the iceberg, a ship's length or two ships' length? - Not a ship's length.

354. You speak of this ship as if answering her helm - as if answering under which helm? - Under the starboard helm - under the port helm.

355. Get it right? - Under port helm. Her stern was slewing off the iceberg. Her starboard quarter was going off the icebergs, and the starboard bow was going as if to make a circle round it.

The Commissioner: You must be a little more particular about this, and make me understand it.

Mr. Butler Aspinall: I think what he means is that she was acting - correct me if I am wrong.

The Witness: Yes.

356. She was acting as if under port helm, her head going to starboard? - That is correct.

The Commissioner: The ship's head was going to starboard?

357. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Yes. (To the Witness.) Had your ship headway on at the time - or not do you think? - I cannot say.

358. You do not know? - No.
(http://www.titanicinquiry.org/BOTInq/BOTInq02Scarrott01.html or PRO Reprint of British Inquiry)

Yes I Favor This Theory. Although Hitchens Says his only Order was Hard a starboard. Mainly I favor it because of the evidence I Presented, and because Hitchens had been bribed (Refer to "Behe, George. Titanic: Safety, Speed and Sacrifice" and "Lynch, Don & Ken Marschall. Titanic. An Illustrated History") which although in itself isn't proof he was lying(which I doubt he was lying, I do suspect though that he was Selective in giving evidence at the Senate Hearing and British Inquiry), is good enough reason to question his testimony.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Jesse: If the question is: "Did Murdoch attempt to port around the berg?" then we have some insights from 4/O Boxhall.

At the American Inquiry Boxhall said:

The captain said, "What have we struck?" Mr. Murdoch, the first officer, said, "We have struck an iceberg." He followed on to say - Mr. Murdoch followed on to say, "I put her hard astarboard and run the engines full astern, but it was too close; she hit it." Mr. Murdoch also said, "I intended to port around it." "But she hit before I could do any more."

At the British Inquiry he said:

The Captain was alongside of me when I turned round... he asked him what we had struck. The First Officer said, "An iceberg, Sir. I hard-a-starboarded and reversed the engines, and I was going to hard-a-port round it but she was too close. I could not do any more. I have closed the watertight doors."

In 1962 Boxhall said in a BBC broadcast:

“The Capt. asked Murdoch, ‘What is the matter, what have we struck?’ ‘We struck an iceberg, sir. I’m going full speed astern, sir, on the port engine.’ And he swung her head around towards port. And she was on the swing then, and that’s why she was torn underneath, she was penetrated in six compartments.”

The evidence shows that a hard-aport was ordered and carried out. Notice that Boxhall never says anything about hearing what Olliver heard about a hard-aport order being given. Yet he does go on to talk about the Capt., he and Murdoch going out on the bridge wing to see the berg. In his BBC broadcast he said he left them “on the starboard wing of the bridge” while he “slipped down to go forward to have a look.” The Titanic was turning just as Scarrott had mentioned under port helm with "her stern was slewing off the iceberg" in order for the berg to be seen off the starboard quarter. Alfred Shiers also confirmed this when he came topside.

Before the collision we have Hichens who said she was under starboard helm as she struck, and the two lookouts, Fleet and Lee, who both said they saw the ship veer to port. Again, that is before the collision. After the collision we have Olliver, Scarrott, and Shiers who gave evidence that she was put under port helm.

A failed port around, or just an attempt to minimize damage when it became clear that impact was unavoidable? I think the latter.
 
Sep 22, 2003
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Samuel

I find the points you came up w/ interesting and must admit I have for the most part been in favor of the Porting around the Berg Theory since I read D.E. Bristow's "Titanic: Sinking the Myths".

I believe Murdoch Intended to port around the Berg when he gave the Order hard a starboard, as I think as an Officer w/ years of experience at sea that he probably knew if this wasn't done he ran the risk of damaging the whole starboard side and possibly injuring people in the process.

of course whether or not those were his intentions will forever remain a mystery, unless of course a Time Machine is ever invented.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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I think Jesse we are in agreement for the most part. What I am not so sure about is if Murdoch had actually intended to port around the berg or just reacted that way when he realized that he had to take some form of action. The real question is when did he sight the berg and did he delay action until it was too late? In any event, it appears he turned the ship away from heading toward the berg and then shifted his rudder to clear the stern as she hit. By time the berg passed the stern the ship was no longer under starboard helm as Rowe had said, and actually started to slew away from the berg under port helm as witnessed by Scarrott and Shiers.

There are those who also suggest that the ship was steadied up and was not turning at all when she struck the ice. I would rather not debate that point again, but it does make an interesting twist to the overall scenario.
 
Aug 15, 2005
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I believe that Murdoch did act on instinct, but I have something for you to consider.
When I was about 13, and had little to no knowledge of seamanship, I was on Southport boating lake in a small motorised craft. I cannot remember what exactly, but something distracted my attention for a short while. When I looked back to where my gaze should have been permanently fixed, I saw a pier stanchion about three feet away and dead ahead.
Instinct was to port around it at full throttle (though the boat turned like a car, rather than a large ship), and I just about avoided collision - of course, due to my lack of experience, I had no idea that the after part of the starboard side would then be on a collision course with the stanchion.
Again, instinct kicked in, and I turned to starboard just at the right moment, avoiding disaster by about three inches.
I had always had a passion for Titanic, but this was when I became really interested in Murdoch's actions, and when I compared his actions to mine, I couldn't help but wonder - how could the instinctive actions of an inexperienced 13 year old (without the power of hindsight, might I add) outdo those of an experienced officer?
Not to be disrespectful - Will Murdoch is one of my heroes, even - but I think that the first officer may have been drinking that night.
Any views?
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hello Ryan,

quote:

how could the instinctive actions of an inexperienced 13 year old (without the power of hindsight, might I add) outdo those of an experienced officer?
Not to be disrespectful - Will Murdoch is one of my heroes, even - but I think that the first officer may have been drinking that night.
Any views?

In all frankness, this view strikes me as fairly ignorant.

As Sam and Jason have asked, is there any evidence that Murdoch may have been drinking alcohol that night to such an extent as to impair his judgement? I'm not aware of any, and I've never seen any evidence presented to support that. Indeed, your post seems to imply that it's merely your 'thinking.'

With regard to any comparison between Murdoch's actions and your own, in my view they are very different situations that cannot be compared in any meaningful sense. Frankly, we'll never know how any other officer would have handled the situation, and I have yet to be convinced that another officer would have handled it any better (or worse) than Murdoch. Indeed, the moments leading up to the collision, the collision itself and the damage are still debated and on many issues there is no consensus. I just don't see any potential for an enlightening debate here between two very different scenarios.

Best regards,

Mark.​
 
Aug 15, 2005
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Like I say Sam and Jason, I mean no disrespect, and Murdoch is one of my heroes, it's just that I think that the only way such a bad judgement can be taken by a person is for them to be inebriated.
My sister, for example (regardless of what you think of women drivers), is a fine driver, but one time, after having only one pint of Guinness, she misjudged a turn around a bollard and ended up with a large dent in her rear wing.
It's as plausible a theory as any, if you ask me, and I'd rather say he was drunk than say he was incompetent.
Regards, Ryan.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Ryan: If you had ran into that pier stanchion instead of missing it by inches should we conclude you were drunk?

Now consider what would have happened if you were on that boating lake on a perfectly clear but dark night and someone in the bow of you boat called out to you that there was something in the water directly ahead of you. You look and see a dark object and you try to avoid it but it is too close and you crash into it. Should I conclude you were drunk? Does that make you incompetent because you could not avoid hitting the uncharted object?
 

Paul Rogers

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quote:

It's as plausible a theory as any, if you ask me, and I'd rather say he was drunk than say he was incompetent.
Why would he have to be either? Stating that Murdoch had to be either: [1] drunk, or [2] incompetent, is far too simplistic an assessment of the accident, IMHO.

Addendum: Sam's post (above) crossed with mine, and he explained the point that I was attempting to make in a far better way.​
 
Aug 15, 2005
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Of course, Paul; he needn't have been either, but we all know (and by saying this, I don't mean that this was the wrong thing to do; he was just trying to save his ship) that throwing the engines astern was not the wisest action.
Please try to look at this from my point of view - I am starting to feel cornered.
 

Jason D. Tiller

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quote:

It's as plausible a theory as any, if you ask me, and I'd rather say he was drunk than say he was incompetent.

No, it's not. As Mark has already pointed out, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to suggest this. The iceberg was directly in front of him. He did what he thought was right, so he didn't have any time to consider other options.

Again, you are comparing two very different situations. A car is not a ship, they manoeuvre very differently. Perhaps William Murdoch misjudged the turn, but that doesn't mean for one second that he was drunk. Frankly, that doesn't hold water and it's not evidence.

Murdoch did his very best to get out of the way and that's all anybody can ask for.​
 

Paul Rogers

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quote:

...but we all know [snip] that throwing the engines astern was not the wisest action.
Ah! Well, there is still debate over whether this order was actually given and/or carried out. A search of the Message Board will bring up the relevant threads. Even if the order was carried out, the engines were (most probably) put astern far too late to have any great impact on the manoeuvre that Murdoch was attempting.
quote:

Please try to look at this from my point of view - I am starting to feel cornered.
You should not take it personally, Ryan. If one posts an opinion (or theory, or hypothesis) on a forum such as this, then one must expect it to be challenged. One must also be willing to support one's opinion with reasoning and evidence, and be willing to argue their corner whilst accepting that others may hold opposing views. This is even more true should one post a 'contentious' opinion, as you have done here.

Addendum: Damnit! Beaten by Jason this time!
happy.gif
 

Bob Godfrey

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Paul, it's been noted that your reactions are slowing to the point where other members are hitting their 'post' buttons just that bit faster than you. Have you been drinking?
:)
 
Aug 15, 2005
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OK. I did expect debating, but it seemed to me that I was being picked on.
Jason... I know that a car turns differently than a ship - I was just trying to say that even the smallest amount of alcohol can impair your judgement no matter how skilled you are, and I'm sure that, as a Scotsman, Murdoch will have had a hip-flask to fend off the Atlantic temperature - I'm not saying that he drank on duty, either.
You can see what I am saying about the instinctive actions though, surely?
Paul - I will find these threads and take a look, but nothing will shake my belief that Titanic would have turned in time if going at full speed. I believe that Murdoch did order the engines to be thrown astern.
I mean no iniquity to Murdoch's character, or anything in saying it, but does it not make you question his actions?
Regards, Ryan.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hello Ryan,

quote:

will find these threads and take a look, but nothing will shake my belief that Titanic would have turned in time if going at full speed. I believe that Murdoch did order the engines to be thrown astern.

This strikes my as an unusual position. You're saying that, on the one hand you'll look at the debate as to whether or not Murdoch ordered full astern...Yet on the other you say that 'nothing will shake' your belief as to the Titanic's turning capabilities at full speed, and -- apparently -- your belief that Murdoch did order full astern.

What's the point in looking up the debates if you've already decided that you'll stick to your current viewpoint? After all, historical research tends to be based on flexibility. Historians can, and should, be ready to change their views if they feel it's warranted -- as new information and fresh thinking becomes available.

Best wishes,

Mark.​
 
Mar 22, 2003
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I think it is dangerous to be judgmental when we don't even have all the facts. Even an attempt to reverse engines (even if there were really no time for that to be carried out) does not mean it was unwise. The one thing that is taught in collision avoidance is to avoid a direct impact. By turning away you can dissipate the energy across a larger area and possibly avoid a breech in the hull. Reversing the engines, if it could be done in time, would certainly reduce the energy of impact as well. Half the speed, 1/4 the energy. Keeping full ahead on all engines with full rudder may not be the most effective way to port around unless you had the room to carry out a successful maneuver. And then you might want to reverse the inboard engine to tighten the initial turn and flip things the other way when you shift rudder.

--Would it be likely to get rid of the berg quickly? - Oh, yes, to get away from it; that would be the idea of stopping the port engine or reversing it.

--Reverse the port and keep ahead with the starboard? - That would twist it quicker.

--At once? - Very quickly.

--That would be the quickest way of altering the course of the steamer? - I should think so.

And that was from a Master Mariner.

And so I come back to what I said before, Murdoch's attempt may have been to minimize damage realizing it was too late for a successful attempt to port around.
 

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