Prelude To An Allision - Titanic's Fatal Encounter Revisited

Samuel Halpern

Samuel Halpern

Member
This is Rostron's explanation as to why he was able to sight a berg before the lookout men.
25437. How was it neither of the look-out men saw it or reported it to you? Why did not they see it before you? - Well, of course, they had all had warning about keeping a look-out for growlers and icebergs, previous to going on the look-out, and on the look-out also. You must understand, unless you know what you are looking for, if you see some very dim indistinct shape of some kind, anyone could take that as nothing at all - merely some shadow upon the water, or something of that kind; but people with experience of ice know what to look for, and can at once distinguish that it is a separate object on the water, and it must be only one thing, and that is ice.
25438. So that what it really comes to is this, if I follow you correctly, that it requires a man with some knowledge of icebergs, some experience of picking them up before he can detect them at night? - Precisely.
 
Julian Atkins

Julian Atkins

Member
Wasn't it a bit 'rash' of Murdoch to assume that being alone he could see ice bergs for himself? And clearly he didn't before Fleet saw some dark mass ahead and rang the bell 3 times.

Other ships did not have just one Officer on watch on the bridge. Groves was not alone on the bridge of The Californian as he had Captain Lord with him. Bisset had with him on Carpathia's bridge Captain Rostron with him. At the time they were in a lower latitude to avoid the ice. (We don't know about the Parisian and the Mesaba who were ahead of The Californian).
 
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Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
Anyway, the timing in that the table of my book does not depend on what I or anyone else wants to assign to speculative estimates such as when exactly did so and so see something, or how long they would have taken to think things out before taking a specific action.
Understood and accepted, Sam. Thanks.

As for Chapter 11, though I read it earlier, I have gone back to it to try to collate the points after reading the next 2 chapters. I can see the points that you are making.
 
Samuel Halpern

Samuel Halpern

Member
Wasn't it a bit 'rash' of Murdoch to assume that being alone he could see ice bergs for himself?
If the accepted view at the time was that an iceberg could be sighted 2 miles ahead on a clear, dark, moonless night, then I don't consider it rash, especially with 2 other people on lookout. According to Lord, it was the first time that he was navigating in ice infested waters, so that may have been his reasoning for being on watch with his 3rd officer. Also, he might not have trusted Groves, who had but 6 years at sea as a career despite holding a second mate's certificate. In Rostron's case, he was headed on a rescue mission, and like Capt. Moore, was on the bridge the entire time after their ships were turned around.
 
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
Wasn't it a bit 'rash' of Murdoch to assume that being alone he could see ice bergs for himself?
How does anyone know that Murdoch assumed that? There were 2 professional Lookouts up in the Crow's Nest whose only task was to keep a sharp lookout for icebergs or any other object in the ship's path and warn the bridge throgh the bell followed by the telephone. So, seen from that perspective, Murdoch himself was a back-up as far as the lookout function was concerned and he was in a position to take action immediately if and when the warning came. I think given the clear and calm conditions, that monitoring function was quite adequate but things came "together" rather too "well" for the accident to happen. Those "things" included the ship's speed, greater momentum and the deceptively calm but very dark night.

As Sam says, it is quite possible that at 11:40 pm Murdoch had been looking ahead himself and spotted the iceberg at the same time as - or even a few seconds before - Fleet or Lee did. But after sighting the iceberg, he needed a finite timeframe to plan his orders and actions, which he did. But those factors mentioned above taken together meant that despite his best efforts there was no way to avert an impact. So Murdoch did his best to mitigate damage but unfortunately that was not enough; that was one of those situations where the best possible human effort was insufficient to avert disaster.

Another thing. Let us suppose Murdoch had another pair of eyes - say Moody - acting as an additional back-up and scanning the ocean ahead. How can we be certain that Moody would have spotted the iceberg earlier than the professional lookouts and/or Murdoch himself? Sometimes, having another person might persuade one to needlessly double-check their own observation or decision with the other, this wasting precious seconds.
 
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Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
Sam, after reading Chaper XII (Ships Don't Turn Like Motor Cars) with its superb illustration of the 5 situations on Fig 12-02 and Appendix C (Sidestepping An Iceberg) with its two situations in Fig C-01 very carefully, I would like to clarify something.

Both of my speculations below are completely theoretical and not suggestions that either could have actually happened.

Considering sidestepping issue first, Murdoch might have given the "hard-a-starboard" order between 5 and 10 seconds after the 3 bells if he had seen the iceberg himself a bit sooner, thus allowing him his 15 seconds to assess the situation. Under that scenario, he might not have touched the Engine Telegraph, like you specify if the impact was to be avoided. But given the conditions, it would have been almost impossible for him or any other human being to give the second helm order - hard-a-port - exactly 22 seconds later, unless he was extremely lucky. You have said pretty much the same thing given the conditions that Murdoch was facing. So, we'll leave that scenario.

But I want to ask about a hypothetical possibility with something similar to Situation A on Fig 12-02 (p115), which shows how an impact could have been avoided if the starboard helm order had come at the instant Fleet sounded the bells with the bow still 67 seconds away from reaching the berg. Unless I have missed it, you have not specified about the Engine Telegraph in this scenario and so I assumed that it is an "all other considerations and actions being the same" situation with Murdoch putting the Engine Telegraph to STOP just like he actually did that night. But of course, it would be unreasonable to expect the OOW to react the instant he heard the bells without assessing the situation over 15 seconds or so like Murdoch actually did. Fair enough.

But what if Fleet had sounded the 3 bells 15 to 20 seconds earlier? I am not going to go into detail as to how this could have happened since it might open another heated discussion elsewhere. But I believe that there was a time lag of 30 to 35 seconds between the moment Fleet saw "something" in the horizon (which he later described as a 'haze', perhaps for lack of a better word in his vocabulary) and the first of the 3 bells. If instead of that sequence of events, Fleet was able to recognize that 'something' as a dark mass directly in the ship's path (even if not actually identifying it as an iceberg) 15 seconds after seeing it for the first time, he could well have rung the bell 15 to 20 seconds before he actually did. Assuming that Murdoch was first alerted by the bells in both scenarios, he could have had his 15 seconds that he needed to assess the situation and given the starboard helm order with the Titanic's bow still 67 seconds away from reaching the longitudinal level of the iceberg; and going by your Situation A, the impact could have been avoided.

As you can see, the only difference in this hypothetical scenario is Fleet ringing the bells some 20 seconds before he did,, thus alerting Murdoch that much earlier. Everything else remains the same.

What do you think?
 
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Samuel Halpern

Samuel Halpern

Member
As you can see, the only difference in this hypothetical scenario is Fleet ringing the bells some 20 seconds before he did,, thus alerting Murdoch that much earlier. Everything else remains the same.
Upon hearing the bells the OOW would look to pick up what was seen ahead in his glasses and then make a judgement as to what to do. If he thought he could avoid the object by simply turning away, then that would be the order, and probably the only order.

5 situations on Fig 12-02 and Appendix C (Sidestepping An Iceberg) with its two situations in Fig C-01
All of those scenarios assume the engines ran on at full ahead until contact was made or missed. In the actual encounter, the engines did not slow down and stop until after the impact occurred despite what Murdoch did with the telegraphs. The engineers were not on standby, and were caught by surprise when the orders came down to the engine room.
 
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
All of those scenarios assume the engines ran on at full ahead until contact was made or missed.
Thanks for clearing that up. I was sure of that for Appendix C since you mentioned it in the text but less certain for all 5 situations on Chapter XII
 
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