Reducing Speed in Foggy Conditions



According to 4th officer Boxhall the weather was foggy during the night for about 4 hours when they sailed from Belfast to Southampton, but I can't find any testimony that the ship slowed down, and according to Mr. Ismay there was fog again one evening for about 10 minutes but still no mention of the ship slowing down. Was it safe to maintain speed when sailing through fog, especially at night without reducing speed? Was it entirely up to the Captain or the officer on watch? What would have been the correct procedure when sailing in foggy conditions? Would the Titanic blow her whistle every few minutes, and would she be required to send wireless reports informing the company and other ships nearby about the fog?

Mr. Ismay said - "The weather during this time (third day of voyage) was absolutely fine, with the exception, I think, of about 10 minutes' fog one evening."

4th officer Boxhall
Q - What was the condition of the weather on your trip from Belfast to Southampton?
A - The weather was fine until about 2 o'clock in the morning.
Q - Of what day?
A - Thursday; I should say Wednesday morning, until about 2 o'clock. I want to correct that.
Q - What happened then; that is, how did you distinguish between the conditions of the weather?
A - When I came on duty at 4 o'clock in the morning it was foggy.
Q - Was there any sea?
A - No; there was practically no sea, and little wind.
Q - And when you say that the weather was not good you mean that it was foggy?
A - Yes.
Q - All the way?
A - No; it cleared up about 6 o'clock in the morning.
Q - When you went on at 4 o'clock it was foggy?
A - Yes.
Q - And the fog lifted about 6 o'clock?
A - About 6.

Yet there is no mention that she reduced her speed? Would the fog make it difficult to see lightships and lighthouse markers? Would the Titanic alter course to move out of the fog or continue to steam through it? Mr. Ismay was asked why the ship did not slow down on the night of April 14th:

Q - What is the object of continuing at full speed through the night if you expect to meet ice? Why do you do it?
A - What is the use of doing it?
Q - Yes?
A - I presume that the man would be anxious to get through the ice region. He would not want to slow down upon the chance of a fog coming on.
Q - So that, of course, the object of it would be to get through it as fast as you could?
A - I presume that if a man on a perfectly clear night could see far enough to clear an iceberg he would be perfectly justified in getting through the ice region as quickly as he possibly could.

Were there reports of fog ahead of the Titanic the night they struck the iceberg and were they trying to make as much progress as they could before they encountered it and were actually trying to play it safe when they steamed full ahead that night because they knew it would be more dangerous to detect ice when engulfed by the fog, and as Ismay put it - "He would not want to slow down upon the chance of a fog coming on... he would be perfectly justified in getting through the ice region as quickly as he possibly could."? Captain Rostron said the weather on the journey to New York was foggy - "I was rather worried at the time, as it was foggy." Was this the same fog that made the officers on the Titanic anxious to maintain full speed because they believed the fog to be a bigger threat to them when looking for ice and therefore justified the ship's speed that night?

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Mar 22, 2003
Chicago, IL, USA
Aaron, IMM regulations required that the commander be called to the bridge in foggy weather and must remain there in charge of the vessel. The lookouts are to be doubled and the whistle blown one long blast every two minutes. There was no specific requirement regarding speed except that the commander is responsible that the vessel is operated safely at all times and in accordance with standard rules in effect. The rules of the road in effect at the time, Art. 16, required vessels in fog, mist, falling snow or heavy rain, go at "a moderate speed" with regard to given conditions and circumstances. The courts generally took this to mean that a vessel must be capable of pulling up in time to avoid a collision. Hope this helps.


Thanks. Is there any evidence that the speed of the Titanic was reduced between Belfast and Southampton on account of the fog that Boxhall mentioned which took a number of hours to clear? I would imagine that sailing in fog especially at night would warrant extreme caution. The sea trials were delayed by one day owing to bad weather. Does this mean the Titanic had one day less in Southampton to prepare for her departure? Would the Titanic be ordered to steam for Southampton with all possible speed, and in order to make up for lost time they maintained speed through the fog?

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