Sea Stories


Pat Winship

Member
May 14, 1999
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How do you tell a sea story from a fairy tale?

A fairy tale always begins "Once upon a time." A sea story always begins "Now this ain't no s**t"

I have posted this one from Lightoller's Titanic and Other Ships on another board, but quite a while ago. Forgive me if you've seen it!

Now, this ain't no s**t!

(The ship is the Majestic, in a really dirty North Atlantic gale. The scene is the Officers' Mess.)

"On one occasion a huge roast of beef was planted on the Second Officer's pillow. He was on the bridge at the time, and although immensely fond of a practical joke at other people's expense, could never bear to have one played on himself, but this was on him all right. The roast of beef was on one end of the mess room table which ran athwartships, and it was the custom, in this ship only, for the First Officer to carve. The boat gave one of her terrific lurches, which, when accompanied by the propellor coming out of the water, engenders a sensation immeasurably worse than an express lift dropping from the upper floors of a skyscraper.

The First must have thought the Chief was going to check the beef. One did not, neither did the other, with the result that it came careering across the table, and having got a good start, each officer cheered it on its way. At the far end of the table, the dish was brought up with a jerk, by striking the fiddle, or wooden stretcher that is placed there to keep the cutlery and plates within bounds. The edge of the dish had just sufficient lip to give the roast an upward trend, and, although there were two bunks, one above the other, and over ten feet of space, the roast described a graceful parabola through the air, across the rest of the messroom, through Barber's cabin, and came to rest on his pillow. The messroom steward at once set out to retrieve it, but we unanimously agreed that it was in far too good a place to be disturbed.

Barber had a habit of coming off the bridge and asking the steward what the others had had for their meal, as, of course, in these ships, there is a pretty long menu. We had coached the steward before we had retired to our cabins and when Barber made his usual enquiry, "Well, Davies, what have you got," followed by "What have the others had? Oh, all right, I'll have the roast beef too," Davies replied, "The roast beef is in your bunk, sir." At first, Barber didn't know what to make of it, then, when he did realise this, as the song goes, "The air went blue for miles around." and to this day, he believes it was put there. When you take into consideration that the edge of the bunk was five feet from the deck, and ten feet from the edge of the table, it certainly did seem pretty near an impossibility, but at the same time, it will give a fairly clear idea of the contortions of a Western Ocean mail boat in an Atlantic gale."
 
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sharon rutman

Guest
Here's a Lightoller fact that may have been overlooked--the reshuffle of the senior officers at Southampton saved Lightoller's life! The officers were to have been Chief Officer Murdoch, First Officer Lightoller and Second Officer Blair! Had Captain smith not requested Chief Officer Wilde from the Olympic accompany the new ship on her maiden voyage, it would have been Lightoller on the bridge when the Titanic collided with the iceberg. Creepy isn't it? Just another example of the role of fate in the Titanic's short unlucky career.
 
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lg griffith

Guest
How do you figure that the change would have saved Lightoller's life? Murdoch wasn't lost on the bridge. You can also consider this, that Lightoller would have hit the iceberg head-on and the ship may not have been lost. Also Lightoller had more experience with ice than did Murdoch. So the shift of Officers may have very well have doomed the ship.
 

Pat Winship

Member
May 14, 1999
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And Murdoch had more experience driving an Olympic class liner. -Both men were about equal in experience with ice, as nearly as I can tell. This is one of those lovely Titanic "What if's" that can be argued both ways from here to eternity, if we like! Neeeeext... :) !
 
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sharon rutman

Guest
OK--here's my theory that the Southampton reshuffle of senior officers saved Lightoller's life. Had Lightoller remained first officer he would have been on duty at the time of the collision and he would have bourne the terrible responsibility of making the crucial decision of what course of action had to be taken to evade the iceberg or risk crashing right into it. There is always that theory that had the Titanic collided head on with the berg she might not have sunk though she would have been crippled. Had Lightoller survived the sinking as first officer his career at sea would have been toast. Not only would he have to face the media hysteria but have some major explaining to do at the courts of inquiry. So once again fate took a hand in the Titanic tragedy.
 
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lg griffith

Guest
The responsibility of making crucial decisions comes with the job. Since Lightoller did survive as Second and the Sr. surviving officer his career pretty much was ruined. He did face the media hysteria and did have major explaining to in the courts. So it seems that it would have been the same either way.
 
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sharon rutman

Guest
No Ig, Lightoller suffered from guilt by association--the Titanic disaster was probably the only time he played company man (fat lot of good that did him) and that ultimately dragged him down after WWI. It was Sylvia, angry at the abuse he suffered at the hands of his employers, who ulitmately made him retire from the White Star Line in the end. Since the magnitude of the disaster reached hysterical epic proportions the media was out for blood in their hunt for scapegoats. Instead of being treated as a hero for his courage in a crisis situation, Lightoller became a convenient whipping boy dragged through two inquiries.
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Feb 9, 1999
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I don't think Lightoller was exactly scapegoated by the media. Having trawled through what seems like a million ocean miles of newsprint on both sides of the Atlantic, it seems to me that Lightoller fared quite well in the press...the story of his escape from the ship, for example, received quite a lot of positive media coverage.

Our views may have been skewed somewhat by recent interpretations of Lightoller's conduct during the inquiries, which have drawn selectively on newspaper accounts. For example, the references to it being hard to draw anything out of the 2nd Officer suggest that the journalists picked up on a reticence to answer questions candidly. However, when going back to the newspaper sources themselves, I've found that there was quite a good deal of positive reporting of his first appearance in New York before the senate inquiry. While it was noted that he wasn't exactly keen to answer questions, one paper even thought that this enhanced his credibility as he left the impression that he was being very careful, clear and precise in his answers. I'm flat out at the moment with the BTS Convention and visitors, but when I have a moment I'll see if I can dig out at post extracts from these articles to give you an idea of what the newspapers were really saying.

A friend and admirer in New York of Lightoller even went so far as to write to his brother in Ireland that
quote:

Mr Lightoller, the second officer, comes in for very high commendation from the papers and deserves it all.

He also sent him a copy of one of the newspapers covering Lightoller's testimony to give his brother an idea of "his modesty and of the way he keeps his wits about him." It wasn't the newspapers looking for Lightoller as a scapegoat.​
 

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