Six Seconds to Disaster: The Death of Titanic

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philip f. wizenick

The order to reverse the engines was given before the order to throw the wheel hard over. This is according to the quartermaster's testimony. When the engine room got the order they had to stop the engines first. There wasn't any force of water on Titanic's rudder during the crucial time. In Walter Lord's book he quotes an engineer who said they got the port engine running astern first, just before the crash. This - in my opinion - is what swung the bow to port not the rudder, which with the propellers stopped was almost useless.

Jeff (1052)

"To do this, he would order a brief half-ahead on his engine and if Titanic was pointing south; hard-a- port the helm. As soon as the ship‘s head started turning he would order stop engines and then steady the ship‘s head on her former course."So if the ship were pointing south or west as it sank, as the author contends, how did the bow end up pointing north on the sea floor?


Well written article by a Master Mariner.  Thanks.  I have read a number of articles about the disaster = One by the then president of the Titanic Historical Society defended the Titanic's rudder area and mentioned her and Olympic's sea trials as proof that she could turn well.  What these articles seem to miss is the Bridge order "Hard Astern".  One of Titanic's Design characteristics was that the prop wash from the center ( low pressure turbine) propeller made the rudder more effective. The arrangements of Titanic's machinery were that the Center Turbine engine ONLY ran in ahead and only at speed.  When running at astern (reverse) or at slow ahead,  the exhaust steam from the low pressure cylinders of the reciprocating engines was diverted to the condenser(s), rather than to the low pressure turbine which drove the center propeller.  Therefore when the order for full speed astern was followed there was no prop wash over the rudder to aid in her turn.  Furthermore there would have been a slight delay between Full Ahead and Full Astern which would involve the duty Engineer Officer on the Starting Platform closing the throttles on each engine, closing the diverter valve from the turbine to the condenser, engaging the mechanism to "throw the links" on each Stephenson Valve Gear from Ahead to Astern  position and THEN opening the throttles on each engine gradually so that the wing propellors, driven by the Reciprocating Engines, would not cavitate.  A possible additional issue might be that most shipping lines used less Engineering officers per shift , especially non-day shifts, when in mid-ocean than when approaching or leaving  a port when more would be required to following Bridge orders during maneuvering on entering or leaving dock.

Gayla Elizabeth Tedder

Well I have no idea how to interpret the way the ship was turning prior to contact. But I do find it interesting that you pointed out that the ship in question that could not have helped the Titanic because of its direction or whatever was not the ship that abandoned the Titanic. It has been 108 years since this horrible disaster. And yet everyone still blames Capt. Lord for the inaction he took during the sinking. I feel for the man because nearly all my life I have been blamed for things and probably everything since the Titanic sank. And there is nothing that makes me any madder than for someone to tell me that I am at fault when I knew nothing. Case in point. I had a friend once that was married to a man that was a Christian. He literally ate, drank, witnessed to people, and anything else to do with God until he got cancer and died in 1997 at the age of 50. One Sunday morning I was dressing my 3 year old daughter for church. Apparently she had gone through a growth spurt because the one pair of dress shoes she had would not go on her feet. My daughter was born in March 1977 and my friends daughter was actually the New Year's baby of the area when she was born in January, 1975. So I call the friend and asked her if her daughter had a pair of shoes and I told her I needed it to be one size up from what I had. So she says yes. So I go over there and she goes to the closet, gets the shoes, and I sit on her bed and put them on my daughter. They fit and I leave. Well my first husband and I were just about ready to kill each other and I was thinking about leaving him which I did in 1984. I had no idea she was having an affair with her husband's cousin that lived on the same road they lived on. In fact when I went to get the shoes he was in the closet with the shoes. He hands them to her she hands them to me and once I am finished I leave. Well the truth came out and her husband came to me and told me that he thought I was a bad influence on his wife. So I said nothing. I had found about a week before he did about the affair and not only was the man his cousin but had been going on for 5 years. I knew nothing about it kept quiet and stood there while he basically racked me over the coals. However he did apologize when his wife confirmed to him that I knew nothing about it until a few days before him. I wasn't even around his wife at the beginning of the affair. So you see all Capt. Lord wanted was to be cleared from this lie if that was not the Californian. The man was what 35 or so? He spent his entire life trying to clear his name and failed and his family took up the fight. In the 1958 movie "A Night To Remember" from the book by Walter Lord (No relation to Capt. Lord) Capt. Lord is portrayed as a man in bed and basically does nothing on his own to help the Titanic. Now you have to remember Capt. Lord had stopped by the ice because number 1 the atmosphere was not that good that night. There was no moon, the iceberg usually only has about 10% were you can see it, and let's not leave out the stupidity of David Blair. He was suppose to be an officer on the Titanic but William Murdoch was named as 1st officer of the ship at the last minute dropping Charles Lightroller as 2nd officer and going through the six officers left no room for David Blair on the ship and he was dismissed. I have not seen any information on why this switch went down. But making a hasty departure he forgot something that may or may not have helped the watchmen in the crow's nest. And that item was the key to a box that had binoculars in it. That is why they had to rely on their vision alone. We will never know if it could have helped them see it sooner but at the very least I think they should have had them. I haven't read anything either about David Blair being racked over the coals. Then there is Bruce Ismay. Whether or not he gave the Captain the notion they should spend up to get in on Tuesday night or not. But again we will never know. By I just wonder what was going through his mind when he stepped into that life boat that clearly saved his after this miserable life. What about the Californian wireless operator? What did he do besides interrupting Phillips while he was working Cape Race? Phillips had passed exhausted at least 12 hours before. Why didn't he let Bride help him? Everything I have seen points to Phillips doing all the communications. I realize Phillips was tired and all overwhelmed but did he have to call the Californian's wireless officer Cyril Evans a fool and to shut up? I think that was really not professional for him to do that and I can't say that I blame Cyril Evans for signing off. It was after all his time to quit and had nothing happened to the Titanic he wouldn't have ever been in the Titanic's books and movies. But getting back to Capt. Lord. He had stopped in a field of ice. Just for the sake of argument he had tried to navigate through all that ice at night for about 15 miles to get to the Titanic. How long would that have taken and he could have sank his ship as well. I have to say Capt. Arthur Rostron was a brave man. He had his ship going faster than ever and navigated nearly 60 miles to come to the Titanic's aid. He could have struck an ice berg too. But he did it and 705???? survivors have him to thank. And now to Capt. Smith. What are your views? Did Ismay, who at this point was a passenger and had no say in what orders Capt. Smith saw fit to make, but did he influence did Ismay have on Capt. Smith is any? Well the incident in question the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912 is history. Everyone who had a part in it is dead. So we won't get answers there. But it would be nice if somehow we could go back and watch this tragedy unfold so we would know who deserved to be blasted. And also for the number of lifeboats, did you know that Thomas Andrews was the second carpenter or ship designer to come be the one to really do most of the work and why that was so? The first name that Andrews worked under was Alexander Carlisle. In a meeting (and use this loosing because I have found this story in one place) he was talking to Bruce Ismay about the number of lifeboats that should be on the boat. Alexander wanted 64 but Ismay wanted 16. He finally consented to 20 but Alexander so the story goes after a heated argument with Ismay about the boats and certain reasons for providing life boats for all and not based on the ship tonnage which was way outdated he walked out of the meeting, resigned and never designed another ship. that is when Thomas Andrews took over. He was the nephew of Lord Pirrie who with Ismay come up with the ideas for the Olympic, Titanic, and Britannia. Andrews also had installed a new type of davit that would hold another lifeboat. But again Ismay wanted the passengers to have an uninterrupted of the ocean and thought that 64 or 46 lifeboats that Andrews tried to get him to agree to because it would make the deck look cluttered and worry the passengers about or question the fact that the ship was unsinkable. Well I guess 1500+ people got that uninterrupted view of the ocean but nothing like they planned. But Alexander Carlisle left Harland and Woffe in 1910 and one of the factors was the disagreement with Ismay about the lifeboats. I would have like Ismay if he had at least spent some time in the ocean freezing and pulled in by a life boat. But when it all is said and done all the testing of materials, and who did what and didn't do what really doesn't matter. Eva Hart's mother was right. To blatantly boast that God himself couldn't sink this ship was like flying in the face of God. And boy he must have been mad. I just wish he had aimed his blame at Ismay and Harland and Wolffe for designing a ship that no designer could get Ismay to agree on lifeboats for everyone. Over 1500 people, men, women, and children lost their lives slowly freezing to death because some stupid person like Ismay didn't want the deck cluttered. As for Capt. Lord I don't think he deserved as much anger as he got. Like I said Capt. Rostron was a brave man. Thomas Andrews did the best he could but again because of Ismay his best was not good enough. I have to wonder though what would have happened if Andrews had walked out like Carlisle did. Capt. Smith whether or not he was influenced by Ismay or not doesn't matter. This was a season Captain. Ismay or no Ismay he should have done his own thinking which I don't believe that he had never been in ice because when the ice warnings he got came in he did charge course to a go further south. Unfortunately he literally changed course to include the ice field. But I do believe when Andrews told him the ship would sink in probably less than 2 hours he went into some kind of state of learned helpless and was unable to completely give orders that might have got things moving a little faster. I wish Andrews had been a little more forceful but I really can't place blame on him either.
Thomas Krom

Thomas Krom

Good day to you Mrs. Tedder,

I read your message and I am afraid it is filled with a lot of misconceptions about the story of the Titanic that are either made up or slightly altered in movies and documentaries.

Firstly, 1496 people died during the disaster, not 1500 or more. 712 people survived the sinking, not 705.

Mr. Ismay and the White Star Line had nothing to do with the amount of lifeboats, unlike the media often claims. The Board of Trade had the following rule about ships in 1894, which became quite outdated since ships became larger and larger the following years:

"... Under this (Merchant Shipping) Act (1894), a table showing the minimum number of boats to be placed under davits and their minimum cubic contents was issued by the Board. ... This table was based on the gross tonnage of the vessels to which it was to apply, and not upon the numbers carried, and provided that the number of boats and their capacity should increase as the tonnage increased. The table, however, stopped short at the point were the gross tonnage of the vessels reached “10,000 and upwards.”

The minimum lifeboats required for a vessel larger then 10 000 tons in gross tonnage was 16 lifeboats in total. The Titanic had 4 Engelhardt collapsible lifeboats. These 20 lifeboats (14 30 feet lifeboats with a maximum registered capacity of 65 people each, 2 Emergency Cutter lifeboats with a capacity of 40 people each and those 4 Engelhardt collapsible with a capacity of 47 people each). Place for 1178 people in total.

Also, Mr. Ismay, atleast we can gather from the account of Elizabeth Lines, never ordered for more speed according to her testimony she said the following (TIP | Limitation of Liability Hearings | Deposition of Elizabeth L. Lines):

29. Will you indicate the table at which you were sitting at the time you heard this conversation?

- I was sitting next to the outer side of the ship. (Witness indicates that the table at which she was sitting was the table next to the one used by the Captain and Mr. Ismay on the port side, but that there was a table further from the port side of the ship and somewhat between the table of the Captain and her own table).

30. Was this other table that you say was in a general way between yourself and the table and settee used by Mr. Ismay and the Captain in a direct line between you and Mr. Ismay's table?

- No.

31. How far out of a direct line would you say it would be?

- It was about four or five or six feet.

32. Did that other table stand in such a position as in any way to interfere with your view of Captain Smith and Mr. Ismay?

- No.

33. During the time that this conversation that you have referred to occurred, was there any person sitting in a position to interfere with your view?

- No.

34. Were there chairs in a direct line between you and Mr. Ismay and Captain Smith?

- Not that I recollect.

35. Would you be good enough to state when it was on Saturday April thirteenth that this conversation occurred?

- After the midday meal I went into the lounge to have my coffee - in the general reception room.

36. Were the Captain and Mr. Ismay already there?

- No, they came in after I was seated, and went to this same table which I had seen them occupy on the Friday.

37. Could you estimate about what time it was that the Captain and Mr. Ismay entered the reception room or lounge?

- Perhaps half past one.

38. Do you recall what your luncheon hour was?

- No, because it varied; it was a little later some days and a little earlier other days; but I should say that it was about one thirty when I went into the lounge.

39. About how long, within your knowledge, did Mr. Ismay and Captain Smith remain in this reception room engaged in conversation?

- At least two hours.

40. Were you there all of that time?

- I was there.

41. Are you able to state from your recollection the words that you heard spoken between Mr. Ismay and Captain Smith on that occasion?

- We had had a very good run. At first I did not pay any attention to what they were saying, they were simply talking and I was occupied, and then my attention was arrested by hearing the day's run discussed, which I already knew had been a very good one in the preceeding (sic) twenty-four hours, and I heard Mr. Ismay - it was Mr. Ismay who did the talking - I heard him give the length of the run, and I heard him say "Well, we did better to-day than we did yesterday, we made a better run to-day than we did yesterday, we will make a better run to-morrow. Things are working smoothly, the machinery is bearing the test, the boilers are working well". They went on discussing it, and then I heard him make the statement: "We will beat the Olympic and get in to New York on Tuesday."

42. In your last statement, Mrs. Lines, were you giving the substance of the conversation or the exact words which were used?

- I heard "We will beat the Olympic and get in to New York on Tuesday" in those words.

43. If there were any particular words spoken that you can remember, I should be glad to hear them.

- Those words fixed themselves in my mind: "We will beat the Olympic and get in to New York on Tuesday."

44. Do I understand you to say that the other things that you stated were the general substance of what you heard and not the exact things or words used?

- No, I heard those statements.

45. What was said by Mr. Ismay as regards the condition of the performances, of the engines, machinery and boilers?

- He said they were doing well, they were bearing the extra pressure. The first day's run had been less, the second day's run had been a little greater. He said "You see they are standing the pressure, everything is going well, the boilers are working well, we can do better to-morrow, we will make a better run to-morrow."

46. In speaking of standing the pressure well, Mr. Ismay was referring to the boilers, was he not?

- Of the boilers, I gathered.

47. I understand that hitherto you have been stating what you heard Mr. Ismay say: is that true?

- Yes.

48. What, if anything, did you hear Captain Smith say?

- I did not hear anything.

49. Did you hear the sound of his voice?

- No.

50. Won't you describe as well as you can, the tone and gesture of Mr. Ismay in this conversation?

- It was very positive, one might almost say dictatorial. He asked no questions.

51. Mrs. Lines, if you can recall anything else sat at that conversation, either in words or in substance, please state it.

- There was a great deal of repetition. I heard them discuss other steamers, but what I paid the most attention to was the Titanic's runs, and it was simply that Mr. Ismay repeated several times "Captain, we have done so and so, we have done so and so, everything is working well." He seemed to dwell upon the fact, and it took quite a little time, and then finally I heard this very positive assertion: "We will beat the Olympic and we will get into New York on Tuesday" but he asked no questions.

52. Did you hear anything said by Mr. Ismay that directly or indirectly sought information from Captain Smith as to the performances of the vessel or as to Captain Smith's opinion of what the vessel could fairly do?

- No, I did not.

53. What would you say as to your ability to hear all that was said in an ordinary tone of voice between Captain Smith and Mr. Ismay in the positions in which they were and you were on that afternoon of Saturday?

- It was quite possible, as during the latter part of the time there were very few people left in the lounge and it was quiet.

54. You say it was possible for you to hear?

- It was possible to hear ordinary conversation.

55. Do you recall any conversation on that occasion between Mr. Ismay and Captain Smith as to the performances of another vessel of the line?

- No, excepting the comparison with the runs of the Olympic.

56. And what runs of the Olympic were they using as a comparison?

- The trial trip.

57. Do you mean the maiden voyage?

- Yes, the maiden voyage.

58. And what was the substance or the words if you can give them, of the conversation as regards the Olympic?

- It was comparison, and that the Titanic was doing equally well, and they seemed to think a little more pressure could be put on the boilers and the speed increased so that the maiden trip of the Titanic would exceed the maiden trip of the Olympic in speed.

59. Mrs. Lines, won't you explain just what you mean by your words "They seemed to think"? I wish to exclude your own impressions and ask you merely what you heard said on that subject?

- They stated the run of the Titanic was equal to the run of the Olympic. Mr. Ismay did the talking, I did not hear Captain Smith's voice. I saw him nod his head a few times.

60. Did he nod his head so as to indicate assent or dissent?

- Assent.

61What was it that Mr. Ismay said from which you say you drew the impression that they seemed to think that the Titanic would beat the Olympic or that the Titanic compared well with the Olympic?

- They made comparisons in numbers which I cannot repeat, the number of miles run in various days. Mr. Ismay gave the runs made on certain days by the Olympic on its maiden voyage and compared them with the runs made y the Titanic on the first days.

62. You have stated several times, Mrs. Lines, that Mr. Ismay made assertions or statements as to what "we" would do, using the pronoun "we". Did he use any other pronoun that you know of in this conversation?

- No, Mr. Ismay said "we" and he asked no questions. He made assertions, he made statements. I did not hear him defer to Captain Smith at all.

63. Was there any part of that conversation that indicated whether or not Captain Smith deferred to Mr. Ismay?

It gives me the impression he was entirely satisfied with the performance of the Titanic on her maiden voyage and expected to arrive Tuesday Evening with Titanic her current speed instead of Wednesday morning. You must know that the Olympic-class liners were built as Wednesday ships and would depart from Southampton on a Wednesday, would arrive next week on a Wednesday in New York and would start the return voyage to Southampton the week after that on a Wednesday after being resupplied. The Olympic never managed to arrive on a Tuesday before at that time, hence why he said: “Beat the Olympic”.

Also, it was the Welin Davit company that made the plan with 64 lifeboats. The official Harland and Wolff plan with more lifeboats had 48 lifeboats in total. Also, it is a myth that Alexander Carlisle had a fuss with his brother-in-law Lord William Pirrie about the lifeboats. He retired due his health in June 1910 (see Carlisle's Retirement – Separating fact from fiction). It is true however he wanted more lifeboats for the Olympic class liners.

Also, the key former second officer David Blair took with him was the key of the crows nest telephone. Also, trained lookouts such as the talented historian Park Stephenson say binoculars would make no difference in sighting the iceberg on that faithful night. Also a searchlight would not make a difference since it only would have destroyed the night eyes of the lookouts and officers on watch. On this matter I recommend this video:

About wireless operator John “Jack” George Philips we need to talk about why he reacted with “Shut up, shut up, shut up. You’re jamming my signal. I’m busy.”. Close to midnight on the 13th of April the Marconi wireless apparatus stopped working and he and Harold Bride worked hard to repair it, and nearly had no sleep because of that. It was fully repaired again the morning of the 14th They got a few ice warnings, which were not ignored by the bridge, which already warned them about the icefield ahead of them. Due the delay of the broke apparatus there were multiple messages which had to be send to cape Race, personal messages of the first class passengers. Now we go to the time that Cyril Evans would have send the ice warning, he is quite close and the closer a ship is getting how hard the spark would sound on the headphones. His ears all of the sudden nearly get blown away by the sound, he has multiple messages he still needs to send, nearly no sleep and he receives information he and the bridge already knows. Hence why he reacted such harsh. The ice warning of the Californian was also much further away from Titanic her course compared to the ice warning of the Baltic, send earlier that day.

Next point will be the ice warnings, they were not ignored by Captain Smith and his officers. At an estimated 42°N 47°W the course was changed. The officers where very alerted about the ice. At approximately 9.30 p.m. Quartermaster Hichens "heard the second officer repeat to Mr. Moody, the sixth officer, to speak through the telephone, warning the lookout men in the crow's nest to keep a sharp lookout for small ice until daylight and pass the word along to the other lookout men….I heard by the second officer when he repeated it. He sent me with his compliments to the ship's carpenter to look out for the ship's water, that it was freezing, at 8 o'clock. Then I knew. I didn't know before, but I heard the second officer distinctly tell Mr. Moody, the sixth officer, to repeat through the telephone, and keep a sharp lookout for small ice until daylight, and to pass the word along for the other lookout men." Later at the British Inquiry, Hichens confirmed this conversation, "I heard Mr. Lightoller speak to Mr. Moody and tell him to speak through the telephone to the crow’s-nest to keep a sharp look-out for small ice and growlers until daylight and pass the word along to the look-out man."

Lightoller himself remembers the conversation. He first mentions it at the US Inquiry:

Senator SMITH. Did you admonish the lookout men?


Senator SMITH. What did you say to them?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER. I told the sixth officer, Mr. Moody, to ring up the crow's nest and tell them to keep a sharp lookout for ice, particularly small ice and growlers. That was received and replied to - and also to pass the word along.

Senator SMITH. How do you know it was replied to?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Because I could hear it.

Senator SMITH. You heard it yourself?


Senator SMITH. Did Mr. Moody survive?


At the British Inquiry he remembers that he got Moody to repeat it again:

LIGHTOLLER: I thought it was a necessary precaution. That is a message I always send along when approaching the vicinity of ice or a derelict, as the case may be... I told Mr. Moody to ring up the crow’s-nest and tell the look-outs to keep a sharp look out for ice, particularly small ice and growlers. Mr. Moody rang them up and I could hear quite distinctly what he was saying. He said, “Keep a sharp look out for ice, particularly small ice,” or something like that, and I told him, I think, to ring up again and tell them to keep a sharp look out for ice particularly small ice and growlers. And he rang up the second time and gave the message correctly."

And now to the final point I noticed on the first sight while reading, about Thomas Andrews Jr. Just as I mentioned before, the Board of Trade rule and regulations have to do with the amount of lifeboats on-board, not Harland and Wolff and Mr. Ismay, as mentioned before, also had nothing to do with the choice behind the amount of lifeboats. Thomas Andrews Jr gave the ship a hour to a hour and a half at about 12:22/25, 43 to 45 minutes after the collision. I believe about a minute of ten before that he already reported to captain Smith that she was unable to stay afloat below decks. He only had to estimate how long she would have had at that point. Captain Smith already ordered to have swung out all the lifeboats before 12:22/25.

I have to recommend one thing, do not believe everything the media claims about the Titanic. There are documentaries and movies filled with false information and misconceptions that are claimed to be factual, which mostly isn’t the case. For example, Mr. Ismay his reputation and character was assassinated after the disaster due his rivalry with Willian Randolph Hearst who used his power and influence to ruin his life with the American Press.

I hope you understand this is not meant as an attack some sort. I just try to get to clear certain misconceptions out of the way. I hope you have a nice day.

Yours sincerely,

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