Smith's training re Titanic


mike disch

For anyone who would know, I am curious how much Capt Smith (or any captain at that level) would have been expected to know about the ship. Would he likely have had meetings with Andrews reviewing blueprints during construcdtion? Would he have visited the shipyards during construction? How much detail would he know about the engines, fuel consumption, etc. (I assume he wouldn't be expected to know how much flour the galleys needed, but would he know coal usage, for example.)
As far as I know, Smith had little if any involvement in the construction of the Titanic. Such details were generally between company officers and the people at Harland & Wolff. Having said that much, the captain of any ship is expected to have a very good general working knowladge of the vessel with the nuts and bolts details left to subordinates to deal with.
The man who did work with H & W very closely was the Chief Engineer, Joseph Bell. He spent many weeks in Belfast learning about the ships' engines in particular, as the mixed power plant was not very common. As the captain's right-hand man, he was the second-highest paid member of the crew. The captain's duties are much the same on any ship, so Smith's main need was to get used to handling the Olympic class, particularly in port. This he did rather carefully, to the extent of using twelve tugs to berth Olympic in New York on her maiden voyage.
wow.....12 tugs to berth the olympic....the White Star Line probably wasn't happy with that expense
Remember that tugs of those days were pretty feeble by modern standards. My home port is regularly visited by a container ship that is longer than Titanic and of much the same tonnage. She has no side-thrusters, but she gets in and out quite happily with two tugs.

I'm sure I've seen the bill for the Southampton tugs somewhere. (Hunts in file, gets out magnifying glass). Here we are. On April 3rd 1912 Titanic berthed in Southampton.

Five tugs at £5-5-0 each. Total £26-5-0 (In 1912 that was $US127-57. About the cost of paying five sailors for a month.
Captain Smith had been in command of the Olympic for a number of months which included a couple of Transatlantic crossings. Although the ship was cosmetically different to the Titanic it was a technical copy with perhaps minor enhancements, better known nowadays as modifications. This suggests that he would have a good working knowledge of the ship.
Smith Sighting at Dreadnought Launch?
The other day I was sitting around watching the History Channel, the topic of the day being Battle ships. At one point, they began going into the pre-WWI design innovations, and showed considerable footage of HMS Dreadnaught's launch, in black and white of course. At one point the camera lingered for several seconds on a man I swear was Capt Smith. At first, my reaction was "oh my God, thats Him", then I really studied the image. I've often studied his few close up photos, just trying to imagine what he was like, so I know the face pretty well. The one characteristic that distinguishes him is the way his eyes are kind of close together. All the rest, the shape of the beard, and everything else fit perfectly to every photo of the man I've ever seen. Why would they waste a good 5 sec of film on him if he was a nobody? I think it entirely credible that he was at the launch of Britain's greatest naval achievement. Any comments?

Sincerely, Robert Hauser
>>wow.....12 tugs to berth the olympic....the White Star Line probably wasn't happy with that expense<<

Dear Charles,

I just read a chapter in a Time/Life book called "The Great Liners" about the mis-adventures of the Vaterland. Apparently, her maiden voyage arrival and departure at New York was veritable commedy of errors. The ship was grounded on a bud bank coming in, and according to the New York Times, a flotilla of 25 tugs was unable to dislodge her. Other papers said there were 50 tugs! (unlikey, I think), but you get the idea. Keep in mind that the Olympic was 50% larger in tonnage than any previous vessel in history, and represented an unprecedented jump in size. The cost of the tugs was probably considered reasonable when compared to the numerous ways of sustaining expensive damage either to Olympic herself, or to some other hapless minow that got in her way.

Actually, one of those same tugs was nearly cut in half by Olympic's screws, (the O.L. Hallenback??? or something). The tug company tried to sue White Star, but they settled out of court.

I can't think of any other jump in tonnage that was as extreme as that between the "Lusitanias" and the Olympic, save for the Great Eastern, (and that was a REALLY big jump!) -Rob H.