Speed After Collision


May 1, 2004
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A year ago I took an acquaintance out for a measure of single malt Scotch whisky. I'd never met him before. We touched on the Titanic and he told me that there was new evidence, sworn testimony that Ismay ordered Capt. Smith to proceed 'full speed ahead' after the collision, wh. was the real reason the vessel foundered.

I find this abject rubbish. I tried to explain to him that Ismay was a passenger & although he was president of WSL, in the event of an emergency, the Captain of any vessel is in charge. My acquaintance became strangely argumentative & I dropped it.

I need to know if this is true as I don't believe it to be so. An addendum to this is a few weeks later this acquaintance was dining at my flat and claimed the name of the movie "The Madness of King George" was "The Madness of King George III". I explained to him that the "III" was dropped for American audiences because it would've been thought it was #3 in the series.
Once again he became strangely argumentative. This time, however, I could have pulled out my labtop & proven him wrong. But the vociferous tone he took on was warning enough that I was dealing w/a different sort of fact-laying than the average bear.

I've since separated from this individual as politely as possible. But back to the meat of this message. If you would be so kind as to reply at your leisure about his claim about Ismay and what you know about I'd be grateful.
 
Mar 18, 2008
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Something I have learn over the years is that you can not talk with such people. They hear or read something and are of the opinion that they are right and know everything.

Regarding Ismay and the order "full speed ahead" after the collision there was no such case. Beside that the order was "slow ahead" this was something claimed by Lady Louise Pattern Grandaughter of Charles Lightoller in her book "Good as Gold". The book is more a novel in which she said she include family secrets about the Titanic and this was one of them. The claim is however of much doubt as other claims about the Titanic made by her were shown to be wrong.

It was Captain Smith himself who gave the order (for whatever reason) shortly after the collision. Quartermaster Alfred Olliver was on the bridge during that time. He said this during his testimony at the US Senate Inquiry on April 25 1912.

Senator BURTON.
Were the engines reversed; was she backed?

Mr. OLLIVER.
Not whilst I was on the bridge; but whilst on the bridge she went ahead, after she struck; she went half speed ahead.

Senator BURTON.
The engines went half speed ahead, or the ship?

Mr. OLLIVER.
Half speed ahead, after she hit the ice.

Senator BURTON.
Who gave the order?

Mr. OLLIVER.
The captain telegraphed half speed ahead.

Ismay was not on the bridge during that time.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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It should be noted that Olliver never said he heard an order for half speed ahead, only that he saw Smith telegraph the order down to engine room. The bridge was completely blacked out, and it may very well have been Olliver's impression that the telegraph handles were at half ahead as the telegraph handles would be seen to be put far forward. However, it is entirely possible that Smith may actually have ordered ahead Slow, not ahead Half. See below.
JWRay Engine Order Positions.jpg

JWRay Engine Order Positions.jpg
 

Jim Currie

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[QUOTE=Ioannis Georgiou;371060]Something I have learn over the years is that you can not talk with such people. They hear or read something and are of the opinion that they are right and know everything."

So true Ioannis.

Hello Jonathan.

I think the proper English word for your friend is pedantic. Maybe if you had asked him to back-up his belief other than quoting from a book then he might have been less inclined to argue. On the other hand, perhaps you were too generous and he simply couldn't hold his whisky?
Ioannis is 100% on the money. He and I have crossed swords on occassion but usually we back out arguments up with information from indisputable sources. In our case, it is usually a matter of personal interpretation.
Lightoller was still in his kip when that last or second last engine order was given. He would only know about engine movements from Boxhall and even he, Boxhall, wouldn't know the full story since he too was off the bridge for most of the final 10 minutes of engine movements.
QM Olliver stated that he saw 'Half Ahead' when he was on the bridge. We don't know when that was since he was off the bridge a great deal during the first 20 minutes after impact.
Besides Ismay's alleged dictate, there's another allegation connected with the Half Ahead order which among the purveyors brooks no argument. It has alternatively been alleged that the Half Ahead order was given to help turn the ship to avoid the iceberg but that too is nonsense.

You too are 100% correct. In the event of an emergency, any non essential personnel would be given short-shrift. Titanic's 5th Officer Lowe used 'intemperate' language when Ismay got in his way during lifeboat preparations. I can assure you, if Ismay had got in Smith's way when the man in question was in a high state of anxiety, politeness would not have been the order of the day. The expression 'flee in the ear' would mildly describe Smith's response.
People who have never served on the bridge of a ship can be forgiven for making silly observations about what goes on there but there's little excuse for them backing-up 2nd or 3rd hand stories unless they are in turn, able to back up such stories with factual evidence.

Jim C.

PS Sam, just saw your post. The faces of the bridge telegraphs would be lit. Olliver would quite easily see what order was on them. In fact it was Smith who rang down the engine order. I quote:

"Mr. OLLIVER.
The captain telegraphed half speed ahead.


This tells us that Smith didn't give a verbal order, he did what most captains do in such a situation, he rang down himself. If he meant to use the rudder, that engine order would have been preceded with a question to QM Hichens. The sequence would have been something like ..."How's her head?" followed with a helm order of "Steady as she goes" or "Bring her round to..." or "Hard-a-port" or "Hard-a-starboard". If he meant to stop her from moving astern, he would not have rang down but would have gone to his bridge wing and had Murdoch stand by the telegraph. He would have watched the engine overboard discharge trail on the smooth sea. When the ship had no forward or astern movement, it would spread in a circle. He would anticipate that and have Murdoch ring Stop just before it did.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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We really don't know what Smith telegraphed down, only what Olliver thought he saw. I only put out the possibility that he may have been mistaken about the position of the telegraph handles. Those down in the engine room who described seeing the engines going ahead again referred to them going ahead slowly. I do know for a fact that half ahead on Olympic corresponded to about 50 rpm of the reciprocating engines, while slow ahead was about 30 rpm (1 revolution every 2 seconds).
 

Adam Went

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Interestingly enough, I watched a documentary a few days ago (it was being aired for the anniversary) called "Inside The Titanic" on the Biography Channel - I don't know how old it was but it looked fairly new, and was done in the style of a narrated movie-docco. It followed the sinking of the ship from the point of view of the water itself.

In it, the allegation was made that after hitting the iceberg, the ship stopped. However, at 11.47 AM, the engine room received an order for half ahead, and Titanic was underway again. Nobody seems to know who gave the order or what they were trying to achieve (the docco variously suggested that the ship might have been headed for the nearest port, or more likely being tested for seaworthiness).

However, it was quickly realised that this renewed movement was aiding the influx of the water into the ship, and so the engines were stopped for good.

Now I don't know how much truth there is to this but it was interesting that the documentary would make the claim. Thoughts?

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Mar 18, 2008
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Adam, "Inside The Titanic" was running in TV for the first time in 2012 and is very bad with made up stuff, myths and wrong claims!

We have the testimony of Quartermaster Olliver who saw Captain Smith moving the telegraph and 2 survivors from the engine room who said that one of the next orders was slow ahead (after the collision). Other survivors noticed too how the engines start again after the collision but it was only for a very short time.

That the moving forward pushed more water into the ship is wrong. (The damage was also not large enough as for example on the Britannic which was a big hole.)
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Sam is undoubtedly correct in saying that Olliver mistook the position of the handles, probably because of a combination of darkness and the ongoing emergency. However, we know from Olliver, survivors from the engine spaces, and passengers that the engines did run slowly for a short time after the accident. Other than Olliver, the eyewitness accounts support a speed of “deal slow.” and not “half.” Why would the captain have re-started Titanic's engines? Nobody but E.J. Smith knows and he hasn't said a word about it in over a hundred years. We are left with speculation. There are several reasons which might have motivated the captain's actions.

1. Captain Smith may have been doing the prudent thing – testing the engines, shafts, and propellers for ice damage. He would also have needed to put some way on the ship to test the steering system for damage. If so, there was no real intent to move the ship. Re-starting the engines was just research into the extent of the damage. Of all the possibilities, this is the most seaman-like reason.

2. J. Bruce Ismay – had spoken to the captain just prior to re-starting the engines. Titanic was the second of his elegant new class of ships, and the second to have a major mishap. He needed to turn a bad situation into something positive. If Titanic could have steamed to a nearby port, that would have proven the “unsinkability” of the whole Olympic class of vessels. We know that the White Star office in New York ordered two New Haven Railroad passenger trains to steam to Halifax to pick up Titanic's passengers. One of those trains was on the main line north when word came that Titanic hand gone down.

3. Perhaps Captain Smith was just getting a nuisance out of his way. Ismay on the bridge would have been an impediment to handling the ongoing emergency. Perhaps Smith agreed to re-start the ship just to get rid of Ismay. Once the man was gone, Titanic's engines were stopped.

4. Another reason or reasons that died with the Captain.

Whatever motivated Captain Smith, the ship was not under way again for any extended period of time. Moving damaged ships has proven to be more dangerous than beneficial – something the captain would have known. It's not just the notion that forward motion “pushes” water into the hull. The real problem is that damage weakens the hull girder. Sitting still the damage remains pretty much a static condition. But, once under way again the forward motion can and usually does cause the ship to flex or bend in ways that increase both the damage-induced weakness of the hull and the size of the openings.

-- David G. Brown
 
Mar 18, 2008
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Ismay was not on the bridge when the engines start again. When Ismay show up on the bridge the engines had stoped finally. The claim about Ismay "pushing" directly or indirectly is complete nonsense build up by several people without any single proof.

Captain Smith might have wanted to get clear of the ice so that the lifeboats could be lowered in "free" water if they need them.
 

Adam Went

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Hi Ioannis and David,

Interestingly, Lawrence Beesley also makes the claim that the engines stopped and then started again. I think we would generally agree that Beesley produced one of the most authoritative accounts of the sinking from the point of view of a passenger. He wrote:

"But in a few moments I felt the engines slow and stop; the dancing motion and the vibration ceased suddenly after being part of our very existence for four days, and that was the first hint that anything out of the ordinary had happened. [After going up on deck and looking around to see what the matter was] [...] The ship had now resumed her course, moving very slowly through the water with a little white line of foam on each side. I think we were all glad to see this: it seemed better than standing still." - Lawrence Beesley

I agree with David in that moving the Titanic again could only have done it more harm - not necessarily in terms of the influx of water but in that the already weakened hull was likely to be weakened further with the extra pressure, potentially pop more rivets and so on.

So it seems that for a very brief time the Titanic did stop and then start off again. This might also explain why very few passengers claimed to have seen the iceberg which did the fatal damage, despite it being a clear night. I agree also with David's first assessment - in all likelihood the ship was being assessed for damage and to see how seaworthy she was. Because First Officer Murdoch and Captain Smith both went down with the ship, we'll never know the full answer.

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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If (and I mean a big IF) Beesley's account was accurate, his perception of the ship moving forward again came within a few minutes of the order for the boats to be uncovered, because after seeing those two steaks of foam on both sides of the ship, he wrote that he started to go to vestibule door to head below again when he noticed someone starting to uncover the last boat (No. 16) on the port side. By that time Smith already knew that the ship was making water in the 1st three holds. In that case I would tend to agree with Ioannis that Smith might have wanted to get clear of some nearby ice so that the lifeboats could be lowered in clear water if they need them, assuming Beesley's account was accurate.

On the other hand, Beesley's two little white lines of foam may simply have been the discharges from the circulating pumps. When he was later lowered in boat 13, his boat was swept aft by the discharge and boat 15 almost came down on top of 13. Beesley's account of hearing vibrations on the bathroom wall was probably from the emergency dynamo engines that were located not too far away. He admitted that the normal throbbing from engines could not be heard at that time.
 
Mar 18, 2008
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Sam, I believe that Beesley made a mistake with the timing in his book. In his first version (the letter he wrote on board Carpathia) there is no mention that he saw the lines of foam nor that the ship was resuming course when he saw an officer taking off the cover of lifeboat No. 16. [As he was mistaken about the port and starboard side possibly No. 16 was actually No. 15?]
In the letter I think he mentioned that it was after he returned from the smoking room into his cabin and the ship continue to move again.

However even if we leave out Beelsey there are a few other passenger & crew members who did mentioned that the ship moved again after the collision and speak for Olliver, Dillon and Scott. However it was only for a very short time...
 
Mar 22, 2003
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In the letter I think he mentioned that it was after he returned from the smoking room into his cabin and the ship continue to move again.

There was no mention at all in his letter that the ship moved on again. He said he went back down to his cabin to read while waiting for the ship to go on again, but got up again when heard people outside asking why the ship's engine had stopped.
 
Mar 18, 2008
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It could be that I did understand it wrong. However in his letter (which was also published in the 27 April 1912 issue of The Sphere) he had a few things different and there he wrote; "The game went on without any thought of disaster, and I retired to my cabin to read until we went on again. I never saw any of the players or the onlookers again. A little later, hearing people going upstairs, I went out again and found everyone wanting to know why the engines had stopped."

See it is this " I retired to my cabin to read until we went on again" which seemed to me to indicate that the ship went on again.
 

Adam Went

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Hi Ioannis and Sam,

I don't see any reason to doubt Lawrence Beesley's account - he was an academic, and quite level headed. He didn't have the other concerns of taking care of his family and what not that might have skewed other versions during those chaotic couple of hours. And at the end of the day, he was there and we were not. By his own account, he had spent some considerable amount of time on the deck and so would have known exactly what the foam being made by the engines looked like, even when they were going slower. And it's not just the foam, it's the vibration. Anybody who's been on a cruise ship knows what this feels like, even in the modern era.....I doubt that circulating pumps would have vibrated the whole ship.

I also doubt that Smith started the engines again to get clear of ice. The momentum of the ship after it hit the iceberg, even if the engines were stopped immediately, would have carried the ship well beyond the immediate danger zone - this is established as much by passengers who glanced along the ship moments after the impact and claimed they couldn't see an iceberg at all.

IMHO, the Titanic did move again, and it was almost certainly either: A.) A miscommunication between the bridge and the engine room; or B.) Some sort of rudimentary test for seaworthiness.

Given that Andrews, Smith and Murdoch all went down with the ship, we'll almost certainly never know the true answer.

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Mar 18, 2008
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Hi Adam,

that Beesley was an academic does not mean that he was right with everything.
The main problem is that in his book he has some facts different as in his letter he wrote on board Carpathia directly after the sinking. There for example is no mention that he looked over the side to see a white foam also not the visit to a bath room with the 2 ladies and several more.
Beesley like other survivors "corrected" himself (in his first version he had the starboard and port side wrong) and may have add additional stuff. This was also done by other survivors as Archibald Gracie and Clear Cameron for example.

I don't see any miscommunication between the bridge and engine room. The only communication was via the engine telegraph which according to Olliver was operated by Captain Smith after the collision. There are several other survivors who mentioned that the engines stopped, then went on again and stopped finally.
But I agree, the real reason is only known by those who did not survive.
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Adam.

That was Beesley's first trip across the Atlantic in a big ship. He was highly intelligent but not a marine expert. Understandably, he would make a few mistakes.
He asked the ladies to feel the vibration of the piping in the bathroom. The domestic water sytem was probably operated by a steam-driven circulating pump in the engine room. Piping on board ship is a great conductor of sound and vibration. Steam pumps vibrate.

Titanic stopped moving very shortly after she hit the iceberg. We know from Lightoller that she had slowed to below 6 knots a few minutes after impact. This is understandable since she had just dragged her underwater starboard side along about 200 feet of ice, was turning rapidly and her engines were running astern. Under these circumstances, any ship would lose way very quickly indeed. So much so that it is quite possible that her engines never attained full revolutions in the astern mode before hey were stopped again. Smith and Murdoch would look astern to watch the propeller wash pattern, that's how they would know how quickly she was slowing down. If they allowed the way to come off the ship too quickly, she might have started moving slightly astern. To stop this and the ship, Smith would play with short ahead/astern movements. His aim would be to bring this ship to a complete halt while inspections were being carried out. At that time, it should be remembered that there was no indication that the lifeboats would be needed. It follows that when Titanic was thus dead in the water, she would be pointin in the wrong direction for resumption of passage after inspections were carried out and all was found well. You will rememeber that on his first inspection trip, Boxhall did not find any indication of damage whatsover and reported that fact on his return to the bridge. It is therefore highly probable that Captain Smith order a hard-a [ort h elm order and gave the engines a quick burst ahead to bring Titanic back onto her original heading. Thus, the ship would be ready to resume passage when the all-clear was given.

There is possibly evidence of this and it came from Greaser Scott. Most of his evidence regarding engine movements can be taken with a pinch of salt except perhaps for one:

"5565. Did you hear any signal given to the bridge? A: - From the engine room?
5566. Yes? A- Yes.
5567. What? A: - When they rang the stand-by. Is that what you mean?
5568. Yes? A: - That is all I heard, and then they rang down, "Slow ahead!"


That series of events contains one significant phrase and its' "stand-by". "Stand-by" indicates to the bridge that either the engines are now ready for use or that the engines will be needed imminently by the bridge. The order is given by alternatively and rapidly throwing the telegraph levers from FULL AHEAD to FULL ASTERN several times. The sound is unmistakeable and neither Scott nor anyone else needed to see the telegraphs to understand what was required. Since "Stand-by" was followed by an AHEAD movement, that is quite possibly the time when Captain Smith ordered hard-a-port on the helm. It is also possible that the engines would not have attained full RPM for HALF AHEAD since the ship would answer the helm before that happened. At that moment , Smith would ring down STOP and order the helm amidship.

Just a few thoughts.

Jim C.
 

Adam Went

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Hi all,

Ioannis:

I'm not saying that because Lawrence Beesley was an academic, he must have been spot on about everything. Anyone can make mistakes. But as I said earlier, he was travelling alone on board the ship, and did not have other pressing concerns on his mind such as ensuring his family was ready to leave the ship, and so on and so forth. He also wrote one of the most detailed accounts of the sinking from a survivor, and so therefore what he has said should be given due merit and consideration. Inconsistencies or not, his is more likely to be one of the accurate versions for multiple reasons.

As he himself states in his book, he was not intending to write the entire version of his story for public consumption until he was persuaded to do so some weeks after the sinking, at a dinner. Therefore, when he wrote his letter on Carpathia, he was only giving an abbreviated version of events in the wake of a terrible tragedy. I don't blame him that he didn't get everything right at that time - who would? People are not robots.

In any case, you seem to be agreeing with me that whatever the surrounding circumstances, the engines of the Titanic did stop, start again, and then stop for good. So I must admit i'm struggling to see what you're actually disagreeing with me about.....

Jim:

He does mention asking the ladies to feel the bathtub but there is also the mention of the gentle vibration in bed and just the general hum of the engines - as Beesley himself says, it's one of those things that you don't even really notice or think about until it suddenly stops, and then you really do pay attention to it.

Through my work, I spend a large part of my day in refrigerated cool stores, and on the odd occasion that they happen to malfunction or the maintenance people are working on them, the lack of their sound is incredibly noticeable - and yet if they had been running continuously all day, you probably wouldn't have given them a second thought. I imagine it'd be the same for Beesley with the engines on the Titanic - indeed, he said as much himself.

As to the rest of your post, it is an interesting theory and well thought out, though I wonder that the passengers only ever said that the ship was making headway again rather than any manouvres which would have seemed bizarre to them. Full astern or not, travelling at the speed she was, she would have cleared the fatal iceberg very quickly. She need only have gone a couple of hundred metres past it for it to probably be completely out of sight, and then if she sailed a little further approximately 5-10 minutes later, it would have put even more distance between the Titanic and the iceberg.

Whatever the surrounding circumstances, one thing seems clear: The engines were stopped, and then started again. And I think the only logical explanation is similar to what Jim is suggesting - that it was part of preparing to get underway again and/or some sort of test for seaworthiness. The full extent of the damage was only just being established at that point.

Cheers,
Adam.
 
A

Aaron_2016

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There are a number of survivors who believed the ship went slow ahead after the collision and QM Olliver stated that the captain telegraphed "half-speed ahead". Is it true that this order was carried out and that she made some headway after the collision? Survivor Charlotte Collyer is reported as saying - "We noticed that the engines had ceased running. They tried to start the engines a few minutes later, but after some coughing and rumbling there was silence once more. Our cabin was so situated that we could follow this clearly."

Does this mean there was possibly an attempt to move the ship, but it was quickly stopped before she made any headway?


.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Quartermaster Olliver had no reason to lie and lots of reasons to hide that Titanic did go ahead after the accident. He said "half speed," which seems a bit fast. However, if he were trying to protect his employer (White Star Line) Olliver would simply have said nothing.

As to reciprocating steam engines "coughing and rumbling," well I'm suspicious. Internal combustion engines do that sort of thing, but steam is different. It sort of chuckles as it works and at slow speeds steam marine steam engines produce very little vibration compared to internal combustion machinery. Methinks the lady was trying to be dramatic in her language.

I have no personal doubt that Titanic did move slowly away from the accident scene for a short period of time. There is evidence both in survivor testimonies and in messages and actions taken by the WSL office in New York that support the movement of the ship. And, there are those famous newspaper accounts about "all safe" and "heading for Halifax."
-- David G. Brown
 

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