Jim Kalafus

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And, Tom. Something to ponder regarding Lightoller and his famous "pinned to the vent" story.

Where was the water going?

By all accounts the forward portion of the ship had been slowly filling since the time of the collision. I BELIEVE that there are first person accounts of watching A deck, forward, begining to fill.

Now, on the Lusitania the most FAMOUS accounts of suction and backwash regard what happened with the funnels~ as they submerged, water washed into them, and hit the water and remaining air which was surging UP them. End result was a backwash which washed those sucked in, back out again.

Now, assuming that Lightoller did not conveniently splay himself across the grate waiting for the unrush of water...and given some of his other inexplicable actions that night, he MIGHT have... a substantial amount of water may already have entered the grate before he reached it and poured....where? In the case of the rapidly filling Lusitania, in which it COULD be reasonably assumed that there may have been sections forward where the flooding was from the top down, the funnels and ventilators EJECTED air and water. On the slowly filling Titanic, might not the water have been creeping up the various ventilation shafts at a pace close to, or matching, the flooding elsewhere?

And then, there is the physical effects that facing that particular situation would inflict. We've all seen water rushing into a storm grate during a heavy rainstorm. NOW, imagine, if you will, what the grate would do to your back under the pressure of that water. In the case of the Lusitania's Joseph Myers, the forces of water rushing into a submerging lifeboat were enough to rupture his abdomen. (He survived) Yet, Lightoller encounted water surging at enough speed to pin him to a grate, but gentle enough not to break bones, filet him against the mesh, or even knock him unconscious? Hell, given his level of observation, he wasn't even rendered fatuous. Well, any MORE fatuous than he had been...but I digress.

It all seems about as probable as a man without a life jacket, in ice water up to his nose, acclimating himself to the agonizing physical sensation that it produces, and clearly seeing THE CROWS NEST at least hundred feet away, in the dark, against a dark background.

That is to say, completely improbable. But, no one ever pushed him on the points, as they should have.
 
Jun 11, 2000
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I'll just take your word for it, Jim, as I'd have instant cardiac arrest on immersing just one toe. The only sea I've ever run into without gasping was the Caribbean.

The 137 survivors of the Estonia ferry disaster were mostly young, fit men between 20 - 40; only about 26 were women. The water was about 50 Farenheit, I read, though that seems a bit warm to me for the Baltic at that time of year. One young woman survivor described on TV how she fought her way up on deck, to her distress when she later considered her actions. So, you need to be able to fight your way out, have a strong heart, plenty of natural insulation, and be able to swim well. That lets me out.

But, as you say, the survivors have plenty of memories of being on-board during the disaster, but precious few once they were in the water that was much warmer than on 15.04.12.
 

Tom McLeod

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Well I think we have covered that well. Thank you both. It would likely take a lot of tests on scale models to really know what took place. So I shall conclude that Commander Charles Hebert Lightoller is all knowing. And more importantly all the Lusitania survivors are liars. Just kidding. If only we had been around in 1912 to throw Lightoller into Jim's frigid pool and then stand there and conduct tests on him.
 

Tom McLeod

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To Jim and Michael:

I hope you see my above post as basically a joke. I do appreciate the time you both take to explain your ideas for me and many others.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>I honestly recmomend that, before proceeding, anyone interested in this particular subject immerse themselves in near-freezing water at night.<<

Ehhhhhh...not at my age, thank you very much. I'm trying to avoid fatal heart attacks, not invite them in through the front door!
 

Jim Kalafus

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>I'll just take your word for it, Jim,

Ah, no, Monica. One must NEVER take another's word on such a thing. Care to guess what I have planned when I meet with you and Bob Godfrey next month? Don't worry, safety precautions will be taken and the water shall be at least 40F. I just want to see if being dumped into very cold water in the company of others heightens or lessens how quickly one regains one's focus.
 
Oct 28, 2000
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Regarding Lightoller's story about being pulled under...embellishment is an honored tradition when sailors tell sea stories. The facts are undoubtedly true, but the telling may be a bit expanded. Even so, if his experiences that night were true by half, he earned the right to spin a good yarn. And, the layout of the ventilators makes plausible Lightoller's story.

-- David G. Brown
 

Tom McLeod

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I did fall into freezing water, it was 37 degrees according to the coast guard. Near their barracks on Lake Champlain a few years back a child fell off one of the docks into the drink. Two on duty officers where a ways away and came rushing over, I eased myself down a later and tried to reach for the child but feel in. It was everything it is said to be, but I was so focused on doing what I was doing that I was able to function for awhile. I had the luck of the coast guard officers right on hand to help us both out and take medical action. I think the little kid would have made it, I was trying to extend a hand when I slipped so I wouldn't call it heroic, more clumsy. I remember thinking "yes this is cold and awful" but I was on a mission to help someone and myself, maybe such brought something to life inside to help one function a bit longer than expected. Having some Coast Guard officials on hand for a quick rescue doesn't hurt.
 

Jim Kalafus

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>embellishment is an honored tradition when sailors tell sea stories. The facts are undoubtedly true, but the telling may be a bit expanded.

Embellishment is an honored tradition when one is trying to sell a book, particularly when one is trying to sell a book introduced during the height of an economic depression.

Embellishment is also an honored tradition when one is testifying and has a great deal to hide. Oh, sorry, 'whitewash.'

As a researcher you ought to know that stories CANNOT be taken at face value, even if you admire the person who is telling them.

And you also ought to know that the chances of a story being told accurately and truthfully decrease with each day that passes between the event and its telling.

And you also ought to know that when a storyteller admits to lying...oh pardon me...'whitewashing'...and does so proudly, it reduces the worth of ANY his testimony to...uhhh...what is scooped from the bottom of a cat box.

And that when a storyteller has two facts he does NOT want pondered too closely, he or she DOES tend to use a lot of pyrotechnics to get most readers to look elsewhere. One of Lightoller's weak points being the unimpressive performance with the lifeboats on the port side, and the other his abandoning of his best boatsmen to die after he sent them to open a gangway door and never followed through. "Trapped far below by a sudden inrush" as Walter Lord put it? Well, perhaps C Deck WAS far below. And, maybe the inrush of water, which came more than an hour after the men were sent there, WAS sudden. But still... one has doubts.

We've been over that before, so getting back to the actual theme of this thread...

We have Lightoller jumping off the forward portion of the officer's quarters and swimming reflexively towards the crows nest. (Which, as I said, he saw DESPITE the distance, darkess, and immediate reaction to the shock of diving into icewater). He is not wearing a life jacket and so is riding very low in the water. He is then sucked back to the grate which leads down to the number 3 stokehold. He describes it as a sheer drop of 100 feet. HOWEVER, the forward part of the ship has been filling steadily for nearly two and three quarters hours, and just a few minutes earlier water was washing into A deck. So the sheer drop of 100 feet was probably more like a sheer drop of 8 feet. The suction is powerful enough to draw Lightoller back, but, oddly, none of the other men in virtually the same spot, who a few minutes later are on top of B, experience it. Then, a burst of hot air appears (possibly from the submerging Colonel Gracie) with enough force to overcome the water which is driving him against the grate, and he is free.

So many questions OUGHT to strike an author at that point in the narative.

*Where did the hot air come from?
*Where was the water that was pouring into the grate GO?
*If the force of the water entering the grate was strong enough to pin a man to it, would it not be likely to cause injury?
*Why was collapsible B not drawn into the grate as well? And, should Lightoller not have been quickly impacted into a jam of debris? If the force of this cataract was strong enough to draw him back from forward of the bridge, then it should have also drawn a great deal of injury producing heavy material towards him as well. Mr. Myers (Lusitania) had his abdomen ruptured by the forces generated by a submerging lifeboat. Should not a man pinned to a stokehold grate at the apex of a 'waterfall' have met with at least equal force and an equal number of dangerous objects traveling at high speed?
*If the force of the water entering the grate was that strong, would it not be likely to suck him back after the burst of hot air passed? Unless SO much hot air rose from the mysteriously not flooded stokehold, that he air-cannoned far beyond its reach.

*Is it not strange that after all of this he ends up in the EXACT spot that the overturned lifeboat he was working over before this particular pulp-novel interlude commenced, ended up?

When judging the worth of Lightoller the witness, one must take into account that:

~The man was an admitted liar.

~His senate testimony is compromised by the twin facts that he admittedly lied AND had too much time to compose his details.

~ I BELIEVE that he requested a read-back of his U.S. testimony before he testified again in Britain. This, if true, seriously compromises the worth of his British testimony as well.

~His book was a commercial effort written more than twenty years after the event, at a time when books simply weren't selling. His memories at that point are TOO focused and precise, and his adventures too "plotted" and True Tales for Boys~ like, to give them ANY worth except as historical fiction a la Little House on the Prairie. (The books)

A lot of researchers in the Lusitania field fell into the same trap when quoting an account, written with an eye on publishing, by an officer in the 1950s. He described a great deal of carnage on the port side, with the severe list sending boats crashing down the deck maiming and killing dozens, and piling up in a heap under the bridge. This story has been repeated ad nauseum, and describes something that did not happen. But, it makes a great tale and when it met:

~Authors who did not want to question a great tale.
and
~Researchers who did not take the time to isolate ONLY the earliest possible first person accounts, and instead regurgitated that which they found in other books.

It became an integral part of the legend.

If you wish to base an opinion on the account of a liar, written a generation after events described, please feel welcome to. But, keep in mind that the risible quality of THIS section of his narrative taints the rest of it, in much the same way that his evident pride in having lied...oh, pardon me, 'whitewashed'...taints his earlier testimony.
 
May 27, 2007
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I think Lightoller's testimony needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Seamen always tell tall tales on land. But theres truth in there. You just have to know where to find it.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>I think Lightoller's testimony needs to be taken with a grain of salt.<<

Just Lightoller's?

>>Seamen always tell tall tales on land.<<

Stereotyping all seamen are ye? First of all, they're call yarns. Second of all, they're spun at sea as well. Living in the fo'c'sle will do that to the best of them.
 
May 27, 2007
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quote:

Stereotyping all seamen are ye?

Maybe?
happy.gif


quote:

Just Lightoller's?

Yep, I meant just Lightoller for now. Although I'm sure some other seamen also have some good yarns.

I'm sure Inger could fill us in on some tall tales or yarns she might of come across from Officer Moody letters or Officer Lowe's letter's to their families. Seamen like to tell good yarns or tales. I salute them for it. I have a few good 'uns myself from when I was a deckhand on the Mississippi River. Maybe not as good as Lightoller's yarns but entertaining. Like the time our brand new Steakhouse Barge caught on fire and burned down at 3:00am or when a certain Capt. kept running over the buoys during the day cruises.​
 

Tom McLeod

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Yarns aren't restricted to the seafarer's us landlubbers have quite a few. But I'm not in on the camp to throw Lightoller under the bus. If he had not survived Pitman may have been the focus of such things more and so forth.
 

Tom McLeod

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I agree with you George, tails have been told. But I was referring to a feeling I was picking up on these threads about Lightoller bashing. I'm giving my two cents that I just won't follow that line of thinking to it's end. I don't think I'm the only one in the campaign to gain truth, but still have respect for the man.
 
May 27, 2007
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Far be it from me to cast slander on Lightoller's conduct the night the Titanic went down or bash him. I wouldn't want to be in his shoes on April 14th-15th 1912. But I still feel he told some tall tales. I also want to point out that he wasn't the only one. But a lot of blurred truths and gentle fictions started after the Titanic went down and leaves us still trying to sort out what happened that night. But I know that's true of any disaster or great happening so I'll shut up on his tall tales but far from bashing Lightoller I was stating the obvious that he might of given less then truthful testimony at both the Senate Hearings and the British Board Of Trade Hearings along with others. But that's my surmise and theory from what I've read or studied which isn't that much. To each their own opinion.
 
Jun 11, 2000
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I think Charles Lightoller had a terrific life. He constantly courted risk, even to the extent of choosing his wife (whom he hardly knew when he picked her). He did 'frontier' stuff, he sailed the seas in an extraordinary variety of vessels from his adolescence and, when old, enthusiastically 'did his bit' in WW2. Of course he confabulated.

What do you expect? That such a vibrant person will be an immaculate research reporter of minute detail?

Researchers explore lives, which is a very valuable task. But Lightoller lived his. And if I had the guts (which I don't) I'd have rather lived his life than be a researcher, I'm afraid. And after each narrow escape, I expect I'd dress up the account a bit. Not because I actually wanted to lie, but because I was celebrating just still being alive, and because I knew that the tragedy was really beyond anyone's control.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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When people speak of tall tales it would be more helpful to be more specific than that.

There was probably more truth to what Lightoller told at the inquiries than what some would like to believe. His testimony was not fully supportive of WSL in many respects that can be easily pointed to. Yet, by his own admission, he did try to protect those for whom he worked by being a bit evasive or even misleading at times. (Having enough trained seamen to launch and man all the lifeboats adequately is one example that comes to mind.) But the challenge is to sort out what really took place from what was said took place. That's where crosschecking and finding confirming evidence comes in, or in applying analytical techniques to show feasibility were possible. I think it's rash for someone to simply dismiss everything he said or wrote simply because he had the guts to admit that he was not completely open when he was before the inquiries.

As far as how he escaped from the sinking ship, you can believe what you want to believe, but I have not seen any proof that it couldn't have happened close to the way he described it keeping in mind that some details are very subjective.
 

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