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Survive on the Iceberg

Discussion in 'Survival in Freezing Water' started by Paul Gantz, Mar 20, 2001.

  1. Paul Gantz

    Paul Gantz Guest

    Would it have been possible to offload passengers onto the iceberg?

    How far was the Titanic from the ice when she came to a stop? Could they still see the iceberg? Was other ice visible? Granted, steep slippery ice would have been very difficult to deal with; still, it seems better than freezing water.

    I have never seen this considered. Does anyone know of any account where it has been suggested? Or is it just stupid? I've never been near icebergs.
  2. This idea was brought up...somewhat to the amusement and consternation of experienced mariners...during the U.S.Senate hearings back in 1912. Perhaps not unreasonably when you consider that the source of such questions came from the next of kin of people who were lost in the sinking. They were grasping at any straw, however flimsy, that might hold hope that their loved ones survived.

    To the point though; tying up to an iceberg is quite impossible as there is nothing to which the ship may be tied. No bollards, and nothing which is dependably strong enough to throw a line to. What one would have to do would be to find a suitable growler or large berg with a nice flat expance...in the dark...and start o ferry passangers there by boat. This means moving the ship (A VERY bad idea as she was damaged.) to the location of the berg and trying to hold station in a current, loading boats, trying to find a suitable place to offload passangers and crew (This includes the aged, infirm, handicapped as well as any injured) then return to the ship to be recovered and refilled with more people.

    This is a daunting task in even the best of conditions, to say nothing of a crisis situation, and a lot of time would have been wasted trying to find something suitable for the task. Then these people would have to hope that they would be located by a rescue vessel befor the berg turned over (They do that frequently), melt away or break up.

    When you get right down to it, any such effort would have resulted in more casualties, not less, as valuable time would have been wasted in evacuating the ship. There is some slim evidence that the ship may have resumed steaming again.(See accounts given by Beesley and Gracie.) If this is true, it likely hastened the end of the ship as hydrostatic pressure would have forced water in through the holes at a faster rate. Not what you want to do when you're already in too much trouble as it is.

    Michael H. Standart
  3. jean leysman

    jean leysman Guest

    Good point Paul, I've been thinking about this as well.
    I realise this would have been hard to do. Still Michael, I think trying to reach an Iceberg, if necessarely by swimming there, would have been a better option than just lying in the water, knowing it will be a matter of minutes before you die of exposure. When you swim you're moving and you will not die as quickly as when you're floating around in panic.
    Why do you think it would have been necessary to move the ship in order to ferry the passengers?

    By the way, why didn't anybody think of binding together a load of the beach-chairs that were so abundantly available on the ship. Or the wooden panels in first class? Or did they?
    If not, An acks and crowbar would have done the trick. They make a good raft I gather? At least for trying to make it to the iceberg.

  4. G'day Jean, and bear in mind that this happened at night. Other then the berg that they hit, no more were seen until daybreak, and moving the ship around after taking damage was a very bad idea.

    As to swimming, keep in mind that what you're proposing is that swimmers try it in 28 degree water, and there is no gaurantee that the nearest berg was someting you could climb onto anyway. Besides, can you imagine elderly and infirm passangers having a go at it in water that killed some very strong and fit men in less then half an hour?

    Note also that people were throwing deck chairs overboard with exactly the idea of using them for floatation in mind. The problem is that there were only so meny to go around, and how many people could possibly be crammed onto them? This assumes that there are enough strong arms available to heave the beast over the side. Not the likeliest of propositions. Even then, anyone who could climb on would still find themselves ankle deep in freezing water in the unlikely event they could have stood on it. Hello hypothermia, good-bye cruel world.

    And all else aside, how could you possibly manuever the thing?

    When you get right down to it, the notion of finding and using an iceberg is a non-starter.

    Michael H. Standart
  5. Jan C. Nielsen

    Jan C. Nielsen Senior Member

    Agreed, Michael, I've heard theories about using Titanic's crane to pull it to the iceberg, etc. I heard another proposal of pulling off all of Titanic's doors, and binding the lifeboats around a platform made out of the doors. It's ridiculous. All of this occurred in the dark, late at night, in a brief two hour span, and in the middle of a panic, of sorts. To look at it with hindsight and try to come up with solutions is an exercise in a vacuum of possibilities.

    One engineer-client I have, insisted that all of the Titanic's passengers could have lived. He remarked that the sea was very smooth (which it was), and therefore the lifeboats could have been filled well beyond capacity --probably enough to hold everyone.

    Again, in the middle of a panic, no one had the foresight to realize this possibility.

    In one of the books I read the author argued that all of these theories, and ongoing postulations have to do with the difficulty of accepting an event with so many fatalistic elements.

    On the one hand, the Titanic disaster truly is about, in pertinent part, the limitations and failings of people's insights. I would include in this category the idiocy of restarting the ship, by Smith and Ismay, after it hit the iceberg --a subject much addressed in David Brown's book. What happened, and what people did, in this context, is about as much as you can expect from human beings who are not knowledgeable or trained in how to deal with such an unexpected event.

    On the other hand, the stories of Alma Polsson and her family, the Goodwins, and others, cry out for holding someone accountable. A woman and her four little children were thrust into the cold North Atlantic at 2:20 a.m., and died. Since both Alma Polsson and Gosta Polsson, her two year old son, were recovered by Mackay-Bennett --it may have been them that Bremen's passengers saw (a woman and her baby) on April 20, 1912, when that passenger ship bypassed the disaster site. As such, with such extreme horrors as this associated with the disaster, it's not adequate to dismiss it as something on the order of "fate."

    Theories and postulations about how we might have saved more people won't enable anyone to come to terms with the disaster, either. Some people seek solace in their religion. I think that the solution is to fix the blame where it belongs, and hold people who clearly knew what they were doing accountable. There are concrete facts to support leveling a lot of blame elsewhere. For example, it's not so metaphsycial about the owners and designers . . . who knew of the risks, had the opportunity to do something about it, and simply assumed such life-saving protections were unnecessary. Further, the disgusting thing is that these men were so into business and making money --that they didn't even care. Ismay's callous testimony at the Board of Trade Hearing is a case in point.

    Why was Ismay cheered when he came ashore at Southampton? Henry Clay Frick, New York's mayor Gaynor, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, were shot for having done fairly minor things that disinfranchised some people. Even today, author Wyn Craig Wade criticized the 1912 newspapers for trying to "lynch" Ismay. The fact is that the Oceanic Steamship Navigation Company paid a mere $600,000 in the New York lawsuit for taking Alma Polsson's, her children's and some 1,526 lives that night. What kind of failing is this, I wonder? I'm not suggesting that assassination is what should have happened, but the low key response that prevailed then, and even prevails today, says something about people and how they approach this disaster. It's very strange to me.
  6. Overfilling boats in a dead calm might have worked. The problem is that you have no way of knowing if the sea is going to pick up (And it did start to liven up some on the morning of the 15th) or how bad it's going to get...which puts the boat at serious risk of being swamped befor help can arrive.

    I wouldn't go so far as to say that the businessmen didn't care. If nothing else, killing passangers is bad for business. I really beleive that it wasn't so much callousness as it was sheer complacency. They really beleived that technology made the risks negligable. The wake up call they got was a rude surprise.

    And remember what I posted in regards J.P Morgan's remarks a few months ago? With all the hoopla and finger pointing, his remorseful and guilt ridden remark on "All those lives lost" was the only one that focused on what really mattered. The reporter he was being questioned by was the bloke interested in the money angle.

    Michael H. Standart
  7. Dave Gittins

    Dave Gittins Member

    I would point out that the $600,000 or so paid by White Star in the USA was something like ten times the amount that might have been awarded by the law.

    If plaintiffs could not prove that the owners of Titanic had "privity or knowledge" of negligence in the operation of the ship, liability was limited to the salvage value (13 boats) and the freight money. The matter was never argued out to the end and the $600,000 was a compromise arrangement.

    British law was more reasonable and damages were related to the size of the ship. Therefore, if you had to drown, do it on Titanic, not on a little cargo boat.

    1912 was another world. Modern corporations have it tough compared with big business of those days!
  8. >>Modern corperations have it tough compared with the big business of those days<<

    Which lesson Microsoft and Dow Corning (among others) have learned the hard way. For all their big pots of money, they got clobbered in the courts.

    Michael H. Standart
  9. Dean Manning

    Dean Manning Guest

    hello everyone,

    just one more thing to add, mainly about swimming. Swimming in 28 degree water is actually worse than staying still. When you swim, your heart beats fast and the blood is pumped to your extremities, where the blood is much closer to the cold water, and looses heat.

  10. Mac Smith

    Mac Smith Guest

    On the subject of lashing items together for make-shift lifeboats, it should also be noted that the passengers did not realize until too late that the ship was sinking. This can be attributed to the radioman Bride, who testified that when news of the Carpathia heading their way was received, he ran on deck to the captain shouting the news. Add to that the fact that was a white light in the distance which was being Morsed. And the fact that Thomas Andrews and much of the crew was telling many passengers the lifeboats were a precaution (although Andrews told others the truth.) By the time it was obvious, I doubt there was time to lash chairs and doors together (although I have read Andrews and others tossed deck chairs overboard to use as floation devices to cling to.

    I have asked myself all the same questions asked here, crawling on an iceberg, making little rafts, and my theory is that the questions are part of the overall bigger and unanswerable question - Why?

    Mac Smith
  11. Dave Gittins

    Dave Gittins Member

    In fact, they did make a few rafts out of deck chairs. The only person I know of who was helped by one was the barber Whiteman (or Weikman). He hung onto one for a time. The trouble with them was, of course, that they did not keep swimmers out of the water.
  12. angeline2011

    angeline2011 Member

    i was thinking the exact same the other day. but didnt the ship pass the iceberg a bit after the collision?
  13. Scott Mills

    Scott Mills Member


    Your suggestion that the evidence for Titanic making way after the collision as being "slim" is misleading.

    The evidence is, coming from the two survivors in the engine room no less, that Titanic did make way after the collision.

    While Gracie and Beasely provide support to this, their real importance is in trying to parce out the real mystery--for how long and for what purpose did Titanic continue on her own power after the collision.
  14. Mila

    Mila Member

    Well, I was near and on icebergs. I believe it would be practically impossible to put anybody on such iceberg that sank the Titanic.
    They are very slippery.
    See for example the video my husband filmed in Antarctica

    This iceberg was frozen in the sea ice and covered with snow, yet it was very, very slippery.
    The next video is from Arctic, where the Titanic's iceberg came from. This one was filmed from a helicopter.
    At one point we were going to land on one, but the pilot decided against it in the last moment

    Maybe people could have survived for some time on a tubular iceberg (if it were tubular),
    but still it would have been hard to put them on and these icebergs have big crevasses.
    Steven Christian likes this.
  15. Cool trips you been on. I agree. I don't think it would have been very practicable to try and get people on the berg. But then again the only icebergs I've ever seen were from 35,000 ft up.
  16. Mila

    Mila Member

    Thank you.

    These were cool trips alright.
    I'd like to add that it is not so easy to put people on an iceberg
    For example, in this video we were exploring Ross Ice Shelf. As you see they used cargo containers to put us on. Notice also a big crevasse, very slippery.

    In the Titanic situation some people had difficulties getting into the lifeboats. There's was no way at all to put them on an iceberg, but the pack ice that was a few kilometers from the Titanic is a different matter. I walked many kilometers over pack ice, and it welt more or less safe. Maybe boats could have transferred people to that pack ice, but here's again, I've read that the boat that traveled like 4 miles NW towards the lights of the steamer they observed has never encountered any sea ice.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 14, 2018
    Steven Christian likes this.