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Tracy Smith

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Nov 5, 2000
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Thanks, Philip. Your comments have been most enlightening and tend to back up what I've suspected about what happened with Captain Lord when Gibson went down to speak to him.
 

Noel F. Jones

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"If somebody can dig up some working plans of the ship's structure which shows otherwise, I'd love to see them."

Her entry in Lloyds Register should specify the number of bulkheads. Unfortunately I don't have access to this record as I write.

The veracity of the plan you refer to is of course dependant upon its being faithfully reproduced for publication. Is it a facsimile reproduction with the builder's frank on it?

Noel
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Wouldn't this be dereliction of duty, or leaving an assigned post without authorization or some such? I know you can't do that in the armed forces, so I really doubt it would pass in the Merchant Marine.<<

See Philip's answer. One does not simply walk away from ones post without one helluva compellingly good reason, especially if all one has to say is "I don't know what's going on, but something is so you better get up here."

Something like that...especially with the words "...you better..." delivered to the Captain by a junior officer in 1912 would have gone over as well as offering Viagra® to the attendees at a eunoch's convention! The consequences would not be pleasant!
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What they should have done was wake the Chief Officer, spell out the situation, and let him go to the skipper. Unfortunately, this didn't happen.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch's homepage can be accessed at http://www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_control/documents/contentservertemplate/dft_index.hcst?n=5464&l=1

The report itself is at http://www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_maritmesafety/documants/page/dft_msafety_507706,pdf

It requires an Adobe Acrobat Reader to access. The document is 1498 Kb so it may take a spell to download if you're on a dial up modem.

Noel, the plan I have is an illustration that was part of Leslie Reade's private collection and it appears in the section with the illustrations. It has "S.S. Californian No.159" along with a few basic dimensions set to one side so it certainly looks legit. I don't see where else he could have obtained them.

If you have access to the Lloyd's records at some point, I'd be interested in what they have to say.
 
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David Haisman

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Your post Philip brings back a few memories of when I was on the Canadian run on the Ascania in 1956 and later, the Saxonia.
On the old Ascania, we would stop overnight in the ice off the Bell Isle Straits waiting for day break before proceeding into the St Lawrence seaway. Ice fields in my experience, on beautiful clear nights reflect many strange images and you sometimes wander what you're looking at some times.
My jobs during the 12-4 watch was to record wet and dry temperatures, air temperatures, sea temperatures and engine revs every hour when under way and of course, fetch the coffee or tea and sandwiches from the officers pantry!
As you mentioned, officers of the watch, especially the master, were fearsome creatures at the best of times and it was good sense for junior ratings to keep well out of their way. When waking an officer, you were never allowed to physically touch them and always just gently shook their pillow.
I can remember taking a tray of tea on the bridge one night and placing it on a small table by the radar. As the wheel house is always in total darkness, the officers pour out their tea in a well practised blind fashion adding milk and sugar almost by feel.
On this particular night they began to splutter and curse at how the tea was as weak as piss and reckoned I was a good candidate for a keel hauling job.
They were in the process of drinking pure boiling water. I had forgotten to add the tea!
This is an indication of tiredness and cold and forever straining your eyes looking out of the wheelhouse windows at a most deceiving wilderness. The perils of lack of concentration are all too apparent!

Those were the days!

All the best,
David
 

Philip Bowler

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Aug 19, 2003
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Hi David,
Sorry, I am one of those officers of whom you speak! I always preferred coffee rather than tea so the hot water would have been welcome! Thank you.
You have all talked about leaving the bridge/wheelhouse to talk to the Captain.
As a Merchant marine Officer from 19?? to 19?? I never really wanted to talk to him, just needed him there to help me sort something out if it looked like it was shortly about to go pear shaped. He was God after all.
At sea and making way (moving) I would have sent the Cadet (apprentice) down if the telephone hadn't worked.
The reason being that the rest of the bridge watch were experienced professionals within their field and as he was learning he was least likely to be missed within the team.
 

Noel F. Jones

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"the plan I have is an illustration that was part of Leslie Reade's private collection and it appears in the section with the illustrations. It has "S.S. Californian No.159" along with a few basic dimensions set to one side so it certainly looks legit. I don't see where else he could have obtained them.

If you have access to the Lloyd's records at some point, I'd be interested in what they have to say.
"

It could so be the plan (unless it was a fold-out) was attenuated while being miniaturised for publication. As we know, ship drafts are rather large documents. Whatever, six hatches serving just two compartments seems highly impracticable to me.

We'll have to leave this in abeyance while I try and access some long distance information.

Noel
 
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David Haisman

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Hello Phil,

In those days I was an Ordinary Seaman, come Bridge Boy and General Factotum working throughout the bridge alongside of QM's and doing a stint on radar and recording hourly readings on a blackboard in the wheelhouse. Sea temps and revs were done by phone from the engine room and other readings taken on the ''Monkey's Island''
The 14 000 ton Ascania was built in 1925 by Vickers Armstrong on the Tyne and they knew something about ship building! She was a wonderful ''sea boat'' and took all the North Atlantic storms in her stride, behaving beautifully with beam on seas almost as though she had stabilizers.
One of her features was the crews washrooms on the port side of the for'cstle with around 8 stalls divided with low partitions and bat wing doors at the front.
The one way valves on the waste pipe outlets at waterline level were long past their ''sell by date'' and no longer operated as they should have.
As a result, occupants in the bog would experience a sudden upward gush of spray and icy sea water around their nether regions when pitching into heavy seas.
To watch heads bobbing and down each time the ship took another dive made this activity worth thinking about. It goes without saying that on evecuation, one would have to time the next plunge before flushing and making a rapid exit to prevent getting one's own back!

All the best,

David
 

Erik Wood

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Aug 24, 2000
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In relation to coffee/tea while underway and waking the skipper.

Since I am currently underway I thought I would share a conversation I head with my Russian Chief Officer shortly before we left St. Petersburg. We where going over what I expect and when during my slumber period he would like me to be awakened. My response was short, "if there is doubt, wake me". He then persisted and wanted to know if he could request that I come and check out a developing situation, to which my response "was of course".

3 days after we left Gibraltar on the second leg of this trip at around 2 am (ships time) I was awakened to the sound of the ships emergency alarm. I sprinted to the bridge in my skivies with coverall's in hand.

I arrived to find my young third mate red faced with a wheelsman and Chief Officer red faced when they told me that they had accidently tripped the alarm and they then made a pipe. The Chief said, Captain I didn't call you, if it was a real emergency I would have called you. Imagine, the ships master, the man of authority standing on his bridge in his skivies. Well, it has happened before and I am sure it will happen again.

In the old days my stomach could handle coffee, that isn't the case anymore, but I can recall a trip from Honolulu to South Korea when I was but a young deck officer and I came on the mid watch to find what I thought was a fresh pot of coffee. I attempted to pour it in a cup but the sludge wouldn't move, I then took the pot over to the bridge wing in a attempt to fling the sludge out, that didn't work either. So I looked around and tried one more time, "unfortunatly" the pot came loose from the not so tight grip I had and over the side it went. So, I had to call down to the night cook and get a new one. The next night I arrived on the bridge to find that there was no coffee pot, with a note from the skipper that said (and I still have the note), "Mr. Wood your coffee privlages have been suspended, I hope you take better care of my ship then you do the coffee pot" signed Captain Berrows. To which I waited until about 0330 and woke him asking what he would like me to do about a certain contact. When he asked what it was, I told him "a coffee pot that some [email protected]* hole threw over the side". To which all I heard was the sound powered phone hanging up. The next night I had my coffee privlages back.

Now back to your regular topic.
 

Inger Sheil

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Feb 9, 1999
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Lord himself seems to have raised the matter of how effectively he was summoned. There's that response to a letter from Lord (now, apparently, lost), that Rostron wote on the 5 September 1912:
Anyway, Lord, you have my sympathies. I understand more than I can say especially about the calling business
Reade notes that:
Rostron had told his younger shipmate Ivan Thompson, later Sir Ivan Thompson, that the reference to "the calling business" related to Lord's letter to him in which Lord had said "It would not have happened if I had been called properly."
Thompson's statement to Reade dates to 1963, but it does seem to fit in the context of Rostron's reply. I wonder, though, if Lord elaborated further on not being 'called properly' in his correspondence with Rostron.

Very interesting to get the anecdotal evidence from the mariners on the board about how one notified the master and under what circumstances.
 
Jun 11, 2000
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Erik,
I take it that 'skivies' are some sort of undignified undergarments?
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Actually, I think you have a good chief there - very thorough - and I think you can sleep soundly. These anecdotal stories from the bridge are very interesting, as Inger said, and do illuminate the problems of absolute authority vs. encouraging contact. One can quite understand the need for absolute authority, but it could get dangerous.
On a slightly different subject (moderators please re-direct post if necessary / not totally idiotic suggestion)... the iceberg. Strikes me people argue about an imponderable - how far away could the lookouts have been expected to see it. Would it not be possible to do a computer simulation based upon the lookouts' perspective (100ft above water?) and the fact that detecting it at a safe distance would have been a matter of realizing that a portion of the night sky of blazing stars was obscured? We can calculate their distance to the horizon (of sight), we know the speed of the ship, we know the rough height of the iceberg. So surely we could set up a simulation which would determine when the iceberg would have blocked out enough stars to cause concern about an object blocking the ship's path? I can do the maths, but am not up to the programming these days, so what about it? I have a suspicion that you could only have seen it quite close up - Rostron detected a few, star twinklings off the bergs etc., but he knew what he was looking for, and he later said he missed more bergs than he sighted.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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One could do a computer simulation that would hypothetically make it possible to judge at what distance the iceberg could have been spotted, but it would only be as useful as the assumptions behind the perameters used and the knowable variables.

The problem is that it's simply impossible to know what all the variables are. How does one account for fatigue and other factors such as having an approximmate 21 to 22 knot wind blowing in one's face giving a windchill of around 14 to 15 degrees over a period of two hours? How does one calculate such variables as the stamina of the lookout and his ability to see in the dark, and attention span to a particular area? How does one factor in exactly where the attention of the lookouts was focused and any possible distractions? How does one factor in exactly what it is that would get the lookouts attention or what gets them to decide that a particular area should perhaps be given closer study?

Computers make wonderful tools and might give us a general idea of what's possible, but there's a lot more going on then can ever be factored into an algorithm.

It's the variables you don't and can't know that tosses a monkey wrench into the idea.
 

Philip Bowler

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Aug 19, 2003
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Monica, try standing in the dark for 4 hours staring out into blackness, even with something in the foreground that you can see. Eventually it will disappear even though you stare very hard. Do it then on a very cold night with"1912" garments. Sometimes you see things sometimes you don't. Nowadays we expect every thing to have lights on or the international ice patrol has told us it is there.
You are probably correct that a vast portion of stars were missing but they are only missing if you are not too cold to concentrate properly.
I know that the movie over dramatises but remember the look, second look and disbelief? Well it happens even if you are not standing on the bridge in your underpants with a coffee pot full of sludge!
 
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