The Last Log Of The Titanic By David G Brown


Paul Rogers

Member
Nov 30, 2000
1,244
12
223
57
West Sussex, UK
I've just read this article and am about to go back and re-read it more carefully. What a fascinating piece of work - I was entranced from the very beginning!

As a confirmed landlubber, I have no credentials with which to comment on the research or deductions made. They certainly appear to my uneducated eye to be logical and well-argued. As I read this work, I found I was constantly saying to myself: "Of course! Why didn't I think of that? Or why, at least, didn't I ask that question!?"

To my mind, and just as important, the prose was well-written, evocative and easy to follow. All jargon used was well explained, and yet at no time did I feel as if I was being patronised. It was indeed a pleasure to read; unlike so many other books (on all subjects) that I have struggled through in the past.

Mr Brown (and Phil H.) - thank you for posting this research on ET. I note that the article appears to be an excerpt from a larger work (a book?). If so, guess what I'm buying for myself at Christmas!

Regards,

Paul.
 

Mike Poirier

Member
Dec 31, 2004
1,473
7
233
I must say I read Brown's research with, "intense interest ". I am far from being technical and I thought it was fascinating. He presented everything in the most logical manner. ( unlike Pellegrino )
He made two points that caught my eye. He refered to tipping, not listing. Most books say listing, but Lowe was quick to point out once that there was a difference and said the Titanic was tipping, not listing. I was glad Brown noticed that.

The other was about the iceberg not contacting the side of the ship. But it actually spilled loose ice onto the deck.
There are several credible eyewitnesses, including James McGough who had ice come through his cabin porthole. And since his porthole was on E-deck, the ship must have had some sort of contact above the line.
But all in all this book is definitely on my want list.
 

Mike Herbold

Member
Feb 13, 2001
1,007
8
223
Paul and Michael:
You hit it right on the head. I haven't finished reading it yet, but was hooked immediately on page 2 by the following:

"In reality, those calm conditions were the indicators of mortal danger threatening the ship. Ice navigation texts state flatly that the absence of swell (wave motion) is an indicator that a ship is approaching pack ice. Also, an oily look to the surface of frigid water is produced by the formation of spicules, or frazil ice. Frazil is the first stage in the development of new sea ice. Its formation would have been expected once the temperature of the seawater dipped below the freezing point. (Seawater freezes at a lower temperature than does freshwater.)"

And George Behe will love this followup paragraph:

"Based on the conditions reported by Lightoller and the other surviving officers, Titanic must have been steaming through patches of ice and dodging occasional bergs for several hours at the time of the accident. There was plenty of time to set extra lookouts, slow down, and alter course more to the south........"
 
May 12, 2005
3,107
20
233
All,

I have to hand it to Mr. Brown. So much of what he says makes a lot of real sense and like Paul Rogers I kept thinking "My God, that's it! That's what happened."

I am no mariner either but I feel even those who are will be at odds to take serious issue with Brown's reasoning which is certainly sound.

I was transfixed all the way through the article and want to commend him for putting the piece so expertly together. It's extremely complicated and so in lesser hands (like mine!) might have become hopelessly confused.

All my compliments to David Brown (and Philip Hind, of course) for sharing with all of us what must be one of the most in-depth and intriguing papers ever posted on ET.

Randy
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
1,280
11
0
Mike Herbold wrote:

>And George Behe will love this followup >paragraph:

"Based on the conditions reported by Lightoller >and the other surviving
>officers, Titanic must have been steaming through >patches of ice and
>dodging occasional bergs for several hours at the >time of the accident.

Hi, Mike!

A simple glance at the Senate Inquiry's ice charts prove that this was indeed the case. (Who knows? Titanic's lookouts might even have *seen* a few of these bergs....) :)

>There was plenty of time to set extra lookouts, >slow down, and alter
>course more to the south........"

Mr. Brown had better be careful and not criticize Murdoch, though, or Murdoch's small but vocal group of advocates will pounce on him like a hobo on a ham sandwich. :)

All my best,

George
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
1,280
11
0
By the way, I'd like to compliment David Brown on his fine article. It's definitely worthy of careful reading and serious consideration.

Nice work, David!

All my best,

George
 

Mike Herbold

Member
Feb 13, 2001
1,007
8
223
George et al:
Actually I was commenting on David Brown's new book by the same name. I didn't notice the new article here on ET until just now. You're probably aware of it already, George, but he also talks about your "several iceberg warnings" on page 49 and 58-59.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,614
680
483
Easley South Carolina
The iceberg warnings in and of themselves are rather old news. The Titanic received them, Smith saw some of them and even ordered a course change further south to avoid them...yet still kept up speed.(BAD career move!)

I still tend to question whether or not the lookouts saw any bergs befor the collision with the berg they unquestionably did see. It's not impossible. Nighttime at sea is about as black as inky black can be. It's possible they saw some sliding past, and survivor accounts allude to the possibility of three icebergs seen and avoided. Titanic, Speed Safety, And Sacrifice goes into this in some detail and is worth getting so one knows the arguements and the source of the accounts. It's worth noting that on their run north to pick up the survivors, the Carpathia's crew saw and avoided several icebergs...at night!

I suppose I'll have to order Mr. Browns book to see for myself what his arguements are. It's already available on Amazon.com.

In the latest Voyager put out by TI, there is an artical and some photographs of yet another claiment for THE iceberg that sank the Titanic. I'm decidedly skeptical on this one, but I was wondering if anyone else here saw it, and what they thought of it.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
5,342
60
308
Very interesting work - both the article and, from the sounds of it, the book. This looks like one of the few new titles that are worth picking up, as it represents a reappraisal of the information rather than a re-hash :) One good thing about the market reaching saturation point - it's getting harder to publish, so those titles that do make it into print have (one hopes) been through a stringent process...a sort of natural selection (publishing Darwinism!). I'll certainly be reading the book, based on the article and the recommendations of people like Parks Stephenson and Mike Herbold. Of course, I'll be reading the more technical aspects of ship handling and structure very s-l-o-w-l-y, and perhaps some of it will sink in ;-) Good thing my mates in the mercantile marine and Navy (both US and Brit) are generally willing to help a wide-eyed novice out.

The helm orders and dynamics of the collision in particular are still a subject of fascinating debate - one to which I wish I had something more to contribute. Like discussions involving many of the more technical aspects, I'm happy to listen to others, such as Brown, Stephenson, Mengot and McVey expound upon theories and possibilities. While I can't say I agree with everything in the article, I doubt there's a substantial work on the Titanic in existance dealing the more contentious issues that I could agree with in its entirely :)

One criticism of the senior officers that I do feel has a good deal of validity, even within the context of contemporary merchant shipping practices (and malpractices!), is the decision not to place more lookouts (particularly in the 'eyes' of the ship). After all, some other basic, if inadequate precautions had been taken (a warning to the crows nest to keep a sharp lookout for ice, the order to minimise light in front of the bridge) - why not post more lookouts?

At any rate, I think it's a productive activity to critically assess the actions of officers, crew and passengers. The canon must always be open to challenge.

And a big hallo to George!

Mr. Brown had better be careful and not criticize Murdoch, though, or Murdoch's small but vocal group of advocates will pounce on him like a hobo on a ham sandwich. :)

Good thing this group of aggressive 'advocates' is small then, eh? I've only met a few along these lines, most of whom were quite young, or new to the field. Like their opposing counterparts (those who have reduced Murdoch to a caricature of incompetance or even malignancy), they represent the extremes in Titanic research. The polarity is part of the downside of popular history, and Murdoch - as a high profile participant in the event - is particularly susceptible to this.

Fortunately, most Murdoch researchers I've met or corresponded with are sharply perceptive, shrewd, talented investigators who possess a wonderful grasp of the First Officer's humanity - strengths, flaws and all. They're not a small group, either, and they're not all vocal - there are surprisingly many of them, and they live all over the world. I had dinner with one woman last week - not an active participant in the on-line community - who has been researching Murdoch for years. She has quietly and unobtrusively been gathering data, interviewing people, searching through public records, and has amassed a substantial body of work.

There are many such individuals in the Titanic community, and one of the joys is meeting them. I've spent some of the most enjoyable and fruitful hours in the course of my own research in sitting down in pubs or warm kitchens, a pint or a cup of tea in front of me, documents and photos spread out (being careful not to spill beverages on them), comparing data and theories. Rather than edging to the extremes that characterise popular history, it is in these conversations and debates that a full and frank discussion occurs on strengths, foibles, errors of judgement and the admirable qualities of the participants get a thorough investigation.

If you do manage to get to the UK again at some point in the future, perhaps you'd care to meet some of these individuals? I'd be happy to see if I could arrange it. Their ideas, research and material are often fresh and original, and - by and large - their critical faculties are honed to a remarkable degree. Not a foaming mouth in sight - just passionate, dedicated and brilliant people :) It's been a privilege to learn from them.

All the best,

Inger
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
1,280
11
0
Hi, Inger!

>Fortunately, most Murdoch researchers I've met or >corresponded with are
>sharply perceptive, shrewd, talented >investigators who possess a
>wonderful grasp of the First Officer's humanity - >strengths, flaws and all.

The sad thing, though, is that we never seem to hear about these 'flaws.' In fact, you once told me privately that you know a number of researchers and family members who are aware of some of Murdoch's flaws but refuse to make that information part of the historical record. The result of this behavior is that the public has an unnaturally skewed perception of "the Noble Murdoch" as being unlike "the normal flawed human being who makes mistakes like everyone else." That's one reason why I refuse to buy into the "the Noble Murdoch" scenario without being able to see 'the other side of the coin.'

>Rather than edging to the extremes that >characterise
>popular history, it is in these conversations and >debates that a full
>and frank discussion occurs on strengths, >foibles, errors of judgement
>and the admirable qualities of the participants >get a thorough
>investigation.

However, none of this information does historians any good if it isn't made public in one fashion or another.

>If you do manage to get to the UK again at some >point in the future,
>perhaps you'd care to meet some of these >individuals?

Thanks for the invitation. If Geoff Whitfield can arrange a general amnesty for me, I'll be there with bells on. :)

All my best,

George
 

Senan Molony

Member
Jan 30, 2004
1,689
17
161
Dublin
I’ll attempt to be brief. David’s article is very well argued in relation to the impact. I fully subscribe to keel damage and his masterful analysis of the flooding makes sense.
I also agree that there was an attempt to hard-a-starboard in order to port around the berg after the initial left turn. Olliver and Rowe are convincing in evidence on this point — on top of the Murdoch hearsay.
I also agree that Titanic then went ahead again for some time. And I think (I think, merely) that she had previously first reversed post-accident to get off any detached spur beneath her. That opinion is open to anyone who reads the evidence.
However I part company with David on three points, and I think he parts company himself form his previous rigorous analysis and avowed attempt to avoid all myths — whether existing or fresh minted.
I don’t agree that: 1) Titanic went to the North; 2) That she had made a decision to head for Halifax; nor with 3) The simple assumption that the Titanic’s mystery ship was the Californian.
Did the Titanic go to the North?
A person walking in a straight line, turning left and then half-completing a turn to the right (“I tried to port around her, but she was too close” — incompletion of that turn indicates Murdoch) will not end up facing to the north. Broadly speaking, one is more likely to face in the same direction as previously in relation to a sharp left, incomplete right S-bend turn. Try it yourself.
It must be far more likely that the Titanic attempted, when moving forward, to resume her westerly course.
Did she aim for Halifax?
Halifax is NOT to the North. Greenland is to the North. Halifax is north of West. On a rhumb Grand Circle course, even if one wanted to go to Halifax, the proper action is to continue on the westerly heading first. Only later will one want to plot a gradually steeper Northern course blended into a western heading.
Titanic moving forward post-impact surely therefore is most likely to mean a westerly heading.
A decision to steer North would require the plotting of an entirely new course. Even if one wanted to steer NorthWest, as an arrow flies, for Halifax (in contravention of Grand Circle rhumb-line navigational convention) this too would require an entirely new course.
It is inconceivable that helmsman Hitchens would not be told about it or would not notice such a decision. Olliver was there too. Neither of them mention it. Nor is it conceivable that the officers on board the bridge would not learn of such a plan.
Fourth Officer Boxhall was on that bridge after impact and for much thereafter. He had responsibility for computing the Titanic’s final at-rest position. His first impression was transmitted at 12.15.
David overlooks the fact that Boxhall computed a new position at 12.25, long after the Titanic was immobile, long after all the movement he refers to was completed and at and end.
It is beyond my acceptance that up to ten minutes of forward movement on a new heading — to the north! — would have been A) missed by him or B) not included in the new calculation. The overall effect of including the fresh data may have been of minor significance in relation to the overall dead reckoning, but that is no argument for its willful omission.
The proof is there in Boxhall’s new computation at 12.25. The Titanic remains on her Westerly line. But her latitude has actually come down. It is further to the SOUTH. That alleged chug to the North didn’t happen. The evidence on these arguments is bad, bad, bad. In fact it really doesn’t exist. It is wishful thinking. We have west and more west.
Was the Titanic’s mystery ship the Californian?
I’m not getting into this again, except to point out that David has simply decided that they are one and the same. The Californian was unquestionably to the north of the Titanic. But an unexplained, motiveless change of course to the north when the Californian had not been in sight either before or immediately after impact is, in my view, wholly untenable.
Halifax ain’t North. There ain’t nothing North. Why go North?
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,614
680
483
Easley South Carolina
I ordered Mr Brown's book from Amazon.com, and I inhtend to go over it with a fine toothed comb. The investigation/inquiry transcripts are going to get a lot of use over the next few weeks. My highlighter as well. One of these days, some archaeologist will find it and probably wonder why there are all those highlighted paragraphs and notes in the margins.
happy.gif


Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
5,342
60
308
Hallo, George -

In fact, you once told me privately that you know a number of researchers and family members who are aware of some of Murdoch's flaws but refuse to make that information part of the historical record.

Ah, that must be the rap sheet he had for boiling babies in his idle hours ashore ;-)

You've got me at a loss here...I've reviewed my email correspondence with you, and I can't find anything pertaining to a cover-up among Murdoch researchers re his 'flaws'. I know I did once regale you via email with what I perceived as Lowe's flaws, but my reasons for not discussing those publicly are simple - I want to present them as part of the sum total of my work, not as isolated parts of the whole. I have also referred to material pertaining to several of the officers that their descendents preferred not to make public, but did not specifiy what the nature of this material was (positive or negative).

Anything I've had to say about researchers having material relating to Murdoch's 'flaws' has been stated publicly. Are you trying to get me in trouble with my those colleagues who have shared material about Murdoch, and who are now scratching their heads and thinking that I'm playing fast and loose with their information ? ;-)

The researchers I've discussed Murdoch's 'flaws' with have declined to make this information public not as part of a dire conspiracy of silence, but rather because they are respecting the wishes of those individuals who passed it to them in the first place. That reticence on the part of those who possess the material is entirely understandable, and extends to all facets of the material - personal anecdotes, observations, letters, photos, etc. Over the years they have fallen victim to either exploiters or extraordinarily insensitive people who treat not only these men but also their families and the families of their friends and colleagues as public property.

There are also other reasons why some people are reluctant to make their material public. I know of a particular anecdote relating to a Titanic officer that I personally think is illuminating both of the officer's character and also of WSL politics. However, my source specifically named names, and told me in the clearest possible way that this material was notto be made public. He was concerned that there might be descendents of the other man involved who are still alive today, and he did not wish to cause them any distress. You would appreciate my disappointment in this instance, as I'm now reduced to referring to this material obliquely rather than providing a specific identification for the individuals involved.

In additions, others are reluctant to make material public at this time as they hope to publish their work in the future - a view I'm certain you're familiar with and respect.

I share your frustration at the material that is not available publicly and with little chance of it being put in the public domain for the foreseeable future. This is because it is rich and diverse, and if it were more widely known not only would people come to appreciate Murdoch with all his strengths and weaknesses, but they might start seeing him as more than the caricature that is so superficially understood in Titanic circles (there are far too many who insist on the hero/villain polarities). I might add that I have seen nothing that would affect my essentially high opinion of the man (if I had, I would not count myself among those who respect him - and I do).

Nor have any dark and dire secrets rattling around in his closet pertaining to his skills as a mariner that have come to light through these private sources (indeed, this is perhaps the one point that was consistently stressed, from a very wide range of sources: his ability). One of the very few Titanic related stories that has been passed on that is not already in the public domain is one which could only enhance his reputation. It is poignant, and highly illustrative of what was happening on the boat deck at that time. I can remember few occasions on which I have been more moved then the first time I heard about this particular incident. Coupled with this was a sense almost of indignation - people should know all this material. Not because it would make Murdoch seem either heroic or dastardly, but because they would see him as human rather than reduce him to a narrow type.

The result of this behavior is that the public has an unnaturally skewed perception of "the Noble Murdoch" as being unlike "the normal flawed human being who makes mistakes like everyone else." That's one reason why I refuse to buy into the "the Noble Murdoch" scenario without being able to see 'the other side of the coin.'

What - a man can't be noble and humanly flawed too? ;-) Not all the material that has not been made public is 'negative' ;-) Far from it - much of it is neither 'negative' or 'positive', it's simply career or personal detail, and much of it - as outlined above - is 'positive'. The Titanic community has at least as strong an 'ignoble' as a 'noble' tradition with regards to Murdoch. The public perception of Murdoch is indeed unnnaturally skewed, but that is due to incomplete information on all aspects of his life. The man left is about as human as a Bridge commutator. The way to redress this is not to go fossicking about for perceived 'negative' traits(anymore than we can redress the knee-jerk 'Murdoch as Villain' by rummaging through sources for 'positive' traits). If you want a more rounded idea of the man, you need seek out information on all aspects of his life.

Thanks for the invitation. If Geoff Whitfield can arrange a general amnesty for me, I'll be there with bells on. :)

Well, they not only let me into the country, they made me a citizen - their standards of admission can't be too high!Does this mean I can drag both you, Geoff and a few research colleagues off to an old-fashioned East End boozer while I bore you senseless with a day by day account of Lowe's wartime movements? No Mountain Dew over here, unfortunately, but there's plenty of coke...I know, because it makes a great mixer with rum :) I know one of my colleagues - a person who lurks on this board sometimes but has never posted - would thoroughly enjoy the discussion. She's about to publish some of her original research on one of the Titanic's officers, and it's excellent material - debunking a few factually incorrect statements that have gained wide currency. A brilliant historian by training, she's the one person I can't convince that Lowe had a sense of humour...

Regards,

Inger
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
1,280
11
0
Hi, Inger!

>You've got me at a loss here...I've reviewed my email correspondence
>with you, and I can't find anything pertaining to a cover-up among
>Murdoch researchers re his 'flaws'.

We've discussed so many officer-related tidbits in the past that I guess my memory was playing tricks on me when I thought you'd referred to Murdoch in particular.

> I know I did once regale you via
>email with what I perceived as Lowe's flaws,

Yes, it's all starting to come back to me.... :)

>Anything I've had to say about researchers having material relating to
>Murdoch's 'flaws' has been stated publicly. Are you trying to get me in
>trouble with my those colleagues who have shared material about Murdoch,
>and who are now scratching their heads and thinking that I'm playing
>fast and loose with their information ? ;-)

Perhaps your friends will rest at ease if you'll refresh our memories with a few anecdotes about Murdoch's major character flaws. ;-)

>The researchers I've discussed Murdoch's 'flaws' with have declined to
>make this information public ..... because they are respecting the wishes of those
>individuals who passed it to them in the first place.

An honorable motive that I respect. Even so, that just means that the 'enforced silence' has originated with the original informants themselves, who clearly do not want the 'entire Murdoch' to be preserved for the historical record. That's truly unfortunate -- and will eventually result in the public's skewed perception of Murdoch becoming *permanent.*

>What - a man can't be noble and humanly flawed too? ;-)

Certainly he can. However, any account of a man's life that attempted to hide his flaws and weaknesses would be absolutely worthless as a historical document. I'm related to Andrew Jackson and James McNeil Whistler (both of whom had plenty of enemies and plenty of major character flaws), but seeing the negative aspects of these two men's personalities discussed in books does not bother me in the least. Indeed, I would toss into the trash any biographies of these men that attempted to gloss over their many failings -- failings that were such a major part of both men's personalities.

> If you want a more rounded idea of the man, you need seek out
>information on all aspects of his life.

I agree -- but we mustn't allow anyone to 'edit out the bad parts.'

>Does this mean I can drag
>both you, Geoff and a few research colleagues off to an old-fashioned
>East End boozer while I bore you senseless with a day by day account of
>Lowe's wartime movements?

I've heard that Lowe saved his best movements for the disco floor. :)

All my best,

George
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
1,280
11
0
Hello again, Inger!

>The researchers I've discussed Murdoch's 'flaws' with have declined to
>make this information public ..... because they are respecting the wishes of those
>individuals who passed it to them in the first place.

You know, it suddenly occurs to me that the 'enforced silence' that has been imposed upon your colleagues might not be as important as I originally envisioned. In the case of the officers who died on the Titanic, none of your colleagues' present-day informants could possibly have known the officers in question *personally.* That being the case, unless these informants possessed documents containing observations that were written down by people who *did* know the officers personally, the oral information that has been passed along 'in confidence' would only qualify as anecdotal, family tradition or hearsay. Naturally, such information is of unknown reliability (since it could easily have been embellished or 'edited' over the years) and could not be presented by a biographer as being documented fact.

Looking on the bright side of all this, perhaps we've been saved from hearing some whoppers about Murdoch, Moody and Wilde. :)

All my best,

George
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
5,342
60
308
G'day, George!

**I know I did once regale you via email with what I perceived as Lowe's flaws **

Yes, it's all starting to come back to me.... :)

I knew my obscure reference to Lowe's killing spree in Colwyn Bay back at the height of the Depression would jog your memory ;-)

**Anything I've had to say about researchers having material relating to Murdoch's 'flaws' has been stated publicly. Are you trying to get me in trouble with those colleagues who have shared material about Murdoch, and who are now scratching their heads and thinking that I'm playing fast and loose with their information ? ;-)**

Perhaps your friends will rest at ease if you'll refresh our memories with a few anecdotes about Murdoch's major character flaws. ;-)

“Refresh” your memory eh? So you’re already familiar with all the personal material on Murdoch extant? ;-) Somehow I don't think that sharing any of the information that I was asked to keep under wraps - be it photos, documents, letters, recollections etc - would be a way to restore confidence in my ability to respect the wishes and research of others. :) I didn't do the work on Murdoch (my work on the Titanic's first officer has been primarily confined to logs, crew agreements etc), so it's not my place to put it in the public domain. I can only say I was honoured by their confidence in me.

**The researchers I've discussed Murdoch's 'flaws' with have declined to make this information public ..... because they are respecting the wishes of those individuals who passed it to them in the first place.**

An honorable motive that I respect. Even so, that just means that the 'enforced silence' has originated with the original informants themselves, who clearly do not want the 'entire Murdoch' to be preserved for the historical record. That's truly unfortunate -- and will eventually result in the public's skewed perception of Murdoch becoming *permanent.*

Now, you are perhaps inadvertently skewing the intent of my original comment - the reference to them 'clearly' not wanting the 'entire Murdoch' preserved for the historical record hints at dire conspiracy to whitewash Murdoch. I'll just restate the next part of what I said originally:

That reticence on the part of those who possess the material is entirely understandable, and extends to all facets of the material - personal anecdotes, observations, letters, photos, etc. Over the years they have fallen victim to either exploiters or extraordinarily insensitive people who treat not only these men but also their families and the families of their friends and colleagues as public property.

It's not that they don't want the man's character as part of the historical record - they do. I know some of them who are quite heartily sick of the Murdoch who looms large in the popular consciousness of the Titanic community . Public perceptions of him are skewed - they are facile and reductive. They would very much like to combat the image of the ignoble Murdoch - one of the 'villains' of the piece - that is so popular in Titanic circles. There isn't a question of fearing public reaction to the man in his entirety, as they are very confident that he would stand up well to scrutiny . Their decision not to go public is out of a sense almost of self preservation, mixed in with not a little disgust at the way in which some members of the public have conducted themselves in their quest for information. To give a few examples, I know of a member of one Murdoch family who was hounded by reporters at his workplace. I've also seen a letter in the papers of another family connected with the Titanic that demonstrated the grossest insensitivity - writing to an elderly relative and, after expressing a perfunctory regret at the disaster, the very next line wanted to know if the person in question had any 'mementoes' of a much-loved lost relative they wished to sell, or come to that whether they had anything else connected with the Titanic that was up for sale. This interest is sometimes well meant, if rather misguided (ask one poor bemused man who has received marriage offers from around the world due to his connection to Murdoch), and sometimes is exploitative - collectors and the avaricious are on the hunt for material, either for their research or collections, and they don't care how they get it.

The extreme caution and reticence to go public with information - and that is, in some cases, all information, not just what could be construed as 'negative' - is entirely understandable in this context. A relative of one man who is not a controversial figure summed it up when they referred to the 'circus' aspects of the public's sometimes intrusive interest. I can't help but respect that, and regret the overbearing interest to which they have been subjected.

However, any account of a man's life that attempted to hide his flaws and weaknesses would be absolutely worthless as a historical document. I'm related to Andrew Jackson and James McNeil Whistler (both of whom had plenty of enemies and plenty of major character flaws), but seeing the negative aspects of these two men's personalities discussed in books does not bother me in the least. Indeed, I would toss into the trash any biographies of these men that attempted to gloss over their many failings -- failings that were such a major part of both men's personalities.

Well, I think this is a basic principle of historical studies that we can agree on. Not only is the recognition that human beings innately flawed an assumption that most of us enter our studies with (and are rapidly disabused of any notions we might hold to the contrary), but I believe that these people would be a good deal less interesting as flawless individuals. You're talking to someone who thinks Anne Boleyn was one of the most fascinating historical figures history has to offer - and if she wasn't flawed, I don't know who is. Dante Gabriele Rossetti was guilty of abusing pet animals through negligence, and Elizabeth Siddal was self-absorbed. They're all still marvelous figures in history, and would probably be a damn sight duller if they were pious saints. My favourite poet, AE Housman, is perhaps the one literary figure I would never wish to meet - he was a thoroughly unpleasant individual, although I can feel compassion for some of the circumstances of his life.

Of course, accepting the fact that human beings are flawed does not mean that therefore all 'flaws' we perceive in them are there and all criticism is valid :) I prefer to evaluate each criticism on its merits, and if I think it's a valid one I accept it.

**If you want a more rounded idea of the man, you need seek out information on all aspects of his life.**

I agree -- but we mustn't allow anyone to 'edit out the bad parts.'

You obviously haven't seen me try to curb some of the more effusive outpourings of admiration for the Titanic's officers ;-) Moody wasn't an earth-bound angel, nor were Murdoch or Wilde. But let me just reiterate here...the Murdoch family and those other individuals with information are not attempting to 'edit' out anything negative pertaining to Murdoch by withholding data - the embargo is universal, and covers positive, negative and neutral. That's an important point to emphasise, as the family has been accused in certain circles of, among other things, running an 'agenda' to ‘protect’ William Murdoch. I’ve met some members of the family, and find that this perception does them a great disservice.

You know, it suddenly occurs to me that the 'enforced silence' that has been imposed upon your colleagues might not be as important as I originally envisioned. In the case of the officers who died on the Titanic, none of your colleagues' present-day informants could possibly have known the officers in question *personally.* That being the case, unless these informants possessed documents containing observations that were written down by people who *did* know the officers personally, the oral information that has been passed along 'in confidence' would only qualify as anecdotal, family tradition or hearsay. Naturally, such information is of unknown reliability (since it could easily have been embellished or 'edited' over the years) and could not be presented by a biographer as being documented fact.

Lolol! Oh, give these researchers some credit, George! Don’t you think I have the ability to distinguish between quality and slip-shod work? I'm not talking about a group of wide-eyed novices here, drawn into the first tall-tale they heard handed down by someone's brother's uncle's fifth cousin's grandson! They are extremely professional, and thoroughly document and cross-reference all the material that they can gather. They're more than well aware of the fallibilities of recollection and the problems inherent in using oral sources. They are more than capable of distinguishing between oral tradition, primary accounts, secondary sources etc. If it is an oral source (and oral sources are only one component of the material I'm talking about), they clearly identify it as such and offer any corroborative material they have been able to uncover. I know of one tradition regarding an aspect of Murdoch's character that has come down from 4 independent sources verbally, and with supporting contemporary material that at least partially corroborates it. This is the sort of thing I'm talking about - not vague gossip and hearsay. There's plenty of the latter as well, and it should also be recorded - with the strong caveat that the stories origins are second or third hand, and must be treated with all due caution.

Looking on the bright side of all this, perhaps we've been saved from hearing some whoppers about Murdoch, Moody and Wilde. :)

And the downside is that you're missing out on photographs, letters, taped interviews with individuals who did know these men, documents and stories that have a reliable provenance. I was able to share some primary source material regarding one of the lost officers in NY with a few of the individuals who frequent this site (including the owner), as the current owners were kind enough to allow me to take copies and share these in a limited way (I have also been given permission for wider publication in some instances, and part of this material will be incorporated into the Lowe bio).

The pity of it is these people are very justifiably proud of these long-lost members of their family, as are the descendents of their colleagues and friends. They would prefer to make all this information public, but have been dealt with by researchers, reporters and members of the general public with such brutal insensitivity that they show extreme reluctance to have any further involvement with the Titanic community. So while I share your regret at their decision not to go public with everything they have, I also appreciate respect their decision and understand why they feel as they do.

I don’t know about Lowe’s dance floor moves, but apparently he spent enough time in Wales that he developed some musical talent :) At least I know he wasn’t one of the ship’s officers reprimanded for getting drunk ashore when the Cruiser zigzagged its way to Bermuda...

Regards,

Inger
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
1,280
11
0
Hi,Inger!

>Of course, accepting the fact that human beings are flawed does not mean
>that therefore all 'flaws' we perceive in them are there and all
>criticism is valid :) I prefer to evaluate each criticism on its
>merits, and if I think it's a valid one I accept it.

All researchers do that -- we just don't always arrive at the same conclusions. ;-)

>That's an important point to emphasise, as the
>family has been accused in certain circles of, among other things,
>running an 'agenda' to ‘protect’ William Murdoch.

Speaking of an 'agenda' to 'protect' William Murdoch, are Murdoch's relatives upset by the Dalbeattie website's many deliberate misstatements of fact re: Murdoch's last hours? (Does Ilya still intend to overhaul that website and throw out all the chaff? I certainly hope so.)

All my best,

George
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
5,342
60
308
Hallo, George -

**Of course, accepting the fact that human beings are flawed does not mean that therefore all 'flaws' we perceive in them are there and all criticism is valid :) I prefer to evaluate each criticism on its merits, and if I think it's a valid one I accept it.**

All researchers do that -- we just don't always arrive at the same conclusions. ;-)

Ayup! Exact science it is not. We’re dealing not only with facts, but the interpretation of facts… and there’s that messy human element of emotion, motivation, etc that gets into the equation.

There is no such thing as a completely objective researcher — we are the sum total of our cultural and personal experiences and expectations. One of the first things a student of history - like a student of anthropology — learns is that we bring our own ‘baggage’ with us into our studies. That doesn’t mean we should ever stop striving for objectivity, but when the field itself is so highly subjective it’s no wonder that researchers can look at the same set of facts and accounts and come up with different interpretations…with no empirical means of proving anyone ‘right’.

Speaking of an 'agenda' to 'protect' William Murdoch, are Murdoch's relatives upset by the Dalbeattie website's many deliberate misstatements of fact re: Murdoch's last hours? (Does Ilya still intend to overhaul that website and throw out all the chaff? I certainly hope so.)

“Deliberate” misstatements of fact? Whoa there, George! That’s a strong accusation to make. You can say someone has misinterpreted data, or that their information is incomplete, but if you’re going to accuse them of deliberately lying you’d better have something strong to back it up :) The Murdoch family is not a monolithic body that takes ‘positions’ on issues (or websites!), nor do I speak for them (and I must admit, in most instances I haven’t got the faintest idea what they think of the Dalbeattie website — all I know is that the site does not, and has never claimed to be, an official representation of the views of either the Murdoch family or the town of Dalbeattie).

I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but Ilya is currently deeply involved in his studies (he’s going for a higher certification). The conversations I’ve had with him recently have been more concerned with fresh research I’m doing, and our limited time chatting has been spent on either personal matters or in getting his input in some research leads I’m pursuing. I don’t know what Richard Edkins’ current timetable is for amendments to his site — I know he has intended for some time to review the material to bring the Titanic related data in line with the quality of the rest of the biographical material (and it’s this earlier material that is Richard’s first love). He has in the past been misadvised by certain individuals, and has drawn his material from sources that one could have assumed were accurate. I’ve discussed my views on problems I found on the site with him in person (as I’ve discussed issues I had with your site with you over the internet), and have found that he was already aware of and intending to modify most of the material I raised. Unfortunately, I understand that his commitments are such that he hasn’t had time to work through it — this is a shame, as there’s some other good material I know he intends to add pertaining to Murdoch’s earlier life and career.

Y’know…we’ve discussed Murdoch yet again, but the implications of this discussion go further than the first officer. I’d apply many of my above comments about the flat, one dimensional impression most people have of Murdoch to all of the Titanic’s officers. Recently I found more data on the first voyage that one of them embarked on, and was quite surprised to find of set of circumstances and a specific incident that must have been terribly traumatic for a first voyager. It said volumes about this man’s character (although he was then only a teenager) that he was able to survive and flourish in that environment. It also raised questions — what sort of impact did these early experiences have on his character? And yet to the Titanic community this man is a cipher. Even a high profile figure like Lightoller, about whom it is assumed everything is known, reveals more to further study. I found a pre-Titanic letter from a crewman that makes reference to him in a way that made me snort derisively at certain interpretations that have been put upon the interaction of the two men aboard the Titanic. I was also struck by his compassion for the families of his colleagues after the disaster — in two instances at least there is evidence that he showed an interest and sympathy for them that extended far beyond any perfunctory acknowledgement that might be expected of the senior surviving officer.

The point that has been underlined for me repeatedly is just how little we know of these men. As with all historical figures, when there is little data in the public domain we run the risk of extrapolating too much from too little. Stevie Davies wrote derisively of the response of some writers to the stub left in one of Emily Bronte’s account books. There are hints of a few numbers — no doubt some routine calculation in household expenses — but when there is so little material even these have been analysed and conclusions drawn. As Davies pointed out, they had assumed the status of a secret code…of a riddle to be deciphered. But when they were written, they were of little consequence to the writer and had they come from anyone else would be deemed as dull as dishwater. By all means, we should theorise and explore the possibilities. We just need to be aware of the fact that what we build may be on sand.

All the best,

Inger
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
1,280
11
0
Hi, Inger!

>“Deliberate” misstatements of fact? Whoa there, George! That’s a strong
>accusation to make. You can say someone has misinterpreted data, or that
>their information is incomplete,

No, I can say that plenty of so-called 'evidence' that the Dalbeattie webmaster has posted on that website has absolutely **no basis in fact.** I can also say that knowledgeable people have *repeatedly* pointed this out to the webmaster but that he has (for *years*) found excuses not to correct his website's misinformation -- although he sometimes finds enough spare time to post *new* stuff that he feels bolsters his website's agenda.

(Interestingly, a member of this forum recently told the Dalbeattie webmaster that his website contains some historical errors about Molly Brown. The webmaster told this person that he felt she would 'be happier' if she stopped visiting his website and spent her time here on the ET website instead. Unbelievable!)

> — all I know is that the site does not, and has never
>claimed to be, an official representation of the views of either the
>Murdoch family or the town of Dalbeattie).

It sounds like God, in His infinite mercy, is watching over the Murdoch family and the town of Dalbeattie. :)

All my best,

George
 
Dec 4, 2000
3,242
529
278
Answering Michael Poirier's comments about ice on deck after the accident -- Yes, there was ice scattered about the well deck, that is an established fact. In my book, The Last Log Of The Titanic, I explain how this would have happened as a result of the well-documented instability of icebergs and the weight of Titanic on the underwater ice shelf.

About Murdoch's "Failings" -- people who have not served as a deck officer can be excused for not understanding the dynamics of the situation. The ship is a direct reflection of its captain, who is always "in command" whether on the bridge or not. Murdoch failed to slow down, failed to call extra lookouts, and failed to warn Captain Smith of a "doubtful" situation. However, those "failures" were in keeping with the way Captain Smith expected his ship to be operated. Had Murdoch not kept "craking on," there may not have been an iceberg accident. However, I am also sure that Murdoch would have been excused from duty aboard a White Star liner, especially one commanded by Captain Smith. Defenders of Murdoch's reputation must not focus on his "failures" prior to the accident, but his accomplishments during the incident. When Captain Smith took direct control of the bridge there had been no deaths (as far as is known) and probably no injuries at all. Murdoch turned over a damaged ship to the captain, but one that was not sinking (per Chief Engineer Bell). The loss of the ship was not Murdoch's responsibility... that happened after his watch.

Finally, regarding "seeing" the icebergs -- it is somewhat conventional wisdom to assume that Titanic's lookouts could not see the berg until it was too late because of the lack of moon. That's the "dark night" theory. Yet, the people who promote this idea turn around and allow for Captain Rostran and the crew of Carpathia to pick their way at high speed through the ice on the same so-called "dark night." It was not a dark night. It was a clear night with full light from all of those billions and billions of stars that Carl Sagan introduced to all of us. Starshine on this sort of night is bright enough to permit lookouts to spot objects much smaller than icebergs.

-- David G. Brown
 

Similar threads

Similar threads