Titanic's Attempt To Avoid The Danger


Bill Balla

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I have tried to find out approximately how long it would have taken Titanic's steering gear to move the rudder from the centered position to fully hard over.

Recently, I found a description of a steam powered steering gear on a great lakes ship which indicated that it took 14 seconds to move the rudder from the center to full over.

Assuming this is similar to the performance of Titanic's steering gear, I think I can make an estimate of how long it actually took from the time the iceberg was sighted to the time the rudder was actually moved to it full extent.

I am estimating that from the time that the iceberg was sighted to the time the command was actually given to the helmsman to turn the wheel at approximately 10 seconds.

Once the helmsman heard the order to turn the ship and was actually able to put the helm hard over at approximately 5 seconds.

And as I mentioned, the time to actually move the rudder was about 14 seconds.

Adding it all up, the time I estimate it took to actually begin turning he ship away from the burg would have been about 29 seconds !

Is this possible ? Could it have taken that long for Titanic to begin turning once the ice was sighted ?
 
Jul 9, 2000
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I don't know how this might play into your calculations but it's a matter of record that turning trials were carried out with the RMS Olympic after the disaster. One of the facts that they found was that it took 37 seconds for the head of the ship to swing two and a half points to port from the time the rudder was actually put over.

People have been reading way too much into that ever since but that's the bare bones fact.

I wouldn't read too much into what a Great Lakes ship would have done. The ships contemporary to the time were similar, but not the exact same in how they behaved.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Hi Bill,

To answer your question:

>>Could it have taken that long [29 seconds] for Titanic to begin turning once the ice was sighted?<<

I would have to says, but not for the reasons you gave.

Michael is right about comparing ships unless they were very similar and carried the same steering gear. Olympic was Titanic's sister, and test conducted and documented on Olympic were as close as you can get to how Titanic would have done. But I would like to add some comments on the numbers that you put down.

The first has to do with 10 seconds between when the berg was spotted and the order given to the helmsman. The helmsman at the time was QM Hichens. Hichens testified that the time from when the lookout warning bells were struck to when 1/O Murduch gave the helm order was about 1/2 a minute. During that time there was a phone call that took place with information repeated to the first officer before any helm order was given. Lookout Frederick Fleet also testified that he spent about 1/2 minute between striking the lookout bell to getting off the phone.

The second number, your 5 seconds to turn the wheel hard over, may not be too far off. I personally think it would take a little more than that. Maybe Jim Currie can comment on this, or maybe Michael Standart might have something to say since he was at the helm of a number of ships I believe while in the navy. But in those days, it took about 4 complete turns to get the wheel hard over, and the steering engine would try to keep up as quickly as it could while the wheel is being turned. Of course, the steering engine would lag a bit behind the wheel. In any event, the ship's head will start to turn, although slowly at first, even before the rudder goes all the way over. And once the order was received by the helmsman, it would take about 37 seconds for the ship's head to fall off 23 degrees.
 

Jim Currie

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Hi Sam!

Yes, I would agree with you. If I remember rightly it was about 4 and a half turns to full over. However, we must all keep in mind that the time to get the wheel hard over depends on where it was when the hard-a-starboard order was given. If, in the normal run of things, Hichin had been correcting for the ship's head moving to starboard he would already have some starboarded helm 'on' as they say. Thus he would get to 'hard-a-starboard' in as little as 3 seconds. On the other hand, he might have had the helm 'on' the opposite way thus it would have taken longer to get it to 'hard-a-starboard - even about 8 seconds. However, I don't think there would be much of a lag though. since it was an hydraulic telemotor.
 

Bill Balla

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"Michael is right about comparing ships unless they were very similar and carried the same steering gear."

I think you misunderstood my point, I was pointing out that Titanic's steering gear probably had similar characteristics as the steering gear of a similar vintage great lakes ship but, I was not trying to compare the actual turning response of the Titanic versus a great lakes freighter.

I did find on this website that Titanic's steering gear needed between 10 and 15 seconds to turn the rudder hard over from the centered point therefore my 14 second figure was quite close.

I assume that the ship's speed would also effect the speed at which the rudder could be moved therefore this would account time needed to move the rudder not being fixed.

I find the thirty second time frame suggested by Hitchens to be somewhat amazing, combining this delay with the time needed to physically turn the wheel and then the delay time needed by the steering gear, it is amazing that she turned at all prior to the collision.
 
Aug 10, 2002
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Jim:
Having sailed with a few hydraulic telemotors myself, I would expect the lag to be in the steering engine rather than the telemotor.
Regards, Charlie Weeks
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Michael Standart might have something to say since he was at the helm of a number of ships I believe while in the navy.<<

In my case, this might not be all that useful. The wheel on the USS Comstock was actually fairly small and the system was very responsive.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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I see what you mean Michael. The blurb on ship said something like: USS Comstock was the first USN combatant ship to have a fully integrated crew of male and female sailors on board, and the only naval ship that would allow Michael Standard to man the helm.
happy.gif
 

Jim Currie

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I agree Charlie.

It's an awful long time ago but if my memory serves me right - I recall steering with just such gear when an Apprentice. The biggest problem we had was in heavy weather with a following sea The usual problems with that but even then, she would come back very quickly and as you know, in such sea, your resolve is seriously tested as is the steering gear. At the end of a two hour stint, you had muscles like Popeye!

Regards,

Jim
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Nice photo Sam. It looks like a ship I know something about.
wink.gif


If the dating is accurate, that would have been the ship on her acceptance trials. I wasn't on board for that trip (A lot of the Navy crew wasn't) but I was aboard for the builders trials a couple of months earlier.
 
Aug 10, 2002
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I can report that Michael is an excellent helmsman. Further more he has as much experience as anyone alive at missing that particular ice berg. He did it numerous times during the symposium we held at Maine Maritime Academy.
Regards, Charlie Weeks
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>How cool is it to steer something like that? ;-)<<

I don't know if I'd call it cool. They let me steer the ship once and I did a competant job of it. (Kind of made me wonder if I should have rated as a Boatswain's Mate instead of a Ships Serviceman.) The thing is that it demanded all of my attention as there are all kinds of little things which can push a ship off course. The trick is to keep that steady course which is called for and this requires constant small adjustments in rudder angles to deal with the problem of drift. Especially in heavy seas.

The ship actually can do it automatically but the Navy has an institutional mistrust of "autopilots" which in my opinion, is not entirely unfounded. With a merchant vessel, this isn't always much of an issue since they rarely have to make radical adjustments.

With a warship however, the situation is very different. You have to be able to make quick changes for a lot of reasons ranging from formation/station keeping to the demands of combat which often call for sudden and unpredictable changes.
 
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QM Hichens testified about the delay between his hearing the warning bells and the order to turn the helm. During this time he has also stated that he heard engine order telegraph bells. With the engines stopped during the reversing procedure it would make little difference were the rudder was without the force of the propellers on it. One of the surviving engineers told Walter Lord that they had got the port engine running astern just before the collision. This is what swung the bow to port.
The 37 seconds that it took the Olympic's bow to swing, was that done under power or with the engines stopped as Titanic's were?
 

Jim Currie

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Philip,

Not one of the ship's engineers survived the disaster.

You wrote: " With the engines stopped during the reversing procedure it would make little difference were the rudder was without the force of the propellers on it." You are spot-on with this observation. A ship going ahead without the aid of propellers will turn. It will also turn if it is at anchor in a head current, such as in a strong flowing river. However, if a ship at sea is going ahead - say at 20 knots and the engines slow down and stop, three propellers such as the ones on Titanic will drag a heck of a lot of water along with the ship. A great deal of turbulence is set up round the rudder and consequently it's effect is greatly reduced. From the time Murdoch rang down stop which was the first order seen by the firemen until the engines actually stopped turning, it is highly likely that Titanic would have travelled forward another 2000 or so feet. It would have been another 30 seconds or so before any reverse order would have any effect.

Jim
 

Jim Currie

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Perhaps he did Michael but there is not a choice of definitions as you know.

sorry if I misunderstood you Philip. Perhaps this will help:

On a British merchant ship, Engineers are officers and usually sign on the ship's articles as such. They have ranks and rank insignia the same as the deck officers but the engineers have a deep purple edge to to the gold. I should have pointer out; none of the engineer officers survived. Those of the engine room staff who did were petty officers and ratings and not classed as 'engineers'


Jim
 

Jim Currie

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Hello again Sam!

I reply to the following, which you posted on the "Boxhall shennanigans" thread:

"As far your 6 seconds from the helm order, Hichens saw the ship turn while looking at the steering compass. He said it went south of west which matches a 2 point turn. Fleet said the ship turn about "a little over a point, or two points" when she hit. He was observing it from the nest. There is no way that the ship can turn even 1 point in 6 seconds. Also the Stop order in boiler rooms did not come down from the bridge. It came from the engine room which had to be some time after engine order telegraphs went to stop. So you cannot base timing on what Barrett said because we don't know how long it took an engineer to ring up the boiler rooms after the engine order telegraph went.

But I do agree that it was highly unlikely that the ship turned a full 2 points before the collision. I think it was closer to about 1 point for reasons I don't have time to delve into. The max swing was about 2 points, which is what Hichens saw on the compass."

Reply:

If we consider that Olympic turned 2 points in 47 seconds and that there would be a slight delay in Titanic reaching her maximum speed of turn; I think we might agree that Titanic would turn 1 point in about 25 seconds.
This would mean that QM Hitchens lied about the interval between when he was given the hard-a-starboard helm order and the moment of impact. He said in America..and I quote:

" The chief officer rushed from the wing to the bridge, or I imagine so, sir. Certainly I am inclosed in the wheelhouse, and I can not see, only my compass. He rushed to the engines. I heard the telegraph bell ring; also give the order "Hard astarboard," The sixth officer repeated the order, "The helm is hard astarboard, sir." But, during the time, she was crushing the ice, or we could hear the grinding noise along the ship's bottom"

And in the UK

"951. Had you time to get the helm hard a starboard before she struck?
- No, she was crashing then.

952. Did you begin to get the helm over?
- Yes, the helm was barely over when she struck. The ship had swung about two points."

You and I have agreed in the past that the helm would take about 5 seconds to go from mid-ship to hard over. I give an extra second for reaction, making the total time 6 seconds.

You wrote:

"There is no way that the ship can turn even 1 point in 6 seconds."

I absolutely agree if you are talking about a ship turned by rudder effort only. But that was not the case with Titanic. She had two distinct influences causing her to turn. The first being the rudder and the second, the push on her starboard bow exerted by the iceberg. Here is a little sketch showing what I mean:

240007.jpg


I propose that during the 6 second contact between the ship's side and the iceberg, the pivot point moved aft. As it did so, it would briefly pass the mid-ship point. at that moment, a mechanical couple would be set-up which would cause the bow to swing without actually making much difference to the vessel's track. i.e. she would still be moving in the same direction but pointing in a different one. At that moment, the compass would show a considerable change in the ship's heading on the compass card although the ship was not heading in the direction shown. Do you get my 'drift'?

I am fully aware of the procedure that would have been followed at the engine control platform when the stop order was received. The boiler room order was sent electrically.. almost instantly. The wherewithall for sending that signal was beside the engine room telegraphs on the control platform. The greasers who answered the telegraph would automatically activate the boiler room controls at the same time. If not, then the engineers on duty would do so seconds after that. However, we have a very good way of measuring time in the boiler and engine rooms.

We can be pretty sure that the damaged area was about 210 feet long, between frames +59 and +136. Therefore, at 37 feet per second, the ice was in contact with the ship for about 6 seconds.

Seconds before impact, Barratt got the stop order, and felt the impact . He jumped into boiler room 5 when the water came in. Since he was standing at or near frame +64.this means he left boiler room 6 five(5 ) seconds after impact.

Both Barratt and Dillon felt the impact a few seconds after receiving or witnessing the stop order.

Barratt got the stop order just before he felt the impact. It came as he shouted to the men to close the dampers.
Dillon said the stop order came first then felt the impact about 2 seonds after that.

From the foregoing it seems that the engine stop order came about 2 seconds before impact and Barratt's stop order came very quickly after the engine room stop order. Both came before impact

To summarise:

We have a mere 12 seconds total to work with... the 12 seconds between when the initial helm order was given and the moment that the iceberg broke contact with the ship's side plating. This can only change if it can be proved that impact came more than 6 seconds after Murdoch gave his emergency helm order to QM Hitchens. If you or anyone else can prove that it did then we have to go back to the drawing board as they say.

Meantime. we have the following sequence:

0.... Hard-a-starboard.
0+3.. Stop engines order received.
0+4.. Boiler room stop order received.
0+6.. Impact.
0+11. Boiler room 6 ecacuated,

JC
 

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