Titanic's Final Manoeuvre

  • Thread starter Encyclopedia Titanica
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Soem diagrams or drawings to help explain all of the above would be nice.


Myth: Titanic reversed her engines and made the collision with the iceberg more likely by slowing the ship down and reducing her maneuverability. This incorrect information is dying a slow death and many books still print it as absolute fact. However, careful research and analysis by the sources listed below (and others, I am sure) have essentially proved this did not happen. It is generally accepted that it would have taken about 2 minutes for an engine room crew, who were not at their maneuvering stations at 11:40 PM April 14, 1912, to have brought the engines to full astern from full ahead. The only survivor testimony that mentions a “full astern” order from First Officer Murdoch was Fourth Officer Boxhall. However, Boxhall was not on the bridge at that time. The most consistent recollection of events from boiler room and engine room personnel was that a “stop” command was sent before the collision. An “astern” command came after the impact. The engines were signaled “ahead” again a few minutes later. (Perhaps Captain Smith wanted to see if the propellers were damaged) The iceberg was spotted about 1 minute before impact. Murdoch appears to have taken about 30 seconds to decide on a course of action. (Remember, he had to make sure Titanic was on an actual collision course with the berg. If he had just ordered a hard turn immediately after the warning without looking for himself, he may have been putting the ship into an even worse situation) Once Murdoch realized Titanic was heading directly for the berg, he ordered a hard left rudder and signaled “stop” on the engine room telegraphs. Murdoch was a highly experienced officer and it is unlikely he would have wanted to stop or reverse the engines before the collision. He knew that reversing the engines would not only slow the liner down, but the center propeller would have been cut-out automatically and would have reduced the flow of water past the rudder and reduced Titanic’s maneuverability. He must also have known the “stop” command would take some time to execute and would not come into play soon enough to rob the rudder of what it needed to be as effective as possible. (The rudder being right behind the center screw powered by a singly ahead-only turbine was an advantage of the Olympic Class design that is frequently overlooked) The “37 seconds to turn 2 points to port”, based on tests made with Olympic may not be accurate when compared to Titanic. Titanic may have turned only 1-1.5 points to the left in reality before the impact. As the ship was passing the berg, Murdoch ordered a hard right rudder to clear the stern from the berg. The turn itself probably slowed the ship by about 2 knots.Sources:On a Sea of Glass: The Life and Loss of the RMS Titanic. (2013 second edition) p. 141-143, 294.Report into the Loss of the SS Titanic: A Centennial Reappraisal. p. 89-94.


I wonder if they had just rammed head on, if fewer compartments would have flooded?


Hi Maverick,

The latest simulations show that a head on collision with the berg at 22knots would have caused Titanic to rupture her seams along around 2/3 of her length. In which case she would have sank in mere minutes, not hours resulting in the death of close to everyone on board. She would have sank like the proverbial stone. People always argue that she would have survived a head on based no collisions of other ships. I.E not at fast nor the weight or with such a sized berg.