W M Murdoch what do you think happened


Erik Wood

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Well written both Inger and Parks. Let me add that Murdoch was required (outside of the lookouts) to keep one set of eyes looking forward from the bridge at all times. Something as the others have said, I am sure that he did we have no evidence to support otherwise as the only man to survive from the bridge (that was actually on the bridge during the allision and not walking to it) was Hitchens whose view was blinded the compass and being in the "shack". So logic points us to the direction that Murdoch was doing his job.

Now as Parks mentioned, the fact that the ship hit something while on his watch says something. Murdoch was answerable to Smith for all actions taken (by him or anyone else assigned to the watch) during the watch. His ship hit something while under Murdoch's hand. The question we should be asking is: How did Titanic find herself in that situation??

This also leads in my mind to another question:

What did Murdoch see, and when did he see it??

Followed up by: What did he do to avoid what he saw and did he (the ships reaction time) have enough time to do something about it??

He obviously tried and as Captain Brown and others to include myself say that to put your beam to it doesn't seem to us (of course we have 90 years and hundreds of books worth of hindsight) to be the logical choice.

The fact that no one can answer my first question with certainty or accurancy means that my thoughts (and theories that revolve around Murdochs possible negligence) don't mean anything from a factual point of view. They are just theories based off our interupration of the evidence nobodies is right or wrong because none of them can be proved. I (nor anybody whose has developed a theory) wasn't there to see his actions or inactions, he didn't survive to defend himself and I didn't see the situation he found himself in to comment with any mark of intelligence whether he did the right or wrong thing, and nobody IMO has the right to condemn a man for his action 91 years after the fact, especially since nobody here was there or in his shoes. I and others can offer my theory, which I have done (somewhere).

Inger's last sentence about Lightoller rings true as did the testimony of all the officers that night.
 

Allan Clarke

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Hello,

First Inger, I don't what you are inferring. I worship God and no other being. Please do not confuse hero worship with respect. There is a considerable difference between the two.

My comments on Mr. Murdoch were meant to remind people to be careful with the term hero. I agree with all of you that Murdoch was probably caught off guard by complacency more than anything else. And that is an affliction that anyone can fall victim to at anytime. It is true that we will never know how any of the other officers would have acted in his place. But it is also true that it was Murdoch and not Smith, Wilde or Lightoller who was in charge of the bridge when the accident occurred. If he had survived, I would suggest to you that he would have been "lynched by the media and the masses" and that his career would have had an ignoble end.

As to the watch that was kept, I find it hard to believe that Murdoch would have missed the "haze," and even if it was haze and not pack ice, it would have tipped him off that ice was right ahead and he would have called the Captain to the bridge. I don't think that any of you would suggest that he would have ignored it, would you? Captain Rostron, Lightoller and others all indicated that ice could and should be seen from the bridge usually before the lookouts picked it up and in plenty of time to avoid it.

If any of you were on an investigation team looking into the Titanic disaster, would you have let Murdoch go blameless for his part in it? Would you have seen him in the same "light" as Wilde or Lightoller?

Regards,
Allan
 
Mar 3, 1998
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<font color="#000066">I agree with all of you that Murdoch was probably caught off guard by complacency more than anything else.

Allen,

Don't include me in that number. I don't think Murdoch was caught off guard by complacency. I think that he, along with the rest of his fellow officers, fell victim to the then-conventional wisdom that stated that the best course of action in an ice region under clear conditions was to steam at full speed so as to be able to manoeuvre around isolated pieces of ice. If Murdoch made a miscalculation, it was in the extent at which the ice projected unseen from the visible base. Or, there may have been no calculation...he might have had no other choice but to take the action and hope for the best.

You're still arguing the haze issue. I'm not going to argue that with you, because as I said, I am in agreement with your speculation. All I wanted to point out is that all the speculation in the world won't make it a fact. Agreeing with you also won't turn the speculation into fact.

I don't think anyone here is suggesting that Murdoch was blameless, just that his actions should be viewed in the proper perspective. A mishap panel should have held both the Master and Deck Officer at the conn responsible. Also, Wilde, in his capacity as the Senior Watch Officer, should have had some culpability because his was the responsibility to ensure that all watches were stood properly. Finally, if a mishap panel had determined for certain that Titanic expected to be in the ice before 10p, then Lightoller could also have been criticised for not taking proper precautions (extra lookout, recommendation to slow speed) during his watch. His admonition to the lookout to keep a sharp watch for ice just would not be considered sufficient.

What I just conjured up here is pure whimsy. It's based on what my experience tells me a mishap board might find today, with the experience of the Titanic disaster having set in motion a series of regulations that tightened up accountability. But then again, that's what you asked me. If your question had been, "Would a panel in 1912 have found Murdoch blameless?" my answer would be, "I don't know, but if I had to guess, I would say not." Comparing the officer at the conn against his peers who were not on watch at the time of the accident, though, is a convention not usually followed by mishap boards, and for good reason...the guy off watch *always* would have been able to avoid the disaster. Sure thing, buddy.

Parks
 

Inger Sheil

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Allan wrote:

First Inger, I don't what you are inferring. I worship God and no other being. Please do not confuse hero worship with respect. There is a considerable difference between the two.

Erm...Allan, when I asked "who's been taken away by hero worship here, Allan?" I was responding to your statement as follows, made on the 21 Feburary:

However, I think we should not be taken away by hero worship, if I may put it that way.

I was not 'inferring' anything - I was responding to a statement you had made with a request for information as to who was 'taken away by hero worship', and was therefore the source for your question. I was assuming it was James, who had made some comments about why he regarded Murdoch has a hero, and you might note that earlier in this thread I (and others)contested the general, unfettered use of the term 'hero'. It was a query for clarification on my part, not any sort of comment on who you might choose to worship.

I agree with all of you that Murdoch was probably caught off guard by complacency more than anything else.

I agree with Parks on this one - don't count me in the category 'all of you' when you make a statement like this.

But it is also true that it was Murdoch and not Smith, Wilde or Lightoller who was in charge of the bridge when the accident occurred. If he had survived, I would suggest to you that he would have been "lynched by the media and the masses" and that his career would have had an ignoble end.

Possibly. We don't know. But this is irrelevent to the earlier statement you made, to which I was responding, in which you made statements comparing Lightoller and Murdoch's watchkeeping practices that night. It was these that Parks, Erik and I addressed.
 

Erik Wood

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If we held the officers of Titanic by todays standard, none of them (them being Murdoch, Smith, Wilde, Lightoller, Boxhall, and Moody) would have a license or a job, and out of those, three would be in jail. This of course being in a age of radar, radio and other wonderful devices. Not in a era where wireless was fairly new, and the mark 1 eye was the best tool for spotting danger.

It has been said to me that Murdoch was guilty of keeping a good watch on a 1800's sailing ship and not a good watch on a 1900's steamship. This to me rings true.

I would not agree with the "complacency" argument either. The standards for the time are much more different then they are today. We can't hold officers doing a job 90 years ago to the same level we hold officers of today. Operation of large ships in open ocean under steam power was still a relativly new thing. Titanic's officers came from a age of sail, and where now making the transition with the rest of the world to modern steam. This is not a excuse, but the era wasn't prepared for the situation.

I think as Parks said we need to view Murdoch's actions or possible inactions in the proper light, and not condemn him for actions we can't explain or understand. Why we can't understand them is because none of us where there 90 years ago.
 

Allan Clarke

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Hello,
First, Inger, sorry for the misunderstanding of your comment on hero worship.

Parks, I am puzzled by your statement that in 1912 the conventional way to handle a ship approaching ice was to steam at full speed so as to more easily manoeuver around it. Is there some written account as to such action? I would have thought that the moment a ship encountered ice, it would have slowed down or stopped altogether.

Well, I stick by my view that Murdoch, and others, were complacent. This is not to suggest he was incompetent. As Erik pointed out, these men were in the transition from sail to steam. Their experience with trans-Atlantic liners had been without any real incident of note. When this becomes the norm, people tend to become complacent and that is when an accident will likely occurr. By way of an analogy, many great race car drivers were killed by mistakes they made doing what they had been doing with great success for years. That doesn't mean they were poor drivers. They just slipped up that one time, and that's all it takes. Mr. Murdoch slipped up once with disastrous results. Anyway, that's how I see it.

All the Best,
Allan
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Allan,

I'm at work right now and don't have my copy of the Enquiry transcripts with me. I could do a keyword search in the online version of the transcripts, but there's a much easier way. If you have a copy of the Enquiry report, look in the index. Statements relating to the accepted practice of steaming through regions of ice are grouped together. I don't remember off the top of my head whether this is under the heading of "Ice," "Speed," or "Titanic," but you could probably find it with a little bit of effort. Or someone else might find it and post here. If not, then I will look it up and post the results after I return home. I have a busy weekend coming up, though, so I might not get back to this thread until early next week.

I'm not sure about your and Erik's point about transitioning from sail to steam. Again, I don't have my reference material available, but I know Murdoch had transitioned to steam at least by 1899. How many years have to pass before one considers an officer out of transition? Murdoch was a deck officer aboard steamers for at least 12 years before the Titanic disaster. He had a year's experience in an Olympic-class liner, more than anyone else (only Captain Smith equalled his time aboard this class of ships). So, when you say he was complacent, are you saying Murdoch was complacent because he had transitioned from sail (if so, I would need further illumination on the connection between the two) or because he had a wealth of experience? And are you suggesting that someone with less experience would not have been as complacent and therefore would have avoided the collision? You talk about the great race car drivers who were killed...does that mean that non-great race car drivers don't get killed as often, or that we just don't hear about them because they weren't "great?" Could it be that "stuff" happens to young and old, obscure and famous, experienced and non-experienced alike?

I earned my wings in the E-2C Hawkeye. I've seen young and old pilots alike get themselves involved in mishaps. When the young ones die, we often conclude that it was because of their inexperience. When the old ones die, it's because they were complacent. Doesn't really matter...the cause to which most mishaps are attributable is simply recorded as "pilot error" in official reports. Is there really an age/experience (and increasingly, gender) difference, or are there just times when the imperfect human operator gets caught by something that he (or she) could never have prepared for?

Your next-to-last line gets at the heart of this debate. Did Murdoch "slip up," or did he make the proper decision based on information that he had at the time, only to have it proved wrong because there was additional information about the ice that nobody aboard the ship could have known?

What do you mean by complacency, anyway? Are you claiming that Murdoch was complacent in the manner in which he stood his watch? Or are you talking about the course and speed that Captain Smith laid out in his night orders book? Or the lack of action to post extra lookouts that should have first taken place during Lightoller's watch? Are you "stovepiping" on Murdoch or have you considered every link in the chain of events that led to that final decision?

Parks
 

Inger Sheil

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quote:

I'm not sure about your and Erik's point about transitioning from sail to steam. Again, I don't have my reference material available, but I know Murdoch had transitioned to steam at least by 1899. How many years have to pass before one considers an officer out of transition?

The same point occured to me as well, Parks. Looking at records of their sea time, I find the following for their first voyages in steam:

Blair: May 1896 2nd mate

Boxhall: c. 1902-3 (he spent the latter part of his apprenticeship on a steamship - of all the officers, he spent the least time in sail)

Lightoller: March 1893 as 3rd mate (earliest on record: some of Lightoller's earlier sea time is missing, and there was also a steam ship passage he worked as part of the forecastle crowd)

Lowe: August 1904, AB

Moody: January 1908, 2nd Mate

Pitman: September 1902, 3rd Mate

Wilde: March 1895, 3rd Mate

Even the youngest of the officers, Moody, had been out of sail for a period of four years. Boxhall had spent scarely any of his career at all in sail, and Lowe had never (officially, at least, on the records) served any time as an officer in sail. Of the seniors, all had been out of sail for well over a decade! Most had spent the majority of their careers in steam.

Both Lightoller and Moody made observations about the transition from steam to sail. Lightoller stressed the ease of such a transition, and Moody - while initially very concerned that he would never open his mouth without putting his foot in it - overcame initial anxieties very quickly and was still, by the time he joined the Oceanic, pointing out the advantages steam had over sail. He had been most concerned about doing more 'bally navigation' as an officer in steam, but he was only very shortly out of his apprenticeship when joined his first 'hot water bottle'. These men weren't exactly technological troglodytes - Lowe, for example, was one of the earliest men in his neck of the woods to get a motorboat, as he found it convenient and practical for indulging his love of small boats in the short time he had between sailings.​
 
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A busy weekend is over and it appears that no one rose to the bait. So, looking in the Enquiry Index under "Icebergs," one is led to a good summary presented during the Commission's Final Arguments on Day 31 of the Enquiry. Sir Finlay begins with Captain Cannon's evidence:

<font color="#000066">I have finished Mr. Owen Jones's evidence, and I now pass on to the evidence of Captain Cannon's, the next Witness, on page 666. He says he has been 36 years going to sea and in the service of the Atlantic Transport Company for nearly 25 years, and in command for over 20, and during the whole of that time he has been sailing in the North Atlantic, and at Question 23719 he is asked: "London and New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) And before that at times you were sailing in the North Atlantic? - (A.) Yes, quite a time. (Q.) In the course of your experience have you met icebergs and also field ice? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) Have you ever met ice-fields on the Southern outward and homeward tracks which were agreed in 1898? - (A.) No, I have never seen field ice on the Southern track. (Q.) You have never seen field ice? - (A.) No. (Q.) Have you ever seen icebergs? - (A.) Yes, several. (Q.) On the outward track or the homeward track? - (A.) On both tracks. (Q.) At this time of year, we are speaking of in April? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) Often? - (A.) No, not often; they do not get down as early as that, as a Rule."

Then at Question 23733: "There is only one further question I want to put to you. When you do sight an iceberg, do you reduce your speed or do you keep your speed? - (A.) I keep my speed. (Q.) What is the speed of the vessel? - (A.) Sixteen knots. (Q.) You keep your speed; that, of course, is, I suppose, in the day or it might be at night? - (A.) Both day and night. (Q.) The question I put to you, and you have answered, is when you have sighted an iceberg? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) Then you have time, I suppose, from what you said, to get clear of the iceberg going at the speed at which your vessel then is? - (A.) I have never had any difficulty to clear when I have met ice ahead. (Q.) Does that mean that you see the ice some distance ahead? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) How far as a Rule? - (A.) Well. I have seen it over three miles and at less distances. (Q.) Are you speaking of the day or night? - (A.) At night. (Q.) Do you mean you would see it further in the daytime? - (A.) Yes, decidedly, in clear weather. (Q.) At night you have seen it at three miles and sometimes less? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) And supposing that your look-out is properly kept and that the night is clear, is there any difficulty in your sighting an iceberg at sufficient distance to enable you to steer clear of it? - (A.) None whatever. (Q.) And supposing you received reports of icebergs in a latitude and longitude which you would expect to be crossing during the night, would you take any precaution as regards speed? - (A.) I should maintain my speed and keep an exceptionally sharp look-out until such time as I either had the ice-blink or some sight of ice ahead or in the track of the vessel. (Q.) What would be the exceptionally sharp look-out you would keep? - (A.) I mean with reference to everybody concerned by my cautioning them and giving my Officers instructions to inform the look-out to be on the alert. (Q.) Where is your look-out stationed? - (A.) In clear weather under ordinary circumstances in the crow's-nest. (Q.) How many do you carry there? - (A.) One. (Q.) Would that be the only man on the look-out in clear weather, except the Officers on the bridge? - (A.) That would be the only one. (Q.) And supposing you were sailing at night and had to keep this exceptionally sharp look-out which you have told us of because of having had ice reports, would you increase the number of men on the look-out or not? - (A.) No, not in clear weather. (Q.) Do you mean that you would go on steaming at the same speed with your man in the crow's-nest, and that is all? - (A.) That is all. (Q.) You do not put anybody apparently in the stem head? - (A.) No, not unless the weather becomes hazy or any difference to ordinary clear weather. (Q.) If the weather does become hazy it would be better to put a man on the stem head, I understand? - (A.) A man goes there immediately."

Then, Captain Ranson:

<font color="#000066">Then, my Lord, Mr. Ranson, of the "Baltic," gives evidence on pages 717 and 718. I do not think anything was put to him by the Attorney-General in chief on this subject. As my friend says, he was called on another point, but having been called Mr. Scanlan put this question to him on page 718: "24978. What is your individual practice if ice is reported? - (A.) How do you mean, clear weather or foggy weather? (Q.) At night? (The Commissioner.) At night, in clear weather? - (A.) We go full speed whether there is ice reported or not. (Q.) As far as you know, is that the practice of all liners on this course? - (A.) It is." Then at 24982 I ask him this question: "With regard to your speed, you know the practice in the Atlantic if the weather were clear and ice reported, do you keep up your speed? - (A.) We keep up our speed. (Q.) And is that your invariable practice? - (A.) It has always been my practice. (The Commissioner.) What is the speed of your boat? - (A.) Sixteen knots. (Sir Robert Finlay.) You said the speed of your boat, the 'Baltic' was 16 knots? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) Have you been on other boats in the Atlantic? - (A.) - Yes. (Q.) Faster boats? - (A.) Yes, the 'Oceanic,' the 'Majestic,' and the 'Teutonic.'. (Q.) How many knots an hour would they make? - (A.) Twenty to twenty-one is the practice you have spoken of one which prevailed with regard to ships of that class as well as your boat, the 'Baltic'? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) You know, of course, the Atlantic well (A.) Yes. (Q.) Was that practice always pursued by all Masters of liners? - (A.) Yes, for the last 21 years, to my knowledge." Then, my Lord, Mr. Pritchard, the Captain of the "Mauretania," gives evidence at page 732.

Captain Pritchard:

<font color="#000066">Sir Robert Finlay: Yes, I will take him by himself, my Lord. Mr. Pritchard, at page 732, says he has been retired for two years, and has left the sea. His last command was the "Mauretania": "25172. I believe for 18 years you have commanded Cunard steamships sailing between Liverpool and New York? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) Have you heard the evidence in this case with regard to the weather conditions which existed when the "Titanic" struck? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) You know them? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) Now, what practice did you follow with regard to maintaining your full speed or reducing your speed, assuming similar conditions, and assuming you had information that there was a probability of your meeting ice on your course? - (A.) As long as the weather is clear I always go full speed. (Q.) You always have done so? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) What was the speed of the "Mauretania"? - (A.) 26 knots." Then at 25186 Mr. Scanlan asks: "If there was any difficulty at all in seeing would you reduce your speed? - (A.) Well, if it was hazy, yes. (Q.) If it was a flat calm and you expected ice - you were warned of ice and knew you would meet ice in the course of the night - would you double the look-out? - (A.) No, as long as the weather is clear." Then he is examined by myself. He states that he has been for 51 years at sea; has had a Master's certificate for 37 years, and he says that not only does he keep his course in clear weather, but he maintains full speed. "25219. And was that the universal practice in your experience? - (A.) Yes." That is the evidence of Captain Pritchard, of the "Mauretania."

Captain Young:

<font color="#000066">Then Mr. Young, of the "City of Rome," of the Anchor Line, gives evidence at page 733. He also has left the sea. He says that he was travelling for 35 years across the Atlantic from Glasgow. "25224. Are you familiar with ice-fields and icebergs? - (A.) Quite. (Q.) Do you know the weather conditions which existed when the "Titanic" struck the iceberg? - (A.) I understand it was a dead calm. (Q.) It was a dead calm; it was a clear night? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) No sea? - (A.) No sea. (Q.) And no moon. Now, assuming those to be the conditions, and assuming that you had had information that there was a probability that you might be travelling through a region of the sea at night where you might meet icebergs, would you or would you not reduce the speed of your vessel? - (A.) No, Sir. (Q.) What was the fastest vessel you ever commanded? - (A.) The "City of Rome" - 17 knots. (Q.) One other matter. With regard to look-out at night, when you have been informed that you may be passing icebergs, what provision did you make for your look-out under such circumstances? - (A.) The same as other times, as long as it was clear - two men in the crow's-nest. (Q.) You had two men in the crow's-nest? - (A.) Yes, I had two men in the crow's-nest. (Q.) And nobody on the stem head? - (A.) Not when it is perfectly clear." Then at 25233 I asked Captain Young: "If ice were reported; would you keep your course, as well as maintain your speed, in clear weather? - (A.) I should keep my course and maintain my speed. (Q.) How many years were you in the New York trade, crossing the Atlantic? - (A.) About 37 years." Then in consequence of a suggestion from your Lordship, I put this: "Suppose you were told there was field ice, would your practice be the same, or different? - (A.) Just the same. (Q.) Has that been the universal practice in the trade as long as you have known it? - (A.) As far as I know, yes. (Q.) All ships have done so? - (A.) I think so."

Captain Stewart:

<font color="#000066">Sir Robert Finlay: Yes. He had commanded the "Empress of Britain." He had been in the Beaver Line all the time it ran, 35 years; had been in the North Atlantic trade for 38 years; continued in the Canadian Pacific when the Beaver Line was taken over by them he continued with the Canadian Pacific for three years until he retired. The last vessel he commanded was the 'Empress of Britain.' "The 'Empress of Britain' was the fastest ship I ever commanded - 18 knots." "25252. Do you know the weather conditions which existed when the "Titanic" struck? - (A.) I have read about them in the newspapers. (Q.) See you have them accurate. It was a clear night, no moon, no swell, no sea, and stars? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) Given those conditions, and that you had command of a ship, and were given information that you might meet ice, and that your course would take you through the place where you might meet ice, and meet it at night, would you reduce your speed? - (A.) No, not as long as it was clear. (Q.) Not as long as it was clear? - (A.) No. (Q.) I am going upon the assumption that you might meet icebergs - you would not reduce your speed? - (A.) No. (Q.) If you had information that you might meet field ice, would you still maintain your speed? - (A.) Until I saw it, and then I should do what I thought proper. Then he says that in clear weather he has the ordinary look-out. Then over the page, at page 734, this occurs. "25260. Would you maintain your course as well as your speed if ice were reported? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) And has that been the invariable practice in the North Atlantic? - (A.) It was with me. (Q.) And as far as you know, with others? - (A.) As far as I know, with others. (Q.) Did the "Empress of Britain" carry many passengers? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) First, second and third? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) What was her tonnage, about? - (A.) I could not tell you now, she was a large ship. (Q.) She was a big boat? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) Of 18 knots? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) How many people did she carry, about? - (A.) Oh, I suppose about 2,000 altogether."

The list goes on...

<font color="#000066">Then, my Lord, there is the evidence of Mr. Fairfull, of the s.s. "Tunisian," of the Allan Line also, on page 734. For 21 years he was sailing in command of the Allan Line steamships across the Atlantic. He had heard the evidence of the last two gentlemen: "25272. Is your practice in accordance with theirs? - (A.) All except that when we get to the ice track in an Allan steamer, besides having a look-out in the crow's-nest, we put a man on the stem head at night." Then, my Lord, you say you did not hear what he said, and the Witness repeats the answer: "25274. Whether it is clear or not? - (A.) Yes." Then he is examined by me. He was crossing the Atlantic on the 14th April in the "Tunisian"; he was there and had ice reports. I do not think his evidence came to anything. Then there is the evidence of Mr. Braes, also of the Allan Line, at the bottom of the same page, page 734. He agrees with the evidence of the last four Witnesses; his practice is just the same: "25287. Is your practice when you may be meeting ice at night similar to their practice? - (A.) Just the same. I never slowed down so long as the weather was clear." "25290. In your experience is that the universal practice in the Atlantic? - (A.) I never knew any other practice."

Then, my Lord, there is the evidence of Mr. Apfeld, the Flemish gentleman of the Red Star Line, who came from Antwerp, on page 746, Question 25575. He is the Marine Superintendent of the Red Star Line, a Belgian line of steamships; he lives in Belgium; his vessels sail from Antwerp to New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore, and they carry passengers and mails. He has been for 39 years at sea and five years as Marine Superintendent. He has been with the Red Star Line for 32 years. "25583. When you have been navigating in the region of ice, have you changed your course or speed? - (A.) Never. I slow her down in the case of fog or thick weather, otherwise not. (Q.) Is that the case, although ice has been actually reported to you? - (A.) I would not slow her down. (Q.) Have you examined the deck logbooks and the engine logbooks of the steamers of your line running the Atlantic passage during April last? - (A.) I have." Then he gives the names of the six vessels: "25587. Do these logbooks show whether those vessels passed ice? - (A.) Some of them. (Q.) Which of them? Can you remember the 'Lapland' and the 'Manitou'? - (A.) The 'Lapland,' the 'Finland,' and the 'Manitou,' and I believe the 'Zeeland.' (Q.) They all passed ice? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) Where were they going to - to New York? - (A.) They were going to New York, except the, 'Manitou' said the 'Minomini,' which were going to Boston. (Q.) Did they change their course or their speed? - (A.) Absolutely not. The 'Manitou' slowed down after she entered the field ice. She went into field ice at full speed for about an hour, and then the field ice became thick, heavy lumps amongst it, and her Captain slowed her down for about an hour. He reduced speed for fear of damaging the propeller."

Even the Germans:

<font color="#000066">Sir Robert Finlay: The Norddeutscher Lloyd say: "Steamers were going full speed as long as the weather kept clear. The s.s. 'Bremen' reduced to 8 knots on the 20th April from 2.20 to 4.20 a.m. in the ice region because it was rainy weather." There is a letter from the Norddeutscher Lloyd Company. It is dated the 18th June, my Lord, and is about five pages from the end of the bundle.

Anyway, you get the idea. It is testimony like this that was the basis for my statement above. Of course, the attitude was not held by everyone...Sir Ernest Shackleton was the notable exception. However, as impressive as Shackleton's ice experience was, he looked at ice navigation from a different perspective than Masters of passenger boats on the North Atlantic run. Shackleton's attitude was prudent, the shipping companies' not so, a fact brought to light by the Titanic disaster. I didn't quote the Captains above to prove they were right, because hindsight tells us they weren't. I'm just demonstrating evidence that points to the attitude of the time.

Parks
 

Erik Wood

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Apr 10, 2001
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My point was taken out of context and it was poorly written on my part.

My point is that Murdoch was in a new and unproven age. He was acting and using all the knowledge available to him to best of his ability. The fact is (in my opinion) that folks where not quite use to big ships handling the way big ships do. There where a new invention for the most part and all the officers started on much smaller ships, that where probably easier to conn. None of this can be faulted to Murdoch as the progress of the both the industry and invention where well beyond his control. Parks and Inger both make vaild points.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Erik,

Your point about shiphandling is a good one. However, wouldn't it apply more to restricted waters than a manoeuvre conducted at full speed in open ocean?

My perspective is that Titanic hit the ice underwater at an unknown distance from the visible mass. If my assumption is correct, then my point is that Murdoch seemed to handle the ship well enough to avoid the hazard he saw with both his bow and his stern. What got him was what he couldn't see. Sure, if Murdoch had a tighter-turning ship, he could have whipped the bow over quicker, but could he have avoided contact with the beam or stern? And just because Murdoch ordered the helm hard over doesn't necessarily mean that he wanted the ship to turn as tightly as was possible...as you know, the key to this would have been how long he intended to keep the rudder in.

Here's another question, and please don't take this the wrong way...I mean no insult. How often have you had to execute a manoeuvre similar to what Murdoch had to do? How often have you had the luxury to practice turning your ship suddenly at full speed? During my time on the bridge, I can count the times that I have seen a similar manoeuvre on one hand. I have executed it only once myself while at the conn, and that was a planned "man overboard" drill (Williamson turn). Do you really know exactly what your ship will do in that instance, or do you have just a general idea? Speaking for myself, I would say the latter. Of course, I'm not as experienced a shiphandler as either you or Murdoch, so I'm sincerely interested in your answer.

That's my perspective. That's why I don't understand the connection between supposed inexperience with big ships and Murdoch's decision-making during Titanic's last maneouvre. It could be that my basic assumption is flawed, or that my experience is different from yours.

Parks
 

Allan Clarke

Member
Sep 17, 2006
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Hello,

Without getting mired in the terminology, complacency is involved in this whole event. The Titanic was a disaster waiting to happen. Ships were getting bigger and faster with the passing years, but the general rule of navigation was to keep up your speed until you encountered ice or some other obstacle. This was not a wise practice and it was inevitable that some ship was going to pay the price. Sir Ernest Shakleton addressed this topic at the British Inquiry. He essentially spread the blame out to John Q. Public who was demanding more and quicker trans Atlantic voyages. Little thought was being given to just how dangerous it was to sail a ship into icey waters.

I'm not trying to suggest that Mr. Murdoch was sitting back with his feet up. Nonetheless, he was in charge of the bridge, could not have seen the "haze" that the lookouts saw at 11:30pm or he would have taken immediate action, and this, in and of itself, puts the burden of blame for the accident on his shoulders moreso than the officers who were off duty. But I will say that they were all lulled into a sense of false security.

All the Best,
Allan
 

Erik Wood

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Apr 10, 2001
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I have been fortunate enough (Carnvial Mandated) to have had to use the simulator for every cruise ship I have ever driven, and proven myself as knowledgable in the ships handling. I have been fortuntate in that I have never found myself in Murdoch's situation. I have been on the bridge in only one hard over sudden at sea manuver at full speed and at night and I wasn't at the conn.

I was CO on the bridge doing my night work (actually eating in my chair at the time of incident) when the OOD (senior first) saw a random (one that was reported to us the day before) NOAA buoy off station and without power. He intiated a manuver which I assisted in, but I found myself following his direction, as he knew the situation far better then myself, and I would rather have had him make the call, then me attempt to fix a situation I knew nothing about.

I have dodged sail boats on the Great Lakes (Especially after passing underneath the Blue Bridge on the St. Clair river upbound to Lake Huron) which required tight manuvering, but I had the luxury of knowing (having been on the ship for some time) how the ship would handle and react to what I told her to do and having seen the manuver in question done several times by other folks.

You and I are in agreeance as to the situation in which she found herself, but I would contend that the moment she came into ice, she came into restricted waters. I agree that Murdoch's actions where prudent in accordance with the situation you suggested.

Murdoch had the problem of rapidly slowing his ship and controlling it at the same time, while attempting avoid danger. He did a good job for the situation at hand.

Parks said: Do you really know exactly what your ship will do in that instance, or do you have just a general idea?

You never have an idea of how your ship will handle, until you put it in a certain situation. Simulator practice is great, it teaches what the ship can do and can not do, but until you find yourself in a situation you can't predict how you or your ship will act. Ships react to what you tell them (for the most part) to do, it is important for a good shiphandler to be able to "feel" his ship move and predict how his actions will effect the ship, and sense the ship reacting and countermand or issue orders accordingly. Titanic wasn't Olympic they both handled differently as every ship does.

My point about inexperience is only that true testing of tight manuverability as done today didn't exist back then, and Murdoch didn't (nor at the time would he need, tugs where how to get around in tight quarters) have the knowledge of how his ship would react in tight quarters. Murdoch used his knowledge and resources to the best of his ability and his lack of simulator training didn't (IMO) play a part in the accident. I can't condemn him for acting a certain way in a situation I wasn't there to see. Murdoch was probably one of the most qualified to be conning Titanic in tight quarters. He had been on the only other Olympic Class vessel in existence. He knew better then most how the ship "might" react or not react. Either way Murdoch was in a loose loose situation. By the time he and the lookouts saw the danger, it was to late to save the ship (again IMO). Which leads to another villian of the Titanic disaster LOSA.

Parks said:Here's another question, and please don't take this the wrong way...I mean no insult.

No worries shipmate, I know/understand what you meant by your question.

Parks said: And just because Murdoch ordered the helm hard over doesn't necessarily mean that he wanted the ship to turn as tightly as was possible...as you know, the key to this would have been how long he intended to keep the rudder in.

Sometimes I think Parks sneaks into my computer and steals my thoughts, LOL
happy.gif
. This is actually key to a theory I have developed and am still working on. Something I can't get into now. Something I just developed on Thursday.

The Williamson turn....ahh the good old days. I can recall knocking plates and JO's to the floor doing that manuver. I actually do it during spring fitout to test the rudder and gyro on single screw steam plant boats, built in the 1920's.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Erik,

I forgot all about simulators. Murdoch, of course, didn't have one. I had limited exposure to a shiphandling simulator when I was a midshipman. As an aviator getting his underway quals aboard ship during a disassociated tour, I didn't have the luxury of a simulator...it was all OJT.

Again, I wouldn't agree that the collision happened because of LOSA. Not to sound like a Lightoller apologist here, but the available evidence indicates (to me) that the watchstanders were expecting the ice, were looking for it, saw it as soon as it was visible, and reacted as quickly as possible. I fault instead the decision to proceed at full speed when it was known that the ship would soon be entering a region of ice. The testimony I quoted above, though, demonstrates that this decision was not inconsistent with the attitudes of the time. I find it difficult to fault, with the evidence available, the actions of the crew after, say, 11.30p that night. This does not mean that I hold Murdoch blameless. Although I see both him and Smith as victims of the attitude of their profession, that does not exonerate them from their primary responsibility. I see both carrying out their duty in a responsible, aggressive, and competent fashion within the context of their time and still getting caught by surprise. Such is the way of the sea (and evidently, space). And as you know, we hold those in command accountable for mishaps, even if they were following accepted practice at the time. It's the price paid for the privilege of authority.

One little point...I disagree that Murdoch was trying to slow the ship. My reasons for this should be well known by now and I realise that some of my assumptions in this are disputed.

Parks
 

Erik Wood

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LOSA is actually connected to some other research of mine and Dave Browns which I am not suppose to share.

To me the testimony indicates that they knew ice was coming, and expected it, but something took there attention away from the job at hand (if it hadn't Boxhall and Olliver would have been on the bridge helping look out, if Murdoch allowed them off the bridge on a meanlingless errand while expecting ice, that puts a considerable amount of negligence on him) and before they could regain themselves they found themselves in a poopy (I wonder if ET will let me post that word) situation.

The fact that Boxhall and Olliver where both off the bridge at the same time, to me means something is missing from the story, that none of us are privy to. It shows an extreme amount of the putts disase if Murdoch knew ice was coming on his watch (and had a rough time estimate) then allowed his other two sets of eyes be gone, leaving him alone on the bridge. If that is the case then the disaster is rightly placed upon him and his captain. I don't think that is the case. Something detracted the two men from there bridge duties, something that was obviously important, and before Dave gets duct tape out to seal my mouth shut I will it at that.

A LONG LONG LONG time ago I had said that Murdoch was IMO guilty of a lot of things. I am tending to lean in a different direction. My thoughts tend to view him (and the rest of his fellow shipmates) in a good light or as good as can be expected. LOSA crept in and caused a massive problem.

In my research I agree with your last statement (which means privately I agree), but since I haven't publically shared it, I disagree in public. Hows that for beating around the bush. I should run for office.

Parks said: I see both carrying out their duty in a responsible, aggressive, and competent fashion within the context of their time and still getting caught by surprise.

This is a very important sentence of your post Parks. One that of course I happen to agree with. The getting caught by surprise part is what I am working on. I and a lot of the public have a hard time understanding how people can be caught by surprise regarding something they have been warned about. Especially since the watch before warned the lookouts to be vigilant.

Parks said: The testimony I quoted above, though, demonstrates that this decision was not inconsistent with the attitudes of the time. I find it difficult to fault, with the evidence available, the actions of the crew after, say, 11.30p that night. This does not mean that I hold Murdoch blameless.

This is the last time I am going to tell you, STAY OUT OF MY BRAIN!!! LOL
happy.gif
!! You are hitting upon things I am thinking but in a different context. You and I are thinking along the same lines, perhaps I will send you someting via secret squirrel mode. You know, two cans and some string.

The traditional set of events has a group of bright young stars in the maritime world becoming a bunch of yahoo's driving 50,000 tons of steal. The later I strongly believe isn't the case.

My early days where in the none simulator field. By the time I started working for Carnival it was a fact of life and requirement to work for the company. OJT was a fact of life when I worked for Matson. My days at Kings Point and GMA didn't help until I got out and on the boat. I have words for some Naval Aviators that I have met. Not face to face mind you, just buzzing my boat off Honolulu. Enough vibration to automatically trip (it released the stop holding lever)the general alarm. I was sure to call the Coast Guard in Hono and let them know of my displeasure, which I promptly received a return radio call from either an airfield tower or carrier to apologize.

Once this occured while I was smoking on the bridge wing, and I didn't hear or see it until it was a little to late, the result was coffee all over me, and a needed change of drawers.
 

Allan Clarke

Member
Sep 17, 2006
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Hello,
You know this discussion leads to some interesting questions and observations. First, at that time, what constituted "keeping a good watch?" On a clear, calm night, with the knowledge that their ship would soon encounter ice, what would a Captain expect of his officers re the watch? Evidently, Lightoller felt that for the last half hour of his bridge duty, he, personally, had to keep a constant scan on the horizon. It would seem that Mr. Murdoch did not feel that this was necessary. He couldn't have been looking ahead of the ship from 11:30pm onward, or he would have seen the haze that the lookouts saw (that is the implication of what the Captains and Lightoller said at the Inquiries) and would, in all likelihood, have put the engines on stand-by and called Smith to the bridge. Even if it was haze and not pack ice, he wouldn't have sailed the ship at 22knots into an area where his visibility was compromised. If he relied on the lookouts to be the sole eyes of the ship, would that be considered negligent under the circumstances? Or, was Murdoch only doing what other officers would have done (Lightoller being an exception)?
The other thing that comes out in the evidence, which Parks has relayed to us on this thread, is that all of these Captains and Lightoller were stumped by how the Titanic's crew failed to see an iceberg. Invariably, they say that on a clear night, you could see an iceberg from a mile and a half to three miles away. Evidently they were correct in this assessment because ships hitting pack ice, an iceberg or any other object in the middle of the Atlantic was a very rare occurrence. The only - and in my opinion, rather weak - explanation that could be brought forth was the "blue berg" phenomenon. Since it is obvious that an iceberg's colour depends upon how much light it reflects, then on the night of April 14, 1912, if the Titanic's crew was to sight an iceberg, they were going to be looking at a dark mass. They were not going to see a white, blue, crimson or any other coloured berg. It was going to be a dark mass, and, from the evidence given by these experienced Master Mariners, it should have been seen in plenty of time to avoid the collision. The question is, why did Fleet and Lee not see the cursed thing until a few seconds before impact and why did Murdoch not see anything, not even the haze, until the Titanic was right on top of it? I know this last point will irk some of you, but let me anticipate your response by saying that I cannot find in the evidence anything to suggest that the First Officer saw what was coming until Fleet's dire warning, "Iceberg right ahead!"
All the Best,
Allan
 
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Tom Pappas

Guest
quote:

Invariably, they say that on a clear night, you could see an iceberg from a mile and a half to three miles away.
Does anyone know if the question pertained to a moonless night? I imagine seeing an iceberg by only starlight illumination would be problematic with or without a swell breaking at its base. And in the absence of a swell, it could easily be mistaken as a haze until one was right on top of it.​
 

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Tom!

>Does anyone know if the question pertained to a >moonless night?

Arthur Rostron testified that the bergs dodged by the Carpathia that night were sighted at distances of from 1 1/2 - 2 miles.

All my best,

George
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Although he missed that last berg - they didn't see it until sunup, and had quite the surprise when they saw how close it was. The first one the Carpathia saw was sighted from the bridge, not by the lookouts...Bissett caught a glint of starlight on it.

quote:

Evidently, Lightoller felt that for the last half hour of his bridge duty, he, personally, had to keep a constant scan on the horizon. It would seem that Mr. Murdoch did not feel that this was necessary. He couldn't have been looking ahead of the ship from 11:30pm onward, or he would have seen the haze that the lookouts saw

The idea that the lookouts saw haze is heavily contested - and has been since it was raised at the British inquiry (it was not mentioned at the American inquiry). Lee was disbelieved on this point, and Fleet dismissed it as neglible. So this point is highly debatable, to say the least. If Murdoch wasn't keeping watch out on the bridge wing, what do you think he was doing? Admiring the constellations?

Even if there was haze (and I agree with those who find this highly unlikely), naval historian Geoffrey Marcus provides possible explanations for why it might be visible from the crow's nest and not from the bridge.

quote:

The only - and in my opinion, rather weak - explanation that could be brought forth was the "blue berg" phenomenon. Since it is obvious that an iceberg's colour depends upon how much light it reflects, then on the night of April 14, 1912, if the Titanic's crew was to sight an iceberg, they were going to be looking at a dark mass. They were not going to see a white, blue, crimson or any other coloured berg. It was going to be a dark mass, and, from the evidence given by these experienced Master Mariners, it should have been seen in plenty of time to avoid the collision.

Have you read Reade's later interview with Fred Fleet? It provides one possibility for the delay in responding. They were first conscious that there was something out there, but may have lost precious seconds in debating what it was (according to Fleet, he even asked Lee). Not conclusive, but it is suggestive that we might not know the full story...and provides an explanation for Fleet's defensiveness and fear that he would be blamed for not seeing/reporting the berg in time. Nor were all bergs visible - read Rostron's account of how they missed seeing the last berg at night (and how many others in the darkness? They only knew about the last one because they were stopped nearby when it became visible with daylight).

quote:

I know this last point will irk some of you, but let me anticipate your response by saying that I cannot find in the evidence anything to suggest that the First Officer saw what was coming until Fleet's dire warning, "Iceberg right ahead!"

Irk is not the word, as this is simply a matter of opinion. I firmly believe that the evidence points to the fact that Murdoch may well have seen the berg simultaneously, if not marginally before, the lookouts. But I'm sure you recognise this point is highly contentious, and views differ upon it.​
 
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Tom Pappas

Guest
Thanks, George!

I knew that. You do have to admit that Rostron would hardly have testified that they didn't spot the suckers until they were right on top of them, even if that were the case.
 

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