W M Murdoch what do you think happened


Dec 4, 2000
3,242
529
278
Not to be argumentative, but who among us has looked through Murdoch's eyes?

There is no evidence whatsoever that the iceberg remained hidden from human perception prior to the lookouts alarm. You are assuming that the alarm bell started the train of events. Why?

The fact is that on the same night in the same area two other ships reported that officers on the bridge saw ice before their lookouts. Shackleton testified that ice was easier to see from low down..something still suggested in navigation texts.

Until someone shows either video tape taken through his eyes, or a direct quote from the first officer stating that the lookouts saw the berg first, it is an historically invalid assumption to say that Murdoch did not see the iceberg until after the lookouts.

We simply do not know with certainty who saw the berg first.

-- David G. Brown
 
Sep 20, 2000
1,072
4
0
Taking a somewhat broader perspective here. The following link -- Database of Ship Collisions with Icebergs [Natural Resources Canada] -- lists and briefly describes literally hundreds of reported ice accidents since the year 1686:

http://researchers.imd.nrc.ca/~hillb/icedb/ice/bergs2_01e.html

While many of the records specifically refer to fog or harsh weather conditions, many others (perhaps an *equal* number) make no such stipulations. Assuming this implies what it appears to -- that weather was not really an issue in those cases -- is it at all possible that the officers and crews of so many ships were merely incompetent or "not keeping a good watch"?

Rules of thumb become a very dangerous thing when they're naively elevated to the status of "universal truth". While a few seasoned mariners did indeed testify to their *own* experience with iceberg visibility during the Titanic Inquries, and while that essentially boiled down to a concensus that 'we could usually count on being able to see tham see them x distance away', none of those men, as far as I recall, ever expressed that with absolute certainty.

I have to agree with David on this one. Who indeed has looked through Murdoch's eyes? Moreover, to merely assume that he was not keeping a "good watch" because the ship hit an iceberg is to indict *hundreds* of other mariners as hopelessly inept idiots! How else could ALL those ships collide with something they "should" have been able to see well over a mile away? Or could it be, perhaps, that the truth is just NOT that simple or "universal"? (Captain Rostron's experience certainly supports the latter.)

Regarding the presumed tenuousness of the "blue berg" idea, one other mariner questioned as an expert witness at the British Inquiry confirmed having experienced this, albeit during the day. (See the "No Iceberg" thread in "Titanic Books".)

Rarity and impossibility are two entirely different things. For centuries, the so-called "giant squid" was considered a merely mythical beastie, a tale of "drunken sailors". But during the twentieth century, scientific exploration of the deep oceans *confirmed* their existence, in several species at that!

In the case of the "blue berg", I suspect that far more than "hue" is essential in that name. Most bergs would appear white because of a frosted, opaque surface. But a berg recently capsized and rolled over might look downright glassy. (For a simple experiment, try this with an ice cube; it's apparently white in the tray, but turns mostly clear when dunked.)

Cheers,
John
 

George Behe

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

Excellent points. However, allow me to play devil's advocate here for a moment.

> The following link....-- lists and briefly >describes literally hundreds of reported ice
> accidents since the year 1686:

>is it at all possible that the officers and crews >of so many ships were merely incompetent or "not >keeping a good watch"?

Actually, considering the tens of thousands of other ships that *avoided* hitting icebergs during that same time period, it could be argued that the mere hundreds of casualties you've just mentioned *do* represent the results of poor watchkeeping.

All my best,

George
 
T

Tom Pappas

Guest
"Get-there-itis."

That's the name given to the mental state that makes air crew undertake operations in marginal conditions. It's half complacency, half whistling past the graveyard, and is exacerbated by an attitude that I call "we've lived through worse than this before." I can well imagine that it has affected mariners to a like degree - in fact, I would venture that the proximate cause of a good 50% of the most famous maritime accidents in recent history were caused by the watch commander's disregard of the most basic safety precautions. Stockholm's captain was taking a shortcut in defiance of maritime convention. Estonia was going too fast for the prevailing conditions - the list goes on.
 
Jan 11, 2006
353
0
111
RE: David Brown in his Posted on Friday, 7 March, 2003 - 3:31 am: :

I believe my expertise and experience of 40+ years, ship handling and navigating ships in ice,
qualify me to competently respond to David’s points:

(1)Not to be argumentative, but who among us has looked through Murdoch's eyes?

I daresay I have looked *through eyes* at, and navigated through, more arctic pack ice and
icebergs than any others of this board, as well as, all the witnesses cited

(2) [. . . ] it is an historically invalid assumption to say that Murdoch did not see the iceberg until after the lookouts

Neither Murdoch nor the lookouts saw an iceberg, for the reason there was no iceberg to be seen.
Neither did an iceberg impact Titanic’s starboard bow; the laws of hydrodynamics preclude the
possibility. The lookouts saw a haze - like phenomenon, which they believe to be haze, and
watched for ten minutes as the ship approached. They did not report it to the bridge because they
believed it was not their duty to report. What they were really seeing, ahead of the ship, was
pack ice. The question is: why did Murdoch not see the haze - like phenomenon, which was in
reality pack ice? A competent watch officer would have known it was not haze. If he did not
know, it was incumbent upon him to notify Captain Smith and navigate with caution.

–Collins
 

Erik Wood

Member
Apr 10, 2001
3,519
11
223
Captain Collins said: A competent watch officer would have known it was not haze. If he did not know, it was incumbent upon him to notify Captain Smith and navigate with caution.

BINGO!!! On the part in red. And ??? on the rest. I was unaware that Captain Collins was there to see what Murdoch saw.

Captain Collins said: I daresay I have looked *through eyes* at, and navigated through, more arctic pack ice and icebergs than any others of this board, as well as, all the witnesses cited

That was in response to:

David Browns comment: Not to be argumentative, but who among us has looked through Murdoch's eyes?

What am I to take from this?? My first reaction (just by reading with no other further consideration) is that Captain Collins is stating he knows the situation Murdoch found himself in better then Murdoch and that Captain Collins knows the exact orders that Murdoch took or didn't take to deal with the situation and his further comments indicate that they where both in correct and negligent as Murdoch wasn't competent.

This being said, I would assume Captain Collins was on the bridge with Mr. Murdoch which unless he is older then I am aware isn't the case.

But upon further consideration I think what Captain Collins (and this is what I will choose to take from the post, as the previous would be an extremely outragous statement IF I take it at what I consider to be face value) meant or means the following:

Mr. Murdoch didn't understand (nor did the lookouts) the situation in which he found himself as he hadn't been faced with it before. So the haze spotted was ice, which Murdoch did not correctly identify (mainly because he didn't have any experience in ice).

I am interested in what others think about Captain Collins statement.
 
Mar 3, 1998
2,745
79
0
Erik,

Personal opinion?

I think Captain Collins is speaking from frustration that his experience is not being given due respect. That's how I read his last post and is my greatest takeaway point. If I'm wrong, please correct me.

Picking at detail, I sincerely hope that Captain Collins is not placing himself above Sir Shackleton in ice experience. I am assuming that his comment about having more experience than "all the witnesses cited" was an oversight on Captain Collins's part. If I'm wrong, please correct me. Even if there was an oversight, I see his comment as a theatrical, rather than substantiative, one to make. How does one practically compare experiences 90-some years apart? For example, would Captain Collins's experience have been any different in a world without IIP reports, radar, or a host of electronic navigational aids in use since World War II? Has Captain Collins's experience in any way benefitted from the Titanic disaster? If the answer to either of these example questions is "yes," then Captain Collins is already working off an experience baseline different to that which shaped the views of mariners in 1912.

I believe Captain Collins when he claims more ice experience than anyone on this board. I respect his experience. But can any man claim total knowledge of the causal factors to an event almost a century previous? In my opinion, one cannot. Has Captain Collins run into an iceberg? This is not a facetious question...if Captain Collins has never run into an iceberg, then he has a hard time convincing me that he has experienced the exact situation that Murdoch, a man who knew his own business if his record is to be believed, faced.

In my view, the best anyone can do is speculate. I am not ready to sign on with anyone who claims to know with absolute certainty what happened that night.

Concerning the last half of Captain Collins's post, I remain unconvinced that there was no iceberg. Every piece of evidence related to the hazard uniformly describes it as an iceberg. Talk of the visual tricks that ice can play -- all true, by the way -- make for interesting debate, but cannot get us around the existing evidence, in my opinion. In addition, any claim that the physics of the collision are such that only one scenario can be possible had to have been made with one specific set of assumptions. I don't believe that we know enough about the mechanics of the collision to say with complete certainty that any individual set of assumptions is necessarily the correct one.

In the end, though, my voice is but one of many. It really doesn't matter what I believe or don't believe...what only matters is what each of us takes away from the disaster. I choose to continue looking along a different path than the one Captain Collins has offered us.

Parks
 

Erik Wood

Member
Apr 10, 2001
3,519
11
223
I chose not to respond to the no iceberg portion of Captain Collins post becase he knows my thoughts on the subject and I didn't feel the need to inject them here.

But I, like Parks think that we are treading on dangerous ground when we assume to know what another saw.
 
Sep 20, 2000
1,072
4
0
Actually, considering the tens of thousands of other ships that *avoided* hitting icebergs during that same time period, it could be argued that the mere hundreds of casualties you've just mentioned *do* represent the results of poor watchkeeping.

Hmmm. You may have me there, George. (That'll teach me to start up my soapbox without first checking the rear-view mirror.) ;-)

That could indeed be argued, as a generality. And as a generality it would likely be true. But I guess the finer point that I meant to put on it (which I expressed somewhat inadequately) was that "poor watchkeeping" seems unlikely to explain the *totality* of those accidents.

By way of illustration, I'm reminded of the Audi [500?] fiasco. Until a sufficient number of incidents had been documented, the drivers of that vehicle who protested that it 'took on a mind of its own' were regarded largely as "kooks and liars". But then, as the evidence mounted, it became abundantly clear that the car in fact had a major design flaw that could cause it to accelerate uncontrollably.

It's this underlying hint of unpredictability I really had in mind, as applied to icebergs. Though many of those accidents could ultimately be attributed to simple carelessness, some are likely far more enigmatic. And I suspect that the Titanic and at least a few of those other ice accidents must fall into this latter category, defying the *conventional* expectation that icebergs would be visible within an avoidable distance.

---------------

I have to confess that I too am bewildered by Captain Collins' repeated use of the expression, "There was no iceberg". Obviously the situation isn't at all that simple, since the arrival of daybreak manifested MANY icebergs in the vicinty, noted by hundreds of witnesses. If nothing else, this seems certainly a poor choice of words to convey the captain's actual premise. (Theatrical, yes; accurate, no.)

Cheers,
John
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
5,342
60
308
quote:

Is this not an imbecilic statement made by one who professes to be a professional mariner?

Stongly felt agreement and disagreement on matters of opinion are natural (particularly with so many professionals on board!), and rigorous debate can be highly productive. This can be accomplished without the use of inflammatory and provocative statements - even when phrased in the form of a question. In future, I suggest you avoid proposing that another individual's statement is 'imbecilic'; it does nothing to further the credibility of your own counterpoint, and runs contrary to the tone we try to encourage in discussion on this board.​
 

Erik Wood

Member
Apr 10, 2001
3,519
11
223
I am very disappointed to see the reaction Captain Collins has given us. I would have expected a more polite response from a sailor, especially a Captain and especially seeing as this is a "mixed" crowd.

It is easy to see why so many hold the postions they do regarding Captain Collin's theory. Until Captain Collins serves with me, I would thank him not to comment on my professional ability or lack of it. As I have not attacked his professionalism or lack of it. I am not, nor do I profess to be a historian or one who specializes in history. I merely read a extremely poorly researched post and gave two distinct reactions and it would appear my first one was correct as he has not refutted it.

I do not proclaim to be a professional marniner, I am a professional mariner and being such I would have expected common curtesy from a fellow mariner, which by the way has been extended to you, but which you have not returned to anybody marniner or not.

The discussion at hand is regarding Murdoch's decision and his ability to maintain a useful watch. I have stated my points and I wuold thank Captain Collins to not personally attack me in public regarding my own experiences and opinions.

I take particular offense to Captain Collins comments to Parks, but that is another matter. These kind of rants have become the norm.
 

Erik Wood

Member
Apr 10, 2001
3,519
11
223
I am not being allowed to edit my own post, which I just posted so I am going to attempt to clarify points I made.

When I said "mixed" crowd I was referring to non mariners.

When I said: I merely read a extremely poorly researched post

That came across far harsher then I intended and it was a gut reaction to a personal attack and I wish it to be stricken (but I can't do it). But to the reverse I would like to add that I know for fact Captain Collins point is well researched but his prior post made it sound as if he knew the situation better then Murdoch did, even though he was not there to see it. Regardless of whether or not this was his intention I think we should "edit out" in our own minds the attacks he has leveled against all who have responded and respond to the factual evidence of both sides of the debate.

We need to stick to the debate and cut the personal agenda's. Everyones opinion should be respected and as so many have said, experience isn't everything. Inferring that one is the only person qualified to give intelligent debate on a subject because of his experience is rude, uncalled for and something that I have never experienced in my field.
 
Mar 3, 1998
2,745
79
0
<font color="#000066">I, most certainly, do place my ice navigation and ship handling experience above that of Sir Ernest
Shackleton. His ice navigation and ship handling expertise did not go beyond the 350 ton - 5
knot Endurance, which he lost. As Sir Robert Findlay said to the British enquiry; “That only
illustrates Sir Ernest’s complete ignorance of the conditions prevailing in the North Atlantic.
When he is near the South Pole Sir Ernest is supreme; but when he gets near the North Atlantic
he is only an ordinary man.”

And I submit this is more in reference to Shackleton's understanding of the special pressures that the passenger shipping lines places on Masters required to transit ice. The Titanic disaster alone bares out the practical sense of Shackleton's testimony. His was the only voice for caution when approaching ice. The other skippers, all shipping line men, testified to full speed under clear conditions through ice regions. Titanic was sunk while following that dictum. Captain, what were you taught?

Captain Collins speaks with evident contempt of the loss of Endurance. An unusual stance for an ice pilot whose experience with ice, according to the dust jacket of his book, was gained navigating inland waterways...I would think that he of all people would have the greatest appreciation for the situation that Shackleton and his crew found themselves in. Yes, I guess I was wrong again.

There is one unanswered question from my earlier post above. Can Captain Collins really claim more experience than the mariners interviewed in 1912? He may have more years than any one individual (although Captains Cannon, Young, Stewart and Apfeld each were with a few years of Captain Collins's stated experience), but does his sole voice measure up against the totality of experience represented before the Wreck Commission? How good a yardstick is a simple comparison of years served when the environments involved are at least half a century of technological/navigational advancements apart? I'm sorry, Captain Collins's claim to be the most experienced ice navigator may be true in some respects, but doesn't work for me as a historian on a practical level. He is asking me to disregard a central piece of historical evidence, just because he thinks so. Belittle me all you want, but you just haven't convinced me. And that's from one Bluenose to what I will assume is another.

Parks
 
Sep 20, 2000
1,072
4
0
While basic seamanship may not have any significance to a non-mariner, common sense dictates that icebergs and ice are visible at a far greater distance in daylight, and appear much nearer than their actual distance...

I would have to vehemently disagree with this assertion, accepting only a far more properly qualified statement: icebergs and ice are LIKELY to be visible at a far greater distance in daylight, and, TO THE UNDISCERNING EYE, MAY appear much nearer than their actual distance. (But then, anyone who's ever approached a mountain from afar should appreciate this fact.)

Moreover ...

[Captain Arthur Rostron, US 21 and BI]:
Between 2:45 and 4 o'clock, the time I stopped my engines, we were passing icebergs on every side and making them ahead and having to alter our course several times to clear the bergs.
At 4 o'clock I stopped.
At 4:10 I got the first boat alongside.
Previous to getting the first boat alongside, however, I saw an iceberg close to me, right ahead, and I had to starboard to get out of the way. And I picked him up on the weather side of the ship. I had to clear this ice.

25406. How close was the iceberg which you saw? - Well, when we had stopped, when daylight broke, it was something less than a quarter of a mile away.


IS THIS CLOSE ENOUGH TO SUIT YOU, CAPTAIN??
(Keep in mind that Boxhall's lifeboat barely moved the entire night.)


[Captain Rostron, US 22]:
By the time we had the first boat's people it was breaking day, and then I could see the remaining boats all around within an area of about 4 miles. I also saw icebergs all around me. There were about 20 icebergs that would be anywhere from about 150 to 200 feet high and numerous smaller bergs; also numerous what we call "growlers." You would not call them bergs. They were anywhere from 10 to 12 feet high and 10 to 15 feet long above the water.


Rostron noted twenty LARGE (by standard nomenclature) icebergs and NUMEROUS smaller bergs, not to mention that horde of growlers. And he was the captain of a trans-Atlantic liner. Surely you're not suggesting that HE was fooled by the mere visual trickery that we "mere mortals" might succumb to!

PLEASE, make your arguments relevant and your language precise. "There was no iceberg!" makes for a dramatic sounding "slogan" of sorts, but it flies entirely in the face of ALL the historical evidence, and comes off as quite fanatical. There were in fact MANY icebergs, and if your intention is merely to insist that a berg was not the culprit in Titanic's holing, don't extrapolate that to the level of the absurd. You only undermine your own credibility that way.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,604
631
483
Easley South Carolina
To back up Inger's points, please read Rules and Nettiquette. From the rules;

- When writing your messages, please use the same courtesy that you would show when speaking face-to-face with someone. "Flames" (i.e. intentional provocation), insults, profanity, personal attacks or discrimination based on sex, faith, age, ethnicity or other personal, cultural or racial characteristics will not be tolerated under any circumstances. It is fine to disagree strongly with opinions, ideas, and facts, but always with respect for the other person. Great minds do not always think alike.

Be assured that the moderating team will enforce this.

Lewis, I respect your credentials and the strength of your convictions as well as your courage in standing up for them in a public forum. I know you have good reasons for them. However, other professionals differ and they have their reasons too. Please offer to them the same respect you would ask for yourself. "Flaming" people won't make your case and will only serve to damage your credibility. I wouldn't want to see that happen. Mariners with ice navigation experience aren't heard from often enough in Titanic circles.
 
Mar 3, 1998
2,745
79
0
<font color="#000066">Captain Collins's claim to be the most experienced ice navigator may be true in some respects, but doesn't work for me as a historian on a practical level.

After double-checking my post, I see that I omitted a few key words in the sentence above. What I meant to say was:

"Captain Collins's claim to be the most experienced ice navigator may be true in some respects, but his total disregard for the evidence concerning the identification of the hazard and disdain for any expert/witness/analyst (then and now) who takes a view counter to his doesn't work for me as a historian on a practical level."

Sorry for any misunderstanding that the original sentence might have caused.

Parks
 
Sep 20, 2000
1,072
4
0
Parks: Well said. If that clarification were a petition, I strongly suspect you could easily gather quite a few signatures on it (mine included).

John
 
Mar 3, 1998
2,745
79
0
John,

Your comment is appreciated, but I am not leading a coalition of the willing against Captain Collins. Nor am I in any way out to discredit his experience or book (which contains -- as far as I know -- his full argument that we've been debating here). I respect his experience and if it were not for specific points of evidence regarding the Titanic disaster, I would be inclined to support his theory. In rejecting his "no iceberg" theory, I am stating just my personal opinion that neither his method of analysis nor attempt to establish credibility (at the expense of just about everyone other than himself) works for me. It may work for others and I would make no attempt to influence them to any other way of thinking. Likewise, I would ask that my own opinion and experience (from which my opinion has been derived) be respected without ridicule, implied or otherwise.

I bought the Captain's book. I didn't agree with some of the author's conclusions, and for that I am talked down to, both in public and private. It's not often that one receives the personal attention of an author after purchasing their book, but in this case, I wouldn't consider myself a happy customer.

Having said that, and barring any new turn in discussion, I think I've said all I can say without repeating myself.

Parks
 

Erik Wood

Member
Apr 10, 2001
3,519
11
223
I too am not a happy customer. Not because of the content of the book, but because of the treatment I received after purchase.

I think we should move on. Let's get back to the topic which wasn't no iceberg, it was the performance of First Officer Murdoch. If I am not mistaken there is a place on the Book Thread devoted to Captain Collins work perhaps we should move the "no iceberg" theory to that portion of the board and confine discussion here to Mr. Murdoch??
 

Similar threads

Similar threads