Warnings


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Arnold Rye

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I have heard that the Captain received six warnings before the collision. Is this true?

Arnold Rye
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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No. He definitely received two warnings of ice that was more or less on Titanic's course. (From Baltic and Caronia). He also got others about ice nowhere near the course. (La Touraine and Noordam). His replies to these are documented.

Harold Bride claimed to have taken a third warning to the bridge on the evening of April 14th but he could not say who he gave it to. That was sent by Californian and is documented.

Other warnings got to the radio room and did not get to the bridge. They were not addressed to Captain Smith and the operators went by the book and did not take them to him. We know of them from the logs of other ships.

Captain Smith was rather foolhardy but he was not as stupid as he's sometimes painted.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Let me say "Amen" to Mr. Gittens' remarks about Captain Smtih. I don't have time at the moment to haul out my research, but while writing my book I came to the conclusion that Smith and his officers had a pretty good idea of what lay ahead of the ship that night with regard to ice.

-- David G. Brown
 

Erik Wood

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Apr 10, 2001
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It is also important to keep in mind that a warning is just that. A warning. Situations have a bad habit of changing between the time you get the warning till the time you get to the place that was suppose have what ever it is you were warned about.

I don't know how many times I have listened to a weather report and by looking out my window or look at the radar, or barometer I can tell different. Warnings are intended to let a Captain now the conidtions at that time at that place and that the possiblity is there for the same when he arrives.

Erik
 

Dave Gittins

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As Erik says, situations change. The Caronia warning was two days old when Titanic got it, as it was passed on from Athinai. The ice was obviously elsewhere by the time Smith got it. The Baltic warning put ice a bit north of his course. All he was willing to do was to push on and keep a good watch.
 
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Janet Mills

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I think that any ice warnings that reached any officer was luck in itself. At that time Marconi was in it to make money and quite a novelty. Passengers private messages did just that.Jan BTS
 

Milos Grkovic

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Aug 25, 2019
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La Touraine, Caronia, Californian, Baltic, Amerika, Mesaba and Rabahhanock. Rabahhanock did send an ice warning by morse lamp but it wasn't posted in the chart room.
 
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Mike Spooner

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Do not make excuses for the captain decisions. Smith knew of the larger icefield than usal due to the warm winter of 1911-12 bringing the ice further south, before he set sail from Southampton.
Clearly Smith has not got proper control over his Officers as each one has his own story to tell. And why ice messages are not reaching the bridge can fall down on the captain lack full control of the ship. That one lands up in the company chairman pocket Mr B Ismay and not delivered to the bridge after been read is unacceptable.
Smith will make more mistakes by not slowing down the ship and with no extra lookout men on the ship bow followed by a navigation error.
I may be a bit harsh on Smith. But that is what you are paying the highest paid captain for!
 

Mike Spooner

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I may be slightly straying of the thread here. Does anybody known what crossing route Smith took when last on the Olympic? Was it the same icefield as Titanic had to navigate through?
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Capt. Smith followed the accepted tracks across the Atlantic which depended on the time of the year. The route Titanic followed was known as the southern track which was taken by steamers heading westbound across the Atlantic. It was in effect from January 15th through August 23rd. The point called “the corner” (42N, 47W) marked the end of the great circle part of the westbound voyage. Eastbound steamers on the southern track would reach a corner point 60 nautical miles to the south of the westbound corner point (41N, 47W) before they would take to the great circle part of their eastbound voyage. From August 24th through January 14th these routes were shifted northward by about 120 nautical miles, and were known as the northern track. A voyage taken on the northern track made the passage across the Atlantic about 110 nautical miles shorter. After the Titanic disaster the southern tracks were shifted further southward.
 
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Mike Spooner

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Capt. Smith followed the accepted tracks across the Atlantic which depended on the time of the year. The route Titanic followed was known as the southern track which was taken by steamers heading westbound across the Atlantic. It was in effect from January 15th through August 23rd. The point called “the corner” (42N, 47W) marked the end of the great circle part of the westbound voyage. Eastbound steamers on the southern track would reach a corner point 60 nautical miles to the south of the westbound corner point (41N, 47W) before they would take to the great circle part of their eastbound voyage. From August 24th through January 14th these routes were shifted northward by about 120 nautical miles, and were known as the northern track. A voyage taken on the northern track made the passage across the Atlantic about 110 nautical miles shorter. After the Titanic disaster the southern tracks were shifted further southward.
Hi Sam,
Thanks for the reply. However was the Olympic about the same time of the day as Titanic was? In other words did she approach the icefield in the pitch dark as Titanic had done so? If so what speed was she doing?
 

Jim Currie

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Apr 16, 2008
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Do not make excuses for the captain decisions. Smith knew of the larger icefield than usal due to the warm winter of 1911-12 bringing the ice further south, before he set sail from Southampton.
Clearly Smith has not got proper control over his Officers as each one has his own story to tell. And why ice messages are not reaching the bridge can fall down on the captain lack full control of the ship. That one lands up in the company chairman pocket Mr B Ismay and not delivered to the bridge after been read is unacceptable.
Smith will make more mistakes by not slowing down the ship and with no extra lookout men on the ship bow followed by a navigation error.
I may be a bit harsh on Smith. But that is what you are paying the highest paid captain for!
Hello Mike.

Before judging, you must understand the thought process of a ship captain on the receipt of an ice warning,

First, you and others must understand that a "North Atlantic man" is very familiar with sea ice and how it normally behaves. Captain Smith was no different. To judge his actions, you must know for sure what he knew regarding the position of ice in the vicinity of his ship that night. Because that knowledge would be what he based his actions on.
Captain Smith. like every captain at sea that night, knew how and why ice might be across his track. That would have been taught to him and supplemented by experience of many years on that run.
He would know that the normal pattern was that ice would be influenced by the easterly extension of the Gulf Stream and the prevailing Southwesterly winds an be carried eastward and northward by them. 4th Officer Boxhall confirmed the currents to be expected in that area, as did the captain of the Mount Temple.
We do not know how many warnings Smith actually received i his hands. However we do know that he did receive warnings about ice which, when originally sighted by those giving the warnings, was already well to the northward of his track. However, he did not simply dismiss these warnings "old news"...as unimportant, but gave orders that a sharp look out for "stragglers" was to be maintained. These orders were carried out. Unfortunately the conditions were anything but perfect for sighting ice... more so ice that was not particularly high or wide.
I do not think Smith was in any way negligent. His ship was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.
 
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Mar 22, 2003
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"I was to come down to 42º north 47º west, and then to steer for Cape Sable. Before that, I received a message from the Corinthian saying that one of their vessels, the Corsican, had seen ice at 41º 25' north and 50º 30' west. I immediately steered down to pass 50º west in 41º 15' north, sir - that is, I was giving the ice 10 miles - and I came down and saw no ice whatever."

Capt. Moore was willing to go a good 10 miles further south than the latitude of the ice that was reported to him. At 1:54pm ATS on Sunday the 14th Capt. Smith received a report from Baltic of ice in 41° 51'N, 49° 52'W. That was just 3 miles north of Titanic's track to the Nantucket Shoals LV from the Corner. That report was acknowledged by Smith at 2:57pm ATS.

Clearly, Smith and Moore had different thought processes when it came to handling ice reports.
 

Mike Spooner

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Jim,
I appreciate what you say about Smith. But to say his ship was at the wrong place at the wrong time! That is too easy say for a cop out excuse. I look at captain Lord who has no experience with icefield, yet he did it textbook correct. Half the speed with extra lookout man and made sure he was on the bridge when entering the icefield and put his ship at safety first by stopping.
Then I look at captain Moore from Mount Temple ship. He to read the situation well and went out of his way to avoid the icefield. As for Smith with considerable more years experience that other captains had decided to take on such a risky route through the icefield without safety precaution beforehand, by not slowing the ship down and with no extra lookout. Moonless night. He knew the icefield was coming up and why was he not on the bridge at the time!
Plus the fact he had a considerably heaver ship producing more kinetic energy will only take longer in time to stop. As Sir Ernest Shackleton said in the British inquiry. You have no right to go at that speed in an ice zone. He went on to say even with my specially built ice ship which was only 736 GRT I would only do about four knots!
 

Seumas

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I look at captain Lord who has no experience with icefield

Can you please provide some evidence that Captain Lord had no experience with an ice-field ? That's a huge assumption to make.

As for Smith with considerable more years experience that other captains had decided to take on such a risky route through the icefield without safety precaution beforehand, by not slowing the ship down and with no extra lookout. Moonless night. He knew the icefield was coming up and why was he not on the bridge at the time!

Captain Smith had actually left instructions that he was to be called if the officer of the watch was in anyway concerned. Also Smith wouldn't have risen to the great position he had and just retired from the RNR as an honourary commander if he had been such an incompetent fool.

As Sir Ernest Shackleton said in the British inquiry. You have no right to go at that speed in an ice zone. He went on to say even with my specially built ice ship which was only 736 GRT I would only do about four knots!

That's not really an argument when you consider that the ships that Shackleton (and the recently deceased Captain Scott) had been used to - the Terra Nova, the Nimrod & the Discovery - did not rely entirely upon their slow, small, chronically under powered steam engines. Rather for more than half the time on the open sea they used sail power or were towed significant distances by sea going tugs.
 

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