Was Capt Smith lost in a daze during the sinking

Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
>>After he was notified that Titanic would sink, I personally think he was in a state of denial. That might be why he didn't organize the officers right away.<<

I don't believe for even a second that Captain Smith was in a state of denial. He'ed been going to sea way to long and was too good at his job for that. Nor would I read too much into the much vaunted delay. The ship wasn't plunging out of control nose down after the accident so he did the prudent thing and had his people check things out, deciding on a course of action after he had a reasonably good picture of what was going on.

Bear in mind that the Titanic was no bathtub toy. It was a very large ship massing over 52,000 tonnes at full load so if something happens, that's a lot of ship to examine for the few people who were sent out. I've been trained in that sort of thing for combat operations, and with resources at my beck and call that Captain Smith couldn't even dream of. 45 minutes from collision, to damage assessment, and then preparing the boats and mustering the passengers wasn't bad for that day and age.

>>I just thought he could have warned the officers that it was serious.<<

What makes anyone think he didn't? As Dave Brown is fond of pointing out, "Beware assumptions." The claims of ignorance offered in testimony strike me as being more in the catagory, of "dash, dodge, evade and privaricate" then anything else. That they had to play it cool, dummy up, and essentially let the passengers self-select who would live and who would die may well have been the least cruddy of some really cruddy options, but you don't say things like "Natural Selection Ruled" at an official inquiry. An experienced mariner would understand it, but it doesn't follow that landsmen would.

Lifeboats are not prepared for launching and passengers mustered in midocean in the middle of the night for pranks and giggles. Boat operations are just too dangerous, and evacuation is the court of last resort. The sort of thing you do because it's the only option left or in short order is very likely to *be* the only option left.

You can be absolutely certain that Titanic's officers and crew knew this and acted accordingly.

>>About warning people to get off the ship and giving orders-well I think it would be good to do that, just not in a crazy way that Erik suggested. It would have been best to (instead of shouting out orders) just explain what was happening.<<

A hotly debated proposition to be sure. Some would agree with you too, but I wouldn't be one of them. The time to debate and explain is after the crisis passes. If the word goes out to abandon ship then it's best to do just that and ask questions later. At least you'll still be around to ask them.
Wink
 
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Yuri Singleton

Member
Harold Bride stated repeatedly in his sworn testimony, both in the US and Britain, that he witnessed Captain Smith dive overboard into the sea from the port side bridge area. So I need to revise my earlier statements about the captain being lost while searching for the ship's logbook and charts inside the bridge. Clearly we have it in testimony from a good source that the captain went into the sea shortly before Titanic left the surface. Likely he simply swam a short distance before succumming to exposure and drowning.
 
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Yuri Singleton

Member
If Capt. Smith dove overboard from the bridge when the water was already submerging the forward section of the boat deck, then he would have had to have been located aft of the bridge, near the second lifeboat station on the port side right? Water would have been pouring over the bridge bulkwart and surging up from the stairway to A deck into the wheelhouse and weather bridge. He couldn't possibly stood on the bulkwart as water rushed over it and tried to jump. He'd have had his legs thrown out from under him before he could even climbed onto the rail. He couldn't have jumped overboard from the bridge area at that point. (I mean as it was flooding.) Was he standing aft of the bridge? Does the bridge area extend aft along the boat deck toward the first class entrance?
Or is it possible that Captain Smith dove into the sea from the roof of the officer's quarters?

Here is a snippet of Bride's testimony to the US Inquiry:
Senator SMITH. When did you last see the captain? When he told you to take care of yourself?

Mr. BRIDE: The last I saw of the captain he went overboard from the bridge, sir.

Senator SMITH. Did you see the Titanic sink?

Mr. BRIDE. Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH. And the captain was at that time on the bridge?

Mr. BRIDE. No, sir.

Senator SMITH. What do you mean by overboard?

Mr. BRIDE. He jumped overboard from the bridge. He jumped overboard from the bridge when we were launching the collapsible lifeboat.

Senator SMITH. I should judge from what you have said that this was about three or four minutes before the boat sank,

Mr. BRIDE. Yes. It would be just about five minutes before the boat sank.

Senator SMITH. About five minutes?

Mr. BRIDE. Yes.

Senator SMITH. Do you know whether the captain had a life belt on?

Mr. BRIDE. He had not when I last saw him.

Senator SMITH. He had not?

Mr. BRIDE. No, sir.

Senator SMITH. Did the bridge go under water at about the same time?

Mr. BRIDE. Yes, sir. The whole of the ship was practically under water to the forward funnel, and when I saw her go down the stern came out of the water and she slid down fore and aft.

Senator SMITH. The captain at no time went over until the vessel sank?

Mr. BRIDE. No, sir.

Senator SMITH. He went with the vessel?

Mr. BRIDE. Practically speaking; yes, sir.



So clearly the captain was on the port side of the ship's forward section, near collapsible D. But on the boat deck, or on the roof? If he dove into the water, he must have been above the level of the sea. So either he is aft of the bridge on the Boat deck, or on top of the bridge/officer's quarters.
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
Sounds to me like he was on the roof. Getting up there wouldn't have been particularly difficult and would have offered more of a sporting chance then trying to dive ovr the side. I have to wonder if maybe the falling funnel got him befor the cold did.
 
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Adam Usher

Member
I do think that if this is even slightly reliable, that Captain Smith was caught by the funnel. But i dont understand why the captain would try and do that? I think that he would have wanted to die on the bridge. Unless he was on the bridge when the funnel smashed the bridge.
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
>>But i dont understand why the captain would try and do that? I think that he would have wanted to die on the bridge.<<

Mmmmmmmm....why would he want to die anywhere? Just because he had to swim for it doesn't mean he wasn't as interested in a potential for survival as anyone else. (I can think of several reasons why he might have wanted to die in the end, but that doesn't mean Smith was *actually* of the same mind.)
 
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Yuri Singleton

Member
His physical urge for survival would likely have overpowered any mental or emotional desire for death. Especially after his body was immersed in the icy water. At that point instinct should kick in and he would have swam or grabbed for anything in sight to climb aboard. Its not a sign of weakness, it is a natural reaction to physical distress. Just ask any lifeguard about the dangers of rescuing a person who is drowning but still concious.

Regarding Smith's location on the bridge, I too for a long time chose to beleive that Smith probably met his end inside the enclosed area of the bridge. But then I read the testimony of Harold Bride, jr Marconi operator aboard Titanic who stated several times that he witnessed Captain Smith 'dive' into the sea as Titanic's forward section slipped under the surface.

So Captain Smith was in the water at the end, in proximity to the forward decks. It is possible that he was unfortunate enough to have been killed by the falling funnel while he swam around. Or it is possible he expired from exposure to the cold and then simply went into shock and drowned.
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
>>It is possible that he was unfortunate enough to have been killed by the falling funnel while he swam around.<<

Or perhaps he was one of the "lucky" ones if he met his end that way. Getting swatted by a toppeling smokestack is a nasty death, but a very quick one. Freezing is also a nasty death, but a reletively slow one. Either one however spared him the sort of clobbering he would have taken at either inquiry and in the "Court Of Public Opinion" had he made it to the other side of the Atlantic alive.
 
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Adam Usher

Member
I think that maybe the captain wanted to save himself but i think he realised that he would have had a terrible life after the sinking. I also think that if he had froze to death, somebody else would have seen him do what bride said he thought he had done. The Captain was a very distinctive fellar, he had his uniform on and his long beard. I think that others would have seen him.

I still personally beleive that he went to the bridge ( like he did in the mini series) and he went from denial to acceptance. I think then that he stood on the bridge and killed himself or he drowned when the bridge was under water, and then the bridge collapsed from the weight of the collapsed funnel.
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
Some claimed that they *did* see him in the water. Unfortunately, the stories were so varied and just as uncorroberated, there's just no way to know for sure. As to his going to the bridge at the last, I can't rule it out. However, with Bride himself stating in sworn testimony that he saw the Captain diving into the sea as the ship plunged, I think you can see why this is problematic as well.

From Bride's Testimony:

Senator SMITH. When did you last see the captain? When he told you to take care of yourself?

Mr. BRIDE: The last I saw of the captain he went overboard from the bridge, sir.

Senator SMITH. Did you see the Titanic sink?

Mr. BRIDE. Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH. And the captain was at that time on the bridge?

Mr. BRIDE. No, sir.

Senator SMITH. What do you mean by overboard?

Mr. BRIDE. He jumped overboard from the bridge. He jumped overboard from the bridge when we were launching the collapsible lifeboat.

Senator SMITH. I should judge from what you have said that this was about three or four minutes before the boat sank,

Mr. BRIDE. Yes. It would be just about five minutes before the boat sank.

Senator SMITH. About five minutes?

Mr. BRIDE. Yes.

Senator SMITH. Do you know whether the captain had a life belt on?

Mr. BRIDE. He had not when I last saw him.

Senator SMITH. He had not?

Mr. BRIDE. No, sir.

Senator SMITH. Did the bridge go under water at about the same time?

Mr. BRIDE. Yes, sir. The whole of the ship was practically under water to the forward funnel, and when I saw her go down the stern came out of the water and she slid down fore and aft.

Senator SMITH. The captain at no time went over until the vessel sank?

Mr. BRIDE. No, sir.

Senator SMITH. He went with the vessel?

Mr. BRIDE. Practically speaking; yes, sir.
 
Jonathan Granato

Jonathan Granato

Member
Michael, freezing may be slow, but in 28f. degree water, wouldn't your extremities go numb quickly, as well as you brain functions slowing down? I have never frozen to death but I did experience the beginnings of hypothermia once and it was very pleasant, sort of a drifting contentment.
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
So far so good. Once it sets in, it ain't so bad. It's the wait for it to set in that's not so pleasant.
 
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monica e. hall

Member
I'm not so sure. Didn't I read somewhere about the victims being found with cramped-up limbs? Doesn't sound so pleasant. I understand that the not-so-young-and-tough also fell victim to 'hydrocution' - or cardiac arrest on hitting the water. (I got that from Robin Gardiner's book, so there you go... something useful). My sister says that when she's really old and has had enough, she's going to totter out on a cold night and sit by the dustbins, and wait for hypothermia to carry her off. It sounds a reasonable plan, but I'm not sure I'd have the discipline - not with a nice warm house a few feet away .....
 
David G. Brown

David G. Brown

RIP
Sailors spend a lifetime battling the sea. It becomes as much a part of life as breathing. The literature shows that few seamen consider that being deposited on the waves by a sinking ship is necessarily a fatal event. It's more like being on a football team and the opponent has scored a big goal. Demoralizing, but the ball is still in play. Lightoller's activities after Titanic left him are proof enough that sailors don't accept what the landsman considers "inevitable."

Smith kept command of Titanic until it became impossible. That his orders were not always obeyed does not reduce the credit Smith deserves for trying to keep the situation in hand. But, it suddenly appears that the captain jumped into the sea. Huh?

Hasn't anyone noticed that as collapsible A was being launched there was a rush of people. And, quite suddenly we have Lightoller, Hemming, Smith, Gracie, Phillips, and Bride all fleeing the situation around that boat.

Some of them did illogical things. Hemming went through the forebridge even thought the port side was already going inder water. That's like going down into a cave against an incoming tide. Lightoller suddenly dove off the front of the bridge roof even though the ship was moving forward as a result sinking by the bow. This is like jumping off a runaway train from the front of the locomotive.

Titanic was listed to port, making the officer's quarters deckhouse into more of a "ridge" on a battlefield. And, old soldier Gracie jumped up and onto that ridge instead of going straight aft or over the side into the sea. Bride (and it seems Phillips as well) do the same even though Bride had been within fingertip range of collapsible A.

It is at the same moment as all of this fleeing takes place we have the whole mysterious business of an officer being shot or committing suicide. And, we have misty stories of an officer shooting at least one passenger.

To me this appears like a gun battle took place around the last boat. Those without weapons did the logical thing and ducked for cover. It could have been two shots or it could have been a firefight--or it could be my imagination. But, the actions of the people look a lot like they were trying to get away from something a lot more life threatening than a sinking ship.

Monica's "hydrocution" is an established fact, although under another name. It seems that alcohol gums up the human "mamalian diving response." When mamals dive into water their hearbeat slows. In whales and dolphins this allows them to dive for extended periods of time without breathing. Humans have a rudimentary diving response. Ingesting even small amounts of alcohol will cause it to overreact if the imbiber tumbles into cold water. The trigger seems to be cold water in the face. When that happens, the diving response litterally stops the heart and the person dies. This is often called a "dry" drowning--no water in the lungs.

Surviving that, a person in cold water dies by inches. First the extremities, then the body organs, finally the brain. Smaller and thinner people generally succumb first. But, survival seems more related to will than weight. This brings us back to Lightoller and his band on top of collapsible B. Chances are, most of those men were hypothermic beyond functional, but because strong leadership gave them the belief they could survive, they did.

-- David G. Brown
 
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Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
>>but I'm not sure I'd have the discipline - not with a nice warm house a few feet away .....<<

Monica, I think I'd be suitably discouraged in going through with this plan once the violent shivering set in. Can't say as death is something I really care to embrace but it's going to take all of us sonner or later. I think I'd rather go peacefully in my bed. That's why...if it had been me out there that night...I'd make a game try of it and thrown in with Lightoller's group if I could.

>>To me this appears like a gun battle took place around the last boat. Those without weapons did the logical thing and ducked for cover.<<

Which wouldn't surprise me a bit. A lot of the stories of gun play are clearly just that, and yet it's in the record from primary sources that guns were used to discourage people from rushing the boats. Granted, it was Lightoller and Lowe that did this, but the officers weren't the only ones who had firearms. Some of the passengers...Michal Navritil Sr. for example...were packing as well. It's not inconceivable that some would have tried to use that advantage in a gambit for survival. In short, as specualtive as David's hypothosis is, he may be right.

Just something to think about there.
 
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