Was speed to blame?


Kim Kolstad

Member
Apr 30, 2007
1
0
71
It seems to me that had Bruce Ismay not pressured Capt. Smith into lighting more boilers, the Titanic would have been able to turn quicker once she had encountered the iceberg. With traveling at such a high speed, by the time the lookouts saw the iceberg, she was practically hitting it!! thanks alot Bruce.
 
Mar 22, 2003
6,034
1,333
383
Chicago, IL, USA
www.titanicology.com
Kim, just the opposite. The faster you go, the quicker you turn. But the quickness of turn had nothing to do with hitting the object assuming an order to turn away was given as soon as the object was seen. The turning radius of the ship did not tighten very much at a slower speed. Going slower would have made the collision less damaging.

The real issue is not speed. The real issue is avoiding the known danger region to begin with. They had plenty of notice of what was ahead of them. Taking the ship much further south before turning toward NY earlier in the day as other ships carrying passengers (e.g., the Mount Temple) had done would have been the best alternative in my opinion. If they hadn't run into an iceberg on the course they were on, they would certainly have came up to the icefield six minutes later. Assuming that encounter would not have been fatal, they would have then waisted more time trying to get around it from that point as compared to diverting further south to begin with 6 hours earlier.
 
Dec 29, 2006
731
7
123
Witney
There is little evidence to suggest that the ship was travelling at excessive speed. On the contrary, surviving second class passenger Lawrence Beesley quoted the Titanic's purser, who remarked "They are not pushing her this trip and don't intend to make any fast running" The ship was, after all, still being working-up, and I understand that not all of the boilers had been lit. Having said that, Captain Smith seems to have had no intention of slowing down - in 1912, nobody thought that a modern steamship could be sunk by an iceberg.

Regarding what, in simple terms, might be termed a "power turn", am I right in thinking that, in order to execute such an operation, speed should be momentarily reduced in order that the rudder can be rapidly swung into the desired position? This is certainly the case with small craft such as British canal "narrow boats", which turn faster when full power is applied.
 
Dec 4, 2000
3,242
527
278
Sam is correct both that speed was not the problem and that Titanic should have been farther south that night.

There is an assumption that a "speeding" ship is going extremely fast. Not so. The 22 knots of Titanic corresponds to about 25 land miles an hour, a speed slow enough that you might not get a ticket in a U.S. school safety zone.

Too many people take their highway driving experience to sea when they try to understand why running "at speed" was normal in 1912. There are major differences between cars and ships. On land you cannot leave the paved lane, while at sea a ship is free to turn in any direction. That is why officers are taught to first turn away from danger before slowing or stopping.

This "turn, slow, stop" sequence is so important that it is part of the Rules of the Road preventing collisions between vessels. The best action that night would, as Sam suggests, have been to turn south and go around the ice.

Just why Captain Smith chose to remain so far north in view of the ice reports is open to interpretation. Even if the speed record myth were true, diverting 50 miles south in the manner suggested by Sam would have added only a few minutes to the overall time of the trip.

-- David G. Brown
 
Mar 3, 1998
2,745
41
0
Excerpts from Sir Ernest Shackelton's testimony at the BOT Enquiry:

25045. And supposing you were going 21 to 22 knots, I suppose that would be the better reason for slowing down? - You have no right to go at that speed in an ice zone.
25046. And you think that all these liners are wrong in going at this speed in regions where ice has been reported? - Where it has been reported I think the possibility of accident is greatly enhanced by the speed the ship goes.
25098. Do you think that the practice in the North Atlantic has been all wrong for the last 20 or 30 years? - I do not say that. I say a certain state of things has evolved in the last few years by public desire and competition.
25099. You say what? - I say the state of full speed has evolved in the last few years with the great public desire for speed.
25100. To get to their journey's end? - Yes.
25101. By competition? - Yes.

And from Joseph Conrad:
quote:

I am well aware that in the eighties the steamship Arizona, one of the "greyhounds of the ocean" in the jargon of that day, did run bows on against a very unmistakable iceberg, and managed to get into port on her collision bulkhead. But the Arizona was not, if I remember rightly, 5,000 tons register, let alone 45,000, and she was not going at twenty knots per hour. I can't be perfectly certain at this distance of time, but her sea-speed could not have been more than fourteen at the outside. Both these facts made for safety. And, even if she had been engined to go twenty knots, there would not have been behind that speed the enormous mass, so difficult to check in its impetus, the terrific weight of which is bound to do damage to itself or others at the slightest contact.
Parks​
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
Dec 2, 2000
58,654
581
483
Easley South Carolina
In addition to what the others have posted above, can we really be sure that Ismay had quite the negetive influance attributed to him? I wouldn't call his presence a non-factor but by the same token, they weren't really putting the pedal to the metal in any really unusual degree. Much speculation has been bandied about concerning an attempt at a speed run, but that much apparantly wasn't in the cards until Monday morning.

Seen in that light, firing up the remaining boilers the night before wouldn't be that out of line since it took awhile for them to build up a useful head of steam after being lit off from cold iron.

In any event, is there any hard evidence that the remaining boilers were successfully lit off by the time of the accident? I've seen it mooted here that they might have been, but if so, it would seem that they didn't get very far with this.
 
Dec 4, 2000
3,242
527
278
Agreed, Shackleton knew ice. He knew men. That combination made him an ideal explorer. However, he knew little or nothing about running a trans-Atlantic bus.

Shackleton's view of seafaring was that of a man with a nearly unlimited supply of time. Slowing or stopping was a viable alternative on a voyage measured in years. Captain Smith had exactly the opposite situation. He was concerned with days and hours. Speed was a luxury for Shackleton, but stock-in-trade for Smith.

Had Titanic sailed in 1890 before wireless, I would concede that speed might have been a contributing factor. But, in 1912 Smith had access to enough current ice information to have made a much better choice of course than he did. He could easily have taken Titanic 50 miles south on the great circle before joining a rhumb line to New York. The time difference on the voyage would have been minimal and the extra fuel burn inconsequential.

Mass and speed were factors in the damage to Titanic from striking on the berg. However, the impact was really an after-the-fact event with regard to the navigation decisions that allowed the accident to take place. Steel should never have been allowed to hit ice.

Smith wasn't going too fast, he was sailing in the wrong patch of water.

-- David G. Brown
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
Mar 3, 1998
2,745
41
0
quote:

Smith wasn't going too fast, he was sailing in the wrong patch of water.
I am going to disagree with you on this one. And let's leave it at that...I don't have the energy to debate the issue further, even in private. It was a mistake for me to post again.

Parks​
 
Mar 3, 1998
2,745
41
0
Dave,

I know you were and with my posted quotes, I encouraged a debate that I am not prepared to engage in at this time. I have personal matters that I must deal with before I have the luxury of engaging in any Titanic discussions. Until I take care of those personal matters, I need to keep my mouth shut and stay away from the Titanic forums.

In other words, it's not you...it's me. I have trouble keeping my priorities straight and right now, Titanic cannot be a distraction.

Parks
 
Mar 22, 2003
6,034
1,333
383
Chicago, IL, USA
www.titanicology.com
The question that was asked was, "Was speed to blame?" This can be broken into to two separate questions.

1. Was speed a factor in causing the accident?
2. Was speed a factor in causing the ship to founder?

Unless someone can prove otherwise, I don't believe that speed was a major contributor in causing the accident. I do believe that it was a factor contributing to the degree of damage that finally resulted because of the higher energies involved.

The purpose of these forums is for people to express their opinions. I happen to agree with David on this one. Parks posted an opinion from Shackelton where Shackelton said, "you have no right to go at that speed in an ice zone."

Let me ask the question, When did the Titanic enter the ice zone? How is that region defined? If it should have slowed down, when did she reach the point where that action should have been taken from the information she had available to work with?
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
Dec 4, 2000
3,242
527
278
Now Parks, you know that Titanic is always a distraction! Take care of serious business and get back to us in the playpen when you can.

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

My view of Captain Smith's actions comes from 20 years of hauling passengers. As a timid new captain I often slowed down only to raise the ire of both the paying customers and the boss. So, I sought a safe alternative. The solution is to never go through danger, always go around.

In my case, the "danger" would usually be a pack o' fishing boats. Threading through those boats required slow speed and lots of attention to detail. The result was that while I stayed on course, I was late to the next dock. But, but by altering course a few degrees early enough, I could maintain speed going around the fishing fleet while adding only a minor amount of distance to my trip. Result: I kept the schedule and totally avoided the danger.

To quote myself, I avoided "sailing in the wrong patch of water."

Looking at it another way, for Smith's technique could have been successful that night only by slowing down and sashaying around the ice. This process could have added several hours to the time of the voyage which would undoubtedly have caused some Ismay unpleasantness. By acting earlier to go south of the ice, however, Smith could have maintained good progress toward New York and retired to smoke a few more cigars.

Racing sailors understand that VMG is more important than SMG or CMG. "Velocity Made Good" in the direction of the destination is more important than the Speed Made Good or the Course Made Good at any instant during the voyage. Smith's approach to the ice maximized SMG and CMG at the ultimate expense of both safety and VMG which dropped to zero.

-- David G. Brown
 
Mar 22, 2003
6,034
1,333
383
Chicago, IL, USA
www.titanicology.com
Michael asked, "In any event, is there any hard evidence that the remaining boilers were successfully lit off by the time of the accident?"

Yes there is as far as the the double-ended boilers are concerned.

Leading Fireman Frederick Barrett: "There were two main boilers lit up on the Sunday morning, but I could not tell you whether they were connected with the others or not...When you light a boiler up it will take 12 hours before you can connect it with the others to get steam on as a Rule in a merchant ship as far as my experience goes...As near as I could say, 8 o'clock in the morning [they were lit]."

Fireman Alfred Shiers: "The engineer came through and told us they were connected up at 7 o'clock...They were alight when I went on watch [at 4 p.m.]."

Passengers Lawrence Beesley, Henry Stengel, Mahala Douglas, George Rheims all noticed increased engine vibrations late Sunday night. QM Hichens had a taffrail log reading which he wrote down in the QM's logbook showing the ship ran 45 miles over the two hour period from 8 to 10 pm, indicating a speed through the water of 22.5 knots. QM Rowe took a reading of the log at the time of the collision that showed a run of 260 miles from noon, indicating an average speed through the water of 22.3 knots. At the time of the collision the Titanic was going at its fastest pace since leaving Queenstown. If the accident hadn't happened it would easily have beaten Olympic's maiden voyage crossing speed even without going all out.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,654
581
483
Easley South Carolina
Thanks Sam, but I was wondering about Boiler Room One. At that, this need only be a concern if those boilers could be lined up with the propulsion plant. I had the impression from a discussion a few years ago that they were intended to provide ships service steam for use in port, but I'd be a bit surprised if they couldn't be put in line with the engines.

It may be something of a moot point anyway since the ship wasn't going completely "Balls To The Wall" at the time of the accident.
 
Mar 22, 2003
6,034
1,333
383
Chicago, IL, USA
www.titanicology.com
quote:

By acting earlier to go south of the ice, however, Smith could have maintained good progress toward New York and retired to smoke a few more cigars.
Dave makes an excellent point. By the time of the accident the Titanic already averaged about 21.7 knots over ground since leaving Queenstown. At the time of the collision she was averaging about 22.1 knots over ground, and if able to maintain that pace, she would have made the Ambrose lightvessel on Tuesday night about 10:41 p.m. if ice did not get in the way.(See https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/item/5540/.)

Now suppose instead of following the course she was on, Smith would have taken the ship from the corner at 42° N 47° W, down to 41° N 50° W, as Dave Gittins once suggested, and from there to the Nantucket lightship and then on to Ambrose, it would have added about 43 minutes more to the overall crossing time, still arriving at Ambrose late Tuesday night. And they still would have beaten Olympic's maiden voyage crossing time by 4 hours and 26 minutes without having to slow down.​
 
Mar 22, 2003
6,034
1,333
383
Chicago, IL, USA
www.titanicology.com
You are correct Michael, the single-ended boiler in BR No. 1 were not lit. You are also correct in that they were considered as auxiliary boilers mainly for port use. Ash ejectors were not equipped in BR 1. However, they could have been connected up to the main steam supply if higher speeds were called for. The maximum power capable with everything connected up, all 29 boilers, was 59,000 HP with 83 rpm on the reciprocating engines. The ship could have ran close to 24 knots through the water at that rate. There were a number times when Olympic was carried more than 80 rpm during her career. I'll defer to Mark for more info on that.

Yes Dave, Coulda...woulda...shouda... Hindsight is wonderful.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,654
581
483
Easley South Carolina
>>Yes Dave, Coulda...woulda...shouda... Hindsight is wonderful.<<

Isn't it though? For all the sound, fury, nythmaking, and legends, as well as design deficiencies real and imagined surrounding this ship, all of this would have been rendered of no consequence had they simply stayed out of the ice.
 
Jul 27, 2007
3
0
71
I'm not sure how others feel but I have always felt that what cursed Smith was Smith.All the knowledge he had and all the hype surrounding the ship got to him lets face facts

he recived only a handfull off ice warning's some of which were no good while some of the more important one's he did not get so what he did get he percived as being normal for that time of year

He was taught old school he was taught to approach danger with speed and he thought anything big enough to sink this 'unsinkable' mammoth would be seen with enough time
 

Will C. White

Member
Apr 18, 2007
267
2
111
The text of human progress always seems to be written in human blood; we seldom learn the lesson of the obvious without someone paying the ultimate price to teach it.
 

Similar threads

Similar threads