Question What if questions


AdamB

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Apr 11, 2021
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I think that most people have questions like these. I could compile several more but here are a few to start with.

My "what if" Titanic questions concern:
  • What would be the best option for survival with the 20-20 hindsight of over a hundred years. For example could the ship have reversed to regain the very buoyant iceberg, shuttled passengers there and kept them warm with fires lit from the vast quantities of bunker coal? Leaving a ship which is sinking so slowly that it feels safe must seem a much better option than mooring to or landing on an iceberg - even if it was physically possible.
  • Could mattresses and timber from panelling and decking have been used to improvised life rafts? Each person aboard must have had one and I don't think that the ship was at full capacity. I doubt there would have been sufficient tools available to do too much dismantling.
  • What lessons about damage control in ships from the Great War and WW2 could have changed the outcome?
  • What lessons from the Titanic influenced survival from the Lusitania, Britannic and other Great War sinkings?
  • Could a "labour force" of over 2000 people have been organised to bail out the ship and slow the sinking? I have just read Captain Rostron's memoirs and he talks of running lifeboat drills on the Mauretania over and over until they could be completed in three-and-a-half minutes for nearly 6000 men.
  • How would Shackleton instead of Smith have managed the situation?
 

Lloyd Penfold

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Feb 18, 2021
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"What if" questions often elicit "Ah, but.." answers, but "What lessons about damage control in ships from the Great War and WW2 could have changed the outcome?" certainly would increase the ship's chance of survival. From the disaster itself was learned that there needs to be more than enough lifeboats present to contain the ship's entire passemger and crew loading, and that watertight compartments need to reach higher and ideally also divide the hull stem to stern. Powerful searchlights pointing forward for use by the look-outs would have helped in the unusual climatic conitions of that night. "Could a "labour force" of over 2000 people have been organised to bail out the ship and slow the sinking?" - doubtful. We are talking about water at or below freezing point here, and huge gashes in the ship's side and bottom, through which water is going to enter at a vast rate, the best that can be done is to contain it - viz my comments on watertight compartments above.
 

Steve Dunham

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May 28, 2015
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In regard to the iceberg, the ship was in motion and the night was dark. By the time the ship stopped, the iceberg was far astern. It would have wasted time to go looking for it. Also, it was a berg, not a floe, so it wasn't a flat piece of ice on which people could have stayed. And it may have already turned over once, the way a melting ice cube does. Even if people were able to get onto it, it might have turned upside down and dumped everyone into the sea.

As for mattresses and other improvised floats, no doubt more could have been done, but during the time when such things could have been carried out, there was little sense of urgency. The lifeboats weren't even filled. Communicating the extreme danger could have saved some more lives.

Your final question about Shackleton vs. Smith is fascinating. I don't know the answer to that or to the questions I didn't address.
 

AdamB

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Apr 11, 2021
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In regard to the iceberg, the ship was in motion and the night was dark. By the time the ship stopped, the iceberg was far astern. It would have wasted time to go looking for it. Also, it was a berg, not a floe, so it wasn't a flat piece of ice on which people could have stayed. And it may have already turned over once, the way a melting ice cube does. Even if people were able to get onto it, it might have turned upside down and dumped everyone into the sea.

As for mattresses and other improvised floats, no doubt more could have been done, but during the time when such things could have been carried out, there was little sense of urgency. The lifeboats weren't even filled. Communicating the extreme danger could have saved some more lives.

Your final question about Shackleton vs. Smith is fascinating. I don't know the answer to that or to the questions I didn't address.
Steve, well done, I see that you are the first to have had a go at any of my questions. I must admit that I thought that a few more folk might have been stimulated to discussion. The aspects of how the situation was managed and how people learn from past experiences and adapt their organisation and processes is absolutely fascinating and applicable to so many aspects of life.

Good points about the iceberg possibly having capsized and of course by the time the ship had stopped then it would havebeen a long way astern. We are always told how long it takes to bring a large, fast ship to a standstill. At the time I suspect that there was very little knowledge about their behaviours.
 

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