What if the Titanic had been slowed down earlier?


Arun Vajpey

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All other key considerations remaining the same - Fleet, Lee, Murdoch, Moody etc in exactly the same places they were at the time; Lee spots the iceberg exactly at the same distance as he actually did - but Smith had ordered the Titanic to be slowed down to 12 knots a couple of hours earlier, and this had been done.
(PS: I know it would not have been possible, but for sake of this thread let us assume that despite the slowing down the Titanic had arrived at the same spot at 11:40 pm)

If that had been the case, starting from Fleet's 3 bells, would Murdoch and the others avoided the collision with the iceberg?
 

Thomas Krom

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Hello Mr. Valpey,



If the Titanic sailed with a speed of 12 knots and the order “all stop” was given she would have stopped in less then 3 minutes and 15 seconds (the time it would took to stop her at a speed of 18 knots). I would estimate she would have stopped in 2 minutes and 10 seconds if she would have sailed at a speed of 12 knots at the time.



I believe if she would have sailed at 12 knots she would have turned much slower too.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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I believe if she would have sailed at 12 knots she would have turned much slower too.
OK, but it would taken the ship longer to reach the iceberg. My point is, if Murdoch had given the "hard-a-Starboard" exactly when he did (in terms of time after 3 bells) and Hichens had responded likewise, would they have avoided the collision?
 

Thomas Krom

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The Tiller command “Hard to starboard” would have been given after sixth officer Moody would have responded to the sighting by Frederick Fleet and reported it to Murdoch who, most likely, still stood on the starboard bridge wing where second officer Lightoller left him after his shift was over. Moody would have stayed in the wheelhouse while Murdoch gives the tiller command “Hard to starboard” while he makes his way into the navigating bridge where he uses the 2 engine telegraphs (and possibly the emergency telegraph) connected to the starting platform in the reciprocating engine room with the order “all stop”. I personally do not believe the theory Murdoch saw the iceberg before the lookouts since there is quite a lot of evidence against it. My estimate the order “Hard to starboard” would have been given 5 to 10 seconds after Frederick Fleet reported “Iceberg right ahead.” To the wheelhouse, which Moody reported to Murdoch imminently. I believe they still would have hit the iceberg.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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I personally do not believe the theory Murdoch saw the iceberg before the lookouts since there is quite a lot of evidence against it. My estimate the order “Hard to starboard” would have been given 5 to 10 seconds after Frederick Fleet reported “Iceberg right ahead.” To the wheelhouse, which Moody reported to Murdoch imminently. I believe they still would have hit the iceberg.
I also agree that Murdoch had not seen the iceberg before fleet and the 5 to 10 second time lag before Fleet's "Iceberg right ahead!" call and the "Hard-a-Starboard!" order. I want to keep those events exactly the same in my hypothetical scenario. That being the case, do you think that the Titanic would still have hit the iceberg at 12 knots? I assume you feel that way because of the ship's possible slower response to the helm?

I personally think that they might have avoided the berg.

I'd like opinions of Sam Halpern & Jim Currie on this hypothesis but I think they usually don't like getting involved in threads about hypothetical situations. Let's see.
 
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There would have been more time for Murdoch to react, and even if he gave the order exactly the same number of seconds after the lookout bells sounded, the berg would have been further away at the time of the helm order was given (with only a closing speed of 12 knots) and so the ship would have avoided the berg. This assumes the the berg was sighted at the same distance as in the real scenario, and Murdoch gave the order the same amount of time after the bells were heard.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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This assumes the the berg was sighted at the same distance as in the real scenario, and Murdoch gave the order the same amount of time after the bells were heard.
Thank you Sam. As my OP said, your assumption is exactly correct inasmuch as the distance at which the iceberg was sighted. As you have described, given the closing speed of only 12 knots (as opposed to 21 knots), the ship would have travelled a shorter distance (and hence be further away from the berg) in the time that elapsed between 3 bells and Murdoch's "Hard-a-starboard" order.
 

Aly Jones

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In my opinion, if they were traveling much slower at 12 knots (and not 22 knots as they were) would they even be keeping as much as an eye out for bergs like they would at 22 knots? The fact they were keeping a sharp lookout for ice in the first place was because of their high fast paste speed through an ice field, which they knew was risky in the first place. If travelling slower at 12 knots my opinion is they would had less people searching for bergs and be a lot more relaxed about entering the icefield .
 

Arun Vajpey

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In my opinion, if they were traveling much slower at 12 knots (and not 22 knots as they were) would they even be keeping as much as an eye out for bergs like they would at 22 knots? The fact they were keeping a sharp lookout for ice in the first place was because of their high fast paste speed through an ice field, which they knew was risky in the first place. If travelling slower at 12 knots my opinion is they would had less people searching for bergs and be a lot more relaxed about entering the icefield .
I don't think that's true at all. The whole purpose of a lookout in the Crow's Nest was to do just that - keep a sharp look out for anything that might pose a danger or be otherwise significant. Since all concerned knew that they were in the region of icebergs and the flat, calm sea would make early sighting difficult meant that the lookouts as well as the Duty Officers would be alert. It is a pity that the Captain did not also choose to reduce speed.

In fact, looking at the logistics involved with the Titanic that night, the converse of what you say would have been true. If Smith and his crew were sensible and careful enough to slow the ship down because of the threat of icebergs, they would not have negated that precaution but getting lax about keeping watch. IMO, they would have been as vigilant as they actually were.
 

Arun Vajpey

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The smarter thing to do would be for Smith to have taken his ship further south before turning westward in the first place, like Capt.Moore of the Mount Temple did.
Didn't he actually do that to some extent? I mean, 'turning the corner' later than scheduled?
 

Rob Lawes

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Nope, the estimated time to the corner was 5pm however, the Titanic reached her turning point at approximately the corner at 5.50pm.

There was no delay in turning just an under estimate of the ships progress before the turn necessitating the ship running on that course at little longer to be in the area of 42W 47N before turning to the new course of S86W

If I recall correctly she was about 2 miles south of the corner when she turned.
 

Arun Vajpey

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The smarter thing to do would be for Smith to have taken his ship further south before turning westward in the first place, like Capt.Moore of the Mount Temple did.
Nope, the estimated time to the corner was 5pm however, the Titanic reached her turning point at approximately the corner at 5.50pm.

There was no delay in turning just an under estimate of the ships progress before the turn necessitating the ship running on that course at little longer to be in the area of 42W 47N before turning to the new course of S86W

If I recall correctly she was about 2 miles south of the corner when she turned.
OK, thanks both of you.

As a rough estimate, how much further south-southwest should the Titanic have sailed before turning the corner and heading west?

Also, had they gone too far south before turning, would they not then be forced to take a slight north-westerly heading to reach New York?
 
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Rob Lawes

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Also, had they gone too far south before turning, would they not then be forced to take a slight north-westerly heading to reach New York?
If she had run on another hour and turned at 6.50pm she would have been roughly 20 miles south of the corner.

Of course she would have had to steer a different westerly course to regain her normal nav track into New York however she would be able to do so quite gradually without any significant delay to her arrival. As a result she would have passed to the South of the ice warning area.

This kind of basic navigation would have been bread and butter to the officers on board.
 
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Jim Currie

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Back to the question.

There are a lot of "ifs" and "Buts" in the answers. However, it all boils down to one thing ... the evidence of the helmsman... Robert Hichens.
If his answer that Titanic was only off her original course for the time it took for him...Hichens... to complete Murdoch's "hard-a-starboard" order, and the first point of impact was in the fore peak tank just forward of the collision bulkhead...say 48 feet behind the stem bar; then, since we know that Titanic was at that moment. making 22.5 knots... 38 feet per second, we can very accurately determine how far ahead the iceberg was of the stem bar at the moment that helm order was given.
I can tell you all, without fear of contradiction, that to apply full helm of 35 degrees, from the helm being amidship with that type of steering gear, it took an experianced helmsman between 4 and six tu,rns of the midship spoke ... i.e. 1 and 2 and 3 and four and 5 and 6...a second between turns.
Let's say it took 5 turns. At 38 Ft / sec, Titanic's stem bar would have advanced about 190 feet. However, for her to make contact at a point, 48 feet behind the stem bar, the target had to have been no more than about 150 feet in front of the bow when the turn started. No doubt Sam can do the math and be a bit more precise by factoring in the components of a ship's turn.

Captain Lord in the Californian, which was making about 18.6 feet per second didn't quite make it even although he was on the bridge with his men. His ship actually entered the loose ice before he could stop her and turn away and at the time, his engines were stopped or nearly so.

If the ice was being detected with the naked eye at about 150 feet ahead, then the helm of Californian was hard over for about 10 seconds before she entered the ice.

If the foregoing is correct, then at 12 Knots, Titanic would still have hit the berg. However, first contact would have been at a point farther along the starboard side... nearer to the bridge. Pure guesswork, I know.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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With respect Jim, this IS the thread for those "is and buts".

If the Titanic sailed with a speed of 12 knots and the order “all stop” was given she would have stopped in less then 3 minutes and 15 seconds (the time it would took to stop her at a speed of 18 knots). I would estimate she would have stopped in 2 minutes and 10 seconds if she would have sailed at a speed of 12 knots at the time.
I believe if she would have sailed at 12 knots she would have turned much slower too.
There would have been more time for Murdoch to react, and even if he gave the order exactly the same number of seconds after the lookout bells sounded, the berg would have been further away at the time of the helm order was given (with only a closing speed of 12 knots) and so the ship would have avoided the berg. This assumes the the berg was sighted at the same distance as in the real scenario, and Murdoch gave the order the same amount of time after the bells were heard.
Titanic was at that moment. making 22.5 knots... 38 feet per second, we can very accurately determine how far ahead the iceberg was of the stem bar at the moment that helm order was given.
I can tell you that to apply full helm of 35 degrees, from the helm being amidship with that type of steering gear, it took an experianced helmsman between 4 and six tu,rns of the midship spoke. Let's say it took 5 turns. At 38 Ft / sec, Titanic's stem bar would have advanced about 190 feet. However, for her to make contact at a point, 48 feet behind the stem bar, the target had to have been no more than about 150 feet in front of the bow when the turn started.
If the foregoing is correct, then at 12 Knots, Titanic would still have hit the berg. However, first contact would have been at a point farther along the starboard side... nearer to the bridge. Pure guesswork, I know.
OK, we have 3 learned opinions above all of whom are qualified to tackle the scenario in their own ways. Since I am not thus qualified, I am going to borrow some of the points made above and present it in a very landlubber manner.

Once again, for the sake of this discussion I request that we assume that although the Titanic was travelling at only 12 knots in my hypothetical scenario, at 11:39 pm on Sunday 14th April 1912 it was at exactly the same spot on the Atlantic Ocean as it actually was that night. Every human reaction thereafter - Fleet sighting the berg, 3 bells, Moody's reaction, Murdoch's order, Hichens' response, Murdoch's subsequent actions, relative positions of Boxhall, Olliver etc remain exactly the same. The only difference therefore is the ship's speed.

I know that there are differences of opinions about certain events eg the proposed porting around etc. Please feel free to follow what you believe about those (eg Jim does not think that Murdoch gave a second helm order etc) in answering this question.

Let us call the distance of the Titanic's bow from the iceberg 'D' metres at the precise moment that Fleet rang those 3 bells.

In the actual scenario with the ship at 22 knots, let us call distance travelled by the ship from the moment of 3 bells to Murdoch's "Hard-a-Starboard" order as 'x' metres. That means at the point of order the bow would have been 'D-x' metres from the berg.

In my hypothetical scenario with the ship at only 12 knots, let us call distance travelled by the ship from the moment of 3 bells to Murdoch's "Hard-a-Starboard" order as 'y' metres. That means at the point of order the bow would have been 'D-y' metres from the berg.

Since 'x' would be a larger figure than 'y', 'D-y' would be greater than 'D-x' and the difference between the two would be how much further away the berg was from the bow (or the other way around) at the time of Murdoch's order. In other words, in the hypothetical scenario, The Titanic was not only going a lot slower but also further away from the iceberg at the precise moment Murdoch gave that first helm order.

BUT, applying the known rudder response and turning characteristics of the Titanic (slower to respond and turn at a lower speed?) to the hypothetical situation, would exactly the same (as fact) subsequent actions by all personnel involved avoided the collision with the iceberg altogether or would the collision would still have occurred but with different anatomical damage?

Like Sam, I think the ship would have just avoided collision at 12 knots. Jim and Thomas Krom think otherwise. Fair enough.

And for those who believe that the collision would still have occurred, would the effect of the impact be different enough (lower speed, less momentum, less damage?) to have saved the Titanic from sinking?
 

Aly Jones

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The smarter thing to do would be for Smith to have taken his ship further south before turning westward in the first place, like Capt.Moore of the Mount Temple did.
So true, Sam. Smith should had went much further south, however that would cost more time on their maidan voyage. Didn't smith , ismay aim was to reach New York by Tuesday? . Captain Moore of mount temple wasn't on his maiden voyage.
 

Aly Jones

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In fact, looking at the logistics involved with the Titanic that night, the converse of what you say would have been true. If Smith and his crew were sensible and careful enough to slow the ship down because of the threat of icebergs, they would not have negated that precaution but getting lax about keeping watch. IMO, they would have been as vigilant as they actually were.
Being relaxed can caused miss judgement in spotting a berg even at 12 knots.
 

Arun Vajpey

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So true, Sam. Smith should had went much further south, however that would cost more time on their maidan voyage. Didn't smith , ismay aim was to reach New York by Tuesday? .
They might have considered it, but I don't believe reaching New York by Tuesday night was very high on their list of priorities. After all, Ismay, Smith, Andrews etc knew that the Titanic would never have been able to match the speeds of Mauretania and Lusitania and so there would not have been much of a point in reaching NY on Tuesday night. The Titanic was built for good but not ultimate speed; on-board space and comfort were White Star's main priorities with the Olympic class of ships.
 
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