What was the sounding spar that needed to be cut away

Feb 14, 2011
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I read that during the lowering of the lifeboats, a 'sounding spar' needed to be cut away, as it apparently interfered with the lowering of a lifrboat. What is a sounding spar,and where was this one located? How many on board?

Regards

Tarn Stephanos
 

Roy Mengot

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May 16, 2006
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The sounding spar was a pole that could be deployed off the side of the ship to act as a fishing pole for sounding the depth of the water as the ship entered and left port. The lines were hooked to a Lord Kelvin's sounding machine that essentially was a large fly casting reel with hand cranks. Titanic also had small platforms hanging off A-deck below the flying bridge cabs that could be used for a man to manually throw a weighted line with depth measurement ribbons on the line.

A photo of the spar deployed can be seen in "Illustrated History" on p.38. It hangs out at an angle across the emergency boat behind the woman passenger. On p.33, you see a white line under boat 3. That's the stowed position outboard and under boats 3 and 4. They were chopped away apparently because it was dark and they couldn't immediately figure out how to unstow them.

At Queenstown, the spar was used to retrieve a satchel from the tender (probably port papers for the bridge). The satchel can be seen on the rail right behind the woman.
 
Feb 14, 2011
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I know I read that the spar had to be cut during the lowering of the boats- I cant recall which book discusses it though...Anyone know out there?

Thanks

Tarn Stephanos
 
Dec 6, 2000
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A Night to Remember, by Walter Lord.

No. 4, lowered by Lightoller. Seaman 'Sam Parks' and Storekeeper Jack Foley were ordered to find an axe, and chop it down (out?) (look up Sam Parks in the index to find the account).

Sam Parks does not appear on the crew list, and could easily be a mis-named Sam Hemming.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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The story is not very soundly based. It's borrowed, complete with "Sam Parks", from Logan Marshall.
 
Dec 6, 2000
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Could be, Dave.

When I was reading the Inquiries, I found a number of items Lord referenced, that I thought had originated in newspapers of the era, but actually came from the Inquiries. 'Sam Parks' was not in the Inquiries, so I supposed it was newspaper - and probably where Logan Marshall picked it up, too!
 
Feb 14, 2011
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Goodness, so the story might be yet another Titanic myth. If the Logan Marshall book was sourse, I certainly wouldn't put too much faith in that.

Regards

Tarn Stephanos
 
Dec 6, 2000
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In 1977 in reply to a number of questions Walter Lord wrote:
"..... except for the intriguing riddle about the sounding spar. My source for the need to chop it down was a newspaper interview with Storekeeper Jack Foley, later included in Jay Mowbray's The Sinking of the Titanic. But reporters often get things mixed up, so last night I got out Harland & Wolff's rigging plan of the Titanic, and also some photo close-ups of her port side in an effort to see exactly where the sounding spar was located. According to the rigging plan its hinge was between Boats 2 and 4 and it folded against the deck right underneath Boat 2. But according to the photographs it clearly folds the other way, against Boat 4, and would clearly have been a hindrance in lowering the Boat. The trouble is, I should think it would have been necessary to chop it loose before the Boat was lowered at all, rather than after it had been lowered to the level of A Deck. Possibly the reporter got it wrong, or Foley had his sequence wrong, and the sounding spar was chopped free before they began to lower the Boat. Or possibly they managed to get it level with Deck A, but then the sounding spar got tangled in the falls and they then had to chop it free. In any case, I'm satisfied it must have been a major problem."

Lester
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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I stand corrected. It was Mowbray's book. Here's the passage.

"Colonel Astor was a man all through, if there ever was one," continued Foley. "You see, it took us some time to launch boat No. 4. After we had all the women and the children in the boat we discovered that we couldn't launch her until we removed the sounding spar several decks below.

"So Sam and I got down and chopped the spar away. We were some time doing this, as we had to hunt for an ax.

"We finally got the spar away and launched the boat. That is why boat No. 4 was the last boat to be launched. The others had a free way below it and could be put in the water at once."

Hemming was the only Sam in boat 4 and may well have helped row to try to get warm after swimming to the boat. Several things about the sounding spar bother me. Why was it place where it could get in the way? Why did Hemming not mention the episode at either inquiry? Why didn't the list to port keep boat 4 clear? Is seems a bit fishy to me.
 

Dan Cherry

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Mar 3, 2000
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Dave,

you wrote:
Why was it place where it could get in the way? Is seems a bit fishy to me.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Indeed, especially when there is no mention of any problems involving boat 3 and the starboard sounding spar.
Was it really in the way, or did those involved with the launching of boat 4 not know what it was and how to release it and felt they had to chop it away, did Hemming not feel the episode was worth mentioning, or did any of it happen at all?

On the other hand, memory and perspective is a consensus reality. I am currently conducting interviews for a research project about another disaster event and have encountered contradictory information, information that each person remembers with conviction. What to do - what to believe, what to discount - that's the fun part of research...
 

Brian Caza

Member
Aug 21, 2017
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In 1977 in reply to a number of questions Walter Lord wrote:
"..... except for the intriguing riddle about the sounding spar. My source for the need to chop it down was a newspaper interview with Storekeeper Jack Foley, later included in Jay Mowbray's The Sinking of the Titanic. But reporters often get things mixed up, so last night I got out Harland & Wolff's rigging plan of the Titanic, and also some photo close-ups of her port side in an effort to see exactly where the sounding spar was located. According to the rigging plan its hinge was between Boats 2 and 4 and it folded against the deck right underneath Boat 2. But according to the photographs it clearly folds the other way, against Boat 4, and would clearly have been a hindrance in lowering the Boat. The trouble is, I should think it would have been necessary to chop it loose before the Boat was lowered at all, rather than after it had been lowered to the level of A Deck. Possibly the reporter got it wrong, or Foley had his sequence wrong, and the sounding spar was chopped free before they began to lower the Boat. Or possibly they managed to get it level with Deck A, but then the sounding spar got tangled in the falls and they then had to chop it free. In any case, I'm satisfied it must have been a major problem."

Lester
Can someone provide me with more details about the newspaper interview with Jack Foley? John (Jack) Foley was my Great Great Great Grandfather and I am trying to get as much info as possible.