When and where did Smith know the ship was doomed?

Hello Jim! I guess about the time the ship designer Andrews told him so... From reading various posts on Titanica, I get the notion that there never was a meeting like they show in the movies, but I'm pretty sure to tell you that by the time the order was given to lower the lifeboats at 12:05 am, Smith was concious of the seriousness of the situation.

Hope it helps!
 
Dec 4, 2000
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As I reckon events, within 11 minutes after impact on the berg Captain Smith was in the wheelhouse checking the clinometer. Quartermaster Hichens observed this, although he later mis-identified the name of the instrument. A clinometer measures the transverse angle of the deck. According to Hichens it showed a 5 degree list to starboard that early after the accident. This information alone would not have confirmed the ship was sinking, but it would certainly have told Smith that the situation was serious and that a lot of water was pouring into his ship. Around this same time the ship's carpenter showed up with the first solid evidence of rapid flooding. That was quickly followed by a report from Chief Officer Wilde confirming both the clinometer and the carpenter's report. The captain acted accordingly and stopped the ship (which had resumed making way slowly minutes earlier) and ordered Wilde to begin uncovering the lifeboats. None of what Captain Smith observed nor the reports of flooding he received were diagnostic of a foundering ship. They just indicated a serious problem with flooding in the bow. Even so, Smith acted properly in assuming and preparing for the worst.

Obviously, Smith suspected trouble a bit earlier than his appearance in the wheelhouse to check the clinometer. Otherwise, he wouldn't have bothered with that observation. This doesn't mean he though the ship was sinking, just that something was wrong.

-- David G. Brown
 
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Jim Currie

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Both of you confirm my thoughts. I just didn't want to be accused of pontificating or massaging the facts. If there is any more of you out there who have an alternative to what Augusto and David have written or who agree with them then let's hear from you.

As you probably guess, David. I have an alternative motive for this.;)
 

PRR5406

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I've often wondered how Thomas Andrews calculated the duration of time in which "Titanic" would remain afloat. Furthermore, while the ship was still somewhat able to remain buoyant, once the sea overwhelmed the foredeck, the immensity of weight being added by the second really changed the dynamic.
Two thoughts at one moment: This hugely modern, expensive, luxurious ship and its cargo will fall to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean; There are more people on this ship than we can safely remove with the clock running as it is.
A third: We need a miracle.
 

Rob Lawes

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Well nothing's ever certain I think we can put a right hand edge on it and say that no later than 12:15am, the time at which the first CQD is believed to have been sent.

As best as I can tell acorrding to various testimonies, Smith received reports of flooding from the Carpenter, a mail clerk, Boxhill and the Chief Officer.

According to Ismay the Chief Engineer was somewhere in the area of the bridge so may have reported to the Captain although there's no other evidence for this.

A ships barber and first class passenger also testified that they saw Andrews and Captain Smith touring the forward areas.

Smith sent his first distress message on completion of this.

So if I was going to make an educated guess I'd say Smith had enough evidence by midnight that the ship was in serious trouble and knew she was doomed sometime between 12:10 and 12:15.

Regards

Rob
 

Jim Currie

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I believe it was very early on. Probably shortly after Boxhall had left the bridge on his second inspection trip and the Carpenter had reported the compartment soundings to the Captain. The Carpenter was responsible for keeping a Soundings Book. This was a record of how much liquid - if any - was in all the enclosed compartments and bilges. To find this out, he had a long thin length of cord to which was attached a lead weight. Every compartment had a sounding tube. This was a narrow diameter steel tube which reached from an upper deck to the lowest point in a compartment. The Carpenter would sound the compartment by lowering the lead weight to the bottom. On retrieving it, he would note if ant part of it or the cord was wet. The length of any wetness found would be measured and the measurement noted in the book. One of the jobs of a ship's carpenter was to do the soundings every morning. Thus, there was a continous record for comparison.
When Captain Smith saw the results of the soundings which must have been shortly after 11-50 pm. that evening, there can be little doubt that he a had a good idea that his ship was mortally wounded. However, he would consult with the Chief Engineer and the Yard representative to find out if the ship's pumping system could keep ahead of the rate of flooding. He more than likely,very shortly after that, he knew that it could not .
According to Saloon Steward, William Ward, he lay in bed for about 20 minutes after impact then got dressed and went to his station at boat #7. When he got there, the boat was already lowered to the embarkation level and they were starting to lower it away. This could not have been much more than 40 minutes after impact.
 

Charles

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I though Captain Smith knew his ship was doomed after Thomas Andrews met with him and confirmed the sinking was underway.
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Charles.

He would certainly know for certain by the time he met with Andrews. I suspect that the first thing Smith would have done after receiving the Carpenter's report and seeing the list to starboard; he would have gone to the chart room, calculated a distress position. When Boxhall came back on the bridge and confirmed the news about the mail room, Smith probably took the distress position to the wireless room and had them transmit it. That would have been near to the time that the order to clear away the boats was given. Smith would then have gone below to meet with his Chief Engineer and Thomas Andrews.
Stewardess, Mrs Annie Robinson went and had a look down into the Squash Court above the mail room and saw the water had almost filled it. This was about half an hour after impact.Sometime before then, she had seen Captain Smith, Purser McElroy and Mr. Andrews coming back from an inspection of the flooded compartment. This had to be around midnight so I guess Smith's worst fears were confirmed at that time.
 
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The question asked was: "About what time was it that Captain Smith new for sure that his ship was doomed?" That's not that the same as knowing the ship was seriously damaged. He knew it was seriously damage when reports came in that the ship was taken in water. And that would have been about ten minutes after she struck as David outlined above. But the question again is when did Smith know his ship was doomed and not just seriously damaged?

Sometime while they were uncovering the boats Boxhall came onto the bridge, probably to get a pair of glasses, to look at this light that someone reported seeing off the port bow. According to Boxhall, Smith was there and asked him how things were going regarding getting the boats ready. Boxhall then asked Smith if he thought the situation was serious, to which Smith replied that Andrews gave the ship from about an hour to an hour and a half to live. It was probably the time that Boxhall also asked about sending out a CQD and was told by Smith that he already had done so. Then, according to one of Boxhall's accounts years later, asked Smith if he wanted him to work out the position from the 7:30pm fix, which he then did, showed it to Smith, and took it o the wireless cabin. All that was in a span of 10 minutes times.

So when did Andrews give Smith the bad news? Searching through a number of accounts, we find that Mrs Frank Warren and William Sloper saw Andrews running up the 1st class staircase "three steps at a time" with a look of terror on his face. This was about 40 minutes after the collision, a few minutes after the order was given to have passenger come up on deck with belts on.
 

Doug Criner

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An ancillary question is, when did Thomas Andrews conclude that the ship was a goner, and how did he estimate the time left before foundering? Once he realized that more than the number of flooded compartments allowed in the design would become flooded, then it would be obvious to him that the ship would be lost. The time estimate could be based on the time for the one additional compartment to begin flooding. I don't think either question required any math that Andrews couldn't have done in his head.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>I don't think either question required any math that Andrews couldn't have done in his head.<<

I agree. His estimate must have been based on the rise of water seen in the 4th compartment. I'll have to dig up some notes I took quite some time ago, but you can be sure there was no time for him to work any details out. He was preoccupied trying to assess the full extent of the damage, including the effect of the pumps in holding things off. Norman Chambers witnessed 3 crew members coming up from the mailroom stairway (could have from the engineering staff) when the water had reached within 3 feet of F deck. One of them passed a remark that it looked as if she was not taking in any more water. That must have been about 12:05-12:10 based on when he was told to get their lifebelts and go up on deck. If BR 6 had not flooded, the ship would have settled on a trim of about 1.5° and the water would not have continued much higher than F deck where the mailroom stairs were.
 

George Jacub

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Hi Jim,

The answer to your question is here from a post on my Titanic blog:

Titanic's Secrets Unfold

Monday, January 28, 2013

Exactly when did Capt.Smith know the Titanic was doomed?

The answer to that question determines how swiftly the Captain reacted to order the evacuation of the ship.

Some commentators have said Capt. Smith didn't know for 45 to 50 minutes. As I demonstrated here--
http://titanicsecrets.blogspot.com/2009/07/first-boats-cutting-gordian-knot.html-- the Captain knew in less than half that time that the Titanic was sinking and there was nothing he could do about it.

Now I've uncovered a long-lost newspaper account that narrows the time frame more precisely.

Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall was asked the question specifically at the British Inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic.

May 22, 1912
British Inquiry

15610. Did you hear the Captain say anything to anybody about the ship being doomed?
- The Captain did remark something to me in the earlier part of the evening after the order had been given to clear the boats. I encountered him when reporting something to him, or something, and he was inquiring about the men going on with the work, and I said, "Yes, they are carrying on all right." I said, "Is it really serious?" He said, "Mr. Andrews tells me he gives her from an hour to an hour and a half." That must have been some little time afterwards. Evidently Mr. Andrews had been down.

15611. Can you tell us how long it was after the collision that the Captain said that?
- No, I have not the slightest idea.

15612. Did you say as a matter of fact in America that it was about 20 minutes after the collision?
- No, I do not think so.

15613. You could not fix the time?
- I cannot fix the time; I have tried, but I cannot.


I have discovered the source of that question, and the telling answer that Boxhall failed to give in England.

Exactly one month earlier, on April 22, 1912, Boxhall testified before the U.S. Senate Inquiry into the disaster. A week after that, Sen. Theodore E. Burton. a member of the panel hearing evidence, had a private meeting with Boxhall. The fruit of that meeting was revealed the next day. Associated Press reported the story and it appeared in newspapers on April 30, 1912. I've found it in the Boston Evening Transcript and the Trenton True American. Here it is as printed in Pittsburgh's Gazette Times, May 2, 1912:

(Associated Press to Gazette Times)

White Star Line Withheld News 12 Hours

Captain Felt Doom

"Washington, April 30---Before the hearing was resumed today Senator Burton announced that he had examined Fourth Officer Boxhall late last night and had learned from him that J.W.Andrews, builder of the Titanic, who went down with the ship, told Capt. Smith after the collision that the boat would sink within an hour.
:"I had a long talk with Officer Boxhall," said Senator Burton," and asked him to recall if he could what he heard Capt.Smith say on the deck of the ship after the collision. Boxhall recalled several trivial things that had been said on the bridge and about the deck before the order was given to get out the lifeboats and then recollected what the Captain had said about the condition of the ship a few minutes after the collision.

Captain Knew He was Doomed

He said Capt. Smith had told him about 20 minutes after the collision that the Titanic was doomed and that J.W.Andrews, representing the builders, had given him the information. Andrews had gone over the ship immediately after the crash and discovered that her hull had been ripped open. He told the Captain that the ship could not be saved."
This testimony is corroborative of that given by Samuel Hemming, a seaman, who said the boatswain woke up (sic) with the exclamation "Get out of here, you only have half an hour to live. This comes from Andrews. Keep it to yourselves."
Senator Burton planned to have Boxhall recalled to the stand before leaving for England to be questioned further about this incident."

Obviously, Boxhall was not recalled before the Senate committee. But Burton's information formed the basis of the question asked of Boxhall in London.

Why did Boxhall profess in London that he couldn't remember when his conversation with the Captain took place?
 

Jim Currie

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Hello George!

Yep! That's what I had in mind.. Nice bit of research.

Sam: I deliberately omitted the expression 'for sure' from the original question. I do so for another reason. Part of the reason is that Captain Smith did not need Andrews to explain the situation to him. He, like every other Master Mariner, would know very well that there was a 'point of no return' and the condition of his ship at which that point would be reached. If, as I suspect, the Carpenter told him that he had evidence of flooding in at least 4 compartments then he knew that unless the pumps could handle the rate of flooding.. his ship was going to go down.

The evidence of AB John Poingdestre (British Inquiry, Day 4 ) is an excellent source of information regarding the timing and rate of flooding.

817. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Now, to go back to where we were before; you were just telling me that you saw the carpenter? A: - Yes.
2818. Did anything pass between you and the carpenter? A: - Yes.
2819. Will you tell me what was said by the carpenter to you? A: - The carpenter told me, and said the ship was making water; "Get up to your boats."
2820. Did he give you any more definite information than that? A: - No.
2821. He did not tell you how much? A: - He said about 7 feet, Sir.
2822. Did he tell you whether he had been sounding himself? A: - He had been sounding the wells down in the firemen's compartment.
2823. He had done that? A: - Yes.
2824. He told you 7 feet of water was the result? A:
2825. Now when the carpenter gave you that information how long do you think that was after the ship had struck the iceberg? A: - I think about 10 minutes.


The Carpenter must have gone straight from his meeting with Piongdestre to the bridge and reported to Captain Smith. Smith would base his actions and next orders on that. From Poingdestre we know what his next orders were.

2826. What did you do after the carpenter had told you that? A: - Stayed where I was.
2827. For about how long? A: - A matter of a couple of minutes.
2828. And at the end of a couple of minutes what did you do? A: - The boatswain piped.
2829. What did the boatswain pipe? A: - "All hands up and get the lifeboats ready."

Here's an Orals Question for all you budding Master Mariners out there.

The Captain of a large passenger vessel is responsible for the lives and safety of about 2,222 souls. His ship hits an iceberg and is holed in at least 4 compartments. He stops his ship.
10 minutes after the initial impact, he is told that these compartments are flooding at a rate of about 60 feet or 18.3 metres an hour. He knows that all the WT doors below the waterline are closed and that his engineers have started pumping out the flood water. He is uncertain of the outcome of the pumping efforts...what does he do next?
 

Doug Criner

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If Smith came to know the ship was doomed 10 minutes, or so, after the collision, then let me theorize, based on my seven decades of observing amateur psychology. I would expect him to entertain natural thoughts of personal fear and regret, probably contemplating his own responsibility for the accident. Of course, he seemingly continued to act in a professional manner until the end.

It would be interesting to speculate on Smith's testimony had he somehow survived. Was he observed wearing a life belt?
 

Jim Currie

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I'm sure your analysis of Smith's initial, personal reaction is close to the truth, Doug. However, what I'm after here, is what his actions were or should have been once he had made his own observations and was in possession of the initial flooding data.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>Why did Boxhall profess in London that he couldn't remember when his conversation with the Captain took place?<<

The answer is very simple George. He told the truth. He couldn't recall the time. Nobody bothered to look at a watch.

It is well known that eyewitnesses are very unreliable in their recollections, especially when it comes to times, distances, colors, and other subjective measures taken weeks after an event took place. That is why multiple sources of evidence, including forensics, are needed to get at the facts.
What we can piece together about Boxhall is that he spent about 20 minutes thereabouts going on two inspections before he returned to the bridge after coming back from the mailroom. When he returned he was ordered to call upon the off-duty officers. Boxhall estimated that this was about "20 minutes to half an hour" after the collision. Pitman estimated that: "I should think it must be 20 minutes." Lightoller thought: "I judge it is half an hour...It might be less, it might be a quarter-of-an-hour." After calling out the officers Boxhall was ordered to uncover the boats. This was when all hands were called out. He was involved in that activity for some time before he went to the bridge after someone spotted the light of a vessel as I explained in post #11 above. It was then that he was told by Capt. Smith about what Andrews had said.



 

Jim Currie

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George wrote:

"The answer to that question determines how swiftly the Captain reacted to order the evacuation of the ship."

That's what I was getting at... the automatic reactions of a highly trained experienced senior officer in the event he suspects that his ship may be sinking.

Obviously none of you want to be a Master Mariner therefore I'll answer the orals question i posed earlier.

"The first duty of The Master of a Ship is to ensure safety of life and then to use his best endeavours to save the ship and cargo if any is a carried. If he discovers that his ship is injured to the extent that he cannot safely proceed on the voyage, he will immediately make the appropriate distress signals and make preparations for abandoning ship. Depending on the prevailing weather conditions and the circumstances of the case, he may contemplate partial evacuation of passengers and non essential personnel."
 
Dec 4, 2000
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To what Jim has posted above about how a captain reacts and his duties...all I can add is, "ditto." He pegged it.

-- David G. Brown