When and where did Smith know the ship was doomed?

Seumas

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If Captain Smith knew his ship was going to sink within a relatively short time, and ordered Phillips to send his own CQD, why on earth did Smith not also order distress rockets to be fired sooner? I have never got my head round the logic of Smith apparently delaying ordering the firing of distress rockets till the lights of another vessel were seen by Boxhall? And why did not Smith say to Boxhall he wanted more rockets fired at more frequent intervals ie the short intervals required by the regulations? Especially as the Morse lamp was clearly not having any success.
That's a good question Julian.

Hasn't there been a suggestion made in the past that perhaps Smith might have been worried about causing a panic by firing off a rocket say every sixty seconds ?

I don't know the answer anyway, just putting that out there. Maybe Jim or Sam might like to offer a comment ?

Incidentally the box of what are probably rockets that was found on the seabed a few years ago would be an amazing artefact to recover but that's just my daft opinion.
 
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Julian Atkins

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3 things happened early on according to Boxhall:-

1. He takes it upon himself to do his own first inspection of the damage.

2. He regards his Captain's own original CQD position as inaccurate, and goes off and works off his own, for a revised CQD position.

3. He prompts his Captain to send off distress rockets.

Either Captain Smith was in some state of shock and unable to make proper decisions (implicitly implied by Boxhall), or Boxhall was elevating his own status in the drama of the tragedy, and elevating his own importance.

Cheers,

Julian
 
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George Jacub

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If Captain Smith knew his ship was going to sink within a relatively short time, and ordered Phillips to send his own CQD, why on earth did Smith not also order distress rockets to be fired sooner?
The only reason for Captain Smith to order rockets at the same time as he gave the order to send distress messages would be to give the passengers a spectacular fireworks show. Who else was going to see it?
The CQD/SOS messages would let him know which ships at sea were aware of the Titanic's trouble, where they were, how far from the Titanic they were, and how long it would take for them to come to his aid. He could then use rockets to guide rescue ships to his exact position.
But when he heard of a ship seen on the horizon, which obviously wasn't receiving the CQD calls, he ordered rockets immediately to get their attention.
The rockets would serve to grab the distant ship's notice while the Morse lamp would send them the call for help. As for frequency of rockets... If a rocket attacts attention, you need to build in time for the viewer to read the morse code message from the Morse lamp. And maybe respond. If nothing happens, you fire another rocket and repeat. A barrage of rockets defeats this purpose since nobody expects a ship stopped in ice to simply mosey on over to see what the light show is about.
 

Jim Currie

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That's a good question Julian.

Hasn't there been a suggestion made in the past that perhaps Smith might have been worried about causing a panic by firing off a rocket say every sixty seconds ?

I don't know the answer anyway, just putting that out there. Maybe Jim or Sam might like to offer a comment ?

Incidentally the box of what are probably rockets that was found on the seabed a few years ago would be an amazing artefact to recover but that's just my daft opinion.
That is an easy one Seamus.

You do not fire off distress signals until you know they can be seen. Smith would wait until he knew his signals could be seen. He would only have fired them "blind" if he had not had any replies to his wireless distress calls.
Boxhall was made aware of the approaching vessel at about the time the amended distress positin was sent out.
Smith could be sure that the approaching vessel he was seeing could, in turn , see his ship. However, he could not be sure that the other vessel had wireless. He therefore agreed to the firing of the signals to augment the morse signalling in the mistaken belief that those on the other vessel would recognise that all was not well on Titanic. He would also be sure in his mind that those on the approaching vessel would see his signals rising to four times the height of his white masthead light, hear their deafen BANG! and recognise them for what they were.

The story about not causing panic is right out of the Walt Disney play book. Here is whatPassenger Lawrence Beesely wrote about that:
"But if there were any one who had not by now realized that the ship was in danger, all doubt on this point was to be set at rest in a dramatic manner. Suddenly a rush of light from the forward deck, a hissing roar that made us all turn from watching the boats, and a rocket leapt upwards to where the stars blinked and twinkled above us. Up it went, higher and higher, with a sea of faces upturned to watch it, and then an explosion that seemed to split the silent night in two, and a shower of stars sank slowly down and went out one by one. And with a gasping sigh one word escaped the lips of the crowd: "Rockets!" Anybody knows what rockets at sea mean.
 
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Julian Atkins

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The only reason for Captain Smith to order rockets at the same time as he gave the order to send distress messages would be to give the passengers a spectacular fireworks show. Who else was going to see it?
The CQD/SOS messages would let him know which ships at sea were aware of the Titanic's trouble, where they were, how far from the Titanic they were, and how long it would take for them to come to his aid. He could then use rockets to guide rescue ships to his exact position.
But when he heard of a ship seen on the horizon, which obviously wasn't receiving the CQD calls, he ordered rockets immediately to get their attention.
The rockets would serve to grab the distant ship's notice while the Morse lamp would send them the call for help. As for frequency of rockets... If a rocket attacts attention, you need to build in time for the viewer to read the morse code message from the Morse lamp. And maybe respond. If nothing happens, you fire another rocket and repeat. A barrage of rockets defeats this purpose since nobody expects a ship stopped in ice to simply mosey on over to see what the light show is about.
Hi George,

Sorry, but I don't follow your reasoning at all.

If your ship is sinking you use every means possible to get assistance. So what, if some passengers get a sort of free fireworks display.

It was a desperate situation, that required distress rockets to be fired promptly and according to the regulations at "short intervals".

To my way of thinking, a series of distress rockets fired at "short intervals" would have been far more important than Morsing by lamp, and would have been seen at a far greater distance. Titanic had an ample supply of these distress rockets, and we know that many of these, unused, were found at the wreck site in a box.

Cheers,

Julian
 

Jim Currie

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Forgot to add:

Since you seem to be so sure of your facts, Why don't you tell us what you (or Bob) would do in the following circumstances. I'll set the scene.

Captain Sam has just phoned his OOW to get a sitrep before lying down for while. He is told that all is quiet and that a vessel which is stopped 4 miles to the southward is still in the same place. The captain tell his OOW to keep an eye on her and report any change in her position or in the general state of affairs.
Ten minutes later the blower whistles in the captain's cabin, so he gets up wearily and trudges in there to find out what the heck is wrong.
It is his trusty OOW who, true to his orders reports a change in affairs.
"Yes!" Captain Sam barks impatiently.
"Sorry to disturb you sir, but you did say to call you if anything happened".
" Yes?"
" Well...I've just seen what looks like a rocket in the direction of that other vessel."
"What colour was it? Do you think it is a Company signal?"
"White, Sir."
"Anything else? Has she changed her bearing? "Is she moving?"
Not at all, sir.

Forget about modern, noble attitudes and answer honestly - what do you think an experienced Master of the time would have done next...not should have done...under the given circumstances?

I suggest to you and others that there is but a single proper answer to that question unless, of course, two witnesses lied when giving their evience.
 

Jim Currie

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I agree. However, what would you do if the scenario continued:

You are lying on the chartroom settee, dead to the world...someone knocks timidly on the door. You awaken from a semi-drugged-with-sleep state (Anyone who has done so will immediately recognise that horrendous feeling). It is your young Apprentice making a report to you. Your fuzzed mind translates the message to be an advice that the nearby vessel has sailed off and is now out of sight. There was also something in there about rockets and failing to make contact by signal lamp.
 

Jim Currie

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Hi George,

Sorry, but I don't follow your reasoning at all.

If your ship is sinking you use every means possible to get assistance. So what, if some passengers get a sort of free fireworks display.

It was a desperate situation, that required distress rockets to be fired promptly and according to the regulations at "short intervals".

To my way of thinking, a series of distress rockets fired at "short intervals" would have been far more important than Morsing by lamp, and would have been seen at a far greater distance. Titanic had an ample supply of these distress rockets, and we know that many of these, unused, were found at the wreck site in a box.

Cheers,

Julian
Hello Julian,

You are correct to a pont. However, you should keep in mind that when they started firing these things, help seemed to have arrived in the form of the approaching ship. I suspect that Captain Smith simply meant to make sure that by firing these signals interspersed with mose signalling, the potential rescuer in plain sight would be drawn to Titanic as is a moth drawn to a candle.
 

Mark Baber

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Moderator's hat on:

Two unnecessarily personalized messages have bee removed. Focus on issues, not the personalities of folks engaged in this discussion. And please return to the topic of Smith's knowledge, not what was going on (or not) on other ships.
.
Moderator's hat off
 
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Forget about modern, noble attitudes and answer honestly - what do you think an experienced Master of the time would have done next...not should have done...under the given circumstances?
As Bob said, Captain Sam would say, “Notify me immediately if you see any more rockets.”

Now if those were the orders given, and assuming they were followed, the next part of your scenario would be:

Five minutes later (after the first report) the OOW calls down again and says:
"Sorry to disturb you again sir, but you did say to call you immediately if I saw any more. I just saw that steamer fire another white rocket."
"OK, I'll be right up."
 
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Jim Currie

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As Bob said, Captain Sam would say, “Notify me immediately if you see any more rockets.”

Now if those were the orders given, and assuming they were followed, the next part of your scenario would be:

Five minutes later (after the first report) the OOW calls down again and says:
"Sorry to disturb you again sir, but you did say to call you immediately if I saw any more. I just saw that steamer fire another white rocket."
"OK, I'll be right up."
You must consider the problem from the point of view of the witnesses.

Your suggestion would only be valid if Captain Sam expected his OWW to see another rocket. The initial intelligence he received dismissed that idea. He had been told about a "Flash", then a rocket in the direction of...not from...the vessel which he earlier had estimated to be about 4 miles distant. A single Flash without sound or pyrotechnics in an indeterminate direction has no meaning. A single rocket as described to him would also have no meaning. The nearby vessel had been there for over an hour. If there was anything wrong with that vessel, surely it would have manifested itself earlier? There were at least five other methods of conveying a need for help, none of hese had been reported or seen within the past hour. There was a lookout in the Crows Nest and he had not made any reports.
However, if these unusual events are being seen in the direction of a nearby vessel at such a close range, the first instinct is to call the other fellow up to see if he knows anything about the situation, since obviously someone on that vesel will have seen these events too.

No Sam, in the case of such a small separation distance and given the prevailing conditions, your first action would be to tell your offficer to increase his efforts to call the other vessel using the morse lamp. The lamp, because you have no idea whether that other vessel has wireless or not, and your own operator has told you previously that there was only one vessel using wireless in the immediate vicinity... Titanic.
 

AlexP

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There was a lookout in the Crows Nest and he had not made any reports.
How do you know he did not? Just because nobody said he did? One of the greatest mysteries of the inquiries is that no Californian's lookout had ever been questioned. I wonder why...
 

Jim Currie

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How do you know he did not? Just because nobody said he did? One of the greatest mysteries of the inquiries is that no Californian's lookout had ever been questioned. I wonder why...
Not only the Lookouts but other than the four witnesses we know of not one of the standby members of the 8 to Midnight and Midnight to 4 am Watches were questioned.
In fact, a nonsense of the entire Californian affair is that more weight was, and still is, placed on the evidence of crew members who were in bed while Titanic was firing her signals and the reports in newspapers, than those who actually saw saw them.
 

Bob_Read

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Sam and I suggested a simple and reasonable course of action for Lord. When the explanation for why that course of action is unreasonable is as convoluted as you describe then I will leave it to others decide which is more reasonable.