Where was Captain Smith at the time of collision?

A

Aaron_2016

Guest
In his 1962 interview Boxhall remembered many details that matched his 1912 testimony and even remembered the smallest details such as the paths he took and the song the band were playing. I understand he helped in the filming of 'A Night to Remember' and attended the premiere. Incredible that he was forget the order hard a-starboard in his interview. One has to question whether he heard this order at all.

Looking at his 1912 account we can see there was something fishy about it. Hichens and Olliver were both present and heard Murdoch inform the Captain what happened. Both accounts match.


Hichens
"The skipper came rushing out of his room and asked, "What is that?" Mr. Murdoch said, "An iceberg." He said, "Close the emergency doors." Mr. Murdoch replied, "The doors are already closed." The Captain sent then for the carpenter to sound the ship."

Olliver
"He asked the first officer what was the matter, and Mr. Murdoch reported, sir, that we had struck an iceberg, and the Captain ordered him to have the water-tight doors closed, and Mr. Murdoch reported that the water-tight doors were closed. The Captain gave me orders to tell the carpenter to go and take the draft of the water."

Now we have Boxhall.

"The Captain said, "What have we struck?" Mr. Murdoch, the first officer, said, "We have struck an iceberg. Mr. Murdoch followed on to say, "I put her hard a-starboard and run the engines full astern, but it was too close; she hit it. Mr. Murdoch also said, "I intended to port around it but she hit before I could do any more. Mr. Murdoch continued to say, "The water-tight doors are closed, sir."......The Captain asked him if he had rung the warning bell. He said, "Yes, sir." (Boxhall then searched below decks for any damage and returned to the bridge). "I came right up to the bridge and reported that I could find no damage." Q - What did the captain say? A - He said, "Go down and find the carpenter and get him to sound the ship."


What is odd is that Hichens and Olliver made no mention of seeing Boxhall there, and did not hear that long speech that Boxhall apparently heard. Olliver was ordered by the Captain to find the carpenter, and Hichens heard this order. Yet Boxhall did not hear this order, and remarkably went below and checked for damage and when he returned to inform the Captain he himself was ordered to find the carpenter. It sounds to me that Boxhall perhaps was not on the bridge immediately after the collision. Perhaps he spoke to Hichens and Olliver on the Carpathia or before the Inquiry began and was merely repeating what they said and added in his own addition to create the idea that Murdoch ordered full astern and hard a-starboard". It is much easier to remember the truth than to remember a fib, perhaps that is why he did not mention it in his 1962 interview, although one would have thought watching the film 'A Night to Remember' would make him recall that the order was given.



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Samuel Halpern

Samuel Halpern

Member
he would think little of it since such a sound was part of life during the hours of darkness. 3 bells simply meant "something seen ahead".
I would agree with you except he knew they were headed into a region of ice. I would think that would change things a bit.
Was Boxhall in Smith’s lavatory helping him with his indisposition?
Ha, Ha. But seriously, Boxhall's story in 1912 was also a bit inconsistent. At the American inquiry he said:

"At the time of the impact I was just coming along the deck and almost abreast of the captain's quarters, and I heard the report of three bells...Almost at the same time I heard the first officer give the order "Hard astarboard," and the engine telegraph rang."

At the British inquiry he says:

15343. Do you mean you felt the shock before you heard the [three] bells? - No, I heard the bells first.
15344. Where were you at that time? - Just coming out of the officers quarters.
15345. How soon after you heard the bells did you feel the shock? - Only a moment or two after that.
15346. Did you hear an order given by the First Officer? - I heard the First Officer give the order, "Hard-a-starboard," and I heard the engine room telegraph bells ringing.
15347. Was that before you felt the shock, or afterwards? - Just a moment before.
15348. (The Commissioner.) Let us be clear about that. The order, "Hard-a-starboard," came between the sound of the bells and the collision? - The impact, yes.
15349. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) Did you go on to the bridge immediately after the impact? - I was almost on the bridge when she struck.
15350. Did you notice what the telegraphs indicated with regard to the engines? - "Full speed astern," both.
15351. Was that immediately after the impact? - Yes.
15352. Did you see anything done with regard to the watertight doors? - I saw Mr. Murdoch closing them then, pulling the lever.

In either case, there is perhaps 60 feet between the officer's quarters door and the navigating bridge. At a typical walking speed of someone crossing an intersection (just under 5ft/sec), it would only take Boxhall about 15 seconds to get to the bridge, and that allows 3 seconds extra in there for startup time. So in those 15 seconds he hears 3 bells, then he hears 'hard-astarboard' ordered followed by the engine telegraph bells, then feels the impact all before he actually reaches the bridge. I guess the phone call from the nest never took place in this compressed time frame. Oh, at 22 knots (37 ft/sec), the berg would have been only 550 feet ahead of the ship's bow when Fleet first strikes the bell 15 seconds before impact. Really??? It's all a good story if you are trying to convey the impression that Murdoch had no time whatsoever to avoid a collision.

Contrast this with Olliver being on the standard compass platform when 3 bells are struck in the nest. That's about 250 feet of walking distance from the bridge. He claims the ship struck just as he was entering the bridge and saw Murdoch by the WTD switch.


 
Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
If the captain was in his lavatory, then he had the port open.

Boxhall said he heard Murdoch tell Smith:

USA:
"I put her hard astarboard and run the engines full astern, but it was too close; she hit it."

UK:
- "An iceberg, Sir. I hard-a-starboarded and reversed the engines, and I was going to hard-a-port round it but she was too close. I could not do any more."

Both statements tells us what Murdoch's intention was. They also tell us how far he had got with his intentions before it was, as he stated: "too close" and "too late". It tells us that he gave a single helm order before impact.

There is only one single bit of evidence pointing to a second helm order. That came from QM Olliver the bridge messenger. He was off and on the bridge running messages. He said he heard it when he was on the bridge and when the iceberg was "way down stern." That too was "too late" to have been an intention to swing the stern away. So what about that second helm order?

Here, to me is the only logical conclusion I can come to:

When the ship was almost stopped, QM Olliver witnessed the Captain ring down HALF AHEAD then STOP. Then he was sent away to find the Carpenter.
We know from Trimmer Dillon that the time span of the last two engine orders was no more than 2.5 minutes...not enough time for any headway and that the last one was given about 6.5 minutes after impact...at about 11-46pm.
After Olliver found the carpenter, he returned to the bridge where he was immediately sent down with a note for the Chief Engineer. Shortly after that, Boxhall, returned from his first inspection and then, almost immediately went back down to find the Carpenter but met the man as he, Boxhall, was leaving the Bridge.
The only time QM Olliver could have witnessed these last engine orders and the second helm order was at 11-46 pm.
I think that since the ship ws stopped, and at the time, Captain Smith did not think she was badly damaged, he gave a burst ahead on the engines to use his rudder to bring the ship back to her original heading, in preparation for getting underway again after he got the all clear. Sadly it never came. A few minutes later, the carpenter arrived with the bad news.
 
Georges Guay

Georges Guay

Member
Does anyone have some idea of where the captain spent his last moments alive though, as the ship sank?

When the chaos made him realize that his presence on the scene was no longer needed, in a state of shock, he retired. He probably went through the bridge and had a last look around, went through his navigation room and looked at the chart, then in his Sitting Room, closing all doors behind him. Took is cap off, seized a bottle of Single Malt, his best crystal Whisky glass and sat down in his preferred Chesterfield leather chair. He opened the bottle, filled up his glass and had a good drink and another one, warming up while thinking of everything, in calm. Once the water reached a certain level, he made a last payer, expressed grief, cried, slide down his chair, exhausted but serene and took a profound breath, his head under water.

Capt. Smith was 62 years of age, something like 10 years older than the UK 1912 life expectancy. He made an extraordinary life, away from his own family, but nearby of his seaman’s one.
 
Georges Guay

Georges Guay

Member
Ha, Ha. But seriously, Boxhall's story in 1912 was also a bit inconsistent.

If I read you well Samuel, Boxhall was rather inconsistent than incontinent. We are making progress here. A mystery solved for the posterity …
 
Georges Guay

Georges Guay

Member
Murdoch is on the boring lookout watch on the Starboard wing, in the best location so to be comfortable, sheltered from the wind and frost. Astonished, he perceives The Iceberg, rather steep, pitch dark, stealth, so almost imperceptible. From his location, he split decides that Port-rounding, bow away from the berg, is the best alternative. He rushes inside the bridge and yells; «Hard-A-Starboard». Moody rushes in the Wheelhouse to make sure that the wheel order is properly executed. The vessel starts to swing to Port. The three bells warning struck. The telephone rings. Murdoch double rings main engines & emergency telegraphs to Stop. Wheel is «Hard-A-Starboard», Moody rushes to the telephone. Iceberg Right Ahead. The vessel collides and is pushed away 2 points. Murdoch closes the watertight doors. Smith arrives on the bridge. Boxhall arrives on the bridge. All that, within less than a minute!!!
 
privatedad1334

privatedad1334

Member
@George G. - Wow, you sir certainly have a way with words!
 
A

Aaron_2016

Guest
Does anyone know where exactly Captain Smith was at the time of the collision? If the traditional series of events are true, what took him so long to enter the wheelhouse, especially if Boxhall arrived at the same time and he only had to take a short walk from his cabin to the bridge?

I had assumed that the Captain was in his navigation room, but wouldn't he rush out the moment he heard Murdoch yell "Iceberg ahead, sir!" or when Murdoch ordered "Hard a-starboard!"? If those events had occurred, one has to assume the captain heard their voices and the sound of Murdoch rushing over and ringing the telegraph as this was heard by Hichens in the wheelhouse, yet the captain apparently was completely unaware and made no appearance until after the collision? I understand he just felt the shock or the vibration and rushed onto the wheelhouse and asked "What is that?"



Bridgeplan001



Hichens - US Inquiry

"I heard the telegraph ring, sir. The skipper came rushing out of his room, Captain Smith; and asked, "What is that?" Mr. Murdoch said, "An iceberg." He said, "Close the emergency doors."

He used the present tense instead of the past tense. Does this imply that the collision or vibration was still happening when he rushed out?


Hichens gave a newspaper account which was very similar to his testimony. He said: "The skipper came from the chartroom onto the bridge."

The British Inquiry discussed the wording of "chartroom" and they believed it referred to the navigation room.

Sir Robert Finlay
"No. The expression used, I think, is “the Captain’s chart room.” I take it that it was the navigation room, which is immediately forward of the Captain’s sitting-room."

The Commissioner
"I think it means the place marked as the navigation room."

Sir Robert Finlay
"I think so, my Lord."


Boxhall and Olliver were both approaching the bridge and felt the collision and they arrived in time to see Murdoch close the watertight doors. The Captain then appeared and said "What is that?" and said "Close the watertight doors!" This could imply that he was responding to the situation as the vibration of the ship was still happening under his feet. Boxhall said he entered the bridge from the starboard side and saw the Captain appear behind him, which could suggest the Captain had just come out of the navigation room.

Here is another mystery. When Hichens testified at the UK Inquiry he said the Captain appeared almost a minute after the collision, but this puts Boxhall's timing in question as he reached the bridge about 10 seconds after he felt the collision and he saw the captain appear at the same time, right behind him. Yet Hichens said at the UK Inquiry:

"Just about a minute, I suppose, after the collision, the Captain rushed out of his room and asked Mr. Murdoch what was that, and he said, “An iceberg, Sir,” and he said, “Close the watertight door.”


Quite a puzzle? In America he testified that the captain said "What is that?" imply that the collision was still taking place, but in Britain he said about a minute after the collision the captain appeared and said "What was that?" implying that the collision had already taken place some time ago.

Any ideas where the Captain was and what he was doing?


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David G. Brown

David G. Brown

RIP
Perhaps not the answer you're looking for...but interesting anyway.;)

-- David G. Brown



Master and Man

The Captain stood where a
Captain should
For the Law of the Sea is grim;
The Owner romped while the ship was swamped
And no law bothered him.
The Captain stood where the Captain should
When a Captain's ship goes down
But the Owner led when the women fled,
For an Owner must not drown.
The Captain sank as a man of Rank,
While his Owner turned away;
The Captain's grave was his bridge and brave,
He earned his seaman's pay.
To hold your place in the ghastly face of Death on the Sea at Night
Is a Seaman's job, but to flee with the mob
Is an Owner's Noble Right.

Ben Hecht, Chicago Journal
 
B-rad

B-rad

Member
I believe that the significance of the disaster out weighs the human element. Smith was readily available. He was last seen at 10:30 I believe. He could have easily been feeling tried (as any person would sitting down not doing anything) and drifted off. If he was a heavy sleeper or a lite sleeper it would take a certain trigger to awake him. (Personal story -rather embarrassing- but my wife locked herself out of the house and I neither heard knocking doorbell or phone call till much later-as phone log supports- lol) the same thing with Lord . officers and captains had little rest. They were human.people get tired and fall asleep. Can't hold the human factor against them. Only when they themselves forget they are human.
 
David G. Brown

David G. Brown

RIP
Smith wasn't asleep. His statement to Lightoller about being "just inside" has been misconstrued by those wanting to pin blame rather than find the truth.

Testimony from Boxhall indicates the Captain was plotting reported iceberg positions during that time period. He worked on his own chart table in the captain's navigation room one door away from Hichens in the wheelhouse and probably not ten brisk paces from the footplate where officers stood keeping watch. Smith was seen making that trek by Hichens in context with the accident, something not likely if the man were asleep.

-- David G. Brown
 
A

Aaron_2016

Guest
Does anyone know what Captain Smith was doing just prior to the collision and his immediate reaction to Murdoch's orders which must have startled him to his feet, especially as the telegraph rang and the order "hard a-port" was called out by Murdoch. Quartermaster Hichens told a reporter that the captain immediately rushed out of the "chart room". What was he doing in the chart room? Did he receive a message from Phillips that the Californian was close by and was surrounded by ice and he was estimating her current position on the chart by backtracking the distance she would have covered from her previous position already on the chart? Then again, Hichens changed his story and told the official Inquiry that the captain simply rushed out of "his room". Was he referring to his private quarters, and would that mean he was about to retire for the night?

If we base the timing of the collision with 4th officer Boxhall's movements, then it means the captain must have arrived in the wheelhouse only 5 seconds or so after the collision. Then again, which part of the collision did Boxhall feel? A number of survivors felt a long shudder and a vibration underneath the entire length of the ship. Passengers in the smoking room felt the ice passing underneath their feet and felt a strange twisting motion of the room (possibly wood creaking as she heeled over to port and turned). Mrs. Futrelle felt a shock followed by a long shudder which she said lasted about 20 seconds followed by a second slightly heavier shock. That would undoubtedly mean that Boxhall and the captain were both present on the bridge during the long shudder and before the second shock.

I noticed that the captain used the present tense when he said "What is that?" Boxhall said the captain rushed out and immediately asked Murdoch "What is the matter?" and Hichens told the US Inquiry - "We could hear the grinding noise along the ship's bottom. I heard the telegraph ring, sir. The skipper came rushing out of his room; Captain Smith, and asked, "What is that?" Mr. Murdoch said, "An iceberg." Both Hichens and Boxhall used the present tense. Does this mean the shudder was still occurring when the captain rushed out and spoke to Murdoch?

They both went to the bridge wing to see the iceberg pass by. Is it possible that only now did they feel the vibration end and the second shock begin just as the stern was swinging away and the iceberg came within view? I recall a survivor who saw the iceberg abaft the engine room or abaft the starboard beam and noticed her stern was swinging away, and Mr. Harder felt a shock and looked out of his window and saw the iceberg was around 100 feet away from the side of the ship. Mr. Hyman thought they had struck a long spur of the iceberg as he felt the shock when it was off the starboard beam and away from the side. Could that explain why Harold Bride said the captain told him the iceberg had struck "just aft of amidships" because that is where the captain saw the iceberg when he felt the second shock as he looked at it from the bridge wing and felt the vibration end and the second shock occur? I understand he soon made a visit to the engine room. Was he concerned that it might have been damaged?

I am currently trying to see the collision through the captain's perspective and understand what he was thinking immediately before, during, and after the collision. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.



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Rob Lawes

Rob Lawes

Member
Now if I was a betting man, and I have absolutely no evidence for this whatsoever, I would say Captain Smith was in the heads (or toilets for you non nautical types).

After 4 nights at sea the old tummy would start to settle down as you get used to a different type of water and not your usual home cooking. He was always known as a convivial man which suggests regular movements and a lack of trouble in the downstairs department.

I expect he was just settling down for a nice good clear out. Perhaps thumbing through the paper he'd brought on board from Southampton that by now he'd read from cover to cover and was at the point where only the adverts for toilet soap had yet to be scrutinised.

Perhaps on this occasion he was having a bit of a struggle to clear the tubes. One of those pan splitters of the kind that make you want to reach for a tape measure and wonder how it came out of such a small hole without the need for stitches afterwards?

Or perhaps it was just a quick tinkle, as older gentleman more frequently require.
 
I

Ioannis Georgiou

Member
I expect he was just settling down for a nice good clear out. Perhaps thumbing through the paper he'd brought on board from Southampton that by now he'd read from cover to cover and was at the point where only the adverts for toilet soap had yet to be scrutinised.

Looking for the new advertisements you mean?! :)

Maybe he had a cup of tea with Boxhall?
 
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