Who do you think was to blame

Dec 2, 2000
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>>but the one responsible was capt smith.<<

Given the level of authority and responsibility which goes with being the captain of a ship both in custom and in law, I think you'll find that a lot of us took that much as a given.

Simply put: If you wear the stripes, you get the credit for everything which goes right and you have to answer for anything which goes wrong.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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I did take note of it somewhere, Julie - unfortunately it's in one of a whole series of notebooks. If I come across it I'll post it.
 

Julie Goebel

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Feb 24, 2007
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If you could remember that would be great (I know how busy you are). It would be fun to guess the officer's wife. Maybe it was written by the officer himself and just signed "wife" or maybe it wasn't a WSL officer at all.
 
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patrick toms

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samuel halpern makes a lot of the company rules it would have been better if the officers followed maritime rules.
pat toms president shannon ulster titanic society
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>samuel halpern makes a lot of the company rules...<<

So did the White Star Line.

>>... it would have been better if the officers followed maritime rules.<<

They did. The trouble, to paraphrase a movie line, was that a lot of what the "knew" was wrong.
 

Matthew Farr

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Apr 14, 2010
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>>Who is to blame?<<

Most people would say that Captain Smith is to blame being the commander of the ship. Everything that happened on that ship was ultimately his responsibility. Be that as it may, I do not believe that he is to blame for the disaster. I put the blame on the owners of the shipping companies. Their greed and lust for supremacy is what caused their ship captains to take greater risks at sea in order to keep the increasingly tight schedules placed upon them. Think about it, we know that Ismay wanted the Titanic to arrive ahead of schedule in order to make headlines and make the ship more popular and in effect make more money. If you remove that pressure then it is reasonable to assume Captain Smith may have slowed or even stopped the ship that night.
I know there are more factors to consider but this one sticks out in my mind.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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It wasn't just the shipping companies who put pressure on captains to put the pedal to the metal. The public demanded it as well, and they still do. If a particular line can't keep to the schedule, the propective passengers would book with somebody who could.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Like landing an aircraft in bad weather,<<

Yeah, something like that, and with the usual common denominator of operator error since this isn't the sort of thing ATC would go for at a controlled facility unless they had absolutely no choice in the matter.

The difference of course is that one way or another, the plane will land. Run out of fuel and Sir Isacc Newton is there to finish the job. (That pesky law of gravitation...)
 
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Just to continue on w/this point, wasn't the Lusitania's tragic end the same result of negligence? The Captain (his name escapes me now - I'll remember it later. 48 is pretty old for a brain!) *didn't* sail on a zig zag course and gave a perfect target to the U boat commander, who, after all was doing his duty when he fired the torpedo.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>The Captain (his name escapes me now - I'll remember it later.<<

His name was Turner, and he did a lot of things wrong. Not the least of which was cruising near the headlands which he has instructions to avoid because of the submarine activity. Contrary to what assorted conspiracy theorists would have you believe, he wasn't going in blind.
 
Apr 30, 2007
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>> I put the blame on the shipping companies <<

There seems to be a tendency these days to seek to blame those in 'power', be it Government ministers or the CEO's of companies, when an individual lower down the food chain has failed in his duty & responsibility.

Smith had sole responsibility for the safe navigation of his vessel and failed. It was to be his last spin and he thus had nothing to fear from his paymasters.

He simply made a bad call by wrongly assuming the normal watch would spot any potential danger in time to avoid it. Unfortunately they couldn't.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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A point I'd add is that when the shipping companies agreed on the tracks to New York, they did so in the knowledge that ice might be met with on those tracks in some years. Records show that quite a bit of ice was around in 1911. The companies took a gamble and trusted the Mark 1 Eyeball to keep the ships safe.
 

Matthew Farr

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>>Shipping companies agreed on tracks<<

I read in a book called Titanic: Sinking the Myths by D.E. Bristow that these tracks were not required by law to be used by ships at the time of the Titanic disaster. It was the up to the ships captain to choose his route and many still used the Northern Route during times when large quantities of ice were present in this track. If the captain was willing to risk the safety of his ship to use this route to make a faster crossing there was no law to stop him.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>It was to be his last spin and he thus had nothing to fear from his paymasters.<<

Actually, there's no first hand evidence to support the popular legend that Captain Smith was going to retire after this particular voyage. Even if he had, he certainly would have had plenty to fear from the existing legal system of the time. At the very least, his certificates would have been suspended if not revoked outright, and criminal sanctions would not have been out of the question.
 

Dave Gittins

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As Matthew says, the lanes had no legal force. They were only a deal between the lines.

Not only is there no certain evidence for Captain Smith going to retire, there is a statement from the New York office of White Star, published on 11 April, saying that he would continue to command Titanic until a "bigger and finer vessel" was built.

I think this is authorititive, because it was published before the disaster, before romanticism set in.
 
Apr 30, 2007
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It looks like another of those myths (Smith's impending retirement) has been squashed.

My point about Smith's lack of 'fear' relates to the consequences of being late. I would still maintain that because of his status and experience (and lets say 'approaching' retirement) Smith would not have been quaking in his boots at the thought of being ticked off by the Company's top brass for being a few hours behind schedule. Even more so when he had a fistful of ice warnings to slap on their desks in mitigation.

Michael has made a good case for dismissing the lack of glasses as being the cause of the collision. David Brown has contacted me presenting a case to say less speed, with the resulting reduction in manoeuvrability, was not the answer. So how could this collision have been avoided?

I understand many say the only solution would have been sailing south of the Southern track but would this have been the panacea some claim it to be?

By staying on the normal track a Captain would at least have reports from other vessels of the lurking dangers, as was the case on the day/night of the 14th. By going South of the normal track there would have been less vessels in the vicinity and hence less reports received, increasing the risk of bumping into something. As the ice was further South than it would normally have been it's not beyond the realms of possibility that some of the larger bergs could have strayed below the Southern track. The risk of hitting a berg, although lessened, could still have been present.

(Out of interest was there any evidence of other vessels sailing the Southern track that night going further South to avoid the ice?)

I'm coming to the conclusion that with the information Smith had at his disposal and with safety in mind, stopping the ship until visibility improved was the only sensible solution.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>It looks like another of those myths (Smith's impending retirement) has been squashed.<<

I wouldn't say squashed. Oh, it's a myth allright, but it's so deeply ingrained in the Titanic mythos that it just won't go away. Kind of like binoculars, and the latant "Brittle Steel" thing. It just persists despite the best efforts of people like us to correct the record.

>>I understand many say the only solution would have been sailing south of the Southern track but would this have been the panacea some claim it to be? <<

Yes. If you're not in or on the fringes of the icefield, you simply don't have fatal interactions with the ice. The grabber is that Captain Smith had sufficient information to have a good sense of where the icefield was. They weren't going in blind.

On the matter of the navigation variance, I'll leave this one to Dave Gittins as he's done the homework here. However, as I understand it, they could have diverted to a more southerly track and at worst, only added a couple of hours to the trip.

>>I'm coming to the conclusion that with the information Smith had at his disposal and with safety in mind, stopping the ship until visibility improved was the only sensible solution.<<

Only in hindsight. From their point of view, there was nothing wrong with the visibility. (Don't believe that "Everything Was Against Us" thing that Lightoller claimed. That was a sop for the lawyers consumption as well as P.R. and I think he really knew better.) The common practice was that as long as you could see where you were going in time to avoid...and they thought they could...there was just no reason to do anything but hold course and speed.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Steve-- a polite disagreement, but stopping for the night was completely out of the question for a North Atlantic mail boat...and from a safety standpoint the least acceptable alternative available to Captain Smith. A stopped ship can otherwise be described as a "target." It cannot maneuver to avoid collision with another vessel and Titanic would have been stopped on a busy shipping lane. Some other ship might not be as prudent as say Captain Lord of Californian. There are tales today of ships steaming across the ocean with nobody on the bridge--yes, no body. Ask some of the pleasure sailors who make open-ocean passages about what it takes to get the attention of some large flag-of-convenience ships!

So, stopping was really not realistic. The far better solution was to go south of the ice. Going even 100 miles south on the Great Circle before turning to a rhumb line for New York would have added only a small percentage of time to the overall trip. To me, the question has always been, "Why did Captain Smith stay so far north that night, given the ice information to hand?"

My opinion is that when Smith handed Ismay that ice message earlier in the day, it was not proof of a cavalier attitude toward the ice. Just the opposite. I believe that Smith understood exactly how to handle Ismay in difficult situations. By handing the message to Ismay, Smith was indicating how important it was to the safety of the ship. In my opinion (said that twice, Sam) the captain was letting Ismay come to his own conclusions about the need to dodge the ice. Note that Smith deliberately retrieved the message before dinner at that it was posted in the chartroom.

There are several bits of evidence contained in both the BOT final report and the transcripts of the two inquiries that Smith did turn south prior to the accident. Even if he did, however, the fact is that these actions fall into the "too little, too late" category. Why?

Short of using a Oija board, there seems no way of plumbing the depths of Captain Smith's intentions. However, Lightoller's story of the way ol' E.J. would enter New York gives a hint. Perhaps Captain Smith intended to shave as little time off the voyage by cutting close to the ice field. Perhaps the odds caught up with him. Perhaps? Perhaps not?

There can be no doubt, however, that whatever his intentions Captain Smith was legally responsible for the outcome of the voyage. In this case, he was legally responsible for losing the ship on an iceberg.

--David G. Brown