Who was the most negligent Captain on the night of the Titanic disaster?

Samuel Halpern

Samuel Halpern

Member
There was big difference in speed between Californian and Titanic, a factor of two, giving less time to react if danger is sighted ahead. I believe it was David Brown who pointed out the difference between negligence and imprudence, and that is what this topic became about.
 
Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
Hello Alex.

Moore was only partly correct.

If pack ice is is locked in an area free of current and wind effect then when you detect a tell-tale drop in temperature on approach depends on how long it has been there and the rate of melt. .

If pack ice is moving under the influence of wind and/or current, then you will not detect much change in sea temperature down wind and or current. It usually leaves a trail of melt water which is at 0.C.

Too may people in these pages rely on the evidence of sea temperature. Believe me, there was always problems with taking sea temperature from a moving vessel. The faster the vessel, the bigger the problems,
First, they had to use a proper sea-sampling bucket. Second, they had to recover it as quickly as possible from the sea. Third, they had to make sure that they "stirred" the thermometer for a sufficient length of time to ensure that it did not record air temperature and fourth: they had to take the reading as quickly as possible after the thermometer was removed from the bucket.
The resulting readings varied with the ability of the ABs doing the job. I have first hand experience of this having served on a weather auxiliary liner for year on the UK, New York run.

Jim C.
 
Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
There was big difference in speed between Californian and Titanic, a factor of two, giving less time to react if danger is sighted ahead. I believe it was David Brown who pointed out the difference between negligence and imprudence, and that is what this topic became about.

Absolutely! Carpathia at about a knot faster than Californian almost came a cropper. I don't think even the kindest among us could describe Captain Rostron as a cautious, careful or prudent man. That leaves negligent.

However, prudence is the practical application of knowledge gained from learning and experience. Smith's head was most certainly packed with ample portions of the last two. The only things he could not have foreseen was that isolated berg and that he was going to meet-up with it in circumstances beyond his learning or experience and for that matter, most other seamen in the area at that time.

Jim C.

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Samuel Halpern

Samuel Halpern

Member
Both Rostron and Smith were taking a risk that night. The difference is that Rostron had a compelling reason to take the risk he did, and took additional steps to minimize that risk by posting additional lookouts and keeping his engine room on standby. Smith's reason for taking the risk he did was based on an assumption that any danger that lay ahead could be spotted in enough time to avoid and therefore put all his trust in the eyes of the two lookout men in the nest and his OOW on the bridge.
 
A

Alex F

Member
Hello Alex.

Moore was only partly correct.

If pack ice is is locked in an area free of current and wind effect then when you detect a tell-tale drop in temperature on approach depends on how long it has been there and the rate of melt. .

You mean nobody on the Titanic sighted sudden drop in air temperature?
You mean they did not notice sudden drop of water temperature?
You mean they have no pumps in engine room to sample outside water? No any kingston?

PS You discuss Captains like girls.:) Nice or bad. Negligent or prudent. Fashionable or not.

There is simple test: Yes or No.


1) Did he get warnings on presence of icefield of size 20 miles x 5 miles from Hydrograhic Office before sailing? Yes or No?
2) Did he monitor ice warnings during the trip ?Yes or No?
3) Did he ask other ships for position of the icefield? Yes or No?
4) Did he change the course receiving the ice warnings? Yes or No?
5) Did he notice sudden drop of temperature? Yes or No?
6) Did he ask Marconi whether he has an ice warnings heard? Yes or No?
7) Did he stay on bridge where the situation was critical (temperature, ice warnings, moonless night) Yes or No?
8) Did he re-transmitt the MSG with icewarnings received to other ships? Yes or No?

etc

Then compare the answers for all Captains you would like to rate.

BR

Alex
 
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Adam Went

Member
Hi all,

Thanks again for the ongoing and very interesting discussion.

David, that is the problem with the criticism of Rostron - it is based entirely on "what if's", whereas the criticism of Lord (and Smith) is, to my mind, based on actual facts. There's countless examples throughout history of people who have taken significant risks in order to save the day, and it is a fine line between being a hero and a villain. However, Rostron's gamble paid off and there's not much more that needs to be said than that. Things could have been much worse if he hadn't acted in the manner that he did.

Cheers,
Adam.
 
David G. Brown

David G. Brown

RIP
Adam, pardon me if I don't choose to buy a ticket on your passenger vessel. A captain is responsible for the lives entrusted to him. He has no right to play John Wayne with innocent people. We are not talking about "what if's" with Rostron. This is just what he claimed to have done with Carpathia and his passengers. His claims are hard historical facts.

It is one thing for a person to risk his or her own life in an attempt to save others. It's even acceptable for a captain of a rescue service vessel into danger with a crew of volunteers under his command. But it is totally unacceptable for anyone to risk innocent lives for any reason, include a rescue. The fact that Rostron succeeded is of no consequence in this argument. The simple fact is that Rostron said he chose to run pall-mall toward danger with a shipload of innocent lives. That's not a "what if." Rostran claimed on the record to have been imprudent and reckless that night.

The claims are factual, but are they truthful?

Did Rostron really do what he claimed? Probably not. We know from the position of the wreck and the statements of other captains on the morning of the sinking that Carpathia did not run as far as Rostron claimed to find Titanic's boats. That means he made a slower passage, one within the capabilities of Carpathia's steam plant. So much for wringing extra speed out of the ol' girl just to save lives. It didn't happen. What did happen is that Rostron used the longer run to the CQD positions in calculating his alleged speed made good and, ta-da, a myth was born.

Having done a few rescues of my own, I know from experience that you don't steam helter-skelter right to the reported scene. Instead, you post extra lookouts not just ahead, but to both sides and even astern. Then, you reduce speed for several reasons. First, moving slower gives more time for your lookouts to spot the victims. And, equally important, a slower speed prevents running over those victims if you don't see them in time. My guess based on my experiences is that Rostron steamed at maximum speed up to the ice and once the first was spotted decreased speed. Had he not spotted Boxhall's green pyro, I'm willing to bet Rostron would have slowed to harbor speed to pick his way through the actual ice field. Rostron was an experienced master mariner. He would have known that no lives would have been saved it Carpathia suffered Titanic's fate. And, he did not know whether he would find a floating hulk of a ship, just lifeboats, or a sea littered with people in life jackets and floating on makeshift rafts. He certainly understood that any more speed than necessary steerageway would have put Titanic's victims at risk from Carpathia.

Frankly, I have always viewed Rostron as an ambitious man who took advantage of a tragic situation for his own personal gain. In my opinion the facts show he did not do the imprudent and dangerous rescue mission he claimed. The newspapers didn't care. Making him a hero helped sell newspapers.

"When the myth becomes fact, print the myth." -- newspaper editor in the American western movie "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance."

-- David G. Brown
 
Samuel Halpern

Samuel Halpern

Member
"You may depend on it, we were keyed up pretty tight, and keeping a bright lookout. I was also fully aware of our danger, knowing what had already happened to the Titanic. So it can be imagined I was pretty anxious, thinking of my passengers and crew and ship, as well as those on the Titanic. We had three and half rushing, anxious hours, and plenty to think of and plenty to do in the meantime in order to be ready."
 
Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
Hello Alex.

There was no sudden drop in temperature. Air temperature would begin to drop well before the sun set. In the afternoon, it was about 48 F. At 7 pm it was about 43 F. By 7-30 pm, 40 minutes after the sun had set, it had dropped to 39 F. That is perfectly normal. However, the air temperature drops faster during a high pressure situation therefor by 9 pm the temperature had dropped to an apparent 33 F. So you can see that the air temperature was falling in a fairly uniform way. However, it would have felt even colder to those on Watch in the Crow's Nest and to Lightoller on the exposed bridge wing. Think of wind-chill effect. Titanic was making over 25 mph. That meant that there would be an apparent wind of that speed blowing from right ahead.

I presume you mean sampling sea water from the condenser inlet? That is not a very good idea since it is surface temperature which is of most interest and he condenser inlet is too deep below the surface.

In the old days, the sea temperature thermometer was pretty crude. There was no protection for the bulb and very often they ended -up with a temperature closer to that of the air.
Here, where I live, the sea temp. in winter is 70F (about 21C) at night yet on the coldest night the air temp drops to 52F(about 12C).

The answers to your questions , unlike in a court of law, cannot be answered by a simple yes or no, they have to be qualified ones, but I'll try.

1... Irrelevant since under normal circumstances,ice moves all the time. We are not discussing normal circumstances.
2....Yes.
3....No.. that was not the practice and is still not the practice.
4....No, because he was judging the situation according to normal circumstances.
5....No. Why should he? He did not keep a watch on deck.
6....No. because he knew that if there were any warnings, his Marconi man would inform him. It was a Company Rule... navigation warnings first.
7....He did not regard the situation as critical. had he done so he would have stayed on his bridge.
8....We don't know. Titanic's wireless log (PV) did not survive.

Jim C.
 
Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
Agree with you David. Not one of my favourite people, regardless of the final outcome (and possible because of it. But that's another tale)

I would add that when Rostron heard about Titanic, you can bet your bottom dollar. the word "salvage" was foremost in his mind.

In fact, he was not an experienced Master. Of all the masters on the scenes that night, he was the least experienced.

Additionally: what clown charges off into the night letting off distress flares when he knows that there is a vessel in distress in the area and that other ships were more than likely heading for the scene?

As for Captain Smith's actions? I think 2nd Officer Lightoller summed-up what all the wise-after- the- event people miss. Consider the following:

"13569. (The Solicitor-General.) I am glad he should add it. (To the witness.) Tell us what you were going to say?
- In the event of meeting ice there are many things we look for. In the first place a slight breeze. Of course, the stronger the breeze the more visible will the ice be, or rather the breakers on the ice. Therefore at any time when there is a slight breeze you will always see at nighttime a phosphorescent line round a berg, growler, or whatever it may be; the slight swell which we invariably look for in the North Atlantic causes the same effect, the break on the base of the berg, so showing a phosphorescent glow. All bergs - all ice more or less have a crystallised side.
3572.
- As far as we could see from the bridge the sea was comparatively smooth. Not that we expected it to be smooth, because looking from the ship's bridge very frequently with quite a swell on the sea will appear just as smooth as a billiard table, perfectly smooth; you cannot detect the swell. The higher you are the more difficult it is to detect a slight swell.
.............though the sea may appear smooth, we pretty well know that there is a swell, though it may not be visible to the eye, nor yet have any effect on the ship. It is a most rare occurrence -.......
- This is the first time in my experience in the Atlantic in 24 years, and I have been going across the Atlantic nearly all the time, of seeing an absolutely flat sea."

Need I say more?

Jim C.
 
Samuel Halpern

Samuel Halpern

Member
>>I would add that when Rostron heard about Titanic, you can bet your bottom dollar. the word "salvage" was foremost in his mind.<<

Possibly the way you think.
 
A

Alex F

Member
The answers to your questions , unlike in a court of law, cannot be answered by a simple yes or no, they have to be qualified ones, but I'll try.

1... Irrelevant since under normal circumstances,ice moves all the time. We are not discussing normal circumstances.
2....Yes.
3....No.. that was not the practice and is still not the practice.
4....No, because he was judging the situation according to normal circumstances.
5....No. Why should he? He did not keep a watch on deck.
6....No. because he knew that if there were any warnings, his Marconi man would inform him. It was a Company Rule... navigation warnings first.
7....He did not regard the situation as critical. had he done so he would have stayed on his bridge.
8....We don't know. Titanic's wireless log (PV) did not survive.

Jim C.

Hello Jim,

Thanks for trying. But

8... Saying so you consider wireless logs (PVs) of other vessel irrelevant?
7... Everybody on watch was waiting a meeting with an iceberg or icefield. Was it critical?
6... Navigation warning first is a priority rule for transmitting/receiving. The was an international rule for privacy of the messages. The message with ice warning from one ship going via Titanic to another ship or shore was not handed over to the master of the Titanic. There was no such Company Rule for Marconi.
5....You mean all doors on the bridge of the Titanic were closed and they were in capsule with room temperature? No rules to stay outside on watch?
4...I don't think he felt safe himself in proximity of ice and ice warnings received.
3... TRs were the practice. What for? To ask every hour what time is it? Were radio clocks so unreliable or they were not connected to the bridge clocks?
2... Lord asked Marconi what ships did he hear? And Marconi reported to the bridge upon completion of evening watch. On Californinan, on Carpathia... Why not on Titanic?
1...You mean the ice warning sent to the Hydrographic Office by Phillips on 14th April was irrelevant and there was no sense to receive it and to re-transmit it. You mean the position of the icefield of size 20 miles x 5 miles was irrelevant to know and monitor. Are you sure?

BR

Alex
 
Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
"Possibly the way you think"

That's nice!

A call for assistance doesn't and didn't always mean that the end was near. Initially, Smith did not tell anyone his ship was sinking. The description 'sinking' ws not used for some time after the first and second CQDs
For a while, Rostron did not know Titanic was sinking. he simply knew she had struck an iceberg.

"But I suppose, like all seamen, you are on the outlook to get a bit out of a salvage service if you can render assistance to a vessel in distress?"

Who do you think asked that? Obviously not just in the minds of me and Rostron and obviously a general opinion of seamen in 1912

Jim C.
 
A

Alex F

Member
Jim, what else do you mean under "ship in distress"?

Mr. COTTAM.
He said, "Come at once. It is a distress message; C. Q. D."

Mr. ROSTRON.
The New York time at 12:35 was 10:45 p. m. Sunday night.

Immediately on getting the message, I gave the order to turn the ship around, and immediately I had given that order I asked the operator if he was absolutely sure it was a distress signal from the Titanic. I asked him twice.

Senator SMITH.
Just what was that signal?

Mr. ROSTRON.
I did not ask him. He simply told me that he had received a distress signal from the Titanic, requiring immediate assistance, and gave me his position; and he assured me he was absolutely certain of the message.

Alex
 
Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
Hello Alex.

I will answer your second post first.

A ship is in distress when her master cannot operate under normal circumstances. There are very many such circumstances; here are a few: She might loose her rudder in a storm. Her engines may break down and the engineers do not have spares to make a repair. She might be disabled because of fire (a seaman's worst nightmare) She might run out of fuel (coal). At the time of Titanic, there as a German Tank ship in distress because she had no coal so was taken in tow by another ship. She too would have sent out call for help.. a distress message... and the towing ship would have come to her rescue.

In the case of Titanic: she was IN DISTRESS at first. Then she was IN DISTRESS AND IN DANGER OF SINKING then finally she was IN DISTRESS AND SINKING.
The first and last conditions were what Titanic told the world by wireless.
There is another situation which land's people might find a bit strange. That's when a ship is NUC... NOT UNDER COMMAND. It doesn't mean she does not have a captain... just that for a short time, she is unable to operate under normal conditions. In the past, it was not necessary to warn othesr of this by wireless. The NUC ship simply hoisted day and night signals which other seamen would recognise.

Jim C
 
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