Why 37 seconds doesn't work


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Mar 22, 2003
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OK Michael, per your suggestion, a new thread called "Why 37 seconds doesn't work."

In your post 15856 on 06:14, Dec 1, 2007 located HERE, you said:
quote:

If the Titanic had still been turning to port when she went on the berg, it's unlikely to the point of being impossible for the ship to bring her head around to starboard if the rudder was shifted over right then and there. In other words, she would have been torn open from stem to stern over her entire length.

By torn open I assume you mean that there would be enough pressure on the hull plates to pop rivets and open up seams along the entire starboard side allowing water to enter the ship, as opposed to cutting the hull plate like a knife. We know that is what likely happen to the first third of the vessel, the area where the hull continued to widen out from the ship's centerline. The area of damage was in the area of the turn of the bilge on the starboard side there. In the first 4 compartments this area is unprotected, as the double bottom did not extend out to side plates. In BR 6 the double bottom did extend out to side, but the side plating was not vertical there but still curved outward and upward. In the aft end of that particular space (near bulkhead E) damage was visually seen about 2 ft above the stokehold plates, about where the seam is between strakes K and L if memory serves correctly. However, once you get past the next bulkhead (F) the side plating above the protected double-bottom area becomes almost vertical and is also running parallel to the ship's centerline. In other words, the hull is no longer widening outward.

To produce damage in the region aft of bulkhead F (BR 4 and aft) requires enough pressure on the hull to cause plates to bend and rivets to pop. Would there be enough side force per square inch to do that? Sliding against a wall of ice by itself should not cause fatal damage. (Ice is not rock or concrete or steel.) The frictional force of steel on ice is something like 5% of whatever perpendicular force there is. There would be no rendering of metal especially if the contact area was relatively large. (Think skis.)

From several passenger and crew member accounts, the iceberg passed close enough to cause ice to enter some open port holes in first class space on D and E decks, for water to be seen on the windows of the Cafe Parisien up on B deck, and for the berg be seen as close as 10-20 ft from side of the poop deck near the afterbridge. So even if the helm was ordered to be shifted as close as the initial point of contact, the stern did NOT swing away from the berg until the berg had passed well aft. And by the way, the bilge keel on the starboard side would NOT be damaged unless the ice ran under the turn of the bilge along the midship hull sections, something that apparently didn't happen from what we could see on the overturned (now discovered) missing pieces.​
 
Oct 28, 2000
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It is possible to take Titanic around the berg with only 37 seconds notice. Two Maine Maritime Academy students managed this feat on the Academy's ship bridge simulator. The "model" ship was about the same overall size as Titanic, but slightly less (yes, less) responsive -- if the 1912 sea trials can be believed.

The students applied left standard rudder at 37 seconds. Once the bow began to visibly rotate, they shifted to neutral rudder. Then, as the berg came almost abreast of the stem they applied right standard rudder. Notice, no "hard over" rudder ever. The result was exactly the port-around maneuver most people envision Murdoch attempted.

Now, this does not lay the matter to rest. On subsequent tries they could not duplicate that first run. And no one in dozens of "runs" in two sessions since has been able to do it, either.

Also, the students knew the exercise ahead of time. They weren't "blind" to upcoming events as was Murdoch that night. And, they had time to discuss and mentally rehearse their actions before facing the iceberg. Again, Murdoch had no such opportunity.

So, I think the simulator taught us that the conventional port-around maneuver was almost certainly doomed to failure. Not absolutely doomed, just not damned likely to succeed in the real world -- even though it was done once. Unfortunately that once was not the once that counted.

-- David G. Brown
 
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>>They weren't "blind" to upcoming events as was Murdoch that night. And, they had time to discuss and mentally rehearse their actions before facing the iceberg. Again, Murdoch had no such opportunity<<

If Murdoch managed to work things out on the fly to produce something even close to what the students did, that would be a remarkable feat of timing and seamanship in it's own right.

I think what it boils down to is that in theory it's just barely possible to pull something like this off. However, since they couldn't repeat this feat, that doesn't really bode well for getting it done in the real world.

>>By torn open I assume you mean that there would be enough pressure on the hull plates to pop rivets and open up seams along the entire starboard side allowing water to enter the ship, as opposed to cutting the hull plate like a knife. <<

That's what I mean. Ice doesn't cut like a knife through steel, but hit it hard enough and continue to do so, and you'll still come off with substantial through hull damage involving most if not all of the watertight compartments.

David, would it be possible to get the track charts of these experiments to show what happened and the time scale involved? If they're hard for anyone to read, I'm sure Sam can come up with a good graphic to explain it.
 
Jun 12, 2004
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quote:

If Murdoch managed to work things out on the fly to produce something even close to what the students did, that would be a remarkable feat of timing and seamanship in it's own right.

Could this be possibly why the students couldn't repeat it so precisely? There's something to be said about getting it right by not thinking about it. On the other hand, Murdoch wasn't necessarily thinking about it (being blind), and look what happen.​
 
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>>Could this be possibly why the students couldn't repeat it so precisely? <<

It's possible. I'd be a tad skeptical of the idea that Murdoch didn't think about it, but he would have had to do it damned fast.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Correct me Dave or Capt. Weeks, but doesn't the new MMA simulator stop as soon as contact is made with an object? In other words, how the ship interacted with an object after contact is not part of the simulation?

It my be an interesting exercise for students to see if they could avoid contact with an iceberg given a certain amount of warning, however, what I would find more relevant is to see what could replicate the known accident if possible. The warning time available to Murdoch was not 37 seconds. It was at a minimum a little more than the time it takes takes to briskly walk down from the standard compass platform and enter the navigating bridge. Realistically, we are talking about 50 seconds minimum between 3 bells and the initial impact when you include a few seconds for reaction time. The Wreck Commission report concluded that the iceberg was first seen at a distance of about 500 yards. That was simply based on adding 3 seconds (for the order to be given) to the famous 37 seconds, or a total of 40 seconds sighting to impact.
 
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Sam-

quote:

Realistically, we are talking about 50 seconds minimum between 3 bells and the initial impact when you include a few seconds for reaction time. The Wreck Commission report concluded that the iceberg was first seen at a distance of about 500 yards. That was simply based on adding 3 seconds (for the order to be given) to the famous 37 seconds, or a total of 40 seconds sighting to impact.

Even if it had been, in reality, 50 seconds, what difference would it have made? Yes, every second counted, but it still wasn't enough time for Murdoch to get the order out and avoid coming in contact with the iceberg. Or are you merely trying to establish the actual amount of time that was involved.

I know this is another 'what-if', but would anything have transpired differently had Olliver (or was it Boxhall?) run from the compass platform to the bridge instead of walked? Would the person at the compass platform have had a clear vantage point to witness the iceberg approaching from forward? You continuously mention the compass platform in your assessment of Murdoch's behavior and the actions taken on the bridge, so I surmise that this station, and the person located there, held some significant role in the collision.​
 
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Mike-

quote:

It's possible. I'd be a tad skeptical of the idea that Murdoch didn't think about it, but he would have had to do it damned fast.

The thing is, unlike the students who were consistently trying to manipulate things deliberately, Murdoch was merely reacting naturally to the circumstances, obviously unsure of what was going to happen, when, how . . . Had he the time to assess the situation as thoroughly as our students--hindsight or no hindsight--the story would likely have turned out much differently. I'm not necessarily talking about knowledge acquired; I am referring to the fact that Murdoch only had a one-shot deal, whereas the students had multiple opportunities. Sometimes the more you manipulate a given situation to meet your needs, the results don't turn out the way you want because you have too much control over the said situation. Yes, it sounds philosophical, but there's some truth in philosophy. Comparing Murdoch with the students, in this sense, is comparing apples and oranges because the overall circumstances were different. This is why I am not surprised that the students weren't able to repeat the desired results and why I wouldn't trust such experiments to ascertain what was going through Murdoch's mind or determine exactly what happened on the bridge that night and why.​
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Mark-
quote:

Or are you merely trying to establish the actual amount of time that was involved.
Yes, I'm just trying to show that realistically there was more time than was concluded in the Commission Report. It was QM Olliver who was on the compass platform. When 3 bells were struck he said he looked up, obviously an instinctive reaction, but could not see anything ahead since his view was obviously blocked by the 2nd funnel. But he did say that he left the platform and was just entering the bridge when the collision happened. He gave no indication that he ran to the bridge, and there would be no reason for him to do so. People's estimates of time are usually not very reliable. But the significance here is that we do know the distance that he had to go and we know what an average brisk walking speed would be. As I understand it, James Cameron had also timed this same route on the full-scale set of his movie and completed it in 45 seconds. I'm adding some reaction time which is why I said a minimum of 50 seconds. It might have been as much as a minute.

quote:

You continuously mention the compass platform in your assessment of Murdoch's behavior and the actions taken on the bridge, so I surmise that this station, and the person located there, held some significant role in the collision.
I don't hold any significance except in how it can be used to establish a more realistic time frame. Olliver did not testify before the British Inquiry. The commission's conclusion on the time frame was based on the assumption that the iceberg was seen about 3 seconds before the helm order was given. This doesn't even fit the testimony of Hichens or Fleet or Lee because there is no time built in for the phone call from the nest. Fleet thought he was at the phone for about 1/2 a minute, and Hichens thought the time from 3 bells till he received the helm order was about 1/2 a minute. Mersey's assessors simply assumed the ship turned exactly 2 points, derived 466 yards based on Wilding's 37 seconds, and added about 3 seconds more to get a very neat 500 yards for when the berg was first sighted. It was a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation by Mersey's assessors without much additional thought behind it. And that's how 37 seconds became the magic time involved, and 1500 feet (1/4 nautical mile) the magic distance for the sighting. And that is what the world believes to be true.

Mark, as far as assessing Murdoch's reaction, he might have seen the berg before Fleet or Lee, or he might have first seen it after the 3 bells. But he apparently did not bark out orders immediately without first trying to assess the situation, which is exactly what I would expect a competent officer to first do.​
 
Oct 28, 2000
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For the record, on the run where the students avoided the iceberg we used a 50 second advance warning. They were not told when that would occur, although we could not mask the "berg" because of the limitations of the electronics. We rang 3 strikes on a bell (make that a loud bell) to simulate the lookout's first warning and then let the guys in the wheelhouse do that voodoo that they did do so well.

The 50 second warning was to replicate the minimum walking time from compass platform to bridge as described by Sam.

The students did not have to deal with closing watertight doors--something that Murdoch had to do that night.

Unfortunately, the simulator is not designed to show the interaction between the ship and whatever it hits. Once contact is made, the exercise is ended simply because the whole point of simulations is to learn how to NOT hit things.

One rather consistent result was that in failed attempts the ship almost always contacted first in the area that Boxhall described as the "bluff of the bow." Due to the outward kick of the stern, the computer always thought the stem and forefoot were safely tucked away from contact.

I do have some computer printouts. And, I will try to scan and post them, my steam-powered internet connection allowing. However, I will need some time. I've just had surgery on my rather expansive belly and it still hurts to blink.

-- David G. Brown
 
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>>I am referring to the fact that Murdoch only had a one-shot deal, whereas the students had multiple opportunities.<<

Which, in my opinion, is exactly the point that David was trying to make. It's one thing to work out ahead of time what you're going to do in a sterile and forgiving academic environment, but it's a completely different thing to work things out on the fly when you're at the bottom of the world's steepest learning curve. (And the real ocean rarely forgives mistakes!)

What you can achieve with the simulator is a close approximation of what's possible and a very good picture of what isn't possible. That may get you closer to what really happened, but it's not the home run.

>>Due to the outward kick of the stern, the computer always thought the stem and forefoot were safely tucked away from contact.<<

What I'm wondering if the mass of the ship on impact was sufficient to cause the berg to pivot with the hull. A wild thought, but it might explain a few things.
 

Steven Hall

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Perhaps 37 seconds to the time it appeared alongside the stem. Perhaps if there was two, not one - it seems to work.
No one has defined actually how big an iceberg had to be to have caused the damage. The same result may have happened from a berg half the height out the water.
Which ever way you cut it - it don't work.
I think they seen the larger one, and hit the closer in smaller one.
But again, that's my opinion on how to pair things up.
This is all like a dog chasing its own tail.
You cannot prove there was two. That doesn't mean there wasn't either !
 
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Steve-- I played with a two-berg theory for about a year before finally discarding it. In my opinion, two bergs answers a few questions perfectly, but simply is not a "best fit" all of the known information. Nor are two bergs necessary to reconstruct an accident scenario that does contain each of the known facts. So, I've discarded the two berg idea (for now).

For nearly 100 years now virtually every historian has taken the classic Mersey version of the accident and tried to "prove" it with testimony from the crew. That's a kind of self deception and not forensic science.

It is time to question everything. For instance, the students who rounded the berg knew not to use a "hard over" rudder. The reasons are several, but hard over often causes stalling of the water flow over the rudder blade and decreases steering. They also knew that standard rudder gets the job done, but saves time when shifting to opposite rudder due to less swing of the blade. Murdoch certainly had this knowledge, although he may not have known about streamlines, burbles, and laminar flow. His knowledge would have been empirical, but from an operational standpoint undoubtedly more useful than textbook science. Why, then, did Hichens claim there was a "hard a-starboard" command?

Creative solutions to problems start by getting a little crazy...think outside the hull, so to speak...come up with even whacky suggestions...then winnow down to those ideas that have the ring of truth. Thomas Edison said he didn't so much invent the light bulb as he did find thousands of filaments that won't work to make light.

Most of the time you gain more understanding from learning what is not true than you do from finding a new kernel of fact.

-- David G. Brown
 
Mar 22, 2003
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quote:

The "model" ship was about the same overall size as Titanic, but slightly less (yes, less) responsive -- if the 1912 sea trials can be believed.

Why should this come as a surprise? A simulation is only as good as the program that created it. The wrong thing to do would be to come to conclusions about Titanic from a simulation that does not match the turning parameters of the real ship. The Titanic was a triple screw vessel, and enough of her turning characteristics are known to be able to replicate a turn with hard-over helm. With 50 seconds warning, if acted upon immediately, the ship would have missed the berg completely even if it were initially dead ahead. But that of course is asking too much because it doesn't include any assessment time to determine what is the appropriate action to take.
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Sam's drawing shows a clear passage, or does it? How much of the berg extended out under water and how far? What about calf ice? Also, Sam has assumed everything went exactly perfectly regarding the timing of the helm action. In the real world, however many is the slip between cup and lip.

That said, I think what he shows and the one successful "port around" done by the MMA students is proof of sorts that the iceberg was technically avoidable even at extremely short range. What the simulations do not show is that the iceberg was actually avoidable in a real world where people factor into the equations.

Something else that the simulations do seem to put to rest is the idea that Titanic's rudder was too small or that the ship was unresponsive to its helm. The 1912 maneuvering data compares quite favorably to modern ships of similar size and bulk. Titanic may not have been able to pirouette like a ballerina, but it was still quite nimble for such a large moving object.

To come back to Sam's original point, the ship model we used is constructed off a currently-sailing passenger liner. I is a bit less responsive than Titanic showed itself to be in those 1912 sea trials--if we received true data from them. I put this codicil on my statement only to remind everyone that the people who presented the data had every reason to give an overly-positive view of Titanic's capabilities to eliminate consideration of "bad design" as a factor in the accident.

--David G. Brown
 
Mar 22, 2003
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I should have also included the classic 37 second scenario analytical picture. These were done for the 2006 Toledo Symposium presentation I gave called: "Turning in Cicles - The Turning Characteristics of the SS Titanic" described HERE.
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I thought the myth about the inadequacy of the rudder was put to bed some time ago by Capt. Charles Weeks of the MMA in ET article #1526. Looking at the ship's wake in that Father Brown photo HERE of the Titanic doing S turns to test the compasses shows the ship to be quite agile in her turning ability. I guess the some myths live on.
 
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Gentlemen:
I ship we use is the M.S. Fantasy. She is twin screw, twin rudder, it is the closest we can come to Titanic. The manufacturer of the simulator estimates it will cost $25,000 to build a virtual Titanic. As it turns out the Fantasy has more advance but slightly less transfer. That is she goes further ahead before changing course 90 degrees, but doesn't move as far off the side while doing it. When seen plotted on graph paper it indicates that if the Fantasy can clear the berg the Titanic should have been able to.
As to what the students did. With a quarter mile starting range most hit the berg, some with the starb'd bow, others with the starb'd quarter. Move them out to a third of a mile starting range and most missed the berg. Unfortunately I don't have any copies of the plots of those runs. I believe Sam and or David have them.
Regards,
Charlie Weeks
 
Mar 22, 2003
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quote:

As it turns out the Fantasy has more advance but slightly less transfer. That is she goes further ahead before changing course 90 degrees, but doesn't move as far off the side while doing it.
And that may be enough to explain why, with as much as 50 seconds warning, a collision could NOT be avoided on the simulator except in one case.

At the Ryan trial in 1913 it was reported that Wilding testified that the Olympic ran about 440 yards ahead and about 100 yards laterally when she turned 2 points to port. The measurement location on the ship was on the bridge wing which would have been close to the ship's pivot point. This was the test on the Olympic following the Titanic disaster. The speed of the ship was 21.5 knots (36.3 ft/sec) and the turn of 2 points was at 37 seconds after the order was given. It should be noted that the order to reverse the engines, given at the same time, had no affect within this time frame which can easily be seen by the distance the ship travelled in those 37 seconds.

Charlie, I don't have any bridge simulator printouts.​
 
Oct 28, 2000
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Sam -- you are correct that the simulated ship may have skewed us more toward "failure to round" than Titanic. However, in that respect we very closely simulated the actual outcome of April 14, 1912.

As to Titanic's maneuvering...well, let me say I'm not comfortable with having just Wilding's numbers. Not to call him a liar, but there can be no doubt he had a vested interest in making Titanic and Harland & Wolff look as good as possible. I would love to see an independent audit of the tests done on Olympic just to verify that we are getting the straight dope. To repeat, I'm not saying that Wilding lied. What I am saying is that without proof that he told the truth his numbers must be entered into the record with an asterisk next to them. They aren't scientific fact without independent corroboration.

Even so, the simulator showed time after time the same basic outcome as Titanic demonstrated. What we learned is obvious. Don't wait to maneuver until you are within about 50 seconds of an iceberg in a large passenger ship. And, this bit of knowledge is really the nubbin of the story. What in 'ell was Titanic doing with 30 miles of that iceberg, let alone a few hundred yards?

Which brings us back to Sam's question about the captain (or captains) who did it right that night.

-- David G. Brown
 
Mar 22, 2003
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quote:

I would love to see an independent audit of the tests done on Olympic just to verify that we are getting the straight dope...They aren't scientific fact without independent corroboration.
I'm afraid your not going to get any such thing because it simply doesn't exist. I find no reason not to believe the data Wilding provided. He had no reason not to be truthful. There was no basic flaw in the ship's design. Some people, who have no idea of what they are talking about, have said that her rudder was too small, and the ship was not as responsive as it should have been for a vessel of her size. Capt. Weeks showed this not to be the case, and the photo evidence seems to verify that the ship was quite agile in her turning ability. If you care to, and have the funds to do so, you can have a mockup built of the vessel and test it in a tank to see if he was telling the truth.

There is just so much that one can get from reading the transcripts of the various testimonies. At least with some scientific parameters to work with, we have a chance to determine what was possible from what was impossible. It is the best we have to work with, and unless someone can show good reason why his numbers are incorrect, I for one will continue to use the only hard data we have. Otherwise, you have nothing but your imagination to play with, and that is not research.​
 
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