Would the press still have chewed out Ismay?


Nov 13, 2014
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They conversation between Ismay and Smith is very telling in the reception because of the way Ismay is speaking: "Well, we did better today than we did yesterday. We will beat the Olympic and get in to New York on Tuesday night." The first sentence is the most important because to me the way Ismay is talking ensures that he is part of a project or a work in progress with the objective of getting to New York a day early. That is why he is being told this information by Smith, because he is influencing the speed. If he wasn't Smith would have no reason to tell Ismay anything.
The Titanic was never built for speed, but for size and luxury, and both Ismay and Smith knew this. Smith was not steaming reckless and full-speed to New York to beat the Olympic, 2 of the 29 boilers weren't lit.

Captains are always under pressure, their ships HAVE to arrive on schedule at the destination. The only reason I see to speed up was to deal with a delay of an hour caused in Southampton (the New York incident). Titanic speeded up to 22,5 kn, with that speed she would arrive in New York right on schedule.
 
Mar 18, 2008
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The Titanic was never built for speed, but for size and luxury, and both Ismay and Smith knew this. Smith was not steaming reckless and full-speed to New York to beat the Olympic, 2 of the 29 boilers weren't lit.
I do not know where you have this from.
Only 24 boilers were lit, the 5 single ended boilers in BR 1 were not.

Titanic was doing better than Olympic and would have beat her MV time, so this is right.

Captains are always under pressure, their ships HAVE to arrive on schedule at the destination. The only reason I see to speed up was to deal with a delay of an hour caused in Southampton (the New York incident). Titanic speeded up to 22,5 kn, with that speed she would arrive in New York right on schedule.
The one hour delay did not play a role. Titanic was already doing well and on the night of the collision she was going 22,5 knots and would have arrived on Tuesday night. To arrive in New York "on schedule" she had to slow down several knots!
 

Jim Currie

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Captains are always under pressure, their ships HAVE to arrive on schedule at the destination. The only reason I see to speed up was to deal with a delay of an hour caused in Southampton (the New York incident). Titanic speeded up to 22,5 kn, with that speed she would arrive in New York right on schedule.

Ismay was a business man and a promoter of his trade. Like all such people. he "spoke with forked tongue". He was in the passenger ship business and knew very well how to use his public conversations with Captain Smith to further his business. He had two types of conversation.. a public one and a private one. While as owner he was perfectly entitled to discuss operational matters with Captain Smith, he was in the end, simply a passenger with a bit more influence than the average passenger. Captain Smith was ruled not by Ismay but by the British Board of Trade. While Ismay might stop him working for WSL, the BoT had supreme influence as to whether he worked or did not work at his trade of seafarer.

There is no evidence that Titanic's speed was deliberately increased between Noon April 14 and the moment of impact.

Titanic did nor speed up. The last of the double ended boilers were lit am Sunday and put on line after 6pm that evening. However when that happened,the firemen were ordered to "ease firing". At that moment, Titanic's main engines were turning at 75 revs per minute. The order to ease firing meant that for the time being and until further notice from the bridge, engine revolutions were to be maintained at 75/min. The reason the speed increased to 22.5 knots was that for the first time while running at 75 rpm, there was no wind, current or sea to slow the ship down. Add to that the fact that she was brand new and her bottom was clear of any marine growth. Almost 100% perfect, text book conditions.

The captain of a liner on any regular route has to take into account the possibilities of delay during the voyage. He therefore keeps 'a little up his sleeve" as we used to say. He cannot be sure that his vessel will maintain a desired average speed for the entire voyage In Smith's case, he knew very well that on his route he had three major causes that might slow his ship down. These were the prevailing south westerlies which often were storm force at the Equinoxes...the Gulf Stream which although always met-with, was unpredictable in strength and direction and in April, fog when less than 1000 miles from the US coast. To suggest that he was able to ensure the exact time of arrival is nonsense. He had a desired ETA. Most of the time he would keep to the schedule. It all depended on how much he had "up his sleeve". His skill lay in his ability to determine the amount to keep. He had no allowance for an "Act of God".

Jim C.
 
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Dec 4, 2000
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Jim --

I think you're letting the facts get in the way of charming old myths. As the reporter said in the movie, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence," -- 'when the myth becomes fact, print the myth.'

No matter how strongly the facts support your argument (and in this case they do), you can never overcome the power of myth.

-- David G. Brown
 
Nov 13, 2014
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I thought the NGC Seconds From Disaster documentary about the Titanic was quite reliable, but it seems like they made some serious errors. They said that only 2 of the 29 boilers were out, and that the plotted speed would make Titanic arrive in New York right on schedule.
 
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Documentaries are not always good. I saw this one 1 or 2 times but remember it has several mistakes.

Sadly there are a few others which also have made up stuff.
 
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Rennette Marston

Rennette Marston
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I don't think it would've mattered much in the end. The press and the public was looking for a scapegoat and J. Bruce Ismay seemed to fit the bill. He was after all the chairman of the White Star Line, and therefore was the responsible party in the court of public opinion. Whether he deserved it is another question, but I believe the media has overexaggerated his influence on Captain Smith. From reading Elizabeth Lines' testimony, it seems that Ismay was very pleased with the Titanic's performance and was very optimistic about the Titanic beating the Olympic's record by arriving in New York a day earlier in his conversation with Captain Smith. But nowhere in her testimony did she say that he ordered or instructed the captain to increase her speed because the vessel was already sailing at 20+ knots by the time Ismay conversed with Smith in the Reception Room, which was also discussed. There was no need to change her speed at the time.

Here's a long excerpt from her deposition at the Limitation of Liability Hearings:

39. About how long, within your knowledge, did Mr. Ismay and Captain Smith remain in this reception room engaged in conversation?
- At least two hours.

40. Were you there all of that time?
- I was there.

41. Are you able to state from your recollection the words that you heard spoken between Mr. Ismay and Captain Smith on that occasion?
- We had had a very good run. At first I did not pay any attention to what they were saying, they were simply talking and I was occupied, and then my attention was arrested by hearing the day's run discussed, which I already knew had been a very good one in the preceeding (sic) twenty-four hours, and I heard Mr. Ismay - it was Mr. Ismay who did the talking - I heard him give the length of the run, and I heard him say "Well, we did better to-day than we did yesterday, we made a better run to-day than we did yesterday, we will make a better run to-morrow. Things are working smoothly, the machinery is bearing the test, the boilers are working well". They went on discussing it, and then I heard him make the statement: "We will beat the Olympic and get in to New York on Tuesday."

42. In your last statement, Mrs. Lines, were you giving the substance of the conversation or the exact words which were used?
- I heard "We will beat the Olympic and get in to New York on Tuesday" in those words.

43. If there were any particular words spoken that you can remember, I should be glad to hear them.
- Those words fixed themselves in my mind: "We will beat the Olympic and get in to New York on Tuesday."

44. Do I understand you to say that the other things that you stated were the general substance of what you heard and not the exact things or words used?
- No, I heard those statements.

45. What was said by Mr. Ismay as regards the condition of the performances, of the engines, machinery and boilers?
- He said they were doing well, they were bearing the extra pressure. The first day's run had been less, the second day's run had been a little greater. He said "You see they are standing the pressure, everything is going well, the boilers are working well, we can do better to-morrow, we will make a better run to-morrow."

46. In speaking of standing the pressure well, Mr. Ismay was referring to the boilers, was he not?
- Of the boilers, I gathered.

47. I understand that hitherto you have been stating what you heard Mr. Ismay say: is that true?
- Yes.

48. What, if anything, did you hear Captain Smith say?
- I did not hear anything.

49. Did you hear the sound of his voice?
- No.

50. Won't you describe as well as you can, the tone and gesture of Mr. Ismay in this conversation?
- It was very positive, one might almost say dictatorial. He asked no questions.

51. Mrs. Lines, if you can recall anything else sat at that conversation, either in words or in substance, please state it.
- There was a great deal of repetition. I heard them discuss other steamers, but what I paid the most attention to was the Titanic's runs, and it was simply that Mr. Ismay repeated several times "Captain, we have done so and so, we have done so and so, everything is working well." He seemed to dwell upon the fact, and it took quite a little time, and then finally I heard this very positive assertion: "We will beat the Olympic and we will get into New York on Tuesday" but he asked no questions.

52. Did you hear anything said by Mr. Ismay that directly or indirectly sought information from Captain Smith as to the performances of the vessel or as to Captain Smith's opinion of what the vessel could fairly do?
- No, I did not.

53. What would you say as to your ability to hear all that was said in an ordinary tone of voice between Captain Smith and Mr. Ismay in the positions in which they were and you were on that afternoon of Saturday?
- It was quite possible, as during the latter part of the time there were very few people left in the lounge and it was quiet.

54. You say it was possible for you to hear?
- It was possible to hear ordinary conversation.

55. Do you recall any conversation on that occasion between Mr. Ismay and Captain Smith as to the performances of another vessel of the line?
- No, excepting the comparison with the runs of the Olympic.

56. And what runs of the Olympic were they using as a comparison?
- The trial trip.

57. Do you mean the maiden voyage?
- Yes, the maiden voyage.

58. And what was the substance or the words if you can give them, of the conversation as regards the Olympic?
- It was comparison, and that the Titanic was doing equally well, and they seemed to think a little more pressure could be put on the boilers and the speed increased so that the maiden trip of the Titanic would exceed the maiden trip of the Olympic in speed.

59. Mrs. Lines, won't you explain just what you mean by your words "They seemed to think"? I wish to exclude your own impressions and ask you merely what you heard said on that subject?
- They stated the run of the Titanic was equal to the run of the Olympic. Mr. Ismay did the talking, I did not hear Captain Smith's voice. I saw him nod his head a few times.

60. Did he nod his head so as to indicate assent or dissent?
- Assent.

61What was it that Mr. Ismay said from which you say you drew the impression that they seemed to think that the Titanic would beat the Olympic or that the Titanic compared well with the Olympic?
- They made comparisons in numbers which I cannot repeat, the number of miles run in various days. Mr. Ismay gave the runs made on certain days by the Olympic on its maiden voyage and compared them with the runs made y the Titanic on the first days.

62. You have stated several times, Mrs. Lines, that Mr. Ismay made assertions or statements as to what "we" would do, using the pronoun "we". Did he use any other pronoun that you know of in this conversation?
- No, Mr. Ismay said "we" and he asked no questions. He made assertions, he made statements. I did not hear him defer to Captain Smith at all.
 
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Rennette Marston

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Here's what Mr. Ismay said about the Titanic's speed during her maiden voyage before the United States Senate Inquiry:
Senator SMITH.
Will you describe the trials she went through?

Mr. ISMAY.
I was not present.

She arrived at Southampton on Wednesday, the 3rd, I think, and sailed on Wednesday, the 10th. She left Southampton at 12 o'clock.

She arrived in Cherbourg that evening, having run over at 68 revolutions.

We left Cherbourg and proceeded to Queenstown. We arrived there, I think, about midday on Thursday.

We ran from Cherbourg to Queenstown at 70 revolutions.

After embarking the mails and passengers, we proceeded at 70 revolutions. I am not absolutely clear what the first day's run was, whether it was 464 miles or 484 miles.

The second day the number of revolutions was increased. I think the number of revolutions on the second day was about 72. I think we ran on the second day 519 miles.

The third day the revolutions were increased to 75, and I think we ran 546 or 549 miles.

The weather during this time was absolutely fine, with the exception, I think, of about 10 minutes' fog one evening.

The accident took place on Sunday night. What the exact time was I do not know. I was in bed myself, asleep, when the accident happened.

The ship sank, I am told, at 2:20.

That, sir, I think is all I can tell you.

I understand it has been stated that the ship was going at full speed. The ship never had been at full speed. The full speed of the ship is 78 revolutions. She works up to 80. So far as I am aware, she never exceeded 75 revolutions. She had not all her boilers on. None of the single-ended boilers were on.

It was our intention, if we had fine weather on Monday afternoon or Tuesday, to drive the ship at full speed. That, owing to the unfortunate catastrophe, never eventuated.
 
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