Encyclopedia Titanica

'Ears' of Titanic Fail

Chicago Daily News

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Local Hydrographic Experts Tell of Device on Bows to Catch Vibrations.

Iceberg’s Drift Noiseless

Operator of Submarine Phone Probably Crushed At His Post When Prow Was Smashed

A ship’s “ears” formed a novel subject of discussion in the federal building and elsewhere to-day as one result of the Titanic disaster.

That liner, like all other ocean going steamships, is equipped with a pair of “ears”—a contrivance attached to the ship’s bows just in front of the forepeak. The “ears” are designed to record all sound vibrations which impinge upon them and transmit them to a disk where a receiving operator sits, alert for unseen perils. “But an iceberg—huge, derelict engine of destruction that it is—moves in silence.

The monstrous hulk of jagged ice which bore awkwardly down the Labrador current sent forth no intimation of its menace. No rumblings reached the operator at the submarine telephone of the Titanic until the shock of impact hurled him from his post.

If, as is believed, the crash crushed the bow of the vessel, it is probable that the operator was the first victim of the disaster, said nautical experts to-day. The submarine telephone failed to sound its warning of doom.

Explain Workings of Instrument

John A. McAleer, nautical expert stationed at the government hydrographic office, and Lieut. J. A. Comfort, U.S.N., in charge of the station, explained the workings of the submarine telephone to a reporter for The Daily News.

“Although practically all ocean vessels are equipped with the “ears,” they would avail nothing. In an accident such as happened to the Titanic,” said Mr. McAleer. “There must be some outside stimulus such as a bell ringing on a buoy, or the blowing of a whistle. Icebergs, of course, jog along with the current without making any appreciable sound. It is likely that the operator aboard the Titanic had no intimation of the proximity of the berg up to the time of the crash.

Best Service Near Coast

“Submarine phones do their best service on lightships and vessels doing duty near the coast. It is necessary in case of fog to be warned of the nearness of other ships, and when the phenomenon called the opacity of the air occurs horn signals and even discharges of guncotton cannot be heard. The submarine phones record vibrations, no matter what the weather is. They are useful up to a distance of about seven nautical miles.”

An interesting side light on the rescue of 868 passengers from the Titanic was given by Mr. McAleer when he explained the modern method of lowering boats into the sea in case of shipwreck.

Patent Davits Help in Saving Life

“I believe the fact that the boats were lowered safely and that those taken off the wreck were safely placed aboard the Carpathia is due to the Welin davits with which the ship was equipped. Where formerly six men or more were required to lower a boat one or two can do the work and in one-third the time. Boats can e...[?]

Chicago Daily News, Wednesday, April 17, 1912, p. 2, c. 4


Thomas E. Golembiewski


Encyclopedia Titanica (2009) 'Ears' of Titanic Fail (Chicago Daily News, Wednesday 17th April 1912, ref: #10926, published 13 October 2009, generated 28th October 2021 09:19:58 PM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/ears-of-titanic-fail.html