View Full Version : I know why Titanic hit the iceberg

12-29-2000, 04:59 PM
I've just seen the film on the telly. Lookout says 'Iceberg dead ahead'
Bridge Officer says 'Hard a'starboard'
Helmsman spins the wheel hard a'port!!
Can't Hollywood get anything right or is that really what happened?

Mark Van
12-29-2000, 05:22 PM
I read somewhere that if they wouldn't hav turned the ship to avoid the iceberg, the Titanic would have hit it head-on, and wouldn't have sunk.

Dale Genther
12-29-2000, 05:58 PM
I don't know if it is true or not, but I was told early ships steering systems were set up so they turned the the way a tiller would. I.E. to turn to port you would turn the wheel to starboard. If this is true Hollywood should be commended (for once) for getting it right.

12-29-2000, 06:08 PM
I seem to remember reading that some maneuver, seemingly contrary to common sense, involving the engines and the helm, was attempted. A "port around" for some reason sticks to my dendrites, but who knows.

Com'on, ya can't trust Hooeywood, though in this case the director was no fool, and I think he likely directed as the history records. Don't know about the confusion between port and starboard.

I also remember speculation that ramming that sucker head on would have allowed them to continue on. Wouldn't have been nearly the movie!

Sorry, I should be more respectful of the dead, and one of the most poignant of human dramas short of war.

Best all, Ishmael

Bob Cleek
12-29-2000, 07:04 PM
Nope, the Limeys always rove their steering cables so they'd turn the wrong way. Same as the way they drive on the wrong side of the road....

12-29-2000, 11:02 PM
The director tried his very best to be acurate even to the point of stoping the ships clocks at the time they were found to show when one visits the ship today.

I belive that is correct about had they hit head on likely they would not have sunk because of 6 water tight bulkheads acrost the ship that devided it into 7 sections. The bulkheads did not extend to the main deck mevel only a little bit think two decks above the water line. a head on hit would have flooded the bow but not depressed the head of the ship enough for water to flow over top the bulkheads insteed the first three sections were flooded and the water went over the top of the vertical bulkheads ironinly had their been a horozontal water tight deck running the length of the ship acrost the top of the vertical bulkheads the ship could have survived even with the first three sections flooded.

The sister ship of the JIN Yamata ( the Shamazo?) that was converted to a carrior and sunk by a us sub before even being comissioned was likely lost because the torpedos struck right at the edge of the armored bilge and right on the end of some massive cross girders that were off set and ruptured the lengthwise bulkheads that devided the ship into three sections lengthwise. further as the ship had not been finished and each compartment tested for leakage even though the hatches were shut water leaked where walls met decks and ceilings.

Art Read
12-30-2000, 02:35 AM
Interesting to speculate on what would have happened had the ship been allowed to ram it head on. Probably would've saved it in my uninformed opinion. Look at the STOCKOLM/ANDRIA DORIA incident. But I bet the sea lawers would have eaten that poor skipper and the officer of the watch for lunch anyway. "Do you mean to tell us, sir, that you simply LET the ship hit the iceburg without attempting ANY evasive manuevers?"

Andrew Craig-Bennett
12-30-2000, 04:20 AM
Sorry, chaps. The film is correct. The helm orders were given in the sense of a tiller, so that "hard a-starboard" meant "put the wheel to port" with wheel steering, until 1930, when they were reversed by International Convention.

The manouvre attempted was to "port round" the iceberg, putting the helm first to port, then reversing it to throw the stern clear.

The Titanic was an awkward ship to steer, because of her propeller arrangements; she had twin, four cylinder, triple expansion engines (two LP cylinders, quite normal, but these were the largest ever built, incidentally) on the two outboard shafts and the centre shaft was driven by a low pressure turbine into which the four LP cylinders exhausted; vacuum was maintained by the condenser.

Being turbine driven, the centre shaft had no astern power (there was no astern turbine installed, because manoevring was done using the reciprocating engines). But, unlike later multiple screw ships, there was only a single rudder, which operated in the wash of the centre screw. Stopping engines therefore reduced steering ability dramatically.

It is an interestesting reflection on the last century that the White Star Line (a British subsidiary of JP Morgan's American International Mercantile Marine group) settled the passenger claims in New York not London because at that time damages levels were lower in the USA! The Titanic was in effect flying the flag of Britain as a flag of convenience, and her owners "forum shopped" for the cheapest jurisdiction to establish the limitation fund and pay the claims in.

They were represented in New York by Burlingham Underwood and Lord, a firm which is still prominent and which has in its office a photo of the iceberg with a streak of red boot top paint down it!

A bit of marine insurance trivia is that, at the time of her loss, the Titanic was uninsured for liability claims. White Star Line had placed the hull insurances with Lloyds but had forgotten to effect the P&I entry, which was intended to be with the Liverpool and London P&I Club. The Club held an emergency board meeting which resolved that the oversight was accidental and that they should pay the claims (US$4.5M) anyway.

The third sister, the Brittanic, was torpedoed in WW1 en route to Gallipoli as a hospital ship, having never entered commercial service. All her watertight doors and portholes were open to air the ship despite the presence of submarines, which is why she sank.

The oldest sister, the Olympic, was scrapped in the 1930's, after a long and faultless career, in the course of which she became known as "Old Reliable"!

Finally, the lifeboats. The Titanic actually carried four more lifeboats (the four collapsibles) more than the Board of Trade regulations required! Moral; Government regulations are sometimes silly. The statement made by Andrews in the film, that he had designed the ship with lifeboats for everyone, but White Star cancelled them because they obstructed the promenade decks, is also correct.

I'm not a Titanic nut; I built a ship at Harland and Wolff, a few years back, and absorbed this lot by osmosis!

[This message has been edited by Andrew Craig-Bennett (edited 12-30-2000).]

12-30-2000, 06:43 AM
You chaps are amazing! I started the thread v tounge in cheek but certainly knew nothing about reversed commands prior to 1930.
I had a wierd experience driving a friends speed boat that had the wires crossed in error (turn wheel to port; boat goes to stbd; brain says 'more port, you fool'; boat turns harder to stbd! ) A bit like a tv program I saw where a chap wore glasses that corrected his vision to the 'upside-down' image that we actually see as light passes through our eye lenses. He had great difficulty climbing steps that visually dropped away from him. He got quite good at it after a week or so which just shows you how adaptable we are if pushed.

12-30-2000, 07:55 AM
I understand that after your brain reverses the upside-down image through the glasses that when you then remove them the world is again bottom-up.

Aileron (roll) control is easily reversed by maintence on your aircraft. All pilots are taught to visually confirm proper action before entering the runway for take-off.

Very few pilots have learned quickly enough to compensate reversed controls and survive.

The account of the Titanic tragedy makes it clear that the poor souls (in charge) realized almost immediatly that the water would flow over the bulkheads from bow to stern and founder the ship in a few hours.

Could they have kept her afloat by quickly flooding the stern compartments enough to keep the forward bulkheads above the waterline?

[This message has been edited by PilotArt (edited 12-30-2000).]

12-30-2000, 11:05 AM
The strange thing was that I knew the steering was reversed before I set foot in it and yet I still battled to reverse my brain. My friend, the owner, had just had a hairy few moments with the 100hp x 14' bullet and said 'Hey, you've got to try this, it blows your mind!' I did, and it did.

12-31-2000, 02:50 PM
and in the same light of movies and ships, only once have I seen and heard a correct command on one of the old sailing vessels on entering a rainstorm to, slack all stays and halyards. The old ropes(lines) were hemp, and shrunk when wet. During a bad storm with tight stays etc, there could be enough shrinkage to snap the masts.

01-01-2001, 10:37 AM
I read in some Titanic history that if the ships engineer had not closed off any of the water tight bulkheads, water would have flooded her all the way to the stern.

This would have caused her to settle on a more even keel.They calculated that it would have prolonged her ultimate sinking by a couple of hours. The ships steaming towards them would have arrived in plenty of time, tragic...


01-01-2001, 10:48 AM
There is also evidence of a bulkhead gone awry 'cause of a coal fire that was with her for a week before sailing.

One of the things that strikes me, with some of the speculations, is that bold, counter-intuitive action, might have saved that great ship.

There are those moments in life; where we see clearly, even if it's against our training; and 99 times out of 99, most of us fall down when called by it.

Happy New Year All. May you, yes YOU, break some mold that holds you dear, this new year, this new millenium.

Best, Ishmael

Andrew Craig-Bennett
01-01-2001, 12:11 PM
It's not at all likely that a coal bunker fire would affect the integrity of a steel bulkhead, even if there were such a fire, which is very unlikely, because she would have coaled shortly before sailing, and there would have been insufficient time for spontaneous combustion to develop. Bunker fires did sometimes happen, but usually aboard ships using lower rank coal than the Welsh coal the Titanic would have coaled with. (I can get REALLY technical about this - the spontaneous combustion of coal at sea is something I have had some experience with.) Coal fires at sea can last for weeks without affecting steelwork, and the usual solution to a coal fire on North Atlantic liners and warships, with very high coal consumptions, was simply to use the bunker that was on fire first! Low powered tramps on long voyages had more interesting bunker fire problems.

The assumption that, had the bulkhead doors been left open, she would have flooded on an even keel and sunk more slowly is another in the same class of speculations - the dimensions of the gash are such that she would have sunk in a few minutes had the doors been left open. It is more interesting to reflect that she had more subdivision than a modern ship has!

The fascination with the Titanic is simply that she drowned some rich people. Compare...

The loss of the Dona Paz in 1989 - the worst peace time accident to a passenger ship - 4,500 (approx) dead. Collided with a small tanker; the resulting fireball flashed over and incinerated her and her passengers and crew.

The loss of the Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945 - worst loss of life of any passenger ship - sunk by Sovier submarine whilst evacuating Germans from what is now Kaliningrad - 7,200 or so.

Curiously, there is no wish to make a film about either of these.....

01-01-2001, 01:02 PM
Well ACB, fascinating isn't it? I recently read a book, whose title has moved the other side of the brain seive, (maybe, Ghosts of the Titanic) but by a seemingly smart fellow, that posits there was in fact a pesky coal fire. More in a manner of keeping some of the rich off the ship, (like Morgan, who also, strangely, pulled some of his art collection at the last minute) than sinking her by brittleness in a bulkhead. My take, who knows.

I think: as much as the richness of her patrons and the number of deaths is striking, she is, at end, an emblem of the Edwardian--whose flower was so brutally and foolishly murdered in the trenches, just a few years following--and hence she reminds us of the tragic in this century, down in our belly fat, down in our gonads.

All of us, mostly unconsciously, yearn for something fine, without the modern complications. Something lost, and lost, and lost again since the great ship went down.

Best wishes for a New Millenium, Jack

[This message has been edited by ishmael (edited 01-01-2001).]

Scott Rosen
01-01-2001, 07:11 PM
I'm by no means a Titanic nut. I think the appeal of the story is that it presents a good opportunity to show the arrogance of those times and the tragic results. Biggest vessel ever built, unsinkable, marvel of technology. We're still just as arrogant, but that's the subject of another thread.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
01-02-2001, 06:04 AM
The end of the Edwardian era, which we all look on as a Golden Age....

The dawn of a New Century of Peace and Progress, lit by the electric light, communicating by telephone, listening to the phonograph, and driving around in horseless carriages.

Teddy Roosevelt in the States, Lloyd George in Britain. The Crowned Heads of Europe in their funny uniforms. The Kaiser yachting at Sacred Cowes and disapproving of his "Uncle Bertie going boating with his grocer" (Sir Thomas Lipton). Nathaniel Herreshoff's

The Gold Standard. No passports or visas needed to travel across Europe. The Wright Brothers. Henry Ford. Marconi. The cimematograph. Diagelev's Ballets Russes. Faberge eggs.

Imperialism in both Britain and the USA (which had just taken up the White Man's Burden).

And then the lights went out all over Europe...

Alan D. Hyde
02-18-2004, 02:31 PM
"The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."

August 3, 1914

Edward, Viscount Grey of Fallodon



02-18-2004, 02:38 PM
...Yes...I know just how the captain of the Titanic felt...


[ 02-18-2004, 03:39 PM: Message edited by: Shang ]

ion barnes
02-18-2004, 10:11 PM
Another piece of missing information is the fact that the hull plating was of poor quality. This was determined some years ago when some punchings that were kept as souvenires, were tested and found to have high sulfur content and were brittle. Its is possible that the plating fractured in a linear fashion, between the rivet holes making the damage greater than what was assumed.

02-19-2004, 02:18 AM
Iron plate of that era was generally of poor quality compared to modern metallurgy - they had neither the science or technology back then. That was pointed out in one of the Titanic documentaries.

[ 02-19-2004, 03:19 AM: Message edited by: Meerkat ]

02-19-2004, 02:33 AM
Because it was there! :D

Jack Heinlen
02-19-2004, 08:19 AM
"Because it is there."

We've found his remains too, a brave Edwardian spirit who was too young for the trenches.

Whatever became of that? I know they've been looking for the small Kodak it is known they were carrying, to try to establish once and for all if they got to the peak. Amazing, after seventy years they say in those conditions the film would still develope.

The camera hasn't been found, that's clear. I would have heard that.

Are the lights coming on in Europe again, BTW? It will never be the same. God the twentieth century was a heartbreaker, so many dead, such a waste.

02-19-2004, 11:21 AM
You need to lay off the grog a bit there Jack! :D :D :D :D

Ken Hall
02-19-2004, 01:38 PM
As long as we're bumping, here's a followup to Jeffery's generally accurate post about IJN Shinano:

Shinano, along with sisters Yamato and Musashi, were designed with extremely strong longitudinal bulkheads, as Jeffery points out (maybe to stand the strain of the 18.1" main battery firing). Among other things, this supposedly made counterflooding more difficult.

In addition, the Imperial Japanese Navy were not the fanatics about damage control drill that the U.S. Navy were. Another carrier, perhaps IJN Taiho, was lost after a single torpedo hit. The ship's speed wasn't compromised by the hit and the captain therefore declined to reduce speed...or do anything else, apparently. Gasoline vapors freed by the torpedo damage spread throughout the ship, and something finally set them off.

Contrast this to the performance of the crew of USS Yorktown at Midway. Bare hours after being hit by two or three bombs that penetrated the flight deck, the crew had the fires out and Yorktown was able to make 25 knots. The second strike, with torpedoes, did the fatal damage, but for some time the Japanese believed they had disabled two carriers.

Every navy chooses what it will emphasize. Among other things, the U.S. Navy was absolutely maniacal about damage control and firefighting.