Wednesday, April 15, 2015


15 April 2015:  Everyone probably knows the story of the sinking of the Titanic - movies, books and magazine articles have covered it thoroughly. But there are always a few things that slip through the seine and thus are overlooked. Instead of writing yet another article on that famous ship's sinking, I thought it might be more interesting to have a look at a few fact that frequently go unnoticed.But first, a photo of the mighty lady herself, the then largest ship in the world.

She sailed under the aegis of RMS - Royal Mail Steamer - which functionally gave her the protection of the Crown i.e. an attack on this ship was essentially an attack on England.  

Her aftermost funnel was not a funnel at all, but simply an air vent added to make her look more impressive!

Her lookouts -at that time, they hung out in a "crows nest" above the bridge - did NOT have the use of binoculars. It has been postulated that had they had them, they might have not struck the iceberg that sunk them. The lapse of time between the sighting and the collision was less than a minute.

Now: what really happened - and no, I was not there! The time of this disaster occurred at a time of flux in how ships were controlled and what orders were given to effect a change of course. Previously, in the age of sail, helm orders were thought of in the way a tiller worked. If you steer a boat/ship with a tiller and you want to change course to starboard, you move the tiller to port which in turn moves the rudder and the ship turns to starboard. And vice versa. Those orders, by the way, were called "tiller orders" (wow! the things we learn!) Once the age of steam arrived, changes in the protocol began to surface and if you wanted the ship to move to starboard, you said turn your wheel (helm) to starboard. And the ship would then turn to the right (starboard). Those orders were ... and still are ... called "rudder orders." Ok, what does this have to do with Titanic scraping along the iceberg? The helmsman was new; he was trained in the new form of command where starboard your helm meant turn the ship to starboard. The officer of the deck who gave the order was from the "old school" - and well, the rest, as they say is history. The watch officer gave the order to "starboard your helm" expecting the ship would turn to port. But the helmsman, being a relative newbie, did just what was ordered: he turned his helm to starboard and the ship responded by turning to starboard. And so turned toward the berg.

Supposedly the very iceberg that Titanic hit

She sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later, killing 1500 people due mainly to the fact that there was a paucity of life boats. She carried 20 boats which would hold some 1200 people; there were 2223 souls on board including the crew. She  was capable of carrying 64 lifeboats. Once below the surface, it has been figured that the ship hit bottom about 15 minutes later at 12,500' down.

 The wreck was found by Bob Ballard using a deep submergence remotely operated sub in 1985. Artifacts have been recovered, and surprisingly, given the extraordinary depth of the ship, the wreck has actually suffered from plunderers!

So, for now, friends, I wish you                             

                            Fair Winds

                              old Salt

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