Sunday, March 25, 2012


Hey Hounders,
Abby Doo here with my second installment of an I don't know how many I'll do yet series on the sinking of the RMS TITANIC almost 100 years ago.

Sinking of the RMS Titanic

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Iceberg warnings (14 April, 09:00–23:40)


An iceberg seen on 15 April 1912 in the vicinity of RMS Titanic's sinking several hours after the sinking.  This iceberg is thought to be the one that Titanic hit, for it was reported to be streaked with red paint from a ship's hull along the waterline of one of its sides. 

During 14 April 1912, Titanic's crew received six wireless messages from other ships warning of drifting ice, which passengers on Titanic began to notice during the afternoon. The ice conditions in the North Atlantic were the worst for any April in the previous 50 years (which was the reason why the lookouts were unaware that they were about to steam into a line of drifting ice several miles wide and many miles long). The ice conditions were attributed to a mild winter which caused large numbers of icebergs to break away from the west coast of Greenland; In addition, it is now known that in January 1912, the Moon came closer to the Earth than at any time in the previous 1,400 years at the same time as the Earth made its closest annual approach to the Sun, causing exceptionally high tides that may have resulted in a larger number of icebergs than usual reaching the shipping lanes a few months later. The weather improved significantly during the course of the day, from brisk winds and moderate seas in the morning to a crystal-clear calm by the evening as the ship entered an Arctic high-pressure system.

The first warning came at 09:00 from RMS Caronia reporting "bergs, growlers and field ice". Captain Smith acknowledged receipt of the message. At 13:42, RMS Baltic relayed a report from the Greek ship Athenia that she had been "passing icebergs and large quantities of field ice". This too was acknowledged by Smith, who showed the report to J. Bruce Ismay, the chairman of the White Star Line, aboard Titanic for her maiden voyage. Smith ordered a new course to be set farther south.
At 13:45, Titanic relayed a message from the German ship SS Amerika, which was a short distance to the south, stating that the German vessel had "passed two large icebergs". The message never reached Captain Smith or the other officers on Titanic's bridge. The reason is unclear, but it may have been forgotten because the wireless operators had to fix faulty equipment.
SS Californian reported "three large bergs" at 19:30, and at 21:40 the steamer Mesaba reported: "Saw much heavy pack ice and great number large icebergs. Also field ice." This message also never left the wireless room; the wireless operator, Jack Phillips, may have been preoccupied with transmitting messages for passengers via the relay station at Cape Race, Newfoundland, and did not grasp the significance of the message. A final warning message was received at 22:30 from the Californian, which had stopped for the night in an ice field some miles away, but Phillips cut it off and signalled back: "Shut up! Shut up! I'm working Cape Race."
Although the crew were aware of ice in the vicinity, the ship's speed was not reduced, and she continued to steam at 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph), only a little short of her maximum speed. Titanic's high speed in waters where ice had been reported was later criticised as reckless, but it reflected standard maritime practice at the time. According to Fifth Officer Harold Lowe, the custom was "to go ahead and depend upon the lookouts in the crow's nest and the watch on the bridge to pick up the ice in time to avoid hitting it."
The North Atlantic liners prioritised time-keeping above all other considerations, sticking rigidly to a schedule that would guarantee their arrival at a predetermined time. They were constantly driven at close to their full speed, treating hazard warnings as advisories rather than calls to action. It was widely believed that ice posed little risk; near misses were not uncommon, and even head-on collisions were not disastrous. In 1907 SS Kronprinz Wilhelm, a German liner, had rammed an iceberg but was able to complete her voyage despite suffering a crushed bow. That same year, Titanic's future captain, Edward Smith, declared in an interview that he could not "imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that."

"Iceberg, right ahead!" (23:40)

Meeting with the iceberg

As Titanic approached her fatal crash, most passengers had gone to bed and command of the bridge had passed from Second Officer Charles Lightoller to First Officer William Murdoch. Lookouts Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee were occupying the crow's nest 29 metres (95 ft) above the deck. The air temperature had dropped to near freezing and the ocean was completely calm. Colonel Archibald Gracie, one of the survivors of the disaster, later wrote that "the sea was like glass, so smooth that the stars were clearly reflected." It is now known that such exceptionally calm water is a sign of nearby pack ice.
Although the air was clear there was no moon, and with the sea so calm there was nothing to give away the position of the nearby icebergs; had the sea been rougher, waves breaking at the foot of the icebergs would have made them more visible. Because of a mix-up at Southampton the lookouts had no binoculars, though considering the poor quality of optics at this time it is doubtful that they would have helped. The lookouts were nonetheless well aware of the ice hazard, as Lightoller had ordered them and other crew members to "keep a sharp look-out for ice, particularly small ice and growlers".

Diagram of Titanic's course at the time of the collision with the iceberg
At 23:40, Fleet spotted an iceberg in Titanic's path. He rang the lookout bell three times and telephoned the bridge to inform Sixth Officer James Moody, who asked: "What do you see?" Fleet replied: "Iceberg right ahead." After thanking Fleet, Moody relayed the message to Murdoch, who ordered Quartermaster Robert Hitchens to change the ship's course. Murdoch is generally believed to have given the order "Hard a'starboard" which would result in the ship's tiller being moved all the way to starboard (the right side of the ship) in an attempt turn the ship to port (left). He also rang "Full Astern" on the ship's telegraphs.[20]
According to Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall, Murdoch told Captain Smith that he was attempting to "hard-a-port around [the iceberg]", suggesting that he was attempting a "port around" manoeuvre—to first swing the bows around the obstacle, then swing the stern so that both ends of the ship would avoid a collision. There was a delay before either order went into effect; the steam-powered steering mechanism took up to 30 seconds to turn the ship's tiller, and the complex task of setting the engines into reverse would also have taken some time to accomplish. Because the centre turbine could not be reversed, it and the centre propeller, positioned directly forward of the ship's rudder, were simply stopped. This greatly reduced the rudder's effectiveness, thus handicapping the turning ability of the ship. Had Murdoch simply turned the ship while maintaining her forward speed, Titanic might have missed the iceberg with feet to spare.

In the event, Titanic's heading changed just in time to avoid a head-on collision but the change in direction caused the ship to strike the iceberg with a glancing blow. An underwater spur of ice scraped along the starboard side of the ship for about seven seconds, causing chunks of dislodged ice to fall onto her forward decks. A few minutes later, all of Titanic's engines were stopped, leaving the ship facing north and drifting in the Labrador Current.

1 comment:

Sheila and Bob said...

gives a hole new meaning to the phrase " On the Rocks"

Hamish & Sophie


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