Saturday, April 14, 2007

April 14, 1912 Sunday night... Part 1

This is one of the subjects that I love talking about the most, and yet when the occasion arises I feel inadequate to do so.
When I start explaining what happened that fateful night, I have a hard time expressing my self, and putting what I think and feel into words. So please bear with me!
This will be the post on things that took place this night 95 years ago, there is so much that I'm afraid that I can only hit the basic story line...
As the Titanic sped on through a known ice field at 22 1/2 knots, about 28 miles an hour, she had but a few more hours to retain the title 'Queen of the seas'! The big golden sun began to set in the west, casting wondrous shades of light and depth to the glorious evening. I don't think that any words can describe the last few hours of precious sunlight that the Titanic's passenger, and the ship itself had to revel in. Slowly but surely a huge orange mass of light and energy sank lower and lower into the west, and was gone forever for some. For the others the next time they would see it, they would be on the decks of another ship!
As it got later the temperature dropped drastically almost to freezing, and this forced many out of the open decks and back into the warmth and radiance of the Titanic.
Passengers are now enjoying their "last meal on the Titanic." They slowly started to retire one by one. Just a few scattered here and there, maybe playing card games, talking, or braving the cold decks.
Titanic's death clock began ticking toward that deadly moment when she would meet her fate. Captain Smith had taken precautionary measures by taking the ship 10 miles south of its original course. The Captain knew they were in the midst of ice but chose not to slow down. Why? John Bruce Ismay was pushing the Captain very hard to arrive in New York early and surprise everyone, and by the way it would be the perfect ending to his perfect career. This was Captain John Edwards Smith's last voyage, and Ismay wanted him to end it in style. Out of everything that I know, I don't believe that the Captain was for trying to make a record time, but oh well, he'd crossed the Atlantic and probably knew it better than anyone, what would it hurt? So at Ismay's request they were rushing headlong into danger. Another problem, some how the binoculars had been left in Southampton. Then the weather; it was calm, still, flat, no wind, and star lit. Now that sounds like a picture perfect evening, and it is, but not for spotting icebergs. here's why; if the water is smooth, and flat, it won't produce 'breakers' around the edges of the iceberg, and believe it or not the brighter it is at night the harder it is to see icebergs, and especially 'blue bergs.' Sailors would say later that they had not seen a night like this in 40 years.
At 11:00pm First officer Murdoch came on the bridge, and began his watch. This in itself was a terrible mistake, this was the most critical part of the voyage and the Captain was not at the wheel. They were in a known ice field, they were making 22 knots, and it was at night, and the Captain entrusted the care of the ship to the first officer.
Stewards start cleaning up, and getting ready for the next day, bakers finish up their days work, the Captain himself has retired, along with other officers, passengers turn to their bed as a symbol of security and comfort, not knowing that they will be rudely awakened... all is quiet.
It's now 11:45pm, the dreadful moment that we wish we could stop, but can't. Up in the crow's nest one of the lookouts, Fredrick Fleet, is chilled to the bone at the sight of a iceberg coming on quick, he forgets how cold he is and can't believe his eyes,,, an ICEBERG!!! Something that no sailor wants to see. He quickly regains his senses and rings the brass bell three times, picks up the phone, sixth officer Moody picks up the phone on the bridge and asks what he saw, the reply stops the blood in his veins his voice rings out loud and clear, "Iceberg dead ahead, sir," we all know what happens, but take this as it comes, as he hears the chilling words he must wonder momentarily how far off, and how big? With a quick 'thank you' he hangs up and reports to Murdoch, he dashes to the Starboard wing and peers with all his might and then he sees it as well. He rushes back into the bridge and quickly shouts the order "hard 'a starboard' the ship's wheel is flung over hard, and Murdoch runs back onto the wing, they don't seem to be turning, what's the matter, he flings himself back into the bridge and orders "full speed astern both" the worst thing he could have done. In doing this he would make the ship turn much more slowly, and he probably knew this, but panic set in and he did what sounded right, and I'll explain why. first of all the propellers are situated just beneath the rudder, now with the propellers spinning in one direction they push the flow of water around the rudder, if you reverse the direction of the propellers, it pulls water away from the rudder which means the flow of water stopped around the rudder, so in effect putting the wheel or rudder hard over didn't do a thing with the engines running at full speed in reverse. He is standing on the starboard wing watching in untold terror as the pinnacle of the age, biggest ship in the world, the hopes and dreams of hundreds, headed toward something six times her size. Did Murdoch have a lump in his throat? Or perhaps a tightened jaw? Or maybe he almost passed out on the account of not breathing? Who knows but him, but I'm sure he was rooted too the spot in fear. Then it happened the height of mastered engineering received its death wound. The iceberg tore a 300 foot gash on the starboard side of the Titanic, it was done. Titanic's fate was sealed. The Captain was awakened immediately and was on the bridge, some passengers were awakened by a peculiar scraping sound, one passenger reported that it felt like the ship had gone over a thousand marbles. Down below decks water started pouring in at a breath catching pace, it took the stokers by surprise and made them scatter for safety.
Once the Captain was on the bridge, he asked for Thomas Andrews to come up. Once he arrived he told him what had happened, and asked for a detailed inspection. He was gone for a short while and then asked to see the Captain in his private quarters, the news was devastating, how could this happen to the unsinkable, and to Captain Smith after 40 years at sea he had never been shipwrecked in his life, why now? Andrews explained with great detail why she would sink. The iceberg had pierced 5 of her watertight compartments, these watertight bulkheads only went to E deck, the Titanic was not designed to have more than 4 filled. If more than 4 were the weight of the water would bring her down by the head, and then water would spill into the next and so on till she sank. Andrews speculated that she had an hour to live.

So sorry but I'm wiped out, I have set at this computer all day, my wrists hurt, my eyes hurt, and I'm terribly tired, and we have church tomorrow! I'll do part two the first chance I get next week. Please forgive me!!!



You did an excellent job Daniel. You caused many memories of that terrible happening to the Titanic and those who boarded her. Grandma

Daniel said...

Well I'm glad you enjoyed it!!!

Anonymous said...

It's early Sunday morning and I'm just now checking in. I agree with your grandmother. You've done a terrific job with all the reports throughout the day and recreating it as a "real time" event. Awesome!

Go get some rest, and don't worry about writing the rest of it until you're good and ready. :-)

Anonymous said...
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paul said...

Hi Daniel,

Do you know how quickly the Californian could have turned around to rescue the Titanic. I'm assuming it mostly depends on its speed, 12 knots, and mass, but I am at a loss otherwise.