Why did the Titanic sink ?

By admin • Uncategorized • 3 Apr 2012

On the night of April 14, 1912, there were six wireless messages to Titanic from other ships about an approaching ice-berg.  In fact, passengers on the ship noticed the iceberg from beyond in the afternoon itself. Little did they know that it would be the reason for their doom?

In addition, it is now known that in January 1912, the Moon came nearer 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, leading to abnormally high tides that caused a large number of icebergs popping up. The weather was actually fine in the morning and there was moderate wind with Crystal Sea in the better part of the day, as the ship entered high pressure system of the Arctic.

There were four warnings sounded, one at 09.00 am with RMS Caronia reporting “bergs, growlers and field ice” which captain Edward Smith acknowledged receipt of. 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” which was also acknowledged by the captain who showed the report to  Bruce Ismay, the chairman of the White Star Line, aboard Titanic for her maiden voyage.

Smith ordered a new course for the ship to traverse, towards far south.  At 13:45, Titanic got another  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. It is  not clear as to why the message did not reach the officers or the captain but it is believed that wireless operators had to fix faulty equipment.

SS Californian then warned about “three large bergs” at 19:30. At 21:40 the steamer Mesaba reported: “Saw much heavy pack ice and great number large icebergs. Also field ice” This message also never  was sent out of the wireless room.  The wireless operator Jack Phillips is known to have been busy sending messages for passengers through the Cape Race relay station, Newfoundland and was not able to understand the importance o the warning.

A final warning message was received at 22:30 from the Californian, which had halted for the night in an ice field some miles away, but an irritated Phillips cut it off and signaled back: “Shut up! Shut up! I’m workng Cape Race.”.

In spite of all these warnings, Titanic steamed at a speed of 22 knots which is 25 miles per hour or 41 kilometers per hour, which was a trifle short of its maximum speed.  The highest importance was given to time above all considerations since it was prided upon and advertised that the ship was proficient in speed as it was overwhelming in grandeur.  Icebergs were not believed to be much risk and even head-on collisions were supposed to be problems that could be surmounted.  For instance in 1907,  SS Kronprinz Wilhelm, a German liner had hit against an iceberg, got a crushed bow but was still able to complete its journey.  Edward Smith had gone lengths to the extent of saying in an interview, “I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.”

By the time, Titanic was approaching the iceberg; many passengers had retired for the night.  Lookouts Fleet and Reginald Lee were occupying the crow’s nest 29 meters (95 ft) above the deck. The night was clear, there was no moon and the sea was calm. There was nothing that would give a clue about the  position of the icebergs. It is believed that if the seas were rough, and the waves were lashing out at the foot of the icebergs, the danger could have been averted. Secondly, the lookouts were entrusted with poor quality optics, and they had no binoculars.  Nevertheless, the lookouts were warned about possible small ice and growlers.

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.” Marne engineers now believe that calm water can be a sign of an iceberg nearby.

At 23:40, Fleet saw n 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.”

Moody relayed the message to Murdoch, who ordered Quartermaster Robert Hitchens to change the ship’s course.  Murdoch  ordered “Hard a’starboard” which means the ship’s tiller would be moved all the way to starboard (the right side of the ship) in an attempt turn the ship to the left side.  The order was to “hard-a-port around [the iceberg]”, which meant to  first swing the bows around the iceberg then swing the stern so that both ends of the ship would avoid a collision. However, there was a lapse before the order went into effect.  The center propeller which was ahead of the ship’s rudder was stopped because the center turbine was not able to go into reverse. This rendered the rudder ineffective and the ship was not able to turn correctly. It is believed that if Murdoch could turn the ship in time and if there was no delay in execution of the order, the ship would have not hit the iceberg.

The ship managed to avoid a head-on collision but the sudden change in direction made the side of the ship brush sharply against the ice-berg.  A huge piece of ice scraped along the starboard for nearly seven seconds,  causing chunks of extricated ice to fall onto her forward decks. The engines of the sip stopped and the ship was stranded in the Labrador Current, awaiting its doom.  Ultrasound surveys of the wreck have found that the damage consisted of six narrow openings in an area of the hull covering only about 12 to 13 square feet (1.1 to 1.2 m2) in total.



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