Tag Archives: RMS Titanic

Back To Titanic

In the last two years I have made three new posts on Titanic.

One was sharing a paper Titanic model made by the husband of a fellow writer. The second was some new Titanic news (yes I know, a little unbelievable but it was). And the third was an article on newlyweds on the Titanic. I made the decision a long time ago to stop writing about Titanic, there are too many projects in my in-box (including articles on other ships). But my staff and some of the readers have been asking me for another Titanic and Olympic article.

So, on 13 April 2014, we will publish another article in the “Titanic and Olympic: How to tell them apart in photographs” series.


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This is a Story of Titanic Newlyweds You Don’t Know

Star-crossed lovers. The poster was fashioned ...

Star-crossed lovers. The poster was fashioned after Titanic ‘ s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There were several newlywed couples on board Titanic when she sailed from Queenstown (now Cobh, Ireland) in April of 1912. These are couples who married shortly before Titanic sailed, there were no couples married while Titanic was at sea. This article will introduce you to a few of them.

First up, John and Nellie Snyder, who were travelling in first class. When Titanic sailed John was just 24 and Nellie 23. The couple was offered seats in lifeboat number 7, ensuring their survival. The Snyder’s had a long and happy life, raising one girl and two boys. John died 47 years later from a massive heart attack. Nellie lived another 24 years and died at the age of 94.

The Bishop’s, Helen and Dickinson, where another first class newlywed couple. They were returning to their home in Southwest Michigan from a four-month European honeymoon. The Bishop’s were the fourth newlywed couple in lifeboat 7. Dickinson a wealthy, 24-year-old, widower had married the 19-year-old daughter of a family, which owned a company that manufactured an early version of the easy chair. Unfortunately, the Bishop’s lost their first son two days after he was born in December 1912. They divorced in 1916, Helen dying of a cerebral hemorrhage (from a fall) two months later. Dickinson of a stroke in 1961.

Photograph of a Lifeboat Carrying Titanic Surv...

Photograph of a Lifeboat Carrying Titanic Survivors – NARA – 278337 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Edward and Ethel Beane were a second class newlywed couple. Edward had immigrated to New York City. After several years he returned to England to marry Ethel and they sailed on Titanic. The Beane’s lost all of their money and wedding gifts when the great ship sank. Edward helped Ethel in lifeboat 13, but he stepped back when he was told, “Sorry, sir only women.” After the lifeboat reached the water, Edward saw it was only about half filled, so he dove into the water and swam for the lifeboat. His bride of one month was the person who pulled him into the lifeboat.

John Chapman, 37, and Lizzie Chapman, 29, were on their honeymoon after being married on December 26, 1911. John was also not allowed on a lifeboat. Lizzie turned to a friend and said, “ Goodbye Mrs. Richards, if John cannot go I will not go.” The couple died together. John’s body was later found and his effects returned to the family. Lizzie was never found.

There were many other newlywed couples (some say as many as 20), a few of them are:

Neal and Eileen McNamee (both lost)

John J. and Madeline Astor (Madeline survived)

Victor and Maria Castellana (Maria survived)

Lucian and Eloise Smith (Eloise survived)

Over the course of more than two decades, the one Titanic story that has intrigued me more than any other is the story of another honeymoon couple. I cannot tell you their names, I cannot tell you anything about their lives or how they died, I cannot even tell you if they survived. I can tell you how they spent their time on board Titanic. This story came to me from a Titanic survivor. There was a newly wedded couple immigrating to America to start a new life. The couple did not have enough money for them both to travel in second class, so the new groom bought a second-class ticket for his wife, and a third-class ticket for himself. The couple were frequently spotted at a gate separating second and third class passengers. They would talk and hold hands through the gate.

This story has been one I have returned to many times over the years, always searching for the identity of the mystery couple and their story. Where were they from? Where were they going? Had he gone ahead for a few years to make a new life, and then return for his bride, as so many men did in those days? What were their names? Did she step back from a lifeboat when he was refused admission? Did they even find each other after Titanic struck the iceberg?

Maybe this couple is my enigma, the one Titanic mystery to elude me. And maybe that is as it should be. I always take a reasoned, logical, scientific approach to life, particularly to research. I approach things very unemotionally; search for the last scraps of evidence, then painstakingly applying logic to arrive at the best possible analysis, always aware that emotion is my worst enemy when trying to arrive at facts. So, to some my romantic nature may seem odd and incongruous with this other side of my personality. But, it is the romantic side of my nature that has decided it does not want to know the truth behind this couple; if they survived, how they survived (if either of them did), or even if they ever existed at all.

In my mind (and heart), they can be whatever I need them to be at the time. The loving couple, who defying all odds, found each other in the chaos of the sinking Titanic and survive together, boarding a lifeboat arm in arm. I can have her weeping in a lifeboat at the loss of her husband as he swims to her side and is pulled into the lifeboat. I can have them finding each other only to arrive at the boat deck after all the lifeboats are gone. Maybe she refuses a seat in a lifeboat because her groom is denied a seat, and they die together. Or, he could have picked her up and forced her into a lifeboat (with or without the aid of one of Titanic’s crew) against her wishes, before he stepped back and died with the other men. No matter my fancy of the moment, if one survives without the other, my imagination always has the survivor living out a long life forsaking all others for the love that was lost. My favorite though has them living a long, joyful, fruitful life together; dying within a year of each other leaving children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to mourn a couple who held hands where ever they went, always.

The engineer and research part of my personality will never give up the chase, and will continue to track down any lead that will finally resolve this issue. But, I do not think my quest will be pursued with the same gusto it once was. I think this is one battle my romantic side has finally won. I think this is one story where the unknown is the greater story. In my mind they stand for all the “if only” and “should have been” tragedies of that great ship. In my mind, they are standing at the gate, holding hands through bars that will never separate their love for each other. Maybe, just maybe, that is how this story should end.

Unlike previous Titanic films, Cameron's retel...

Unlike previous Titanic films, Cameron’s retelling of the disaster showed the ship breaking into two pieces before sinking entirely. The scenes were an account of the moment’s most likely outcome. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you would like to read more about Titanic newlyweds we recommend, “Titanic love Stories: The true stories of 13 honeymoon couples who sailed on the Titanic”


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Commander John Edward Smith: Captain R.M.S. Titanic

Statue of Captain Edward Smith in Beacon Park,...

Statue of Captain Edward Smith in Beacon Park, Lichfield (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sunday’s article, Titanic: The HMS Hawke, The SS New York, & Captain Smith, will introduce you to a side of Captain Smith no one has seen for 100 years.

Walter Lord said that “… ships had gotten too big for Captain Smith.” The celebrated Titanic author said that Captain Smith wandered away in a daze after the disaster, and described Captain Smith as indecisive.

One blogger on wordpress wrote such a tirade on Captain Smith it hurt my eyes just reading it.

For 100 years Captain Smith has been maligned. Now you will discover the rest of Captain Smith’s story, and you will discover why so many have gotten Captain Smith wrong.

The evidence has been right in front of our eyes for 100 years. It needed a mariner and researcher to identify the clues and point them out for the rest of the world to see.

Nothing surmised or made up, just connecting the dots of over looked and seemingly meaningless actions, misunderstood evidence, and testimony.

Authors and researchers describe Captain Smith as a man admired and respected by subordinates, peers, seniors, and passengers alike. They describe how Captain Smith never raised his voice with subordinates, and yet was always, willingly, and enthusiastically obeyed by juniors. Then they proceed to describe him as outdated and indecisive during the disaster.

There is a reason professional mariners admired, respected, and enthusiastically followed Captain Smith; and this Sunday’s article will reveal those reason’s to you.

Edward J. Smith, captain of the Titanic

Edward J. Smith, captain of the Titanic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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A Review of: Report Into the Loss of the SS Titanic – A Centennial Reappraisal

The conclusion of, Report Into the Loss of the SS Titanic – A Centennial Reappraisal, is that First Officer Murdoch waited for 30 seconds after Frederick Fleet rang the crow’s-nest bell three times (signalling an object directly in front of Titanic). My review is based on Samuel Halpern’s article 30 Seconds Lost, which is based on his book, Report Into the Loss of the SS Titanic – A Centennial Reappraisal.


The article’s conclusion is based on testimony by Robert Hichens and supported by testimony from other men on duty at the time, men who gave testimony at the 1912 investigations. Unfortunately, as stated for the record in the transcripts, the officials of the Wreck Commissioners’ Court (the 1912 British investigation) found Hichens testimony conflicting. If you read his testimony from both investigations I am sure you will agree. The commissioners concluded that Mr. Hichens statements as to the events that took place was accurate, but his timing was off. Yet, none of the conflicting information is presented in the new report.

Robert Hichens was doing the best that he could, considering the enormous stress he was under. This was Hichens first time crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The crew was new to him, as was the ship. Also, Titanic was more than twice the size of Hichens’ former ships. While in the lifeboat he appears to have had some trouble with at least one of the passengers, though there is conflicting reports of what happened. After Hichens testimony as a witness at the United States Senate investigation he asked to make a statement:

     Mr. HITCHENS.  I would like to make a little statement as regarding Mrs. Mayer’s statement in the newspapers about my drinking the whisky sir, and about the blankets. I was very cold, sir, and I was standing up in the boat. I had no hat on. A lady had a flask of whisky or brandy, or something of that description, given her by some gentleman on the ship before she left, and she pulled it out and gave me about a tablespoonful and I drank it. Another lady, who was lying in the bottom of the boat, in a rather weak condition gave me a half wet and half dry blanket to try keep myself a little warm, as I was half frozen. I think it was very unkind of her, sir, to make any statement criticizing me. When we got to the ship I handled everyone as carefully as I could, and I was the last one to leave the boat, and I do not think I deserve anything like that to be put in the papers. That is what upset me and got on my nerves.

As if this were not enough, Hitchens was on his way back to Southampton and his family on the steamship Lapland when he was put into the pilot boat and sent back so that he could testify before the senate. Hitchens did not know, at the time of his testimony, if the White Star Line would pay for his return passage or if he was on his own. Add all of this and the disaster he had just survived and it is understandable if some of his testimony was contradictory.

Hichens also stated he was never given any helm order other than hard-a-starboard, later he was questioned about this:

1314. You were given the order to hard-a-starboard? – Yes.

1315. Was that the only order you had as to the helm? – Yes.

   Mr. Holmes: Because, if your Lordship will remember, the evidence of the Witness Scarrott on Friday was quite the contrary, when he came up on deck.

   The Commissioner: What did he say?

   Mr. Holmes: He said that the ship appeared to be under a port helm, and appeared to be going around the iceberg towards the starboard side.

   The Commissioner: Did he say so?

   The Attorney-General: Yes, I think so.

   1316. (Mr. Holmes.) It is Question 354. (To the Witness.) She never was under a port helm? – She did not come on the port helm, Sir – on the starboard helm.

Obviously this was not true, others had witnessed Titanic on a port helm and the scientific evidence bears this out. If what Hichens said was true, Titanic would have been damaged along the entire starboard side of the ship.

Mr. Halpern also quotes lookout Lee, who was on duty with Fleet, to bolster his assertion that Mr. Murdoch waited 30 seconds to turn Titanic.

From 30 Seconds Lost:

Fleet was just going back to his place on the port side of the crow’s nest after leaving the loud speaking telephone, located on the aft starboard side of the nest, when he saw the ship veering to port. He had just finished calling down to Sixth Officer James Moody in the wheelhouse to report seeing an iceberg ahead. This call came a few moments after he struck the bell three times to warn the bridge that some object was sighted ahead. As soon as he recognized that the object was an iceberg, he went to the loud-speaking telephone and rang them up:

I asked them were they there, and they said yes. Then they said, ‘What do you see?’ I said, ‘Iceberg right ahead.’ They said, ‘Thank you.’

Fleet then came off the phone to go back to his place on the port side of the nest when, according to Fleet, “My mate [Reginald Lee] saw it and told me. He told me he could see the bow coming around.” This has led Fleet to believe that the ship started to go to port while he was at the telephone. However, according to his lookout mate Reginald Lee:

As soon as the reply came back ‘Thank you,’ the helm must have been put either hard-a-starboard or very close to it, because she veered to port, and it seemed almost as if she might clear it, but I suppose there was ice under water.

Clearly, Lee was saying that the helm must have been put hard-a-starboard soon after Moody’s reply of “thank you” was given to Fleet, not before. And we know from Hichens that Moody repeated what Fleet had just reported on the phone to First Officer Murdoch who then gave the order to put the helm hard-a-starboard and then rushed to the engine telegraphs to ring down orders to the engine room.

From their vantage point high up in the crow’s nest, Fleet and Lee watched as the ship veered to port “a little over a point, or two points…until the iceberg was alongside of her.” The iceberg then seemed to strike “just about in front of the foremast” on the starboard side.

Clearly what Mr. Lee testified to was not physically possible. If Titanic had been put hard-a-starboard after Mr. Moody said “Thank you” it would have taken approximately 10 seconds before Titanic would have “veered to port.” If Titanic veered to port as soon as the reply came back “Thank you”, then clearly the order was given as least 10 seconds before.

Also, with tests on the RMS Olympic it was determined to take 37 seconds from the time the order hard-a-starboard is given for the ship to turn 2 points (this was on a continuous left turn, with no turn to the right). This is supported in the ship handling tables of the United States Navy for ships of this size at the speed of 22.5 knots.

Next, the article reports the testimony of quartermaster Olliver, who was on the compass stand between the second and third funnels:

When I was doing this bit of duty I heard three bells rung up in the crow’s nest, which I knew that it was something ahead; so I looked, but I did not see anything. I happened to be looking at the lights in the standing compass at the time. That was my duty, to look at the lights in the standing compass, and I was trimming them so that they would burn properly. When I heard the report, I looked, but could not see anything, and I left that and was just entering on the bridge just as the shock came. I knew we had touched something.

But Mr. Olliver also said this during his testimony, which is not in Mr. Halpern’s article:

Senator BURTON. Do you know whether the wheel was hard-a-port then?

Mr. OLLIVER. What I know about the wheel – I was stand-by to run messages, but what I knew about the helm is, hard aport.

Senator BURTON. Do you mean hard-a-port or hard-a-starboard?

Mr. OLLIVER. I know the orders I heard when I was on the bridge was after we had struck the iceberg. I heard hard-a-port, and there was the man at the wheel and the officer. The officer was seeing it was carried out right.

Senator BURTON. What officer was it?

Mr. OLLIVER. Mr. Moody, the sixth officer, was stationed in the wheelhouse.

Senator BURTON. Who was the man at the wheel?

Mr. OLLIVER. Hichens, quartermaster.

Senator BURTON. You do not know whether the helm was put hard-a-starboard first, or not?

Mr. OLLIVER. No, sir; I do not know that.

During emergencies it is common for a person’s estimate of time to much slower or much faster than actual time. This is why observations from witnesses of events must be compared with physical and scientific evidence. Several witnesses saw the iceberg along the side of the Titanic with the stern of Titanic moving away from the iceberg. We know that the damage was only along about 300 feet of the ship. Taking into account Titanic’s speed, this would mean Titanic was in contact with the iceberg for about 10 seconds. According for Mr. Wilding, Mr. Andrews’ successor, it would take about 10 seconds for the wheel to be put over hard-a-starboard from an amidships or center position. In order for Titanic’s stern to be moving away from the iceberg (towards the port or left side of the ship) the bow had to be moving toward the right or starboard side of the ship. If it takes 10 seconds to turn the wheel from a centered position to hard-a-starboard, it would also take 10 seconds to move the wheel from hard-a-starboard to a centered position. But that would not turn the ship to starboard, so obviously the hard-a-port order had to have been given before Titanic struck the iceberg. (Remember, in 1912 these orders were reversed, port orders to the helm turned the ship to starboard, and starboard orders to the helm turned the ship to port.)

So, let’s look at the events as Fleet and Hichens describe them, add what we know (according to physics) must have happened and see what we get.

Fleet said the ship turned about one point to port and Hichens clearly stated the ship turned two points to port (one point is 11.5 degrees). We know Titanic was, at some point, turning to starboard because only 300 feet of the ship was damaged.

1. Order given “hard-a-starboard” at time T-0

2. 10 seconds (at T-0 + 10 seconds) later the wheel is hard over, and the ship will have turned about 2 degrees to port.

3. 23 seconds (at T-0 + 23 seconds) Titanic has turned one point to the port ( 11.5 degrees to the left). Hard-a-port order is given.

4. 35 seconds (at T-0 + 35 seconds) the rudder passes through the center position on it’s way to hard-a-port.

5. About 3 seconds after that (at T-0 + 38 seconds) Titanic’s bow stops swinging to the port (left) at about 19 degrees, or almost 2 points. From this point on the bow will be turning towards the right (starboard) and the stern will be swinging towards the port (left).

6. 43 seconds (at T-0 + 43 seconds) the rudder reaches hard-a-port, and has now been completely shifted from hard-a-starboard to hard-a-port.

Hichens was looking at the compass and could see nothing outside of the wheelhouse, which is inside the enclosed bridge. Hichens testified that the blinds in the wheelhouse were closed, and were always closed at sunset. Fleet had no compass. Fleet’s statement of heading is a rough estimate. It is possible that what Hichens remembers is the maximum swing of the bow of the ship before it started to come back to the right, but this is only a guess.

Remember also, Mr. Murdoch was not looking at a compass. He was watching the approach of the iceberg, he was trying to time his right turn based on the position of the iceberg to the ship.

The six steps I gave above are based on tables from the United States Navy on handling characteristics for a ship the size of Titanic at the speed Titanic was going. They do not represent the exact times as they happened on the Titanic on the night of 14 April 1912. But they are close and we know this sequence of events must have happened. Scarrott saw Titanic’s stern moving to the left away from the iceberg (Titanic turning to the starboard on a port helm). We know that only 300 feet of Titanic was damaged.

One other point. Before the 3 bells were rung by Fleet, Mr. Moody was in the wheelhouse (Hichens testimony) and Mr. Murdoch was on the bridge wing. If Mr. Murdoch was thinking for those 30 seconds as Mr. Halpern suggests, Mr. Moody would have immediately picked up the bridge phone answering the lookouts. As Hichens stated in his testimony, everyone knew what 3 bells meant. As the junior officer in the wheelhouse, that was one of Mr. Moody’s duties. As I stated in my article Titanic: “Iceberg Right Ahead!” – Conventional Chronology Wrong (http://wp.me/P1MLkF-70) Mr. Moody could not answer the phone when it rang because he was already standing behind Hichens to ensure Hichens was carrying out the hard-a-starboard order.

Fleet was on the phone for about half a minute as he stated, because Mr. Moody could not pick up the phone on the bridge. Moody was watching Hichens turn the wheel. Moody reports the wheel is hard over, hears Mr. Murdoch acknowlegde his report, walks to the phone answers and relays the lookout report to Mr. Murdoch. Mr. Murdoch orders hard-aport. Fleet is off the phone and Titanic’s bow has turned one point to the port (left). The bow continues to swing to the left while Hichens is turning the wheel to hard-aport. Before the wheel is over hard-aport, the bow begins to swing back to the right and Titanic hits the iceberg.

Everyone, on the bridge and in the crow’s-nest, would have adrenalin coursing through their veins at this time. Not only were these 30 seconds stressful, but there were many things happening in quick succession. How well do you think your memory would hold up?

If you look once more at those 6 steps again you will notice that 23 seconds after Murdoch gave the order hard-a-starboard Titanic would have turned about one point. When you do not have a watch (the lookouts testified they did not), and with the stress of the moment, 23 seconds could seem like “half a minute”. Also, if we take into account the errors in his testimony that we can prove, and we look at the 6 points again. We notice that at about 23 seconds Murdoch would have given his hard-a-port order. It is possible, this is a guess, that those 23 seconds seemed to be half a minute as Hichens testified and he was remembering the hard-a-port order that came after “half a minute” and not the hard-a-starboard order. Hichens clearly stated no hard-a-port order was given, physics clearly shows there was a hard-a-port order given, as does the testimony of other crewman.

Clearly Mr. Halpern’s chronology is wrong. We will never know if Mr. Murdoch gave his “hard-a-port” order 21, 23, or 25 seconds after he gave the “hard-a-starboard” order. But, we know he gave it. We also know that if Mr. Murdoch had waited 30 seconds after Fleet rang the bell before giving the hard-a-starboard order, Titanic would have still been turning to the left and the stern would have been swinging to the right, into the path of the iceberg when the iceberg struck. At Titanic’s speed, even if Murdoch would have ordered “hard-a-port” when the iceberg struck, Titanic would have taken about 38 seconds before Titanic’s bow began to turn to the right (step 5 above). At Titanic’s speed she would have traveled more than 1,000 feet in 38 seconds, Titanic would have been opened to the sea along the entire starboard side.

I could go into more detail, however a 3,000 word article is quite enough for now. Look for my upcoming article on Murdoch’s “hard-a-port” order for the conclusion on this topic.


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Titanic: Murdoch Waited 30 Seconds Before Turning. Really ???

In the book, Report Into the Loss of the SS Titanic – A Centennial Reappraisal, Samuel Halpern puts forward the theory that First Officer Murdoch waited 30 seconds after Fleet rang the warning bell 3 times, then he ordered hard-a-starboard. (At the bottom I have given a link to an article Mr. Halpern wrote about this.)

If you have read my articles, Titanic: Left Turn Only Myth (click to read article http://wp.me/P1MLkF-6x) and Titanic: “Iceberg Right Ahead!” – Conventional Chronology Wrong (click to read article http://wp.me/P1MLkF-70) you know this is not possible.

I will write a full article on Mr. Halpern’s theories, but I wish to address a couple of points in his theory now.

First. Mr. Halpern states Mr. Murdoch did not give the hard-a-port order until after Titanic had struck the iceberg. In addition to what I stated in my article, Titanic: Left Turn Only Myth (click to read article http://wp.me/P1MLkF-6x), a ship does not move like a car. A ship slides across the water as if it were on ice. A car has traction on the road, but a ship does not have traction on water. So, Titanic turning to the left (port) has the bow swinging to the left (port), and the back 2/3’s of the ship swinging to the right (starboard) towards the iceberg. Titanic’s momentum would have continued to push the stern of the Titanic against the iceberg opening up the entire right (starboard) side of Titanic, if the Titanic was still turning to the left (port) when it hit the iceberg. This we know is not true.

Second. Mr. Halpern depends heavily on the testimony of the man at Titanic’s wheel, Quartermaster Hichens. Then he looks for supporting testimony from other witnesses. The memory of a person is subjective, the laws of physics are not. If a part of Hichens’ testimony conflicts with the laws of physics then that part of his testimony must be rejected, and it puts into question the rest of his testimony (read my articles My Research Methods click to read http://wp.me/P1MLkF-9C) and My Research Methods: Part Two (click to read http://wp.me/P1MLkF-bZ) . One point of testimony that Hichens gave, and Mr. Halpern does not bring up, is that Hichens states he was never given a hard-a-port order. This we know is not true because of physics and eyewitness testimony.

Frederick Fleet

Frederick Fleet, Titanic’s lookout who spotted the iceberg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I do want to say that Mr. Halpern’s article is well written and does bring up valid points. However, I am writing an article that will address these points and show that for many reasons, his theories are not only wrong, but not possible. (This is the link to my follow-up article http://wp.me/p1MLkF-Cv).

Here is a link to Mr. Halpern’s article http://www.titanicology.com/Titanica/30_Seconds_Lost.pdf

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