Titanic: “Iceberg Right Ahead!” – Conventional Chronology Wrong

For 100 years we thought we knew what had happened on the bridge of the Titanic on 14 April 1912. Below is the sequence of events that for 100 years, we thought had taken place:

1)    The lookouts spotted the iceberg. (Murdoch may have also spotted the iceberg at the same time).

2)    Fleet rang the bell three times signaling object ahead.

3)    Fleet picked up the phone to the bridge, which Sixth Officer Moody answered.

4)    Fleet: “Is anyone there?”

        Moody: “What do you see?”

        Fleet: “Iceberg right ahead!”

        Moody: “Thank you.”

5)    Moody announces, “Iceberg right ahead.”

6)    Murdoch orders, “Hard a-starboard!”

7)    Hichens turns the wheel counterclockwise to bring the rudder hard-over.

8)    Moody announces, “The rudder is hard-over.”

This is the sequence of events we have accepted for 100 years. However, this is not what happened. The following is the actual sequence of events, and the evidence upon which this sequence is based. Read my report, verify the evidence on your own; and then decide for yourself.

For the supporting primary evidence, look at the transcripts of the 1912 American and British inquiries.

The lookouts spotted the iceberg, rang the bell, and picked up the phone to report to the bridge. Fleet had to wait for someone to pick up the bridge phone. Moody answered, and then Fleet made his report. Fleet was on the phone about half a minute. While Fleet was on the phone, during his conversation with Moody, the bow began to turn.

Moody answered the bridge phone. Those on the bridge heard Moody say, “What do you see?” Then those on the bridge heard a pause while the lookout answered. Then they heard Moody say, “Thank you.”

But, how did Murdoch know there was an iceberg, and how could the bow already be turning before Moody announced the iceberg? Murdoch saw the iceberg and ordered “hard a-starboard” before Moody answered the phone.

The two junior officers on duty rotated watch stations, like the quartermasters on duty. At the time Titanic hit the iceberg, Moody’s watch station was inside the wheelhouse. Among the duties of the junior officer on watch inside the wheelhouse was the responsibility to monitor the quartermaster at the wheel, to ensure he maintained course and to confirm all orders given to the quartermaster at the wheel were carried out. Murdoch’s “hard a-starboard” order to Hichens was also considered an unspoken order to Moody to confirm Hichens had carried out the order.

The exchange between Fleet and Moody only took about 6 seconds, yet Fleet was on the phone “half a minute.” If the phone rang before Murdoch’s order, Moody would have answered the bridge phone first, and Fleet would have only been on the phone about 6 seconds. When the phone rang, Moody could not answer the phone, because he was already watching Hichens to ensure the helm was put “hard a-starboard.” Moody would not answer the bridge phone until the order to Hichens had been carried out, and Moody had replied to Murdoch, “The helm is hard over.”

Then Moody answers the phone, and during the 6-second exchange with Fleet, the bow begins to turn. Therefore, the true sequence of events is as follows:

1)            Murdoch spots the iceberg, and runs toward the wheelhouse.

2)            Fleet spots the iceberg.

3)            Murdoch reaches the wheelhouse and orders “Hard a-starboard.” Fleet rings the crow’s-nest bell.

4)            Hichens turns the wheel counterclockwise, with Moody standing behind him to make sure the order is carried out. Fleet picks up the phone to the bridge, and watches the iceberg while holding the phone to his ear.

5)            The wheel is hard over, which Moody announces.

6)            Then Moody answers the phone:

               Fleet: “Is anyone there?”

               Moody: “What do you see?”

               Fleet: “Iceberg right ahead!”

               Moody: “Thank you.”

During this 6-second call the bow begins to turn to the port (left).

7)            Moody announces, “Iceberg right ahead!”

8)            Murdoch goes to the front of the enclosed bridge to watch the approaching iceberg and to time his next order, “hard a-port.”

For the next several weeks I will continue to publish excerpts from the appendix of my soon-to-be released book, Titanic: The Journey Begins. Some of what you will discover is listed below:

1)    Where is the missing first funnel?

2)    What about the Mount Temple?

3)    When was the right turn (hard a-port) order carried out?

4)    Why is the stern so damaged?

5)    How did the ship break up?

6)    Did the Titanic hit the iceberg, or run over the iceberg?

7)    What is a triple expansion, direct acting, inverted steam engine?

     To independently research this article in the British and American Inquiries I suggest the website www.titanicinquiry.org/ (unless you prefer holding the 1912 printed original, then your library reference department can help you).

Once you download the inquiries (or search them on-line) Use the find function in Microsoft word to search for the following names:

Fleet (lookout)

Lee (lookout)

Hichens (the quartermaster at Titanic’s wheel)

These three men plus officers Murdoch and Moody were the only men who were involved with spotting the iceberg, and trying to avoid the iceberg. Officers Murdoch and Moody went down with Titanic.

One last word. Being able to use computer searches on the American and British Inquiries transcripts is a big help to any researcher. I would like to take a moment to recognize and thank the people who made it possible:

George Behe, Bob Bonnell, Earl Chapman, Mike Disabato, Vera Gillespie, John Gillespie, Linda Greaves, Jane Hilbert, Robert Ottmers, Stuart Partridge, Marilyn Powell, Susie Powell, Parks Stephenson, Bruce Trinque, Bill Wormstedt.

These men and women volunteered their time to transcribe thousands of pages of testimony and they deserve our gratitude.

Thank you,  job well done.

7 responses to “Titanic: “Iceberg Right Ahead!” – Conventional Chronology Wrong

  1. smith

    If the wheel was turned anti clockwise , that would be Port, clockwise would be st/board ,


    • Yes and no. Today if you are going to turn a ship to port an order is given for port rudder and the wheel is turned counter clockwise. In 1912 the orders were reversed. If the officer of the deck wanted to turn the ship to port (left) he would give a starboard rudder order to the helmsman and he would turn the wheel counter clockwise.

      The reason for this is because the orders in 1912 were based on the direction that the tiller moves (which controls the rudder) which is the opposite direction of the rudder. Today we give orders based on the direction the rudder moves.

      So when First Officer Murdoch ordered “Hard a starboard” he was ordering the rudder to be put as far to port as it would go.


  2. Hotel Bucuresti

    Hoteluri Din Timisoara

    I really love your blog.. Pleasant colors & theme. Did you develop this website yourself?
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  3. Jan

    Mr. Combs, thank you for this well-researched and well-written article. I look forward to more articles by you and to your Titanic book.


  4. Karen

    Interesting find . and followup !


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