On this Day

Sunday 14 April 1912

The Titanic is steaming at 22 1/2 knots (approx 33 miles an hour). Lookout Frederick Fleet sights an iceberg. He rings the bridge. "What did you see", is the response. He replies "Iceberg right ahead"! It is estimated that 37 seconds pass between the sighting and the collision.

At 9am on 14 April, Titanic was following an international course which generally avoided fog and ice, when Caronia sent out the first of many ice warnings about the pack ice field across the recognised route. None of the following numerous messages mentioned icebergs until 21.40 hours when the Mesaba radioed the presence of a "number of large icebergs", however, despite this broadcast being received by Titanic and acknowledged, it was never delivered to the bridge. At 23.40 hours on the 14 April, lookout Frederich Fleet reported an iceberg (90 ft / 27.43 m high) half a mile dead ahead. First Officer Murdoch ordered the helm hard a starboard and the engines full astern. However, this evasive action was too late to prevent the Titanic striking the iceberg at near full speed. Despite only striking the berg for a mere 10 seconds before her bows swung to port, a series of six small gashes were opened just below the waterline, and aft of the foremast, which cut across five consecutive watertight compartments. The "unsinkable" Titanic, had been designed to float with any four of her watertight compartments flooded and Thomas Andrews, upon assessing the damage, gave the ship only 90 minutes to live.

The number of lifeboats aboard Titanic, although complying with the Board of Trade's regulations of the time, catered for only 1,178 of the 2,208 persons aboard. At 12.04hours on the morning of 15 April, the lifeboats were swung out and the CQD signal was sent out by Radio Officer Phillips, and the new SOS signal was also transmitted. The Carpathia was the nearest vessel at 58 miles and Captain Rostron headed for the Titanic at the fastest speed the ice would permit, but it would take the Carpathia four hours to reach the scene. Fourth Officer Boxall fired distress flares in the hope of alerting an unidentified vessel whose lights were visible eight miles away, but it offered no assistance before sailing away.

At the later Court of Enquiry, the Californian under the command of Captain Stanley Lord, was accused of being the unidentified vessel. The Californian was stopped for the night in ice 20 miles away from Titanic and despite seeing the distress rockets and the distant lights of a "small" steamer, assumed that the steamer had sailed away when the lights disappeared. The radio officer had signed off for the night before the Titanic began to send out her distress transmissions. The Californian took two and a half hours to steam to the scene of the sinking which was taken as evidence to confirm that the Californian was at least 20 miles away. Other sources claim that the mystery ship was a sealer, Samson, which was fishing illegally in the area. The identification of the unknown vessel remains a mystery to this day.

de Brantigny

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