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Was the Titanic sinking avoidable?

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Sadurian Mike
901907.  Sun Apr 15, 2012 12:11 pm Reply with quote

<snort>

 
Moosh
902133.  Mon Apr 16, 2012 12:08 pm Reply with quote

There's something mildly interesting about the Titanic re-release.

No, honestly. There really is.

The only major change in the film is that in the scene towards the end when Rose is lying on some floating wood after the ship goes down (sorry, spoilers) and she looks up at the stars, she will now see a star field that's accurate to the North Atlantic at 4.20am on April the 15th 1912. This is because Neil deGrasse Tyson* wrote what was reportedly a "snarky" email to James Cameron complaining that the star field in the original film was rubbish and providing a correct version.

*astrophysicist, broadcaster and general cool guy

 
djgordy
902187.  Mon Apr 16, 2012 4:05 pm Reply with quote

Dear Mr. Cameron,

I recently watched your "Titanic" film and noticed the following error. Neither Leonardo Di Caprio nor Kate Winslett were alive in 1912. I hope you will correct this in future versions of the film.

Yours etc etc

 
gruff5
902274.  Tue Apr 17, 2012 6:05 am Reply with quote

Moosh wrote:
... after the ship goes down (sorry, spoilers) ...

<snort, snort>

 
PDR
902319.  Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:32 am Reply with quote

Posital wrote:
Just a thought - would it have been less of a disaster if they'd steered straight for the iceberg?

If the issue was the number of sections breached - then if they simply trash the bow, perhaps it wouldn't have sunk?

Just I've not heard this option discussed.


I don't think so. Titanic hit the iceberg as a result of driver error (or neglect, depending on your views), but she *sank* as a result of manufacturing errors in the steel rivets which caused slag inclusions in the rivets that massively reduced their strength.

When the impact occured the hull flexed and the weak rivets failed over a very large length of the hull. If the rivets had been sound then (arguably) the hull breach would have been limited to a small number of sections near the bow and the internal compartmentalisation would have provided the intended protection. But the rivet failures allower water to enter too many sections, so that the overall loss of bouyancy caused the bow to sink far enough for the water to rise above the bulkhead level, negating their hull-integrity function.

PDR

 
DrPL
903032.  Thu Apr 19, 2012 2:54 pm Reply with quote

What was the last tune played? The commonly held belief is that it was "Nearer My God To Thee," said to be one of two hymns that band leader Wallace Hartley would want played at this funeral. Long dismissed as a fantasy, there does some to be some validity to this tale. Astonishing evidence comes from the tireless work of researchers such as George Behe, and their accumulated data indicates that the hymn was indeed heard on the morning of April 15th, 1912. Many in the lifeboats heard it being played, and their recollections cannot be dismissed as newspaper inventions, for the song was being referred to whilst en route to New York, before the press had any attempt to distort the issue. It also does not seem credible that survivor's recollections were being tainted by bogus tales on the Carpathia, either, or by memories of the sinking of the s.s. Valencia six years earlier when the hymn was sung.

Many were adamant that it was played. And with the boat deck settling rapidly into the sea, one could easily believe the notion that the band - whose repertoire of soothing, cheerful, patriotic and uplifting music - switched to sombre selection(s) knowing that the end was near and all the boats had gone[5].

The endorsement by the band-leader himself, plus the statements from a surprising number of people support the notion that this tune was played at some point. There are problems, however, and they are significant. "Nearer My God To Thee" has quite a few different variants, and the tune differs depending on nationality, and religious denomination; David Gittins claims that there were as many as eight different versions of the tune. There is no consensus at to which of these was heard, and the hint by some researchers that only U.S. passengers and crew would only have familiarity with the U.S. arrangement is laughable; it is possible that people may have been familiar with many of the versions. This uncertainty on the actual tune have catalysed those sceptical of "Nearer My God To Thee" to pounce on another "last tune" candidate to support their contention that the Titanic's small ensemble only played light hearted melodies. Titanic aficionados have long drawn from a newspaper account given by Harold Bride, in which he stated that after leaving the prone stoker on the floor on his office, he heard the band playing rag-time, somewhere aft. And then he heard a tune he called "Autumn". The band were still playing this song as he swam away from the sinking ship after he had been washed overboard with boat "B".

Bride's evidence seems superficially conclusive. The band were not playing a hymn at the end, but this "Autumn" tune. But, as ever, problems become apparent when the evidence is analysed. "Autumn" is indeed associated with a hymn, but the name is not given to the title of a song, but the tune, and author Walter Lord suggests that it is unlikely that Bride would have identified the song via its arrangement. Indeed, hymn's names are usually given a title gleaned from the first line, but even so this mysterious "Autumn" tune does not conform to this convention. It would have been called "God Of Mercy and Compassion" and there is no hymn by this name. But, according to Lord, a waltz named "Songe d'Automne" ("Dream of Autumn") is the most likely candidate; it was popular in London but less so in America, where the "Autumn/hymn" association was more prevalent. Furthermore, "Songe d'Automne" was abbreviated to just "Autumn." Lord's research unearthed survivors who had heard the waltz "Autumn" that night.

And despite what some apologists say, the tunes of "Songe d'Automne" and the variants of "Nearer My God To Thee" are not remotely similar.

How long did the band play? Bride's tale is that the last time he heard "Autumn" was when he was in the water. For this to have happened, the surging torrent of water coursing along the boat deck would have had to have passed the point where boat "B" had been hurled to the boat deck, as Bride was clutching at this boat when he - and it - were swept into the sea. Given how fast the water was cascading aft it is surprising that the band could play for much longer if they were located at their customary location, which is next to the 2nd funnel on the port side, and less than 90 feet from where Bride was washed overboard. There also does not seem to be enough time for the band to stop playing "Autumn" and commence "Nearer My God To Thee" before the surging tide engulfed them. Then one wonders how long the orchestra could play on an increasingly slanting deck; and there is also the effect that the chill night air had on their bands men's ability to hold and play their instruments as the cold nibbled at their fingers.

Revisionist historians contend that, the slope of the deck not withstanding, no tunes were played at the finale, because the band had dispersed. The heroism of the band may be sacrosanct, but there are witness to the band laying down their instruments[6].

The first of these witnesses is the seemingly omnipresent Archibald Gracie who saw the band lay down their instruments "half an hour" before the Titanic sank. This detail was given at a lecture two weeks before he died, but is not mentioned in his book. This is no indication of anything; Gracie's book ends abruptly and it is possible that he may have included this detail about the band if his tragic demise didn't force his book to be understandably truncated. The other witness is Algernon Barkworth. His newspaper account states that when he came on deck, the band were playing a waltz but when he next passed the spot, the bandsmen had thrown down their instruments and were nowhere to be seen. Although some researchers have associated Barkworth's story with Gracie's timing of "half an hour" before the end, Barkworth's account gives no indication when he saw the abandoned instruments.

Steward Edward Brown was on the forward starboard side of the boat deck when the sea came roaring over the bulwark. Seconds before that, he heard the band playing on the boat deck forward companionway (presumably the port side). It would be only a few moments before boat "B" was carried out to sea...and Bride heard "Autumn". If Brown and Bride's memories are believable, the small orchestra had returned for their final selection.

So, if the band did abandon their instruments, why did they do so, and did they later return? George Behe contends that they may indeed have temporarily put down their instruments; Pierre Marechal reported seeing the band "between the decks ["A" deck?]" and none of them were wearing lifebelts; Marechal left in the very first boat. A stewardess by the name of Gold stated that she later saw the band with their lifebelts beside them. Behe suggests that the band may have temporarily departed to fetch their belts, but another statement by Gold disputes this, for she says that the cork-filled belts were brought to the band. If the band did not want to stray outside 1st class territory but wanted to play where their soothing tones could dispel panic, they had two options: to venture to the starboard side, which does not seem to have been the case, or to go to the deck below where a small band of passengers were waiting to enter boat 4. All the others boats in the area had either departed, or were not yet ready to disembark[7].

For what it is worth, this author posits that "Nearer My God To Thee" was the last tune played and Harold Bride's reference to "Autumn", coming from a newspaper interview riddled with dubious anecdotes, is inaccurate. He may have heard "Autumn" at some point, perhaps when he went out to occasionally relay reports to the captain of steamships responsive to their wirelessed distress calls, and the music became confused in his mind.

 
Jenny
903185.  Fri Apr 20, 2012 10:15 am Reply with quote

Goodness me - I didn't realize the research had been done so thoroughly! Welcome to the QI forums DrPL. I see that you have reference numbers in your text - what are the sources to which they refer?

 
DrPL
903230.  Fri Apr 20, 2012 12:52 pm Reply with quote

Hi,
It's a genuine pleasure to be here, I love QI and I love being a part of this forum.

I was a proof-reader for a new book on the Titanic, and the author has done a lot of work on the various controversies about the ship, such as whether the Captain or 1st officer committed suicide, whether the third class were held back from the boats, whether the Titanic was trying for a speed record and so on.

I asked him if he would mind me quoting the section on the band and he was happy for me to do so. His book is at http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Titanic-Everything-Was-Against/dp/0956301525/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1332100982&sr=1-1

 
Sadurian Mike
903232.  Fri Apr 20, 2012 1:02 pm Reply with quote

OOooh - look - advertising!!

SPAM SPAM SPAM

Get 'im banned!




(Just kidding - extremely useful stuff)

 
DrPL
903233.  Fri Apr 20, 2012 1:03 pm Reply with quote

If I have advertised something inadvertently and broken the rules, I apologise and ask that the relevant offending section be removed.

 
DrPL
903248.  Fri Apr 20, 2012 2:01 pm Reply with quote

Completely overlooked part of your question Jenny, sorry.
The numbers refer to endnotes, with more explanation of certain points.

I can't find the pdf with the manuscript on it, but I do recall that one of the endnotes referred to the location of the band after Mrs.Gold's comments. A passenger named Hugh Woolner and his friend Mauritz Bjornstrom-Steffanson found themselves on "A" deck when the water rushed in over the gunwale and swirled around their feet. Spotting boat "D" being lowered right past the windows, they leapt for it - and made it into this very last boat. What is interesting is that before leaping Woolner looked down "A" deck - where the band were just moments before- and saw no-one. The deck was deserted and the lights were glowing "a devillish red" colour. The Titanic sank 15 minutes later.

If you've seen James Cameron's Titanic, boat "D" is the one that Rose jumps out of, which is just before Cal starts shooting at her and Jack. Compare the above with the way Cameron portrays the scene.

 
Posital
903251.  Fri Apr 20, 2012 2:12 pm Reply with quote

PDR wrote:
Posital wrote:
Just a thought - would it have been less of a disaster if they'd steered straight for the iceberg?

If the issue was the number of sections breached - then if they simply trash the bow, perhaps it wouldn't have sunk?

Just I've not heard this option discussed.


I don't think so. Titanic hit the iceberg as a result of driver error (or neglect, depending on your views), but she *sank* as a result of manufacturing errors in the steel rivets which caused slag inclusions in the rivets that massively reduced their strength.

When the impact occured the hull flexed and the weak rivets failed over a very large length of the hull. If the rivets had been sound then (arguably) the hull breach would have been limited to a small number of sections near the bow and the internal compartmentalisation would have provided the intended protection. But the rivet failures allower water to enter too many sections, so that the overall loss of bouyancy caused the bow to sink far enough for the water to rise above the bulkhead level, negating their hull-integrity function.

PDR
Thanks PDR didn't know that - I'm wondering if Richard Feynman should have been on the inquest - and dunked a rivet in an ice cold drink.

 
Sadurian Mike
903252.  Fri Apr 20, 2012 2:21 pm Reply with quote

DrPL wrote:
If I have advertised something inadvertently and broken the rules, I apologise and ask that the relevant offending section be removed.

Not really.

The mods tend to be flexible when it comes to advertising stuff that is completely to do with the subject matter.

I wouldn't worry about it. You might want to worry about my strange sense of humour, but not putting the link up.

 
DrPL
903270.  Fri Apr 20, 2012 7:33 pm Reply with quote

Phew, thank goodness for that!

Anyway, the final set of goofs for Fellowes's mess have just been uploaded - http://www.paullee.com/titanic/jf2012goofs.html

Sorry for any typos, I'll work to correct them a.s.a.p

 
Jenny
903520.  Sun Apr 22, 2012 12:55 pm Reply with quote

Don't worry DrPL - Sadurian Mike is absolutely right. Our policy is to be tough on anything that's there purely as spam, but in this case it's totally relevant to the question you were asked and the topic of the thread. And if you stick around and join in other conversations as well, you'll be very welcome.

 

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