The Archaeology of Titanic Reconstructing Falling Stars – Chapter 1
On the Difficulties of Breaking Up
– James Cameron, Charles Pellegrino, and Jack Thayer:
No one aboard would have believed, the night the Titanic foundered, that they were participants in events destined to usher in whole new sciences, including deep-ocean archaeology, forensic physics, and ‘rusticology.” That the Titanic, by the beginning of the 21st century, had become the first great focus in forensic archaeology (with studies in collapse column and downblast physics ranging from the deep Atlantic as far away as Mount Vesuvius and Ground Zero Manhattan) ‘ has been made possible by two 1912 inquiries filled with survivors’ accounts, by memoirs, and by letters. Survivors’ tales have been written about other events, describing engineering disasters and natural phenomena ‘ along with what it felt like to be a tiny human creature caught inside an often strange and spectacular physics, experiencing the full spectrum of human emotion. Accounts by firsthand eyewitness participants have been penned before and since; but rarely on so thorough a scale as Titanic.
Jack Thayer, who was seventeen years old when the Titanic sank, wrote his memoir of the night for his family, about 1940. He self-published the memoir as some twenty small, leather-bound copies. The historian Walter Lord had often said that no one could actually begin to decipher the events of that incredible night without first studying the Thayer memoir. Lord’s own interest in the Titanic ‘ to him a microcosm of human psychology operating under duress ‘ had always been present, on one level or another, from earliest childhood. Indeed, he convinced his parents to take him aboard Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic, when only about ten. He wrote his first draft of ‘A Night to Remember,” illustrated with pencil-drawings filled in by crayon, when only fourteen years old, in the year 1931. At some point between then and the end of World War II, Lord had personally contacted Jack Thayer. The time frame is uncertain, but it is known that Lord’s interest in the Titanic peaked during the war, after some experiences involving drowned Germans and submarines, during his service with the OSS, and with people who would later become key players in the CIA and MI-5 (among them a budding novelist named Ian Fleming). Like most World War II veterans, Walter Lord did not like to speak very much about that period of his life (calling New York Times writer Paul Helou’s desire to write a biography of his OSS years,’depressing”); but Walter did mention that he had come to conclude there could hardly be a worse way to die than by drowning ‘ a conclusion that led, perhaps, to the penning of ‘A Night to Remember,” partly as exorcism.
The Thayer memoir is available in booklet form, with the addition of illustrations, photographs, newspaper excerpts and related documents, from the Titanic Historical Society. The version reproduced in this chapter includes bracketed annotations and time-markers added by Walter Lord, during conversations dating between 1991 and 1994 (approximately). Other labeled and bracketed annotations were added in 2005 (by Pellegrino).
Here, the Thayer account is prefaced by correspondence between Charles Pellegrino and James Cameron, during the early spring of 2005, in preparation for yet another return to the Titanic ‘ Expedition XVII: ‘One last story to tell.” The correspondence sheds light on the Thayer memoir as a window on what parts of the foundering liner broke up near and around this remarkably good observer, and how, and when. This window is a necessary point of illumination, if, as the correspondence suggests, we are to attempt to understand the sequence and directions in which Titanic’s smokestacks fell (and whether or not Charles Lightoller was at least partly responsible), and whether or not the Grand Stairway was really heard and seen floating up through the crystal dome and leaving the ship, while simultaneously the ship left Jack Thayer and Charles Lightoller.
Walter Lord had often characterized young Jack Thayer’s escape as one of history’s most fantastical accounts of human survival. And yet, after all of this, Thayer ended by suicide, about the time the Second World War drew to a close.
The first set of Thayer-related documents, ‘The Dance of the Smokestacks,” should be cross-referenced with the Charles Lightoller and William Murdoch accounts. The ‘Dance” letters date from the years just prior to the centennial of Titanic’s sinking, during the planning stage of a return to the ‘Gray Lady” that both Cameron and Pellegrino had resolved would be their last such sojourn. ‘As if we have not both sworn that same resolve before,” said Pellegrino. ‘As if.”
Together, the point-counterpoint arguments ‘ in more detail than one ever sees in Discovery Channel expedition documentaries or even in books and final technical reports ‘ give the reader a rare behind-the-scenes view of how scientific investigators, acting as each-other’s devil’s advocates, attempt to arrive at a clearer resolution of truth by means of debate and doubt.
Science, believe it or not, is based on doubt.
THE DANCE OF THE SMOKESTACKS
James Cameron, Sunday, 13 March, 2005: Charlie, I will respond about the [Egypt Project] in a later email. [deleted passages]’ Below is pasted an email I just sent Gary Lang, our director on the Titanic Live 05.
Gary, Regarding your question: ‘Remind me again why the davit on lifeboat #2 [hanging collapsible boat, forward-most on the port side, almost adjacent to Captain Smith’s bridge], didn’t get razed off like all the other [davits]?”
Gary, it’s not just the forward davit of Boat 2. It’s also the forward davit of Boat 1 [starboard forward, on the exact opposite side of the bridge]. And ONLY these two [standing still perfectly intact on the deck], out of the eight pairs of davits that once existed on the forward half of the ship. This remarkable symmetry must be a clue to what happened.
My theory is that the davits were all cleaned off the ship from front to back by the funnel stays (by the ‘guy wires” supporting the smokestacks) as the bow section separated from the buoyant stern and began to plunge at high speed [Pellegrino: initially 20 ‘ 30 knots]. This accounts for the symmetry – – both of the forward-most davits remain, while none of the ones aft of them, including even their immediate counterparts at each [of the two forward-most] boat positions, remain. Since the funnel stays were anchored to the deck, starting just aft of each of the two forward-most davits, this makes sense.
I think the sequence of events went like this:
As the ship went negatively buoyant at the bow, it angled downward forward, upward aft, pivoting around its longitudinal center of buoyancy [located near the compass tower, between the second and third funnels]. Though the mass of the entire ship was settling lower in the water, this [angling] lifted the stern, until the propellers came clear of the surface about the time the bridge was slipping under. As the water rose over the top of the wheelhouse, and then the deckhouse (and officers’ quarters) aft of the bridge, the ship had about a 10 degree bow-down pitch. This meant that the funnels ‘ which were built with an approximately 10 degree aft rake (for aesthetic reasons primarily) ‘ were now standing absolutely vertical (on the fore-to-aft axis of the ship).
It has always been said that as the ship sank, the funnels became unbalanced forward and toppled; but this simply isn’t true. At the point in the sinking during which the funnels became unsteady and began to fall, they were not leaning forward at all, because of their aft rake. The only toppling tendency at this time would have been toward the port side, because of [as reported in survivors’ accounts] the approximately 6 degree list to port. This was the same list that had made it very difficult for William Murdoch, on the starboard side at the forward-most davits, to drag collapsible A ‘uphill” to the edge of the boat deck for launch ‘ after he got A down from the roof of the officers’ quarters to the boat deck. The uphill list to port had required Murdoch to crank his davits ‘ the same pair of davits that had already launched Boats 1 and C – back inboard to pick up Boat A (the forward davit for Boat 1 is still in this cranked-in position, preserving for us one of Murdoch’s last actions).
The list to port also made it very difficult for Charles Lightoller to get Collapsible B off the roof of the officers’ quarters on the other side’ the use of oars as ramps from the roof to the port side deck did not work because the 6 degree incline rendered the total incline to the deck too steep. The boat flipped over as it slid off the roof, landing upside down. Lightoller and Murdoch were each using the same procedure, with the oars applied as ramps, and each got very different results because of the list to port. As I’ve mentioned, my theory for the cause of the list lies in the one asymmetry in Titanic’s design – – known to the crew as ‘Scotland Road:” a main artery running up the port side of the ship for some 450 feet. This artery, once opened to the sea, would have allowed asymmetric flooding.
[Pellegrino: Lawrence Beesley and other surviving passengers noticed that a slight list to port had begun to develop during the early part of the voyage, long before the Titanic struck the iceberg. A contributing factor to the post-impact flooding of Scotland Road ‘ an actual predisposition to the Scotland Road tilt, as it were ‘ was likely the coal fire in bunker 10, on the starboard side. Owing to a coal strike sufficiently severe to require the cancellation of the Philadelphia’s sailing (and the transfer of Eva Hart’s family from the Philadelphia), and the transfer of coal from other ships (including the Philadelphia) to the Titanic, fireman Barrett and his crew were ordered to shovel out the many tons of coal, from ceiling-to-floor of starboard bunker 10, and to burn it in the boilers before routing coal from other bunkers, rather than wet down the entire Number Ten bunker and reduce Titanic’s over-all fuel efficiency. Thus did a physical predisposition set in motion by a workers’ strike combine by chance with a bunker fire to lighten the starboard side and bring Scotland Road down to flood level many minutes earlier than would otherwise have been possible.]
So, with a list to port, all of the funnels should have fallen to port. But what made them fall?
And how do we account for Jack Thayer’s vivid recollection of leaping off the starboard side of the ship and then almost getting hit by a falling funnel?
[Pellegrino: Add to this, Charles Lightoller’s account, of what happened to him after he jumped into the sea from the roof of the Officers’ Quarters, on the submerging port side: ‘I eventually came to the surface once again, this time alongside that last Englehart boat which (Samuel) Hemming and I had launched from the top of the Officers’ Quarters on the opposite side ‘ for I was now on the starboard side, near the forward funnel’ the funnel started to fall, but the fact that the starboard (guy wire) held a moment or two longer, gave this huge structure a pull over to that side of the ship, causing it to fall, with its scores of tons, right amongst the struggling mass of humanity already in the water. It struck the water between the Englehart and the ship, actually missing me by inches. Amongst the many historic and, what in less tragic circumstances would have been humorous ‘ questions asked by Senator Smith at the Washington Inquiry was, ‘Did it hurt anyone?’ One effect of the funnel crashing down on the sea, was to pick up the Englehart, in the wash so created, and fling it well clear of the sinking ship.”]
Lightoller, who left the ship by diving off the forward edge of the wheelhouse, wound up on Collapsible B ‘ which presumably, [by the most logical assessment of the physics involved, would have] remained on the port side of the ship. And he recalls being almost hit by a falling funnel, and having the wave it produced knock him and the collapsible boat more than a hundred feet away. So how can these disparate facts be reconciled?
Here’s how: Funnel #1, the forward-most funnel, fell to port. Lightoller had already made it to Collapsible B and observed it falling toward him. This is consistent with the list to port.
And Funnel #2, the second of the four funnels, and the one just aft of the Grand Staircase, fell to starboard. This is the one Jack Thayer saw falling near him.
But what happened to produce this result?
As the base of each funnel submerged, the hydrostatic loads on the thin steel of the funnel built up rapidly. The funnel’s elliptical cross section [would dictate] that its shell would fail inward along the semi-major axis (along the narrow axis) of the ellipse, meaning that the sides of the funnel would [during a maximum final plunge submergence rate of only 1 foot per second] implode under the rising exterior mass of water under about a ten foot head of pressure ‘ [that is, a ten foot difference in water height inside and outside the smokestack]. At this point, the only thing holding the funnel upright is the array of steel cables (called stays, or guy wires).
One of two things then happened.
EITHER: Some or all of the funnel stays parted under the unbalanced load, because of the list to port, allowing the funnel to fall’
OR: The base of the funnel ‘kicked” off its mount after imploding from water pressure, allowing it to fall with intact stays.
[Pellegrino: OR, as a third possibility, the base of the funnel began to deform under increasing water pressure, began to bend like a beer can, began to ‘kick” off its mount ‘ which put an unbalanced load on the stays and caused some of them to part. This event would have started as a hybrid of the first two scenarios, resulting ultimately in the first scenario.]
If it was failure of the stays that caused the funnel to fall, it would have been the starboard stays that [likely] snapped, because they were the ones under the most tension. Their failure would incite a fall to port. If the funnel ‘kicked” off its base, this might have been initiated by a buoyant effect’ the list to port would make the air-filled base of the funnel [in the manner of a boat being pulled down by one side] tend to rise toward the starboard. [Pellegrino: Note that until water rose up through intake vents or flooded boiler room chimneys, at a 6 degree list to port, if the width of the funnel was 20 feet, the port side would have been exposed to a 3 foot greater head of hydrostatic pressure than the starboard side, and would therefore have been more prone to dishing-in and cracking.] As it cracked catastrophically from hydrostatic pressure, the base would tear and crumple, allowing the buoyant lift (on the starboard side) to push the base simultaneously to starboard, causing the funnel to fall to port ‘ probably with its funnel stays still attached at both ends.
The only difference between the outcomes of these (first two) scenarios is the distance the top of the funnel would fall from the ship. In the first case it would come down a full funnel length (approximately 70 feet) from the funnel casing ‘ like a toppling tree lying out a full length from the stump ‘ and in the second case [and the third] maybe only half a funnel length: more like a skater falling, with his feet slipping out and his butt striking the ice very close to the point where he slipped. Since we do not know how far Lightoller and Collapsible B were from the ship, neither of these is specifically supported over the other based on testimony.
A complicating factor to this binary analysis is that some of the funnel stays might have been cut by command of the officers. When I stood on the roof of the Officers’ Quarters, on my faithfully-reproduced set of Titanic (during the making of the movie), and when I tried to figure out what must have been running through Murdoch’s and Lightoller’s minds, I realized one thing very quickly: Neither Collapsible A nor Collapsible B could have simply been ‘floated off” the ship [as Lightoller had suggested], because they would be caught under a barrier of funnel stays and taken under. This accounts for their actions – – risking smashing the boats and rendering them un-seaworthy by dropping them to the deck in a violent manner, vs. just letting the two collapsibles float off the ship from the top of the Officer’s Quarters. Murdoch and Lightoller undoubtedly stood up there and debated this, because they both acted on [essentially] the same plan: Get the boats down to the deck, and launch them using the davits.
My recollection is that where the collapsible lifeboat hits the deck, to even get it to a davit requires the removal of at least one funnel stay. [NOTE: Just to set the record straight ‘ most people refer to the set as being 90% scale to the real Titanic. In fact it was 100% scale. It was modified from the original by removing sections along its length ‘ somewhat like taking out every tenth slice from a loaf of Wonder Bread. The result was that the set weighed in at 4 million pounds at 100% scale, but instead of being 882 feet long, it was 760 feet long. ‘ Jim]
When neither officer had time enough to launch his boat (the ship was sinking out from under them at the time), it would have seemed apparent that the only hope for hundreds of people clustered around them was to float the boats off. But, again, the funnel stays would almost certainly have dragged the boats down [Pellegrino: especially if they remained on the roof, where each foot of height ‘ and each foot of uplift by the sea ‘ brought the boats into steadily narrowing distances between the stays and their uppermost anchor points, rimming the tops of the funnels, like a constricting spider webbing].
The funnel stays were tensioned by a rope skein, clearly visible in photos taken of Titanic and her sister ship Olympic. As an experiment, I had a guy with a pocket knife cut through one of the skeins on our set as fast as he could. It took about 90 seconds. It was very possible that one or two of the skeins were cut on purpose, releasing a couple of the stays, thus weakening funnel #1. However, if both officers knew this and were wrestling with the same problem, the stays might have been cut on both sides of the ship, in which case you’re back to square one, trying to account for the funnel falling to port. Murdoch would have had to cut more of them than Lightoller to support this idea.
[Pellegrino: In his testimony before the British Inquiry, Charles Lightoller became self-contradictory and occasionally evasive about whether or not he had cut anything important on the roof of the Officers’ Quarters. He told Lord Mersey that he and a seaman named Hemming had swung Boat B over the raised iron border rimming the port side of the Officers Quarters roof, after cutting ‘lashings” away. In his 1935 book, The Titanic and Other Ships, Lightoller attributed the fall of the first funnel to severed guy wires on the port side of the ship, and went to lengths of several paragraphs pinning the failure of the port stays on extra strain caused by his theorized yawning open of an expansion joint that spread from port to starboard and separated the funnel’s forward and aft stays. In his 1936 audio account ‘ from the files of Walter Lord ‘ Lightoller mentioned cutting Boat B free, but did not specify how. He did specify that, unlike Boat A on the starboard side, Boat B was never fastened by ropes to davits and never had to be cut loose from the davit heads. He also specified having a group of seamen, including Samuel Hemming, working with him on the roof. Unlashing Boat B from its rooftop mounting should merely have required pulling the right cords, especially as (according to his 1936, 1935, and 1912 accounts) Lightoller had several seamen with him, at Boat B’s lashings. And yet, as he told it in 1936, he and Hemming appear surely to have cut something: ‘A seaman named Hemming ‘ he’d been with me on many of the mail boats ‘ he and I cut this one [Boat B] adrift and threw it down on the water, which was now two feet above the Boat Deck.”]
Note [nonetheless] that Lightoller never specifically mentions cutting stays. But then, Lightoller watched the funnel fall on people and kill them, so he would not have been eager to report that he or Murdoch had cut loose some funnel stays. No other officers from this melee survived except Lightoller, so it’s his word alone’ This human intervention of cutting the skeins would seem to be necessary to account for [the launch of the adjacent collapsible boats, and] the funnel falling, because ‘ think about it: These funnel stays were designed to withstand roll amplitudes up to 45 degrees and very high wind-loading, in case the ship was ever caught in a major storm. Even the funnels on our set (built for outdoor filming) survived a minor hurricane, with wind speeds up to eighty knots. The stays held, and the funnels were still upright in the morning, even though a stack of steel shipping containers being used as a light-blocking wall nearby was toppled.
So, in a calm sea, in April 1912, with no wind, and with a 6 to 10 degree list – – why did the funnels fall?
The forces present at the time the funnels fell cannot account for them falling, based only on the stays failing.
EITHER: The nature of the failure was the funnel base, as the water rose around it, imploding it (in this case, the funnel fell without the stays breaking).
OR: The funnel stays were compromised in some specific way (as by human intervention).
[Pellegrino: Harold Bride, as recorded by Jim Speers of the New York Times, April 28, 1912, said that when Jack Phillips sent him out to see if there were any boats left, he had climbed up to the roof’s port side, where men were struggling with Collapsible B, under the first smokestack. ‘I saw a collapsible boat near a funnel and went over to it,” said Bride. ‘Twelve men were trying to boost it down to the boat deck. They were having an awful time. It was the last boat left. I looked at it longingly for a few minutes. Then I gave them a hand and over she went.”]
With me so far?
Now, here’s the problem: The officers had no reason to cut the stays on funnel #2 [there were no roof-top collapsibles mounted nearby]. So if it fell ‘ to either side ‘ its fall can only be accounted for by the base effect [by implosion].
Jack Thayer was a pretty good witness overall. Very observant, and most of what he observed on board has been substantiated (check this with Don Lynch). But he also swore he saw the bow of the ship rise up out of the water, silhouetted against the sky, and we know this just wasn’t true. So even a good observer can be tricked by the stress of being immersed in ice water, in the dark, thinking he’s about to die.
[Pellegrino: Jim, The classic newspaper sketches drawn by ‘Thayer” were actually drawn by L.D. Skidmon, a Brooklyn reporter, based on his interpretation of Thayer’s account that the ship appeared to be breaking apart, gradually, as she went down, and that large parts of it ‘ including the second smokestack ‘ fell near him, and rose near him. In his 1940 memoir, he recants the Skidmon version of his report, and describes in some detail the partial break-up he observed, recanting also, after a referenced discussion with engineers, his impression that the ship actually broke in two.]
So, did Thayer get confused and [perhaps] remember getting away on the starboard side when in fact he got away on the port side? This does not seem likely, based on his other testimony (including interactions with other people who are known to have been on the starboard side).
It seems more likely to me that there was a moment in time when he was bobbing in the freezing water, and looked up to see the forward-most funnel falling toward him, and thought it was funnel #1, when in fact he had completely missed seeing funnel #1 fall (as he was scrambling off the ship into [literally] ice-cold water, submerging, coming up, getting over the initial shock, getting his bearings, etc.), and the forward-most funnel was now #2 ‘ which was the one he saw fall. This strikes me as very plausible.
[Pellegrino: In his 1940 memoir, Thayer does in fact specify that it was the #2 funnel that toppled toward him. I think this mistaken identification of the funnels holds true, but that it was Lightoller, not Thayer, who, after his own struggle under the water, emerged the more disoriented of the two observers, and who missed #1 falling to port, then mistook #2 for #1.]
So – – what is the only common element that can account for funnel #1 and funnel #2 falling? We can eliminate human intervention, since that would only have applied to funnel #1. The only thing common to both was the implosion of the funnel base by hydrostatic loading. This brings the ‘kick” theory to dominance.
But why did funnel #2 fall to starboard, if Thayer is to be believed?
The release of energy when funnel #1 fell might have initiated a roll moment back to starboard. At [about] this time, Chief Baker Charles Joughin was moving aft across the stern’s well deck, amid a huge crowd of panicking people. He recalls [in the British inquiry and in communications with historian Walter Lord], a sudden lurching roll of the ship, which knocked people off their feet.
[Charles Joughin to Walter Lord, 1955: ‘Most of the hair raising accounts (of panicked crowds) did not actually occur except in the last few moments, when those left behind made a mad rush toward what they considered to be a safer place, the (aft) Poop Deck. Fortunately, I was all alone (after) a big list to port occurred. I was able to straddle the starboard rail.” According to his testimony before the British Inquiry (May 10, 1912: paragraph 6037), Charles Joughin thought that Titanic’s list to port, near 1:00AM (about an hour before funnels began falling), had become more noticeable, and ‘more serious,” than her tilt down by the head. About 2:00 ‘ 2:10AM, (Brit. Inq: 6040), Joughin testified that while in the stern’s pantry, ‘I heard a kind of crash as if something had buckled, as if part of the ship had buckled, and I heard a rush (of people) overhead, on the deck.” When he ran outside, onto A Deck, Joughin saw people clambering down from the Boat Deck, above, as if (as he told Walter Lord) they were running away from something they had seen ‘ from whatever had made that sound of splitting, buckling steel. In the British Inquiry (6048), he continued to describe the stampede: ‘Their idea was to get onto the poop (onto the after well deck).” As for the sound that brought such fright (and, in 6049, whatever Joughin did not see) that had sent the people running: ‘It was not an explosion or anything like that. It was like as if the iron was parting (what I heard in the pantry, before I heard this rushing of people)’ I kept out of the crush as much as I possibly could, and I followed down ‘ followed down getting towards the well of the deck, and just as I got down towards the well she gave a giant list over to port (worse than before) and threw everybody in a bunch except myself’ (The starboard side did not so much go up, with the lurch to port) ‘ but the other side was going down’ (The people, being thrown down to port and piled up) ‘ There were more than (hundreds) ‘ many hundreds, I should say.” (‘Did she come back?” the examiner asked. ‘Did she right herself at all?”) Joughin answered, in 6058, ‘No, sir. She took a lurch and she did not return. She did not return’ I got on the starboard side of the ship, by the poop (deck).” Then Joughin, specifying for the committee, by aid of a scale model, the portion of the ship on which he had stood, described (in 6057 ‘ 6073) the final minutes of what appears, at that time, to have been the already severed stern section of the Titanic. Evidently, the list to port had reached or exceeded 45 degrees. Joughin grabbed hold of a railing and steadied himself on the actual side of the ship ‘ ‘So that you were on the outside of the ship? So that the rail was between you and the deck?” Yes, Joughin affirmed; and in this manner he worked his way gingerly toward the fantail, as the stern glided down beneath him. ‘ C.R.P.]
It would have required some catastrophic structural failure to produce such an abrupt effect ‘ to cause such an abrupt lurch to port as threw hundreds of people in a pile. The breaking of the ship’s back could have done it ‘ but then, would Joughin have had time to reach the stern rail of the poop deck before the final plunge? Maybe. Maybe not. Earlier events [ranging from the implosions of forward boiler room bulkheads to the starboard or port-side toppling of smokestacks] could have caused lurching motions even while Titanic’s spine remained unbroken.
A falling funnel [at least in a time frame approaching the beginning of the final plunge, when Boxhall and Lightoller were able to right the list, ever so slightly, by ordering people over to the opposite side of the ship], would have produced a righting moment, by relieving some of the off-center load. Imagine the mass of an entire funnel cantilevered out at 6 ‘ 10 degrees, with its center of mass actually above the boat deck, suddenly being removed from the equation. If this is the case, and if funnel #1 fell over to the port side, a roll back toward starboard might cause funnel #2 to fall in the direction opposite #1 ‘ to starboard ‘ and the release of #2 over the starboard side [or at least a post-collapse lowering of its center of mass] might have allowed her to roll back toward port ‘
[Pellegrino: Or, the collapse of #2 could have added enough mechanical shock to an already stressed system ‘ in which the sea surface was becoming a fulcrum acting against the Titanic somewhat as a knee acts against the stick being bent over it ‘ to trigger some of the buckling sounds reported by Joughin. By the time the second funnel fell, it seems likely that the mass of water inside the forward half of the ship would have far outweighed #2’s cantilever effect.]
Or, the directions in which funnel #1 and funnel #2 happened to fall might simply have been an artifact of the way in which their bases failed under pressure ‘ for example, kicking a base to port and causing the funnel to fall toward starboard.
WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH DAVITS? (he cries in desperate frustration.)
Now, what kind of picture is emerging? You’ve got Titanic submerged to about the compass platform (to mid-point, between the second and third funnels), with the two forward funnels toppled but STILL ATTACHED to the ship by steel cables ‘ which are draped over the edge of the Boat Deck BETWEEN THE DAVITS. These steel funnels have flooded and sunk adjacent to the ship, maybe lying half-on-and-half-off the [now submerged] boat deck, or maybe flipped over and dangling down along the hull’ all of this in a messy tangle of cables (which are more than capable of supporting the static load of the funnels, because they are rated to dynamic loading in storms). The ship is now rotating faster, going through 30 degrees toward a maximum of maybe 40 degrees of bow-down pitch as the stern comes higher and higher out of the water.
The hull cannot handle the stress, and it breaks’ Probably not in a clean, pencil-break like we showed in the movie, but more like a bagette breaking: It bends in a curve, fracturing over a broad middle region and finally tears from top-to-bottom as the bend increases.
[Pellegrino: This sequence of events appears consistent with what Jack Thayer was eventually to describe, and to conclude, in his 1940 memoir. The sequence is similarly consistent with Charles Joughin’s observations.]
At the beginning of this break-up process, power cables inside the ship are stretched and fail, causing the lights to go out – – in any event, the lights are on up to but not including the actual break-up, which is why only a third of the eyewitness testimony includes descriptions of the ship breaking ‘ which is why even the great historian Walter Lord [in his 1955 classic, A Night to Remember], did not describe the ship breaking up before it sank.
Now, with nothing supporting it at that angle, the bow section bends downward, still connected at the double bottom, which is flexing like a bent beer can. [Pellegrino: Alternatively, the stern section quickly breaks away from the bow section, as soon as the upper decks yawn open. At this moment, the after-most portion of the stern section is being levered down by gravity ‘ and, like a giant lever, the double-hulled bottom of the stern section, far from remaining attached like a strip of skin to the forward part of the keel, is being driven forward, twenty feet or more, until its doubly reinforced bottom literally telescopes inside the forward section of the Titanic, severing all physical connection, essentially instantly. To the forward compartments of the stern section, this twenty-foot penetration is received with all the awful force of a multiple train-wreck, and any asymmetrical rupturing or cracking of the stern’s outer hull could account for asymmetrical flooding, and for the sudden tilt to port noted by Charles Joughin, once his section of the ship broke away from the bow.]
Without the weight of the bow holding it up, the stern is now dropping back toward the surface of the ocean.
All of this is happening in total darkness, and people in the lifeboats have not had time to adjust their eyes to the absence of electric lighting. On this moonless night, many of them see nothing at all ‘ they just hear loud crashing noises, which many of them believe to be the sound of engines and boilers unseating from their beds and falling forward through the ship. They still think she is slanting down more than 45 degrees, completely intact and raising her stern into the sky like a tall building at sea. Only a few, with owl eyes (like my wife Suzy, who regularly reads in almost total darkness, to my on-going amazement), actually witness the break-up, and the falling backward of the stern.
However, many remember being hit by a wave. Most of the lifeboats were 500 meters away at that point ‘ so the fall of the stern must have produced a mighty displacement of water, to rock lifeboats at this radius. The wave almost certainly originated from the stern subsiding as the hull failed.
In addition, there were a handful of survivors who were actually on the stern section when it separated. They describe the ship ‘righting herself” [except Joughin ‘ who, defying orders to crew the lifeboats, and to save himself, followed Dr. Olaughlin’s orders to get drunk near the end and to die quickly by going down to the bottom inside the ship: He told Walter Lord that the Titanic leveled out suddenly while he was still inside the pantry, and that when he exited onto the aft Poop Deck, seconds later ‘ far from righting herself, she heeled suddenly over to port; but Joughin was, admittedly, observing through some level of drunken haze]. Those who felt the ship ‘righting herself,” [including Joughin, at least while inside, probably during the seconds of the stern’s break-away], describe moments of false hope that the Titanic was somehow self-correcting and that they would be saved. However, almost immediately [if Joughin is correct] the ship tilted to an even more extreme angle.
By this time, the eyes of the people in the boats are adjusting to the darkness. Many describe the stern of the Titanic standing like ‘a tower” silhouetted against the stars. This is because [as the lurching, or yanking motion down and to port, described by Joughin, might suggest] the mass of the still-for-several-seconds attached [if Joughin’s recollection supports the Cameron theory of prolonged attachment of the stern] to a massively negatively buoyant bow section, has pulled the loosely-held stern into this nearly vertical position.
[Pellegrino: The break-away, and the Cameron hypothesis of at least a tenuous connection between bow and stern sections ‘ which might account for ‘Joughin’s yank,” appears to be provided an approximate time frame by passenger Lawrence Beesley, though Beesley’s broader interpretation [about the engines and the condition of Titanic in her final plunge] has been proved wrong. In chapter 4 of The Loss of the Titanic, written in 1912, Beesley describes what he heard from Boat 13, about a mile away: ‘As she [tilted slowly] up, her lights, which had shone without a flicker all night, went out suddenly, came on again for a single flash, then went out altogether. And as they did so, there came a noise which many people, wrongly I think, have described as an explosion; it has always seemed to me that it was nothing but the engines and machinery coming loose from their bolts and bearings, and falling through the compartments, smashing everything in their way. It was partly a roar, partly a groan, partly a rattle, and partly a smash, and it was not a sudden roar as an explosion would be: it went on successively for some seconds, possibly fifteen to twenty, as the heavy machinery dropped ‘ (the noise) was stupefying, stupendous, as it came to us along the water. It was as if all the heavy things one could think of had been thrown downstairs from the top of a house, smashing each other and the stairs and everything in the way’ The noise was not sudden and definite (like an explosion), but prolonged ‘ more like the roll and crash of thunder’ When the noise was over the Titanic was still upright like a column: we could see her now only as the stern and some 150 feet of her stood outlined against the star-speckled sky, looming black in the darkness, and in this position she continued for some minutes ‘ I think as much as five minutes, but it may have been less. Then, first sinking back a little at the stern, I thought she slid slowly forwards though the water and dived slantingly down’ Several apparently authentic accounts have been given, in which definite stories of explosions have been related ‘ in some cases even with wreckage blown up and the ship broken in two; but I think such accounts will not stand close analysis.”]
Being bent [during initial fall-back] almost 90 degrees in one direction, then bending almost 90 degrees back the other way, causes the double bottom to tear apart ‘ with the bow detaching, headed for the bottom. At the moment the bow section detaches, it is probably hanging close to vertical’ pointed like a missile straight at the bottom.
So, then, what happens to her?
As the bow launches straight down, it has the least drag and cross-sectional area relative to its mass (missiles are designed to fly pointy-end-first for a reason)’ It probably reaches its maximum velocity for the entire descent in the first few hundred feet’ maybe as high as 40 ‘ 50 miles per hour (66 ‘ 82 km./h).
The two funnels, hanging down along the hull [either starting out on each side or soon ending up that way, bi-lateral], quickly begin behaving like drag parachutes. Their large surface area and low mass makes them fall through the water much slower than the massive bow section itself. So, relative to the ship, they are pulled violently backward along the longitudinal axis.
The funnels go from hanging down along the hull to being dragged violently behind it as [the bow section] plunges. The stay cables ‘ tangled around the davits ‘ draw taut under hundreds of tons of drag loading, and they sheer the davits off cleanly at the Boat Deck. Only one davit (the forward davit of Boat 7, on the starboard side) has even its base remaining. In these same moments, the funnel stays are snapping – – actually, the eyes mounted to the deck are pulling right out (bolts or rivets failing), since none [or ‘ and this requires further inspection ‘ few] of the funnel stays remain attached to the Boat Deck.
This violent effect probably also accounts for the paucity of extant railings on the Officers’ Quarters roof.
If the funnels fell to either side of the ship, and then were hanging down along the hull, their stay cables would have been draped over the forward davits. As the ship angled more steeply down, the funnels would have slid forward along the hull ‘ with the forward-most stays fairleading over the aft edge of the forward Boat 1 davit [the location of Ismay’s starboard side escape in Boat C, and William Murdoch’s stand at Boat A] ‘ and fairleaded too, on the port side, [just aft of] the forward Boat 2 davit. As the bow finally broke away and plunged toward the bottom, the funnels would have been dragged violently backward. The stay cables would have lifted off the two forward davits without effecting them ‘ while likely [indeed, to a near-certainty] shearing off the davits further aft.
The symmetry of the damage would also seem to support the idea that one funnel fell to port [or early in the break-away plunge of the bow, was swept there], and that the other funnel fell to starboard [or early in the break-away plunge of the bow, was swept there].
It is not necessary to decide between the ‘Kick Model” or the ‘Failed Stays Model” for the funnel collapse, in order to account for rows of davits being torn from Titanic’s decks. But the ‘Kick Model” appears to be slightly better, at reconciling damage along the Boat Deck with what survivors saw. In the ‘Kick Model,” you get stays still attached to the ship on both sides ‘ prior to the plunge ‘ and a funnel lying on top of the ship, probably forward of its base.
[Pellegrino: There were many sources of loud noises under and around Titanic’s funnels, that night. Passenger Eugene Daly was working with Boat A, just ahead of the first funnel, on the starboard side ‘ and his account is worthy of re-examination. Ship’s surgeon Dr. Frank Blackmarr, of the rescue ship Carpathia, recorded that Daly was surrounded by sounds of utter mayhem as he attempted to assist Edward Brown and others in the freeing of Boat A, at the forward-most starboard davits. He wrote of a sound like two or three trainloads of dishes crashing down from on high, superimposed over the sudden suck and drag of water, the eruption of gunfire, the screams of women being washed out of A, and something like the crack of many bull whips: ‘The man fell back on his pillow,” wrote Blackmarr, ‘crying and sobbing and moaning, saying, ‘My God’ My God, if only I could forget.'” Daly said, according to Blackmarr, that this forward-most starboard boat was filled with women ‘ all of them washed out as ropes, still anchored to the forward davits, tightened like piano wire and threatened to carry the raft to the bottom with Titanic: ‘I fell upon one of the oars and fell into a mass of people. Everything I touched seemed to be women’s hair. Children crying, women screaming and their hair in their faces. My God, if only I could forget those hands and faces that I touched.” Daly went under the water with Boat A’s ropes ‘ he and at least one other man cutting furiously with a knife. Boat A came loose, and bobbed to the surface. So did Daly. In the water, floating somewhere in the vicinity of ‘A,” Daly turned around to see the Titanic still glowing red with electric lights, and either stalking toward him or, as the bow descended, sucking him toward her. In any case, he was being swept toward the port side; the bridge was already under water and it was moving toward him, or he toward it. The first smokestack was already gone. The condition of the second stack is difficult to describe, for Daly found what he saw difficult to reconstruct. Either it had fallen away and only its base, or a jagged mounting remained ‘ giving Daly the illusion that he was looking at the #2 funnel’s still intact top, or it had kicked out from the bottom, buckling down-forward, and its top was angled toward Daly and drawing in water as the bow picked up momentum in what was no longer a slow and stately descent. In either case, the people swimming ahead of Daly were trapped by deadly currents, near the place where the second funnel ‘ what Daly called ‘the stack” ‘ had stood: ‘Those poor people who covered the water ‘ were sucked down the stack, like flies.”]
‘ Funnel #2 (or #1), lying on top of the ship, probably forward of its base. If so, with stays still attached to the ship on both sides, this would give you the almost perfect symmetry of the now-missing davits. This might also help to account for the complete lack of any remaining structure of the wheel-house ‘ if a funnel rolled over the top while dangling from its stay cables as the bow rotated down. Also, the Boat 2 davit, [forward-most] on the port side, is bent outward at an odd angle – – as if something hit it from above and behind.
But in the ‘Failed Stays Model,” you get Funnel #1 hanging over one side of the hull (presumably port) with all of the stays still attached on that side, and funnel #2 hanging over the opposite side, with all of that side’s stays still attached. This could account for most of the damage as the funnels were swept aft. It would require that some of the loose, snapped-from-the-deck funnel stays dangling down from [say] funnel #2 got wrapped around the aft davit for Boat 1 (which is also the aft davit for Ismay’s Boat C and Daly’s Boat A) ‘ and also got wrapped around the two davits for Boat 3, since these davits are forward of the attachments for funnel #2’s starboard stays. This is easy to imagine happening ‘ a likely arrangement, in fact.
However, there is something seductive about the absolute symmetry between port and starboard davit strippings; and you only (or at least you would most likely) get that if the stays were still attached to the deck when the ship plunged.
[Pellegrino: Either that, or still mostly attached to the deck when the ship plunged. If, for example, Lightoller cut only one, or at most two roof-top stays before pushing Boat B through the web and down to the Boat Deck, this might have resulted in a weakening on one side and helped to determine which direction the funnel fell when water pressure kicked out the base; but the Boat Deck stays would still have remained anchored, unless uprooted during the funnel’s fall.]
What we should all bear in mind, incidentally, is that during the initial plunge ‘ and acceleration of the bow section ‘ the hydrodynamic forces are so strong that they snap the forward stays on the foremast, causing it to slam backwards into the bridge. [Even if not already damaged by the collapse or rolling about of the #1 funnel], this undoubtedly shattered the outer and inner wheel-houses to such an extent that the currents peeled them off like the roof of a house in an atomic bomb test. As the plunging bow planed out into its final stable position for the remaining two miles of its fall to the bottom, it probably wound up angled down only about 30 degrees. In this position, turbulent flows over the top of the ship probably caused the broken foremast to beat itself against the edges of the bridge and A Deck rail, accounting ‘ at least in part ‘ for their collapsed and ruined state. When the ship hit the bottom, the mast was pressed (forcibly) into its final resting place, slightly to port of the ship’s centerline. The foremast’s forward stays parted just above the shackle area at the tip of the bow, and that shackle still remains there, flopped forward and hanging down over the stern.
When the plunging bow ‘fell through” into a stable position (about 30 degrees down-bubble), probably within the first 2000 feet [or 600 meters] of its plunge, it slowed down and began planing horizontally to the north.
[Pellegrino: Still falling essentially vertical ‘ at a slope of about 1 meter forward for every 6 meters down, stability of the bow section at 30 degrees down-bubble also gave it a higher ratio of drag, relative to an initial break-away angle approaching pointy-end-down at near-90 degrees. With a wider profile sweeping down through the water column, the bow section inevitably drew a broader collapse column, or ‘slip stream,” behind itself on the way down. Once the bow impacted the bed of the Atlantic and stopped descending, the collapse column continued pushing toward the bottom at a 1:6 angle, at the same velocity of decent attained at the impact moment ‘ with the result that inertia converted the collapse column instantly into downblast and surge cloud effects, a subject to which we shall return later in this expedition series.]
The leveling out from approximately 90 degrees to 30 degrees down-bubble ‘ this planing ‘ gave the bow section a glide ratio of 1:6’ one forward for six down. Ballard incorrectly concluded (as did George Tulloch, who arrived after him on the scene of plowed-up sediment, of a crumpled bow, and a forward-flung #1 cargo hatch), that a considerable forward momentum ‘ a more intense end-stage forward glide ‘ had caused a ‘stubbed toe effect” as the bow impacted the bottom’ somewhat like a sled, or a baseball player sliding into first base. Wrong. The glide ratio does not support this ‘ and, indeed, 1:6 supports all the observed physical phenomena etched into the bow and the terrain that surrounds it. Following Ballard and Tulloch, others (among them Haas and Livingstone) have elaborated with a ‘falling leaf” oscillation, to account for enough forward momentum at impact to produce the ‘stubbed toe” effect. But this is wrong also.
Sometime when you want another 6 page email, I’ll explain what’s really going on with the bottom impact.
None of this forensic detail has ever been dramatized. That’s why I want to do an updated sinking CG animation, of the caliber we did for Bismarck, which shows the funnels buckling and falling, shows the davits stripped off, and the mast crushing the wheel house ‘ [Pellegrino: perhaps even initiating the peel-back of the Officer’s Quarters during the near-vertical part of the fall] – – and shows the impact in detail, as supported by our forensic examinations.
We need to start on this right away, and we don’t need a final script [of the Discovery Channel broadcast] to do it ‘ to begin. The script merely tells us where in the show to use it ‘ to show whatever it is we are about to discover.
– Jim out.
Charles Pellegrino, Sunday, March 13, 2005:
Dear Jim ‘ Jack Thayer was actually carried down (wearing his life preserver) ‘ carried down what seemed to him to be quite some distance by the slipstream of the funnel – – and (as I think of what you suggest, about the severed funnels still being held, perhaps, by their stays), it becomes possible to believe that Thayer could have been freed by a cessation in the descent of the funnel, caused by the stays. He came up near collapsible B ‘ on the starboard side, he was certain. Wireless Operator Harold Bride, like Jack Thayer [and Charles Lightoller], had said that Boat B came around to starboard from the port side.
My copy of Thayer’s memoir was annotated in discussion with Walter Lord (I shall make sure to bring it on the expedition, with my other papers).
You should probably go to Charlespellegrino.com – – ‘In Their Own Words, Titanic” – – ‘Crew” – – ‘Charles Lightoller.” (The site is under construction, so pardon our appearance: It will soon be revamped, now that we have some fair amount of good content.) As I said, in one of his accounts, Lightoller does mention cutting ropes at the roof-top collapsible. There were only slip knots on the roof, so cutting Boat B free should not have been necessary. I think your idea of port-side cutting by Lightoller (of a roof-top anchor for the first funnel) bears currency. Bi-lateral tipping of the first two fallen stacks, also bears currency; but I think the accounts of Lightoller’s, Thayer’s, and Bride’s funnel falling to starboard are correct. If stays were cut on the port side (on Lightoller’s side ‘ but we do not know whether or not Murdoch and/or Wilde made any cuts to the starboard roof-top stays), then the tension from water on the Boat Deck below (at the time of Colonel Gracie’s ‘wave” ‘ which would have been working its mischief on both sides of the Boat Deck, beneath Lightoller’s alleged, roof-top port side stays), then dragging at the starboard Boat Deck stays, would have contributed to the already disproportionate pull toward starboard’ Though a six degree list to port would have but the port side Boat Deck funnel stays in the water, and in the currents and drag forces, sooner’ Eugene Daly described people being washed into what he seemed to believe was the top of the second funnel still standing late into the final plunge (but before the break-away of the stern) ‘ Yet he does not say which direction he saw it fall, or even that he actually saw it fall. That Jack Thayer saw Ismay get into Boat C (which appears to have been launched later in the sinking than the traditional Ismay chronology ‘ as adopted by Walter Lord [until we looked a bit closer at Thayer and Daly, beginning in 1991] ‘ would suggest). Thayer also saw ‘ in contradiction of Ismay’s ‘the men couldn’t have been quieter if gathered in a church” ‘ pandemonium near Boat C at the time of Ismay’s departure, and he heard gunshots in this pandemonium.
As for the large object that rose near Jack Thayer in the dark, I think he accurately described to reporters what it looked like and sounded like, but did not understand what he saw. I think this was your two decks of Grand Stairway, rising out of the sea, nearby ‘ mistaken [by reporters, not by Thayer himself], for the point bow, or for some other large part of the ship. The lights, of course, had to be dead by this time.
See you later,
– Charlie P.
James Cameron, Monday, March 14, 2005:
Charlie ‘ No way. No way did Collapsible B come, for absolutely no reason, more than 100 feet across to the starboard side. You put way too much faith in human recollection.
[Pellegrino: Historian Don Lynch pointed out that this at least used to be a true failing ‘ after showing me the evolution of a constantly shifting tale, as told to me by an old lady every bit as endearing as James Cameron’s Rose. Even though her accounts sometimes conflicted with other evidence, I deferred faithfully to the survivor who, after all, was there ‘ while I was not. This, as Don pointed out, had been a mistake. ‘She was an actress by profession. There’s your clue.” It’s not the mistake that counts, but rather the strength of one’s aversion to repeating it.]
Thayer was a kid in a shipwreck. His recollection is vivid, but disjointed and unreliable. He thought he saw the bow surface near him.
[Pellegrino: Jim ‘ This surfacing of the tip of the bow is a newspaper version of Thayer, not Thayer’s version.]
Thayer wound up on Collapsible B, and he thought he went into the sea on the starboard side, so somehow a three ton lifeboat had to teleport itself 150 feet, not only full beam across the ship, but far enough to starboard that the nearly 70-foot-long funnel did not topple on top of him and Boat B.
I sank that ship twenty times, and boats never moved across the top of the Officers’ Quarters. What happened every time was that as the deck house went under, a wave washed in toward the base of the funnel, trapping both collapsibles right back where they started, at the base of the funnel, on the roof of the deck house. In the real sinking, with Collapsible A still tethered to a davit and some poor steward madly trying to unfasten it, Boat A might have been held back. But with collapsible B sucked against the base of the funnel, it’s pretty hard to imagine it getting over to the starboard side’ THROUGH the funnel – –
[Pellegrino: But if the funnel and its stays fall below the surface and chaotic currents get involved ‘ with a 6 degree list to port and toward Boat B’]
THROUGH the funnel’ and then away from the ship one funnel-length ‘ all in time for the funnel to fall next to it?
[Pellegrino: Thayer says that it was the second funnel that fell near him and Boat B ‘ with the first funnel already gone.]
What makes more sense is that Boat B [the roof-top collapsible pushed down to the Boat Deck from a mounting originally on the port side, astride the first funnel] was washed up over the deck house roof. Then, as the wave subsided, the boat was [either washed] away or was guided by frantic men away from the ship (pushing with oars, etc., as my extras on the set of Titanic did without being told) ‘ and [this would explain how] the overturned Boat B somehow moved away just far enough that a nearly 70 foot funnel [even if shortened by an implosive effect at its base], when it toppled, didn’t quite reach the boat. If the funnel ‘kicked” at the base, as I suggested is possible, the boat wouldn’t even need to be that far away.
And don’t quote Harold Bride. He was under the damned boat. What does he know?
[Pellegrino: Bride’s escape in an air pocket under the overturned Collapsible B is the stuff of survival legend. But did it really happen as historians describe it? Bride, to Jim Speers of the New York Times, while still aboard the just-docked Carpathia, describes going only briefly, and by accident, under the overturned boat, recalling that he held his breath the whole time, catching a fresh breath at last when he ‘got out from under the boat.” The Titanic was still afloat, when Bride surfaced, with at least one of the two forward funnels still intact. Speers, in his April 28, 1912 report, quotes Bride as saying that the band was still playing ‘ but, as Boat B was washed off the port side Boat Deck, not very far (90 feet) from the location of Boat 8’s davits and the band, the band itself had to be quickly submerged. Had to be. Bride must have been misquoted or ‘ in Bride’s memory ‘ the music must have been displaced temporally. In the British Inquiry (May 23, 1912: paragraphs 16594 ‘ 16624), Bride clarifies that he was only under the collapsible for a short time, after being swept off the deck with B. When the currents dragged him under the boat, he could not find an air space, and Bride emphasized repeatedly that he was in fact under the boat for a very short time and did not stay, very long, with the trap that almost killed him. He was floating on the surface, not even aware whether or not he was still near B, when he watched the Titanic’s final death throes. Bride testified that a witness quoting him as being under the boat for a half hour or more had misunderstood ‘ because in reality he swam away from Boat B, almost as fast as he could ‘ ‘Why? I do not know.” ‘ and he found himself (‘about a half hour later,” but more likely only five or ten minutes later) near the overturned collapsible, on the starboard side. He also clarified (in 16624) that his time under Boat B ‘ Thayer’s boat – only seemed like a lifetime. Lightoller was also certain that, at least near the time of Titanic’s break-up, he was on the starboard side of the ship, with Boat B. He was the 2nd Officer ‘ and, though he might not have been able to count smokestacks when half-drowned, and though many of his actions that night were quite foolish (as all of history’s mistakes are, given 20-20 hindsight), I find it difficult to believe that a man whose seamanship so redeemed him at Dunkirk, would not have known port from starboard.]
Cameron: Charlie – With regard to Boat B’s supposed odyssey to the starboard side, doesn’t it seem more likely that Thayer lost track of which side of the ship he was on? Or that, in swimming around in the dark afterward, he made it across the sinking position of the ship to Collapsible B ‘ which was adrift where it floated off? I can even buy the turbulence of the ship’s accelerating plunge causing the boats to swirl around like leaves after the bow sank fifty or a hundred feet down ‘ but I cannot buy the boat getting twirled across the top of the ship, when the deck house roof is only 5 or 10 feet under water, and the boat then arriving [more than] 60 feet to starboard in time for the funnel to fall near it. That’s just not possible ‘ not at the rate the ship was sinking. By the time the boat got that far to starboard, the funnel would not have been able to topple because it would have been two-thirds submerged or more. And the funnel was too weak to withstand that amount of hydraulic head. Ten feet of water would have done it in. Maybe fifteen feet’ and, crack! It’s detached, and falling. So how is there time for what you’re describing?
Thayer had to be wrong on something. Or, like I said, he got off on the starboard side, did not see funnel #1 fall, saw funnel #2 fall and thought it was #1 because it was now the first one standing, and he saw it falling toward him.
[Pellegrino: Jim ‘ Your second scenario appears to be the correct one. In his 1940 memoir, Thayer does indeed say it was the second funnel that fell toward him and Boat B. Press reports merely hybridized, with Thayer’s 1912 account, reports from survivors who did remember the dramatic sight of the first smokestack breaking away ‘ just as reporters hybridized, into Thayer’s account of wreckage rocketing up to the surface from a breaking Titanic, drawings of the Titanic breaking in two and the forepeak resurfacing ‘ drawings termed by Lawrence Beesley as ‘ridiculous,” and which he noted in his account as having been circulated in various draft sketches even as he still sailed aboard the rescue ship Carpathia.]
Later ‘ after the #2 funnel fell near him ‘ and with the ship either long gone or long into the final plunge ‘ swirling around in the after-turbulence, Thayer gets washed nearer Collapsible B and swims for it. That makes more sense. We’ve discussed this before. I utterly reject Collapsible B crossing sides. Not possible. I’ve been all over this with models, and with a full-sized simulation. Some things I know.
And just because Thayer was next to Ismay doesn’t mean he stayed on the starboard side. I’ve walked that deck. It takes thirty seconds to walk through the bridge and get across to the other side. It takes about a minute if you walk around by the compass platform. The kid was seventeen-years-old. Lots of energy and curiosity. He could have been anywhere five times. Even Colonel Gracie, long in the tooth (i.e.: our age) was bopping from side-to-side chaperoning women to the boats.
I agree Thayer saw the staircase rise up, after the lights went out, very close to him and not as big as he thought. What other triangular shape would come out of the water? Had to be buoyant ‘ in other words, wood.
Gotta go to bed.
– Jim out
Charles Pellegrino, Tuesday March 15, 2005:
Dear Jim – To begin, in Thayer’s actual memoir, he states (correctly, I now believe) that it was the number two funnel that toppled toward him. His identification of number two went against other eyewitness impressions (and, incorrectly, I now suspect, I accepted the majority view against him) ‘ a subject to which I shall return shortly. If Thayer followed a path anything at all like Colonel Gracie’s, he could have been pulled toward the center of the ship after he was swept aft along the starboard side, past the gymnasium. The colonel was in the general vicinity of Jack Thayer and Milton Long when the beginning of Titanic’s final plunge generated that wave along the starboard boat deck ‘ which apparently swept like suction toward the ship’s spine after it passed aft of the gymnasium and reached a roof that was six feet lower than the gym’s. Thayer said he was located just ‘about abreast of the second funnel,” when he and Long jumped away from the starboard rail with the wave approaching and with the sea surface itself only a few feet below: He records that he had to push away with his arms and hands to clear the port-side-listing hull. By this time, overturned Boat B had gotten a head start afloat from the list, from the first-to-go-under port side Boat Deck, and ‘ yes ‘ it seems more probable that Thayer (sucked almost instantly below, ‘spinning in all directions”) was pulled, like Gracie, toward the center of the ship from the starboard side, in a direction generally between the compass tower and the second funnel. It seems more probable that a boy in a lifejacket (lower mass, smaller size, relatively larger surface area-to-volume and mass ratio, with which to catch the currents) would cross the deck and guy wires to the port side, than that Boat B went in the opposite direction and reached the starboard side. We’ll have to look more closely at this. ‘I’m not sure” and ‘I don’t know” are still the best places for a scientist to be.
Part of the challenge is that there are many variables and random chaotic processes involved. For example, your ‘reincarnated” Titanic did not allow you to reproduce the 6 degree list to port; and the sinkable model I (while writing Her Name, Titanic) built with Walter Lord’s inputs did not allow scale-and-force-adjusted stays for the funnels (so they stood balanced on their own, at a scale in which surface tension without stays was very, very roughly approximate to hydrostatic forces at larger scales with stays). And of course, trying to introduce breaking in two would have incorporated more inaccuracies than it cured (besides, we were primarily interested in resetting survivor’s clocks by the dictates of rising water ‘ all of our targeted events having occurred before the break, at which point everything really became chaos). In re-examining photos of the sinking model last night, one thing made clear (as reproduced also in my cut-away drawings of the models), is that you’re perfectly correct about the stacks being tilted vertical as water reached the bridge (and at that same time, the crow’s nest). If the tilt was more than 5 degrees to port or starboard, [my funnels] toppled from the model the moment water touched their bases. Even the fourth funnel stood in its bed at a 45-degree downward angle, until the water touched the front of its base, just aft of the dome over the first class after staircase. (In real life, this would have occurred at least several seconds after the split started.) Alfred White, after he emerged through the doorway onto his perch halfway up the forward side of the 4th funnel (probably between 2:15 and 2:17 AM, according to Bill MacQuitty’s notations), saw that the lights, though dim, were still burning; and he said that the second stack had either submerged or fallen away. In either case, he somehow perceived it as missing; but I have a problem with this because unless the third funnel twisted to port or starboard, I don’t think he had enough height and angle, yet, to see that the first and second stacks were gone (unless he guessed from the angle of the stern against the sea that they simply had to be under water, or gone; for, from his perspective, the third funnel ‘ which stayed attached in front of him with its base above water until the break ‘ should have blocked his view of the second funnel, whether or not funnel #2 was still there’ but he’d had this high-gate view before, and must have known that something had changed, structurally). Alfred White saw a clean and sharp fissure open below him, like a dividing line between the third and fourth funnels, where people had gathered atop the skylight over the aft stairway (many of these people were sliding forward), between the third and fourth funnels; and the lights still burned, even then, for a second or two after the fissure began to form. White’s account is consistent with your description, yesterday, of Titanic bending (like a semi-flexible fresh-baked Italian roll) ‘ leading to a gradual split-up – – the dorsal crust splitting under Alfred White; the keel telescoping into itself. See also Charles Joughin’s account of cracks and leaks in his area of the ship (near door 23) during the hour leading up to the break’ echoing perhaps into our own time ‘ echoing’
(Echoing from 1912 to 2001′ as what I call ‘hogging effects” leading to failure of the ‘Roman arching” in the outer frame round the WTC-1 wound – – as evidenced by cell phone recordings of people trapped suddenly in seemingly perfectly intact upper rooms by bending and shifting steel door frames, during the half hour leading up to Captain Patrick Brown’s 10:10 AM mayday from the 44th floor ‘ Things were gradually beginning to come apart ‘ leading up to that final, fatal, 18 inch across-an-entire-floor drop that triggered free-fall’ And one other horror: you had wondered how long the upper rooms stayed intact in the South Tower after it began to fall: A man on floor 102 was recorded on a cell phone call to a 9-11 operator as the tilting and lurching began to worsen, over the course of several seconds. He started pleading in a real panic, then, and an instantaneous crash accompanied by what became a growing roar seems to mark the moment the fall began. It took three full seconds for the point of compression to reach him from below, and to cut short the screams that began with the roar – and which out-shouted even the roar up to that last chip of time. My cousin Donna was luckier, ever so slightly. Her co-worker Pat Massari, had been on the phone with her husband when the whine of the starboard engine of Flight 11could suddenly be heard ‘ piercingly loud and out of nowhere. Mrs. Massari must have seen it through the windows of floor 98, north face, west side: Either she saw it or the suddenly strengthening whine momentarily frightened her. There was only time enough to get out the words, ‘Oh, my God.” And then, silence. Faster than nerves could fire, it was over. I would have had a much harder time of it if I thought it possible that Donna could have been one of those people who had to choose between burning, or breathing hot gases, or jumping.)
Back again to disintegrating hull supports, pancaking decks, and falling smokestacks: Some seconds after the break-away of Titanic’s stern began, Alfred White fell with the fourth funnel, but a retrograde amnesia takes over his account from that moment onward ‘ to about the point at which he came back to consciousness inside Boat A (He must have been knocked unconscious near A, actually already in the sea, and he must have gone retrograde amnesia [against] only the minutes preceding his arrival at A; for if the toppling of the stack, itself, had knocked him unconscious, Alfred White would surely have drowned, because he wore no lifejacket). On the port side, at a distance of about 200 feet to 400 feet, Frank Osman (Boat 2) and seaman F.O. Evans (Boat 10) got vivid views of furnishings and debris tumbling into the break between the third and fourth funnels before the stern fell back and leveled out, generating a wave that rocked the boats. Richard Norris Williams and George Rheims were also near Osman and Evans, reportedly on the port side ‘ where Boat A plucked Mrs. Abbott out of the water (she, and her children, having been barred from the boats on Lightoller’s side of the ship ‘ where they ended up near the forward stairs on the port side of the aft well deck, before being spilled into the sea ‘ just as Charles Joughin said it had been, below his perch on the rising starboard side). Williams saw the fourth funnel cant up and fall aft toward the well deck as the stern leveled out ‘ then the dying ship tilted to port, rolling the smokestack into the sea (the fall of the stack must therefore have occurred before Joughin came outdoors, for he vividly described the people ‘ the hundreds of them ‘ falling in a heap as the stern rolled). This seems consistent with intact #4 funnel after stays (immediately after the break occurred) and with severed forward stays (severed by the break) ‘ and with those intact after stays providing most of the funnel’s tension as the stern leveled out. The funnel fell aft and rolled to port, and somehow Alfred White (clinging to a ladder platform on the unharmed forward face of the funnel) lived to be pulled into Boat A. Williams and Rheims were very clear about finding Boat A on the port side of the stern ‘ though it seemed to witnesses in their general vicinity that the stern rolled or twisted in at least a partial semi-circle as it went vertical, like a skyscraper ‘ so it’s possible (let’s think about this) that one could have been swept with a collapsible life-raft along the starboard side through even the entire first half of the final plunge and, without actually crossing to port or changing course, ended up on the port side because the Titanic’s stern rotated.
But, again, there are many random and unaccounted for processes, and our scale models do not reproduce them all, or reproduce them with rigid fidelity. Occasionally (but not usually) my two forward lifeboats do travel to the opposite side ‘ and usually they move aft toward the rising stern, while it simultaneously pivots closer to them. The currents generated in the video are surprisingly large. When crossover occurs, it is usually between the second and third funnels, and not, as I had suspected (and suggested) in 2000, in Ghosts of the Titanic, over the bridge.
In any case, Boat A ended up near the crowds left behind by the disappearance of the after-most part of the stern ‘ much more in the thick of it than Boat B ‘ but both of them appear to have been moving all along toward the stern. Boat A survivor George Rheims described the horror of the crowd that was around him from the moment of the stern’s disappearance, in a passage in which he waxed suddenly evasive about the horror and said he could say no more ‘ which you and I both found suggestive that they had to kill people.
Steward Ed Brown was with Boat A from the moment (after a failed attempt to cut it loose and to launch it from the starboard side) it popped back up to the surface near him, still on the starboard side. He ended up on the port side of the Titanic’s stern, where he picked up Rheims and Williams. Brown was very close ‘ (50 or 60 feet away) from the just submerging bridge when A resurfaced, and the first funnel, or at least one of the two forward funnels, still towered overhead. While under the water, Brown heard a terrific sound (possibly the fall of the first funnel, possibly one of a half dozen fractures or implosive events ‘ including a boiler room collapse that might actually have triggered the final plunge), and in the British Inquiry (10551 ‘ 10560) he described the early stage of the break-up to examiner Aspinall: ‘[As the ship went down under me, I heard] what I took to be an explosion, Sir ‘ a great noise, a great report. [When I came to the top of the water], there was no wreckage, but a lot of people in the water’ With the first report of that explosion, I saw the after part of the ship giving a tremble ‘ and I thought by the after part going up like this, and giving a bit of a tremble, that the bow had fallen [or was falling, cracking] off. I might be wrong. [When the afterpart gave this tremble, I was] in the water; right before the forward funnel. [The lights of the ship’s afterpart] were still burning, then.”
Richard Williams, George Rheims, Jack Thayer, and Colonel Gracie were all located starboard forward on the boat deck, when the final plunge began. The first funnel evidently stayed up (or at least did not fall to starboard ‘ I’m not sure that, with the wave sweeping up the starboard boat deck, we can count on people to notice the funnel heeling over to the opposite deck, over to port, if there is any reasonable chance that it fell in that direction) ‘ it either stood or fell away to port while Gracie made his famous Coney Island surfing detour aft. The wave caught Williams, too, and swept him aft: ‘The ship seems to be rushing forward and down, generating the wave that engulfs us’ I’m carried over the side.” Gracie said he was standing about twelve feet ahead of the starboard entrance to the Grand Stairway, about 40 feet forward of Williams’ starting point in the water, when the wave came after him (with the port side already in a six degree head-start dunking). As I have explained previously, Gracie apparently gained his railing hand-hold on the roof atop the first class lounge (this roof was six feet lower than the gymnasium roof) ‘ just forward of the compass platform, and just aft of the second funnel. It was [probably] here, where water was washing aft of the gym and over the significantly lower roof of the lounge, that Gracie was pulled under in his lifejacket (aided by a silly instinct to hold onto the roof rail). Note that the wave stopped between the second and third funnels, and that the deck aft of the compass platform was, by all accounts, pivoting out of the water.
By now, the Grand Stairway had become buoyant. The after stays of the first funnel were actually anchored atop the bulkhead at the forward side of the Grand Stairway. If Lightoller had cut the port side stays loose, and if all the physical commotion of the stairway’s rise severed (or even weakened) the first funnel’s aft anchor points (and if Murdoch did not cut the starboard stays), then, depending on the chaotic interactions with the water at the funnel’s base (and noting evidence from Boxhall that Titanic was twisting significantly in a current ‘ fan-tailing ‘ throughout the first hour of the sinking), a fall forward and starboard seems likely. [But a preponderance of the evidence suggests that the first funnel fell to port, the second funnel toward Thayer and Boat B ‘ adrift on the starboard side.]
I agree that Gracie and Bride are useless on events that occurred while they were under the water or under overturned lifeboats. Gracie even assumed the entire ship had gone under by the time he came back to the surface ‘ but I think he just lacked ‘owl eyes,” and that the severed stern was still sinking nearby with its lights dead.
Thayer, however, was very clear about learning from Richard Williams that his own father had been standing on the starboard side, not very far from where he and Milton Long jumped into the sea, as the deck slid under and the wave approached. I don’t think Thayer would have been mistaken about this location (noting also that he saw Ismay get into Boat C, amid utter pandemonium and the first warning shots ringing out near Ismay’s ear ‘ Thayer to Lord: ‘I don’t blame Ismay [for jumping in]. I’d have jumped in myself but there were too many people in the way”). In his memoir, emphasizing the importance, to him, of where he was located between 2:00AM and 2:15 AM, Thayer wrote, ‘I only wish I had kept on looking for my Father. I should have realized that he would not have taken a boat, leaving me behind.” Years later, Walter Lord annotated this passage: ‘Father was apparently not aware his son was not off on a lifeboat – – not meeting spared him this horror.” On realizations so important, I really do not think Thayer is likely to have been in error. Near the Grand Stairway, he noted, in describing Colonel Gracie’s wave, that ‘the water rushing up toward us was accompanied by a rumbling roar, mixed with more muffled explosions. It was like standing under a steel railway bridge while an express train passes overhead, mingled with the noise of a pressed steel factory and wholesale breakage of china.”
I suspect that what he heard was (mostly) the beginning of the Grand Stairway’s breakaway and the associated (albeit quieter) weakening of the after stays to the first funnel ‘ with, possibly, ‘Lightoller’s boo-boo” (see all collected Lightoller accounts in Charlespellegrino.com) ‘ already at work on the port side of the #1 funnel.
Thayer continues: ‘[Mr.] Long and I had been standing by the starboard rail, about abreast of the second funnel'” I agree that after being underwater for at least some seconds, and surfacing on the starboard side again, very near the foundering ship or even drifting [directly] over its second-by-second more unfamiliar landscape, Thayer might have been confused about which funnel actually fell toward him. He said, in his memoir, that it was the second ‘ and he might or might not have been right (though there is reason to believe, as you point out, that he was very right). In his account, the ship continued to make forward progress in the water; but he was probably being swept aft by the paddle effect of the bow’s down-pivot – while the ship’s stern, pivoting upward about a center of mass located between the second and third funnels, added to the simultaneous illusion of forward motion. That the Thayer memoir starts him over the starboard side and into the water abreast of the second smokestack, makes it hard to imagine the first funnel falling close enough to effect him ‘ and yet, what he describes as the second funnel ‘missed me by only twenty or thirty feet. The suction of it drew me down'” Afterward, he came up near the overturned Boat B, which had started on the port side boat deck, upside down. I have wondered if it might even have been the third stack falling toward him; but that would have happened in darkness, when the break-away of the stern was under way and Titanic’s lights had snapped out. Although great stress sometimes scrambles events in time, when recalled afterward (my Titanic 13 expedition log tells me, for example, that events on 9-11 did not happen in the sequence in which I actually recalled them, weeks later), Thayer’s account of the sinking, as observed in the water and atop the overturned Boat B, has him seeing clearly, the third funnel still attached and the lights still burning even as the base of ‘the last funnel [the #4 funnel] was about on the surface of the water.” (The break occurred about the time the base of the third funnel reached the water.)
If Thayer actually said he saw the tip of the bow rise near him, this would appear to discredit all of his observations, to one degree or another. But he actually said he only saw something large rising, which he could not identify and which at one point he thought might have been part of a rolling smokestack ‘ or even (to Walter Lord), part of a staircase.
Thayer never actually wrote anywhere (and at least after 1940 never appears to have said anywhere) that the bow rose near him after the ship broke in half, and he might never have said anything about the ‘tip of the bow” at all. Nor, as I said earlier, did he pen the drawings published in several newspapers and books, and credited to him. Aboard the Carpathia and ashore, he told fellow survivors and reporters that he thought the ship broke in half, and that a large piece of it (not specifically identified as the point of the bow) rose far aft of the bow, near the place where the second smokestack had been. His story was sensationalized by the newspapers and ‘his” now classic drawings were merely newspaper embellishments of crude stick figure pencil sketches made during a discussion. Indeed, after the American and British inquiries into the loss of the Titanic concluded that she did not break in half, Thayer dismissed his own initial impression of the ship breaking apart. In his family memoir, he described the final plunge, as viewed from Boat B, thus:
‘I did not say she broke into separate parts, but that some bending and breaking did take place. My hearers told me that it was a reasonable supposition and a possible explanation for the final behavior of the ship. Her deck was turned slightly toward us [as water reached the base of the fourth funnel, and the lights still burned]. We could see groups of almost fifteen hundred people still aboard, clinging in clusters or bunches, like swarming bees; only to fall in masses, pairs or singly, as the great after part of the ship, two hundred and fifty feet of it, rose into the sky, till it reached a sixty-five or seventy degree angle. Here it seemed to pause, and just hang, for what felt like minutes. Gradually she turned her deck away from us [C. Pellegrino: Or the overturned collapsible drifted. If Thayer was not paying close attention to the positions of stars and thus had essentially his boat and the Titanic as sole points of reference, it would have been difficult to tell which object was more stationary than the other. So Titanic could have appeared simply to turn her deck away from Thayer, even if it was he and Boat B that were doing most of the moving] ‘ turned away’ as if to hide from our sight the awful spectacle. We had an oar on our overturned boat. In spite of several men working it, amid our cries and prayers, we were being gradually sucked in toward the great pivoting mass. [Note Boxhall’s steady, eastward current, and note that the stern was rising eastward of Thayer’s and Boat B’s point of departure.] I looked upwards ‘ we were right underneath the three enormous propellers. [C. Pel: The breakaway of the stern must have already occurred, or Thayer would now have been in a very sorry location, for the fall-back of the released stern – – So, by now the lights must surely be out and the fall of the fourth funnel must have taken place either out of view, or Thayer just does not want to mention, at the time of the writing in 1940, anything hinting at the much-ridiculed idea that the ship broke in two.] For an instant, I thought they [the propellers] were sure to come right down on top of us. Then, with the deadened noise of the bursting of her last few gallant bulkheads she slid quietly away from us into the sea. There was no final apparent suction and practically no wreckage that we could see. I don’t remember all the wild talk and the calls that were going on, on our boat, but there was one concerted sigh or sob as she went from view. Probably a minute passed with almost dead silence and quiet. Then an individual call for help, from here, from there; gradually swelling into a composite volume of one long continuous wailing chant, from the fifteen hundred in the water all around us. It sounded like locusts on a mid-summer night, in the woods of Pennsylvania.”
You’ll note that Thayer’s memoir is curiously silent about the moments during which the breakaway of the stern actually occurred. When Walter Lord wrote A Night to Remember, he had learned from Thayer (I’m not sure when, because Walter started writing about the ship and started contacting survivors when he was only about fourteen years old), that the witness dismissed his initial impression that the Titanic broke, and had in fact, very soon after the sinking, recanted it. The rest of Thayer’s account was one of the richest Walter had ever encountered, with many of the details corroborated by others. And the Thayer memoir, with its curious gap, became a primary reason Walter had long believed Titanic, minus some crackage and breakage and falling smokestacks, had gone down in one piece.
Now, Jim, back yet again to those falling funnels: Thayer, as you suggest, wrote that it was the second funnel that fell toward him. And, yes, if dunking and swirling and adrenaline had rendered him even slightly directionally dyslexic, it’s possible he did not know left from right, starboard from port ‘ after he surfaced. The ‘fireflies” described by Thayer (with Bride and others referring specifically to the first funnel, falling to starboard, and releasing hot sparks of [presumably] coal dust) might have led me to a wrong conclusion about which funnel fell toward Thayer, for it seemed deceptively logical that only the forward shaft remained dry enough, at this point, to be jetting clouds of sparks. In any case [again], Thayer’s starting point near the second funnel, and then being swept aft, would seem to eliminate the first funnel as a candidate, able to reach anywhere near him. And in his own account, he says it was the second stack. (What Eugene Daly mistakenly described as people being sucked down the top of the second funnel might have ‘ must have been a cavity left at one of the funnel bases ‘ first or second, after they both fell’ or the ‘kicked out” second funnel descending toward him and drawing in water.)
I hope whatever publisher I’m with in 2012 will let me revise Ghosts of the Titanic ‘ for so much of what we are discovering, and puzzling out, is revising interpretations of what survivors thought they saw happening, to themselves and to others, the incredible night the Titanic went down.
Hey. Have you thought about raising the old girl? (Sure. Who couldn’t use another big ulcer job?)
See you later,
– Charlie P.
INTERMISSION: During the week of March 20, 2005, a pre-expedition conference was held at the Cameron ranch ‘ which is, fortunately, sustained by the largest privately owned solar-electric facility in the western hemisphere. The conference was punctuated by driving rain, devastating mudslides, National Guard rescue units requiring rescue by Marines, the odd body floating down the ravine, death of cattle, and frogs.
One of the very many topics for future exploration ‘ beyond merely sending a fleet of tiny next-generation robots into Titanic’s final unknown chambers ‘ was what happened to the ship after Jack Thayer saw the last of her.
The attached letter addresses some notes and questions regarding the 1:6 ratio of descent, after the bow section reached stability. Like the correspondence preceding, it provides a backdrop against which the Thayer memoir (which immediately follows the letter) should be read. The forensic physics, and the forensic archaeological discussions, bring us closer to what happened physically to the great ship and in what sequence. Jack Thayer shows us exactly what it felt like to be a living human being thrust into that very same, cold physics. The human story is what combines with the science, to make it history.
All of the scientific discussion about angles of descent and hydrostatic pressure are, in essence, the first drafts of historical investigations whose end may never be written because each new answer, like a fractal equation, kicks open the doors to ten new questions. But all the science means little, without humanity. Humanizing (if, in the end, only marginally) so many pages of discussion about tilting decks and the strength of funnel stays and collapse columns, the Jesuit scholar Fr. John MacQuitty has observed, ‘Yes. It’s true. All of this started with a one-sentence question from Gary Lang. I could have warned him that asking the likes of Charles Pellegrino or James Cameron a question can be like going to a fire hydrant for a sip of water.”
(Subject: Animating Titanic’s Bow Section Impacting Bottom)
Charles Pellegrino, Saturday March 26, 2005:
Dear Jim ‘ A couple of quick notes on the impact with the sea floor: The 1:6 descent ratio and the center of mass driving her forward by that same ratio ‘ about 20 feet forward at the bow ‘ is very important. Many people seem to think that she somehow came sliding like a crashing plane across the bottom, and in 1996, aboard the Ocean Voyager, everything that looked like a slide into first base (resulting from the 1:6 forward wedging) was used to suggest that she did precisely that: fell straight for about two miles, or even spiraled for great distances (in complete contradiction to deposition of coal and other debris), and in the end barreled across that last quarter mile like some sort of undersea log flume ride. I could not convince Garske and Livingstone (or even Tulloch) otherwise.
I had videoed, on 22 September 2001, that crushed and (as Parks Stephenson has described it) stenciled, or ‘flattened” piece of downblasted sheet metal, on the well deck at the port aft side of the forecastle (near the white stateroom heating unit deposited on deck, evidently originating somewhere far aft.) ‘ but I had not known until this week that the stenciled steel was an air intake funnel downblasted from just a few feet aft of its final resting place. [Parks has identified it as the flattened shaft of a ‘mushroom vent,” wrapped around a pair of bitts on the forward port corner of the well deck, with the head of the vent lying upside-down, nearby.] I had previously thought the bitt-wrapped shaft to be probable slipstream debris, like the indoor heating unit nearby. Now, we know the point of origin and exactly how far [the mushroom vent] traveled. We know what happened to it, and when. This should be videoed with good clarity and used in the illustration of downblast (along with the heating unit ‘ which also tells part of the story, along with those floor tiles from aft, deposited near and forward of the starboard anchor – – and of course, along with the forward-flung cargo hatch, directly in front of the bow and dished with a ping on one side – – Did the hatch nick the forward crane as it left the bow, and is that part of the reason the crane is pushed forward? I don’t know. If so, I would expect to see a lot more damage to the crane, and the force of the downblast would appear to be capable of accounting entirely for the crane’s forward swing.)
Another illustration of downblast effect is the damage to the rails, forward of the bridge. Forward on the forecastle, there is virtually no pushing out of rails, from the center of the ship, and the posts stand undamaged and erect. As you move aft and the profile of the deck widens to catch a progressively larger volume of the descending collapse column, the rails are pushed outward with progressively greater force. A good example exists starboard, if they have not fallen off since 1996 ‘ near a set of bollards, where the rails’ vertical posts bent down 90 degrees, their horizontal elements billowing outward like the square rig of a sailing ship before pulling the posts the posts themselves down, horizontal. On the well deck, rails and once-vertical steel plates are pressed outward from the center of the ship, bi-laterally.
Another bottom impact illustration is the gap between the forward bow’s hull and the sediment ‘ which I had videoed in some detail on the starboard side, where the bow section is deep-hammered into the earth. In 1996, Livingstone and the Harland and Wolf crowd (viewing break-up near the surface and even downblast theory as personal insults against the structural integrity of the ship built by their company), attempted to argue that the chest-wide gap between hull and ‘plowed-up” sea sediment meant that the hull had, through the years, shrunk away from the very sediment it plowed up, creating the gap over decades of slow settling and deformation. Not likely. A simpler explanation is that water was merely entrapped temporarily between the hull and the sediment upon impact (some squeezed out from the compressing sediment itself, much as a sponge can be wrung even under water). In places where the bow was driven under, the non-compressible water escaped in a manner akin to the slapping sound made when you clap your hands together. In this case, water would have jetted up between the hull and the forming wall of sediment ‘ becoming, as it were, a fossil remnant of the descending Titanic’s point-of-impact boundary layer. Further aft, where the hull remained above the sediment (and the keel remained flush with the sea bed), there would only have been a lateral sweeping motion, barely distinguishable in the downblast that bellied down (or collapse- columned) about 2/10ths of a second later. Video of the gap, combined with animation of the jetting (or one of us drawing the effect on paper) would be ‘ well, kind of cool.
See you later,
– Charlie P.
CHAOS IN A TEAPOT: WHAT JACK THAYER SAW
‘This is the one Walter Lord says I must now re-examine in detail ‘ in light of Rheims family papers and our new archaeological perspectives. ‘ CRP.” So reads a partly faded inscription dating from about 1986, written on the cover of Jack Thayer’s ‘The Sinking of the S.S. Titanic.” The Thayer account is reproduced here, with [bracketed notes] representing annotations and observations by Walter Lord (about 1991) and Pellegrino (2005):
Jack Thayer, Age 50, 1940:
This account of the sinking of the [R.M.S.] Titanic has been written primarily as a family record for the information of my children and their children in memory of my Father, John Borland Thayer, the third of that name, who lost his life in the disaster.
Just as no two happenings in the stream of space-time are identical, no two ships ever destroyed by an ‘Act of God” in peace time, or of an enemy in time of war, sink in the same manner or under the same conditions. And due to the great size of modern ships, no two individuals no matter how close they may be together on shipboard have the same description of an experience to relate, should they be so fortunate to survive the ordeal. Therefore, every account by an individual survivor of such a disaster probably has some new reader-interest to those interested in stories of the sea.
It takes the many separate accounts pieced together to give the true composite history of the whole happening and I hope this attempt at a true description of the Titanic disaster may have some historical value.
[Walter Lord: To say that Thayer had an astute command of understatement would, itself, be a titanic understatement.]
The ship was carrying twenty-two hundred and eight persons. Seven hundred and three persons left in the lifeboats, leaving fifteen hundred and fifty-three to go down. Forty-two of these were saved; twenty-eight were on the bottom of the overturned lifeboat [known as Collapsible B], and of this number I was one; and fourteen were in the half submerged collapsible boat [known as Collapsible A], among whom was my good friend Richard Norris Williams ‘ who also lost his Father. Only about one in every thirty-six who went down with the ship was saved, and I happened to be one of those.
The whole event passes before me now in nineteen-hundred and forty, as vividly and with the same clarity, as twenty-eight years ago in nineteen hundred and twelve. Nevertheless, in writing this story I have referred to statistics and a brief article prepared by me shortly after the disaster.
I want to emphasize some of the everyday conditions under which we were living, to show how much humanity was shocked by the approaching disaster.
These were ordinary days, and into them had crept only gradually the telephone, the talking machine [the phonograph], the automobile. The airplane, due to have so soon such a stimulating yet devastating effect on civilization, was only a few years old, and the radio as known today, was still in the scientific laboratory. The Marconi wireless [telegraph] had just come into commercial use, and the Morse Code for help was ‘C.Q.D.,” as our modern ‘S.O.S.” was just making its appearance. The safety razor had just been invented, and its use was gradually spreading. Upon rising in the morning, we looked forward to a normal day of customary business progress. The conservative morning paper seldom had headlines larger than half an inch in height. Upon reaching the breakfast table our perusal of the morning paper was slow and deliberate. We did not nervously clutch for it, and rapidly scan the glaring headlines, as we are inclined to do today. Nothing was revealed in the morning, the trend of which was not known the night before. We knew that our morning coffee came from Brazil; that it was grown as a free crop, without destruction of the surplus; that it was purchased from the small corner grocer, a friend, at a price established by competition, without the loading and build-up, due to many hidden taxes; and that it was not ‘dated.” These days were peaceful and ruled by economic theory and practice built up over years of slow and hardly perceptible change. There was peace, and the world had an even tenor to its ways.
A dollar could be exchanged for four shillings, four marks, or four francs. In exchange for a five-dollar gold piece or a five-dollar bill, one could pocket a pound note or a gold sovereign.
As an individual, returning to Harverford School outside of Philadelphia, I confidently knew that after graduation in the spring, and according to plans for my future laid out by my Father in deference to my nebulous ambitions, I would attend college at Princeton, New Jersey, and from there go to London, Paris, Berlin, and Vienna, where I would serve an apprenticeship in private and commercial banking houses, and would return to practice commercial or private banking in the United States. It could be planned. It was planned. It was a certainty.
In those days one could freely circulate around the world, in both a physical and an economic sense, and definitely plan for the future, unhampered by class, nationality, or government.
[Walter Lord: ‘unhampered by class” was an easy perception for a member of the wealthiest class, looking back three decades from a perspective at the beginning of the Second World War.]
True enough, from time to time there were events ‘ catastrophes ‘ like the Johnstown Flood, the San Francisco Earthquake, or floods in China ‘ which stirred the sleeping world; but not enough to keep it from resuming its slumber. It seems to me that the disaster about to occur was the event, which not only made the world rub its eyes and awake, but woke it with a start, keeping it moving at a rapidly accelerating pace ever since, with less and less peace, satisfaction, and happiness.
Today the individual has to contend with rapidity of motion, nervous emotion, and economic insecurity, To my mind, the world of today awoke April 15, 1912.
The steamship Titanic of the White Star Line, largest ship the world had ever known, sailed from Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York on April 10, 1912. She was built by Messrs. Harland and Wolff, at Belfast. She was a fabricated steel vessel of gigantic dimensions, registered at Liverpool, her gross tonnage was 46,328 tons, her length over all being 852 feet, with a breadth of 92 feet, and a depth of 65 feet. The distance from the keel to the top of the funnels was 175 feet. She had a double bottom extending the full length of the ship, with a space of five to six feet between the inner and outer plates ‘ and [she] was divided into sixteen water-tight compartments, with access to each compartment through water-tight doors.
[Lord/Pellegrino 1991: Today, on the port side of the stern, part of the double bottom can be seen blown out through the side of a crumpled hull ‘ this, attesting to the hardness of the canyon floor and to collapse, upon impact with the seabed, of the entire structure of the stern section with minimal penetration of sediment and maximum jetting of material from inside the ship. In other words, the double bottom was, in places, pulled out through ‘ and with ‘ the hull.]
The rudder alone weighed 100 tons. She was driven by three enormous screws, the center one weighing 22 tons, the other two 38 tons each, and [she] was capable of making 23 knots. The last word in luxury, the world thought her unsinkable.
Captain E. J. Smith, her commander, Commodore of the White Star Line Fleet, was on his last trip from Southampton, before having to retire on age. In his thirty-eight years of service he had never met with a serious accident. On this trip, he had under him a splendid compliment of officers and men.
The Titanic had a passenger certificate to carry 3547 passengers and crew. She carried sixteen lifeboats and four Engelhart collapsible boats, all of which had a total carrying capacity of 1167 persons, or approximately 60 to 65 in each boat. She carried 3560 life belts or their equivalent.
The Titanic was a wonderfully safe vessel. The life-saving equipment should surely have been sufficient to take care of any normal eventualities.
On this maiden voyage the ship carried a total of 2208 persons, of whom 1316 were passengers and 892 crew. There were 332 first-class passengers, 227 second-class passengers, and 709 third-class passengers. I have in my safe deposit box an original first-class passenger list. It was carried off the ship in the pocket of the overcoat worn by my Mother.
There were a great many prominent people on the passenger list and because it was her maiden voyage there were on board many of those responsible for the building of the ship, and the management of the steamship line. Some of these were: Thomas Andrews, one of the ship’s designers; Archie Frost, the builders’ Chief Engineer, including his approximately twenty assistants – –
[Lord/Pellegrino: Archie Frost was a close friend, and admirer of ship-builder Thomas Andrews. Bell was the Chief Engineer aboard the Titanic ‘ and by at least one account it was said that Frost was to be transferring to another line and immigrating to the United States. It seems more likely that the promotion mentioned by Thayer would have kept him with the White Star Line, had he survived the night.]
(There was also) J. Bruce Ismay, President of the International Mercantile Marine Company and Chairman of the Board and Managing Director of the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, Limited, owners of the White Star Line; all observing the performance of the ship, and all of whom were often with my Father and myself, during the few days we were aboard.
My Father, John B. Thayer, Second Vice-President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, My Mother, Marian Longstreth Morris Thayer, my Mother’s maid, Margaret Fleming, and I, were all in one party that sailed first-class from Southampton.
We had no more than started down the narrow channel, and were commencing to make headway under our own power, when we passed the American Liner [S.S. New York], tied up to the S.S. Oceanic ‘ which was lying alongside the dock. The suction created by our port propeller, as we made a turn in the channel, broke the strong cables mooring her to the S.S. Oceanic, causing [the New York’s] stern to swing toward us at a rapid rate. It looked as though there would surely be a collision. Her stern could not have been more than a yard or two from our side. It almost hit us. Luckily, the combined efforts of several tugs, which had quickly made fast to her, pulled her stern back. This narrowly averted collision was considered an ill-omen by all those accustomed to the sea.
[Walter Lord: This ‘omen” was their only chance at good luck. Had they been truly lucky, they’d have been less lucky. Had Titanic collided with the New York, she would have been held back for inspection and repairs ‘ and missed her appointment with the ice field.]
We called at Cherbourg, and from there proceeded to Queenstown.
We left Queenstown at 1:30 in the afternoon of Thursday, April 11th. The weather was fair and clear, the ship palatial, the food delicious. Almost everyone was counting the days till we would see the Statue of Liberty.
I occupied a stateroom adjoining that of my Father and Mother on the port side of ‘C” deck; and, needless to say, being seventeen years old, I was all over the ship.
Sunday, April 14th, dawned bright and clear. It looked as if we were in for another very pleasant day. I spent most of that day walking around the decks with my Mother and Father. We had short chats with many of the other promenaders, among whom I particularly remember J. Bruce Ismay, Thomas Andrews, and Charles M. Hays, who was President of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada; with all of whom we spent quite a lot of time.
It became noticeably colder as the afternoon wore on. I remember Mr. Ismay showing us a wire [telegraph message] regarding the presence of ice and remarking that we would not reach that position until around nine P.M. We went to our staterooms about six-thirty to dress for dinner. My Father and Mother were invited out to dinner that night, so I dined alone at our regular table. After dinner I was enjoying a cup of coffee, when a man about twenty-eight or thirty years of age drew up, and introduced himself as Milton C. Long, son of Judge Charles M. Long, of Springfield, Massachusetts. He was traveling alone. We talked together for an hour or so. Afterwards I put on an overcoat and took a few turns around the deck.
It had become very much colder. It was a brilliant, starry night. There was no moon and I have never seen the stars shine brighter; they appeared to stand right out of the sky, sparkling like cut diamonds. A very bright haze, hardly noticeable, hung low over the water. I have spent much time on the ocean, yet I have never seen the sea smoother than it was that night; it was like a mill-pond, and just as innocent looking, as the great ship quietly rippled through it. I went onto the Boat Deck ‘ it was deserted and lonely. The wind [our 22 knot progress through the still air] whistled through the stays, and blackish smoke poured out of the three forward funnels ‘ the fourth funnel was a ‘dummy funnel,” for ventilation purposes. It was the kind of night that made one feel glad to be alive.
About eleven o’clock I went below to my stateroom. After a short conversation with my Father and Mother, and saying good night to them, I stepped into my room to put on pajamas, expecting to have another delightful night’s rest like the four preceding.
The ship was so large and extensive that all I can tell about the tragedy is only a small part of all that actually occurred. I will try to recount all that I actually saw or heard, or heard from others and afterward verified.
We were steaming along at 22 or 23 knots, not reducing speed at all, in spite of the many warnings of the presence of ice, which had come from other ships during the afternoon and evening. We were out for a record run.
[Walter Lord: There were other ships powered entirely by turbine engines that were faster than Titanic. She was not about to set a record. However, even with a coal strike in Europe and a need to conserve fuel, Titanic was lighting more boilers as the voyage proceeded, nudging her up to her near-maximum velocity of about 23 knots. Perhaps George Tulloch’s theory about the fire in coal bunker #10 dictating a need to arrive a night early in New York, under cover of darkness, bears some credibility.]
I had called ‘Good night” to my Father and Mother in the next room. In order to get plenty of air I had half opened the port, and the breeze was coming through with a quiet humming whistle. There was the steady rhythmic pulsation of the engines and screws, the feel and hearing of which becomes second nature to one, after a few hours at sea. It was a fine night for sleeping, and with the day’s air and exercise, I was sleepy.
[Walter Lord: Note, next, that Thayer had not reset his watch, and that he was probably, like many aboard, running about fifteen minutes fast, by the time he stepped into bed. By majority account of the surviving officers and crew, the Titanic struck the iceberg at 11:40 PM.]
I wound my watch ‘ it was 11:45 PM ‘ and I was just about to step into bed, when I seemed to sway slightly. I immediately realized that the ship had veered to port as though she had been gently pushed. If I’d had a brimful glass of water in my hand, not a drop would have been spilled ‘ the shock was so slight.
Almost instantaneously the engines stopped. The sudden quiet was startling and disturbing. Like the subdued quiet in a sleeping car [on a train], at a stop, after a continuous run. Not a sound except the breeze whistling through a half-opened porthole.
[Walter Lord: The engines came to a stop after the impact ‘ an instant later. The breeze could only have been the ship continuing to glide through still air. Next, Thayer corroborates Lawrence Beesley’s observation that someone started the engines forward again, and steamed ahead for a short distance.]
Then there was the distant noise of running feet and muffled voices, as several people hurried through the passageway. Very shortly the engines started up again ‘ slowly ‘ not with the bright vibration to which we were accustomed, but as though they were tired. After a very few revolutions they again stopped.
I hurried into my heavy overcoat and drew on my slippers. All excited, but not thinking anything serious had occurred, I called in to my Father and Mother that I ‘was going up on the deck to see the fun.” Father said he would put on his clothes and come right up and join me. It was bitterly cold. I walked around the deck looking over the side from time to time. As far as I could see, there was nothing to be seen, except something scattered on the well deck forward, which I afterward learned was ice. There was no sign of any large iceberg. Only two or three people were on deck when I arrived, but many rapidly gathered. My Father joined me very soon. He and I moved around the deck trying to discover what had happened and finally found one of the crew who told us we had hit an iceberg ‘ which he tried to point out to us, but which we could not see in spite of the brilliant night, as possibly our eyes were not accustomed to the dark after coming out of the lighted ship.
[Pellegrino: This was probably about 11:50 PM, approximately ten minutes after impact. If the ship had slowed down from 22 or 23 knots at the point of impact, then, counting a near-standstill restart of the engines, briefly, Titanic was probably no more than a half mile beyond the iceberg ‘ which, at approximately the height of the Boat Deck, would still have been plainly visible to a crewman with good night vision.]
(During these first few minutes), the ship took on a very slight list to starboard [toward the side of the ship in which the initial weight-gain of flooding occurred]. We did not know it at the moment, but we learned afterward that the iceberg had ripped open probably [about] four of her larger forward compartments on the starboard side ‘ and also that if we had only hit the ice head-on, instead of making too late an attempt to avoid it, the ship would in all probability have survived the collision.
About fifteen minutes after the collision [about 11:55 PM], she developed a list to port and was distinctly down by the head.
Here we were, eight hundred miles out from New York, off the Grand Banks, our position Latitude 41 degrees 46 minutes north, Longitude 50 degrees 14 minutes west.
[Pellegrino: The position of the central stern section is 41 degrees, 43 minutes, 35 seconds north Latitude; 49 degrees, 56 minutes, 55 seconds west Longitude.]
No one yet thought of any serious trouble. The ship was unsinkable.
It was now shortly after midnight. My Father and I came in from the cold deck to the hallway, or lounge. There were quite a few people standing around questioning each other in a dazed kind of way. No one seemed to know what next to do. We saw, as they passed, Mr. Ismay, Mr. Andrews, and some of the ship’s officers. Mr. Andrews told us he did not give the ship much over an hour to live. We could hardly believe it; and yet, if he said so, it must be true. No one was better qualified to know.
I was still dressed in pajamas and overcoat. At about 12:15 AM, the stewards passed word around for everyone to get fully clothed and to put on life preservers ‘ which were in each stateroom.
[Lord and Pellegrino: This word might actually have been given as early as 12:00 AM. The precise times given by Thayer suggest that he jotted down notes shortly after the sinking, because his watch appears to be consistently out-of-synch throughout his 1940 account, generally conflicting with the timing of key events, as recorded by other survivors.]
We went below right away and found my Mother and her maid fully dressed. I hurried into my clothes ‘ a warm greenish tweed suit and vest with another mohair vest underneath my coat. We all tied on the life preservers, which were really large, thick cork vests. On top of these we put our overcoats.
We then hurried up to the lounge on A Deck, [to the first class lounge on the Promenade Deck ‘ which, according to Thayer, is where the band initially started playing, probably between 12:15 and 12:30 AM]. The lounge area was crowded with people, some standing, some hurrying, some pushing out onto the deck. My friend Milton Long came by at that time and asked if he could stay with us. There was a great deal of noise. The band was playing lively tunes without apparently receiving much attention from the worried moving audience.
It has been more or less definitively established by the investigations into the disaster, held in both the United States and in England, that the S.S. Californian was [within visual contact of] the Titanic [by about 12:45 AM], and did see the distress rockets which were continually sent up [beginning about 12:45AM]. She must have seen our blinker light C.Q.D., which was continuously operating. It was determined that her wireless operator signed off after talking to the Titanic at about 11:30 PM but possibly even heard our wireless C.Q.D. [The most credible evidence, from Charles Victor Groves of the Californian, suggests that the Titanic’s wireless call for distress was never heard by ‘the ship that stood still.”] The captain apparently paid no attention to any reports from his juniors. While I did not see the masthead lights of the S.S. Californian, many claim they did see them. My Mother watched them for some time while on the port side, waiting to get into a lifeboat [with the port side sometimes swinging in the current, facing the Californian in the north, according to Boxhall] ‘ and Second Officer Lightoller told me he positively saw them. The ship was at most not more than ten or twelve miles away. By merely obeying the age old law of the sea, the Captain of this ship had the greatest opportunity ever presented to save over fifteen hundred human lives with the minimum of effort or danger to his own ship.
We all went out onto the A Deck, trying to find where we were supposed to go. They were then uncovering the boats and making preparations to swing them out. Everything was fairly orderly and the crew at least seemed to know what they were doing.
It was now about 12:45 AM. The noise was terrific.
[Pellegrino, 2005: Thayer, at this stage, may actually be describing the scene about 12:30 AM. If standing on the port side, he would have seen lifeboats being loaded and lowered to the promenade deck by Lightoller, under Captain Smith’s orders. If on the starboard side of the lounge, Thayer would have seen boat #7 and boat #5 actually descending on davits to the sea surface, before the first rocket went up, at 12:45 AM. By following J.Bruce Ismay, and officers Lowe and Murdoch through the British and American Inquiries, and through files of survivors’ correspondence, accounts are consistent with First Officer William McMaster Murdoch lowering away #7 and #5 about 12:40 AM, an hour after Titanic impacted the iceberg. Ismay and Lowe were present as chief surviving witnesses of the launchings. Lowe and Ismay had a brief shouting match at #5. After 12:40 AM, Murdoch began the final loading and preparation for the lowering of #3 on the starboard side, with Ismay and Lowe present and assisting. Number 3 was lowered away ‘a little after 12:50 AM,” according to both Lowe and Ismay.]
The deep vibrating roar of the exhaust steam blowing off through the safety valves [atop the funnels] was deafening, in addition to which they had commenced to send up rockets [as signals of distress]. There was more and more action. After standing there for some minutes, talking above the din, trying to determine what we should do next, we finally decided to go back into the crowded hallway, where it was warm. Shortly we heard the stewards passing the word around, ‘All women to the port side.” We then said good-bye to my Mother at the head of the stairs on A Deck, and she and the maid went out onto the port side of that deck, supposedly to get into a lifeboat. Father and I went out on the starboard side, watching what was going on about us. It seemed we were always waiting for orders and no orders ever came. No one knew his boat position, as no lifeboat drill had been held. The men had not yet commenced to lower any of the forward starboard lifeboats, of which there were only four.
[The scene described here must be prior to 12:40 AM, suggesting that Thayer’s recollection of events, in 1940 ‘ including distress rockets launched by quartermaster Rowe after 12:40 AM ‘ includes at least some elements displaced backward in time, over some 28 years of memory replay. – – C.R.P.]
The noise kept up. The deck seemed to be well lighted. People like ourselves were just standing around, out of the way. The stokers, dining-room stewards, and some others of the crew were lined up, waiting for orders. The second- and- third class passengers were pouring up onto the deck from the stern, augmenting the already large crowd.
Finally we thought we had better inquire whether or not Mother had been able to get a boat. We went into the hall and happened to meet the Chief Dining-Room Steward. He told us that he had just seen my Mother, and that she had not yet been put into a boat. We found her, and were told that they were loading the forward boats on the port side from the deck below [from the ‘Promenade deck,” or A Deck, with its large first class lounge]. The ship had a substantial list on the port side [which, in accordance with other accounts, developed slowly but became especially pronounced about the time the first rocket went up and the forward bulkhead in boiler room #5 gave way several decks below the forward-most funnel ‘ at 12:45AM] ‘ which made quite a space between the side of the ship and the lifeboats, swinging out over the water [from the Boat Deck, above the Promenade], so the crew stretched folded steamer chairs across the space, over which the people were helped into the boats.
[Walter Lord, 1991: This description seems in accordance with a decision made after 12:45 AM to launch the forward port-side boats from the Boat Deck instead of the Promenade deck. Jack Thayer’s mother was evidently abiding by news already more than fifteen minutes out of date. Pellegrino, 2005: About this same time, about 1:00AM, Lowe has sent Boat #3 away on the forward starboard side. Ismay has headed up the starboard Boat Deck to #9 with Murdoch, who has assisted the beginning of #1’s loading and left Lowe in charge of #1 ‘ which should have been an easy loading and lowering, as it was, in normal operations, perpetually swung out on the forward-most davits. Passengers are now climbing over Collapsible C into #1. Ismay has followed Murdoch aft toward #s 9 and 11, evidently at least a little peeved with Lowe, after their exchange of strong words at #5. Number 9’s davits are located between the third and fourth funnels, on the part of the ship that will break in two, in little more than an hour’s time. Still about 1:00AM, Murdoch goes down to the Promenade Deck to assist passengers through the windows into #9. Accounts have Ismay being actually useful at #9, having apparently learned from an out-of-synch mishap at #5’s davits ‘ which had become the cause of the exchange between Ismay and Lowe. In Edith Russell’s account, this seems the likely time frame in which Ismay met her and advised that she must get into one of these starboard aft lifeboats without haste. About 1:10 AM, Murdoch, assisted by a crewman named Wheelton, is working #11, just behind #9. More than 100 meters (more than 300 feet) forward, Mr. Stengel encounters the Duff Gordons and Miss Francatelli at Boat 1, between 1:00 and 1:10 AM, noting that officer Lowe is present, but not Murdoch. There is, within this time frame of the Thayer account, panic aft at #11. Wheelton’s account recalls Murdoch shouting, while at #11: ‘Women and children first!” Most notably, with regard to the first reports of panic arising aft ‘ and possibly also with Thayer’s observation of passengers crowding down from astern about this time ‘ Titanic’s design incorporated a ‘bowing” of the decks, a gentle slant that bowed downward from fore and aft toward the center of the ship. As the flooding Titanic slanted gradually down toward the bow, the ‘bowing” gave to the aftward slant of the forward decks, the illusion that Titanic’s decks were becoming more level and more ‘safe,” while simultaneously amplifying the built-in downward slant ‘ and hence the sense of danger ‘ aft. This probably made people aft more skittish more quickly than those located near the forward boats. Now, according to Wheelton, with the start of #13’s loading, Murdoch left him and headed again forward, somewhere near or just after 1:00AM. Crewman Symons notes Murdoch’s return about this time, from the first of two journey’s aft. During the next couple of minutes, Murdoch orders five firemen and two seaman inside #1 to assist with its lowering and launch, amid some sudden onset of difficulty with ropes and thickening crowds. Mr. Stengel’s and Miss Francatelli’s accounts corroborate Tayer’s account of growing crowds at #1’s davits ‘ and suggest a launch that became suddenly and necessarily rushed’]
(1:00 ‘ 1:10 AM), Jack Thayer: We proceeded to the deck below. Father, Mother, and the maid, went ahead of Long and myself. The lounge on ‘B” deck [actually the A Deck Promenade lounge area, evidently] was filled with a milling crowd, and as we went through the doorway out onto the [forward Promenade] deck, people pushed between my Father and Mother, and Long, and me. Long and I could not catch up, and were entirely separated from them. I never saw my Father again.
We looked for them, following along to where the port [side, forward] boats were being lowered, but could see nothing of either Father or Mother. Fully believing that they had both been successful in getting into a boat, Long and I went back through the lounge to the starboard side, thinking of what we should do, and not looking further for my Father at all.
[Walter Lord, 1991: At this point in Thayer’s narrative we are about to arrive at another time stamp. According to Lightoller’s testimony, he had a sense that the ship was teeter-tottering so close to being swayed either port or starboard that he believed he might alleviate the list to port that was creating a constantly widening gap between the deck and the lifeboats by telling passengers to climb uphill to the starboard side and level her out. The people obeyed, and the Titanic leveled noticeably toward starboard. Lightoller noted that this occurred at 1:25 AM. Pellegrino, 2005: About the time of Lightoller’s order, Murdoch appeared at the port side aft lifeboats, shortly after 1:20 AM ‘ then once again he appeared on aft starboard. Up till this time, Lightoller had been loading and launching the lifeboats only half full ‘ a folly that he reversed after Murdoch appeared aft on the port side. I think it unlikely, given Murdoch’s thoroughness and efficiency, that he assessed progress on both starboard boat positions and aft port, without also assessing Lightoller’s operation aft forward. From Boat 1’s position, the logical path to the port side was through the bridge ‘ and to Lightoller’s position at the forward port davits. One can easily imagine Murdoch asking the obvious first question: ‘Why are you launching the lifeboats only half full?” Lightoller told the British examiners that for a very long time, he did not believe the Titanic could actually sink, and that he did not want to overload lifeboats in a non-fatal situation because he feared they might break if fully loaded with 65 people. Murdoch would surely have told him otherwise. As for the mishaps starboard, with Boat #1, Lowe was very efficient once he got down to the water in command of a lifeboat; but he appears to have had some real difficulty at the forward starboard davits. I really do not believe the evidence has #1 launching, amid Thayer’s gradually strengthening commotion of jostling passengers, before 1:10 AM. It is necessary, for example, to compare all three accounts of Lady Cosmo Duff Gordon ‘ who was in #1 and in the vicinity of Thayer and Lowe at this time. There was her newspaper interview in the Sunday American, placing her near enough to be one of the witnesses who said the Titanic shivered and broke (long before Ballard’s crew proved that it had ended thus), close enough to hear individual shouts, as the ship went down, and to be forced to clutch the lifeboat’s side when a wave from the breaking Titanic struck, strong enough to make her fear being spilled overboard. She later retracted all of this Sunday American testimony (insisting that boat #1 was not near enough for Francatelli or anyone else to have heard the cries of the crowds, to have seen an officer firing shots, or to say whether or not the ship broke in two). Lady Duff Gordon, at the British Inquiry, attributed her earlier account to a shoddy reporter putting words into her mouth. She was by then towing the Ismay line ‘ by which even the ship’s disintegration at the sea surface would continue to be vehemently denied (in the face of overmastering evidence), by Harland and Wolff engineers, as late as 1996, aboard the research vessel Ocean Voyager. Years after denying all of these happenings, Lady Duff Gordon retracted her retraction, in her autobiography (Discretions and Indiscretions), repeating her original tale, verbatim and in detail. To borrow a phrase from Dr. Henry Lee, ‘Something’s wrong.” Boat 1 seems not to have launched earlier than 1:10AM, and its occupants appear to have been very near the Titanic, in the end. Lookout Symons, Miss Francatelli, and Mr. Stengel’s accounts all suggest a hurried and disorderly launch of #1, with the boat snagged on a rope and with Francatelli believing it was about to end with everyone being spilled overboard into the sea. Ismay’s quiet and orderly launchings at Boat 1’s davits (where Ismay would soon board Boat C), with almost no stranded passengers at all standing around, appears never to have been the case. In the American Inquiry, Lowe told Senator Smith that approximately 20 minutes passed from the start of Boat #1’s lowering until it reached the water and began cutting loose. It probably reached the water between 1:10 and 1:20 AM ‘ and likely closer to 1:15AM. Lowe started working Boat C (the same boat on which Jack Thayer would later witness Ismay escaping) between 1:15 and 1:20 AM. Within this time frame, Lowe left Boat C’s davits and went over to the port side, to assist a crewman named Archer. At 1:15 AM, about the time the sixth rocket detonated, Ismay was at Boat #13 (Lawrence Beesley’s boat). Lightoller was at #12. Wilde was assisting numbers 12, 14, and 16. Lowe, now arriving on the port side from Boat C, joined Archer and Moody at numbers 14 and 16. Lowe then began filling #14 with passengers, and Moody filled #16 (as recorded in the American Inquiry). Lightoller joined Lowe and Moody at approximately 1:15 AM, at #16. About 1:20 AM, aft on the port side, Murdoch was in command of loading and lowering numbers 14 and 16, with Moody in charge of keeping men from rushing these two boats. About this time ‘ at 1:25 AM ‘ and with the key players so positioned at the boats, Jack Thayer noted that the Titanic’s list to port appeared gradually, surprisingly, to level out’]
Thayer: It must now have been about 1:25 AM [note that here, Thayer appears to have reset his chronology in accordance with Lightoller]. The ship was way down by the head with water entirely covering her bow [as would appear to be the case if the forward well deck was flooding, about this time]. She gradually came out of her list to port, and if anything, had a slight list to starboard. The crew had commenced to load and lower the forward starboard boats. These could hold over sixty people, but the officers were afraid to load them to capacity, while suspended by falls, bow and stern, sixty feet over the water. They might have buckled, or broken [away] from the falls.
The stern lifeboats, four on the port and four on the starboard, had already left the ship [ – or, as the case appears to have been, the aft boats were presently lowered below the level of the Boat Deck, to the level of the Promenade, and were still being loaded under Murdoch’s command. Meanwhile, far forward on the starboard side,] one of the first boats to cast-off, carried only twelve people: Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff Gordon, and ten others. Most of the boats were loaded with about forty to forty-five, with the exception of the last few to go, which were loaded to full capacity.
One could see the boats that had already left the ship, standing off about five or six hundred yards. Apparently there was only one light [in the lifeboats], about which most of them congregated. They were plainly visible and looked very safe on that calm sea.
On deck, the exhaust steam was still roaring. The lights were still strong. The band, with life preservers on, was still playing [on the port side Boat Deck now, almost abreast of the second funnel and the davits for Boat #8]. The crowd [at least at Thayer’s location, and at that time] was fairly orderly. Our own situation was too pressing, the scene too kaleidoscopic for me to retain any detailed picture of individual behavior. I did see one man come through the door out onto the deck with a full bottle of Gordon Gin. He put it to his mouth and practically drained it. If I ever get out of this alive, I thought, there is one man I will never see again. He apparently fought his way into one of the last two boats, for he was one of the first men I recognized upon reaching the deck of the Carpathia. Someone told me afterward that he was a State Senator or Congressman from Virginia or West Virginia.
[About this time ‘ still near 1:30 AM ‘ Mrs. Minihan recalled William Murdoch, in command of #14’s launch, putting out a call for men in the crowd who could row. A crewman named Crow, ordered in at this time, corroborated Mrs. Minihan’s account and identified the officer who ordered him away in #14 as Murdoch. Crow noted that Lowe and Murdoch had to draw their guns to keep passengers from rushing the boat ‘ with 5th Officer Lowe actually firing two warning shots ‘ which appeared to work, restoring order. After the averted rush on #14, Mrs. Futrelle noted that Murdoch sent #16 down hurriedly, ‘not half filled.” However, in another of those instances that raises the specter of witnesses at the scene of an accident causing one to wonder if both were in fact at the same accident, Archer, at the British Inquiry, testified that #16 was short only about 10 ‘ 15 people, and was lowered with 50 aboard. Archer said Murdoch suddenly ordered him to let no more people into #16 and to lower away ‘ which seems to echo Lowe, under Murdoch’s instruction, at the infamously less than half-filled Boat #1. Mrs. Futrelle, seated in #16 as it reached the water, said rockets (the last ones) were still shooting up. The last one, according to Rowe (who lit them), was fired about 1:25 AM. At 1:40 AM, Murdoch was at Boat 10, as a serious list to port ‘ which appeared to have corrected fifteen minutes earlier, at 1:25 ‘ became once again most pronounced. Crewman Evans was ordered into # 10 by Murdoch, as Chief Baker Charles Joughin began handing children, ‘rather roughly,” into the boat, urging their mothers to follow. (Mr. Buley also identified Murdoch and Joughin at #10.) At 1:40 AM, Two hours after the impact with the iceberg and 15 ‘ 20 minutes after Boat 1 reached the water, Boat C was still on deck, forward starboard, at #1’s davits. According to Jack Thayer, as told personally to Walter Lord, he never did blame Ismay for diving, several minutes later, into Boat C. Thayer said he saw the whole thing ‘ pandemonium erupting at C’s davits, and warning shots too, erupting, not very far from Ismay’s ears. There was ‘a sort of scramble,” then. Thayer emphasized for the historian, repeatedly, that he’d have jumped into Collapsible C also, were he nearer, and had there not been so many people between him and C’]
Thayer (continuing from his 1940 memoir), 1:40 ‘ 2:00 AM: There was some disturbance in loading the last two forward starboard boats. A large crowd of men was pressing to get into them. No women were around as far as I could see. I saw Ismay, who had been assisting in the loading of the last boat, push his way into it. It was really every man for himself. Many of the crew and men from the stokehole were lined up, with apparently not a thought of attempting to get into a boat without orders. Purser H.W. McElroy, as brave and as fine a man as ever lived, was standing up in the next to last boat, loading it. Two men, I think they were dining room stewards, dropped into the boat from the deck above. As they jumped, he fired twice into the air. I do not believe they were hit, but they were quickly thrown out. McElroy did not take a boat and was not saved. I should say that all of this took place on A Deck ‘ [past which this boat was being lowered] ‘ just under the Boat Deck.
[Pellegrino, 2005: Wilde sent Boat 2 down from the port side forward about 1:40 ‘ 1:50 AM, then crossed through the bridge to starboard. He arrived with Murdoch at Boat C ‘ Ismay’s boat ‘ near 1:50AM. Between 1:50 and 2:00AM, Hugh Woolner’s and Jack Thayer’s accounts recall gunshots at C. Evidently, both McElroy (according to Thayer) and Murdoch (according to Woolner) were firing into the air about this time. Having seen warning shots work for Lowe at #14, this strategy must have made good common sense to Murdoch at C: the beginning of a series of warning shots that escalated, ultimately, to necessary deadly force. According to Woolner, Daly, Rheims, and others, women were already in and around C’s davits during the ‘sort of scramble” described by Thayer. The ill-fated Collapsible A was, about this time, pushed down from the roof and hooked hastily to C’s davits; and while Murdoch stood guard over a tightening and increasingly desperate crowd, A was filled with women at Murdoch’s back, about 2:10 AM.]
Thayer: It must now have been about 1:50 AM [actually, it was nearer to 2:00 or 2:10AM], and, as far as we knew, the last boat had gone. We were not aware of the fact that Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller and some of the crew were working desperately on top of one of the deck houses to free and launch one of the four Engelhart collapsible lifeboats [Boat B]. These boats had strong wooden bottoms with sides that could be raised, and all around the hull ran a canvas covered cork fender with a curved surface.
I argued with Long about our chances. I wanted to jump out and catch the empty lifeboat falls ‘ which were swinging free all the way to the water’s edge, with the idea of sliding down and swimming out to the partially filled boats lying off in the distance, for I could swim well. In this way we would be away from the crowd, and away from the suction of the ship when she finally went down. We were still fifty or sixty feet above the water. We could not just jump, for we might hit wreckage or a steamer chair [which Thomas Andrews, Charles Joughin, and others had been seen throwing overboard] ‘ and be knocked unconscious. He argued against it and dissuaded me from doing so. Thank heaven he did. The temperature of the water was 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Four degrees below freezing.
We then went up a sheltered stairway onto the starboard side of the Boat Deck. There were crowds of people up there. They all seemed to keep as far as possible from the ship’s rail. We stood there talking from about 2:00AM on. We sent messages through each other to our families. At times we were just thoughtful and quiet, but the noise around us did not stop.
So many thoughts passed so quickly through my mind! I thought of all the good times I’d had, and all of the future pleasures I would never enjoy; of my Father and Mother; of my Sisters and Brother. I looked at myself as though from some far-off place. I sincerely pitied myself. It seemed so unnecessary, but we still had a chance, if only we could keep away from the crowd and the suction of the sinking ship.
I only wish I had kept on looking for my Father. I should have realized that he would not have taken a boat, leaving me behind. I afterwards heard from my friend, Richard Norris Williams, the tennis player, that his Father and mine were standing in a group consisting of Mr. George D. Widener and his son Harry, together with some others. They were close in under the second funnel, which was very near to where Long and I were.
[Walter Lord, 1991: Jack Thayer’s father was apparently unaware that his son was not off on a lifeboat. Not meeting spared him the special horror that such knowledge would have brought.]
It was now about 2:15 AM [and probably closer to 2:05 or 2:10AM]. We could see the water creeping up the deck, as the ship was going down by the head at a pretty fast rate. The water was right up to the bridge. There must have been over sixty feet of it on top of the bow [over the forecastle]. As the water gained headway along the deck, the crowd gradually moved with it, always pushing toward the floating stern and keeping in from the rail of the ship as far as they could. We were a mass of hopeless, dazed humanity, attempting, as the Almighty and Nature made us, to keep our final breath until the last possible moment. The roaring of the exhaust steam suddenly stopped, making a great quietness, in spite of many mixed noises of hurrying human effort and anguish. As I recall it, the lights were still on, even then. There seemed to be quite a ruddy glare, but it was a murky light, with distant people and objects vaguely outlined. The stars were brilliant and the water oily.
Occasionally there had been a muffled thud or a deadened explosion within the ship. Now, without warning, she seemed to start forward, moving forward and into the water at an angle of about fifteen degrees. This movement, with the water rushing up toward us, was accompanied by a rumbling roar, mixed with more muffled explosions. It was like standing under a steel railway bridge while an express train passes overhead, mingled with the noise of a pressed steel factory and wholesale breakage of china.
Long and I had been standing by the starboard rail, about abreast of the second funnel. Our main thought was to keep away from the crowd and the suction. At the rail we were entirely free of the crowd. We had previously decided to jump into the water before she actually went down, so that we might swim some distance away, and avoid what we thought would be terrific suction. Still, [with the davits to Boat 1 already under water, with the opposite deck on the port side also below the surface, and with the starboard hull slanting enough to allow people to practically slide down the wall of steel ‘ but still with the starboard rail more than two or three yards above sea level, at this stage in its descent] ‘ we did not wish to jump before the place where we were standing would be only a few yards over the water, for we might be injured and not be able to swim.
We had no time to think now, only to act. We shook hands, wished each other luck. I said, ‘Go ahead, I’ll be right with you.” I threw off my overcoat [from the life preserver tied beneath] as he climbed over the rail, sliding down facing the ship. Ten seconds later I sat on the rail. I faced out, and with a push of my arms and hands, jumped into the water as far out from the ship as I could. When we jumped, we were only twelve or fifteen feet above the water. I never saw Long again. His body was later recovered. I am afraid that the few seconds elapsing between our going, meant the difference between being sucked into the [Promenade] deck below [and expelled aft, drowned], as I believe he was, or pushed out by the backwash. I was pushed out and then sucked down.
The cold was terrific. The shock of the water took the breath out of my lungs. Down and down I went, spinning in all directions. Swimming as hard as I could in the direction which I thought to be away from the ship, I finally came up with my lungs bursting, but not having taken any water. The ship was in front of me, forty yards away. How long I had been swimming under water, I do not know. Perhaps a minute or less. Incidentally, my watch stopped at 2:22 AM.
[Pellegrino, 2005: In those days even the best watches tended to stop the moment they hit water. Once again, a time-check given by Thayer indicates that his watch was not in synch with the Titanic’s last New York bound resetting. According to survivors in the lifeboats, the tail end of the stern disappeared at 2:20 AM. Thayer probably jumped into the water, and stopped his watch, 15 minutes out of synch ‘ near 2:07AM, suggesting that the interval between the sea reaching the starboard side abreast of the second smokestack, and swallowing the tail end of the break-away stern, was thirteen minutes.]
The story would not be complete without comment on the discipline and behavior of the crew. They were perfect and did their full and complete duty. To see all the men covered with the dirt and grime of the boiler rooms, after having drawn the fires from the flooding stokehole, lined up on deck [on the Promenade, forward starboard], awaiting orders, was a grand, inspiring sight. It was a tribute to the British Mercantile Marine.
Not a single Engineering Officer or Engineer of the ship was saved. Everyone was at his post in the engine room. They kept the lights going till the ship went under. They made the power for the ‘C.Q.D.,” ‘ which called for help through the night. Think of the panic we might have had if the lights failed; or worse yet, if the Carpathia had been unable to hear our call and learn our position.
Besides the full compliment of Engineers on the ship, headed by Chief Engineer William Bell, there were Archie Frost, Harland and Wolff’s Chief Engineer, and about twenty assistants [including Alfred White], together with Thomas Andrews, one of the designers of the ship. Every single one [except Alfred White] died ‘ attending to his duty without a chance of being saved.
The ship seemed to be surrounded with a glare, and stood out of the night as though she were on fire. I watched her. I don’t know why I didn’t keep swimming away. Fascinated, I seemed tied to the spot. Already I was tired out with the cold and struggling, although the life preserver held my head and shoulders above the water.
She continued to make the same forward progress as when I left her. The water was over the base of the first [or forward-most, still-standing second] funnel. The mass of people on board were surging back, always back toward the floating stern. The rumble and roar continued, with even louder distinct wrenchings and tearings of boilers and engines from their beds.
[Pellegrino: It sounds to me as if Thayer is actually describing splits of metal along the upper decks, spread out over several minutes as the Titanic begins to bend ‘ essentially, a ‘hogging” effect.]
Suddenly the whole superstructure of the ship appeared to split, well forward to midship. [This is, in fact, where the bow parted, just aft of the compass platform, between the second and third funnels. At this early stage in the final plunge, Thayer must either be remembering a later event displaced forward in recollection, or the breakaway and rising of the Grand Stairway. In either case, to young Jack Thayer, Titanic appeared to split] ‘ and to blow or buckle upwards.
[Pellegrino, 2005: At about this time, Charles Lightoller said he saw the first funnel falling toward him, and into the vicinity of the overturned Collapsible B. Thayer identified the falling funnel as the second in line ‘ but Lightoller insisted that Thayer was mistaken. No one knows for sure. Presumably, when Thayer describes himself turning around, after his escape, to see the sea ‘over the base of the first funnel,” the funnel is still standing. Although he next describes a terrible noise and the whole superstructure of the Titanic appearing to split, he does not specifically mention the first funnel falling ‘ however, if it fell away from Thayer, to port, would not it, or any other part of the superstructure of the ship, breaking away, have been reduced to relative insignificance by the second funnel falling directly toward him? Lightoller, by his own account (in The Titanic and Other Ships, 1935), was dragged down as the Bridge and the Crow’s Nest slipped below the surface. For a time he was submerged against the grating at the base of the forward funnel, and he actually went down with its base ‘ trapped (about the time Thayer surfaced, a safe distance away) against a wire grating, over an air intake that led down directly to the number 3 stokehold ‘ ‘a sheer drop of close on a hundred feet, right down to the bottom of the ship,” Lightoller wrote. ‘Suddenly I found myself drawn, by the sudden rush of the surface water now pouring down this shaft, and held flat and firm against this wire grating with the additional full and clear knowledge of what would happen if this wire carried away. The pressure of the water just glued me there whilst the ship sank slowly below the surface. Although I struggled and kicked for all I was worth, it was impossible to get away, for as fast as I pushed myself off I was irresistibly dragged back, every instant expecting the wire to go, and to find myself shot down into the bowels of the ship. Apart from that, I was drowning, and a matter of another couple of minutes would have seen me through. I was still struggling and fighting when suddenly a terrific blast of hot air came up the shaft, and blew me right away from the air shaft and up to the surface. The water was now swirling round, and the ship sinking rapidly, when once again I was caught and sucked down by an inrush of water, this time adhering to one of the fiddly gratings. Just how I got clear of that, I do not know, as I was rather losing interest in things, but I eventually came to the surface again, this time alongside that last Engleheart boat which Samuel Hemming and I had launched from the top of the Officers’ Quarters on the opposite side ‘ for I was now on the starboard side, near the forward funnel.” Unlike Thayer, who had time to be fascinated and to observe before a funnel fell toward him and the Engeheart, Lightoller had been struggling for his life and on the edge of unconsciousness from lack of air, up to the time the second funnel fell. The time span described by Lightoller, from the moment the bridge went under until he arrived at Boat B, just ahead of the funnel’s fall, appears to have been at least three minutes, and possibly as long as five, by which time the base of the first funnel would surely have submerged more than ten or fifteen feet ‘ and, as Lightoller’s description of a continual downrush of water into an air-filled shaft would indicate ‘ by which time the unflooded first funnel should have all but imploded under sheer hydrostatic pressure. Indeed, it is possible to believe that the collapse, or ‘kicking out” of the first funnel ‘ and the mini-tsunami generated by its fall ‘ was mistaken by Lightoller for a life-saving ‘blast” from the shaft below. It is not inconceivable that much of the swirling water he would so vividly recall two decades later was, in the spot where he briefly surfaced (only to be dragged down again, an instant later), simply the immediate aftermath of the first funnel’s collapse ‘ which likely occurred even before Thayer surfaced from his own harrowing dive into the sea, and recovered his composure, and looked around. Thayer describes only the second funnel collapsing toward him and Boat B. If Thayer is correct, then Lightoller saw the nearest funnel bend and topple toward him and Boat B, and, observing that it was the forward-most, did not imagine that the first funnel could already be gone, and called the second funnel the first funnel. Thayer called it differently, and probably correctly. What bothers me, remotely, is that Thayer describes turning around to see water at the base of the first funnel, but does not mention that it is missing. He then specifically describes the second funnel falling toward him. Is it possible that the first funnel outlasted the second funnel? With Boiler Rooms 5 and 6, directly below the first funnel, already flooded when the final plunge began, and with even as little as a 3 knot in-flow down a mostly flooded shaft sufficiently strong enough to keep Lightoller pinned to a grill, it is possible that funnel #1’s remaining stays could have held up a little longer than #2’s, if the number 2 funnel, with its number 3 Boiler Room intact below, the rate with the rate of the deck-house’s descent accelerating quickly from 1 foot-per-second (at Funnel# 1’s position) to a rise exceeding 2 feet-per-second outside #2’s funnel walls, and with the relatively unflooded chambers below Funnel 2 acting like giant suction cups. In essence, there remains at least some small possibility that the number 2 funnel was subjected to more rapid flooding and to greater hydrostatic pressures than the number one funnel, and that it actually fell first ‘ which would be consistent with what Mr. Evans saw (people being carried by a current down a seemingly intact first smokestack) and with Thayer’s failure to mention the first funnel missing when the sea reached its base, while specifically recalling the loss of the second funnel:]
The second funnel, large enough for two automobiles to pass through abreast, seemed to be lifted off, emitting a cloud of sparks. It looked as if it would fall on top of me. It missed me by only twenty or thirty feet [its top falling within 10 meters]. The suction of it drew me down and down [Walter Lord, 1991: in his buoyant lifejacket!] ‘ struggling and swimming, practically spent.
As I finally came to the surface, I put my hand over my head, in order to push away from any obstruction. My hand came against something smooth and firm with rounded shape. I looked up, and realized that it was the cork fender of one of the collapsible lifeboats, which was floating in the water bottom side up. About four or five men were clinging to her bottom.
[Pellegrino, 2005: One of these men, of course, was Charles Lightoller. The effect of the funnel falling into the sea between the ship and Boat B, according to Lightoller, ‘was to pick up the Engleheart, in the wash so created, and fling it well clear of the sinking ship. When I again recognized my surroundings, we were a full fifty yards clear of the ship.”]
I pulled myself up as far as I could [onto the overturned Engleheart], almost exhausted, but could not get my legs up. I asked them to give me a hand up, which they readily did. Sitting on my haunches and holding on for dear life, I was again facing the Titanic.
It seemed as though hours had passed since I left the ship; yet it was probably not more than four minutes, if that long. There was the gigantic mass, about fifty or sixty yards away. The forward motion had stopped. She was pivoting on a point just abaft of amidship. Her stern was gradually rising into the air, seemingly in no hurry, just slowly and deliberately. The last funnel was about on the surface of the water. It was the dummy funnel, and I do not believe it fell.
[At this moment, electrician Alfred White was only seconds away from witnessing the actual breakaway of the stern section and the snapping out of the lights ‘ then, impossibly, he was to surf the fourth funnel into the sea.]
Some months after the disaster [and after emerging reports, from people even nearer the final plunge, that the fourth funnel had rolled over the port side and that the Titanic had apparently broken in two], I had been invited to tell my story of the behavior of the ship to the engineers and ship designers of The William Cramp and Sons’ Ship and Engine Building Company, Richmond and Norris Streets, Philadelphia. I described the action in this way: The iceberg cut open about four of the Titanic’s forward compartments, leaving, possibly, at least one buoyant compartment in the bow intact. With the buoyant stern tending to rise, and the [after compartment of the] bow tending slightly to do the same, the weight of the engines and boilers, which, torn from their beds, crashed in midship, possibly broke the keel downwards, and in this turn forced the superstructure to buckle or push up at the forward expansion joint [which runs abreast of the Grand Stairway, just forward of the second funnel]; causing the funnel to fall. I did not say she broke into separate parts, but that some bending and breaking did take place. My hearers told me that it was a reasonable supposition and a possible explanation of the final behavior of the ship.
Her deck was turned slightly toward us. We could see groups of almost fifteen hundred people still aboard, clinging in clusters or bunches, like swarming bees; only to fall in masses, pairs or singly, as the great after part of the ship, two hundred-and-fifty feet of it, rose into the sky, until it reached a sixty-five or seventy-degree angle. Here it seemed to pause, and just hung, for what felt like minutes. Gradually she turned her deck away from us, as if to hide from our sight the awful spectacle. [Walter Lord, 1991: Thayer does not give us the helpful time-stamp of when he noticed the lights going out. However, Charles Joughin’s post-lights-out, post-breakaway of the stern, roll to port appears to be corroborated in this passage, by Thayer’s impression, from the starboard side, that the stern, in the final minutes, turned its deck away from him.]
We had an oar in our overturned boat. In spite of several men working it, amid our cries and prayers, we were being gradually sucked in toward the great pivoting mass. I looked upwards ‘ we were right underneath the three enormous propellers. For an instant, I thought they were sure to come down right on top of us. Then, with the deadened noise of the bursting of her last few gallant bulkheads, she slid quietly away from us into the sea.
There was no final apparent suction, and practically no wreckage that we could see.
I do not remember all the wild talk and calls that were going on [atop] our boat. But there was one concerted sigh as she went from view.
Probably a minute passed with almost dead silence and quiet. Then an individual call for help, from here, from there; gradually swelling into a composite volume of one long continuous wailing chant, from the fifteen hundred in the water all around us. It sounded like locusts on a mid-summer night, in the woods of Pennsylvania.
This terrible continuing cry lasted for twenty or thirty minutes, gradually dying away, as one after another could no longer withstand the cold and exposure. Practically no one was drowned, as no water was found in the lungs of those later recovered. Everyone had on a life preserver.
The partially filled lifeboats standing by, only a few hundred yards away, never came back. Why on Earth they did not come back is a mystery. How could any human being fail to heed those cries? They were afraid the boats would be swamped by people in the water.
The most heartrending part of the whole tragedy was the failure, right after the Titanic sank, of those boats which were only partially loaded, to pick up the poor souls in the water. There they were, only four or five hundred yards away, listening to the cries, and still they did not come back. If they had turned back, several hundred more would have been saved. No one can explain it. It was not satisfactorily explained in any investigation. It was just one of many ‘acts of God” running through the whole disaster.
During this time more and more were trying to get aboard the bottom of our overturned boat. We helped them on until we were packed like sardines. Then out of self-preservation, we had to turn some away. There were finally twenty-eight of us altogether on board. We were very low in the water. The water had roughened up slightly, and was occasionally washing over us. The stars still shone brilliantly.
We were standing, sitting, kneeling, lying, in all conceivable positions, in order to get a small hold on the half inch overlap of the boat’s planking, which was the only means of keeping ourselves from sliding off the slippery surface into that icy water. I was kneeling. A man was kneeling on my legs with his hands on my shoulders, and in turn somebody was on him. Once we obtained our original position, we could not move. The assistant wireless man, Harold Bride, was lying across in front of me, with his legs in the water, and with his feet jammed against the cork fender, which was about two feet under water.
We prayed and sang hymns. A great many of the men seemed [already] to know each other. Questions and answers were called around ‘ who was on board, and who was lost, or what they had been seen doing? One call came around was, ‘Is the Chief aboard?” Whether they meant Mr. Wilde, the Chief Officer, or the Chief Engineer, or Captain Smith, I do not know. I do know that one of the circular life rings [or lifesavers] from the Bridge was there [on the overturned boat] when we got off in the morning. It may be that Captain Smith was on board with us for a while. Nobody knew where the ‘Chief” was.
About twenty of our whole group were stokers. How they ever withstood the icy temperature after the heat they were accustomed to, is extraordinary, but there was no case of illness resulting. They surely were a grimy, wiry, disheveled, hard looking lot. Under the surface they were brave human beings, with generous and charitable hearts.
Second Officer Lightoller, I discovered in the morning, was on board. He and some of the crew were trying to launch this boat before the Titanic sank. They were unsuccessful, but she floated off the deck covered with people, all of whom were shortly after washed off. Lightoller himself was washed off and sucked up against the ventilator grills [at the forward base of the number one funnel]. He had a terrific struggle, but finally was able to reach the boat.
In August 1914, just as war was declared, I sailed on the S.S. Oceanic, from New York, to play cricket in and around London, on a Merion Cricket Club team. Lightoller was Chief Officer or First Officer of the Oceanic, I am not certain which. We again went over our experiences and checked our ideas of just what had happened. We agreed on almost everything, with the exception of the splitting or bending of the ship. He did not think it broke at all.
Only four of us were passengers: Colonel Archibald Gracie, [of] Washington D.C.; A.H. Barkworth, East Riding, Yorkshire England; W.J. Mellers, Chelsea, London England; and myself.
Harold Bride helped greatly to keep our hopes up. He told us repeatedly which ships had answered his ‘C.Q.D.” (at that time the Morse Code for help), and just how soon we might expect to sight them. He said time and time again, in answer to despairing doubters, ‘The Carpathia is coming up as fast as she can. I gave her our position. There is no mistake. We should see her lights at about four or a little after.”
During all this time nobody dared to move, for we did not know at what moment our perilous support might overturn, throwing us all into the sea. The buoyant air was gradually leaking from under the boat, lowering us further and further into the water.
Sure enough, shortly before four o’clock, we saw the mast headlamp of the Carpathia come over the horizon and creep toward us. We gave a thankful cheer. She came up slowly ‘ oh, so slowly. Indeed she seemed to wait without getting any nearer [and indeed, from Captain Rostron’s account we have it that as he spied the first emergency light in the distance, and saw at least one fire lighted by lifeboat passengers ‘ and as the first icebergs became visible on port and starboard, he slowed the Carpathia to a crawl, hoping to eliminate any possibility of riding over lifeboats in the dark]. We thought hours and hours dragged by as she stood off in the distance. We had been trying all night to hail our other lifeboats. They did not hear us or would not answer. We knew they had plenty of room to take us aboard, if we could only make them realize our predicament. The Carpathia, waiting for a little more light, was slowly coming up on the boats and was picking them up. With the dawn breaking, we could see them being hoisted from the water. For us, afraid we might overturn at any minute, the suspense was terrible.
The long hoped for dawn actually broke, and with it a breeze came up, making our raft rock more and more. The air beneath us escaped at a more rapid rate, lowering us still further into the water. We had visions of sinking before the help so near at hand could reach us.
With daylight we could see what we were doing, and took courage to move, stretch, and untangle ourselves.
One by one, those on top of the freezing group stood up, until all of us who could stand were on our feet, with the exception of poor Bride, who could not bear his weight on his own, but could only pull his feet and his legs slightly out of the water. The waves washed over the upturned bottom more and more, as we sank lower and the water became rougher. To keep our buoyancy, we tried to offset the roll by leaning all together first to one side and then to the other.
About six-thirty, after continued and desperate calling, we attracted the attention of the other lifeboats. Two of them finally realized the position we were in and drew toward us. Lightoller had found his whistle, and more because of it than our hoarse shouts, their attention was attracted.
[Pellegrino, 2005: This whistle was given to Walter Lord and, since 2002, has resided in the collections of the British Maritime Museum.]
It took them ages to cover the three or four hundred yards between us. As they approached, we could see that so few men were in them that some of the oars were being pulled by women. In neither of them was much room for extra passengers, for they were two of the very few boats to be loaded to near capacity. The first took off half of us. My Mother was in this boat, having rowed most of the night. She says she thought she recognized me. I did not see her. The other boat took aboard the rest of us. We had to lift Harold Bride. He was in a bad way and, I think, would have slipped off the bottom of our overturned boat, if several of us had not held onto him for the last half hour.
It was just about this time that the edge of the sun came above the horizon. Then, to feel its glowing warmth ‘ which we had never expected to [feel] again, was something never to be forgotten. Even through my numbness I began to realize that I was saved ‘ that I would live.
The Carpathia was about eight hundred yards away, picking up the people from one boat after another as fast as she could. Gradually we drew alongside of her. There was a rope ladder with wooden steps hanging down her side. Most of us climbed up, though many [too weak, like Bride, to climb] had to be hauled up in slings or chairs. It was now almost 7:30 AM. We were the last boat to be gathered in. The only signs of ice were four small, very scattered bergs, way off in the distance. [Pellegrino: This seems an odd recollection, contradictory of other accounts witnessing many icebergs and sheets of pack ice spanning the horizon. Perhaps Thayer was actually too exhausted to take much notice, or to look in the right direction after he ascended to the high vantage point of Carpathia’s decks.]
As I reached the top of the ladder, I suddenly saw my Mother. When she saw me, she thought, of course, that my Father must be with me. She was overjoyed to see me, but it was a terrible shock to her, to hear that I had not seen Father since he had said good-bye to her.
As we talked, someone gave me a coffee cup full of brandy. It was the first drink of an alcoholic beverage I had ever had. It warmed me as though I had put hot coals in my stomach ‘ and did more, too. A man kindly loaned me his pajamas and his bunk, then my wet clothes were taken to be dried, and with the help of the brandy I went to sleep till almost noon. I got up feeling fit and well, just as though nothing had happened. After putting on my own clothes, which were entirely dry, I hurried out to look for Mother. We were then passing to the south of a solid ice field, which I was told was over twenty miles long and four miles wide.
I found that Captain Arthur H. Rostron, Commander of the Carpathia, of the Cunard Line, had given up his cabin to my Mother, Mrs. George D. Widener, and Mrs. John Jacob Astor. I slept on the floor of the cabin every night until we reached New York on Thursday Evening, April 18th.
The passengers and crew of the Carpathia were wonderfully good to us, looking to our every need and comfort. Enough cannot be said to describe the bravery of Captain Rostron, in his taking the tremendous responsibility of running through that dense ice field, full speed ahead, to our rescue.
The trip back to New York was one big heartache and misery. There were 705 survivors on board, 1503 having been lost. It seemed as if there were none but widows left, each one mourning the loss of her husband. It was a most pitiful sight. All were hoping beyond hope, even for weeks afterwards, that some ship, somehow had picked up their loved one, and that he would be eventually among the saved.
[Pellegrino, 2005: This behavior – the prolonged false hope ‘ may seem unusual to those outside of such experience. While at the Titanic during the 2001 Ghosts of the Abyss expedition, we of the research vessel Keldysh experienced a strange reversal of the April 1912 families in New York (and aboard the Carpathia) unable to learn the fates of their ‘missing” loved ones, when the attacks of 9-11 descended upon America. After several days at sea with no clear picture of what had occurred, but knowing that anyone in the Twin Towers still missing could not have survived, I had come to accept that my cousin Donna and several friends were dead. Still ‘ and strange to relate: when I arrived home about October 1, my father kept referring to Donna as only ‘missing,” and within minutes, I was in the rest of my family’s mindset: ‘missing” ‘ which persisted for about another week. I heard similar accounts from other families. Some hopes seemed to be placed on the story of a firefighter who survived the impact of the South Tower surge cloud at close range, with a retrograde amnesia ‘ uncertain for a while who he was. Many reasoned that if even one survivor could be walking around disoriented (and there were stories of at least two) ‘ then why not someone else’s loved one, even if the odds were only about one chance in several tens of thousands. The strange hope was contagious. I know this to be true, because I caught the contagion in an instant. Almost just as quickly, about the end of the first week in October 2001, as if by the rapid spread of a new contagion, most of the 9-11 families gave up on ‘missing,” and began planning memorial services. As in New York in 2001, so must it have been aboard the Carpathia and in New York, in 1912.]
Because I had known Ismay so well aboard the Titanic, the doctor of the Carpathia, the afternoon that we approached New York, asked me if I would visit Mr. Ismay in his cabin and talk to him, to see if I could help relieve the terribly nervous condition he was in.
I immediately went down and as there was no answer to my knock, I went in. He was seated, in his pajamas, on his bunk, staring straight ahead, shaking all over like a leaf.
My entrance probably did not dawn on his consciousness. Even when I spoke to him and tried to engage him in conversation, telling him that he had a perfect right to take the last boat, he paid absolutely no attention and continued to look ahead with his fixed stare.
[Walter Lord, about 1994: Note again, that Thayer seems to have Boat C and Mr. Ismay departing the Titanic later than is traditionally believed ‘ and, as Thayer has stated earlier, under pandemonium and not, as Ismay would tell the examiners, in silence and perfect order and in the absence of any chaos or desperation at all.]
I am almost certain that on the Titanic Ismay’s hair had been black with slight tinges of gray, but now his hair was virtually snow white. [Pellegrino: It was not until the 1940s that permanent hair dyes came into widespread use (and those in use through the 1970s turned out to be seriously carcinogenic). It appears likely that Ismay’s hair was actually white, and that he used one of the water soluble dyes still frequently used nearly a century later, and requiring daily maintenance. Such dyes could easily have been washed out if Ismay used them, and had showered. Titanic Marconi operator Harold Bride’s hair did turn white in April 1912, but it grew in white, week-by-week, from the roots. It is simply physically impossible for hair already grown out from the roots to lose its pigment.]
I have never seen a man so completely wrecked [as Ismay]. Nothing I could do or say brought any response.
As I closed the door, he was still looking fixedly ahead.
The final docking in New York at Pier Number 54 North River, when all our friends and relations learned the truth about the extent of the loss, was the last nerve-shattering blow for many people. For those who were ashore, it marked the end of all hope. With the exception of lawsuits and investigations, it was the closing chapter on the greatest and most distressing disaster of the sea the world has yet seen.
– Jack Thayer, 1940
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