May 9th, 1912

The Register

May 9th, 1912

Lessons From the Wreck.

In a letter to the Montreal Gazette Captain J. Reid, R. E (T), commenting on the Titanic disaster and investigation, makes the following startling deductions: -

The most startling fact revealed to me was the statements of the navigating officers that they hoped that on the remaining part of the maiden trip the Titanic would reel off from 24 to 26 knots per hour. The official statement of the owners fixed her speed at only 21 knots. In her trials before she reached Southampton her real speed was not tested. But she had evidently boiler power sufficient to raise steam to drive her at 26 knots per hour. Why, this was sufficient to give the mammoth liner of 46,000 tons the blue ribbons of the Atlantic for speed! Was the Titanic a mystery ship during her construction? The first Dreadnought was. Was the Titanic’s great speed power the surprise ace trump card which Mr. Ismay, the owner, had up his sleeve? Let us see how it was played out. Captain Smith had undoubtedly orders before leaving port to put the Titanic to her utmost speed on the last days of her course. Throughout the Sunday she had been doing twenty one and a half knots per hour, which is half a knot over her stated speed! Yet, those on the bridge said she was to do a lot better, "twenty-four to twenty six knots, perhaps."


Everything pointed to her doing so. The sea was an ‘oily calm,’ and the night promised to be very clear. But long before dusk Marconigram warnings arrived about ice floes and bergs. These agitated Captain Smith. He delivered the Baltic’s Marconigram to Mr. Ismay without comment between 5 and 6 p.m. Mr. Ismay made no response. The captain waited till 8, two long hours, and then he went to Mr. Ismay, and asked for the fateful Marconigram’s return. It was a mute, pathetic appeal, a dramatic picture which requires no words. Still no response from Mr. Ismay. He handed the message back. Neither the course nor the speed of twenty-one and a half knots were altered, and Captain Smith knew that the pace had to be maintained, if not increased.

Some suggest that Captain Smith was away from the bridge on that fateful night. The old officer was not. When not on the bridge he was beside it. He was too ill at ease to be otherwise. When the liner struck the berg he was instantly at his post. But he gave the wrong position to the Marconi operators for the rescuing steamers to steer to; eight miles out of reckoning – a dreadful error. This was the result of his agitation, because notwithstanding Mr. Ismay’s grim silence over the Baltic’s warning, Captain Smith knew well, none better than be, that racing ahead at twenty-one and a half knots after its receipt was both reckless and criminal. Why did he do it? I stand up for Captain Smith’s sad memory. He could not have done so on his own initiative. He was not a madman.


To me this is the whole terrible story of the Titanic in a nutshell. A pitiable victim to speed mania, and let us hope in front of impending drastic legislation, the last.

Every shipbuilding expert and mariner with whom I have discussed the approximate extent of the injury the Titanic received from the iceberg declares that the ship’s bottom must have been torn off as far aft as the engine room. It is an extraordinary opinion in direct face of the witnesses’ evidence as it presents itself to a lay mind.

The lookout men in the crow’s nest heard a smash, felt a little impact, followed by just a sharp grinding noise at her starboard bow side.’ The third officer, asleep in his berth behind the bridge, did not hear or feel it. The fact that the Marconi operator did not flash forth ‘Engine room flooded’ until one hour and fifteen minutes after the collision, according to the Mount Temple captain’s evidence, is proof positive that the incoming water which bore down the Titanic’s fore part to destruction slowly gained its way to the engine room, situated as far aft as the two sternmost funnels. It did not surge into it at the instant of the iceberg’s impact.

This wipes out another fairy tale regarding the engine room staff. It is said they joined hands and went down, as is their custom. There was no sudden surprise of overwhelming waters on this occasion. Stokers and then the engineers and aft officers must have been slowly driven from their posts to the upper galleries of the huge engine rooms. I do not say they came on deck. The recovery of only 200 bodies as I write, proves that of the 1,620 lost ones, the greater number went to their doom between decks, and went with the Titanic to the bottom of the Atlantic.

Nor are the workers in the bowels of a ship screwed down nowadays. When the early methods of closing watertight doors in bulkheads from the navigating bridge were introduced, the ready-witted stokers promptly rendered this horribly inhumane arrangement abortive by blocking up the bottom of the doors with lumps of coal sufficiently large for them to crawl under and escape. Then a closing door was patented with a side lever, which enabled it to be temporarily raised for escape when shut. But the Titanic’s builders put aside each bulkhead a spiral staircase for escape upwards, and the harrowing legend that the firemen and engine room staff were shut down within a steel tomb is a morbid phantasy.

From the bow’s cutwater to the navigating bridge there is a space of 180 feet, and as far as I can discern from the diagrams there are four big transverse bulkheads in this section. I put this question to a well-known shipbuilder: ‘Suppose by a superhuman power I had cut this section of the Titanic completely away should she still have floated on the calm sea of the 15.h inst.?’ ‘Certainly she should. ‘Then why didn’t she?’ ‘Because her bottom was ripped off further aft.’

There is not a tittle of evidence as yet from any of the survivors to support this supposition. I still reject it for the reasons expressed in this and my previous communications. The Titanic, in my opinion, carried too ponderous a superstructure for her forward bulkheads to withstand, when once the water gained admission.


Hence my advice to avoid the monster ship. The real thing of safety is the ship. Do not let the cry for the lifeboat in stead us. The ship must be seaworthy, properly manned, and properly navigated. Herein alone lies our salvation as Atlantic passengers.

Canadians Lost.

It is known that there were on the Titanic 36 Canadians, 21 men and 15 women. Of these 21 were drowned; 15 were saved. Of the saved, 13 were women, two were men. Of the lost 19 were men, two were women. Of the two drowned Canadian women, one at least – Mrs. A l son (sp?) – was urged to enter a boat, but preferred to go with her husband.