Hard 'a starboard?

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Upon sighting the iceburg (in the movie) The officer of the watch ordered "Hard a'starboard" or something similar. The helmsman wound the steering wheel hard PORT as was needed to keep to the LEFT of the ice. Was this an blatant error or was it the confusion of the times when a helm order would refer to the tiller movement. Any ancient salts out there?

-- Ed Hancock (ehancock@gil.com.au), December 23, 1997


Maybe he meant there was a iceburg hard starboard. :)

-- Rachel (RaeRaeGrim@aol.com), December 24, 1997.

This question has come up before, I believe in the U.S. Inquiry following the disaster. If my memory serves me, in British seamanship this term would mean pointing the stern to starboard, or to the right. However, we must also remember that the command "full astern" was also given which would point the stern to starboard in a backing situation. At 22 knots, it was a case of too little, too late.

-- peter nivling (pcnivling@capecod.net), December 27, 1997.


I've been something of a student of the Titanic, and that order confused me for a number of years. However, Walter Lord cleared up the mystery (for me, at least) in his book "The Night Lives On" (Morrow, 1986), the follow-up volume to his venerated 1955 account of the Titanic disaster, "A Night to Remember."

In the days of sailing ships, steering was accomplished by means of a long bar, called a tiller, which was attached to the ship's rudder. To turn the ship to port, one pushed or shoved the tiller bar to starbord, and vice-versa. This practice was carried over to steam vessels, so that one turned the ship's wheel to starboard to turn the ship to port. It wasn't until 1924 that ship's wheels were re-rigged, for the benefit of a new generation of mariners raised with the automobile.

In summary, the command given in the film was correct for a 1912 steamship.


-- Kip Henry (kip-henry@ouhsc.edu), January 01, 1998.

Hard 'a starboard

I think that the reason that he turned left was because in the movie the boat actually hit on the wrong side. In real life it hit the other side, but when Cameron built the set, he only built half of the boat. He built the certain side for a reason that I don't know, but when the boat was supposed to hit the iceburg, the side of the boat that hit wasn't made. So when the watchman called hard to starboard, the "driver" had to turn the other way.

-- Sarah Pliner (pliners@hotmail.com), February 16, 1998.

Sarah: Titanic struck the iceberg on it's starboard side. See the above answers for the reasons that the command was given and the direction the helmsman turned the wheel. Both the movie and the real helmsman were were responding correctly to the command.

Regards, Peter

-- Peter Nivling (pcnivling@capecod.net), February 16, 1998.


The 9/10th scale Titanic exterior set was built with the starboard side finished to the waterline. The reason for this was because the prevailing winds at the studio at Rosarito, Mexico, are from the north, so that smoke from the funnels would blow aft, giving the set the appearance of motion. That the iceberg also struck the ship on the starboard side is purely conincidental.

The construction of the Titanic exterior set caused a problem for the Southampton scenes, however, since the real Titanic was boarded from the port side. The way this was handled was by photographically "flipping" the film, frame by frame, so that the starboard side became the port. This meant that all signage shown on screen had to be printed backward ("White Star Line" becomes "eniL ratS etihW"), costumes had to be prepared to button opposite the norm, etc. Some scenes (mainly close-ups) were shot normally, so this meant double costuming, signage, parting of hair, etc., a nightmare for the continuity person), and then matched up with the flipped frames.

As Peter has indicated, though, the commands given on the film were correct. See the earlier posts on this thread for the explaination.


-- Kip Henry (kip-henry@ouhsc.edu), February 17, 1998.

The distinction others have correctly identified has to do with tillers and wheels. The older (wronger!) kind I believe are known as "rudder orders", and the newer kind are "helm orders". It must have caused fits when institutions changed.

Things maritime have some of the most bolluxing wrinkles to them. Indeed, if there are fewer than 10 definitions of what a ton/tonne is in naval architecture, I'd eat my hat. By some uses of the word, it is not even a measure of mass or weight, but one of volume of usable hold space!


-- Anthony Lovell (tone@orangeimagineering.com), May 03, 2003.

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