Historical {ice warnings}

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I am interested in knowing more about the warnings given prior to the iceberg disaster. What actually happened with sightings, radio warnings, etc. Does anyone have help regarding this information?

-- Judd Morgan (morganju@slcc.edu), March 06, 1998


Response to Historical

The Titanic started getting ice warnings by wireless the day it left Queenstown, Ireland and headed for the open sea, on April 12. A French liner, La Touraine, sent the first message. Since the ice in question was over 1000 miles away, and somewhat to the north of Titanic's path, there was not much concern.

There was not much information on ice April 13th, but the next day (the day of the crash) brought a load of warnings. For the record:

9 AM: Cunard liner Caronia reports icebergs at 42 degrees N, from 49 to 51 degrees W.

11:40 AM: Dutch liner Noordam reports "much ice" in the same area.

1:40 PM: White Star liner Baltic: "icebergs aand large quantities of field ice," around 41 degrees 51' N by 49 degrees 9' W.

1:45 PM: German liner Amerika: two large bergs sighted 41 degrees 27' N by 50 degrees 8' W.

7:30 PM: Leyland liner Californian: three large bergs sighed at 42 degrees 3' N by 49 degrees 9' W. (50 miles from Titanic's position at the time)

9:40 PM: Atlantic Transport liner Mesaba saw "much heavy pack ice and great number of large icebergs and field ice", Lat. 42 degrees N to 41 degrees 25' N, Long. 40 degrees W to 50 degrees 30' W. (Titanic was already in the retangle these coordinates make)

If the Titanic's officers had plotted all of this information on a map it would have shown a huge, dense ice field right across the ship's path starting at about 10 PM. From the evidence we have, no such plot was ever made. Some of the warnings were posted on the bridge's noteboard and were just as quickly covered up by other postings. They just didn't seem to take it seriously!

Nor were Smith and Ismay unaware of the situation ahead: Smith gave Ismay at least one of the ice warnings from the 14th. Ismay later showed the piece of paper to a first-class passenger, and joked about it. They really seemed to believe that the ship was unsinkable, that Andrews and co. had built such a great ship that Ismay and the crew could practically go onto autopilot. A real case of great minds building and second hand minds destroying. The film draws this contrast out well, by the way.

-- Thomas Shoebotham (cathytom@ix.netcom.com), March 06, 1998.

Response to Historical

Well done, Tom.

One point to add, just to illustrate the mindset of the ship's officers: Fourth officer Joseph Boxhall saw the ice warning posted on the bridge, but didn't read it; Third officer Herbert Pitman only gave it a casual glance; Second officer C.H. Lightoller didn't see it at all, because he "didn't look"; and Fifth officer Harold Lowe saw the message, but when he saw that the ship wouldn't reach the ice field during ***his*** watch, he put it out of his mind!

Evidently, the overconfidence and complacency of Capt. Smith was highly contagious.


-- Kip Henry (kip-henry@ouhsc.edu), March 06, 1998.

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