TITANIC-TITANIC.com | Titanic And Fate
There can be few, if indeed any, stories in history where a looming disaster could have been potentially averted so many times as in the story of the Titanic. Here you can read all about the 'what ifs?' and 'if onlys' that accompanied the mighty ship from early on in her brief life to the actual sinking.
On 18th September 1911, the White Star Line published the date of Titanic's maiden voyage - 20th of March 1912. But only 48 hours later, whilst departing Southampton on her 5th Atlantic crossing, Olympic was in a collision with the navy cruiser HMS Hawke. Although there were no injuries to passengers or crew, there was plenty of damage, as can be seen in the photograph on the left, and it took two weeks for Olympic to be patched well enough to make her own way back to the dry dock at Belfast. A lot of the Harland and Wolff workers were transferred from Titanic to facilitate the repairs to Olympic, and this duly set-back Titanic's maiden voyage. White Star set a new date - 10th of April 1912.
Again, an incident was to occur that would have almost changed the course of history. As Titanic made her way out of Southampton, down the River Test, the turbulence created by her massive hull was causing problems. Two ships were moored in tandem on the river, the Oceanic inboard, and the New York on the outside. As the huge volume of water displaced by Titanic came upon these two ships, the New York rose high in the water, then dropped back down with enough power to snap her mooring lines like string. The stern of the New York, which was unmanned, began to swing out into the river, and towards the Titanic. The Captain of the tug Vulcan managed to get a line aboard the runaway, and aboard Titanic, Captain Smith ordered 'Full Astern', to lessen the drawing effect that the hull of Titanic was imposing on the New York. The two vessels came within four feet of each other, the distance between your outstretched arms! A collision, no matter how slight, would have caused a delay, but there was a lot of ice in that field, and an impact may have been inevitable anyway.
As Titanic sped westward towards New York, she received many warnings of ice from other ships that had either seen the ice, or been damaged by it. But even these constant warnings and stark reminders from other vessels didn't encourage Captain Edward John Smith to slow down as he approached the ice field looming ahead, on the night of April 14th, 1912. Even a reduction in speed of a couple of knots might have resulted in Titanic missing the iceberg altogether. But on the other hand, there was a lot of ice around, and the size of the field may have resulted in a collision anyway.
The North Atlantic ocean is not a nice place to be in April, but the season up until that time had been quite mild. Unfortunately, as fate would decree, this mild weather resulted in glaciers around Greenland breaking up into icebergs sooner than one might expect. Paradoxically, if the weather had been worse that year, Titanic may not have met with an iceberg.
One of the saving graces of the Titanic disaster was the calm seas that night, which allowed the lifeboats to be loaded in a fairly normal manner. High winds or a large swell could have made launching very difficult. But again, if the sea had been rougher, the look-outs may have spotted the iceberg sooner, as the waves breaking around the base of the 'berg would have been easier to see than the 'berg itself. Although a nice, bright white in the day, at night an iceberg can be almost impossible to see.....
What if the look-outs had NOT seen the iceberg, and the ship rammed it head-on? There would have been a large amount of death and destruction it's true. But the collision, although enormous, would have probably not breached as many watertight compartments as the 'berg scraping down the side of the vessel caused. The ship would maybe have stayed afloat until the early hours of the morning, still heated, still illuminated, making it far easier to spot from the approaching Carpathia than a tiny lifeboat. The radio transmitters would have been kept running too, enabling Carpathia to be directed to the spot. Carpathia may have been able to moor alongside Titanic to offload passengers and crew, and Californian, once roused, would have been able to offer welcome assistance too, giving her Captain and crew a more favourable legacy.
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