Sea Mail


TITANIC ERRORS

I enjoyed Peter Stanford's story, "Titanic's Night to Remember" in the April 2012 edition of Sea Classics. Overall, it was very interesting reading and quite accurate; however, there are several errors I would like to point out to our readers especially since the 100th Anniversary of the loss of RMS ??ap?? occured this year on 15 April 2012. Because ofthat, accuracy, as close as we can get it, is of utmost importance.

The biggest arguments usually surround the numbers of passengers, crew, and officers on board during that fateful maiden voyage and what led to her sinking. I have a copy of the "Survey of an Emigrant Ship: Certificate for Clearance" signed by the Emigration Officer at Queenstown (now Cobh) on 11 April 1912 by E. Sharpe. Mr. Sharpe has listed in his own handwriting on the back the actual numbers of 1st and 2nd Class passengers, 3rd Class passengers (Emigrants) for a total of 1316 and a crew of 892 for a grand total of 2208. The figures used in Peter Stanford's fine story are similar to the ones I have used for 50-yrs as a writer and Titanic lecturer and I have no problems throughout his story from that respect. In retrospect, I do not believe anyone really knows the exact totals as some missed the ship for various reasons and some crew were absent without authority at the last moment.

In his opening, Mr. Stanford writes the long-lost wreckage was found by Dr. Ballard in 1986. 1 believe this might be a typo as its location was found at 1:05 am on Sunday, 1 September 1985 during a joint French-American scientific expedition, IFREMER/Woods Hole, led by JeanLouis Michel and Dr. Robert Ballard. Ballard did return in 1986 to conduct extensive photographic exploration of the wreck.

The large photo of RMS Titanic showing her with her bow line still on the pier and the gentleman sitting on the pier with the bowler hat was not at Belfast, Northern Ireland, as the caption says. It was taken at Pier 44, Southampton, England, where she departed on her fateful maiden voyage at noon on 10 April 1912. Several sources have said the man in the bowler was the owner of White Star Line, others have said Harland & Wolff. As far as I know, the jury is still out on that issue.

I have read about Second Officer Charles H. Lightoller and his heroic deeds during the evacuation of Dunkirk in his small 60-ft private boat Sundowner, an Australian term for "wanderer." His boat was formerly a retired Admiralty launch extensively modified for Lightoller. Lightholler's wife, Sylvia Hawley Wilson, was an Australian. Sylvia had a foot deformity and many of the boat's modifications were also designed to enable her to enjoy Sundowner. Lightoller's fascinating story of his life, his wife Sylvia, and the 1940 Dunkirk Evacuation was a well-written story that appeared in Sea Classics July 2008 edition.

The author's comment that J. Bruce Ismay donned women's clothing to leave the Titanic is wrong as lsmay was one of the last off and he did not take a seat needed by others. J. Bruce Ismay had remorseful guilt after leaving Titanic and was a recluse until his death on Sunday, 17 October 1937. The man originally publicized with dressing in a woman's clothing was William T, Sloper from Connecticut. Hollywood has included this undocumented situation in several films.

The comment that helmsman Hitchins "panicked and turned the wheel the wrong way" was also interesting since Hitchins was an experienced helmsman and knew his helm well. The "Tiller Orders" were in use and Hitchins was very familiar with these orders. The command from First Officer Murdoch was, "Hard a starboard" to port around the berg. Mr. Stanford's comparisons of the "Tiller Orders" and a tiller on a sailboat are well explained; however, I doubt this error would have been committed by Hitchins. The use of "Tiller Orders" on ships were not changed to the orders to the helm we use today until around 1924. 1 doubt "Tiller Orders" would have remained in use for twelve more years following Titanic's sinking if they were as prone to error as indicated. …

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