What Really Sank the Titanic

Sergiu Vidican

Written by Sergiu Vidican
Posted in: Featured, Science
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RMS Titanic

Everyone knows the story of the Titanic, the unsinkable ship that sank because it hit an iceberg. The reasons why it sank might be different than what you have read in books, or have seen in the movies. Louise Patten, the granddaughter of Charles Lightoller, who was a second officer on the ship, recently wrote a book called Good as Gold about the incident, in which she tells a different story of the disaster.

Until now, it was believed that the Titanic sank because the ship was going too fast, and because the crew members could not see the iceberg. The book written by Louise Patten, says something else, more precisely it says that the ship sank because of a steering mistake. The book says that the helmsman had plenty of time to turn the ship in order to make it miss the iceberg, but that the person panicked and it turned the ship in the wrong direction. The error was eventually corrected, but unfortunately, it was too late, and because of it, the side of the ship touched the iceberg, and as a result it got pierced by it. She also stated that the passengers and the crew could have all been saved, but a second mistake was done by the crewmen.

Instead of stopping the ship in order to wait for help, they decided to go on, even thought they realized that the Titanic was taking on water. The information comes almost 100 years after the incident, and apparently the family of the most senior officer to survive the disaster, decided to keep it a secret. Second Officer Charles Lightoller decided not to reveal anything because he was afraid that his colleagues will be put out work because of his confessions. After his death, the family decided to keep it a secret, because they were afraid that it will tarnish his reputation. Louise Patten said that the new information makes the story much more tragic, as all those lives could have been saved if it wasn’t for that mistake made by a single person.

The voyage between Southampton and New York took place in 1912. The ship sailed for four days, the fourth day being its last day on the water. During that day the ship sank, more than 1,500 people going down with it. It is said that the error happened because of the conversion from sail to steam ships. That meant that the steering system was undergoing a change, the new system having different commands than the other one. Many of the crew members were used to the Tiller Orders, which was the older system, whereas some of the crew members were more comfortable with the newer system, the Rudder Orders. The two system were opposite of one another. This means that a command such as to turn “hard a starboard” would require one to turn the wheel right under the old system, and left under the new system. First Officer William Murdoch spotted the iceberg when the ship was two miles away, and he gave Quartermaster Robert Hitchins the order “hard a-starboard”.

The Quartermaster misinterpreted the order, and because of it, instead of turning the ship to the left, he turned it to the right. He corrected the mistake very soon afterwards, but unfortunately it was too late, and because of it, the ship hit the iceberg. Lady Patten who is the wife of former Tory Education minister, Lord Patten, said that the main reason why the Titanic sank is because of that human error, because one man made the ship go in the wrong direction. She said that the information presented in the books and in the movies is not correct. In her book she reveals that her grandfather was not there when the human error was made, but she said that the four senior officers took a final meeting in the First Officer’s cabin right before the ship started to sink. At the meeting Lightoller heard about the mistake and about the events that soon followed.

Hitchins made the steering error, but the second error was made by Bruce Ismay, who was the chairman of Titanic’s owner, the White Star Line. He convinced the captain to keep on going, and for ten more minutes the ship went “Slow Ahead”. Because of this decision the ship sank three or four, or even more hours earlier than it would have if it would have stayed put. The reason why Ismay decided to keep on going was because of the fact that he was afraid of ruining the reputation of the company he was working for. The nearest ship was four hours away, and if they would have stayed put, then no one would have died.

Lightoller was the only survivor who knew what actually happened. He was then twice-decorated a war hero and he decided to keep the information a secret. He believed that it was his duty to protect the people working for White Star Line, and his employer. Lady Patten said that he told the truth only to his wife Sylvia. She says that she was fascinated by the Titanic when she was a teenager, and that her grandmother decided to tell her what happened one day. She said that she was sixteen when her grandmother died, and that she decided to keep the secret, even though her grandmother did not tell her to do so. She said that her mother told her that the secret should not be revealed because if it the people would find out about what really happened, then Lightoller’s reputation would be destroyed.

Forty years have passed since then, during which her mother has died as well. In the meantime, Lady Patten wrote a book, and she decided that her second book should tell the story of what really happened with the Titanic. She felt that it was her responsibility to let the people know about what really happened on the Titanic during the night of April 10.11

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One Response to What Really Sank the Titanic

  1. Zain Qadri says:

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