When anyone asks how I can best describe my experience in nearly 40 years at sea, I merely say, uneventful. Of course there have been winter gales, and storms and fog and the like, but in all my experience, I have never been in any accident of any sort worth speaking about. …… I never saw a wreck and never have been wrecked, nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort. You see, I am not very good material for a story.
– Captain E. J. Smith, Commander, RMS. Titanic
Throughout the day of 14 April 1912, Titanic had been receiving ice warnings from other ships in the area she was sailing into. Passengers onboard had also noticed increasing cold weather conditions throughout the afternoon.
At 09.00am, Titanic received the first of the ice warnings from Caronia, originating two days earlier. The message read: “ Captain – Titanic – West-bound steamers report bergs, growlers and field ice in 42° N from 49° to 50° W, April 12th. Compliments, Barr.”
Captain Smith acknowledged he had received the warning in the early afternoon at 1. 42 pm, and posted it for his officers to read. Smith also received a warning that had been relayed via RMS Baltic, from the Greek ship Athenia that she was passing ice bergs and large quantities of field ice. This message read: “Greek steamer Athenia reports passing icebergs and large quantities of field ice, today in latitude 41° 52’ W. Wish you and Titanic all success. Commander”, this warning was also acknowledged by Smith. Smith also reported the previous warning to the chairman of White Star Line, J. Bruce Ismay and ordered a new course, which would take the ship further south, hopefully away from the ice danger.
Another ice warning, never reached Smith and the other officers on the ships bridge. This warning was from the German ship SS Amerika, reporting they had just “passed two large ice bergs”. The SS Amerika was just south of Titanic’s position at the time, the full message read: “Amerika passed two large icebergs at 41° 27° N, 50° 8’ W on April 14”. The reason why this message never reached Smith is unknown.
Ice warning Telegram from SS Amerika to RMS Titanic, April 14, 1912
Radio operator Jack Philips was preoccupied with transmitting passenger messages via the relay station at Cape Race, New Foundland. Titanic’s radio equipment had broken down the day before. Although the radio set had been repaired by the morning of the 14th, the breakdown had caused a backlog of messages from passengers waiting to be sent.
First Officer Murdoch excused himself from the bridge for dinner at 6.30pm. The air temperature had dramatically dropped by 6.00pm. As day had begun to turn to night, Murdoch relieved Second Officer Lightoller at 7.05pm for his dinner break. Upon his return to the bridge at 7.35pm, Murdoch commented to Lightoller the air temperature had dropped four degrees within the last half hour, from 43° to 39° F, or 6.0° to 3.8° C.
At 7.30pm, three messages warning of ice were intercepted from the Californian, which read: “to Captain Antillian Six-thirty pm, apparent ships time; latitude 42° 3’ N longitude 49° 9 W. Three large bergs 5 miles to the southward of us. Regards, Lord”. Indicating the massive ice field was then only 50 miles ahead. The message was clearly indicating the magnitude of the hazard Titanic was approaching.
Captain Smith was attending a dinner party in the Parisian café with Major Butt, Mr & Mrs Thayer and Mr & Mrs Widener until 9.45pm, according to an affidavit presented to the U.S. Senate Inquiry from First-Class passenger Daisy Minahan,.
The night of the 14th was perfect, with no wind, the sea was flat calm, with no cloud in the sky and the stars were rising and setting with brilliant clarity.
Affidavit provided by First-Class passenger, Daisy Minahan to the U.S Senate Inquiry in the Titanic sinking.
All in all, the ice warning messages received by Titanic indicated a huge ice field 78 miles long, only 50 miles ahead of Titanic and directly in her path.
Quartermaster Robert Hitchens arrived on the bridge at 8.00pm to begin his watch. At 8.45pm, Lightoller had sent Hitchens word to the ships carpenter to drain off the fresh water tanks to prevent the pipes from freezing.
Rev. Mr Clark began his hymn sing-a-long in the saloon at 8.30pm. Welcoming all who attended, and asking them personally to choose the hymns. Mr Clark could only facilitate requests that were for the best-known, favourite hymns, while providing an explanation of each one and the circumstances in which they were composed, impressing many who attended with his knowledge and eagerness to tell the story behind each hymn.
The temperature by this time had dropped to 33° F, or minus .5° C. During the course of the last two hours, the temperature had dropped 10 degree Fahrenheit or 12.2 degrees Celsius. Captain Smith appeared on the deck at about 9.55pm, where he and 2nd Officer Lightoller discussed the unusually calm and clear conditions. Lightoller had commented to Smith about the temperature drop and reported he had sent the carpenter to check the water tanks. In the process of discussing the unusual weather conditions, mention was made that the lack of both wind and water ripples indicated the presence of icebergs. They both agreed that spotting icebergs would be easy because there would be a fair amount of light reflecting off them, producing an outline from quite a distance away. Lightoller and Smith did not talk about the speed of the ship.
Lightoller asked Sixth Officer Moody to ring and caution the Lookouts, that spotting bergs would be difficult under these conditions and to look carefully for ice and growlers, in particular until morning. Lightoller believed any iceberg would be spotted up to two miles away in such perfect weather conditions, despite the lack of any water ripples around the base, due to the lack of wind or swell.
Growlers were described by Lightoller at the British Board Of Trade Inquiry as: “A growler is really the worst form of ice. It is a larger berg melted down, or I might say a solid body of ice which is lower down to the water and more difficult to see than field ice, pack ice, floe ice, or icebergs”. Put another way, a growler stands lower than an iceberg but with equal size under water.
For the remainder of his watch, Lightoller stood, keeping an extra set of eyes, keeping a sharp lookout toward the front of the ship from the Bridge. Lightoller later testified at the Board of Trade inquiry that he was using binoculars during this time, but he mentioned that detecting icebergs was not usually possible with binoculars alone.
To question number 13688. “And you were using the glasses?” Lightoller replied “Occasionally I would raise the glasses to my eyes and look ahead to see if I could see anything, using both glasses and my eyes.”
To question number, 13690, the solicitor general asked Lightoller to clarify his answer, by asking: “You see, Mr. Lightoller, I want to get your own view. You will tell us candidly and fairly, I am sure. First of all, in your own experience, when you have used glasses, have you in fact found ice with the help of glasses?”. Lightoller replied: “Never. I have never seen ice through glasses first, never in my experience. Always whenever I have seen a berg I have seen it first with my eyes and then examined it through glasses”, meaning, to be able to spot an iceberg, you must first have a point of reference to be able to view the object.
At 10.00pm, the temperature had dropped by another one degree to 32° F or 0° C, which is the freezing point of fresh water.
Second Officer Lightoller was relieved on the bridge by 1st Officer Murdoch, who was wearing his overcoat as he came onto the bridge, commenting on the freezing temperature.
In the ordinary process of handing over a ship, Lightoller mentioned to Murdoch, the ship was steering by standard compass. They both commented on the Marconi-grams that mentioned ice. They both knew they had entered the ice region. Lightoller mentioned to Murdoch that he had issued a warning to the crows-nest. Quartermaster Hitchens was given his course of N. 71º W. sailing the same course Quartermaster Olliver was given at 6.00pm. Also on the bridge at that time were Fourth Officer Boxhall and Sixth Officer Moody. At the same time, Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee were relayed instructions for the night, while relieving Archie Jewell and George Symons on the Crows-Nest.
The final warning came in from, the Californian at 11.00pm stating: “we are stopped and surrounded by ice”, 19 miles away from Titanic’s position. Cyril Evans from Californian received a sharp reply from Titanic radio operator Philips “Keep out! Shut up! You are jamming my signal. I am working Cape Race”.
On Sunday, 14 April, 1912, the night was clear, calm and very cold. The sea was, as Second Class passenger, Lawrence Beesley would later recount, “like a millpond”. Titanic was sailing at 21 knots as was standard practice in 1912. Although Titanic had previously received a total of six reports warning of ice. Captain Smith had previously stated he could not “imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that”.
Before turning in for the night, Lightoller inspected the decks to ensure everything was all right. After completing that duty, known as ‘Going Round’. Lightoller returned to the bridge before going to his cabin. Smith issued the usual order to rouse him, “if it becomes at all doubtful, let me know. I will be just inside” Smith retired for the night at 10.25pm. Second Officer Lightoller also retired to his cabin. After getting into his bed and turning off the light, Lightoller lay awake.
The hymn sing-a-long in the saloon, hosted by Rev. Mr Clark was drawing to an end by 10.30pm, as the stewards were waiting to serve coffee and biscuits, before going off duty for the night. Throughout the meeting, many hymns were requested that dealt with dangers at sea and the last hymn sung was “For Those In Peril On The Sea”. No person who attended the hymn meeting, or those whiling away the night time hours on Titanic, had any indication that the real peril on the sea lay only a few nautical miles ahead.
At 11.40pm, Titanic was still cruising through the ocean at 21 knots. From the crow’s-nest, Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee were finding it hard to see the horizon, or much of anything else, because of the effects of the freezing air against their naked eyes and the refraction of the light.
Lee would testify that glasses or binoculars were not generally provided for the crows-nest. A question from the Attorney-General – number 2367 – asked: “Are glasses usually supplied to the Lookout man on Mail steamers?” Lee would reply: “Not that I know”. It must be remembered, Lee had previously had 16 years experience at sea.
Fleet and Lee would testify at the British Board of Trade inquiry, there was a slight haze on the waterline, all around Titanic along the Horizon, from about 11.00pm.
Suddenly Fleet noticed a slightly blurred, black object slowly appearing from the haze, like a dark hole against the moonless sky and rang the look-out bell three times, then alerted Moody on the bridge of an “iceberg, right ahead”.
Later, Fleet testified about what he saw from The Lookout: “I have no idea of distances or spaces. It kept getting larger as we were getting nearer it”.
It remains debatable, if Fleet and Lee had had the use of binoculars, whether or not they would have benefitted from them in detecting an iceberg in such conditions. To use binoculars, to view an object up-close, you have to determine a point of reference first. As previously mentioned, the weather conditions were freezing. Such cold and hazy conditions will make an iceberg look dark, as there will not be present any light to illuminate such an object. Lookouts Fleet and Lee were trying to differentiate a dark object against a backdrop of black surroundings. To use binoculars would have been useless as they would not be able to determine any point of reference. This could explain Frederick Fleet’s later comment about not being able to determine distance and space.
The Second Officer for Titanic’s voyage from the place of her birth, Belfast to Southampton – David Blair – was replaced on April 9 for preference from Captain Smith of Henry Wilde.
Wilde was promoted to First Officer, with Murdoch. Second Officer, Charles Lightoller occupied Blairs Cabin for Titanic’s maiden voyage, unaware that Blair, when leaving the ship in Southampton, had unintentionally removed the key to the locker containing the lookout binoculars. As lookout binoculars were not generally supplied by shipping lines, it was most probably not realised, White Star had supplied them for Titanic.
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At that moment, First Class passenger George Brayton was on the Promenade deck and heard the warning come from the ships lookout. “A number of us who were enjoyed the crisp air were promenading about the deck. Captain Smith was on the bridge when the first cry from the lookout came that there was an iceberg ahead. It may have been 30 feet high when I saw it. It was possibly 200 yards away and dead ahead. Captain Smith shouted some orders… A number of us promenaders rushed to the bow of the ship. When we saw he could not fail to hit it, we rushed to the stern. Then came a crash, and the passengers were panic-stricken.”
6th Officer Moody acknowledges with a simple “thank you” to the message from the Look-out, then repeats “iceberg, right ahead” to First Officer William Murdoch, who immediately ordered the ship – according to testimony from Quartermaster Robert Hitchens, “Hard-a-starboard” – Hard-a-Starboard is a tiller command, meaning, turn the Tiller to the starboard and the ship will turn to the Port. Murdoch, then set the telegraph to “Full Astern. Stop”.
Quartermaster Alfred Olliver walked onto the bridge at the moment of half collision and ordered the ship to “Hard-a-Port”. The ship will turn to the Starboard. This manoeuvre is known as, “Port Around” and explains why Titanic’s stern was not damaged in the collision. It also explains Murdoch’s comment to Captain Smith, about 5 minutes after the collision, when Smith entered the bridge, “I intended to port around it”.
Titanic’s course at the time of collision
Quartermaster Hitchens later testified that turning the wheel hard right, did nothing to prevent the ship hitting the iceberg: “But, during the time, she was crushing the ice, or we could hear the grinding noise along the ship’s bottom. I heard the telegraph ring, sir. The skipper came rushing out of his room – Captain Smith – and asked, “What is that” Mr. Murdoch said, “iceberg.” He – Captain Smith – said, “Close the emergency doors”. Mr. Murdoch replied, “The doors are already closed”.
It’s worth noting here that a ship’s tiller is the mechanism that turns the ships rudder. As is with larger ships, the bigger the ship, the greater the force needed to turn the rudder. A ships tiller is attached to the Rudder post or Rudder stock and provides the torque for the helmsman to turn the rudder with the ships wheel. In larger ships, the tiller turns in the opposite direction the ship is intended to turn. It is not known if First Officer William Murdoch actually ordered the tiller turned to Starboard as was interpreted or if his intention was for the ship to turn to starboard in an attempt to avoid the iceberg.
The ships rudder was adequate – 30 m² or 280 square feet to move a mass of 46,000 tons effectively, but the centre Parsons turbine engine, driving the centre four bladed propeller could not be reversed. The ships reciprocating engines driving the side propellers took at least three revolutions, before they could be stopped, then reversed. The entire prop flow would have been needed on the rudder for full turning effectiveness.
Lee described what they saw, as the ship was approaching the iceberg, after it had been spotted by himself and Fleet: “Can you give us any idea of the breadth? What did it look like? It was something that was above the forecastle?” To which Lee replied “It was a dark mass that came through that haze, there was no white appearing, until it was just close alongside the ship, that was just the fringe at the top”. Lee continues: “Through the haze, and as she moved away from it, there was just a white fringe along the top. That was the only white about it. Until she passed by, then you could see she was white; one side of it seemed to be black, and the other side seemed to be white.”
The haze, an optical illusion
Throughout the day on 14 April 1912, Titanic was traveling through an Arctic High, presenting the highest pressure anywhere in the Northern hemisphere at that time. The high pressure was from a warm Gulf Stream air flow, above Titanic’s position. At the time of her sinking, Titanic was at about the centre of the high pressure area. The water temperature was freezing, creating an extremely cold air temperature around Titanic, extending upwards to the level of the warmer air current. The air between the water surface and the warmer air was condensed around the ship.
April of 1912 saw an unusually large amount of Ice and Ice bergs in the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic. Usually there are about 500 icebergs at that time of the year, but April 1912 saw in excess of 1000 icebergs, carried from the West coast of Greenland, extending south to the southern most track for Trans-Atlantic shipping, carried by the Labrador Current. The Labrador Current brings the bergs and the colder water south, under the warmer Gulf Stream current.
At the time, in the early years of weather forecasting, Trans-Atlantic shipping took water temperatures every four hours and recorded each temperature reading. These temperatures were recorded for the US and UK weather services.
On April 14th, earlier in the day Titanic would founder, the Paula, was most likely the last ship to cross the same area Titanic would later sink, recorded water temperatures to be changing from 12.8° C to minus 1.4 to minus 13°, with “much refraction”. On the 13th April, in the same position, the German steamer Deutchland, recorded “Much refraction on the horizon”. After leaving New York on April 11th, the steamer, Marengo, while steaming near the position on April 14th, recorded the sea temperature dropping dramatically with “Much refraction on a clear, bright night”.
Refraction, is a distortion of visible light. Similar to the mirage effect you will see in a desert or on a road surface on a hot day. A mirage is caused by the light distorting upwards and creating a reflected image of the blue sky onto the hot surface, giving the impression of water on the hot surface.
Refraction described here is the distortion of light, downwards, creating a mirage of the water surface onto the warmer air above the water surface, thus creating a false horizon. Put another way, this type of refraction causes the horizon to appear to be considerably higher than it actually is. This illusion is known by mariners as, Fata Morgana. An unusual name being taken from Fata – a Latin name meaning “fairy” and Morgana, taken from the name of the sorceress in the tale of King Arthur.
A “Fata Morgana” was believed to be an illusion created by witchcraft, to amaze and lure sailors to their deaths. The visible horizon could be many metres above the actual horizon, making the visible horizon at night-time look hazy and at the same time, similar to a mirage or even a rainbow. No matter how far you travel towards the optical illusion, or haze, you will never actually reach it.
Fata Morgana can give the illusion that an object on the horizon is up-side down, with a stretched zone above the horizon. It can also make an object look as if it is floating in the air above the water, as the light distorts the object. It can also make a large vessel, such as Titanic, look smaller on the horizon as the visible horizon obscures the lower portion of the ship, in doing so, hiding the actual length of the ship. The crew onboard Californian may not have been dishonest when they said that the ship on the horizon did not look big enough to be Titanic.
During the daylight, a Fata Morgana can also look similar to a wall of water on the horizon. At night, under moonless conditions, it would look as if there were a haze on the horizon.
Fata Morgana, taken from the Pacific Coast of the U.S. It is easy to see how the very top outline of this illusion can be recognized as an horizon on a cold, dark moonless light.
In clear conditions, it was generally believed an iceberg would be spotted about 20 minutes away, or about a mile and a half to two miles away. Fata Morgana or the false horizon would have made the approaching iceberg appear invisible until it was too late. In fact, right up until only 37 seconds before colliding with Titanic.
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37 seconds after the iceberg had been sighted by Frederick Fleet, Titanic’s Bow side swiped with the berg, scraped and ground along 300m from the starboard bow, buckled her hull in several places, caused rivets to pop, created a series of holes below the waterline, while opening up her first five compartments to the sea.
An engine room greaser, Alfred White would later testify:
”I was on the whale deck in the bow calling the watch that was to relieve when the ice first came aboard. The collision opened the seams below the water-line but did not even scratch the paint above the line. I know that because I was one of those who helped to make an examination over the side with a lantern. I went down into the engine-room at 12:40am. We even made coffee, so there was not much thought of danger. An hour later I was still working at the light engines. I heard the chief engineer tell one of his subordinates that number six bulkhead had given way. At that time things began to look bad…”
In the wheelhouse, immediately behind the bridge, Quartermaster Hitchens was in darkness, except for the glow of light from the ships compass, and so could not see the approaching iceberg, but “felt the ship tremble,and I felt rather a grinding nature along the ships bottom”. Boxhall entered the bridge shortly after the collision and saw that Murdoch, Moody and the Captain were all together on the bridge. Boxhall witnessed the discussion between Smith and Murdoch: The Captain said “What have we struck?” Mr Murdoch said “We have struck an iceberg”. Mr Murdoch continued “I put her hard a starboard and ran the engines full astern. But, it was too late; she hit it” Then Murdoch said; “I intended to port around it”. Boxhall, Murdoch and Smith then looked over the starboard side of the bridge and observed, what Boxhall described as a black mass, protruding out of the water about 30 feet high toward the stern of the ship.
Fireman George Beauchamp was situated in the No 10 Stokehold, second from the Bow. At the British Board of Trade Inquiry he described the impact as “Just like thunder, the roar of thunder”. Beauchamp later testified the only order after the collision was from the telegraph to “Stop”
First fireman Fred Barrett – in Boiler Room 6 – first to the bow ordered the dampers shut, as he heard a gushing noise of water coming into the Boiler Room. As the watertight doors were closing, he escaped into the adjoining Boiler Room 5 astern, which was also damaged slightly. A few minutes after the ship stopped, the watertight doors were closing. As the water was entering through the damaged portions of plating, the firemen continued to “Draw the fires”. Fifteen minutes later, the fires were drawn, the firemen escaped up the escape ladders, Fireman Beauchamp made his way to the boat deck.
Two photos of the same iceberg, providing evidence of the berg that is believed to have sunk Titanic. The top photo was taken by the Chief Steward of the German ocean liner SS Prinz Adalbert on April 15 1912, as they sailed near the site where Titanic sank the night before. He had noticed a streak of anti-fouling red paint near the icebergs base. The bottom photo was taken by Captain De Carteret of the cable ship, Minia, after being sent to the scene of the sinking to recover corpses. The red paint and scrape gouges on the bottom photo are clearly visible, indicating a large ship had struck the iceberg.
Governess Elizabeth Shutes – sitting in her First Class cabin felt a shudder reverberate throughout the ship. “Suddenly, a queer quivering ran under me, apparently the whole length of the ship. Startled by the very strangeness of the shivering motion, I sprang to the floor. With too perfect a trust in that mighty vessel I again lay down. Some one knocked at my door, and the voice of a friend said: ‘Come quickly to my cabin; an iceberg has just passed our window; I know we have just struck one.”
Captain Smith ordered Boxhall to check the seaworthiness of the vessel. Boxhall went as far below as the lowest passenger deck and the furthest forward as possible. He returned to the bridge, informing Smith he could not find any evidence of damage. Still being unsure, Smith ordered Boxhall to find the carpenter and sound the vessel. Boxhall wasn’t far from the bridge when the ships carpenter brushed past him, explaining to Smith “The ship is making water”. Closely followed by Postal clerk Jago Smith, reporting: “the post office is flooded to the ceiling”.
J. Bruce Ismay, who had felt a tremble that awoke him in his suite on B-Deck, could not get an answer to what had happened from a steward. Ismay then made his way to the bridge and asked Captain Smith, “what happened?” Smith replied “we struck ice”. Ismay then asked if Smith believed the damage was serious and Smith said that he thought it was. Ismay then left the bridge, running into Chief Engineer Bell, who informed him, the damage was serious, but he believed that the pumps would be able to control the incoming water.
The Carpenter joined with designer, Thomas Andrews, to inspect the ship further. Just after midnight on 15 April, Andrews reported back to the Captain with the bad news.
The ships situation was: Water in the forepeak – water in hatch No 1 and No 2 – Water in the Post Office – Water in Boiler Room No 6. Water 4.20 metres above the keel in the first five compartments. Within the next ten minutes, the pumps would not be able to control the inrush of water. Andrews continued to explain: The Bulkheads between the fifth and the sixth did not go any further than E-Deck. The weight of the inrushing water would lower the ships bow, allowing the water to flood compartment No 6 from above, then continue to flood No 7 and so on. There was no way out. Wilding had calculated, the holes punched into the hull must be ridiculously small.
Andrews continued by estimating Titanic will founder in one hour, two hours at most. Smith was horrified at the news. He proceeded to the Marconi wireless room and instructed Bride and Philips to use the CQD distress signal, including we are going down at the head. Come quick. Immediate assistance required.
The only known photograph of the Titanic Marconi Wireless Room. Taken by Father Browne who boarded Titanic at Southampton on 10 April 1912, leaving the ship at Queenstown, Southern Ireland on 11 April 1912.
The CQD was adopted for radio use in 1904. For land morse code lines, the CQ was used to identify precautionary or alert messages of interest to all stations along the telegraph line. CQ was also adopted as a “general call” for maritime radio use. How-ever, with land based systems, there was no recognised general emergency call, so the Marconi Company introduced the “D”, meaning, “Distress”, to CQ. Meaning, “General Call, Distress”. As opposed to the popular belief that CQD means “Come Quick, Distress” or “Come Quick, Danger” etc. Such interpretations are simply false.
CQD of – · – · – – · – – · · was used worldwide by Marconi operators. But, was never recognised as an international standard distress call, as in areas of poor reception, it could easily be confused as a “General Call”. At the second International Radiographic Convention, held in Berlin, Germany in 1906. Germany’s Notzeichen distress signal of three-dots/three-dashes/three-dots, · · · – – – · · ·. Or, SOS was adopted as the Internationally standard distress signal. Titanic’s wireless operators used a mix of the CQD and SOS signals.
Fourth Officer Boxhall had dead reckoned the ship’s position as being at latitude 41° 46′ N and longitude 50° 14′ W. which he then handed to the Marconi wireless operator for immediate transmission. Unfortunately, Boxhall’s ‘dead reckoning’ had placed Titanic 13 nautical miles East of the ship’s true position.
Harold Cottam, Wireless operator on the Cunard Liner, Carpathia, enroute from New York to Fiume, Austria-Hungary, via Liverpool, Genoa, Naples and Trieste, had been aware that Titanic chief wireless operator Philips had had a busy day. Earlier he had been listening to messages from Cape Race, intended for Titanic. Before he retired and went to bed, Cottam decided to contact Philips and enquire if he had received the earlier messages. “Good morning, old man – GM OM _. Do you know there are messages for you at Cape Race?”. The reply from Philips was alarming, he felt his blood run cold, “CQD…CQD…MGY. Come at once. We have struck a berg. It’s a CQD, old man – CQD OM – Position 41.46 N, 50.14 W”.
Cottam was stunned for a few moments, then asked if he should inform the Captain. Philips replied immediately with “Yes, quick”. Cottam ran to the bridge and informed First officer Dean, who did not hesitate. He immediately descended the ladder, through the chartroom and entered the Captains cabin, with Cottam following. An anxious Dean explained the message from Titanic. Captain Rostron immediately swung into action, saying “Mr. Dean, turn the ship around-steer northwest, I’ll work out the course for you in a minute”. Dean rushed back to the bridge. Rostron turned to Cottam, “Are you sure it’s the Titanic and she requires immediate assistance?” Cottam replied “Yes Sir”, Rostron asked “You are absolutely certain?” Cottam replied “Quite certain, sir”. Captain Rostron then said “All right, tell him we are coming along as fast as we can”.
At about this time, ten miles NNW of Titanic’s actual position, the tramp-steamer, Californian was surrounded by ice and stopped for the night. At 12.15pm, Third Officer Groves had entered the wireless room and asked wireless operator Cyril Evans if he were in contact with anyone interesting, if he had any news. Evans replied, “I think the ‘Titanic’ is near us. I have got her”. He continued, “You know, the new boat on its maiden voyage”. He continued, “You know, the new boat on its maiden voyage”.
But after an earlier snarling from Titanic wireless operator, Philips, at 11.35pm he had decided he has had enough and was retiring for the night after turning off his wireless set. Before leaving the Californians wireless room, Groves had picked up the headset and put them on, as he was quite interested in wireless equipment, and was quite good at reading messages. But he was not familiar with Californians equipment. Californian’s station had a magnetic detector, which required winding up. Groves did not wind it up, so was unable to hear anything. He put the headset down, sighed and walked away.
Sea water began filling the forward compartments Of Titanic, while spilling over into other compartments. With more than four of her compartments open to the Atlantic Ocean, Titanic, was doomed.