This is a marvelous ship and I feel very disappointed I am not to make the first voyage.
– David Blair, original Second Officer on Titanic.
After the completion of her Sea trials from Belfast on April 2, Titanic sailed to Southampton at 8pm, where she was moored at White Star Berth 44, on Wednesday April 3rd, 1912.
Both Olympic and Titanic were registered in Liverpool as their home port. The offices of both White Star Line and Cunard were situated in Liverpool. Cunard’s two star attractions on the North Atlantic route, Lusitania and Mauritania sailed out of Liverpool, followed by a port of call in Ireland, before embarking on the Trans-Atlantic run to New York. The Olympic-class liners of White Star line were to sail out of Southampton on England’s southern coast. White Star realised Southampton had many advantages over Liverpool, mainly Southampton’s closer proximity to London and Northern France, to which the Olympic-class liners could easily cross the channel, using Cherbourg to embark clientele from Continental Europe before crossing the channel again to Queenstown, Southern Ireland. The Southampton, Cherbourg-New York run became so popular that after the cessation of WWI, most British ocean liners began using Southampton as their physical home port, while retaining Liverpool as their Port of Registration as a mark of respect until the early 1960s. Cunard Lines Queen Elizabeth 2 was the first British Ocean Liner to be registered at Southampton when introduced into service in 1969.
The Loading of supplies and provisions to Titanic began on April 3 for her maiden voyage to New York, beginning on Wednesday 10 April.
By Saturday 6 April, the general cargo of 560 tons was arriving at White Star Berth 44, for loading aboard Titanic. White Star Line’s hiring hall was packed with the British Seafarers Union and National Sailors and Fireman’s Union members, all wishing to get back to work, as the 1912 coal strike had caused widespread unemployment among Southampton sailors. The majority of Titanic’s crew came from Southampton, with a few coming from Liverpool, London and Belfast. By the end of the day, the majority of the operating crew had been hired and signed on.
The required 5,800 tons of coal was loaded through the side coaling ports, which for a ship the size of Titanic was a massive task, taking 24 hours before the ship’s carpenter would seal up the coal ports with a buckram gasket soaked in red lead. This was followed by the painstaking task of cleaning the coal dust off hand-railings, decks, staircases and passageways, all of which had to be cleaned thoroughly to remove the fine coating of coal dust that spread everywhere.
Easter Sunday, 7 April, was a quiet day for Titanic. The mining strike had ended the day before on the 6th April. There wasn’t time to ship newly mined coal to Southampton in time for Titanic’s maiden voyage. Coal from five Mercantile Marine company vessels had been loaded onto Titanic, together with excess coal from her sister ship Olympic. Titanic’s blue ensign fluttered from the stern flagpole throughout Easter Sunday and the ship’s bell rung out every passing hour.
Monday 8th April, with only three days to go before her maiden voyage. Activity on Berth 44 was beginning to become frantic as fresh food and supplies were arriving by train and being taken onboard. Seventy five thousand pounds of fresh meat, eleven thousand pounds of fresh fish and 1,750 Quarts of ice cream were put into the large refrigerators on Orlop deck aft. Thomas Andrews was also onboard throughout the day to oversee last minute details and to rectify any slight problems that may have occurred during the trip from Belfast to Southampton. Andrews remained onboard until 6.30pm.
Tuesday 9th April, Food continued to be loaded onto Titanic, her last full day in port before her maiden voyage tomorrow. Captain Clark from the Board of Trade was onboard inspecting just about every part of the ship, to which Second Officer Charles Lightoller remarked: “He did his job, and I’ll say he did it thoroughly”. The new Captain, Edward J Smith made his own inspection of the ship. While Smith visited the bridge, a London photographer snapped his picture. That picture became forever immortalised, as it is the only picture taken of Captain Smith on the bridge of his last command. Titanic’s last night in port is quiet and cold, with only a skeleton crew onboard.
Over a century since Titanic sank, many stories and books have come to the surface claiming to have predicted the great liners demise. Books written before and during her construction and fitting out at Belfast are believed to describe accurately, what was in store for those who perished, including one of the authors himself, whose book is believed to have predicted his own death, when he joined the many who would witness Titanic’s maiden voyage from Southampton to New York during the bleak month of April 1912.
One prediction is believed to be from a Steward, just days before the ships date with destiny, being from Steward Arthur Paintin – Captain Smith’s personal steward – who after Titanic’s departure from Southampton and close shave with the moored liner New York, wrote a letter home to his family. When Titanic arrived at Queenstown, Paintin mailed his letter home. The letter stated:
“My Dear Mother and Father
“Many thanks for your nice long letter this morning, received before leaving. I intended writing before we left, but there did not seem time for everything. I cannot realise that I had ten days at home, and am very sorry I could not get to Oxford for we have now commenced the quick voyages all the summer (bar accidents). I say that because the Olympic’s bad luck seems to have followed us for as we came out of Southampton dock this morning we passed quite close to the New York which was tied up in the Adriatic’s old berth, and whether it was suction or what it was I don’t know, but the New York’s ropes snapped like a piece of cotton and she drifted against us. There was great excitement for some little time, but I don’t think there was any damage done bar one or two people knocked over by the ropes.”
“Bai jove what a fine ship this is, much better than the Olympic as far as passengers are concerned. But my little room is nothing near so nice, no daylight, electric light on all day, but I suppose it’s no use grumbling.”
Paintin’s job was to be at the beck and call of Smith. He had transferred with Smith to Titanic from Olympic for The maiden voyage and so would have known Smith better than most people onboard Titanic. Arthur Paintin was last seen, according to some testimonies, standing beside Captain Smith on the bridge just before the vessel’s long plunge into the North-Atlantic Ocean.
W. T. Stead.
Another passenger, English Journalist W.T. Stead, got mentioned with another prediction several years before his fictional book mentions his own demise. In 1886, Stead’s story ‘How The Mail Steamer Went Down In Mid Atlantic – By A Survivor’, mentions an ocean liner, which leaves Liverpool and becomes involved in a collision with an iceberg on its journey to New York. In the ensuing panic, the ship’s Captain brandishes a revolver to prevent steerage passengers from storming the boat deck. Many passengers are lost, due to too few lifeboats. The story portrays its hero as calmly going down with the ship while smoking in the smoking room.
It appears that his fictional work did not dissuade him from embarking on trans-Atlantic voyages himself. W. T. Stead was a pioneer in Investigative journalism and was a controversial figure during the Victorian era. He is also featured in the myth of Titanic’s mummy.
This myth also includes a story of Stead going down onboard Titanic, quietly and fearlessly reading in the smoking room. The 1958 movie ‘A Night To Remember’, also includes a part where Stead is portrayed as reading a book in the smoking room as the great ship slides below the surface. A fellow survivor, Philip Mock contradicts this story by claiming he saw Stead clinging to a raft with John Jacob Astor. Mock stated that both Astor and Stead had their feet dangling in the water until “their feet became frozen, and they were compelled to release their hold. Both were drowned”
However, it is the story of Stead as a hero as portrayed in Walter Lord’s, ‘A Night To Remember’ that persists to this day.
The Wreck Of The Titan, or Futility.
After retiring from a life at sea in 1894, Morgan Robertson began writing short stories. One story he began writing in 1897 would become famous for its prediction of the loss of the greatest ocean liner in the world. His novel, The Wreck Of The Titan, Or Futility would propel him into stardom as an author who had predicted the Titanic disaster.
With the assistance of what he would refer to as his “astral writing partner”, Robertson set about writing his story that included a triple screwed 75.000 ton vessel, the like of which the world had never seen before, ploughing through the fog and icy North Atlantic ocean on her maiden voyage, at speeds of 25 knots on a moonless April night, before colliding with an iceberg. The name of the vessel was “Titan”.
Robertson’s Titan was 800 feet in length and her 19 water-tight compartments provided her passengers with the illusion of safety, giving his mythical ship the popular belief she was “unsinkable”. The majority of Titan’s passengers and crew would drown, because there were only twenty-four lifeboats.
This is, however, as far as fiction and reality coincide. Robertson was an experienced seaman, giving him plenty of scope for writing based on accurate maritime knowledge and trends because he would have been very well aware of modern ship-building at that time. Including the technological features, such behemoth vessels required for modern safety at sea. Giving Robertson plenty of material to write about imagined disasters at sea.
‘The Wreck Of The Titan’ does not concentrate on the vessel, but is more the story of a naval Officer who finds God and manages to fight his alcoholism, while managing to win back the love of his life. While also managing to slay a polar bear in order to save a small child.
After Titanic sank, Robertson was acclaimed for his clairvoyance which he denied, later stating: “No, I know what I am writing about, thats all”.
Many other books were published, claiming to have predicted Titanic’s demise with accuracy. Among them were the 1908 book called ‘The Ship’s Run’, by Bodkin M. O’Donnell, which featured the largest, most luxurious ship afloat. Bodkin even named his ship “Titanic”, which sank. The construction of the actual Titanic was underway by 1908 and it is almost certain that Titanic featured in the research for his material.
Another short story under the pen name of Mayn Clew Garnett, ‘The White Ghost Of Disaster’, was published in 1912, by Thornton Jenkins Hains. The story featured an 800 foot ocean liner called ‘Admiral’. While traveling through the North Atlantic Ocean at a speed of 22.5 knots, ‘Admiral’ suddenly hits an iceberg and sinks. Again, the majority of passengers and crew are lost due to a shortage of lifeboats.
At the same time Titanic sank, ‘The White Ghost Of Disaster’ was appearing on newsstands in the pages of Popular Magazine.
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Wednesday 10th April, The weather overnight at Southampton was dry and the morning dawned fine. The forecast stated that the day was going to be dry and sunny with patchy cloud. The early morning temperature was a cool 4.4° C. The maximum temperature would reach 11.7° C with a chilly northwesterly wind.
Captain Smith, Titanic’s new master, had boarded at 7am. Captain E. J. Smith was a man of the sea for over forty years. He had previously commanded some of White Star Lines finest ships, including RMS Olympic on her maiden voyage. He was known as the millionaires Captain, because he was extremely popular with White Star Line’s wealthier passengers. He was well liked by the crew who worked under him.
As White Star Lines Commodore Of The Line, Smith’s salary of $6,250 was twice that of other Captains, making him ‘The Captain Of All Captains’. Although Smith had decided it was time for him to retire, he had stayed on at the request of Bruce Ismay. Smith had decided to wait until White Star Line had a bigger, more refined ship. Some sources say that ship may have been the upcoming launch and maiden voyage of RMS Britannic, as opposed to the popular belief that he was going to retire after the maiden voyage of Titanic.
The docks of Southampton were buzzing with activity on the morning of April 10th 1912. Crates of supplies were still being lifted into the holds. People were arriving from all over England, to see her before the ship departed later at noon. Motor cars were arriving and dropping off passengers who were preparing to board the enormous ship berthed at White Star Line berth 44.
At 8am the Officers were assembled on deck, where an informal lifeboat drill was held in the presence of Captain Clarke of the British Board Of Trade. Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall testified: “The crew were mustered and when the names were called the boats were lowered in the presence of the Board of Trade surveyors.” Two of her lifeboats, lifeboats 11 and 15 from the starboard side were loaded with crew members and swung out, according to fifth Officer Harold Lowe, both were lowered to the water. “We were lowered down in the boats with a boat’s crew. The boats were manned, and we rowed around a couple of turns, and then came back and were hoisted up and had breakfast, and then went about our duties.” the lifeboat drill was performed to satisfy the Board Of Trades regulations, certifying Titanic was a migrant ship. According to Lowe, the whole process took about 20 minutes to half an hour.
Second Officer Charles Lightoller later testified at the British Wreck Commissioners Inquiry, when questioned by Mr. Clement Edwards – Question number 14657 to 14662 – regarding the Lifeboat drill on 10 April 1912:
- On the day you sailed did you make a test of the boats and the apparatus?
Lightoller – Yes.
- In the presence of Captain Clark?
Lightoller – Yes.
- It was intended as a formal inspection by the Board of Trade?
Lightoller – Yes.
- Now, do you remember the extent to which you carried out the test?
Lightoller – Yes, with regard to the boats.
- What did you do?
Lightoller – We lowered two boats, that is swung out, carried on with the crew, swung out the boats, lowering away, placing the crew in the boats, the crews with their lifebelts on, lowered the boats, released them, sent them out, brought them back to the ship, and hoisted them inboard again and secured them.
- How many (Lifeboats)?
Lightoller – Two.
Due to the informality of the lifeboat drill, it’s very unlikely the majority of the crew witnessed this drill, as it was the only lifeboat drill of its type conducted on Titanic. The crew members then tended to their duties before the passengers started to board.
At about the same time as the crew were boarding Titanic, the London and South Western boat train was leaving London’s Waterloo station to travel the 80 miles to Southampton with some of the Second and Third class passengers who were to board Titanic for a new life in The Promised Land. Upon its arrival at the Southampton Terminus, right beside Titanic at 9.30am, those passengers were transferred straight onto the ship.
885 crew members were assigned to Titanic for her maiden voyage to New York city. Like many ships of her time, Titanic did not have any permanent crew. The majority of the ‘casual’ crew had come aboard only a few hours before her departure time and had to be ‘signed on’. The process of ‘signing on’ had begun on the 23rd March, with some crew members being sent to Belfast, working as part of the skeleton crew during her Sea trials and her passage to Southampton.
Captain Edward John Smith was the most senior of the White Star line Captains. He was transferred to Titanic from her older sister, RMS Olympic. First Officer William McMaster Murdoch was the most senior officer of that rank. First Officer Charles Lightoller was demoted to Second Officer.
The crew of Titanic were divided into three principle departments: Deck, which consisted of 66 crew; Engine, with 325 and Victualling, with 494 crew members, making the remaining majority of crew, not seamen, although they consisted of Firemen or Stokers, Engineers, responsible for looking after the engines, or stewards and galley staff, responsible for the passengers, the galley staff being 97% male and 3% being female, who were mainly stewardesses. The other crew members represented a great variety of professions: bakers, butchers, chefs, fishmongers, dishwashers, stewards, laundrymen. cleaners, bedmakers, gymnasium instructors, waiters and a printer, who produced the daily onboard newspaper from items of news, received by the ships wireless operators. Titanic’s onboard newspaper was called ‘Atlantic Daily Bulletin’
The majority of the crew were signed on in Southampton on 6 April, with 699 crew members, or 40%, being native to Southampton. A few specialist crew member were either self employed or sub-contractors. This included the five postal clerks for the Royal Mail and United States Post Office Department, the staff of the First Class A La Carte Restaurant and the Café Parisienne, the radio operators, who were employees of Marconi, and the eight self-employed musicians, who travelled in Second Class.
Crew pay varied considerably. Captain Smith was receiving £105 per month, which is equivalent to £7,704 today. stewardesses earned £3 10s, which is £257 today. Victualling were the lowest paid, though the lowest paid could suppliment their pay substantially through tips from passengers.
At 10am, the first passengers began boarding the ship. Third class passengers were subjected to medical inspection before being allowed onboard. Checking for lice and infectous diseases. Also for ailments and physical impairments that might lead to them being refused entry into the United States. Carrying passengers across the Atlantic, only for them to be refused entry into the US was not a prospect White Star wished for, as they would have to carry them back across the Atlantic. They were then given directions to Third Class cabins and facilities, then shuffled onboard by gangplanks to the lower decks. Single Third Class passengers were separated, the women stayed toward the stern of the ship and men were berthed in the lower decks in the bow of the ship. Families were allowed to board together. Second Class passengers boarded through raised gangways, as did the First Class passengers. 922 passengers were recorded as having boarded Titanic at Southampton. The rest boarded the ship at Cherbourg and Queenstown.
A national coal strike in the United Kingdom during the spring of 1912 had already disrupted many schedules to the United States, causing many sailings to be cancelled. Although the coal strike ended only a few days before Titanic’s scheduled departure, Her coal had been transferred from other ships, berthed at Southampton, contributing ships being, among others, the New York, Oceanic and her sister, Olympic. Typically, the maiden voyage for such a prestigous vessel as Titanic would carry its full capacity of passengers. Titanic could accommodate up to 2,566 passengers. 1,034 from First Class, 510 from Second Class and 1,022 from Third Class. For her maiden voyage, Titanic was carrying 1,317 passengers, consisting of: 324 from First Class, 284 from Second Class and 709 from Third Class. 869 were male, 447 were female. Including 107 children, the largest number being from Third Class.
The exact number of passengers onboard Titanic can never be accurately recorded as not all passengers who departed Southampton stayed on for the entire journey. Some disembarked at Cherbourg and Queenstown. Some others had cancelled their bookings because of the coal strike and some didn’t turn up for the scheduled departure. 50 booked passengers had cancelled for various reasons. Fares varied, depending on class. Third Class fares from London, Southampton or Queenstown cost £7 5s, equivalent to £532 today, while the cheapest First Class fare cost £23, or £1,677 today. The most expensive First Class suite cost up to £870 or £63,837 today
Some influencial and prominent people were on Titanic as she departed Southampton, because the maiden voyage of such a prestigous vessel was seen as an important social event on the calender. Among them were American Industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim, Businessman and cricketer John Borland Thayer with his wife, Marion with their son Jack, the Countess of Rothes, author and socialite Helen Churchill Candee, journalist William Thomas Stead and Jacques Futrelle and wife May. A silent movie actress, Dorothy Gibson, Montreal Investment Banker Hudson J. C. Allison, his wife Bess and their two children Loraine and Trevor, London Science teacher Lawrence Beasly, New York housewife Mary Jerwan, Arthur Ryerson and his wife Emily. Also onboard were White Star Lines managing director J, Bruce Ismay and Harland & Wolff’s chief designer Thomas Andrews and nine others who were known as Harland and Wolff Guarantee group, comprising of 3 draughtsmen of which Andrews was the Chief, 4 Fitters, 1 Plumber,1 Electrician and 1 Apprentice Electrician, who were onboard to assess the general performance of the vessel and observe any problems that could be rectified before the third of the Olympic-class vessels, Britannic was finished and ready for service.
Among the passengers who cancelled at the last minute was J. P Morgan from the International Mercantile Marine company. American novelist, Theodore Dreiser – because his Publisher persuaded him to take another ship as it would be cheaper, the Italian inventor of the Marconi wireless system, Guglielmo Marconi – who apparently had paper work to do after taking Lusitania three days earlier, Milton Hershey – the man behind the famous Hershey chocolate bar. while returning from a holiday in France and after paying a 10% deposit for the passage on Titanic, cancelled and boarded the German Liner, Amerika, Pittsburgh steel baron, Henry Frick – who decided to stay in Italy after his wife sprained her ankle and was hospitalised, the 34 year old heir to the Vanderbilt shipping and railroad empire, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt lived long enough to become a victim of the Lusitania sinking, three years later and influential evangelist John R. Mott, who instead took the liner Lapland.
Steerage passengers blocked access to lifeboats
Steerage accommodation on Titanic was superb, as compared to conditions third class passengers were used to. Titanic offered features that were unparalleled on Trans-Atlantic vessels before her, facilities and conditions the Third Class passengers had never seen or experienced before. Steerage cabins were small, but offered luxuries, such as electric lighting and comfortable bunks, personal washing facilities, nightstands and stowage facilities for luggage, and large mess halls for both dining and relaxation.
The pecking order on Trans-Atlantic vessels reflected the Victorian Class system. Every aspect of a passenger’s experience reflected that fact. First Class occupied the upper decks, which coincidentally were also where the lifeboats were stationed. Second Class occupied the decks below First Class. Third Class occupied the lower decks.
Stories, books and movies on Titanic claim the Third-Class passengers were blocked below decks, in an attempt by the officers to ensure upper class passengers were granted unhindered priority to the lifeboats. It is true that gates were used to prevent steerage passengers from mixing with other classes on Titanic, but this was not in anticipation of any emergency. The gates were provided by regulation set out by the American immigration laws to prevent any feared spread of infectious diseases.
Under American Immigration legislation, immigrants had to be kept separate, before processing and health checks. Titanic would have first stopped at Ellis Island, where the immigrants would have disembarked for health and immigration processing, before the ship proceeded to its berthing facilities in Manhattan.
Gates separating third class from the rest of the ship were always locked at night on Trans-Atlantic steamers. The night of April 14 1912, being no exception. The claim of Third Class passengers being forcibly detained below decks, has no historical evidence of support.
Steerage passengers on Titanic consisted of those from the British Isles, Armenians, Syrians, Chinese, Dutch, Italians, Scandinavians and Russians, the majority speaking in their own languages. Steerage Stewards on Titanic were all English speaking. Most historians forget that this in itself presented massive communication problems at any time, but particularly in the panic conditions that existed on the night of April 14.
Most passengers from all classes and the crew believed Titanic was “as solid as a rock.” Captain Smith never issued an abandon ship order. The first lifeboat wasn’t launched until an hour after the ship struck the iceberg. The majority of the passengers and crew were unaware, Titanic was in imminent danger. There had been no lifeboat drill since she had left Southampton, ensuring that no passengers knew where their assigned lifeboats were situated. Smith also made no attempt to ensure the boats did not leave half full and no crew members were sure enough to know exactly where they were supposed to be in the event of an emergency or what they were required to do.
Passengers on the lower decks were immediately faced with a labyrinth of passages and corridors to reach the boat deck. First and Second class were most likely to reach the lifeboats with ease, as they were launched from the First and Second class promenade decks. Confusion reigned on Titanic immediately after she struck the berg. Sadly, before it was realised by the Stewards that some gates were still locked, half the number of lifeboats had already left the ship.
No Third-Class passengers gave testimony at the following inquiries into the Titanic disaster. A report from the British Board Of Trade inquiry stated, claims that Third-Class passengers were blocked access to the boat decks were false. The BOT report also noted that Titanic was in compliance with the American Immigration laws although the evidence noted that initially, some of the gates remained locked in compliance with the American Immigration laws, while stewards waited for instructions to open them.
The Chair of the Inquiry, Lord Mersey, noted that many third class passengers were reluctant to leave the ship, “unwilling to part with their baggage”, and had difficulty getting from their quarters to the lifeboats.
Representing Third-Class at the British Inquiry was W. D. Harbinson. Harbinson concluded “No evidence has been given in the course of this case that would substantiate a charge that any attempt was made to keep back the third class passengers.”
Yet the myth persists.
~ ~ ~ ~
Over the years since the disaster, many people have claimed to have “just missed the boat.” On April 20 1912, Michigan’s Sault Sainte Marie Evening News newspaper headlined all 6,904 of them that have been included in what has come to be known as “The just missed it club”, consisting of 3,478 Americans, 2,050 Britons and a scattering of 476 from other countries. It appears that 4,965 of those had previously paid their passage on Titanic, but cancelled before the great ship sailed, 892 apparently had premonitions about a disaster and the rest were apparently in Paris at the trime and couldn’t get away.
Titanic’s capacity was 3,547 passengers and crew. Titanic entered the North Atlantic carrying 2,208 passengers and crew. It’s doubtful that she would have been able to accommodate another 6,904 passengers onboard without sinking! But over the years since, I suppose many fireside chats have been told of how Grandfather’s ancestor “Just missed it”. On April 26 2012, according to Ohio’s Lima Daily News, the number had dramatically increased to 118,337, who were all proud members of the “Just Missed It Club”.
Just before midday, the Blue Peter Pennant was hoisted on Titanic’s foremast, announcing the ships imminent departure. The triple-valve whistle was sounded three times, the gangplanks and gangways were withdrawn, the tugs that would tow the massive vessel out into mid stream of the Southampton dock were already in place. The lines that held Titanic to the dock were cast off, the tugs tugged and heaved at the ship, coordinating their work with a series of whistles, until they reached deeper water and the tow lines were dropped from Titanic. The crowds that had gathered to farewell her passengers began to cheer to the passengers who had massed on the Port side decks. The ships telegraph rang out, the massive liners propellers began turning. Titanic’s maiden voyage had begun.
As Titanic made her way gracefully down the River Test, on which Southampton dock is built, the propellers churning up the water were creating problems. Two other vessels were berthed beside each other at their pier. Oceanic was closest to the pier and the New York was closest to Titanic’s path. As the massive wash from Titanic struck them, the New York rose high in the water, then dropped back down with enough force to snap her mooring ropes. Many of the spectators and relatives shouting and waving their goodbyes to those onboard Titanic, were forced to run clear as the thick mooring ropes snaked up and down, then whiplashed back onto the dock. The stern of the New York began to swing out towards the huge Titanic, while crew members on New York ran up and down the length of the hull, securing ropes, blankets and mats to protect the vessel from the possible collision. The Captain of the tug, Vulcan, who had moments earlier disconnected from Titanic, managed to get a line onto the New York as she began slowly creeping towards Titanic.
Noticing the perilous situation his ship was in, Captain Smith ordered the ship, Full Astern, to try and lessen the pulling effect Titanic was having on the New York. This action created another wash that pushed the New York out of contact with Titanic. Both ships came within four feet or 1.2 m of each other. The excitement was not yet over. As New York turned, her Bow now facing the dock, she slowly began moving towards Teutonic, moored to the side. New York struck Teutonic slightly, without damage. The tug Vulcan, and another tug managed to manouvre New York back into her mooring as Titanic continued to limp past and clear.
The incident was familiar to Captain Smith, as only seven months earlier, the ship he was commanding, Titanic’s older sister Olympic, was involved in a similar incident with the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Hawke. RMS Olympic and Hawke were travelling on a parallel course, when all of a sudden, HMS Hawke found herself being dragged into Olympic’s side. After the conseguent collision, RMS Olympic’s hull was pierced below and above the waterline, breaching two of her watertight compartments. HMS Hawke’s bow was crushed. Although no one was seriously injured, the blame was placed on Captain Smith. Serious questions were being asked about the handling of these massive vessels in shallow coastal waters. Repairs to Olympic delayed Titanic’s completion at Harland and Wolff.
The main topic of conversation at that point from the passengers on Titanic, who were witnessing the events as they unfolded was, just how a massive ship could create a suction that could attract another vessel in the same manner as the Olympic/Hawke collision. This event, seemed to have confirmed a theory that had been advanced in news articles from the law courts. The ‘suction theory’, first advanced by the British Admiralty, was scoffed at by the public, but this event seems to have confirmed the British Admiralty’s theory.
With the narrow escape from danger behind her, Titanic entered the English Channel, moving past the Isle of Wight on her starboard side, onward to her first port of call on hervoyage to New York City. Cherbourg, Northern France.