TITANIC-TITANIC.com | Titanic's Collision With The Iceberg
Sunday, April 14th dawned, and who would guess the momentous events that lay ahead? The clues kept arriving though, in the shape of radio messages conveying further warnings of the ice ahead. As the morning turned to afternoon, passengers strolling outside noticed the air beginning to cool. Some people donned warmer clothing, but most preferred the interior of the vessel, to the sharp conditions outside.
By 7pm, the outside air temperature was a mere 43 degrees, and even the hardiest passengers had left the cold decks above for the sanctuary of the warmth and conviviality to be found below-decks. Still the ice warnings continued to come, logged and delivered to the bridge, where they were posted for the attention of the officers. First Officer William McMaster Murdoch ordered the forward forecastle hatch to be closed, so that the glow from it would not hinder the view of the lookouts stationed high above.
By 9.00pm, the air temperature had dropped to 33 degrees, and at about this time, Captain Edward John Smith, who had been the guest of honour at a dinner party in the First Class Dining Room, arrived on the bridge. Second Officer Lightoller informed Smith of the change in the weather, and the precautions the officers had taken. Smith absorbed the information, and by 9.30pm, he retired to his cabin which was located immediately behind the bridge.
Now it was 9.40pm, and still the ice warnings came. At no time had Captain Smith or the senior officers ordered a cautionary reduction in speed, or had gone to the trouble of having extra lookouts posted, something which Captain Lord of the Californian had already performed before he called it a day and brought his own vessel to a halt in the ice. When you put-together the ice warnings Titanic had received that day, it revealed that there was an ice-field 80 miles long directly in her path, and only two hours away if the current speed were maintained. Surely somebody in the next couple of hours must realise that Titanic is steaming at full-speed into an ice-field which has already made other vessels to heave-to for the night?
John George Phillips, pictured here on the left, was busy in the Marconi room, despatching commercial traffic between the liner, and Cape Race land station in North America, pictured here below left, which was now in range of the Titanic's powerful transmitters. Now, under the immense pressure of sending commercial traffic, and at the same time having to cope with incoming warnings and messages, he snapped, as the nearby Californian sent an ice warning to Titanic. "Shut up, shut up. I am busy. I am working Cape Race." Phillips' now infamous snub highlighted how the commercial traffic had priority over the warnings. Perhaps if the Marconi men had not been so busy sending messages, the Titanic would never had foundered. But all of the previous warnings didn't stop that happening either, so a last minute aversion was unlikely.
It was now 11.40pm, and high above the deck of the great ship, the two lookouts, Frederick Fleet and Reginald Robinson Lee were bitterly cold. In another twenty minutes, their watch would be over and the two of them would be back inside their warm berths. Nothing out of the ordinary had occurred, it was just another shift, although the effectiveness of both men in being able to see much was hampered by the fact the ship didn't have any binoculars on board. But that would be put right once they had arrived in New York, no doubt. The two of them just kept peering intently ahead, their eyes locked on the path ahead, looking for the slightest sign of danger.
Suddenly, Frederick Fleet glimpsed something immediately ahead of the ship. He rang the small warning bell in the crow's nest, and then picked up the telephone to contact the bridge. Sixth Officer James Moody picked up the receiver. "What did you see?" asked Moody. "Iceberg, right ahead", replied Frederick Fleet. No sooner had Moody replaced the telephone's handset than he repeated the message to Murdoch. Ordering the engines stopped, he simultaneously told Quartermaster Robert Hichens to turn the wheel 'hard-a-starboard', which has the effect of turning the ship to port. He then activated the lever which would cause some of the ship's watertight doors to close, deep down below in the hull.
Up in the crow's nest, pictured here on the left, Frederick Fleet and Reginald Robinson Lee watched in amazement as the iceberg got closer and closer, slightly off to starboard. One can almost imagine the pair of them waiting for the bows to start to veer to port, mentally willing-on the helmsman to make the mighty hull turn just a couple of points away from the iceberg. Just at the last second, when it seemed that the ship was almost certainly going to hit the iceberg head-on, the bow did turn slightly to port, but it was not nearly enough to avoid some kind of contact. The iceberg scraped down the starboard side of the ship, depositing a few tons of ice in the forward well deck for good measure.