As told in the 1912 book “The sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters”.
Sunday night the magnificent ocean liner was plunging through the comparatively placid sea, on the surface of which there was much mushy ice and here and there a number of comparatively harmless-looking floes. The night was clear and stars visible. First Officer William T. Murdock was in charge of the bridge. The first intimation of the presence of the iceberg that he received was from the lookout in the crow’s nest.
Three warnings were transmitted from the crow’s nest of the Titanic to the officer on the doomed steamship’s bridge 15 minutes before she struck, according to Thomas Whiteley, a saloon steward.
Whiteley, who was whipped overboard from the ship by a rope while helping to lower a lifeboat, finally reported on the Carpathia aboard one of the boats that contained, he said, both the crow’s nest lookouts. He heard a conversation between them, he asserted, in which they discussed the warnings given to the Titanic’s bridge of the presence of the iceberg.
Whiteley did not know the names of either of the lookout men and believed that they returned to England with the majority of the surviving members of the crew.
” I heard one of them say that at 11.15pm, 15 minutes before the Titanic struck, he had reported to First Officer Murdock, on the bridge, that he fancied he saw an iceberg,” said Whiteley. “Twice after that, the lookout said, he warned Murdock that a berg was ahead. They were very indignant that no attention was paid to their warnings.”
Murdock’s tardy answering of a telephone call from the crow’s nest is assigned by Whiteley as the cause of the disaster.
When Murdock answered the call he received information that the iceberg was due ahead. This information was imparted just a few seconds before the crash and had the officer promptly answered the ring of the bell it is probable that the accident could have been avoided, or at least, been reduced by the lowered speed.
The lookout saw a towering “blue berg” looming up in the sea path of the Titanic, and called the bridge on the ship’s telephone. When, after the passing of those two or three fateful minutes an officer on the bridge lifted the telephone receiver from its hook to answer the lookout, it was too late. The speeding liner, cleaving a calm sea under a star-studded sky, had reached the floating mountain of ice, which the theoretically “unsinkable” ship struck a crashing, if glancing, blow with her starboard bow.
Murdock Paid With Life
Had Murdock, according to an account of the tragedy given by two of the Titanic’s seamen, known how imperative was that call from the lookout man, the men at the wheel of the liner might have swerved the great ship sufficiently to avoid the berg altogether. At the worst, the vessel would probably have struck the mass of ice with her stern.
Murdock, if the tale of the Titanic sailor be true, expiated his negligence by shooting himself within sight of all alleged victims huddled in lifeboats or struggling in the icy seas.
When at last the danger was realized, the great ship was so close upon the berg that it was practically impossible to avoid collision with it.
All in Vain to Clear Berg
The first officer did what other startled and alert commanders would have done under similar circumstances, that is, he made an effort by going full speed ahead on the starboard propeller and reversing his port propeller, simultaneously throwing his helm over, to make a rapid turn and clear the berg, The maneuver was not successful. He succeeded in saving his bow from crashing into the ice-cliff, but nearly the entire length of the underbody of the great ship on the starboard side was ripped. The speed of the Titanic, estimated to be at least twenty one knots, was so great that the knife-like edge of the iceberg’s spur protruding from under the sea cut through her watertight compartments like a can opener.
The Titanic was in 41.46 north latitude and 50.14 west longitude when she was struck, very near the spot on the wide Atlantic where the Carmania encountered a field of ice, studded with great bergs, on her voyage to New York on the 14th of April, 1912. It really was an ice pack, due to an unusually severe winter in the North Atlantic, no less than 25 bergs, some of great height, were counted.
The shock was almost imperceptible. The first officer did not apparently realize that the great ship had received her death-wound, and none of the passengers had the slightest suspicions that anything more than a usual minor sea accident had happened. Hundreds who had gone to their berths and were asleep were unawakened by the vibration.
Click here to read more about the Iceberg Aftermath.