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Captain Smith Was At Fault
The musings ended and the facts finally were and are now accepted as fact. Captain Smith committed an incredibly egregious error in not standing his ground against Ismay and instead of keeping the ship still it moved ahead slowly and just enough to drive in enough water to overwhelm the pumps such that the fire damaged bulkhead gave way and the ocean went into the boiler room like a tsunami of doom. Author David G. Brown (“Last Log of the Titanic) brought this fact to the foreground. It is now accepted universally as a fact of a mistake of the highest order.
Mr. Brown also states that when Smith was last on the bridge the Titanic was already seeing, and steering around bergs. That Smith did not then slow the ship down and order a reassessment of the potential ice field ahead nor, at the very least, post a lookout on the bow (where there was a canvas cover and phone just for such a situation) are errors that make Smith’s ability to make decisive decisions clear. Even his oddly curt and detached chat on the Bridge with Lightoller reads like someone saying as little as possible so as not to give away his impairment.
Smith should have been retired after the Olympics collision with the Hawke. The size of liners and their effect on water and objects near to these giants was clearly lost on him. He was so self aggrandizing that he decided to head out, bow first, with a dash as the ship left Belfast only to be saved by a hair from repeating the Hawke accident with the pulling of the New York within feet of colliding with the Titanic. The hour delay he caused should have caused, a more clear minded C.E.O. than Ismay, to relieve the Captain of his duties right then and there.
Compared to Captain Rostron of the rescue ship Carpathia; Smith’s actions are simply dismissed as his being “overwhelmed”. That mat be true and if so it does nothing to suggest that he should not have been retired after the Olympic accident. That it was one full hour after the collision that the first lifeboat was launched places his image next to the Captain of the Costa Concordia who also launched his boats to late. Forget the sun and moon effect on tides, forget a possible wrong turn by the cagey Lightoller, the buck stops with a ships Captain. Captain Smith had no business as the master of a ship whose size heralded the passing of the time when Smith was relevant or competent to handle such a vessel.
Of all the important people who could not get into a lifeboat, including John Jacob Astor, but that the people who hosted that last nights dinner for Captain Smith; the Wideners did get into a boat is further evidence that the Titanic was a haphazard mess waiting for a disaster. If not that night, then some other night. Smith can be heralded by any who choose to. But they do so against solid evidence against him.
One thought on “Letters To Editor: Captain Smith Was At Fault”
While I agree Captain Smith has a part in what happened to Titanic, some of your assertions are off. Titanic was moving after the initial impact because no one knew the full extent of the damage right away. It may have hastened water entry but not by much considering the damage involved. Titanic was moving at a high rate of speed that night to beat Olympic’s record. As for dodging icebergs, that is not contained in testimony I am aware of. Certainly they knew of ice warnings (and the fact no one put it together they were in the middle of a huge ice field) but failed to take prudent action at night like Rostron of Carpathia or Lord of California.
As for the incidents that Smith had with Olympic (the tugboat and later Hawke),it showed how different these new ships were in handling. It can be argued that Smith did not fully appreciate this but he certainly had learned something by the time he took Titanic out. As for him not being fired, White Star likely believed it was an accident (both times) and not deliberate mishandling of his ship. I would point out that Smith paid the ultimate price for his complacency on Titanic with his life.
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