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Titanic: Below Decks

With thanks to Scott Andrews and Bruce Beveridge
(copies of the deck plans can be purchased here)

The first few minutes after the calamity to the Titanic have enriched many of the Titanic message boards and forums; did the ship turn to face northward? What was the nature of the engine orders from the bridge? Time and again, these topics are debated and argued over, but no 100% consensus is reached.

This is not one of those works.

About twenty minutes after the collision, the focus of the drama shifts from inside the ship to the top decks where the boats were being readied for lowering. But what was happening inside the ship? That is the point of this essay; to describe as fully as possible the frantic efforts to determine the damage, whether the ship could be saved, and what was said and done. This essay is necessarily technical, but the relevant diagrams will help, I hope, to provide a picture in the reader's mind of just where important events and exchanges took place. In some cases, it has proved impossible to reconcile testimony from survivors, and this is noted.

The sections in italics are designed to act like footnotes, amplifying and expanding the main bodies of the text.


The "traditional" locations of water inside the ship. The areas outlined in red stationed third class passengers.

The Fore-peak and Hold No.1

Lamp Trimmer Samuel Hemming and John Foley (storekeeper) were in their quarters on C Deck. Hemming was roused by the impact and looked out of the porthole but saw nothing, surmising it to be ice as he could see no vessel nearby to attribute to the shock. Then, their attention was diverted to a nearby hissing noise. Going forward to the forepeak storeroom, they both climbed down to the top of the tank but found nothing amiss. Clambering up the ladder, they then found the source: an exhaust pipe that permitted surplus air to be expelled from the tank as water entered. Alfred Haines, the boatwain's mate, and Chief Officer Wilde had just arrived, and the latter asked what the noise was, and Hemming reported to him. Wilde returned to report to the bridge. Hemming and Foley returned to their bunks for a few minutes. The joiner [sic - carpenter?] came to their room with an alarming report; "If I were you, I would turn out, you fellows. She is making water [in holds] one-two-three, and the racket court is getting filled up." Then, as the joiner left, the boatswain came with his own report. The ship's builder, Thomas Andrews, had evidently been on a rapid inspection tour of the damaged areas, and the news was relayed thus; "Turn out, you fellows, you haven't half an hour to live. That is from Mr.Andrews. Keep it to yourselves and let no one know."


The crew's area under the forecastle

The mention of Mr.Andrews presents a puzzle. We do not know when he inspected the damage to his vessel, but from the conflicting, fragments of evidence, he would be analysing the wounds to the Titanic sometime around midnight. Of course, he may have encountered the boatswain during his soujourn and been imparted with the "half an hour to live" message comparitively early during the evening's events. We must also recall that 4th Officer Boxhall was told by the Captain himself during the boats' preparation that "Mr. Andrews tells me he gives her from an hour to an hour and a half." The boatswain may have been exagerrating to impart some urgency into his colleagues. Also, did the carpenter not sound boiler room 6, which was also flooding? Although Hemming was clear on hearing the Andrews' news at both inquiries, his testimony indicates that he was perhaps less than truthful. If he is to be believed, most of the lifeboats went away with lamps, which he provided. However, only a few of the boats residents reported that they had lights.

No other survivor in the bow seemed to have been told of Mr.Andrews concerns about the longevity of the new ship. And in other areas of the bow, the collision was perceived differently by people dependent on their locations, and news was mostly greeted with a lack of concern and indifference: Standing outside the seaman's mess on C deck, Seaman Poingdestre felt a "big vibration," as did Brice; a few feet away, Buley only noticed a slight jar as though something was rubbing along the hull, whereas the collision nearly sent Lucas off his feet. Slightly aft, and two decks down on E deck, in the seamen's sleeping quarters, Symons was awakened by a grinding noise; Archer was also asleep and felt a "kind of crush" like a cable running through the hawsepipe; Clench was sleeping too and was awakened by the "crunching and jarring" sensation; Moore had turned in and heard a sound like a cable running out, but felt no shock; and Jewell was woken by the collision. Further forward, in the firemen's sleeping quarters on either D or F decks, Shiers, in his bunk, felt the shock, but it did not seem much. Fellow fireman Harry Senior related his experience in the Liverpool "Journal of Commerce" (29/4/12): "I was asleep in my bunk at the time of the collision. I was awakened by the noise and between sleeping and waking I thought I was dreaming that I was on a train which had run off the lines, and that I was being jolted about." Fireman Hurst told Walter Lord that he was awakened by"a grinding crash," and Jack Podesta told the Southampton Echo (27/5/68) that he felt a "quiver" and the crash sounded like "tearing a strip off a piece of calico." However, Leading Fireman Hendrickson, on G deck and not far from the initial impact point with the iceberg, slept right through it, being "dead to the world"!


The crew's quarters in the bow.

Leading Fireman Charles Hendrickson and Fireman Alfred Shiers were two people who claimed to see the iceberg as it drifted by, astern; another was seaman Joseph Scarrott. By the time they emerged from their quarters onto the forward well deck, they saw the iceberg heading aft, at the right rear of the Titanic.

This provokes some suspicion; without wishing to denigrate these gentlemen's recollections, could they have reached the deck in time to see the iceberg? Scarrott was on duty, felt the ship shake as if the engines had been reversed. Going down to tell his shipmate in the bathroom at the bottom of the ladder [sic - stairs?], Scarrott then emerged in the well deck. The closest bathroom was some two decks below him. Shiers was reading in his bunk and felt the almost inconsequential rumble and went on deck. Hendrickson was asleep at the time of the collision and had to ascend 4 flights of steps to get on deck; indeed, at the British Inquiry, he was asked if he came up [to the deck] very quick, and he replied no, he walked up behind the others who were walking up. The Titanic was travelling at 22.5 knots (25.9 miles per hour) and the iceberg would have travelled the length of the ship in 23 seconds, which seems too short an amount of time for anyone to rush up at least one flight of steps and see the berg, unless this time had been lengthened by the Titanic already slowing down, responding promptly to 1st Officer Murdoch's command of "Full Speed Astern" to avoid the berg...? Indeed, Hendrickson remarked that the ship was indeed stopped. Another major problem is that anyone coming into darkness from a lit room would be blinded by the transition for a few minutes and be unable to see anything.

Many thought the strange sensation and noises were nothing to generate alarm, but telling signals of disaster were soon being seen in the quarters reserved for the firemen, greasers, trimmers and seamen, stationed near the tip of the bow. A typical example is a lookout by the name of lookout George Symons. He was asleep and was awakened by a grinding sound on the ship's bottom. The others in his quarters aroused, and like many others, hurried out on deck to see the source of the commotion and observed the ice deposited on the starboard side of the forward well deck by the 'berg. But Symons remained in his bunk, unconcerned. Shortly aferwards, his companion George Hogg came down and told him that he had better get up. Hogg had been on the well deck and saw "not much confusion" before going back down with some shipmates. He asked seaman Evans what time it was, and was told it was 11.45. Being close to the time that his duty shift would start, Hogg decided to dress.

Ascending the ladder [stairs?], Frank Evans encountered "the 5th or 6th officer." The officer ordered Evans to find the carpenter, get him to sound all the wells [holds] forward and report to the bridge.

The bridge was evidently getting impatient for a report from the carpenter: Quartermaster Olliver, 4th Officer Boxhall and Evans were all ordered to find the carpenter, the first two of these being direct orders from the captain. Who was the officer that Evans had met? The 5th Officer was still in bed, and as for the other officers who are unaccounted for, 6th Officer Moody seems the only likely candidate. Evans had considerable experience in the RN and Merchant Navy and it is hard to believe he could mistake the braids etc. of the 5th/6th officer for the Chief Officer. Evans would later call Murdoch the "chief officer" in his testimony at the inquiries, and he also makes reference in his to Lowe and Lightoller. This leaves Moody, but would he have the authority to order a sounding of the ship on his own volition? It is likely that he was ordered by the captain. Also, if we remember that Haines and Hemming saw the chief officer, it is obvious that the Captain was sending whatever men he had to elicit information, with him being on the command post of the ship.

Heading below to the working alleyway, Evans met the boatswain who asked whom the seaman was seeking. When told, the boatswain told Evans that the carpenter had already gone up and what was the matter? Informing him that he thought the ship had struck an iceberg. The boatswain then went up, and Evans went to view the tarpaulin on hatch 1 which was the source of some consternation and bemusement, at which time the boatswain appeared.

Presumably, the carpenter had gone up to the bridge, where he encountered first Boxhall heading down to look for him, and then to Captain Smith; this would be very approximately at about 11.50pm.

The boatswain passed through an order in the forecastle, "Stand by, you may be wanted at any moment." Going into the mess room for coffee, Symons was informed that there was water in no.1 hold. Hearing the water first, he looked down through the gratings. He saw water coming in a "rush", nearly up to the coamings on the hatch on G deck many decks below. Many had reported that the water was rushing into the hold below this hatch so fast, it was displacing the air causing it to to balloon outards. But now water was actually coming under the tarpaulin. The order then came through for all hands to go on deck to assist in preparing the lifeboats, and as Symons was on his way to the boatdeck, 8 bells [midnight] were rung in the crowsnest.

Those bells were rung by Reginald Lee and Fred Fleet, the lookouts who had seen the iceberg and warned the bridge. Relieved at midnight, they climbed down the crow's nest ladder back to the forecastle. Lee heard water and looked down hatch 1. He sees water coming in "not so fast"...[his testimony seems to indicate F deck but he doesn't seem sure; it is more likely he meant G deck]. Driven out of their quarters by the rising water, crewmen were bringing up their bags and putting them on the forecastle hatch. Then, Lee heard the boatswain call the other watch that had just finished at midnight and had gone below; they went out to the boats too. Lee's companion in the crowsnest, Fred Fleet had already gone below to turn in and found no-one there.

But while most thought of the rising water as nothing serious, other crewmen had more of an inkling. Poingdestre, returning from an excursion to see the ice deposited on deck, encountered the ship's carpenter. As recounted here, and as we shall soon see, the bridge was desperate for news from this man, as he had the task of sounding the ship and finding out the intake of water. The carpenter informed Poingdestre that the ship was making water and that there was already a depth of 7 feet in hatch 1. The carpenter advised his friend to get up to, the boats, but Poingdestre stayed where he was for a few more minutes before hearing the boatswain's call.

By midnight, the general alarm had been relayed to the crew. 3rd Officer Pitman had awakened, and after being told by 6th Officer Moody, who he found on portside aft on the boat deck, that there was ice in the forward well deck, Pitman went forward to investigate. He too saw the crowds of firemen streaming up with their bags, and looking down the hatch, he sees water round at the bottom of the ship, a little stream on both sides of the cover on G deck.

If Poingdestre was right about the time, at 11.50pm, the water had reached a depth of 7 feet in hold no.1; less than 10 minutes later (that is, shortly before 8 bells were rung at midnight), the water had risen over 30 feet...and if we compare Lee and Pitman's account with Symons, only a few minutes before, the flow of water had changed from a rush to nothing more than a stream. Why should this be? This is due to simple physics: when water flows into a receptacle, it flows in quite fast at first, and then, as the water levels inside reaches that of the level outside, the flow decreases; when the two levels are the same, the flow stops. But then there was water in more aft areas, and the weight would pull the bow down, changing the water levels inside the ship, causing the flow to pick up...and so on...until the inevitable end....

Relatively few firemen were saved. Why was this? There are some sinister hints. 1st class passenger Major Peuchen gave evidence in America that when he first came on deck, when the covers had been taken off the boats, and they were ready for lowering, he saw 100 stokers with "dunnage" bags, and who crowded in front of the boats. An unknown officer forced them all of the decks. Mrs Candee saw the same incident, and also remembered that none of the boats had been lowered. 2nd class passenger Charlotte Collyer wrote in "The American Semi Monthly Magazine" (May 1912) that, again, before the boats were lowered, she observed a commotion near one of the gangways and a stoker with an injured hand told her that the ship was doomed. "[1st Officer] "Murdock [sic] posted guards at gangways to prevent others...from coming on deck." What do crew members say of this expulsion from the boat deck? Surviving crew members do not mention it at either inquiry, but stoker Harry Senior says that Captain Smith ordered the firemen to keep below, on the well deck. Although the newspaper article contains some fanciful descriptions, most of it is consistent with what we know of the events during the sinking. This article says of John William Thompson, that he "later recalled that, after he and some other firemen had gone on deck after the collision, Leading Fireman William Small ordered them back below, apparently to go back to the boiler rooms." Then, Wally Hurst, another fireman, wrote to Walter Lord in 1955 stating that after the call to muster, they were told by a quartermaster while on the forewell deck "not to come on the boat deck until later on." Both Hurst and Senior said that they went onto the boat deck upon seeing boat no.1 being lowered; by leaning out over the side of the well deck, boat 1 would have been easily observable. Although a few lucky stokers, trimmers and greasers did get in early boats, the majority seem to have departed in later boats. If there was discrimation shown against the stokers, why did none of them mention it at the inquiries? Firstly, few were asked. Secondly, it does not make sense to offend potential future employers.

Interestingly, Paul Mauge of the a la carte Restaurant, related that stewards were preventing restaurant staff from reaching the lifeboats.

Hold No.2

Hendrickson returned to his quarters in the bowels of the ship after seeing the ice on deck and the berg far astern. His companion, Ford, came back and told him that there was ice below, down the spiral staircase that allowed the 'Black Gang' access to the boiler and engine rooms without sullying the rest of the ship with coal dust and the like. Looking down the portside stairway, Hendrickson saw water rushing about the base of the spiral steps, practically "falling in." Alarmed at this, Hendrickson clambered up the steps to report this observation.


The observed and surmised flooding in the 2nd cargo hold. The coloured areas are as follows: Bright green - outline of fireman's passage; thick red- outline of watertight bulkheads; purple lines - flow of water inside the hull in the first few minutes.

The iceberg managed to cut its way a few feet inside the hull of the Titanic, as the covering for the fireman's spiral staircases was ruptured allowing water inside. And With no watertight door in the fireman's passage, the water was free to pour down the length of the tunnel. It is also likely that the tunnel enclosed the water on the starboard side of the ship at the Tank Top (lowest) level, helping to explain the 5 degree list to Starboard registered by Captain Smith on his bridge instruments a few minutes after the catastrophe; once the water was high enough, it would flow over the top of the tunnel allowing a more even distribution of water. At the forwardmost end of the tunnel, the spiral staircases allowed water to eventually enter G deck in the preceeding watertight compartment, contributing to its rate of inflow. The water seen rushing around the hatch cover on G deck could well be due to water damage in the compartments comprising holds 1 and 2. Roy Mengot proposes an alternate theory to the observation of water swirling around the stairs.

Taking a brief break from assisting in readying the boats for lowering, Poingdestre returned to his quarter to fetch his rubber boots. By his own estimate, this was 30-45 minutes after the collision. As he was leaving the quarters, a wooden bulkhead ruptured, and he found himself deluged up to his waist in icy cold water. As he clambered up to D deck, the 3rd class male passengers were swarming up to the forward well deck. There were quite a few of them; perhaps a 100 or so with their baggage, according to Poingdestre, and there were stewards in the crowd, conversing with their charges.

Hatch no.2 was trunked on the sides bordering the seaman's quarters, preventing water that had risen via this hatch from entering their area. Poingdestre's evidence tells us that the forward portion of E deck, where his - and some third class cabins - were located - was flooded. Annie Robinson's story tells us that sometime shortly after 12.00am, water was within a few stairs of reaching E deck from F deck in the area of the mail rooms. With the ship down at the bows, the water would have already started to slop over the bunker hatch/cargo hatch no.3, several feet forward of the mailroom area. Effectively, the area of E deck forward of the working alleyway and 1st class areas was flooding. The third class on the forward well deck would be effectively trapped...the only way to escape would be to go up, through the gate on B deck and up to the boat deck...

As usual, when one delves deeper, one can find contrary evidence. Quatermaster Walter Wynn had woken and, in his own words, "I went up on the forewell deck and asked what was the matter. I saw a lot of men passengers there, and I saw the ice on the deck, and they pointed it out to me: "Look at that" they said. "We have just struck an iceberg." Then I went down below and woke my two mates up, and then I dressed and walked on the bridge to await orders from the Captain". To get from his quarters to the well deck and back, Wynn would have to go to the forward end of the alleyway, ascend the flight of steps to the 3rd class general area, and then up another set of steps to the well deck, directly above. To follow any other route would be to venture into the taboo area of 1st class cabins. The male passengers would be the ones that Poingdestre saw flooding out of the forecastle, but we do not know how much time had elapsed before Wynn had encountered them. What can be inferred from Wynn's story is that he managed to get to his quarters, and back again later (to fetch his knife) without being hampered by water. A reasonable inference is that only the forward end of this compartment, the section comprising hatch no.2, was flooded.


3rd class and seaman's quarters on E deck, indicating the positions of the gangway doors.

As we shall see in the next section, just after midnight, water had nearly reached the starboard 1st class section, through the mailroom; this water had originated from damage in the third cargo hold and had risen up through the bunker hatch. This hatch had an opening forward of the 1st class area, in the space reserved for 3rd class cabins. By the time Poingdestre fled his quarters, the water from the 3rd cargo hold would be entering this area, by flowing forward, downhill until it was stopped by the forward watertight bulkhead. It has been assumed that the water that Poingdestre encountered was due to water coming up the 2nd cargo hatch, but the flow from the 3rd may also have contributed. Since we know nothing of the flooding between the sighting of water swirling around the fireman's spiral staircase, and then over half an hour later, of the water in the fireman's sleeping area, we do not know enough to reach a definite conclusion.

Hold No.3

Previous discussions of the flooding of hold no.3 and how it impinged upon the decks above can be found here. The only other witness to the water in this area was Norman Chambers, who occupied cabin E-8 with his wife. He felt no very great shock, "the loudest noise by far being that of jangling chains whipping along the side of the ship." After dressing, he leisurely went up as far as A deck but could see nothing amiss. Returning to his stateroom, his wife joined him on deck but could see nothing to warrant alarm. As they descended to their cabin, they saw, "at the top of [the] stairs [leading down to the mailroom] I found a couple of mail clerks wet to their knees, who had just come up from below, bringing their registered mail bags." Looking down into the "trunk room" [the 1st class baggage room] from the landing on F deck, he saw water within 18 inches to two feet of reaching the deck upon which he was standing.


The way down to the mail sorting areas from E deck (far left) to the Orlop deck (far right)

Boxhall saw water within 2 feet of G deck at about 11.50-11.55pm; Chamber's observations would be some little time after this, but before those of stewardess Annie Robinson, who saw the water nearly reaching E deck. Shan Bullock's biography of Thomas Andrews reports an unnamed stewardess (obviously Robinson) as overhearing Andrews saying to Smith after they had viewed the water, that "Well, three [compartments] have gone already, Captain." Why this information was not given in Robinson's testimony in London is unknown. It also raises a mystery. Andrews knew that the ship could float with the first three compartments filled, but he certainly knew within the first twenty minutes that four compartments were breached as he informed the boatswain that she ship was doomed. So, why now, some little time later, did he say that three compartments had gone? All we can say for sure about this timing is that it was well after Chambers saw the water in the mail area, which puts this after the boatswain imparted Andrews news to Hemming. One speculates that false information and testimony taints the Titanic story but like many other instances of dubious data, it is hard to know the source.


The flooding areas on F deck

The flooding areas on F deck; the red areas outlined indicate 3rd class areas

Incidentally, while standing looking down at the water, "three of the ship's officers - I did not notice their rank or department - descended the first companion and looked into the baggage room, coming back up immediately, saying that we were not making any more water. This was not an announcement, but merely a remark passed from one to the other." Who were these people? It is unlikely that it was Boxhall (during his tour) as he never mentioned other officers or information passed around when he gave testimony. None of the surviving officers ventured this deep into the hull after they awoke. Captain Smith was instantly recognisable by everyone. This leaves Wilde, Murdoch and Moody. Or, as has been suggested on a Titanic forum, if the "officers" were wearing dark blue jackets, they may have been post office workers, or perhaps even members of the engineering staff. The mention that the Titanic was not (seemingly) making any more water is illuminating. Bearing in mind the discussion earlier about how the rate of inflow depends on the relative height of water levels inside and outside the hull, we can draw a few conclusions. Firstly, since the Titanic had a slight forward list at this point, if G deck was nearly inundated in this watertight compartment, then the ship must have been further down by the head in the 1st cargo hold compartment, which conflicts with this author's suggestion that the water level coming up hatch no.1 in G deck was nearly equalised at this point. Also, Chamber's evidence tells us that, if the ship was indeed not taking anymore water, then the Titanic's waterline had now risen from to nearly F deck, a large change in only 20 or so minutes.

How can we be sure that the water seen down no.1 hatchway by Pitman etc. was on the same deck as seen by Symons about 10 minutes earlier? There does seem to be some confusion at the British Inquiry whether it was F or G deck that the water was seen running around the hatch with the tarpaulin. But most of the observations were made from a high deck and looking down the hatch. If F deck had a tarpaulin, then it would not have been possible to look down from C deck (say) and see G deck's tarpaulin. It is not known which hatches had bars, rather than tarpaulins, but, from the discussions in London, it seems that decks D, E and F had bars fitted over the hatches.


The unlikely waterline scenario as deduced from observations.

One other point remains: The Carpenter/Joiner informed Hemming soon after the collision, "If I were you, I would turn out, you fellows. She is making water [in holds] one-two-three, and the racket court is getting filled up." The only way for water to enter the racket court was via the mail room; once this area on G deck was full, water would flow aft, round a corner to port and then down stairs to the court. Since this required passing over the landing that Chambers was standing on, we can only assume that the carpenter must have been apprised of the squash court situation after Chambers's sighting. The carpenter/joiner probably inspected the damaged areas several times; for instance, Stewardess Robinson saw him looking at the water when it was a short distance of E deck. This was long after the initial sounding of the ship, and after the carpenter's report to the Captain on the bridge. By Hemming's estimate he was told this information about a quarter of an hour after the impact, something that tallies with the evidence of other survivors on being summoned to the boat deck. If this is so, very shortly after Boxhall's visit to the mail area (which he saw was nearly flooded to the top of G deck), Chambers saw the water had risen nearly the height of another deck. Despite the appearance of the flow of water ceasing, very soon afterwards, water started rising, and then into the squash court. By this time, the carpenter became aware of water in the court...and this information was then relayed to Hemming. This is conjecture as it posits a very compressed time in which Boxhall, Chambers and then the carpenter in turn inspected the water.


So we now have the following scenario:
Thomas Andrews comes down and sees the water
Johnson sees the water
Chambers sees the water.
The carpenter comes along and finds water flowing into the squash racket court.
Hemming is told of the flooding by the carpenter
The boatswain tells Hemming of Andrew's report.

From Symons's story, the boatswain had summoned the seaman just before midnight; the whole timeline suggests that Andrews's story, as relayed to Hemming and despite its dubious qualities as noted above, is based on an extremely rapid inspection of the Titanic, its damaged areas and consultation with key members of staff. Since the above happened after Boxhall's viewing of the damage in the area of the mailroom, we now must say that all of the events above must have occurred in about ten minutes, from approximately 11.50 to 12.00. But if Andrews was positive that the ship was doomed before midnight, then why did Captain Smith wait nearly another half hour to send out the wireless distress call?. An important point is that the captain was seen below decks, and this had to be before midnight.
Boxhall's story tells us that, straight after the crash, he went down, saw nothing and came back up. He was told to find the carpenter, who he met on the way up to the bridge, and Boxhall went down to see the flooding mailroom for himself. He then returned to the bridge to report to the Captain. On his second trip, he could not have been down for more than 10 minutes, and yet, in this time, he was seen below decks. Could he have made it down, and then back to the bridge in this space of time?


The route the water took down to the squash courts from the mailrooms

Boiler room 6

Leading Fireman Fred Barrett was on the aft starboard side of boiler room 6, talking to 2nd Engineer Mr.Hesketh, when the red indicator light illuminated, indicating that the bridge had signalled the ship to stop. Barrett yelled out to "shut all the dampers" [valves above the furnaces to control the flow of draught and hence combustion]. Before they could all be shut, the collision occurred, and water came pouring in two feet above the stokehold plates, and about two feet from Barrett. Barrett and Hesketh jumped through the closing watertight door into boiler room 5, leaving the other stokers behind. One of whom was George Beauchamp also in the aft portion of the stokehold. He noticed the shock and said it was like the roar of thunder. A few minutes after the watertight door dropped, the order was given to draw the fires. Beauchamp noticed the water "coming through the bunker door and over the plates." After drawing the fires in the boilers, someone shouted "that will do" and everything in the room was shut down and he and the others went up the escape ladder. By his estimate, it took about 15 minutes to draw the fires.

Beauchamp remarked that the watertight doors dropped "5 minutes" after the order to stop, which is clearly wrong. He also does not seem to have been in a position to see the water pouring in through the side of the ship. Using the dimensions of the boiler room, and the estimate of the height of the iceberg damage as averaging 3/4s of a inch as calculated by Harland and Wolff Naval Architect Edward Wilding, crude calculations show that it is probable that about 3 tonnes of water per second was entering the boiler room with water jetting in at about 40 feet per second. It would have taken just over two minutes for water to have reached such a depth to start to obscure the hole, and, as we shall see, there is evidence of lights going out in other boiler rooms. Beauchamp probably did not see the rent in the side of the hull. He is also probably mistaken about taking 15 minutes to draw the fires too, if Barrett's and Hendrickon's stories are any indication. We can presume that the fires in boiler room number 2 were not drawn, as the steam from these boilers were used to power the emergency dynamos.

By Barrett's estimation, about 10 minutes after the collision he heard the order from Mr.Hesketh for "all hands stand by your stations". Since this meant the flooding boiler room next door, the only way to get in was via the escape ladder from the working alleyway. Clambering up and looking into the room, he and engineer Shepherd saw 8 feet of water already in there.

A few minutes after the collision, there was a 5 degree list to starboard, which begs the question: which end of the boiler room was Barrett looking into? The water would appear deeper at the starboard side than the port side, and this could lead to incorrect estimates of water in there.


Boiler Room 6 with a 5 degree list to starboard; the entry point of the water is indicated.

Later, as the list shifted to port, water could either flow out of the boiler room into the alleyway on E deck, or into it. This is all dependant on whether the rate of flow in the boiler room was greater than the flow of water from the more forward compartments heading aft as this would determine which area of the ship was "feeding" another.

Another important point to consider is whether Barrett took into account the two feet spacing between the tank top and the floor plates. He may have seen 10 feet of water in there. Incidentally, using Wilding's figures, it would take just over 30 minutes to fill the boiler room to the waterline (assuming that the bow was not dipping down), and another ten minutes to flood as far as E deck, when the water would spill out.


In the later stages of the sinking, the list shifted to about 10 degrees to port. The escape route through the working alleyway is indicated.

Boiler room 5

Immediately after jumping through the watertight door into the next compartment aft, Barrett noticed water rushing into the coal bunker 2 feet aft of the bulkhead. The amount of water was a greater rush than a fire hose. There was no water on the compartment floor plates, and he closed the door on the bunker, sealing the water in. Temporarily. It was then that Barrett received the order to stand by his station (see above), but this attempt was thwarted by the rising water. He and Mr.Shepherd returned to boiler room 5, where they found two engineers, Mr. Harvey and Mr.Wilson attending to the pumps.

Were they trying to pump water out of boiler room 6 or any water in the bilges? There was no way to pump water out of the coal bunker that had been injured.

Immediately after this, an order was telephoned through from the engine room for all the stokers to go up, but Barrett was to remain; Mr.Harvey relayed this order. Apparently, Barrett's role was to fetch anything from the engine room that was needed. Before, it was an easy job to go through from stokehold to stokehold, but now, with the watertight doors closed, this entailed a tedious diversion up and down the escape ladders. Finally, the only people left in boiler room 5 were Barrett, Wilson and Shepherd. Then the lights went out. Harvey sent Barrett to fetch some lamps, and at the top of the ladder, he sent two fireman, who came back with 12 to 15.

This should be compared with Hendrickon's account of being sent to the engine room for lamps, and also Cavell's story. Unless the boiler room lights went out quite a few times, this helps to pin this part of the story down and Hendrickon's recollection tells us that this must have happened well within the first 15 minutes of the collision.

Descending into the boiler room, Barrett found that the lights had come back on again. After checking that the boilers had no water in them, Mr,Harvey ordered Barrett to fetch some men to draw the fires. He requisitioned between 15 and 20 men. In 20 minutes, the task was done and the men were sent back up again. Barrett told "The Manchester Guardian" of April 29th that he found out that they had been switching over from the main dynamo to the emergency dynamos which were situated in the the fourth funnel.

Slower than in boiler room 6! How well were those fires drawn? Remember that 2nd Officer Lightoller was blown clear of the ship by a blast of hot air from below as the bridge dipped under hours after this. Could this have come from an uncleared boiler? It is hard to reconcile how hot air could originate from a closed, but admittedly, not watertight boiler, to migrate upwards to Lightoller's position.

Harvey's next order was lift a manhole plate on the starboard side of the boiler room. The room was now awash with steam. Mr.Shepherd, walking across the room, fell into the open manhole and broke his leg. Barrett and Harvey carried him into the pump room at the aft end of the room.

George Kemish wrote to Walter Lord that he saw "an engineer" fall and break his leg; although declining to name him, how did Kemish know? Only Barrett, Harvey and Shepherd were in the room at this point.

After 15 minutes, a rush of water surged through the gaps between the boilers, heading aft. Mr.Harvey ordered Barrett to go up the ladder, and without stopping to look, the leading fireman ascended. In the working alleyway, Barrett headed aft, noticing a small amount of water in the alleyway forward. Barrett estimated it was now 1.10am according to his testimony [or 1.30 according to the Daily Mail of 29/4/12, or that it was 1.10am when he entered the boat in the Derby Daily Telegraph of the same date.]

The accounts of the "flooding" of boiler room 5 by some authors are pure fiction. It is likely that it was the coal bunker door and not the bulkhead that gave way, the door not being watertight. Barrett never saw Harvey or Shepherd swamped by the water. It is not even certain that the incapacitated Shepherd perished below decks as we shall see presently.

How much water was being admitted by the hole in the coal bunker? It is highly subjective. It was calculated that the average height of the iceberg damage was 3/4s of an inch. Barrett said the hole extended two feet past the bulkhead. We can estimate a theoretical maximum amount of water entering the hull: about 5 cubic feet per second, or 0.1 tonnes per second. This is over 250 pints of water in one second. This seems excessively high! A modern fire reel delivers a minimum of 1/3 litre of water, about the same as a garden hose. If we use this, and accept Barrett's estimate of 1 hour and 30 minutes before he was forced to vacate boiler room 5, we can work out how much water would have to be contained in the bunker. This works out to be 1600 litres or 56 cubic feet. The floor of the coal bunkers are 2 feet below the floor of the boiler room, and have a surface area of approximately 300 square feet. 0.33 litres of water would give a depth of just 2 inches! So, the water rushing in was somewhere between these two values (5 cubic feet per second and 1/3 of a litre per second.

The space enclosed by the empty forward starboard coal bunker in boiler room 5 was, to the height of the watertight door, is about 2300 cubic feet. If this bunker was catastrophically flooded and then opened, it would empty into contents and the water would, after the initial torrent, level out across the whole compartment, which has a surface area of 5200 square feet. If all the water was released, the total depth above the coal bunker would be about 1/3 foot; since the floor plates were two feet above the level of the water tanks at the bottom of the ship, this water from the bunkers would fill this cavity; the boiler room would only seemingly be temporarily awash. This amount of water would have a mass of some 47 tonnes. The pumps in the boiler room couple cope with 250 tonnes per hour, plus a possible additional 125-150 tonnes per hour. Many spectators suggest that following the "rush of water," the boiler room was doomed. Was it?

Interestingly, the UK "Daily Mail" newspaper reported on 29th April that "Leading stoker [Thomas] Threlfall states that after the collision, his stokehold, No.4 was dry. "The fires were burning as normal." The wateright doors were closed, but they were opened to bring through an engineer with a broken leg, and were closed after him again. Nos 1, 2 and 3 stokeholds were also dry"; the order to go aloft was given by the chief engineer shortly before 2 a.m. However, some elements of his story in that newspaper are proveably wrong (viz. the parts about him taking refuge on a raft with other fireman and Chief Engineer Bell swimming up and declining a place on the boat). Threlfall provided more details to the Bridgwater Mercury newspaper of April 1912, in which he is reported as saying, "'My watch was asleep,' Threlfall said, 'when we were awakened by a shout 'Get up; we've run into something.' I got up and saw the tarpaulin over a hatch bulging out with the pressure of water underneath. The water was pouring down the passage from our room into the stokehold. The ship had torn herself right open from No. 6 section to the forehatch. We waded along the passage with our clothes to the mess deck. Then the boatswain piped 'all hands,' and the second engineer told me to take my watch below. We went down to the stokehold to draw the fires. At about 1.20 Mr. Hesketh, the second engineer, said 'We've done all we can men, Get out now.'" This timing of 1.20am will recur in our story later.

Boiler room 4

Trimmer Thomas Dillon was in the reciprocating engine room, and by his estimation, 30 minutes after the impact, the doors to the forward stokeholds were ordered to be opened. He and his team got as far as the juncture between boiler room 4 and 5, and the door was not opened. This was, by his timing, an hour and 40 minutes after the meeting with the fatal iceberg. When he got to the forward part of boiler room 4, he noticed that the floor plates were damp, and that a small quantity of water seemed to be coming up through the floor.

Another trimmer, George Cavell, was already in boiler room 4. He was in the aft starboard coal bunker and the impact dislodged the coal, showering him. Extricating himself from the avalanche, he climbed up into the stokehold, and then the lights went out. He goes up into the working alleyway and saw 3rd class passengers, some of whom were wet, with stewards shepherding them. Leaving temporarily to fetch some lamps, Cavell returns to boiler room 4 to find that the lights have come back on; they had only been out for 4 minutes, he reckoned.

Cavell claims to have seen the 3rd class passengers 1 1/2 to 2 hours after the crash!

Clambering down, Cavell helped to draw the fires from the boilers. By this point, water was gradually coming over the floor plates, reaching a foot in depth. Cavell went for the escape ladder, leaving men still in the room scraping out the cinders. Seeing no one in the alleyway above, he decided to check on his comrades and partially descended down the ladder but visibility was poor due to the steam. He climbed back up, and saw no water in the alleyway.

Presumably, the watertight door between boiler room 3 and 4 closed automatically when water raised the floatation device used to detect water in the room. Also, were the pumps not activated in boiler room 4? Tha amount of water was sufficiently small to be tackled successfully by the bilge pumps.

In a forthcoming discussion, we shall see how Cavell's estimation of time is likely inaccurate, and that, based on his observation that there was no water in the working alleyway when he ascended to it for the last time, Dillon's notion, described at the British Inquiry, that the door to boiler room 5 wasn't opened ,"because there was too much water [there]" is wrong, as that room didn't admit water until after room 4 was abandoned.

Not long after the crash, the watertight doors, which had been closed under instructions from the bridge were reopened to allow easier access to the forward, unflooded stokeholds, and to obtain a large suction pipe that was stored in a more aft watertight compartment.

When were the watertight doors to the turbine room and the stokeholds opened? Dillon and Scott indicate that 30 minutes had passed, but this seems too long. Quatermaster Olliver, after returning from his orders to find the carpenter and to get him to sound the ship, returned to the Captain on the bridge. All this occurred within minutes of the collision. Then, Olliver was sent below again to deliver an order to Chief Engineer Bell in the reciprocating engine room. While he was there, Olliver noticed that the door to the stokehold was open. When he returned to the bridge, after waiting "2 or 3 minutes" for a reply from Bell, Olliver was sent on an errand to tell the boatswain to uncover the boats. We know this occurred at about midnight.

Hendrickson, too, reported to the engine room, when he saw the hatch on No.1 hold billowing up outside his quarters. Since he saw no water, this had to have been before Symons saw the hatch about 11.55-58pm. When he got to the engine room, he noticed that the fore and aft watertight doors were closed. Although Hendrickson thought this was about 3/4s of an hour after the impact, Olliver disproves this. Of course, we do not not know how much time elapsed between Hendrickon's and Symon's viewing of the no.1 hatch.

There is more data to support an "early" re-opening of the watertight doors, and how long it took to heave them up. Dillon was in boiler room 2 when he heard the order to draw the fires from the boilers. He had already passed through two sets of doors, and had two more to open. This order to pull the fires was certainly made a few short amount of time after the collision according to Barrett's and Hendrickson's recollections of the lights going out and being forced to fetch lamps from the engine room.

The issue of when the engine room was ordered to be abandoned will be discussed presently.


The working alleyway on E deck. The red square indicates Joughin's cabin; the blue square indicates the watertight door that he referred to in his testimony. The bright green square indicates the Quartermaster's cabin.

So, from Cavell, we know that he fled boiler room 4 before Barrett abandoned boiler room 5. Between these two events, the bow of the ship on E deck was flooded; since there was no watertight door at the forward part of the working alleyway, this water could not have originated entirely from, say, boiler room 6 flowing into the alleyway, as it would have flowed forward towards the bow first.


The route down to the Turkish Baths, showing the watertight doors.

Assistant 2nd Steward Joseph Wheat was one who saw the flooding mail space. On his own volition, he helped to close the watertight doors near his own quarters, below the grand staircase on F deck. At 12.50am, by his own estimate, he had returned to his room to fetch any people left below. What he saw was water running down the stairs from E to F deck; he thought it was running from the mail room, and then along the starboard 1st class corridor, and then round the corner where it fell into his F deck area. The working alleyway was quite dry, according to him. Ascending to E deck, he left via the (now open) emergency door onto the working alleyway, which was dry, and only occupied by about 5 or 6 steerage passengers heading aft, carrying their possessions.

At about this time, saloon steward Fred Ray went back to his room, and saw the forward end of the working alleyway flooded; he could only just get into the companionway that allowed him to "leisurely" walk up to the top decks.

Ray's account could conceivably be used to place the flooding of E deck in some form of chronology. Before he went below, he saw boat 9 being swung out over the side of the ship, and then saw boat 7 - the very first - leave the Titanic. He then went back to his E deck room via "the back stairway" where he saw the water. After fetching his overcoat, he headed up the grand staircase, pausing only to briefly converse with Mr.Rothschild, whose wife had been put into boat 6. He arrived on the boat deck in time to see boat 9 being loaded with women and children.

Compare this with Wheat's account: after seeing the third class, he headed aft along E deck and up a set of service stairs, where he came out at B deck, meeting Chief Steward Latimer. He then went forward in time to see boat 9, being loaded.

Both Wheat and Ray arrive on the boat deck within minutes of each other to see boat 9 being prepared. Did it take Wheat longer to get to the boat deck than Ray? How long did it take for Wheat to Ray to get below decks from seeing boat 7? How long did it take either man to get back upstairs again? Despite his brief conversation with Rothschild, Ray's route to the boat deck was more direct and would take less time, if his and Wheat's walking speed were the same. But even so, this leaves a very short space of time between boat 7 leaving and boat 9 being readied. The respected re-evaluation of the launch time of the Titanic's lifeboats gives a 50 minute gap between boats 7 and 9. Maybe there was a delay in loading and lowering boat 9? But then there must have been a period of time between Ray and Wheat's story, as Barrett states he saw water forward of the escape ladder from boiler room 5.

There is another problem with this timeline: 1st class passenger James McGough returned to his stateroom on E deck from the upper decks to put on his life preserver. His stateroom was nearly adjacent to the bottom of the grand staircase, and practically "just round the corner" from the stairs leading down to Wheat's area of the ship. When questioned at the US Senate Inquiry, McGough makes no mention of seeing water, then flowing up from the mailroom just a few feet forward of his cabin. Wheat then ascended the stairs to get back to the boat deck in time to enter boat 7, the first one to leave. Even allowing for the few minutes it would take to go from E deck to the boat deck and then wait on the deck before entering the boat, there is a conflict with Ray and Wheat's story above, and that of Francatelli whose account shall be discussed shortly. A solution may lie in the flooding rate: between McGough leaving his cabin, and getting into boat 7, and Ray coming down to E deck after this lifeboat had left, the starboard E deck corridor, where the 1st class cabins were located, could have gone from being reasonably dry (dry enough for McGough not to notice any water) to being flooded back enough for the base of the grand staircase to be under water.


The approximate list when Wheat saw the water at the indicated location (the blue square)

Let us look at other accounts: William Ward, Saloon Steward, had this to say: he saw boat 7 lowered to the level of the deck, and then loaded Moving aft to No.9, Ward helped to take the cover off her, and then it was lowered to deck height. After a few more minutes, in which one man tried to commandeer the boat and was ejected, this lifeboat was lowered safely. 2nd Class Bath Steward James Widgery got on deck just in time to see boat 7 about to be lowered. He moved off to boat 9, which, he noted, had already had its canvas cover removed. He does not mention seeing the seaman who claimed that Captain Smith had ordered him to take charge. Widgery helped to load the boat and then got in. The boat then left then ...but then the problem is that, conceivably, more than "just" a few minutes elapsed between Wheat and Ray's observation of water, or lack of, in the working alley. The alternative is that, somehow, the flooding had increased rapidly aft in just these few minutes. If this is the case, Fireman Barrett was lucky to escape. He departed from boiler room 5, and there was some little water in the alleyway, indicating that he left sometime between Wheat's and Ray's account! Of course, a solution to this lies in boiler room 6. It was filling with water and, by the time of Barrett's escape, it may have started to spill into the working alleyway.

Chief Baker Charles Joughin's cabin was aft on the working alleyway, near the reciprocating engine room casing. After his boat (no.10) had gone ("a decent bit after 1 [am])", he retired to his room for drink, where he had a half tumbler full of liqueur.

The many accounts of Joughin being paralytically drunk, like the film version of "A Night To Remember" are hopelessly wrong on his point if we take his testimony literally.

He sees water in his room, just enough to cover his feet. Due to the list of the Titanic, the water was tending to be deeper on the port side than the starboard. Obviously the water had flowed up the alleyway. At about this time, he saw two men coming who said they were going to close the watertight bulkhead door just in front of his room. To Joughin, the alleyway seemed fairly dry.

In London, at the inquiry, Joughin said of the water; "If it had been higher I should have thought something about it, but under the circumstances I thought it might have been a pipe burst, because there was a pipe burst on the "Olympic" from the engineers' quarters and we got the same water. It might have been the same thing." But the engineer's 'quarters' [sic? _ mess?] were aft of his cabin; the water he saw was coming from forward and was obviously a consequence of the flooding in the ship.


Water flowing against the port side of the ship due to the list on that side. Highly exaggerated!


Sam Halpern's diagram of the flooding at approximately the time lifeboat 13 was launched and when Joughin went to his cabin; this author has modified the sketch to show the waterline on the port side of the ship, and Joughin's cabin (the blue square). The green lines indicates the location of the working alleyway forward of Joughin's cabin, the orange lines indicate the crew's stairway up to the boat deck, and the cyan line denotes the approximate list along the working alleyway. Due to the portside list, the water would tend to be more greatly accumulated against the more port side of the alleyway, leaving the doorway to the staircase relatively clear of water.

Interestingly, Joughin says that, after seeing the water in his cabin, "I went up the middle staircase, what we call the crew's staircase." This was also known as the steward's staircase, and went from E deck up to the boat deck (unlike the Olympic which only went to A deck). The entrance to this stairway was on the alleyway; it couldn't have been flooded that much to allow Joughin to traverse it; and indeed he says he saw water in no other location than near his own cabin which is very hard to believe, as the alleyway would have been significantly deluged. We should perhaps be cautious about Joughin's statements. Just before the final plunge, Joughin claimed to have seen the ship take a huge plunge to port which caused everyone to tumble onto that side; he also says the ship remained lit until the very end. These two statements are highly controversial, as can be seen in other essays on this site.


Left to right, the boxes indicate; Joughin's room; the watertight door; the crew's working staircase.

Hendrickson's Account

Leading fireman Charles Hendrickson's account is of importance in providing a sense of timing of the events deep within the ship. His story is as follows: after seeing the water swirling round the base of the fireman's staircase, he left the fireman's quarters and headed aft to report this. He got as far as the working alleyway where he saw Mr.Hesketh, an engineer. After telling him his report, Hendrickon was told to get some lamps and some men and go below in the darkened stokeholds with them, this being the time that the lights had gone out. Hendrickson, found four or five men and returned with some lamps, but boiler room 6 was too full to allow entry.

This must have been after Beauchamp et al. had vacated the room. Whether this is before or after Barrett and Shepherd saw "8 feet" of water inside is debateable. Hesketh can't have known or he would not have ordered Hendrickson inside the room, and if he had, he would have informed Barrett and Shepherd of this.

Hendrickson went slightly aft and descended into boiler room 5 instead, where he found Mr.Shepherd who asked if he had the lamps. When he replied yes, he was told to light them and put them against the steam gauges. Shepherd ordered that the fires be drawn from the boilers, and Hendrickon got a rake and was about to start pulling the coals and ashes from the furnaces when another engineer, Mr.Harvey approached him and ordered him to get some more men down. Ascending to the alleyway, he found some men and they went below, leaving Hendrickson to return to his quarters, at which point he saw the hatch cover billowing.

This must have all occurred before c.11.55 as this was when water was seen around the hatch, something that Hendrickson did not mention in his evidence. Also, from Hendrickson's evidence, can we infer that hte lights remained off for the duration of his visit?

After informing the engine room of the tarpaulin, he went up and stood talking to the storekeeper. He had noticed some steerage passengers in the alleyway when he went to fetch the lamps, and they were still there now, "walking to and fro" and sitting on their luggage. Hendrickson walked forward to his quarters and heard the order "We want a leading hand: all hands get lifebelts and get up on deck," which he duly obeyed.

Presumably this is the Boatswain's call, but which one? Recall that there were two calls to muster, one just before midnight, and the second after midnight, to summon the 8-12 watch that had just finished. Hendrickson would have to go from G deck up to C deck, and then back down to E to reach the working alleyway, and the "as the crow flies" distance between his room and the engine room was some 500 feet (or 2 minutes at normal walking pace); then he would spend time descending and ascending ladders. I would propose that it was the 2nd Boatswain's summons that he heard.

Stewards et al.

Many of the stewards were asleep at the time of impact, and were mostly roused by the vibrations and shuddering of the engines. Some thought that a propeller blade had been dropped. But, in those first few minutes afterwards, while curious heads peered out of dormitories and portholes, events occurred that were far from ordinary.

Unlike the firemen, seamen and others stationed in the bow who felt the tremble and saw the ice on deck, the others who were stationed amidships in or near the working alleyway felt nothing was amiss...until word started filtering along, and samples of ice from the forward well deck were passed round. In short, the stewards were understandably slow to react.

Bedroom Steward Henry Etches was one of those slumbering, along with 18 others in his quarters. He was next due on duty at midnight. Between 7 and 10 minutes after the crash, he heard a loud shout which he recognised as the Boatwain's voice, yelling, "Close watertight bulkheads." Looking out of his room, Etches saw the Boatswain running from fore to aft, with a seaman following him. Etches partly dressed and again peered into the corridor where he saw third class passengers heading aft, carrying their belongings. Another one who apparently heard the Boatswain cry was 1st class steward Edward Wheelton. After looking out of the port after the shock of impact, and chatting to some of his colleagues, he clambered back into bed when he heard, "watertight doors." Walter Nichols heard this order too ("The Brooklyn Daily Eagle", 19/4/12); "within a few minutes of the time we struck I could hear the engineers passing along the order to close the watertight doors. One man would tell it to the next and he would pass it on to someone else."
Third class pantryman Albert Pearcey may have been one of those who carried out these orders. He was on F deck, outside the pantry when he felt a small motion. He next heard the order "All watertight doors to be closed," which he and several other men did, closing the doors aft on F deck, as well as the ones leading to his pantry. John Hardy, Chief Second Class Steward, had also received an order from Mr.Barker (a purser) to close the doors and rouse the passengers "as a precaution". The doors on F deck were duly closed.

The Boatswain must have reacted instinctively to some extent. He apparently ordered that the doors be closed, but did not know what had happened. Seaman Frank Evans recalled being sent below to find the carpenter, and the Boatswain inquired who he was looking for. Upon being told that he had "gone up" Evans informed him that he thought the ship had struck an iceberg, and the Boatswain "went up" (to the bridge?). Also, it is prudent to mention Boxhall, when he inspected the damaged areas on F deck; the watertight doors forward were not closed then; but, when he comes down again, he notices that the (admittedly non-watertight door) at the forward end of the 1st class companionway on E deck is closed, forcing him to find a different route to see the water entering the mail rooms.

When were the stewards roused to congregate their passengers, assist in provisioning the boats, etc? The common consensus is 20 minutes, and there is widespread agreement, give or take a few minutes, in their accounts. An interesting story is given by second class smoking room steward James Witter. He informed Walter Lord, and then told a BBC interviewer a year later, that he had closed up the smoking room at midnight, and then went to his room, where his attempts to waken his colleagues was met with hostility. This is interesting, as it shows that not all stewards had been woken by 12.00am plus the few minutes it took for Witter to get to his room, and it also shows that his colleagues (at least) had not yet received the order to get to their stations. If they had, and they had been told the order had come from the chief, or head stewards, they would not have been so reticent to rise. One steward threw a boot at Witter!

The evacuation of the 3rd class

During his foray carrying lamps back from the engine room, Hendrickson encountered a big crowd of male third class passengers in the working alleyway, heading aft, carrying their luggage. Hendrickson saw no stewards herding them, and he put this encounter at 3/4s of an hour after the collision. This estimate is wrong, as he saw these passengers before he saw the ballooning hatch 1 tarpaulin, and this was before it was seen to admit water just before midnight.

This means that the third class passengers were very quick "off the mark" to react to the danger, well before midnight. Compare this to the first class passengers who were (mostly) roused after the stewards themselves were awoken, and this would be after midnight. Perhaps the third class knew of the imminent catastrophe by water entering their cabins?

Cavell was another one who saw these passengers. Like Hendrickson, he saw them at about the time the lights had gone off in the boiler room, and lamps were requisitioned from the engine room.

Cavell adds two interesting points; the first is that he sees stewards telling them male passengers to keep calm; and secondly, he notes that that they were wet and carrying lifebelts. But an obvious conflict is his estimate of when he sees these passengers; he thinks this was an hour and half to two hours after the impact. Were these the same passengers that Hendrickson had seen? We have no way of knowing for sure. But by 1 1/2 hours after the fatal collision, all the third class areas forward would be flooded. Indeed, the forward half of the working alleyway would be underwater. Is it also likely that third class passengers would remain static in the working alleyway for such a long period of time? This seems unlikely. A close reading of Cavell's story is that he indeed went into the alleyway shortly after the climbing into the stokehold from the coal bunker, when the lights went out. They were only out for a few minutes, and in this space of time, he was in the alleyway. How he estimates 1 1/2 to 2 hours is unclear. William Ward also notes that some passengers were wet, and like others who saw these men, puts their appearance before midnight.

There are significant problems with the "wet" passenger sighting at about 11.50pm. If one consults the profile picture of the bow, reproduced earlier. One can see that the red areas, denoting the third class areas, are unlikely to have been flooded so early after the collision. This presupposes that the time estimates of witnesses, as depicted on the diagram are "off"; an inevitably considering that people's perceptions of time may be influenced due to the chaotic surroundings. We only know that Symons' timing observation of seeing hatch 1 flooding at midnight is correct as it is corroborated by the ringing of 8 bells in the crows nest.

Interestingly, Paul Mauge, the secretary to the a la carte restaurant chef, also stationed on E deck, remembers hearing a bell, which he says was "to alarm the 3rd class passengers" which he saw coming aft "with luggage and children [sic]." Mauge was stationed too far from the bow to have heard any 3rd class alarm, which no-one else seems to have heard. Is it possible that he heard the warning bell down in the engine rooms, near to his room?

Within a minute or so of the collision, 4th Officer Boxhall had headed down into steerage areas to see if he could inspect the damage. He sees nothing, but only goes down as far as F deck, whereas there were some quarters on the deck below. If only he had gone down those stairs! We do not know how long he was below decks, but on his return to the bridge he encounters a man who was heading down to passenger accommodations who tells him about the ice in the well deck. Boxhall does not mention seeing any of the crewman who should have been there, and conversely, none of the crewmen mention seeing Boxhall. We can infer little from this, sadly. Did Boxhall head back up before the 3rd class men in the bow were roused? There is no way to tell but I would suspect that the massive number of 3rd class, choking the corridors would have been obvious. Boxhall also does not seem to have noticed the firemen, stewards and 3rd class passengers who would been in the working alleyway when he wandered down to look at the mailroom!

One possible area for a flooded third class area is the accommodation on G deck, all the way forward near the 2nd cargo hatch. The steerage quarters slightly further aft, near the squash courts, were located on the port side of the ship, and, with the list to starboard, it seems unlikely that they would have flooded by the time Boxhall reached there. One drawback for this theory is that water would have reached G deck a very short space of time after the collision. We know water was in this compartment when Poingdestre when below for his boots at c.12.10am

If water was entering third class space forward within the first ten or so minutes, then it means that the ingress caused by the iceberg must be much larger than previously suspected. It is worth mentioning what third class passenger Daniel Buckley told the American Inquiry:

"I heard some terrible noise and I jumped out on the floor, and the first thing I knew my feet were getting wet; the water was just coming in slightly ... I did not feel any shock in the steamer; only just heard a noise. I heard a kind of a grating noise."

Despite some speculation that the "terrible noise" was the commotion of moving people outside his cabin, his testimony fits in nicely with the theory that only a very short time had elapsed between the collision and him getting his feet wet. We do not know where Buckley was located, except that his cabin was in the bow (even though he thought it was in the aft part of the Titanic) and that it could hold at least four people. Was Buckley one of those who headed aft along the alleyway? It is widely assumed that he headed up, rather than aft, and wound up in the forward well deck, where ice had been deposited, and where a gate was forced open to allow the "suppressed" third class into first class space...and to the lifeboats. But Buckley's testimony shows that, after leaving his cabin and being on deck, he tried to go back to his room again to get a lifebelt. His plan was thwarted by the rising water level. As he headed down, "All the boys and girls were coming up against me...The girls were very excited, and they were crying; and all the boys were trying to console them and saying that it was nothing serious." Single ladies and families were stationed near the stern. This would seem to indicate that he was heading forward for his lifejacket from the stern...perhaps the stern well deck? It has been pointed out that Buckley thought that the gate was "just at the top of the stairs going up into the first class deck." This relates better to the forward than aft well deck. But how well did Buckley know the geography of the ship? He would only know that people of a higher class were on the higher deck. He might only have guessed that it was first class space. The stairs from the aft well deck led to second class space. All he would see is a sign saying "NOTICE 3rd class passengers are not allowed on this deck." There is no mention of it being 1st or 2nd class space at all.

There is further evidence to support a prematurely flooded 3rd class space. The newspaper Cleveland Plain Dealer, Friday, April 26, 1912 had an account of the disaster by Victor Sunderland, who said, "I lay on my bunk in Section G, third deck from the main deck, at 10 o'clock that Sunday night ... Three of us were smoking...A little before midnight we felt a slight jar and heard a noise similar to that a basket of coals would make if dropped on an iron plate. Seven of us ran up the companionway to the main deck, where a steward told us to go back. We saw a number of pieces of ice on the deck, but he said there was nothing wrong, so we went back. We laid down in our bunks again and smoked for about a quarter of an hour. Suddenly one of us noticed water pouring into the section under the door. This time we knew something was wrong and three of us again ran up, but only to the first deck. The others were asleep, and I guess they were drowned. An officer stopped us there and told us to go back and get life preservers. Those preservers were located in racks over the bunks. When we got back we found the section full of water -- twenty feet of it -- and we had no chance to get our life belts. We ran aft between decks and up to the main deck."

A few inaccuracies are apparent. If Sunderland was situated in compartment G, this would be on F deck, hardly the "third deck" from the main deck. However, 3rd class passengers were allowed in the forward well deck, which was on C deck, which was indeed 3 decks above compartment G. The identity of the "officer" is unknown, but the timing of the order to get the life preservers (about midnight) ties in with other testimony. What is interesting about this account is that Sunderland confirms that, within a very short space of time, compartment G was flooded. The only way for water to enter this area was from forward - as can be seen on the following diagram, there were stairs leading up from G deck level with the front of the squash court, and also far forward, to the starboard and forward of the number 2 hatch, which, like the bunker hatch would also allow water to pass. Boxhall went down and saw that the watertight doors on the port side (in bulkheads C and D) were open on F deck; Sunderland proves evidence that they were left open, for, if they were closed, water would not have been able to enter his compartment. Another occupant of compartment G was Olaus Abelseth and he testified at the US Senate Investigation. Sadly, or perhaps fortunately (!) he did not linger long enough to see the water near his berth: "I went to bed about 10 o'clock Sunday night, and I think it was about 15 minutes to 12 when I woke up; and there was another man in the same room - two of us in the same room - and he said to me, "What is that?" I said, "I don't know, but we had better get up." So we did get up and put our clothes on, and we two went up on deck in the forward part of the ship. Then there was quite a lot of ice on the starboard part of the ship. They wanted us to go down again, and I saw one of the officers, and I said to him: "Is there any danger?" He said, "No." I was not satisfied with that, however, so I went down and told my brother-in-law and my cousin, who were in the same compartment there. They were not in the same room, but they were just a little ways from where I was. I told them about what was happening, and I said they had better get up. Both of them got up and dressed, and we took our overcoats and put them on. We did not take any lifebelts with us. There was no water on the deck at that time."

Nearby was Anton Kink; he was in room 58 of compartment E, just round the corner from the stairs going D and the watertight door to compartment C. In the Milwaukee Journal of April 24th, 1912, he said, "The shock brought everybody upon deck. My brother [Vinzenz] was up before me and others followed us one by one. It was dark and clear, and I saw the iceberg distinctly. Then we went back to our cabin to put on heavier clothing and to call the women. Everything was quiet and there was no excitement at first. Later when the woken awoke there could be heard moaning and praying, but it was not loud. I carried our bags forward, and as I walked the water washed about my ankles. The deck slanted to the left and forward. The water welled up from the lower deck." Following this, those who were carrying luggage were told to leave it behind, as women were praying but stil there was no disorder. They went up on the rear decks, and then went to the 2nd class areas and on to the first.

An excellent account, found by my friend Jose Martinez. It is clear that he was on deck very soon after the collision, as, like Scarrott he saw the iceberg. Unfortunately, there is little afterwards that can be assigned to a timeline; the ship slanting to the left indicates a list to port, but this only occurred fairly late in the sinking; the first mention of a list to port is in the testimony of Alfred Crawford when he left in boat 8, perhaps at about 1.00am. It is unclear where he encountered this water, but it is worth reiterating that in the next compartment forward and abreast of the No.2 hatch on the port side, Poingdestre experienced water up to his waist at about 12.20am. Perhaps the watertight door between compartments E and C on F deck had been shut? If it hadn't, and the timing indicated by Kink is right in his mention of the "slant" to the left, his cabin would be underwater. It is bewildering what he meant when he said he carried his bags forward. To where? This flies in the face of other statements which said the steerage were carrying their bags aft, along the corridor on E deck. On the other hand, Kink does not seem to be confused as he correctly says the ship slanted forward.

In the next compartment forward was Charles Dahl. His story appeared in "The Manitoba Free Press" of April 29th, and the relevant portion can be summarised as follows: he was awakened by the collision and went up on deck, seeing a great quantity of ice scattered everywhere. Seeing no iceberg, he returned to his cabin to get some more clothes. He returned to the deck, and on being told water was pouring into "C" deck, he returned to his cabin for his lifebelt. Presumably, his cabin must have been in that compartment too? He did not report seeing water, so if his room was in there, it must have been in an area away from where it was flooding in. Unfortunately, there is little to place Dahl's story in a chronology. He says that he went aft to the steerage area and saw the 1st class putting on their lifebelts, which prompted him to do the same. Going up to the 1st class space, he saw the crew getting ready to put out the lifeboats [the first one left at about 12.40am], which seems to have been on the starboard side. He then went to the port side and waited for half an hour or more but no one was allowed to enter the boats. Ultimately, he went to starboard and managed to enter boat 15, which left at about 1.30pm.

The call to ready the boats was made at about midnight, with the first one going forty minutes later. This tallies with his comment that "no one was allowed into the boats." The first boat on the port side left at about 1.00am (approximately), so can we assume that Dahl got to the boat deck sometime between midnight and 1.00am? It makes sense, but the resulting time interval is too large to ascertain when the water was in "C" compartment. Recall that Poingdestre saw water directly above "C" compartment at 12.20am.


Compartments C, E and G, the berths of 3rd class men. The red areas indicate watertight doors..

What happened to the third class men, ambling aft from forward? Steward Hart, as we shall see, says that male passengers joined his throng congregated towards the stern end of E deck. 2nd class pantry steward Wilfred Seward says he saw the stewards doing the best they could with the third class, going to the emergency door. John Collins, assistant 1st class galley cook, saw stewards in the passageway; at this time, the passengers were running forward, with the stewards steering them, making a joke of it. And Albert Pearcey, 3rd class pantryman, remarked that he helped to pass all the (great number of) passengers he could see forward through the emergency door on E deck, and then through the first class saloon companion. As the 3rd class men came along there from forward he passed them through, and there were stewards there besides Pearcey and the men were passed straight up to the boat deck. Remaining there until no more came along, he then went along to the boat deck himself. By his estimate, the time was nearly 1.30am.

However, we know from prior evidence, that the forward part of E deck was flooded well before then. Ray noticed that it was inaccessible when he returned from seeing the very first boat lowered, which would be shortly after 12.45am by our current understanding of the Titanic chronology. Pearcey got on deck in time to help pass two babies to a lifeboat that was eventually lowered at 2.00am. His timing of "1.30" cannot be right. What was he doing in the intervening time? He claimed at the British Inquiry that his boat - "C" - left at 1.40am according to one of the passengers and this time was accepted without question. But it puts the departure of this boat before boat 4 - and we know that William Carter had put his wife and children in No.4 before he found sanctuary in "C" (this is despite what his estranged spouse said in divorce hearings a few years later, as reported by Walter Lord in "The Night Lives On" who repeats the peculiar schedulings of these two boats as a way of backing up Mrs.Carter's evidence that he abandoned his family to their fate). An explanation for this "early" timing of 1.40 can be found in normal shipboard operations; almost undoubtedly, the source of this time had set their watch back by 23 minutes to compensate for westward travel. This would make boat "C"'s departure about 2.03, which is more palatable, but it also means that Pearcey remained below until 1.53am - by which time many of the decks below would be completely flooded.
Another point is that, if all the third class men were indeed relayed up to the boat deck, where were they? None of the first class scurrying up the staircase saw any poorly attired people clambering up. There is only one piece of evidence of any steerage men being seen on the upper decks at this time: the young man (probably Philip Zenni) who managed to get into boat 6; no other steerage were noted at boats 7,5,3,1 or 8 which were the first to go. Of course, if one digs, contrary evidence can be found: Mrs Cardeza and Norman Chambers remarked that on the forward starboard boat deck, stewards were directing people aft. Could these steerage men have been in this crowd, and where they were provably later to embark in the aft boats? Perhaps so, but it still leads to the problem of them not being seen going up the stairs, mingling on deck etc.

John Hart was a 3rd class steward; at 11.40pm he was in his bunk near to the 3rd class restaurant down on F deck. The collision did not rouse him and he slumbered on until someone woke him, telling him there had been an accident. This failed to elicit much excitement on the part of Hart and he went back to sleep for another 20 minutes by his estimation whereupon he was woken by the chief 3rd class steward Mr.Kieran who ordered the stewards to attend to the people under their care. For Hart, this was in sections K and part of M on the deck above, and much further astern; eventually all his people were up and lifebelts affixed. After this, according to Hart, a large number of single men came from forward with their baggage [presumably the men who had been seen travsersing the working alleyway earlier?] making for the after well deck area, which was 3rd class space. They traipsed past the open emergency door to 2nd class quarters, which Hart said had been opened at 12.30am. To ensure that anyone coming from forward would have a lifebelt, he placed surplus belts in an alleyway that such people would have to pass. Waiting for further instructions, Hart heard the order to "pass the women up to the boat deck." Taking 30 people aft, they went up the 3rd class stairway up to the aft well deck on C deck. the forward past the 2nd class library and then into 1st class space, where the grand staircase took them 3 decks up the boat deck.

Charles Joughin also remembered that the door to 2nd class quarters, adjacent to a staircase that led stright to the boat deck, was open. Why, then, did Hart not use this convenient route? Then there is the lack of corroboration for Hart's story. As noted by Peter Engberg-Klarström here, "I have read that Mrs Johnson and her two children said something to this effect; a steward led them up on deck, but that is it. I am sure there would be more cases, however." Elin Hakkarainen reputedly said that she and a small group were led up to the boat deck. According to her ET bio, Mrs. George Joseph Whabee (Shawneene Abi-Saab) recalled some crew members and passengers, who were "very finely dressed in their beautiful suits", coming down into steerage and "pushed and pulled us up to the deck." But there seem to be no other cases of women or children being led up by Hart or his compatriots, and one would expect such stories to be more evident considering that he saved such a large fraction. Given the tales collected in books such as "The Irish Aboard the Titanic" (where stories from 34 saved Irish women are detailed), it is astonishing that not one such story of heroism on the part of 3rd class stewards has trickled into the public domain.

Sometime between 12.15 and 12.30 (by his estimate), Joughin sees Muller, the third class interpreter just aft of this emergency door, passing the steerage along with their children and baggage, which was obstructing the passageway. Muller and his fellows could not encourage the passengers to leave their baggage behind.

This dovetails with Hart's story. He testified in England thus, "I believe that somebody went forward after the collision to try to see what damage was done after the collision had happened, and there met the passengers coming along. He came along with them. I believe that was the interpreter Mellor [sic- Muller]" And Bath Steward Samuel Rule recalled seeing Muller with the 3rd class male exodus from fore to aft: this was somewhere near Rule's quarters on E deck, as he said "when I left the deck the interpreter was forcing people along the watertight doors in the alleyway." The only watertight doors in that area of the ship were in the aft portion of the alleyway, near Joughin's cabin. The time of this would be about 20 minutes after the crash.

The barriers that would not normally allow admittance were already opened, and Hart arrived in time to see lifeboat 8 on the portside being lowered. Leaving his crowd there, he went back to his group once more, passing another group of third class men and women being led to the boats. Hart arrived back back on E deck to find that others had joined his crowd, and the men now wanted to go to the boats. He took a group of 25 women and children [Hart noted that, on his second excursion topside, there were stewards stationed at intervals to guide the way]. He took his 25 to boat 15, having come out opposite it (or further forward at the 1st class grand staircase, he does not seem sure) in time for the boat to be lowered, thus saving himself and his passengers.


The aft end of the working alleyway.

Compare this to the story of greaser Fred Scott. when the Titanic hit the iceberg, he was on the starboard side of the turbine engine room, by the door to the more forward reciprocating engine room. Thirty minutes after the strike, two of them went up the escape ladder and headed aft to free a colleague from the compartment containing the propeller shafts. After this, and via the escape ladders after 10 more minutes, Scott and his friend were back in the turbine room, where the engineer ordered all the watertight doors opened. Heading towards the aft first, the heaved up the doors. At 12.45am (by his estimation), he recalls seeing four men carrying a suction pipe back from the penultimate watertight compartment into the engine room and into the now open doors leading to the boiler rooms. Finally, at about 1.15am, the engineer ordered everyone out of the engine room. After fetching a lifejacket from a locker a few corridors away (along with about 40 firemen, who all fetched theirs one at a time- Scott being about the fourth), he emerged on deck about 1.40am where he saw some of the engineers on deck.

There are numerous contradictions between the two accounts. From Scott's description of where he would have emerged on the working alleyway, where he obtained the lifejacket, and the staircase he used to gain access to the upper decks, he would have had to have seen the 3rd class that Hart described. However, he doesn't. He admits at the British Inquiry that he wasn't looking, but did see some stewards in the alleyways. He could not have failed to notice the more than 50 third class men, women and children who would have choked the alleyways. Of course, maybe either Scott and/or Hart were lying about certain details, or one man could have got his times wrong. Scott could have left the engine room before or after Hart congregated his passengers, and/or Hart could have gathered his throng after, or before Scott had left. But then there are issues with the timing. Scott claimed to have emerged on deck at 1.40am, in time to see 5th Officer Lowe pull out his revolver at lifeboat 14, and his timing relates reasonably to what we know of the Titanic's lifeboat lowering sequence. But if he left E deck with his lifejacket before Hart roused the 3rd class (say, about 12.30), then we must ask: what was he doing in the intervening 1 hour or so? There seem to be gaps in many Titanic's crew recollections. George Beauchamp's testimony makes it sound as if he went straight to boat 13 after leaving boiler room 6...but there is over an hour's gap unaccounted for. If Scott is right, then Hart's story makes sense only if he tended to his 3rd class passengers but well after Scott had left...and that indicates that the steerage were ignored until long after the collision. So, what do we make of Hart's story? He wanders up to boat 8 which is being lowered, leaves his gang there, heads below, and arrives back in time for boat 15. Boat 8 left at about 1.00am, and 15 at 1.40am, or a 40 minute gap. Even allowing for an unruly crowd below, this means a transit time of about 20 minutes, to go down 5 decks and walk aft about 600 feet, the latter distance taking about 2 minutes; this neglects the time he spent coversing with the steerage below. Then there are the third class passengers he leaves on deck. Assigning third class to lifeboats is controversial and prone to never ending debate, but if Hart's story is true, they may have mingled on deck, getting later boats, or perhaps even going back down to E deck to find their loved ones they left behind? An illuminating discussion can be found here, but there is a fatal flaw in one of its arguments: namely that Hart's gang was led up to the boats via the forward 1st class staircase on E deck at about 1.30am, in line with Pearcey's story. By 1.30am, the emergency door leading from the working alleyway to the 1st class landing would be underwater.

There is some corroboration for the 1.15am order to vacate the engine room: Dillon puts the order at "1.20" too as does Threlfall's account; and both Scott and Threlfall arrive on the boat deck just before boat 14 departed, so the timing is about right. Dillon says that he left the reciprocating engine room to open the stokehold doors, and that this was 30 minutes after the collison, nicely matching Scott's evidence. Also, Dillon says in the Daily Mail of May 13th 1912 that when he left the engine room, "We were told to put lifebelts on. There was a pile of lifebelts on the steerage deck, enough for everyone. They were all loose, so that all could help themselves," which again correlates well with Scott. But if we analyse this Dillon's account in relation to other events, there are problems. When he got to boiler room 4, there was a little water on the stokehold plates; later, when Cavell left the boiler room, there was about a foot of water. Dillon's evidence makes it clear that after he "knock[ed] around" the boiler room, he headed aft and was ordered up out of the engine room straight after arriving there. Dillon's afore mentioned newspaper interview says that "All the water-tight doors were opened with the handle, but the chief engineer told us not to touch No.5 door as that was finished. After about what seemed to be an hour the chief said "Look after yourselves," and then "All hands on deck" was the next cry I heard." If we allow for just a few minutes to journey from BR 4 to the reciprocating engine room, we see that Dillon's sighting of the water was well before Cavell's; perhaps about 12.20am if this was about an hour before he was ordered to evacuate, and if his estimate of timing in the newspaper interview is correct. But when Cavell got into the working alleyway, he sees no water. Then when Barrett flees, he sees a little water forward; and when Ray goes below decks, the forward half of the alleyway is underwater; this would be very shortly after the launching of the first lifeboat which occurred about an hour after the collision. But if Ray's timing is right, then Barrett and Cavell must have evacuated the engine room before the first lifeboat left; and yet they seem sure of their times.
As an aside, a minor point to raise is that Dillon claims in the newspaper interview that he was told not to open the door leading to boiler room 5 as the chief engineer said it was "finished." But in testimony, all he said was that one of the engineers told him to stop at that point, and he only judged that this was because of too much water in there. But this is incorrect: the water flowing along the working alleyway is a stopwatch in this matter, allowing us to place items in a crude chronology. Dillon's excursion to boiler room 4 was before Cavell's escape which was before Barrett's - and it was only at this point that boiler room 5 suffered from some form of flooding. Dillon was wrong to judge that boiler room 5 was awash when he was told not to open the door; mayhaps the engineer who ordered him not to proceed knew of the bunker that was filling with sea water and was sufficiently concerned not to allow boiler room 4 not to become affected. This begs the question - why bother? The watertight doors would close automatically when water raised a float mechanism.
Dillon's other testimony is interesting in other ways. Despite what some apologists and poor researchers say, the fires in boiler room 1 were not lit that night. While it is true that the boiler used to generate electrical power was used in port, none in that room were used at sea; boiler rooms 2 and/or 4 were used to provide electrical power. The James Cameron etc. trips to the wreck have convinced some that observed damage to the faces of the boilers were caused because the boilers were hot; but David Livingstone, a Harland and Wolff Naval Architect and hence supremely qualified to comment on such matters, observed the boilers personally and did not notice any damage at all. Dillon commented when asked at the London Inquiry that the boilers in the 1st boiler room were not lit. Alfred Shiers confirmed at the Limitation of Liability hearings that when he went off duty on Sunday morning, "three main boilers and five auxiliary boilers" were not lit. However, he then says they were lighted on Sunday night and connected up at 7 o'clock according to an engineer, but then clarifies that these were the "main boilers." Barrett clarified the matter in his recollections: on the first two days, nine boilers were out, the next two days there were eight unlit. Two or three main boilers were lit up on Sunday morning, although he was unsure if they were connected with the others or not, the timing (12 hours before you can connect it to the others) would seem to confirm Shiers time of 7pm (who incidentally puts his estimate for the time between firing up a boiler and bringing it into service as being 6 and 12 hours). Barrett was not sure if these two or three were ultimately connected to the main feed, and this is reflected in his statements, where he was unsure whether 5 or 8 were unused; but from this analysis, we know that the five boilers in the first room were unlit and unused.

To return to the point of this discussion, it all comes down to the simple question of whom do you believe: Scott or Hart? They can't both have been in the same area and seen different things. It is posited that Hart's story of heroism is a fiction; and this being the case, there was no-one to question it. His inquisitors at the London inquiry seemed to exhibit some scepticism; he claimed that he and his second entourage boarded boat 15 on the boat deck and he repeated that this was indeed the case. Their court's inability to accept his story is obvious when one remembers that evidence had been given that boat 15 left the boat deck with only a skelton crew and was actually loaded from the deck below.
Here is a summary of the events, allowing for a variation in timing estimates:

According to the research of Daniel Klistorner and published on Encyclopedia Titanica, Beila Moor and her 6 year old son Meier were housed in cabin E-121, in M section, or approximately where Hart had congregated his rabble. These would be prime candidates to corroborate Hart's story, since we know of so little allocations for steerage passengers. Unfortunately accounts from either one of these are very scarce. Thanks to the generosity of George Behe, I was provided with a paraphrased version of Meier's son, told in later life: "What happened next would be recounted by her son a number of times during the last few years of his life. Wearing life vests, he and his mother were somehow able to fight the crowds and climb the six flights of stairs leading to the Titanic's lifeboat deck. The only thing Beile Moor brought with her was her purse, which held the documents they would need for entry into the new world. Neither of them would recall exactly how they got into a lifeboat amid the panic, but both remembered that a space for them opened up when a woman of means gave up her spot. Meyer recalled years later that from the bobbing lifeboat, he watched the Titanic sink, taking with it all those lives and his precious playing cards." Naturally, it would be nice to have the actual words spoken by him, and some information from his mother; until that surfaces, we are left with the striking contradiction between Hart's crowd who were well behaved as he led them aloft via the 1st class areas, and Moor's comments that he and Beila fought the crowds to get aloft. All we have from Beila is, upon being asked in 1912, "Do you recall what took place around you?", she replied, "Yes. People ran about wildly as though mad. The sound of wailing voices was petrifying. At the time, one couldn't think about oneself much." Alas, she didn't say whether this was below decks or by the boats.

It is perhaps relevant to discuss the experiences of Katie Gilnagh, with the caveat that she related them over four decades later. She was in cabin 161 in section Q, not too far from Hart's area and might have provided some insight into his claimed gradual exodus topside. She, however, made the journey aloft fairly early, it would seem: "[She was] wakened by the bagpipe player, who came in and told her to get up, something was wrong with the ship. She thought things probably always went wrong with ships -- it was just part of the trip -- and wasn't worried at all. She climbed the stairs and met Jim Farrell when she reached the deck. He told her to go back and get her luggage; they'd probably have to leave. She went below, pulled together her things, stuck her pocketbook in her suitcase (so she'd only have one thing to carry), and climbed back on deck. Every one was just waiting around. News came that the boats were being lowered, but when she and the girls tried to go up to them, a man stopped her at the Third Class barrier and wouldn't open the gate. They were still standing there, when Jim Farrell came up. "Great God, man!" he roared, "Open the gate and let the girls through!" To the girls surprise, the man did then open the gate, and Kate slipped through to the Second Class deck." Katie Mullen was in Gilnagh's cabin and her daughter confirms this story in "The Irish Aboard Titanic". Also in their room were Margaret and Kate Kurphy. The former told the "Irish Independant" (9/5/12) that there were scuffles with the sailors who had locked the hatches and companionways leading from steerage quarters; the hatches were locked to keep the air inside, helping the vessel to stay afloat longer. There is a lot in the interview that sounds suspiciously false, like the report of a Chinaman being shot, his body tumbling in the water. The "locked companionways" might be a corrupted version of Gilnagh's and Mullen's "locked gate" - after all, since the four slept in the same room, would it not be reasonable to assume they would stay together, and experience roughly the same things?

Unfortunately there is little else to go on. Steerage passenger Mary Coutts wrote, "The deck being two stories up, we could not hear what they [the other steerage] were doing." What did she mean by "the deck"? C deck, where the aft third class public rooms were, or the poop (B) deck? If the former, this would place her on E deck. But even so, we do not know where. For the sake of discussion this is a summary of what she wrote: she felt the ship strike and lay awake for 15 minutes, then heard people outside inquiring what had happened. The stewards tried to placate them by saying that their voyage would recommence soon. When Mary got up, the saw saw foreigners carrying their belongings up on deck, the women being excited, the children crying (interestingly, she describes them as foreigners). Mary stood in the corridor for quite a while with everyone saying there was no danger, but ultimately the order for life preservers was given and she got both her children out of bed. People were running from cabin to cabin looking for life belts - Mary was one of these and an officer told her there weren't any more, something confirmed by several other people. Nearly everyone was on deck when she approached the same officer and he told her to follow him (he ordered the few remaining people in the corridors to go up on deck). He led her to his own quarters and put a lifebelt on her and a sailor then directed them to the first class deck. She say that they were in a collapsible boat but her comment that she was in the first boat picked up the Carpathia and that it was not light points to boat 2; regardless, it would be somewhere between 1.45am and 2.05am when she and her children left - perhaps indicative of what much time she did spend below, some of it hoping that someone would help her find a lifebelt. And during a lot of time in steerage, the steerage area was almost devoid of people.

It is hard to know what to make of this mess of data. But it might be that the steerage on E deck were mostly aroused by word of mouth, with crew telling them to put on lifebelts (and in this respect, this area of the ship was not well equipped, it would seem). Then, the passengers made their own way on deck, leaving the steerage area practically empty. It was soon after this that Scott and the engineering staff came onto a nearly deserted E deck aft looking for lifejackets - and where he saw stewards taking the belts meant for third class, possibly as there was dearth as Mary Coutts herself said.


It should only be fair to mention the stories of Sidney Daniels. Like Hart, he was a third class steward. His story is slightly different from Hart: his interview with the "Southern Evening Echo" (4/4/79) relates that he was; "Tired out, I was sleeping in my bunk when, with the rest of my mates in the 'Glory Hole' I was awakened by the night watchman, told to get dressed and muster on the boat deck with our lifebelts. We were none too pleased as we thought it was all just a boat drill for the crew, but when we had orders to swing out the boats and prepare for lowering we realised it was serious. I was sent below to fetch the passengers. When I got back I found my boat [13] had been lowered already."

A few years later, he recounted his story to Southampton Council Historians, where he said (17th November 1982) that he "stood on [the boat] deck waiting for orders and eventually they got orders to get all the women and children up to their lifeboats...Anyway we got them all up, well as many as we could and we got them into the boats. We had to forfeit our seat on the boat of course, with the passengers. Well we got away from that and got all the boats away..." The remainder of the interview dovetails nicely with the newspaper snippet above.
Although this does corroborate Hart's story that 3rd class were assisted up, Daniels says that he (and presumably his Glory Hole colleagues) were on deck and only then told to summon their charges. If Daniels was right and boat 13 had already gone, there would not have been many craft to put people in. Boat 15 left at practically the same time, leaving only a handful of boats to offer sanctuary to the people that he had escorted up on deck. If this is indeed the case, he went below some time before boat 13 had departed. We do not know where he went into steerage quarters. He may have gone to an area that had "stragglers" and he escorted them up.

But there is another version, printed in The Morning Post of 29th April, 1912: a third clas steward said that he thought the order to man the lifeboat was merely an emergency drill and he and others refused to think the ship would sink even when they were told they had struck an iceberg. This unnamed steward did not notice the impact but it must have roused "some Italians" in steerage" and he met them coming up the stairway crying bitterly. This steward helped with the boats until the deck was awash and he jumped into the sea. Very few 3rd class stewards survived; and many passengers and crew claimed to have been picked up from the sea. But conceivably this could be Daniels. He could also be the "young" third class steward interviewed in "The Western Daily Mercury" of April 29th. Again, he makes no mention of rescuing third class but says that when he went on deck he saw two men crying in the companionway. He does not mention assisting them. If this is indeed Daniels, his story is different from the one he gave years later. And it also shows that he didn't wake or escort the passengers up in his area of the Titanic. In "The Daily Herald" of May 2nd, 1912, an unnamed 3rd class steward said steerage was full of blind alleys, was quite narrow with no direction signs anywhere. He personally found it very difficult to find his way around and frequently got lost in the week he came on board.

The Disappearing Boatswain

It is a familiar story in Titanic lore: Alfred Nichols, the Titanic's Boatswain has been instrumental in mustering the crew to prepare the lifeboats for launching. But he disappears from the drama about half way through the mighty ship's struggle for life. We know that he helped lower boat 3 with Symons, and then, a little later, he assisted just slightly forward at boat no.1. Prior to this, a Jacob's Ladder fetched by Hogg had been discarded (though it is not clear if Nichols gave the order to obtain the ladder, or to dispense with it). At any rate, this Ladder, which could be used to board a lifeboat from an open hatch, was not used. Hogg left soon after, in the very first boat to leave, no.7. Boats 3 and 1 would leave within the next 20 or so minutes after the Ladder being abandoned on the boat deck. While preparing boat 6, 2nd Officer Lightoller sent Nichols and 6 men to open the gangway doors to allow the half-filled boats to be loaded from close to the waterline. Rather than referring to one set of doors, Lightoller was general in his instructions, implying that more than one set of hatches be opened. Nichols and his men trooped down below. They were never seen again. We do not even know who these men were; the Deck Department lists 9 seamen or Able seamen who perished; out of this number only two bodies were recovered and identified in the subsequent weeks. Any one of these could be Nichols' team; his body incidentally was not retrieved. Were these men trapped below decks as the ship sank from underneath them? It is impossible to say; there were many who were on deck but their bodies were not found.

The dearth of seaman was noted by Arthur Peuchen: "I might say that I was rather surprised that the sailors were not at their stations...They seemed to be short of sailors around the lifeboats that were being lowered at this particular point. I do not know what was taking place in other parts of the steamer." And, in the same area, steward Alfred Crawford also remarked that, "Capt. Smith and the steward lowered the forward falls of the boat [No.8] I was in." Normally a sailor would do it; perhaps proof of the lack of seaman in the vicinity?

With reference to the boatswain's mission, not one set of patient eyes in the boats recalled seeing any doors opened to the night with one exception which we shall discuss later. So what happened? Did they actually go below? And if they did, did they perform their task?

On the boatdeck itself, there was little doubt that the gangway doors would be used. In the same boat as the afore mentioned Hogg, lookout Jewell recalled hearing Murdoch give orders to stand by the gangway, but the boats rowed off into the night. Pitman also heard the order from Murdoch to stand by and come to the after gangway when hailed; Norman Chambers, also in this boat, wrote, "Just then a tall, young officer ordered another in our boat to take charge of the boats on the starboard side, telling him to hold onto the painter when we were in the water and to pull up alongside the gangway. This in itself was a very peculiar order, as I was certain that none of the doors in the ship‘s side had been opened and had seen no activities in that direction."
Others simply heard orders to stand by (Collins in boat 1: "Ordered by chief Officer Murdoch to lay handy for further orders"; Taylor (boat 1) also confirmed the order to stand by 100 yards and come back when called; Symons: "My orders were to pull away from the ship, not too far, and to stand by if I was called back"; Paddy McGough in the Daily Telegraph, 29/4/1912: "Mr.Murdoch was in charge ... [he] cried out, 'Pull away 50 to 100 yards and wait orders.'" ) Beesley in boat 13 also heard the order to pull to the aft gangway; this was not mentioned by crewmen at the inquiries and the order seems to have been disobeyed. In his book, Beesley writes, "His solution of these problems was apparently the following:—to send the boats down half full, with such women as would go, and to tell the boats to stand by to pick up more passengers passed down from the cargo ports. There is good evidence that this was part of the plan: I heard an officer give the order to four boats and a lady in number 4 boat on the port side tells me the sailors were so long looking for the port where the captain personally had told them to wait, that they were in danger of being sucked under by the vessel. How far any systematic attempt was made to stand by the ports, I do not know: I never saw one open or any boat standing near on the starboard side; but then, boats 9 to 15 went down full, and on reaching the sea rowed away at once." The "lady in number 4" is discussed elsewhere in this essay and if Beesley had personally heard the order given to four boats then our tally of craft to which the order was given on the starboard side increases even more.

Nearly all the above occurred on the starboard side. What of the port side? Poingdestre testified that Lightoller told boat 12 "To lay off and stand by close to the ship." Fred Clench in the same boat said that after they were in the process of descending down the ship's side he heard an officer (who was too high up to identify) to pull away from the ship, to keep their eye on No. 14 boat and keep all together as much as they could, "so that we would not get drifted away from one another." Did one of these men mishear the order? They do not sound 100% compatible. Perhaps the intention was for them to keep an eye on boat 14, which had been ordered to stay close? Sadly not, as Lowe himself said, "I did not [go in No.14 by anybody's orders]. I saw five boats go away without an Officer [sic], and I told Mr. Moody on my own that I had seen five boats go away, and an Officer ought to go in one of these boats. I asked him who it was to be - him or I - and he told me, 'You go; I will get in another boat.'" Looking at Poingdestre's and Clench's comments, this is not the first time that crewmen gave dubious, perhaps even downright dishonest statements. But surely, if the order originated with Lightoller on the port side, he would tell them to stay within range of the gates, as had been done on numerous occasions on the other side of the ship?

Had Lightoller simply misappropriated an order issued by another officer? The fact that Jewell heard the order in boat 7 (the first one launched and well before Lightoller claimed to have "sent" the crew below) points to the possibility that the directive to open the doors started with the 1st officer; indeed, Nichols seemed to have stayed on the starboard side, only disappearing after boat 1 was sent away, pointing to the fact that he stayed on that side of the boat deck and took his orders from the superior officer on that side - Murdoch.

The disappearance of Nichols and his compatriots is a mystery. If he had attempted to open the forward doors on E deck, he would not have been able to reach them. Poingdestre's evidence shows that, about 3/4s of an hour earlier, E deck forward was flooded, rendering the door inaccessible. (See the previous diagram for the location of the doors and the seaman's quarters.) The working alleyway was partially submerged, according to Ray, not long after the first lifeboat was lowered. Nichols would have realised this when he journeyed below decks, and perhaps headed aft towards the other gangway doors on E deck, or even the 1st class entrance hatches on D deck....? And if he succeeded, what happened to him?

The stern area of the wreck is a jumbled mass of wreckage and it is difficult to determine whether any doors were opened: Ken Marschall's painting of the port side shows two open doors, one being an access door to a storeroom, the other being the main 3rd class entrance on E deck. Both of these are missing their doors, and from the condition of the shell plating in this area, it could be that the doors became detached during the implosion of the stern, from the fall to the seafloor, or on impact with the impact. There is one point to consider, though. 4th Officer Boxhall was interviewed by the BBC in 1962, and what he says is extremely illuminating: "And the captain looked over the side from the bridge and sang out and said, told me to go round to the Starboard side to the gangway doors, which was practically at the opposite side to where I was lowered [At the British Inquiry, he said, " I got the crew squared up and the oars out properly and the boat squared when I heard somebody singing out from the ship, I do not know who it was, with a megaphone, for some of the boats to come back again, and to the best of my recollection they said "Come round the starboard side," so I pulled round the starboard side to the stern and had a little difficulty in getting round there"].
I had great difficulty in getting the boat around there. There was suction, and I was using the stroke oar standing up and there was a lady helping, she was steering the boat around the ship's stern. When I passed 'round the boat to try and get to this gangway door on the Starboard side her propellers were out of water. I'm not certain if I didn't pass underneath them.  But when I did eventually reach there I found that there was such a mob standing in the gangway doors, really, I daren't to go alongside because if they'd jumped they'd swamp the boat. She was only a small boat, could hold about thirty five people. No, no buoyancy tanks in her at all. [It was] the boat that was always turned out ready for emergency purposes, like man overboard. However I decided that it was not, that I daren't go along the side again, and I pulled off and laid off - until I pulled away about a quarter of a mile, I suppose. And I couldn't, what struck me as being strange, that all the other boats, I couldn't see one of them." Boxhall did not mention this mob at either inquiry into the Titanic's loss, but it does explain why his boat took such a strange route round the Titanic's stern. No one else in his boat ever described this voyage to the door, so one should perhaps dismiss the whole story as a sailor's yarn, invented 50 years on. It wouldn't be the only dubious statement he made in that BBC broadcast! As we shall soon discuss, others in boat 4, launched soon after 2, rowed down the length of the ship after hearing orders about a gangway door, yelled to them in the bridge, but no door was to be seen. Its also a mystey why the impetus for boats on the port side to row to the doors occurred so late in the sinking. In George Behe's book, "Rescue at Sea", there a letter that D. W. McMillan wrote to his wife after he met the Carpathia in New York to get news of his sister Mrs. Edward Robert, her daughter Georgette Madill, and her niece Elizabeth Allen; "There was room for about two or three more persons in the boat and Captain Smith called for the boat to come back. The officer ordered the boat turned, but as they started back they saw the stern of the Titanic rising in the air, and didn‘t dare to go near for fear it was going to sink." They were in boat 4 and there is nothing about an open hatch in this story. Philip Mock told the Evening Sentinel (April 24th, 1912): "One of [the boats] was ordered to row around to a certain part of the ship to take on more passengers but deliberately rowed away from the ship." What this boat 6 who heard a signal to return but ignored it and rowed off, or was it one of the other port side boats that were lowered very late in the sinking? Could it be boat 2 that rowed around the rear of the Titanic and ended up on the starboard side and then rowed away? No one in boat 2 heard a signal as far as this author knows, but the circuitous route around the hind quarters of the ailing liner might point to her looking for a hatch (also, see Boxhall's dubious 1962 statements too!)

The starboard E deck door is in the area of a huge rupture in the hull but Parks Stephenson says of the port side door: "Below the well deck, port side of the hull, the E-deck entrance door there is missing. NOAA imaged the safety gate for that door in the down position from a vantage point outside the hull in 2004, Cameron imaged it from inside in 2005. Was the door blown open when the bow section impacted with the ocean floor, or was it open during the sinking? If the latter, then this would have allowed sea water to reach the forward end of the non-watertight Scotland Road passageway as soon as the rising waterline reached that height."
However, it is hard to imagine how the door could be opened with the safety grill down.

The 1st class D deck doors are all closed with one exception (again, due to a lack of imaging, Ken Marschall had to guess as to the status of the doors on the starboard doors, and guessed - incorrectly - that one was open): a portside 1st class entrance door is open. But, the grilles inside the hull, closed when the gangway doors were shut, are in an open position. Could these two sets of doors corresponding to this open gangway door also have been jarred open upon impact? All the other grilles are closed. It seems unlikely that the grilles, which required to be retracted and not swung open, could have been blasted out of the hull. But then, due to lack of information, we must take the word of the expedition organisers that the grilles are indeed retracted and not just missing. I am assured that the gates are in a retracted position but I have not seen this footage for myself.

The beautiful leaded glass windows in the adjacent reception room photographed by James Cameron in 2001 survived the 2 1/2 mile plunge and impact nearly intact, so who can say for sure if the doors could have been opened when the bow hit the ocean floor. Clear footage of the area of the gates would solve this problem once and for all.

There are vertical buckles running vertically down the port side from C Deck downwards, below the forward expansion joint (and not too far from the doors), but not the starboard side - this may have a bearing on which gangway port opened, perhaps popping open the portside one open upon impact. With the bow down by the head, a growing list to port, and this "open" D deck door hinged on its forwardmost side, it would have easier to open this door than its couterparts; the door would swing freely open. But, of course, if any portion of the door was submerged, this would have hindered attempts to open it.


The open gangway door on the portside of the ship. Since this photo was taken (1994), the door has fallen off and is now part of a travelling exhibition of recovered artefacts.

Can we reconstruct what Nichols and his men would have done after leaving boat 1 and 6 in the hypothetical attempt to open the doors? There are 5 doors on E deck (not counting ash doors or hatches leading into store's entrances), 2 fore and 2 aft on port and starboard and one door on the port side just forward of the restaurant staff's quarters, and there are 4 on D deck, two on either side of the ship that led into the reception room. The easiest option would be to try the forward E deck doors; logically, being closer to the waterline, they offered the easiest point of disembarkation (and conversely, they also offered the best option for allowing water into the hull and thus increasing the rate of flooding). Although crewmen were forbidden from entering passengers areas (stewards excepted), it would not have been remiss for sailors to enter steerage areas, like the forward areas in which the E deck gangway doors were located. It would seem logical that Nichols and his men would first try to open these doors. But could they? Let us examine the data.


The numbers are as follows: (1) the location that Ray saw the water on E deck soon after seeing boat 7 departing; (2) Anna Warren noted that when she reached the water (in boat 5, approx. 12.45am) the ship had settled so much that she was looking through the portholes into staterooms on deck D, where her cabin was; (3) the location of the E deck stairs to the mail room which allowed water into the 1st class corridor; (4) the location of the closed door that separated 1st and 3rd class areas on E deck; (5) the gangway door; (6) the area where Poigndestre was swamped up to his waist in water at approx. 12.20am; (7) the portholes below the name that Symons said were awash when boat 1 left (approx. 1am); (8) Olliver's estimate that the ship was 15-20 feet down at the bows when his boat, No.5, departed. The blue line indicates the possible waterline at about the time boat 1 left, and just before Nichols was last seen on deck.

It is hard to determine the trim angle at the time of boat 1's and 6's departure, when Nichols was last seen; consequently the waterline above is purely hypothetical. The waterlevel inside the ship would always be at, or lower than the waterlevel outside due to the fact there would have be a "pressure head" to drive the inflow, which complicates matters. Also, we must bear in mind that the forward well deck did not become awash for about an hour after No.1 departed. But it seems plain that, based on Poingestre's experiences at 12.20, and how the ship dipped into the Atlantic, the gangway doors at the front of the ship would be either completely or partially submerged. It would be impossible to open them. It seems highly unlikely that he could even reach them.
So, what did Nichols do now? 4 sets of doors remained to be opened. The aft portside E deck door was not opened, according to those in boat 4; and notwithstanding Boxhall's revisionist 1962 story, it is highly likely that the starboard door was not opened either. Pitman had a superb view of the starboard profile of the Titanic and stated in evidence that he saw no gangway doors open, which would have been evident against the blackened hull. There was actually another door on the port side only (see below), just forward of the restaurant staff's rooms on E deck and very close to the waterline, but I reject this as those who rowed down the length of the hull did not see it open either.

And as this screenshot from the 2016 Honor and Glory computer game demonstrates, it is clear that boat 6 would have to be lowered right past this open door - and no-one noticed it.

The best practical option would be for Nichols to work aft, and go to the closest ones, which would be those doors on D deck, straying into the taboo area of the 1st class gentry. It would be but a few minutes walk from the unusable E deck area. We are told that those doors hinged forward and on the port side would be naturally easier to open, taking advantage of the ship's portside list and forward trim (this would also help the E deck door on that side too). But there is no evidence that the ship had such a huge portside list at this point: prior to this, the ship had a 5 degree list to starboard soon after the collision, but it appeared to be diminishing, and was barely noticeable to those who worked on the starboard boats. So, the list would not have been a benefit, or even a hinderance. Admittedly, the slight forward trim would help with the forward-most doors on D deck, but if that is the case, why is only one - the port side one - open? Its almost as if Nichols and his men decided that, of the 8 doors, only one could be opened, and the rest were abandoned without even trying even though it would have taken minutes to get to the ones further aft. If true, this is shocking; its almost as if he and his men couldn't be bothered.

Is there any visual evidence from 1912 that the forward D deck door on the port side was opened? No one mentions it. And as can be seen from the following diagram, it is not difficult to understand why.


(1) represents where boat 4 was loaded from; (2) indicates the original position of boat 4; (3) denotes the water line when boat 4 was lowered and (4) indicates the gangway door.
As one can see from this graphic, the water was up to "C" deck when boat 4 was lowered, as per Emily Ryerson's affidavit to the US Senate Inquiry; "the deck we left was only about 20 feet from the sea." She confirmed this in the Limitation of Liability hearings, where she specified that the water was washing in the portholes on "C" deck. Grace Scott Bowen corroborated this, when she said she saw square portholes on "B" deck and only one row - with round portholes - below it, and it was this row that was level with the water. It is clear from this that the gangway door - if it was ever really open - was well below the surface of the water when boat 4 left, which was soon before 2am. In fact, if Mrs Warren is right, and that she could see into the portholes of the staterooms on D deck when her boat (the second one) was lowered then this deck was perilously close to submerging well before even Nichols and his men could got there!

Is there anyone who returned to their rooms deep within the cabin towards the end that could confirm the flooding along the alleyway minutes before the sinking? Suprisingly, yes, but his story is fragmentary and inconclusive. Saloon Steward James Johnson was told by Chief Officer Wilde to stand by the falls for boat 2 and after a little while, he went below to get his coat, where the Chief Steward told him to get back to his boat again, which he did. Boat 2 was not lowered for "a good ten minutes" after he returned; and soon afterwards boat 4 was also dispatched.
Johnson's room was in the alleyway, situated midway between the first class companionway and the the exit door down to the engine room. He testified that, " By that time the water was coming to the foot of the companion -" but his reply was cut off before he could explain further. We assume that he went back to his room to fetch his coat, but if so, which companionway would he have talked about in his truncated statement, and to which deck was he referring? The first class Grand Staircase? The stairway from the boat deck direct to the alleyway? Common sense dictates the former, but if so, how does this jibe with Ray's evidence about water at the base of the Grand Staircase quite a while before? And if Johnson did indeed descend using the Grand Staircase, how could he have got down to the E deck alleyway considering that, if the D deck gangway door was open, it would have completely submerged the stairway below making passage impossible? It is obvious that the door was under water when Johnson went down for his coat.


The waterlines at various times in the flooding of the Titanic. The location of the open gangway door is shown.

For what it is worth, this author has long considered that the whole Nichols/gangway story was an invention by Lightoller (and others, since Lowe overheard this account) to explain away and excuse the poor occupancy of the lifeboats. But, on the other hand, Beesley heard Murdoch give the order in boat 13 to row aft to the gangway door, so who knows? If Lightoller was the instigator of the idea, word may have spread to Murdoch on the other side of the ship somehow. Or maybe Murdoch really gave the idea and Lightoller took the credit? This is not too hard to believe when one considers portions of his evidence, some of which varied between the two inquiries.

So, what did happen with the doors? If may be that an attempt was made to open a door but it was seen to be either too close to the waterline, or perhaps water started slopping in; the attempt were therefore aborted and the crew went elsewhere, being unable to close the door. If so, where? Peter Engberg informs us, via the ET group on Facebook, that a number of seamen's bodies were accounted for afterwards which destroys the notion that they died trapped within the hull (Nichols body was not recovered or identified); there were nine seamen or ABs who were lost; two were found and identified and one (192) was identified as an AB but not identified, with another one (20) probably also an AB. A further six were listed as "probably" sailors, two of these wearing blue White Star jerseys.

It therefore seems likely that the six seamen did make it topside again. If they were even ordered below in the first place, why did not Nichols reports to Lightoller when the task was completed, as common sense decrees? Perhaps Nichols did report back - but to the man who really issued the orders; Murdoch perhaps? Did Nichols report to Smith in the last few minutes that the doors were open, hence the orders given to the final boats on the port side? Unlikely - as no one in the boats saw open hatches, at least at the unsubmerged aft end of the ship.

Postscript: An excellent article can be found on Encyclopedia Titanica. One of the key figures is Barrett, who says he was ordered into boat 13 by the boatswain himself! His semi-anonymous interview partially reprinted in "The Sphere" magazine also says the same thing. Unfortunately, Barrett does not mention this in his testimony in either Britain or the United States. If this is true, Nichols did indeed make it to the boat deck. Did Murdoch, in charge of the loading of the boat, know this? If he gave the initial orders to Nichols, it is almost certain that he must have done as the boatswain should have reported back! Why then did Murdoch tell boat 13 to row aft to the gangway doors, only for them to find it closed? Did Nichols not impart this information to his "superior"?

Reading the Encyclopedia-Titanica article, Johnstone is quoted as saying that the boatswain gave his boat (No.2) advice that would aid their navigation. Boat 2 was one of the very last to leave the ship, with Smith and Wilde in charge of loading and lowering. Lightoller was not evidently present when Nichols passed on this information to Johnstone, as the 2nd Officer was occupied with boat 4, on the next deck down and which left very soon after No.2 . All this presumes that Nichols did not wait on the boat deck long enough for Lightoller to see him as the 2nd officer said he never saw him again. If Nichols did get to the boat deck, then this would explain why all of a sudden, there was talk of hatches (Mrs Ryerson in boat 4 wrote in an affidavit, "Someone shouted something about a gangway." She said at the Limitation of Liability hearings, "I said to this man in the bow, Perkis, he was smoking a pipe and seemed quite unconcerned, and I said, “What were your orders?” and he said, “There is another companion-way aft, and we are ordered to go there,” and some of the women were standing up in the boat, and they said “Don’t go, the ship is going down and we will be swamped” and he didn’t seem to care which way we went...[the orders] weren’t followed out. We saw no gangway, we looked and peered, but it was so black when we got in the water we couldn’t see anything at first, and they were throwing things into the water, steamer chairs, and doors, and casks." ; Martha Stephenson said, "the order was called from the deck to go to the stern hatch and take off some men." She was also in boat 4). But this is unsatisfactory as the hatches were closed, Boxhall's recollections some 50 years on excepted. Evidently the person who called down from the deck to this boat was not Lightoller.
It is hard what to make of this. Did Nichols lie to an officer that the hatches were open? Was Boxhall right, and Ryerson and Stephenson wrong, and at least one hatch was open? Or did an officer simply catch a glimpse of Nichols on deck and assume that the hatch(es) were/was open as evidently the boatswain was now up on top? It is true that the forward D deck hatchway door is hinged on the forward side, and this would help, as one would simply have to push the door open and let it swing open naturally, the portside list helping in this respect. What about the E deck door? The same logic applies to this door - and it was not opened.

One may ask if Nichols only opened one door, why did he not attempt to open the others? At least one was accessible. A clue may be found in Hemming's testimony in America; "Just as [the joiner] went, the boatswain came, and he says, "Turn out, you fellows," he says; "you haven't half an hour to live." He said: "That is from Mr. Andrews." He said: "Keep it to yourselves, and let no one know."" This estimate of the ship's longevity is way out; the ship would have foundered at about 12.20, but based on Boxhall's evidence, Andrews may have revised this timing. But for a crewman with a self-protective mindset, every second spent inside the ship meant a greater possibility of being trapped in an inrush of water as the ship sank and hence doomed. Did Nichols and his men simply give up to save themselves? If they had opened the door and found water to be very close, or indeed slopping into the ship as they heaved it open, this may have further instilled panic into their minds.


This picture demonstrates how close an E deck gangway door is to the waterline during a normal voyage. This picture was taking during the Titanic's final stop at Queenstown, where the open gangway door (circled) allowed admittance to the tenders.

Passenger Accounts

In contrast to the fascinating accounts by crew members, there is a definite lack of recollections about water inside the ship from the passengers. Other than Daniel Buckley's story, portions of which have been related above, we have the following:

Archibald Gracie posthumously tell us, "According to an account by Miss Allen, her employer's niece, Miss Kreuchen went to her room and informed them of the danger. 'she said: " Miss Allen, the baggage room is full of water." I replied she needn't worry, that the water-tight compartments would be shut and it would be all right for her to go back to her cabin. She went back and returned to us immediately to say her cabin, which was forward on Deck E, was flooded.'" We do not know precisely where Miss Kreuchen's cabin was.

Miss Francatelli, the secretary to the Duff-Gordons, was in room E-26, which was just forward of the Grand Staircase. She later wrote to a friend, "I was just going to bed. Madame & Sir Cosmo [Duff Gordon] were upon A deck the top, and I on E, the bottom deck for Saloon Passengers when I felt a shudder, then two gentlemen came up and told me that we had run into an iceberg, but were quite safe. I stood still there quite 20 minutes quietly, then the water was on my deck, coming along the corridor and I found all the people, running up and down the stairs. Oh Marion that was a sickening moment, I felt myself go like marble. Sir Cosmo then took us up on top deck. Crowds of people were up there." We do not precisely know when this occurred to place it in a timeline. Sir Cosmo told the British Inquiry that, after he had been on deck and stripping off the lifebelt covers, and returning to his wife, a steward came to his cabin and relayed the order about lifebelts and to go up to the boat deck. Duff-Gordon then says, "Miss Francatelli joined us in the cabin just at that time. We went up to the boat deck together." From there, they arrived in time to see boat 7 lowered "almost immediately." Reconciling these two versions, Miss Francatelli saw water on the 1st class corridor, having evidently finally emerged from the mail room staircase, and come creeping up towards her, at about the time that the canvas covers on the boats had been stripped off and the frail craft were being filled.

None of the accounts of other E deck passengers that this author was able to check mention any ingress of water into the 1st class corridor on "E" deck. Interestingly, many of the survivors in this area of this ship were amongst the first to board lifeboats, which were on the starboard side. The so-called "Cave List" puts Francatelli in cabin E-36 but this seems to be a mistake as this room was allocated to the Spedden party. Furthermore, Francatelli wrote another account to another friend barely two weeks after the disaster, and she she wrote that after the collision, "I immediately slipped on my dressing gown, & opened my door, saw several people come out of their rooms in night attire, two Gentlemen came up, & spoke to me, & told me not to be frightened, but go back to bed, we had run into an iceberg, but we were quite safe, however the engines were making a terrific noise. I still stood there quite 20 minutes, or more, saw all the officers come down, to inspect the damage, & then starting screwing down the iron doors outside my bedroom, presently a man came rushing up, saying all the Hold & lugguge & Mail had gone, so I thought I shall fly on a few things, & go & tell Madame. When I left my room the water was on my deck, coming along the corridor. We were 20 feet above the water level, so we had already sunk 20 feet, but of course I did not realise this till afterwards." This mention of "iron doors" correlates exactly with the plate in the floor seen by Margaret Brown etc. - and which was just outside E26, as we shall presently see.

The Watertight Doors

We know that the electrically operated watertight doors at the Tank Top level were closed and some of them were re-opened. For the hand operated doors in the upper levels, we have already discussed some of the evidence above; Boxhall noted that the doors on the port side of F deck were still open when he went down on his first excursion below decks within a few minutes of the crash. Stewards Etches and Wheelton, as described above, heard the cry outside their quarters for the doors to be closed. Then Pearcey closed the doors on port and starboard side when his 3rd class pantry was located, although it is not known what he meant when he said he closed the doors "aft". As we shall soon see, there is evidence that this is not entirely true if interpreted literally. The same can be said of second class steward John Hardy and his claims. There is also indirect evidence from Kink (above) that the watertight door of F deck may have been closed too.

In the testimony, steward Wheat stated that he closed the "inside" watertight door (closer to amidships) on F deck by the turkish baths. To close the outside one (opposite the doorway to the swimming baths), he then went up to E deck and turned it with a key. Mr.Dodd, the second steward and Crosby, the turkish bath attendant helped him with this second one. Wheat claimed that no order had been given about closing the watertight doors ane "did it on [his] own."

Wheat's testimony is clear on this issue. However, those who saw him toiling with the watertight door control on E deck did not tell the same story. First class passenger George Harder's stateroom was on E deck, and he stated at the US Inquiry that when he went back down to get the lifebelts, he noticed "four of five men" some of whom had T-handled wrenches with them; none of them seemed nervous and he thought they were doing it for the sake of precaution. The watertight door control consisted of a plate in the floor, which connected to the lateral sliding door on the deck below. Harder remarked that the plate was between the stairs and the elevators - and in the area of the doors on F deck. Harder, astonishingly, heard one of the men with the wrenches say, "Well, it's no use. This one won't work. Let's try another one." This is intriguing, not the least because Wheat gave no intimation of trouble in the closing of the doors. And what did "this one" refer to? The wrench? Or the door below? Harder's story filtered through to the Bishops, whose cabin was on one of the upper decks. Dickinson Bishop testified, "they failed to turn the [key to close the door] of that side, and they immediately went to the other side and could not close that. They said, 'There is no use; we will try the other side.' What it was or how serious it was I do not know." Of course, there are discrepancies in the two statements, most notably Bishop saying that both doors could not be closed and they tried to do this from E deck. Perhaps this explains why Wheat closed one of the doors locally from F deck? Margaret "Molly" Brown also noted the characters trying to close the door; "I again arose and saw six or more stewards and one officer in the corridor forcing an auger through a hole in the floor, while treating the whole thing with levity..." This places her on E deck, and not B deck as is commonly thought.


The area on E and F in the vicinity of the watertight doors; the red spot indicates the location on E deck of the watertight door control for the outboard (swimming pool) door on F deck.

By whatever means, and whatever the truth, the watertight doors on F deck were closed. According to Parks Stephenson, in 2005 the watertight door closest to amidships was shut. One of the two submersibles was shining lights into the area of the hull but nothing was seen inside the Titanic wreck. This led him to conclude that, "the total lack of light from that direction gives additional weight to Steward Wheat's account of his personally closing both watertight doors on F Deck in the bulkhead that formed the forward edge of the Turkish Bath area."

There is a slight discrepancy here in the stories, as to who was seen at the time the order was given to don lifebelts; specifically, Colonel Astor and the Captain, and where the Harders and Bishops met. Of more relevance to our analysis is the fact that Mr.Harder said that straight after the collision, he and his wife went on deck where they conversed with other people similarly bemused by the "thump" and they concluded that the ship would be on her way soon. Soon after - a time of about midnight was claimed - the order to put on lifebelts was given and while down on E deck, he noticed the commotion to close the watertight doors. He and his wife returned to the boat deck in time to see them being swung out. Mr.Chambers story is similar; after the crash, he ventured aloft leaving his wife dressing. Like the Bishops, he saw nothing and returned to his wife and they both went back on top, but again nothing was to be seen. Going back to their stateroom, Mr Chambers noticed the water in the mail area. Soon afterwards, while he was dressing, his wife had determined from a passenger in the corridor that the order had been given for lifebelts, and this order was confirmed by a steward a short time afterward. What is interesting is that Chambers said that no one had attended to the watertight door control when he and his wife went aloft for the last time wearing the belts. The Chambers stateroom was forward of the stairs, where the control was - and he had seen nothing. Had Chambers missed the crew manipulating the control during his time on the top decks, or had Wheat et al not yet commenced their task? Even so, the time difference between the Harders and the Chambers hearing of the lifebelts order is puzzling, especially if the doors had not yet been closed as it implies that Chambers and his wife heard the order before the Bishops had. Wheat himself offers little further evidence in this debate; he testified that after closing the doors, he went up the stairs to C deck, where the purser told him about the lifebelt order.

Like the stories of Harder et al above, there is an eerily similar tale told by another passenger, Hilda Slayter in 2nd class. Extracts from her diary were recently published; "Slayter left her cabin to go up on deck leaving her fur coat behind, because she thought 'the damp sea air might harm it.' When they went outside they saw two men 'working a 2 handled flat wrench on the floor' trying to shut a water tight door. 'One said, 'we can't make this one work, we had better try another.'" She then went up on deck.
Unfortunately we do not where Slayter's cabin was located. But we do know that the crewmen she saw were in 2nd class and were trying to close a door on the floor below. An analysis of the ship's general arrangement plans reveals that this can only be D deck, and there is only one candidate in a passageway (the other two door controls seem to have been in the 2nd class dining saloon); however, the article on Slayter says differently: "Once aboard, Slayter had trouble locating the cabin on D-Deck to which she had been assigned. A steward was not especially helpful. "Lady you know as much about this ship as I do. I only came aboard yesterday," he told her. She was taken to a cabin but the paint in the room was still wet, so the steward asked her whether she would mind sharing a starboard cabin on E-Deck with Florence "Fannie" Kelly, a widow from Southampton on her way to visit her son in New York." The ship's plans reveal no watertight doors on F deck under the 2nd class area on E deck, so this presents a conundrum in her story. On the other hand, a simpler explanation is that Slayter was confused about the nomenclature of the decks. She later writes of ascending a ladder and walking the length of "D deck"; but the only decks to which her description could be applied are either "A" deck or the boat deck.
Aside from this, the reference to the door not closing presents difficulties. Did the crewmen mean "try another door to close" or "try another wrench"? If she was indeed on D deck as suspected, the doors on E deck in this area were not closed; as we have discussed above, engineers et al. who had been released from the engine room at 1.20am traversed the 3rd class corridors on E deck to reach a lifebelt locker, and there are no reports of the watertight doors being closed, blocking their way. Unfortunately, there is precious little to time when Slayter saw the crewmen toiling with the door control, but the implication is that was expeditious in her passage to the top decks. She eventually got into boat 13, which was launched some time after the "1.20am" timing proferred by the engineering staff on E deck; but the remainder of her account points to the fact that she was on deck for some time before she clambered into the boat, but again, it is difficult to quantify how long. Recall that Joughin saw men labouring over the door near his cabin; although this author is loathe to use his testimony for reasons of unreliability mentioned on this website, it is only fair to repeat his story here. He claims that he saw men working on the door with a spanner when he left his room for the final time. It was after 1.30am by his estimate. He then went up to the boat deck and seeing no boats left, he then proceeded to show chairs overboard as floatation aids from a lower deck. Pausing to take a drink of water from the pantry on "A" deck, he heard a "crash" or a "cracking" noise as if something had buckled and he heard a rush of people on the deck above him. Joining the rabble heading aft, he found himself on the stern when the ship took a list to port. It was 2.15am. Taken at face value, this would imply that he saw the men at the door well after 1.30, but before 2.15am but it impossible to make an accurate determination. It is also difficult to determine whether this impacts on the estimate of when Slayter saw "her" crewmen labouring over the door near her cabin.

If Slayter was on D deck, she was probably somewhere near the cabin of the most famous 2nd class passenger of all, Lawrence Beesley. He heard a loud shout from above saying "All passengers on deck with lifebelts on" and after helping two ladies to find their lifebelts, he made it to the top deck. Unfortunately, there is no reliable way to tell when he got aloft; he estimates the time soon afterwards at about 12.20, when he sees the men working on boats 9, 11, 13 and 15 (but it should be borne in mind that his later estimate of his departure time was off by 45 minutes; also, the preparation work on these aft boats seems to have been well after all the others on that side of the ship. Indeed, boat 9's canvas cover was not removed until boat 7 was being filled, and 9 was not even swung out until 7 had left according to stewards Ray and Ward respectively, so Beesley's timing must be awry.)
The point is that Slayter does not mention the order for passengers to go on deck. Was the order localised (Beesley makes it sound as if it was issued from the deck above and therefore possibly out of hearing to Slayter), or did Slayter simply not notice the directive? Beesley managed to get to the boat deck, but Slayter found herself utilising the sailor's ladder. The difference in methods to get to the boats is striking.


D and E deck in the hypothesised vicinity of Hilda Slayter's cabin. The red lines indicate the boundaries of the 2nd class territory which limits where Slayter could have been placed; the blue lines denote the adjacent areas on D deck corresponding to the E deck watertight doors below: the floor plates would be somewhere in the area on D deck. As can be seen, two of the doors are below the 2nd class dining saloon and only one is in a 2nd class corridor.

The final instance in our analysis of watertight doors involves more 2nd class passengers, the Beckers. Fortunately, a fragment of their stateroom plan has survived and thanks to annotations made upon if, we can place them in cabin F-8, directly opposite the Navratils. Nellie Becker and her children made their way up to 2nd class promenade on B deck, where they waited patiently. Ruther Becker returned briefly to her room to fetch some blankets and upon her return, they and others were immediately bustled out on deck and clambered up a ladder to the boats. Nellie Becker and two of her children found themselves in boat 11, and Ruth was in the next boat aft, boat 13, which left at approximately 1.30am
The interesting aspect of this story is that, for Ruth to have returned to her cabin, she would have had to pass through a watertight door; obviously at such a late stage in the sinking, this door was evidently open. And yet Hardy had said the doors were shut, a claim echoed by Pearcey. And yet, here is one door that was obviously left open.


The location of the Becker's cabin in red (F-8) and the watertight door (blue) that they had to pass through to proceed up the 2nd class stairs to "B" deck.

Why did the Beckers, Slayter and many others have to climb the ladder from B deck, when the forward-most 2nd class staircase went all the way to the boat deck? Lawrence Beesley did not report any problems in getting aloft, and he was on the deck in time to see the boats being prepared and swung out, and the first rocket launched. During this time, he remembered that people were still pouring up from the stairs and adding to the crowd. Roberta Watt, who told her story in "The Spectrum" magazine of April 1914 likewise did not report any problem getting to the boat deck, although she did write that the master-at-arms was on the staircase threatening to shoot any steerage passengers who tried that route. Watt got to the boat deck in time to get into boat 9, which was before 11 and 13 which the Beckers and Slayter got to via the ladder route.
A clue might lie in Beesley's writings: two ladies came over from the port side and tried to pass the gate that separated the 2nd class from the 1st class [sic - it actually separated 2nd class and the engineer's promenade]. An officer barred their way and they asked if they could proceed to the boats, but were told, "No madam, your boats are down on your own deck" and he pointed to the deck below. The ladies turned and headed back to the stairway, but this exposed a flaw in the Titanic's geography as the 2nd class companionway opened up on the boat deck and "B" deck. It did not open up on "A" deck, which was a first class-only area. Did the ladies proceed down to "B" deck and find themselves unable to proceed to the boats? Slayter reported that she "went up on deck" with the crowds, and a stewardess told them to go up to "B deck" [sic?]. However, their plans where thwarted when they tried to go up the main staircase but it was "packed" which corroborates the fact that huge crowds were congregating at the aft end of the boat deck. It was at this point that she and her companions found themselves near a sailor's ladder, and having climbed it, she walked forward the length of deserted "D deck" [sic??] where she saw Reverend Carter and an officer who with a revolver who lamented the fact that his own boat had gone, but he had orders to keep the mob back.
Slayter writes that it was the crowd on the stairs that prevented her ascent to the boats. And yet one must bear in mind Sylvia Caldwell's words on this subject, albeit written 43 years later when memories may have been tarnished with time. She recalled, "Several of us [were] ordered to go below several decks as they were not going to fill the boats to capacity on the boat deck. The men went down about three decks - none of the other officers knew we were there so locked the door - later some officer on the deck above shouted that there were people down on the lower deck [and] they lowered a ladder & all crawled up except my husband, baby and I [and we] finally heard an officer said "My God! There is a woman down there." We were ordered up..." Apart from a few minor deviations (e.g. the ladder was already there, so it did not have to be lowered) Caldwell's story is that the door to the boat deck was actually locked, stranding those people who were "three decks" [sic] below. There is also excellent correlation here with Beesley's account of the two ladies being sent back down. But were people simply left to saunter "B" deck? Nellie Becker's account in the Madras Mail (22/5/12) does not indicate a significant latency between the sensation of impact and going up on deck - and yet she and her family were very late in getting up to the boats. (Admittedly, this account by Nellie does not include the mention of climbing ladders). Were they simply waiting for instructions from crewmen as to where to go, while others like Bertha Watt acted on their own volition and managed to get up on top relatively early? Or was the door indeed locked sometime between Watt getting to the boat deck (a little time before boat 9) and the Caldwell's, who were sent below and who left in boat 13, which was a few minutes after No.9?

It should be pointed out that the failure to close these watertight doors did not impact on the eventual loss of the vessel as they were located towards the rear of the ship, which only flooded within minutes of the ship's demise.


Concluding remarks

Adept readers will notice that I have refrained from providing much in the way of timing estimates in the above essay, and with good reason. I believe that any such subjective timings can be influenced due to the malleable nature of the human mind; coincidentally, the above was being written during the broadcast of the excellent BBC documentary series "Eyewitness" which proved that humans can be very poor impartial recorders of the truth. And even when events are imprinted upon the human mind, it is often incomplete, and the element of imagination merges with memory. During the night the Titanic went down, the unfortunates on the doomed vessel faced a mixture of the mundane, the perplexing and the terrifying, and this combination can't help but have a detrimental effect on the human mind.

This author has long thought that the timings of events can be best envisaged based on relative and not absolute timings, correlating common events, and then relating surrounding events to these elements of commonality; seeing the no.1 hatch billowing up, the 3rd class making their way down the working alleyway, the lights going out in the stokeholds etc. There are very few events in the Titanic timeline where we have markers. Examples of these markers would be someone looking at their watch when the ship disappeared from sight and announcing "it is 2.20am," or hearing 8 bells in the crows nest after seeing water rush into the hull down the hatchways. But a relative timing approach has its faults too. How can one explain gaps in witnesses recollections? One witness goes below and comes back, seemingly a few minutes later and yet, supposedly, nearly an hour had passed. How much did that witness tell us? Did they stop to talk to a friend, go to the lavatory, or perhaps retire to their cabin for a swift drink? Or did they deliberately omit details that would be prejudicial? We can never know - we do not know enough, and there were no cognitive memory recall techniques to let us know if someone was accidentally or deliberately being selective in their tales.

The timings of events are fragmentary and can only provide snapshots of events. Why are estimates of times so contradictory? There are a few simple experiments that the reader can try; firstly, without any way of being able to tell the time such as wearing a wristwatch, having a clock in the room, engage in light activities, (sitting, reading etc.). With a partner, agree on a "start time" and then, at irregular intervals, ask your partner to record your own perception of time, and what the time actually is. Repeat for a long period of time, ideally 2 hours or so. Then, perform the same experiment, but this time performing strenuous activites (going for a walk, doing some gardening etc.). When you compare the times, you will probably find that, at first, your perception of timing matches "reality" quite well, but after a while, they start to diverge. This is why this author is sceptical of any time estimates given by Titanic passengers and crew unless backed up by the evidence of an observed timepiece, and even then, the proposed 47 minute clock alteration at midnight, which supposedly was never enacted except by a few, tends to muddy the waters. For this reasons, this author tends to accept estimates such as "20 minutes after the collision" but is wary of claims of (say) "1 hour and 40 minutes." Without a watch, there is no way to know. A brief introduction to the psychology of perceived time can be found at this link.

Is there a way to quantify who the survivors reported the passage of time? Alas, such a major study is beyond the scope of this essay but some clues can be gleaned from a quick scan of excellent books like George Behe's "On Board RMS Titanic." We have the accounts of Nellie Becker on April 16th ("We had struck the iceberg at 11.30 and got off at 12.30...it was about half an hour from the time we got off till the Titanic sank"), Alice Leader on the same date ("The Titanic ... sunk on Monday about 3 o'clock in the morning"), Mary Lines also on the 16th ("We pull[ed] away from the Titanic ... and a half hour later it has sunk...this enormous ship engulfed in the little space of two hours"), Amelia Brown on the 17th ("It happened at 11.30 ... and within 1 1/2 hours the vessel had sunk. We were on the water from 12 till 6 in this small boat) and so on. Nearly all these times are wrong, but no doubt honestly reported. As one goes through the accounts in chronological sequence, the timings seem to congregate on the universally accepted doctrine of 11.40pm/2.20am. Is this because the survivors noted the timings contemporaneously or were they just agreeing with commonly held knowledge? No one wants to look foolish by being a maverick and reporting times at variance with these "truths" (albeit some did provide timings a few minutes either way). But away from these timing "cornerstones", the times as reported do vary. Witness: Lawrence Beesley was sure he was in boat 13 at 12.45 (or about 45 minutes too soon), Emma Schabert saying that she had been out about half an hour when the ship sank (about 50 minutes too soon), Charles Hendrickson testifying that boat 1 departed 45 minutes before the foundering (he was out by about 80 minutes), George Symons in the same boat saying the time difference was within half an hour or less etc. etc. Washington Dodge stated that in his address, that he put his wife and child into "boat 3" [sic - boat no.5, the second one away] and then spent the next 30 to 45 minutes watching the boats on the starboard side as they were lowered away before finding refuge in boat 13; by our current understanding, the amount of elapsed time from boat 5 to boat 13 was nearly an hour, so close to the upper end of his time estimate, but a poor correlation with his lower guess of 30 minutes. Without a watch there is no way to know for certain how much time had passed. Even after the sinking, people's sense of time were possibly awry: medical science tells us that the poor souls thrashing about in the water would have survived about 15 minutes at most, but accounts range from a plausible "few minutes" to "half an hour" (Walter Nichols) to a crazy "three hours" (Pierre Marechal). As Boxhall said, "time was flying."

To this author's mind, an excellent way of highlighting the dichotomies in timing perceptions arises from Henry Harper, whose account appeared in "Harper's Weekly" 12 days after the Titanic went to the bottom. He estimates that a quarter of an hour after the ship struck he and his wife were ascending the staircase to determine what had happened. Harper had been ill and he and his wife walked up "very slowly" and had to rest for 5 or 6 minutes when they reached the next deck up. His account hints that he did this all the way from "C" deck (his cabin was on "D" deck) until they got to the boat deck. A little amount of time later, a report went round for people to go back to bed and a great many availed themselves of this advice. "Perhaps a quarter of an hour later", more information was disseminated, this time to put on lifebelts. "Then came a long wait," as Harper writes. Soon after this, the order for women to go to the lower deck to prepare for disembarkation was announced , and "presently" the boats were swung out, a process that irked Harper as the attending crew did not seem to know what they were doing. If we neglect indeterminate words like "a long wait", "a little ... time later" and "presently", the bare timing of his story says that he saw the boats being swung out a minimum of 35 minutes after the collision, and almost certainly later. But we know the crew went to work preparing the boats about 20 minutes afterwards the strike. There is precious little in his account to compare against: later on, Harper says that the Titanic sank "an hour or more" after his boat, No.3, had gone (it was closer to 90 minutes actually).
Harper's account is an excellent example of why perceived times should not be relied upon. But how do his times compare to others? One excellent case is James McGough. From his affidavit to the US Inquiry, it is clear that within a few minutes of the collision he and his room-mate John Flynn were heading up to the upper decks, and after 10 minutes were notified to put on life jackets as a matter of precaution. The timing of this order is curious as it implies an order being distributed well before the Bishops et al. heard the order while on "A" deck. Nevertheless, Flynn and McGough returned to their stateroom to don their jackets and upon their return, found that orders had been given to launch the lifeboats, some "already being launched at that time." This may be an example of how imprecise people's testimony was (McGough was in the first boat therefore none had "already" gone; perhaps he meant "ready for launch"?), but the implication of his evidence is this; if we allow a few minutes to get from his cabin to the boat deck, and providing a few minutes to put on the lifejackets, this would place his timing estimate of seeing the boats being readied at approximately midnight, which we know is right; but as a caveat, McGough's statement that the boats were "already being launched" is wholly inaccurate. McGough's story is in stark variance with Harper's timing (Harper left two boats, or perhaps 10 minutes after McGough). Another thing: before McGough proceeded up on deck for the first time, he met 2nd steward Dodd who advised him that there was no danger and that he should go back to bed. But Dodd was waking up stewards about 11.50-12.00am so he evidently knew something was amiss; he would hardly have told McGough to return to his slumber, so this places the meeting with Dodd fairly close to the collision time. But, to be fair, we should mention Pitman and his observations. As we have already discussed, 20 minutes after the impact, Boxhall alerted him to the impending disaster, and Pitman went out on deck (to the port side) where the boats were being uncovered. After a discussion with Moody, Pitman went under the forecastle and saw men coming up, thus tying in with Lee's evidence that this happened after midnight, for he had been in the crows nest when 8 bells were rung for 12am. Pitman went up to the starboard side and stood by boat 5, which was in the process of being uncovered. It was 12.20 by his estimate. We must ask which statement - McGough's or Harper's - this timing corroborates. No doubt if one peruses the various accounts one can find statements that support either man's comments, but the point is clear: unless one had recourse to observe a watch or clock, timings must be regarded with some caution. And even when one did make note of the time, one must still exercise a degree of scepticism. For instance, Margaret Swift wore a watch on a pendant around her neck and she provides not only the time of the collision ("exactly at 11.45") and sinking ("exactly twenty minutes after 2 o'clock") which accords with doctrine but she also says that her boat (No.8) left between 1 and 1.30am ("The Brooklyn Daily Eagle" of April 19th, 1912). At face value this would be definitive. But sadly not, for she admitted that she had not adjusted her watch to Sunday time but was still confident that it "was not more than a minute out of the way." Despite this assurance, and if her timepiece was still keeping Saturday's time, and it would be about 40 minutes "off" compared to the on-board clocks on Sunday. A reasonable conclusion is that Swift was mistaken, because to admit that her watch was indeed keeping time on Saturday throws up a miasma of difficulties, but it shows that so-called "certainties" should not be eagerly grasped without some little thought employed first.

However, to provide some form of completeness to this analysis, this author would like to present the following hypothetical timeline of events in the first hour. All timings are extremely conjectural:

TimeEvent
11.40Collision
11.45Boxhall's initial inspection
11.45Lights go out in boiler rooms
11.503rd class evacuate and head down working alleyway: F deck watertight doors closed (but perhaps only the aft ones?)
11.50Watertight doors are ordered re-opened
11.55Order given to draw the fires in boiler rooms 2-6
11.55Boatswain orders all hands on deck; Sunderland and other third class notices that water is seeping into his cabin.
12.00-12.05Stewards are roused
12.05Second call from boatswain to muster hands
12.10-12.20Water rushes in on Poingdestre
12.20Water starts to come in on boiler room 4;
12.25Boiler room 4 is abandoned
12.30Hart's 3rd class passengers are assembled
12.35Wheat sees water flowing into the Turkish Bath/Swimming Pool area
12.40Barrett leaves boiler room 5
12.45Ray sees that the forward portside working alleyway is flooded

Admittedly, the placing of Ray and Wheat in this chronology is not very satisfactory. As stated, they both got to the boat deck at the same time, having taken approximately the same time to get from E deck aloft; but while below they see different things. Ray sees a flooded alleyway; Wheat doesn't. How can these two conflicting observations be reconciled? Certainly not by ignoring them, as many Titanic researchers are keen to do. The water coming along the 1st class E deck corridor is consistent with Miss Francatelli's observations, which were some little time before boat 7 was launched. I have had to place Barrett's abandonment on boiler room 5 before Wheat to tie in with Barrett's comments about water in the working alleyway; this is at least some 30 minutes before the time he estimated that he left. He later admitted that he didn't have a watch.

In most cases, an arbitrary 5 minute gap between events has been assumed; the last few timings in the table are extremely flexible. If Wheat and Ray's timings are correct, there must have been very little time between (a) first seeing water going into the F deck space and (b) the portside alleyway forward being full. But Barrett's story tells us that he must have left between these two events.

We may never know exactly what happened on board the RMS Titanic, but, by considering the impact on the human mind and its ability to perceive, a clearer picture can be assembled.


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