Titanic & the berg


Got a question that’s been nagging at me for some time:

After they collided with the iceberg and realized they were going to sink, why didn’t the crew of the Titanic put the passengers on the iceberg? Obviously it was floating and big enough to punch a bunch of holes in the Unsinkable.

Any ideas?

Welcome to SDMB Dingbat.

Unfortunately you’re thiking of a nice flat ice floe, very different than the irregular shape of an ice berg. Typical bergs are shaped like a tall mountain coming out of the water. Just not possible to step out of the boat and stand on one.

I might add that when the ice berg hit, no one on the Titanic thought there was any danger. Hours went by before anyone noticed the danger.

Since I’m sure most of passengers who fell in the water did not make it 50 feet before perishing.

Thanks for the welcome, Padeye

Probably true, but even with an irregular shape they could have worked with it. I’m picturing crewmen hammering iron spikes into the sides of the iceberg, then mooring the lifeboats to the spikes. With the iceberg as a substantial support they could have left a meter or so of separation between each lifeboat and laid ship’s decking or lounge chairs across the lifeboats to act as planking. Who knows, it just bothers me that nobody in the histories I’ve seen has even mentioned it.

Hi, badmana

Actually, from the latest documentary I’ve seen, the Titanic had bad rivets, so when the iceberg struck it they all went SPANG! enthusiastically. There was no question that the ship was a goner. And anyway, there were already slowing down when they struck the berg, so they could have reached it quickly enough if they had the presence of mind to do so. I mean, how far can an iceberg drift in 4 hours? On a calm sea?

Not a matter of the 'berg drifting. The ship was moving at a good clip when it struck and it continued for some distance, possibly miles. It’s not a trivial thing to stop the intertia of several thousand tons of iron. Even if it had been possible to offload passengers I can’t imagine rowing great distances in the dark to an unkown rather than staying together to wait for rescue ships.

I see what you mean (steer the ship closer to the ice berg). As
Padeye mentioned, ice bergs aren’t floating islands. Most I’ve seen (in pictures etc) are mini-mountain shaped.

If you could get onto the ice berg without falling into the water (then you’re pretty much a goner) then I could see it work.

There is also the factor of locating the berg. After the collision the berg had been left behind and the ship stopped. Since the Titanic did not have searchlights, it would have had to steam in the probable location of the berg until it was spotted.( not easy to spot an iceberg before you run into it.) slow and come alongside. The collision took place at 1140PM, the ship sank at 220AM. There would not have been enough time.

And it would appear that the Titanic iceberg was probably pretty typical.


Aside from the fact that icebergs can be dangerous, icebergs are dangerous…

Iceberg facts

There are some interesting links at the bottom of the page…

Why bother getting on the ice berg at all? What’s wrong with staying in the lifeboats? If you answer that they didn’t have enough lifeboats for everyone you would be correct but by the time that was clear to everyone it was far too late to do anything about it. The first lifeboats to leave weren’t even filled. No one would survive long enough in the water for the lifeboat to ferry people there and then come back for more (in water that cold death is only minutes away once you go in). Those boats are VERY slow to row…even if the berg was only a mile away you wouldn’t have time for more than maybe one roundtrip before the Titanic was gone and everyone was swimming.

Ya know, that ship that was stopped about 11 miles from the TITANIC? The radio operator had gone to bed, but the officer on watch woke up the captain (Capt. Walter Lord) several times ! The TITANIC was firing rockets off-why Capt. Lord didn’t bother to wake up “sparks” is beyond me!
Had the “CALIFORNIAN” been alerted, possibly the whole complement of the TITANIC could have been saved!
Actually, capt. Lord was a wise seaman-he didn’t believe that it was safe to pilot a ship through heavy sea ice, in the dark, at top speed!

The Californian ignored the entire thing, and then tried to claim they were farther away. Not likely.

As Walter Lord said, Captain Lord (no relation) could play innocent all he wanted, and his defenders (known as Lordites) can too, but they couldn’t get away from those rockets.

Most people didn’t die of drowning-they died of exposure.

Since the other thread is locked, I’ll just add my previous comment. I’m pretty sure in previous discussions about this we talked about one critical factor–there was no moon, and it was very dark. When you’re trying to see people in the sea, starlight don’t help.

Hmm. I’ve seen a different photo of what’s presumed to be the killer iceberg. The picture I’ve seen (and don’t ask me what book it was in, I don’t remember) the berg looked more like a mountain and had a long streak along it. (Presumably the streak was from the paint on the side of the ship.)

Yep-the one with the paint streak on it was taken by a passing ship, that hadn’t yet heard of Titanic, but saw the paint streak and was curious.

In what must go down as one of the most stupid questions of the 20th Century, during the official investigations by the US government , a senator asked:

“What are icebergs made of?”

This needs a little explaining. You speak of “mooring lifeboats to the spikes.” Do you mean and then leave them tied up there? Or do you mean to off-load the people and then go back for another load?

I hope that you are aware that the Titanic did not have Sorryenough lifeboats for all of its passengers.

That fact makes me wonder what the designers thought processes were. If the ship was thought to be unsinkable why put lifeboats on at all? If you just put on boats for some of the passengers then what was the emergency plan for deciding who got in? I know there was the “women and children first” stuff but that seems to me to a a spur of the moment idea. And it didn’t include anyone but the first class passengers. According to what I’ve read, the lower priced passengers, steerage etc., were locked down and prevented from coming on deck until awfully late in the game.

Sorry, but I don’t see the value of dumping a bunch of ill-equipped, ill-dressed and wet people onto an iceberg at night in the North Atlantic.

They would have died of exposure as well, sitting on that cold ice. Not to mention, the survivors had to wait, what-a good four to six hours for the Carpathia to finally get there.

No, the lower-priced passengers were not prevented from coming on deck. A significant proportion of them made it to the lifeboats and were saved. The reason that a smaller proportion of them made it to the boats was that by the time that everyone was told to abandon the ship, it took longer for those passengers (whose cabins were deeper in the ship) to reach the lifeboats.