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No. 3548 July 6, 1912
1. The Titanic Disaster. By Commander Carlyon Bellairs, R. N.
II. A Revolutionary Aftermath. Some Experiences of a Military Riot
III. Fortuna Chance. Chapter XXIII
BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE What have we here? Chapter (To be continued.)
XXIV. Tally-ho! By James Prior.
By Desmond MacCarthy.
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THE TITANIC DISASTER.
The first shock of the "Titanic" disaster has passed, and we are able to take a broader survey. The nations, like the crew and the passengers on the whole, have acted up to the traditions of the Anglo-Saxon race. Distress has been softened by great gifts. Two nations, whose common and separate histories are replete with examples of the road of progress being hewn through suffering, are intent on inquiring in the passionate hope that, so far as human wisdom can compass safety on Nature's most fickle element, such a disaster may never occur again. The democratic American inquiry is seemingly autocratic and contemptuous of ordered and diplomatic methods. We need not make too much of Senator Smith's maritime howlers if in the end we get from his committee of elected Senators the average opinion of the man in the street, swayed by sentiment and caught by the headlines of sensational sheets. After all, this is of value and something that it concerns us to know. We want to know if the man-in-the-street is still intent on breaking records as has been the case since the "Alaska" reduced the passage to seven days in 1882 until the "Mauretania" lowered it to less than four and a half days. He is the typical passenger. His influence may not be as great as that which Dryden attributed to the man in the pit over the stage, but still the liner, like the theatre, does live to please, "and they who live to please must please to live." How of ten has one been vividly conscious when travelling by ships like the "Olympic" and "Lusitania" of the atmosphere of speculation which pervades the passengers as to whether we could make up for the delay created by one Government which forces ships to collect the mails in Queenstown, or
whether we could save a night's waiting for quarantine because another Government is of opinion that all its machinery of quarantine, pilotage, and customs should sleep at night. Is it possible for the Bridge and the Board Room to escape altogether this contagion of opinion? Will Senator Smith's Committee indicate to us whether the pendulum has swung at last? If wireless telegraphy is made more reliable, will business men be content with a route five or six hours longer when they can keep in touch with their affairs? If, again, the whole system of telegraphy is cheapened, is it so very necessary to put a premium on speed in the mail subsidies, for as telegraphy is cheapened the urgent matter will tend to go more and more by that means of communication?
If the American method of inquiry is democratic, the British is surely aristocratic in a liberal sense of the word. Legal procedure is traditional with us, and the most democratic House of Commons could never rend it from England's life. There is the judge, trained, like hundreds of others in past centuries, to disregard the sensations and side-issues, and the passing calls and counter-cries beloved by the manin-the-street. By his side are the experts from the high ranks of the Navy and the naval architects. There is even the old taint that the King can do no wrong to be seen in the presence of the Board of Trade officials on the jury, for surely if ever a department was on its trial it is the Board of Trade at this moment. It should be defended by lawyers and appear only in the witness-box. With this reservation we may expect from such a judicial body, as compared with Senator Smith's Committee, a more careful sifting of evidence, more practical pro
posals, and a just apportionment of censure on men and systems primarily to blame for a great and avoidable disaster. On the evidence there ought to be no difficulty in answering these questions:
(1) Was the "Titanic" warned by wireless of the presence of icebergs? (2) Was she proceeding at full speed?
(3) Was the weather so hazy, as one look-out man stated, that he could not see more than a very moderate distance?
(4) Had the officers sufficient opportunity to organize the ship and train the crew?
(5) Is there any direct or indirect pressure on the part of companies to force their officers to make speedy passages, such as are not justifiable in view of risks run?
Beyond these questions there are a number of general considerations affecting wireless telegraphy, the ice danger, seamanship, financial control, life-saving apparatus, the big ship movement, and the Board of Trade itself, and it is with these I propose to deal.
There are probably over 1,200 steamers, mainly British and exclusive of warships, fitted with wireless telegraphy, and about half that number equipped with submarine signalling apparatus. There are also numerous stations along the coast line. Here, as elsewhere, the conflict between the seamanship which desires to do a thing in the most efficient way, and the finance which is after big dividends, begins to manifest itself. In the House of Commons, in 1906, I drew attention to the case of the steamer "Vaderland" refusing to communicate by wireless telegraphy information concerning a derelict to an American ship which had been sent to destroy it. Seamen are a class with a strong sense of comradeship, and it was evident
that this refusal was part of an agreement with the Marconi Company, which endeavored to establish a monopoly by refusing to allow communication with other systems. This was confirmed by the Postmaster-General, who promised that proposals for ensuring intercommunication would be submitted to the Berlin Conference the following year. Owing to the sole opposition of the Marconi Company, Great Britain's adherence to this convention was delayed until June 30th, 1908. A Parliamentary Committee was appointed, and, though it contained original opponents of the convention, the report was unanimous in favor of ratification. The United States was the last to sign, and it is interesting to see that M. Marconi, if correctly reported in his interview in the New York World, April 29th, now blames the Americans for this delay, for, after all, they took the advice of his company. In view of the fact that a fresh conference is sitting in London this year, we may hope that wireless apparatus will be made compulsory on all ships with a certain number of crew or passengers. ought to be two operators and an apprentice in each ship fitted with apparatus so that messages can always be taken and sent. The American law is that ships with over fifty persons on board, trading to American ports, must carry wireless apparatus, so that compulsion is not a novel feature. So much good has arisen out of the Berlin Convention in so short a space of time that one is tempted to hope that M. Marconi may not only be right in now praising it, but that he may be equally correct in his forecast that out of the new London Convention "much good will arise." It is to be hoped that the opportunity of this conference will be used to suggest that international information might be organized in conjunction with the observatory to the north of Greenland, which at present
has no wireless station, and existing wireless stations, together with specially built watch vessels, which should investigate the movements of ice and enable shipping to adapt its routes accordingly. Senator Smith's Committee will possibly indicate whether the American Government will not only agree to restrict the amateurish operations which inflicted so much mischief with private wireless installations after the "Titanic" disaster, but having agreed, whether the Senate will ratify the agreement.
The shortest distance between two places is the great circle which passes through them both. By this sailors mean that if we could slice through the earth's centre and the two places, then the cut on the surface between the two places would be the shortest route. Unfortunately, the one between Queenstown and New York passes over the Bank of Newfoundland, where fog, mist, and ice are frequent at certain seasons. Fog is the worst enemy of a sailor, for in everything he depends on his eyes, but of floating dangers, with the exception of derelicts, there are none so bad as the "growlers," which lie almost entirely submerged, and the icebergs which, though showing well above the water, inevitably have their greatest mass below the surface, and may shelve under it for a great distance. Professor C. V. Boys has suggested that since a micro-thermometer can register to 1-10,000 of a degree, it might be used instead of the thermometer to detect ice. This most valuable idea has recently been applied by Dr. H. T. Barnes, who has successfully conducted a series of experiments from a Canadian liner, and by the time this article appears his experiences will have been related to the Royal Institution. The final resource is the efficiency of the look-out, and, contrary to the general rule, the look-outs should be low down, and not in the crow's
nest. It is no use regulating the route according to the average behavior of ice. Last year the "Titanic's" route was certainly a safe one. In latitude 41° 16' N., she was well to the south of the average region of the ice-field, though not of icebergs, and within the old order not to go north of 43° N., longitude 50° W. After the disaster a much more southerly route was taken by steamers, lengthening the journey by about 120 miles, and still icebergs were encountered in latitude 39° 10' N., and between 47° and 48° W. It would be absurd to expect ships to go so far south as to avoid icebergs altogether, and it would be a great hindrance to our Canadian trade; but, with the information service I have proposed, it ought to be possible to avoid ice in such quantities as the "Titanic," the "Mount Temple," and the "California" encountered. As for isolated icebergs, ordinary seamanship, using modern safeguards, will navigate ships safely past them. The experience of ice this year, being an extreme one, may lead to undue anxiety, whereas last year was one likely to give too much confidence. There can be no rigid international rule, but it ought to be possible to alter the lanes of shipping in accordance with exact information. These lanes lie twenty miles apart, the eastbound ships keeping to the southward. It has been suggested that seamen would have given the look-out men glasses, and would have used searchlights. I do not agree, but certainly in dangerous waters the look-outs should be doubled, and in that case one out of two might use glasses.
The Merchant Shipping Act of 1906 undoubtedly increased the safety of our ships by imposing a language qualification on foreign seamen. Prior to this Act one could easily find cases where men on the look-out and at the wheel, or who held responsible positions at critical times, were incapable