Titanic doom theory: Was a wrong rudder turn enough to cause it? Could it have been prevented?

An unsinkable ship the length of three football fields and the height of an eleven-storey building. The ocean liner Titanic is a pride of its time. However, on her maiden voyage she hits an iceberg and sinks on the night of 14-15 April 1912. But is the iceberg really to blame?

The largest steamship of its time, the Titanic is heading for New York, carrying many rich and famous people on board. On 14 April 1912, just after 11.30 pm, a member of the Frederick Fleet patrol spots a dark object on the surface of the North Atlantic.

„An iceberg just ahead!“ he exclaims, jerking the rope of his alarm bell. But he cannot avert the Titanic’s destruction.

Family secrets

Shortly after midnight, final preparations are underway on the Titanic to evacuate passengers to lifeboats. In between all this, a secret meeting of senior executives takes place. They talk about the causes of the destruction. „It so happened that the iceberg was pointed out to me by Frederick Fleet from the foremast.

And I immediately gave the order to the helmsman to turn hard to port,“ says first mate William Murdoch (1873-1912).

„I certainly didn’t get that order. I was told in no uncertain terms to turn hard to starboard,“ says Midshipman Robert Hitchins. Only Second Officer Charles Lightoller (1874-1952), who also attended the meeting, is said to know the truth.

He would eventually become the sole survivor.

But he decides to talk about the causes of the crash only to his wife Sylvia, who then mentions all the important details to her granddaughter, Louise Patten (*1954). And it is she who decides to reveal them in September 2010!

A fatal mistake

„The real reason for the Titanic’s destruction was that the helmsman turned the rudder the wrong way,“ says Patten. What was the reason for this fatal mistake? At the time of Titanic’s sailing, the maritime industry was undergoing a radical change.

There was a change from sailing ships to steamships, and these changes also meant a change in the meaning of some manoeuvring orders. Some of Titanic’s crew are used to the old types of commands, some are familiar with modern versions.

„The iceberg was sighted at a distance of over three kilometres. There was plenty of time to avoid it. But due to a misunderstanding, the helmsman turned the ship exactly the opposite way instead of to the left. Although he was alerted to the mistake, it was too late and the collision with the iceberg could not be avoided,“ Patten says.

So could the whole disaster have been avoided? Was one botched communication to blame for the Titanic disaster?


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