Titanic Probabilities

Historical what if discussions, hypothetical operations, battleship vs. battleship engagements, design your own warship, etc.
JohnJaeger
Junior Member
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2018 1:06 am

Titanic Probabilities

Post by JohnJaeger » Tue Nov 13, 2018 1:12 am

The sinking of the RMS Titanic resulted from a most unlikely culmination of events which cascaded one upon the next, ultimately ending with the loss of 1,514 passengers (710 were saved) and crew, not to mention a newly launched ocean liner. The oversights and mistakes of Titanic's captain, Edward Smith, extended from well before the great ship was launched May 31, 1911 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to the time the ship's band played Nearer My God to Thee, around 2:10 AM on April 15, 1912. Notwithstanding the adage of "women and children first," only 56 of the 109 children survived.

Perhaps what sets the Titanic's sinking apart from the thousands of others over the centuries is the astounding, indeed head-slapping mistakes that experts in their fields made, each one compounding the previous one in this critical path. Had any one of these critical mistakes (or in some cases, simply random events) not taken place, virtually all of these many hundreds of passengers and crew would have survived, and perhaps the Titanic as well.

Let's consider the a priori probability of the litany of errors, oversights, and shortcuts, all of which are my own personal estimates. If you choose to adjust a few or even many of my estimates such that you increase the likelihood by as much as six or eight orders of magnitude, still the tumultuous fiasco would remain one in 50 billion trillion.

Before he was given command of the Titanic on this, his final voyage before retirement, Captain Smith commanded the RMS Olympic, which on September 20, 1911, collided with the HMS Hawke, damaging one of Olympic's three driveshafts. In the urgency of returning the Olympic to service, White Star Lines, its owner, scavenged one of the Titanic's driveshafts to replace Olympic's. The Titanic's maiden voyage, scheduled for March 20, 1912, was thus delayed to April 10. Nobody could possibly have known that this separate collision between two other ships would be Event One in the critical path which would culminate with the sinking of the Titanic and the tragic loss of so many innocent people who were simply traveling to America..

My estimate of the probability of Captain Edward Smith causing the minor but critical collision of the RMS Olympic, one of only two ships in White Star Lines, which delays construction and the launch date of the other White Star Lines ship, the Titanic, which Smith will subsequently command, and sink through compound foolhardiness
1 in 10,000.





Reduction of ship designer's original bulkhead height (steel wall, sectioning off parts of the ship below decks in case of serious water leak) ordered by White Star Lines President Bruce Ismay, in order to enhance ballroom design and customer comforts, ultimately at the supreme expense of the safety of ship, passengers, and crew
1 in 20

(After considerable reflection, I think these probability estimates of bulkhead height and lifeboat number should be much smaller. They compromise the safety of the ship, which should be a far greater concern to the ship's owner than beauty or comfort. Nevertheless, I will leave them at 1 in 20, when 1 in 100 now seems more reasonable to me.)

Reduction of number of lifeboats from 46 originally proposed by the Rule of 19th April, 1910, to 16 lifeboats as ordered by Bruce Ismay, to save money and enhance passenger enjoyment
1 in 20


J. Bruce Ismay, Chairman and Managing Director of White Star shipping

Use of substandard #3 (instead of #4) cast iron rivets in curved forward section of Titanic, at a savings of mere pennies (The #3 rivets were 9% slag instead of the standard 2 - 3% slag in #4 rivets. This excess slag weakened the rivets, allowing the heads to pop off, and the plates to open up.)
1 in 10

According to documentation found in Harland & Wolf archives, plus some deep sea discoveries in both Titanic and its sister ship Britannic, it appears that J. Bruce Ismay ordered the builders of Titanic to use a thinner steel plate than originally specified. There was possibly likewise a conspiracy to cover up the fact that the Titanic broke apart at only 11 degrees rather than the 45 degree angle shown in the movie. This hastened the sinking by approximately two hours, a critical period of time that would have enabled the Carpathia to rescue hundreds of doomed passengers still on board.


Spontaneous combustion of coal in bunker six, from dust buildup, began during speed trials in Belfast ten days prior to the departure from Southampton.
1 in 500

The coal fire was not put out before Titanic set sail, seriously weakening the metal on the starboard side where the iceberg hit.
1 in 1000

A few days before Titanic set sail, Second Officer David Blair was replaced by Charles Lightoller, and in Blair's haste to leave the Titanic, he forgot to hand the key to the binoculars locker to Lightoller for lookouts to use in the crow's nest.
1 in 10



Failure of Captain Smith to reduce speed from 21.5 knots (almost full speed) despite repeated warnings of icebergs (Smith was clearly eager to please his boss, Bruce Ismay, who wanted to set a record time for crossing the Atlantic)
1 in 10

Failure of Captain Smith to order crew to use tools and break into locker containing binoculars requested by ship's lookouts, to enhance safer navigation of the ship at night
1 in 50

Insufficient moonlight to disclose iceberg dead ahead, struck at 11:40 PM, April 14
1 in 10

Calm seas reduced wave action around the base of the iceberg, making it much more difficult to see until it was too late
1 in 5

Titanic radioman failed to forward last and most critical iceberg warning to ship's bridge, as Californian had stopped dead in the water to avoid colliding with icebergs
1 in 50

Titanic radioman ordering Californian's communications room to "Shut up, shut up" as they attempted to warn of dangerous icebergs nearby, just ten minutes before Titanic hit the iceberg
1 in 20

The Californian's radio operator, Cyril Evans, shut his radio off at 11:30 PM after being told to "Shut up!"
(Captain Stanley Lord, commanding the SS Californian, ordered the ship to a full stop for the night to avoid collision with an iceberg.)
1 in 20

Spotting of iceberg by lookouts in the crow's nest was too late to avoid a collision, but early enough (37 seconds) to commence evasive maneuver which compounded damage beyond survivability - a 230 foot long tear in the Titanic's hull, flooding six separate compartments (Four flooded would not have sunk her.) Had the lookouts been posted on the bow, forty feet lower, they may have seen the outline of the iceberg against the faint horizon sooner. The ship's searchlight should have been lit to illuminate the path ahead, even though it was not standard procedure. It was, after all, a moonless night with no waves washing against the ice floes.
1 in 10

Watch officer throwing all engines in reverse while ordering the helm hard a-port, robbing the rudder of the authority it had while running. (If instead he had reversed only the port engine, leaving the center and starboard engines in forward, or if he had reversed all engines while maintaining the original track, the Titanic might not have sustained fatal damage. A direct hit surely would not have flooded all six compartments.)
1 in 20


Inexcusable failure of Captain Edwards or any officers to oversee filling all 20 lifeboats, 4 of which were collapsible, to rated capacity, much less to some arbitrary but reasonable number over theoretical capacity (say ten more people) in view of the exceptionally calm seas
1 in 50

Failure of Captain Lord, of the SS Californian, twenty miles north, and in sight, to react immediately to distress flares reported to him by his crew (He didn't even bother to turn on his ship's radio to call the Titanic, and inquire if there was an emergency.)
1 in 50



The compound probability of all successive events multiplied together is one chance in 5 x 10 to the 26th power, or about one chance in 500 trillion trillion.

I did not set out with a goal of some particular probability of the Titanic sinking. I simply made my own reasonable estimate of each successive dependent factor. Make different estimates of your own if you wish. Varying these estimates provides some measure of how unlikely the entire series of events was.

Each of the above factors is arguably on the critical path to the sinking and incredible loss of life. The Titanic might well have survived the collision if not missed the iceberg entirely, or alternatively, all 1,514 passengers lost might have been saved through the elimination of just one of the foregoing events, each of which contributed to the catastrophe. It is noteworthy that there was, on average, 20 empty seats in each of the 20 lifeboats launched. Moreover, an average of 12 crewmen occupied each lifeboat, when only 2 were needed to operate it. Therefore the crewmen put their own lives and safety ahead of their passengers, for whom they were responsible.

[Note on the nature of estimating probabilities: I have had many discussions on the topic of estimating probabilities on the subject of the marvelous, profoundly improbable nature of life and the universe around us, and the obvious, pervasive hand of our Creator. Almost unfailingly, atheists make the absurd contention that if something happened, then the probability that it would happen was 1. (Because it happened.) The chance of you drawing the three of clubs randomly from a shuffled deck of cards is 1 in 52 before the event. Whether or not you actually did draw the three of clubs, the chances of drawing it were still 1 in 52. Estimating probability is how we measure uncertainty, or likelihood, for an event or an event series.]

JohnJaeger
Junior Member
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2018 1:06 am

How Titanic's Passengers Could EASILY Have Been Saved

Post by JohnJaeger » Tue Nov 13, 2018 1:14 am

Now, suppose there had been one thoughtful officer on board, intent on saving as many passengers and crew as possible, as is every crewman's greatest responsibility.

If he had ordered:

1. The crew to fill every lifeboat to capacity, confiscating all life jackets from women and children before they debarked. In addition to the rated capacity, ten additional women and children were then loaded into each successive lifeboat launched. Then, after all the children and women were safely away,

2. Men to be loaded in lifeboats, likewise with ten additional passengers in each lifeboat over its rated capacity. There was more than ample freeboard for such an overload, and the sea was calm. These two steps alone would have saved an additional 668 people.



Survivors being picked up by the Carpathia. Note the enormous freeboard of the lifeboat, and the calm sea.

The life jackets were unnecessary and more passengers could have been saved even in this lifeboat.

3. Every able-bodied man on board to bring up on deck all wooden deck chairs, tables, and any furniture suitable for constructing as many wooden rafts as possible, and the deck kept clear of all passengers except those immediately boarding a lifeboat or constructing rafts. There was more than enough wood on Titanic to build sufficient rafts to save hundreds. Here is a tiny sample, showing wooden tables and chairs, in a small section of the Cafe Parisian.


Wooden chairs and tables in A La Carte Restaurant abounded on B Deck, to name but one location.


4. Every crewman to bring up on deck all hammers, saws, axes, wires, ropes, cables, straps, screws and nails suitable to fashion rafts with life jackets securely tied underneath them for buoyancy. Fabricated wooden rafts would be stiffened with longer pieces of wood or lightweight metal rods and a minimum of two paddles fabricated per raft of ten by ten feet. Simple boards would also work for paddles. All men aboard rafts to remain seated at all times, for stability.

5. Two officers and eight able-bodied men to take the first lifeboat and carry hand tools to the iceberg and chip steps out and insert poles with hand ropes so that passengers and crew could climb off rafts, especially if there was an insufficient number of rafts constructed. (Approximately 90 rafts would be needed in the event nobody could debark to the iceberg. Even if that number rafts could not have been constructed, surely many could, and the loss of life would have been further reduced.)

Then that one wise senior officer would have saved a majority of the 1,514 who perished. Casualties included super wealthy passengers John Jacob Astor IV and Benjamin Guggenheim.

JohnJaeger
Junior Member
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2018 1:06 am

Re: Titanic Probabilities

Post by JohnJaeger » Tue Nov 13, 2018 4:08 pm

To clarify the remark of Captain Smith's colliding the Olympic and resultant delay of construction of the Titanic (1 in 10,000 probability, IMO),
the driveshaft of the Olympic was bent and therefore one of Titanic's driveshafts was removed to install on the Olympic and return it to service promptly to keep the cash flow coming in. This delayed the launch of Titanic by approximately two weeks, changing the *curse* of history.
(Had I not added asterisks, someone surely would have thought I misspelled "course.")
It is fun to have fun but you have to know how. - The Cat in the Hat

Photographs and documents may be viewed at my website:

http://TitanicProbabilities.blogspot.com

JohnJaeger
Junior Member
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2018 1:06 am

Re: Titanic Probabilities

Post by JohnJaeger » Fri Nov 16, 2018 4:45 am

Not a very talkative group here, with 100 to 200 views of a topic per reply.

Byron Angel
Senior Member
Posts: 838
Joined: Sun Mar 06, 2011 1:06 am

Re: Titanic Probabilities

Post by Byron Angel » Fri Nov 16, 2018 2:00 pm

Hello John,
Most of the forum members here are battleship-fixated warmongers (myself included) who typically disregard tedious matters such as the value of human lives - especially when it involves "merchant shipping" (one might invoke a trendy "smilie" here, but I really do not care for them).

Your ideas certainly make sense - particularly the loading protocols for the available lifeboats. On the other hand, I can imagine how such considerations must have stood far in the background of peoples' minds when the "unsinkable" Titanic left port.

The measures you describe, especially the construction and launch of the ersatz rafts, would have required careful pre-planning and training of both the crew and their supervising officers. Getting those rafts into the sea would have been tricky business; you could not just toss them into the water from five decks up - they would have broken apart. Then there is the matter of safely putting panicky passengers aboard them. Complicated.

Byron

Byron Angel
Senior Member
Posts: 838
Joined: Sun Mar 06, 2011 1:06 am

Re: Titanic Probabilities

Post by Byron Angel » Fri Nov 16, 2018 2:04 pm

BTW, interesting website!

B

JohnJaeger
Junior Member
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2018 1:06 am

Re: Titanic Probabilities

Post by JohnJaeger » Fri Nov 16, 2018 4:03 pm

Byron Angel wrote:
Fri Nov 16, 2018 2:00 pm
Hello John,
Most of the forum members here are battleship-fixated warmongers (myself included) who typically disregard tedious matters such as the value of human lives - especially when it involves "merchant shipping" (one might invoke a trendy "smilie" here, but I really do not care for them).

Your ideas certainly make sense - particularly the loading protocols for the available lifeboats. On the other hand, I can imagine how such considerations must have stood far in the background of peoples' minds when the "unsinkable" Titanic left port.

The measures you describe, especially the construction and launch of the ersatz rafts, would have required careful pre-planning and training of both the crew and their supervising officers. Getting those rafts into the sea would have been tricky business; you could not just toss them into the water from five decks up - they would have broken apart. Then there is the matter of safely putting panicky passengers aboard them. Complicated.

Byron
Thank you for your interesting remarks, Byron. I am keenly interested in all manner of history, science, military, biology, you name it. Incidentally, I read the entire series of books on naval battles in the Pacific, beginning with At Dawn We Slept. However interest in one area does not by any means preclude one from looking into others as well, particularly when they have been as uniquely and creatively analyzed as I did here. Never before did I ever read or hear about anyone proposing my life-saving ideas, much less considering the compounded improbabilities which were so tragic and expensive. And, even the most battle-shippy thread does not have a very high ratio of replies to views.

As to your remarks on rafts, you did know that one Japanese passenger jumped overboard with a door as his own makeshift raft. He was picked up by the crew of a lifeboat and his life spared. I know my way around the wood shop and could hammer together enough wood parts and tie life jackets to the bottom to make a raft that would certainly be an improvement on going down with the Titanic. It could be lowered with the same ropes used to lower life boats. Then people could be lowered with those ropes. Worst case scenario, they jump overboard and get wet, instead of going down. Finally, you didn't address the possibility of making footholds on the iceberg, with tools and ropes. Overloading lifeboats by 10 small women and children - whoda thought of that! Calm seas, lots of freeboard. No brainer, except for Smith the Incompetent, who happened to do just about everything wrong.

With respect to other subjects, see:

http://TheGlobalWarmingFraud.wordpress.com

http://TheEvolutionFraud.wordpress.com

http://DemocratInsanity.blogspot.com

User avatar
Dave Saxton
Supporter
Posts: 2988
Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Rocky Mountains USA

Re: Titanic Probabilities

Post by Dave Saxton » Sat Nov 17, 2018 5:50 am

As you point out there were many possibilities to save more lives in hindsight. However, I'm not sure the human psychology works that way when in crisis and within a finite time span, although I'm certainly no psychology expert. We humans often fail.

In aviation there is a phrase to remember for managing a developing crisis situation:" Stop it now." A disaster usually is a chain of connected events leading up to the terminal event. One event leads to another. However, if the chain can be broken at any point along the way before the final event then the disaster can be averted. The earlier the chain is broken the better.

Such is obvious for staying ahead of a Lear Jet going 500 knots. It could also apply to Titanic going 21 knots, or Scharnhorst going 30 knots.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

JohnJaeger
Junior Member
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2018 1:06 am

Re: Titanic Probabilities

Post by JohnJaeger » Sat Nov 17, 2018 3:34 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:
Sat Nov 17, 2018 5:50 am
As you point out there were many possibilities to save more lives in hindsight. However, I'm not sure the human psychology works that way when in crisis and within a finite time span, although I'm certainly no psychology expert. We humans often fail.
Indeed we do, but Captain Edward Smith carried failure to grotesque extreme. In addition, there were many other officers on board, as well as mature and thinking men. Yet not one of them shouted out the glaringly obvious: "Fill up the damn life boats!"

Bruce Ismay should have been tried for negligent homicide when he returned to England.

Byron Angel
Senior Member
Posts: 838
Joined: Sun Mar 06, 2011 1:06 am

Re: Titanic Probabilities

Post by Byron Angel » Sun Nov 18, 2018 12:20 am

I am not a Titanic devotee. What relationship in the timeline of events did: (a) the realization that the "unsinkable" ship was doomed versus (b) the announcement to passengers and crew to abandon ship?

B

JohnJaeger
Junior Member
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2018 1:06 am

Re: Titanic Probabilities

Post by JohnJaeger » Sun Nov 18, 2018 7:01 pm

Byron Angel wrote:
Sun Nov 18, 2018 12:20 am
I am not a Titanic devotee. What relationship in the timeline of events did: (a) the realization that the "unsinkable" ship was doomed versus (b) the announcement to passengers and crew to abandon ship?

B
I have never been a Titanic devotee. My take on it was, "It sunk. So what?" But after listening to a lecture on our cruise through the Panama Canal, I was amazed at the incompetence by professionals and laymen as well. So I began putting various pieces together from mere intellectual curiosity. That explains why I now have seventy-five or more websites, a few of which are cited above.

Whatever that period of time was between the announcement and the moment the stern broke off and those many hundreds perished surely gave able-bodied men and crew time to construct SOMETHING on which to float and live. Suppose they only made four or five rafts, capable of holding ten people each. The women and children should have all been aboard life boats by then, and men constructing the rafts would of course be entitled to board their products.

paul.mercer
Senior Member
Posts: 686
Joined: Fri Mar 26, 2010 10:25 pm

Re: Titanic Probabilities

Post by paul.mercer » Sat Dec 01, 2018 10:38 am

Gentlemen,
I often wonder how many people died from the shock of jumping off the ship into ice cold water, also, I presume that the final scenes in the 'Titanic' film showed people frozen to death and still clinging on to a piece of wood was probably pretty close to what actually happened as they would be unlikely to survive for very long.
I agree with what has been said in the above posts about lack of co-ordination of the lifeboats, but the facts still remain that there were not enough of them in the first place for all the passengers and crew.

Post Reply