Titanic sinking revisted


Titanic sunk by steering mistake, author says



LONDON (Reuters) – The Titanic hit an iceberg in 1912 because of a basic steering error, and only sank as fast as it did because an official persuaded the captain to continue sailing, an author said in an interview published on Wednesday.


Louise Patten, a writer and granddaughter of Titanic second officer Charles Lightoller, said the truth about what happened nearly 100 years ago had been hidden for fear of tarnishing the reputation of her grandfather, who later became a war hero.


Lightoller, the most senior officer to have survived the disaster, covered up the error in two inquiries on both sides of the Atlantic because he was worried it would bankrupt the ill-fated liner’s owners and put his colleagues out of a job.


“They could easily have avoided the iceberg if it wasn’t for the blunder,” Patten told the Daily Telegraph.


“Instead of steering Titanic safely round to the left of the iceberg, once it had been spotted dead ahead, the steersman, Robert Hitchins, had panicked and turned it the wrong way.”


Patten, who made the revelations to coincide with the publication of her new novel “Good as Gold” into which her account of events are woven, said that the conversion from sail ships to steam meant there were two different steering systems.


Crucially, one system meant turning the wheel one way and the other in completely the opposite direction.


Once the mistake had been made, Patten added, “they only had four minutes to change course and by the time (first officer William) Murdoch spotted Hitchins’ mistake and then tried to rectify it, it was too late.”


Patten’s grandfather was not on watch at the time of the collision, but he was present at a final meeting of the ship’s officers before the Titanic went down.


There he heard not only about the fatal mistake but also the fact that J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of Titanic’s owner the White Star Line persuaded the captain to continue sailing, sinking the ship hours faster than would otherwise have happened.


“If Titanic had stood still, she would have survived at least until the rescue ship came and no one need have died,” Patten said.


The RMS Titanic was the world’s biggest passenger liner when it left Southampton, England, for New York on its maiden voyage on April 10, 1912. Four days into the trip, the ship hit an iceberg and sank, taking more than 1,500 passengers with it.


(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)



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2 Responses to “Titanic sinking revisted”

  1. Melissa says:

    Hi Allan! Thought you might be interested in the Southern California burial locations and/or cities of death of the following Titanic survivors.

    Of the 330 bodies that were recovered, only 59 were claimed by relatives and buried in locations around the world. The rest of the dead were either buried in Halifax, Nova Scotia or at sea by the recovery vessels. No victims were buried in California.

    First Class:
    Miss Daisy Minahan; died in Los Angeles of TB only 7 years later in the same month as the sinking, 4.30.1919. Buried in Calvary Cemetery, her Findagrave page is here:

    Second Class:
    Edwina Troutt MacKenzie; died in Redondo Beach, 12.3.1984 at age 100 (actually just one month shy of 101). Buried at Holy Cross, her Findagrave page is here:

    Third Class:
    Karen Abelseth; (later married Harry Little), died in Inglewood on 7.27.1969. Buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery, her Findagrave page is here:

    Thure Lundstrom; died suddenly from a cerebral hemorrhage while at a temporary job location in Las Vegas. As his home was in Los Angeles and still has family living here, he most likely is interred here. His wife, Signe Louise died in Los Angeles on 9.5.1976.

    This information was either personally provided to me by Michael Findlay of the Titanic International Society or from my own research. Honest.

    Thanks so much for posting this article!
    Thanks Melissa, great info.

  2. E.J. Fleming says:

    There were actually several other California residents who survived the sinking of the Titanic and several more who died. There are also some other interesting California coincidences, too.

    Among the victims was Walter M. Little, the son of J. Ross Clark, Vice President of the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad. Clark was returning home from a trip abroad with wife Virginia (who lived). They were living in L.A. in a large home near USC. His father sent a private train from L.A. to Salt Lake City to meet Virginia and bring her back to L.A.

    Another victim of the sinking was Walter D. Douglas, a wealthy businessman from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His wife moved to California in the 1920’s and died in Pasadena in 1945.

    Daisy Minihan was traveling with her brother William and his wife Lillian. Daisy and Lillian were both rescued and picked up by the Carpathia. Daisy always claimed she had been awakened by the crying of a woman she identified as Madeleine (Mrs. John Jacob) Astor, along with whom she and Lillian were rescued and shared a lifeboat (Madeleine and the Minihans knew each other, both having been wealthy Green Bay, Wisconsin families). Lillian moved to L.A. a year or so later and married twice (one died in the 1920’s and another in the 1930’s). She moved to Laguna Beach in 1947 and died there in 1962 at the age of 86.

    Among the other survivors is an interesting guy named George Brereton. His name is sometimes missed because he was listed on the manifest as “George Brayton” and quoted in stories under the same name. This might be because he was something of a con man, apparently. During the cruise he went by the name “George Bradley” to other passengers who he tried to entice into card games. It was reported he was working on unsuspecting victims after the ship hit the iceberg! Just two weeks after the sinking he tried to swindle another survivor, Charles Stengel, in a bogus horse racing scam. His real name wasn’t discovered until “Brayton’s” niece auctioned off some of the papers he carried (for $25,000) in 1998. Apparently he got into the car business in the 1930’s and committed suicide at the home he shared with his sister in Huntington Park in 1942.

    Interestingly, one of the passengers on the California, the ship that never responded to the wireless contacts, was Edward L. (Ned) Doheny, who was involved in the bizarre murder/suicide at the Greystone Mansion his father had built for him.

    Another interesting thing I discovered researching the Titanic disaster that I thought was interesting was that when the lifeboats were met by the Carpathia, the seas were very high (not calm as shown in the films). It was difficult to get the people up the rope ladders onto the deck, so they lowered boatswain’s chairs over the side for the ladies, and mail bags were dropped down in which the babies and little children were placed and hoisted up. I thought that was interesting.

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