107 #34: Titanic was going at the maximum speed she was capable of when she sighted the iceberg

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titanic maximum speed

FALSE. Although Titanic’s engine telegraph was set to ‘full speed ahead’ at the time, and the ship was going faster than at any other time during her maiden voyage, Titanic had nevertheless not yet reached the maximum speed she was capable of. Quartermaster Robert Hichens testified that in the two hours between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. on the evening of 14th April Titanic covered 45 nautical miles, thus averaging 22.5 knots. This was not her top speed, as Ismay testified:

JBI014: ‘I understand it has been stated that the ship was going at full speed. The ship never had been at full speed. The full speed of the ship is 78 revolutions. She works up to 80. So far as I am aware, she never exceeded 75 revolutions. She had not all her boilers on. None of the single-ended boilers were on.’

Third Officer Herbert Pitman, based on his own knowledge that she was doing 75 revolutions, estimated Titanic’s speed that evening to be over 21 knots, but informed the British Enquiry that this was nothing compared to what they expected her to achieve:

HJP272. ‘And at that time the speed of the ship was about 21+ knots per hour?’

‘Yes, sir.’

HJP273: ‘Did you regard that as pretty good speed?’

‘No; nothing to what we expected her to do.’

HJP274: ‘Did you expect her to do pretty well?’

‘We thought it quite possible that she could reach 24.’

Pitman’s estimate of 24 knots is corroborated by the following deposition given for the Titanic Limited Liability Hearings in 1913, by Edward Wilding, one of the ship’s designers, who was on board Titanic on her run from her trials in Belfast to Southampton:

‘During April 3rd when running south, we obtained a speed of about 23.25 knots for several hours.’

Based on this performace, almost before her engines had settled in at all, Titanic would probably have easily achieved 24 knots per hour at some point during the following day, once all her boilers had been connected up and she had had a chance to work up her engine revolutions in the calm conditions that were prevailing on her maiden voyage, but she never had the chance. In a poignant reminder of Titanic’s short life, White Star Line Chairman J. Bruce Ismay said at the American inquiry:

‘It was our intention, if we had fine weather on Monday afternoon or Tuesday, to drive the ship at full speed. That, owing to the unfortunate catastrophe, never eventuated.’

If you’d like to read the full book of101 Things You Thought You Knew About The Titanic…But Didn’t!, or any of my other books on Titanic, please visit my Author Page on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/tim-maltin/e/B005LNHYEQ/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_1

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