107 #43: The lookouts had reported seeing icebergs before the collision

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TRUE (possibly). We know from the water temperature that Titanic was in the ice region from 8 p.m. and that lookout Symons remarked to Jewell that he could actually smell the ice at 9 p.m. Titanic had therefore probably been passing icebergs for more than three hours before her fatal collision at 11.40pm. The following story, published in the New York Herald on Sunday 21st April, 1912, suggests that Titanic steward Thomas Whitely overheard Fleet and Lee talking about the incident on board the Carpathia (though the article erroneously concludes it was on the bottom of upturned Collapsible B, which Whitely was rescued from!):

‘My only information is that I heard one of the two men say that he had reported to the first officer that he saw an iceberg.’

‘I heard one of them say,’ he said last night in the hospital, ‘that at a quarter after eleven o’clock on Sunday night, about twenty-five minutes before the great ship struck the berg, that he had told First Officer Murdoch that he believed he had seen an iceberg. He said he was not certain, but that he saw the outline of something which he thought must be a berg. A short time later, the lookout said, he noticed what he thought was another mountain of ice. Again, he called the attention of the first officer to it.’

‘A third time he saw something in the moonlight (sic starlight) which he felt certain was an iceberg. The air was cool and there were indications in his mind that there were bergs in the neighborhood. A third time he reported to the first officer that he had seen an iceberg. This time, as I recall it, he did not say merely that he fancied he saw one, but that he had actually seen one.’

‘His words to the officer, as I remember them, were—“I saw the iceberg. It was very large, and to me it looked black, or rather a dark gray instead of white.”’

‘Mr Whiteley is not in a serious condition and will be out soon. He is a man above the average intelligence and seems very certain of what he says.’

If this report is true, it seems Murdoch believed he could see an iceberg in his path in time to avoid it, and pressed on, keeping a sharp lookout.

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