Which Rule of the Road did the Titanic's Captain Break?
Rolf B. Pedersen knew the answer and gave one that was very comprehensive. I was very surprised, not only at the number of people answering the question, but that over 95% of you got the correct answer. A couple of tongue-in-cheek answers were "The rule of gross tonnage" and "Icebergs always have the right-of-way." Many of you "attorney-minded" types, rightfully so, charged the Captain with many other infractions of the Rules. However, I think that the one rule mentioned below would have been sufficient to prove neglect.
Which single COLREGS rule did the Titanic break?
The Titanic was touted as proof of man's mastery over nature when she embarked from Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912, bound for New York. The owners were anxious to show the speediness of the vessel on her first voyage. Captain Smith, too, wanted to speed to New York since this was to be his last trip prior to retiring.
The Captain's judgement was no doubt clouded by the pressure for a speedy Atlantic crossing. On consecutive days, the Titanic logged 386 miles, 519 miles, then 546 miles. On April 14, at 22.5 knots, she was approaching her theoretical top speed of 24 knots.
Iceberg warnings began to come in and at least eleven such warnings were received from other vessels. Being a prudent mariner the Captain altered course slightly to the southwest.
At 11:40 P.M., the lookout in the crow's nest sounded the alarm, "Iceberg dead ahead!" The helm was put hard-a-starboard immediately. The Titanic responded, but not quickly enough. Less than forty seconds after the alarm, the iceberg struck the Titanic punching a series of holes, 300 feet in length, beneath her waterline.
The Rule that was broken was Rule 6: "Every vessel shall at all times proceed at a safe speed..."
Rolf also added that there are many things that are different in modern times. Helm orders are reversed from that day to this. Port and Starboard helm orders meant the reverse from what they mean today. This was a holdover from the days of ruddered ships where tillers were moved to the opposite side of the vessel as the direction you wish to turn.
In the U.S. Fleet, we are required to have placards in the wheelhouse to indicate that helm orders will not be in port or starboard but left/right only.