A half-minute judgement call led to the sinking of the Titanic and cost nearly 1,500 lives, a study concluded.The ship, built in Belfast, sank in April 1912 after leaving Cobh bound for New York
The officer in charge of the doomed ship, William Murdoch, was warned that an iceberg had been spotted in its path and then he waited 30 seconds before changing course.
If he had taken action immediately instead of waiting that half-minute, the liner, and 1,496 lives, might have been saved determined a new study, Report Into The Loss of The SS Titanic: A Centennial Reappraisal.
Investigators reappraised the 1912 Wreck Commission inquiry and overturned the original verdict, according to the Independent.
It was originally believed that Murdoch, the first officer, altered course "almost instantaneously" but could not avert the collision because the iceberg had been spotted too late. According to the 1912 findings, the iceberg was spotted about 1,500 ft ahead of the ship and hit the iceberg 37 seconds later.
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However, new research say that the iceberg was seen when it was 2,000 ft away about a minute before impact, and that the ship had held its course for around half of that time.
These latest findings are based on the testimony of two individuals: Frederick Fleet, the lookout, and Robert Hichens, the sailor at the wheel. The witness statement of a third sailor, Alfred Olliver, was also considered. Olliver described leaving his post when he hear the lookout bell and reached the bridge just as the ship hit the iceberg. An analysis of his route show that it would have taken him around 60 seconds.
The study is also supported by technical data into the turning capacity of the ship. The data, which was not fully available at the time, determined that the ship had been steering away for only 20 seconds before it hit the iceberg.
"If the first officer had reacted sooner -- maybe even 15 seconds sooner -- the ship would have missed the iceberg," said Samuel Halpern, an American Titanic expert who led the study.
"I believe it was a delay so that he could see whether the ship was going to miss the iceberg without the need for turning. It was a judgement call and he misjudged.
"I don't think we can blame him. The first officer was correct in trying to ascertain whether the ship was going to miss the iceberg by itself, which would have been the best approach, as steering away could have meant it hit further back."
Murdoch had been involved in a similar incident in 1903 on the ship the Arabic, which narrowly missed another vessel after he correctly decided to maintain course, rather than turning his vessel away. The 39-year-old Murdoch died in the sinking. He was last seen attempting to launch a raft boat for passengers in the ship's final moments.
Here's some images of the Titanic: