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10 mistakes that sunk Titanic: Crew were left without binoculars as iceberg approached

A photograph of the RMS Titanic
A photograph of the RMS Titanic

A new documentary has examined the myriad of factors that contributed to the sinking of the Titanic.

From the crew being without binoculars to passengers opening their portholes, there were a range of reasons that the "unsinkable ship" didn't make it past its first outing.

'10 Mistakes That Sunk the Titanic' aired on Channel 5 on Friday evening.

The Titanic was famously built in Belfast's Harland and Wolff shipyard before setting sail from Southampton on April 10 1912 for its maiden voyage to New York.

The site is now home to the Titanic Belfast visitor attraction celebrating the city's maritime heritage.

Just five days after setting off the ship sank after colliding with an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland. Over 1,500 passengers and crew died.

The documentary reveals that before the Titanic left Southampton Captain Henry Wilde swapped places with Captain Edward Smith of sister ship the RMS Olympic.

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As a result of this Second Officer David Blair also left the Titanic and it is believed he took a key to a cabin with him which contained the officer's binoculars.

Simon Mills, owner of the HMS Britannic wreck, said officers could have used the binoculars to help spot the iceberg.

"The best way of spotting an iceberg was basically using your natural eyesight as wide as possible on the horizon," he told the documentary.

"When you see something ahead, then you would identify it with the binoculars. Interestingly enough the lack of binoculars wasn't a major concern on the bridge.

"They still believed they would see a berg in plenty of time to avoid it. There were no binoculars available in the crow's nest that night."

The documentary also claims that passengers opening their portholes en masse contributed to the speed at which the ship sank.

Titanic expert Tim Maltin said that passengers left their portholes open when they went to deck for evacuation.

"After the collision, the Titanic came to a stop and people wondered what had happened," he told the documentary

"So their natural reaction was to open the portholes and have a look. Then, when they went up to the lifeboats, they left the portholes open.

Captain Edward Smith.
Captain Edward Smith.

"As Titanic's passenger accommodation began to dip under the Atlantic, the open portholes meant that water flooded in at a much greater rate.

"In fact, 12 open portholes would have doubled the iceberg damage to Titanic – of course, there were hundreds of portholes in Titanic's bow."

The documentary explores how the size of the Harland and Wollf shipyard may have played a part in the Titanic's sinking.

Rivets for fixing the ship's bow could only be done by hand because the bow was too big to fit into the shipyard.

The hull was bult with three million mostly steel rivets which became brittle when the ship hit the iceberg due to being below freezing.

High quality rivets could have been inserted using a large hydraulic machine but this was not possible due to the size of the bow, which would hae required manual crews.

The plates had to have rivets made of iron which are more prone to fracture upon impact in low temperatures, when the iceberg hit the impact affected the weakest sections and flooded the liner with water.

Mr Mills also speculated that the speed the ship was travelling at may have been a factor in its sinking.

The ship was travelling faster than the 18 knots required to reach New York by April 17.

"The simple fact is that she was going too fast - 22 knots in an ice field. Had she been going slower, she may have missed the berg, everything else would have been academic," he said.

Mr Maltin speculated that Captain Edward Smith's penchant for speed could have played a part.

"Captain Smith was the White Star Line's best captain," he said.

"He was known as the millionaire's captain - and that's because people loved travelling with him. He was sophisticated, he looked the part.

"He really liked going fast as well. He liked to get his passengers there as fast as possible, and let's face it, these passengers wanted to get there on time. They knew, come hell or high water, Smith would get them there."

In the end Smith went down with his ship. The wreckage of the ship still lies on the bed of the ocean off the coast of Newfoundland.

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