Monday, September 24, 2007

Key of Death

A TINY key that could have saved the Titanic was sold in London at auction for £90,000 (Cdn $182,312) to a Chinese jeweler.

This tiny key was never once mentioned in Titanic movies. I never knew such a tiny key could make such a big difference. Such an important key... Why was it never mentioned?

This is an interesting piece of Titanic history...

Titanic sank on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on 15 April 1912 with the loss of 1,522 lives. This tiny key opened a locker containing the crows nest's binoculars and was held by David Blair, 37, of Broughty Ferry, near Dundee.

Blair sailed on the Titanic from Belfast to Southampton on April 3, 1912. He had been due to be the second officer for the Titanic's voyage to New York on April 10. But the White Star Line, the ship's owners, removed David at the last minute. Henry Wilde was assigned to Titanic because of his large liners experience as Chief Officer aboard sister ship, the Olympic. The remaining officers' ranks were changed. Blair was the one removed to make way for Wilde.

Blair forgot to hand the key in, meaning none of the lookouts could use his binoculars. Lookouts had to observe the surroundings with their naked eyes when the ship was sailing across the icy waters of the North Atlantic. By the time they spotted an iceberg, it was too late to avoid it. The 46,000-ton Titanic struck the iceberg in the north Atlantic at 11.45pm on April 14 and sank at 2.20am on April 15. Wilde was among those who perished.

A surviving lookout, Frederick Fleet, testified that if he had binoculars he would have seen the iceberg in time to save the ship.

* * * * *
Senator Smith, chair of official US inquiry into the sinking, asked Fleet: "Suppose you had glasses ... could you have seen this black object [the iceberg] at a greater distance?"

Fleet replied: "We could have seen it a bit sooner."

Asked "How much sooner?", he said: "Well, enough to get out of the way."

In Mr Blair's defence, Mr Aldridge added: "Blair would have been rushing about tidying up his loose ends before then.

"In his rush it slipped his mind to hand over the key so the fate of the Titanic was in his hands in a round-about way.

"But in terms of blame then you have to look at the captain, EJ Smith. The ship was going too fast in an ice field which he had warnings about."

He continued: "There was a pair of binoculars on the bridge and a pair for the crows nest because Blair had them just days before.

"But the failure to provide the lookouts with them could have been down to Lightoller [who replaced Blair as Second Officer] not knowing where they were.

"He would have found them had he been able to open the locker.

"So in the end all the lookouts had were their own eyes."

* * * * *

A year after the Titanic disaster Blair was awarded the Kings Gallantry medal for saving life at sea. He kept the key as a memento and eventually passed it on to his daughter Nancy who gave it to the British and International Seamans Society in the 1980s.

Who's fault was it?
Since Blair was taken off the crew at last minute, it's not completely his fault that he forgot to hand in the key. The people who made the decision probably didn't know about the key. So, it's probably not completely their fault as well. I guess nobody knew at that time such a tiny key made such a difference. Why didn't the new Second Officer look for the binoculars? May be he looked but couldn't find it? No one knew the binoculars were in the locker? Unless we travel back in time, we'll never know the answer.

Many small mistakes eventually accumulated to become one big consequence.... Titanic sank!

BBC News
This is London
Shanghai Daily
Daily Record
The Age

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