Appendix I

Nautical Parlance


Although less than a century has passed since Titanic foundered, the everyday language of seaman has changed almost as much as their ships. A few key words or phrases used in the testimony can be misleading to modern readers, unless the contemporary meaning of the word is fully understood. Readers are cautioned in particular to read the following words with awareness of their 1912 connotations and denotation:

BILGE — In vessels with a double bottom, the triangular channel or waterway formed by the tank margin plate and the curvature of the outside shell. It runs fore and aft and is subdivided by the ship's transverse bulkhead system.

CRASH STOP — A modern phrase used in this paper to describe the use of the engines in reverse to perform an emergency stop. This term was not widely used in Titanic’s time (there is occasional reference to "crashing back" the engines), but the maneuver was, as evidenced by Titanic’s practice of it during her builder’s trials.

HARD A’STARBOARD; HARD A’PORT — Helm orders in 1912 that reflected a convention from the days when ships were steered by a tiller system. Ordering the helm to starboard is the equivalent of left rudder. This confusing system of helm orders existed in the British Merchant Marine until the 1930s.

STOP — An order to the engine room on the engine order telegraph to stop rotation of the propellers by stopping the engine. On modern ships, a STOP command usually only involves stopping the engine while allowing the propellers to windmill (a STOP SHAFTS command is used to apply steam to keep the shaft from rotating). An "all stop" order does not immediately cause the ship to come to a halt. The ship may coast forward for some distance.

STRIKE — From the International Maritime Dictionary, 2nd ed. by Rene De Kerchove: "A ship strikes when it in any way touches the bottom. To run ashore or aground. To run upon a bank, a shoal, and so on."

TOUCH — To graze the bottom of the sea with the keel for a moment with little, if any, lessening of the ship's forward speed.


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