High up in the crow’s nest, Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee are doubtlessly looking forward to being relieved for the 12am-2am watch, although their watch will be extended just over 20 minutes to account for the setback of the clocks at midnight by 47 minutes. This change is divided between the two watches as evenly as possible, with one watch extended by 23 minutes and the other by 24. Scanning the dark horizon where the stars merge into the sea, Fleet suddenly sees a shape looming directly ahead of the onrushing liner. Tugging immediately on the cord of the crow’s nest bell three times to indicate an object dead ahead, Fleet then reached for the phone connecting them to the ship’s bridge. Sixth Officer Moody answers the call after a moment, calmly asking the lookout what he has spotted. “Iceberg, dead ahead, sir,” or some slight variation of this, is shouted back to Moody by Fleet. It is likely that by the time Fleet and Moody’s brief conversation had concluded that First Office Murdoch had also seen the ice from the bridge wing and had begun swinging into action.
"There's talk of an iceberg ma'am..."
Murdoch, Moody, and Quartermaster Robert Hichens take the following actions in quick succession to try and avoid a tremendously damaging collision with the iceberg staring them down:
The three, along with the two lookouts in the crow’s nest, waited breathlessly to see if they’d acted in time. Titanic’s bow slowly, inexorably began to swing to port. Her stem cleared the side of the iceberg, which now began to pass along the ship’s starboard side. As stokers raced to shut dampers and engineers worked feverishly to close down the supply of steam to the liner’s engines, those watching far above must’ve felt like they’d narrowly missed the ice. Murdoch was well known as a cool shiphandler and had acted heroically in previous circumstances to save his ship from disaster.
This time, however, he was just a little too late. Chunks of ice broke from the iceberg and began cascading onto the forward well deck. A distant bumping and grinding noise transmitted itself to the men on the bridge, indicating that the ship was striking against the ice. His heart probably sinking, Murdoch rushed to the controls for the watertight doors and had them begin closing. He then ordered the helm “hard-a-port” in a fishtail maneuver to ensure that the giant liner’s stern would swing clear of the ice. As the berg passed the bridge, the grinding and bumping ceased and the ship and ice parted ways. The ice receded into the moonless night.
Below, Titanic was mortally wounded. Her forepeak, three cargo holds, and forwardmost boiler room were taking on water. Designed to float with her first four compartments open to the sea, Titanic had now exceeded that by one compartment.
The largest and safest ship afloat was going to sink.
The times represented in the sinking timeline are approximations based on triangulation and extrapolation from survivor accounts and other primary source evidence. While there is no way to be exact about what minute something occurred in most cases (with the notable exception of wireless transmissions that were logged by other vessels and by land stations), the sequence of events is accurate and the times given are a good approximation of how events unfolded over the period of time that the ship sank. What is presented here represents the best efforts of researchers and historians, including this author.
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