Titanic officer “played down” iceberg collision to collect insurance

Titanic officer “played down” iceberg collision to collect insurance | Insurance Business America

Titanic officer “played down” iceberg collision to collect insurance

The RMS Titanic sank into the icy Atlantic 102 years ago, but the tragedy remains just as fascinating today. This year, however, recently discovered insurance documents have added a new angle to the tale: officers who survived the accident may have twisted facts about the iceberg collision in order to evade negligence claims.

Second Officer Charles Lightoller, the most senior officer to survive the sinking, said he felt as “slight jar” when the Titanic hit a “small and low-lying iceberg.” That statement, taken in New York just days after the disaster, helped the White Start Line win a $5 million insurance payment—the equivalent of $485 million today.

It may have also helped the luxury ship line avoid negligence claims.

According to a new study from the University of Sheffield, 1912 was not a year that saw an exceptionally large number of icebergs as was previously thought. It was, in fact, an “average” year and the Titanic would be even more likely to hit icebergs today because of melting ice sheets in the North Atlantic.

The iceberg the Titanic was thought to have struck was also far from the “small and low-lying” berg Lightoller claimed to have seen. Measuring 100 feet high by 400 feet wide, the iceberg should have been identifiable from the crow’s nest. However, the crew failed to spot it in time while the ship was speeding through the ice field at night.

Lightoller stated: “The captain was on and off the bridge throughout the watch. A sharp lookout was kept from the crow’s nest.

“The ship was on course South 86 degrees West true when the lookouts reported ice dead ahead.

“The first officer immediately starboarded the helm reversed the engines full speed and closed all watertight doors.

“The ship swung to port but struck a ‘growler’ or small low-lying iceberg with the bluff of her starboard bow, making a comparatively slight jar with a grinding sound.”

The statements were enough to convince insurers that no negligence was shown, and the White Star Line and its parent company were able to collect on the policy.

The policy itself was arranged through brokers Willis Faber, which assembled 77 carrier partners including Atlantic Mutual, which paid out $100,000 of the claim.

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