Monthly Archives: July 2017

The Social Network

The social network
Destroyed my dream
You with another guy
My heart wants to scream…

paraphrasing Billy Idol, “Call Me Crazy” in his 2014 album Kings and Queens of the Underground

Up until now, 2017, pre-Lusitania, that’s pretty much all I heard about social networking: Catfishing horror stories on Dr. Phil, cyber-bullying suicides, chatroom adultery, fake news blogging, blah blah blah.

And I did vainly pursue one biker babe on Facebook, and tweet on Occupy America, but without ever really catching fire. And, more recently, invent (or re-invent) the hashtag #TREXIT that seems hot, lol.

But all that time I was busy posting websites of my own: a 2000 political site, SoreLosers.org; A vivid graphic site for my novel Biohacker, formerly titled Fatal Strain; my eco-religion page Church of the Goddess.org (still up there); this WordPress author page in its earliest form, now revamped as leonardcarpenter.com; etc.

Oh, and while trying to sell a Conan the Barbarian TV script, I did frequent the site of what may have been the worst (and lowest-budget) live-action TV show ever broadcast. (The highlight of the series was an Emmy-quality performance by Mickey Rooney as a tribal chieftain.) Their unmoderated chatroom was a cesspool, the Hyborian Age equivalent of a mosh-pit. Yuck!

A Lusitania Spy Thriller

Now, faced with the challenge of 21st century publishing—both online and in stores, by the grace of Mango.bz books—I get to extol the merits of my Lusitania spy thriller: how it is the literary equivalent of “Titanic Meets Das Boot” lol, a romantic adventure with gripping suspense and tragedy above and below decks on the Lusty Lusi.

What fun! All of this amid the Great War in 1915, with scenes in the capitals and battlefields of Europe, in the White House in Washington DC and on the gang-haunted mean streets of New York. Three years after the Titanic disaster, here are the innocent joys and vivid tragedy that started the US on our path into World War I.

Romance, Intrigue and Murder

I also get to explain how my Lusitania Lost can be so rigorously faithful to history while portraying romance, intrigue and murder on the war-ravaged Atlantic. The drama unfolds both among my fictional characters and the actual world leaders, Broadway celebrities, and crew on RMS Lusitania and the submarine U-20 that relentlessly stalked the luxury liner.

Written to a tight, ticking historical timeline, my epic reveals gripping details lost or concealed in most written histories. Apart from my invented characters, everything is documented except my answers to those questions which may never be answered by the Lusitania’s crumbling wreck—such as, what secret weapons were in the liner’s hold? And what caused the second, more violent explosion that made the ship go down in only 18 minutes?

Lusitania the Video

I get to produce and display my background 4-minute model-animated Youtube,Who Sank The Lusitania? at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThKtjVlqasM

Lusitania the Movie

And I get to peddle my completed, 120-page screenplay THE LUSI, to any Hollywood studio that wants to challenge James Cameron’s immortal TITANIC with modern digital effects, rather than building a life-sized breakable model of half the giant ship in Mexico.

Two Shipboard Romances

I won’t go into the perils, loves and conflicts of my fictional characters, which are also faithfully portrayed in the movie script. All of that can be in a later blog, or possibly another video.

Titanic Fake News? -#4

I expected this 4th Titanic blog to be even more controversial than my past three. But it shapes up to be a bigger flub than #3, regarding rudder backwash, that proved to be a fallacy.

 As a historical novelist, I can’t be spreading fake news. The background of my epic spy thriller Lusitania Lost, available for pre-order at leonardcarpenter.com would be called into question. Some years ago a friend sent me a magazine piece that makes a startling claim. Now I can’t find the old xerox, nor any support for it in my library or online.

 The article claimed that, since Titanic was designed for wartime conversion to a Royal Navy cruiser, her maiden voyage was also her shakedown cruise. And therefore her excessive speed through the ice field was due, not to J Bruce Ismay’s desire for headlines, but to military officers on board who insisted on running a speed trial. This was asserted in the article with backup details that I can’t remember or verify. Provocative, yes?

 But to the contrary, it appears that all three White Star Line ships of the Olympic class–Titanic and Britannic included–were built without the British government subsidy or the military design features that went into the Cunard liners Lusitania and Mauretania. Although White Star’s Olympic did become a troopship, and Britannic a hospital ship, neither appears to have been armed and armored as their White Star predecessor Oceanic, which was converted to a British navy cruiser in a few days during August 1914 at the outbreak of the Great War.

 In fact, White Star was not a British company, although its ships were laid down at Harland & Wolfe shipyard in Belfast, Ireland. The three passenger liners were part of American investor JP Morgan’s plan to monopolize Atlantic shipping by combining several companies, including the Hamburg-Amerika line. Since HAPAG was a German firm, it’s likely their big their ships were subsidized and adapted to German navy use–if not interned in US or British ports for the duration of the war to protect JP Morgan’s investment.

 If Titanic had been designed to military standards, it probably wouldn’t have helped. Armor would not have been added below the waterline, and speed would’ve been only slightly reduced. As seen in my Lusitania video, the outdated navy requirement of using coal as armor against shellfire, by installing longitudinal coal bunkers along either side of the main hull at sea level, proved disastrous. Torpedoes had not been foreseen, and the rupture and flooding of this long compartment caused the stricken ships immediately to list, capsizing them or rendering lifeboats or rafts nearly impossible to launch.

 As it turned out, the practice of converting passenger liners to auxiliary cruisers (or in German terms, surface raiders, as opposed to undersea boats or U-boats) did not last long. Big liners consumed too much coal for regular cruising, and were better suited as troop transports or hospital ships. They lacked sufficient armor, as seen when the British-converted Carmania sank the German-converted Cap Trafalgar but suffered excessive damage herself in the sea duel.

 Even White Star’s Oceanic, sent so swiftly into British service, ran aground in the first month and was lost off the Shetland Islands. For Germany with no coaling stations at sea, the most efficient merchant raiders were small freighters that used less coal, or sailing ships requiring none at all.

A TITANIC Mistake – #3

This 3rd blog in the series was to be my own original theory of the Titanic tragedy’s final, fatal “cause.” Thankfully, due to what I just read on Wikipedia, my concern gets off to a flying stop. My notion was that Titanic was over-powered and under-steered.

Shouldn’t a ship that’s bigger, heavier, and more powerful require a bigger rudder? Look at the design, three giant screws with one modest-sized rudder. (The cutaway view is the Titanic model on display aboard the SS Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. Other giant models there include Queen Mary and RMS Lusitania, a ship especially dear to me because of my soon-to-be-published Lusitania spy thriller. See the video of my own live-action Lusitania ship model at leonardcarpenter.com, with my other blogs in this series.)

Aboard RMS Titanic, the order given on sighting the iceberg was “Rudder hard-aport, engines full reverse!” Afterward, it was stated that the ship seemed slow in turning—a delay that could have caused the collision, or made the damage critical.

The cutaway shows Titanic’s rudder mounted directly behind the central screw. In my view, with engines reversed, this would affect the action of the rudder, reversing its force. Water currents drawn in under the stern by those powerful screws would cause a port rudder to push the ship to starboard, not port.

Now it appears that my concern about the rudder was shared by the ship’s designer, because Wikipedia states that the central screw could not be reversed. Only the port and starboard screws could, while the center screw was only stopped and would not battle the rudder.

So, was the rudder adequate? The same Wiki article states that Titanic was “agile,” capable of rapid turns. But here another factor may emerge. Historically, there has been confusion between orders to “port rudder” and “port tiller.” In a small vessel with hand-operated tiller-and-pintle or a steering oar, moving the tiller to port causes the rudder to swing starboard, & vice versa. The command “port-rudder” in some times and waters and nationalities, would actually be construed as “port tiller.” And in fact, there are some reports that the steersman aboard Titanic confessed to making this error, briefly at least in the urgency of the moment. How complex can this issue get?

The announced intention of the deck officer was to make a double turn, first swinging the ship’s bow away from the ice floe and then, as Titanic drifted forward, swerving the stern clear of the obstacle with a “hard-a-starboard” command.  But by the time the ice was ever-so-lightly grazing the ship’s flank, that second turn seemed unwise. And as it happened, a number of small diverse factors had combined to alter history and thousands of lives.

What Sank Titanic?

I’m reading What Really Sank the Titanic, 2006 by McCarty & Foecke. A riveting history, LOL! Titanic was the inspiration for my novel Lusitania Lost, available by advance order at leonardcarpenter.com .

They’re saying Titanic’s steel, or at least the rivets, left much to be desired, due to a speedup in work at Harland & Wolff shipyard, and the need to repair collision-damaged RMS Olympic right next to the partly-completed Titanic.

Very interesting, really. But the middle plates of the hull were 1½ inch steel machine-bolted with triple rows of strong steel rivets, and that’s where she broke in two. The iceberg damage was likely iron and steel rivets partly unzipped along the bow and side.   Titanic, although designed as an auxiliary Royal Navy cruiser, was not armored below the waterline. Could any rivets have held tight, or at least stopped the damage before it reached the fatal fifth compartment?

The bigger the ship, the bigger the impact.  An iceberg that makes it to Newfoundland is big. And by floating an ice cube in a glass, you can see that 90% of it is underwater. Nearby on that same night, the steamer Californian was stopped before an ice floe 30 miles long. Even if ice is softer than steel, it’s no Slushy.

 When a vast floating skyscraper’s irresistible force is concentrated at a tiny point on the hull by an immovable object, something’s got to give. It may have been better if, instead of turning, Titanic had struck the iceberg head-on. Then only two or three forward compartments might’ve been breached, and she would have stayed afloat. That’s naval doctrine for collisions. In a grazing hit, it seems unlikely that any rivets in the world could have reduced the damage.

Failing that, would better steel have slowed the leaks and allowed more time for escape or rescue? Well, there were only lifeboats enough for half the souls aboard. And the nearest rescue ship SS Californian was adrift for the night, her telegraphist asleep (after being telegraphed “Shut up!” by Titanic’s radio man.)

So another hour or two afloat might have made no difference. Even if RMS Carpathia had arrived before Titanic broke up and sank, there would have been little time for boats to circulate back and forth and pick up passengers in the frigid water. However slow the sinking, the lifeboats stayed clear of floating survivors even after the ship was down, for fear of being mobbed. Many boats were only partially filled with upper class men, women and children. Others had declined to enter the boats, doubtless assuring each other, “Don’t worry, it’s only leaking in steerage.” Much like our own upper classes in this century, on Spaceship Earth.

Titanic Mysteries

I just saw Titanic’s Final Mystery, the History Channel’s 2012 centenary tribute. It depicts historian Tim Maltin’s investigation of the sinking, with vivid re-enactments and effects. His findings about weather anomalies on the fatal night are compelling, and his great 2-hour show makes my 4-minute video “Who Sank the Lusitania?” at leonardcarpenter.com look modest by comparison. Yet every disaster has multiple causes—contributing factors that, if changed, could prevent the catastrophe. Air crashes typically result from what the FAA calls “a cascading failure situation.” Weather, equipment failure and human error can combine to seal the fate of ship, passengers and crew. In the coming days, I’ll post a series about accompanying possible “causes” of the Titanic tragedy. (Was it the binoculars being left in a locker? No, according to Maltin.)