Schermata 2016-02-28 alle 16.35.37

nella foto Danielle Gibson
Suwa- Fiji 17 settembre: la polizia conferma che gli equipaggiamenti ritrovati sott’acqua appartenevano ai due subacquei scomparsi alcuni giorni fa nelle acque delle isole Fiji. Danielle Gibbons 27 anni istruttore Padi e Dan Grenier 54 anni titolare del Crystal Divers, sono spariti sott’acqua.
Si erano immersi in corrente e avevano dato appuntamento al barcaiolo nel punto di uscita. Ma l’attesa dell’uomo è stata vana. Le ricerche non hanno dato alcun risultato e solo ieri è stata rinvenuta una parte delle attrezzature sott’acqua. La polizia sottolinea che non ci sono tracce di attacchi da squalo.

Un altro mistero incombe. La sparizione di subacquei è molto più comune di quanto sembri. Due subacquei sono scomparsi in Giappone a Shimoda l’11 settembre; un altro è scomparso in Florida nel corso di una immersione su relitto il 13 agosto di quest’anno si chiamava Michael Pye, di 58 anni, abitante a Detroit; un altro ancora è scomparso in Port Eyon, South Wales – UK durante una immersione notturna il 1 agosto di quest’anno. E la lista potrebbe continuare lunghissima. Non si tratta di incidenti mortali, lista ancora più lunga, ma di casi di sparizioni; cioè casi che rimangono aperti e insoluti, con tutti i problemi anche assicurativi che la mancanza di un corpo comporta. Abbiamo più volte sottolineato quanto potrebbe essere importante una piccola “EPIRB” subacquea, come quella in dotazione ai velisti, in grado di guadagnare la superficie autonomamente e segnalare la posizione del corpo dei subacquei incidentati. Su alcuni siti siamo anche stati derisi, ma evidentemente non leggono le notizie mondiali della subacquea e il numero di subacquei che scompaiono ogni anno, altrimenti riderebbero molto meno!


All’epoca dell’incidente di Audrey Mestre, scrissi un editoriale su Immersione Rapida MARE che esaminava attentamente, alla luce delle testimonianze e del computer legato alla caviglia di Audrey, gli accadimenti che portarono alla morte della campionessa. Feci allora delle supposizioni che parevano azzardate, dicendo che era più che evidente che la bombola che Mestre aveva sulla slitta e che doveva servire a gonfiare il pallone di risalita era vuota o scarsamente carica. Lo diceva chiaramente il tempo che Audrey aveva impiegato a compiere i primi 10 metri di risalita, circa 58 secondi. Risalita che iniziò veramente quando il subacqueo dell’assistenza Pascal Barnabe gonfiò il pallone con la sua miscela. Ma quei 58 secondi sotto i 160 metri avevano chiaramente esposto la ragazza alla possibilità di un irreversibile edema polmonare. Navigando in rete, per svolgere la mia professione mi sono imbattuto in un articolo giornalistico, edito dalla CDNN Cyber Diver News Network e scritto da Thomas K. Grose che s’intitola, pensate un po’: ” Passione per gli abissi: E’ stato Francisco “Pipin” Ferreras a uccidere Audrey Mestre?”. Mai avremmo immaginato di leggere un titolo del genere che lascia presupporre la possibilità di un piano mostruoso alle spalle della giovane atleta francese.

Per chiarezza, pubblichiamo interamente il testo apparso nell’articolo, nella lingua originale:
Depths of Passion: Did Francisco ‘Pipin’ Ferreras Murder Audrey Mestre?
Powered by CDNN – CYBER DIVER News Network by THOMAS K. GROSE

When the wife of a champion free diver tried to break his record, something went terribly wrong…
Audrey Mestre was a world-class athlete in a niche sport so physically and mentally punishing that it counts only a handful of practitioners worldwide. She was a “free diver” –one who tests how deep humans can go underwater or how long they can remain submerged–on a single gulp of air. “No limits” free divers like Mestre go deeper than most. Wrapped around a weighted sled that slides on a cable, they plunge hundreds of feet down, then inflate an air bag that shoots them swiftly back to the surface. In the process, they withstand near-crippling water pressure; their lungs shrink to the size of baseballs; their hearts slow to 20 beats a minute; and their sinus cavities fill with salt water to keep their eardrums from exploding. With her thick auburn hair, long legs, and shapely figure, Mestre, 28, was a striking poster girl for no-limits diving. And on the morning of Oct. 12, 2002, under leaden skies, in the choppy waters off the Dominican Republic, she sought to set a world record of 561 feet. That is roughly equivalent to descending and ascending a 55-story building–and she would have to do it in the time she could hold her breath, about three minutes. Even more important, it was 29 1/2feet beyond the record claimed by Francisco “Pipin” Ferreras, the Cuban defector who also happened to be her husband. Ferreras, 42, has for years dominated the sport of free diving, as much because of his personality as his skill. An ornery maverick, he takes pride in being a risk-taker. The French-born Mestre, granddaughter of a renowned spearfisherman, met Ferreras in 1996 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, while she was studying marine biology. She had sought out the bull-chested Cuban with the shaved head and gap-toothed smile, enthralled by his ability to reach depths once thought unattainable by man. In Mestre, Ferreras had found his soul mate, a vivacious woman who shared his passion for the sea. At the time they met, Ferreras was the competitive one, regularly smashing records. But in 1997, he persuaded Mestre to try free diving, and she was immediately hooked. Ferreras realized that his beautiful protege was a natural at the sport, and he put aside his own considerable ego to coach her. Risky business There was a lot to teach. Accomplished no-limits free divers train hard, running, using weight machines, doing isometrics. They also learn to slow their heart rates by going into a meditative state. And though they’re slicing deeply into a dark, wet abyss, they can’t afford to panic–panic can kill at those depths. For unlike scuba divers who breathe compressed air and therefore have to return to the surface slowly to avoid decompression sickness, or “the bends,” nonbreathing free divers must return to the surface at high speed. For them, the last few feet of the return journey is the riskiest, because as blood that has rushed to the brain to protect it at great depths once again courses to the body’s extremities, the drained brain can shut down. But Mestre had never blacked out, so, on the day she set out to top her husband’s record, she was characteristically calm. In case of problems, safety divers were posted at intervals down to 295 feet, with one at the ride’s bottom, at 561 feet. But when she reached that depth, something went horribly wrong. According to a report by the International Association of Free Divers, her husband’s organization, which oversaw the dive, rough weather on the surface had caused the cable that she was to ride to the top to bow, and, perhaps most important, the lift bag that was to shoot her to the top did not fully inflate. She ascended far too slowly, and lost consciousness. Eventually, bottom safety diver Pascal Bernabe managed to get Mestre to 295 feet and hand her to Ferreras, who had donned a tank and dived in to look for his wife. Three minutes was as long as she could last without oxygen. When Ferreras finally got her to the surface, she had been submerged 8 minutes, 48 seconds.
It seemed an accident of tragic proportions. But a year after the incident, Carlos Serra, a key member of Mestre’s team, the onetime president of his diving association, and a man Ferreras has likened to a brother, accused Ferreras of not filling the so-called pony tank that was employed to fill the air bag. “I don’t believe for a second it was a mishap,” Serra says. Keeping the pony tank filled was Ferreras’s job, he says, and three times that morning Ferreras was asked if he had filled it, and he said he had. “I’m sure the tank wasn’t filled because he didn’t want it filled,” Serra says. Serra further claims that the Ferreras-Mestre marriage was troubled and that a jealous Ferreras did not want to lose his record to his wife.
Ferreras strongly denies any culpability in the tragedy, dismissing Serra’s contentions as “sick.” Indeed, he says the tank was Serra’s responsibility. “My statement is clear: The person in charge [of the entire operation] was Carlos.” Moreover, he says, his marriage was sound, and though the relationship was at times tempestuous, he says, it never lacked in love. “We never talked about divorce,” he says.
As to the tanks, Ferreras says his team always operated without specific duties, and filling the tank was a chore everyone and no one assumed. Ferreras says he checked the tank the morning of the dive by opening the valve and feeling the air hiss out. He said he was asked only if he had checked the tank, not filled it. Later, he says, diver Orlando “Tata” Lanza yelled up to the boat, asking if anyone had filled the tank. A voice rang back, “Yes.” “To this day,” Ferreras says, “we don’t know who answered.” “Mistakes were made,” Ferreras concedes in his book about the tragedy, The Dive: A Story of Love and Obsession. “But I am not sure that anyone else could have done any better. Not with more divers. Not with more rules and regulations.”
Tribute. All this controversy comes at a time when Ferreras, despite his continuing grief, should be riding high. His book was just published, and in the works is a film version by Oscar-winning director James Cameron of Titanic fame. Cameron was on hand filming off the coast of Mexico last October 12, the anniversary of Mestre’s death, when Ferreras dived to 557.8 feet in a tribute to Mestre, who had reached that same mark three days before her death. Cameron, a free diver himself, hopes to begin filming Ferreras’s story in two years. “Do you think I would make a movie about the guy if I thought he was a fraud?” Ferreras, meanwhile, is preparing for a record 600-foot dive later this year off the coast of Italy, and he says he won’t retire until he hits 200 meters, or 656 feet. “This is the life we chose, or the life that chose us,” he says. “It’s all about risk, about living on the edge.”

Nella parte che abbiamo evidenziato in nero appare evidente che Carlos Serra, un membro chiave della equipe di Pipin, considerato come un fratello dal recordman cubano, afferma di non credere nemmeno per un istante alla versione della tragedia. Afferma che il compito di riempire la bombola era di Pipin e che quella mattina gli aveva chiesto per ben tre volte se aveva caricato la bombola e per tre volte Pipin aveva risposto si. “I’m sure the tank wasn’t filled because he didn’t want it filled,” Serra says… Sono parole pesanti queste di Serra, che in pratica accusa Pipin di aver volutamente omesso di caricare le bombole. Se una cosa del genere fosse dimostrabile, proverebbe nel cubano la volontà di uccidere Audrey e dalla tragedia incidentale si scivolerebbe come minimo nell’omicidio preterintenzionale o peggio in quello premeditato. Tanto per rincarare la dose, Serra afferma anche che il matrimonio di Pipin e Audrey era molto agitato e secondo lui Pipin era geloso di Audrey che avrebbe potuto con la sua fama metterlo in ombra. Naturalmente Pipin smentisce tutto e anzi afferma che il responsabile dell’organizzazione era proprio Carlos, e che nessuno aveva in particolare il compito di riempire la bombola. Sottolinea che quella mattina aveva controllato che fosse carica aprendo il rubinetto e ascoltando il sibilo dell’aria compressa e puntualizza che quando chiese dal mare se qualcuno aveva caricato la bombola, qualcuno, non si sa chi, rispose affermativamente. Questi in sintesi i fatti… Ora Pipin sta guadagnando i diritti del libro che ha pubblicato (anche questo è un fatto)e il film sull’incidente è di prossima realizzazione. Conosco Pipin da oltre 15 anni, ed ho avuto molte occasioni per parlargli. Francamente stento a credere a quello che ho letto, ma dentro di me, non posso negarlo, i perché senza risposta si agitano… Perché Carlos Serra, un ex “fratello” a un anno dalla morte esce con certe affermazioni? Perché il collega Tomas K.Grose scrive un articolo come quello? Perché Pipin non ha usato un manometro per misurare la pressione della Bombola? Perché secondo lui non c’era una persona responsabilmente individuata che doveva controllare che quella bombola di vitale importanza per Audrey fosse carica? Perché la tesi della bombola scarica emerge solo a un anno di distanza? Perché Pipin in superficie, nella funzione di stand by diver, non aveva già indossato una bombola e ha perso tempo a cercarne una? Testimonianza riportatami dai presenti al record? Tanti perché che non troveranno mai una risposta e, a mio parere, una unica certezza: Anche se ci fossero stati dieci subacquei per l’assistenza e una mostruosa organizzazione Audrey sarebbe morta egualmente. Ad ucciderla infatti sono stati i 58 secondi passati a oltre 60 metri e l’edema polmonare che ha impedito al residuo ossigeno presente nei polmoni di raggiungere il cervello (teoria confermatami anni fa dal prof. Fabio Faralli alla luce della lettura del diagramma di risalita di Audrey). Tutto ruota dunque intorno alla bombola scarica o carica. Ma come si fa a dimostrare che una bombola che è stata aperta a 169 metri era scarica? In superficie quella bombola sarebbe sempre e comunque arrivata scarica. Dunque? O siamo innanzi a una sgangherata organizzazione logistica o ad un omicidio perfetto. Ma gli omicidi devono avere un movente. Possibile che quello di Pipin fosse la gelosia sportiva? Francamente ci sembra azzardato anche solo pensarlo! Marcello Toja


di Doug Stanton, Recensione di Alberto Balbi
Una storia di coraggio e onore sullo sfondo di una grande tragedia americana
Tutto ha inizio il 14 luglio 1945 quando l’incrociatore Indyanapolis salpa per una missione segretissima, nessuno dei membri dell’equipaggio sa che stanno trasportando la prima bomba atomica della storia, quella che sarà sganciata su Hiroshima.    Missione che l’equipaggi guidato dal comandante Mc. Coy porta a termine senza difficoltà, tuttavia per una serie d’errori e di sottovalutazioni da parte degli alti comandi della marina, non giunsero notizie sulla pericolosità della traversata. Così il 29 luglio 1945 passata la mezzanotte un sommergibile nipponico silurò inesorabilmente l’Indyanapolis che affondò in pochi minuti. Novecento dei 1196 uomini imbarcati riuscirono a buttarsi in mare, chi con semplici salvagente chi, sulle zattere galleggianti e qui inizia la vera odissea. Abbandonati in mare per cinque giorni , affrontarono, fame, sete , ma soprattutto la crudeltà degli attacchi degli squali, che attratti dall’odore del sangue azzannarono i vivi e i morti.
Avvistati casualmente da un ricognitore aereo vennero tratti in salvo dopo altre 36 ore, e dei 900 naufraghi se ne salvarono solo 317.         A recupero terminato, iniziò il prevedibile rimpallo di responsabilità che individuarono come unico responsabile il comandante MC COY, trascinandolo davanti alla corte marziale che ne confermò la responsabilità. MC COY vivrà molti anni nel ricordo della tragedia e nel forte senso di colpa per la perdita di quei giovani militari, pur avendo fatto tutto il possibile e non avendo oggettivamente alcuna colpa, si suicidò nel 1968!
La Marina degli Stati Uniti, chiuderà il caso Indianapolis nel 2001 prosciogliendolo, di fatto, dall’accusa di” comportamento negligente” in rapporto alla perdita della sua nave. Ancora oggi il disastro ossessiona il dipartimento dalla marina ma soprattutto gli uomini che erano a bordo e che hanno vissuto in prima persona questa terribile esperienza .Doug Stanton ha pazientemente e meticolosamente ricostruito una storia di uomini documentandosi per anni e parlando spesso con i superstiti tanto da esserne coinvolto a tal punto da aiutare la fondazione con parte dei proventi di questo libro.  Tra queste pagine troveremo il coraggio dei naufraghi, la loro voglia di sopravvivenza, il voltafaccia che ha fatto la Marina USA utilizzando come capro espiatorio il comandante dell’Indyanapolis costringendolo a responsabilità che non aveva. Nel libro viene tracciata la storia vera di quei terribili giorni, rivelando lo straordinario coraggio che il comandante e i suoi uomini hanno avuto, prima,durante, e dopo l’affondamento. Un libro, da leggere tutto d’un fiato, che saprà coinvolgerci e dal quale sarà difficile staccarsi se non dopo l’ultima pagina. Un libro, che come ha detto lo stesso autore: “talvolta gli squali piu pericolosi non sono quelli che si trovano in mare, ma quelli che siedono dietro le scrivanie di un tribunale militare!”
L’autore: DOUG STANTON, dopo aver lavorato come giornalista per Esquire e Outsaide , scrive ora per Men’s Journal. Vive nel Michigan ed ha devoluto parte dei proventi di questo libro alla USS INDIANAPOLIS SURVIVORS’ FOUND

TITOLO: Il comandante e gli squali
GENERE: Storico
EDIZIONI: Longanesi &C.
PREZZO: € 17,50


fonte ANSA:
Un relitto scoperto da subacquei al largo del porto di Tripoli ha fatto riemergere la brutta storia di un disastro causato da una incauta manovra di uno stolto Ammiraglio della flotta di Sua Maestà.      Una tragica pagina della pur gloriosa storia della Marina Inglese che l’Ammiragliato di Londra avrebbe voluto strappare.
Questo è almeno ciò che è riportato da fonte ANSA:
“LONDRA, 2 SET – E’ stata la peggior collisione tra navi della Royal Navy della storia della marina militare britannica, la maggior perdita di vite umane in tempo di pace ed uno degli episodi che l’Ammiragliato avrebbe preferito dimenticare per sempre.    Ora invece, a distanza di 111 anni, la carcassa della nave ammiraglia della flotta di Sua maestà nel Mediterraneo, la Victoria, e’ stata ritrovata al largo del porto di Tripoli, allora Siria ed ora Libano.    La sagoma della nave, colata a picco in pochi minuti il 22 giugno del 1893 trascinando con se’ centinaia di marinai, e’ apparsa come uno straordinario monumento sottomarino ai sommozzatori che sono riusciti ad individuare il relitto, piantato con la prua nella sabbia del mare, i due terzi della sua lunghezza di oltre cento metri visibili in verticale, con le due enormi eliche che si stagliano contro la superfice del mare, una sessantina di metri sopra la poppa.
Un monumento all’arroganza di un ammiraglio, sir George Tryon, e alla fiducia cieca dei comandanti delle 10 navi da guerra che comandava che, pur consci della pericolosita’ della manovra ordinata, dopo timide resistenze, avevano accettato una decisione dimostratasi tragica.  Nel corso della manovra di ancoraggio infatti un’altra nave, la Camperdown, aveva alla fine speronato la Victoria mandandola a fondo: erano scomparsi 358 ufficiali e marinai, compreso l’ammiraglio Tryon che prima di morire aveva riconosciuto alla fine il suo errore.

La Victoria aveva una stazza di oltre 10 mila tonnellate; era una nave a vapore con le strutture in legno ricoperte con corazze di ferro e due enormi cannoni a prua, i piu’ grandi dell’epoca, del peso di 110 tonnellate l’uno.                A rintracciare il relitto sono stati due sommozzatori, Christian Francis che da anni era alla ricerca dello scafo e (????) Elliatt.     I due sono riusciti a identificare l’area di mare grazie ad una serie di racconti fatti dai pescatori che descrivevano un’area ricca di pesci, fatto che poteva rivelare la presenza di un relitto.    La vista della Victoria ha lasciato attoniti i due: l’enorme massa dello scafo piantato in verticale – hanno raccontato – e’ stato uno spettacolo senza precedenti, anche perche’ si ricorda di un solo scafo trovato in questa posizione ed era nelle Filippine.     La nave una volta speronata sarebbe affondata di prua trascinata dall’enorme peso dei due cannoni e contemporaneamente spinta dalle eliche che hanno continuato a girare vorticosamente.

La Victoria varata nel 1887, era l’ammiraglia della flotta nel Mediterraneo costituita da 10 unita’ navali, tutte di stazza attorno alle 10 mila tonnellate. la formazione era divisa in due gruppi di cinque unita’ che procedevano parallelamente. Ad un certo punto l’ammiraglio Tryon aveva deciso di dare alla gente che stava nel porto di Tripoli la dimostrazione di come sapevano manovrate le navi di Sua Maesta’. All’inizio sembrava aver accettato il suggerimento di allontanare le due formazioni per consentire la manovra prevista a novanta gradi, poi aveva deciso che la manovra doveva essere fatta in spazi piu’ piccoli, causando alla fine la tragedia.    Ora l’area di mare che circonda il relitto e’ stata vietata a navi e sommozzatori.    Dovra’ essere deciso se il relitto deve o no essere classificato come una sorta di cimitero di guerra. In questo caso nessuno potrà più avvicinarsi. Non si sa per quanti anni le strutture di ferro reggeranno ancora il peso della nave, ma i tecnici calcolano che il relitto, svuotato della struttura lignea, potrebbe crollare tra pochi anni come tra un centinaio.”
ecco il testo della storia in inglese:
The best known and most tragic collision beween ships in the history of the Royal Navy was that between the battleship Victoria – the flagship of the British Mediterranean Fleet – and the Camperdown, on 22 June 1893. The Victoria was launched in 1887. She was to have been called the Renown, but as she was ready for launching in Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Year, her name was changed to that of the reigning monarch.
She carried two enormous Armstrong 16.25-inch guns weighing 110 tons each and firing a 1,600 lb. projectile. They were so large and heavy that only two could be carried. Both were mounted in one turret forward, which meant that they could not fire astern. This limitation was accepted by the Board of the Admiralty because “no British battleship would be called upon to fire astern.” The Victoria had only one sister ship, the Sans Pareil, which was in company with her when she sank. They each displaced 10,420 tons.
The Camperdown was a slightly older ship and displaced 10,600 tons. She was launched in 1883 as one of the ‘Admiral’ Class, having an armament of four 13.5-inch guns each weighing 67 tons, mounted in one twin turret forward and another twin turret aft.
On a hot afternoon in the Mediterranean in June 1893 the British Mediterranean Fleet was about to anchor, in formation, off Tripoli [on the coast of Syria – now in Lebanon].
The fleet, consisting of 10 battleships, or large armoured cruisers, of about 10,000 tons each (and one despatch vessel), had been organised into two divisions. They were formed in these divisions, in line ahead disposed abeam, with the Victoria leading the first division and Camperdown leading the second division.
The fleet was under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon, who flew his flag in the Victoria. The second-in-command was Rear-Admiral Markham who flew his flag in the Camperdown.
Admiral Tryon was an expert in fleet handling, and had trained his captains to expect a variety of complicated manoeuvres at any time. He was a great martinet, a large taciturn man who sought counsel from nobody and rarely informed his staff of his intentions.
On this occasion, however, Tryon had discussed his anchoring plan with his Flag Captain, the Staff Commander and Flag Lieutenant. He told them he intended to form up in two columns steering away from the coast with the columns 1,200 yards apart, with ships in column at normal station-keeping distance apart, which in those days was 400 yards. He intended to reverse the course of the fleet by turning the columns inwards, leaders turning together and each ship following in succession the next ahead. He then intended to close the columns to 400 yards apart. Finally he intended to turn the whole fleet together 90 degrees to port, and then to anchor the fleet.
It was intended to be an impressive sight to those on shore who witnessed it, and indeed it would have been. Even in those days it was not often possible to see ten large warships anchoring together. The Victoria would have hoisted a two-flag signal which denoted ‘anchor instantly.’ The Camperdown would have repeated the hoist, and, as Victoria’s signalmen hauled it down, ten blacksmiths armed with hammers would have knocked off the slips holding the cables and down would have simultaneously splashed ten anchors.
The Staff Commander and the Flag Captain remarked to the Admiral that 1,200 yards was insufficient to allow the leading ships to turn together towards each other, and the Staff Commander suggested that 1,600 yards would be better, but even that would have been insufficient.
The Admiral agreed, but later told his Staff Lieutenant to close the columns to 1,200 yards.
The signal was hoisted and the Staff Commander, seeing that 1,200 yards was hoisted, told the Flag Lieutenant that he must have made a mistake as the Admiral had agreed to 1,600 yards. The Flag Lieutenant therefore went to the Admiral, who was in his sea cabin, and queried whether it should be 1,200 yards or 1,600, explaining that “1,200” was flying. The Admiral, somewhat tersely, told him to leave it at 1,200 and to execute the signal as soon as possible.
The fleet was formed accordingly. It should be noted that, when the fleet was formed in columns like this, the normal distance between columns laid down in the manoeuvring instructions was in those days “the distance apart of ships [in this case 400 yards] multiplied by the number of ships in the longest column.” In this case the longest column had six ships in it and the distance apart of columns should have been 400 x 6 = 2,400 yds., which would have left plenty of room for carrying out the intended manoeuvre.
The distance between columns was worked out to allow for a favourite manoeuvre in those days – forming a single line by turning leading ships of columns 90 degrees to port or starboard, the remaining ships following their leaders in succession. By this means a single line could be formed – at right angles to the original line of advance.
If the distance between columns was too small then in this manoeuvre the end ships of columns in the direction of the turn might have got muddled up with those of columns not in the direction of the turn, with a consequent risk of collision. If the distance between columns equalled the number of ships in the columns multiplied by their intervals apart, the end of the column in the direction of turn should have fitted perfectly with the leading ship of the column away from the direction of the turn.
The fleet increased speed to 8.8 knots, and shortly afterwards, at 15.00, the Admiral directed his Flag Lieutenant to hoist two signals. One was addressed to the first division and directed it to turn in succession, preserving the order of the fleet, 16 points (180 degrees) to port. The second was addressed to the second division and directed it to turn in succession, preserving the order of the fleet, 16 points to starboard.
The columns were thus to turn towards each other. The signals were made in separate hoists and it would have been possible to execute one signal (by hauling it down) before the other. However – the Flag Lieutenant knew perfectly well what was in the Admiral’s mind.
The turning-circle diameters of Victoria and Camperdown, under “tactical” rudder, were each about 800 yards. Thus even the 1,600 yards which the Staff Commander had suggested was only barely sufficient for the manoeuvre.
If the two battleships had used full rudder their turning circle diameters would have been reduced to about 600 yards. It would then have been possible for the two ships to turn inwards without colliding, but with only 20 yards or so to spare. However, the standing instructions were that during manoeuvres tactical rudder should be used.
It must have been obvious to every captain in the fleet that the manoeuvre was an exceedingly dangerous one – yet every ship, with the sole exception of the Camperdown, went “close up” with her answering pennant in full acknowledgment of the signal (it was – and still is – standard practice to keep the answering pennant “at the dip” if the signal is not understood).
Camperdown, being the leading ship in her column, repeated the hoist, but Rear Admiral Markham – aboard her – ordered the repeated hoist to be kept at the dip, signifying that he did not understand the signal. At the same time he ordered that a semaphore signal to the flagship should be made indicating that he did not understand the flagship’s signal.
However, the semaphore was never sent. Admiral Tryon – “ever impatient” – ordered Camperdown’s pennants to be shown, an expression of impatience which no officer would like, and sent a semaphore signal of his own saying “What are you waiting for?” Rear Admiral Markham, seeing this and having complete confidence in his superior officer, thought that Admiral Tryon would solve the problem somehow. He therefore had his own semaphore cancelled and ordered that the repeated signal be hoisted close up.
At the subsequent court-martial Markham was questioned as to why, given that he knew the intended manoeuvre was dangerous – if not impossible, he had allowed the repeated signal to be hoisted close up? He answered that he had such faith in Admiral Tryon that he thought that he must have some trick up his sleeve.
Markham considered that there were two possibilities – either the C-in-C would execute the order to the Second Division (Markham’s column) first and, when this division was safely turned, would turn his own division; or he intended to turn Victoria and the First Division with less rudder and therefore turn outside the Camperdown’s division.
Nonetheless when the signal was executed the two divisions were turned simultaneously and Camperdown started turning to starboard, while Victoria started turning to port, with both using tactical rudder. Even then, although it was obvious to all the onlookers that a collision was imminent, both Captains failed to put their inner screws astern, not being prepared to do so without permission from their division commanders.
In fact Captain Burke – the commanding officer of the Victoria – had to ask three times for permission to put his port propeller astern before it was eventually given.
The two battleships met halfway between their respective columns. Camperdown struck the Victoria on the flagship’s starboard side, opening up an enormous hole at and below the waterline. Camperdown’s ram had penetrated the flagship’s side by about 9 feet, at a point about 12 feet below the surface. It struck a transverse bulkhead almost directly and, as the two ships swung together, the breach became enlarged to about 100 square ft.
Just before the impact the order “close watertight doors and out collision mat” had been given aboard the flagship – but only a few doors had been closed when the collision took place. Thus water was able to get into a coal bunker just forward of a stokehold. Victoria began to list to starboard, and the list started to increase more rapidly when the starboard battery began to flood as water entered the broadside gun ports.
As the collision occurred “Collision Stations” was piped aboard Victoria, and the crew lined up four deep on the port side. At first it was hoped to beach the flagship and the gallant men in the engine-room and stokehold were still keeping the machinery running.
However, by now the ship was down by the bows as well as listing heavily. Suddenly the bows went down and the stern rose, with the screws still turning. Victoria foundered soon afterwards – only 13 minutes after the collision.
The order “Abandon Ship” was given just before the end, and the ship’s company – which had remained in good order – then broke ranks. The list was by then so heavy that it was difficult to leave the ship – many men were left on board and went down with the ship. In all, 358 were lost, including Vice Admiral Tryon. 357 officers and men were rescued, among them Commander John Jellicoe, the Victoria’s Executive Officer, who went on to become C-in-C of the Grand Fleet during the First World War and arguably Britain’s greatest Admiral since Nelson.
Admiral Tryon’s last words were ‘It’s all my fault’ and at the court martial he was found entirely to blame. No one can tell what was in his mind . . .one perhaps can only assume he had some sort of mental blackout, as he was probably working under a strain.
What is quite inexplicable is how 11 Captains and one Rear-Admiral could all have acknowledged the signal ordering the turn ‘received and understood’, and how Admiral Tryon’s own staff, who knew the manoeuvre to be dangerous, did not expostulate more with him when the signal was hoisted. The only explanation is that both his staff and his Captains had such infinite faith in him that they thought he had some last-minute manoeuvre up his sleeve to save the day. Also, it must not be forgotten that he was a difficult man to approach, and it was perhaps a brave staff officer who queried a manoeuvre he had ordered.
[ Text from John Marriott’s “Disaster at Sea” Ian Allan, London 1987pp. 38-43 ]