BBC Website 22 September 2010
According to new information from novelist Louise Patten, granddaughter of Titanic's Second Officer Charles Lightoller, the ship hit the iceberg because the helmsman turned the wrong way when ordered to change direction.
The explanation of why such a fundamental error occurred is that the accident happened at a time when ship communications were in transition from sail to steam. Two different systems were in operation at the time, Rudder Orders (used for steam ships) and Tiller Orders (used for sailing ships). Crucially, Mrs Patten said, the two steering systems were the complete opposite of one another, so a command to turn 'hard a-starboard' meant turn the wheel right under one system and left under the other."
It just so happens that the helmsman had been trained on sail, but was steering a steam vessel.
Mrs Patten claims that only a very small number of people knew about this mistake, but they kept quiet because if the White Star Line had been found to be negligent, it would have gone bankrupt and everyone would have lost their jobs.