There are many rumors, stories, and feelings about where the Crow's Nest's binoculars were. Can;t place where I read it, but it seems that I haev seen that they were placed in a locker by the officer who was replaced and never sailed and so were on the ship the whole time.

Any other stories of where the binoculars were or who had them or why they were left or why you think they weren't left?

Tell me, where do you think the binoculars were?
I Mo.

I don't know where the Titanic's were but a little personal story might add some light.

I was TDY to a small vessel for a month in the USN and we had the same problem no binocs. It seemed that on the shakedown cruise the skipper had the chief QM take them ashore for some optical work and when they cmae back they got placed somewhere other than where they should have been and nobody could locate them. It didn't help that we had a new skipper and QMC before we sailed either. Seems like some practices at sea never change no matter how much time passes.


I think you are right. David Blair was the officer bumped. I also believe the binoculars were avail. on the trip from Belfast to S'ton and with Blair out of the picture, they may well have been inadvertently locked up in his locker. I seem to recall this story too. I think it is referred to at length in the Gardiner/Van der Vatt book The Riddle of the Titanic--and others.

I hope this helps.

Interestingly enough, I've heard it said (or seen it typed!) that lookouts rarely used binoculars when on duty. Apparently, the method was to scan with the naked eye and, if an object was sighted, then use the binoculars to examine it more closely.

I'm pretty sure this was mentioned by someone on the Board some time ago. (For some reason, Dave Gittins leaps to mind. Sorry for putting words in your mouth Dave, if I'm mistaken

Perhaps Dave G. or Michael S. et al could confirm this? I always believed that the missing binoculars was a bit of a "red herring" and didn't really have a bearing on the disaster. It would have been more useful to post a lookout in the bow, perhaps?

Forgive me Michael S! I've just checked out another thread, (Atmospheric Conditions, etc...), and seen your posting there concerning this topic.

That answers my question then!

Hi Paul. To reiterate what I mentioned on the other thread,(In case anybody missed it) binoculars can sometimes cause more problems then they solve. They're great if you know where to look for something and aren't scanning too quickly. The problem is that while they magnify things, they also sharply restrict your feild of veiw. If you scan too quickly, you could easily miss something. (If I recall, this point was brought up in the U.S. Senate investigation.)

Been there done that.

Michael H. Standart
hi everyone.

I think I remember reading about the binoculars and there whereabouts in "Unsinkable"(I know, not a great source...).

Also, just to confirm Gavin's remarks, Chief Officer Henry T. Wilde was added to the Titanic's crew at Southampton, due to his experience on Olympic. Interestingly, he supposedly was to make just one voyage with Titanic. As a result of his addition, second officer David Blair was forced to relinquish his duties.


Hey All,

Michael I do agree that binocs can be more harmful that good in my experience and unless you know what you are doing then they are no good at all. I tend to use radar and dead reckoning more then anything I might use them for trying identify something but not to look for something.

It has been written in many books that when Blair left Titanic he took the whereabouts of the binocs with him.

An acquaintance of mine onces served in the US Coast Guard ice patrol. He said lookouts found another, more creative use for binoculars -- to provide a windbreak for their eyes.

Keeping watch in a cold wind can bring eye discomfort and tearing. The lookouts found they could protect their eyes from the wind from time to time by "pretending" to look through their binoculars.

-- David G. Brown
Just back from my trip (in fact, I haven't even made it home yet...I'm writing this from work) and thought I'd check in real quick to see what's been going on. Don't have time right now to get into real meaty subjects, but I think this one is easy enough to handle:

In the testimony, you'll find the following...the official White Star line on binoculars for lookouts was that it was up to the discretion of the individual ship's master as to whether the lookouts would be provided with them or not. Evidently, Smith decided against it, as the only glasses used by Titanic's lookouts were the pair issued to the Second Officer, David Blair (Fleet testified to the engraving of "Second Officer" on the glasses used during the short trip to Soton). When Blair left the ship, Lightoller took the glasses and decided not to issue them out again. His views on the issue on binoculars for lookouts are recorded in testimony.

To me, the issue of binoculars to lookouts was a simple matter of discretion on the part of Titanic's officers. Where were THE binoculars, the pair that Fleet remembers using on the transit to Soton? Either on the bridge from Lightoller's watch or in his cabin. Whether or not they should have been issued is a subject that has been discussed at length previously on this list.

It has often been pointed out that the lookouts on Titanic had no binoculars, and the question has often been posed - what if binoculars had been available? Of course there are numerous "what ifs" about the whole tragedy and in a very real way none of them matter - the ship hit an iceberg and sank. However this question of lack of binoculars has always intrigued me. Surely someone must have noticed that no binoculars were available. Surely also it would have been a fairly simple matter to arrange that some were brought on board either at Cherbourg or at Queenstown,but it never happened - why not? Was it that binocular optics were not very good in 1912 and it was felt that there was no advantage in having them, or were they just so confident in the vessel's abilities that they thought it was not important. Lots of questions but no answers!
This has been discussed on other threads and the gist of these discussions has been to show that binoculars are not especially useful in first sighting an object; rather they are more useful in bringing into sharp focus an object already sighted. Some of the sailors here can describe this in better detail than I can....

Why none were acquired in Cherbourg or Queenstown is a mystery to me as well.
>>Some of the sailors here can describe this in better detail then I can...<<

Oh boy, can I ever!!!

James, I've stood low visibility watches on warships, and had many an opportunity to use binoculars when I was on the Snoopy Team of one of my ships. I'm not impressed with them. The problem lies in the fact that they restrict your field of vision severely. You can scan with them, but I never did. I tried a few times for practice. Even knowing where the ship was that I was trying to see, and in clear broad daylight, I had a difficult time aquiring and holding what I was looking for, and made myself a little dizzy in the bargain.

Generally, I disliked anything that would restrict my field of vision intensely. I found I had a better chance of spotting something with the naked eye. On low visibility watches, where a few seconds could make the difference between avoiding a collision and actually having one, I found that I was much better off scanning without them. Really, they were useful only for identifying an object once you already knew where it was. If you chack out Lee's testimony, he says pretty much the same thing.

Michael H. Standart
I second Mike. Personally, I find glasses good for identifying things already found with the naked eye. (Is it a buoy or is it a gull? Sorry!)

Sometimes they are good for finding an object that you know the bearing of but can't seem to see. I've used them to find buoys and beacons late in the day when they are backlit by he setting sun.

At night, even modern 7 X 50 glasses don't seem to help a lot and the less efficient glasses of 1912, which I've seen, would do very little.