Binoculars

Jim Currie

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I tend to agree with this entire discussion. The binoculars would have been useless; however, sometimes I think about the 'haze' Fleet and Lee testify to on the horizon.

I know there are many interpretations of what that haze really represented--including that they just made it up; however, if I am being honest I have almost always just assumed that the haze these men saw was the field ice itself, and that it just appeared as an indistinct 'haze like' entity on the horizon because of environmental conditions that Sunday night.

With that in mind I do sometimes think to myself that they did indeed "see" the field ice well in advance of a piece of it appearing out of the darkness right in Titanic's path. If so, would this have been a case where lookouts could have possibly used binoculars to identify the ice field--and not the individual offending iceberg--well in advance of any need to try and conduct emergency avoidance maneuvers? Or, even if they had binoculars, and saw the haze on the horizon as they testified to, would they have even bothered trying to look at (or through) that haze with those binoculars?
Hello Scott.

The lookouts made a single mistake...they or at least one of them...assumed that what they were seeing was a "haze". In fact it was an anomaly which, because of the prevailing conditions of a clear horizon up to that time, they should have immediately reported to the bridge, using the phone.
Not the bell. because It is possible that Murdoch would not have seen it due to him being some 40 feet lower than the lookouts. Knowing there was something there would be enough for Murdoch or any OOW. He would then likely have called Smith and thereafter continued to focus his binoculars ahead. In such a scenario, we might not be having this discussion and the world population would be a little larger.
 
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Scott Mills

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Hello Scott.

The lookouts made a single mistake...they or at least one of them...assumed that what they were seeing was a "haze". In fact it was an anomaly which, because of the prevailing conditions of a clear horizon up to that time, they should have immediately reported to the bridge, using the phone.
Not the bell. because It is possible that Murdoch would not have seen it due to him being some 40 feet lower than the lookouts. Knowing there was something there would be enough for Murdoch or any OOW. He would then likely have called Smith and thereafter continued to focus his binoculars ahead. In such a scenario, we might not be having this discussion and the world population would be a little larger.
Jim,

Those are roughly my thoughts. Of course, as with all disasters like this, it is a fairly interesting game to play 'what-ifs'. If the Everett's interpretation of the quantum universal wave function is correct, then those 'what-ifs' are very real--just not here; however, that is another conversation altogether.

I guess for me, speculating about these sorts of things--what was the haze the lookouts saw--betrays my own impossible desire to know with certainty what happened that night. Not to cast judgments on the human beings involved--this I try to avoid--but rather because I really, really want to understand what happened that night.

Given the present company here, I feel like I am not alone in this. :D

In any case, hopefully you've read this far, because this is my long winded way of asking a follow-up question. Can you tell me more about what kind of anomaly these men were seeing?
 
Mar 22, 2003
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With that in mind I do sometimes think to myself that they did indeed "see" the field ice well in advance of a piece of it appearing out of the darkness right in Titanic's path.
Then explain why this field of ice did not grow larger as the ship approached closer to it. In fact, the field of ice that was ahead of the ship was not seen until after daybreak the following morning, as were all the icebergs that were about.
 

Mike Spooner

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If Fleet and Lee seen the haze without binoculars why didn't the first officer Murdoch see too! And not reported to the captain?
 

Scott Mills

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Then explain why this field of ice did not grow larger as the ship approached closer to it. In fact, the field of ice that was ahead of the ship was not seen until after daybreak the following morning, as were all the icebergs that were about.
I cannot, other than to say that all of the ships in the immediate vicinity of Titanic that night and that Monday morning (at least the ones we have record of)--Californian, Mt Temple, and Carpathia--testified to (or their crew and passengers did in any case) that not only didTitanic's distress position abut a large ice field, but so did both the floating wreckage and, ultimately, the floating lifeboats.

Now I will freely admit I have absolutely no experience at sea, nor do I have much knowledge about how atmospheric conditions affect visibility; however, in my brain I put these facts together:
  • Titanic's lookouts report a 'haze' on the horizon well in advance of sighting the iceberg, which Titanic struck;
  • There was very clearly field ice in the immediate vicinity of Titanic when she foundered, and quite possibly directly in her path; and
  • The 'haze' reported would have been on the horizon in the vicinity of where the field ice was;
Into a narrative that goes something like, if the lookouts were not lying and did actually see a 'haze' on the horizon, then that haze was very likely the result of the field ice in the vicinity of Titanic. Now, from there, I just sort of speculated, as I have said, that the haze was the actual ice itself; OR the haze was the result of atmospheric distortion caused in some way by the ice.

In any case, believe me... this is an argument, if it rises to such a thing, that I have no 'skin in the game' on, and am completely prepared to be wrong. This includes being completely prepared to entertain the idea that the testimony of Lee and Fleet was partially manufactured in such a way as it helped lessen the culpability of these men, even just their own psychological culpability, in the disaster that followed Titanic colliding with an object while they were on watch.
 
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Hi Dave, I'm afraid I don't remember the magnification on the Big Eyes. Maybe if one of your own navy's frigates has an open house you can get to, you can find out.

James, yes binoculars are standard on any ship. My understanding is that what happend on the Titanic was that they were lost in the shuffle when one of the officers was replaced. I'm not entirely convinced they would have helped, but it's not impossible. The problem is that you have to spot the object of interest first befor bringing them into play. By the time Lee saw the berg, it was already too late.

I don't see how they could have salvaged Stanley Lord's reputation, but if you let me know what your line of thinking is on this, I may be better able to give you a useful opinion.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
Hi Dave and Michael -

I did some " surfing " on " Navy Big Eyes " and came across some websites with illustrations of " 20 x 120" binoculars.
Is this an indication of " 20 power " ? If this is of any help ?

My only experience with binoculars is with an " 8 x 35".

Just an aside , from this amateur photographer ......the same applies to camera lenses..... 28 mm " wide angle" , 50 mm "normal" and 200 mm "telephoto" for a few examples.

Cordially,
Robert T. Paige.

P.S. I wish I had known that simple equation for "estimating the distance to the horizon " back in my Navy hobby of sighting objects and checking their ranges with the radar. Thanks, ET.

After being on the ET website for a bit, another type ET ( in the Navy , that is ) , would never be considered "a real sailor". LOL.
Specialist yes.....sailor no.
 
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May 3, 2005
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Thanks for the explanation guys and I take all of it on board, but my curiosity about the lack of binoculars comes not so much from the fact that they may have avoided the collision rather from the fact that they just didn't have any and never apparantly tried to get any. Is it not usual to carry glasses on all ships? I would have thought it was and I'm sure some of you sailors can inform me on this. Of course even if the binoculars would not have helped in avoiding the collision, would they have helped in any way.
after the collision, for example in identifying the lights seen to the North of the Titanic (the Californian?) as an actual ship or as some sort of astonomical illusion. Is it not possible that if glasses had been available Stanley Lord's reputation could have been salvaged?
James.
Hi James -

Just wondering if my line of thought would be the same as yours ?
Which is :
Would binoculars or telescope would have been a help in receiving Morse Lamp exchanges of communication. ?
Just going by ANTR on this episode, it would seem their use was not considered ?
 

Seumas

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See Dave Gittins post from 2001 earlier in the thread.

Boxhall and Smith were indeed using their binoculars as the saga of "the ship that stood still" took place.
 

Mike Spooner

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If I was in there shoes of a lookout man and I have always been provided with binoculars for years with the company! Then been denied binoculars by the second officer. This must of been bit of a surprise to them and they and are in no position to argue with a senior officer. Then we hear from the inquiry it up to the second officer Lightoller it was down to his discretion whether lookout men should have binoculars. Quite frankly his is only covering his back side for such a poor order.
As not been a seaman myself I ask what is the purpose and use of binocular? If the crow nest is in a higher position than the bridge will only gives them a greater range of distance taking in account the curvature of the earth to. Therefore one can spot something before the bridge can, where at this point a pair of binoculars come of great use to identify the object. To me it can't be any plainer than that! Or have I miss something here?
 

Mark Baber

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Moderator's hat on:

Three unnecessarily personalized criticisms have bee deleted. Keep personal disagreements our of the discussion and focus on the topic at hand.

Moderator's hat off.
 

Seumas

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Moderator's hat on:

Three unnecessarily personalized criticisms have bee deleted. Keep personal disagreements our of the discussion and focus on the topic at hand.

Moderator's hat off.
Mark, just a wee clarification here.

In years gone past, you have said in a number of old threads that posters must construct their posts so as to make them easy to read. Make an effort with spelling and punctuation. Ensure that their questions, arguments and observations are coherent. Not repeat ludicrous agendas based on no evidence.

Is this still the boards policy ?
 

Jim Currie

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I cannot, other than to say that all of the ships in the immediate vicinity of Titanic that night and that Monday morning (at least the ones we have record of)--Californian, Mt Temple, and Carpathia--testified to (or their crew and passengers did in any case) that not only didTitanic's distress position abut a large ice field, but so did both the floating wreckage and, ultimately, the floating lifeboats.

Now I will freely admit I have absolutely no experience at sea, nor do I have much knowledge about how atmospheric conditions affect visibility; however, in my brain I put these facts together:
  • Titanic's lookouts report a 'haze' on the horizon well in advance of sighting the iceberg, which Titanic struck;
  • There was very clearly field ice in the immediate vicinity of Titanic when she foundered, and quite possibly directly in her path; and
  • The 'haze' reported would have been on the horizon in the vicinity of where the field ice was;
Into a narrative that goes something like, if the lookouts were not lying and did actually see a 'haze' on the horizon, then that haze was very likely the result of the field ice in the vicinity of Titanic. Now, from there, I just sort of speculated, as I have said, that the haze was the actual ice itself; OR the haze was the result of atmospheric distortion caused in some way by the ice.

In any case, believe me... this is an argument, if it rises to such a thing, that I have no 'skin in the game' on, and am completely prepared to be wrong. This includes being completely prepared to entertain the idea that the testimony of Lee and Fleet was partially manufactured in such a way as it helped lessen the culpability of these men, even just their own psychological culpability, in the disaster that followed Titanic colliding with an object while they were on watch.
Hello Scott. I always read what others write. If I didn't, I'd never learn anything new. Not, I hasten to add, that there is a lot of new stuff to read. However, to answer your question:

Contrary to popular belief, haze does not occur out in mid ocean, it is mostly seen near to coasts. Unless Lookout Lee was lying to cover his tracks, he did see something but it was not mist, haze or a fog bank.
Lee's mate Fleet denied the extent of the "haze" as described by his mate, Lee. Immediately, the experts jump on the assumption that there was a cover-up due to a feeling of guilt. However, the one thing not under consideration is that perhaps the Lookouts were not talking about seeing the "haze" at the same time. Nor is there any serious questions about how they were able to see the offending berg as "black". Here are some facts.
which might concentrate the thought processes.

1: Pack ice has a highly irregular surface, consequently starlight reflected off that surface would, unlike a mirror, be in a multitude of directions. In addition, the sea is never absolutely still, so the ice would also be heaving and gyrating, thus causing even greater diffusion of the reflected starlight. It would be seen as a low-lying "smudge on the horizon on a starlit night
2: In order to see an iceberg as black on a dark night, it has to be seen against a lighter background. A low-lying "smudge" would do the trick.

If the lookouts were seeing the ice barrier as a result of diffused starlight, off the surface of the pack ice, then that would have been the anomaly.
 

Jim Currie

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Gentlemen. You are both right to be indignant about the misinterpretation of evidence. To quote an old Glasgow saying: "Twisted knickers do not solve problems.". (You'll understand that one, Seamus).

As for binoculars and Lookouts. You should all get one thing straight...Lookouts and Binoculars were a "No-no" in most ships for very good reasons as any true "expert" will tell you. The reason were all to do with duty.

It was, and still is, the duty of a lookout to report EVERYTHING seen to the bridge and to do so by the sounding of a directional bell... 1 bell ANYTHING seen to starboard. 2 Bells...ANYTHING seen to port and 3 Bells...ANYTHING seen right ahead.
It is not the duty of a Lookout to identify anything seen at see. Consequently, Lookouts do not require binoculars to perform their duty. In practice, binoculars are counter-productive in that they encourage a Lookout to concentrate on a single sighting which may result in missed identification of multiple objects of potential danger to the vessel
It is the duty of a Watch Keeping Officer to positively identify any sighting reported by the Lookouts and to take appropriate action where necessary. For this.binoculars are a positive aid.


As an addition: You may or may not know that Lookouts employ a "trick" which they learn at the beginning of their Lookout duties at night. it is that the horizon is directly in your line of level sight and that if you focus your eyes a little above that level, they will be immediately drawn to anything that is out of place such as a light or an object. It does not work with binoculars.
 

Mike Spooner

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Gentlemen. You are both right to be indignant about the misinterpretation of evidence. To quote an old Glasgow saying: "Twisted knickers do not solve problems.". (You'll understand that one, Seamus).

As for binoculars and Lookouts. You should all get one thing straight...Lookouts and Binoculars were a "No-no" in most ships for very good reasons as any true "expert" will tell you. The reason were all to do with duty.

It was, and still is, the duty of a lookout to report EVERYTHING seen to the bridge and to do so by the sounding of a directional bell... 1 bell ANYTHING seen to starboard. 2 Bells...ANYTHING seen to port and 3 Bells...ANYTHING seen right ahead.
It is not the duty of a Lookout to identify anything seen at see. Consequently, Lookouts do not require binoculars to perform their duty. In practice, binoculars are counter-productive in that they encourage a Lookout to concentrate on a single sighting which may result in missed identification of multiple objects of potential danger to the vessel
It is the duty of a Watch Keeping Officer to positively identify any sighting reported by the Lookouts and to take appropriate action where necessary. For this.binoculars are a positive aid.


As an addition: You may or may not know that Lookouts employ a "trick" which they learn at the beginning of their Lookout duties at night. it is that the horizon is directly in your line of level sight and that if you focus your eyes a little above that level, they will be immediately drawn to anything that is out of place such as a light or an object. It does not work with binoculars.
Thanks for reply.
The 1 bell for Starboard, 2 bells for Portside and 3 for Right ahead. Would you ring a bell for a Haze? And if so how many bells?
 
Mar 22, 2003
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When talking about binoculars, keep in mind that the availability of widefield eyepieces did not appear until about 1919, and
that antireflective coatings on glass-to-air surfaces first came out in 1935 which increased the transmission of light through the binoculars by about 50%. A pair of 7x50s in 1912 was nothing like what you can get today.
 

Dave Gittins

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I found this ad for Big Eyes binoculars. I hope it stays up for a while. Note the field of view of 3.5°, about half that of modern 7 x 50 glasses.

 
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Dec 4, 2000
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20x is the magnification power of the lenses.

The 120mm refers to the diameter of the lenses, hence their light gathering capability.

Increasing the magnification reduces the amount transmitted to the viewer's eyes unless the diameter of the lenses is also increased. The result quickly becomes an unwieldy set of glasses in terms of weight and steadiness. It is quite difficult to hand-hold a pair of glasses much over 7x 50mm, especially on the pitching deck of a smaller vessel. Anything less than a 50mm lens diameter tends to become dark as twilight progresses. So, smaller glasses are likely to be almost useless at sea.

Another major consideration is lens coating. Starting about WW-1 various coatings were developed to help with the brightness of images, especially in twilight or dark. The German military binoculars earned quite a reputation for their coated lenses. The British were behind on this aspect at the start of the war (1914) and their optics were considered inferior.

-- David G. Brown
 

Seumas

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Another major consideration is lens coating. Starting about WW-1 various coatings were developed to help with the brightness of images, especially in twilight or dark. The German military binoculars earned quite a reputation for their coated lenses. The British were behind on this aspect at the start of the war (1914) and their optics were considered inferior.

-- David G. Brown
Funnily enough I was reading the other day about how on the Western Front during WW1, British infantry officers frequently replaced their standard issue binoculars, compass, sidearm, gas mask and boots with captured German gear whenever they got the chance. Such was the vastly superior quality of the workmanship.