Boxhall's Big Mistake


Jim Currie

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Here's another old wound that needs worrying. It's often been written about before but a satisfactory answer has yet to be found

It is well known that 4th Officer Boxhall and Captain Smith made a mess of working out where Titanic was when she hit the iceberg.

Captain Smith placed her at Latitude 41-44;North, Longitude 50-24'West, Boxhall placed her at Latitude 41-46'North, Longitude 50-14'West. In fact, the wreck is situated at Latitude 41-44'North, Longitude 49-57'West. There are finer definitions but round numbers will do for this.

It can be seen that Captain Smith was nearest with his latitude but his Longitude is almost exactly 20 miles too far to the West. His is the easiest mistake to explain.

In his BBC Interview in 1962, Boxhall said that Captain Smith told him he had used the ship's estimated position for 8 pm that night as the basis for calculating a distress position. Boxhall told him he was wrong. "She was about 20 miles AHEAD of that sir". But in that interview, Boxhall's memory was possibly partly influenced by the 1950's film, "A night to Remember" since he had been an adviser to the film maker. What if he was mixed-up? What if it was the 8 pm estimated position that was 20 miles ahead of the actual one calculated from star sights?
I tried this. When this theory is aplied to Captain Smith's distress position of 41-44'North, 50-24'West. we arrive at the position of 41.45.7 'North, 49.57.2 'West.. a point in the same Longitude and 1.7 miles to the north of where Titanic's wreck now lies. I think that's fairly conclusive.

But what about Boxhall's faux pas? How did he get it so wrong?

Boxhall said that he used the star fix position for 7-30pm (Probably 7-38pm) that night as his base and used a speed of 22 knots from there to a time of 11-45pm. He does not say what run or lapsed time he used but I believe he used the run time of 7-38pm to 11-45pm plus 48 minutes.. a total of 4 hours 50 minutes. The extra 48 minutes consisted of double the planned clock set-back of 24 minutes. His mistake was two-fold. He used he wrong speed and he compensated twice for a 24 minute clock set-back carried out by 5th Officer Moody before he, Boxhall arrived back on the bridge.

Over to you.

Jim C.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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About a decade ago I realized that within reason Captain Smith's 50̊ 24' West is Titanic's predicted longitude for midnight, starting Monday April 15, 1912. There is no evidence the Captain actually computed his CQD coordinates. Rather, he seems to have picked up an existing set and used them to get ships starting in Titanic's direction. It would have been necessary to predict the ship's true midnight in order to determine how much extra time had to be added to the old day, April 14th. This would have been done some time prior to the accident. Captain Smith obviously expected Boxhall to update the true midnight coordinates with more accurate numbers to bring potential rescuers even closer to the sinking ship. This updating was apparently a priority for Titanic's master. We know that after he returned from inspection of the flooding Smith was quite concerned that Boxhall had updated the CQD position and the new numbers were being used.

Bohall's coordinates are no mystery. They are 20 minutes of steaming retrograde from the Captain's numbers. Obviously, this interval represents the duration from 11:40 p.m. and “midnight.” No matter what he may have said in later life, these numbers do not lie. Boxhall simply took a reciprocal of the ship's track for 20 minutes of steaming at 22 knots to determine his set of coordinates. As we shall see, however, the two men apparently did not properly communicate the meaning of “midnight” in any discussion they may have had concerning the CQD coordinates. Boxhall's big mistake was a simple misunderstanding of the term "midnight."

If Smith's were for 0000 hours April 15th, and Boxhall went backwards up the track for 20 minutes, then he did not compute his coordinates for the actual time of the accident. Rather, he worked out where the ship would have been 20 minutes before real midnight at 2447 hours in April 14th time. As it happened, Titanic never crossed through either its true midnight nor Boxhall's coordinates. It sank before it got that far. The reason was those pesky 47 extra minutes of time added to April 14th because of the ship's westward motion. Smith's coordinates were for 2447 while Boxhalls were for 2427. Neither was for 2404, the actual time of impact on the iceberg in unaltered April 14th time.

2404 April 14 - 24 minute setback = 11:40 pm Crew Time -- Time of impact on berg.

While this solves the longitude half of the coordinates, there is still the matter of latitude. Both sets are well south of the ship's original 266̊ course. It is axiomatic that a line connecting one set of coordinates to another set for the same ship will indicate the course made good between those sets of coordinates. In this case, a ship moving from Boxhall's to Smith's CQD positions would have made good 255̊. Since Titanic was on a commercial passage and could not afford cutting didoes in mid-ocean, it is reasonable to assume that it's course steered was the same as what it made good. The altered course was 11̊ to the left, or south, of the original course. Titanic's compass cards were marked in 1-degree increments. So, 11 full degrees is as close to one compass point (11 1/4 degrees) as could be steered using a Titanic compass.

If we extend the 255̊ line backwards, it crosses the original 266̊ course line at exactly the ship's 11:30 p.m. estimated position in unaltered April 14th time. This means that Boxhall and Smith believed the ship turned 11̊ to its left at 11 hours and 30 minutes after Noon that day. To find out why that time of the turn is important we have to look into theIMM/White Star rule book.

Article 253 of the IMM/WSL rules under which Titanic's voyage was conducted required the Officer Of The Watch to, “steady the ship on her course by standard (compass) every half-hour, and must compare the compasses every Watch...” It is reasonable to expect that Captain Smith would have combined this required compass evolution with a course change. That would have minimized the time away from the bridge necessary for both Fourth Officer Boxhall and quartermaster Olliver. Sailing ships used the compass point system. While it was dying out, many old hands still found it useful. It is significant that this course change of 11̊ was the closest thing to one full point that could be read on one of the ship's compass cards.

Summing up, the two sets of CQD coordinates when combined with both the ship's course and speed, and viewed in light of the IMM/WSL rules, indicate: Titanic steered 266̊ from “The Corner” to 11:30 p.m. in unaltered April 14th time. It then altered course 11̊ to 255̊ until just before impact on the iceberg. For the first set of CQD Coordinates Captain Smith used Titanic's predicted midnight position for his set of CQD coordinates. A few minutes later, Boxhall mathematically went “back up” the ship's track by 20 minutes to come up with his more famous 41̊ 46' North; 50̊ 14' West CQD coordinates.

Why didn't Boxhall go backwards up the ship's track to its actual position at 2404 hours April 14th?

Steam.

He had just made two trips into the bow and steam was roaring from funnel #1. Not only would he have been only dimly aware of the actual time, but that roaring made conversations on deck almost impossible. Most likely, Captain Smith tried to convey that he used the “midnight” position and asked Boxhall to correct it. Boxhall assumed he meant 12:00 o'clock which was what clocks set to retarded crew time read. So, it seemed natural to “back up” the track 20 minutes to the previous 11:40 p.m. and call the job done. It probably never occurred to either man that they were speaking of two completely different “midnights:”
Captain Smith – midnight marking start of day/date April 15;

Boxhall – midnight change of watch for crew.

In any event conversation was difficult with that roaring steam and both men had urgent business to attend. Captain Smith really has to take the blame for this misunderstanding. As senior officer he should have had Boxhall "echo back" the instructions to make sure they were fully understood. This echoing of the command apparently never took place. Smith was gone when Boxhall finished, so he showed his work to Chief Officer Wilde who had no knowledge of the whole affair and could not judge its accuracy. (Boxhall later claimed he showed them to the captain, but this would have been impossible. His coordinates were being transmitted even before Smith returned from his inspection of the flooding.) In the end, Boxhall's computations were wrong by 23 minutes but it hardly mattered. His famous CQD coordinates were good enough to bring Carapthia up to Titanic's flotilla of lifeboats.


-- David G. Brown
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>Boxhall later claimed he showed them [his coordinates] to the captain, but this would have been impossible. His coordinates were being transmitted even before Smith returned from his inspection of the flooding.<<

Why would any distress coordinates be sent before the full extent of damage to the ship was ascertained? And of course, why would Capt. Smith send out a knowingly wrong position in a distress message which could result in vessels heading in the wrong direction?
 

Doug Criner

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Sam, I'm not in a position to follow all your post. But, regarding the noise of steam - how loud would it have been inside the chartroom? Making conversation impossible or all that difficult?
 

Adam Went

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Clearly both of them were out with their positioning but given the damage sustained to the wreck and its journey to the bottom of the ocean, I think they deserve a little bit of leeway. The ship did not simply drop like a stone from the position where it finally stopped.

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Rob Lawes

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Hi all.

Forgive me if this is a 'numpty' question, having spent a good number of hours on the bridge's of various RN ships I have a basic idea of navigation but I'd like to clarify a point.

As I understand it, a course is plotted on the chart and then from the last fix a series of points are marked off as estimated positions along that navigational track. So if you were doing 22 1/2 knots by the log you would open the dividers to 22.5 nm and run that up the line to the point for a number of estimated positions. When you take your next fix you can compare your calculated position with your estimated position, calculate a course to make good any difference along the nav track and so on. The old estimated positions, now no longer relevant would be rubbed out and new ones applied to show where you now expect to be until you take the next fix.

Have I got this wrong? Otherwise, why would they still be using an erroneous 8pm estimated position, especially when OOW had taken a star sighting only 20 minutes before which would / should have lead to a new set of EP's / course made good if required being added to the chart.

Also, if Boxhall knew at 11:55pm that the 8:00pm fix was 20 miles out (either ahead or behind), why was that EP still being used? Surely all Captain Smith would have to do is start at the 7:30 (38?)pm fix and run it forward at 22 1/2 NM for 4 hours give or take. At least he could be sure that the star sight was a true fix as apposed to an EP being just that, an estimation that would have surely been run up from the previous fix (noon or sunset?)

I may have just written a pile of nonsense and made a school boy navigational error but what can I say, I started in signals then became an engineer

Regards

Rob.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Doug, I'm not sure why your are asking me about the noise level in the chart room, but outside on deck it was very difficult to hear someone that was standing right next to you without cupping your hands and shouting according to several accounts.

Rob, you ask a very good question. Why would Smith use an 8pm dead reckoning (DR) position as his starting point for calculating a distress position when, according to Boxhall in 1912, he put the 7:30pm star fix on the Captain's chart about 10pm?

Also, Boxhall's 1962 account, where he stated that the ship was 20 miles ahead of her DR, seems a bit far fetched to me unless the fix itself was miscalculated by some systematic error that affected all sights, or the DR was miscalculated. However, we know from the mileages run per day that the ship had to be not too far from the 'corner' point (42°N, 47°W) when her course was altered at 5:50pm. Traveling close to 22 knots, the ship was advancing about 1/2 a degree in longitude westward every hour after her course was altered. By 8pm the ship should have been not that far from 48°W. To be 20 miles off by 7:30 or 8pm implies an error in position of some 27 minutes-of-arc in longitude, almost 1/2 a degree too far westward from what would be expected. I doubt something of that magnitude would have gone unnoticed, or unchallenged, when put on the chart.

I also strongly disagree with David's statement that Boxhall's coordinates were "good enough" to bring Carpathia up the boats. The truth is that Carpathia accidentally stumbled onto the boats while heading to a wrong location. Ironically, Boxhall made up for it by having the forethought of placing those green flares into his boat before he departed the ship. If not for that, a far different outcome may have resulted.
 
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Going off on a tangent here possibly, but didn't Titanic's actual position end up being almost directly between the CQD position and Carpathia's starting position, anyway? Meaning, Carpathia would have steamed basically straight through the vicinity of the actual wreck on the way to Boxhall's DR position?
 
Mar 22, 2003
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These are the DR track lines for three vessels that headed for the SOS coordinates:
Copy of Expanded Area Chart.jpg

Copy of Expanded Area Chart.jpg
 

Rob Lawes

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So here's a follow up question then. Given that the 7:30 star sighting was the first opportunity to fix the ships position following Titanic making a major alteration of course at "the corner" then why did Boxhall wait until 10pm to put the fix on the chart? That's around 2 1/2 hours additional running that could have opened the course between the nav track and the ships actual position. At best it seems like there was an attitude of "where we are in the middle of the ocean what does it matter, we're not exactly going to run aground out here" and at worst it seems like total incompetence. I could just imagine the old mans reaction on a warship if the officer of the watch turned round and said, "yeah I took a good fix a couple of hours ago but didn't bother sticking it on the chart, I suppose I should really".

So, it begs the question, did anyone on the bridge that night actually know with any reasonable clarity where the ship was?

What sort of handover did they do on the bridge at the end of each watch? As the dog watch handed over to the first on the bridge did they just go, "well we're somewhere around here, we made the turn in the first dog and Boxhall's taken a fix but you'll have to see him if you want to know where we are as he's not stuck it on the chart yet." Does that sound like the sort of thing experienced mariners would do?
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Hi Rob,

You certainly ask interesting questions about how the ship was navigated. I'm sure Jim Currie will have a few comments about it, but maybe we can get some insight from 5/O Lowe and 3/O Pitman.

At the American inquiry Lowe had this to say about navigation:

p. 369: "We are there to do the navigating part so the senior officer can be and shall be in full charge of the bridge and have nothing to worry his head about. We have all that, the junior officers; there are four of us. The three seniors are in absolute charge of the boat. They have nothing to worry themselves about. They simply have to walk backward and forward and look after the ship, and we do all the figuring and all that sort of thing in our chart room."

p. 381:
Senator SMITH. Yes; you and your fellow officers worked out the details?
Mr. LOWE. We worked out the positions, sir; yes, sir.
Senator SMITH. The positions on the chart?
Mr. LOWE. No, sir; we do not use a chart. If we wish to place the position on a chart so that we may know the locality we may do so, because we have charts there.
Senator SMITH. You have them there for that purpose?
Mr. LOWE. But we work them out by tables and other things - books.
Senator SMITH. By these tables you work out the ship's position?
Mr. LOWE. Yes, sir.
Senator SMITH. From the astronomical observations?
Mr. LOWE. Yes, sir.
Senator SMITH. And the course of the ship?
Mr. LOWE. Yes, we work out the course, too.
Senator SMITH. Do you determine from these observations whether the ship is on its course?
Mr. LOWE. Yes, sir.

p. 383:
Mr. LOWE. From 6 to 8 I was busy working out this slip table as I told you before, and doing various odds and ends and working a dead-reckoning position for 8 o'clock p. m. to hand in to the captain, or the commander of the ship.
Senator SMITH. What would that indicate?
Mr. LOWE. That was to indicate the position of the ship at that time, 8 o'clock.
Senator SMITH. Do you know what the position of the ship was at 8 o'clock?
Mr. LOWE. No, sir; I do not, I do not remember.
Senator SMITH. Did you make a report to the captain?
Mr. LOWE. I handed him the slip report.
Senator SMITH. Did you hand it to him personally?
Mr. LOWE. On his chart-room table.
Senator SMITH. Did you call his personal attention to it?
Mr. LOWE. No; we never do. We simply put the slip on the table; put a paper weight or something on it, and he comes in and sees it. It is nothing of any great importance.
Senator SMITH. What did you do it for?
Mr. LOWE. It has always been done, so that the position of the ship might be filled in the night order book.

Mr. Pitman had this to say about putting the ship's position on a chart:

15223. [Commissioner ] How often when you are on watch do you mark the position of the ship on the chart? – [Pitman] Only at noon.
15224. Do not you mark it again? - No, not when we are well at sea.
15225. You do not mark it when you go off watch for the purpose of letting the man who succeeds you see at once on the chart where the ship is? - No, only when we are making the land.
15226. Do you do it when you get a stellar observation? - No, my Lord, unless we are making the land.

Here is what Boxhall had to say:
Senator BURTON. What time did you do that? [calculate the ship's position from the star sights]
Mr. BOXHALL. I really do not know what time it was. I was working these things out after 8 o'clock, and Mr. Lightoller took them before 8 o'clock.
Senator BURTON. About how long was that before the collision?
Mr. BOXHALL. The collision was at 11.43, I think.
Senator BURTON. And how long before the collision did you make this computation?
Mr. BOXHALL. I suppose about 10 o'clock. Yes; I finished before 10 o'clock, because I gave Mr. Lightoller the results when I finished.
Senator BURTON. And the result as to the position of the ship was arrived at by computing your speed after 10 clock to the time of the collision?
Mr. BOXHALL. Yes.

and,

15547. (The Solicitor-General.) I cannot hear what you say happened at 10 o’clock? - [Boxhall] The Captain plotted the star position of the ship at 7.30; he put that down on his chart at about 10 o’clock.
15548. (Mr. Scanlan.) Do you know what that position was? - No, I do not, but the position you have in the Court is worked from that position.
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Rob and Sam.

In mid ocean, a chart is of limited value to a navigator. The scale is so great that a pencil dot can be over a mile in width (We always told the Cadets to have a sharp pencil). The normal thing on ocean passage was to keep a running work Book. We all had one. It was kept in GMT so for comparisons, ship times had to be converted to that common time. From time to time I would mark a position but it would be for reference to reports of or from other vessels, Such reports as was sent to Titanic regarding ice, derelicts etc.

I've never been happy with Boxhall's late-in-life revelations regarding that time in his life. I suspect intervening years and the taint of celluloid misted his memory a bit. I also believe he had a private revelation regrading these erroneous positions and sent out deliberately confusing signals. With these in mind, we should all be asking why it was, that captain Smith used that 8 pm DR if Boxhall gave him the coordinates for the 7-30 pm Fix sometime before 10 pm that night? We know Boxhall did so because he told his questioner that he watch the captain 'prick-off' the position on his personal chart. The 8 pm DR would have been written in the Scrap Log. Was Smith too lazy to get a real position? I don't think so.

Boxhall had 5 or six separate calculations to make before he arrived at the calculated position for sights. Each one would take him up to 15 minutes and he would constantly check one against the other. Depends on the method he used. It follows that, counting interruptions, of which there would have been a few, it would be well after 9 pm before he completed his task. His end result would not only have produced a set of coordinates but also an average speed from Noon that day. There was no urgency such as when coasting or when getting close to an alteration or as they say nowadays "way" point.

I have one question for you Sam; Why has the evidence of 5th Officer Lowe regarding ship speed been discounted all these years?

Jm C.
 
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Sam seems to believe that sending out a “wrong” position is of no value during an emergency. Yet, modern mariners (especially those who sail small craft) are taught to do just what Captain Smith did that night – send the best description available of the ship's position in the first distress message. Then, if there is time and the wireless keeps working (electricity being somewhat of a miracle in salt water) the position can be refined and updated.

The idea is to get potential rescue vessel's alerted and heading toward the area where the vessel in distress lies as soon as possible. Valuable time can be saved in this manner as opposed to waiting to send a “Mayday” until the coordinates are worked out to the last decimal. Ships already steaming toward the foundering vessel need only make slight course alterations to “home in” on the corrected position as they go.

In a worse possible case, power for the radio transmitter may only be available for moments after disaster strikes. Waiting to send a distress call may take longer than the electricity remains working. It's far better to have ships going to a nearby “wrong” location than to not to send any distress call.

Even today most large ships have elevated observation platforms that give a horizon distance of 9 to 10 miles. In 1912, this was universally true because human eyes in a crow's nest were the only early warning devices around (radar not having been invented). All distress coordinates that fall within the horizon distance of a potential rescue vessel can be accurate enough as long as there is anything of the distressed vessel for lookouts to see – the ship, its lifeboats, or even green flares. It is a simple matter to shift from steering by compass to steering by visual sightings to bring the rescue vessel to the exact location of the incident.

The efficacy of this procedure was demonstrated by Titanic. The Captain's first set of CQD coordinates served to alert ships. Even though Boxhall's updated position was quite inaccurate, it still allowed other ships to come near enough to Titanic's actual foundering to have seen something. We know this was true because that is factually what did take place. Carpathia was heading to the “wrong” location when it more-or-less stumbled upon boat #2. The officer in charge of that boat, Boxhall, used green flares to guide Carpathia as close as possible to his boat's location. Rescue was of all survivors followed.

A few years ago a friend of mine was single-handing his 32-foot sailboat from Easter Island bound for Cape Horn. He got into trouble and sent a distress call on his emergency beacon (EPIRB). This call was received by the Chilean Navy but not believed because the EPIRB was registered here in Ohio. Another friend and I working in my home office used dead reckoning to show that his boat should have been within 200 miles of the beacon's signal. A search plane started a pattern using the EPIRB coordinates and found him about a third of the way from that lat/lon on a line to where our dead reckoning placed his boat. None of the positions used to rescue our hapless voyager were accurate by a hundred miles. Yet, he is safely home because they were “good enough” under the circumstances.

– David G. Brown
 

Jim Currie

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Hello David.

So true about EPIRB use.

Around 2002, a distress call was received by the MCA in the Clyde. It was passed to the Air Sea Rescue Unit who scrambled a helicopter.
Half an hour later, a man living on a council estate in a small Ayrshire coastal town was deafened by the sound of an S61 over his house. He went to his front door to have a look and found the police waiting for him. Seems he had stolen the beacon from a nearby yacht marina and the bloody thing went of in his kitchen.:mad:

Jim C.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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I really feel the need to respond to David's post above concerning Capt. Smith sending out a known fallacious position just to get rescue ships turned around quickly.
If the real accident happened at 12:04 unadjusted time, as he claims, and the Smith CQD location was for 12:47 unadjusted time, that puts the two locations 43 minutes apart from each other. Now why would Capt. Smith send potential rescue ships off to a position that was almost 16 nautical miles (43 minutes at 22 knots) from where the “real” accident supposedly took place? As it were, Smith’s CQD was sent out 10 minutes before Boxhall’s CQD which could have meant a 20 minute extra round-trip delay in reaching the stricken Titanic by a potential rescue ship. And I really must ask, was Capt. Smith so incompetent that he had to ask a junior officer to do some simple calculations that he and other ship commanders did on a daily basis? How hard would it have been for Capt. Smith, a Master Mariner himself, to back coordinates by the correct 43 minutes in this type of scenario? He could have done it in his head. The quick and dirty way, if he was in a real hurry just to get ships turned around and moving his way, would be to take 22 knots of travel for three-quarters of an hour eastward from this alleged civil midnight point. At the latitude they were in, it was well known that every 3 miles east or west results in 4 minutes-of-arc to the east or west, something Smith would have known having traveled that route for years. So 22 knots multiplied by ¾ of an hour multiplied by 4 miles per 3 minutes-of-arc results in a change of 22 minutes-of-arc to the east. This is exactly the same number as the ship’s speed in knots. What could be easier than that? Like the example of Captain Rostron of the Carpathia, Capt. Smith was more than qualified to work up his own ship’s position, without sending any potential rescue ships off on a possible wild goose chase 16 miles away from the collision point while someone was sent to look for a junior officer to work things out.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Jim, you asked: “I have one question for you Sam; Why has the evidence of 5th Officer Lowe regarding ship speed been discounted all these years?”

I believe I stated this all before, but I'll state it again since you asked.

It is very evident, at least to me, that Lowe was quite irritated by he questions that Sen. Smith was putting to him about how he arrived at the ship's position for his 8pm DR. It all started when Smith asked if he had any part in determining the course and position of Titanic on Sunday afternoon and evening. Lowe explained he worked the course from noon to the corner and the ship’s 8pm DR. Smith then asked him if he needed to determine the speed of the ship to get the 8pm position. Lowe said they had fair idea of what she was doing. He specifically said that he determined the speed of the ship by dividing the distance from noon to the corner by the elapsed time it took to get to the corner. Smith was not happy with that answer and started questioning him about the use of engine revolutions and celestial sights to get an accurate measure of speed which seemed to get Lowe very annoyed. Lowe then explained:

“If you take the average speed from 12 to 6 - that is giving her a run of six hours - she will not jump up in two hours, from 12 to 6 o'clock, from that average speed. You have six hours in there to take a mean on.” After some more give and take about the speed, Lowe handed Smith a slip of paper and said: “This is the only figuring that is required to get the speed.” He obviously wrote down something to the effect: speed = distance / time.

The distance to the corner from noon was about 126 miles. Diving that by 6 hours gives us Lowe’s 21 knots. But the problem is, as you know, the ship altered course at 5:50, not 6:00pm, and unless a sight was taken near that time, the actual position of the ship where the course change was made was not known precisely.

There are several things that suggest that the ship actually went past the corner when her course was altered, which implies that the ship ran more than 126 miles in 5h 50m. First, both Boxhall and Pitman said she did. (I’ll let you try to explain why they both said that.) Second, if you back either Boxhall’s CQD or Smith’s CQD to the corner longitude by the reciprocal course lines used (Boxhall said he used 266T while I assume Smith used the charted value of 265T) you will find that they cross 3 to 4 miles south of the corner latitude. To be on either of those course lines, the ship had to have gone beyond the corner when the course was altered at 5h 50m past noon. This means that its speed between noon and 5:50 had to be greater than 21 knots. And let me point out that 21 knots is more than a knot slower than what the ship had accomplished over the previous 24 hours running against the North Atlantic Drift. Her revolutions were kept the same at 75 since noontime Saturday.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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One more thing. If Lowe had indeed used 20.95 knots, as he said he did in working the 8pm DR, then over 5h 50m from noon to the corner, the ship would have traveled 122.2 miles, not 126, making the distance from Daunt’s Rock to the corner 1549+122 = 1671 miles. This is 2 miles less than what was even possible for any vessel to do, even one that was precisely tracking the great circle from Fastnet to the corner by GPS.
 

Rob Lawes

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The more I think about it, the more I think that, if Capt Smith had both the 8pm DR position and the 7.30pm star sighting in his possession when he calculated his position for the initial distress call, he would have only used the 8pm DR because it was close enough to the 7.30pm star sighting to validate both positions.

There then becomes a problem with this theory because Boxhalls fix doesn't require a S=D/T calculation. Therefore if the 8pm DR is out due to the wrong estimation of the ships speed there is no way that it could match with a star fix. The Captain would see immediately that one or the other was miles out.

Lowe tells us that the 8pm DR was used as the position for the night order book and little else and that it wasn't shown directly to the Captain. Was the night order book issued that night? I've no idea but we do know that Smith had retired for the night telling the bridge that he was to be contacted if it became at all doubtful so you must assume that he promulgated the same instructions in his night order book and that he had therefore seen the 8pm DR. He was certainly familiar enough with it at around 10 to midnight to trust it enough for a distress message.

Boxhall says he was with the Captain when he put the 7.30pm star fix on the chart. Lowe says the 8pm DR was placed in the Chartroom under a paper weight. The Captain must have seen both or, either Lowe or Boxhall is not telling the truth. So if the positions were that far out, why didn't the Captain notice?

So, what if they were that far out, the Captain noticed and altered the ships course to regain his original nav track? This could have a number of consequences, firstly putting the ship on it's course with the Iceberg and secondly, making the 8pm DR a valid position once Titanic had made good her course. This could then bring about a situation where Capt Smith, under stress mixed up the ahead and the behind of the DR and perhaps if Boxhall was unaware of any course changes leading him to believe that his original star fix and the current ships course had been maintained and therefore he could calculate his coordinates based on an incorrect assumption?

Any good or does the drawing board await my return?
 

Jim Currie

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"This is 2 miles less than what was even possible for any vessel to do, even one that was precisely tracking the great circle from Fastnet to the corner by GPS.

It certainly is Sam. But you assume that Titanic maintained the course set at Noon and that she actually reached The Corner.

Keep in mind who it was who set the 5-50pm alteration time... time...not position. Captain Smith, not Lowe, Boxhall or Pitman.

Smith was probably one of the top North Atlantic Captains of the day. He knew every inch of that track from Queenstown to New York as well as every little surprise (except one) the western ocean could throw at him. He also knew as did Boxhall and Captain Moore of the Mount Temple that they could expect to encounter the Gulf Stream in that area.
He also knew that an Olympic class vessel running at 75 rpm would make about 21.5 knots.

As you say; from Noon April 14, to The Corner was about 126 nautical miles but Smith knew his chances of hitting it on the money were very slim. He would watch the 2 hourly DRs from Noon. At 4pm, the patent log would indicate a distance travelled of 84 nautical miles. Experience would tell him that his ship was being influenced by the Gulf Stream and, because it set about ENE in that part of the ocean, that she was probably being set eastward and to the southward of his planned course from Noon. This meant that he would meet an easterly extension of his next course; the laid-down rhumb line course of 284.5 True to New York and would pass to the eastward of The Corner. His ETA for crossing that line would be about 6 pm. But where exactly would his ship be at that time?
Since Titanic was making just on 21.0 knots and she had made 22 knots the previous 24 hours, Smith would estimate that she was being set ENE'ly x 0.75 miles every hour. Consequently, using a set of 4.5 miles in the direction of 084.5 (Rhumb line reciprocal)True from The Corner, Smith would plot a position where Titanic crossed that line. That would be the place and time to alter onto his final course for New York. If indeed he did do that, then that would place Titanic at 42-00.05'North, 46-53'West...122.5 miles from Noon when she altered course.
At 21 knots, it would have taken Titanic 5 hour and 50 minutes from Noon. That's why Smith would write in his Night Order Book : "At 5-50 pm alter course 44 degrees to starboard and steer 284.5 degrees True".

We can check this.

Smith's Distress position was 20 miles west of where Titanic hit the iceberg. The patent log read 260 miles from Noon April 14 at the time of impact. If Titanic had indeed travelled a further 20 miles then at Smith's distress position, it would have recorded 280 nautical miles. Subtract 122.5 miles from 280 miles = 157.5 miles. Then run back that distance on 084.5 True. You'll find you arrive close to 42-00.5'North, 46- 53'West. In fact you'll find yourself about 0.7 miles to the westward. Here's a quick sketch of what I'm getting at:

Movement pm 12th..jpg

JIm C.

Movement pm 12th..jpg
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>The more I think about it, the more I think that, if Capt Smith had both the 8pm DR position and the 7.30pm star sighting in his possession when he calculated his position for the initial distress call, he would have only used the 8pm DR because it was close enough to the 7.30pm star sighting to validate both positions. <<

If Smith had both the 8pm DR position and the 7.30pm star sighting in his possession when he calculated his position I'm sure he would have used the celestial fix since a fix is about as accurate as one could hope to get. That is unless he suspected something very wrong with it.

I think the key to the Smith CQD is its distance from the wreck site. It is only about 2 miles less than an hour of steaming at 22 knots.
 

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