Boxhall's Green Flares


Jim Currie

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Jim,
please do not tell anybody :) but I am not sure I agree with myself. I completely lost in all these times :)
You and me -both. "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king". ;)
Major Peuchen said one of the lifeboats had - "a sort of a bluish light......we thought at first was a steamer or something." Was this bluish light coming from Boxhall's flares? Was the atmopshere causing the light to turn blue?

Titanic fired rockets which were reportedly white, but Hichens said - "They were blue."

John Poingdestre said he saw an emergency boat with - "a blue or a green light."

Ernest Gill on the Californian saw the tail end of the rockets and said - "They looked to me to be pale blue, or white. It would be apt to be a very clear blue."

Was something in the atmosphere affecting the colours?


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The following were supplied to the Titanic :
"Distress signals. - These were supplied of number and pattern approved by Board of Trade - i.e., 36 socket signals in lieu of guns, 12 ordinary rockets, 2 Manwell Holmes deck flares, 12 blue lights, and 6 lifebuoy lights.
 
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Aaron_2016

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You and me -both. "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king". ;)

The following were supplied to the Titanic :
"Distress signals. - These were supplied of number and pattern approved by Board of Trade - i.e., 36 socket signals in lieu of guns, 12 ordinary rockets, 2 Manwell Holmes deck flares, 12 blue lights, and 6 lifebuoy lights.


Shortly before the Titanic went down Edith Rosenbaum saw the following:

Letter from 1934.

"I was able to keep an accurate account of the time, wearing a bracelet watch......At 2:10, green rockets were fired from the upper deck. This was the last call for help and mercy."

Any ideas what she was looking at? Were these rockets coming from the Titanic or was Boxhall firing up his first green flares? Is it possible that some of the rockets had burst by accident on the deck? Could this be the reason why sparks were seen flying in the air right before she went down, and the 4 sudden explosive sounds were simply the fireworks going off prematurely on the deck?

Quartermaster Rowe was asked:

Q - Were there any detonators or other signals kept aft?
A - The detonators, such as the distress signal rockets, green lights, and blue lights..
Q - Were there any kept forward?
A - Yes; on the fore bridge.
Q - On the after bridge, too?
A - Not on the after bridge. There was a private locker aft.


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Before looking into the atmospheric conditions....best to study the chromatic spectrum and the color temperature(s) of the materials which burned in those socket signals (called "rockets"). Cinematographers and videographers know this problem. A standard "tungsten" interior bulb is 3200K to maybe 3600K, while outdoor bright sun is above 5500K. Consequently, the tungsten light is "warmer" (closer to red) while the outdoor light is "cooler" (closer to blue). You can make an indoor scene match outdoors using a blue filter over either the lens or the light source.

The propellant charge of those signals probably burned at a lower temperature than the signal charge. Thus, the tail would be of a different color than the bright flash designed to attract attention. We see this every 4th of July in the U.S. in the fireworks displays. The propellant is usually a bright orange to yellow, while the display explodes red, green, white...or, dare I say...blue.

Then, account for the color perception of the people and if they had any cataracts or other lens problems that might produce a spectrum of light on their retinas. In addition, did the person see the light directly, or a flash which illuminated say the boat deck? The colors of the pigments in the paint will change the apparent color of the reflected light. Then as now, it was common to use a bit of blue to make white look brighter.

My point is that even with details as small as the perceived color of a flash of light you cannot cast a small net and catch the big fish of truth.

-- David G. Brown
 
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Aaron_2016

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If Edith was in a lifeboat near the bow and Boxhall was in a boat near the stern, would she look back and see Boxhall's green flare and mistake it for a green rocket at the stern of the Titanic? "......At 2:10, green rockets were fired from the upper deck. This was the last call for help and mercy."




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Aaron_2016

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Was Boxhall far from the stern? Perhaps the glare of the green light was really bright and it created the illusion they were much closer to the ship's stern? e.g.

Mr. Collins - US Inquiry
"We were just turning around and making for the stern end when the wave washed us off the deck......I looked back at her stern end and I saw a green light......I did not really think of what it was until the firemen and sailors came up and said that it was a boat."


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Aaron_2016

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Miss Allen was in lifeboat 2 with Boxhall. She said:

"We were rowed round the stern to the starboard side and away from the ship as our boat was a small one and Boxhall feared the suction. Mrs. Cornell helped to row all the time. As the Titanic plunged deeper and deeper we could see her stern rising higher and higher until her lights began to go out. As the last lights on the stern went out we saw her plunge distinctively, bow first and intact. Then the screams began and seemed to last eternally. We rowed back, after the Titanic was under water, toward the place where she had gone down, but we saw no one in the water, nor were we near enough to any other lifeboats to see them. When Boxhall lit his first light the screams grew louder and then died down."


A number of survivors said the loud screams began when the ship exploded / broke and immediately ceased when the broken stern went under several minutes later in the dark. Mr. Collins saw the green light behind the ship when the water rushed onto the boat deck. I believe the people in Boxhall's boat would have been overwhelmed by the intense glare of the green light and this could explain why Miss Allen did not see the ship break in two as they were away from the stern end and would have difficulty trying to peer through the green light right next to them. She said the screams intensified when Boxhall lit his first green light. I believe that was the moment the broken stern rolled over to port and hundreds of people were thrown into the sea which must have created a horrible loud scream from hundreds of people as they slid off the deck and into the water.

Edith Rosenbaum saw the green light and heard the screams before the Titanic sank and she said (other survivors also said) there was total silence immediately after the ship went down as they could not hear the cries for help that followed because of their distance in the lifeboats. She said:

"Gradually the green starboard light hit the water's edge, and it seemed to me that the boat stood on end. At 2:10, green rockets were fired from the upper deck. This was the last call for help and mercy. At 2:20 I saw the green light disappear entirely. The boat fully lighted up, suggesting one of our skyscrapers. It stood on end and then seemed to shoot or dive; went down by her nose with such speed, that I seemed to think it would come up again in some other part of the ocean. There was a very heavy explosion under water, a second and then a third. We were surprised that instead of sucking us in, the effect was to the contrary, it pushed us out and onward. Perfect silence! Preceding the sinking of the boat there was a loud cry, as if emanating from one throat."

I believe that loud cry was the moment the broken stern rolled over to port and was also the moment that Miss Allen heard the loud cry as Boxhall lit his first green light. I think their accounts tell us that Mr. Collins was correct when he said the water rushed onto the boat deck and when he turned towards the stern he saw a green light in the water and this was I believe Boxhall's first green flare which almost blinded the people in his boat as the ship broke in two and the stern rolled to port which created the loud scream that was heard by Miss Allen in the boat.


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Rob Lawes

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While I've no idea what colour they were, the six lifebouy lights and the two Manwell Holmes deck flares were designed to be self igniting on contact with water.

It would be a certainty that some one would have thrown the lifebouys over the side or jumped in with one.

Its most likely that these were the brilliant lights seen in the water near the ship.
 
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Aaron_2016

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Mr. Stengel said - "I heard about five shots; that is while we were afloat. Four of them I can account for in this way, that when the green lights were lit on the boat they were lashed to - my wife's boat - the man shot off a revolver four times, thinking it was a vessel. The man in charge said, "You had better save all your revolver shots, you had better save all your matches, and save everything. It may be the means of saving your life." After that I heard another shot that seemed to be aboard the Titanic."


Mr. Collins saw the green light when he was on the ship and estimated it was several miles away.


Q - You say you were swept off of the Titanic's deck by a wave?
A - Yes, sir.
"I had the child in my arms, and I looked back at her stern end and I saw a green light."
Q - What did you think it was, one of your own boats?
A - No, sir; I did not really think of what it was until the firemen and sailors came up and said that it was a boat.
Q - That is, a ship?
A - Yes, sir.
Q - What became of it?
A - Sir, it disappeared.
Q - How long was it visible?
A - About 20 minutes or half an hour, I am sure it was.
Q - How far away, would you think, from the Titanic?
A - I guess it would be about 4 miles; I am sure, 3 or 4 miles.

(After the ship went down he reached a boat and continued to see the green light.) "We drifted, I am sure, a mile and a half from the Titanic, from where she sank, and there was some lifeboat that had a green light on it, and we thought it was a boat after the Titanic had sunk. We thought this green light was some boat, and we commenced to shout. All we saw was the green light. We were drifting about for two hours, and then we saw the lights of the Carpathia."


The Titanic turned northwards and most of the lifeboats rowed towards a ship that appeared towards the north off the Titanic's bow in the same direction where the Northern lights appeared, Boxhall instead rowed the opposite way towards the south and away from the stern and was the first boat to be rescued by the Carpathia. Mr. Woolner was asked:

Q - During the time that you were drifting about did you see any lights in any direction other than those that were on the lifeboats?
A - I could not tell; but there was a green light that appeared, not all the time, but most of the time, down to the south.
Q - How far away?
A - I could not tell, but I should think about half a mile or a mile.
Q - That was probably the green light that was on Officer Boxhall's boat?
A - Very likely. I did not identify it.


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Rob Lawes

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That sounds more like they are talking about a hand held lamp in a boat and not a flare.

A hand held flare would burn intensely for around 60 seconds.
 
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Aaron_2016

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Edith Rosenbaum described them as "green rockets". I think Boxhall's green lights had the appearance of a green flare with sparks and balls of light occasionally wizzing out of the flare like a sparkler at Halloween.


Mrs. Douglas was in the same lifeboat with Boxhall and she said they were "Green lights, like rockets. These he commenced to send off at intervals."


Colonel Gracie said - ".....Those lights we saw were the lights of the lifeboats of the Titanic, particularly one that was steering ahead of us, with green lights, and throwing up rockets, I think, or making lights every little while. Not rockets, but making a light. I do not know what kind of light they had, but it was a green light."
Q - There were no explosions of any kind from that lifeboat?
A - Which lifeboat, the lifeboat we saw ahead?
Q - The one with the green light. Was the green light the only light you saw?
A - No.....


Edith said the green rockets appeared at 2.10am before the ship sank by her watch.

Mrs. Shelley said:
"After coming loose from the ship, the orders were to pull out toward the other boats and get as far away from the probable suction which would ensue if the steamer should sink. Orders were also given to keep in sight of the green light of the ship's boat which had been sent out ahead to look for help. That on reaching a distance of about 100 yards from the Titanic a loud explosion or noise was heard, followed closely by another, and the sinking of the big vessel began."

Boxhall said he did not know when the ship had sunk, but he heard the cries and lit a green light.
"I did not know when the lights went out that the ship had sunk. I saw the lights go out, but I did not know whether she had sunk or not, and then I heard the cries. I was showing green lights in the boat then, to try and get the other boats together, trying to keep us all together."

Edith and Mrs Shelley both saw the green light before the ship sank. I think Boxhall lit the first green light before she sank, and according to Mrs Shelley there followed several explosions and the ship began to sink more rapidly. Mrs Allen said the screams grew louder when Boxhall lit his first green light, and Edith and Lady Duff Gordon and several others said there was total silence after the ship sank within their hearing distance in the lifeboats. I think we can safely say that Boxhall did light the first green flare/light before the ship sank and could also explain why he never saw her go down or break in half owing to the intense brightness of the green light.

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Mila

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Here are the signal details.

Green pyro light, followed by rocket throwing 2 green stars, rocket being followed by another green pyro light; or two green pyro lights exhibited simultaneously.

Not a Roman candle in sight!
Hi Dave,

Could you please tell me for how long such flare is seen, and if pyro light goes to the same height the rockets do and has the same brightness as the rockets?
 

Mila

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Thank you, Sam, and what about the rockets? The rockets were used together with this pyro light, were they not? For how long they burn and how high they go?
 

Mila

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Now anyone who has been at sea on a clear, dark, moonless night, using binoculars to search for a light, will know that you automatically point the glasses at the horizon. It is seldom that you cannot actually see where sky ends and sea begins. Rostron would be scanning the horizon with his glasses as would everyone else who had them. Yet he distinctly mentions the relative word 'high'.

Any comments?

Jim C.
Actually according to Bisset they saw a green light at the horizon. They thought it was the sidelight of the Titanic. Then the light diapered, and only after that they thought it could have been a signal. Only after that (thinking they were still 25 miles away) they decided it had to be high in the sky in order for them to see it. Even if they were making 15 knots they would have been 13 miles away from the flare. They did see the top part of it and it was at 2:40 a.m. No mistakes in the time of the sighting, and no super refraction required.
 

Mila

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Rostron claimed that this sighting was at 2:40am, ship’s time. However, as already pointed out, a handheld flare the kind that Boxhall was holding, could be seen at most about 11 miles away from the bridge of Carpathia. Even assuming Carpathia was averaging about 15½ knots, by 2:40am she would have been still too far away for a handheld flare in a lifeboat to be seen. Rostron also said that at 2:45am he ordered rockets to be fired to “reassure Titanic.” However, the earliest that rockets were seen from those in the boats was about 45 minutes before the first boat was picked up. (See Boxhall, American inquiry p. 911). Distress rockets (actually socket signals) of the kind used on passenger vessels of the time would go to heights of 600 to 800 feet. If Carpathia started to send them up as early at 2:45am they should have been seen by those in the boats. They were not. Furthermore, the earliest report that some ship was telling another ship to look out for rockets comes from the wireless log of Caronia. The time was logged at 6:16am GMT, or 1:16am NYT. Confirmation that Carpathia was sending up rockets comes from the wireless log of Mount Temple which logged that event at 1:25am NYT. In terms of Carpathia time, these would correspond to about 3:15-3:20am. Carpathia's rockets were also seen from Californian about 3:20am her time.

It seems Rostron simply got his timing all wrong as Dave pointed out 14 years ago; Carpathia's Rescue Mission.
But Sam, we have no idea about the starting point of Carpathia. Besides as I mentioned just above Rostron saw not a flare, but only a light that they mistook with a sidelight.
 

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