Boxhall's reworking of the CQD position

Rob Lawes

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There may have been a current, I don't know in which direction however its unlikely to have been an easterly around 5 knots to produce Smith's miscalculation and around 3 knots to produce Boxhall's.

Putting that into context in terms of current strength, the Bristol Channel has the second largest drop between high and low tides in the world. At maximum flow the current speed is between 6 and 7 knots.
 

Jim Currie

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I guess you don't want to say or speculate why two of T's officers swore that the ship should have been at the Corner well before the time that was set. Boxhall's exact words were: "Yes, I saw it and I remarked to the Chief Officer between 4 o’clock and 6 o’clock that I considered the course ought to have been altered some considerable time before 5.50 - that is, if it was meant to be altered at the corner, 42 N., 47 W."
You still don't get it, Sam. Or rather, don't want to.
Titanic turned The Corner at 5-50 pm...8-48 pm GMT.
You believe she had 126 miles to run from Noon to The Corner. The minimum average speed from Noon was 20.95 knots (Lowe) The maximum average speed was 22.1 (As per previous Day's Run). It follows that the distance run from Noon to 5-50 pm was between 122.2 and 128.9 nautical miles. This is equal to an overshoot of 2.9 miles maximum if we use your 126 miles to go number. It is a 4.9 miles overshoot if we use the calculated figure of 124 miles.
No skilled Navigator would automatically assume a previous average speed to be a constant. Boxhall used propeller rpm for speed and said so.
Consequently, when mentally calculating ETA The Corner, he was thinking in terms of 21.5 knots...4.9 miles at 21.5 knots would take 13.7 minutes..."A considerable time".
 

Jim Currie

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I was always under the impression that a ship's position is only as good as it's last fix? All the discussion of the timing and location of the turn to the final course seems a bit 'smoke and mirrors' to me.

What I find strange is that 2 highly experienced navigators couldn't work out the ships position after 4 hours (give or take) in a straight line from a known good fix. Conditions that night were pretty much perfect for taking fixes and for keeping on track. Clear skies, flat seas and light airs. The QM could hold the ship on course with the tips of his fingers.

Boxhall worked up the fix taken at around 19:30. All he needed to know was the speed of his ship and the course to know where they were at 23:40.

That's 4 hours and 10 minutes at, between 21 and 22 knots.

Captain Smith's position was about 20% too far and Boxhall's about 10%. Ships don't end up 20 and 13 miles from a known good fix in 4 hours unless someone screwed the maths.
Hello Rob

Rob, you are right! Two such men could perform such simple tasks standing on their heads. A Second Year Cadet or Midi could do the same thing. We are not considering professional incompetence.
Captain Smith used false information provided by A. N. Other. Boxhall obviously mis-judged the speed and used the wrong run-time.

By your "Smoke and Mirrors" observation are you suggesting "the obscuring or embellishing of the truth of a situation with misleading or irrelevant information."?

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

In fact, Titanic's behavior between Noon, April 14 and 5-50 pm that early evening, is the
lynch-pin of the clock alteration argument as well as the basis on which Boxhall built his distress position. Simply because it determines exactly where Titanic was when 2nd Officer Lightoller took his star sights and consequently established the exact position from which Boxhall worked his distress position. If that period in the short life of Titanic is glossed-over without proper examination, then we go on having this endless argument.

Aaron's current suggestion is a start.

Here is another question.

Q7: Was there any evidence to suggest that such a current existed? Might it be reasonable for an experienced officer to expect such a current and allow for it?
A7: Yes! The evidence of 5th Officer Lowe very clearly indicates a reduction in expected speed, which, if using propeller revolutions would be judged as 21.5 knots. Lowe very clearly quoted an average speed of 20.95 knots...0.55 knots slower than expected.
 
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Mar 22, 2003
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What I find strange is that 2 highly experienced navigators couldn't work out the ships position after 4 hours (give or take) in a straight line from a known good fix.
Your right, and you answered how they screwed it up when you said: "Captain Smith's position was about 20% too far and Boxhall's about 10%. Ships don't end up 20 and 13 miles from a known good fix in 4 hours unless someone screwed the maths.."
 
Mar 22, 2003
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The Calculated distance to run from Daunt Rock departure to The Corner is exactly 1673 nautical miles. The distance is made-up of 55 miles from Daunt Rock to 1 mile south of the Fastnet Rock, then 1618 nautical miles on a Great Circle course to The Corner.
Absolutely! But to suggest that Titanic was tracking along the GC route perfectly is ludicrous, and you Jim of all people should know that. But don't take my word for it. Here are the travel distances of Olympic from Daunt Rock to the Corner for the first three westbound voyages in 1911 over same exact route: 1674,1676, 1677. In Feb 1912, it was 1675.
 

Rob Lawes

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Him Jim

I understand the need to track back and review the ships course in the run up to the collision in order to attempt to reconstruct the events up to that point.

My point is that it is misleading and obscuring the truth when talking about the distress position in that the bridge crew wouldn't need to refer to the corner turn in order to calculate there final position.

The purpose of your and Sam's discussion is to retrace the steps taken. I completely understand why since the location of that 19:30 fix went to the grave of all concerned.

I still contend, as you also described, that the matter of working out the final position of the ship starting from the last know fix was absolute bread and butter for an experienced navigator. Therefore the size of the error is bizarre.

There may have been a current affecting the westerly progression of the ship, I don't know, but as you point out, that difference was .55 of a knot which over 4 hours equates to 2.2 miles. That still leaves Smith's position 17.8 miles out and Boxhall's 10.8. A statistically significant error.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Here is a little thought to ponder. I believe, based on the 1549 miles run from Daunt's Rock to noon April 14th, Titanic was 126 miles from the Corner. The sum of those two distances equates to 1675 miles from Daunt Rock to the Corner, matching Olympic's Feb 1912 run. If you work out the distance of the Smith CQD, 41° 44'N, 50° 24'W, back to the Corner at 42°N, 47°W, you find a distance of 153 miles. Add the two and you get 126+153=279 miles from Noon to the Smith CQD. Now how long would it take for the ship to travel that distance at an average speed of 22 knots? 279/22=12.68 hours, or a smidge over 12 and 2/3 hours which is equal to 12 hours and 40 minutes. That is ONE hour greater than the 11 hours and 40 minutes from noon to when the ship struck the berg. To me, this suggests a simple mental error that resulted in a 1 hour overrun when it came time to work out the initial CQD position. Something easily done in the haste to work out a set of distress coordinates.

Well, enough speculation.
 

Jim Currie

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Absolutely! But to suggest that Titanic was tracking along the GC route perfectly is ludicrous, and you Jim of all people should know that. But don't take my word for it. Here are the travel distances of Olympic from Daunt Rock to the Corner for the first three westbound voyages in 1911 over same exact route: 1674,1676, 1677. In Feb 1912, it was 1675.
Where did I ever suggest such nonsense? I showed that she was set to the southeast.

Captain Smith was in charge of Navigation. He would decide when to turn onto the next course. It is unlikely that he would share his thoughts with his lowly 4th officer. However, that same 4th Officer and likewise the 3rd Officer were in charge of routine navigation and needed DR positions to carry out that work. Since they would not have any idea what Smith had planned, they would simply follow his orders. They both would need to have dead reckoning positions for various duties. These would include DRs for 5-50 pm, for 6 pm, 7-30 pm evening sights and 8 pm
Until they obtained a fixed position, they would simply use the intended course from Noon to 5-50 pm then the intended course thereafter. Boxhall could not have known what course the ship was actually making until he worked the 7-30 pm sights. Then he simply used his 5-50 pm DR combined with the 7-30 pm fix position to obtain a course being made good from the turn position. But keep in mind, that was a DR position.
You will recall that he was of the opinion that Smith compensated for an overshoot of The Corner and instead of steering 265.5 True, was making 266 True.
 

Jim Currie

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Him Jim

I understand the need to track back and review the ships course in the run up to the collision in order to attempt to reconstruct the events up to that point.

My point is that it is misleading and obscuring the truth when talking about the distress position in that the bridge crew wouldn't need to refer to the corner turn in order to calculate there final position.

The purpose of your and Sam's discussion is to retrace the steps taken. I completely understand why since the location of that 19:30 fix went to the grave of all concerned.

I still contend, as you also described, that the matter of working out the final position of the ship starting from the last know fix was absolute bread and butter for an experienced navigator. Therefore the size of the error is bizarre.

There may have been a current affecting the westerly progression of the ship, I don't know, but as you point out, that difference was .55 of a knot which over 4 hours equates to 2.2 miles. That still leaves Smith's position 17.8 miles out and Boxhall's 10.8. A statistically significant error.
Hello Rob.

It has all to do with runtime.

If there was a reduction in speed between Noon and 5-50 pm... and the evidence suggests there was, then the distance covered would be the same, but the time to cover it would be longer.

Everyone approaches this problem in the calm of their respective locations. Boxhall did not have that luxury. He was working under immense stress.

By the way, I'm sure you know that the equivalent RN name for "Midi" is "Snotty";)
 
A

Aaron_2016

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There may have been a current affecting the westerly progression of the ship, I don't know, but as you point out, that difference was .55 of a knot which over 4 hours equates to 2.2 miles. That still leaves Smith's position 17.8 miles out and Boxhall's 10.8. A statistically significant error.
Would be fascinated to learn if the survey ships had difficulties with the currents when they conducted the Titanic expeditions. I wonder if there were problems when the submersibles were exploring the wreck and the survey ships on the surface had to keep their own engines on slow ahead in order to fight the current and stay in position so that the submersibles could conduct their search without interference from the currents above?


The Titanic had the misfortune of steaming against the gulf stream below and the labrador current curling towards it from above.

I believe this affected the distance she covered and altered the atmosphere around the ship as she lay between two temperatures.



currentsgulflabrador.png





When the ship broke apart the middle section was carried a great distance with the currents towards the east. Heavy sections of the ship landed up to half a mile to the east practically in a straight line with the current. This could be a strong indication that the current was powerful because the middle section woud have sank in a short time, and yet it was scattered half a mile towards the east.


currenteast.jpg



I recall several survivors who rowed a short distance away towards the east and they believed the explosions on the ship had caused their lifeboat to be pushed a great distance away from the ship as it went down. I believe it was simply the strong currents which had pulled their lifeboats far to the east. e.g. Lifeboat 11 was rowing towards the east, but they were overloaded with people and it was difficult to row away, however Edith Rosenbaum was in the lifeboat and she said:

"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."

I believe it was most likely the strong currents that had pushed them out and onward towards the east and away from the ship. Back in the 1980's the original research teams that were out there trying to find the wreck believed the Titanic had drifted away up to 5 miles from her original distress position before she sank. They probably came up with the 5 miles drift because they had been in that region and felt the power of the currents affecting their survey ship.


.
 
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Mar 22, 2003
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Where did I ever suggest such nonsense? I showed that she was set to the southeast.
You said: "A1: The Calculated distance to run from Daunt Rock departure to The Corner is exactly 1673 nautical miles. The distance is made-up of 55 miles from Daunt Rock to 1 mile south of the Fastnet Rock, then 1618 nautical miles on a Great Circle course to The Corner. According to 3rd Officer Pitman, Titanic had covered a total of 1549 miles since FaoP...Full away on Passage...at Daunt. That left 124 miles, not 126 miles left to run at Noon, April 14."

It would only leave 124 miles if the ship had followed the GC track perfectly, which I take it you agree she did not do. Therefore, the remaining distance to the corner had be more than 124 miles, and that is my point.
 

Jim Currie

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Well here's mine:

Boxhall only needed a DR for 5-50 pm. Unless he made allowances for drift and leeway, to obtain it, he would assume that the ship passed through The Corner turning point. Only after 7-30 pm sights were worked out, would Boxhall have known that his 5-50 pm DR was way-out or spot-on.
in fact he very clearly tells you what his thoughts were (not his reason for thinking them) in his evidence:
5667. And then your view is that the ship, when she turned on her new course at 5.50 had run beyond that corner? A: - Yes.
15668. And, therefore, was to the south of it? A: - Yes, to the south and to the westward of it."

Earlier he said:
I just remarked that to the Chief Officer, and the course was altered at 5.50. I consider that the ship was away to the southward and to the westward of that 42 N. 47 W. position when the course was altered."

If the ship did not follow the track but was ahead of and the south and west of where she was supposed to turn, How do you suppose Boxhall figured that out?

If Boxhall knew the distance from Noon to the turning point was 126 miles, and he used a speed of 22 knots, that means he thought the ship overshot the mark by 2.33 nautical miles.
If, on the other hand, he knew the distance to the turning point was 124 nautical miles, then the ship overshot the mark by 4.33 nautical miles.
Now you tell me and everyone else: what overshoot would you consider to be "considerable"?
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Now you tell me and everyone else: what overshoot would you consider to be "considerable"?
About 10 miles, or thereabouts.
You also asked,
If the ship did not follow the track but was ahead of and the south and west of where she was supposed to turn, How do you suppose Boxhall figured that out?
The same way that made Pitman say over month after the events took place: "Yes, I considered we went at least 10 miles further south than was necessary....We had a certain distance to run to a corner, from noon to certain time, and we did not alter the course so early as I anticipated. Therefore we must have gone much further south....I thought that the course should have been altered at 5 p.m....Judging from the distance run from noon."
 

Jim Currie

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Keep digging, Sam.

Boxhall said that he used a course of 266 True to work his CQD position. To do that, he had to have an origin sometime before 7-30 pm sights. the only such origin would be the DR for 5-50 pm.
If you use the course line of 266 True-086 True as a position line and run it back from his distress impact position until it crosses an extension of the 240.5 True course line at a point 128. 33 miles from Noon that day, you will find that they cross at a position 4.3 miles (not 10 miles) from The Corner - at 41-58'North, 47-05.1'West.
Boxhall must have used that position for his DR turn position at 5-50 pm and believed that the ship had 124 miles, not 126 miles to run until 5-50 pm.
 

Jim Currie

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Here's another "trauma" for you, Sam

In your article " They Were Gradually Working Her Up". you observe:
"Taking an average between 75 and 76 rpm from 12 noon up until 11:40 p.m., we get an average speed of 22.3 knots through the water, a result which happens to match very well with the taffrail log reading of 260 nautical miles through the water observed by QM George Rowe at the time the accident happened.

Let's use that same taffrail log again.

First: As you know, I believe that Boxhalls's distress position error was simply one of using too much runtime and combining it with the wrong speed. But how did he calculate the runtime? Here's what I think.

When he entered the chartroom, he saw the notation..."11-46...struck iceberg...All stop." He knew that a clock change was due at midnight. However, since Moody and Pitman were on the boat deck he would not know if the partial or full one had been allowed for in the 11-46 time recorded. My contention is that Boxhall made the mistake of assuming the time recorded was either fully retarded or unaltered time when in fact, it was partially retarded time. He therefore either duplicated an allowance already made for a partial clock change or allowed for a full clock change and converted that time to what he thought was the equivalent GMT then applies the result to the GMT for 7-30 pm sights. I use GMT throughout.
Time of Stop/impact...11-46 pm....3-31 am GMT
Time of sights..............................10-36 pm GMT
Runtime ...................................... 4rs - 55 minutes.
4 hours 55 minutes at 22 knots = distance steamed 108.2 miles.
Now we use the Patent Log.

When at 49-56 West, the patent Log read 260 miles. If Titanic had reached 50-13 west, it would have read 272.6 miles. This means that at 10-58 pm GMT. (8 pm ship time), 4 hours 33 minutes earlier, it should, according to Boxhall, have been reading 272.6 minus 100.1 miles run = 172.5 miles. But what was it reading at 8 pm?
Titanic was making 22.5 knots during that period, so she would have covered a distance of 102,4 miles since 8 pm...2.1 miles more. So instead of 172.5 miles; it follows that at 8 pm the log would have been reading 170.1 miles.
170.1 subtracted from the Impact time patent log reading of 260 miles suggests that at 8 pm, Titanic had another 89.9 miles left to run until impact. At 22.5 knots this would take her almost exactly 4 hours...until the unaltered clock read 12 o'clock Midnight.
What was it Colonel Gracies said?
" I was awakened in my stateroom at 12 o'clock. The time, 12 o'clock, was noted on my watch, which was on my dresser, which I looked at promptly when I got up. At the same time, almost instantly, I heard the blowing off of steam, and the ship's machinery seemed to stop."
We can test this. by runnin back from the true impact positon for 4 hours at 22.5 knots.

Then there is the effort made by Captain Smith. Let's use the same thought process.

If the Patent Log read 170.1 at 8 pm and Smith's DR for 8 pm was 20 miles too far ahead, the Patent Log reading for 20 miles ahead would have been 190.1 miles
If the Patent log read 260 miles at 49-56'W at impact, then at 50-24'W it would have read 280.9. This would Give Smith a distance run of 90.8 miles between his 8 pm DR and the place where he reckoned Titanic had stopped.
He would have made allowance for westward drift, so let's say he used full speed distance of 90 miles. If he did then if he used a runtime of 3 hours 40 minutes as you believe he did, then Titanic would have made 24.6 knots. However, if he used a 4 hour run time, then she would have averaged exactly 22.5 knots.

In rest my case.

 
Mar 22, 2003
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Boxhall said that he used a course of 266 True to work his CQD position.
He also said he determined that by taking stellar sights to determine compass deviation. That was after he worked the 7:30pm position. It had nothing to do with any DR position taken beforehand. You asked me what I would consider to be a significant overshoot of the corner. I said about 10 miles. I wouldn't consider 4 miles 'significant'. And that overshoot, if Boxhall is to be believed (which is another story), put the vessel not just south of the corner, but south and to the west of the corner. That is what he said. Pitman said essentially the same thing, only he quantified it all by stating the vessel should have turned about 5 o'clock. Of course, that was not the story that was told weeks earlier at the American inquiry. It's all tied to that erroneous SOS position that Boxhall worked out. They got the position wrong and they got the time wrong.
 

Jim Currie

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Read the evidence again, Sam. Boxhall used his 7-38 pm fix position and the same course for azimuth observations (compass error) after he had reported the 7-38 pm position to the captain and that was some time after 9 pm. probably nearer to 10 pm.
The Course Board showed 264.5 True but Boxhall used 266 True. He said he assumed that the Captain had made a course allowance to the right to bring the ship back onto the prescribed course line after the turn.
The only way he could have assumed that and known it's effectiveness was by measuring the course being made good was between the 2 known positions...at 5-50 pm and at 7-38 pm.
Not only that, but if the ship had been more than 4 miles to the south and west of The Corner, the course compensation to the right would have been proportionately greater... 268 True or even more.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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The Course Board showed 264.5 True
The course board showed the standard compass course and the steering compass course.
The only way he could have assumed that and known it's effectiveness was by measuring the course being made good was between the 2 known positions.
The course made good is obtained between two fixes. You cannot use a DR and a fix. Navigation 101. Perhaps Boxhall needed to go back to nav school if he did such a thing.
Perhaps you should also take your own advise and go back to the evidence. Boxall said, "I was taking star bearings for compass error for myself, and was working those out." That was after he worked up the 7:30 position. He wanted to check on the deviation. The standard compass course is what they went by. The variation was known if he had his position, which he had from the 7:30 fix. To find the ship's true course he needed to know the deviation error accurately. That's why he was checking the deviation error by taking star bearings at the standard compass. He knew what the course was called for. He knew the variation for the location they were at. Once an accurate measure of deviation was obtained, or confirmed, he would know the exact magnetic course being steered, and then subtracting the variation, he would get the true course, which he later got and which indicated that they making S86W true, 266°T.
 

Jim Currie

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You are being too pedantic, Sam.

When crossing the Atlantic or any other vast stretch of ocean (which I have done many times), you had to keep up your DRs because quite often you might only get the opportunity for sights 2 or three times during the entire trip across.
Apart from any other reason, it was therefore essential that you had a very good idea of the True Course you were making good. Because that was the only course which would give you a fairly accurate DR and a fairly accurate position to which potential rescuers would come to if needed. That meant that you either used the True Course chalked on the Course Board, the calculated course between a Fix and a DR or between the last DR and a Fix or between 2 DRs. In the last case, it was essential that you allowed for influence due to the elements...mainly Leeway and Drift.
The information chalked on the Course Board was not for the exclusive use of the Helmsman. In fact, it was for use of the OOW. I can show you a pic of one of mine if you wish?
Anyway, how do you know what was chalked on Titanic's board?

You obviously do not know very much about Azimuths.

Titanic was swung for Deviation before she left Belfast. At that time, the Compass Adjuster would swing her through the 32 points of the compass, noting the deviation error each time and moving the magnets in the binnacle and the quadrantal spheres to smooth them out as far as was possible.
During that time, the Adjuster would create a Deviation Card. This would be retained on board and used by the Navigators.
In fact, with Titanic (or any other vessel) on a constant heading, the Magnetic Deviation for that heading would not change until the heading was changed appreciably. Only the Magnetic Variation would decrease as the ship progressed westward.
When bearings of a celestial body or objects in line were taken, the True bearing was calculated and compared with the bearing according to the compass used. The result was the error of that compass. The Local Magnetic Variation would be applied to that error to check the Deviation. This was then checked with the Deviation Card. No big deal and in fact, a waste of time in most cases. In the case of Titanic, the Magnetic Variation was changing by about half a degree every 6 hours or so.

Boxhall did not leave the chatroom much before 10 pm and said so:
" I was inside the chart room working up stellar observations from 8 o'clock.
I finished before 10 o'clock, because I gave Mr. Lightoller the results when I finished..After I had worked these observations of Mr. Lightoller's I was taking star bearings for compass error for myself, and was working those out..
I had used that same position two or three times after giving it to the Captain, and that same course I used two or three times after giving it to the Captain as well, between 10 o'clock and the time of the collision, for the purpose of working up stellar deviations."

How long do you think it would have taken for Boxhall to work 4 or probably 5 sextant observations? How long do you think it took to calculate even a single observation? I can tell you now, without fear of contradiction: he would not have left that chartroom until he was ready to, present his findings to the Senior Officer of The Watch and that would not have been before 9-30 pm.

But blowing your smoke away and returning to the problem on hand. Please explain why it is that the "numbers" I drew your attention to do not illustrate very clearly where Boxhall went wrong?

Incidentally. if I am correct, Titanic made good a True course of S 85.45 West between 7-30 pm sights and when she hit the iceberg.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Anyway, how do you know what was chalked on Titanic's board?
Lightoller: "The standard course is on a board and the steering compass course is also on a board. Therefore, the quartermaster uses the board that is there for the steering compass. The senior officer of the watch looks to the standard compass board and passes that course along."