Californian 5 or 6 miles off My Challenge


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Erik Wood

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Aug 24, 2000
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I would suggest reading through most of the threads in this section as experiments by yours truly and several others have been done.

A word of warning you, you are in for some intersting conversation and a lot of people may not like your point of view.

Erik
 

Logan Geen

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Are you addressing me Wood? I will be honest I am an anti-Lordite, but I saw nothing offensive about what I posted. I just thought it was an interesting bit of info.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
G'Day Logan, I don't think Erik was taking offence at anything you said or expressing an opinion on the Californian per se. What he was trying to do, and which I can back up, is that the Californian Incident is one of the most devisive issues in the Titanic community short of the salvage issue. The often fiery tone on most of the threads here on ET which discuss the matter demonstrates that in fine fashion.

Even trying to take a nuetral stand on it can get one some very heated responses. Anyway you look at it, and no matter what position you take, discussing the Californian is not for the faint hearted.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

Erik Wood

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My apologies, I didn't mean to convey that I was angry but as Mike said, discussions get really heated on the board and I was just trying to convey a friendly warning.

Erik
 

Logan Geen

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Thank you for the warning Erik. I will have to tread water carefully here (no pun intended) but I am happy things here are usually mature. That's a plus!
 

Dave Hudson

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I'm no expert in this area, but is it possible that the Titanic's list prohibited her signal from being noticed? By the time that Titanic began morsing to the ship on the horizon, her bow was noticeably submerged. This would have made her lamp much lower to the water than we'd expect. Likewise, the crew standing on the bridge of Titanic would have had a harder time seeing the Californian's signals.

Also, both ships said that they thought they saw a response, but that it was the "masthead light flickering." Titanic's was electric. Perhaps the flicker was in fact the morse lamp, but the atmosphere, ice, haze, etc., made the signal incoherent.

Again, I make no claim that my idea is right. I have no desire to fight over Lord.

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David
 
Oct 28, 2000
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David -- Yes, as Titanic's bridge sagged lower toward the water its Morse light would have been visible for a shorter distance. This is because of the curve of the earth. Tables have been constructed for quickly calculating the distance to the horizon for any given height. The formula is: Distance in Nautical Miles = 1.169 X sq. root of the height in feet.

When Titanic was floating on its lines, the Morse lamps would have been visible for nearly 10 miles in clear air. By the time the front of the bridge reached the sea, that distance was reduced to less than 5 nautical miles. (1 nm = 6,076 ft)

Two other factors complicate visibility. One is the clarity of the air. A light with a nominal visibility (disregarding the curve of the earth) of 10 miles may only be visible for half that distance in haze or fog.

The second factor is refraction. Sometimes, differences in the density of air or its moisture contant between the observer and the light can play visual tricks. Lights can be seen beyond their geographic ranges. Or, a light that should be seen cannot.

Your guess that the two ships may have seen each other's Morse lights, but could not read them, is likely correct. However, there is no way of knowing for sure...which is why the Californian controversy will never go away.

-- David G. Brown
 
Sep 20, 2000
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David Brown: The formula is: Distance in Nautical Miles = 1.169 X sq. root of the height in feet. ... (1 nm = 6,076 ft)

Hi, David: I've been doing quite a few of these calculations myself lately, and got to wondering why there seems to be so much variation in what should be a fairly common conversion factor (even for a rule of thumb).

My own formula (courtesy of Leslie Reade) is: Distance in Nautical Miles = 1.144 X sq. root of the height in feet. This is pretty close to Andrew Hall's factor of 1.15, used in the "Lights and Distance" article at Dave Billnitzer's web site. And the Manual of Marine Observations (MANMAR; issued by Environment Canada) excerpt at http://www.mid-c.com/manmar/Obse0040.htm states:

Quote:

To a high degree of accuracy the distance is given by the relations:
- Horizon Distance (kilometers) = 3.84 * SQRT(h in meters)
- Horizon Distance (naut. mi.) = 1.14 * SQRT(h in feet)



On the other hand, the conversion factors both you (1.169) and Parks (1.17) have cited produce a result about 2.5% higher than the Manmar (1.14) formula. I at first thought the reason for this might be that your factors were geared towards results expressed in International (= U.S.) Nautical Miles (6076.1 feet), rather than British Nautical Miles (6080 feet). But that would only account for a minute portion of the difference. (The British Nautical Mile is only 0.064% larger than the U.S. version -- nowhere near that 2.5% variance in results.)

So my question is: Why the "big" difference in these conversion factors? Alternately, where did you and Parks obtain your formulas? I'm curious to know the possible basis for these variations.

Cheers,
John
 
Oct 28, 2000
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I got my formula from Ho. Pub 9, "Bowditch." Don't have time today, but I will look up the explanation for how they derived it. Perhaps they are factoring in refraction.

In reality, the air does influence how far you can see at any given time. In my book I postulate a situation of refraction called "towering" may have existed that night. If so, the distance objects could be seen would have been somewhat more (the amout unknowable) than the geographic horizon.

--David G. Brown
 
Mar 3, 1998
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I also use Bowditch as a guide, if it makes any difference...it's pretty much a standard nowadays.

To me, this argument seems to be quibbling...there's so many variables at play that a 5% difference in calculation styles/conversion factors (or even a 5-10 degree list) is negligible for all practical purposes.

There is no way in this reality that we can discern exactly what the Californian officers saw or should have seen without standing on that bridge on that night. The books will give an idea of what is theoretically possible, but in no way could they break through the fog of uncertainty created by the eyewitnesses.

Parks
 
Sep 20, 2000
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David: Thanks! I'll stay tuned for more.

Parks: No argument implied, just a question! It does seem odd to me that this varies just as a *general* observation. (But, of course, that's why I put that "big" in quotes -- it's not really ALL that big, but it is interesting and potentially significant at higher values.) Was I quibbling?? My question really didn't have anything to do specifically with Californian.

As for what difference it might make, well, it *could* be a typo. MANMAR's formula, reproduced at the web site I mentioned, didn't include the square root portion until I pointed out that omission. Likewise, David's "6076 ft." led me to realize that my own edition of "Pocket Ref" contains an error. Rather than 6076.1, it claims "6067.1"! And I do kind of like to get these things straight myself. ;^)

Anyway, I've since seen a copy of "Norrie's" tables which appear to use a factor around 1.155. So we have thus far 1.14, 1.144, 1.15, 1.155, 1.169, and 1.17, none of which I've in any way "fingered" for veracity. But since I did notice it, I thought I'd ask. If anything, I'm as interested in whether any of these formulae purport slightly different results based on "average" versus "perfect" viewing conditions, etc.

S'alright?
John
 
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Claire McConville

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"Lord himself stated in the American Inquiry that they had a pretty powerful morse lamp that should have been seen at about 10 miles"

If that statement is correct it makes you wonder why they bothered seeing as they were supposedly 19 miles away
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Claire McConville

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I see that I'm almost 2 years late for this one... excuse my tardiness
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Timothy Trower

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Sam Halpern has written a four-part article dealing with the relative positions of the Titanic and the Californian that started running in the current "Titanic Commutator," issue No. 177.

As the blurb on the THS website states ( http://www.titanic1.org/ ) "Sam Halpern, a systems engineer, private pilot and former yachtsman with a celestial navigation background who has done extensive analysis in navigation, naval architecture and wireless telegraphy begins another incredible piece of research with a four-part series on what the officers and crew on Californian saw on April 14 and 15 1912."

I had the opportunity to read and review this article in early March, and, while not wanting to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen the "Commutator" yet, will still say that Sam has done an excellent job of taking an extremely complex subject and distilling the mathematics of it to prove, not from conjecture, but fact, that the Californian and Titanic were indeed within visual contact that night. (No 20+ miles, either!)

I am not at liberty to send the remaining parts to anyone nor to post excerpts -- but the next year is going to see some good discussion on this subject.

Congratulations to Sam on a very well written series of articles!
 
Nov 24, 2007
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The 24 hr wireless. Now the California r/o was asleep and dint hear anything that the Titanic sent. How close were the two ships when this happened?

[Moderator's Note: This message, originally posted to a thread in the "Aftermath" topic, has been moved to this thread addressing the same subject. MAB]
 
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