Carpathias top speed

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The common answer is 17 knots. However, I believe that many researchers feel that the Carpathia's speed that night was somewhat lower-- perhaps in the neighborhood of 14-16 knots.

Mary, her average speed during the rescue was no more than 14 knots. The famous 17½ knots comes from the idea that she was 58 miles from the SOS position. We now know this to be wrong. Carpathia actually covered no more than 50 miles, maybe less.

After meeting with ice, she slowed a couple of times, according to James Bissett. Before that, Cottam, presumably using information from Captain Rostron, told Titanic that they we doing 'a good 15 knots, maybe 16.' I think I've read that Carpathia did 15¼ knots on her trials, so that seems reasonable.

The full tale in on my site at
from most accounts i have read carpathia's speed seems to vary from 14 - 17 1/2 knots. Kunt's books which is just the enquiry into the disaster puts the ships speed at 14 knots, Walter Lord's books and the Special Oceanus Edition put her speed at 17 1/2 knots, although i have read some books which have placed her speed in the 15 & 16 knot area, take note that carpathia's speed didnt go up to 17 1/2 knots until her captain ordered that all steam that wasnt necessary be shut down and transferred to the engines to push the ship faster, though this process could have taken anywhere between 10 - 25 mins, and maybe another 5 for carpathia to pick up to that speed (17 1/2 knots, TS), also take to mind that when carpathia got into the area which titanic went down in she slowed down, im not sure to what speed as i havent seen any books say it, but i woud guess anywhere between 5 - 8 knots. if im wrong please correct me.
Jesse, if you check the link that Dave provided, you'll see this explained quite thoroughly. The short version is that the 17 1/2 knots thing is one of those fictions that was based on the assumption that the position given by the Titanic was accurate when in fact it wasn't.

Hope this helps.
Michael H. Standart

I have looked at Dave Gittins web site, and im not 100% convinced, though what he has to say on the subject is quite interesting. i'll go w/ 50 miles as so far thats the distance from titanic that all that spoke of it on carpathia put themselves at that distance. if you have some other evidence to suggest the distance was less let me know and tell me where it is and exactly where it can be found.
Dave Gittins is a gifted and experienced navigator, so I'm inclined to take his opinions on this matter very seriously. As to the evidence, you'll find it at the bottom of the North Atlantic.

The Titanic was not where Boxhall thought she was, a fact supported by the actual position of the wreck. The bow section rests at 49° 56', 54" W 41° 43' 35"N, the boiler/debris field at 49° 56' 49" W 41° 43' 32"N and the stern section at 49° 56' 49" W 41° 43' 57"N which would put the wreck a good 13.5 miles southeast of her radioed position.

[Source: The Discovery of the Titanic, Updated Edition, page 199, by Dr. Robert Ballard, © 1987, reprint 1998]

Tom Pappas

Jesse, I'm as skeptical as you. I'm not a gifted and experienced navigator, just an armchair theorist, so you don't have to take my opinions on this matter at all seriously.

Titanic sank after drifting southeast with the current for something like 2½ hours. If you begin with the location of the wreck site and work backwards, a 2 knot current for that time period gives a collision position about five miles to the northwest.

The CQD position is where the ship would be if you dead reckoned from the sunset shoot and didn't factor in the same current. In other words, I think Boxhall got it right, but since he had no way of measuring the drift, he was off by two knots times four hours - 8 miles. That eight plus the five while she was sinking accounts pretty closely for the 13 mile discrepancy between the CQD and the wreck.

And it makes Carpathia's speed "a good 15 knots, maybe 16" as Rostron said.
Mike, flattery will get you anywhere! Actually, my own navigation system is simple. If it's big and brown, it's Australia. If it's big and white, I'm too far south.

Seriously, I have studied more navigation than I ever use in practice. I can do modern celestial and have some knowledge of the awful methods of 1912. I'd like to do more but you can't even get the tables of those days.

If you look at my little chart, you'll see that both Titanic and Carpathia were not where their navigators thought they were. By using the Traverse Table, I worked out where Rostron thought he was when he set out for Titanic. Had he really been there, he would have passed to port of Boxhall's boat. In fact, he first saw it on his own port side. Rostron seems to have been a bit further along his course than he thought. That's quite forgivable. The key to understanding much of the Titanic story is to know how they navigated in those days and the limitations of the methods. Rostron's last celestial fix would have been at about 7-30 that evening. When got the CQD, he'd been going on dead reckoning for five hours, so there was time for a small error to creep in, perhaps due to current. It all amounts to Boxhall and company being rather lucky. Carpathia just happened to be in the right place and on the right side of the icefield.
Seems there were a lot of "little" errors in navigation that night, all of which means that Carpathia and the Titanic's survivors lucked out in grand style.

Dave, I recall your mentioning something about tank tests done with the Carpathia's hull which established pretty firmly that 17 1/2 knots was not a possibility for that ship. You wouldn't happen to have the data handy would you?

Tom Pappas

"Titanic's survivors lucked out in grand style."

Grand style? I wouldn't use that phrase (and I mean that). The position errors canceling one another saved a few ships a few hours of searching, maybe. But I don't think they made any difference to the outcome.
Well, you've got a point about the "Grand Style" part, Tom. (Lifeboats are far from luxurious.) They just lucked out.

I'd have to do some deep checking on the survivors themselves to find out which ones were better off being picked up as early as they were as opposed to a few hours later. As I understand it, some were on the razor's edge of hypothermia. You wouldn't happen to recall which ones would you? I know Bride was in rough shape, but I suspect that being picked up a few hours later then he was wouldn't have cost him his life. Just his feet.
Sorry, Michael, I know I've seen the material somewhere years ago, but I've never been able to find it again. There's some material on the net that I can dig out, but it's only about ships in general. It shows how steeply the power requirements increase if you want to go from say 15 to 17 knots.

Tom, didn't you publish the formula some time ago?

Tom Pappas

Dave, I recall somebody posted the fuel increment for Titanic's proposed speed run. For a displacement hull, parasitic drag is proportional to the square of the velocity. For Carpathia: 15² = 225; 17² = 289; or 28% greater for 2 kts gain.
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