Comparing Voyages


Jim Currie

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While re-running Pitman's navigation, I had a look at Olympic's voyage Card for her maiden voyage along exactly the same route.
With the exception of the first day's run, both vessels had closely matching day's runs for the second, third and fourth days.
At Noon on day 4, Titanic had 126 miles to run to The Corner while at Noon on day 4, Olympic had still another 174 miles to run.
Weather, tides and other natural influences might account for the minor differences but the most glaring difference was in the first day's run figures. Titanic travelled a total of 484 miles until Noon on day 2 while Olympic only managed a total of 428.. a difference of 56 miles. So why was that? Both ships were essentially the same and being treated the same way at that time by the owners and operators.
There is another anomaly with Olympic's total voyage time.
Her Voyage Card gives a total running time of 5 days,16 hours,42 minutes. This would include 5 hours clock adjustment time so that Olympic would arrive at New York and her clocks would show New York time.
According to the card, she passed Daunt Rock at 4-22pm on the afternoon of June 15th and arrived at Ambrose Light at 2-46am on June 21st. So how does 5 days, 16 hours 42 minutes fit between these start and finish times? If these were local mean times then the total run time without stopping should have been 5 days 15 hours 24 minutes - there's an hour and 22 minutes too much running time! Reasons for this would include head winds and current, deliberately reduced speed or a breakdown of some kind.
Perhaps the clue lies in the days' run figure comparison between the maiden voyages of Titanic and Olympic. The vessels were, very similar and started their maiden voyages in exactly the same way over more or less the same courses. Here are their day's run figures up to arrival at The Corner:
Titanic....Olympic
484 428
519 534
546 542
126 174

From these, it can be seen that there was something wrong with Olympic during the first 17 hours of her maiden voyage. Since the figures for the subsequent days do not vary too much from those of Titanic, it seems Olympic lost 56 miles between turning at Fastnet Rock and Noon the next day. Did she in fact stop for some time?

Another thing that became apparent:

At Noon on the day before arrival at The Corner - Titanic was as much as 7 miles to the south of the intended Great Circle track and Olympic 15 miles to the north of it.
The actual calculated Great Circle final course to The Corner was 236.5T. Titanic had to alter to 240.5T and Olympic to 232.5T
 

Jim Currie

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There is an adjustment to be made concerning the apparent total hours run figures for Olympic on her maiden voyage. If she left at 1622hrs GMT on the 15th. June and arrived at 0224hrs New York time on June 21st, that's equivalent to her sailing at 1622hrs GMT on the 15th and arriving at 0724 GMT on the 21st - a voyage time of 5 days, 15 hours 02 minutes - not the official 5 days, 16 hours 42 minutes - a difference of 1 hour 40 minutes.

In my last post, I should have pointed out that there was a 2 hour 02 minutes difference between the departure time of Titanic and that of Olympic. If both ships adjusted their clocks by the same amount between departure and Noon the next day (58 minutes) then Olympic's first day run time was 20 hours 38 minutes
Her official distance run from Daunt Rock to Noon on the 16th was 428 miles. When we apply the foregoing run time to that distance, it gives her an average speed between departure and Noon of 21 knots- perfectly acceptable.
 

Jim Currie

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I forgot to add:

The difference between distances to noon on the first day travelled by Titanic and Olympic was 56 miles. The difference in departure time of 2 hours 2 minutes accounts for about 40 miles of that distance - what about the other 16 miles, which is about 46 minutes steaming time?
 

Jim Currie

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Thanks for that Sam! I just knew you would have seen that problem some time ago. Very good article - most enjoyable!

I have a few suggestions to make:

First, the departure time of 4-22pm with the ship at Daunt Rock is 2 hours 2 minutes later than that for Titanic from the same position. Since these vessels were more or less the same, we can for argument's sake - assume they performed much the same in the run up to Fastent Rock when they turned onto the Great Circle track.
As I wrote before; these ships would not be at full speed passing Gaunt Rock but would have been moving relatively slowly until the pilot disembarked - probably a few minutes before the rock came abeam to starboard. At that point, Smith would have given a double ring on the telegraphs to signify 'full away on passage'. On receipt of this order , the engines would have been given more steam and the revs. brought up to 70 rpm or close to it. His ship would start picking up speed until close to 21 knots. I suggest this would have taken as much as 20 minutes. Consequently, I doubt very much if the ship would have travelled much more than 18 nautical miles in the first hour and a further 21 miles in the second hour. I don't think there would be much difference in the results between Olympic and later, Titanic.

The 2 hours 02 minutes interval between when Titanic passed Gaunt Rock and when Olympic passed it is equivalent to distance of 38.7 miles. All things being equal, this should have been more or less the difference in total miles run on the first day between these ships. It was not! In fact it was 56 miles which is close to 2 hours at full speed plus one hour at work-up speed. Perhaps Captain Smith was talking about scheduled time for sailing from Queenstown when he remarked about being 3 hours late in leaving? I understand the official sailing time from Queenstown was 0130pm.

Whatever - the difference between sailing times for both ships can only account for about 40 miles at best of the overall difference of 56 miles between their first day's run.

I actually found this problem when trying to compare runs and checking Pitman's work. Seems they both used exactly the same time change format. Just wonder where the extra hour came from. Perhaps the mistake was in measuring the time from when the anchor was weighed?
 
Mar 22, 2003
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The difference is that Titanic averaged about 1/2 knot better than Olympic's maiden voyage speed for the 1st day out. Olympic averaged 20.46 knots that 1st day; while Titanic averaged 20.98 knots. These are simple total distance divided by total time results. On Olympic's 2nd westbound crossing, she averaged 22.32 knots on her 1st day out.
 

Jim Currie

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Sam,

I think I have solved the mystery of the Olympic.s Voyage Card.

The distance of 428 miles for the first day's run is incorrect. In fact, that was the distance run from Fastnet Rock to Noon on the 16th. In fact, if you calculate by mercator sailing method, the distance from Noon
- 50-22N..19-17W on the 16th, back to a position just south of the rock - 51-21N..9- 36N, you will find it is 430.9 miles on a course of 081T! If you then add the run of 55 miles back to Gaunt Rock, you get a total distance for that day's run equal to 485 miles. You will remember that Titanic's run up to Noon on her first day was 484 miles so there really was very little difference between the two vessels on their respective first day.
If this is the case then Olympic's Card should have given a total distance of 2951 miles and an average speed of 21.85 knots for the voyage - way beyond Captain Smith's greatest expectations!
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>if you calculate by mercator sailing method, the distance from Noon
- 50-22N..19-17W on the 16th, back to a position just south of the rock - 51-21N..9- 36N, you will find it is 430.9 miles on a course of 081T<<

It's only 372.4 nautical miles Jim. You must have made a mistake. Add 55 to that for the distance from Daunt's Rock LV to Fastnet, and you get 427.4 miles. They put down 428 on the log card.

By the way, the total crossing distance recorded for Olympic's first three crossings in 1911 (before they changed to the northern track) were 2894 miles in 5d 15h 02m, 2891 miles in 5d 13h 06m, and 2890 miles in 5d 12h 23m.
 

Jim Currie

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Dash! you're right! so was I actually - in my calculations I mean. I make it 372.6 miles. I think I mixed up with Titanic's Fastnet to Noon run which is almost the same 429 miles. Ah well! back to the drawing board!
I made Olympic's speed from Fastnet to Noon to be 20.8 knots and Titanic's for the same run = 21.4 knots. It's the only way to explain a discrepancy of about 14 miles when comparing like for like. It also explains the weird 20.14 knot average speed in Pitman's Memo. Could that have been mis-transcribed or was he, like me, inclined to write thing backend-for-elbow'? If his 484 miles day's run was correct then Titanic ran 429 miles in about 20 hours 2 minutes allowing for an average speed of 21.2 from Daunt Rock.
This Daunt Rock to Fastnet speed was most certainly influenced by the tide. I wonder how it was running that day. Times of HW Dover would help!
 
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>>This Daunt Rock to Fastnet speed was most certainly influenced by the tide. I wonder how it was running that day. Times of HW Dover would help!<<

Jim, is there any chance you can get that information from some local records or newspapers? Maritime news coverage was pretty thorough back then.
 
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>>since I live in the middle of the Atlantic...<<

By that, I hope you don't mean the Azores. That's a bit too far out in the middle. For whatever it's worth, more and more newspapers are archiving old copy on line for reasons of historical preservation. I don't know if those which would be helpful to you have done so, but telephones and Google are wonderful tools for finding out.
 

Jim Currie

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Still looking Michael. I do know that the tidal stream runs east west along that coast and that it's rate is seldom over 0.6 knots at spring tides so you can guess that ships would gain or loose speed by that amount each hour.

Sam, I'm still playing with Pitman's numbers. I had a look at one of your previous articles concerning the Great Circle course. I note that you show course changes every 5 degrees of longitude and that you started off on a course of 260 degrees true. Is this from official notes or did you make certain assumptions? The reason I ask is that I calculated that particular GC using the standard 10 degree intervals.
I also got initial and final courses of 264T and 236T respectively, whereas, I see you used an initial course of 260T.

As for Pitman, I'm curious about the 1000 mile figure in his memorandum. Probably nothing to do with it but in the old days, some captains ran a 'flat' course to avoid curving too far north in the direction of the ice - indeed, nautical schools taught this as part of the Great Circle curriculum. The reason for this was that on a west bound voyage, ship's were usually set north by the prevailing winds and currents. This was aggravated by the fact that on the North Atlantic route, masters and navigators could not rely on getting good celestial fixes - consequently accurate checks on position - particularly at the equinoxes when anything could come out of the SW and fog was a constant threat at that time.

It would have been nice to see the exact wording of Pitman's memo! Surely it did not consist of the page we see? and equally surely, it would have been in the man's handwriting?
For these reasons alone, I think it is a bit unfair to judge his abilities on this flimsy evidence.

It did occur to me that perhaps Pitman was writing from memory - not just of the Titanic voyage but from memory of basics followed by all White Star navigators on the North Atlantic run. I think in particular about the amount of minutes of clock changes each day. There must have been a fairly routine method followed i.e. a basic amount of change for each night, worked out prior to the start of the voyage and adjusted for actual position at Noon each day with the next day's adjustment being forecast on an 'all things being equal' basis. This would certainly account for the 44 minute notation in Pitmans memo.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Jim,

I assume you are referring to my article, "Keeping Track of a Maiden Voyage," here at https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/keeping_track.html. The given 5° increments on the great circle course that is shown in the figure showing Titanic's intended course across the Atlantic represent the points used to plot the great circle route (in green) between Fastnet and the corner. The route followed by the ship is shown as a thin black line connecting the points identified along the path. There was a wireless message to La Touraine giving Titanic's position 49° 45'N, 23° 38'W for 19:00 GMT on Apr 12. That is 543.7 miles on course 259.6° from Fastnet. Going back along that line to 50° 06'N, 20° 43'W, you get to LAN for Apr 12 which is 429 miles from Fastnet. Notice that 429 + 55 = 484 miles from Daunt's Rock LV, the reported distance travelled for day 1.

The next point 47° 22'N, 33° 10'W is LAN for Apr 13. This is 404.7 miles from the position given to La Touraine on a heading of 249.3°. The distance of the La Touraine position from LAN Apr 12 was 543.7 - 429 = 114.7 miles. Therefore, the distance from LAN Apr 12 to LAN Apr 13 was 114.7 + 404.7 = 519.4 which rounded off gives 519 miles from LAN Apr 12 to LAN Apr 13 as reported for day 2.

The next point was LAN Apr 14 at 43° 02'N, 44° 31'W. This is 545.8 miles on 241.6° from LAN Apr 13. Rounded off, the distance is 546 miles between LAN Apr 13 and LAN Apr 14 as reported for day 3. The remaining distance to the corner from LAN Apr 14 is 126.1 miles on 240.6°. This is all shown in the table in the article with the course headings were rounded off the nearest whole degree. I used the mid latitude method for computing distances between points.

Notice that my derived LAN for Apr 12 at 50° 06'N, 20° 43'W is 3.6 miles south of the GC, LAN for Apr 13 at 47° 22'N, 33° 10'W is 1.1 miles north of the GC, and LAN for Apr 14 at 43° 02'N, 44° 31'W is 7.8 south of GC. These are not unreasonable. If look at Olympic's 3rd westward crossing you will find that on day 1 she was 2.5 miles north of the GC, on day 2 she was 10.1 miles north of the GC, and on day 3 she was 6.6 miles south of the GC.

The attached figure shows Olympic's first three westbound crossing in 1911 along with the Titanic locations I derived for comparison. Olympic's maiden voyage track is black, 2nd voyage is red, 3rd voyage is blue. Again the underlying green is the GC track drawn in 5° increments of longitude.

206468.gif


Regarding the Pitman memo, if you add up those markings in Pitman's memo for days 1 and 2, you get 326+1000+96 + 250+3=1675 miles. That is the total distance from Daunt's Rock to the corner. Now 1675-55=1620 miles is the distance from Fastnet to the corner following straight line segments that the ship would travel. The sum total of the actual runs for the first three days to noon Apr 14 as listed is 484+519+546=1549 miles. Difference from 1675 total miles from Daunt's Rock to corner is 1675-1549 = 126 miles, the distance from LAN Apr 14 to the corner.

Have fun.
 

Jim Currie

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Thanks Sam. However I was looking for the reason for the 5 degree increments of longitude difference used to calculate the GC track as shown in your article. Unless White Star Line used their own criteria, I would have thought that their navigators would use the normal text book 10 degree increments to develop way points along the GC track to aim for. To alter at 5 degree intervals on a ship of that speed would be just a bit of 'flash' since they could not depend on getting fixes before arrival at each point along the track. In addition, to alter course so many times in such a short GC without reference to a fix in the North Atlantic given the complete uncertainty of weather forecasting.
I would suspect that a look at the log of such ships would show something like a minimum of 5 alterations during the hours between dawn and dusk.(between when the sun was 18 degrees below the horizon before sunrise and after sun set.

I was also aware of the sum of the distances you refer to - it was the pointed notation of 1000 miles that intrigues me.

Having fun, but my old Burton's is falling apart in the process!

As I wrote earlier, using 10 degree 'way points' (for want of a better name) Pitman's notation would have been: 55+385+44= 484 = Day 1
359+160=519=Day and 285+261=546 = Day 3 i.e. Noon on the 14th April. If I had used shorter 'legs', it would not have made any difference.
If Titanic had been making 21 knots since Fastnet then she should have increased her westerly longitude by 10 degrees at around 1045 ship time on the 12th April. However, Pitman's 326 mile notation suggests they obtained a fix at about 2 hrs 48 minutes earlier - just before 8 am that morning. Did they then adopt a rhumb line course for the next 1000 miles at that time?
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Sam!

I am still 'delving'!

Can you help on this one?

The Final report of the Senate Sub-Committee - under the heading 'speed', gives a day's run on the 1st day - April 12th - of 464 miles while the transcript of Pitman's memo gives a distance of 484 for the same period.

If the start time given in Pitman's memo was 0220 GMT then the local time on Titanic would be 1355hrs. This means she would have steamed a total of 23 hours 05 minutes between Daunt Rock and Noon LAT Titanic. Applying that run to the Senate Reported Day's run figure of 464 miles gives an average speed almost exactly 20.14 knots - the same speed as noted by Pitman. The red herring is the side notation showing a run time of 22.6 hours. The LAT Noon at Titanic on the 12th was GMT minus 1 hour 23 minutes not 58 minutes - that was just the amount of clock set-back on the first night.
 

Jim Currie

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Yes Sam, I have noticed these anomalies. However what puzzles me is the fact that Pitman delivered his memo (at the request of senator Smith?) on Day 5, the 24th.April - the day after he was interviewed by the Committee. This begs the question: why would Smith use the lower Day's Run figures supplied by Ismay on Day 1 which, as you point out, Ismay was unsure of, when he [Smith] received written confirmation of the actual figure given by Ismay 4 days later via Pitman the navigator's memorandum? After all, as you also point out; Smith chose the lower number for his report rather than seems the proper, higher, number. I would have thought the temtpation would have been to have gone for the higher day's run value.

There's two other day's run sources which confuse the issue as well. That of Olympic on her maiden voyage which we discussed earlier. She made that run along exactly the same route for the first day's run. It has been given as 428 miles. Her steaming time to Noon from Daunt Rock was 2 hrs, 2 minutes shorter than that of Titanic which means that she averaged 20.36 knots for her first day while Pitman gives Titanic's first days average as 20.14 knots. I appreciate your earlier comments concerning the differing speed between those two vessels on the first day but if these vessels had started at the same point at the same time; given those average speeds, Olympic would have been 5.28 miles ahead of Titanic at the end of 24 hours.

The other puzzle is the careful Mr. Beesley. In his book, he writes:
"From 12 noon Thursday to 12 noon Friday we ran 386 miles, Friday to Saturday 519 miles, Saturday to Sunday 546 miles."

He gets the second two right but 386 miles? where did that come from? In fact, it is very close to the distance from Fasnet to longitude 19 degrees- 36' west - a 10 degree increment in westerly travel.

He also wrote that they could see the hills of Ireland astern - in the gathering dusk. Since sunset would have been about 6-30pm ship that evening time then this must have been between then and 7-pm. I estimate that Titanic would take about 3 hours from Daunt Rock to the turn at Fastnet. If so, she would have been turning onto her GC course at or near 5 pm that night which means she would have been between 35 and 40 miles to the WSW of Ireland at the time Beesley was writing about. The hills would have disappeared after 7pm at the latest.

I have been in contact with the Senate Historical records department asking for a copy of Pitman's original memo but won't hold my breath!
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Jim, your asking questions nobody could answer. Who know's why the senator put that in his report when he had more than Ismay's account to go by? Like Ismay, Beesley was writing from memory. He was mistaken. It's as simple as that. That's why I never trust any single eye witness on such details, no matter who they are, unless there can be some form of independent confirmation.

I have titanic passing Fastnet at 1700 GMT. I think sunset was 1924 GMT on that date and place. The hills of Ireland would have long sunk well before the sun did. I think Beesley was taking a bit of dramatic license when he wrote that.

And please don't hold your breath waiting to get a copy of that memo. But if you do, I'd love to see it.
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Sam!

I figured that Pitman would record in his own hand writing, everything he could remember about the navigation. The only thing I can think of is that he did and during the transcription, the transcriber mistook a 6 for an 8 - very easy if the writer's handwriting skills aren't too great and the writing is done in a hurry under duress or just plain effects of after-shock. Nowadays, all those Titanic survivors would have lines of councilors helping them to get over the trauma!

I have had a reply from the Archivists. They can't find the actual memo surprise-surprise! Here's part of their reply:

"We looked at the original galley proof copies of the Titanic Disaster hearing transcripts as well as the original Senate Committee on Commerce Report on the disaster, but they were exactly the same as the published versions. They did not contain any additional information or material. We also checked the Committee on Commerce, 62nd Congress, Committee Papers (SEN 62A-F4) and did not see any materials relating to the committee investigation of the Titanic Disaster.

Sincerely,

WILLIAM H. DAVIS
Center for Legislative Archives"

Perhaps they missed a sheet of hotel note paper between all the other reams of paper?


I have had another look at Olympic's maiden voyage day's run figures. You will possibly know this:

As you agree, the total distance from Daunt Rock to The Corner is 1674 miles.
If Olympic's Noon position for Noon on the 18th June, 1911 as recorded on her Maiden Voyage Card is correct then she was 179.6 miles from The Corner at that time

This would make the alleged total distance Olympic covered from Daunt Rock to be 179.6 + 542 + 534 + 428 = 1692.6 miles - a difference of 18.6 miles from the actual total distance. Obviously the olympic figure must be wrong - but where?
It can only be the last Noon position.
We know the exact distance to the turn at Fasnet and the exact distance from there to The Corner so Olympic must have been 161 miles form it at Noon on the 18th.
 

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