Decklights over elev machinery room


Ken Marschall

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Jan 8, 2002
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During recent study of 1985 ANGUS imagery (Ballard/WHOI) I noticed what looked for all the world like a typical Hayward's six-panel decklight (skylight) a few feet to starboard and a little forward of the cylindrical vent trunk on the roof over the elevator machinery room (aft end of officers' deckhouse).

I'd missed it all these years. It's barely visible, camouflaged nicely with all the crud on the roof. One of the glass panels is missing, but otherwise the brass fitting appears to be intact, still in situ as originally fitted (fore-aft alignmant).

One just like this was recovered by RMST Inc. a few years ago. There were many of these lights on Lusitania, both six- and three-paneled, and many were recovered in 1982. The two glass pieces on the ends are prisms, the one in the middle just a thick glass panel.

In studying the roof over the Silent Room for the "Ghost of the Abyss" project, Parks Stephenson had noticed an odd, suspicious and perfectly rectangular hole in the roof over the elev. room, to port of the vent mentioned above. We wondered how it could be so perfectly rectangular as we knew of no fitting there.

Sure enough, it's exactly opposite the in-situ decklight I just spotted. So there were two of them (at least), symetrically centered on the roof to each side of the vent and a little forward of it. The one on the port side has either fallen through from its own weight (there was no hole there in '85) or...it's the one that was recovered.

If this is old news, never mind.

Ken
 

Ken Marschall

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Jan 8, 2002
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Bob,

Yes, it appears to be like the one seen at an angle in the Mauretania photo. Here's an image showing the decklight recovered by RMST. (I hope the company will forgive my referencing it here. I have converted it from color to B&W and greatly reduced the image size.)

Ken

91507.jpg
 

Dan Cherry

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Mar 3, 2000
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Was it established that the rectangular hole over the wheelhouse roof was indeed one of these decklight/skylight panel openings? It begs the question that if the recovered skylight panel wasn't from the wheelhouse location or the roof over the elevator machinery housing, where else could these skylights have been fitted?
Is it doubtful that any of RMST's specifics regarding recovery location of this panel is available for examination?
 

Ken Marschall

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Jan 8, 2002
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Dan,

I suspect RMST has a record of where their decklight was found. During the 2000 recovery dives each item was rather meticulously documented as to where it was recovered.

Re: the hole in the roof just forward of the forwardmost stokehold vent, it always appeared square to me, not rectangular.

"where else could these skylights have been fitted?"

Who knows. Rather detailed ventilation drawings for Olympic (1920s) don't show any elev. roof decklights but do show other tiny vent details poking through the roof of the Officers' Quarters. 1911 Olympic plans do show six-paneled decklights fitted to either side of her bridge, on Boat Deck, but I think that's the only drawing I've seen that has them.

Ken
 

Bob Read

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Mar 3, 2002
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Ken:
I went back and looked through wreck video. What has been believed to be a skylight like the ones we are discussing over the chartroom appeared to be slightly longer in the fore and aft direction in one of the video passes I looked at.
I couldn't really make out anything definitive over the elevator machinery room. I think I may have seen some light reflection on the port side of the ventilator opening.
Are you able to provide some photo evidence for this find that we can examine?

Regards,
Bob Read
 
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Gentlemen-- The presence of a skylight over the chartroom may be of extreme significance with regard to my investigation of "how" the accident took place. Any specifics would be appreciated.

-- David G. Brown
 

Bob Read

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Mar 3, 2002
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David:
For what it's worth, a rectangular opening was seen in the earliest Ballard expedition wreck photos. It was located over the chart room. Since it was not a vent trunk, it had to have some other purpose. Since there were no windows to the chart room, a small flush mounted skylight like this would have proved useful.
Here's a sketch showing the approximate location of this flush skylight:
http://webpages.charter.net/bpread/skylight2.JPG

Regards,
Bob Read
 
Dec 6, 2000
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If I understand this correctly, the opening over the chartroom is also plainly visible in Ken's paintings. See pages 44 and 45 of "Exploring the Titanic" (for example) for before and after shots.

(yes, I know Ken's paintings are only that. But, I doubt Ken would have painted it, if he hadn't seen it in the wreck video)
 
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Bob -- thanks for the drawing. It is too far back to fit my ideas, so must have been "just a skylight."

-- David G. Brown
 

Bob Read

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David:
Care to let us in on your theory? I love theories, crazy or not. We won't think any less of you if you do.

Regards,
Bob Read
 

Shane Worthy

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Ken,
It's nice to see you on the message board. I must say, your art has inspired me, creating a whole new world of Titanic in color and so vividly detailed. It is any Titanic historian's dream come true. Anything new we can expect from you?
Saluting you from Arizona,
Shane N. Worthy
All Ahead Full!
 
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Bob & All--

As I just said to Parks in a private memo, my question was just "due diligence" as a researcher. I have been studying the layout of Titanic's bridge with regard to the role it played in the tragedy. As I related to the attendees in Maine last April, I believe that the midships placement of the standard compass was a major factor contributing to the accident.

If you look at both Titanic and Olympic, one thing stands out--the open deck area above the wheelhouse. Everywhere else deck space is cluttered with equipment, ventilators, skylights, etc. But, the roofs over the wheelhouses are barren as a desert. Why? Empty space costs money in ships. The roofs weren't left that way by accident. They were likely left empty in order to provide space for some future additions.

We know that Olympic got a rudimentary flying bridge with standard compass atop the wheelhouse after Titanic. Also, a more complex flying bridge with standard compass was installed on Britannic from the outset.

My suspicion is that H&W intended to place the standard compass of Titanic (and Olympic) atop the wheelhouse--which was the conventional location for this instrument in 1911. However, White Star Lines apparently had other thoughts as is evident by the midships placement of standard compasses on most of their ships. Titanic and Olympic were not unique within the White Star fleet with regard to the placement of their standard compasses.

What I was looking for is some evidence of an intent for communication between the wheelhouse and rooftop where the standard compass should have been mounted per 1911 convention. This could have been an opening skylight, hatch, speaking tube, etc. The skylight over the chartroom obviously does not qualify for this purpose.

Sometimes, a skylight is just a skylight.

-- David G. Brown
 

Bob Read

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Mar 3, 2002
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David:
I'm certainly no expert in this area but I think I can explain why the roof of Titanic and Olympic's wheelhouses were "barren". The whole bridge area was constructed of wood because steel around or over the compass would affect true readings. To place iron or steel equipment (ventilators,etc.) on top of the roof of the wheelhouse would have defeated the purpose of constructing the bridge from wood. Any ferrous metals overhead would interfere with the operation of the compasses associated with the wheels on the navigating bridge and the wheelhouse. The compasses forward of the wheels on the navigating bridge and the wheelhouse would always necessarily be there in order for the quartermaster to maintain the course heading.
The operation of these compasses is precisely what required that no steel structures be placed overhead.

The standard compass being constructed of brass and wood could have been placed on the roof of the wheelhouse and therefore not interfere with the operation of the compasses below. However, Harland and Wolff may have conducted experiments to determine which location was least affected by surrounding steel. I assume that with this type of compass, the midship position raised above the steel deck must have
provided the most accurate readings.

Regards,
Bob Read
 
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Bob -- Your wood argument with regard to the compass is probably correct for the ship, but not for the era. Our 1911 build ship in Toledo has its compass in an all-steel wheelhouse. And, it is the mass of ferrous material in the whole ship that really causes deviation. This was pretty well understood in that day. All steel/iron ships were equipped with quadrantal spheres on their binnacles to "fool" their compasses into thinking the ferrous material was equally placed around the compass perimiter and not just along the fore-and-aft line of the keel.

I have done some ad-lib research into the layouts of other ships that came out in roughly the same time as Titanic. The conventional location of standard compasses was atop the bridge structure, usually the wheelhouse. This was the case in Lusitania, for instance. Or, the whole Californian saga would not have been possible if it were not for that ship's flying bridge above its more rudimentary wheelhouse.

(For fun, compare the drawings of Californian's bridge on pg 87 of Leslie Reade's "The Ship That Stood Still" to drawings of Britannic's flying bridge. The two are functionally identical down to the port and starboard ladders.)

It was typical to have some form of 2-way communications between wheelhouse and flying bridge. This made easy the routine comparisons of the steering instrument against the standard compass. ("Standard" refers to the use of this particular instrument as the "gold standard" against which all other compasses were checked during a voyage.) As telephones with electricity were both new and potential sources of deviation, the commmunications on 1911-era ships were mostly openings or tubes to conduct the human voice. In other words, they shouted back and forth.

Someone in White Star must have been overly-concerned with the accuracy of standard compasses on that line's ships. Instead of valuing direct communications, White Star placed the standard instruments amidships where the magnetic influence of the hull would be equal fore and and aft. This may have made compass adjustment easier, but it led to obvious problems making proper use of the standard instruments.

The ease of use of the standard compass was no small matter in the routine management of the voyage. Compass comparisons were required every 30 minutes on Titanic with regular checks being made of the accuracy of the standard compass through celestial azimuths.

When a junior officer climbed onto Titanic's compass platform he was out of sight and hearing of the officer of the watch. Today, we consider communications and situational awareness as primary requirements of bridge management. The importance of these intangibles was not yet learned in 1912. Whenever a compass check was made, a junior officer with no forward vision and no knowledge of events on the bridge took effective command of the ship. Titanic had to be "steadied up" on the intended heading, then a "hack" signal sent from the platform to the wheelhouse. This was done with a one-way bell pull so the junior officer in the wheelhouse had no means of communicting back to the platform.

Even worse, the senior officer of the watch was effectively "out of the loop" in terms of conning the ship. At his post outside the wheelhouse he was deprived of all knowledge of events inside that structure or on the compass platform. The design of the ship effectively obliterated both communications and situational awareness every time a compass check was made--and that was 48 times a day.

Back to Titanic's wheelhouse/bridge roof. This open area is huge and unused. I've not seen such a large wasted space on any other ship of the period. Big, open decks are common on today's ships which are run from "indoors," but in 1911 when Titanic came down the opposite was the case. Ships officers preferred to be outdoors, one explanation of Titanic's open-air covered captain's bridge. The quartermaster was grudgingly given weather protection because it improved his ability to keep on course.

Timber decks were not a problem for shipwrights in 1912. By numbers, most commercial shipping was still being done in wooden hulls. Any good shipyard should have been able to build an extremely strong and lightweight bridge roof. I assume H&W could do the same. Thus, I am going to suggest that the roof was designed to carry the weight of the flying bridge which was considered "standard equipment" on other 1911 construction. The pillars, beams and carlins visible in the one existing photo of Olympic's bridge show robust enough scantlings for the purpose. And, circumstantial proof of this assumption is that Olympic was fitted with a bare-bones flying bridge after Titanic's demise.

Beyond the lack of a flying bridge, Titanic's control station is woefully behind the times from a design standpoint. Look at the photos and drawings of Lusitania's bridge by comparison. Sure, there was Admiralty money involved and some military considerations, but the officer on watch is able to keep in communications with those under his command without loosing situational awareness. Case in point--telephones. Lusitania's officer had phones at his fingertips. Titanic's watch officer had to leave the forebridge and go inside the wheelhouse if he wanted to talk directly to a remote location. That meant Titanic's officer had to break his situational awareness of events around the ship while using the phone.

My question about the chartroom skylight was aimed primarily at the possibility it was used to "fill the hole" intended for communications to the roof of the wheelhouse. Quite obviously, it was too far aft for this purpose. Which led me to the conclusion that "sometimes a skylight is just a skylight."

-- David G. Brown
 

Bob Read

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Mar 3, 2002
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David:
Everything points to the Titanic/Olympic standard compass setup and location to have been completely by design. I can't think of any impediment which would have had to be overcome to place the standard compass on the roof of the
bridge. It may not have been the convention of the time but I can only surmise that H&W had a good reason for doing it the way they did.

Regards,
Bob Read
 
B

Bruce Beveridge

Guest
If I may chime in. I agree that steel and iron around a compass could be compensated for, of course there are magnetic compasses in submarines! However, the inherent magnetic influence of structural steel varied with the ship's position and other factors etc. In fact no electrical appliance, unless wired in twisted pairs with a positive and negative, were to be within 10 feet of a magnetic compass. Limiting the amount of iron or steel around a compass could do nothing more than help the situation, so perhaps H&W was actually designing these wheel houses with this in mind and were being frugal on purpose. The Olympic and Titanic's navigating bridge roof was nothing more then what was called a "shade deck". Why they added a compass on the Olympic's roof I do not know. Perhaps it was for ease of communication, and I'll buy that one over anything else I have heard. Yes H&W was known for putting a compass platform amidships in the position of least magnetic influence, again, this is in my opinion one of their advancements. You are right David in that many ships of the era had flying bridges with compasses and telegraphs exposed, however, The Adriatic and Oceanic for example did not follow suit. Their roofs were barren also, just like Olympic and Titanic. So these two ships were not the first of the White Star fleet to be designed in this manner. Of course this again has nothing to do with your initial concerns about the skylight, but it is interesting none the less.

Bruce
 
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Judging from photos and information about other ships of the period, H&W put the standard compass amidships on White Star Lines ships per customer order. There is nothing unusual when a builder pays special attention to the requests of the person (or company) paying the bills.

I suspect the lack of a telephone and/or electricity to the compass platform was a similar customer request. Even in 1912 the magnetic properties of DC wires was known and ways had been found (such as twisting the wires) to minimize it.

There is also nothing unusual in a builder preparing for an alteration that he knows is coming even when the buyer does not. The obvious modern equivalent is pre-wiring for electronics which the customer has not purchased, but is likely to add in the future. This sort of anticipation of customer wishes is my thought behind the large open space. Admittedly, I do not have any proof, just a "hunch" after studying both other ships and the later modifications to Olympic and the original design of Britannic.

Concern over the compass was not misplaced, even if that concern resulted in an odd placement of the standard instrument. Lord Kelvin was still in the process of doing much of his work on compasses. The topic was "high tech" for 1911 when Titanic came down. And, like new technology, it's unlikely there was unanimity over all of the details.

On the subject of compasses, there does not seem to have been any time devoted to "swinging ship" during Titanic's abbreviated sea trials. Yet, it does appear that all of the primary instruments were compensated to some extent. The solution to this paradox may have been the use of one of Lord Kelvin's inventions that allowed a compass to be corrected without changing the ship's heading. It was called a "compass deflector." The results were not thought to be as accurate as swinging the ship, but sufficiently so for merchant ship navigation.

--David G. Brown
 
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Sam -- I've seen this before, but I'm skeptical. There just wasn't the time necessary for doing the job correctly. Nor is there any corroborating testimony from the crew about the complicated maneuvers involved. Wilding was correct about the representatives of Kelvin and White being aboard...and they would presumably have had access to one of Lord Kelvin's deflectors which would have allowed the job to be done.

-- David G. Brown
 
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Bruce Beveridge

Guest
David,

"Judging from photos and information about other ships of the period, H&W put the standard compass amidships on White Star Lines ships per customer order. There is nothing unusual when a builder pays special attention to the requests of the person (or company) paying the bills."

I agree. In fact that shaded navigating bridge was not done on all H&W ships of the period (the Minehaha for instance). I remember reading in a period book that the navigating bridges such as those on the ships I mentioned, were thought to be quite efficient at the time. In fact, one could say that O and T did have open navigating bridges, only White Star chose to put a shade deck over the top. The sides were wide open as was necessary. However, and in response to another thread on this site, the sides could be sealed in heavy seas with special boards that were shipped into place and secured to the deck level via brass cups and to the header of the navigating roof with slip bolts. One of the big issues companies had with their officers was keeping them outside. Most liked to sneak inside to get warm, and in fact I have seen drawings for such patent devices as steam heated teak platforms for the quartermasters to stand on to keep the feet warm. Navigating officers used to like to stay in the chart rooms under the guise of work to be done and the like. Along with this issue, I have always felt that the reason White Star did not have a forward facing window for the Chief Officer's cabin was to curtail him from sneaking in and watching while seated at his desk inside his room.



"I suspect the lack of a telephone and/or electricity to the compass platform was a similar customer request. Even in 1912 the magnetic properties of DC wires was known and ways had been found (such as twisting the wires) to minimize it."

Perhaps, but the main reason may have had more to do with the telephones themselves. Those things were known to be noisy and the voices garbled no matter how much the manufacturer advertised how good they were. They could not be depended on wholly. I would imagine that a moderate breeze over the mouthpieces would create more static than voice. The officers found themselves resorting to the old-fashioned hand signals and megaphones more often then not. (This was again from a period book I read)


"There is also nothing unusual in a builder preparing for an alteration that he knows is coming even when the buyer does not. The obvious modern equivalent is pre-wiring for electronics which the customer has not purchased, but is likely to add in the future. This sort of anticipation of customer wishes is my thought behind the large open space. Admittedly, I do not have any proof, just a "hunch" after studying both other ships and the later modifications to Olympic and the original design of Britannic."

O.K.


"Concern over the compass was not misplaced, even if that concern resulted in an odd placement of the standard instrument. Lord Kelvin was still in the process of doing much of his work on compasses. The topic was "high tech" for 1911 when Titanic came down. And, like new technology, it's unlikely there was unanimity over all of the details."

Well Kelvin was dead by Titanic's time of course so it would have been his company. I disagree on that one, if I am reading you correctly. I see nothing in the compass fittings on Titanic that hadn't been around for a few years already. Perhaps they were having a bit of a time working out the effects of the magnetic attraction because of the size of the ships, but this was based on the ship, not the compasses, which were old hat already. I think the added compass forward on the roof of the navigating bridges was more for convenience then anything, but this is also a hunch. It seems these added compasses came about (also for Oceanic and Adriatic) right before of during the war.

Speaking of inherent magnetic properties of the hull, did you know that even the multi meters used to test the electrical wiring on these ships had to have their own magnetic compensators built in? The magnetic influence of the hull would even effect the testing equipment. Amazing


"On the subject of compasses, there does not seem to have been any time devoted to "swinging ship" during Titanic's abbreviated sea trials. Yet, it does appear that all of the primary instruments were compensated to some extent. The solution to this paradox may have been the use of one of Lord Kelvin's inventions that allowed a compass to be corrected without changing the ship's heading. It was called a "compass deflector." The results were not thought to be as accurate as swinging the ship, but sufficiently so for merchant ship navigation."

Actually the Kelvin Deflector did require some swinging of the ship, though it did make the process much easier then what was done in the past, so Samuel's testimonial quote above fits. Here is a quote from a 1911 Kelvin reference I have which covers Kelvin's impact on navigation that was related in a speech by one of his people:

Kelvin's "deflector" was a pair of magnets arranged somewhat like the legs of a pair of compasses. By opening the legs their power to deflect the compass needle was increased. This instrument was placed on the glass top of the compass bowl, and the legs were opened until some definite large angle of deflection was observed, say 85 degrees. Then it was removed; the ship's head was turned to another course, and the deflector was replaced. If the same opening of the legs just sufficed to give the same deflection on this second course, the directing field on both courses was the same. The process was repeated for other courses, and if differences were found the correcting magnets were adjusted until they disappeared.


Bruce
 

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