Distance Travelled for the Last Hour - 11.00pm to Midnight



Trying to work out how many miles the Titanic had travelled from 11:00pm - Midnight. Was she steaming west or south west? Confused by the testimony from the Californian. e.g.

10:30pm (local ship's time) Captain Lord first notices a ship approaching from the east.
11:00pm they judge her to be 10 miles away
11:40pm they judge her to be 5 miles away. She turns towards them and stops.

Did it really take 40 minutes for the Titanic to travel just 5 miles closer to the west? Was she moving south west after 11pm?


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Rob Lawes

Jun 13, 2012
Aaron. Your top diagram represents a right angled triangle. The course of the Titanic in this diagram would represent the longest steaming distance between the first site of her at 10 miles and the closest point of approach at 5 miles. These ranges are of course estimates.

Titanic was travelling at 22 knots give or take. In 40 minutes she would have covered roughly 14.6 nautical miles. Using Pythagoras the distance Titanic would have travelled in your diagram would have been 8.7 miles.

Looking at the most extreme distance, if Titanic was first seen astern of the Californian and steamed in such a way as to form the longest side of the triangle to finish at a point 5 miles due south then 10x10 + 5x5 = 125. The root of 125 = 11.2 miles which is still over 3 miles out.

Any other course would give a figure somewhere between those two estimates (8.7 and 11.2).

This leads to two conclusions. The estimates of distance between Californian and Titanic were way off (which they almost certainly were) or, the ship seen from the Californian was not the Titanic.


I thought it was proved beyond doubt that they were observing the Titanic? They described a large passenger ship that stopped, showed her port light, listed to one side and fired rockets and disappeared shortly after 2am. They said she was almost facing them head on. The Titanic's survivors said the other ship was almost directly ahead off their port bow. towards the north. The Californian even saw the rockets of the Carpathia when she approached further south, and they assumed the first ship had steamed to the south and was continuing to fire rockets, and therefore was not in distress. Even when the Mount Temple arrived she saw the Carpathia to the east and the Californian to the north. Captain Moore said:

"I saw the Californian myself cruising around there, sir......She was to the north of the Carpathia and steaming to the westward.....When we sighted her she must have sighted us. ......The Californian was to the north, sir.....He was then north of the Carpathia, and he must have been, I suppose, about the same distance to the north of the Carpathia as I was to the westward of her.....This pack of ice between us and the Carpathia, it was between 5 and 6 miles."

The Californian had just started moving west through the ice field when the Mount Temple saw her to the north of the Carpathia moving west through the ice. He judged the icefield to be "5 and 6 miles" wide. Surely there is no possible way for the Californian to have been 20+ miles away from the Titanic because she was only 10-15 miles away from the Carpathia when she was firing rockets to the south. I believe the Californian was certainly in the immediate area when the Titanic sank.

Captain Lord first noticed her at 10.30pm (their time) as one enormous bright light. I believe a ship the size of the Titanic would first appear as a brilliant bright light, owing to her size, amount of light, and height above the horizon as she first approached them. Quartermaster Rowe said he first noticed the other ship when the Titanic's stern was swinging to the south. 4th officer Boxhall said he was preparing to swing out the lifeboats when the crows nest reported a light on the starboard bow, this light then moved across their bow to the port side as the Titanic was swinging towards the north.
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The Californian tried to send a warning to the Titanic shortly before the collision. The wireless operator said the signals were very loud and very strong and the ship must have been very close, and when he sent his warning it came with a bang and disrupted the Titanic's work with Cape Race which made the Titanic's operator say:

"He turned around and said "Shut up, shut up, I am busy. I am working Cape Race," and at that I jammed him."

I think there is too much evidence to support the Californian was the ship observed by the Titanic, that it makes all other theories less likely.


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