Final Heading of the Titanic


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Paul Lee

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Dear all,
I am just wondering what people think the Titanic's final heading on 15th April 1912? I know the general accepted theory is she was facing slightly east of north (as the wreck is
today), and there is a lot of testimony to back this up (for instance, detailed in Lesley Reade's book etc.).

I find the argument that the Titanic's engines were put half speed ahead with the wheel allegedly left hard-a-port after dodging the iceberg, but this strikes me as unlikely as the QMs would have noticed the wheel was hardover. Also, of lesser significance is that the rudder on the sea bed and the helm indicator show dead ahead (though these may have been changed due to the forces involved in the breakup and journey to the sea-bed).

I was berated a few days ago by one ET board member who said there is no evidence or logic that the Titanic's final heading was northward. Also, Leslie Harrison told me that "there is considerable evidence that the Titanic stopped heading westward, and there is no reason why a random course should have been chosen [to make her head northward]", which I agree with. This leaves the theory in "The Last Log of the Titanic", which says that Captain Smith was trying to make for Newfoundland....to the North.

Thoughts, anyone?

Best wishes

Paul
 
Feb 13, 2003
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Paul:

Fourth Officer Boxhall, in his evidence to both the American and British inquiries, stated that while Titanic's lifeboats were being lowered and sent away, he saw the port and starboard sidelights of a vessel, about 5 degrees on Titanic's port bow, coming directly towards them from the west, and then turned and steamed away to the west again. Therefore Titanic had to be heading in a westerly direction.

Furthermore, under the influence of the surface (Gulf stream) current Titanic would have remained on a westerly heading until she submerged at 2:20 a.m.

The theory that Captain Smith was trying to make for Newfoundland, 300 miles, to the North, is rather farfetched, considering the amount of pack ice and icebergs being brought south from the Newfoundland coast by the Labrador current.

Collins
 
Oct 28, 2000
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The fact that Titanic re-started its engines is well documented. Check Dillon, Scott, Olliver, Beesley, Gracie, etc. They all witnessed it happen.

The ship was under port helm, or turning to the right, as the iceberg contact ended. This was confirmed my Olliver, Rowe, and Scarrott. The fact that Lightoller saw nothing on the port side is logical if the ship were turning to its right. Lightoller and Boxhall confirmed the officers looked aft from the starboard bridge wing in their attempt to see the fatal iceberg. Had the ship been going straight, the berg would have been completely behind them and either wing would have done. If Titanic had been turning left under starboard helm, only the port wing would have given a view of the berg. Conversely, if the ship were turning right under port helm, only the starboard wing...which is where the officers went...would have yielded a possible view.

Californian descirbed a ship that approached from the east, turned southeast, and then doused its lights. This corresponds to the movements of Titanic. The ship would have appeared to douse lights if it turned to its right on port helm, exposing its bow to Californian. The bow of a ship is kept dark so as not to reduce the night vision of lookouts and officers.

The ship resumed making way after the accident, although there is no unanimity of how long it steamed. During that period, a message was sent to the White Star office in New York asking that a train be started for Halifax to pick up passengers. That train was chartered and it did roll north, but only until loss of the ship was confirmed. The message from Titanic regarding its iceberg encounter was required by IMM/White Star company regulations:

"111. Accident, Collision or Salvage. -- (b) In case of accident to the vessel requiring her to proceed to a port of refuge, a report should be at once telegraphed to the Management and to the nearest Company's office, giving particulars of accident and damage."

Proof that the require Marconigram was sent came in a news report published by the Dow Jones News Service at 3:01 p.m.

"P.A.S. Franklin, vice president International Mercantile Marine, says arrangements have been made with New Haven Road to send a special train to Halifax to meet passengers of the Titanic. Train will consist of 11 sleepers, 2 diners, and coaches sufficient for 710 people."

After the ship stopped for the last time, Titanic's initial distress call put the ship in latitude 41.44 N. A few minutes later, Boxhall corrected this latitude by moving it northward to 41.46 N. The difference between the two is 2 minutes of latitude, which corresponds to 2 nautical miles on the surface of the globe. Using simple Time/Distance/Speed computations, we find that boxhall assumed the ship was making way for 2/10ths of an hour at 10 knots. Why 2/10ths of an hour? Because navigators learn to use 10ths of hours (6 minute) time units because the math can be done simply in the head.

Leslie Read in his "The Ship That Stood Still" shows rather presuasively that Titanic was facing north when the boats were launched. He does this by showing the direction the boats had to move to approach Carpathia, and other data.

There are scattered quotes from Boxhall, Rowe, and others in the testimonies that the ship was facing north at the time the boats were launched.

The bow is still facing north.

-- David G. Brown
 
Mar 3, 1998
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What did Boxhall see?

Day 3
Mr. BOXHALL. It is hard to say. I saw his masthead lights and I saw his side light.
Senator SMITH. In what direction?
Mr. BOXHALL. Almost ahead of us.
[…]
Senator SMITH. What lights did you see?
Mr. BOXHALL. The two masthead lights and the red light.
Senator SMITH. Were the two masthead lights the first lights that you could see?
Mr. BOXHALL. The first lights.
Senator SMITH. And what other lights?
Mr. BOXHALL. And then, as she got closer, she showed her side light, her red light.
Senator SMITH. So you were quite sure she was coming in your direction?
Mr. BOXHALL. Quite sure.
[…]
Day 10
Mr. BOXHALL. I saw that light, saw all the lights of course, before I got into my boat, and just before I got into the boat she seemed as if she had turned around. I saw just one single bright light then, which I took to be her stern light.
Senator FLETCHER. She apparently turned around within 5 miles of you?
Mr. BOXHALL. Yes, sir.
Senator BURTON: You are very positive you saw that ship ahead on the port bow, are you?
Mr. BOXHALL: Yes, sir, quite positive.
Senator BURTON: Did you see the green or red light?
Mr. BOXHALL: Yes; I saw the side lights with my naked eye.
[…]
Senator BURTON: Which light did you see first?
Mr. BOXHALL: I saw the masthead lights first, the two steaming lights; and then, as she drew up closer, I saw her side lights through my glasses, and eventually I saw the red light. I had seen the green, but I saw the red most of the time. I saw the red light with my naked eye.
[…]
Senator BURTON: Then your idea is that she was coming toward you on the port side?
Mr. BOXHALL: Yes.
Senator BURTON: Because you saw the red light and the masthead lights?
Mr. BOXHALL: Yes, sir.
Senator BURTON: Afterward you saw the green light, which showed that she had turned?
Mr. BOXHALL: I think I saw the green light before I saw the red light, as a matter of fact. But the ship was meeting us. I am covering the whole thing by saying the ship was meeting us.
[…]
Senator BURTON. Her course, as she came on, would have been nearer to your course; that is, your course was ahead, there, and she was coming in toward your course?
Mr. BOXHALL. Yes, sir; she was slightly crossing it, evidently. I suppose she was turning around slowly.
Senator BURTON. Is it your idea that she turned away?
Mr. BOXHALL: That is my idea, sir.
Senator BURTON: She kept on a general course toward the east, and then bore away from you, or what?
Mr. BOXHALL: I do not think she was doing much steaming. I do not think the ship was steaming very much, because after I first saw the masthead lights she must have been still steaming, but by the time I saw her red light with my naked eye she was not steaming very much. So she had probably gotten into the ice, and turned around.
[...]
15393. Could you see it distinctly with the naked eye? - No, I could see the light with the naked eye, but I could not define what it was, but by the aid of a pair of glasses I found it was the two masthead lights of a vessel, probably about half a point on the port bow, and in the position she would be showing her red if it were visible, but she was too far off then.
15401. Did they seem to be stationary? - I was paying most of my attention to this steamer then, and she was approaching us; and then I saw her sidelights. I saw her green light and the red. She was end-on to us. Later I saw her red light. This is all with the aid of a pair of glasses up to now. Afterwards I saw the ship's red light with my naked eye, and the two masthead lights. The only description of the ship that I could give is that she was, or I judged her to be, a four-masted steamer.


Parks
 
Mar 3, 1998
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What did QM Rowe see?

17667. When you saw this light did you notice whether the head of the "Titanic" was altering either to port or starboard? - Yes.
17668. You did notice? - Yes.
17669. Was your vessel's head swinging at the time you saw this light of this other vessel? - I put it down that her stern was swinging.
17670. Which way was her stern swinging? - Practically dead south, I believe, then.
17671. Do you mean her head was facing south? - No, her head was facing north. She was coming round to starboard.
17672. The stern was swung to the south? - Yes.
17673. And at that time you saw this white light? - Yes.
17674. How was it bearing from you? - When I first saw it it was half a point on the port bow, and roughly about two points when I left the bridge.


Parks
 

Paul Lee

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David,
I knew that a train had been chartered to pick up survivors from Halifax, but the number "710" makes me think that this was done after the ship had gone down, and the number of survivors known. By this time it would have been known that the survivors were heading back to New York on the Carpathia, so why charter the train anyway?
 
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Personal opinion: Titanic was south of the normal steaming lane. It makes sense to me that she would see a light to the north. In fact, I think that Smith tried to go north...not to get to Halifax, but rather the 5 miles or so he needed to rejoin the normal track and thereby increase the chance of encountering another ship (i.e., rescuer). In 1912, not every ship carried a wireless, so there could be other ships out there that might not have heard the distress call. However, what Smith's intentions for running the engines really were after the collision may never be known.

I once saw the results of a study where the sinking of the bow section was reproduced in a tow tank. In every single run, the bow section planed to the bottom on the original heading it was on before the sinking. The damage noted on that section of the wreck supports this conclusion. In contrast, the stern section gyrated wildly during its plunge to the bottom, as evidenced by the observed damage.

From my perspective, the combination of eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence tells me that Titanic sank with her bow pointing north.

Parks
 
Feb 13, 2003
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Californian descirbed a ship that approached from the east, turned southeast, and then doused its lights. This corresponds to the movements of Titanic. The ship would have appeared to douse lights if it turned to its right on port helm, exposing its bow to Californian. The bow of a ship is kept dark so as not to reduce the night vision of lookouts and officers

Neither Fleet nor Lee, the lookouts on the Titanic, reported the sighting of any lights on the horizon while they were in the crow's nest between the hours 10 and 12. George Hogg, who relieved them at midnight and stayed in the crow's nest until he was called to go away in the lifeboat, also did not see any lights of a steamer. In ordinary circumstances it is inconceivable, in the particulay circuumstances preposterous, that the bridge would not have been notified if a ship had been within sight between the the time of the accident and the loading of the boats. Since the Californian had stopped in the ice at 10:21 p.m., it is also inconceivable that the lookouts would not have noticed her...furthermore, they could not have failed to have seen each others Morse signalling. Both ships were using powerful Morse lamps that were capable of being seen, given the infinite visibility that night, at a distance of at least 16 miles. Yet the evidence at the inquiries clearly established that the Titanic did not see Californian's Morse signals and the Californian did not see the Titanic's, why? Because they were not within viewing range of each other, they were more than 16 miles apart.

Collins
 

Paul Lee

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I don't know if you've read "The Ship That Stood Still", but if not, I suggest that you do so, as many of your points are covered and demolished in the book.

As for the "powerful" morse lamps....obviously, the further you get away from a lamp, the less powerful, or bright it seems to be.
 
Feb 13, 2003
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Paul:

...as many of your points are covered and demolished in the book.

Many of my points are referenced in all books I have read. The reasons and explanations given are invariably absurd, which promted me to write my book from my perspective as an experience ship handler and ice navigator. To the best of my knowledge, my book is the first and only one, so far, written by an experienced ship handler and ocean ice navigator.

You have suggested I read, "The ship That Stood Still". I suggest you read my book, "The Sinking of the Titanic: An Ice Pilot's Perspective." soon to be re-published by a UK publishing Company.

Collins
 
Oct 28, 2000
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Paul -- you are not the only one to find the number of seats on the train to be suspicious. However, the totality of the evidence surrounding that episode suggests that sometimes things are just coincidence.

I give a hearty second to Park's suggestion regarding the real reason that Smith move Titanic north. In 1912, rescue often meant going to where other people or ships might be found. This is quite different from today when your best chance of rescue is to sit still and wait. Another possible reason to steam would have been to get away from the ice around the fatal berg.

Halifax does not seem to have been a true destination for Titanic. After all, Halifax did not lie east of north from the ship's position. So, I've always thought that Halifax was given as a sop to Ismay to get him off the bridge. The timing of the message to the White Star office in New York was probably immediately following Ismay's appearance on the bridge after the berg.

-- David G. Brown
 
Mar 18, 2000
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Another piece of the puzzle:

A number of survivors claimed that the separated stern pivoted around before finally sinking. On the ocean floor, the stern IS turned the other direction from the bow.

I agree with what Parks said - the bow went down in the same direction as she was pointing on the surface, to point north. The stern turned on the surface, and also went down without turning more, and it is in the same relationship to the bow as it was when they both went under.

And, yes, Captain Collins, I have read your book. I do know your reasoning, but I'm afraid I have to go with the bulk of the survivor testimony, and particularly QM Rowe. I do wish my father was still alive, as he spent time on a Coast Guard cutter in the North Atlantic, and maybe have an opinion on this.
 

Paul Lee

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I was intrigued by the book and was planning to buy it...but the negative reviews on Amazon.com put me off, sorry
sad.gif
 
Feb 13, 2003
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Paul:

I have read the review by A reader from Ormond Beach, FL United States, who appears to be hung up on the testimonies of Scarrott and Olliver, which I considered to be so far from the realm of plausibility, I did not include it in my book.

I fully understand armchair theorist having difficulty in comprehending my arguments.

Regards,
Collins
 
Feb 13, 2003
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I give a hearty second to Park's suggestion regarding the real reason that Smith move Titanic north.

In my opinion, as an ocean-going master mariner, the suggestion that Captain Smith tried to steam his ice damaged, progressively flooding, down by the head, Titanic to the north -or in any direction -is absurd; morever, considering the ice floes to the north and surrounding. The only sane, seamanlike, undertaking was to keep the ship dead in the water, assess the damage and get the passengers and crew away safely as soon as possible.

Considering the conditions of the night -infinite visibilty and calm sea -basic seamanship dictates it was much safer to have a ship or ships come to the aid of the Titanic.

Collins
 

Paul Lee

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Did Captain Smith know of any icebergs to the northward? As far as I can recall from the radio messages received, the ice was to the west ahead of the Titanic.

Of course, its easy to come up with any theory if you dismiss the evidence that counters yours (see "A Titanic Myth" for instance).
 

Paul Lee

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By the way, regardless of whether it was good practise at sea to move a ship at sea, its irrelevant. There are witnesses who saw, heard and felt it happen. To deny this is just historical revisionism!
 
Feb 13, 2003
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Did Captain Smith know of any icebergs to the northward?

Of course he did. Read the evidence. That was the reason he was making a course south of the customary track.
 
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<font color="#000066">Of course he did. Read the evidence. That was the reason he was making a course south of the customary track.

That is supposition only. Smith's reason for delaying the turn at the corner is not in the evidence...the implication that Smith delayed the turn to avoid ice was brought up by the inquisitors, not by the witness. As a matter of fact, Third Officer Pitman stated not only that Smith did not divulge his reason for delaying the turn, but that Pitman did not think of ice when he learned of the delay. Personally, I don't feel that the delayed turn had anything to do with ice at all...I speculate instead that Smith delayed the turn to 5.50p so that he could make a good run Sunday night and reduce the risk of overtaking slower vessels on the lane in the dark. There's no evidence to support this assertion, and no evidence that refutes it. Just like the assertion that Smith extended Titanic's track farther south to avoid ice.

I would agree that moving a damaged ship at all is risky and if there wasn't evidence that specifically points to that movement, I wouldn't have believed that Smith would have done such a thing. But, personal experience aside, the fact is that evidence exists that points to movement of the ship after the collision, ordered by Smith. So, instead of wishing the evidence away because it doesn't match with what I would expect, I instead look to come up with some reasonable explanation for it.

Parks
 

Paul Lee

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Hi Parks,
Seconded! Ignoring troublesome evidence is very.... Warren Commission IMHO
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Best wishes

Paul
 
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