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How common was rocket use?

Discussion in 'Rockets in the Night' started by Steven Christian, Feb 12, 2018.

  1. I know rocket use at that time for company signals were used between ships and that ships would use rockets when coming into port to signal for tugs ect. But just how common were rockets used at sea? Was it very common like all the time or just occasionally? I'm sure we've all heard the term "Familiarity breeds contempt". I've been guilty of that myself. Was is so common that it would make people of that time complacent? I know this subject has been gone over and over but I've never known if it was an every night type of thing or just once in awhile. I'm sure some of you nautical history guys know this. I would like to know...Thanks.
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  2. B-rad

    B-rad Member

    From what. I understand (& I may be way off base as I have not researched this) but this was fairly common but only when ships were to far away to signal via their mores lamps. Before wireless this was all they had, but even with wireless old habits die hard. Along with this if the thought that a nearby ship did not have wireless. My question is why didn't the Californian use rockets to signal back, and at what point would supposed company signsls turn into perhaps they are sending up rockets for what other reason, after 1, 2 or 5?
    Steven Christian likes this.
  3. Rockets were not used on the high seas for signaling. They were used for signals of distress, fired one at a time at short intervals. As Lawrence Beesley wrote, "Anybody knows what rockets at sea mean."
  4. Thanks for the answers guys. Again I know its been covered a lot but I've always been curious to why with all the ice warnings flying about nobody would have the radio operator have a listen for chatter after rockets were seen.
  5. Kyle Naber

    Kyle Naber Member

    Rockets were used for many things. Distress yes, but also for company signaling, and even celebrations and greetings. Reading them and interpreting their purpose back then was very complicated to the untrained eye. Each color, interval, and combination meant different things. While red is usually recognized as a distress signal, Titanic used all of her colors in this desperate situation like red, blue, green, and white. This may have contributed to the confusion of nearby ships as to what the rockets were being fired for. That’s why I question the accuracy of the statement: “anybody knows what rockets at sea mean.” Rockets were not exclusive to emergency use and to answer the question to the thread, were used fairly commonly.
  6. I admire Lawrence Beesley for being a survivor (one of the few men from second class) and for writing his book about the Titanic. I'm not dismissing his statement about rockets...he was there after all. But being a teacher and not a sailor would he really know about rockets at sea?
    Ajmal Dar likes this.
  7. Mark Baber

    Mark Baber Moderator Member

    5 February 1895: As Cunard's Umbria overtakes Cevic at 11 p.m., both ships
    being en route to New York, Cevic's Capt. Nicol orders a rocket to be fired
    off. Once Umbria's Capt. Dutton recognizes the White Star liner, he realizes
    that the rocket is a greeting that he and Nicol had agreed to exchange when
    passing in the night, and responds in kind. Then, in the exact opposite
    direction from Cevic, Dutton sees a distress signal---three flares---fired
    from a ship displaying two red lights meaning that she is not under control.
    Changing course, Umbria comes to the rescue of the sixteen officers and crew
    of the waterlogged and sinking French barque Jean Baptiste. When Umbria
    arrives in New York in five days, the barque's owner and master Prosper Le
    Bott will tell reporters that had he not seen Umbria's flare he and his crew
    would have been adrift in lifeboats on the storm-tossed Atlantic within 30
    minutes, and attributes their safety to Nicol, whose signal set off the
    chain of events leading to their rescue. (Source: The New York Times,
    11 February 1895.)
  8. Ajmal Dar

    Ajmal Dar Member

    I thought Titanic only sent up white rockets not coloured ones. That is what i have read in witness testimonies.


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  9. Yeah I've read different accounts that said different things on what colors were used also. Also that any color that shoots out stars is a distress signal. It is confusing.
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  10. Kyle Naber

    Kyle Naber Member

    The only people who said that they fired only white rockets were the officers. There are many accounts of different colors.
  11. The Cotton Powder Co. that supplied the distress socket signals didn't play games. The standard signals that they supplied rose to a height of 500-600 ft and threw white stars. If you really care to learn about distress socket signals see: http://www.titanicology.com/Californian/WhatColorWereThey.pdf
  12. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    3rd officer Pitman
    "They were fired from the rail.....various colours."

    Major Peuchen
    "Different colours flying down."

    Reginald Lee
    Q - Were they coloured rockets. Or only white ones?
    A - No. Coloured rockets.

    Robert Hichens
    "Some were green, some were red, and some were blue. All kinds of colours, and some white, Sir. I think, if I remember rightly, they were blue."


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  13. Kyle Naber

    Kyle Naber Member

    Don’t really see how including different colors in rockets is “playing games.” Each color usually meant different things, but Titanic needed to use all of her rockets to draw as much attention to herself as possible.
  14. Aaron, please stop posting these color enhanced pictures from Nat. Geo. They prove nothing. Seeing color remnants from the burnt out stars at close range is not unexpected. From afar, they were white or a bluish-white. Read the article I posted.
  15. Really, what different things would that be? Distress socket signals were supplied for one purpose only, and it wasn't to celebrate the 4th of July.
  16. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    The Carpathia fired rockets. She wasn't in distress. The Californian saw them and did not even feel it was necessary to enter them in the ship's log.

    Captain Lord
    Q - What did you think this vessel was firing rockets for?
    A - I asked the second officer. I said, "Is that a company’s signal?" and he said he did not know.
    Q - Then that did not satisfy you?
    A - No, it did not.
    Q - I mean whatever it was it did not satisfy you that it was a company’s signal?
    A - It did not, but I had no reason to think it was anything else.
    Q - That seems odd. You knew that the vessel that was sending up this rocket was in a position of danger?
    A - No, my Lord, I did not.
    Q - Well, danger if she moved?
    A - If she moved, yes.

    Kyle Naber likes this.
  17. >>The Carpathia fired rockets. She wasn't in distress.<<

    She was firing them every 15 minutes to let Titanic know that help was under way which was also mentioned via wireless.
  18. Harland Duzen

    Harland Duzen Member

    So to meant sense of the above:

    • Titanic ONLY fired WHITE Distress Rockets as proven by the Officers, Californian and official records and designs of the rockets.
    • The Passengers (for whatever reason) mistook them as Muti-coloured Distress Rockets (possibly / probably due to the flash / remnant of their explosion).
    • Us historians confused them to be multi-coloured due to lighting / debris problems (which makes sense since usually light can't travel over 2 miles to the wreck and the Submersibles are providing the only source of light).
    • At least 8 - 12(-ish + more) were fired during the night.
  19. That's right. And he was not doing anyone any real service by doing that. As Capt.Moore explained:
    "I thought of sending rockets up, but I thought it far better to let it alone, because if other ships - they thought they saw them - might be coming to me."
    There was a very stiff penalty to the captain of a vessel sending up distress signals if it was not in distress and some other vessel came to their aid and suffered some loss in doing so. See below.
    From 1897 Rules of Road.gif
    Julian Atkins likes this.
  20. Was it true that ? ...."Item 4. A continuous sounding with any fog-signal apparatus" was not
    done on Titanic ?
    One of the criticisms of the 1953 "Titanic" movie was that these were heard continuously during the sinking in the movie, but this was in error because they were not actually sounded during
    the sinking of the Titanic ?