How Far Apart were Titanic and Californian?

Mar 22, 2003
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>>On a dark, calm night at midnight, a person stands on top of ...<<
Games that some people like to play. Buts lets put some reality into this little game.
To see a flash of light on the horizon, and also to be able to state that it was a rocket that you saw, means that the burst could not have been precisely on the visible horizon line, which is a few minutes of arc below the true horizontal of the observer due to the height of eye of the observer above sea level. The burst would have been at least a few minutes of arc above the observed horizon if that horizon were even visible to the observer on a dark moonless night. If one could measure the angular height of the burst above the horizon line using a sextant, then correct that reading for the dip of the horizon due to the observer's height above sea level, which is always required when taking celestial sights, then you could determine the distance from observer to the vessel that is firing the rocket if you know how high that rocket burst actually took place above the sea. To do that one can use Table 15 from Bowditch which is shown below and includes an explanation on the use of that table.

It should be noted that for a height of eye of about 50 ft, the dip of the visible horizon from the true horizontal is a little less than 7 minutes of arc, less than 1/4 the diameter of a full moon (See figure below), and really imperceptible to an observer, especially since we we told that there was not a clear demarcation as to where the water ended and the sky began when looking from the bridge of a ship that particular night [Lord, Groves]. A burst seen exactly horizontal from the observer, when corrected for dip, would be at an angle of 0° 0' for entry into Table 15. The other needed value to get the distance is the height of the rocket burst above the water. Assuming a burst anywhere from 400 to 500 ft high, the distance comes out to something like 21.8 to 24.7 nautical miles under normal refraction conditions.

If that rocket came from Carpathia, which was about 45 minutes before stopping near the first boat to be picked up, then that boat would have had to be about 8 to 10 miles closer to the observer, putting the distance from observer to the lifeboat between 11.8 and 16.7 miles, depending on just how high the rocket actually burst above sea level, and what was the true average speed of Carpathia during those last 45 minutes before she reached the lifeboat.
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Julian Atkins

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Sep 23, 2017
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Hi Sam,

It was really all about another thread...

Why didn't Titanic see Californian's Morse Lamps

And the 'discussion' between Senan Molony and George Behe,

And the textual analysis in considerable detail by both of Captain Moore's USA Inquiry evidence,

And what Paul Lee quoted and stated at p.232 and 233 of his book 'Titanic and the Indifferent Stranger'.

Senan and George both got it wrong in the above thread...

>The timing of the first visual contact between Mount Temple and
>Californian is clearly implied in an entry in the wireless record of
>Moore’s own vessel:
>5.20 New York Time. (7.06am Mount Temple time) Signal Californian. Wants
>my position. Send it. We are very close.
>(US p.782)

*First* visual contact? It doesn't imply that at all -- it merely tells us that the Mt. Temple's Marconi operator was *told* about the proximity of Cal. and Carp. at 7:06 am and that he transmitted that information at that time. In any case, the Senate Inquiry's quotation of the Mt. Temple's wireless PV is inaccurate. The exact wording for that particular entry is: "Sigs MWL -- Wants my position -- Send it. MPA (Carpathia) & MWL (Californian) in sight." In other words, Carpathia and Californian were both visible to the Mt. Temple at 7:06 am MT time.

>If they are sending each other their positions and consider each other
>close, then they can't bloody see each other at 7.06 MT time, much less
>6am MT time.

The *correct* verbatim transcript of Mt. Temple's wireless PV proves that you're mistaken, since Mt. Temple transmitted her own position to the Californian at 7:06 am MT time while both the Cal. and Carp. were within sight of the Mt. Temple.
This quote is from George's post 39 on 26th November 2000 on the above linked thread. The arrowed bits are quotes from a previous post by Senan. I have highlighted the bits that are 'wrong'.

The "We are very close" is not in Durrant's PV. Senan was wrong about this.

George is then wrong about what he quotes from Durrant's PV of the 5.20 NYT (7.06am Mount Temple ship's time) entry that at that time both The Californian and Carpathia were in sight of the Mount Temple at this time.

In fact the " MPA and MWL in sight" occurs in the next entry of the PV at 6.00 NYT (7.46am Mount Temple ships time).

We know this for sure thanks to Michael Hughes' book 'Titanic Calling', and by virtue of Paul Lee very helpfully supplying a pic of Durrant's actual PV recording all these entries on p.232 of his book.

Then we come to Paul Lee's discussion of this (you will have to refer to his book for this). This is quite interesting but tortuous to follow.

Not only does Paul provide a pic of the Mount Temple PV (which is exactly as stated by Hughes in 'Titanic Calling'), (and you will recall from the above is not what George Behe and Senan Molony stated!), Paul also then provides a 'trump hand' and quotes a newspaper interview Durrant gave reported on 26th April 1912 in the New York Times and Boston Post.

This newspaper report quoted by Paul Lee (to me) has an error in it, missing out the 5.20 NYT (7.06am Mount Temple ship's time) entry, then in effect saying that The Californian and Carpathia were seen 40 minutes after the famous 3.25 NYT (5.11am Mount Temple ship's time, and 5.15am on The Californian) when Evans had been woken up and sent his first wireless message that morning.

However, if you take the 40 minutes from the 5.20 NYT (MT ships time 7.06am) entry in Durrant's PV, then everything falls neatly into place, as 40 minutes later is the PV entry at 6.00 NYT (7.46am MT ships time) "Much jamming MPA and MWL in sight"

I don't know quite what to make of Paul Lee's suggestion that the "MPA and MWL in sight" in the 6.00 NYT entry was a latter addition.

Here is a pic from his book, with all due acknowledgment to Paul Lee

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(The times in Durrant's PV on the Mount Temple were all in NYT. Add 1 hr 46 minutes to get ship's time Mount Temple, and add 1 hour 50 minutes to get The Californian time).

Cheers,

Julian
 
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Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
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183
Funchal. Madeira
>>On a dark, calm night at midnight, a person stands on top of ...<<
Games that some people like to play. Buts lets put some reality into this little game.
To see a flash of light on the horizon, and also to be able to state that it was a rocket that you saw, means that the burst could not have been precisely on the visible horizon line, which is a few minutes of arc below the true horizontal of the observer due to the height of eye of the observer above sea level. The burst would have been at least a few minutes of arc above the observed horizon if that horizon were even visible to the observer on a dark moonless night. If one could measure the angular height of the burst above the horizon line using a sextant, then correct that reading for the dip of the horizon due to the observer's height above sea level, which is always required when taking celestial sights, then you could determine the distance from observer to the vessel that is firing the rocket if you know how high that rocket burst actually took place above the sea. To do that one can use Table 15 from Bowditch which is shown below and includes an explanation on the use of that table.

It should be noted that for a height of eye of about 50 ft, the dip of the visible horizon from the true horizontal is a little less than 7 minutes of arc, less than 1/4 the diameter of a full moon (See figure below), and really imperceptible to an observer, especially since we we told that there was not a clear demarcation as to where the water ended and the sky began when looking from the bridge of a ship that particular night [Lord, Groves]. A burst seen exactly horizontal from the observer, when corrected for dip, would be at an angle of 0° 0' for entry into Table 15. The other needed value to get the distance is the height of the rocket burst above the water. Assuming a burst anywhere from 400 to 500 ft high, the distance comes out to something like 21.8 to 24.7 nautical miles under normal refraction conditions.

If that rocket came from Carpathia, which was about 45 minutes before stopping near the first boat to be picked up, then that boat would have had to be about 8 to 10 miles closer to the observer, putting the distance from observer to the lifeboat between 11.8 and 16.7 miles, depending on just how high the rocket actually burst above sea level, and what was the true average speed of Carpathia during those last 45 minutes before she reached the lifeboat.
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Sam: In your anxiety to air your knowledge, you have forgotten the reason for my post No.419. Either that, or you consider your level of understanding above the level of the sources referred to therein. However, in case I am being unfair, and you did miss it, here it is again: "I suggest that each of you separately and without conferring, find an unbiased knowledgeable source such as an Academy or College or University or some other place of learning and pose the following hypothetical question to them."

But who am I to ignore what you have taken the time to write? So let's not waste it.


Gibson very clearly said:

"7596. - It was right on the horizon. Not " Just above it" and answered Yes to 7597. What sort of a light was it? You called it a rocket? Was it a flash; did you see it go up into the sky? " But crucially: he very clearly stated " 7602. When you saw these three further lights did you get your glasses on to the place? - Yes."
You are not a seaman, Sam, if you were, you would immediately recognise what Gibson was describing.

When Gibson or any other seaman used binoculars, they would first look for a distant reference point and adjust the focus. Gibson and Stone, would have done this on several occasions before the last three "flashes" or "rockets" were seen. Under the conditions at 3-20 am that morning, Gibson would have very clearly seen the line of the horizon. He would see a flash, apparently on the horizon and raise his binoculars and look at the horizon and seen the others.
When Lord described a "soft horizon" he was referring to one seen with the naked eye long before midnight. A "soft horizon" was one of the reasons why sextants were supplied with 3 telescopes.

Your use of the Bowditch VSA Table is "cute" but totally inaccurate since A: you employ a guess factor regarding an imaginary VSA. and B: you make no allowance for abnormal refraction due to low temperature and high barometric pressure. The following table would have been used by a seafarer:
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From the above, the obvious distances are between31.1 and 33.8 miles and would have been in reality, greater than that due to "much" refraction. In fact, corrections for 30 F and 31.5 inches of barometric pressure would have to be made since the above table is based on 50F and a Barometer of 29.6 inches of pressure. That in itself would result in an increase in refraction of 3.26 minutes of arc to an observed VSA.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Chicago, IL, USA
Julian,

When Moore was quoting from the PV at Senate investigation, he said:

5.20. Signals Californian. Wants my position. Send it. We are very close.
This is my ship and Californian, sir. When I get him to confirm my position, I ask him if he can give me his position. I understand he is cruising, because after we go up toward him he goes to the south and misses us, passes about a mile off, and then he gets where we came from.

The 'We are very close.' does not appear in the handwritten PV, but appears to be added information from Moore when he testified. The time would be 7:10 Californian time.
Then at 7:50 Californian time would correspond to the Much Jamming. MPA & MWL in sight. This was well after Californian passed Mount Temple about a mile off, and would have been about the time Californian had turned and was heading straight for Carpathia. No mystery here at all. I don't conclude what Paul concluded about the sharpness of handwriting demonstrating that it was added later on.
 

Julian Atkins

Member
Sep 23, 2017
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379
73
South Wales UK
Hi Sam,

The point I was attempting to make was that variously Senan Molony and George Behe both misquoted Durrant's PV from the Mount Temple.

And when Captain Moore of the Mount Temple was supposedly quoting from Durrant's PV at the USA Inquiry he also gets it wrong!

Given the gravity of the situation, one might have expected Captain Moore to give a better explanation of what went on via the Mount Temple. Instead it is very imprecise, and quite confusing and one might say vague in the extreme.

That is just my own personal view of course.

Anyway, a Happy Easter Sunday to you all for tomorrow!

Cheers,

Julian