How Far Apart were Titanic and Californian?


Dec 4, 2000
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Perhaps this will help solve some of the mysteries around the Californian incident...

It seems that night the heater in the supercargo’s room malfunction due to a broken steam joint. Captain Lord had the engineer split a few shakes off the shaft log and they were sent to Mr. Elmo’s cabin. Both men tried to strike a fire, but only produced blue lights. Meanwhile, “sparks” Evans had gone forward to snitch some anchor bearing grease to lube his wireless receiver drum. The theft went undetected because the ship was dead in water, allowing apprentice Gibson to tidy up the propeller by washing off the mung and barnacles. With the exception of the ship’s noble galley assistant, Charlie, the rest of the crew was corking off with a cask of Nelson’s blood. Despite the cold the crew were buff because an elderly recruiter and the captain’s housewife were pressing sharp creases in the slops the men usually wore. Afterward he planned to renew the stripes on the sailors boot tops.

High, ho...and away we go!

-- David G. Brown
 
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Hi Ive just watched that documentary. What is the evidence there was no light refraction when other ships in the vicinity at the time recorded in their log book that there was. Just interested. The documentary seems compelling in its conclusions and light refraction explains much of the disaster and is backed up by eye witness testimony according to the doco.
Cheers and my first post in a while.

PS does anyone know where the Californian berthed in NYC afterwards and Titanic was due to berth as I'd like to visit during my trip there in October.
 
Hi Samuel do you mean Boston MA the city ? what about where the Titanic was due to berth. I'll try googling and a search on this site later.

I'm fascinated by this light refraction theory and the Titanic encountering the cold Labradoran current causing the cold air it brought to come underneath the warm air of the Gulf stream then causing light to bend so the crow's nest lookouts couldnt see the iceberg as was under a false horizon with the stars blocked out so was cloaked up until 30 seconds before the collision - normally on a clear night they could have seen it from 30 minutes away. Binoculars had nothing to do with it as they're only for better views of something once detected so they had to rely on the naked eye. Californian crew thought Titanic was a passenger steamer because its appeared of lower height out of the water than it actually was so thats why they said it couldnt have been the Titanic the ship that they sighted. And the light scintillation explaining the sparkling stars. All backed up by eye witness accounts and other vessels recording a mirage and massive gradient dip in temperature as they went through the Labrador flow as the Titanic's passengers encountered rapid dip in temparature just before the collision. Horizon obscured reported by many due to the light refraction. I was convinced so wanting to know why this isnt the case ? Cheers and I havent had a tot !
 
Nov 14, 2005
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Binoculars gather light - even in the "dark ages" of 1912. There is no such thing as total darkness in the open air. At sea, on a dark moonless night with no wind or swell, the sea appears black compared to the sky. If the stars were setting or rising right on the horizon then you have a distinct marker. At the scene of the disaster, survivors were able to see the sinking ship outlined in black after the lights went out. You would know all this if you had spent 10 minutes aboard a ship on such a night.
I was always amazed just how bright it could be at sea at night by just starlight. I often had to go out when the the ship was blacked out to take mag temps on our flare lockers just above the fantail. After a few minutes to let your eyes adjust it was something to see. The conditions described the night of Titanic were very much the same. At least as far as starlight goes. Robert if you went to sea you were a sailor...you just weren't an AB. But even if you never went to sea and were in the Navy I would still you call you a sailor. My sister retired as an MCPO (E-9). 28 years. She was an airdale and before the time women were allowed on ships. Never set foot on a ship. But she had as much or more of a right to be called a sailor in the US NAVY than I did. I don't think they had E-8 and E-9's when you were in.
 

Jim Currie

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Binoculars gather light - even in the "dark ages" of 1912. There is no such thing as total darkness in the open air. At sea, on a dark moonless night with no wind or swell, the sea appears black compared to the sky. If the stars were setting or rising right on the horizon then you have a distinct marker. At the scene of the disaster, survivors were able to see the sinking ship outlined in black after the lights went out. You would know all this if you had spent 10 minutes aboard a ship on such a night.
I was always amazed just how bright it could be at sea at night by just starlight. I often had to go out when the the ship was blacked out to take mag temps on our flare lockers just above the fantail. After a few minutes to let your eyes adjust it was something to see. The conditions described the night of Titanic were very much the same. At least as far as starlight goes. Robert if you went to sea you were a sailor...you just weren't an AB. But even if you never went to sea and were in the Navy I would still you call you a sailor. My sister retired as an MCPO (E-9). 28 years. She was an airdale and before the time women were allowed on ships. Never set foot on a ship. But she had as much or more of a right to be called a sailor in the US NAVY than I did. I don't think they had E-8 and E-9's when you were in.
Be careful, Steven/ Claiming to actually have witnessed a dark night at sea might be construed as wish-craft and you could be burned at the alter of the Goddess Myth. the "mythtress" of many of those posting on this site.
How could you, a mere mortal sailorman possibly know anything about being aboard a ship ay night? Shame on you!:eek:
 
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Nov 14, 2005
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Wish-craft. LOL. I now live in a spot when I look south at night I can see the glow of Phoenix lights. And when I look north I see the glow of Las Vegas. Theres been many a nights that I wish I could see a sky like I did at sea. I'm glad to have gotten to experiance it. Its quite something to see. At least for me it was.
 
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Georges G.

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Interesting to examine these Labrador Current animated charts for April in the area of Titanic shipwreck released by NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. After analyzing many charts, I found that the Labrador Current south setting has an average width of 62 nautical miles and a force that varies from a ¼ up to 2 knots. Since «nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed», it seems that the narrowest the current flow the strongest the current. We can also clearly observe that the Labrador Current is no stranger to water temperature.

On board Californian, the sea water temperature dropped sharply from 55°F to 35°F between 12h00 and 16h00. It was evident that the vessel was sailing through the Labrador Current drifts. Furthermore, the evidence illustrates that from the time and location where Titanic foundered and the rescue of her shipwrecked, the set & drift was setting to SSE (197°T) at a speed of ¾ (0.8) of a knot, excluding the drift due by early morning wind from the northward.

  • Californian course was 268½°T from noon (42°05’N / 47°34’W) at 11 knots engine speed, both through the water,
  • Between 12h00 and 14h00 the sea water temperature dropped sharply from 55°F to 35°F,
  • The Labrador Current started setting & drifting from nil to approx 1½ knot, resulting in an average component toward the SSE (197°T) at 0.8 knot,
  • The tramp vessel stopped due to ice at 2221 (CAT) and lay adrift,
  • Titanic came to Dead Stop position at 2400 (TAT) in a fix position 41°45.3’N / 49°56.0’W,
  • From midnight both vessels were drifting equally as the weather was dead calm,
  • An observed 135° true bearing worked out from magnetic compass was taken of Titanic from Californian and would therefore not vary anymore.

As a result, if the 135°/315° true bearing between Californian stopping position due to ice and Titanic dead stop location is correct, the total drift Californian sustained from mid afternoon where the sea temperature dropped sharply to her stopping position had to be in the order of 7 nautical miles and most probably toward the SSE.

If you work out by Mercator sailing these data into Californian sea passage, starting at approx 15h00 where the Labrador Current founded its south setting and taking into account;

  • Californian celestial noon fix 42° 05’N / 047° 25’W,
  • Steering 268½°T at 11K engine speed or through the water,
  • Sea water temperature dropped sharply from 55°F to 35°F between 12h00 and 16h00 indicating the presence of the Labrador Current
  • Labrador Current south setting from ¼ up to 2 knots and a width ranging from 50 to 70 nautical miles
  • The set & drift toward the SSE or 197°T at an average speed of 0.8K until 22h21(CAT),
  • Californian adrift from 22h21(CAT) to 24h00(TAT) where Titanic stopped dead in position 41°45.3’N / 49°56.0’W,
  • Titanic dead stop 135° true bearing observed by magnetic compass from Californian
  • Correcting the local apparent time
, Californian will land amazingly close by the 135°/315° true bearing between the two stopped drifting vessels and at a distance off in the order of 14½ nautical miles.

Samuel concluded 12 to 13 miles whereas MAIB investigation report to a distance of 17 miles apart. If you average all these distances, it gives 14½ nautical miles! And 14½ nautical miles at 11 knots engine speed gives 01h20m steaming time. The first distress rocket was seen at 00h45 and the last at 01h40. If Californian would have departed at 01h15 (01h27 TAT), she would have arrived on scene not before 02h47 TAT or 27 minutes too late at very best.

Therefore, I mostly stand by MAIB conclusions stating that; «I do not think any reasonably probable action by Captain Lord could have led to a different outcome of the tragedy. This of course does not alter the fact that the attempt should have been made by ‘’just human beings with human characteristics’’». Any attempts through ordinary practice of seamen would require due regard to all dangers of navigation and collisions and to any special circumstances (ice, nighttime,) including the limitations of the vessel involve. Even if Californian would desperately wish to arrive at Titanic foundering time, how would they ever recue over 1,500 souls awash in freezing water while hypothermia would take 10 minutes to kill the vast majority? Thanks Gods for not having experienced such a rescue!

Note; In my pilotage district, we have an open view of about 22 miles. When you know where to look for, you can faintly observe by eyesight alone the masthead lights of a vessel 16 miles away by super-visibility. As for the sidelights, you would certainly need a pair of Fujinon Meibo 7x50 binoculars, but from at 13 to 14 miles, it would all depend on your eyesight examination. :)
 

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Julian Atkins

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Hi Georges,

That is a most interesting post you have provided.

This links in with a number of 'Californian' threads on here, and with Sam's new book.

Cheers,

Julian
 
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Georges G.

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Thanks Julian,

I just tried to help explaining one of Samuel’s new book interrogations; «The remaining part of the problem, of course, is trying to determine where exactly was Californian located on those lines-of-position (bearing 135°/315°) for the times shown. After that there is the other problem in trying to explain how Californian got there.» p.108.

In that story, the ocean currents played a major role. If a dead reckoning position, a course, a speed or a distance is not corrected from the best estimated set & drift, be no surprise that the puzzle will not fit together.

Note; A current setting toward 197°T, is in cardinal point between S.b.W and SSW, not toward the SSE as I mistakenly wrote! By today’s standard, if you order an AB at the wheel to steer between S.b.W and SSW, you will land aground high and dry faster than sooner. Cardinal points steering is an obsolete practice which I also forgot. Steering by the Norie’s Nautical Table mariner’s compass rose diagram on my knee, is not something that I would advice! ;)
 
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AlexP

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First, Sam should explain the testimony of the survivors from the lifeboat #8, as well as many other testimonies that are inconsistent with13-14 miles distance between the two.
 

Mike Spooner

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Hi George,
You seem to be pretty clue up on navigation issues and with others too.
I known this subject has be raise before and perhaps you could refresh me on how far can one see a distress rocket be seen on a clear night? Then there is the bang noise of the shooting stars how far can that be heard as to the Board of Trade regulations?
 

Julian Atkins

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First, Sam should explain the testimony of the survivors from the lifeboat #8, as well as many other testimonies that are inconsistent with13-14 miles distance between the two.
Hi AlexP,

Sam does this on p 219-221 in his new book.

You really ought to be able to work this out yourself from what Crawford testified, with the indomitable Countess of Rothes on the tiller, and 4 men (?) on the oars.

Lifeboat 8 was the first port boat to be launched at 1am, ridiculously late by Lightoller, compared to Murdoch on the starboard side who had already got off 3 boats by then. Note Captain Smith was present and gave orders to Jones in charge of lifeboat 8.

Lifeboat 8 was not recovered by Carpathia till 7.30am approx, and being the furthest away from the wreckage also explains why The Californian was photographed coming alongside later on from the Carpathia, as at some point around 7.15am Rostron went for lifeboat 8 furthest away, before returning to pick up other lifeboats that he had been closer to.

(Apart from my own supposition that the Carpathia went away to rescue lifeboat 8, and the position of The Californian alongside when photographed, the rest of the above is based on Sam and George Behe's research, for which acknowledgements are due).

Cheers,

Julian
 
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Georges G.

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Hi George,
You seem to be pretty clue up on navigation issues and with others too.
I known this subject has be raise before and perhaps you could refresh me on how far can one see a distress rocket be seen on a clear night? Then there is the bang noise of the shooting stars how far can that be heard as to the Board of Trade regulations?
I’ve studied and practiced navigation for over 40 years and still learning!

At approx 03h20 on Californian upper bridge, Stone who had good experience… perceived low lying distress signals on the horizon. At about the same moment, Carpathia was firing flares to locate his presence and reassuring the shipwrecked. At that moment, Californian position was 41°53’N / 050°11’W and Carpathia was 41°36’N / 049°45’W. By Mercator Sailing, the distance found is 26 nautical miles on a 131°/311° line of position.

The sound is travelling very far away over dead calm waters. I would not be surprise that these socket distress signal loud report could be heard up to 8-10 nautical miles, outside in a silent environment, which was not really the case on board these noisy steamers. Thence, 5 to 7 nm would seem more realistic in my humble opinion.
 
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Mike Spooner

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Hi Sam and George,
I have a feeling you are both coming to the conclusion that the Californian was about 14 miles away from Titanic, not 19 miles as captain Lord thought.
However would of made any different to the outcome in rescuing the 1500 and the 700 in lifeboats? In other words time facture was the enemy!