How many times did Titanic change course?


PITAI

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Hello all.

I recently heard a claim that Titanic was adjusting course continually throughout the night and a final course correction some time after 11 pm put her on course with the iceberg. Sounds like bull to me, but I'd rather have the knowledgeable weigh in than assume.
 

Adam Went

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I've never heard of anything like that PITAI. Titanic did alter course, but that was much earlier on. Perhaps some member more knowledgeable than myself can clarify but I think it might be a bit of an exaggeration.

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Jim Currie

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Apr 16, 2008
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Hello all.

I recently heard a claim that Titanic was adjusting course continually throughout the night and a final course correction some time after 11 pm put her on course with the iceberg. Sounds like bull to me, but I'd rather have the knowledgeable weigh in than assume.


Hello there! The short answer is "There is no clear. irrefutable evidence to support that claim" but I guess that's not what you're looking for. So here goes.

I believe that following is irrefutable proof that Titanic made but 2 course changes between Noon April 14 and the moment she collided with the iceberg

If at Noon, April 14, 1912, Titanic had been on the last leg of the prescribed Great Circle track from Fastnet Rock in Ireland she would have been steering 236.5 True. She was not. This from Day 5 - the US Inquiry- 5th Officer Lowe:

"6199. Did you have any part in determining the course and position of the Titanic on Sunday afternoon and evening? A: - I worked the course from noon until what we call "the corner"; that is, 42 north, 47 west. I really forget the course now. It is 60º 33 1/2' west [a little under 240.5 true] - that is as near as I can remember."

At 5-50 pm that afternoon, Titanic turned onto a direct course for a position which would bring her to a point just south of Nantucket Shoal light vessel. The prescribed course was 265 True. This from 2ndt Officer Lightoller, Day 11 of the UK Inquiry:

"13498. Can you tell us what was the course of the ship when she was handed over to you at 6? A: - I cannot remember the compass course. I know from calculations made afterwards that we were making S. 86 true.[266True]/

4th Officer Boxhall said the same thing but that only holds good if indeed Titanic ran past the turning point, The Corner, at 5-50pm.

This from 3rd Officer Pitman.. Day 4 of the US Inquiry:

"4974. You make a considerable change in your course at the turning of the corner?
- No, it is not a great deal; not a right-angle turn by any means.

4975. What change [of course at The Corner] does that lead you to, the northward of the way you were going?
A:- No; the course we were on when we struck -


Jim C.
 
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This will probably set off a firestorm of criticism...but I've become used to that. As far as I know, I was the first to propose that Titanic altered course twice to avoid ice that night. While the evidence on the record is quite clear, it does require a thorough knowledge of dead reckoning and other factors. This means it's a lot harder to understand than the conventional wisdom of a speeding ship, sudden appearance of an iceberg, and a sideswipe ripping a gash in the hull. The full explanation of what did take place is available in my second book, "Titanic Myths, Titanic Truths" available from Amazon:

Titanic Myths, Titanic Truths: How A Series of Errors Caused History's Most Famous Maritime Disaster: Capt David G Brown: 9781456461751: Amazon.com: Books

Timekeeping is the first thing that must be analyzed and understood. For clarity it is necessary to use what Americans call "military time" -- the 24-hour system of keeping time. The accident did not take place at 2330 (11 hours and 40 minutes after noon) on Sunday April 14th. Rather the crew clocks by which impact was recorded had already been reset by 24 minutes (half of the total 47 minute reset to April 15th time). This means that 2340 crew time was the equivalent of 2404 in April 14th hours. We know this to be true because the accident came 20 minutes prior to crew change of watch. At that change the on-duty Starboard Watch would have served both its full 4-hour watch and half of the 47 minute clock setback. So, for the crew "midnight" would have taken place at 2424 in April 14th hours. Twenty minutes earlier makes time of impact at 2404.

Now we turn to the IMM/White Star Rule Book which required all of the company's ships to perform a compass check every half hour while under way. The reason for these checks is rooted in the errors to which a magnetic compass is subject. Titanic was not navigated by the compass in the binnacle in front of Hichens in the wheelhouse. Rather, it was navigated by the standard compass mounted amidships on a non-magnetic platform. Twice an hour the "runner" quartermaster and one of the junior officers went to this platform to perform these checks. That night Fourth Officer Boxhall would have been the man going out to the standard compass as Sixth Officer Moody's responsibilities confined him to the wheelhouse.

Note that 2404 in April 14th is for all practical purposes 12 hours after noon and the most logical time for a compass check to be made. The locations of the surviving officers of Titanic's bridge watch support this observation. Quartermaster Olliver was actually on the platform trimming the lamps in the binnacle when he heard the lookouts ring three strokes on the warning bell. Olliver's actions had to be completed prior to Boxhall's arrival, so it is logical the fourth officer was a bit behind the quartermaster and heard those bell strokes just as he departed the starboard door of the officers quarters. Hichens was steering and Moody observing in the wheelhouse. First Officer Murdoch as officer of the watch was on the open bridge keeping watch.

According to Boxhall, Captain Smith was in his private navigation room charting ice reports.

It's time to become forensic navigators. Boxhall said he used 22 knots at the ship's speed in all of his dead reckoning and so that's the speed I will use here. Titanic had been making good a course of 266 from "The Corner." Logically, if the ship made no course changes after "The Corner," then all of the ship's CQD coordinates (the latitude/longitude positions) sent by wireless should lie along this 266 track line. Even the wreck should be reasonably close, but none of that is true. All of them lie well below the line. For this to be true the only rational explanation is that Titanic made a course alteration to the south of the 266 track sometime prior to impact on the iceberg.

Conventional wisdom fails to recognize the importance of the geographic relationship of the two sets of CQD coordinates sent by Titanic. The first set must have been created by Captain Smith when he instructed the radio operators to begin sending for help. The second set is more famous as the one Boxhall created apparently at the request of the Captain (never made clear) to correct the first.

Smith's Coordinates: 41 44 N x 50 24 W
Boxhall's Coordinates 41 46 N x 50 14 W

As both men were trained, tested, and experienced navigators we must assume that each man believed his coordinates reflected the position of the ship at some time during that night. Quick inspection shows Smith's set appears to be the predicted longitude of true midnight when the day/date would have changed from Sunday, April 14th to Monday, April 15th for Titanic. A simple measurement shows that Boxhall's position lies 20 minutes of retrograde steaming from Smith's coordinates. Despite his obfuscating testimony it is obvious Boxhall simply "backed up" the captain's coordinates by 20 minutes.

A line between the two sets of coordinates measured westward in the ship's direction to New York is 255. That is 11 degrees to the south of the ship's proper course of 266. Significantly, 11 degrees is as close to one compass point (11 1/4 degrees of arc) as could be read on the compass cards mounted in Titanic.

If we extend the Smith/Boxhall line backwards, it crosses the 266 track line at the ship's dead reckoning position for 2330 in April 14th hours. Note that 2330 is exactly when Boxhall et. al. should have been making one of those half-hourly compass checks. And, good use of manpower would have been for Captain Smith to combine that required duty with a course change. Thus, the available navigational facts indicate Titanic altered course by one point to the south at 2330 in April 14th hours.

There is much more to be gleaned from the testimonies and physical evidence remaining of the ship. However, the question here was if Titanic ever altered course prior to the accident. Based on the evidence, the answer is a resounding, "yes."

-- David G. Brown
 

PITAI

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Well I definitely have two quality answers. I had never heard of the second course adjustment.

Mr. Currie
So if my reading comprehension is up to snuff, you're saying that Titanic sailed past the corner and corrected later?

Mr. Brown.
So it is true that Titanic adjusted course around a half hour before the collision?
 

Jim Currie

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Hello David. Nice to see you on-line again. You just knew I would respond.

I know exactly where you are coming from and I respect your analysis. You will never get any criticism from me, simply a constructive counter-argument. To do this I will respectfully point a few things out to you. I will use your own work and comment between quotes.

As far as I know, I was the first to propose that Titanic altered course twice to avoid ice that night.

Correct.

While the evidence on the record is quite clear, it does require a thorough knowledge of dead reckoning and other factors.

I Disagree.

I suggest that it is sufficient for the layman to clearly understands the difference between a FIX.. position and a DR, position. To do this, all that is required is to know that the first is "Where we really are" and the second is "Where we think we are". If we apply these definitions to the Titanic story then we get a much better understanding of what was going on on her navigating bridge that night. One of my "famous"? wee sketches might help? The following is not to scale but near enough for purpose.

where are we.JPG


The accident did not take place at 2330 (11 hours and 40 minutes after noon) on Sunday April 14th. Rather the crew clocks by which impact was recorded had already been reset by 24 minutes (half of the total 47 minute reset to April 15th time). This means that 2340 crew time was the equivalent of 2404 in April 14th hours.

I agree for the reasons you give.

Now we turn to the IMM/White Star Rule Book which required all of the company's ships to perform a compass check every half hour while under way. The reason for these checks is rooted in the errors to which a magnetic compass is subject.
Titanic was not navigated by the compass in the binnacle in front of Hichens in the wheelhouse. Rather, it was navigated by the standard compass mounted amidships on a non-magnetic platform. Twice an hour the "runner" quartermaster and one of the junior officers went to this platform to perform these checks.


First, a question. What is a "non- magnetic" standard compass platform? Considering that the one on Titanic had masses of steel ahead, astern and all round it, there would be no way to avoid the effect on the standard compass of induced magnetism in these structures. Such magnetism would be compensated-for by the usual method.
The ship was certainly navigated by the standard compass but could be steered by any one of three different steering compasses. The total error of the standard compass was found on a regular basis by observation in several ways.
The most important and regular checks were made between the steering compasses. These were necessary to ensure that in the event of a change of steering position, the ship would always make good the desired, true direction.
Before the end of each Watch, the Standard compass would be compared with the steering compass in use. It in turn would then be compared with the rest of the steering compasses and any differences between these noted. All compasses would always be compared after a course change was made. As soon as possible, an observation would be taken to establish the total error of the Standard Compass. Thereafter, all compasses would be compared once more.


Note that 2404 in April 14th is for all practical purposes 12 hours after noon and the most logical time for a compass check to be made.

Compass comparisons between all compasses would be made before the end of every Watch so that the scrap log and course board could be kept up to date and in order to hand over to the next Watch Officer and helmsman. In the case of Titanic, the job was due to be done about 10 minutes after the time of impact and 5 minutes after 1 bell... 11-45pm Watch time. More than likely, that would have been Moody's job.

The locations of the surviving officers of Titanic's bridge watch support this observation. Quartermaster Olliver was actually on the platform trimming the lamps in the binnacle when he heard the lookouts ring three strokes on the warning bell. Olliver's actions had to be completed prior to Boxhall's arrival, so it is logical the fourth officer was a bit behind the quartermaster and heard those bell strokes just as he departed the starboard door of the officers quarters.

That contradicts the sworn evidence of the two men in question and that of Lookout Fleet and Helmsman Hichens, David. I remind you:

Boxhall: "15349. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) Did you go on to the bridge immediately after the impact?
- I was almost on the bridge when she struck."

Olliver: "When I heard the report, I looked, but could not see anything, and I left that and came and was just entering on the bridge just as the shock came. I knew we had touched something."
Fleet: " I struck three bells first. Then I went straight to the telephone and rang them up on the bridge....I got an answer straight away .....she started to go to port while I was at the telephone.....17299. She was still going to port when the berg struck her?- On the starboard bow."
Hichens: Mr. Murdoch, the first officer, sir; the officer in charge. The sixth officer repeated the order, "The helm is hard astarboard, sir." But, during the time, she was crushing the ice, or we could hear the grinding noise along the ship's bottom.


The above selection of evidence clearly shows the time scale. It took 6 seconds at the very most to put the steering wheel hard over. Boxhall and Olliver were entering onto the bridge area at more or less the same time. There was absolutely no time for Boxhall to carry out the conventional compass comparison check. Besides which, he would have sent Moody to do it after 1 bell, much less than 20 minutes before the change of Watches and ctrtainly not 20 minute to half an hour before then

It's time to become forensic navigators. Boxhall said he used 22 knots at the ship's speed in all of his dead reckoning and so that's the speed I will use here. Titanic had been making good a course of 266 from "The Corner." Logically, if the ship made no course changes after "The Corner," then all of the ship's CQD coordinates (the latitude/longitude positions) sent by wireless should lie along this 266 track line. Even the wreck should be reasonably close, but none of that is true. All of them lie well below the line. For this to be true the only rational explanation is that Titanic made a course alteration to the south of the 266 track sometime prior to impact on the iceberg.

Have a look my sketch David. A Made good course is only valid if it relates to a course between two known FIX positions.

Lightholler: "13498. Can you tell us what was the course of the ship when she was handed over to you at 6? A: - I cannot remember the compass course. I know from calculations made afterwards that we were making S. 86 true.[266T]"


If Titanic made good a course of 266 True then she did so from the assumed DR position where Boxhall thought she was when she turned at 5-50pm... not necessarily where she actually was at 5-50pm. Consequently you cannot rely on the accuracy of any other DR position which is found by using a course of 266 True.

Have another look at Boxhall's evidence.

He said he calculated the distress position using a course of 266 True and a speed of 22 knots from the 7-30pm FIX position. That being so,and since we know the coordinates of the distress position, it should be very easy to determine where that 7-30 pm FIX position was. Since we believe that the impact occurred at 4 minutes past midnight, I will use a run time of 4 hours 34 minutes between the two points. ( I appreciate that the exact time of the FIX would be after 7-30pm but for comparison, 7-30pm is near enough). I won't illustrate my calculation, just give you the result. Using this run time gives a distance of 100.5 miles steamed between 7-30pm and 12-04am. This puts Titanic at 41-53'N, 47-59'W at 7-30pm that evening.
As you know, I do not believe there was a south- setting current therefore I believe that Titanic was no further north than 1 mile from the wreck site when she hit the iceberg. This would place her at 41-45'North, 49-56'West when she met her fate. Would it surprise you to learn that to get to that position from the 7-30 pm FIX a la Boxhall, Titanic would have made good a course of 264.75 True?


Did you know that 3rd Officer Pitman also volunteered the following:

4959. Where was the last change of direction made?
- 5.50 on Sunday night.


Jim C.

where are we.JPG
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Jim, I'm sorry for the delay answering your post. Business comes before Titanic these days.

The standard compass was mounted on a non-magnetic platform (the platform itself had no maganetic "signature") some 15 feet above the superstructure. This was an obvious attempt to reduce the influence of the ship's own steel on the instrument, although its construction would not have eliminated what maritime navigators call "deviation." The positioning of this platform amidships also is an obvious attempt to reduce the ship's influence on the compass by placing about the same amount of iron ahead of as behind that instrument. All well and good, but the location was decidedly unhandy and, in my opinion, was one of the factors influencing the events of the evening.

Your discussion of compass comparisons is more detailed than the requirments in the IMM/White Star Line rule book. That book only required comparison of the steering compass to the standard compass every half hour. Because the wording requires a 30 minute interval, that would not have changed with the alteration of the crew's clock by that 24 minute retardation. So, the 2400 check by April 14th time would have taken place at 11:40 in crew time. This is not a minor matter because it explains why Olliver was on the compass platorm and why Boxhall was coming out of the officers quarters when the lookouts sounding three strokes on the crow's nest bell.

You are correct I should not have said the ship was "making good" a course of 266. Properly stated it was simply steering that course.

The 5:45 or 5:50 turn at "The Corner" (different people remembered different times) was not a navigational "fix." Even so, it appears that Boxhall used "The Corner" as the starting point for a new leg of dead reckoning. This is not the best navigational practice, but it seems to have been what was done that night. We have no proof of exactly where (lat/lon) the ship actually made the course change assigned to "The Corner," so any forensic reconstruction of Boxhall's work contains this "fudge factor." I would like to say that he corrected his work using the 7:30 stars shot by Lightoller, but there is absolutely no proof of that, either. In fact, none of the surviving officers could even recall the lat/lon of that celestial fix. I personally doubt that resolving of Lightoller's sights was completed, or it it was the information was not used by Boxhall in Titanic's dead reckoning -- but I can't claim that as a fact.

As far as Third Officer Pitman goes, the last course change of which he could have had personal knowledge was turning "The Corner." So, his testimony was correct based on the facts he knew. The course change I propose at 11:30 pm in April 14th time was made while he was off duty and (presumably) asleep. The problem with testimony is that while it can be true as far as the witness knows, at the same time it may not be factual in terms of what really took place.

Titanic sent out two different lat/lon positions in distress calls. The first was given to Marconi operator Phillips by Captain Smith and the second by Boxhall. These two sets of coordinates are 20 minutes of steaming apart at Boxhall's stated 22 knots. Smith's coordinates are within the error limits of 1912 navigation the predicted longitude of true Midnight for Titanic --2447 hrs in April 14th time or 0000 hrs April 15th. Boxhall's coordinates indicate that he simply "backed up" the ship's position by 20 minutes (the difference between 11:40 pm and the crew's midnight change of watch) on a reciprocal of the 255 course which the ship took after 11 pm April 14th time. I make this claim based on the fact that the reciprocal 075 crosses the 266 track line at exactly the ship's dead reckoning position for 11:30 pm April 14th. This being the case, Boxhall did not lie...but he did obfuscate...when he said he used a course of 266 and speed of 22 knots to calculate his famous set of coordinates. He used that dead reckoning track to begin the new 255 course after 11:30 pm. in April 14th time, and later used the 255 course derived from the 266 track to improve Captain Smith's original set of distress coordinates.

Jim's estimated position for the accident and mine are close enough as to make no significant navigational difference. I also put the ship a bit north of the wreck site, but somewhat farther east. This follows from the fact we both assign the moment of impact to 2404 hrs in April 14th time. Both sets of coordinates sent by Titanic are quite farther east and south. This is explained by their being based on true midnight of 0000 hrs April 15th which was 43 minutes still in the future when the accident took place.

We still have to address the timing of events surrounding the accident, but this particular message is long enough for now.

-- David G. Brown
 

Jim Currie

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jim, i'm sorry for the delay answering your post. Business comes before titanic these days.
No problem David. Wish I had a similar diversion but time won't damn-well stand still. Anyway, I'll answer as before; drab bits between your blue-coloured words of wisdom.

the standard compass was mounted on a non-magnetic platform (the platform itself had no maganetic "signature") some 15 feet above the superstructure. This was an obvious attempt to reduce the influence of the ship's own steel on the instrument, although its construction would not have eliminated what maritime navigators call "deviation."

Standard procedure in ship construction.

the positioning of this platform amidships also is an obvious attempt to reduce the ship's influence on the compass by placing about the same amount of iron ahead of as behind that instrument.

I agree. But more of an inconvenience than anything else. Two ruddy-great funnels ahead and astern limiting the azimuth efficiency.. One question still intrigues me. Why, if there was that big fat chunk of metal right ahead of him, would an experienced QM like Olliver look up when he heard 3 bells?

all well and good, but the location was decidedly unhandy and, in my opinion, was one of the factors influencing the events of the evening.

Well David, I know what you mean but you know, I don't agree with you.


your discussion of compass comparisons is more detailed than the requirements in the imm/white star line rule book.


Actually I was simply remembering how it was when I was a callow youth.

In a cargo ship with reduced bridge staff, you did not have time for such nonsense. In a passenger ship there would be no need for it. In the latter, when you did have the extra hand or three, you were continuously checking compass error. Mostly by taking azimuths at regular intervals or by known transit bearings. In more recent times checking was done using the gyro and comparing it with all the other compasses. In any case, the 30 minute rule you mention does not make sense unless they continuously knew the error of the standard compass.

" because the wording requires a 30 minute interval, that would not have changed with the alteration of the crew's clock by that 24 minute retardation."

Yes it would David. Simply because it's the information gleaned in that last 15 minutes of a watch which is of greatest importance to the on-coming OOW - the the man doing the relieving. Further back in Watch time is old history.

this is not a minor matter because it explains why olliver was on the compass platorm and why boxhall was coming out of the officers quarters when the lookouts sounding three strokes on the crow's nest bell.


Actually olliver told the court exactly what he was doing at that time. I quote:

"I had just performed an errand and was entering the bridge when the collision occurred.....I happened to be looking at the lights in the standing compass at the time. That was my duty, to look at the lights in the standing compass, and I was trimming them so that they would burn properly."

In a vessel with oil lamps. That was standard practice, David. It was done usually by the 'farmer'... the name given to the QM who did not have steering duties during the watch. It was only basically relevant to the use of the compass during the hours of darkness and nothing to do directly with a compass check.

you are correct I should not have said the ship was "making good" a course of 266. Properly stated it was simply steering that course.

Correct! A course can only be determined as having been 'made good' if it is one measured between 2 known positions.

The 5:45 or 5:50 turn at "the corner" (different people remembered different times) was not a navigational "fix." even so, it appears that boxhall used "the corner" as the starting point for a new leg of dead reckoning. This is not the best navigational practice, but it seems to have been what was done that night."

If you read the evidence again, David; you'll find that Boxhall did not use The Corner as a start point. In fact, he and Pitman were of the opinion that at 5-50pm, Titanic had turned later than she should have done. If that was the case then she turned south and west of it and the position used by Boxhall was a distance south and west commensurate with the course and speed he used from Noon that day. Likewise, Pitman would use a different position for the turn at 5-50pm to calculate a DR for use with the 7-30pm celestial observations. For this reason, I agree with your observation that..

It was the only way a DR could be established to be used in conjunction with a star sight calculation we have no proof of exactly where (lat/lon) the ship actually made the course change assigned to "the corner," so any forensic reconstruction of boxhall's work contains this "fudge factor." [/COLOR]

You go on.....

I would like to say that he corrected his work using the 7:30 stars shot by lightoller, but there is absolutely no proof of that, either. In fact, none of the surviving officers could even recall the lat/lon of that celestial fix.

In fact, the only person with intimate knowledge of the 7-30pm position would have been Boxhall. All the relevant calculations were in his work book which went down with the ship. However, 3rd Officer Pitman would have started on these sights and in 20 minutes, (by 8pm when he was relieved by Boxhall) would have had enough information to give the following evidence on Day 7 of the US Inquiry:

"4422. Do you know how these [7-30pm] observations located the ship? A: - Yes; right on the track.

All he needed was one good latitude and one good longitude - a first fix if you like? From there he would have calculated the bearing of The Corner. If he got 085 degrees True he would be able to say that she was right on the line

I personally doubt that resolving of Lightoller's sights was completed, or if it was the information was not used by Boxhall in Titanic's dead reckoning -- but I can't claim that as a fact.


If he did not complete these calculations then Boxhall was 'knitting' a very elaborate deception when he described how he gave the results to Captain Smith then watched while the latter laid then off in his personal chart. That was about 9-30 pm that night

The course change I propose at 11:30 pm in April 14th time was made while he [Pitman] was off duty and (presumably) asleep.

The evidence is against you, David. The man on the wheel categorically stated that there had been no alteration of course before impact. I quote from Day 3 of the UK Inquiry, QM Robert Hichens in the stand:

" 940. Was there anything on the course-board to indicate the course you were to steer? A; - Yes, N. 71º.
941. That was on the course-board? A: - That was on the course-board, the steering compass.
943. Up to the time of the collision did she vary from her course at all? A: Not that I am aware of,......"


I think that's fairly conclusive , David. Don't you?

Another point is the time when Captain Smith entered onto the bridge. He did so moments after impact. If Titanic was in the process of turning when she hit the iceberg and was turning as a results of master's orders, then Smith would have remained on the bridge during the turn or he would have written a turn order in his night order book. If he did so, he would have informed Lightoller who would have signed that order and passed it on verbally to Murdoch at 10pm

Apart from the foregoing, my experience tells me that if Captain Smith was going to alter course to take the ship further south, he would have done so the minute he received the results for the 7-30pm calculated position. Boxhall said he stood by the captain's chart room as the latter pricked-off that very position on his chart. It is totally illogical for him to have waited for another hour or so and another 22 + miles closer to danger before altering to avoid it.

Titanic sent out two different lat/lon positions in distress calls. The first was given to marconi operator Phillips by captain smith and the second by Boxhall. These two sets of coordinates are 20 minutes of steaming apart at boxhall's stated 22 knots.

True! However there is nothing to connect the two.

Boxhall's CQD was obtained by the use of the 7-30pm sights position. Smith used the false 8 pm DR position to determine his CQD.
Boxhall's CQD was to the northward of the wreck site while that of Smith was in the same latitude as the wreck site.
Boxhall use a speed of 22 knots while Smith must have used a speed of 22.25 knots.

Smith's coordinates are within the error limits of 1912 navigation the predicted longitude of true midnight for titanic --2447 hrs in April 14th time or 0000 hrs April 15th.


Predicting the position of a ship at midnight is and was not normal practice unless there is a planned course change at that time. If you look at the evidence, you will see that there were two predicted times for arriving at the ice region. These were 9-30 pm (Lightoller) and 11 pm (Moody). We know that some time before 10 pm, Lightoller and Captain Smith discussed the time of arrival at the ice region. Since Smith had the coordinates for the 7-30pm sights by that time; is it conceivable that he would not then have made a decisive course alteration to the southward?
According to Boxhall, Smith used n 8 pm DR which was 20 miles in error. i.e. 20 miles behind the real position. I suggest to you that in fact, the 8 pm DR used by Smith was 20 miles ahead of the proper DR for that time.
You will remember that both Boxhall and Pitman belived Titanic had gone further on than the intended turning point at 5-50pm that night. In fact, Pitman thought she had overshot by some 20 miles. It was Pitman who was responsible for calculating the 8pm DR. I rest my case!

Boxhall's coordinates indicate that he simply "backed up" the ship's position by 20 minutes (the difference between 11:40 pm and the crew's midnight change of watch) on a reciprocal of the 255 course which the ship took after 11 pm April 14th time. I make this claim based on the fact that the reciprocal 075 crosses the 266 track line at exactly the ship's dead reckoning position for 11:30 pm april 14th.


Boxhall used a time of 11-46 pm for his CQD calculation, not 11-40pm.
When such a position is calculated, it is the estimated position where the ship finally comes to a halt; never moved again and finally disappeared. It is the position to which all potential rescuers should head. It was not the position where the initial impact took place. Boxhall would have worked-out what happened in the 6 minutes following impact.

He used that dead reckoning track to begin the new 255 course after 11:30 pm.

I ask again, David: why on earth would Captain Smith decide to alter course at 11-30pm?

If he believed Titanic was up to longitude 49 West at 9-30pm then he would also believe that 2 hours later, at 11-30pm she would be at least 44 miles farther on and at 50 West.
If he believed Moody's version then he would have believed that Titanic was at 49 West at 11 pm and at 49-15 West 30 minutes later at 11-30pm.
In fact, if we are right about the clock alterations then I believe she was at 49 West just after 10 pm that evening and at 11-30 pm was at 49-41.7'West. At midnight, she as at 49-55.5'West. Four minutes later, she hit the iceberg and swerved south before turning westward and stopping.



Jim C.
 
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A quick note before I respond to a few of Jim's points. My xerographic reprint of the IMM/WSL Rule Book was taken from an original copy once the personal property of J. Bruce Ismay and signed in his hand. That book is...or was at the time...contained in the records of the Limitation of Liability hearings conducted separately from the two governmental inquiries into the sinking. At the time my copy was made, that book was in the New York Public Library collection.


Jim, I've only got time for a few notes. Longer response will follow. First, the wording is "every 30 minutes" which in the Edwardian meant every 30 minutes no matter how the clock was adjusted. There is no reference in the rule book as to the o'clock time when the comparisions must start or be done. It makes sense to do them on the hour and the half hour since for most watches the last comparison would be done at the end of the off going watch. This means the men going off watch would be turning over a "clear deck" to the watch coming on duty -- no undone work. The one at crew midnight would be the only comparison which might be made at less than a 30 minute interval. Here's how I see it --

April 14th Crew Interval Notes
Hours Time Between
2330 11:06 n.a. First Course Change
2400 11:36 30 min Second Course Change
2404 11:40 n.a. ICEBERG Accident
2424 12:00/11:37 24 min Crew Change of Watch; 2nd Retarding of Crew Clock to April 15th hours
2447 12:00/00:00 23 min First Comparison of April 15th (Never done due to accident)

As you can see, there would be a reduced interval between the two comparisons during the altering of crew time from matching April 14th hours to matching the hours of the new day, April 15th. This means that the error is on the "safe" side -- there being less time between comparisons than that specified in the rules.

Your quote from Olliver is proof of the 11:37 crew time of the 2400 hrs April 14th comparison. It would have been done at 11:36 pm on the crew clocks, which means that Olliver performce must have been...that's a military "must" ... have been trimming the lamps so Fourth Officer Boxhall could do the comparison. Note the juxtaposition of the work Olliver was required to do (trim the lamps) and the timing of the accident at 11:40 p.m. in crew hours.

As far as the fix obtained from Lightoller's 7:30 stars...there is no evidence one way or another. We know the work of resolving those stars was left to Boxhall when Pitman went off duty. But, we also know from Boxhall that he was kept hopping by requests from Captain Smith for navigational information and ice reports. As I see it, it's as likely the stars were not resoved as it is they were. But, it's not significant here because any reasonable reconstruction of Titanic's dead reckoning shows it was as close to dead on course as 1912 equipment and techniques would allow.

Even so, Jim is correct about Knitting an elaborate deception. He was the one who his the truth under that whitewash that Lightoller spoke about. I've said as much in many other posts, so I'll let that lie for the moment.

Hichens statement about the course on the board is in the transcripts. Can't deny it. However please note that he did not say that for a fact the course had not change. He just said, "not that I know of." And, during the 30 minutes prior to the accident what Hichens said was perfectly true. In reading his testimony I get the sense he really thought the course maneuver just prior to impact was to avoid the fatal berg. So, from his point of view no change had been made. This is, of course speculation. What is not speculation is that we do not know with certainty the deviation of the steering compass. It is quite possible the course written corresponded not with 266 PSC, but 255 on the standard compass.

The location of Captain Smith and his handling of the bridge team could make a book, maybe even a series of books. I'll not touch it here...but later...

Jim, you would have to predict at least the longitude of your ship at true midnight to know the amount of extra time to be split between the two watches. I suppose you could predict the next noon, but too much could interfere with making such a long-range prediction come true. It would only make sense to predict the midnight longitude. That way, the clocks would be nearly correct for the next day's noon and only a small bit of tweaking would be needed at noon.

As far as the two sets of distress coordinates go, no matter what Boxhall said the two positions are 20 minutes steaming apart. And the reciprocal of the line from Boxhall to Smith (keeping with the westward motion of the ship) crosses the 266 course line at 2330 hrs April 14th time.

Finally, as I said, your estimated positions for the ship coming toward the iceberg are good enough for the purpose. My changes to conventional wisdom do not change where the ship actually sank. They do, however, give purpose to the actions of Olliver and Boxhall when the crow's nest bell rang. Conventional wisdom forces us to assume that the bridge watch wanders about ad lib doing what it pleases when it pleases. Not so.

Keep up the good work my friend. This discussion is refreshing after all the Jack 'n Rose nonsense.

-- David G. Brown
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Just above Jim asked a very simple yet profound question about Captain Smith's motives. He asked, "Why on Earth would Captain Smith alter course at 11 pm?" Obviously, the answer to such a question necessarily lies in the real of assumption and speculation because the man died without either writing down his intentions or testifying in the inquiries. With that said, I'll now express my opinion on the captain's motivations.

It was 1912, well before radar and other electronic equipment. Captain Smith would have been brought up with a different approach to navigation than modern navigators (WWII up to today). A particularly handy collection of mathematics was known as "The Rule of 60." At its heart is that the offset of the plotted bearing line from the observers actual position is 1/60th of the distance to the object observed for each degree of error. If that distance is 1 mile, the offset is about 100 feet. Over a 10 mile distance that grows to 1,000 feet; and over 60 miles the offset is a full mile.

In practice, navigators would often use the Rule of 60 in coastal navigation to pass a distant headland at with a safe margin. If it were desired to be a mile off, then alteration of course by 1 degree when 60 miles away would achieve that offset, which in this case represents a margin of safety to prevent grounding on the headland. I believe this is what Captain Smith was attempting to do with the field of ice across Titanic's path. His course alterations were intended (in my opinion) to keep the ship at a safe distance from that ice. If so, he was most likely trying to maintain an 8 to 9 mile safety margin which was the working horizon distance from Titanic's bridge.

I must note that this approach to rounding a headland was mostly done by mariners engaged in coastwise service. It was not of any great value to mariners on the open ocean. I believe Smith's approach was cautious enough to stay clear of the ice field on a clear night. It also appears that the captain was not satisfied with a single one point (11 degree) alteration at 11:30 pm in April 14th hours. He properly monitored the results of this maneuver and then ordered a second and larger turn a half hour later. It would probably have worked, but we'll never know because what the good captain did not take into account was the outriding icebergs ahead of the main ice field. It was one of these outriders that brought him and his ship to grief.

Moving out of the realm of speculation and back to the known facts, if we believe the testimonies of Boxhall and Hichens,Titanic turned two points to its port....to the left...prior to impact on the iceberg. With no evidence to the contrary, I accept what they said. Titanic did, indeed, turn left two points using what in 1912 sailor parlance was "starboard helm." But, reality dictates that this was not an emergency maneuver to avoid the fatal iceberg. It was an ordinary change of course ordered by Captain Smith (the only man who could order a course change) to go even farther south around the field of ice across the ship's path. Proof that this course change of two points had been completed comes from the lookouts in the crow's nest -- Fleet and Lee. If the course change had been an emergency left turn, the lookouts would have seen the iceberg appear to move from their left to right. This would have been the result of something mariners call "apparent motion" in which the ship is perceived to be still and objects around it do all the moving. Fortunately, a discussion of relative motion is unnecessary here. That's not what Fleet and Less observed from the crow's nest.

"We were making straight for it," Fleet testified before the U.S. inquiry. Senator Burton asked fleet how fast the bridge reacted to the warning bell by turning the ship away from danger. "No, sir. They did not do it until I went to the telephone. While I was at the telephone the ship started to move." Fleet self-corroborated that statement in the words he spoke on the telephone to the bridge. "Iceberg Right ahead!" Such could only have been the case if Titanic had been making straight for the berg and was doing so when Fleet was on the phone. So, Fleet's actions and his observations confirm that Titanic was not turning when it struck on the berg but was steaming straight at its nemesis and had been doing so for some period of time prior to that.

If there's any mystery in Fleet's words is why the bridge did not react instantly to the warning. Certainly, Murdoch would have done so if the berg were as close as conventional wisdom suggests. In fact, he should have been able to see the berg, identify it as a danger, and take evasive action all prior to when the lookouts rang their bell. Aside from temporary blindness or a fit of narcolepsy (neither of which fit the man or the details of the events), the delay and straight-on approach must have taken much longer than is generally thought. There is one plausible explanation for delay by Murdoch in taking avoiding action. He must have been aware that Titanic was about to turn away from the ice within moments. Murdoch must have been aware that Boxhall was about to make the two point left turn later described by Hichens. That course change ordered by the captain should have been sufficient to avoid the danger.

When the lookouts first spotted the berg they did not see it as a glistening white object in reflected starshine. Quite the opposite. They saw what they described as a "black mass" against an oddly bright horizon. What they saw was the silhouette of the berg. If we use 6 minutes as the duration between first spotting and impact, it becomes easy to do some navigational math in our heads. Six minutes is 1/10th of an hour. So in 6 minutes Titanic would have covered some 2.2 nautical miles at Boxhall's assumed 22 knot speed. An object the size of Titanic's berg at 2.2 miles distance would have appeared nearly dead ahead to the lookouts which prompted their three-strike bell signal indicating an object directly in front of the ship. Because the berg was once again dead ahead after the 2 point left turn, however, we can assume that it actually lay to port of the ship's track. I've done the math and it shows the berg was at least 930 feet to port. If the 2 point left turn had not been made, the ship would have passed safely in the night. But when Boxhall conducted that course change he actually pointed Titanic at the iceberg. He had deliberately, although quite inadvertently, aimed the ship toward its doom.

To make sure there are no misunderstandings of what I am saying, I'll repeat myself. I hold that Titanic was quite deliberately, but inadvertently aimed at the iceberg by Boxhall under Captain Smith's orders. The accident was nobody's fault, which means it was everyone's fault. The whole bridge team from Captain Smith in his private navigation room down to Olliver trimming lamps had lost situational awareness. They didn't recognize the condition. In fact, it was not truly studied until World War II and is only now recognized as the primary cause of transportation accidents. In Titanic, Captain Smith thought he had acted prudently to turn his ship away from danger. Boxhall probably thought the same, but in any event could not see anything but the backside of funnel #2 as he conducted that two point turn. And First Officer Murdoch out on the windy bridge wing had nothing to do but wait for the completion of the course change. The lookouts were satisfied their job had been done properly by sounding the bell. Anyway, they could do no more as the dark silhouette of the berg as parallax took it below the horizon.

Titanic's bow curved to the left as it rotated from the current 255 course to 235.5 degrees. When the ship steadied on this new course, Boxhall climbed down from the platform and walked forward. Meanwhile, the close proximity of the berg directly in front of the ship made it visible again. As the fourth officer walked walked forward Fleet was observing the iceberg and reaching for the telephone. As he started to speak it appeared to him that the bow was directly in front of the ship, "Iceberg right ahead!" But while he was on the phone it appeared the ship was starting to curve left as if to go around the berg. In actuality, he was seeing a phenomenon rivermen know as "bow cushion." This well-documented hydraulic effect pushes the bow away from the near bank of a river. Murdoch grasped the situation. As the ship began to take the ice he yelled "hard a-port" to swing the stern with its vulnerable propellers away from danger. Olliver came into the wheelhouse in time to hear Hichens sing out that the helm was hard over.

There is more, but once again my post grows long.

-- David G. Brown
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
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Hello David. Nice to see a bit of cut and thrust in the 'game'. After all, this is what it's all about. I hope that you take note that I do not dismiss your ideas out of hand. I admire your for your tenacity, even if I don't entirely agree with you. I will change my mind if you convince me with hard and fast fact. Meantime, I answer in the same manner as before.

" the wording is "every 30 minutes" which in the Edwardian meant every 30 minutes no matter how the clock was adjusted.

I was trained by men who actually served in the UK MN during 1912. What the 'Company' wanted and what was done at sea were two entirely different things. The British B.o.T Rules governed the way an MN ship was run at sea. They were the ones who decided whether you worked or did not. Edwardian standards had nothing to do with it. The same thing happened during my entire 55 years in the business. That's why..

There is no reference in the rule book as to the o'clock time when the comparisons must start or be done.

As for

Here's how I see it --

Here's how it was done in every ship I ever served on:

About 30 minutes before the end of the Watch the QM would tell the OOW that he intended leaving the bridge to check the compass lamps before the Standard Compass check which would be perform at or shortly before 1 bell adjusted time(15 minutes before actual change of Watch) The end of the Watch on Titanic was at 12-24 am April 14 time therefore Olliver would leave the bridge at 11-54 pm April 14 time
Under normal circumstances; after trimming the lamp on the compasses (he would check the three in the vicinity of the bridge) Olliver would return to the Wheelhouse/Chartroom and report to Moody. Shortly after that, he would go below and call the 12-4 am Quartermasters. That would be minutes before 11-45 pm (adjusted time).
Shortly after Olliver had left the bridge, Boxhall would go out onto the bridge wing and tell Murdoch that he, Boxhall, was leaving the bridge to go and have a cuppa before the compass check just before 1 bell. While having his tea, he would make sure there was hot water in the mess room for the in-coming Watch Officers, Pitman and Lowe.
Six minutes after Olliver and Boxhall had left - At midnight, April 14 - Moody set the master clock back 24 minutes. The clock then showed 11-36 pm. If all had gone well and the ice had not materialised in front of the ship, then 9 minutes after that, Moody would sound 1 bell to warn those on Watch that they had 15 minutes work remaining and that all deck work should be brought up to date for the on-coming next Watch. Moody would then get ready to do a Standard compass check with Boxhall.
At the moment 1 bell was sounded, the Crew Mess-room clock would show 11-45pm. For this reason if for nothing else, there would not have been a full set back of clocks made at Midnight April 14 as you suggest. Just imagine the chaos.
Unaltered clocks would show 9 minutes past midnight. Partially altered ones would show 11-45 pm and fully altered ones would show 11-22 pm. How on earth would any sleepy-eyed Watch-keeper know whether he had been call early, late or on time? Believe me, the first and last options were considered by sailormen to be crimes worthy of punishment by keel-hauling.

Your quote from Olliver is proof of the 11:37 crew time of the 2400 hrs April 14th comparison.


Exactly! 11-37 crew time was 1 minute after midnight April 14 time and 8 minutes before 1 bell was to be sounded. However 3 minutes after 11-37pm Titanic met with that iceberg.
David, I can assure you (but don't take my word for it) that on a passenger ship, there was no way that Murdoch or any other bridge officer would have allowed his standby QM to leave the bridge before it was absolutely necessary for him to do so.
Incidentally, the only military-type 'must' on any UK MN vessel is obedience to a lawful order by the master or one of his officers. To disobey is mutiny.

As far as the fix obtained from Lightoller's 7:30 stars...there is no evidence one way or another. We know the work of resolving those stars was left to Boxhall when Pitman went off duty. But, we also know from Boxhall that he was kept hopping by requests from Captain Smith for navigational information and ice reports. As I see it, it's as likely the stars were not resolved as it is they were. But, it's not significant here because any reasonable reconstruction of Titanic's dead reckoning shows it was as close to dead on course as 1912 equipment and techniques would allow.

I take it that you completely discount the following evidence given under oath by Boxhall on Day 13 of the British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry?

"15674...............When you looked at the 7.30 position as marked on the Captain's chart, would you say whether there was any mark of ice on the chart? A: - I do not remember looking at the Captain's position on the chart. I was standing by the door when he put it on. I could see my work on the chart in the distance, but I do not remember examining the thing closely.
15675. He put it on himself as representing his 7.30 position? A: - Yes.


Keep in mind the power wielded by the Wreck Commissioner, David. One sniff of dishonesty on the part of Boxhall would have resulted in him being permanently beached. None of the Titanic men were the least bit over-awed by the Senate lads but the Commissioner was a different kettle of fish - a peer of the realm and High Court Judge of to boot. In 1912 these people at on the right hand of God himself as far as the humble sea-fairer was concerned.

"What is not speculation is that we do not know with certainty the deviation of the steering compass. It is quite possible the course written corresponded not with 266 PSC, but 255 on the standard compass."


Err, no David. QM Hichens was given a course of N 71 W at 10 o'clock when he took over from QM Olliver. If the ship was meant to make 266 True then the total compass error was 289 minus 266 = 23 degrees. I remind you that total compass error is in two parts; Deviation and Variation. We know that at that time, the magnetic variation was about 25.25 degrees West. Therefore the deviation was 2.25 degrees; a value which is actually rather high in a new ship which had recently had it's compasses adjusted. A good adjuster would have all but removed any deviation on a West heading. I would have expected a deviation of about 1 degree or thereabouts.

Jim, you would have to predict at least the longitude of your ship at true midnight to know the amount of extra time to be split between the two watches. I suppose you could predict the next noon, but too much could interfere with making such a long-range prediction come true.

Sorry, but no again, David. The normal practice as to how much the clocks need to be adjusted was done as follows:

From the Noon position one day to the Noon position the next, calculate an average speed based on expected conditions. With this speed and the planned courses to be steered during the next 24 hours, calculate a DR longitude for the following noon. Find the difference between the two noon longitudes. Convert that difference to time. I can do no better than by using Titanic. as an example However I cheat a little.

Since the planned clock change was 47 minutes, and since Titanic was at about 44-34'West at Noon on April 14, we can calculate that Captain Smith expected to change his longitude by 11 degrees 45 minutes and expected to be at 56-18 West at Noon on April 15. This littl sum also tells us what speed Smith expected to make between the two Noons. It is done this way.
I reckon he expected to cover 124 miles until he reached The Corner. If he expected to be at 65-18 at Noon on April 15, then he expected to increase his westerly longitude by 9 degrees 18 minutes from 5-50pm. on April 14. That increase on a course of 265 True is equal to a distance of 391 miles. To this, add the 124 miles already covered to The Corner and we have an expected total distance steamed between the two Noons of 535 nautical miles. Since this would be covered in 24 hours 47 minutes, Smith did not expect his average speed to be more than 21.6 miles. Thus proving he did not plan a speed run before Noon on Monday, April 15.
However, my little demonstration aside; the estimated midnight longitude was of no navigational value. However it was essential to know the approximate Noon longitude for the following day. If for no other reason than to be able to estimate the time when the sun would be due south and therefore an approximate time to start taking Noon sights. The closer the estimated time for Noon, the less 'tweaking'.

It would only make sense to predict the midnight longitude. That way, the clocks would be nearly correct for the next day's noon and only a small bit of tweaking would be needed at noon.

But David, navigators did not work in ship's time, they used GMT from the chronometer and a personal time piece synchronised with the chronometer. Everything in their work books was in terms of GMT. In that way they did not become confused with alterations to actual time on board ship. In fact it is highly likely that Pitman, Boxhall, Lowe and Moody had GMT on their personal time pieces. I know for sure that Lowe did carry GMT.
As a matter of interest, have a look at important events in the light of GMT.

0302 GMT: Titanic hits iceberg.
0303 GMT; Boxhall goes below on his first inspection.
0312 GMT: Smith receives bad news from the Carpenter.
0315 GMT: Smith takes first distress position to wireless room. Bride in act of relieving Phillips
0327 GMT: Smith orders boats uncovered.
1547 GMT: Boxhall takes amended distress position to the wireless room. Steam continues to roar from relief valves.

The above would not work if Titanic's clocks had not been adjusted,

Conventional wisdom forces us to assume that the bridge watch wanders about ad lib doing what it pleases when it pleases. Not so.

We must never be forced to come to any conclusion. I'm sure you know that to ass-u-me. Makes one of those long eared creatures out of U and ME.
The problem with such wisdom is that the conventional part does not include practical knowledge of the subject matter. Consequently, some of the pitfalls are bottomless caverns. I'm equally sure you know what I mean.

Keep up the good work my friend. This discussion is refreshing after all the Jack 'n Rose nonsense.

You've no romance in you lad.:rolleyes:

Jim C
 

B-rad

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I have been trying since my post (#9), to obtain a copy of the IMM/WSL Rule Book, but I have had no success. I will gladly pay someone on this forum, via paypal or what have you, for a copy of a copy or something, plus S&H of course. If anyone is willing let me know. Or if someone knows a contact that can get me a copy from the archives, that'd work to.
I don't know if I receive private messages on this forum or not, as my profile account is apparently linked to a previous Brad, and I can't even look up notifications, though apparently have 2.

Thanks
 

Doug Criner

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I've been told that there is no obvious source for a copy of the rule book. Supposedly there is a copy in the New York Public Library. If you find a source, let us know.
 

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