Just before the lights went out


A

Andrew Collins

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There seems to be a lot of controversy over what angle the ship was at before it broke in two. Some people say it went as high as 45 degrees while others say it might have been as little as 11. Estimations seem to place the ship breaking up at about 2:18 a.m. with the lights finally going out only a few seconds to a minute earlier. So, with about 700 people in lifeboats, surely a brightly lit ship could easily be seen. I would not think it would be difficult to estimate an angle. With the lights going out so close to the break-up, the angle the stern was at when it broke-up should be close to what it was when the lights went out. Is there any information on this?
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>I would not think it would be difficult to estimate an angle.<<

To the trained eye, there might not be. To the untrained eye, you would likely have problems with that.

>>With the lights going out so close to the break-up, the angle the stern was at when it broke-up should be close to what it was when the lights went out. Is there any information on this?<<

Nothing that establishes anything as a certain-sure fact. Accounts to be sure and all of them different on some level. Even modern day forensics research can only establish probabilities.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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At the UK Inquiry the Commissioners actually had access to a lot more estimates of the angle of sinking than are available to us now. There were many occasions where a witness (usually a crew member) was asked this question and the only permanent record of the answer is a statement that the witness 'indicated' or 'demonstrated', sometimes with the aid of a small wooden model provided for the purpose. Sometimes their spoken answer was transcribed, but "it was like this" (witness indicated) isn't very helpful to us now!
 
Jun 12, 2004
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Transcribers should have detailed a brief description, but I understand that they were trying to keep up with the inquiry and didn't always have the time to "fill in the blanks." It is a shame, though. Still, would it have made any difference? The visibility factor, not to mention the brevity of time during which the lights were back on, would have rendered any of that specifics questionable anyway (IMO).
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Even if an observer would say it reached an angle of so many degrees, one must be careful of the number they give if it is a subjective opinion. Even people with some training in things like angles and degrees could be very far off.

Take the example of fifth officer Lowe:
quote:

I was awakened by hearing voices, and I thought it was very strange, and somehow they woke me up and I realized there must be something the matter; so I looked out and I saw a lot of people around, and I jumped up and got dressed and went up on deck.... I found that all the passengers were wearing belts...I also found that they were busy getting the boats ready to go overboard...I met somebody, and they said she had struck an iceberg, and I could feel by my feet that there was something wrong...She was by the bow; she was very much by the bow. She had a grade downhill; a grade like that [indicating]...I should say she was about 12° to 15° by the head...Mr. Boxhall, the fourth officer, told me that he told me that we had struck an iceberg, but I do not remember it...I do not remember his telling me that...It must have been while I was asleep. You must remember that we do not have any too much sleep and therefore when we sleep we die.
The time they were uncovering and swinging out the boats was between about midnight and a somewhat past 12:30. At that time the ship was only down by the head about 3 degrees and holding a list to starboard of about 5 degrees. We know this by the internal water levels within the hull during this time, and measurement on the inclinometer in the wheelhouse. We also know the ship never reach 10 degrees down by the head until about 2:10-2:15 am when Lightoller went into the water. At that time the water was up to the roof over the wheelhouse and was also level with the crows nest out ahead.

The same must be said about reports such as distances, bearing angles, and how much the bow of the ship veered just before the collision. Unless there is some hard points of data that can be used to extract a quantitative measurement (e.g., the Lightoller example), subjective estimates, even by those who you would think should know more, may be very far off.​
 
Feb 24, 2004
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It's also easy to fool the eye with the angle of view (Sam, I think you've done some work with this). "Forced perspective" is a gimmick that's used in film/stage set design and model building all the time and the viewer is rarely ever aware of it.

Roy
 
Jun 12, 2004
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Roy,

I presume much of that now, as in Cameron's Titanic, is done through computer animation. In this way, the computer can usually calculate conceivable angles and/or movements, tabulate measurements, and make the image or model look realistic as well.

I agree on the angle of view, too, which explains why some, like Lightoller, said the ship didn't break apart, while others situated elsewhere said that it did. An individual perspective is understandably going to be different than any other. In my opinion, this isn't necessarily a bad thing; multiple perspectives, even though they might conflict, add significant and otherwise unforeseen dimensions to the puzzle which will assist in finding a viable solution to any given problem.

As for the final "flash" of the lights near the end, this would not have rendered a very reliable study of the angle that the stern had assumed. With consideration of the "forced perspective" that Roy mentioned, The darkness and brevity of the "flash" neither would nor could have likely allowed for anything beyond that of a quick glance.
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Hi, Mark!

>>I presume much of that now, as in Cameron's Titanic, is done through computer animation.

Yes, indeed! Just as current "motion capture" has its conceptual origins in the old, old technology of rotoscoping.

As for the T's final angle, just as it was starting to break up, people such as Joughin heard the footsteps of many people above them running aft (that is, up). There's a limit to how steep a grade can be before people can no longer run, can no longer walk, but need to start clinging to whatever's handy and pulling themselves up. Yet Joughin and others heard and/or saw them running upward toward the stern. At which point, we start running out of time.

Roy
 
Jun 12, 2004
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Hey Roy,

I read all of Joughin's testimony for the British inquiry and his descriptions suggest that the stern always maintained a much more shallow (near to horizontal) orientation through its sinking. Especially notable is his description of being on the outside of the starboard side as he inched his way around to the tip. He said that the poop deck, although aslant and untractable, turned down at the port side (the list), not up. This shows that the stern was likely not perpendicular when it slipped into the water.

As for the lights, I was referring to those witnesses situated farther away. Joughin was right there and had a "hands-on" perspective, so-to-speak. In light of this, I would be more inclined to advocate his descriptions rather than those in the lifeboats. On the other hand, he did have a few glugs, which might make his testimony questionable. But how much did he have to drink? I'll have to refer back at the inquiry again.
 
Jun 12, 2004
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Roy-

quote:

just as it was starting to break up, people such as Joughin heard the footsteps of many people above them running aft (that is, up). There's a limit to how steep a grade can be before people can no longer run, can no longer walk

This seems to add further evidence to the shallow orientation. Had the ship been perpendicular, he couldn't have heard footsteps, as no one would have been able to walk or run. Hell, even he would have slid downward--but he didn't. That tells us something.​
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>But how much did he have to drink?<<

If you go by the inquiry testimony and his later denials of getting plastered, I would say "Not much." Whether or not he was being completely truthful about any of that however, I have no way of knowing.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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If they'd ask me how much did I have to drink last night I'd also say "not much." Or was that the night before? Hmmm?
sad.gif
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>I believe he said about a tumbler full.<<

How big was the tumbler?
grin.gif


Seriously, I don't know that we can ever be entirely certain. It's not as if Joughin had an incentive to be completely candid about it after the fact if he got himself totally plastered. For whatever it may be worth...and that may not be much...the detail of his testimony doesn't sound like that of a man who would have been playing with the pink elephants at the time.
 
Feb 24, 2004
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A tumbler is considered to be a general term for any drinking glass without a stem, which would give Mr. J some considerable leeway - unless we could establish that it was a WSL glass of a standard size, of course.
'-)

Michael, I agree, he was fairly conscious of what was going on around him. I don't believe, though, he ever said anything about his alcohol capacity. Somewhere I recall reading a comment from an acquaintance to the effect, "that man loved his grapes."


Roy
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Somewhere I recall reading a comment from an acquaintance to the effect, "that man loved his grapes."<<

He may have, but then so do I. I don't take it to excess, but that's just me. He may have had a Liver that would make W.C. Fields wince for all I know, but as lucid as his account is, I don't think it was an issue that night.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Hypothermia almost rules out any alcohol in Joughin that night. Alcohol makes the drinker feel warm because it increased blood flow in the skin. When a swimmer is in cold water, that increased blood flow causes rapid loss of body heat which brings on hypothermia and probable death.

Joughin's survival argues against him being even tipsy when he rode Titanic down. However, once in the water he was exposed to heat loss and hypothermia even if sober. One of the early signs is a loss of clear thinking coupled with decline in fine muscle control. These two symptoms of hypothermia mimic the effects of too much alcohol. Hypothermic people are often mistaken for being "over-served" with alcohol.

So, I think it's probable that he did have something to fortify himself, but not enough to be life-threatening in the water. He most certainly would have acted much like a drunken sot even after being taken aboard Carpathia until his core temperature recovered. And, a tale of high imbibing while the ship sank probably would have done him no harm in his social circles.

-- David G. Brown
 

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