Lamps rockets bergs and meteors


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Kathy A. Miles

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I love this board! I usually don't get involved much with the Californian debate, however it's indirectly the topic of an article I'm writing. I write a weekly earth/space science newspaper article and the Lyriad meteor shower takes place every April and peaks around the 14/15th. I used an astronomy program to generate a star map for the date and location of Titanic to see the sky they viewed.

Much debate has been made over why one ship didn't see the other ship's morse and the flares. I got to wondering how much confusion the meteor shower could have caused (I've a degree in astronomy.) The shower was peaking then, and it was prime time of night for the shower also, so they would have seen alot of meteors, as some testified.

Also, could it not have been bergs obscuring the sight of things lower than rockets such as the morse and flares? I'd think for sure that the combination of the two would have caused some confusion/obstruction. I'd like to hear some opinions on this if anyone would like to offer theirs.

Thanks,
Kathy
 
Jul 9, 2000
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As I recall, the people on the Californian initially thought that what they saw at first was a shooting star, but as they saw more such signals going up, they realized that they weren't. Regardless of what ones opinion is on anything else, the confusion over this aspect of the incident didn't last long. The question was not whether they were observing rockets/socket signals from the Californian's point of view, but what they meant and why they were being used.

Distance would almost certainly have been a factor regarding morse signals and flares as they would have been lower down and below the apparent horizon. David Brown has made some mention of how far the apparent horizon would be depending on how far you are above the water. The formula he gave for figuring this out is: Distance in Nautical Miles = 1.169 X sq. root of the height in feet.


Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Oct 28, 2000
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Kathy -- Thanks for a tantalizing tidbit of Titanica. I'm not sure what role a meteor shower might have played, but I'm reminded of an old superstition about shooting stars...that they mark the passing of someone on earth. I'm wondering what the newly-made widows thought on the morning of April 15 as they looked into the sky.

-- David G. Brown
 
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Kathy A. Miles

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I remember at least one account (but can't remember which book I read it in,) about someone remarking about the myth of "shooting stars." I often think of Titanic when I am watching the Lyriads. BTW If anyone is interested in a copy of that star map, I can put it on my webpage. The map also reflects Jupiter being in the sky, I believe either Rowe initially mistook it for a ship until Smith handed him binoculars to show it was a planet.

I wonder how bright the signal lamp would have been? It would have been too low in the sky to be mistaken for a meteor, but given that there were flares, rockets and 2 morse lamps going, I imagine meteors didn't help, especially with bergs milling about in the line of sight.
Thanks for the input!
Kathy
 

Dave Gittins

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Mar 16, 2000
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Commonsense says that meteors don't suddenly materialise less than 2° above the horizon and on a constant bearing. Distress signals do!

Captain Lord gave the range of his Morse lamp as 10 miles, which was possible using the technology of the time. I think I've seen material from somebody, (Parks?) that suggests that Titanic's lamp would not have managed 10 miles.

From computer reconstructions, I think that the star Capella may have been taken for a ship's light by some of those in the boats. Mirfak is another candidate for a deceiver. The story of Rowe and Jupiter makes no sense at all. At the time Jupiter was well above the horizon.

As to bergs in between, wield Ockham's razor.
 
Sep 20, 2000
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I wonder how bright the signal lamp would have been? It would have been too low in the sky to be mistaken for a meteor, but given that there were flares, rockets and 2 morse lamps going, I imagine meteors didn't help, especially with bergs milling about in the line of sight.

Hi, Kathy:

Interesting aspect you've raised there. I don't recall outright if Mark Schnoor touched on this at his web site: "Titanic -- Under the Night Sky" (http://www.titanicsky.com/page1.html). But it might be worth your while comparing notes there. (It's not only a very informative site, but a brilliantly executed one too.) Dave Gittins also features some astronomical observations at his "Titanic Navigation" site -- Titanic and Astronomy

Regarding the details cited above, I believe Captain Lord (of the Californian) claimed his morse lamp was visible up to 10 miles. Whether that implies that it was actually *readable* at such a distance may be an entirely different story. There are accounts from both ships regarding the belief that the other ship was "answering" at various points, but no actual messages were communicated. Thus, each thought the other might be responding, but not in any way they could comprehend. (Apprentice Gibson at one point discovered that the response he thought he was getting was just the other ship's masthead light flickering.)

As for "flares, rockets, and morse lamps", the flares were actually much later -- green flares only, lit aboard Boxhall's lifeboat. The word "flares" was bandied about loosely by some supporters of Captain Lord along the way in attempts to obfuscate the meaning of those earlier sightings, but the Californian's officers on watch observed "rockets" -- white rockets -- and they said so under oath.

On the other hand, Officer Stone at least was apparently *somewhat* unclear on the identity of his first sighting, describing it as being like a shooting star -- I forget his exact wording -- so your premise, I would think, has some direct support there.

I often wonder about the possible role of ice eclipse, but unfortunately that aspect is fairly nebulous. It may well have played a role at certain points, but what points and what role are impossible to determine directly from the evidence.

Anyway, your analysis sounds like a very neat idea! Please do keep us posted. This is an aspect I don't recall hearing about, and I'd love to see the skymap and finished article.

Cheers,
John Feeney
 
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Kathy A. Miles

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Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing for Lord's defense. My personal opinion is that they were there and could/should have helped. But I've no interest in a raging debate over that. It was just that in looking at the star maps, and noting the meteor shower, I began to wonder what role they and moving bergs might have played. Not just to Californian, but to any other ship, the life boats themselves and the Carpathia.

My article is just a small 600 or so word article written for my earh/space newspaper column. I doubt it would be of interest to more advanced researchers like yourselves. However I do put the articles on my website Welcome to StarrySkies.com and I'll let you know when it and the star map are up if you want to take a look.
Cheers!
Kathy
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Hi, Kathy: As a dedicated student of things Titanic, I'll be very interested to see these once they're up. It's certainly well worth exploring. Thanks very much!

Cheers,
John
 
Jul 14, 2000
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I just ran across something interesting regarding the night sky on April 14/15th 1912. There is a website called:


It features a free, downloadable sky map that is very interactive. One of the options on this program is that you can set up an exact sky map including planets, galaxies, comets, and other objects for any position on Earth, for any time in history right down to the minute.

Well, I downloaded the program (ver.4.0) and plugged in the position of Titanic given in Ballard's 'Discovery', and then set the time/date to 04/15/12 @00:30hrs. Then I looked NW and guess what I found?

There was the planet Mars about 5 degrees above the horizon line. It was bearing about 302 degrees. Neptune was also nearby, but much higher off the horizon and much fainter. After some playing around with it, I found that Mars crossed the horizon line about 12:52am.

This really got my blood pressure up for a moment. Then I thought, "Naahhh!" Someone else must have already figured this out and published it by now. Things just don't happen that easily. And I have to admit that other than the conversations here and from a couple of books I have, I have not done any study regarding Californian, or what the light might have been.
So this may not be any big thing in the end, but it did give me a rush for a moment!

Even if the fact that Mars was setting on the horizon that night isn't special, this is still a very cool program that is available for free.

Yuri
 
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