Lights in the Stern after the Breakup


Mar 22, 2003
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There were reports that the lights had taken on a slightly reddish glow late in the sinking. Bride even mentioned that there came a point where he and Phillips weren't sure that they were generating a spark any longer. That was just before they abandoned the wireless cabin. It seems that steam pressure had been getting less and less. It seems that they were not feeding the boilers after some point. But when the lights went out, it seems that was the result of lines breaking.
 

Kyle Naber

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I noticed something today about the 2012 Final Word simulation. The lights innacurately go out when the propellors begin to lift out of the water and in my opinion, the main power suppy wouldn't go out until the breakup. But a couple of lights remain on in the aft well deck and blink out when it fully falls back. Look very closely as may be a bit difficult to notice. You'll need a computer screen to be able to see it.


I think that because the rest of the ship would be a black mass, it would appear that more lights were on as these lights reflected off the entire well. There are three simulations that I know of that show the lights in this area still on after the break. This occurs in the Answers From the Abyss sinking and in the 2013 History Channel simulation.


 
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Kyle Naber

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I wonder why they chose these lights specifically. Are these the emergency lights that are located in the stern section? Also, is there any reason besides survivor accounts that supports these lights burning after the break?
 
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TV re-creations aren't history. They're nothing more than somebody's opinion of what might have happened. Don't base research on third-hand recreations of second-hand information.

-- David G. Brown
 

Kyle Naber

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But I'm starting to see a pattern. These three simulations are consistent in this detail, and I don't think that it's a coincidence that some historians have possibly put some sense to the accounts that insisted the lights remained on after the break. It would be easier to dismiss this event if it were only one depiction and one account. But there's a number of people who reported this and they can't all be having the same hallucination. Parks Stephenson (who is extremely knowledgeable on the ship's electricity) and Bill Sauder have reviewed these testimonies and have proposed the emergency lighting scenario. I agree that it is not possible for all of the lights to continue to burn, but there are about five credible testimony that supports this theory.


Visit www.titanicchannel.tv to hear about the rest.
 
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Aaron_2016

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Examining the survivor accounts we can see the general consensus is that the lights in the stern stayed on when the stern was very high in the air and almost vertical. That is what survivors who saw the break witnessed and those who did not see the break witnessed. The stern was high up in the air and the lights were on. Today the general consensus from historians is that the stern could not rise high into the air if she were still intact - ergo - she must have already been broken and the lights stayed on after she broke. We have no means of knowing how bad the break was e.g. A couple of decks or the whole thing. We have survivors who saw the lights on the stern when it was high in the air. According to Jack Thayer the stern had turned around after she broke. According to Lawrence Beesley the lights were still on when the stern was turning around - ergo - the lights were still on after she broke. Survivors were specifically asked if the lights were still on after she broke and settled back and a number of them said yes. Whether or not the stern had the means to produce enough power to keep the lights for a considerable time or not could be a separate debate because we have no idea how bad the initial break was and if the stern had its own means of producing power. I just unplugged my phone charger which has a green electric light which signals when power is connected. When I unplug the charger from the socket and disconnect it from the phone the green light on the charger still remains on for about 10 more seconds despite the fact that power has been cut off. Perhaps something similar happened on the Titanic? I believe it is not a far stretch to believe that if the boiler rooms were providing power to the generator on the Titanic and were wrenched forward, bent, or completely severed, there would still be enough power circulating in the generator to keep the lights burning in the stern for a minute or two longer until both sections completely separated. According to Beesley the lights went out after this and then the stern settled back slightly before sliding down into the sea. Reading the accounts I see two occasions when the stern settled back. First during her initial break and second when she turned around and rose upwards followed by the lights going out and then she settles back again and slides down into the sea.


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Harland Duzen

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Like I said, they probably remained on for just a few seconds, but the trauma,horror and contrast against a pitch black sky made it feel like an several minutes.
 
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Aaron_2016

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Very true. How many survivors believed they were in the water for 'hours' before they were picked up? Quite a few I wonder.


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There were no backup batteries in Titanic's "emergency" lighting. It was a steam-driven dynamo system located on D deck aft of the galley. Batteries in 1912 were not far advanced. They produced trifling amounts of power compared to the needs of a great passenger liner. And, batteries are DC while Titanic's lighting was intended for AC power. The reason for the emergency dynamo was to supply lighting in the event the main dynamos were damaged or submerged as the result of a casualty to the hull.

It takes a lot of energy to turn a dynamo. Anyone who has ridden a bicycle with one of those tire-powered generators knows that. (Kids, believe it or not, we didn't have LEDs back in the dark ages of the 1950s.) So, as steam pressure decreased, Titanic's dynamos slowed in rotation, produced less current, and as a result the lights took on a ruddy glow. Once the breakup began, water entering boiler room #2 would quickly have reduced any steam pressure in the boilers dedicated to producing electricity. Resistance to rotation in the dynamos would have caused them to shut down. This dimming out would have been noticeable just as the dimming of stage lights in the theatre. And, the lights would not have come back on even for a fleeting second.

The nature of a steam failure with the dynamos coasting to a halt and the lights dimming out is not what eyewitnesses described.

However, the best descriptions indicate that the lights flashed off, then back on, then off for good. This sounds awfully much like a "swinging" conductor -- one that on its own accord makes and breaks a circuit. Power lines in a windstorm come to mind. Considering the carnage that was taking place as Titanic was wrenched in two, it's hard to imagine that one or more conductors did not break, then make, and finally break a circuit again.

Perhaps the power from one circuit even found its way to lighting up a completely different circuit. Titanic had a one-wire system that used the steel of the hull as its return path for current from the dynamos. Such circuits can produced odd current patterns if connections are not tight and wiring well insulated. A back-feed from the hull to a pinched wire in the area of the breakup could have created some interesting problems. Who knows? Who can ever know? What seems to fit the case, however, is that the wiring was coming apart and as a result the lights flickered.

Something else to consider -- the flickering seen by one survivor may not have been exactly what another saw. Titanic's lights weren't on a single great circuit, but on branching circuits not much different than what we use today. The flickering on the port side might have been different from that seen off the starboard side.

Does it really matter? Once the ship began tearing apart everything stopped working. Why aren't we discussing the last moment when the toilets flushed? Or, did the refrigeration keeping the wine at the proper temperature fail and them come on again? The lights were no more important than the plumbing, just they flash and draw attention to themselves. Everyone loves fireworks. When Titanic broke, the plumbing stopped. The clocks ceased ticking. And, the lights went out.

Aaron's charger light stays on because of capacitance within its internal circuitry. Nothing of the sort could have taken place in Titanic's simple one-wire AC system. Once the circuit was broken to any light, it went out. Want to experiment? Purchase 882 1/2 feet of extension cord (wandering lead) and plug a lamp in at one end and connect it to a wall socket at the other. Now, try to measure the amount of time the lamp remains lighted after you pull the plug out of the wall. There won't be any duration of light measurable on human devices. The same was true of Titanic's lights that night with regard to physical breaking of the wires.

-- David G. Brown
 
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Aaron_2016

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When did the forward masthead light go out? Would it have a separate connection owing to its key importance? Would it flicker when electricity in the bow decreased and went out when she broke?



lights1aa.PNG





Apprentice Gibson on the Californian might have been describing her masthead light:

Q - Did you notice anything about her masthead light, her white light?
A - Yes.
Q - What was it?
A - It was flickering.
Q - When you tried to call up this steamer with your Morse signals, could you get into communication with her?
A - No, sir; the lights were still flickering.
Q - Could you read it if it was clear?
A - I could have done if it was a morse light, but I looked at her through the glasses afterwards, and found it was a masthead light.

Q - Did he (the 2nd officer) give his reason?
A - That she was probably burning oil lights; that was the cause of the white head mast light flickering.




I believe the deck lights in the bow would certainly go out when she broke in two.


lights1aa2.PNG




George Symons described his view of the bow lights on the starboard side. He said:


"Her forecastle head was well under water then. Her lights had all disappeared then. You could see her starboard sidelight, which was still burning, was not so very far from the water, and her stern was well up in the air."

Q - When you say all her lights went out, do you mean right away astern too?
A - No, just her foremost lights had disappeared. Her foremost lights had disappeared, and her starboard sidelight left burning was the only light, barring the masthead light, on that side of the bridge that I could see."



Copy of lights1aa2.PNG


I think the ship was already partially broken and the stern was rising upwards which could explain why he saw the stern "well up in the air".
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breakingship.PNG



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Kyle Naber

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I think it would be pretty easy to misinterpret the lights going under the water as them going out considering just how dark it was. Cameron's film showed the lights practically lighting up the entire ocean under the surface:

IMG_7157.JPG


But in my opinion, it would look something like this:

IMG_7156.JPG


One would think that the foremost lights went out when simply, they went under the surface.

Also, there's testimony that defies the half out, half on scenario:

Testimony of C.E. Andrews:

Senator Bourne: Did you think that the ship had broken in two?

Mr. Andrews: That I do not know, sir. When we got away in the boat at the last everything seemed to go a black mist. All the lights seemed to go out and everything went black.

Senator Bourne: Did the lights go out altogether on the whole ship, or did part, and then the remainder go out?

Mr. Andrews: They seemed to go out all together, sir.
 

B-rad

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This is a wiring schematic as per the one used on Titanic and other ships, and the one Mr. Brown described. As one can see there are several places that can fail before the main wire is cut. Such small failures can be seen when the lights in the boiler rooms went out either from failure in the 'Section box/Junction box' or the 'distribution board'.

wiring.png
 
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Rancor

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Thanks for linking to that article B-rad, it is really a fascinating read.

There seems to be a misunderstanding with the reference to the boilers in boiler room 1 supplying steam (the video that Kyle posted above also makes the same claim) when there is good evidence that these were not lit at the time, it is probably more likely that the steam came from boiler room 2.

Still some really good information regarding the generating plant and its operation during the sinking. I would definitely agree that the main dynamos would have been running until the last moments. Quite a few articles speculate that the ship was running on the emergency dynamos only. However as per B-rads article only a very small number of lights were powered by the emergency generators, which would result in the ship being very dimly lit which would be expected to have been mentioned during the inquiries.
 
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Jim Currie

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They went onto emergency generators at about the time one of the collapsible was being lowered. The following is from the evidence of survivor Woolner:
Day 10 US Inquiry:
"Let us go down onto A deck again." And we went down again, but there was nobody there that time at all. It was perfectly empty the whole length. It was absolutely deserted, and the electric lights along the ceiling of A deck were beginning to turn red, just a glow, a red sort of glow."
 

Rancor

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They went onto emergency generators at about the time one of the collapsible was being lowered. The following is from the evidence of survivor Woolner:
Day 10 US Inquiry:
"Let us go down onto A deck again." And we went down again, but there was nobody there that time at all. It was perfectly empty the whole length. It was absolutely deserted, and the electric lights along the ceiling of A deck were beginning to turn red, just a glow, a red sort of glow."

Could this be due to lowering steam pressure resulting in the dynamos turning slower and producing less voltage?
 
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