Lookout reports another Ship in the Crows Nest

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Aaron_2016

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Does anyone know roughly what time the lookout saw the other ship and which lookout it might have been?

Frederick Fleet said - "The other lookout reported it."

4th officer Boxhall said:

"I worked on the boat covers, taking off the boat covers on the boat deck when I heard the crows nest report a light on the starboard bow. I went on the bridge right away. I found this light with my own glasses, but I wanted the telescope to define what it was....I went back and told the Captain, "There is a steamer in sight very nearly ahead but slightly on the starboard bow and if she continues on her present course she'll pass close to us down the port side"

Does this mean the light was reported about 20 minutes after the collision while the Titanic swung towards the north?


QM Rowe was asked:
Q - When you saw this light did you notice whether the head of the Titanic was altering either to port or starboard?
A - Yes.

Q - You did notice?
A - Yes.

Q - Was your vessel’s head swinging at the time you saw this light of this other vessel?
A - I put it down that her stern was swinging.

Q - Which way was her stern swinging?
A - Practically dead south, I believe, then.

Q - Do you mean her head was facing south?
A - No, her head was facing north. She was coming round to starboard.

Q - The stern was swung to the south?
A - Yes.

Q - And at that time you saw this white light?
A - Yes.

Q - How was it bearing from you?
A - When I first saw it it was half a point on the port bow, and roughly about two points when I left the bridge.



Hogg and Evans relieved Fleet and Lee. What is interesting is that Hogg said:


"We relieved the lookout at 12 o'clock, me and my mate Evans. We stopped about 20 minutes, and lifted up the back cover of the nest, the weather cover, and I saw people running about with life belts on. I went to the telephone then, to try to ring up on the bridge and ask whether I was wanted in the nest, when I saw this. I could get no answer on the telephone. Also my mate -- (answer interrupted)"

Q - Who was your shipmate?
A - My shipmate was a man by the name of Evans, sir. He has gone home.

Q - Go ahead; continue to tell your story, as to what boat you went to, and what happened.
A - Yes, sir. I went straight to the boat deck. I assisted in starting to uncover the boats. Then I was sent for a Jacob's ladder.


Hogg said nobody answered the phone. He was about to continue but was interrupted. Do you think he was about to say "Also my mate -- saw a light and reported it to the bridge."?

Fleet told Peuchen that nobody answered the phone when he tried to warn them about the iceberg. Is it possible that the lookouts also tried to phone the bridge about the light of the ship but they still did not answer the phone on the bridge? Lightoller told Peuchen that nobody had to answer the phone if the officers were already aware of the sighting.

Is it possible that the phone wasn't working properly? When the ship struck the iceberg, some of the crew said the lights went out for a moment and they needed lamps. Would this power outage affect the telephone? QM Olliver said he took a message from the Captain down to the engine room, but why did the Captain not use the telephone on the bridge which was connected directly to the engine room? Did the sound of escaping steam obstruct them from hearing the telephone?



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George Jacub

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Aaron, just by coincidence I have this past week been working on some research involving this very matter (I'm building a time line of Fourth Officer Boxhall's movements before and after the order to clear the lifeboats).
In his testimony to the British Inquiry he said he "heard someone report a light, a light ahead. I went on the bridge and had a look to see what the light was." In a radio interview in 1952 he added the detail that he "heard the Crows's Nest report a light on the starboard bow. Well, I went on the bridge right away..."
It appears that the lookouts called out this information and did not use the telephone. In both accounts, Boxhall says that after hearing of a light ahead, he went to the bridge to get a better look through binoculars.
The light was sighted when lookouts Hogg and Evans were in the crowsnest. And the timing appears to be roughly after 12:15 and before 12:20 a.m. when the lookouts climbed down to the boat deck. Boxhall said he went to the Captain to tell him about the light; the other officers were overseeing the clearing and loading of the lifeboats, and there was nobody around to answer Hogg's telephone call from above.
 

Jim Currie

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That's right George. After Boxhall called the other officers, he went round the deck.
Pitman came out on deck at about midnight and went aft. He met Moody at the aft boats.
Lightoller came on deck after Pitman and directed the men to the boats as they came up on the boat deck.
Lowe was still in his pit sound asleep. That left Captain Smith, Wilde and Murdoch unaccounted for. By the time the lookouts in the nest saw all that boat deck activity, Murdoch and Pitman were on the starboard side of the boat deck and Ligholler and Moody were on the port side. Everyone was getting the boats ready and it was near to embarkation. Phillips was probably just getting in touch with the Frankfurt at about the same time and Captain Smith would possibly be supervising the final preparations for loading the boats
Lookout Hogg said it was about 20 minutes after he and Evans relived the Nest and he saw people on the boat deck wearing lifejackets. These had to be passengers.

The Light seen by boxhall was so far away when he first saw it that he could only see the two white masthead lights. He said the other ship was on a course such as it would pass down Titanic's port side. This means that he saw the lower of the two white masthead lights were to the left. As that ship got closer, Boxhall saw it's two side lights together which meant the other ship was heading straight for Titanic. However, he then saw the port (red) side light which told him the other ship was turning away to the right. The fact that the other ship's bearing did not change by more than 16 degrees from when it first was sighted until it stopped about 5 miles away, tells us that Titanic was not swinging at the time.
If Titanic was heading North, then the other ship was heading about 187 True. If Titanic was heading on her original course then that ship was on the far side of the ice making a course of about 097 True. Whatever ship it was, it was most certainly not the SS Californian.

Aaron, the lookouts in the nest called the bridge because the ship was stopped and they simply wanted to know if they were still to stay on duty. Here's the proof:

"We stopped about 20 minutes, and lifted up the back cover of the nest, the weather cover, and I saw people running about with lifebelts on.
I went to the telephone then, to try to ring up on the bridge and ask whether I was wanted in the nest, when I saw this.
I could get no answer on the telephone. Also my mate "--

We'll never know what Evans had to say at that time but if it was to tell them about a light ahead, they must have already known about it because Boxhall said he saw ithese lights shortly after the order to clear the boats had been given. In his words "I must have been to the marconi office with the position after I saw the light." This means that the light was seen before the second distress call was sent out.
 

George Jacub

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"I must have been to the marconi office with the position after I saw the light." This means that the light was seen before the second distress call was sent out.
Actually, Jim, the timing was the reverse, although it's obvious how one could be misled.
The transcript of the British Inquiry does quote Boxhall as saying "... I must have been to the marconi office with the position after I saw the light." But that's the court reporter's transcription error. In the same exchange, Boxhall says three times that he took the revised position of the Titanic to the wireless operators before he saw a light in the distance.
15387. Did you see the light?
- Yes, I saw a light.
15388. What sort of light was it?
- It was two masthead lights of a steamer. But before I saw this light I went to the chart room and worked out the ship's position. one
15389. Is that the position we have been given already - 41 deg. 46 min. N., 50 deg. 14 min. W?
- That is right, but after seeing the men continuing with their work I saw all the Officers were out, and I went into the chart room to work out its position.
15390. Was it after that you saw this light? two
- It was after that, yes, because I must have been to the marconi office with the position after I saw the light.
15391. You took it to the marconi office in order that it might be sent by the wireless operator?
- I submitted the position to the Captain first, and he told me to take it to the marconi room.
15392. And then you saw this light which you say looked like a masthead light? three
- Yes, it was two masthead lights of a steamer.
The quote in question should have read "It was after that, yes, because I must have been to the marconi office with the position---after, I saw the light."

And it should be noted that in his testimony at the Senate Inquiry, he said he didn't know who alerted him to the far-off light. This contradicts his 1962 radio interview (I mistakenly said it was 1952; I had fiftieth anniversary in mind, obviously). Many people noticed the light and it makes more sense that someone on deck brought it to his attention instead of a lookout hollering down.
 
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Aaron_2016

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When Fleet said: "The other lookout reported it." How would he know that? Did Fleet speak to the other lookouts before the Inquiry began? Did White Star officials ask them in a group what they knew before they gave evidence at the Inquiry? I wonder why Fleet did attend and Lee did not? Fleet told the Senator - "I do not know where Lee is. He got detained in New York."


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Rob Lawes

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Given that we know that the Californian was stationary before the Titanic collided with the Berg and that the Titanic was stationary when the masthead lights of the unknown ship were first seen. The unknown ship could not have been the Californian.

The ship seen from the Californian was moveing. They estimated they first saw it at 10 miles and stopped approximately 5 miles away. There is no evidence to suggest Fleet or Lee spotted and reported the lights of a steamer off to Starboard, in the hour preceding the impact.

If two professional lookouts, with the best viewing position, failed to spot a ship that claims could see their ship 5 miles away, then they shouldn't have been on duty that, or any other, night.
 
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Aaron_2016

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Given that we know that the Californian was stationary before the Titanic collided with the Berg and that the Titanic was stationary when the masthead lights of the unknown ship were first seen. The unknown ship could not have been the Californian.

The ship seen from the Californian was moveing. They estimated they first saw it at 10 miles and stopped approximately 5 miles away. There is no evidence to suggest Fleet or Lee spotted and reported the lights of a steamer off to Starboard, in the hour preceding the impact.

If two professional lookouts, with the best viewing position, failed to spot a ship that claims could see their ship 5 miles away, then they shouldn't have been on duty that, or any other, night.

The Californian was observing the other ship (which the crew described as a large passenger ship) over half an hour before the collision. The Titanic was moving west and survivors said she turned north after the collision. The Californian saw the ship moving west and then turn north towards them. The Captain was seen to steam "half speed ahead" after the collision, and this would bring them close to the Californian which was seen on their port bow. The Californian saw the other ship turn towards them, approach closer and stop, fire rockets, list heavily and disappear. A few hours later they saw the Carpathia further south and firing rockets and they assumed it the same ship which in their minds must have steamed further south and continued to fire more rockets.

The Californian was slowly turning around as she drifted in the night. Her lights would change and if one masthead light or stern light was showing then it would be difficult to detect among the millions of the stars that appeared level with the horizon. e.g. Survivors rowed towards the light of a ship which they said was almost certainly a ship on the horizon while others who rowed for the same ship believed it was only a star. Even experienced seamen thought it was just a star, but we know for certain it was a ship. The lookouts would have been looking for ice. Lee said there was a dense haze which made it hard to see anything on the horizon. It is possible that A - they could not see the light because it just looked like a star on the horizon with the rest. B - The Californian was surrounded by ice and the icebergs around her would obscure her lights from the Titanic until the Titanic turned north and steamed towards her or the ice moved out of the way. C - They could not see the Californian because there was a haze in the immediate area and it wasn't until they steamed out of the haze that the light on the horizon became more distinct as a ship's masthead or stern light and not a star. Survivor Joseph Scarrott said he heard the warning bell up to 8 minutes 'before' the collision. Perhaps that was Lee signalling the bridge that he could see a light of a ship.



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The quote in question should have read "It was after that, yes, because I must have been to the marconi office with the position---after, I saw the light."
That is correct. Boxhall went onto the bridge after a light ahead was reported by someone. It had to be someone on deck relatively close by since the sound of steam roaring off would have prevented anyone from hearing anything from someone up in the nest and well ahead of the bridge. It was on the bridge where Boxhall met Capt. Smith who asked him how things were going with the clearing of the boats, which is what Boxhall was involved with at the time. It was then that Smith would have told him what Andrews had said and informed Boxhall that he had already sent out a distress call by wireless. It was then that Boxhall would have asked about the position that was sent out and convinced Smith that he should rework the position from the 7:30 fix because the ship was ahead of her DR. After Boxhall reworked the position and delivered it to the Marconi room, he came back to bridge to look at the light ahead through glasses and saw it was a steamer with two masthead lights.
 
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Aaron_2016

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Thanks. My understand is that Boxhall believed the other ship was approaching them when in fact the Titanic was approaching her. Was it either case or both? e.g. The sea currents pushing the Californian closer to the Titanic, or the Titanic's forward momentum taking her further north, or was it simply the Californian rotating and the sight of her beam and port hole lights gave the impression that she was closer because she was showing more light?

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Jim Currie

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Confusing indeed, George. Boxhall's account of the sighting of the light is twisted three ways.

First Boxhall stated that he went to calculate the CQD position after the light was reported, then he said he went before the light was sighted. In his 1962 radio interview, he said the lookout warned of a light ahead. However, while giving evidence in the UK, he stated:
"15386. Someone reported a light ahead? A: - Yes; I do not know who reported it. There were quite a lot of men on the bridge at the time. I like his last answer.

From the evidence given by passenger Colonel Gracie, we can get a very good idea of when Boxhall first saw the lights of the approaching vessel.

In his evidence, Gracie stated that he saw the vessel about 6 miles ahead of Titanic when the passengers started to muster on the boat deck wearing life jackets. If this was true, then if he saw that at 20 minutes after midnight, that vessel must have been seen at or around midnight. More to the point, it must have been seen by Lookouts Hogg and Evans. So Aaron, I guess it must have been one of these two and not Fleet or Lee.

Aaron, you ask : "My understand is that Boxhall believed the other ship was approaching them when in fact the Titanic was approaching her. Was it either case or both? e.g. The sea currents pushing the Californian closer to the Titanic, or the Titanic's forward momentum taking her further north, or was it simply the Californian rotating and the sight of her beam and port hole lights gave the impression that she was closer because she was showing more light?"

The answer to all your questions is NO. The reasons are very simple.

When those on Californian first saw that approaching vessel around 11 pm ship time that night. At that time, Californian was showing either here green sidelight or her white stern light. The former if we consider the evidence of Captain Lord and the latter if we are considering the evidence of 3rd Officer Groves. Their evidence suggests 2 approaching vessels from different directions.
However, at no time did Californian... between the firing of the first and second last rocket... show her red light to the nearby vessel. On the other hand, the vessel which approached Titanic was showing her red port light most of the time and most certainly was doing so before she eventually turned away and showed her white stern stern light. Those on Californian never saw a white stern light until the nearby vessel turned away. Titanic never turned away from the vessel on her port bow.
 
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Aaron_2016

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When the Titanic sank deeper her lights could have appeared as one bright light and the officer on the Californian would mistakenly thought it was her stern light. Another possibility is that survivors said the stern of the Titanic turned around and faced the opposite way after she broke in two and they also noticed the lights on the stern were still lit after she broke. This would make her stern light appear to the Californian. Another possibility is that the Californian might have mistook a bright star as her stern light without realizing the ship had sunk. It is unclear how often the crew kept the ship under observation. They had stopped for the night so there was probably little reason to observe the horizon closely.


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Jim Currie

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This is really for another thread, Aaron but bear with me.

The officer on Californian was keeping the nearby ship under close observation. So was the Apprentice, Gibson. They saw the 'loom' of the other vessels's masthead lights. This means these lights were justion the point of disappearing. This being the case, if the other vessel was bearing SE from Californian then we can know for absolute sure what direction the other vessel was heading when these lights disappeared.....it was ENE....not north.
When Titanic broke in two, all the power was gone so all the lights were out.
The other ship was being watched continuously. That was the order given by Captain Lord. The normal way to do this on every ship was , and still is, to take regular compass... not relative, bearings of it. Ff the bearings changed and Californian was still topped, then the other vessel was moving.

But having said all that, Aaron. Except for just after the second last rocket was seen from Californian, she did not show that other ship a her red light for the entire time it was to the south east of her. The ship seen bu Boxhall was showing a red light all the time until it finally turned away. It could never have been Californian.
 
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Jim Currie

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Glad you liked that, Rob.

I have a question to anyone else who read my last post:

Why do I not get a "Ah! Now I see what you are getting at" response? Is it that I am not making my point clearly enough....or just not making it? Or is it that questioning the original idea punted on both sides of the Atlantic in 1912 is easier to swallow?
 

Rob Lawes

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he lookouts would have been looking for ice.
True, however, not to the point that they would have completely ignored everything else.

I maintain that if the Titanic approached to within 5 miles of the Californian at the point of collision, the Californian would have been just as visible to the Titanic as vice versa and this would have been reported by the lookouts, or at least mentioned by Fleet or Lee at the inquiry or in interviews etc.
 

Jim Currie

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Absolutely, Rob! No doubt about it. I would add that the job of a lookout or lookouts was then and still is, to 'lookout' for everything and anything and report it to the bridge. What the bridge did with the information was of only marginal interest to the lookouts. Nowadays the radar, or I should say radars, will give warning and even suggest a solution.
 
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Aaron_2016

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But if the horizon is dotted with stars, what is the determining factor that makes the lookouts say "there's a ship"? Captain Lord said they were mistaking stars for ships all the time and how it was "a very deceiving night". When the Titanic first appeared on the horizon around 11pm it appeared as a strong bright light as the amount of light would have been intense, whereas the Californian would have been masked between the stars. I don't recall the lookouts on the Californian reporting anything to the bridge. Did they go off duty when the ship was stopped? Titanic's lookouts saw a haze 2 points to port and starboard. Lee said it was so bad that it was very difficult to see anything out there. They had orders to keep a sharp lookout for ice. I think their main focus would have been directly ahead and trying to see the ice in the haze.


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Jim Currie

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Hello Aaron.

The following sketch shows you what a lookout would see if a ship was approaching Titanic as described by Boxhall,

ship's lights.jpg

If someone on Titanic saw any of the top three images, then, because of what you say, Aaron, about lights down to the horizon that person was initially using binoculars or a telescope. The lookouts did not have such aids.
As you can see by the middle row, it would have been very hard for lookouts to have missed seeing such a ship.. You are seeing it through binoculars. However, the left hand of image of the middle row is what Boxhall saw with his naked eye.


As for the 'haze'? I suggest to you that what they were seeing was not a haze as such but the barrier of white ice which at the time of impact, was no farther away than 3 or 4 miles. dead ahead of the Titanic.

I'm in the process of writing an article about the subject of how the ship was heading before and after impact. It deals with all the thing s we've been discussing here. I hope to publish it on this site in the very near future.
 

George Jacub

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However, the left hand of image of the middle row is what Boxhall saw with his naked eye.
Actually, Jim, sketch #1 is what Boxhall saw even with binoculars.

British Inquiry:
15392. And then you saw this light which you say looked like a masthead light?
- Yes, it was two masthead lights of a steamer.
15393. Could you see it distinctly with the naked eye?
- No, I could see the light with the naked eye, but I could not define what it was, but by the aid of a pair of glasses I found it was the two masthead lights of a vessel, probably about half a point on the port bow, and in the position she would be showing her red if it were visible, but she was too far off then.
 

George Jacub

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Does anyone know roughly what time the lookout saw the other ship and which lookout it might have been?

Frederick Fleet said - "The other lookout reported it."
Just so everybody is on the same page, it should be clarified that Fleet was not saying that a lookout spotted the light from the crowsnest.

Senate Inquiry:
Senator SMITH.
I am not speaking of that. I wanted to know whether you saw ahead, while you were on the watch, on the lookout, Sunday night, after the collision occurred or before, any lights of any other ship.
Mr. FLEET.
No, sir.

and

Senator SMITH.
Were there lights of any other vessels in sight when you came down from the crow's nest?
Mr. FLEET.
There was no lights at all when we was up in the crow's nest. This is after we was down and on the boats; then I seen the light.
Senator SMITH.
Where did you see it?
Mr. FLEET.
On the port bow. The other lookout reported it.
 

Rob Lawes

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As I've said, Fleet is adamant he did not see another ship during his watch. Since Titanic had been stationary for a while when Fleet and Lee were relieved, I believe the vessel reported by the other lookouts must have been moving closer to Titanic. The Californian was not moving.