Maiden Voyage Mysteries

Dec 4, 2000
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Just want to call attention to the new research paper posted by Mark Chirnside and Sam Halpern entitled "Olympic and Titanic: Maiden Voyage Mysteries." This is a first-class piece of research and documentation that tells as much about the Olympic class of vessels as it does navigation. For the "Jack & Rose" crowd this will be a dull treatise, indeed. However, for any serious researcher this document is a "must have" in the file cabinet.

"Well done," to the both of you.

-- David G. Brown
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I'll have to check it out when I have the chance then. When two guys like MArk and Sam get together, the result is bound to be first rate!

[Moderator's note: This post and the three above it were in another topic, but have been moved to the one which addresses these issues. JDT]
 

Mike Poirier

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Dec 31, 2004
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I am pleased to see that this excellent article has had two great forums to be showcased.
The first being, Voyage, journal of TIS and now ET. It is top-notch and deserves much praise.
Mike
 
Aug 10, 2002
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I have just started reading the above mentioned article, and find it very interesting. The quality of the material covered is right up to the standard we expect from these two authors.
Regards,
Charlie Weeks
 
Mar 22, 2003
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At the time Mark and I wrote this article we had detailed information on Olympic's 1st and 2nd westbound crossings and her 1st and 3rd eastbound crossings available to us. The noontime locations for all of these were shown in the charts in Appendix A as well as derived noontime locations for Titanic's maiden voyage. Specific crossing details from the log cards were presented for Olympic's maiden voyage westbound and eastbound crossings, as well as Olympic's second westbound crossing. Since that time we have obtained details on Olympic's 3rd westbound crossing which did not make it into the article but has been referred to in another thread on this site. For those interested in this, the log card details for Olympic's 3rd westbound crossing is shown below. Also included below is a link to an updated chart that now shows the noon locations for Olympic's first three westbound crossings (identified as O1, O2, and O3, respectively) along with the derived noon locations for Titanic's maiden voyage (identified by T).
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Andrew Williams

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To Mark and Sam,

A fine piece of written material.

Mark - somewhere amongst this heap of files of mine, I have a newspaper clipping from the Southampton Times, where they give a full account of the monies collected for the Relief Fund. The Olympic did a staggering collection amounting to £400.00. When I eventually put my hands on it, I'll arrange for a copy to be delivered directly to your home address.

Cheers and a full hearted congratulations to you both.

A.W.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Thanks for all the very kind words.

And, Andrew, thanks for your very generous offer. I appreciate it very much.

Best wishes,

Mark.
 
Jan 11, 2006
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Olympic and Titanic: Maiden Voyage Mysteries by Mark Chirnside and Sam Halpern

When following a great circle path, a ship must make several heading changes to stay close to the track. From detailed data that we studied from several Olympic voyages, it appears that course segments (in true degrees) would be laid down at Local Apparent Noon (LAN) each day. However, it also seems that very small course adjustments took place as often as every six hours. Whenever possible, being on a great circle path is desired, since it minimizes the overall length of a passage.
June 18th 1911. Olympic’s Noon position was 17+ nautical miles - North-west’ly - OFF the GC track.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Is there some point you wish to make Capt.? The fact that a ship winds up somewhat north or south of a track is not unexpected as you know. The idea would be to lay off a new track from your current position to your destination point if you find yourself far off from where you thought you should be.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Your observation (highlighted), and explanation given, is foreign to the practice of ocean navigation, especially in 1911 prior to satellite navigation.
Foreign to the practice of ocean navigation prior to satellite navigation? Hmmm! Well let's look at what was recorded for Olympic's 200th voyage from Southampton to NY via Cherbourg in 1931 while traveling the great circle part of her route from Bishop Rock to a corner point at 43N, 50W; then to Nantucket Light Vessel; then to Ambrose Light Vessel. Course headings recorded were in degrees true and time recorded were ATS. This data came from a course book document that Mark Chirnside had shared with me and is presented here with his kind permission.

26 March 8:36 am Bishop Rock 273° true
Noon 49.46N 8.23W 271° true
7:15 pm 269° true
27 March 0:15 am 266° true
4:15 am 264° true
Noon 49.21N 22.35W 260° true
6:18 pm 258° true
11:45 pm 256° true
28 March 6:10 am 253° true
Noon 47.15N 35.55W 250° true
6:08 pm 248° true
11:30 pm 247° true
29 March 5:38 am 244° true
Noon 43.47N 47.51W 243-1/4° true
4:40 pm 43N 50W CORNER 260-3/4° true
10:06 pm 260-3/4° true
30 March 2:00 am 260-3/4° true
7:24 am 260-3/4° true
Noon 41.45N 60.31W 260-1/2° true
6:18 pm 260-1/2° true
31 March 1:00 am 260-1/2° true
7:21 am Nantucket LV 267-1/4° true
Noon 40.30N 71.50W 267-1/4° true
2:51 pm 270° true
4:09 pm Ambrose LV (21:09 GMT)

In addition to true course headings, standard and steering magnetic compass headings and deviation were also recorded as well for each of these times. By the way, the first artificial earth satellite was first launched in 1957. Olympic's navigation was a combination of dead reckoning and celestial navigation just like they did in 1912.
 
Jan 11, 2006
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Olympic's 200th voyage from Southampton to NY via Cherbourg in 1931 while traveling the great circle part of her route from Bishop Rock to a corner point at 43N, 50W;
The difference between Olympic's 200th voyage actual track distance, with 14 course alterations, and Rhumb (line) tracks from Bishop’s Rock 49° 42'N, 6° 27'W to Corner 43°N, 50°W, with course alterations at noon each day = 1.75 nm @ 22 knots = 5 minutes.

I must confess, as master, I never had the luxury of more than three (3) bridge officers.

Regards,
Collins.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Actually, the Bishop Rock lighthouse is located at 49°52.4'N 6°26.9W. But I agree that the departure point for the crossing looks like it was about 10 miles to the south of the light from data that was recorded. WSL vessels were required to give the Isles of Scilly a wide berth.
 

Bill West

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Dec 14, 2005
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After I had looked into the Titanic’s navigation for a while I came to hoping someone in Britain would look up the surviving Olympic records because they would be an ideal example of the methods and personal styles used in conducting the Titanic’s trip. Well thank you Mark and Sam, now I have quite a slice of this. I of course immediately put all those 200th voyage locations you posted into one of my spread sheets to get the distances, speeds, possible times changes, etc. I don’t know if you have further info for future use or not but this alone was quite interesting.

The observations that came out are:
-as you say Sam, they passed about 10 miles to the south of Bishop Rock. Once I plotted the course from exactly Bishop and saw the variance from the ideal great circle for each turn I went back and changed the GC start to a rounded 49d42’N 6d27’W and suddenly they stayed within 2.4 miles of the GC for every turn. I understand there are lots of hazards for the first few miles south of Bishop so this all seems to make sense, they want to turn North West here but not that closely.
-the speed was fairly constant, very close to 22 knots the whole way.
-I take it that the 60d31’W figure for Monday noon is a typo of some sort , they couldn’t get there from turning The Corner at 4:40pm without making 23.6 knots.
-if the time changes are figured from noon to noon using a projected 22 knot speed then they come within 1 minute of the noon sun times achieved each day. I got changes of 35-55-54-48-47-61 minutes for Wednesday to Monday nights. I assume Southampton departure was about 4 pm.
-the obvious ways for choosing turn points along a great circle are by time interval, by distance in miles, by distance in degrees long from the previous noon, ditto from a round figured long, by ideal sight time near sunrise or sunset and by sight time to suit some ideal stars -well, okay if they are not near sunrise/sunset then what are you using as a visible horizon? Well none of these patterns fit, not even close. I checked the sunrise/sunset times for what appeared to be the location of each turn and I loaded the locations and GMT into HomePlanet (free, no hooks http://www.fourmilab.ch) to see if the sky those nights showed any pattern of looking at major navigation stars or looking away from the moon, no luck.

My best guess was that they planned the trips from noon to noon as I feel they had always done and then just added in the subdivisions to appease a 1930’s economy drive. Each day appears to have been subdivided to 3 intervals of sometimes 5 hours and sometimes 2.5-3 degrees and then the last interval was just sighted to finish out the day to noon.

As far as the economies achieved, Capt’n Collins hit it, I got savings of 1.84 miles in 1643.34. The legs from Bishop to Thursday noon and from Sunday noon to The Corner are of course the same as on a one turn per day scheme so it is only Thursday noon to Sunday noon where a saving can be made. I figure that they could either shave 4.9 minutes off the trip for a direct reduction in cost or they could reduce speed by 0.024 knots and arrive on schedule for a “speed squared” reduction in cost. Either way the savings are not even a pittance. I figured their fuel bill in 2005-2007 prices so we could appreciate how it felt to them and while saving $275 or $550 per day of GC sailing would seem to justify taking an officer’s time away from other duties, the benefit of trimming $20-40k from a $36 million per year fuel bill wasn’t going to solve anything. I frankly felt it wasn’t worth the jeopardizing of navigation accuracy.

Anyway much thanks for the data, Bill
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi Bill,

I'm glad you found the records interesting. Olympic's 200th round voyage was a good round number and one from her twentieth year of service, so Sam's comments and your own are all the more interesting to me. Navigation is less my forte than researching.

All in all, I have enough mileage data for 45 consecutive westbound crossings, and I have been making a study of Olympic's daily runs and the incidences where she exceeded 575, 570, 565, 560, 555, 550 and 545 miles. The study of her mileages, and speeds, covers one-fifth of her peacetime career, but I have yet to get it together into a coherent article or research piece. The highest westbound run so far is 576 miles, or 23.19 knots; eastbound, it's much higher.

I would assume any fuel saved would be negligable, as you state. If memory serves, in early 1935 Olympic's fuel bill for a round trip was some £10-11,000. I have the specific figures somewhere, but I don't have any fuel cost data for 1931. There were various schemes to regulate her speed or schedule to save fuel, however, as there were for other ships. A scheme to cut Majestic's fuel consumption was discussed in 1935. As for general disbursements, which included fuel costs, at a very rough estimate on the round voyage Olympic's running costs were slashed by almost 20% between 1931-32 and 1935. Depression-era cutbacks.

Thanks again for all your insights.

Best wishes,

Mark.