Masthead Lights


Logan Geen

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Dec 2, 2001
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Could anyone tell me how many masthead lights the Titanic had? I have variously heard that she only had one or that she had two. Most pictures seem to show two. I am wondering which is correct. Thanks!
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Logan,

Please go to Topics and select Technical/Construction/Design. Under that topic, find the thread called, "Titanic's Navigation/Running Lights." You won't have to look far, because the last post in that thread was not too long ago. Read through the thread and you will find your answer. I could tell you my answer, but it's better if you formulate your own there, as you read through the discussion.

Parks
 
Jan 29, 2001
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On pg. 119 of the book LINERS - Hulton-Getty Picture Gallery (author Rober fox) is a photograph indentified as OLYMPIC, and upon close inspection one can see a mainmast head light affixed far above. Now, it is apparant that the steamer is not the OLYMPIC owing to the defined deck features. However, the steamer is obviously a WHITE STAR LINER, as upon closer inspection the viewer will note the WHITE STAR pennant on a lifeboat stationed about the starboard deckside.

IMHO, this only adds credence, coupled with a survivor's rendering of the foundering TITANIC, featured in the 1st edition hardback of a ANTR, that TITANIC sported a mainmast head light.

Michael Cundiff
NV, USA
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Before you can jump to conclusions you need to know what you are looking at and when that picture was taken. Based on the rigging plans as well as photographic evidence, there was no provision for a masthead light on Titanic's mainmast or for means to hoist one up there and still meet regulations. However, Titanic's sister ship, Britannic, was designed with an electric masthead light on both foremast and mainmast. I believe that Olympic was later modified to carry one on her mainmast also. A 1922 photo of Olympic appears to show this with what looks like light placements that match those on the Britannic rigging plans.

For those interested, the Britannic plans can be seen in Simon Mills' book, "Hostage to Fortune," Wordsmith Publications, 2002.
 
Jan 29, 2001
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However Sam:

As a CARPENTER of 22 yrs. and be it rigging or housing, from first hand experience I know that the architects plans are never the final word. Changes are frequent during any type construction.

Then what of the TITANIC survivor's rendering featured in the first edtion hardback ANTR?
(The survivors name slips me at this moment).
It was sketched directly upon his harrowing rescue. I'll have to disagree, as I had in previous discusssion on this matter. And yes after witnessing such a tragic event, I am certain the aforementioned sketch, particulary considering the darkness of the a.m. hour was an eyewitness account of the mainmast light.

I'll have to research my mountain of N.Y. TIMES microfilm copies, to add yet an even futhur eye witness account of the "double asted" steamer
identified so by her masthead lights...

Michael Cundiff
NV, USA
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Well you also might want to check on the IMM rules that were in effect at that time which believe it or not prohibited their ships from carrying an electric light on the mainmast if one was carried on the foremast. The IMM rules were obsolete by time of Olympic because of the use of dual filament lights by then. Nevertheless, they were still in effect at the time which apparently explains why such a light was not put into the plans. A second mastlight was an option for steamers in those days, not a requirement. Also if you have access to any detailed photos of Olympic or Titanic in 1911-12 you will not see any arrangement for a light carried up there. To me, that says it all. Some people have suggested that an oil light could be hoisted on the backstay but there is no way that a light hoist that way could meet the rules of the road requirements. A masthead light had to meet certain requirements including not only height and separation requirements but also that it had to be similar to the one mounted on the foremast. That meant that it had to be visible from the same distance, and of course its light had to cover the same angle swept out horizontally which was from 112.5 degrees to the left and right of center looking forward. The reason for this is in the purpose of having two masthead lights which was that they could be used as ranging lights.

There is a thread on this site where this topic was discussed in detail several years ago here:
https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/5919/7960.html?1006718602.
 
Jan 29, 2001
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Samuel:

I am holding my 1st edition 1955 copy of ANTR (Lord) in my hand. The sketch of my aforemention was penciled by Steward Leo James Hyland. In addition to his rendering of a mainmast light, survivor Hyland was also quick to note the exhaust of steam from "only" the three most forward stacks! Additionaly he was sure to depict the gleaming of the foremast light, along with two lifeboats being lowered starboard aft, still furthur yet a rocket bursting...signaling a ship in distress.

Perhaps it was an hoisted oil light, perhaps an extra attempt of letting the nearby steam (Californian) that she was a two masted steam in distres, or even an attempt to she furthur light on the poop deck...I don't know. But, as I stated years ago when Parks and I had this discussion...I stand-by an eye-witness account of the events unfolding in the early morning hours of 15 April 1912.

BTW: I wanted to acknowledge that the Hyland sketch was from the author's collection. The beloved Mr. Walter Lord.

Michael Cundiff
NV, USA
 
Jan 29, 2001
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POSTRSCRIPT: It should have read...nearby steamer - and - two masted steamer.

I had minor head trauma...I am still coming
around...:-(

MC
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Hi Michael. When I read your post 639 above my eye, or should I say my brain, saw it as "steamer" twice. Only when I read your 2nd post did I realize you wrote "steam." But that's they way it is. Sometimes you see things that aren't there.

I have a copy of that sketch by Hyland and so I know exactly what you are saying. I'd be happier if someone can explain to me how they could manage a light up there, especially an oil lamp. They had no ladder going far enough up on the mainmast. Britannic did, and that was to maintain an electric lamp. You can also see that in the plans. The photo of Charles Whilems and daughter and friend near Titanic's fourth funnel shows a really good view of the mainmast from the front. Again I see no provision for a light up there or means to hoist one up.

[Moderator's Note: The 2007 messages in this thread have been combined with an earlier thread addressing the same subject, and that thread has been moved here from "General Titanica." MAB]
 
Dec 4, 2000
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At the risk of ruining a great friendship, I have to agree with Sam on this debate. The photos I've seen of Titanic's mainmast do not show the fittings necessary for a proper masthead light.

One thing forgotten by those who argue it was an oil lamp is the problem of arc of visibility. Even in 1912 there were strict regulations on this. Note the cutoff shields on Titanic's sidelights for proof. An oil lantern hoisted on a single halyard would be virtually impossible to orient with the correct cutoff angles. And, an all-round oil lamp (360 degree coverage) was not part of the rules.

Unless there was a ladder to carry the lamp up to a hard mounting on the mainmast, I don't see how a proper after masthead oil light could have been displayed. (Oil lamps must be taken down for daily cleaning, wick trimming, and refilling of their reservoirs. They cannot be fixed in position like an electrical light.)

Looking at my copy of ANTR, I find a photo of Carpathia. The forward masthead light is prominent above the crow's nest. There seems to be a fitting higher on the third mast aft. I've put a glass to it, but the coarse printer screen eliminates any detail.

What were the lights of Carpathia? Anyone know? My thought is that when people put together their memories they had access to the masthead light or lights of Carpathia, and it was those lights which may have been transferred mistakenly to Titanic. Memory does play tricks. Just a suggestion pending information about Carpathia.

--David G. Brown
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Beesley said Carpathia had two lights. I think others said the same. I'm inclined to agree that there's a fitting on the third mast in the ANTR photo.

Perhaps Hyland, drawing after the event, depicted a second steaming light because he expected such a big ship to carry two lights. In Mersey's court, the same assumption was made.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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David and Dave. The Carpathia had two electric mast lights but they were located on the first and second masts, not the first and third. The picture in ANTR shows a pennant on the 2nd mast which I believe is covering the fixture for the masthead light. From a photo of the Carpathia taken at a different angle, shown below, you can see the fixures for the two mast lights more clearly.

The Californian, also shown below, had two mast lights as well, also located on the first and second masts.
120834.jpg

120835.jpg
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Thanks, Sam, for the Carpathia information. Also, I can see clearly in your Carpathia image the purpose of the "bulge" on the third mast.

The existence of two masthead lights on the rescue ship supports my supposition that people thinking back on Titanic "remembered" what was overhead on Capathia. But, I admit, this is hardly proof.

Looking at the ships, and Titanic's rigging plan, I can see why they would not have installed an after masthead light.

-- David G. Brown
 
Mar 22, 2003
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David. I think the reason for not installing an after masthead light on Titanic were the antiquated 1907 IMM rules (#20) that were still in effect in 1912 that required their ships NOT use a second electric masthead light. They had no problem including it in the rigging plans of Britannic even before conversion to a hospital ship. See Simon's book.
 
Jan 29, 2001
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Gentlemen:

I can understand your supposition per..."by the book/plan". I too have period photographs of OLYMPIC and have also used a jeweler's loop.
I can make-out what appears to be a very small platform, not large enough to bear a crew member, just above the point where the rigging/ ratlines join the mainmast.

Then what was Hyland rendering...what indeed?

That is what makes real-photo postcards so invaluable to one's collection. When I view them thru magnification I feel as if I am there. Astounding detail!

I have even gone as far as to have them enhanced via color copier.

Michael Cundiff
NV, USA
 
T

Timothy Trower

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Hyland shows the ship well down at the head, but still blowing off steam as well.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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He also showed the steam blowing off from the safties on the aft side of the three forward funnels. Unless I'm mistaken, someone correct me if I'm wrong here, but these would be from boiler rooms 1, 3, and 5. I believe boiler rooms 2, 4, and 6 had their blow offs on the forward side of the funnels. By the way, the boilers in No. 1 room were not lit that night (see testimony of trimmer Dillon). The lifeboats being launched on the starboard side in his drawing were No. 13 and 15. These went down well after the safeties closed up and steam was no longer blowing off according to witnesses.
 
Jan 29, 2001
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Yes, and the washed drawing of TITANIC anchored at Cherbourg gives a good impression of how the ship looked at night. Leslie Reade is quick to note the "ficticious" mainmat light as well as the smoke issuing the dummy funnel. In reality TITANIC did issue partial smoke from her fourth funnel. To my knowledge the Cherbourg washed drawing was done in England by an eye witness to Titanic's port o' call. What? Perhaps the eye witness(s) were rendering from memory...a four masted steamer carrying two masthead lights, so therefore added the light to the sketchs?

Perhaps they were just orbs of an unknown source...

Michael Cundiff
NV, USA
 

James Smith

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Dec 5, 2001
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Silly question here, but could Captain Smith have anticipated that Titanic's electricity might go out before the ship actually sank and ordered an oil lamp rigged on the mainmast to maintain visibility? It seems like it could have been as simple an affair as attaching a lantern to the halyard usually reserved for the White Star burgee.

--Jim
 

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