Navigational Confirmation of CQD Position

Dec 4, 2000
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Captain Collins has brought us another insight into one of the mystifying aspects of the sinking--Boxhall's "final position." Even in 1912 there were questions over its accuracy. The discovery of the wreck has led to general awareness that Boxhall's CQD position was @ 13 miles west and north of where the ship probably foundered. If Captain Collins is right in his assessment of Boxhall's navigation, then an analysis of the difference between the final CQD position and the debris field yields some interesting possibilities.

What Captain Collins has done is reconstruct the dead reckoning plot of Titanic during the last few hours of the voyage. He found that Boxhall's final CQD position fits the known data. The one person who absolutely would not be surprised by Collins' conclusion is Joseph G. Boxhall. Using the standard practices of dead reckoning, the ship's final CQD position is "correct." Captain Collins has shown that Boxhall was justifiably proud of his work.

Why the difference between the wreckage and Boxhall's location? Things Titanic are seldom cut-and-dried. There is an alternative solution to why Boxhall's final position was "off." I suggest checking Dave Gittens' web site where he discusses a possible mistake in using the traverse tables. Dave may want to provide more details, but for the moment I want to continue as if Captain Collins is correct.

Early last spring I did most of the same work as Captain Collins by plotting the known information. Until then, I had accpeted that Boxhall simply made a mistake. My plots, although still incomplete, support Captain Collins position. Boxhall followed the precepts of dead reckoning and produced a "correct" final position for the ship. I have put the word "correct" in quotes because in navigation a correct position is not always an accurate one. That is, the dead reckoning plot shows where the ship ought to be and not where it actually is. There are reasons for this, such as learning the set and drift of currents being experienced.

If we look at the difference between CQD and actual positions as a current problem, it appears the ship was stemming a head current. In other words, the ships speed over the ground was less than its speed through the water.

There is no known current in that part of the ocean of the required magnitude and direction. What else could have caused the ship to be west and slightly south of Boxhall's dead reckoning position? The only plausible answer to that question is maneuver by Titanic. That is, the ship did not take a straight course to its final wreck site and thereby caused it to be somewhere other than on its DR track. This would explain the difference between Boxhall's dead reckoning and the debris field.

If Captain Collins is correct, then the logical conclusion of his research is that Titanic was doing a lot of steering around something. Or, at least it was doing enough maneuvering to slow its velocity made good toward New York and cause it to be south of the intended track. And, if maneuvering was the case, the inevitable conclusion is that Captain Smith did not ignore the ice that night--on the contrary, he was actively dodging it right along.

If for some reason only incomplete records of the ship's maneuvers were kept, Boxhall would have had no choice but to ignore them in calculating his final DR position. That's one of the rules of dead reckoning. But, he would have known that while his position was correct, it was probably not accurate. And that may be why Boxhall of all the officers who manned lifeboats had the prudence of forethought to take and fire rockets to guide Carpathia. Boxhall knew the rescue ship was coming to their general location, but would need help finding the spot where the boats lay.

--David G. Brown
 

Erik Wood

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If someone where to ask me (which nobody has) I would say that Dave just opened a HUGE can of worms.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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A can? More like a 55 gallon drum of snakes. The notion that Titanic was dodging bergs befor the accident is something that George Behe brought up in "Speed, Safety and Sacrifice."

Considering how this would tend to skew any calculations if the manuevers were not recorded, it's a wonder that Boxhall came as close to the ship's actual position as he did.
 

Erik Wood

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A much more lethal question is why didn't Hitchens or Boxhall say anything about the manuvers if they took place?

The Titanic community (excluding myself) is notoriously known for sticking to the testimony and it mentions no dodging anywhere.

To say that I agree with Captain Collins or Brown would be lie, to say that I disagree would also be a lie. I am somewhere in the middle.

I have always believed (or hoped) that Captain Smith as being proactive about the ice. If this current theory could somehow be proved it would make me happy. It also makes it a little easier to understand why the ship found it self face to face with an overgrown ice cube. Loss of situational awareness is a deadly game.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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From what we discussed in Topeka and here, it would seem that a loss of situational awareness was the quintessential killer in this whole mess. It's amazing the way things came together in such a way that the only set of eyes looking forward on the Bridge at the critical moment belonged to Will Murdoch.
 
Jan 8, 2001
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Wouldn't the passengers and crew have notice if the ship was continually swerving to avoid icebergs? I do believe the crew saw some before 1130, but just don't think she was dodging them right and left. I prefer Gittins theory and definitely don't buy that Boxhall's position was accurate and an earthquake somehow moved the wreak a whopping 13 miles to the east. If Titanic's position was accurate, why did all the other ships around state she was much further east and somewhat further south? The only reason Carpathia saw the lifeboats was they were lucky and happened to be along the course Carpathia was taking.

Cheers!
Michael Koch
 
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Someone here also brought up the idea regarding situational awareness on the difficulties with lookouts eyes watering up with the cold and ship relative wind. Although, Fleet spotted the dark mass many minutes ahead of the collision, the watering eyes could certainly have hindered how early he what the mass was. It's funny that this thought has never been brought up to my knowledge in any Titanic books.

Cheers!
Michael Koch
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I don't buy into the earthquake either. An event drastic enough to move a wreck and the surrounding seabed 13 miles would have sent massive tsunamis roaring into harbours on both sides of the Atlantic. I think it might be better to say that Boxhall's position would have been correct if the sum total of all the information he had was correct.

GIGO factor in other words.

As to whether the passengers and crew wuould have noticed the manuevering, going on near midnight, I can't take this as a given. It would depend on how radical and frequent the course changes were. From my own experience, I would say it's very likely that the crew would not have even bothered to notice anything, especially if it was in some ways trivial. You know you're going from point A to point B, and if the ship does a little puttering around for some reason, the attitude would have been BFD followed by a shrug.

As to the passengers, most by this time would have been snug in their beds, either counting sheep or perhaps making a "memory" with a spouse or lover. They wouldn't notice because they wouldn't care.
 
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Mike, I don't think the effect of the wind and the wind chill on the lookouts would have occured to a lot of people who have written on the subject because a lot of them have never been to sea.

The book knowladge these researchers have is impressive and commendable, but real world practical experience is sadly lacking.
 
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Michael, is BFD some kind of nautical term I'm unaware of?? =-) I see your point on the crew not knowing, but the way Beesley and some other passengers described the collision, it leads me to believe any perturbation in the motion of the ship would have been noticed. However, I'm not sure what the difference would have been for a passenger noticing a hard-over maneuver compared to a grounding. Memory? Oh, you mean like looking at old pictures and reminiscing? Oh wait, you said making a memory! How bout, making a provocative painting of the sexy looking engaged girl you just met? =-)

Cheers!
Michael Koch
 
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Michael, even if most of the Titanic authors were not at sea much or at all, it still seems this one would have come up at least once before. I mean, we all have run during the Winter before and noticed our eyes tearing up! Strange.

Cheers,
Michael Koch
 

Erik Wood

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A couple of other (hole digging) notes:

What Captain Collins has done is plot the course and wreck, one of which is based soley on hearsay, and the other based soley on fact. We do not know with FACT that the ship was steering a certain course or not. None of us where there, we have to go off what the surviving officers and crew say. We do know where the wreck is today.

Another piece of the mystery pie is the lookouts who where above and forward of the bridge, they do not mention the ship moving off course or dodging bergs or other objects.

Some might say that because they didn't signal anything means there was nothing to dodge, that isn't neccessarily the case. If you read the testimony of Captain Lord and Captain Rostron you will notice that the bridge frequently spotted ice before the crew posted forward and above. That is sometimes also the case in a heavy fog.

A second and more lethal question would be: Why would Murdoch allow Quartermaster Olliver and Fourth Officer Boxhall off the bridge if the ship was dodging icebergs anytime prior?

This is keeping in mind that both Murdoch and Boxhall where going off watch in about 20 minutes. This is not SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) and is an extremely bone headed decision. Not only for Murdoch but for Boxhall as well.

A licensed officer on watch leaving the bridge for any reason (unless some medical emergency or unless dispatched by the senior OOD) only 20 minutes before being relieved and just after (not 1 mintue after but any amount of time after) the ship had been dodging bergs in Titanic's case could be tried as a criminal act in todays court. This is keeping in mind that that would have left Murdoch alone on the bridge to look forward. Moody inside the wheelhouse was of no real position to act as a lookout. Why would First Officer Murdoch do that, leave himself the only man on the bridge to look forward after (if Captain Brown is correct in his theory about Captains Collins writing) dodging icebergs?? That is not only a negligent decision but one that would have earned him doof of the year.

This being said, I don't think that Boxhall or Murdoch was niether criminal nor negligent for leaving the bridge (in Boxhalls case), I believe there is some greater wisdom behind it that Dave would be better off explaining.

This is a deadly question in the sense that it not only pins the lookout problem on Murdoch it also shows an extreme amount of negligence and bone headed decision making on the part of the senior OOW.

I don't like pinning blame on somebody who is otherwise an outstanding officer. Plus there isn't enough proof (in my mind) to pin this on him.
 
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Eric, what about the claims made by several passengers that overheard Fleet complaining that their repeated warning bells went unheeded for as much as 20 minutes prior to the collision? I'm not sure if these warnings were for the same black mass that turned out to be "the" ice berg or for other bergs, but there does appear to be evidence that the lookouts were spotting objects all along unless these were stories by Fleet.

Cheers,
Michael Koch
 

John M. Feeney

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What Captain Collins has done is reconstruct the dead reckoning plot of Titanic during the last few hours of the voyage. He found that Boxhall's final CQD position fits the known data.

David: While I think your evolving premises regarding possible evasive maneuers on the part of the Titanic have tantalizing potential, one thing I'd be very wary of, regarding Captain Collins' alleged "proofs" of Boxhall's navigational correctness, *is* their reliance on the supposed perfect fit of his plots to the "known" data.

In private discussions with Collins, I've argued that his course projections represent but one possibility in a small universe of same, rather than any conclusive proof. The fact that they agree well numerically (up to a point) with Sir Robert Finlay's reckoning during the British Inquiry (which is quite possibly *solely* responsible for the publication of several of those erstwhile "hard facts" in the Report), simply alludes to the same logic being employed by *both* men to backtrack from the CQD position.

The problem with this approach is that both Finlay and Collins seem to have relied heavily on Boxhall's estimated speed and on Finlay's deduced "S62W true" as the last Great Circle leg prior to Titanic's change to the final rhumb line course of S86W true. While "S62W" is certainly not far from the mark as a *first* approximation -- it's in fact an unadjusted (for potential change in deviation) simple conversion from the "by compass" course given by Rowe, using variation alone -- it's by no means guaranteed absolute. (For lack of any reliable magnetic deviation data, Finlay & company seem to have simply "settled on" the midpoint.) But a little difference there goes a long way in determining the ship's final position.

Yes, Collins' plot works -- in theory. And it's logically consistent. But as they say, there are all manner of logically consistent systems that have no basis in reality. And it's by no means the *only* possible scenario, which is why I doubt its purported conclusiveness.

For example, Lowe's apparent assertion of a true course of about S60-1/2W ["60 33-1/2W"] on the approach to the "corner" removes *all* plausibility from the proclaimed "accuracy of Boxhall's CQD", since it sets the intercept with S86W some miles east of that established using a course of S62W. But at the same time, it concurs more precisely with Rowe's and Hichens' log determinations of the ship's speed during its final hours. (In fairness to Collins, he feels those log readings must be adjusted by subtraction of the Gulf Stream's likely influence, whereas I strongly suspect that the influence of the Gulf Stream, in that particular latitude at that time, would have been progressively minimized and ultimately non-existent, due to the offset southwards of its normal range by that abnormally strong Labrador Current.)

Anyway, I agree that the premise of "dodging icebergs" en route is entirely feasible, no matter how you slice it. Under both Dave's highly laudable explanation of a possible error in reading the tables and my own tentative conjectures on a conceivable time correction error, there is certainly slack remaining to be taken up. (But Collins would probably insist that his own plot allows for none of that, since he asserts that it directly proves the ship really sank at the CQD position.)

Cheers,
John
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Everyone--there is a great deal of difference between stating something as fact and testing what may be a useful hypothesis. Also, the truth of any hypothesis lies in whether or not it predicts future events. So, I was testing what Captain Collins wrote for that purpose. What I find is that the logical conclusion of his paper is that Captain Smith was maneuvering in some manner to avoid icebergs. Otherwise, Boxhall's "final position" would have been much close to the debris field.

My statement about Boxhall taking rockets into his lifeboat and using them to attract Carpathia is a logical prediction from Captain Collins' paper. Certainly, a navigator who recognized the unavoidable errors in his calculations would realize the necessity of some sort of long-distance (for 1912) signals.

By "maneuver," I mean any and all possible methods of conducting the ship. We have evidence of people saying the engines gave off unusual vibration that night about 50 minutes or so before the impact. This could have resulted from slowing down...something that is virtually never considered in discussions of Titanic's accident. Changing course might have been nothing more than a series of two-point turns to the south followed by an equally soft turn back on course. Passenger vessel captains & senior officers know how to avoid jostling the passengers, so it might not have been noticed on a dark and cold night.

We are really talking about VMG toward New York. If the ship made an easy 90 degree turn to the south to avoid ice...then went back on course...we would have exactly the picture that we are discussing. The wreck would be east and a bit south of a DR location based on the ship's intended course and speed. I'm not saying that any of these things happened, I just want to illustrate the wide area of navigation which has to be investigated.

Boxhall was no chump navigator. He had extra training and apparently was recognized for his skill. I have never been comfortable with the assumption that he made a mistake, although I think that Dave Gittens' idea of a misread traverse table cannot be discounted. Certainly Captain Rostron understood that the DR position was not where the lifeboats were found. He helped "cover" that little detail, but probably because he knew it would be impossible for the general public to understand the fine points of dead reckoning.

This is a fertile field for exploration. Let's avoid polemics on this one because there is much to be learned. But anyone entering this debate is bound to make a few mistakes. Now, I'm going to shut up before I have to change feet (in my mouth).

--David G. Brown
 

Erik Wood

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Michael K:

I am unaware of the testimony in which you speak. Could you point it to me??

John F:

Have you been taking some kind of navigation course behind my back?? Great Post and I agree with what you have written for the most part.
 

George Behe

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Michael Koch wrote:

>I do believe the crew saw some before 1130, but >just don't think she was dodging
> them right and left.

Hi, Michael!

For what it's worth, that's pretty much my own view, too (and is the one I had in mind when I wrote my book.)

All my best,

George
 

John M. Feeney

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Sheesh, when I started writing the above there were only two total posts! (Busy thread.)

Agreed on the earthquake premise, gents. It's just not a realistic scenario, for *many* good reasons -- including those upright positions at the wreck locale. (What, did the bow and stern somehow get tossed over 13 miles, only to both land on their respective "feet"? Never mind that the debris field displayed an undisturbed, predictable pattern according to Ballard. After all, that's only how he *found* the thing -- through the debris! And gee, in all that cataclysmic turmoil, nothing got buried?? You'd think that a force strong enough to move tons of ship 13 miles would certainly stir up more than a little sediment as well!)

Moreover, Collins simply summarily rejects Captain Moore's multiple (and concordant) longitude readings from the morning of the 15th -- the only actual celestial measurements taken in the vicinity, apart from Californian's noon position (which concurs quite well with Moore's stated longitude).

If the Mount Temple had already reached longitude 50º 9-3/4' W to 50º 9-1/2' W (versus Titanic's reported 50º 14' W) by daybreak -- which seems virtually assured from the evidence, including corroboration by two Californian officers (Lord and Groves) of Mount Temple's position -- and the Carpathia was observed by *both* ships to be picking up survivors several miles further east still (on the *other* side of the ice field), Collins' insistence on the validity of Boxhall's CQD position as the actual sinking locale falls squarely into the realm of fantasy.

Here we have a model case where the "book learning" component -- a thorough understanding of the Inquiries coupled with *equitable* presentation of the testimony -- is demonstrated to be absolutely indispensible. (Otherwise, what have we got to talk about, anyway? Even the wreck location itself comes primarily from Ballard's *book* and other printed sources. How many of us, if any, have actually visited the site *and* can confirm those coordinates?)

Pick and choose the evidence you like, or ignore it entirely, and you can argue with assurance the most untenable of convictions. Collins is no doubt an accomplished seaman. And he has familiarized himself with the Inquiries. But his insistence -- based largely on personal conviction and some highly selective interpretations of the evidence -- upon the ultimate correctness of many of his conjectures is notably lacking in scholarly underpinnings.

Nevertheless, he does have some interesting ideas. I just don't see that he's actually proved any of them.
 

John M. Feeney

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Side note: Is everybody else home sick with this flu (or whatever it is), too?? This is the busiest I've ever seen the Board on a weekday. ;^)

Cheers,
John
 

Erik Wood

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John F. Wrote: Moreover, Collins simply summarily rejects Captain Moore's multiple (and concordant) longitude readings from the morning of the 15th -- the only actual celestial measurements taken in the vicinity, apart from Californian's noon position (which concurs quite well with Moore's stated longitude).

Very interesting point. One that to be honest I haven't actually researched. But this leads to a myriad of other questions.

Accident investigators (such as myself) often back track a ships final position with the course (s) it should have been on to attempt to develop a timeline of when things happened not only on the ship but in relation to it's general movement. In Titanic's case this is impossible to recreate. All of the written navigation that the ship would have kept went with the ship and we only have 1 surviving officer who would have known what was going on the last 2 hours of the watch.

This mystery two hours plus hours (2200 to 2400) is key in understanding where the ship is now in relation to what the ship was doing. Since both surviving Quartermasters do not mention the course changes (aka manuvers around bergs), nor does the lookouts, nor does the navigator (Boxhall), so how do we know it took place at all.

Seaman's logic would say that they where doing something to avoid ice that they had plotted and where well aware of. But we don't have any proof to prove it, unless I am missing something??