Navigational Inconsistencies of the SS Californian

Mar 22, 2003
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A new article of mine dealing with a number of navigational inconsistencies reported in the logbook of the SS Californian for April 14, 1912, has been posted on my website. It is called "Navigational Inconsistencies of the SS Californian," and is in PDF format. It can be downloaded from HERE.

In particular, I show that Californian's reported noontime position for April 14, 1912, was slightly in error, a result of a simple entry error when her longitude was recorded. After correcting for this small error in longitude we find all calculated dead reckoning (DR) positions from 9:40 a.m. to 10:21 p.m. fall neatly into place for the reported course headings she was put on, and consistent for the speed that she was making that day. We also show that her logbook entries for that day, which were later written up, were not in agreement with several wireless messages she sent out, and offer direct evidence that the DR stopping point derived in this paper agrees with the actual position that Capt. Lord sent to Capt. Gambel of the Virginian before receiving back official word about Titanic on Monday morning.
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Sam!

Enjoyed your article.

Have a few comments (of course!)

When Lord gave his position at time of turn, 9-40am, it was the target he was aiming for - The Corner -42N..47W. Obviously that's where he thought he was and made an educated guess that he had arrived there at 9-40am. His Noon position would be accurate since conditions for sights were perfect. It would have been determined by his 2nd and 3rd officers. I would be surprised to learn that he actually participated in taking those Noon sights. That was not the normal practice.

Stewart would not amend that particular 9-40 DR in retrospect - nobody ever does!

The air/sea temperature graph is fine but if it was illustrating a south setting cold current - that current was extremely narrow.
Californian was stopped during the period of the lowest temperatures. The Labrador Current is fairly broad and would probably have been well below the surface in those latitude - certainly below the immediate surface. What Lord's men were measuring was ice melt and 'refrigerator door' syndrome. i.e. he was in close proximity to melted ice and floating ice therefore the air and immediate surface water temperatures would be very close to each other . The sudden rise in temperatures between 0400hrs and Noon on the 15th give a classic illustration of this. Incidentally, at 28F. he would be getting buckets of 'brash' - slush and little bits of ice. Anyone who has been anchored in the St. Lawrence in spring time will bear witness to this.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Welcome back Jim.

>>...The Corner 42N..47W. Obviously that's where he thought he was and made an educated guess that he had arrived there at 9-40am. <<

Yes, I agree. The uncertainty was in latitude, not longitude. As I wrote:

"Now it can be argued that Capt. Lord believed he really reached the corner at 9:40 a.m. when he changed Californian’s course to the west ...In all
likelihood, a sun sight would have been taken in the early morning hours when the sun was well to the east to accurately determine their longitude. From that, and the known course heading and speed of the ship, Capt. Lord would have expected to be at the longitude of the corner, 47° 00’ W, by 9:40 a.m."

You said that "Stewart would not amend that particular 9-40 DR in retrospect - nobody ever does!" But he apparently amended other DR positions in the log book taken at 6:30 pm and 7:15 pm based on an alleged pole star sight at 7:30 pm. That was the point I was making.

>>The sudden rise in temperatures between 0400hrs and Noon on the 15th give a classic illustration of this. <<

The sudden rise in temp was in air temp, not water. And they were not for the same location. The latter was for lat 41° 33'N.

Cheers,
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Sam!

The time of 0940 am for turn was, and as you point out, derived from earlier sights.
For the same reason as I believe Titanic was east of the 47th meridian, I believe that Californian turned early and had not reached the longitude of 47W by 0940 am. I think both ships were effected by the weather and current for the 4 hours prior to turning.
Normally, sights would be taken just after 9 am. However, it is more than likely that Stewart took a set of star sights some 4 hours earlier, at dawn


I followed you on the Pole Star item Sam. I just do not visualise a C/O of the experience of Stewart not taking full advantage of the conditions for taking a sight of Polaris - particularly when his ship was virtually sailing along a parallel of latitude. Of all the star sights he could have taken, Polaris was the most appropriate given his course. You mention them steering a course a degree or two south of due west. I'm sure you appreciate that the variation was constantly changing as they went west and the deviation error from the deviation card was only good for the time it was calculated at a much earlier date. To these contributing factors, add the fact that they were steering by a magnetic compass card and you have conditions which will not accurately reflect the subsequent course made good.

You mention a south-setting current. As you know I do not subscribe to that. The graph of Lords temperature reading only tell us that late in the afternoon of the 14th.April, the sea and air temperature began to fall then levelled out for a period of about 8 hours before rising again.
This period of low but level temperatures for sea and air exactly coincides with the period when Californian was stopped or working within the field ice.The significance I take from early part of the graph and the sudden plunge in water temperature from around 58F suggests that I am right about these two ships passing through an area of warm water. That points to the Gulf Stream. Titanic cleared the warm water that night around 9pm when she was around 60 miles to the east of the ice. At 4pm on the 14th., Californian also cleared it. This suggests that the Gulf Stream was flowing as shown in this sketch:
View Image

As for the difference in air temperature between 8 pm on the 14th and Noon on the 15th. I know these are for different locations. In fact, if we ignore latitude (we're talking about a south setting current) then if there was a cold current there, it was little more than 10 miles wide. Hardly the Labrador Current?
These temperatures tell us very little except for the dramatic change 60 odd miles to the east of the ice. They were not taken in a scientific way.
Between midnight and 4 pm, the next day, the water was taken from the surface of a calm sea strewn with ice. I would expect that to give a temperature of 32F the temperature of melted ice. Below 28F the sea would not melt so a value of that is highly suspect.
As for the air temperature, I reiterate my example of an open fridge door. The calm air round a ship locked in ice is most certainly going to be close to 32F. However, when the wind began to blow after 4 pm, the air temperature would rise very quickly. Since it was from the north, it was most probably a warm front crossing the area from the west. No big mystery there!
As for the sea remaining cold - it certainly would since it was late on the 15th before they cleared all the floating ice.

Had a great holiday touring Europe by car. Now I know why we should have GPS in our cars. Try translating 'one way system' in half a dozen different languages. Got some good pictures from Band of Brothers country..

View Image
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>That points to the Gulf Stream. <<

Not unreasonable for that location. But dropping down to near freezing just 45 miles to the west suggests to me more than just leaving Gulf stream waters. In another 45 miles the water reached the fresh water freezing point, a good 25 miles before coming up to the pack ice.
 

Jim Currie

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The 25 miles you refer to can easily be explained Sam.

If you have a look at locations of the various rafts of pack ice, you will see that an area to the immediate north and south of latitude 42-00N, and extending eastward for at least 27 miles was influenced by ice. There would be a great deal of melt ice on the surface in that area.
I quote from the Trautenfels' report given 17 hours before Californian arrived in the same area.

"April 14, 5:05 A.M., latitude 42° 01' N., longitude 49° 53' W., passed two large icebergs about 200 feet long and 40 feet high.
April 14, 5:40 A.M., latitude 42° 01' N., longitude 50° 06' W., to 8 A.M., latitude 41° 40' N., longitude 50° 22' W., passing along a field of heavy, closely packed ice, with no openings in the field. The ice field could be seen extending far to the northward. During this time sighted about 30 large bergs."

and from the SS Paula possibly 5 hours later and a mere 10 hours before the arrival of Californian:

"April 14, forenoon, from latitude 41° 58' longitude 49° 30' W., till 41° 56', 49' 52', heavy pack ice (one field).

This second report, gives conditions in the area 27 miles east from Lord's DR Longitude of 50-07'W and fits perfectly with Lord's reported temperature drop in surface water.
 

Doug Criner

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Sam, are these the valid conclusions for your info?


Californian was likely about 3 deg (3 miles) south and therefore that much closer to Titanic when stopped in ice.

There are reasons be suspicious of some of Californian's log entries.
 

Doug Criner

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I think it's very possible that star shots might have been taken at dawn before the turn - and that the 9:40am DR was based on that. It's possible they could have taken a sun shot, too, in the morning, but sun shots, other than at noon, take a bit more math to reduce. And, the navigator would want to take star shots first, before sunrise. Then he'd have to wait for sun to rise high enough to accurately measure and flip down the sun filter down over the sextant's telescope. Rather than fumble around with a sun shot, I suspect most navigators might bag-it, and go inside and work out his star shots.

I don't know why they wouldn't have tried to take star shots at dawn, assuming it was clear, especially with the turn coming up. That would give a better fix, even if they were primarily concerned with longitude - and shooting several celestial objects shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes longer than just the sun, assuming the quartermaster or another officer were available to write down the times and altitudes.

Jim, you said it would be normal to take shots around 9am. Why? Star shots are usually only made in twilight, when the horizon is sharply visible through the sextant's telescope. Rather than fool with a sun shot at, say, 9:00am, I think they'd just wait until noon. If, for some reason, they missed their dawn star shots, then Yes, I would expect them to try a couple of sun shots sometime in the morning, maybe one ahead of the turn and another at noon.
 

Doug Criner

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Pole Star thoughts:

Sam's article ponders how the first officer "verified" the 10:21pm position worked out by Lord. Well, that position, assuming is was really worked out, had to have been a DR position, based on the first officer's reported 7:30pm pole star shot, right? My assumption would be that the first officer's "verification" was just to check Lord's arithmetic and plots used in computing the 10:21 DR. Whether that constitutes verification to Sam, only he can answer.

But, now back to the 7:30pm Pole shot by the first officer. I wonder, along with Sam, why he didn't take a usual round of 5 or so star shots. In my ancient celestial navigation experience, the navigator would decide which stars to shoot maybe a half hour before going outside and beginning to shoot - selecting stars based on getting a good fix (along different axis) and selecting stars that would be easy to find. I find it troubling to believe that a navigator would just shoot Polaris especially since the last star shot, other than a noon sun shot, was at least 12 hours earlier.

I can't attest to the practice aboard Californian or other ships of the time, but I wouldn't expect that a navigator would cavalierly walk around: "Oh, there's Canopas, I'll shoot that; there's Polaris, why not?", etc. Even if at the time latitude was of particular interest, I would have expected a round of shots, not just Polaris. Even if the navigator is, for some reason, only interested in latitude, several star shots gives a much better fix. What if the Polaris shot is boogerd up somehow? That won't be known with just a Polaris shot, but will become obvious with a round of shots.

Sam mentions that reducing Polaris isn't a whole lot simpler than for other stars. There are a couple of fewer steps, but it still requires pencil and paper and punching the Almanac's Polaris tables

Shooting, say, five stars shouldn't take more that a few minutes. All the laborious paperwork can be done inside, after shooting, at the navigator's relative leisure. And, the navigator would have worksheets (called "gouges" in the Navy) already to go to simplify the reductions.

Disclosure: I don't have recent experience with celestial navigation. (Who does?) So, I referred to Bowdich to refresh my knowledge.
 

Jim Currie

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Hello there Doug. Welcome to the 'bridge'.

Just to clarify a point. My initial use of the word 'sights' in the following excerpt is generic.

"Normally, sights would be taken just after 9 am. However, it is more than likely that Stewart took a set of star sights some 4 hours earlier, at dawn".

It was common practice on a British merchant ship for the 2nd and 3rd officers and Apprentices (if any)to take morning sights of the sun (if visible) just after breakfast - around 9am. Among other things; at that time the Longitude would be calculated as well as the estimated time of when the sun would be due south of the ship - Noon time ship.
These calculations would be run-up to Noon when everyone, including possibly the Master, would participate in 'Noon sports' and the ship's Noon position would be calculated. For those who don't know it - this was done by measuring the exact angular height of the sun above the horizon at the exact moment it was exactly due south of the ship. and combining this knowledge with information found at time of the 9 am sights.

What everyone must remember is that all the positions calculated by DR or by actually taking sights of heavenly bodies in this story could not be accurately plotted on the chart in use but would remain on an individual's work book or 'sight book' as it was called in the MN. The scale of the chart they were using made plotting a bit of a token gesture since the pencil mark would be at least a mile wide on such a scale.

"But, now back to the 7:30pm Pole shot by the first officer. I wonder, along with Sam, why he didn't take a usual round of 5 or so star shots"

It was not necessary! It was a slow ship(11 knots) on a westerly course. The weather had been and remained fine - no beam wind or course alteration had set them off course. They had had a very good Noon position and were happy with it. They were virtually sailing along a known parallel of latitude. Most of all, they were coming into an area where ice had been reported. Spending time working out a set of star sights in a warm wheelhouse, in gathering darkness with no one but the helmsman on the bridge was not an option! Actually the second Officer had taken a sight of the sun some time between 4 and 5-30pm that afternoon and Stewarts' Polaris sight was taken about 2 hours later. In all, in the 82 miles travelled from Noon that day, the position of Californian had been checked twice. Believe me, on that particular run that was shear unadulterated luxury!
I take it you are an ancient mariner like me. If so, think back and try and remember how quickly you could work a latitude by Polaris. If you had been ding it for as long as Stewart, I would guess 5 minutes at the outside. He would by simple arithmetic, pre-calculate the LHA of Aries then apply it to the Pole Star tables to get the correction to his observed altitude. Actually it was much simpler than the calculations for star sights since there was no need for lengthy trig. calculations using logarithms.

As for making a mess of his initial Polaris sight - my best guess is that Stewart would not have wasted time in the chart room trying something else. Although he did have a number of options open to him. his prime concern at that time would be with keeping a good look out.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Hi Gents,

A few points I'd like to make:

1. Californian was NOT keeping to a line of latitude. The message to the Antillian for 6:30 PM proves that. It shows the intended course was a little south of west to make 42N in 51W. If they intended to keep the same latitude as at noon, then their DR for 6:30 would have shown that. It didn't.

2. The position given to the Virginian showed Californian 17 miles from the SOS position, not 19 to 20 as claimed by Lord at the inquiries. This 17 miles is consistent with a DR for 10:21 PM that is 3 miles south of the position they wrote in the logbook later on.

3. Stewart said he wrote up the log book for the 14th before noon on the 15th. I highly doubt that. There was too much going on searching the area and then cutting back across an icefield upon leaving the area before noon on the 15th. In the ice report sent to Olympic that Monday evening, they reported ice at the same location that was sent to Antillian the day before, not at the location that they later entered into the logbook which was keeping them to the same latitude as at noon.

I my opinion, those logbook entries were made much later on before getting to Boston. At that time the only one's who knew that Californian sighted distress signals during the middle watch were those on the Californian. The outside world had no idea yet, and I believe Capt. Lord wanted to keep it that way.

As far as morning sights are concerned, on April 14 the sun was due east a little before 7 AM. Stewart was on duty between 4 and 8. He would have had a good opportunity to get a prime vertical sight of the sun and get a good longitude line without worrying about any small latitude error in determining the altitude of the prime vertical intercept in order to find his longitude by chronometer. I would be surprised if he didn't take advantage of this.

Taking a round of star sights is certainly more precise in fixing your position. But it is very labor intensive. They did not use graphical methods back then. On large passenger vessels, with a bunch of junior officers about, you can afford to have one work up a bunch of star sights. On a relatively slow tramp steamer, I imagine it may not be necessary to be that precise. Longitude lines in the morning and evening, and a good noon position can get you across well enough.

>>Sam's article ponders how the first officer "verified" the 10:21pm position worked out by Lord.<<

Stewart was asked if he verified Lord's stopped position,

8814. Did you or not subsequently verify this position? - Yes.
8815. When did you verify it? - The next day.
8816. And did you find this position to be accurate? - Yes.

My question was just when the next day did he verify the stopped overnight position, and how did he verify it? I interpreted verification to mean taking some sights to fix your position, not just a check of the math. For example, did Stewart take another pole star sight in the AM? He made no mention of doing anything like that.
 

Jim Currie

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"In his 1959 signed affidavit,
Stanley Lord wrote, “I steered this course [North 61° West (magnetic)] to make longitude 51° West in latitude 42° North on account of ice reports which had been received.”￾

Sam, I suggest to you this was patently untrue. Possibly the result of a memory mix-up but certainly not the true reflection of the sharp minded individual Lord was when in his prime in 1912. If any error in navigation was made, and if Lord did alter course to make good a direction south of due west then this was it!

Here's the report Lord had from Barr of the Caronia on the 13th of April:

"Westbound steamers report bergs, growlers, and field ice 42º north from 40º 51', April.

Lord had this prior warning of the ice ahead of him. Although he did not have a longitude for it, the report described it was at least 69 miles wide and immediately to the south of 42N. Why on earth then would Lord alter course toward it - and incidentally, in a direction away from his intended destination? As you know, the latitude of Boston is 42 degree 20'N.

Here's a rough sketch for anyone else who's interested:
View Image
The Captain of the Mount Temple had a similar warning and headed 'way south to avoid this same ice barrier.

"Before that, Californian reported her overnight
DR coordinates to Virginian from which Capt. Gambel was able to figure out that Californian was 17 miles from Titanic’s SOS position."

When did he do that? There's no evidence of it.
In the process Verbal of Mount Temple there is only one exchange recorded between Californian and Virginian and that was the one at 6 am giving the official position of Titanic. To give the ship's possition, Evans would need an official master's message - when did he send that? He was obviously only concerned with receiving the official CQD position of Titanic!
Evans the Californian's operator was sure about the 20 miles since he stated in evidence:
"Mr. EVANS.
I can only work on that we were about 20 miles away."
This was in answer as to how he knew Frankfurt was 40 miles away.

Stewart states that Californian started moving at 5-15am.. just at the time they received the first indication that something was wrong. They obviously stopped again to get verification of the CQD. They would have been making a southerly course at that time as well.

As for writing up the Abstract (official log book) That does not take long - particularly when it was only half a day's work and the ship had been stopped for at least 5 hours. Stewart would probably do that before taking part in Noon sights. It seems that all Californian's officers participated in that exercise. At that time,he would verify the stopped position by mental arithmetic. If the ship was making a westerly course this would be simple for him - just multiply 15 by the hours steamed to get the D. Long from Noon. 10.3 x 15 = 2 degrees 35 ' west of the Noon 14th position. After all it was just a DR anyway so no need for complications - no big deal.
 

Paul Slish

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Greetings everyone. I haven't posted anything for a long time, but have been keeping up with all the posts.

As Captain Jim pointed out, when Captain Lord took over the watch from Chief Officer Stewart around 8 PM April 14th (Groves went on duty at 8 PM too, but Lord outranked him), Lord was most likely a lot more concerned about the dangers of ice than he was his exact latitude.

So the question to me is when did Lord find out about Stewart's latitude derived from Polaris?

As a former merchant navy captain, Jim, perhaps you can enlighten us who have not sailed.

Would Stewart have necessarily told Lord about the Polaris sight when Lord assumed command on the bridge? Where in the normal course of things would Stewart record the results of his Polaris shot?

Is it possible Lord didn't find out about the Polaris latitude until after Californian had reached the wreck site or a little later?

Lord did write to the Board of trade on August 10, 1912. Here is a quote from that letter.

"Dear Sir,

With reference to Lord Mersey's report on the Titanic disaster, he states Californian was 8 to 10 miles from the scene of the disaster.

I respectfully request you will allow me as Master of the Californian to give you a few facts which proves she was the distance away that I gave of 17 to 19 miles. April 14th 6.30 p.m. I sent my position to the Antillian and Titanic, this gives me 17 miles away, and you will see it was sent some hours before the disaster. April 15th about 6.30 a.m. gave my position to S.S. Virginian before I heard where the Titanic sunk, that also gave me 17 away. I understand the original Marconigrams were in court."

To me, I can't see why a man of Chief Officer Stewart's experience and diligence would not have taken some star sight or sights as it began to get dark. A ship heading about due west, it would make perfect sense to take a sight of Polaris for latitude.

The question seems to be exactly when did Captain Lord find out about the latitude derived from the Polaris sextant sight.

Norie's Tables list the latitude of Boston (Cambridge Observatory) as 42 22 48 N.
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Paul!

"So the question to me is when did Lord find out about Stewart's latitude derived from Polaris?"

That's a good question.

The answer probably lies in what went on at change of the Watch when Groves took over charge of the ship from Stewart. At that time, Stewart would have worked up an 8pm DR position for Californian from his Polaris sights. It would be in his work book and perhaps on a 'chitty' on the chart desk for Lord to see.
When handing over to Groves, he would give him the 8pm DR position, course, speed and latest compass error. The last was possibly checked earlier by a bearing amplitude of the setting sun. If there was any difference from the previous time the error was checked, Stewart would have adjusted the course accordingly. He would also draw Groves' attention to any special orders from Lord. Perhaps Groves would have seen these already in the Captains' night order book which would be in the chart room and which he would have to sign before coming on watch.
We don't know exactly when Lord came on duty but there would be no reason for Stewart to specifically mention the Polaris sight. Lord would have enough confidence in his second in command to trust him to take every opportunity to verify the ship's position. If Lord did talk to Stewart before the latter went off watch, he (Lord) would not need to ask Stewart if he got a 'good fix' - that would be patently obvious due to the prevailing conditions. It must be clearly understood that it is only a very unsure master who goes about checking up on every move made by his juniors. Lord did not come into that category. He was a first class, confidant seaman who clearly was good at his job.
However, his confidence was being rapidly eroded when he allegedly wrote this :

"I sent my position to the Antillian and Titanic, this gives me 17 miles away, and you will see it was sent some hours before the disaster."
6-30pm
When Lord gave Californian's 6-30 position to Antillian it was an hour later at 7-30 on the 14th. At 6-30pm, Titanic was probably 55 to 60 miles astern of her. In fact, at that time, Californian was close to 50 miles ENE of Titanic's CQD position.

He also goes on:

"April 15th about 6.30 a.m. gave my position to S.S. Virginian before I heard where the Titanic sunk, that also gave me 17 away."

I don't know where this transcription came from but I suggest that it was either an 'anxious' mistake by Lord himself or originally read:

'April 14th about 7-30pm. I sent my 6-30pm position to Antillian and Titanic. before I heard where the Titanic sunk.
April 15th about 6-30am gave my position to SS Virginian that also gave me 17 away.'

The only '17' involved with the position given to Antillian and Titanic is the difference in latitude between the CQD position of 41-46N and Californian's DR latitude at 6-30 pm on the 14th 42-03N - 17 minutes. Completely irrelevant!

Perhaps Lord got his 7-30pm and 6-30s mixed up? pm and am?

What we do know from the Process verbal of the Mount Temple is that Californian was in radio contact with Virginian at 6am and with Birma 25 minutes later at 6-25am. I cannot find any record of a radio conversation with Virginian around that later time.

"To me, I can't see why a man of Chief Officer Stewart's experience and diligence would not have taken some star sight or sights as it began to get dark. A ship heading about due west, it would make perfect sense to take a sight of Polaris for latitude. "

I'm not sure what you mean there Paul. However, under normal circumstances, Stewart would have taken a set of star sights but these were not normal circumstances. The ship was entering a danger area - growlers would be the problem - very hard to see in the gloom. Stewart would not want to be off the bridge for any length of time. hence, he would take the best option - a quick, reliable shot of Polaris.

The position I gave for Boston is a little offshore
to the east of the port where Lord would pick up the pilot.

To answer your question about Lord on the bridge.

The captain is always in command - on or off the bridge. He would not 'take over ' from Groves but be there as an extra set of eyes. He would let Groves run the minute by minute hours of the 8 to 12 Watch. However, Groves would be in no doubt as to who was really in charge of the ship.

When the ship came to rest after avoiding the ice, Lord would go into the Chart room and probably use the 8pm DR position worked by Stewart to determine the Dead Reckoning position of Californian when she stopped at that time.

There is always a problem when professionals are questioned by lay people. Gaps are created when lay people interpret answers given by professionals. The fault, as I see it, lies with the professionals. Too often they take people for granted and assume that lay people have a clear mind-picture of what is being described.
I do it myself all the time (Sam can vouch for that!) I describe something I have seen or done, assuming that the reader or listener can fill in those (irrelevant to me)gaps.

A classic example is the assumption by lay people that when seafarers state the ship turned at 'The Corner', their ship was physically at 42N..47W In fact, they are merely stating that they turned when they thought they had reached the target turning point.... only with GPS can we now accurately aim for that turning point and be fairly sure we got there and did not pass it.
Unfortunately too many people forget that although navigators were relatively good at mathematics, the ideal perfect mathematical solution rarely happened. The accuracy of their navigation instruments varied enormously as did the skill of those using them and the conditions under which they were used. Half a mile position accuracy was considered good. It follows that using mathematical exactitudes, while interesting, will not help to find answers but will merely turn up inaccuracies which create more questions.
 

Paul Slish

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Thanks Jim for your detailed and informative answer.

I listened to a tape recorded interview of Captain Lord by Leslie Harrison done on February 11, 1961. Lord was 83.5 years old then and he gets a few things mixed up as to sequence or persons from what occurred in 1912. But overall his mind was still pretty sharp, and at times he spoke with real conviction. This was 49 years after the disaster, and less than a year before Lord died.

Captain Lord said twice that he met Chief Officer Stewart about 8:15 p.m. as Stewart was coming off the bridge and Lord was ready to ascend. The impression I got was any conversation was brief.

Lord emphasized that he intended to stay on the bridge until Stewart returned at 4:00 a.m. the next day. Lord's task was to keep a sharp lookout for ice. He said it was the Captain's duty to be on the bridge in any "doubtful waters."

He apparently felt confident in leaving the ship in charge of Chief Officer Stewart (same age as Lord), but Lord wanted to be on the bridge in "doubtful waters" when either Stone or Groves was the OOW.

Of course now we know the Californian stopped about 10:20 p.m. and once everything was in order Lord felt comfortable enough to lie down on the couch in the chart room, but remained fully dressed.

Lord also explained the procedure for posting the course on a blackboard that the helmsman could observe, and how the officers were to verify the course was being held. He said there was no leeway that night before they stopped.

"Q88. And she was stopped then in ice?

Lord: Oh she was stopped, and it takes a few minutes to stop a ship going full speed.

Q89. And the position was given to —

Lord: The position was given. Correct position. No cooking or anything at all about it. That was - Mersey seemed to think the positions were wrong. They were not. There was no fooling or falsifying of any position at all.

Q90. And this was at ten-twenty, when you [stopped]?

Lord: Ten twenty."


"Q212. Well you fitted in better with theory. Those then are the first two points. The third one, I think as a navigator, is probably one of the key ones. You reported an iceberg in a latitude five miles to the southward of — three icebergs. You reported three icebergs which were also reported by the Parisian in approximately the same position. So you must have been up to the Norrard of those icebergs.

Lord: We were.

Q213. Now, if you plot the position of the icebergs, and the reported position of the Titanic sinking, which was accepted by the inquiry, but which you dispute; but if you take the reported [SOS] position, that is where the Mount Temple eventually found herself, and you take another position five miles to the north, which is where Lord Mersey says you where, or ten miles to the north, which is where his assessors say you were, to get to either of those positions, the five miles or the ten miles, your ship from passing the icebergs at half past five must have steered a course either ten degrees to port, or twenty degrees to port.

Lord: Yes. I didn’t, did I?

Q214. Did you ever -

Lord: No. Never.

Q215. The head of the ship was — those alterations of course were -

Lord: Oh, it’s ridiculous. There’s no question about [it]. Everything was going along, spick and span. The logbook was filled out correctly. And we — I laid the course and she made the course.

Q216. North 61 West magnetic?

Lord: Was that it?

Q217. Now, Stewart left the bridge at eight and he would hand over the course?

Lord: To the third officer.

Q218. Who would normally check it, both on the slate, and with the quartermaster?

Lord: Yes. We had, in my recollection, we had a blackboard there, with the chart course written on it for the man to [inaudible: keep?] right, so he couldn’t make any mistakes

Q219. You were on the bridge from eight until the ship stopped?

Lord: From twenty past eight.

Q220. So Groves would be keeping a somewhat keener interest in things?

Lord: You would think so. He was on watch. The left wing, port wing of the bridge, and I was on the starboard wing, and [a] little inside [inaudible: the extreme lee?] standing by the telegraph.

Q221. So the ship must have steered either North 51 West, sorry North 71 West, or North 81 West, to have made these, either of these positions which Lord Mersey

Lord: Oh, it’s perfectly ridiculous. No such thing ever happened in any ship. A course is laid, and the officer on the bridge sees that it’d steered, and the man at the wheel gets it from the man before him, and the two courses are checked by the two officers, and no question of that.
The officer even gives the course to the man who is relieving. And he checks it at once, by looking at the compass.

Q222. So to get to these two positions then, you must somehow or other have been pushed to the southward, and as you say, it is in the highest degree unlikely that the chief officer, the third officer and you yourself could have failed to detect a deviation of course of ten or twenty degrees to port?

Lord: Oh, you couldn’t make any mistake.

Q223. The only other alternative is a set [current], or leeway -

Lord: There couldn’t possibly have been. There wasn’t the wind to give us leeway. We were making a good course, steady course, everything was going along smooth and satisfactory. All I was afraid of was ice, and that’s why I was on the bridge. Told the chief officer I would stay there until he came back at - or until daylight. "
 
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>>I suggest to you this was patently untrue. <<

Jim, I suggest to you that it was true. The message received by Lord from the Caronia was the same as received by Titanic the morning of Apr 14. What was written in the American Inquiry was either a transcription error, or a misunderstanding of Lord's words, just like the error that came up when he was asked for his stopped position for 10.21. His response recorded in the transcript was: "Mr. LORD. 42, 5, and 57."
Of course what Lord was actually saying was: "Fourty-two, five, and fifty, seven" meaning 42° 05' N and 50° 07' W.
The complete message from Barr was:

"Westbound steamers report bergs, growlers and field ice in 42° N. from 49° to 51° W., 12th April. Compliments - Barr."
It dealt with ice reports received on Apr 12. The latitude given was 42N and it ran from 49W to 51W in longitude. This information was confirmed by Barr himself before the Wreck Commission.

>>"Californian reported her overnight DR coordinates to Virginian ..." When did he do that? There's no evidence of it. <<

Yes there is. First Gambel had reported that, and as I pointed out Lord himself said that in his letter to the BOT of Aug 10.

>>Evans would need an official master's message - when did he send that?<<

First, not every word or message exchanged between ships were copied in the PVs that were kept. Some operators did a better job of keeping an accurate record than others. Secondly, the request for a MSG was probably the one sent at 5:50 (4.00 NY time). It was simply recorded in the PV of Mount Temple as "M.W.L. working M.G.N."

>>I don't know where this transcription came from but ...<<

I have a photo copy of the letter written in Lord's own handwriting. (It's about as bad as mine.) Here are the exact words he wrote at the beginning of the letter as he put it down along with the punctuation he used:

The Assistant Secretary
Marine Dept
Dear Sir.

With reference to Lord Mersey's
report on the "Titanic" disaster, he states the "Calif-
ornian" was 8 to 10 miles from the scene of the disaster.
I respectfully request you will allow me as Master of the
"Californian" to give you a few facts which prove
she was the distance away that I gave viz 17 to 19 miles.
Apl 14th 6.30 pM I sent my position to the "Antillian" &
"Titanic", this gives me 17 miles away, and you will
see it was sent some hours before the disaster.
Apl 15th about 6.30 aM gave my position to S.S. "Virginian"
before I heard where the "Titanic" sunk, that also gave
me 17 ' away. I understand the original Marconigrams
were in Court.
Jim, Lord's DR for 6.30 sent to the Antillian would have been the same lat as noon if Lord intended to head due west. Here he is admitting his DR lat was NOT the same as noon lat giving some credibility to the reason he gave in 1959.

A far as that alleged Pole star sight taken by Stewart, I have serious doubts about it for reasons already given.

Hi Paul. Good to hear from you again. It's been awhile since Boston. Hope everything is going well.
 

Jim Currie

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Thank you for that Paul - tells me a great deal and confirms to me that the bridge practices they followed at that time were almost exactly the same as I did as a humble junior 40 years later. It more or less confirmed my own imagined scene of what went on that night on the Bridge of Californian at 8 pm on the 14th.April,1912. I've never heard that interview.

Sam,

As usual, I may have given you the wrong impression.

When I used the expression 'patently untrue' I did not mean that such a letter was never written. What I did mean was that the information that Lord was conveying in it was patently untrue and totally irrelevant as far as proof of position relative to Titanic's CQD was concerned.

Taking your transcript of Lord's letter:

"Apl 14th 6.30 pM I sent my position to the "Antillian" & "Titanic", "

Untrue! that position was not transmitted until 7-25pm that night and it was a DR position for 6-30pm relative to the position of the bergs to the south of him. Stewart did not work his Polaris until an hour later.
I suggest to you that either Evans sent the letter 3 in error or that the operator on Antillian read it in error.
Morse '3' is sent thus ...--. three dots followed by a 2 dashes. Five is ..... five dots.
The equipment used by Evans made a series of 'clicks'. Such signals were highly prone to misinterpretation. It was not easy to differentiate between dashes and dots. The transcripts of radio messages of the day are full of such errors. It wasn't until the musical tones were used that the likelihood of misinterpretation was greatly reduced. Indeed, operators became so good at their job, they could recognise individuals by their 'style'. Ask any old hand.

There is another more probable possibility - and you alluded to it yourself when you wrote:

'the letter written in Lord's own handwriting. (It's about as bad as mine.)'

Consider this:

View Image

Note the addition of the sign above and to the right of the last numeral indicating minutes of arc. If this was written too close to the last numeral 3 or 5 there could easily have been an error in Evans' translation.
This message was from Master to Master so Evans made an official printed copy in his own hand - the one Lord read from?

"this gives me 17 miles away, and you will
see it was sent some hours before the disaster"

Untrue! How could Californian be 17 miles away from Titanic or Titanic's CQD position at either 6-30pm or 7-30pm that night?

For this argument, it does not matter whether we discuss a 6-30pm or a 7-30pm position for Californian. It is patently wrong to link those two times and that position with a 17 mile distance between Californian and Titanic.
I suggest to you if Lord was calm and rational when he wrote that letter, he would have been perfectly aware of the fact that the position he quoted in it for Californian's at 7-25 that night was no where near Titanic's CQD - certainly not 17 miles. That's why I suggest he wrote it without thinking clearly - possibly in his anxiety to clear his name.
I would go further and suggest that this letter- except for the discrepancy in the otherwise constant latitude - is, because of it's obvious inaccuracies, of little use whatsoever in determining the course Californian was making good at that time.

"First, not every word or message exchanged between ships were copied in the PVs that were kept."

I know this Sam and Evans said so in his evidence.

Since we are using retrospective evidence - not something I'm normally inclined to do - what about this quote from Paul's last post?

"Q215. The head of the ship was — those alterations of course were -

Lord: Oh, it’s ridiculous. There’s no question about [it]. Everything was going along, spick and span. The logbook was filled out correctly. And we — I laid the course and she made the course.

Q216. North 61 West magnetic?

Lord: Was that it?

Sam, from this, it seems to me that the only corrections that would have been made to the course would have been adjustments for changes in deviation and variation as the westerly longitude increased. I understand from your previous posts that a compass error was derived from a sun sight some time around 5pm. Stewart would also check the error again some time during his watch.
Both Stewart and Lord clearly state that they were heading 'about west'. Everything except that one latitude suggests it.
Again I say: there was no reason for Lord to head south of due west. In fact there was every reason for him to head north of west.
Also; what possible reason would Stewart have in lying about his Polaris sight if he knew that Lord had given Evans an earlier position which contradicted it? We're talking 2 minutes here - hardly a 'saving' margin!

I still haven't had a plausible explanation from anyone as to why Lord would alter toward the reported ice rather than away from it?

I quote from your article Sam:

"What is interesting about that
particular value of latitude is a statement that Stanley Lord wrote in his 1959 affidavit: “At 7.30 p.m. the Chief Officer, Mr. G. F. Stewart, reported to me a latitude by Pole Star of 42° 5 ½ ’ N.”
Was it a simple oversight error in the sight reduction process that lead to the wrong conclusion as to where they stopped for the night? Unfortunately, we may never really know"

You obviously do not understand the psyche of a professional navigator. Such a suggestion is beyond understanding. You just don't forget 'dip' or the errors of your sextant or the errors you automatically apply every day of every week of every year of your working life.
Sure, the explanation you give is mathematically correct but it is not one that I or any other of my generation could even remotely recognise as a reasonable description of how a senior officer of Stewart's calibre would carry out his work.
What I do note is that Lord states that Stewart worked his latitude to half a minute of arc. That's what I would have expected.

"In all likelihood, Californian was set further southward by a strong Labrador current"

Where's the pointers to this?

Not withstanding the Caronia ; between 12 and 14th April, no less than 9 vessels reported that particular pack ice between 41-40N and to at least 42-00N. The day before, 13th., the Helig Olav encountered three large bergs near where Californian sighted them. She encountered the pack ice as far south as 40-30N before continuing west ward. SS Corsican did much the same thing.
Lord stated that the pack ice he encounterd stretched north and south as far as he could see. That was more than 24 later. 14 hours after that, he passed through the looser pack ice to the southward. Mount Temple passed 10 miles to the south of the pack ice on the evening of 14th.

My point is this:

Barr confirmed that vessels were reporting this pack ice as early as April 12. If there was a 'strong' south setting current effecting the bulk of the ice - 1 knot as you suggest - then the bulk of it would have been well south of 41N by the time Mount Temple got there and she would have to have gone even further south. Additionally, if it was 60 or 70 miles long and trending North-South, it would have been well south of where Californian came to a halt by late on the 14th.

Everyone takes this current thing for granted. 'The Labrador Current brings down ice therefore the ice ahead of Californian was brought down by the Labrador Current.'
It certainly began that way but much further north than 42N.
It is strange that if there was indeed such a strong current flowing - why wasn't there numerous reports about it from all the ship's in the area? After all, such a current would greatly effect the course of a slow cargo ship.

The truth is; current does not have as much effect on pack ice as does wind - exactly the same as with floating debris.

I leave this subject 'on ice' with the master of the Mount Temple:

"I immediately steered down to pass 50º west in 41º 15' north, sir - that is, I was giving the ice 10 miles - and I came down and saw no ice whatever."
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Paul,

Is that Harrison interview with Lord transcribed somewhere? It would be of historical interest to many, just like the later recorded interviews with Lightoller and Boxhall are.

Jim, you continue to amaze me. There was no error in reading Lord's handwriting by Evans as you seem to be suggesting. The way he makes a "3" compared to way he makes a "5" cannot be mistaken. Those individual digits appear in a number of places in this 3 1/2 page handwritten document. However his "5" can be mistaken for a "6" if he makes the "5" very small. Looking over the document, I now believe his "about 6.30 aM gave my..." may really have been "5.30 aM" when he gave his position to the SS Virginian.

The only real difficulty I found in reading the letter was when he wrote "the distance away that I gave viz 17 to 19 miles." I've seen the last words transcribed as "of 17 to 19 miles", but there were many other places where he wrote the word "of" and there is absolutely no mistaking about that. The clue was how he started writing a letter at the beginning of a word. He tended to get lazy in the middle of a word, sometimes combining two letters into one. In this particular case the "v" was clear from the stroke he used at the beginning of the word, then he combining the "i" together so that it looks like one letter instead of two separate ones. The "z" is very clear except that it was very small. The word looks like "vz" but the key to the word was the tiny dot he placed over the "z". Lord had a habit of dotting all his "i"s and crossing all his "t"s after he wrote an entire word, and then he put them well the right of where they would be expected to be. For example, the word "the" would appear as "lhe" with a small bar over the "e" at the end.

So much for handwriting analysis.

What Lord was saying in his letter about given his position to Antillian and Titanic has to be taken in context. First of all, he was referring to the time of position not time of transmission. Secondly, his "this gives me 17 miles away" was in reference to the latitude difference from the SOS latitude, 42.03'-41.46', not absolute distance. When he wrote that the position given to Virginian showed he was "17' away" he was saying that his stopped latitude was the same as when he reported his latitude to Antillian and Titanic the previous day. This confirms 42.03' was not an error in transmission or reception.

Besides the explanation about his intended course that he wrote in 1959, the 2 mile difference came up during the questioning of Stewart who agreed with Dunlop that there was a difference in what was put down in the logbook from what was sent to Antillian, and what was sent to Antillian was a DR lat. Lord also claimed his course was S 89 W true before he stopped (6710). It was NOT due west true.

The stopped DR that I derived was obtained by simply projecting the line from noon through the 6.30 DR to stopped position based on time and speed. I'm not concerned if there is a 1 mile difference between what I got and what Lord believed. The point is that his DR was 2-3 miles south of what his logbook said, and it was this DR lat that was sent to Virginian and later Monday evening to Olympic as well in an ice report. The correction for pole start sight was never included.

Whatever coordinates were given to Virginian, it told Capt. Gambel that Californian was 17 miles from the SOS coordinates according to what Gambel reported. That is independent verification as far as I'm concerned.

If Lord had a pole star sight from the night before, why would he continue to send the wrong DR the next day? Stewart said Lord gave him the stopped position, and Stewart also said that it was correct. He also said, "Not only that; I had the Pole Star at half-past ten" in answer to the stopped position latitude being being derived by DR. Interesting comment since he said he turned in about half-past 9.

If he took that sight between 7.30 and 8.00 and then worked it up after going off duty, I would think he would have given it to Lord before he turned in. But Lord obviously didn't use it to get his 10.21 DR. So it looks like the pole star sight, if taken at all, was used when the logbook was first written up, whenever that really was. At I find it strange that Lord didn't mention a pole star sight in that letter to the BOT, but only continued to talk about his DR lat sent in wireless messages to other ships.

My bottom line here, and in the article I wrote, is calling into question that alleged pole star sight and the subsequent logbook entries that allegedly kept Californian to the same latitude as she was at noon.
 

Doug Criner

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Dec 2, 2009
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"He [Stewart] also said, "Not only that; I had the Pole Star at half-past ten" in answer to the stopped position latitude being being derived by DR."

Now I'm confused. I don't have access to an almanac for that date, but I would think that by 10:30 pm, it would be too dark and the horizon too blurry for an accurate star shot. Or, did Stewart perhaps mean that he got the Pole star shot worked out at 10:30?

I guess it more likely means that he had the Pole star latitude (from, presumably 7:30pm) available when the 10:21 DR was developed.