Navigational Inconsistencies of the SS Californian

Jim Currie

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Doug,

Navigators always work in terms of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) All times for celestial navigation are derived from the ship's chronometer which always shows GMT.
Californian was 1 hour 50 minutes ahead of New York Time which was 5 hours behind GMT. It follows that when Californian time was 1 hour 50 minutes ahead of New York time, the time on the ship was 3 hours 10 minutes behind GMT. This means that when Stewart took his sight of Polaris at 10-30 pm (GMT), the time on the ship's clocks when Stewart took the Polaris sight was 7-20pm. (10-30 minus 3 hours 10 minutes).
If Stewart or any other navigator was asked about work they had done in the past, they would refer to their personal work or sight book. The times of calculations in such a journal would be in GMT and would need to be converted to ship's time if that was required.
If indeed, Stewart was quoting the exact value of GMT for the sight then the latitude derived from that sight was not for 7-30pm but for 10 minutes earlier i.e. 7-20pm. While not effecting the latitude, it would certainly effect the longitude.
 

Jim Currie

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Sam,

you wrote:

"Jim, you continue to amaze me."

I know, it's sometime embarrassing to be so imaginative but there you are, I can't help it - 'lucky me'.

You also wrote:

"Those individual digits appear in a number of places in this 3 1/2 page handwritten document."

I don't doubt that they do but that document was written for an entirely different reason and in entirely different surroundings. It was not in the form of a quick scribble written down on a bit of scrap paper. Any way it was you who inferred that Lord's writing - even when writing a report to be read by officials - was lacking in clarity.

As for what Lord meant to convey by quoting that particular latitude. I'm sure you're right he was trying to suggest that the DR latitude was the clue to how far away he was but when you are making your interpretation, make sure you also ask the question - 'why did Lord mention 2 distances? i.e. 17 to 19 miles? If, as you claim,he was referring specifically to a latitude of 42-03N then surely, since he wished no misunderstanding, he would have given just one figure for the distance - 17 miles.

As for this distance:

At 2:15am New York time on the 15th. Virginian was in touch with the Russian Vessel Birma. At that time, Birma said she was 55 miles from the CQD position and heading for it. Birma reported that she was making 14 knots which means she would have been 22 miles from Titanic's CQD 2 hours and 22 minutes later at 4-37 New York time. At that time (6-27 Californian time) Birma reported that she was in contact with Californian who had told him she (Californian) was 15 miles from Titanic's CQD. At that time, according to Captain Lord, Californian was just clearing the west side of the ice field after having been underway for almost half an hour. If Californian covered 4 miles in that time, then she was stopped 19 miles away from the CQD when he eventually got underway.
You will note, his time of communication worked out by me from the PV of Birma and a Virginian report in the press coincides very closely with the PV of the wireless operator of Mount Temple.
Before you say it - no, there was no mistake in the numbers due to a misreading of the english into Russian

As for Captain Gambell's report of 17 miles - this was given some time after the event and not during the hearings. Plenty time to help ut an 'old friend'?
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>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.<<

That is also my take Doug after reading it in the context of the question being asked. They were talking about the stopped position for 10:30 and Stewart was saying that they had the pole star sight available by then.

>>why did Lord mention 2 distances? i.e. 17 to 19 miles? <<

Because when he testified he said 19 miles based on the logbook entry. But the wireless messages showed 17, so he gave that range.

>>If Californian covered 4 miles in that time, then she was stopped 19 miles away from the CQD when he eventually got underway. <<

Assumption on your part that she covered 4 miles from 6.00 to 6.30. Capt. Lord testified that he had to cut through 2 to 3 miles of ice before reaching open water. This means he was making about 6 knots going across. Anyway, the 15 mile distance is consistent with being 17 away when they started out. See att.
206718.gif
 

Jim Currie

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Sam,

Lord said he was attempting to make S16W as near as he could:

"Mr. LORD.
From the position we stopped in to the position at which the Titanic is supposed to have hit the iceberg, 19 1/2 to 19 3/4 miles; south 16 west, sir, was the course."

and:

"7007. (The Attorney-General.) That is very much the course that he would take to go from the spot that he has indicated just below the "J" to the spot of the figure "4" in the soundings which marks where the "Titanic" sank. (To the Witness.) The course that you were making was S. 20° W., was it not?
- No, I was endeavouring to make S. 16° W., as near as possible."

He was not trying to head directly through the thick stuff Sam and clearly says so.

If you carefully read through Lord's evidence, he consistently uses the distance '19 miles'

N16 E for 15 miles from the CQD puts Californian in 42-00N, 50-09W. At the western edge of the ice field. When he cleared the ice on the westward side, he saw Mt. Temple to the south of him near the CQD position. Mt. Temple was on 50-09.5'W. and saw Californian to the north. Can't be any plainer I would think!

As for the interpretation of what Stewart Said:

"8706. (The Solicitor-General.) What I want to know is, how they arrived at the latitude which is put down, I presume, by dead reckoning at 10.20. I am right; it would be by dead reckoning you would get it?
- Not only that; I had the Pole Star at half-past ten."

He say 'Half Past ten' when he 'had' the Pole star. He was talking about GMT Sam. We all did.
You advised me to take things in context I would advise you to do the same.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>If you carefully read through Lord's evidence, he consistently uses the distance '19 miles' <<

Of course, that's exactly what he wanted everyone to believe. He was claiming he stopped at 42-05'N, the same latitude that he was at 18 hours earlier.

But,

7379. Were you able to proceed to the position indicated by the “Virginian”￾ on a direct course? - No.
7380. What prevented you from doing that? - The ice.

7388. I think you had to cut through first of all 3 miles of field ice? - Two or three miles.
Mr. Dunlop: That is between 6 and 6.30. Does your lordship see the three miles of field ice?

Note, south 16 west, the course he said he "was endeavouring to make...as near as possible," was the direct line-of-sight route from his alleged stopped position to the SOS position. The direct distance was 19 1/2 miles. But between 6 and 6:30 he couldn't take that direct route because he first had to cut across 2 to 3 miles of ice. He could not have gone from 42-05N, 50-07W to 42-00N, 50-09W in that time. To do so meant he had to travel over 5 miles from 6 to 6:30 which he said he did not do. In fact when Dunlop suggested 3 miles Lord corrected him and said "two or three miles." In 1/2 an hour, that results in an average speed from 4 to 6 knots, not 10 knots if he was to get to where you say he did.

So if he really started at 42-05N, 50-07W he could NOT have been 15 miles from the SOS when he sent that message to the Birma. This tells me his starting point as far as he knew it on Monday morning was not what he later claimed it to be.

It doesn't get more clearer than that.
 

Paul Slish

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A. M. Foweraker wrote in defense of Captain Lord. It is interesting to note that Foweraker in his sketch of the ice field shows about three miles of southern drift for the Californian from 10:21 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. If you measure the course in his chart from Californian's starting point at 6:00 a.m. to the Titanic SOS position (41.46 N, 50.14 W) it comes out to 17 miles.

Where did Foweraker get his information for his ice field chart? He obtained it from Captain Lord!

So Captain Lord was allowing for the possibility of some current. But Captain Lord did not know exactly how far he had been set by the current so he wrote in August 1912 that he was 17 to 19 miles off from the SOS position.

His log book position for 10:21 p.m. on April 14, 1912 was based upon DR for longitude from a 5:30 p.m. sun sight by Stone, and Stewart's Polaris sight at about 7:30 p.m. for latitude, 42.05 N, 50.07 W.

So the 17 to 19 mile distance does not in any way prove the logbook was written up much later. When Stewart likely wrote it up just before noon on April 15th he used the 7:30 p.m. Polaris derived latitude in favor of the 6:30 p.m. DR latitude (42.03 N) sent out in the wireless message. As Stewart clearly stated in his evidence, he thought the Pole Star was more accurate for latitude. That makes perfect sense to me.

So this 17 to 19 miles distance to the SOS is likely allowing for the possibility of being set by the current.

I see no mystery here. I see nothing nefarious here.

Sam. 17 to 19 miles is certainly not in agreement with your 12 mile hypothesis.
 

Jim Currie

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Gentlemen,

the expression 'wood for trees'comes to mind.

to summarise:

1. There was no south setting current that night. There is no actual evidence of such a current. The only suggestion of current was from Moor of Mt.Temple when he mentioned the Gulf Stream setting eastward, not south.

Mr. Dunlop merely emphasises the width of the ice
and Lord acknowledges it.
A bit of 'straw-grasping' here Sam? Context again?

Think carefully:

Lord said that when they were stopped, they were surrounded by loose ice.
The position he was aiming for was well to the south - more south than west.
Speed was of the essence to get there as fast as possible. To immediately head into the unknown - i.e. to head straight for the thickest ice (which might be so thick as to prevent passage) at the earliest moment in the rescue attempt might nullify any rescue attempt at the outset. Remember; at that time, Lord thought Titanic was still afloat!

Sam, Lord describes turning over fairly thick ice from 6 am onward. A very slow moving ship does not do that - only one that rides over and pushes away the ice when moving at a fair speed not 3.7 feet/sec. Like any sensible man, he would steer his ship (with the help of the man in the coal basket at the truck)through and between the lanes of loose ice in the general direction he wished to go as long as he could - hoping that he would not encounter particularly heavy ice that might bring his rescue attempt to a halt. You have to try and imagine what Lord was looking at. It was not a solid raft of ice but many small pieces gathered together with the winds that had been blowing earlier. There would be patches of lighter areas and more dense areas. The most dense, closely packed thick ice seems to have been about 2 miles wide. He would try for lightest ones nearest his intended course - the line of least resistance - one which would afford the least delay in getting to the CQD position. He would most certainly not head directly for the thick stuff.
This being so, he would work up a fair speed through the thin stuff - 6 to 8 knots? In fact close to 4 miles in half an hour.. certainly not 2 miles.
I reiterate:
7005. What course did you make?
- I made from 6 until half-past anything between S. and S.W. I was pushing through field ice.
Note the direction changes which would be frequent but not abrupt since the vessel was moving at less than half her full speed

Examine Groves' evidence. He and Gibson were called at 6-40am or thereabouts - 10 minutes after Californian was clear of the heavier ice and heading down for the CQD area. Californian would then be about 12 miles from the CQD position. This fits exactly with her passing Mt. Temple just under an hour later. It also fits with Birma's evidence.

As I pointed out to you; 15 miles across relatively clear water in the reverse direction of N16E from the CQD position brings Californian to a latitude of 42-00.5N in longitude 50-09W. If there had been a 1 knot south setting current that night as you claim and Californian had been at 42-03N when she stopped, she would be at would be at 41-59' N at 6 pm the next morning - possibly even further south if she had moved in that direction at 5-15 when she first went ahead. This would mean that Californian would have needed to go in a nw'ly direction through the ice then head down the 15 miles to the CQD. That's of course if you believe Birma's PV!

But may be it was Evans' fault?
 

Paul Slish

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One thing I want to bring out that perhaps readers and posters here don't know.

The 1959 affidavit of Captain Lord was not written by Stanley Lord, but by Leslie Harrison. Captain Lord was not up to writing something this detailed at his age and with failing eyesight. Leslie Harrison took all of Captain Lord's contemporary 1912 documents and wrote up the affidavit from that. He interacted with Captain Lord during this time, and Captain Lord gave his approval to the final document and then signed it.

This is all explained in Leslie Harrison's book, "A Titanic Myth."

There is much useful material in this affidavit, but it is 47 years after the Titanic sinking, and thus I think it is unrealistic to expect every detail and sequence to be perfectly accurate.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>Mr. Dunlop merely emphasises the width of the ice and Lord acknowledges it. <<

Lord acknowledged that between 6 and 6:30, the half hour in question, he pushed through 2-3 miles of pack ice. You say he didn't. OK, I guess we all will take your word for it. You know better.

>>There was no south setting current that night. There is no actual evidence of such a current. <<

That has been your claim. Yet Californian left the wreckage in 41-33N 50-01W, included in that wreckage was an overturned waterlogged collapsible lifeboat, more than 10 miles south of where the wreck site is. You need not bother responding. I know, you claim it was the wind that sprang up at 4 am, a wind that wasn't even strong enough to cause breaking wavelets on the sea, that pushed it that far south.

>>Sam. 17 to 19 miles is certainly not in agreement with your 12 mile hypothesis.<<

Paul, for me the real proof that Californian was nowhere near where Lord said he was, or for that matter where I believe he thought he was, was the line of bearing to the rockets, a bearing stated in evidence independently by two watch officers and supported by the apprentice and acknowledged by Lord himself. Now that we know where Titanic really sank, Lord's stopped position is untenable except by those who care to discount that evidence because of what it disproves.
 

Jim Currie

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"OK, I guess we all will take your word for it. You know better"

I've been trying to tell you that all along Sam
(lol)

OK, forget about the wind and all the SAR research that has been done on the subject since 1912 and the fact that there is evidence that some of the boats had to heave to bow to wind and sea to stop 'slopping'. In this case, 'you know better'. Let's go back to your own evidence and the scale chart you provided in your post 2937.

If the ice was moving south at the rate of say 1 knot, and if your sketched position is reasonably accurate then the western and eastern edges of the ice would be at the parallel of
42 55.4'N. as would Californian. Her longitude would remain much the same - 50-07W. Her new position at 6 PM - without moving her engines since the night before, would be 11 miles x 029T from the CQD and she would still be on the eastern side of the ice. That makes a complete nonsense of the Birma 15 miles off at 06-30am message.

On the other hand, still using your sketch and the same south setting current:
For your bearing NW theory to be correct and for Californian to be on the same side of the ice as Titanic, Californian had to be no more than 8 or 9 miles away.

Otherwise, if the ice was 3 miles wide then for her to be on that bearing, she would need to be at least 13 miles away and on the far side of the ice.

Perhaps the position of the ice might not be correct as shown and the edge was much further to the west. But we do know from Mt. Temple that the western edge in the approximate latitude of the CQD was no further west that about 50-08'W. If it was as Moor said 3 to 5 miles wide at that point then the eastern edge in the vicinity of the latitude of the wreck site was at about longitude 50-04'W - 4.5 miles west of the wreck site.
Since the alleged current was south then that edge would maintain it's distance west of the 50th meridian as the pack moved south.

Current or no current, we have a clear picture of the shape of that eastern edge between 6-am on the 14th and 4 am on the 15th of April from

Trautenfels:
April 14, 5:40 A.M., latitude 42° 01' N., longitude 50° 06' W.,encountered heavy pack ice.

Californian :
April 14, 10:20 P.M., latitude 42.05 N., longitude 50.07 W., encountered heavy packed field ice,

These first two encountered it 14 hours apart so it does not seem to have been moving east or west. However, the difference in longitude suggests the NNW trending nature of the eastern edge.
The position of the western edge in the vicinity of the CQD at 6 am on the 15th can reasonably be ascertained from Mt. Temple's calculated longitude and her position relative to the ice.

To summarise;

Californian could not have been more than 8 or 9 miles away from Titanic when she hit the berg if the position line between the two vessel was 315T-135T (NW-SE) as suggested by the evidence of the Californian's officers. No amount of twisting or selective interpretation of evidence can change this.

However, the fact that Californian reported pack ice in that specific longitude separately, and without prior knowledge, of the Trautenfels' ice report of the same nature points to her having been at that longitude at the time she claims she was.

Incidentally Sam, 12 miles NW of the wreck site at midnight on the 14th., would, on your sketch, place Californian on the eastern edge of the ice.

You still ignore the fact that ship reports giving position of the ice well before the 15th. show that the ice was in more or less the same place for about 3 days.


There is a report on the 15th that suggests the ice was actually moving westward.

"Office Apr. 15 from S. S. Pisa via Halifax.]

In latitude 42° 6' north and longitude 49° 43' west met with extensive field ice, and sighted seven bergs of considerable sizes on both sides of track."
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>and the fact that there is evidence that some of the boats had to heave to bow to wind and sea to stop 'slopping'.<<

Why don't we forget about the photos taken from Carpathia of the lifeboats coming down to her in the morning that show the true nature of the sea state and the force of wind (no more than 4 to 6 knots).

The eastern edge of the icefield in the vicinity of the wreck was trending from NW to SE. Don't take my word for it, that came from Rostron. He was there. The western edge was trending more NNW to SSE. The field was about 5-6 miles across where Carparthia was (Moore). It was about 2-3 miles across where Californian was (Lord).

The bearing to the stopped steamer seen from Californian was SSE by standard compass at 12:10 according the 3/O and confirmed by the 2/O when took over the watch on deck. We were told that the total compass correction was 22 deg W after correcting for variation and deviation. The rockets seen about 35 minutes later came from directly over the observed stopped steamer on the same bearing. We know Titanic and Californian did not move. We know exactly where Titanic sank which establishes a hard fix. No DR involved here at all. Unless you can prove that their bearing was in error by 26 degrees, or that they saw rockets from some ship other than Titanic, Californian had to be somewhere on that line of bearing at the time Titanic foundered. You pick the distance.
 

Jim Currie

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Have to give you 10 out of 10 for persistence Sam.

Let's examine what you are suggesting. First:

"Why don't we forget about the photos taken from Carpathia of the lifeboats coming down to her in the morning that show the true nature of the sea state and the force of wind (no more than 4 to 6 knots)."

Not necessarily. A picture of the sea is interesting but irrelevant unless you know the force of the wind at the time and how long it had been blowing up to that time at that force.
Except in squalls - after a prolonged period of calm weather, the wind usually begins as a 'light air' then builds up and the source direction can then be easily determined. In the meantime, although the wind might pick up to let's say force 4; the sea state for that force will not be reached immediately but may take quite a time before it does so. The two main factors are 'fetch' and time. This from Museum of Science and Industry site:

"A wind of a given Beaufort force will, therefore,produce a characteristic appearance of the sea surface provided that it has been blowing for a sufficient length of
time, and over a sufficiently long fetch."

Note the 'given Beaufort force has to have been blowing at that strength for 'a sufficient length of time,' I assume the picture you refer to is this one:
View Image

I also presume you refer to this picture which is of a regular boat towing a collapsible one - Lowe standing?
If so, you will note that slightly to the right and above Lowe's left shoulder, a wave is clearly seen. There are several others in the scene. That particular wave seems to me to be about a foot to 18 inches high. Additionally, if the wind was from the north then Lowe is approaching from the south. The shape of the wave suggests this to me.

Here's what Rostron wrote:

"We stopped at 4 A.M., thus doing distance in three hours and a half, picking up the first boat at 4.10 A.M.; boat in charge of an officer and he reported to me that Titanic had foundered. At 8.30 A.M. last boat picked up. All survivors aboard and all boats accounted for, viz fifteen lifeboats alongside, one lifeboat abandoned, two Berthon boats alongside (saw one bottom upward among wreckage) and according to second officer not been launched, it having got jammed, making sixteen lifeboats and four Berthon boats accounted for.
Note that the upturned boat was not alongside Carpathia but at some other location. It must have been to the north of where Lowe met Carpathia since he sailed down to her.

As far as Rostron's take on the sea condition:

"Mr. ROSTRON.
" The wind and sea were then beginning to get up. There was a moderate breeze blowing then, and a little slop of the sea."
Beaufort gives a 'Moderate Breeze' as Force 4 - 11 to 16 knots (13 to 18 mph)
'Good working breeze' and 'small waves becoming longer. Fairly frequent white horse'. In the picture, any white horses would be hidden by the wave crests.
Now this ice thing!

" By the time we had cleared first boat it was breaking day, and we could distinguish the other boats all within an area of four miles. We also saw that we were surrounded by icebergs, large and small, and three miles to the N.W. of us a huge field of drift ice with large and small bergs in it, the ice field trending from N.W. round by W. and S. to S.E., as far as we could see either way."

You wrote:

"The eastern edge of the icefield in the vicinity of the wreck was trending from NW to SE. Don't take my word for it, that came from Rostron. He was there. The western edge was trending more NNW to SSE. The field was about 5-6 miles across where Carparthia was (Moore). It was about 2-3 miles across where Californian was (Lord)."

If Moore was in 50-09.5'W at 6 Am on the 15th and the ice was 6 miles wide where he was, then the easter edge was at approximately 50-01.5'W If Rostron was 3 miles east of that edge then Carpathia was at 49-57.5'W at the same time.. close to the longitude of where Titanic went down.
If as you say, there was a current setting them south, then that would be expected. However, if the eastern edge of the ice was drifting south under this same current then, by this same process, the ice would have been NW of Titanic which means any ship NW of her would be in it.

I can't understand what you are claiming here.

Is it that the pack ice had a kink in it? i.e. that the east edge was running NW while the west side was running NNW? Or; did the west side run NNW all the way north to south and the east side run NW and join the west side to the north ward?
Either way, I cannot se anyone standing on the bridge of a ship 45 feet above sea level in perfect conditions of visibilty, getting the impression that a raft of ice such as is being described stopped abruptly to the NW. Absolutely not! The impression would be of the northern edge disappearing to the NNW.

You wrote:

"Yet Californian left the wreckage in 41-33N 50-01W, included in that wreckage was an overturned waterlogged collapsible lifeboat, more than 10 miles south of where the wreck site is."

Now it's your turn Sam to 'never cease to amaze!'

Your article was all about inconsistencies in Californian's navigation yet you accept this without question - why?
In any case Rostron mentioned the upturned boat among the wreckage but do not state exactly where that wreckage was - certainly not 10 miles to the south. In any case it had to be north of where Lowe was picked up since he sailed down there.

As for the bearings you quoted - your own example of where the ice was, clearly points out that such a bearing could not have been the case with or without wind or current.
Is this what you suggest the shape was?
View Image
 

Keith H

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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.
I wonder about the Californians engine room log book , as this would contain information on when engines were started on the next morning of the disaster and how long run for and what speed along with when stopped as she reached the Titanic's sinking position from which could be worked out how far away from the Titanic she was , don't know of any reference to this so has any one else heard of any enquiry into this ?.,