Poingdestre and time

Dec 4, 2000
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Some things to ponder.


AM & PM & Titanic Timekeeping

If conventional wisdom is true, then Titanic sank almost a full day before it struck the iceberg. Note that the time of the sinking is given as 2:20 a.m. That time actually took place twenty-four hours earlier. As is accepted world wide, “a.m.” means “ante meridian” with reference to the noon meridian. The term derives Latin “meridies” meaning “midday.” “Ante” implies before midday (am), while “post” implies after midday.

Thus, 2:20 a.m. in unaltered April 14th time took place 24 hours before the ship foundered. After noon the suffix “p.m.” was applied. This was valid until 12:00 “midnight” when by definition p.m. ended. Any unaltered time after 12:00 o’clock midnight is “a.m.,” but of the next day which in Titanic’s case never happened.

The only solution is to use the 24-hour system which has no “a.m.” or “p.m.” This allows for a 2424 or 2447 hours time reference to be applied to an event. No, 2447 hours is not a proper expression of time, but it does allow keeping track of the extra minutes added to the day by a fast westerly passage. In Titanic it would have sorted itself out at what I call “true midnight” when 2447 April 14th would have become 0000 hours April 15th.


Definition of Midnight

Timekeeping is an arbitrary system put in place by human beings and not something writ in the heavens. As such, we all agree to certain conventions. Originally, time was based on high noon but it’s impractical to change the day/date in the middle of a workday. So, a convention of changing day/date at midnight was established. Midnight is now defined as 12 hours prior to high noon (or local apparent noon for a ship). is this horological convention which prevents moving any time from one day forward past midnight into the next day.


Clock Setback – Why & How

The IMM/White Star rule 259 was quite specific in two areas regarding changing the clocks during a westbound passage. First, that the earliest any setback could be done was 10:00 p.m. and that all changes had to be complete by 6 a.m. Note the use of “a.m.” and “p.m. Second, that clocks were to be set for noon prior to 6 a.m. This is in keeping with the definition of “midnight” being exactly 12 hours prior to noon.

On slower ships the amount of time change from day to day was often negligible. It could be accommodated in any way the crew saw fit. Buy the time of Titanic speeds in excess of 20 knots were becoming the norm for liners on the Western Ocean. Now, the day was getting nearly an hour longer (47 minutes for Titanic) which represents almost one-fourth of a standard 8 hour deck watch. That much time had to be split between the two crew Watches. In turn, this required setting back the time in two stages. The first that night was to give 24 minutes more time to the Starboard Watch while the second 23 more to the Port Watch (or vice-versa if you wish).

Crew change of watch had to take place in the middle of the 47 extra minutes. Using the 24-hour system this is easy to see:
2400 hrs + 24 min 1st setback = 2424 hrs Change of Watch
2424 hrs + 23 min 2nd setback = 2446 hrs April 14th or 0000 hrs April 15th
0000 hrs + 12 clock hours = 1200 hrs or “noon” April 15th.

Here’s where the arguments and disagreements come into play. What time would 8 bells be struck using the 24-hour system of timekeeping for April 14th? Quite obviously, they could not be sounded at 2400 as the on-duty watch still had 24 minutes to serve on deck at that moment. Changing watch at 2400 would have given all 47 minutes to the Port Watch and none to the Starboard.

The next 2400 is really 0000 hours of April 15th. If 8 bells were sounded at that moment, then the Starboard watch would have served all of the extra 47 extra minutes.

Looking at the above chronology, it’s easy to see that the only moment for sounding 8 bells and changing the watch would hve been 2424 hrs in unaltered April 14th time. This means that “midnight” on crew clocks used for changing watches would have been 2424 in April 14th hours.
2400 Crew Midnight + 24 min restored setback = 2424 unaltered April 14th hours.


Time Of Accident

Surviving crew members were virtually unanimous about the accident taking place 20 minutes before change of watch. Some phrased it differently, saying 5 minutes prior to the warning bell struck at 11:45. Both work out to be the familiar 11:40 o’clock. It’s very handy to assume that 11:40 was in unaltered April 14th time, but this is factually impossible. In the 24 hour system, 11:40 o’clock is 2340 hrs. Thats 44 minutes prior to an equitable change of watch giving equal extra time to both Watches.
Something is wrong. Simple examination at the improper 44 minutes shows that it is compresed of the very real 20 minutes between impact and change of watch. The other part is the 24 minutes of the crew clock setback prior to change of watch.
44 min - 20 min between impact and change of watch = 24 min of crew clock setback.


Making It All Fit

Please allow me to leave out any discussion of when the setback of the clocks began simply to avoid unnecessary confusion and debate. Instead, let’s begin at 7 bells as observed by surviving crew members and compare that with unaltered April 14th time. We’ll then fill in some of the events that took place until launching of he first boats. To prevent confusion, I’ll use the 24 hour system for unaltered April 14th time and the o’clock system for retarded crew time


2354 = 11:30 Seven bells sounded in forecastle
2358 = 11:34 Lookouts sound three strokes – object dead ahead
2400 = 11:36 Boxhall begins half-hourly compass evolution
2403 = 11:39 Olliver & Boxhall finish; begin walking forward
2404 = 11:40 Ship Strikes on Iceberg
2305 = 11:40 Engines stop first time (imputed from testimony)
2409 = 11:45 Wake up bell should have sounded in forecastle
2424 = 12:00 Scheduled “midnight” change of watch.
0000 = 00:00 True midnight – start of Monday, April 15th All Clocks set to be right at noon

Note that Poingdestre has not been included in this list. This is in keeping with good research which abhors presupposing something is true and then setting about to prove it. You are free to make up our own minds.

– David G. Brown
 
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Mar 22, 2003
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He said he heard the order for the boats to be loaded with women and children, about 45 minutes after collision. In the altered time it was at 12:25, but in the same time quartermaster Rowe saw a boat in the water. Someone must be wrong?
If 12:25 was altered time, then unaltered time would be about 12:48. If collision occurred 11:40 unaltered time, 45 minutes after that would be about when the order was heard by Poingdestre and others to load the boats, and 23 minutes after that is when Rowe saw the first boat in the water and called the bridge. It all fits.
 

Jim Currie

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True he wouldn't have a clue what was going on on the bridge or in the engine room but as the man said himself, he thought the engines were going astern, certainly he was aware that something out of the ordinary was happening since ships don't suddenly stop at sea without warning or reason, therefore in his own words, he took a reading and recovered the log.
Hello Rob.

Allow me to remind you and others or add to the palate of information. so that you can get a clearer picture.

Titanic had mechanical engine order telegraphs...i.e. the orders were relayed using a system of pully wires and levers between the stations in the engine room and on the bridge. Each telegraph was equipped with alarm bells which alerted the bridge or the engine room that orders were about to be communicated(Standby), were being communicated or that the Captain was "Finished with Engines".
Since the system was mechanical. the act of sending or acknowledging an order had to be very positive so as to be sure of sounding the bells. This meant operating the telegraph leaver hard-over both ways...sometimes twice before settling the pointer at the required order.
For instance, To ring STOP, the OOW would make at least 4 motions with the lever before stopping it at the required order.
In the engine room, telegraph bell would sound almost continuously and very loudly to be heard over the noise of the engines. On hearing the bell, the person in the engine room would acknowledge receipt of the order, not in the same way as the bridge with four actions. He would do so by operating the telegraph lever violently and stopping the pointer at the given order

Before applying this information to the problem under discussion, know that when ringing down an emergency STOP followed by a FULL ASTERN, on a triple expansion steam engine it was not done Hollywood-style as shown in the movies. No, it would be done as follows:

Impact: Murdoch stands between the starboard telegraphs and simultaneously rings STOP Starboard and Port engines...Double sounds of Dring-dring-dring-dring...4 seconds
ER. Acknowledges ... Double sounds of Dring-dring-dring...3 seconds. First acknowledgment by one man each at engine telegraph so may not have been heard as one sound...4 seconds
Murdoch immediately rings FULL ASTERN Port and Starboard...Again double ...Dring-dring-dring-dring...4 seconds
This is immediately acknowledged...Dring-dring-dring... this time in unison... 3 seconds.

It follows that before the duty Engineers had even time to touch the engine throttle valves, a period of as much as 18 seconds would have passed since impact.
Since Titanic was moving at 38 feet per second up to the last"dring" of the telegraphs, the iceberg would at that moment be 684 past the first point of impact at about 50 feet from the bow. This means that before the engineers even got to the throttle valves, the iceberg was about 150 from the stern and about 130 feet from QM Rowe. 3.5 seconds after that, it passed him going astern of the ship.
The duty engineers would not be standing by the throttle valves but going about their normal Watch duties. Therefore they may have been some distance away from the control platforms when the first rings were heard. The Greasers would not touch the throttles but would wait for the Duty Engineer. This means that the engines were running at FULL and would not have even started to slow down and stop until the berg was way astern.

Only when he saw visible signs of the ship slowing down, i.e. reduced vibration and heard the changing tone of the engine would QM Rowe know that the ship was slowing down. Even then, he would not know for sure that he needed to recover the Log Line.
Imagine the bollocking he would have received from the Navigators if he retrieved the Log and the ship had not stopped.
 
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Rob Lawes

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Hang on a second :scratches head and looks puzzled:

Hi Jim

A few posts back you were quoting Dillon saying the engine orders came down before impact. We also know that Barrett and Beauchamp both testified the order to shut the dampers came through before impact. The telegraphs must have been cycled before impact.

Not that it makes a huge difference, a matter of seconds, to the overall timeline but we need to get the details straight.

I'm reminded of the saying "everyone is entitled to their own opinion but no one is entitled to their own facts"
 
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Mar 18, 2008
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Poingdestre refers to the port side. The timing of his fit well with that of Hichens also on the port side. The boats on the starboard side were loaded and lowered faster than on the port side. The boat Rowe saw was a starboard boat (No. 7). I think a mistake some do is to connect the starboard and port side incidents. From the testimony of surviving crew and passengers the orders and actions were different.
 

Jim Currie

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If 12:25 was altered time, then unaltered time would be about 12:48. If collision occurred 11:40 unaltered time, 45 minutes after that would be about when the order was heard by Poingdestre and others to load the boats, and 23 minutes after that is when Rowe saw the first boat in the water and called the bridge. It all fits.
Really, Sam? Where did the extra 23 minutes come from?

3rd Officer Piman is our guage.

Pitman was on deck shortly after midnight. The boats were already being uncovered. He was off the boat deck for what could not have been much more than 10 minutes because he saw the water around the hatch cover of No.1 and immediately returned to the boat deck and helped with the covers. That had to have been sometime between 30 and 35 minutes after impact because he immediately returned to the starboard side boat deck and assisted in finishing the after boats on that side. He finally had the help of 5 or 6 men to get No. 5 ready. which means most of the other boats on that deck were ready. No 5 was out in a few minutes and ready to load. Ismay also assisted at boats 5 and 7. He was on deck running about like a collie dog herding sheep...trying to get everyone to launch boats. Pitman's boat 5 was the second to go on that side, but 7 must have gone in the time it took Pitman to walk to the bridge get permission to launch and return.. A period of some minutes, but most certainly not 23 minutes.
Your idea and that of those likeminded, seems to be that the boats were all ready to go no more than 45 minutes after impact, but that they all sat around twiddling thumbs for another 23 minutes before the first boat went. OK! let's look at what you are punting;

We'll use the common denominator of unaltered time to make comparisons.

First the time of impact.
Impact took place at 11-40 pm unaltered April 14 time, or it took place 24 minutes later at the unaltered time of 00-03 am, April 14 time.
Do you agree? If so, let's continue to work in unaltered time

Time of impact (unaltered) 11-40 pm.
Time Poindestre leaves BD 45 minutes after impact.
Poingdstre time-Unaltered 00-25 am

Or:

Time of Impact (unaltered) 00-03 am.
Time Poindestre leaves BD 45 minutes after impact.
Poingdestre time unaltered 00-48 am.

Poindestre's time fits with the unaltered time of 00-48 am only if impact took place at the unaltered time of 00-03 am, not 11-40 pm.
However, you and others claim it took place 23 minutes earlier than 00-03 am unaltered time - at 11-40 pm.unaltered time. So for AB Poingdestre time to fit perfectly with your time, he would have had to leave the boat deck 23+45 = 1 hour 8 minutes after impact.

The truth looks more like this:

Poindestre- altered time....00-25 am
QM Rowe altered time .......00-25 am.

AB Poindestre time certainly does fit. it fits perfectly the partly altered time of QM Rowe.
 

Thomas C.

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By the way, the 6 lookout were not part of either the so called Port or Starboard watches. They had their own watch schedule which followed a sequence of 2 hours on followed by 4 hours off, that was same every day, and did not change.
If this watch did not change, why Fleet added to his watch 20 minutes?
 
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Mike Spooner

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Hichens went with the clock in the wheelhouse which was behind him on the wall.
Hi Loannis,
With the clock behind him I am thinking if Hichens hands are full the ship wheel, when would he have time to look at a clock behind him? Was there any one else who saw the clock too? Just thinking is prepares why in the book ON A SEA OF GLASS are questing the precise time of contact with the iceberg. The book goes on to say, Yet the large majority of survivor evidence points to the collision occurred about 11.40 p.m. Was the Marconi wireless clock set to the ship master clock or on shore time?
Mike.
 

Jim Currie

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Hang on a second :scratches head and looks puzzled:

Hi Jim

A few posts back you were quoting Dillon saying the engine orders came down before impact. We also know that Barrett and Beauchamp both testified the order to shut the dampers came through before impact. The telegraphs must have been cycled before impact.

Not that it makes a huge difference, a matter of seconds, to the overall timeline but we need to get the details straight.

I'm reminded of the saying "everyone is entitled to their own opinion but no one is entitled to their own facts"
Fine by me, Rob, but do you agree that QM Rowe could not have had any idea as to what was happening with the engines at the moment the iceberg passed his location and he went to read the Patent Log? That was the point of my post.
QM Rowe was due to read the patent Log exactly 2 hours after 10 pm that evening. That would be Midnight, April 14th, just at the moment the first clock adjustment was to be made. It would also be midnight on the clock of anyone with unaltered time.
Sam likes to use passenger evidence. 1st Class passenger Colonel Gracie recorded the time of impact as 12 midnight.

None of these facts are mine. You can find them in the sworn evidence.
 
A

Aaron_2016

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Correct! Ioannis. However, the hour hand shows that it stopped sometime before 2 o' clock. From Annie Robinson, we know that the watch of anyone who went into the water with a fully retarded timepiece would have stopped near to 1-40 pm.

I noticed a pattern in the recovered pocket watches. Most of them from the crew. Some stopped around 1.30 - 1.45am mark.



Code:
41974




Other's stopped rather oddly around the 10.45 - 11pm mark.




Code:
41975




While the general rest from the passengers stopped around the 2.20 - 2.35 mark. (depending if they were on the bow or stern).


Code:
41976




Is there an explanation for the stopping variance in the pocket watches?


I noticed the watch found on the body of Mail Clerk John Starr March indicated that his watch stopped at 1.27am. Could this mean he was below decks and trying to move the mail bags out of the water which caused his watch to stop, or was it set like the other watches which indicated the ship sank around 1.25 - 1.50am?


Code:
41978



.
 
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Mar 22, 2003
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Is there a explanation for the stopping variance in the pocket watches?
Yes, most recovered watches had a spread of time close to 2:20, some were as you pointed out, showing times from about 1:30 to 1:45. Annie Robinson said her watch was carrying altered time. When she looked at her watch when Titanic sank it showed around 1:40. These were all simple mechanical timepieces, and many people were happy to tell time to the nearest 5 minute mark. A few were more precise and wanted to know to the nearest minute, but time was only as accurate on how closely a timepiece was set in the first place, and how well your timepiece actually kept time. So a spread of times is something to be expected, easily plus or minus 5 or more minutes from an observed event. In the case of a watch stopping, there is also the question of how long after being immersed in the cold water would it take to actually stop working.

Here is list of recovered pocket-watch times, in ascending order, that I compiled some time ago:

Code:
41977

What comes out of this is a clustering of times (2:16-2:28) around 2:20, the time that 3/O Pitman saw on his watch when the ship sank, and mentioned to those around him in boat #5. He also said his watch had not been altered since Saturday night, and was keeping unadjusted time for April 14th.
Then you have those three earlier times 1:27-1:45 which suggest these were altered times, watches that were put back for the next day before those people retired, like Annie Robinson did. The alteration for Sunday night was posted as 47 minutes, and you can easily expect that some would have put their watches back anywhere from 45 to 50 minutes. If we accept 2:20 as the foundering time, then 47 minutes back from that time would yield an altered time of 1:33. (2:20 - 0:47= 1:33). So here we have some simple explanations for the two clustering of times shown,
What doesn't seem to fit are the 3:07 and 3:21 times from the last two victims. In the case of Robert Norman, it might be as simple as his watch was still carrying time for April 13, and he never bothered to set it back the previous night. Or, he put his watch ahead by mistake instead of putting it back. Either one could explain 3:07. (2:20 + 0:47 = 3:07).
John Gill's watch showed 3:21, suggesting that his watch was an hour off and that he wasn't too careful when he last set his timepiece to ship's time.
 
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Mike Spooner

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A very good photos of the found watches. The time up to 2.19 makes a strong case for California not reaching the Titanic in time!
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Poindestre- altered time....00-25 am
QM Rowe altered time .......00-25 am.
Poingdestre: 'Captain pass the remark, “Start putting the women and children in the boats,”'
Rowe: 'I remained until 25 minutes after 12, when I saw a boat on the starboard beam...I telephoned to the fore bridge to know if they knew there was a boat lowered. They replied, asking me if I was the third officer. I replied, "No; I am the quartermaster." They told me to bring over detonators, which are used in firing distress signals.'

Now how can there be a boat in the water off the starboard beam several yards away from the ship's side if at the very same time the order was first given to start putting people into them? Amazing!!!!:rolleyes:
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Fleet did not add anything. First he was asked when he first reported seeing the iceberg, and his reply was, "Just after seven bells." Previously, he said he went on watch at 10pm. When asked how long he had been in the nest before reporting the iceberg, he said that his watch was nearly over which didn't satisfy Sen Smith who then asked, "How long a watch did you have?" Fleet's answer was, "Two hours; but the time was going to be put back - that watch." Then he was asked, "The time was to be set back?," to which he replied, "Yes, sir." He was then ashed, "Did that alter your time?" to which he replied, "We were to get about 2 hours and 20 minutes," not that he got 2 hours and 20 minutes. Notice that he said time "was going to be put back," not that they were put back, and he said that they "were to get" about 2 hours and 20 minutes in the nest, not that they spent 2 hours and 20 minutes in the nest.

There was no clock in the nest and the lookouts did not carry watches. They could tell time from ship's bells, which were struck every 1/2 hour, and they were required (IMM rule 254) to answer back those bells from the nest, day and night, and report the lights burning brightly. Despite Fleet telling Senator Smith later that they generally never strike bells in the nest every half hour because they "generally miss it," it was an attempt by Fleet not to be pinned down as to the time he first sighted the iceberg,which he previous said was "Just after seven bells," and how long after that did the ship strike the berg. Fleet was very evasive and defensive, both at the US hearings and later at the British investigation. If they really did not answer bells and report the status of the ship's running lights, you can be assured that someone would have called them up, or even gone aloft to the nest, to find out what was going on there.

What is also interesting about the time that Fleet and Lee were relieved by Evans and Hogg, is that neither Fleet nor Lee said anything about reporting to the OOW on the bridge and giving the names of the men who replaced them after coming down from the nest. That was part of the same requirement. It should be obvious that things were not normal anymore on Titanic after the ship struck.
 
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Mar 22, 2003
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If conventional wisdom is true, then Titanic sank almost a full day before it struck the iceberg. Note that the time of the sinking is given as 2:20 a.m.
The time of the sinking was given as 2:20am April 15th , ship's time. No ambiguity about that David.

Midnight is now defined as 12 hours prior to high noon (or local apparent noon for a ship). is this horological convention which prevents moving any time from one day forward past midnight into the next day.
You keep saying that, but where are you getting your information from? For a stationary place on the surface of the earth midnight is indeed 12 hour before noon, and noon is usually 12:00 mean time for the location that you are at. For a vessel at sea, keeping apparent time, time has to added between LAN one day and LAN the next if it going westward. On IMM vessels, that extra time can be added between 10pm the one day and up to 6am the next day. It doesn't all have to be put into the same day, and it doesn't all have to be done in one step, although it could. In fact, we have seen written logbook documents where half the extra time was put into the last hour of one day, and the other half of the extra time was put into the first hour of the next day.
 

Rob Lawes

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Rob, but do you agree that QM Rowe could not have had any idea as to what was happening with the engines at the moment the iceberg passed his location and he went to read the Patent Log?
Yes, with a but.

I always remain sceptical about estimated time. When a man says after a minute that's an estimation. Take a stop watch, close your eyes, press start and then stop when you think you've guessed a minute and then note the difference. That's when you are trying to judge a minute. The time error would be far greater when recalling a momentous chain of events. Rowe's testimony is quite clear in my mind and leaves little wriggle room for doubt. There was a change in engine status, he went to the log, took a reading and recovered it. I can't link this to taking a reading as part of the routine report.

This is before we get into the which midnight is which problem. We've discussed before that certain actions would take place at the crew change midnight. In this instance we are using the first midnight as 2 hours after 10pm for the log reading. So I assume the next log reading, in the normal course of events, would not have been sent to the bridge until 02:47 in unaltered time ?? Why wouldn't the log reading have been sent to the bridge at the watch change ?? I.E. new QM takes over, takes the log reading and phones the bridge to report that he has assumed his duties and that the log reading is currently XXX. That would make more sense.

They replied, asking me if I was the third officer. I replied, "No; I am the quartermaster." They told me to bring over detonators, which are used in firing distress signals.'
Interestingly, I wonder why they asked Rowe if he was the third officer? Pitman would have been expected to have been on watch at this time and yet at the time of Rowe's call Pitman would have been in the vicinity of boat 5 on the starboard boat deck. Pitman claims Ismay told him to start loading boat 5 and that he (Pitman) told Ismay he was awaiting the commanders orders. Pitman then went to the bridge and asked Captain Smith if he should get the boat away. I wonder why he would have felt the need to have that conversation with Captain Smith if boat 7 was already being lowered and launched prior to boat 5? Did Pitman visit the bridge before boat 7 was launched and in which case, why, and who on the bridge would ask if the third officer was on the aft bridge ??
 
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