Questions about Fleet and Lee

May 3, 2005
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In reference to to the testimony of eiither Fleet or Lee, one of them says .
"I have no idea of distances ."
This seems rather odd for a trained lookout to say this ?
Or did he just lie to save face or could this really be true of lookouts in 1912 ?

The reason I am asking is that I came across some information about lookouts in the U.S. Navy and a training manual for lookouts.
It was said that most lookouts were very good in estimating distances by knowing the distance to the horizon using a simple equation for estimating the distance according to the height above sea level, such as in a crow's nest. The crow's nest would be higher than the bridge , so naturally the man in the crow's nest would be the first to yell "Land HO ! "
You could easily do the arithmetic in your head , but there is a table in the manual showing distances for various heights.

So I am wondering if estimating distances was not a requirement for lookouts in 1912 or they were lying about this ?. Of course they could have used the excuse that it was so dark that they could not see the horizon and therefore could not estimate distances ?

In the U.S. Navy Manual For Lookouts, part of the training and practice was to estimate the distance to a .ship, for instance, and call for a check for your estimate with the radar. Of course they didn't have radar in 1912 , but could their training include comparing their estimates with those on the bridge ? Or was this not a requirement for lookouts in 1912 and the answer was an honest one ?
 
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Yes it was a "lie" of Fleet. Especially that statement came after he mentioned how far away his lifeboat was and then came up that he hear people talk about it.

Senator SMITH.
How far were you from the Titanic when you stopped?

Mr. FLEET.
About a mile or a little over, because he come over the place where the Titanic sank.

Senator SMITH.
What makes you think it was a mile?

Mr. FLEET.
Only surmising.

Senator SMITH.
That is your best judgment about it?

Mr. FLEET.
I suppose so.

Senator SMITH.
How are you able to fix that fact in your mind, that you were a mile from the Titanic in this small boat?

Mr. FLEET.
I heard people talk about it.

Senator SMITH.
Was that your own judgment, too?

Mr. FLEET.
I have got no judgment.

Senator SMITH.
I understood you to say you had no judgment of distance at all -

Mr. FLEET.
No more I have not.

Senator SMITH. (continuing)
When I was asking you about the iceberg?

Mr. FLEET.
No more I have not.
 
May 3, 2005
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Thanks, Iioannis Georgiou -

That was my assumption that Fleet was just lying about distances as an evasion tactic.

This has been covered on another thread.
The equation is a simple one : d= 1.17 (square root) h
Where d is the distance in miiles to the horizon ; 1.17 is a constant: ; h is the height of the observer above sea level in feet.
Was this equation known and/or in use in 1912 .?

I was never a lookout when I was in the U.S. Navy.
But I was an Electronic Technician (ET2).
I would visually see a ship or something on or before it crossed over the horizon.
Then I would check the range on the radar.
I wish I had known that simple little equation for visually estimating the distance back then.
I might have learned something ! LOL
 
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N. D. Risener

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The crow's nest would be higher than the bridge , so naturally the man in the crow's nest would be the first to yell "Land HO ! "
Have you ever noticed how it is in movies. The lookout in the old time sailing ship yells, "Land HO." Then you immediately get a camera shot with the ship is so close the sailors could practically count the individual grains of sand on the beach.
 

Dave Gittins

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The formula for the distance of the horizon was of course known in 1912. Officers were familiar with all sorts of calculations involving things like logarthims and trigonometry functions. In practice, they simply looked at the Extreme Range Table in Norie's Nautical Tables. That gives the horizon distance and also gives the distance at which an object of known height will appear over it.

Can you do this?

Multiply 818.66 by .0114 by common logs.
Divide .816 by .618 by common logs.

If you can, you are on the way to a Second Mate's certificate.
 
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Mike Spooner

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Hi Dave,
I like your comment,
1. just a matter of interest the Board of Trade has set a distance of 5-6 mile for side lights. So far can one see deck lights of a liner?
2. Is there a maximum recognized miles that one can see a ship in clear daylight?
 

Jim Currie

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In reference to to the testimony of eiither Fleet or Lee, one of them says .
"I have no idea of distances ."
This seems rather odd for a trained lookout to say this ?
Or did he just lie to save face or could this really be true of lookouts in 1912 ?

The reason I am asking is that I came across some information about lookouts in the U.S. Navy and a training manual for lookouts.
It was said that most lookouts were very good in estimating distances by knowing the distance to the horizon using a simple equation for estimating the distance according to the height above sea level, such as in a crow's nest. The crow's nest would be higher than the bridge , so naturally the man in the crow's nest would be the first to yell "Land HO ! "
You could easily do the arithmetic in your head , but there is a table in the manual showing distances for various heights.

So I am wondering if estimating distances was not a requirement for lookouts in 1912 or they were lying about this ?. Of course they could have used the excuse that it was so dark that they could not see the horizon and therefore could not estimate distances ?

In the U.S. Navy Manual For Lookouts, part of the training and practice was to estimate the distance to a .ship, for instance, and call for a check for your estimate with the radar. Of course they didn't have radar in 1912 , but could their training include comparing their estimates with those on the bridge ? Or was this not a requirement for lookouts in 1912 and the answer was an honest one ?
Hello Robert.

As one who, as an Apprentice, spent much of my 4 years on Lookout duty, I can tell you that a Lookout is no better at judging distance than you are.
It was not a requirement for a Lookout to know how far off something was. His duty was simply to draw the attention of the officer of the watch to something that might or might not constitute a risk to the ship then the officer took over from there and the Lookout looked-out for any other "something".

I don't think Fleet lied when he stated:
".No more I have not."

I suspect a fair interpretation of what he meant by that might be:

"After that fiasco with the iceberg and me misjudging how far off it was, and how everyone thinks I should have seen it earlier (me included)...any idea that I might have had concerning my ability to judge distances at night is now a fallacy."
 
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May 3, 2005
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Thanks again, Jim Currie -

I was thinking of that USN "Manual For Lookouts" which have the charts for estimating the distance to the horizon, comparing your estimates with the radar in CIC, etc.

But.....
So you're saying that Fleet wasn't lying when he said he had no idea of distances ?

Once again , being only an ET2 in the USN, you miss all this good stuff that the QMC knows......LOL
But I guess that's the way it's supposed to be in The United States Navy ?
I think I had trouble tie-ing a Granny Knot instead of a Square Knot in Boot Camp....or something likethat ? LOL

.As to Apprentice, here is how it went in the USN :
SR-Seaman Recruit - Complete Boot Camp to advance to - 11 weeks in my case
SA- Seaman Apprentice - 6 months to
SN- Seaman - 1 year to
ET3-Petty Officer 3rd Class - 1 year to
ET2 - " " 2nd " - 1 year to
ET1 - " " 1st " - 3 years to
ETC - Chief Petty Officer
 
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May 3, 2005
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The formula for the distance of the horizon was of course known in 1912. Officers were familiar with all sorts of calculations involving things like logarthims and trigonometry functions. In practice, they simply looked at the Extreme Range Table in Norie's Nautical Tables. That gives the horizon distance and also gives the distance at which an object of known height will appear over it.

Can you do this?

Multiply 818.66 by .0114 by common logs.
Divide .816 by .618 by common logs.

If you can, you are on the way to a Second Mate's certificate.
I had to do a little review on that to remember how to do it. LOL.

Were Officers on ships such as White Star Line , Titanic, etc , graduates of a Naval Academy., such as the USNA or a university or college, or did they just come up through the ranks and had to learn those things own their own in their training as they advanced ?
 

Mike Spooner

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I just love this manuals full of the old theories yet lack practical experience. In those lookout manuals does it cover about change of weather as poor Fred and Lee had to put up with! Freezing cold in an open air crow nest with no wind shield and heating. Then there is the wind chill factor at 22 knots to consider! The freezing cold air hitting an warm eye ball coursing a watery eye giving a blurred view, was that in the manual? Then under those condition was there time factor how one should be on duty?
 
May 3, 2005
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Hello Robert.

As one who, as an Apprentice, spent much of my 4 years on Lookout duty, I can tell you that a Lookout is no better at judging distance than you are.
It was not a requirement for a Lookout to know how far off something was. His duty was simply to draw the attention of the officer of the watch to something that might or might not constitute a risk to the ship then the officer took over from there and the Lookout looked-out for any other "something".

I don't think Fleet lied when he stated:
".No more I have not."

I suspect a fair interpretation of what he meant by that might be:

"After that fiasco with the iceberg and me misjudging how far off it was, and how everyone thinks I should have seen it earlier (me included)...any idea that I might have had concerning my ability to judge distances at night is now a fallacy."
Correct me if I am mis-understanding, but......
A lookout in the Navy would be expected to know how to estimate distances but a lookout on a ship such as the Titanic would not ?
Was the estimation of distances something that only the officers would do ?
In other words would the lookout just say that he saw "something" and it would be up to the officer to estimate the distance to it ?
Would the lookout just say that he saw something in a certain direction such as "right ahead", but the officer would have to spot the "something" and do the estimation for the distance to the "something" ?


I think Flert could have said truthfully :
" It was so dark that night that I could not see the horizon. Not having the horizon as a reference point I had no idea of how to estimate the distance to the iceberg that night."

I am just basing my opinion on the fact that estimating distances was a basic part of the duties of Navy lookouts, but not in the case of White Star Line lookouts .
 
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May 3, 2005
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Note on previous post.
The Navy Manual For Lookouts, Section 5, states "The knowledge of how to estimate distances is essential."
But not in Fleet's case ?
 
A

Aaron_2016

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I believe the Inquiry concluded that the look-out men were simply there to see anything that the officers may have missed. Captain Rostron and Captain Lord saw the icebergs before their lookouts did, and Captain Moore of the Mount Temple, who had many decades experience was asked if he provided his lookouts with binoculars.

A - No, sir.
Q - Do you ever use glasses in the crow's nest?
A - Never, sir.

Captain Bartlett said - "Look-out men are there to use their eyes and to report immediately anything they see. Not to find out the character of that object they see."

The fact that Fleet claimed that he rang the bridge and told Murdoch he could see an iceberg is curious. It was just a black mass which blotted out some stars on the horizon and it could easily have been a cloud or a trick of the light. Yet he managed to identify it as an iceberg and reported it to the bridge. The fact that Hichen's claimed the lookouts reported the iceberg before Murdoch is suspicious because the other ship's officers saw the icebergs before their lookouts, and the fact that Fleet claimed to have identified and reported what it was on the phone before Murdoch had even seen it himself is certainly suspicious - hence my belief that the official story was a complete whitewash. e.g. Telephone report which identifies the iceberg, hard a-starboard, full speed astern. I believe they were all a work of fiction to avoid any accusations of negligence against the company. Lookout Reginald Lee did not even know what it was until the lights from the Titanic herself had illuminated the iceberg and its identity was revealed. Even when it passed the ship Quartermaster Rowe thought it was a sailing vessel, yet lookout Fleet managed to identify it on the phone well before it reached the ship. Very fishy.

I think Fleet was forced to say it was an iceberg before he had identified it as such. He rang the bridge but Murdoch could already see it (just like the other ship's captains and officers) and just seconds later Boxhall felt the collision before the phone was answered, and before any helm orders could be given. Nothing broke his step (no heeling of the ship before the collision) and he believed the ship was still facing West during the evacuation. He did not hear the phone being answered and heard nobody report it was an iceberg until after the collision. The bell rang and a mere 10 seconds later the collision occurred. That was pretty much it. Imagine if the official report had accepted the truth. The bridge crew would have waved goodbye to their careers.


.
 
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May 3, 2005
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My apologies for harping on the subject of Fleet's answer as to distances.
But would these be accurate descriptions of the differences of requirements for duties of lookouts - civilian -vs- military ?

(1) On a civilian ship such as the Titanic , the lookout would only be required to report that he saw something , maybe or not (?) give a description of what it looked like to him , and his decription of its bearing , but nothing as to its distance, but determining the distance and any more information would be the duty of the officer on the bridge ? And Fleet would not be lie-ing if he said he had no idea of distances ?

(2) On a military ship such as a Naval vessel, the lookout would be required to report what his description of the object was , and an estimate of his as to the distance and bearing of the object to the officer on the bridge for information for the officer to make further investigation ?
 
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Tim Aldrich

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(2) On a military ship such as a Naval vessel, the lookout would be required to report what his description of the object was , and an estimate of his as to the distance and bearing of the object to the officer on the bridge for information for the officer to make further investigation ?
With Naval vessels that "object" a lookout spotted might just be an enemy ship that is lobbing some projectiles their way. I would assume at least some estimate of distance would aid in starting the process of shooting back.
 
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We have range finders and fire control systems for shooting back.

As to my own lookout experience, my role was under low visibility conditions so the issue there was safe navigation. We were vastly less concerned about what it was then the fact that it was there in the first place.

Estimating distances at night?
Good luck with that.
It's challenging enough during the day.
 

Mike Spooner

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I believe the Inquiry concluded that the look-out men were simply there to see anything that the officers may have missed. Captain Rostron and Captain Lord saw the icebergs before their lookouts did, and Captain Moore of the Mount Temple, who had many decades experience was asked if he provided his lookouts with binoculars.

A - No, sir.
Q - Do you ever use glasses in the crow's nest?
A - Never, sir.

Captain Bartlett said - "Look-out men are there to use their eyes and to report immediately anything they see. Not to find out the character of that object they see."

The fact that Fleet claimed that he rang the bridge and told Murdoch he could see an iceberg is curious. It was just a black mass which blotted out some stars on the horizon and it could easily have been a cloud or a trick of the light. Yet he managed to identify it as an iceberg and reported it to the bridge. The fact that Hichen's claimed the lookouts reported the iceberg before Murdoch is suspicious because the other ship's officers saw the icebergs before their lookouts, and the fact that Fleet claimed to have identified and reported what it was on the phone before Murdoch had even seen it himself is certainly suspicious - hence my belief that the official story was a complete whitewash. e.g. Telephone report which identifies the iceberg, hard a-starboard, full speed astern. I believe they were all a work of fiction to avoid any accusations of negligence against the company. Lookout Reginald Lee did not even know what it was until the lights from the Titanic herself had illuminated the iceberg and its identity was revealed. Even when it passed the ship Quartermaster Rowe thought it was a sailing vessel, yet lookout Fleet managed to identify it on the phone well before it reached the ship. Very fishy.

I think Fleet was forced to say it was an iceberg before he had identified it as such. He rang the bridge but Murdoch could already see it (just like the other ship's captains and officers) and just seconds later Boxhall felt the collision before the phone was answered, and before any helm orders could be given. Nothing broke his step (no heeling of the ship before the collision) and he believed the ship was still facing West during the evacuation. He did not hear the phone being answered and heard nobody report it was an iceberg until after the collision. The bell rang and a mere 10 seconds later the collision occurred. That was pretty much it. Imagine if the official report had accepted the truth. The bridge crew would have waved goodbye to their careers.


.
Wasn't Murdoch not on the bridge at the time and was in one of the lookout box and had to run into the bridge?
Just a matter of interested for you sea captains. If Murdoch was in charge and was away from the bridge! Is that against the company rules or the BoT regulation?
 
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Remember, the lookouts used a system of bell strokes to inform the bridge of the general direction of anything of interest. Just how much information can you convey about something big off the bow with three bell strokes? or two? or one? Yes, Titanic was equipped with a telephone between the bridge and crow's nest, but it was primarily a backup system and/or for sending orders up to the men in the nest (see testimonies of various lookouts).

As I look at the accident, the lookouts seem to have performed their duties perfectly. They first sounded three strikes on the crow's nest bell just as instructed. When it did not appear the deck was understanding what the lookouts saw, Fleet took initiative to use the telephone. If anything went wrong with lookout that night it was not in the crow's nest.

As far as estimating distances go...not easy day or night. On open waters you have nothing to compare the size of the object against. As Michael said, this is especially hard to do at night or in reduced visibility. Prior to accurate mechanical rangefinders navies relied on gunner's eyeballs, mod 1, mark 1 as issued. The number of "hits" even in good conditions was abysmal. Some historians have said the American fleet under Admiral Dewey achieved well under 10% "hits" in its victory over the Spanish at Manila Bay.

So, while distance information from human observers was and remains dubious, the relative bearing of objects can be ascertained rather well by lookouts. An object "dead ahead" is just that. "Off the bow" is roughly at a 45 degree angle to the ship's direction of travel. "Broad Abeam" is at 90 degrees to the ship. With a working field of view of more than 90 degrees, it is possible to give enough information for a deck officer to find reported objects. Bomber crews used a modified version of this system based on the clock face (12 o'clock dead ahead, 3 o'clock broad off to the right, etc.)

-- David G. Brown
 
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Jim Currie

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Wasn't Murdoch not on the bridge at the time and was in one of the lookout box and had to run into the bridge?
Just a matter of interested for you sea captains. If Murdoch was in charge and was away from the bridge! Is that against the company rules or the BoT regulation?
No, Murdoch never left the bridge. The wing cab was part of the bridge.
 

Jim Currie

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Remember, the lookouts used a system of bell strokes to inform the bridge of the general direction of anything of interest. Just how much information can you convey about something big off the bow with three bell strokes? or two? or one? Yes, Titanic was equipped with a telephone between the bridge and crow's nest, but it was primarily a backup system and/or for sending orders up to the men in the nest (see testimonies of various lookouts).

As I look at the accident, the lookouts seem to have performed their duties perfectly. They first sounded three strikes on the crow's nest bell just as instructed. When it did not appear the deck was understanding what the lookouts saw, Fleet took initiative to use the telephone. If anything went wrong with lookout that night it was not in the crow's nest.

As far as estimating distances go...not easy day or night. On open waters you have nothing to compare the size of the object against. As Michael said, this is especially hard to do at night or in reduced visibility. Prior to accurate mechanical rangefinders navies relied on gunner's eyeballs, mod 1, mark 1 as issued. The number of "hits" even in good conditions was abysmal. Some historians have said the American fleet under Admiral Dewey achieved well under 10% "hits" in its victory over the Spanish at Manila Bay.

So, while distance information from human observers was and remains dubious, the relative bearing of objects can be ascertained rather well by lookouts. An object "dead ahead" is just that. "Off the bow" is roughly at a 45 degree angle to the ship's direction of travel. "Broad Abeam" is at 90 degrees to the ship. With a working field of view of more than 90 degrees, it is possible to give enough information for a deck officer to find reported objects. Bomber crews used a modified version of this system based on the clock face (12 o'clock dead ahead, 3 o'clock broad off to the right, etc.)

-- David G. Brown
Lookouts gave directions in points of 11.24 degrees David. If the OOW heard 2 bells, he would raise his binoculars and sweep from ahead to the port beam. If he did not see anything or was unsure, he would call the lookout and as "whereaway?" or "what do you see" and the reply might be " red light about 3 and a half points on the bow, sir" Which as you know, is roughly about 40 degrees from right ahead.