Rough Seas


Dec 2, 2000
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A lot more casualties. Launching boats in calm seas can be dicey enough, even with the best trained crews. Throw in rough seas, and you have the potential for boats being dashed to splinters the first time they're hit with a wave.
 
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Wayne Keen

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Of course, breaking water might have enabled the berg to be spotted earlier, or changed ship's navigation - but that may be a different can of worms than you were wanting to open.

Wayne
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>but that may be a different can of worms than you were wanting to open.<<

Wasn't that can opened in 1912 when Captain Smith and Lights discussed the stratagy with dealing with the reported ice? Not a lot ever wriggled out of it, but I think that much was considered something of a red herring even then.
 
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Wayne Keen

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Breaking water at the base of the berg has been something that has been discussed on and off.

I also wonder if the waves being larger would not have forced the ship to slow and or change the lookout manning...

Wayne
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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The breaking water thing gets dragged out repeatedly, but it's only an example of Lightoller's attempts to find excuses and to baffle the inquiries with dodgy seamanship.

Remember that any white water would be only on the windward side of the berg. If you were steering toward the berg from the lee side, stiff luck.

Further, once the sea gets up, there is white water everywhere. Any white water on a berg would be lost in the general broken water.

I'll add that, in my experience, on a moonless night, white water can only be seen for 200 metres or so. It might be visible from a bit further off from the bridge of a ship. My height of eye is always quite low.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>It might be visible from a bit further off from the bridge of a ship.<<

I wouldn't count on that. I've been plenty high up on just about every ship I ever served on and the only time I could see white water all that clearly is when it happened to be very close. The sort of phosphorescence you get when waves stir up some of the algae helps a bit, but once you start talking distance, the dark of the night swallows up quite a bit.

>>I also wonder if the waves being larger would not have forced the ship to slow and or change the lookout manning... <<

I would say probably not, unless fog becomes a matter of concern. Sometimes not even then. The Captains of the crack mail boats were under quite a bit of pressure to keep to the schedule, so they just didn't slow down unless they really, really, really had to.

The dirty little secret is that in regards to keeping to the schedule, nothing much has changed since then. Nobody stomps on the brakes unless conditions become so dire that it would be tantamount to suicide if they didn't.
 

Dave Gittins

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Michael, what would you call "really close"? My eyes are now a bit off, so I'm not a good judge. With average sight, I would say 200 metres is about the upper limit.

Visibility at night is very deceptive. One quiet night I tried to estimate just how far I could see. I had some assistance from the lights of Adelaide. At a glance, It seemed I would be able to see for hundreds of metres, but after watching carefully I doubt if I could have seen a small object on the surface from 100 metres away. With only the stars, it's even worse.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Michael, what would you call "really close"? My eyes are now a bit off, so I'm not a good judge. With average sight, I would say 200 metres is about the upper limit.<<

200 metres for white watercaps under good conditions is about right, in my opinion, though that may be pushing the envelope a bit. On a dark night with no moon but plenty of cloud cover, it can be considerably less. If you have starlight to work with, it helps a little (barely) but there's nothing like the light of a full moon. One of the problems here is that when you climb up higher on a large vessel, you're putting some vertical distance between yourself and the whitecaps. No big deal in broad daylight, but it can tend to skew things a bit at night.

>>Visibility at night is very deceptive.<<

Absolutely right it is, and I think that part of the problem at least is that your depth perception gets a monkey wrench tossed into it. It doesn't help that out on the ocean, any number of optical illusions can be waiting to snooker you. As I've often said, what you think you see out there isn't always what you really get.
 

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