I hate to burst the bubble of an institution as august as the Smithsonian, but we were discussing "seeing conditions" a decade ago here on this very forum. There is really nothing new in the idea that it was possible to see "over the horizon" that night. Not to brag, but as a fer instance -- I mentioned it on page 57 of my book, "The Last Log Of The Titanic" published in 2001. I know that others have gone even deper into this topic. Perhaps Mike S can pick some of those old threads out of the digital dustbin.
Just go through the threads dealing with the Californian. This discussion is an old one and often as not, just as acramonious as a lot of the other Californian debates. If the Smithsonian is finding out about it now, they're late to the game.
[Moderator's note: This tread, originally in an unrelated topic, has been moved to this subtopic, which contains several earlier discussions of the same issue. MAB]
"Did the Titanic Sink Because of an Optical Illusion?
New research may have found the reason why the ship struck an iceberg: light refraction"
I have had a look at this. In my opnion; yet another bit of clever gobbledigook!
I quote from the article:
" 1. The Titanic was sailing from Gulf Stream waters into the frigid Labrador Current, where the air column was cooling from the bottom up, creating a thermal inversion: layers of cold air below layers of warmer air. Extraordinarily high air pressure kept the air free of fog."
Titanic was sailing in normal North Atlanic waters. The water and air temp. only fell as the ship approached the high concentration of floating ice and would rise after it got out of that area. We have very strong evidence of that!
"STANLEY LORD. (Given to US Inquiry on April 18,1912)
April 14 - Noon 50 56
4 p.m. 37 36
8 p.m. 30 32
Midnight 27 28
April 15 - 4 a. m. 29 29
8 a.m. ----- -----
Noon 38 31
The method of obtaining air temp. in 1912 was very unsatisfactory. In all probablility you can add a couple of degrees to the above air temp. readings in the table.
Furthermore: the Gulf Stream's northern margin was some 20 miles to the south of the wreck site. The stream would be running ENE and it's NE branch would cross Titanic's track at or just east of The Corner.
There was no evidence of the Labrador Current that night. As we can see from the above table, the the water temp at 4pm on the Sunday was 36F. At Noon the next day, it was 31F. The Monday Noon temp. was taken when Californian had just cleared the western side of the main concentration of ice and already the sea temp. had been rising since before 4am that morning.
This points to a Labrador Current a mere 70 or so miles wide. Really
There would certainly be a layer of cold air above the ice but not above the sea anywhere else. This layer would be relatively thin...certainly not as shown in the author's graphics. In that case, mirage effect would only effect objects near the observer's horizon.
This being so, if Titanic turned when the iceberg was less than 200 feet ahead of her, and the lookouts were seeing a mirage. and the real iceberg was at or near the horizon..Titanic would need to have been travelling at a speed of sound 717 mp about Mach 1.0 or just over 622 knots!
At that speed Murdoch would have had his hat on back to front! What a bow wave!
However, the article then poses the question:
If there was such a phenomenon which made things look closer than they really were. How come the lookouts on Titanic did not see Californian's lights very clearly and much closer than they really were?
Jim -- So-called "seeing conditions" always play a role in the performance of the lookouts. And, I do think there were conditions that night which could have played a few minor tricks with human eyesight. That said, I also agree with your primary argument that the actual situation would not have produced anything quite so dramatic as the magazine proposes.
Your question about the difference between what the lookout saw and the apparent "nearness" of the mystery vessel as viewed from Titanic's deck or lifeboats does raise a question. Perhaps the magazine author was in part correct. A low-lying layer of air might have produced different "seeing" conditions than the layer of air at original bridge height or at the height of the crow's nest. It's a long shot, but possible.
As to the ship making 622 knots...hmmm...that's a bit hard to swallow even taking into account certain Einstinian effects created by speed. To go that fast would require a ship with a waterline length of more than 35 nautical miles. Such a ship might prove unhandy to dock.
But, seriously, I do agree that "seeing conditions" were not so outlandish that night to have fooled experienced seamen so completely as the article implies.
There is nothing wrong with the physics concerning layers of air of different temperature, densities and pressures or the abnormal visual effects combinations of these will produce. My point is that we have more than enough evidence to show that the classic conditions were not present.
The author tries to suggest they were, by his references to the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Current.
Oceanographers will tell him that the cold water in the Labrador Current just does not abruptly dive down under the Gulf Stream. It never gets anywhere near the Gulf Stream.
The Labrador Current moves south at first then eastward and westward in the region of the Flemish Cap in latitude 44 north.(Where George Clooney's fishing boat met the Prefect Storm lol.) It turns east and west almost 140 miles to the north of where Titanic hit the iceberg.
The nearest it comes to the Gulf Stream is when it's eastward flow meets North Atlantic Drift Current at about 44North..45West This is about 250 miles to the ENE of the accident area.
In all probabilities, the ice involved in the Titanic disaster was brought down by the prevailing winds. I understand that they are on average blowing from the North West off the coats of Nova Scotia.
I'd be a bit carefull before making statements such as that. You seem to know it all, but you don't. It's too easy to brush aside something after reading just a one-page abstract written by a TV company, not knowing what was behind it all.
I have had the opportunity to review the work of Tim Maltin and will say that he has established a very strong case for conditions supporting abnormal atmospheric refraction in the area surrounding the wreck site on the night of April 14-15, 1912. Although I do not necessarily aggree with all of his conclusions and inferences, I do find Tim's work to be highly original, and is backed by hard data taken from ship’s logs and meteorological observation forms which he has tracked down over a number of years. If nothing else, the book that is coming out, A Very Deceiving Night, should cause the reader to rethink some of what people had claimed they saw; observations that may have led in some cases to confusion and possibly inaction.
As far as the presence or absence of the Labrador and Gulf Stream currents, the data that Tim presents is the most comprehensive that I've ever seen on that subject for that particular region and date range. I never knew such detailed data existed. From my own research on the subject of these currents, I can tell you that they are far from stationary, and many times differ greatly from what pilot charts show for that region at that time of year. See Where Did the Gulf Stream Go?
Hi, thanks for all your comments about my book. My research in fact proves (from hundreds of log book records from April 1912 in the area of the sinking) that the Labrador Current actually flowed ON THE SURFACE in April 1912, south of 40N. My book includes a chart of its course. Further, the iceberg was too near to be miraging: it was simply camouflaged against the backdrop of the miraging haze on the horizon that night, which the lookouts and Symons all speak of, despite the utterly clear night. Please read the book (it's about 150 pages and includes many photographs and illustations, as well as primary log-book evidence and all the scientific evidence and full eye-witness testimony on what was seen that night). Suggest you have a look at it before making ill-informed comments here. You will learn from it new things about what really did happen that night, as I did while writing it Thanks and best wishes, Tim Maltin
In this review, I will point some problems with Maltin's book as I see them. Maltin appears to be a nice person, but even nice persons could write unworthy books. I will make a few posts to make them more readable and to let an opportunity to respond if somebody wishes to. So let's start. In...
>>If there was such a phenomenon which made things look closer than they really were. How come the lookouts on Titanic did not see Californian's lights very clearly and much closer than they really were? <<
The only people who know the answer to that are Fleet and Lee, who can now only be reached at 1-800-HEREAFTER. I can tell you from my own lookout experience that most of what I was concerned with was whatever was close enough to the ship to see in the conditions that existed which, frighteningly enough, was under low visibility conditions.
The biting cold is also something I have experience with and I know just how debilitating it can be. I can't help but believe that with Fleet and Lee, this had to be a factor. You can make of that what you will. Since their primary concern that night, they might not have cared much about what was lurking on the horizon well out of the ship's path. I can argue that they should have been, but that's beside the point.
Thanks for your reply. All these matters are dealt with fully in my book at www.titanic-thetruth.com, but Californian was not seen earlier from Titanic due to a combination of factors 1) Her extreme range 2) her slow swing to starboard, which tended to shut her tall masthead lights in before about 12.20pm 3) Mirages are VERY height-specific, due to the layered atmosphere in a thermal inversion. Fyi, it was also this layering of air which caused the stars to scintillate so abnormally much, appearing to Beesley to be Morseing to each other that night...and which scrambled the real Morse lamp signals between the two vessels! Thanks again for your interest and very best wishes, Tim
No I don't Sam. Nor do you for that matter. You state that I don't know 'it all' what ever 'it' might be.
Surely to be so sure of your facts you, in fact must think that you, in fact, do know it all?
As you probably have gathered, I am a bad-tempered old sea-farer. As such, I am not easily convinced concerning, until-now, unknown maritime facts about the Titanic or any other shipping casualty. In fact, I am probably one of the few real sea-farers who gives a tinker's damn about Titanic.
When I read the Smithsonian article implying that it was all down to mirage effect, I just could not resist having a go.
Navigators are trained in basic oceanography and meteorolgy and are specifically warned about mirage effect and it's causes. We are all very familiar with it and all of the ocean currents. Despite what Sam implies.. we don't really know it all!
I am curious about your remarks concerning the range that Californian's lights were seen from Titanic. You don't say how much earlier these lights were obscured from the Titanic lookouts. Surely, even with mirage, they would have eventually have been seen as the distance between these two got less?
As for Californian's tall masthead lights: They did not become shut-in until 2am that morning. According to her officers, she did not start swinging till well after midnight
In the meantime, I wish you all the best with your book and the coming TV exposure: good luck to you!
Thanks Jim, all the Californian swing stuff is dealt with in my book, as well as when the Californian was seen from the Titanic. I agree that Titanic's officers were well aware of abnormal refraction and the phenomenon of looming, as Lightoller explained at the British Inquiry: The man may, on a clear night, see the reflection of the light before it comes above the horizon. It may be the loom of the light and you see it sometimes sixty miles away. I look forward to continuing our amicable discussions once you've had a chance to read the book, which I think you will find interesting and enjoyable. Thank you, Tim