Stone Bearings and Headings Paradox


Georges Guay

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Feb 26, 2017
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Stone Bearings and Headings Paradox

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Hi. You can read as many times as you wish Stone and Gibson testimonies or reports to Lord written at sea 3 days after the events, but you will come to the undoubtedly conclusions that by eyesight or binoculars, the crew that was physically standing a sea watch on Californian upper bridge sighted only one steamer in the area and observed only one vessel that fired distress rockets from 12:45 to 01:50. Only one.

If we believe Stone’s bearings and headings that no one else ever confirmed, it means that the only steamer in the area would have to steam away while turning her head to starboard so to never show her green sidelight, to steam sideways to stern first at 18 knots across a 4 nautical miles wide arctic field ice while firing distress rockets, all the way to a SWxW bearing then backward to a SW½W bearing, to make a 180° turn while showing her masthead light instead of her stern light, to disappear away toward the SW even more rapidly and to finally pass further west to Boxhall emeritus CQD! Let me doubt about it…

7741. Could you see whether she was steaming away?
- No. The Second Officer was taking bearings of her all the time.
7630. Did you ever see anything which you took for her stern light?
- No.
7511. What happened after that?
- About twenty minutes past one the Second Officer remarked to me that she was slowly steaming away towards the south-west.
7743. Not that she steamed away, but disappeared? (message to Lord)
- Yes
7626. And after her red light, disappeared could you still see her masthead light or her white light?
- Just a glare of it.
7788. How long had you the one masthead light under observation?
- From the time I first saw her to the time she disappeared.
7789. How long would that be?
- A quarter-past twelve to five past two.


In addition, I really don’t see and never seen any objective reasons why Stone would have taken futile and repetitive bearings of a steamer stop 14 miles away. He most probably just kept an eye on it, just like any other officer would do. At the beginning of his watch, he verified his own heading and noticed that the steamer was dead abeam. Then he watched the firework and noticed that moment after, she bore ahead before disappearing. After some intermission, there was a show call back while his heading was WSW. He verified once more his heading prior handing over the watch and kept in mind it was just about WNW. Therefore, the only bearings he took were relative visual bearings derived from the standard compass headings. But as these events started not to smell too good, Stone had to answer before the captain and recall what he would normally have forgotten forever. By remembering a 90° green relative bearing on an ENE heading at the beginning of his watch, speculating a WSW heading at 02:00 whilst the steamer disappeared on the port bow, it followed that the observed steamer firing rockets must have plausibly altered her bearings and consequently steamed away. There was nothing to lose by sticking to that scheme and building a tale around it that had good chance to spare his license or prevent him from justice.

7968. Did you really think so?
- I did. The only confirmation I had of it was the bearings of the compass. Two ships remaining stationary could not possibly alter their bearings.
8037. Then you had seen them from this steamer?
- A steamer that is in distress does not steam away from you, my Lord.


But what the Inquiry did not consider is; «How can a rate of turn increase to 1.76° per minute from 12:08 to 01:50, then regress to 0.35° per minute from 01:50 to 04:00, against an average rate of turn of 0.94° per minute from 12:08 to 04:00, in the course of a single sea watch from a vessel adrift in dead calm weathers all the way through? As a result, what would be the most probable heading at 01:50 at an average rate of turn to 0.94° per minute when the steamer disappeared away? Let’s see what it gives;

1. Rate of Turn:

12:08 HDG ENE (067½°)
01:50 HDG WSW (247½°)
HDG alteration 180° in 01h42m = 1.76° per minute

01:50 HDG WSW (247½°)
04:00 HDG WNW (292½°)
HDG alteration 45° in 02h10m = 0.35° per minute

12:08 HDG ENE (067½°)
04:00 HDG WNW (292½°)
HDG alteration 225° in 04h00m = 0.94° per minute average rate of turn

2. Most probable heading at 01:50:

12:08 HDG ENE (067½°)
01:50 HDG WSW (247½°)
HDG alteration 180° in 01h42m = 1.76° per minute
Thence for a 0.94° per minute average rate of turn, the HDG diff had to be 96° in 01h42m
HDG ENE (067½°) plus HDG diff 96° = HDG SSE½S (163½°)
HDG WSW (247½°) minus HDG diff 96° = HDG SSE½E (151½°)
(It would have matched if we had perfect time and bearings without deviation)
[163½° + 151½°] ÷ 2 = 157½°

… or SSE or 157½°compass or 133½° true …

At 12:08 the bearing was SSE (157½°) and at 01:50 the bearing was still SSE (157½°). For that reason, both steamers remained stationary relative to each other, their bearings never altered and a steamer firing rockets while sinking does not steam away as she did.
 

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AlexP

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In addition, I really don’t see and never seen any objective reasons why Stone would have taken futile and repetitive bearings of a steamer stop 14 miles away
Except Mr. Stone never said the steamer was 14 miles away. I believe he testified she was about 5 miles away or so.

Nice chart! So you believe that at 400 Californian was heading about west?
 

AlexP

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For that reason, both steamers remained stationary relative to each other, their bearings never altered and a steamer firing rockets while sinking does not steam away as she did.
It is doubtful. Carpathia rocket was seen about south, and it was about 30 minutes before she reached the site.

But what the Inquiry did not consider is; «How can a rate of turn increase to 1.76° per minute from 12:08 to 01:50, then regress to 0.35° per minute from 01:50 to 04:00, against an average rate of turn of 0.94° per minute from 12:08 to 04:00, in the course of a single sea watch from a vessel adrift in dead calm weathers all the way through
It is possible if the Californian was drifting in an eddy. Even incoming tide could have changed the rate of swinging.
 
Last edited:

Julian Atkins

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Sep 23, 2017
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Hi Georges,

I don't take any stance on your detailed analysis, which I have understood most carefully.

I think most of us would agree that Stone got terribly confused that night. His earliest contemporaneous account is his 18th April statement to Captain Lord, and if we assume that Captain Lord had no influence whilst Stone wrote out his statement for his Captain (and which statement Captain Lord failed to disclose this statement to the British Inquiry, and kept secret), then due weight ought to be given to the 18th April statement.

Personally, I think that Stone began lying on the morning of the 15th April, when he knew Titanic had sunk, which according to Durrant was what Durrant told Evans around 5.15am, and was what Stone told Groves when they were woken up around 6.40am, and what Stewart told them when woken up.

Evans knew at the time what was going on and what had been going on - see his USA Inquiry testimony - and was in contact with Gibson early that morning and Gill and probably numerous others as implied by Evans.

To my non- nautical mind, it is a matter of assessing the evidence as you would do in a legal case. And the failing of most commentators of 'The Californian Incident' is to not properly assess the very poor evidence of Stone at various particular points.

Anyway, I'm off to bed!

Keep safe and stay well!

Cheers,

Julian
 

Georges Guay

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At 03:20, Stone observed Carpathia distress rockets dead abeam on the port side. The deduced bearing was S° thence the heading was W°;

Rate of Turn:

12:08 HDG ENE (067½°)
01:50 HDG WSW (247½°)
HDG alteration 180° in 01h42m = 1.76° per minute

01:50 HDG WSW (247½°)
03:20 HDG W (270°)
HDG alteration 22½° in 01h30m = 0.25° per minute

Between these two main events, the HDG altered 180° in 01h42m followed by an alteration of 22½° in 01h30m. Californian must have sustained an unknown ocean phenomenon much more important than the sea horizon super upward deflection to achieve such a variation in her rate of turn! The Kracken swimming around alteration of direction?
 

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