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Superior mirage and the Californian

Discussion in 'Distance and Bearing' started by DarrenC, Dec 27, 2018.

  1. T Maltin

    T Maltin Member

    Yes, I understand the difference between the cold water mirage and the warm water one, as it were, and that the Titanic and the Californian were too near to each other for miraging effects to be seen at such a close range. That is why I only said that Groves' testimony *could* be a doubling effect. But I also said it was just as likely to be an error on his part. It certainly has nothing to do with the haze around the horizon, which is what I believe was a miraging strip caused by a Superior mirage.
  2. Mila

    Mila Guest

    Let us do one thing in a time.
    Could you please explain to me your calculations?
    I mean if at noon of April 15 she was at 50.29 W, doesn’t this mean that even at noon of 15 April she still was to the west of the wreck site?
  3. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Happy New Year to everyone!

    Your arguments are interesting but are only relevant to the Californian story if the Titanic was heading in the general direction of the stopped Californian at, or near to, Midnight on April 14.
    There is no irrefutable evidence to prove that Titanic was stopped with Californian 2 points on her port bow. However, there is plenty of technical evidence to show that could never have been the situation.
    See ww.marineinsight.com/naval-architecture/rudder-ship-turning/.

    As for the "haze" seen across the bows of Titanic?
    The lookouts height of eye on Titanic was about 110 feet above the horizon.
    This means that their visible horizon was about 12 miles away.
    If the pack ice was 6 feet high, then on a clear day, they would have first seen it when it was about 12 or13 miles away.
    We see things because they either emit light or reflect it from an external source. That night, the external source was the stars and planets.
    If the lookout saw a low-lying haze, 2 points on either bow then it was starlight reflecting off the surface of the pack ice barrier which lay across the path of the Titanic. See here:
    Fleet's Haze.jpg
  4. T Maltin

    T Maltin Member

    Hi Mila,

    I have now gone back to my notes and my calculations are as follows:

    Log of Wilson Line Steamer "S.S. Marengo"
    Capt. G. W. Owen. New York to Hull Air Water Air °C Water °C Diff. Comments in Met Log
    4am 14.4.1912 369 miles west (46 miles South) 49.7 62.2 Passes "Etonian" who reports ice in Long. 50W
    8am 14.4.1912 326 miles west (46 miles South) 45 62.5 (no entry in comments for this time)
    Noon 14.4.1912 283 miles west (46 miles South) 43.7 40.5 Inv. "Much refraction"
    4pm 14.4.1912 241 miles west (46 miles South) 49 56.7 "Much refraction on horizon""
    8pm 14.4.1912 200 miles west (46 miles South) 43.5 43.7 "Great refraction"
    Mid 14.4.1912 163 miles west (46 miles South) 48.1 57.2 "Much refraction, stars very clear & bright"
    4am 15.4.1912 124 miles west (46 miles South) 47.6 60 "Very clear, stars very bright"
    8am 15.4.1912 81 miles west (46 miles South) 46.1 62.3 "Great refraction"
    Noon 15.4.1912 40 miles west (46 miles South) 40 60.7 "Cir S gently from eastward"
    4pm 15.4.1912 0 miles west/east (46 miles South) 41.1 60.2 "Much refraction"
    8pm 15 4 1912 40 miles east (46 miles South) 32.9 33.5 "Great refraction"

    As you can see from the above, her log clearly states "Much refraction" when she is only 46 miles due South of Titanic's crash site. You will notice that she can also see the refraction on the horizon in the dark. Her log shows that in that whole area of the North Atlantic where the cold water of the Labrador current flows into the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, there was very clear and bright stars at night and much refraction on the horizon day and night.

    This is crucial evidence of the general conditions in that part of the North Atlantic where Titanic sank that night, and the description matches what Symons said, and what everyone saw of the stars above Titanic...and it matches with how Bisset describes the horizon from the Carpathia. I note in your article that you quote Rostron but ignore Bisset, who was on the bridge with Rostron at the time. And when he said this Californian was only 30 miles due south of Titanic's crash site, at 9.30pm on the evening of Titanic's collision. He was in about 41.9N 50.3W, directly south of the ice barrier which, only two hours later, Titanic would crash into an outlaying iceberg of. As Bisset headed eastward, he and Captain Rostron looked northwards from the port wing of Carpathia’s bridge:

    “I walked with the Captain in the darkness to the port wing of the bridge. The weather was calm. The sea smooth with no wind. The sky was clear and the stars were shining, there was no moon, but the Aurora Borealis glimmered like moonbeams shooting up from the northern horizon. The air was intensely cold. Though visibility was good, the peculiar atmospheric conditions caused partly by the melting of the large ice field to our northwards in the waters of the Gulf Stream, made the sea and sky seem to blend into one another so that it was difficult to define the horizon.

    And Bisset recorded the refracting horizon again in the early hours of the following morning, as he steamed towards the ice field and Titanic’s wreck site:

    The peculiar atmospheric conditions of visibility intensified as we approached the icefield with the greenish beams of the Aurora Borealis shimmering and confusing the horizon ahead of us.
  5. T Maltin

    T Maltin Member

    Hi Jim,
    We know how Titanic was heading relative to Californian from eye witnesses on Titanic throughout the night. Here is a chart of the results, taken from my notes for my book 'A Very Deceiving Night':


    Regarding the haze two points on either side, I agree with you and Mila that this was iceblink from the starlight reflecting off the ice barrier directly ahead of Titanic in the dark. My point is that this merely *added* to the confusion that night, as the miraging strip along the horizon looked the same - the reflected starlight scattering in the long airpath. The below diagram is a simulation by mirage expert Andrew T Young, which shows how the refraction band along horizon had the effect of reducing the apparent angular size if the fatal iceberg, delaying it's sighting by some crucial minutes:



    As you can see, it is the base of the berg against the sea which is first noticed, because this is the largest area of contrast, but it is only seen when the berg is very close. When the berg was three miles away, when they might normally have seen a berg of that size on a starlit night, the refracting band along the horizon reduced the contrast with the berg and rendered the top half of it invisible. And at the time the base against the sea appeared too small to be visible, until it got near enough to see - and near enough to Titanic to be fatal!

    As you say, this reduced contrast situation would have been greatly compounded by the starlight reflecting off ice barrier. So both things were going on that night. And Titanic's lookouts described both things.

    Best wishes, Tim
  6. Mila

    Mila Guest


    Tim, above is the screenshot from Marengo's log for 15 and 16. She was 50°29' on 15 (noon). She was 44°29' on April 16 (noon).
    The Titanic sank at 49° 56'. How Marengo could have been there on April 14, if she has not even reached that point on April 15? And below is her log for 14. She was at 56°17'. So i've no idea where you take your numbers from.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 6, 2019
  7. Julian Atkins

    Julian Atkins Member

    Hi Tim,

    Being familiar with Bisset's book, I presume Californian above is a typo error for Carpathia?

    I found Aaron's pics of white lights of a vessel at night the lower one of them becoming red most interesting.

    All fascinating stuff!

    Mila, I could not access your links - do we have to pay to see them? You could post them on here as an article.


  8. Mila

    Mila Guest

    Julian, it is the Journal policy. They do charge money for reading. I am not getting anything of it of course.
    I cannot violate the policies and republish the articles, but you might be able to access them online via your local library.
    It is what I am doing, when I need an article for my reseearch.
    I am not sure if they are already awailabale in libraries because they have not been published in a printed version of the Journal yet.
  9. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Hello Tim.
    I suspect the evidence you base your NW heading comes from following:

    1: QM Olliver.
    2. QM Rowe.
    3. 3rd officer Lowe.
    4. Passenger Major Peuchin.

    QM Olliver said the second helm order was given some time after impact and when the berg was "way down stern". Any helm applied then or after that time would be totally ineffectual unless the engines were given a burst ahead

    QM Rowe and 5th Officer Lowe did not consult a compass but based their beliefs on the fact that the relative bearing of the light on the port bow was changing. That is not the sole indication that the bow was swinging. It can also mean that the vessel showing the light was moving. Boxhall perfectly described a moving ship. Californian was stopped.
    Major Peuchen said he saw the Northern Lights from his lifeboat as he rowed it directly out from the port side. he was facing the stern of the boat at that time, which means that the stopped Titanic was heading a little south of due west at that time.

    The lookouts and QM Hichens, described an almost uninterrupted flow of events.. 3 bell warning, back up call to the bridge, hard over helm order impact. The known speed of the ship at that time and the first point of contact being less than 50 feet from Titanic's very fine bow, tells me that the iceberg was only a few hundred feet ahead of the ship when she started her turn. It also tells me that they were almost on top of the iceberg before they saw it and that it was sighted by the lookouts and 1st Officer Murdoch at much the same time.

    You remarked earlier that you are coming to believe that Californian was nearer to 10 miles away from Titanic. If you or anyone else believes that, then you must reject the evidence of Stone and Gibson indicating that they saw Carpathia's "comfort" rockets at 3-30 am that morning. Because if they did see them right on the horizon at that time, then Carpathia was a little over 7 miles from Boxhall and his green flares and Boxhall was close to 22 miles away from the stopped Californian. The physics cannot be faulted.
  10. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    One more thought. Is it possible that the iceberg appeared like a floating cloud? Survivor Mr. Gibbons said he witnessed the fatal iceberg in the early hours and first mistook it for a cloud. A passenger on the Carpathia (Mr. Skidmore) also saw a large iceberg in the morning and he mistook it for an air ship.

    I frequently see the hills of Scotland turn into clouds. Is it possible that Titanic's lookouts and officers mistook the iceberg for a cloud?


    Here is an account from Captain Hough. He believed the iceberg was mistaken for a cloud.

    April 18th 1912
    Evening Times, North Dakota


    (something ahead)

    "What is that Mr. Moody?"
    "It appears to be a cloud, sir"


    "Is it going away?"


    "Iceberg right ahead!......Stop Engines!!....."

    Last edited: Jan 6, 2019
  11. Mila

    Mila Guest

    Why to come up with some strange theories? The iceberg was seen at the distance it should have been seen counting calm, moonless night and the lookouts height. At the time the iceberg was seen it was outlined by the ocean, not the sky. If lookouts were at lower height maybe the sky would have mattered. Factor this: When the Titanic was sinking she for a few seconds were standing vertical, and probably her height was greater than the height of the iceberg. Gibson and Stone were looking at her all the time. Did they notice this last stand? Nope, they did not. So why the lookouts who looked in different directions should have noticed the iceberg before they did?
    I am sure that even if a mirage-assorted haze were present, which probably it was not, it would not have affected the visibility of the iceberg.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 6, 2019
  12. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    Here is a sketch made by lookout Frederick Fleet. (left). When the colours are switched it creates a better night time perspective. One can only guess if he drew a bold horizon to signify the haze (ice field) ahead which extended 2 points to each side, or if he simply leaned a little heavy with his pen. Also note that he placed the iceberg already on the starboard side, thus making the order 'hard a-starboard' much less believable.

    Lookout Lee
    "My mate happened to pass the remark to me. He said, “Well; if we can see through that we will be lucky.......It was a dark mass that came through that haze..."


    Helen Candee said the stars reflected against the sea and made a wonderful display.

    "It was a marvelous sight all emphasized by a more than twilight and a heaven full of such stars as only an arctic cold can produce. They actually lighted the atmosphere. The sea with its glassy surface threw back star by star the dazzling array, and made of the universe a complete unity without the break of a sky-line. It was like the inside of an entire globe."

    Maybe the lookouts were trying to focus passed the glare of dazzling starlight against the sea of glass, added with the effects of strong refraction of the ice field which lay directly ahead and which extended several points on each side. Not surprising that they could not see the iceberg until it was almost against the ship.


    A day with refraction, and a day without. Reminds me of the iceberg mistaken for a cloud.

    Last edited: Jan 6, 2019
  13. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Spot-on Mila.

    In fact, Etonian passed the pack ice at 50 West on April 12. The following is from Paul Lee:

    "April 12" "SS Etonian" "41.53 N 49.47 W" Brian Hill: "42 N 49 W noon steering S79W (true) speed 12 knots, at 3pm saw a berg".

    he position in the above ice report is exactly 9 miles north of the wreck site. At Noon, 2 days later, on April 14, after Etonian had negotiated the ice barrier, she would have been about 550 west of the wreck site.

  14. Mila

    Mila Guest

    It is sad, Jim.
    In his last post about Marengo Tim claimed she was at 49 something, but in his first post he actually provided the correct coordinates
    still claiming she was only one degree south from the wreck site on the night of the sinking.

    I said it was sad because Dr. Young spent lots of time trying to help Tim with the mirage theory, and Dr. Young told me that Marengo “evidence” was the strongest one in his opinion.
  15. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

  16. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    I think, like Ms. Candee, you should have been poet, Aaron.

    Think about that nonsense. here is a woman among hundreds of more women, torn from her warm bed and chucked into an open lifeboat in freezing, cold, pitch darkness in the middle of the Atlantic and she has time to wax lyrical about the beauties of the surrounding world...really?

    As for the "Ancient Mariner"...he wasn't a captain for very long if he was chief officer in 1907 and had since retired. The meeting with clouds at that time of year is a red herring.
    Like the good captain, I too have crossed that very area countless times and I can tell you, without contradiction, tha.you can expect cloud there on any day of the year, but not icebergs. I suspect the Reporter of that story got his facts and inverted commas mixed up.
    The only time I have ever identified clouds at sea, at night, was when the moon was shining.
    Then there is "Rembrandt" Fleet. If he drew that sketch then he was either on a different ship or the world's worst artist. He most certainly would not have seen anything on the horizon because the horizon was almost 13 miles away.
  17. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    Regarding the sudden change in temperature. I recall Lightoller noted how quickly the temperature was changing that night, and the SS Minia which collected a number of bodies reported that the water temperature had changed rapidly from 36°F to 56°F in just half a mile as they approached the Gulf stream.

    Is it possible that this sudden change did create an atmospheric effect, especially with a giant land mass such as the ice field moving continuously and altering the temperature as it moved? Here is a chart from the Mackay Bennett which shows the sudden change in water temperature as noted by the SS Minia above.

    Red square = bodies recovered.


    The rapid change along the Gulf stream is fascinating. When I align the other points with the chart it appears that the Gulf stream was directly affecting the waters around the Titanic e.g.

    A rough idea of both charts aligned.


    Everything appears to be at the mercy of the Gulf stream. Including the heavy debris and the icebergs.



    T Maltin likes this.
  18. Mila

    Mila Guest

    Aaron as I have said many times Titanic sank in ever-changing but ever-present cold water tongue of the Labrador Current. That tongue has many eddies, and the temperature is changing drastically in a very short time. See for example figure 7 of this IIP report .https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/pdf/iip/2014_IIP_Annual_Report.pdf and notice also this description
    These small-scale features are always there, and probably were even more complex during 1912.
    Of course there could have been an abnormal refraction, except there was probably none. There was cold front that passed over the area a few hours prior. The air temperature dropped significantly and became the same or even lower than the water temperature. So forming a thermal inversion on the surface level was probably impossibility.
    And if you are to read some old IIP reports you will see that the currents situation on the night of the tragedy was not unique.
  19. T Maltin

    T Maltin Member

    Thanks Julian, yes, Carpathia.
  20. Mila

    Mila Guest

    Well, continue to do one thing in a time.
    No, Tim, I did not ignore Bisset. I quoted him in another articles. I am sure he did not mean a mirage.