Superior mirage and the Californian


Rob Lawes

Member
Jun 13, 2012
1,187
735
208
England
Hi Rob,

As I understand it, at precisely the time the ice berg was sighted, the only Officer on the bridge keeping a look out was Murdoch.

Hi Julian,

When you put it like that. Yes.

Another to chalk up to the list of contributing factors. Lack of additional lookouts placed on watch.

In normal circumstances Boxhall wouldn't have been expected to lookout as he had navigational matters to attend to.

Moody would have presumably supervised the compass comparison from the wheelhouse end. I don't know what he would do in between. Perhaps on long runs where the course wouldn't necessarily change from one hour to the next he would be available as an additional pair of eyes when not supervising the QM?
 

george harris

Member
May 11, 2018
101
39
73
I don't understand.

How can you do that? We know he was not in the pink of condition but that was long after the 15th of April...the following was on the 22nd May, over 5 weeks after the event
"The Solicitor-General:
I fancy Mr. Boxhall has not been very well. I know your Lordship will allow him to sit down.
15326. (The Commissioner.) Certainly, sit down, if you wish?
- I am quite right, My Lord, thank you".

His answers in the US were sharp and to the point and there is no indication of any illness then. Pleurisy is normally a secondary effect following a lung infection such as flu or pneumonia. There is no idication that Boxhall suffered any of these before leaving Titanic.

I
think your idea that somehow Boxhall's health had something to do with his evidence is like the true subject of this thread...a mirage.:rolleyes:
Other "mirages" are people speculating that Captain Lord was drunk or that Captain Smith had too much wine at the Widener party.

George
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Julian Atkins

Member
Sep 23, 2017
1,390
675
188
South Wales UK
In normal circumstances Boxhall wouldn't have been expected to lookout as he had navigational matters to attend to.

As far as I can see it Boxhall spent an inordinately long time off the bridge working out the star positions then some compass deviations that occupied him over 2 hours depending on how you interpret his evidence. Certainly took no less that 2 hours till 10pm if not longer.

His answers in the US were sharp and to the point and there is no indication of any illness then.

Most of Boxhall's evidence on day 3 in the USA was totally non committal and evasive, except the exciting bits we know very well. Perhaps we ought to look at again the bits we don't concentrate on and don't know well? The non - exciting bits. (If the moderators want me to start a new thread or re-open an old thread on Boxhall I am happy to do so).

I just don't think Boxhall was quite 'with it' that evening, and a proper analysis of Boxhall and his infirmities might explain a lot. What is beyond despite is that for most if not all of his watch that evening he was definitely not on the bridge on look out, when extra 'eyes' might have been expected from the Officers.

From what we know of the bridges of other ships, Titanic singularly failed to plan ahead that night.

When Captain Lord saw the ice field he had Groves on the flying bridge with him plus an extra man in the forecastle head (the sharp end of the ship pointing forward).

(It is interesting to note that Evans and Durrant ought to have overheard the Mesaba message but Durrant made no record of it, and Evans didn't either).

When the ice berg was sighted on Titanic, the only officer on the bridge was Murdoch. Moody was in or adjacent to the wheel house, and Boxhall was either exiting the officers quarters or having a cup of tea in his cabin (the two are not incompatible I suggest).

You couldn't make this up!

Cheers,

Julian
 
Last edited:

Rob Lawes

Member
Jun 13, 2012
1,187
735
208
England
Most of Boxhall's evidence on day 3 in the USA was totally non committal and evasive,

Hi Julian.

On the matter of Boxhall's work while on watch, I'll have to defer to someone who may know more as I really wouldn't know what was normal other than he would have to walk out to the standard compass every 30 minutes to carry out the compass comparison. Also I believe he was required to do rounds of the ship but I'm unsure of the frequency (I think David knows this)

As for his answers to the US Inquiry, funny how you bring this up now. I was on the train back from work today and was reading through Lightoller's testimony in the US. It quickly became apparent that things you would have expected him to answer with a relative degree of confidence were answered in the most generic way or not at all. I started to mentally tick off his answers and list them.

I know you'll know about open and closed questions. What I started to do his grade his answers as denial, vague, didn't know, answered in full.

I quickly realised its a big job and I need a bit of time but I think it will produce some interesting patterns.

Watch this space.
 

Julian Atkins

Member
Sep 23, 2017
1,390
675
188
South Wales UK
In normal circumstances Boxhall wouldn't have been expected to lookout as he had navigational matters to attend to.

Whatever Boxhall had to work out as computations of star positions, and compass deviation he did by his own account took 2 hours at a minimum to do this.

I would like to hear from Sam and Jim what sort of time Boxhall might have been expected to carry out those functions.

On one interpretation of his evidence he completed the star stuff by 10pm, then took further time to work out the compass deviation, though he is ambiguous over this point.

He certainly seems to have taken quite a long time over all this?

Cheers,

Julian
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,661
1,395
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
Whatever Boxhall had to work out as computations of star positions, and compass deviation he did by his own account took 2 hours at a minimum to do this.

I would like to hear from Sam and Jim what sort of time Boxhall might have been expected to carry out those functions.

On one interpretation of his evidence he completed the star stuff by 10pm, then took further time to work out the compass deviation, though he is ambiguous over this point.

He certainly seems to have taken quite a long time over all this?

Cheers,

Julian
The star sights were started by Pitman and completed by Boxhall.
In fact, he had them completed by around 9-30 pm when Smith came back on the bridge.

You have to keep in mind that everything was done by hand back then.
Arithmetic was long division... dot and carry one stuff. Plane and spherical trigonometry was the order of the day and Logarithmic Tables were used all the time. There were short-cut tables such as the Traverse Table but it would only have been used as a back up to check the calculations done "the long way". Working 6 stars would have been a long, laborious process which culminated in a plot for comparison. each calculation would have taken about 10 to15 minutes from start to finish. Without a rest, these would have taken well over an hour of continous work.

Star observations for compass comparison would have taken roughly 20 minutes to half an hour. They would consist of trip to standard paltform...remove compass helmet...take bearing ting the bell for Moody to note GMT...return to chartroom, start calculation.

Done seen it, got a drawer full of T shirts to prove it.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Julian Atkins

Member
Sep 23, 2017
1,390
675
188
South Wales UK
Hi Jim,

Many thanks for the above and for the time you have taken to reply to my query.

I find all the timings of the principle players on Titanic that night very odd.

Boxhall from 8pm spends 2 hours or more apparently in the chart room working out the earlier stellar observations. (He may have done this in his own cabin).

Captain Smith is at dinner in the first class dining room from 7pm or 7.15pm to who knows what time!

Lightoller's recollection of Captain Smith joining him on the bridge and saying not a lot for 25 or 30 minutes contradicts those present at the Widener's table of Captain Smith's attendance.

One might speculate that actually Lightoller's conversation with Captain Smith took possibly some 5 minutes by it's content as described/testified by Lightoller. Not 25 or 30 minutes!

Significantly (unless I have missed something) if Boxhall was working out these stellar observations then the compass deviation in the chart room, he never mentions Captain Smith returning from the Widener's dinner to his cabin and adjacent chart room. He ought to have done, if Captain Smith returned after dinner at the time Lightoller claimed, and if Boxhall was in the chart room.

Some of the pieces of the jigsaw do not fit together I suggest.

Cheers,

Julian
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,661
1,395
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
ello Julian.

Boxhall would never have done any navigation work in his cabin. All the necessary reference books, log book chronometer and tables would have been in the chartroom.

The Captain could have entered his accommodation from one of three directions, only one of which passed the door of Boxhall's cabin and the door of the Officer's Mess. If Captain Smith had used that entrance and found one of his junior officers away from his station, he would have had that officer's guts for garters.

There were 2 chart rooms: Captian Smith's private one and the communal one used by the Navigating officers. The former was on the starboard side of the wheelhouse, and the latter on the port side of the wheelhouse. The former had 2 entrances...1 from the Captain's day Room and the other from the starboard side of the wheelhouse. The latter had but a single entrance and it was located on the port side of the wheelhouse. There was no need for Smith ever to go to the communal wheelhouse. All the daily work was duplicated on his navigating room and kept updated by his Navigating Officers. Hence the reason for Boxhall standing at the Captain's chartroom door while the latter pricked-off the 7-30 pm sights on his personal chart.

I think you will find that Captain Smith would have spent at least 15 minutes on the bridge wing talking to Lightoller. he would stay there until he got his night vision, after which he and Lightoller would have been standing together on the bridge front platform leaning on the dodger and chewing the fat...it was almost a tradition. They would have discussed many things in that short time

Hope this helps in your quest for truth.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Rob Lawes

Member
Jun 13, 2012
1,187
735
208
England
"total speculation warning!!"

I know Smith had his own steward but I've no idea if the officers had a messman? I can however, we'll imagine that as Boxhall was able to leave the bridge in the normal execution of his duties, it was his job to ensure a hot brew was in preparation for the on coming and off going watches. This would involve him coming back in from the last compass check and putting a kettle on or starting to brew up.

Think about it, Boxhall was due off watch within half an hour (let's not quibble about clock changes for a moment) so why then with so little time left on his watch would he have a brew then. The timing doesn't make much sense.

As I said above, it's pure speculation but I could well imagine, 1912's popped into the mess to start brewing up for the oncoming officers, by 1962 had become 'drinking tea in his cabin'

Just a thought.
 
Mar 22, 2003
6,527
1,810
383
Chicago, IL, USA
www.titanicology.com
Julian, working out sights was a very tedious task. As Jim said, Pitman started the process soon after the sights were taken. He probably got as far as correcting all the numbers for known corrections such dip, sextant index error, atmospheric refraction, and time adjustments to bring all sights to common time point reference in GMT. That was the easy stuff. Boxhall would have to do the sight reductions, and even with the help of printed tables, as Jim said, it would take a very long time. We know he completed this work before Lightoller left the bridge because he showed the 7:30pm position to Lightoller before going to Capt.Smith's chartroom for Smith to put onto hs chart. I believe Boxhall mentioned seeing Smith last around 9:30 which would have been after Lightoller and Smith had spoken. By the way, Smith was back from his unofficial social obligations before 9. (You can forget about the Daisy Minahan's affidavit where she said she saw Smith leave Widener party between 9:25 and 9:45. . Daisy was in bed by 9:30 according to her sister-in-law Lillian Minahan who left the part the same time that Daisy and her brother did.) What I find interesting, however, is that 1/O Murdoch allowed Boxhall to work on sights for compass deviation error instead of having him stand watch out on the bridge, given that he expected to be up to the ice at any moment. Perhaps, Murdoch was bit overly confident in his own ability to spot ice in time to avoid and decided he did not need an extra pair of eyes out on the bridge with him.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Julian Atkins

Member
Sep 23, 2017
1,390
675
188
South Wales UK
Hi Jim and Sam,

Thank you for your replies to my query.

And in respect of Jim's reply, I never knew there were 2 chart rooms on Titanic till today!

Cheers,

Julian
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,661
1,395
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
"total speculation warning!!"

I know Smith had his own steward but I've no idea if the officers had a messman? I can however, we'll imagine that as Boxhall was able to leave the bridge in the normal execution of his duties, it was his job to ensure a hot brew was in preparation for the on coming and off going watches. This would involve him coming back in from the last compass check and putting a kettle on or starting to brew up.

Think about it, Boxhall was due off watch within half an hour (let's not quibble about clock changes for a moment) so why then with so little time left on his watch would he have a brew then. The timing doesn't make much sense.

As I said above, it's pure speculation but I could well imagine, 1912's popped into the mess to start brewing up for the oncoming officers, by 1962 had become 'drinking tea in his cabin'

Just a thought.
Hello Rob.

There were 2 messroom stewards/pantrymen who would look after the officers. They had a cabin opposite the Officer's Pantry and Smoke Room.
However, at night, it was usually one of the duties of the Standby QM to see that officers were called at 1 bell and that the hot water boiler was full and boiling before that time. If Cadets (Midis) were carried, they would perform such duties. Gibson did that for Stone on the Californian. Officers did not normally have hot beverages during a Watch. However, if they did, it would usually be about 2 hours into the Watch. Too much liquid caused a problem regarding a "kidney break. Have a look at the boat deck plan...a long way to run with legs crossed:eek:.

I think you are right about the "cuppa tea". The story about it came after ANTR. Haven't seen it. Did Boxhall have a cuppa in the relevant scene? I can imagine the Director or scriptwriters coming up with it.:rolleyes:
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,661
1,395
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
PS Nearly forgot. You mention pure speculation.

The idea that Boxall was off the bridge to carry out the mandatory compass check also ranks as pure speculation.

We have absolutely no idea what Boxhall was doing. All we know for sure is that QM Olliver, a member of the same Watch, was performing a standard duty...trimming the wicks in the Standard Compass oil lamp... a duty, I suggest to you, that would be planned before the compass check took place. I can just imagine the fireworks if an officer arrived at the compass to do the regular check to discover that he could not see the card because the wick had not been maintained properly. It might be argued that Boxhall had found the light too dim and had ordered Olliver to make things right and he, Boxhall was waiting to go back up to the compass platform. If so, why did he go to the bridge instead of back to the compass? 3 bells usually meant a ship's lights seen way ahead...not an iceberg.

You mention clock changes. A Compass check would have been planned at or near to One Bell. The reason for this being that it would be the very latest update on compass error for the next Navigating team taking over in 15 minutes. Thus, the last compass check would have been due to take place at or near to 12-09 am, April 14 time.

Just thinking.
 

Rob Lawes

Member
Jun 13, 2012
1,187
735
208
England
I was under the impression that the compass checks were mandated to take place every half an hour?

If that is not the case I may have miss understood a discussion in a different thread.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,661
1,395
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
I was under the impression that the compass checks were mandated to take place every half an hour?

If that is not the case I may have miss understood a discussion in a different thread.
No, Rob, you did not misunderstand. There was a very sound reason for the Compass check intervals

The Compass checks would not be made at the time of a Watch changeover Too much to do at and just before and after that time.
There would have been one at 11-45 am before Noon and 30 minutes thereafter. It follows that if there was no planned clock change, then there would be a check due at 11-45 pm. This means that when the Watch was handed over, the latest compass check was only 15 minutes old.
This held good for the Senior as well as the Junior Watchkeepers. Thus when Lightoller handed over to Murdoch the Compass error on the Course Board was the very latest version.
However, if the clocks were to be set back 24 minutes at midnight and the compass error had been determined at 11-45 pm unaltered time, then when Pitman relived Boxhall in the normal way, the compass error would already have been ancient history and contrary to intentions. i.e instead of being no more than 30 minutes old, it would have been 39 minutes old.

11-45 pm...compass check.
add 15 minutes.
Midnight (1) - subtract 24 minute
Time 11-36.
add 24 minutes.
Midnight (2) -Watch changeover.
Interval since compass check = 15 + 24 = 39 minutes.

However, if there had been such a clock change, then when the 3 bells were heard at or near to 11-40 pm the compass error check was due in 5 minutes and Boxhall was on his way to relieve Moody so that the latter could go to the Compass platform and take a star azimuth. Moody could do so with confidence since QM Olliver had made sure the lights on the compass binnacle were in good order for the task. However, events changed the good intentions.

Just saying:rolleyes:
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
Mar 22, 2003
6,527
1,810
383
Chicago, IL, USA
www.titanicology.com
I was under the impression that the compass checks were mandated to take place every half an hour?
Rob, the requirement in the rules for the OOW was to steady the ship by standard every 1/2 hour. How that was actually carried out practically was not specified. The same rule said that a comparison of the compasses was to take place during each Watch and the result entered into the compass comparison book for reference. That requirement would require someone out on the standard compass platform as well as when a course change took place. The course of the vessel was specified by standard compass. It was written down on a course board in the wheelhouse. On a separate course board used by the helmsman, the course to steer by was written down. The only difference between standard and steering compass readings would be due to their difference in compass deviation error. Maintaining a steady course, that difference should not change.
For example, suppose the ship's course was 265°T and the corresponding standard compass course was N71°W (289°). Now also suppose when steadied on that course, N71°W by standard, the steering compass read N68°W. That would be the course that the helmsman steered by. As long as there was no course alteration, if the ship was steadied on N68°W by steering compass, and checked by the OOW every 1/2 hour, then it should be the same as steadying on N71°W by standard without actually having to send anyone out to the amidships standard compass platform every 1/2 hour, and still be in compliance with the company rule. A matter of practical implementation of the every 1/2 hour rule, especially if the JOs are needed elsewhere, like involved in doing sight reductions.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,661
1,395
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
Rob, the requirement in the rules for the OOW was to steady the ship by standard every 1/2 hour. How that was actually carried out practically was not specified. The same rule said that a comparison of the compasses was to take place during each Watch and the result entered into the compass comparison book for reference. That requirement would require someone out on the standard compass platform as well as when a course change took place. The course of the vessel was specified by standard compass. It was written down on a course board in the wheelhouse. On a separate course board used by the helmsman, the course to steer by was written down. The only difference between standard and steering compass readings would be due to their difference in compass deviation error. Maintaining a steady course, that difference should not change.
For example, suppose the ship's course was 265°T and the corresponding standard compass course was N71°W (289°). Now also suppose when steadied on that course, N71°W by standard, the steering compass read N68°W. That would be the course that the helmsman steered by. As long as there was no course alteration, if the ship was steadied on N68°W by steering compass, and checked by the OOW every 1/2 hour, then it should be the same as steadying on N71°W by standard without actually having to send anyone out to the amidships standard compass platform every 1/2 hour, and still be in compliance with the company rule. A matter of practical implementation of the every 1/2 hour rule, especially if the JOs are needed elsewhere, like involved in doing sight reductions.

It should be as easy as that Sam, but it was not. The operative word is "should". What "should " be is very often not the case.
For instance, It would surprise you as to the extent and difference of magnetic Deviations of each compass during the first 6 months after a ship leaves the builder's yard. Not only that, but many things have a transient effect on Deviation.
If, as you suggest, values were so constant, why would it be necessary for Junior Officers to work azimuths and keep an Azimuth Book?
The Deviation error of the steering Compass is not the same Deviation error as experienced by the Standard Compass. Magnetic Compasses are individual units with errors specific to each and the compensating elements are located at different distances relative to the compass needle. The only common error is the Variation error and as you know, that changes relative to where the compass is located on the earth's surface.
 

Similar threads

Similar threads