The Final Momentwhen


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T. Eric Brown

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I've stayed up late as I usually do on weekends and just happened to look at the clock on my computer and it said: 2:33 AM Saturday, April 15, 2006. Happy 94th Anniversary everyone! God bless those 1,500 souls.

I thought now would be a good time to dig an old topic out of the dirt. I understand there has been some controversy as to the exact time that Titanic slipped beneath the waves. In my honest opinion, we'll probably never know, but it's an interesting thing to hash over. I think it was Pitman who gave the time as 2:20. I've also heard 2:30-35. Gosh, I can't remember who said it. I know Boxhall gave a different time, maybe it was him. It's 3:20 am where I am, so my brain's not working too great. Anyway, just thought I'd bring this up, given the occation and because I find this interesting.
 
Oct 28, 2000
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The most reliable times of events come from the stopped pocket timepieces of victims. These times are not influenced by the vagaries of human memory which the mind often alters for the benefit of the person doing the remembering. Next in reliability come the times recalled in sworn testimony.

The forward end of the boat deck seems to have gone under at about 2:14 a.m. in April 14th hours, or 1:27 a.m. in April 15th time. This was measured by the stopped pocket timepiece of ship's barber Weikman. Postal clerk J.S. March's body carried a pocket timepiece also stopped at this time. (Actually, Weikman was carrying 1:50 a.m. on his pocket timepiece, but that's a subject too complex for this discussion.)

In the lifeboat Boxhall said the time was 2:20 a.m. when the ship sank, which in light of these stopped timepieces and Annie Robinson's statements seems rather to be the time the lights went out. After that, Titanic was a black object on a black sea on a dark night. It would have appeared to most that "she's gone."

Robert Norman's pocket timepiece stopped at 3:07, an odd time. However, it appears he had been set to April 13th hours. Converted to April 14, that becomes 2:20 a.m.

I believe the recent Cameron expedition found the clock in the Strauss' room stopped at about 2:20 a.m.

2:20 a.m. is 0518 GMT.

The pocket timepieces of Jack Thayer and Col. Gracie stopped at 2:22 a.m. in April 14th hours. The stopping of these timepieces seems to reflect the timing of the breakup and disappearance of the bow section somewhat prior to the disappearance of the stern.

The stopped pocket timepiece found on Austin Partner's body indicated a tiem of 2:25 a.m. in April 14th hours, or 1:38 in April 15th time. That's 0523 GMT

Stewardess Annie Robinson noted the time of the sinking at 1:40 a.m. on her "altered" watch, which presumably meant 1:40 a.m. in April 15th time. Adding 47 minutes to that gives 2:27 a.m. in April 14th hours. Both are the equivalent of 0525 GMT.

Based on what we know of the breakup and sinking, it would seem that the various times represent the ongoing cataclysm. Using April 14th hours for familiarity, at about 2:20 a.m. the lights went out as the stern began breaking away. Then, people like Gracie and Thayer on the boat deck went into the water at about 2:22 a.m. The bow disappeared, but the stern continued floating in that upended position until about 2:27 a.m.

Remember, these times are not absolutes measured by GPS-supplied time as they would be today. We have digital wristwatches for under 10 dollars that are more accurate than the best navigational chronometer in 1912. The wind-up personal timepieces of that era did not tick in unison, but at individual rates. So, it is reasonable to expect there is some "slop" factor to be reckoned with.

However, Annie Robinson's time of 0525 GMT on 15 April, 1912 has a good enough pedigree for all practical purposes.

-- David G. Brown
 
Mar 22, 2003
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A few more:

Daisy Minahan (1st Cl. passenger) 2:20 AM by man’s watch in lifeboat 15

Herbert Pitman (3rd Officer) 2:20 AM by his watch from lifeboat 5

Marian Thayer (1st Cl. passenger) 2:20 AM by passenger’s wrist watch in lifeboat 4

Reginald Lee (lookout) 2:30 AM by lady in lifeboat 13

These were probably the time when the stern went under, not the time the lights went out. The remains of the darkened ship was quite visible against the background of the stars as seen from the lifeboats. (e.g., see Beesley's account). The differences in timepieces had more to do with accuracy of setting and the accuracy of timekeeping. Most people were happy to set things to the nearest 5 minute markings on their watch faces. Many watches carried only hour and minute hands and some watches only had the hour markings displayed on the face. Most times when reported were to the nearest 5 minute interval seen. I'm afraid that trying to be more precise than that is a hopeless task. If there is a time for remembrance I should think 0520 GMT (3 hours ahead of 2:20 ship time) for the 15th of April should be close enough.
 
May 5, 2005
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>>2:20 a.m. is 0518 GMT.<<
Silly me, I had alway thought that time around the planet was divided into half and whole hours.
Hey, I'm just a dumb plumber, but I think I would be interested in learning more about this.
 

Dave Gittins

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It depends on how Titanic's clock was set and there is room for some difference of opinion. If Lord Mersey and I are right, Titanic was 3hr 10min behind GMT. The sinking time is then 0530hrs GMT (now UTC).

It would be fair to say that marking the sinking between 0520hrs and 0540hrs UTC would be appropriate.
 
May 3, 2005
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>>I believe the recent Cameron expedition found the clock in the Strauss' room stopped at about 2:20 a.m.<<

Were the clocks in the rooms electrically operated and synchronized with a master clock ? If so, would this time [2:20 a.m.]coincide with "the time the lights went out" or the electric power failed ?
 

T. Eric Brown

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Excuse me for interjecting in the middle of a question, but what's the difference between April 14th time and April 15th time? I obviously don't know much about period pocket watches. Could someone enlighten me?
 
Oct 28, 2000
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Due to the westward movement of Titanic, it was necessary to set back the clocks each night. Otherwise, the passengers would have been sitting down to lunch at 7:00 a.m. when they got to New York because NYC is 5 hours behind Greenwich.

The amount of the setback can be handled in a variety of ways. On Titanic, they chose to set back the clocks by 47 minutes on the night of April 14/15. So, April 14th hours were 47 minutes "faster" than those of April 15th.

The exact method of the setback was never detailed and had been lost to history. What we do know is the range of hours over which the setback was accomplished. White Star regulations prevented changing the clocks prior to 10 p.m. and Second Officer Lightoller said all of the clocks were "correct" as of midnight.

-- David G. Brown
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Senator SMITH. When were the ship's clocks set; do you know?
Mr. PITMAN [Titanic's 3rd Officer]. They are set at midnight every night.
Senator SMITH. They were set at midnight?
Mr. PITMAN. Every night.
Senator SMITH. And were they set at midnight Sunday night?
Mr. PITMAN. No; we had something else to think of.
 
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Matt Pereira

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Ahhhh the mystery of contraditing statements. It can never be easy in life or directly to the point, still trying to cover their hide even about clocks lmao
 
Jul 9, 2000
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In this case, I don't think it's anyone covering anyone's hide but honest differences about what happened and when. Whether or not Pitman was in a position to know this as an absolute irrefutable fact, I don't know, but he does have a point about having something else to think of.

Having your ship sinking beneath your feet can be quite a distraction.
 
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Matt Pereira

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Makes since to be distracted but you would think the second officer would know alittle more than the third officer but then again if im remebering correctly the third officer was stationed under the docking bridge out back
 
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After considerable study of the times of events, I've become convinced that Pitman was correct. The civil time aboard Titanic was never changed on the night of the sinking. Therefore, in the eerie depths it continues to be April 14, 1912 on the decaying wreck.

-- David G. Brown
 
Mar 22, 2003
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What Lightoller was talking about was the extra time that Boxhall was to have in Boxhall's watch because of the intended clock setback that was to have taken place at midnight, not that it did take place.

Please note that as senior officers, 2/O Lightoller's watches were nominally from 6 to 10, 1/O Murdoch's from 10 to 2, and C/O Wilde's from 2 to 6; 4 on and 8 off, each. The juniors were 4 on and 4 off (12 to 4, 4 to 8, and 8 to 12) with the exception of the afternoon dog watches 4 pm to 6 pm, and 6 pm to 8 pm, when they had 2 on and 2 off.

Mr. LIGHTOLLER. I believe he [speaking of Boxhall] was on the 8 to 12 watch.
Senator SMITH. That would take him two hours beyond your watch?
Mr. LIGHTOLLER. More than two hours, considering what the clock went back.
Senator SMITH. The clock went back some at that time?
Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Yes.

What Lightoller was saying is that Boxhall's watch was expected to last more that the 2 hours beyond his because of the setting back of the clock at midnight. The expected added time for Boxhall was 23 minutes and the added time to the oncoming watch was 24 minutes. The total planned clock setback was 47 minutes for that particular night. (See Hichens.)

The proof the clocks did not go back that not night, as Pitman said, is in the separate taffrail log readings of both Rowe and Hichens. Hichens recorded a distance traveled of 45 nautical miles over a 2 hour period from 8 to 10 pm producing and average speed of 22.5 knots through the water. Rowe measured a distance run of 260 nautical miles from noon to the time of the collision. Taking 11:40 pm as the collision time, this is a run of 260 miles in 11.67 hours, or a speed of 22.3 knots, good agreement with the 2 hour average measured by Hichens. If the clocks were set back before the collision, even by as little as 23 minutes, then the speed through the water from noon to the collision becomes 21.6 knots. Yet it was documented that the ship was carrying 75-76 rpm or greater since Saturday. This would put the speed at 22 knots or more (based on reported Olympic data) in agreement with the log readings of Rowe and Hichens, and also the miles run from noon Apr 13 to noon Apr 14. The ship did not reduce speed.

In addition there were several 1st class passengers that stayed in the 1st class smoking room specifically waiting for the expected clock change to occur so they could set their watches by it. The accident happened before that change was to take place.

I could go on, but this topic has been covered in several threads before.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Now Dave, how can you do that? What will you and I have to argue about? Oh, it was "civil" time that you said. I get it.
happy.gif
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>What will you and I have to argue about? <<

Don't worry, Sam...you two will find something. Frankly, I think that's a *good* thing. Out of your mutual disagreements have tended to come some new insights. If I had the talant that you and David possess for crunching the numbers, I'd join in. Since I don't, I'm lurk and try to learn.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Yes, Michael, I'm sure we will. Constructive critiquing is always welcome. What I do like about Dave is his ability to look at alternatives that others may not have considered before. Many times this does not lead to supportable results, but other times it can lead to that one missing link in an otherwise unsolvable puzzle.
 
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>>What I do like about Dave is his ability to look at alternatives that others may not have considered before.<<

Agreed. His talant for explaining some very complex matters of the maritime world helps as well. It's a rare talant.
 
Feb 7, 2005
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Whether you call it "thinking outside the box," or "pushing the envelope," Dave does it very well! He not only enjoys the resulting debate--I'm sure he'd be very disappointed without it.

Dave makes you stop and think, which is always good.

Denise
 
Oct 28, 2000
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Sam-- For the benefit of everyone, let's both admit that you and I are at loggerheads over the subject of civil/crew time. That way, we won't confuse anyone. I suggest that we spend some time preparing an e-debate over this issue so that our friends on this forum can get up to speed with our four years of argumentation.

With regard to Rowe's reading of the log, there are several internal inconsistencies in his story which give me grave doubts about its authenticity. And, this goes back to our discussions/arguments/frustrations over civil timekeeping. In my view, he reconstructed the reading ex post facto and did not make the claimed reading...or if he did, he did not report it to the bridge or remember it accurately.

But, it's meaningless to argue this now. I suggest it would be better for us to prepare a series of postings after we have hashed it out in advance. That way, we can correct the obvious brain f**ts and improve the wording as well as be more specific at answering each other's arguments.

Perhaps a summer project looking toward September?

-- David G. Brown
 
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