Time of the 'Big Wave'

In many cases, the time given for a certain event of Titanic's sinking can only be estimated. Idem for the Big Wave. It was that 'wave' which came moments before the ship broke up, washing Collapsibles A & B off the ship. Titanic took a sudden dip and seemed to be moving forward too.

Now, the time of this moment has been estimated at about 2:15 A.M., but I think we overlooked a piece of evidence which allows us to determine that time much more accurately. The evidence comes from the Virginian, which heard Titanic's wireless messages until the final moments. The last message was recorded as such:
Virginian hears Titanic, call “CQ” (call to all ships) , but unable to read him. Titanic’s signals end very abruptly as power suddenly switched off.
This was at 2:17 A.M..

Then, Phillips & Bride bolted out of the Marconi Room and to the Boat Deck. Bride went to assist with Collapsible lifeboat B while Phillips disappeared aft. All of this took place before the big wave came.

Conclusion: The 'Big wave' came after 2:17 A.M., and Collapsibles A & B were only floated off at that moment.

Jim Currie

Hello there Christophe!

You are 100% correct about there being discrepancies as to the timing of events. However in this case, the time of when the transmissions abruptly stopped has nothing to do with the 'wave'.

W/O Philips and his assistant, Bride left the wireless room before the bridge was inundated and before the so called wave swept aft along the boat deck. This means that all transmissions stopped the moment they left their posts.
In his evidence to the US Senate, Bride stated that they could no longer transmit because:

Senator SMITH: Was that last C.Q.D. all you said, or all he said?
Mr. BRIDE: That was the last, because we were of the opinion at the end that we were not getting a spark, owing to the poor supply of power.

It follows that the last transmission was made from Titanic at some time before 02:17 am.

However that time of 2:17 am may also be incorrect. Because when it was 2:17 am on Titanic, it was either 00:15am EST or 00:39am EST on all the wireless Room Clock of all the other ships in the vicinity.

With this in mind, have another look at the Process Verbal of the SS Mount Temple, the nearest ship to the sinking Titanic on board which such a record was kept. In it, we find that her operator Evans recorded the last transmission as 11:47 pm EST. If that was the last transmission and, as Bride of the Titanic claimed, Titanic sank about 15 minutes after that, then the true time of sinking was 00:02 am EST, and ....05:02 GMT April 15. The equivalent time on board Titanic was therefore have been 02:04am or 01:40 am. None of these times fits any of the survivor evidence.

However, the SS Virginian's operator recorded that he heard a faint signal from Titanic at 00:27 am April 15, EST. The equivalent time on Titanic would have been 02:05 am or 02:29 am.
If, as claimed by Titanic's 2nd W/O Bride, Titanic went under 10 minutes after he and his boss left the Wireless Room, the Titanic sank at either 02:20 am or 02:44 am. The 'wave' came a few minutes before that at say 02:17 am or 02: 41 am. I don't think it came at 2:41 am, do you?

Incidentally, surviving W/O Bride told his questioners that at the very end, just before the spark failed, his boss, Phillips, was sending a final CQD. Was that the one heard by the SS Virginian at 00:27 am EST? If so then we have incontrovertible proof that Titanic's sank at or about 02-20am ship...00:42am EST...05:42 GMT on April, 15, 1912.

Jim C.

Jim Currie

Hello Brad.

I won't go into any more detail for obvious reasons. Obviously you noted the animosity toward me from certain quarters. It still goes on to this day. It seems that my 'crime' as far as certain members are concerned is that I am an over-confident Master Mariner and Marine Accident Investigator who dares to air my knowledge and contradict entrenched ideas. Not only that, but I have the temerity to question the wisdom of my scientific betters in a way which is both disrespectful and even 'grating'. Ah well! Whatever turns them on.

This time thing Brad, is best dealt-with in another thread. Suffice to say, the evidence for and against a clock change before impact is there for all to read and examine.
To me, the Virginian evidence is yet another nail in the coffin of the partial clock-change before impact deniers. If you, Christophe and others, wish to discuss the subject in more detail and put forward your own ideas on the subject, I would be more than happy to join you in the appropriate thread. I know for sure that David Brown who has written a great deal more than I have on the subject, shares my views.

Jim C.

Alex F

Incidentally, surviving W/O Bride told his questioners that at the very end, just before the spark failed, his boss, Phillips, was sending a final CQD. Was that the one heard by the SS Virginian at 00:27 am EST? If so then we have incontrovertible proof that Titanic's sank at or about 02-20am ship...00:42am EST...05:42 GMT on April, 15, 1912.

Jim C.

Was anybody saying of EST in US or British inquiry?

The Virginian log was marked NY zone. Zone time was different in different ports along coast. What was last port of call of SS Virginian?
Check local time for that port first.

Second, Phillips might came back to wireless room and sent last signals.

Why was SS Virginian only ship (far away meantime) able to hear dying signals?

Jim is correct that in the Titanic world (as in the world at large) people generally prefer a common myth to the truth. In fact, truth seekers who puncture the myths are most often vilified and seldom commended. This is particularly true with regard to Titanic where fortunes have been spent convincing the public that the emperor's new clothes are magnificent garments of finest weave.

What took place within the radio room during the ship's final minutes is uncertain at best. Bride's version of events was colorful and Phillips did not survive. We have from Virginian the comment that Titanic's signals were cut off suddenly, almost switched off. Before the radio room collapsed into the wreck, the position of the main power switch to the transmitter was easily seen. It was a knife switch of typical 1912 design. In one position it connected the power. Dummy "keeper" contacts in the other position held prevented movement of the switch when it was "off." Those who saw the switch noted it was in the proper "off" position as if the power had been purposely shut down. Make of this what you will. Did Bride shut off the power in order to get Phillips to give up the operating position in an attempt to save his life? Maybe. Or, maybe it was force of habit to switch things "off" when the men left the room. We'll never know.

On my chronology I show Titanic's last radio transmission occurred between 0505 and 0509 hours GMT. That's about 2:03 to 2:07 after impact on the berg, According to Bride, he and Phillips climbed on top of the officers quarters after they came on deck. That's odd at best, but Bride said they went from the starboard to port side of a ship that was obviously rolling over onto its port side. People don't generally do that. The head up and away from the water. Col. Gracie who had combat experience also went for the roof of the officer's quarters where he lay flat like a man taking cover from enemy fire in open ground. Second Officer Lightoller chose to leap off the front of the bridge roof while lamp trimmer Hemming actually jumped into the water from the port side. A number of survivors reported an officer being shot at this time. Perhaps there was more truth to those reports than the 1912 reporters understood. Note the actions of Bride, Phillips, Gracie, Hemming and Lightoller all match what you would expect people do do if gunfire erupted during the panic of the last moments of Titanic. Don't know, just sayin' ...

About that time the baker, Joughin, was in the pantry/bar at the base of funnel #3. He heard a crash that sounded like something buckling inside the hull beneath him. Then, he heard the clomping of people running aft on the boat deck overhead. That crowd movement is generally ascribed to what this thread calls the "big wave." I'm not convinced the wave was all that huge nor intimidating. However, people did begin to run aft. Some historians have ascribed that wave to forward movement of the ship as it sank. Not likely. Titanic was sinking under the force of gravity that acts vertically to the Earth. At that moment it would have been pulled straight down and not forward. The bow was only angled about 11 degrees down by the bow. And, most likely, the bow was actually rising up. We have a famous drawing the depicts this and several other survivors described the prow as coming out of the water briefly. This is what you would expect with Titanic starting to break apart between the third and fourth funnels.

Anyone who has ever left a small boat tied to a pier during an overnight rain has experienced something called "free surface effect." When you step aboard to bail out the rainwater, your weight causes the boat to sink deeper into the surrounding lake. All that rainwater now comes rushing toward your feet. Due to both friction between water and the inside of the boat, and internal friction in the water, a rather large little wave can develop. You may get a small "whitecap" ("whitehorse" in Britain) on the leading edge. I believe the same thing happened to water on the forward end of the boat deck. It appeared to rush aft as a wave because the bow was actually lifted upward. That wave could not survive long as there were no side bulwarks to contain it and force it to move aft. Instead, it poured overboard at the open edges of the deck where the lifeboats had been. But, for a few moments it would have been a surprising and for some people a terrifying event.

I have forensic photos and drawings of the two pieces of double bottom that came out of the ship during the breakup. They show that the initial break in way of the after expansion joint (not necessarily caused by it, but in line with it) came while the hull was still hogged. This is the condition that resulted from the bow sinking and the stern being lifted out of the water. But, the broken pieces do not exhibit the washboarding that is diagnostic of a ship's hull that failed only during compression. The compression damage is only where the two pieces cracked apart. The other edges -- fore and aft -- show that the pieces were pulled out. Proof is that the vertical topsides were ripped off cleanly. To my eye, a side view of the wrecked bow says the hull buckled as a result of the initial break. The stern rose up forming a V-shape with the bow. It was this folding that acted like a nut cracker chomping a wide "V" of compression damage upward from F Deck. Below F Deck, the iron of the double bottom shows the damage was from tension. As noted, things were pulled apart.

Most if not all animated reconstructions of the sinking show the hull intact with the stern rising 45 degrees or more out of the water. Impossible. Titanic like all things floated only as long as it displaced more water than it weighed. Modern animations ignore this immutable law of buoyancy. An hull at a 45 degree angle and with most of it's interior filled with water, would not have displaced enough water to support almost half of its bulk above the surface. The waterplane (area of the hole punched in the water by the object) would have been far too small. But, we do know that Titanic's stern did rise up and that it may have achieved an "impossible" angle. This would only have been possible if it were being pulled under by the sinking bow. That familiar picture of the stern rising like a steel tombstone into the dark sky was possible only because the stern was "standing" on the butt end of the bow which still retained considerable buoyancy (although not enough to float much longer). The weight of the stern pressed down on the butt of the bow and that caused a teeter-totter effect, forcing the prow to momentarily surface.

The bow and stern must have parted company on the surface. As the metal connecting them failed, the bow would have lost what remaining air it contained and begun its 12,500 foot plunge to the bottom. It did not go down nose first. Probes inside the hull show bottles still on shelves in passenger cabins and the furniture in place within the Turkish bath. If the bow had plunged at a 45 degree or greater angle these things would have dislodge and piled up against the forward wall or bulkhead of the compartment. So, hard evidence shows the bow went down upright and on a reasonably even keel. For a moment many survivors thought the short section of hull visible above water might save those souls still on board. It was a forlorn hope. The stern might have floated on its own except for the fact this all took place with a port list to the intact vessel. Laying over, too many decks were exposed to massive water ingress. That, coupled with the damage to the reciprocating engine room was the final death blow. Titanic disappeared out from under baker Joughin's feet only to resurface over the next hundred years in myth surrounded by deliberate mystery.

--David G. Brown

Jim Currie

Hello Alex!

No, the expression EST or Eastern Standard Time does not seem to have been used. You have spotted the cause of the problem encountered by non-British mariners when analysing the evidence regarding time.

Throughout the Inquiries, the term New York Time was used. This was the equivalent of what we know as Eastern Standard or Zone Time. Only wireless operators on ships worked with New York Time. Crossing the Atlantic to the eastern seaboard of the US and Canada, they would use Greenwich Mean Time - GMT until about half way across then switch to using New York of Eastern Standard Time for the remainder of the voyage. The difference between EST (NYT) and GMT is exactly 5 hours.
However, the officers on the bridge of a ship worked exclusively in GMT. They also used a New York Time but theirs was 5 minutes shorter than Zone or EST. i.e. it was 4 hours 55 minutes SLOW of GMT. Throughout the evidence, you will find instances where the Wireless Officer's difference between apparent time ship and NYT is 5 minutes longer that the same difference given by an officer.

Jim C.
Christophe --

You are correct. Titanic took only 2 hours 23 minutes to sink. Conventional wisdom forgets about the 24 minute setback of crew clocks prior to the accident. This was done in order to split the full 47 minute setback that night between the on-duty Starboard Watch and the Port Watch. Because of the ship's westward motion, that Sunday should have lasted 24 hours and 47 minutes. There is no way in the o'clock system to express hours past midnight. So, we have to resort to the 24-hour method of timekeeping to understand what happened. Europeans are familiar with this system, but Americans often find it confusing. In 1912, however, it seems the o'clock system was dominant everywhere.

The time of the accident, 11:40 p.m. was measured in crew time reflecting the half setback of 24 minutes. When it came to the time of sinking, most eyewitnesses gave it in unaltered April 14th time. That was 2:20 a.m. Let's look at how the various times compare.

April 14th -- based on ship's noon position, Sunday, April 14th.

Crew Time -- 24 minutes retarded from April 14th Time

GMT -- Greenwich Mean time

Impact on Iceberg (Running time 00:00)
2404 hrs April 14th
2340 hrs Crew Time
0302 GMT

Disappearance of Fantail (Running time 2:23)
2627 hrs April 14th
2603 hrs Crew Time
0525 GMT

Because most people ashore (including journalists) were unfamiliar to downright ignorant of shipboard timekeeping, the news reports simply assumed the times for various events were given in the same reference. Quite naturally, this assumption extended to calculating the length of time the ship floated after the collision. After a while repetition hardens errors of this type into "fact." Hundreds of books and dozens of TV documentaries have repeated the false time of 2 hours 40 minutes without even bothering a simple fact check. Just remember whenever somebody says "everyone knows," that speaker has obviously done no research into the matter. A true historian checks everything. Sometimes what everybody knows is true. All too often, however, what everyone knows is little more than gilded nonsense.

We can prove the time of the accident was measured on the crew clock. Impact came 20 minutes before change of watch. The on-duty starboard watch must have already served its extra 24 minutes because you can't cram an extra 24 minutes into a 20 minute time span. I believe that the crew clocks were set back 24 minutes at 2200 hours in April 14th time, creating a crew time of 2140 hours. Second Officer Lightoller then served his extra time until 2200 crew time when Murdoch took over. That was 2224 hours April 14th. But for an iceberg, the crew would have changed watch at 2400 crew time, or 2424 in April 14th hours. They would then have set back the crew clock an extra 23 minutes. When the crew clock next said 2400, it would have been 2447 in April 14th hours which would have corresponded to 0000 hours of April 15th.

-- David G. Brown
To me, this was a truly shocking discovery. Did this mean all times could be 24 minutes wrong?

But when I dug deeper, I found out that the 'damage' wasn't as bad as I feared. The conventional story says Titanic collided with the iceberg at 11:40 P.M. and the first lifeboat was launched at 12:45 A.M.. That 11:40 time is Crew Time (or Bridge Time or ship's time), that 12:45 A.M. is April 14 time. Most other times given are April 14 time. The conventional story only needs to correct the time of 11:40 P.M. and the times derived from that.

There is a fine line where conventional story switches from Crew Time to April 14 time. In that conventional story is a large gap between the order to abandon ship and the launching of the first lifeboat. That gap becomes much smaller and more logic when the time of iceberg collision is placed at 12:04 A.M..

Jim Currie

I did not want to go into this 'time' thing Christophe, but you are 100% correct.

Unfortunately several eminent Titanic historians have gone into print arguing that a partial clock change did not happen before the impact. A lot of very detailed research has gone into establishing tables of events based on this error and a lot of argument supported by times on passenger time pieces has been presented in support of such an argument. However, those pushing such an argument fail to recognise or accept the evidence of those who actually had to work the extra hours of the 8 to Midnight that fateful night. They ignore or fail to recognise, the little tell-tale bits of information which point to it. They even ignore the sworn statement of the most senior officer to survive - Second Officer Charles Lightoller. On Day 5 of the United States Senate Inquiry into the disaster...9 days after the event, he gave the following evidence under oath:

"Senator SMITH: What time; do you know?
Mr. LIGHTOLLER: I believe he [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?

Surely that's plain enough?

You or others may not be aware of it, but when such a disaster takes place, the most senior surviving officer knows he will have to face a UK Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry. This is a very serious matter for him and other survivng officers. He is very much aware of it, because the The Commissioner can cancel the qualifications of, and even commit to prison, any officer found lying. Because if this, Lightoller would have made sure that he had every bit of relevant information he could obtain concerning the lead-up to the disaster. He would most certainly would not have made a mistake about the times.
I have seen suggestions that somehow, Lightoller was covering-up the truth. Such suggestions are pure fantasy and obviously the product of a mind or minds, the owners of which, have never had the misfortune to appear before HM Commissioner of Wrecks.

David, I can fully understand your fondness for the 10 pm clock change time but I can assure you that on a west-bound passage, it just would not happen.
However, when east-bound, the first part of a planned clock change takes place at around 10pm on the 8 to Midnight Watch.
You must keep in mind, that in all British ships, a clock change. is shared equally between those serving the 4 hours before midnight and the 4 hours after midnight. In the case of Titanic and other ships operating the same bridge Watches, senior officers, like the Master, did not share clock changes. The Chief Officer, First Officer and Second Officer. Did not alter their personal time pieces until they came off Watch and then they would alter them by the full amount of the planned change.

Here is an example of what would happen on Titanic or Olympic on a normal day.

West Bound...need to retard the clock a total of minus 44 minutes. Change to be shared 22 minutes by those due to be relieved at Midnight. Therefore 8 to 12 works an extra 22 minutes. Clock retarded 22 minutes at midnight.
Those relieving at Midnight and due off at 4 am but will also need to work an extra 22 minutes. Clock normally retarded at 4 am.
Master, Chief Officer,First Officer and all department heads get an extra 44 minutes in their bunks.

East Bound...need to advance the clock a total of 44 minutes. As before, change to be shared equally between 8 to Midnight and Midnight to 4 am Watches. However this time, Master et al would lose the full 44 minutes.
The Clock would never be allowed to reach old Midnight but would be retarded at 10 pm. Thus, the on-coming Midnight to 4 am Watch would relive at Midnight on the clocks. These would be further advanced at about 2 am

Bridge clocks always register Midnight when the Watches change. The reason for that is historic but also ties-in with the bell system of ship-board time keeping. i.e. Watches always change at 8 bells. Thus, if a Watch-keeper did not have access to an accurate personal time piece, he always knew by the bells if he relieved or was relieved on time.
Incidentally, the Log Book Day and ship's day begins 0000 hrs on a Calendar Day and finishes at the end of that day. All clock changes are shared with the following Calendar Day.

Don't know how it worked in the US or any other Navy but that's how it was in my day.

Jim C.
Jim --

Actually, we pretty much agree on the setback. Our only quibble is over the o’clock time of the setback. Let me explain why I chose 10 pm in April 14th ship’s time for the first 24 minute setback. My reasoning pretty closely matches what you wrote about shipboard practice.

First, let’s look at the IMM/White Star rulebook. Article 259 states, “Ship’s Time – The Officer of the Watch will see that the ship’s time is changed between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., the clocks to be set for Noon before 6 a.m.”

Next, let’s look at the watch keeping rotation. Article 17 and an addendum both titled “Watches” spell out the usual 4-hour rotation (4 on, 4 off)for the crew. The junior officers were given the same schedule which changed at 12, 4, and 8 in the morning and evening.

The senior officers – Chief, First, and Second – had a different rotation. Seniors changed at 2, 6 and 10 morning and evening. This meant that the senior officer of the watch changed midway through the crew duty cycle. Of particular consequence is that the Chief Officer served the 2 to 6 watch.

In your post above, you wrote that the chief Officer during a westward passage “got an extra 44 minutes in (his bunk).” Put another way, you are saying that the First and Second Officers shared any extra minutes equally while the Chief Officer had no extra duty tacked onto his watch. In Titanic, the White Star duty rotations forced the first setback to 10 p.m. in order to give half of the extra time to the Second Oficer. If that had not been done, then the Second Officer would have served no extra time as his would have been forced on the Chief Officer.

The First Officer then worked his share of the extra time after the crew change of watch. In order for him to do this, it would have been necessary to retard the clocks a second time prior to the end of his watch at 2. The easiest thing to do would have been to retard the crew clocks to reflect noon the next day. From there on, the First Officer would have gone off duty at 2 a.m. with all of the extra minutes served. So, as befitting an officer of his stature, the Chief worked no extra time.

The need to keep the Chief Officer from serving extra minutes is the reason the IMM/WSL regulations allowed time to be changed as early as 10 p.m. And, as you pointed out, the 6 a.m. limit made sure the Chief and First Officers shared shorter watches. Being the lowest ranking officer of the watch, the Second Officer enjoyed a full 4 hours on duty.

Rank has its priviliges.

– David G. Brown

Jim Currie

Hello David.

You write:

" Put another way, you are saying that the First and Second Officers shared any extra minutes equally while the Chief Officer had no extra duty tacked onto his watch."

No David, that's not what I was saying. I quote from my last post:

"Master, Chief Officer,First Officer and all department heads get an extra 44 minutes in their bunks."
This was on the outward voyage when clocks were retarded. These officers lost 44 minutes sleep on the way back to Europe.

On Anchor Line Passenger ships, we had the same Rule. It simply states that the clocks will be adjusted within the period 2200 hrs on one Calander day and 0600 hrs on the following day.

As you rightly point out, the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Officers worked the same Watches as the deck crew. They
were the juniors. Boxhall (4th) and Moody(6th) had 8 to Midnight and Pitman (3rd) with Lowe 5th had Midnight to 4 pm. The Senior Officers did all the clever stuff with sextants and the 'slaves' did all the work. During the evening, 2nd Officer Lightoller took evening star sights and at dawn, Chief officer Wilde took the morning star sights. At Noon, Captain Smith and his three senior officers would take Sun sights for the Noon position.
On a three mate ship such as the SS Californian, the morning and evening star sights would be in the domain of the Chief Officer.

Thus when a clock change was planned, the captain and senior men as well as the Chiefs of all other departments would reap the full benefit or bear the full burden.
The 10 pm...2200 hrs change was specific to advancing the clock. Obviously, they could not wait until midnight to do so.
As you know, all members of the on-coming Watch would be called at 1 bell. One bell is truck on two occasions on each Watch - after the first half hour into the watch and 15 minutes before the change of Watches. The first is a specific time on a clock face; the second is an indication to all who hear it that the Watches will change in 15 minutes. It follows that when a clock is to be advanced it must be done at a time 15 minutes before the watches are due to change. If, as you suggest, the clock was advance twice i.e. a total of 44 minutes before that time, then the oncoming Watch was to start work then their would be the makings of a mutiny since those starting work would lose the full amount of the clock change in bed.
The reason for the 6 am limit to the clock change has nothing to do with Watches and all to do with Day workers and awaking passengers.


Jim C.