Titanic Engine running time from Noon on April 14th.


Mar 22, 2003
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>>time plays tricks with the memory<<

So it does. But your theory Jim, if I understand it correctly, is that the 8pm DR was 20 miles ahead of ship's real position, and that is why Smith's CQD location was so far west of the wreck site. Right? But let me remind you, that the 8pm DR was worked up by Mr Lowe, who we all know tried to convince the good Senator Smith that the ship was making only 21 knots from noon to corner, and he used that same speed to calculate the 8pm DR which he wrote on a chit of paper and left for for Capt. Smith to put in the night orders book. So are you saying that Lowe messed up by 20 miles? Now 21 knots from 5:50 to 8:00 is a distance of about 46 miles from the corner. For evey 3 miles west the ship would make about 4 minutes of arc in longitude. So roughly, the 8pm DR should have been close to 48° 00'W longitude, something that Capt. Smith could have figured out in his head. But if the 8pm DR was 20 miles too far west, then the DR would have been about 66 miles from corner showing a longitude near 48° 30'W. Do you honestly believe that someone as competent as Capt. Smith could not immediately see that 8pm DR was seriously in error when he put it on the chart?
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Jim posted to David concerning Titanic speeding up:

>>Of course, you then you have to trash the 21.5 average speed suggested by Lightoller and Pitman. <<

It is easy to trash Pitman's 21.5 knots, and the trashing comes from Pitman's own data he submitted on daily distances run. Under oath we find this exchange:

Senator FLETCHER. And you kept increasing up to 21 1/2, so that at the time the iceberg was struck you were traveling at the highest rate of speed at which you had been going during the trip?
Mr. PITMAN. Oh, no; the same speed we had been traveling for the last 24 hours.
Senator FLETCHER. The same speed?
Mr. PITMAN. The same speed.

But Pitman's own data, which can be independently verified, shows Titanic made 546 miles between noon Saturdy to noon Sunday over a time interval of 24 hours 45 minutes. Her average speed made good was 22.1 knots, or to be more precise, 22.06 knots. His 21.5 knots that he tolf Fletcher is certainly NOT "the same speed we had been traveling for the last 24 hours."

It was also Pitman under oath, who told Mr Harbinson at the British inquiry "I thought that the course should have been altered at 5 p.m...Judging from the distance run from noon." And only a few weeks before at the American inquiry he swore that the ship turned the corner on time at 5:50pm:

Senator FLETCHER. Do you know any such designation as the "corner?"
Mr. PITMAN. Yes, we were supposed to be at the corner at 5.50.
Senator FLETCHER. What do you mean by that?
Mr. PITMAN. That is 47° west and 42° north.
Senator FLETCHER. At 5.50 p. m. you turned what you call the “corner?''
Mr. PITMAN. The corner, yes.

And Lowe's 21 knots came when he was trying to convince Senator Smith that Titanic never exceeded 21 knots. He gave her "a run of six hours...from 12 to 6 o'clock" and divided those 6 hours into 126 miles and showed the result to Senator Smith on a sheet of paper. Then he said it was really 20.95 knots, implying the distance to the corner was slightly under 126 miles (actually 125.7 miles to be more precise).

The other point you raised in one of your posts is that these junior officers worked with GMT when doing navigational calculations. If that were really the case, then Boxhall could not have derived his CQD coordinates by forgetting that he already added in a 24 minute clock adjustment to the time interval. Clock adjustments have no part to play when working time intervals off GMT. If he used the GMT time of the 7:30 fix and the GMT time of the accident, which you said would have been entered in the scrap log, then there would not have been a 24 minute time error in his calculations. As you have been saying to me, Good try Jim. You can't have it both ways.

I'll deal with Boxhall's CQD in another post when more time is avaiable to me.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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In 2008 I published an article called "It's a CQD Old Man" in the journal of the Titanic International Society, Voyage, Issues 64 and 65, and also in the journal of the British Titanic Society, Atlantic Daily Bulletin. It was a fresh look at the question of why were Titanic's distress possitions transmitted by wireless in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, so far west of the wreck site. The first position transmitted for the first 10 minutes, and attributed to Capt. Smith, was about 20 nautical miles off, while the second position, worked up by 4/O Boxhall, was 13 miles off. It was a revised work of my original two-part article, “A Minute of Time,” first published in 2005 in the journal of the Titanic Historical Society, The Titanic Commutator. "It's a CQD Old Man" is now available on-line on my website at: http://www.titanicology.com/Titanica/CQD_OM.pdf. As Captain Peg Brandon, Assistant Professor of Marine Transportation at the Maine Maritime Academy wrote, "the author has outlined an entirely plausible error chain. That a misreading of the navigation watch and an easily made error in addition could contribute so much to the drama of April 14, 1912."

Basically, if we take the famous Boxhall CQD position, which he said he worked out for 11:46pm, and run it back in time using the same parameters that he gave in evidence in 1912, we are able to establish the position for the 7:30pm star fix that was put down on the chart about 10pm that night. The article also shows that if that star fix was off by a 1 minute misreading of the navigation watch used by Pitman when he compared it to the time on the ship's chronometer, then all lines of position for the star fix would be shifted 15 minutes of arc west of where they should have been. Such a systematic error would tend to go unnoticed as all star position lines would cross at the same location. But the result of such a simple error, which has been known to have been made elsewhere, would have thrown Boxhall's position too far west by 15 minutes of arc to the possition sent out by wireless of 41° 46'N, 50° 14'W. If we correct that to what it should have been, assuming this simple systematic error was made, we find the calculated SOS coordinates for 11:46pm should have been 41° 46'N, 49° 59'W. But also know from Hichens, Haines and others, that the time of the accident was 11:40pm, or 6 minutes earlier than the time Boxhall said he used. That would put the ship 2 miles further east when she struck, or 3 minutes of arc eastward of what the SOS coordinates should have been. This gives us a collision point for 11:40pm at 41° 46'N, 49° 56'W, almost the exact same stopping point that has been calculated by totally independent means that had nothing to do with ship speeds, course lines, clock times or clock adjustments. (See my on-line article "Collision Point" at: GLTS | Collision Point.) Two hours and fourty minutes later, the ship would have drifted 2 miles southward putting it directly over the now known location of the wreck site.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>There was no current that night David nor was there any evidence of one. I can state withour fear of contradiction that the top 2 meters of sea surface water in the open ocean are always thouroughly mixed by wind and wave action. Cold surface water on a calm night near pack ice is not a indicator of a cold current.That's rubbish!<<

Hmmm? Forget about the calm night in the area near the wreck. Californian had already entered waters of 36F and dropping when at 4pm it was still a good 70 nautical miles east of any pack ice, and about 28 miles before three isolated ice bergs were seen 5 miles to the south. At noon there were fresh winds out of the north-northwest, and at 4pm there were moderate winds out of the north.

Funny Jim, when you used water temperatures reported from Californian to try and prove that Titanic first entered the Gulf Stream around noon on the 14th, and then I showed you from other data collected that Titanic was in waters having those same mid-50 degree temperatures for the last 24 hours before that, you also dismissed it with one of those arrogant ‘Nice try Sam’s, and then tried to argue your way around that by saying that Titanic was in the extension of the Gulf Stream all the way back to Queenstown. What you are not telling people is that the Gulf Stream is anything but a stationary current, and neither you nor I have any way of knowing exactly what the velocity vectors of the currents actually looked like on April 14, 1912. Modern historical data taken from Satellite radar imaging clearly show how variable these can be. (see GulfStream.) Your argument that Titanic first entering the Gulf Stream about noon on the 14th based on Californian reported water temperatures does not hold up since it was in waters of 54F to 57F for over 24 hours previouse to noon on the 14th.

As far as evidence of a south setting current that night, that comes from the drift of wreckage seen by Californian on the morning of the 15th, ten miles south of the Titanic wreck. site. That drift, over a period of 9 hours, resulted primarily from the action of a south setting current, not by the action of wind that sprang up at dawn. The amount of drift cannot be explained by wind action that first sprang up at dawn, and SAR models prove that as documented in my article, “The Drift of Wreckage” at: GLTS | The Drift of Wreckage.
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Sam! Just back from Gibraltar vacation. Now I have time to answer some of your points.

I remember your work and the suggstion that Pitman mis-read the GMT for sights. But you said Pitman had ship time on his watch so he would not use that for taking cellestial observations.

In fact, I would be very surprised if Pitman did not take the sight times as they did on most other ships.. i.e. directly off the chronometer in it's box in the chartroom.
The normal practice was for the sight-taker to shout 'time' and the time taker would note the time on the chronometer. I'm sure Captain Peg Brandon knows the exact sight taking procedure on board a British ship. In every case, the chronometer reading and sextant readings would be subjected to a known correction before they were used. The choronometer error would be obtained from the Chronometer Error Book and had to be physically applied to each sight time. Using GMT from a personal time piece would not be an accurate method of sight -taking unless that time piece was frequently synchronised with the chronometer. Are you suggesting that Pitman read the chronometer wrongly for every sight?
He would certainly use the corrected GMT to pre-calculate the meridian passage of the three stars he used for latitude.
Apart from the foregoing; they would also have developed a DR Longitude for these sights since they would have needed to know the approximate LMT transit of the cellestisal bodies they used for latitude.


As for the presence of the Gulf Stream east of 47W:

In your post #51 you observed:

" So if she was under the influence of the Gulf stream, then it was over a period that began before she reached noon Apr 14. So what was her progress while under to influence of Gulf Stream waters? From noon Apr 13 to noon Apr 14 Titanic covered a distance of 546 nautical miles in 24 hour 45 minutes. Her average speed made good was 22.06 knots while running at 75 rpm on her reciprocating engines. Boxhall had very good reason to use 22 knots in his work. Titanic did not slow down. If anything her speed made good increased slightly. "

I responded in my post #52 with:

"However what none of your example temperatures tell us is the velocity of the warm water. It follows that none of them can be of any use to you in your argument against the presense of the Gulf Stream. The reason for this is, as the above temperature grading shows, that The Gulf Stream is only a potent force for or against a ship until it comes to the end of it's eastern limit."

That was the reason for my 'nice try' observation. as I said before; 'you are too sensitive'. No offence was meant so I hope none is taken.

Of course there are twists and twirls in the GS but the main steam of it hardly ever varies from it's ENE trend until it reached about 46 West. The intensity of the infra red satellite example I gave you shows this perfectly.

Also remember what Boxhall, Moore and others expected to experience in that area.



"Hmmm? Forget about the calm night in the area near the wreck. Californian had already entered waters of 36F and dropping when at 4pm it was still a good 70 nautical miles east of any pack ice, "

Water temperatures of 36F (2.2C ) is not an indication of the presence of the Labrador Current.
Surface water temperatures of between 4C and 8C would be an indication of that current. More than likely the higher version at the southern interface. In any case SWT taken from a ship in the early days was extremely unreliable.


"Labrador Current and Slope Water can be traced as far southwest as the New York Bight;
its transport so far to the southwest depends on variable wind and baroclinic forcing, controlled
at least in part by large scale alterations in atmospheric circulation patterns produced by the
North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) (Pershing et al., 2001; Drinkwater et al., 2002; Greene and
Pershing, 2003). At various times and in varying amounts, under NAO influence, Labrador
Slope Water flows southwest between the shelf break and Warm Slope Water, which is of North
Atlantic Central Water origin and resides adjacent to the north wall of the Gulf Stream, mixing
with Warm Slope Water along the way. Gatien (1976) described Labrador Slope Water as
having temperatures and salinities of 4-8°C and 34.3-35, versus Warm Slope Water which has TS
characteristics of 8-12°C and 34.7-35.5."

For more, see here: "http://www.nafo.int/science/ecosystem/Townsend-Chap-5-(1W)-Final.pdf"


To me, the problem of others in the past is that you all think in terms of iceberg/pack ice = Labrador Current.

Of course that particular current brings ice down as far as the Tail of The Grand Banks. But once it gets there, it is influenced by many other factors, not least of which is the prevailing wind, wind-driven surface currents, sea state and profile.
These elements effect shallow draft pack ice and deep draft icebergs in different ways. Pack ice moves with the wind while bergs often move cross-wind depending on sub or super surface profile.
Just because the Labrador Current brought the big stuff down from the Arctic as far as the tail of the Grand Banks doesn't automatically mean that the same current was still running. However the prevailing wind was blowing from a westerly direction. How do you think deep draft icebergs became mixed with pack ice so far off shore?

I refer to your article on current and quote as follows:

" We also know that the wind first came up as dawn was first breaking,[5] and that it came more or less out of the north.[6] Before that, there was a dead calm. It is clear from looking at photographs of Titanic’s lifeboats as they approached Carpathia during the early morning hours that the wind conditions during most of the rescue operation ranged between “light” to “gentle” breeze conditions on the Beaufort scale, averaging perhaps 6 to 7 knots with 1 foot waves. It was only after 8:30am, the time Californian arrived alongside Carpathia, that the wind had reached “moderate breeze” conditions according Carpathia’s Captain Arthur Henry Rostron.[7] (A moderate breeze is defined as a Force 4 on the Beaufort scale; 11-16 knots with 3 foot average wave heights.[8])"

The foregoing cannot be true. Otherwise, how was it possible that 5th officer Lowe was able to tell the Senators:

"Mr. LOWE.
Yes. I could see her coming up, and I thought, "Well, I am the fastest boat of the lot," as I was sailing, you see. I was going through the water very nicely, going at about, well, I should say, four knots, five knots, maybe; it may have been a little more; it may have been six; but, anyhow, I was bowling along very nicely.
"

Let me tell you without fear of contradiction: you do not sail a fully laden wooden lifeboat with a dipping lug sail 'very nicely' in a 6 to 7 knot wind.. she will 'creep' along. Nor do you tow a second boat under such conditions. You as a former sailor know that!
Furthermore; you will remember that early-on, one particular boat was held to wind to avoid broaching and our friend Rostron referred to 'a bit of a slop'.
Sailors say that after a calm night, the wind rises with the sun. Perhaps that's what happened in the case of these people in the lifeboats?
I too have seen the photographs you refer to. One of them shows Lowe with his mast still stepped.
I have also seen the wind drop back as the sun rises higher.

As for the last known position of the wreckage:

We have only the word of Captain Lord of the Californian that he left the wreckage in latitude 41-33N. Why trust his navigation in this case but doubt it previously? Did he too make allowances for a south-setting current?

In www.titanicology.com/Californian/Navigational_Incosistencies. you calculated that Californian was about 16.7 miles northwest of Titanic when she went down. This being the case, and Californian did not move until 6 pm then, with a 1.1 knot south-setting current, Californian would have been 1.8 miles south of her 2-20am position at 4pm when the wind began to blow as would be the survivors in lifeboats south of the wreck site.
With an additional 2 hours of brisk wind (needed to drive a ship's wooden lifeboat), Californian would have been at least 3 miles further south, southwest by 6pm when she traversed the pack ice. Meantime, the debris an loaded lifeboats would be moving at slower speeds and be set to the SSW.

At 6-30pm, Californian headed SSE down the west side of the pack ice and turned toward Carpathia 1.5 hours later at 8pm when the latter was bearing ENE. Crucially; Californian would have covered a distance of only 16 miles during that time.. even with the help of any south-setting wind and current... and would have been about 10 miles away from Carpathia. This would have given her an average speed of a mere 10.6 knots. I made a rough scale drawing of this but I think the figures are near enough ball park.

Apart from the foregoing, the anti-current clincher for me is the following:

On April 13, Captain Moore of the Mount Temple received a position for the southern tail of the pack ice from the 'Corinthian'. The southernmost tip was then in 41-25'North.
Two days later, at 4pm EST on April 15, Rostron of Carpathia sent this message to Olympic:

"Carpathia"

"CAPT. HADDOCK, Olympic:"
South point pack ice 41.16 north."

This means that in about 48 hours, the ice had only moved 9 miles further south. How was that possible with a constant set of 1.1 knots to the southward?

Significantly, the distance between the wreck site and the point where Captain Lord saw the debris is 11.4 miles.
If the debris he saw at 11-20am actually came from the wreck site and was not a mixture of bits and pieces jettisoned from the lifeboats then that debris travelled that distance in about 9 hours and did so at an average speed of 1.26 knots. It also kept-up with those rowing south-eastward toward Carpathia.
Perhaps if we deduct a value for lifeboat southward propulsion, we might just find that the remainder fits nicely with wind driven leeway only?

In your article, you observe that do not seem to have made allowance for the fact that as soon as Carpathia was sighted, almost all the lifeboats started rowing, sailed or were towed in a southeastward direction toward her. In that case, how was it possible for the debris from the actual sinking to be in the same place as where Carpathia picked up the last survivors and set loose the collapsible boats?

As for Bisset's remark:

"The dead bodies were there, totally or partially submerged, but, in the choppy seas, it was now almost impossible to sight them,"

That is just plain daft! If "it was now almost impossible to sight them", it implies that he saw them earlier. And if he saw them then others must have seen them too yet everyone denies doing so. Apart from that; how did the bodies keep up with the lifeboats if the boats had moved away from the wreck site toward Carpathia?

Jim C.
 

Doug Criner

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I would be very surprised if Pitman did not take the sight times as they did on most other ships.. i.e. directly off the chronometer in it's box in the chartroom.
The normal practice was for the sight-taker to shout 'time' and the time taker would note the time on the chronometer. I'm sure Captain Peg Brandon knows the exact sight taking procedure on board a British ship.
Here was the procedure used 50+ years ago in the U.S. Navy (of course British practice in 1912 could have been different).

The quartermaster would take a stop watch, calibrated against the ship's chronometer, to the outdoor bridge wing during sights. (The chronometer was left inside the bridge.) When the navigator or other officer taking the sextant sights called, e.g., "Betelgeuse...MARK," the quartmaster would punch the stopwatch. The QM would then write down the time and the sextant altitude read off to him by the navigator. The QM would then read off the name of the next star that had been planned (and possibly the rough altitude and azimuth if the navigator needed that help). The QM would restart the stopwatch for the next star. Taking sights was always a two-man job.

Since the chronometer was left inside the wheelhouse, the QM couldn't hear the call "Mark" if he stayed inside. A personal wrist watch would never be used, since precision within a second was desired.

In the case of Titanic, would Pitman have fumbled around with the time and time corrections, except for calling "Mark" to the QM?
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Hi Doug,

The chronometers on Titanic were kept in the chart room which was located behind the wheelhouse and opposite the chief officer's quarters on the port side. To access the chart room from the bridge, one had to first come into the wheelhouse and then go aft into chart room. Stars were taken by the senior officer of the watch assited by a junior officer. The senior officer taking the 7:30pm stars on Apr 14 was 2/O Lightoller. The junior officer taking the sight times and recording the altitudes was 3/O Pitman. Pitman was also the one who started the sight reduction process, which as you know, includes adjustments for known errors and corrections such as dip of the horizon, sextant index error, altitude corrections to compensate for atmospheric refraction, correction for the chronometer gain or loss rate, and a correction for any difference between time used on a hack watch for taking the sights and time on the chronometer. All of these were probably made by Pitman before handing off the sight data to 4/O Boxhall when the latter came on at 8:00pm. It was Boxhall who worked them up to get the ship's position which was put on the chart about 10pm. The premise of my "CQD OM" article is that a simple error may have been been made when noting the difference in time on the hack watch and the chronometer which resulted in a systematic error of 1 minute which would affect all sights. This would result in all lines of position being off by 15 minutes-of-arc westward and would explain Boxhall's statement in later years that the ship was found to be ahead of her DR.

Boxhall's derived SOS position was 41° 46'N, 50° 14'W. He said he came up with this using a speed of 22 knots, a heading of 266° T from the star fix, and a time of accident of 11:46pm ATS. What is intresting about all this, if you work the problem backward you can find the location of his 7:30 star fix. (I did that for 7:40pm, the time the sights were completed according to Pitman.) When you look at the location of the fix it becomes obvious why he and Pitman would later claim that the ship turned the corner late. What is also interesting, is that if such an error was made in the position lines, then correcting things by 15 minutes-of-arc to what they should have been gives an SOS position of 41° 46'N, 49° 59'W. But again, this would be for 11:46pm. Hichens, Haines, Rowe, and others said the collision happened at 11:40pm, or 6 minutes earlier than the time used by Boxhall. That is about 2 miles steaming at 22 knots, or about 3 minutes-of-arc further eastward. This would yeild a position at 41° 46'N, 49° 56'W which is the same final stopping point that I derived for Titanic based on the drift of wreckage from the wreck site location that was seen in the morning. It was also within a mile and half of the collision point derived by the inspectors of the MAIB in their 1992 reappraisal of the Californian affair.

I know that Jim Currie does not subscribe to there being a current in the area. But the set and drift of current was based on the position of the wreckage reported by Californian when she departed the area heading almost due west at about 11:20am Monday morning. Included in that wreckage was overturned collapsible boat B. A noontime sight of the sun was taken not long afterward which showed that the latitude of the wreckage seen was 41° 33'N. Californian's noontime position can also be confirmed by the noontime position reported by Frankfurt which had the Californian in sight when the latter was first coming out of the western edge of the pack ice at that time. Windage alone cannot account for the 10 miles of drift of the wreckage in the over 9 hours since Titanic foundered. As I point out elsewhere, a sustained wind of about 26 knots for almost 7 hours would have to act on the deck chairs, lifebelts and the overturned collapsible boat that was seen in the pile of wreckage to cause it to drift that far south in the absence of any southward moving current. As far as 5/O Lowe's 4, 5 or 6 knots under sail, this is the same person who estimated that the ship was down by the head 12°-15° after he first came out on deck before going to the lifeboats. I tend to take his estimates with a little salt.
 

Doug Criner

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Sam: I am learning that the job of a quartermaster in many navies is much different than in Titanic. In the U.S. Navy, at least 50+ years ago, the QM (an enlisted petty officer) would maintain the charts, assist the navigator, keep the log, keep a plot, etc. The Senior QM served essentially as the navigator's right-hand man and would be standing alongside the navigator during star sights. The senior QM and navigator would work together for sight reduction - it wouldn't just be palmed off on the QM nor would, as in the case of Pittman and Boxhall, would the raw data be palmed off to another before the reduction was complete (I think that would be asking for errors). There would be several quartermasters aboard even a relatively small navy ship, and one would be on watch on the bridge whenever underway. From my ancient experience, neither the senior QM nor the navigator stood any watches, since they had to be up or available at all hours for star sights, reductions, and for all their routine paperwork and admin duties - they were full-time navigators. Junior officers would not typically be involved in navigation, such as taking star sights, but they would do piloting, of course, along with the QM of the watch.

In Titanic, the quartmasters were essentially helmsmen. Big difference. But, in any case, 3/O Pittman was doing what a QM did in the U.S Navy. A navy QM, in my estimation, would be much less formally educated, but more skilled in the navigational nuts and bolts than a junior naval officer and, probably, than a junior officer in Titanic.

If I wanted to research the navigational procedures aboard American merchant ships of 2012, I would obtain the then-current edition of the "bible," Bowditch's "The American Practical Navigator," which has been continously revised and published for the past 200 years. Can anybody cite a British publication comparable to Bowditch? That might provide interesting insight into Titanic's detailed procedures, including star sighting, etc.
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Doug!

I liked your description of sight-taking on US Warship. However, the UK Merchant Service did not use the same procedures as the Royal Navy or the US Navy. For a start off.. in all the many years I served on all types of merchant ship's, I have never seen a hack (stop)watch used at sea. In fact, it was in these very forums that I first saw the expression 'hack watch' used. I now know it was a familiar military term.

As for the skills of the officers of Titanic: Lightoller and Boxhall had the same qualifications as Captain Smith. They were Extra Masters. Pitman had one grade below them, he was a Master Mariner. In fact, every deck officer Officer on Titanic including Mr. Moody, the 6th was fully qualified to take command of any merchant ship in the British Mrchant Navy so there was no shortage of skills there.

As for text books and books of reference:

We did not have a 'Bowditch'. There was a Brown's Nautical Almanac and several other such publications. We mainly used Nicholl's Consise Guides Volumes 1 and 2, Nicholl's Seamanship & Nautical Knowledge, Merchant Ship Stability and Merchant Ship Construction by Captain Pursey, Meteorology for Seamen by Burgess and Cargo Work by Taylor and Trim. We also had specialised publications for ShipMaster's Business Deviation & The Deviascope etc.
I still have all of these but nowehere will you find laid-down procedures for taking cellestial observations. These were taught in pre-sea training and on board ship as a Cadet or Apprentice.

I served on Anchor Line pasenger ships (smaller but similar to Titanic)as a navigator and I can assure you, the method I describe was employed there and on every other ship I served on.

I suspect that Pitman would be in the chartroom leaning over the chronometer box with a pre-prepared cellestial body list in a column with spaced for GMT opposite each. Litholler would have given him the sequence of sight taking.
The wheelhouse and chart room doors would be open and hooked-back.
As soon as Lightoller had the correct sextant altitude, he would shout 'time' and then read-off the altitude. He would have a vernier sextant as apposed to the more modern micrometer type.
Although these had a swivel mounted magnifyer, they needed good eyesight aided by good light to read off the seconds since they would not have been fitted with a battery operated light. It is possible that Lightoller returned to the wheelhouse after taking every sight to report the altitude if there was not enought light to read the vernier by.

Jim C.
 

Doug Criner

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I liked your description of sight-taking on US Warship.
A couple more recollections, but my memory isn't 100% fresh.

If the navigator taking the sights needed more light to read the sextant's altitude, he could step into the wheelhouse from the outside bridge wing. There would be dimmed lighting inside the wheelhouse and a small, dim desk lamp above the QM's plot table. Or, the navigator could flip on the gyro-card lamp of the peloris, dimly, and hold the sextant up to the light. Of course, for sun sights, light was no problem.

We called them stopwatches, but I now know that they were indeed hackwatches. There were two second hands. Push a particular button, and one second hand stops, while the other one keeps going. Push the same button again, and the stopped second hand catches up to the other one, and the QM is ready for the next star sight. The advantage is that, based on my ancient naval experience, the QM had ample time to look at the watch and get the precise time without catching the the second hand the instant that the navigator called, "Mark." There was another button for synchronizing the watch with the ship's chronometer.

The ship's chronometer was mounted in gimbals, and wasn't to be touched or moved.

Much of my more memorable experience was gained in an old 2100-ton destroyer (small and old even then). I think there were four quartermasters. The senior QM, a first-class petty officer with about 10 years experience in the navy, was the navigator's immediate assistant. The other three QMs stood bridge watches and were probably 2nd or 3rd class petty officers. On that small ship, the navigator was probably a lieutentant with perhaps 4-6 years experience in the navy.
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Doug!

Your 'light' explanation rings bells!

The last US Warship I was on was as a professional 'guest' on the destroyer USS 'John W. Weeks' in 1952. She was part of the first big combined allied after the war... 'Operation Mainbrace'. I distinctly remember they had the most wonderful chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream. Don't rememeber any of the more boring 'gubbins'. I do remember she had just taken part in the 'Flying Enterprise' drama off the sw of England. Oh that icecream and cake!

Jim C
 

Doug Criner

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USS John W. Weeks (DD-701) was a Sumner class destroyer. My first ship was a Fletcher class destroyer - a few years older than the Sumners. My ship was so old it didn't have an icecream machine, at least when I was aboard. They probably got one later. We often had beans for breakast, which I still like.
 
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My first ship was the USS Ranger (CV-61) a somewhat worn out Forrestal class aircraft carrier by the time I stepped aboard. We had ice cream machines but on the messdecks and they didn't get a lot of use. These things used to be in the soda fountains (geedunks) but by the time I came aboard, they were long removed.
 
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I hate to spoil the party, but I would like to go back to the original topic of this thread.

The theory that Titanic's officers somehow “misread” the chronometer (or hack watch) and as a result caused the ship's 7:30 p.m. celestial fix to be incorrect is clever, but highly improbable. The usual and customary practice of navigators was designed with several built-in safeguards to prevent just this sort of human error.

The first safeguard was the reverence for keeping accurate Greenwich Mean Time. This was necessary because all celestial navigation was based on GMT. Navigators were quite well aware that a small error in time could have profound negative results on obtaining accurate fixes at sea.

In Titanic's day it was the ordinary practice not to remove chronometers from their protective boxes, lest they be “deranged,” or caused to show an incorrect time. These highly-accurate clocks were to be given a place of honor “free from excessive shocks and jars.” Instead of taking the chronometer on deck, texts such as Bowditch favored the use of a “hack” or inferior chronometer or personal timepiece for actually recording the instant of the sight. The correct procedure was to compare the chronometer with the hack watch and note the different readings. Subtracting the watch time from the chronometer produced a “correction” which was to be applied to each celestial sight. The following example of finding this correction is taken from the navigation text:

Chro. Time 5h 27m 30s
Watch Time - 2h 36m 45.5s

CT - WT 2h 50m 44.5s

Watch time was subtracted from the chronometer reading to make the correction always a positive number. This correction would then be applied to the time of the celestial sight as recorded by the hack watch. In this example from Bowditch the hack time of the sight is 3 hours 01 minute and 27.5 seconds.

Watch Time 3h 01m 27.5s
CT - WT 2h 50m 44.5s

Chro. Time 5h 52m 12.0s

CW - WT calculations of this sort were done prior to every round of celestial sights. Hack watches were known to have erratic error rates, so the correction found at Noon would not be precisely the same as the one obtained for the 7:30 p.m. sights. But, the Bowditch text was not satisfied to stop with just one obtaining of a hack watch correction. “Careful comparisons are taken,” the text stated, “preferably both before and afterwards – and the chronometer time at the required instant is thus deduced.” Put simply, this means that the prudent navigator would check the hack watch against the chronometer prior to making the celestial sights and then again after completing them. This second comparison of the two served as a “double check” against making that alleged one minute error in recording the sights. A significant difference between the two errors (before and after the sights) would have alerted Boxhall or any other competent 1912 navigator than something was wrong.

In addition, the check-and-double-check system of obtaining two error corrections gave assurance to the navigator that the hack watch had not altered its rate or become “deranged” during the process of recording the sights.

So, under the misread chronometer theory, the officer recording Lightoller's sights would have had to make two identical mistakes in comparing the hack watch to the chronometer. One such mistake by a trained navigator is quite believable, but two are highly improbable. The whole system for checking and double checking the hack watch correction worked against that event.

Another possible time error would have been for just one sight within a round of star sights to be mistimed by the recording officer. Such an error would introduce a corresponding error in the longitude of the affected sight. However, once Boxhall began to use the whole round of sights to fix Titanic's position he would quickly have seen that one did not fit properly. The error would have been self evident and the offending sight discarded as unreliable.

– David G. Brown
 

Jim Currie

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Good morning Sam!

You wrote:

"I know that Jim Currie does not subscribe to there being a current in the area."

I would be more than ready to share in your viewes concerning current if you can explain a few things which do not rest easly with a southward-setting surface current of 1.1 knots.

The basic problems I have are as follows:

1. The heading of Titanic when she went down.

2. The relative positions of Collapsible boats 'A', 'C', and 'B' to Lowe's flotilla of Collapsible 'D' and
Lifeboats 12, 16, 14 and 6 at 4-30am on the morning of April 15.

3. The design of the sailing rig on Lifeboat 14.

4. The bearing and distance between the Titanic survivors in lifeboats and the 'Carpathia' when she
arrived on the scene at 4-10am on the morning of April 15.

5. The relation between the position of the south end of the pack ice on April 13 to it's position two days later on the afternoon of April 15.

Here are my thoughts on these matters:

If Titanic was heading north when she went down, Collapsible 'C' would be on her eastern side, Collapsibles 'A' and 'B' would be in the region of where the bridge once was and Collapsible 'D' would be of her port side.
Lifeboats 6, 10,12,14 and 16 would be off her port side. The last 4 would be near her stern and almost due south of any of the surviving Collapsibles.
After Titanic sank, Collapsible 'C' rowed toward a mysterly light last seen off Titanic's port bow so she would be heading in an NW'ly direction at first. She later turned back toward the approaching 'Carpathia'
Collapsible 'D' joined boats 12,14 and another at or near the wreckage and bodies. Collapsible 'B' was not propelled very far nor was 'A' which was sinking.

Carpathia did not arrive on the scene for an hour and a half after Titanic sank.
Previous to this... except for 'C' moving to the NW... all the other aforementioned boats would maintain the same bearing and distance relative to each other. In other words, Lowe's little flotilla headed by his Lifeboat 14 would be almost due south of all the others who were originally on Titanic's port side or washed off her bridge area.
Also during this time, 5th Officer Lowe left his flotilla and returned to the wreckage and people in the water. There, he rescued 4 people, one of whom died.
He was making his way under sail back to his other charges when he saw Carpathia approaching so he diverted toward her. However, just as he did so, he spotted a group of people standing on Collapsible 'A' which was sinking and went to their rescue. He did so by 'going about' and 'sailing down' to them.

This is where it gets tricky!

With Titanic heading north, those in Collapsible 'A' needing rescued would be to the north of Lowe. To get to them, his boat,under sail, would have to have made headway to the northward. In addition; if there was a south-setting, 1.1 knot current, he would have to overcome that too.

Titanic's lifeboats were equipped with a sailing rig like this:

View attachment 488

I know that you and Dave Gittings have experience of handling a boat under sail. However, your experience is probably in vessels which can sail within a couple of point (22.5 degrees) of the wind. Racing dinghies can do even better.
A boat rigged as seen above would be totally incapable of sailing any closer to the wind than 4 or 5 points and even then, at a very slow speed and under ideal conditions. Lowe was very much handicapped by less than ideal coinditions. My educated guess is that unless he had done so in a series of tacks across the wind, Lowe could not have made good a course in any direction north of ENE or WNW. . There is no record of him having done so.

'Carpathia' arrived on the scene just after 4am that morning. When it was light enough, Rostron described seeing Titanic's boats 'all round within an area of 4 miles'. For the next 4 hours, he said he manoeuvred his ship among the boats, picking then up.
Since Carpathia made directly for Boxhall and the latter was to the eastward of the main concentration of wreckage, bodies and boats, then Carpathia was also to the eastward, not south-eastward of everyone.

Incidentally, you have, as yet, failed to explain why the southern end of the ice travelled a mere 9 miles in 48 hours if there was a 1.1 southward-setting current.

My own conclusions are:

Titanic could not have been heading to the north when she sunk nor was there a south-setting current in the area. Simply because Lowe could not have sailed up-wind and current to rescue those on Collapsible 'A'. In fact he says he sailed 'down' to these people and every sailor knows that the term 'down means down-wind. i.e. with the wind free on either side.. abaft the beam. In a north wind this means south of West or East.

This being the case, Titanic was heading about West when she sank and the light on her
port bow was in a SW'ly direction as indicated by Steward Crawford during his examination by Senator Burton. Here is my suggestions regarding the movements of 5th Officer Lowe in Boat 14 between 4-30am and 5-30am on the morning of April 15:

View attachment 489

Additionally: at 04-30am, Lowe would be one of the furthest away boats from Carpathia but arrived there an hour later with Collapsible 'D' in tow. He could only have done so with a brisk wind and at a rate of about 4 knots.

As for the amount and nature of the wreckage seen by the captain of 'Californian':

Captain Lord saw 2 Collapsibles, some cusions, deck chairs and some planks at latitude 41-33' North. These Collapsibles must have been left there by Carpathia so could not have been the main wreckage nor could they have been an indication of it's position since both of them had been transported away from it to the side of Carpathia.
The other two Collapsibles 'A' and 'B' must have been left within a few hundred feet of the main concentration of bodies and wreckage. These would be moving south as the north wind continued to rise and would likely be to the west of the lifeboat recovery area. If there had been a 1.1 knot south-setting current the main wreckage would have been at a DR latitude of close to 41-34' North and even further south of that with a push from the increasing north wind.
The main concentration included two Collapsible boats but Californian never found them!

Jim C.
 

Jim Currie

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Hello David!

In fact, in my day, 40 years later,the ship's chronometer was never removed from it's carrying case. The case was contained within a specially designed drawer-like compartment having a glass lid (aboiut 2' x 2').
Every morning, the 3rd Officer had to open the glass lid of the 'drawer' then the lid on the carrying case and insert the winding key. He would then wind the chronometer at exactly the same time each day by exactly the same number of turns of the winder. The was a reason for this. Chronometers operated on the fusee drum principal so had to be very carefully wound each time. The time of winding was instilled into the oficer as part of a time-sensitive duty so he would never forget to carry that duty out.

Titanic had 2 chronometers. Was one a back-up for the other? or was one kept in GMT and the other in EST? i.e. there was exactly 5 hours 00 minutes 00.0 seconds difference between the clocks!

If the second one did indeed carry EST then if Titanic sank at 02-20am ship time and there had been no clock alteration since Noon 14, then that second one would show 00-18am EST at time of being submerged.
On the othere hand; if the clocks had been set back 24 minutes before impact, then the chronometer keeping EST would show 00-42am.

Here's a picture of one of Titanic's chronometers recovered from her bridge:

Titanic's chronometer.jpg
Note the time...00-39am.EST? This gives a GMT time of sinking of 5-39am on April 15.

If that was EST, then Titanic sank at 5-39 am GMT not 5-18am GMT as she would gave done had there been no clock alteration. It also means that if Titanic was 2 hours 58 minutes behind GMT at Noon on April 14, she was 3 hours 22 minutes behind GMT when she went down.
Time of sinking 5-39GMT minus 3 hours 22 minutes gives ship time of sinking (chronometer stopped)of 02:17am.

Something to think about eh? Think about lapsed time since CQD abd time before that for impact!

As for the mistake in the reading of the chronometer: you are right! It is highly improbable that Pitman would have made exactly the same mistake 6 or 7 times when Lightoller shouted 'time' or 'mark'. We know he was having problems with his eyes but I think that is pushing the bounds of creduality. Particularly with a man of his experience, doing the same thing day-in, day-out. But you must admit: Sam's work is very persuasive!
Incidentally: these guys were professionals to their fingertips and would not use the 'easy ways'. It is quite possible they used 'The Sailing' and not Traverse except for a quick check. The reason being that everything was noted in their work-books in chronological order using GMT. even the calulations for DRs.

Jim C.

Titanic's chronometer.jpg
 
Mar 22, 2003
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It is quite possible they used 'The Sailing' and not Traverse except for a quick check. The reason being that everything was noted in their work-books in chronological order using GMT. even the calulations for DRs.

It is easy for any of us to make assumptions, and with that all sorts of implications fall out. I would be the last one to say that a misreading of a chronometer had definitely taken place. There is no way to prove it did or didn't happen, but it does explain how the CQDs could have been derived. But if all calculations were done using GMT in the work books, then there is no way that clock adjustments to ship's time could have entered the equations unless the GMT time of the accident was incorrectly recorded.

I will deal wit some of the other things brought up when I have more time available.
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Sam,

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the maths in your theory but you will know that. However, having done exactly the same job more times than I care to recall, I just cannot conceive of any one of these guys making such a basic mistake. Check and double check was always the order of the day.
Additionally, when you had a team of dedicated navigators picking up your work and extending it into the next Watch, you can bet your wages they would take great delight in pointing out to you any mistakes you might have made.
As for the work books.. we all had one and they were usually kept in a special place in the chartroom. All times were GMT for the very simple reason that the Nautical Almanac information was given in terms of the prime meridian...GMT and all cellestial observation times were taken in terms of GMT.

I understand they took 3 or 4 meridian altitudes for latitude. It's a very long time since I did the job myself but I would have thought that they would have needed very accurate times to determine a body's meridian transit and this would have been checkable by the change in altitude before and after transit.

In my last post, I showed a photograph of one of Titanic's chronometers. Do you think it might have been possible that the second chronometer carried by trans-atlantic liners kept EST? If it did, and the photograph of Titanic's chronometer suggests that it did... this would have been logical since they could then get a very accurate time check on the western side of the Atlantic from the US Naval Observatory Noon signal broadcast by wireless from Washington every day. They would then have been able to make any necessary adjustment to the GMT chronometer.

If they did keep EST on one chronometer then there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Titanic sank at a moment very close to the EST shown an the recovered chronometer. It would have stopped the instant the water covered it.
If there had been no clock change as you and others say, then that chronometer should have stopped 18 minutes after midnight, not 21 minutes later at 39 minutes after midnight as can be seen.

If the clocks had been set back 24 minutes some time before impact took place then the difference between ship and EST would have been 1 hour 38 minutes. If we apply this to the EST Chronometer times we get:

Time of water stopping the chronometer: 02:17 am ship....00-39am EST
Time of CQD:..................................... 00-03 am ship....10-25pm EST
Time of Impact:.................................. 11-40 pm ship....10-02pm EST
Noon 14th......................................... 12-00 .... ship....09-58am EST

From the above:

Impact time to CQD...23 minutes... Smith had no doubt he needed help by that time.
Run Noon to impact....12 hours 04 minutes.

Ship's log at time of impact: 260 nautical miles. Average speed since Noon 14: 21.55 knots.

Jim C.
 
Oct 28, 2000
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If the instrument in Jim's photo (above) is of one of Titanic's chronometers, it does appear at first glance it was kept on New York Time (GMT - 5 hrs). That's extremely odd. My collection of books on the sea and navigation is reasonably extensive and I've never seen a reference to keeping anything but Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) on a ship's chronometer. Everything I've read indicates that when two or more chronometers were carried they were both set to GMT without exception for reasons I'll outline below. This doesn't say that New York Time could not have been carried, just that I find it highly unusual. I am more inclined to think that the instrument was fitted as a simple clock and not as a navigational chronometer.

Although mechanical chronometers were finely constructed, as Bowditch noted, “...it is not possible to make a perfect instrument.” The text went on to say, “...it becomes the duty of the navigator to determine the error and to keep watch upon the variable rate of the chronometer.” In this context the “error” means the time difference between GMT and the chronometer. The “rate” is the speed of any change in the error. Most chronometers would lose or gain a specific number of seconds per day, which was known as their “rate.” Navigators had to understand these errors and apply corrections to the chronometer reading to determine the exact GMT necessary for accurate celestial sights.

A ship equipped with a single chronometer was severely handicapped when it came to keeping track of either rate or error. Worse, there was no handy way to determine if a sudden jar had caused the instrument to become “deranged” or change its rate. This is why first-class vessels such as Titanic were equipped with two chronometers. One would be designated as the “standard” for all comparisons. Because of slight imperfections in construction the two chronometers would have different rates and errors. Each day the navigator would compare their readings nd record the difference. He would also ascertain what Bowditch called the “second error,” which was the amount of change in the time difference between the two chronometers. If the second error remained uniform, life was good. But, if it changed the navigator knew something was amiss with one or both chronometers.

In any event, the clock dial does show 39 minutes past 12 o'clock. Curious, very curious indeed.

– David G. Brown
 

Doug Criner

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Here's a picture of one of Titanic's chronometers recovered from her bridge:

View attachment 492
Note the time...00-39am.EST? This gives a GMT time of sinking of 5-39am on April 15.

If that was EST, then Titanic sank at 5-39 am GMT not 5-18am GMT as she would gave done had there been no clock alteration. It also means that if Titanic was 2 hours 58 minutes behind GMT at Noon on April 14, she was 3 hours 22 minutes behind GMT when she went down.
Time of sinking 5-39GMT minus 3 hours 22 minutes gives ship time of sinking (chronometer stopped)of 02:17am.
Jim, where is that photo to be be found among "official" Titanic artifact websites?

I believe that a number of personal watches were recovered from the wrecksite, mainly passengers' pocket watches. What do they tell us about the time of sinking?
 

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