Quartermaster Rowe was at the stern. He judged the iceberg to be less than 10 feet away when it passed the stern and was almost touching the aft bridge. I think if the iceberg had moved away 150 feet as it passed the starboard beam and then returned again when it passed the stern, then we are dealing with a case similar to the 'magic bullet theory' at the JFK assassination. I believe there could be two explanations. Either Mr. Harder was observing a second iceberg passing the ship, or he was observing the iceberg after the 'hard a-port' order had been given and the stern was swinging away. As the helm order was given or apparently given when the iceberg was passing the stern, I believe they were trying to protect the blades immediately tried to swing the stern away from the ice as it passed the stern.
David, it depends on what you want to bend to create a situation.Unusual atmospheric conditions are virtually required by the myth that the iceberg "popped out of nowhere." Otherwise, why wasn't it seen by the lookouts, Murdoch, etc. This is not a new idea. I experimented with the idea more than 20 years ago in my book, "The Last Log Of The Titanic," but even though I discussed the possibility I could never find a solid answer to what would have caused such a condition over a rather wide area of the ocean on that particular night.
However, once I put things into correct time perspective ther was no need for deux ex machina explanations. No miracles required. To me, it's obvious the lookouts did spot the "black mass" that represented an iceberg at a range of more than two miles. They correctly recognized that it was a danger to the ship and then properly reported it as being dead ahead -- using three strikes on their bell.
The changing vertical parallax as the ship approached caused the "black mass" to go below the visible horizon. The berg was effectively hidden in the dark sea as viewed from crow's nest or bridge. If there is a mystery, it's that nothing was done during the early seconds after the lookouts' alarm to change course. That mystery is solved by an analysis of the time of day. It was coming on 12:00 o'clock unaltered April 14th time when the 48th compass check of that Sunday was due to be made. Good use of manpower would have been to combine any course change with that compass work -- only one trip to the compass platform would have been necessary.
Titanic was not navigated by the compass in the wheelhouse that Hichens watched as he steered. It was navigated Per Standard Compass -- PSC . All courses were developed in true, then "uncorrected" for the standard compass deviation and local variation. Deviation is different for all compasses on any ship due to their various placements. The standard compass was located amidships on a platform to reduce deviation error to a minimum. Hichens did not steer PSC, but rather to whatever number corresponded on his steering compass card to the course on the standard compass. Hence, if a course change was to be made, it had to be done by Standard Compass and then translated to the steering compass.
Back to the lookouts. They did not see the iceberg at more than two miles range. Icebergs do not reflect enough light for that on a moonless night with no wave action. What the lookouts saw was a silhouette of the iceberg created by its bulk blocking out the available light reflected off the ice field beyond it. Any sailor knows when a silhouette blocks light from beyond, there is something big causing that "black mass" and it should be avoided.
Navigational texts then and now cautioned icebergs are difficult to spot beyond a quarter mile at night. This was true for Titanic. The berg was not seen by reflected light until after the ship made its two-point left turn on starboard helm. As Ioannis noted above, by then it was too late to avoid contact with the berg.
Even so, the performance by Fleet and Lee that night match or exceed what would normally be expected of human eyes on that night. These men did their job properly and their performance as lookouts belies any fog, or atmospheric conditions existed.
-- David G. Brown
I think you are clutching at straws, Aaron. There is a world of difference in assessing an iceberg at a distance without anything to compare it with and in estimating how far off an iceberg is at night in conditions of limited to absent light, a rapid moving target and a means of measurement by comparison to relatively a close-by point.Trouble is, Mr. Harder was asked to describe the icebergs that he saw at daylight when the Carpathia was there. His answer might be interesting.
Q - How large, in your judgment, was the largest one?
A - I should not like to make a statement in regard to that Senator, because I am very poor at distances and dimensions. They were of good size.
This casts doubt on the accuracy of his previous statement when he said the iceberg was between 50 - 100 feet away.