Titanic's Belfast-Southampton trip

Steven Hall

I have read numerous references to what time Titanic departed Belfast for Southampton - however there appears to be varied opinions on this matter. Can anyone one give a conclusive departure time line.
I did a little digging to see what I could find.

Titanic, returned to Belfast just on 6.30 p.m. that evening and was obliged to lower both starboard and port anchors as a final directive by the Board of Trades representative. Carruthers, being satisfied with the ships performance throughout the trials, happily offer up a signed certificate of seaworthiness, valid for one year. With this document in hand, H. Sanderson [IMM & WSL director] would have seen the obligations of the contract finalized thereby acknowledging the official transfer of the vessel from builder to owner.
With the formalities dispensed with, and the departure ashore of the officials, the ship than weighed anchor on or about 8.00 p.m. On leaving Belfast Lough, she briefly tracked eastward into the Irish Sea and made course for Southampton.
During the 570 mile trip from Belfast to Southampton, the opportunity was taken to perform additional engine and maneuvering trials. Making an average of 18 knots, it was expected that ship would conveniently arrive at Southampton upon the high water. Although the ship had the misfortune of encountering fog six hours into the voyage, the unfavorable conditions cleared just after 6.00 am.
One notable highlight of the trip south, Smith directed the engineers to make a short all out push. The new ship did not disappoint, producing a brief but impressive 23.5 knot push. Unfortunately as history was to later reveal, this was to be the quickest the hull obtained throughout her brief career. As cruel twist, the fall [of the severed bow section] to the sea floor 13 days later is thought to have occasionally bettered 30 knots !
Later that day, the Olympic departed Southampton just after noon. Although some speculation suggests that may have had her departure closer to 4.00 p.m., this delay could however substantiate the Hampshire Independent’s article printed the following day that the two ships [Olympic and Titanic] had passed each other, ‘. . .a short distance somewhere off Portland’. Although this article appears to have been adopted as fact, the Southampton Harbormasters Log appears to end any speculation with the following entry; P 205; 3rd April 1912 - ''Noon'' - Olympic - Haddock - New York - W.Star 20,894 - 45,324.
By around 10.00pm that evening, Titanic had progressed pass the Isle of White into Spithead, past the Nab lightship and made the obligatory stop for the embarkation of the Southampton pilot. With the pilot now on her bridge, she proceeded cautiously at half ahead passing Cowes, rounded the notorious Brambles sandbank and eventually into Southampton water. A short period after, 5 Red Star tugs, Ajax, Hector, Hercules, Neptune and Vulcan than assisted the ship eventually into the calm, and darkened waters of the River Test. The time was just after just 11.30 p.m.
With the bow facing downstream, it was than necessary to bring the ship through a 90º turn to the port to align the vessel up parallel with the dock. Using a push pull action, the tugs maneuvered the huge hull slowly astern. In the end, it was just after midnight when the ship was finally secured alongside Berth 44 - stern first.
Steve, I'm familiar with most of that material, but what's your source for the 23.5 knot burst?

I've seen it in Eaton and Haas, but I've seen lots of funny things in their books. Is there a primary source?

Well done on demolishing the meeting between the two ships. It made a pretty picture by you know who, but it didn't happen.
This is just too little for such a day. At about 6:00 am Titanic was under tow down Belfast Lough, then instead of doing her Trials towards the North, she turned South down the east side of the Ards Peninsula where her Trials were completed with complete satisfaction. She would return to Belfast again and following the signing of the documents, she would now belong to the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company. Some of the H&W workers would leave the ship while quite a few remained on Titanic to finish off some small jobs. During this time, word got around about the electric horse and of course not one of the H&W had tried such a horse.

Just after 8:00 pm (GMT) she would leave Belfast en route to Southampton and thousands would line both sides of Belfast Lough to watch her leave...

The world's largest man made movable object was now leaving her place of birth. She would steam along Belfast Lough and the Ards Peninsula again, making these areas, the only places that Titanic passed three times. One of the places include the home of President Andrew Jackson's parents' house near Carrickfergus and the area where the elite American Army Rangers Unit were formed.

It was a good day for Belfast.

Best regards

James (Jim) Alexander Carlisle
I don't know where to place this post in the forum so I am placing it under General Titanica.

My name is Les Allan and I am from Belfast. My grandfather, Alexander Allan, was a master joiner during the construction of the Titanic.

He left Belfast on board Titanic for the sea trials and the trip to Southampton as part of a snagging squad - NOT the guarantee crew.

The snagging squad just travelled to Southampton. They were carrying out final finishing work during the sea trials. This squad is like the team a building contractor sends around new builds just to ensure that everything have been completed.

The family has a piece of Titanic memorabilia, which has been authenticated, that was given to my grandfather when he disembarked at Southampton. In addition, we have his toolbox that also made the journey!

I have searched the records in PRONI (Public Records Office for Northern Ireland) where I found the delivery crew and other lists but I cannot find any details of this 'snagging' squad. It is as if they did not exist. Perhaps as they were not part of the disaster there was no interest in them. I know that H&W had a 10 year document disposal policy so all records may have been lost.

Is anyone aware of this squad?

Attached is a general photograph taken at Harland & Wolff - This is NOT a photograph of the snagging squad!

I have heard somewhere a similar story that there were some workers on board Titanic to complete the work during the voyage from Belfast to Southampton. They later returned to Belfast via Liverpool. There was a man named Thompson who in 1994 said that he belonged to them. I think he is mentioned in the Book called "Titanic Belfast's own" by Stephen Cameron. But I am not aware of any list.
It has long been accepted that Titanic arrived at Southampton at Midnight on the day following her departure from Belfast.
The evidence from the surviving officers tells us that she left Belfast at 8 pm on the evening of April, 2 and arrived at Southampton at Midnight, April 3 and that she averaged 18 knots during that journey.
By measurement on Google Earth and by Reed's nautical Tables of Distances, the distance from the Belfast anchorage to the White Star Dock, Southampton is 515 nautical miles. At an average of 18 knots, this would have taken 28 hours, 37 minutes and the arrival time would have been 37 minutes past Midnight, not Midnight.
Additionally; Titanic would not have made 18 knots the entire time.
At the beginning, she would have worked up to that speed. Then from at least 4 am to 6 am when she was in fog, she would have reduced speed.
She would have stopped off the pilot station at the Isle of Wight to embark the pilot, then she would have continued at a greatly reduced speed up the buoyed channel to Southampton Water where she would have completed the last 6 miles at a very slow speed. Finally, she would have stopped to make the tugs fast before turning off the berth.

If she arrived off the berth at midnight, then it looks like she arrived at the pilot at about 9 pm that evening which means she could not have been running at full speed for more than 24 hours.
The distance from the pilot station to the berth is about 17 miles, therefore, it seems that Titanic covered a distance of almost 498 miles in 24 hours at an average speed of 20.75 knots, not 28 knots. That's almost half a knot faster than her speed from Southampton to Cherbourg.
Additionally, the foregoing does not account for any speed reduction due to fog or initial build-up of speed at the start of the voyage.

Something is very wrong with the chronology, speed or both, of that delivery voyage from Belfast. Any ideas?

Forgot to point out that the average speed of a ship is reckoned form pilot to pilot...on nautical parlance, from Full -away-on Passage to End of passage.
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Found this published in the Belfast News Letter on Monday 01 April 1912.

DEPARTURE OF THE TITANIC. for Southampton This Morning. The new White Star liner Titanic, largest vessel in the world, has now been completed her builders, Messrs. Harland & Wolff. Ltd., and eleven o'clock this morning she will leave Belfast for Southampton ...
The dock directory that listed ship arrivals and departure for tugs needed officially list Titanic's arrival at Berth 44 at 01:15 on April 4th.

Paul Lee shows this here: http://www.paullee.com/titanic/tnav.php

An excellent pointer, Martin.

As usual, Paul's research comes up with the missing bits. This allows me to reconstruct the delivery voyage.
The most important bit is the Noon Position for April 4...Abeam, of "Lands End". That would be the time when Lightoller established the average speed up to Noon. If Titanic rang Full Away when she dropped the Pilot at Belfast, and did so at 8 pm, then she was underway on passage for 16 hours. At an average of 18 knots, that means that by Noon, April 3, she had covered a distance of 15 x 18 = 288 miles.
By measurement, the distance from Lands End to the entrance to the Belfast Buoyed channel is 289 miles. This means Titanic was anchored about 1 mile from the entrance to the buoyed channel. It also verifies Lightoller's claim of an average speed of 18 knots.

The "50 miles east of Fastnet Rock" is valuable in that it coincides exactly with Titanic's southward track toward the Wolf Rock, her turning point for heading up The English Channel. She could never have been due east at that time so it was a general approximation.

From Noon to Lizard Point was 30 miles At 18 knots, the lizard would be abeam at about 1-40 pm. Paul's evidence derived from the PV of the Olympic for April 3, states"1.35p "TR Titanic" off Lizard Gd [Good, or GLD- Lizard?] sigs & fairly strong.". This suggests that Titanic was making 19.5 knots from Noon. That would be expected in that area since the flood tide would be setting about SE at up to 2 knots. However, "off the Lizard" might also be a generalisation.

Titanic had a total of 175.5 Miles to steam from abeam of Lizard Point until she arrived at the Southampton Pilot Station at the entrance to the Nab Channel. At 18 knots, she would have arrived there at around 11-20 pm. From there, she had a distance of about 15 miles to steam at slow speed in darkness before she crossed the eastern limits of the Port of Southampton. That is the moment when she officially entered the port.

Paul's "Soton Dock" Record evidence shows an "Inward" recorded time of 01-15 am. That looks more like a pilotage record since the word "inward" rather than "arrival" is used and there is no record of a berth number. However I stand to be corrected.
If I am correct, then this suggests to me that Titanic arrived at the West Nab pilot boarding area at or near to 11-30 pm and the Pilot boarded her after that time... probably near to Midnight.
Arrival 3rd April.jpg

The ship then proceeded slowly up the East Solent buoyed channel at a slow speed. If the tide was flooding at that time, then the current would be against her until she entered the Calshot Channel.
Enters port.jpg

At or near to 1-15 am, Old Castle point was abeam to port and Titanic entered the jurisdiction of Southampton Harbour Authority, Speed would be reduced to Half Ahead and the tricky and final part of her journey to Berth 44 would begin. She would then have 12 miles to run at slow speed and would arrive off the berth close to 3-30 am. There she would make fast the tugs, ready to be swung and towed stern-first into her berth. All this would be done during the flood tide.. the second flood. The pilot would want to be off the entrance to White Star Dock before second High Water. Southampton has two Hight Tides. If the first was around 1 am, then the second could have been as much as 4 hours after that, at or near to 5 am. Then, it would be broad daylight, making the task of turning so much easier. It was certainly before 6 am since the crew joined her at that time.