Titanic's NavigationRunning Lights


May 9, 2001
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This topic has piqued my interest. I've just started learning how to operate a sailboat on a lake, and part of that education includes the understanding of the various lights on the ship and their purpose. Its interesting to learn that many of the rules on showing lights at night for vessels today are the same as they were for ships like Titanic. For instance, sailboats are required to display a white light on the main mast when operating under engine power. But not while under sail. (Obviously the light couldn't be seen if under sail because the sails would hide the light.) Titanic had no sails so she would have been required to display mast lights at night, right? But what about the ships that had both capabilities, sail and steam?

And I wish I could learn more about Titanic's lighting arrangement. This could answer some questions brought out in the inquiries about why searchlights, or headlights, wheren't being used to check the path ahead.

I'm sure the discussion will bring many facts and information to the forum. Pictures of Titanic at night, or of Olympic at night? Deck plans, designers notes, etc. I can't wait to hear the exchange.

Yuri
 
Mar 3, 1998
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George,

I moved the masthead light debate over to Yuri's thread, as you suggested.

To continue....

The mere fact that a kerosene lantern would have to be moveable makes it likely that such a lantern would be lowered and refilled during the day, and then lit and hoisted to the mainmast at night in compliance with IMM regulations. (I suspect that's one reason why a lamp trimmer was retained as part of the crew.)
...Even so, that doesn't change the fact that the "IMM Ship's Rules and Uniform Regulations" specifies that "At all times one of the two mast-lights carried must be of oil." It also specifies that "...in foggy or misty weather, oil mast-head and side lights are to be used instead of electric lights." As I've mentioned in the past, there was apparently no requirement that *all* White Star vessels carry two mast lights, but the Shutes and Hyland nighttime observations lend credence to the likelihood that Titanic did so -- and that the second masthead light was an oil lamp.... Especially at night or in foggy conditions, since observations and photographs made in daylight and in clear weather cannot be regarded as conclusive.

I will allow for the fact that in earlier times, the reliability of electric lamps was such that dual purpose lamps -- both electric and oil -- were constructed, and since you haven't dated the White Star regulation that you quote, it's possible that that regulation applies to that earlier time. However, by 1912, dual-purpose lamps were seldom fitted, if ever (I haven't uncovered a single instance yet, but I'm not prepared to make a sweeping statement that covers all of shipbuilding at that time). Titanic's recovered foremast lamp is a prime example of the type of lamps fitted by Titanic's time...electric only. Matt Tulloch will describe it for you if you ask him. Dave Brown also has some insight into navigational lights of the period, so I invite him to chime in.

Also, you quote from the regulation that "...in foggy or misty weather, oil mast-head and side lights are to be used instead of electric lights." Just for the sake of argument, let's say Titanic did hoist an oil lamp on the mainmast...why then would they have hoisted an oil masthead light on a night with observed and predicted clear conditions?

To save time, I'm going to quote from my own e-mail from our previous debate (from July 2000) on this subject:


>>I have been looking into this issue for several months now and I have so
>>far come up with zero proof for a mainmast light or provisions for
>>servicing of one. There is certainly no fixed mainmast light visible in
>>either the photo of Titanic's mainmast in Walter Lord's 'The Night Lives
>>On' (page 101 in the first edition) or in the Southampton or Queenstown
>>photos. As for the theory of hoisting a masthead light...what is the
>>purpose behind that? If it is intended to display range lights, why
>>would one of the lights have to be hoisted? If hoisted, how is the light
>>secured so that it displays the proper (fixed) arc of light, as required
>>by the International Rules of the Road? With an backwards rake to the
>>mast, how is the lamp brought forward of the mast, so that the mast
>>itself doesn't mask the light from the forward aspect; again, as required
>>by the Rules? As you mentioned, the builder's plans show the halyards on
>>the mast to be used for hoisting arc lamps, which are not the type used
>>for navigation lights. With only a mean life of 60-100 burning hours,
>>the arc lamp would require too much servicing...twin-filament tantalum
>>incandescent lamps, with a max life of 3000-5000 burning hours, were used
>>for nav lights).
>>
>>The special Shipbuilder number will tell you that tantalum filaments were
>>used for the incandescent lights in Titanic. The masthead and running
>>lights were unique, in that they used two filaments in parallel, so that
>>if one filament failed, the lamp will still illuminate, albeit at half
>>normal light. Failure of one or both filaments in a navigational light
>>was indicated on the Ship's Light Indicator panel (loss of both filaments
>>resulted in both a visual and an audio (bell) signal). It would be
>>interesting to find and recover that panel from the wreck, so that we
>>could see if there is an indicator window for the mainmast.
>>
>>As far as the regulations are concerned, George Behe points out that the
>>White Star Line Circular for Deck Officers stipulates that one of the two
>>masthead lights must be oil-fired. Against that, my interpretation of
>>the International Rules is that they stipulate that while a second
>>masthead light is optional, it must be identical to the one on the
>>foremast, if utilised:
>>
>>The Requirements for Second Mate, London, Aug. 1910
>>Seamanship for Ordinary Certificate
>>The Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea
>>"Q. May a steam vessel under way carry an additional masthead light?
>>Ans. Yes. A second may be carried exactly similar to the first. They
>>must be placed in a line with the keel, the forward light at least 15
>>feet lower than the after one, and the horizontal distance must be
>>greater than the vertical."
>>
>>Nicholls's Seamanship and Viva Voce Guide, 6th Edition, London 1913:
>>(George discounted this because it was published after the disaster, but
>>I just checked on the earlier editions (April 1908 and August 1910) and
>>the wording is the same)
>>"The Regulations for Preventing Collisions At Sea.
>>Art. 2. A steam vessel when under way shall carry-
>>(a.) On or in front of the foremast, or if a vessel without a foremast,
>>then in the fore part of the vessel, at a height above the hull of not
>>less than 20 feet, and if the breadth of the vessel exceeds 20 feet, then
>>at the height above the hull not less than such breadth, so, however,
>>that the light need not be carried at a greater height above the hull
>>than 40 feet, a bright white light, so constructed as to show an unbroken
>>light over an arc of the horizon of 20 points of the compass, so fixed as
>>to throw the light 10 points on each side of the vessel, viz., from right
>>ahead to 2 points abaft the beam on either side, and of such a character
>>as to be visible at a distance of at least 5 miles.
>>(e.) A steam vessel when under way may carry an additional white light
>>similar in construction to the light mentioned in subdivision (a). These
>>two lights shall be placed in line with the keel that one shall be at
>>least 15 feet higher than the other, and in such a position with
>>reference to each other that the lower light shall be forward of the
>>upper one. The vertical distance between these lights shall be less than
>>the horizontal distance."
>>
>>International Convention on Safety of Life At Sea, London, 1914:
>>(After the disaster, but this shows that masthead lights had become a
>>concern for the international convention)
>>"Article 14. The High Contracting Parties undertake to use all diligence
>>to obtain from the Governments which are not parties to this Convention
>>their agreement to the revision of the International Regulations for
>>Preventing Collisions at Sea as indicated below:
>>(A) The Regulations shall be completed or revised in regard to the
>>following points:
>>(1.) The second white light....
>>(B) Articles 2, 10, 14, 15, 31 of the said Regulations shall be amended
>>in accordance with the following provisions:
>>Article 2. The second white mast-head light to be compulsory..."
>>
>>Modern Seamanship, 7th Edition, New York, 1917:
>>(Quoted here to show the Rules had still not changed since 1908)
>>The Rules of the Road
>>International Rules
>>(Article 2, subdivision (a) and (e), same as quoted in Nicholls, above,
>>with the addition of the term 'Range-lights' to describe the display of
>>two masthead lights. A footnote is added, as read below)
>>"Note 2 - The range-lights, as herein described, while giving far less
>>information than they might be made to give if their position were more
>>definitely fixed by law, are nevertheless so useful that it is hoped they
>>may, before many years, be made compulsory for all steamers at all times
>>when under way...Their value would be greatly increased if we could be
>>sure of finding associated with them the *permanent* (original italics)
>>white stern light permitted by the second part of Art. 10; but as the law
>>stands, these two 'permissive' clauses have no connection with each
>>other, and we are not justified in assuming that a steamer which carries
>>range-lights will also carry a permanent stern light. It should be noted
>>that when the vessel carrying range-lights is seen end-on, these lights
>>may be confused with the lights of a vessel towing..."
>>
>>Why do I give weight to the International Rules, instead of the White
>>Star regulation that George uses to support his contention that the
>>aftermast head light was a kerosene lantern, or similar? Call it bias on
>>my part, based on 17 years of sea-going experience, the last 5 as a
>>qualified underway Officer of the Deck. I'm used to looking at ship's
>>lights at night; in fact, I had to prove my proficiency in order to get
>>my underway qualification. It is inconceiveable to me that two range
>>lights would be of different character; in this case, one electric, the
>>other oil. Some will say this is my late 20th Century experience
>>talking, and I acknowledge that. That's the reason why I turned to early
>>20th Century sources (as many pre-1911 as I could find) to find if they
>>did things differently then. I have as yet found no evidence that says
>>they did, or why they should have.


In the earlier debate, you picked out the phrase, "similar in construction" to mean that they didn't have to be exact, thus allowing for one to be electric, the other of oil. To one who is familiar with the Rules, and who had to pass a board by demonstrating a thorough and practical knowledge of them, that term does not allow for a variance of the kind you suggest. That rule, which is basically unchanged to this day, means that the lights must be of similar character...they have to appear as though they are from the same ship. Each light must be seen at the same range as the other...which may or may not happen, depending on weather conditions, with 2 dissimilar lights.

In your opinion, perhaps. The Shutes and Hyland observations were made at the crucial time, though -- at night, and these observations cannot be discounted by a truly objective researcher.

I didn't discount them, not at first. In fact, I wouldn't have spent time looking at pictures and debating the issue with you, Bill, Ken and even the director of the 'Ghosts of the Abyss' expedition if it hadn't been for those two observations. However, the simple truth is that I found during the course of my research that the evidence directly contradicts both Shutes and Hyland (in Hyland's case, the physical arrangement of Titanic also contradicts his placement of the mainmast on deck).

George, there was no navigational light on Titanic's mainmast. There is no light in the existing photos. There is no servicing ladder on the mainmast, as there is on the foremast. There is no provision for securing the lamp to the front of the mast so that it would satisfy the lighting requirements of the International Convention. No such lamp has been observed at the wreck site (a dicey proposition even if a lamp did exist, but I have asked the question as part of my research). Eyewitness testimony has given rise to the belief that Titanic carried both range lights, but survivor accounts must be corroborated with the available evidence (for purposes of this argument, I will avoid delving into what the witnesses on the Californian saw). In this case, the builder's and photographic evidence and practical seagoing practice directly contradicts Shutes and Hyland. This would not be the first time that eyewitnesses were wrong in what they think they saw, a fact that you yourself taught me during our conversations in the past.

Parks
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Parks!

> I moved the masthead light debate over to Yuri's >thread, as you suggested.

I'm glad. This way folks will be able to find the discussion much easier in the future than if it were buried in a Californian thread.

> I will allow for the fact that in earlier times, the >reliability of electric lamps was such that dual purpose lamps
> -- both electric and oil -- were constructed, and >since you haven't dated the White Star regulation that you
> quote, it's possible that that regulation applies to >that earlier time.

The regulation book I'm referring to was issued in July 1907 and is the version that was in force at the time of the Titanic disaster. (It was marked as exhibit "J.B.I.1" at the hearings and was signed by J. Bruce Ismay.)

>Titanic's recovered foremast lamp is a prime example
> of the type of lamps fitted by Titanic's >time...electric only. Matt Tulloch will describe it for you if you ask >him.

I've seen photos of that electric light and have no doubt that it came from the Titanic's foremast. According to the White Star regulation I quoted, though, that is not the type of light that would have been used on the mainmast.

> Also, you quote from the regulation that "...in foggy >or misty weather, oil mast-head and side lights are to be
> used instead of electric lights." Just for the sake of >argument, let's say Titanic did hoist an oil lamp on the
> mainmast...why then would they have hoisted an oil >masthead light on a night with observed and predicted
> clear conditions?

I guess I didn't state things as clearly as I could have. The regulation about the use of oil-fueled masthead lights in foggy weather came immediately *before* the regulation which stipulated that one of the ship's two masthead lights should be oil-fueled. I merely mentioned the earlier regulation to emphasize the fact that oil-fueled masthead lights were *required* on White Star vessels in certain circumstances (foggy weather etc.); that being the case, it seems pretty clear that those oil masthead lights had to be hoisted and serviced *somehow* -- whether or not the means to do so appear in plans or photographs that we have at our disposal today.

> To save time, I'm going to quote from my own e-mail from our previous >debate (from July 2000) on this subject:

Ahh -- memories.... now I'm all nostalgic. :)

I don't discount any of the points you made in our earlier discussion, Parks, and you have indeed made a strong case for why the presence of oil-fueled masthead lights on the Titanic should be questioned. Were oil-fueled masthead lights old fashioned in 1912? Sure. Were they prohibited by international regulations? It would seem so. Does any architectural or photographic evidence of their existence on the Titanic survive? Apparently not.

And yet we're still faced with the unpalatable fact that 1912 White Star regulations *required* the use of oil-fueled masthead lights in certain situations. Did White Star vessels obey the international rules you've outlined and abandon the use of oil-fueled lights, or did White Star vessels instead obey the specific stipulations laid down in White Star regulations? I don't know for sure -- and I don't think anyone else does, either.

> >>Why do I give weight to the International Rules, instead of the >White Star regulation ....? Call it bias on >>my part,

That's understandable, and you're perfectly justified in entertaining such a bias. I, on the other hand, have always had a soft spot for survivor accounts, and my bias extends toward giving serious consideration to the observations of people who were on the scene (especially if legitimate documentation exists that appears to support those observations.)

It is well-known that survivor accounts are not always accurate. On the other hand, we both know that James Cameron has viewed rooms inside the Titanic and discovered columns and other architectural features that "should not be there" according to the construction plans we've always had access to. That being the case, a survivor who claimed to have bumped into one of these 'unknown' columns on the morning of April 10th might very well have been branded a liar by modern researchers whose 'deck plans' do not show the column in question. In short, I feel I'm just as justified in being cautious about the accuracy of 'deck plans' as I am in being cautious about the accuracy of survivor accounts. Again, I'm not necessarily convinced that I'm right about the Titanic's oil masthead light -- but that pesky White Star regulation is doing a great job of convincing me that I'm not necessarily *wrong* about it, either.

One additional possibility that we have not considered is that White Star may have introduced their own 'personal' modifications to their vessels after they arrived in Southampton -- modifications (like the ability to use oil masthead lights) that would not show up on any H&W plans but which would nevertheless bring their vessels into accordance with current White Star regulations.

As long as we're talking about lamps, though, Parks, I'd be interested to find out more about the duties that a lamptrimmer was expected to perform. Could someone give me a brief outline of Samuel Hemming's duties on board the Titanic and specify how those duties were connected with lamps? (I already know about the lamps in the lifeboats, but where were all of the other oil lamps that Hemming had to care for on board the Titanic?)

>It is inconceiveable to me that two range
> >>lights would be of different character; in this >case, one electric, the
> >>other oil.

Nevertheless, the White Star regulation to that effect still exists.

The White Star "Ship's Rules and Uniform Regulations" book is filled with small printed chits of paper bearing revised regulations that are glued on top of outdated regulations -- and yet the regulation about electric lamps being paired with oil lamps is untouched and is still in its original form. That being the case, I simply can't understand why White Star would have bothered to write such a regulation -- and then keep that regulation in force right through 1912 -- if the regulation was not meant to be *obeyed.*

Despite your excellent arguments to the contrary, Parks, I'm still not convinced that those regulations *weren't* obeyed on board the Titanic (which I guess pretty much sums up my current position on the subject.)

Okay, everyone -- now that Parks and I have stated our own positions thoroughly, I'd be interested to hear the viewpoints of other researchers who have made a close study of White Star regulations and of the physical layout of Olympic/Titanic/Britannic.

Mark Chirnside, what say ye? :)

All my best,

George
 
Dec 4, 2000
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George & Parks -- The White Star regulations require both electric and oil lamps be carried, but the wording does not require that both be displayed simultaneously. As I read what George has posted, the requirement is sort of a "belt and suspenders" thing. The ship normally depended upon its electric lights, but had oil as a backup.

Using oil as a backup is still a common practice among long-distance cruising sailors who often face the problem of too much night and not enough battery.

I'm willing to bet that somewhere in a "lamp room" you will find not only a masthead light, but also sidelights and a sternlight that burn oil. Nobody intended to use them any more than they intended to use the bilge pumps.

-David G. Brown
 
Mar 3, 1998
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George,

Yes, unless we're the only two interested in the subject, it would be nice to hear what others have to say.

As far as "trimmers" go, they were swept along with the new technology. Not only were lamptrimmers traditionally responsible for maintaining the various oil lamps aboard, but as electric lamps became more ubiquitous, the trimmers were made responsible for replacing burnt-out bulbs, setting lighting conditions, etc. They were not considered electricians, but with about 10,000 lights (each with a mean bulb life of approximately 1000 hours) to look after, many of which burned constantly, trimmers had enough to keep them occupied.

So, like the lamps they serviced, trimmers in 1912 were making the transition from oil to electric.

Parks
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Dave,

I fully concur that oil lamps were carried in Titanic as back-ups to the electric ones. As I mentioned with the lamp trimmers, they were in transition from oil to electric in 1912, and the old ways sometimes die hard. The new dual-filament lamps used for masthead lamps may have proven to have been quite reliable -- two filaments in parallel, each one serving as a back-up to the other -- but I don't see the industry having developed enough confidence in the electrics by 1912 to completely discard the traditional oil lamps.

The recovered foremast lamp shows that it was attached to the mast by twin tongue-in-groove (my description of the arrangement) contacts. Two tongues on the back of the lamp slid into two matching grooves in the mast. One tongue provided a negative contact; the other, a positive. It would not be all that difficult for that lamp to be lifted out of the grooves and an oil lamp with similar tongues (but obviously not electrified) slid into its place. A service ladder that ran up the foremast provided the crewman access to the area.

However, even if conditions required back-up oil lamps to be rigged, I don't see any evidence that there was provision for a navigational lamp (of any kind) on the mainmast. Fixing a lamp (oil or electric) on the mainmast that would provide a fixed and unbroken arc of light forward would require a crewman to physically affix the lamp to the mast, in a manner similar to the foremast lamp. I have found no evidence of such an arrangement. The counter-argument is that the lamp must have been hoisted into position, but I don't see how that can be accomplished and conform to the Rules of the Road.

So, it's not that I am challenging the use of oil lamps on Titanic (although we are certain that Titanic carried an electric lamp on her foremast when she sank)...I'm challenging the notion that there was any navigational lamp (either oil or electric) on the mainmast. Now that I have more of the White Star regulation in context, I don't see where my assertion contradicts the Line's edict. Range lights were optional in 1912, so the regulation was broad enough to cover those ships which might carry them. In other words, the way I read the White Star regulation, it does not state that Titanic had to carry two masthead lights, but if she did, the ship was required to have oil-fired back-ups. The same held true for ships with only one masthead lamp. In my view, the regulation meant that Titanic had to carry an oil-fired replacement for her single masthead light, among other lights critical to navigation.

So, a single masthead light on Titanic satisfies the minimum requirements imposed by the International Convention and not does conflict with White Star regulation, provided that an oil-fired back-up is provided onboard. We are then left with the veracity of Miss Shutes description and Steward Hyland's sketch (which is not exactly error-free in other details). And that can be debated until the cows come home to roost.

Parks
 
Jan 5, 2001
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<FONT COLOR="ff0000">Mark Chirnside, what say ye? :)

Ah! I am afraid I have not studied the masthead lights in detail, but if I remember correctly I do have a 1911 Olympic source which speaks of the lamps employed and may be of use. If so, I will post it, but if not I won't.

Best regards,

Mark.
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Parks!

>So, it's not that I am challenging the use of oil >lamps on Titanic (although we are certain that >Titanic carried
> an electric lamp on her foremast >when she sank)...I'm challenging the notion that >there was any navigational
> lamp (either oil or electric) on >the mainmast.

I agree 100%-- *that* is the point of contention.

>In other words, the way I read the
> White Star regulation, it does >not state that Titanic had to carry two masthead >lights,

That is true.

>....but if she did, the ship
> was required to have oil-fired >back-ups.

That would seem to be a mistake, since nothing is said in the regulations about backup lights.

The full regulation re: paired masthead lights is very brief and unambiguous: "At all times one of the two masthead lights carried must be of oil; where only one is carried, it may be electric light, except under the foregoing circumstances" (i.e. the regulation stipulating that *all* navigation lights must be oil-fired in foggy weather etc.)

In other words, if a White Star vessel carried two masthead lights, one of those two masthead lights *had* to be oil-fired or else the ship would be in violation of White Star regulations.

> In my view, the regulation meant that Titanic >had to carry an oil-fired replacement for her >single masthead light, among other lights >critical to navigation.

IMO the full wording of the regulation does not support that view at all.

(I've said enough on this subject, though, and am eager to listen to the views of our fellow ET members.)

All my best,

George
 
Mar 3, 1998
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George,

OK, I've become confused by the various readings of the regulation, as posted here. I am handicapped by the inability to read the regulation in the context of the rest of the circular, as you are able to do. Based on your last post, I agree that we're still in contention over the issue of two dissimilar lights. A ship displaying two dissimilar lights as range lights contradicts everything I was taught about navigational lights during my watchstanding training.

However, even if we are able to get past that point, there's still the manner of hashing out the mechanics of providing for a navigational lamp on (specifically) Titanic's mainmast.

George, our pleas for assistance may be in vain...I have the sneaking suspicion that you and I are the only ones who care about this.

Parks
 
Dec 4, 2000
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George -- I think the White Star regulations do not speak of a foreward and after masthead light as we know in today's regulations. As I recall the use of language, in 1912 the forward light was the "masthead light" and the after light was a "range light." In fact, the purpose of the after light is in nautical parlance to "range"-- i.e. give an indication of the ship's heading. (As viewed from dead ahead, the two lights would, in sailor talk "come into range," thus providing proof of the vessel's heading.)

Also, the speed of change in 1912 regarding electrification was similar to that of computers today. I am sure that White Star would have willingly violated its own policy to add the latest "high tech" lights.

Parks' suggestion as to switching from electric to oil in an emergency on the foremast meets the test of reality on three counts. First, it is simple and both oil and electric lights were held in place with the double tang system described. Second, there is a ladder provided to make such a change. And, third is the 1912 Regulation that required only one masthead light.

The shrouds on Titanic's mainmast are ratted down only to a level roughly equal to the tops of the funnels. This would not be high enough for an after masthead light, even if somebody hauled it up the ratlines. There do not appear to be any provisions for climbing higher on this mast. It really doesn't matter what type of light--oil or electric--Titanic had no provision for servicing it on the mainmast. The only logical reason for not providing ladders/ratlines was that no light was installed.

A masthead light (even in 1912) requires specific angles of cutoff. It shows from right ahead to two points abaft the beam for an arc of 225 degrees (112 1/2 on either side of the bow). This is a specific legal requirement, not a suggestion. I do not see how it could be met by hoisting an oil lamp on a halyard.

All-round anchor lights were hoisted on halyards and these may be confusing the issue. This type of light had a hoisting bail and a guy bail so that it could be kept from swinging. However, there was no provision to control the arc of visibility because anchor lights are all-round lights.

We are arguing over a passenger description of a light observed under both physically and emotionally trying conditions. Lubbers (not always a derisive term, just somebody unfamiliar with the sea) seldom know the right words. I'm wondering if the witness saw a water light of some sort. I know that something called a "Dan Buoy" was in use about that time. It ignited and burned when in contact with the water and was intended to mark MOB positions. Whether or not Titanic carried such devices I do not know. But if it did, it would have been on the fantail and would have been rigged to float free.

Dan buoys got their name from a makeshift device used by commercial fishermen to mark their nets at night. They are not named after anyone in particular to my knowledge.

-- David G. Brown
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Dave!

> I think the White Star regulations do not speak of a foreward and >after masthead light as we know in today's regulations. As I recall >the use of language, in 1912 the forward light was the "masthead >light" and
> the after light was a "range light."

On the face of it, that's a very plausible suggestion. However, although the term "range light" has sometimes occurred in discussions of the Titanic's navigation lights, the 1912 White Star regulation book makes no mention of such a term; the Line's accepted name for the navigation lights we have been discussing was "mast-head lights," and I'm afraid I'm forced to take the wording of the regulation at face value.

> Also, the speed of change in 1912 regarding electrification was >similar to that of computers today. I am sure
> that White Star would have willingly violated its own >policy to add the latest "high tech" lights.

Ordinarily I might agree with you; however, the fact that dozens of outdated regulations in the regulation book have been covered up by glued-in chits of paper containing the most *current* regulations suggests that White Star regarded its regulations about navigation lights to *be* current -- and therefore expected the Line's employees to *obey* those regulations.

> Parks' suggestion as to switching from electric to oil in an >emergency on the foremast meets the test of
> reality on three counts.

I don't question that point at all and feel that Parks is undoubtedly correct about oil lamps being kept in reserve in case of emergency. However, the 1912 regulation we have been discussing is not referring to reserve lights -- it is referring to *primary* navigation lights.

> We are arguing over a passenger description of a light observed under >both physically and emotionally trying conditions.

That's only partially true, though, since an official White Star regulation tends to support that passenger's observation (despite all the logical and realistic counter-arguments that have been offered in this thread.)

I wish I had all the answers, Dave, but I don't.

In my last couple of postings, I've merely been trying to correct misunderstandings about the 1912 regulation that were caused by my tendency to keep the wording of my postings as brief as possible (*too* brief in some cases.) I really do want to step back from this thread and listen to what other folks have to say on the subject -- my only concern is that they be able to base their arguments on *accurate* information.

By the way, Dave, is there any chance you'll be doing any book signings north of the Ohio/Michigan border any time soon? It would be great to see you again.

Take care, old chap.

All my best,

George
 
Mar 3, 1998
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my only concern is that they be able to base their arguments on *accurate* information.

Ouch! How about that the arguments be based on an *understanding* of the subject?

Parks
 
May 9, 2001
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When I look at photographs of the Titanic, I can see a light attached to the stern railing, just below the flag pole there. It is even shinning in one picture, or reflecting sunlight. But I've never seen a light on the aft mast in a photograph. Only in paintings do I see white lights shinning from the aft mast.

I have seen what appear to be lanterns hanging from the tugboats in some photographs. I call them lanterns because of their size and that they don't appear to be attached to a mast, but hanging from cables. But I've never seen anything like that in a photo of Titanic.

I don't see enough evidence for me to think that there was any light on the aft mast of Titanic.

Yuri
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Somehow this light discussion has gotten weighty. Just to clarify things, here are the correct names of the navigation lights required by the Rules of the Road:

Masthead -- a white light shining forward through an arc of 112 1/2 degrees (2 points) on either side of the centerline. Total arc of visibility is 225 degrees. Sometimes, sailors call masthead lights as "steaming lights."

Sidelight -- a colored light shining from dead ahead to 22 1/2 degrees abaft the beam. Placed on the bridge wings. Red light shows to port (left): green light to starboard (right).

Stern Light -- a white light showing from 22 1/2 degrees abaft the beam on one side to 22 1/2 degrees abaft the beam on the other through an unbroken arc of 135 degrees. This light is mounted on the stern of the vessel.

Range Light -- A name often used for the second masthead light carried abaft and higher than the forward masthead light on larger ships. This light was arranged to allow an observer to better gauge the direction of travel of the ship.

All Round Light -- A light of any color that shows through a full 360 degrees. White all round lights are used at anchor.

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In 1912, a white masthead light indicated a power driven vessel. Sailing vessels have always displayed only sidelights and a sternlight. The use of a second masthead "range" light was authorized by not required. Today, ships 50 meters and larger are required to display forward and after masthead lights. Ships under 50 meters are authorized to do so, but are not required.

The term "masthead" light is misleading in that the location on the foremast is traditionally about 2/3 of the way from deck to truck. This location simulates the joint were the topmast was stepped on top of the mast in a wooden sailing ship. (Confused? Just wait!) The mast was only the lower section of the three parts of a traditional ship mast. The topmast stepped on that and the upper topmast stepped on the topmast, making three sections in all. The joint of the mast and the topmast had a platform called a "top." Right above it was the uppermost point on the mast, called the "masthead." White lights were placed there, giving them the name "masthead lights."

Side lights are always screened so they will not show outside their proper arcs. The screens on Titanic are unusual, having a forward piece not usually employed. The ship appears to have had only one sidelight in each screen, based on the notch apparently intended to allow light to show dead ahead. Some vessels of the period have two sidelights in a vertical stack. Only one was used at a time, the other being a "backup."

All vessels show navigation lights in combination through an unbroken arc of 360 degrees. However, only power driven vessels show masthead lights, hence the term "steaming light."

The purpose of navigation lights is to avoid collisions. Oil lamps were never bright enough under the best of conditions. That's why ships switched to electricity as quickly as possible. Not only where the new-fangled lights brighter, but they did not blow out in a gale.

I have seen (somewhere, but I don't recall where) a dual fuel sidelight. It had a standard electric bulb socket and provision for an oil lamp. Only one source of illumination was intended to be used at any given time. The concept was flawed, however, because it ignored the characteristics of the Fresnel lens. Only the electric lamp was located at the focal point of the lens. As I recall the setup, the oil lamp was not in the correct optical position for maximum brightness.

-- David G. Brown
 
Apr 7, 2001
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George & Parks,

<<George, our pleas for assistance may be in vain...I have the sneaking suspicion that you and I are the only ones who care about this.>>

I do care about this topic very much, but probably you three guys know more about ship lighting than anyone else here.

Myself, I wanted to read more on Carlise's testimony (before posting anything) to see if any lights were in use on the foremast the night of the sinking.

Also I am wondering if a copy of the blueprint from H&W would help in finding out if navigational lamps (either oil or electric) were originally designed for the mainmast?

That's all that's running through my mind. Otherwise, I like to read and learn from you guys.
happy.gif


Teri
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Teri,

There is no controversy about an electric masthead lamp on the foremast. It shows up in H&W plans, photographs of Titanic, and is now physically in the possession of RMST, who took it off the mast at the wreck site.

The plans from H&W do not show any lamp affixed to the mainmast, or provision for one.

Parks
 
Apr 7, 2001
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Parks,

Okay but why isn't there a controversy about whether or not this electric masthead lamp on the foremast was in use that night? Wouldn't having a brightly lit lamp/light be a surefire way of preventing a collision? I would think that important enough to have its own thread. Okay go ahead and point me to one if there is an exact thread on this topic already in existence.

Teri

P.S. Why did RMST take the electric masthead lamp off from the foremast? I do not mind parts of the Titanic being raised provided that these parts have fallen off or are among the debris field, but to start taking the ship apart? THAT I do not like, and totally disagree with.
 

Dan Cherry

Member
Mar 3, 2000
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Hello, all,
I am a little confused by the lengthy posts as far as what is known and what isn't, but...

Here is what I know about the lights:
there are two (docking?) lamps (oil?) on the main mast about half-way up, one on the port side and one on starboard (there are photos to support this). According to a photo I have from the Olympic, there is a ladder running up the fore part of the mast to these lights. On the Titanic, it *appears* the ladder starts at a point intersected by a white-painted support running from the baseboard of the aft boat deck to the main mast.

Photo sources showing these main mast lights on Titanic:

http://www.eecs.wsu.edu/~dlaw/picpalace/supstrct/TPP9.jpg

the two lamp housings are seen clearly here:
http://www.eecs.wsu.edu/~dlaw/picpalace/supstrct/TPP5.jpg

and here:
http://www.eecs.wsu.edu/~dlaw/picpalace/supstrct/Tpp6.jpg

Ken Marschall told the TRMA people a few years ago:
"Bizarrely, there was no electric lamp permanently mounted to the mainmast as there was forward, but maritime law demanded a light up there. It must have been the oil lamp hoisted aloft and described by a few survivors to be the only light still burning at the end, after the ship’s lights went out. "

If the lamp seen was an oil lamp, hence, by my understanding from the above thread, a DOCKING lamp, my only question would be,

Why would 'docking lamps' be burning in mid-ocean?

Thoughts?

Dan
 

Dan Cherry

Member
Mar 3, 2000
775
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Parks,
you wrote:

There is no servicing ladder on the mainmast, as there is on the foremast.

As stated above by myself, there is some sort of ladder going from near A-deck level up the main mast from bow side. See here in this picture taken of Titanic in March 1912:

http://www.eecs.wsu.edu/~dlaw/picpalace/poop/aftwellT4.jpg

I have no reason to believe that this ladder went anywhere but to the two lamps on either side of the main mast as shown in the photo links I provided in the previous post. The ratline ladders go well above the lamp position, hence the reason for the ladder I am seeing in the picture?

Again, thoughts?

Dan
 

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