Titanic's NavigationRunning Lights


Mar 3, 1998
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Teri,

Why did RMST take the electric masthead lamp off from the foremast?

Because it was there. And it was bright and shiny. I'm not kidding. It's currently one of the centrepieces of their exhibition.

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.

You might want to take your gripe up with RMST, but be aware that you won't be the first. The issue of RMST removing the masthead light from the mast has been a sore spot with some people for years.

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.

To my knowledge, there's never been a thread devoted to that question.

Dan,

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?

The docking lamps were installed on the mainmast in order to provide illumination of the cargo loading areas at night. They were electric and consisted of 2 housings (one on each side of the mast), each containing a cluster of 4 bulbs. I have a more thorough description and a manufacturer-supplied photo of one at home, but I'm at work at the moment. I can provide them later, if you'd like. I had written a short monograph about Titanic's lights (not just her nav lights), but I seem to have accidentally erased it off my hard drive. The ladder you see does in fact allow for servicing of the lamps.

The docking lamps are not the issue…we've been talking about navigational lights. As you'll notice, the docking lamps are too low to even be considered as navigation lights…a range light is required by regulation to be at least 15 feet higher than the foremast light and seen from a forward aspect. Titanic's funnels would completely block the docking lamps from being seen from a forward aspect. Not to mention the fact that the lamps themselves are of a completely different character than those used for navigation.

I have been concerned with Elizabeth Shutes' eyewitness account ever since I read ANTR. I really don't know what she saw, if in fact she saw what she claims. I have tried to allow for a range light on the mainmast by way of explaining her observation, but the physical evidence overwhelmingly contradicts its existence. Maybe she saw the docking lamps? I considered that, too, but you really have to stretch the imagination. First of all, why would docking lamps be lit in mid-ocean? The only reason I can think of is that one of the deck officers had the presence of mind to turn them on after the collision to a) provide more illumination to help in the loading of the boats and b) increase the overall luminosity of the ship to increase the chances of being spotted by a passing non-wireless-equipped steamer. They would not have had the docking lamps illuminated as a matter of normal routine. And secondly, why would they flicker like an oil lamp, it they were electric? I talked with Bill Sauder about output from the ship's lighting circuit (and specifically, the branch that ran up the mast) after the lights went out…is it possible that stray voltage in the lines caused the 8 filaments in the two lamps to unevenly illuminate a few seconds after the disruption in power, giving the appearance of a flickering lamp? We concluded that there's no way to know, and I found myself really going out on a limb to try and explain one uncorroborated eyewitness account.

Ken Marschall told the TRMA people a few years ago:

I have explained my rationale on this subject to Ken and believe that we are in agreement. I doubt that Ken would answer you the same if you asked him the same question today, but I'm not going to speak definitively for him.

Parks
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Addendum to my last:

The ladder you see does in fact allow for servicing of the lamps.

Let me explain that more, so that it doesn't appear that I'm contradicting my earlier statement about no ladder to service a mainmast light. The ladder that Dan shows in his pictures does not go high enough to allow for servicing of a masthead light much farther up the mast. I think Dave covered that well in his post above. The ladder in the photos is for servicing the docking lamps only. I apologise if I didn't mention it earlier, but I didn't think it was germane.

Parks
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Dan -- There is a ladder on the forward side of the mainmast, and some sort of fittings at its top. However, that height is insufficient for a masthead light. So whatever their purpose, these are not under way navigation lights. Perhaps they are after anchor lights placed on either side of the mast to be visible through the required 360 degree arc. The ladder would be to service the bulbs.

As I have read back through this string, I see a bit of a misunderstanding about the brightness of oil lamps. It seems a lot of people think they are interchangeable with electric. Even in 1912 this was hardly the case. Oil makes a pittful light by comparison to an electric lamp. That's why oil-burning lighthouses required those huge multi-order Fresnel lenses. So little light was created by the oil flame that all of it had to be caught and focused into the beam.

As to Terri's question about a bright white light showing forward illuminating the iceberg -- no, this would not happen to any great extent. The design of the lamps and their Fresnel lenses was intended to prevent light from shining down on the ship and blinding the lookouts. Because of their lenses, navigation lights actually appear brighter at a distance from the ship where the viewer can see the full effect of the concentrated beam of light.

Spotlights were mandated on U.S. ships after Titanic with some pretty comical appearing results. Nobody used the damned things because they raised the danger of accidents. While it is true that an observer can better see objects in the beam of a spotlight, everything outside the beam is effectively cloaked from view. This is primarily the result of the reduction of night vision in the eyes of the observer. So, using a spotlight usually results in not seeing more than it does in seeing dangers.

Radar, by the way, is nothing more than a spotlight that human beings can't see. So, it does not blind lookouts. In operation, however, it is just a beam of energy that sweeps the horizon to "illuminate" targets around the ship.

--David G. Brown
 

Dan Cherry

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Mar 3, 2000
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Parks and Dave,
thanks for your insight on the matter. Now that I know the difference between what you're saying about the lamps I see and an actual navigational lamp which would be located farther up the mast, I agree 100% that no, there is no navigational lamp on the main mast, neither in plans nor pictures.

Just sign me,
The landlubber
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Teri asked;"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?"

Teri, I think you might find that the people on the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm might have a thing or dozen to say about that. They had functioning navigation lights and radar, but still managed to collide. The sequence of events leading up to a collision can be quite complicated, but what it boils down to is that collisions happen because people make mistakes.

Regretably, technology has never been able to get around that although it has tried!

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Apr 7, 2001
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Parks,

I WILL take the issue up with RMST and I will also tell them that Captain Smith sent me! (or rather you know who I'll tell them sent me) Just because the light was there doesn't mean anyone can take it. That is really quite preposterous of them! Please be kind enough to send me their writing address and which person to contact.

Michael,

I believe that was Dan's statement above, not mine.

Dave,

<<As to Teri's question about a bright white light showing forward illuminating the iceberg -- no, this would not happen to any great extent. The design of the lamps and their Fresnel lenses was intended to prevent light from shining down on the ship and blinding the lookouts. Because of their lenses, navigation lights actually appear brighter at a distance from the ship where the viewer can see the full effect of the concentrated beam of light.>>

My comment on this is that common sense would have the lights/lenses shining outwards and away from the ship, not downwards and onwards towards the lookouts. I am assuming, of course, that the lights/lenses are ABOVE the lookouts. Thus if the lights/lenses were to illuminate forwards as proposed, anything in a certain number of feet ahead would be seen by the lookouts. It would all work out quite well if my thinking cap is on correctly.

Dan,

NICE photos!

Teri
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Hi Teri, I'm afraid at sea, what some take as "common sense" is very common but never sensible.

When I was on the USS Constock, we were tasked to search for the wreckage of a CH-53 which had crashed in the Persian Gulf and as it was night time, we used every light we could get our hands on to try and see...well...something. This included the powerful searchlights on the signal bridge, seal beams for the damage control lockers and even the Maglite I carried with me all the time.

The result was that we could see whatever the beams of light were aimed at and nothing (As in zip, zilch, nix, nada) nothing outside of that beam of light. In fact, the light tended to dazzle whoever was looking at it, even if it was not directly. We had to use them for this particular mission, but for ordinary lookout practice, they do way more harm then good.

(P.S,; We never found the missing helicoptor, but when it was found, we were sent along with a salvage ship to raise it from where it sank. The crew was still inside.
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Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Apr 7, 2001
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Michael,

>>The result was that we could see whatever the beams of light were aimed at and nothing (As in zip, zilch, nix, nada) nothing outside of that beam of light.>>

Yes this is what I am aiming at ~ that the light/lenses would act much like a flashlight. The beam would shine on something therefore lending the person to see ahead. Gosh it's really all quite simple. Didn't the Titanic have a large "flashlight" for the lookouts to use?

And please don't tell me Titanic had these great lights/lenses but they were not in use. I don't think I'm quite up for that.
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Teri
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Didn't the Titanic have a large "flashlight" for the lookouts to use?<<

Nope.

>>The beam would shine on something therefore lending the person to see ahead. Gosh it's really all quite simple.<<

Not so simple. Yes, you would see what the light was reflected off of, but you wouldn't see whatever was slightly off to the side. A something that would be just as dangerous. Other craft for example, ice, etc. Any of those could ruin your day. There is little more irritating to an experienced lookout then white light which dazzles them and in so doing, blinds them to whatever is going on all around them. Believe me, I know this from personal experience.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Teri -- quite simply, a spotlight blinds you more than it helps you when it comes to finding unknown dangers at sea. This is because of the way the human eye works. Light striking the retina causes a "discharge" of the surface. It takes some time for the retina to recover its ability to see dim objects after exposure to bright light. This condition is called "night blindness."

Anyone who has had a deer jump in front of their car at night knows that spotlighs (called headlights on a car) aren't always effective. The driver cannot see the animal outside the headlight beams because of night blindness. It is not until the deer enters the light that it becomes visible, which is usually too late.

We install headlights on cars because the vast majority of dangers are not deer, but things on the road in front of the vehicle. In this situation, spotlighting the road makes perfect sense. Alas, the same is not true at sea where dangers can come from any direction and there is no such thing as a paved road. On the water there is no "best place" to aim the spotlight.

Hunters and sailors know that some nights are brighter than others, but it is never absolutely dark. Moonlight and starshine are considerably brighter than most people know. A properly dark-adapted lookout who is trained how to see under dim conditions is suprisingly effective. You won't find anyone with sea time who considers spotlights a proper aid for lookouts under in a normal situation--such as Titanic on April 14.

Those big spotlights on U.S. ships following Titanic were monuments to ignorance of the reality of life at sea. My suspicion is that the spotlights were meant to make the passengers feel good and that's about all. Just today, I see the U.S. Congress is playing the same game, only this time with airport security.

Please don't take me as being condescending, but in this case I think you must trust those with experience at sea. A spotlight would not have been "the answer."

--David G. Brown
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Teri,

RMS Titanic, Inc. was granted salvor-in-possession rights to the wreck of the titanic by a U.S. Federal Court order in 1994, reconfirmed in 1996. The court award includes the exclusive rights to own all of the objects recovered from the Titanic wreck site. To date, RMST has recovered over 6000 items from the wreck and put those items on display as it sees fit.

That much is paraphrased from their website at http://www.titanic-online.com.

To lodge your complaint personally, contact either Arnie Geller or Dik Barton at:

RMS Titanic, Inc.
3340 Peachtree Road NE
Suite 1225
Atlanta GA 30326

You can complain about their taking the masthead light, but I would suggest that you not mention your thoughts on how the masthead light could have been used to avoid a collision.

Parks
 
Apr 7, 2001
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Hello Dave,

Actually, I was rather thankful that you took the time to spell everything out for me. With me on the Board, you must have polished up your typing skills by now eh?
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Okay I understand your point of a ship "headlight" having an approximate beam straight ahead and would not capture anything on the sides of the beam. So ~ with that said and done, in Titanic's case the night of the 14th, a large beam would have prevented the collision, because the iceberg WAS right straight ahead for the beam to capture ~ perfect for the lookouts to see ahead of time and avoid the collision. So what's wrong here? (I'm sure you'll tell me, but let me guess. Titanic didn't have a large beam, from what Standart's post above states. Ah geez.....!
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<<Those big spotlights on U.S. ships following Titanic were monuments to ignorance of the reality of life at sea.>>

I still think ANY light is better than no light, in dark seas.


Parks,

I understand RMST has been given salvor-in-possession rights. But I'm sitting here wondering if "objects recovered" includes "objects ripped off the vessel" in the "salvor-in-possession rights" document. I always understood RMST had the right to remove loose items in, around and on the ship, but never to take the ship itself apart.

I will be sure to write them in my best business english and to request a copy or a portion thereof, wherein it states they have the right to take the ship apart. I cannot picture RMST illegally taking the ship apart, but I'm going to find out. Thank You very much Parks, for posting their address. And I will not mention how the masthead light could have been used to avoid a collision.

Michael,

>>Didn't the Titanic have a large "flashlight" for the lookouts to use?<<
Nope.

Unbelievable!

Teri
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Teri,

This thread is about navigational lights, so if you want to continue talking about flashlights and such, please start another thread. Your theories aren't contributing to the conversation about masthead and running lights. If you're not aware of the difference between your 'flashlight' and nav lights, I suggest you go pick up a basic seamanship manual from the book store and do some reading.

Dave,

Back to where we were before the distraction...the only published author I'm aware of who states that Titanic had only one masthead light was Leslie Reade, in The Ship That Stood Still. This is ironic, because it is in that same book where we find Steward Hayland's sketch showing two. But Reade states at the beginning of Chapter 3:

Standing alone on the bridge and watching the ship, after some minutes Groves saw that it was a passenger ship which was approaching them. "She had a lot of light," he later testified at the London inquiry, and he saw two masthead lights. 45 years later, in his memoirs of the middle watch, Groves mentioned only "a light" and he was probably right then.

The Titanic had only one masthead light in her foremast. The misconception that she had two masthead lights may have arisen from an exchange between Lord mersey and Sir Rufus Isaacs. Captain Lord had told the Attorney-General that he had seen only one masthead light, but he added: "The third officer said he saw two."

"Now, that is important," Sir Rufus said.

"That is very important, because the Titanic would have two," Lord Mersey agreed.

"Yes, that is it -- two masthead lights," Sir Rufus confirmed.

The two learned gentlemen were wrong and were probably quickly informed that the Titanic had only one masthead light. The description of her 'Mast and Rigging' in the Mersey Report and her 'Rigging Plan' do not mention or show a masthead light in her main (after) mast. On photographs of the Titanic, the masthead light in her foremast can, in some cases, be seen, but on none that has been closely inspected does her main mast reveal such a light.

Reade goes on more a bit more about how the misconception of two masthead lights has grown and taken hold, but I think you get the idea.

So, I'm not the first one to notice the discrepancy. If you don't have Reade's book, you should look around the used book bins for a copy...there's a good diagram in there about 'porting round a berg.'

Parks
 
K

Kathy Savadel

Guest
>> I suggest you go pick up a basic seamanship manual from the book store and do some reading. <<

Hello, Parks -- What an excellent idea. Do you -- or anybody else -- know of one in particular that you would recommend for a layperson with little or no background knowledge of seamanship, or would any general manual do?

Thanks!

Kathy Savadel
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Kathy -- As the chief writer on the 62nd and 63rd editions of Chapman: Piloting, Seamanship & Small Boat Handling, I feel duty-bound to recommend this book. Get the 62nd or 63rd edition not because of my work, but because the earlier ones have changes and updates. Library copy only. Don't buy this expensive book unless you plan to also buy a boat to go along with it.

For big ship information, nothing beats Knight's Modern Seamanship, any edition. Again, this book is expensive. A library copy is recommended. You will probably have to get it through inter-library loan. Knights is written for professional mariners on commercial ships, but the language is not intimidating.

--David G. Brown
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Kathy -- Please e-mail me privately regarding the material you sent about the 1913 Great Lakes storm. The e-mail address I have for you no longer works. Thanks

-- David G. Brown
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Kathy, I checked Barnes & Noble.com to see if they have Knights and they do...although at $120.00 a copy, it's a tad pricey! Well worth it though if you want to know how and why things work as they do on a ship. (I bought my own copy several months ago.)

Another good general reference with quite a bit of histroy thrown in is "The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea." While not as technically oriented, it has a lot of good information in it, and at $29.95+tax, it's not as brutal on your budget.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Well, if you're going to look for Knight's, check bookfinder.com for a used edition. With a little luck, you can find one from Titanic's era for much less than you would pay for a new one today. As a matter of fact, I have a WWI-era copy at home that includes a nice full-page plate of Olympic that I will sell to anyone who is interested (e-mail me privately).

Parks
 

Erik Wood

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Apr 10, 2001
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While Dave is quite correct about spot lights it may be of interest to point out that ALL freighters on the great lakes and all the Coast Guard Icebreakers attached a pare of head lights to the stem of the ship during the winter. Mainly to show tracks carved by other ships.

Erik
 

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