Titanic's Rockets - Senan Molony


D

Dave Billnitzer

Guest
Hi Michael:

To make a long story short, Lord headed for the Titanic's (incorrect) CQD position, which was on the west side of the icefield. The Mt Temple also had headed for that position.

When Lord got to that position, he found only the Mt Temple; a few miles to the east (now the far side of the icefield, and from whence they had come), they spotted the Carpathia, picking up passengers from the boats. Lord headed a little further south, until he found a place in the ice floe where he could wriggle back through.

George has a map at his website which plots out the Californian's movements that morning.

Officer Groves gave fairly detailed accounts of their actions at both the BR Inquiry and in his private account, which he wrote up in the mid-1950s. You can read both at my website:

http://home.earthlink.net/~hiker1217/titanic.html
Titanic and the Mystery Ship

For Groves's 1950s account, scroll down the left side until you find an article called "The Middle Watch."

- Dave Billnitzer
 
Sep 12, 2000
1,513
5
313
Thanks Dave Billnitzer for that sharing of information.

Shelley, I think it is interesting that they shot off 8 rockets rather than 12 or more and the question that John poses about the hue of the rockets due to the atmospheric conditions on a monnless night are interesting as well.

I plan to research George's site, thanks Dave and thanks George in advance.

Thanks Shelley. I have not signed up for any groups yet but probably will treat myself to this pleasure for christmas, but how does a non-member obtain copies of old magazine articles?

Yes, Shelley I can send you the cheesecake recipe...just kidding. Maureen.
 
Sep 20, 2000
1,072
4
313
Hi, Shelley!

A slight clarification on my prior post -- that may or may not have been the same re-creation you attended in 1996.

Dave Billnitzer's post jogged my memory, and I realized I'd seen that on his site. (See "Rockets and Sound" there.) That one was, as I recall, entitled "A Voyage to Remember" and was sponsored by Titanic International. Same trip you were on?

Cheers!
John Feeney

P.S. Maureen -- if it's by any chance CCCC (chocolate chip cheese cake), I'd definitely like the recipe -- YUM!
happy.gif
happy.gif
happy.gif
 
Sep 12, 2000
1,513
5
313
No chocolate chips in this one, sorry. You've most likely posted your email elsewhere I will check and send it to you anyway...Maureen.
 
Aug 29, 2000
4,562
25
323
John- had to hunt up my notes on the rocket firing re-creation. This was the 1996 expedition with Royal Majesty and Ocean Breeze- Titanic International was aboard as guest speakers and "crew"-there were 11 of us on the two ships. The procedure commenced about quarter after midnight, dead calm, clear sky, maybe a 3/4 moon which I tried blocking out as much as possible. All non-essential lights were out and as much darkness as could be safely mustered was achieved. Very eerie and exciting. The rocket composition was researched by John Eaton- we knew each had a burst of 12 stars in its diadem. They were set to attain the same height as Titanic's rockets. The JIM KILABUK sailed out to about 8 miles, the OCEAN VOYAGER about 17 miles. The rockets lacked the sound element or explosion shell unfortunately.The two ocean liners stayed a course of about 1 mile apart. The rockets all were launched in about an 8 minute span- there were 8 of them. The KILABUCK sent hers first-there was a little popping sound as they hurtled up into the night sky. Then the other support boat sent hers up at the farther distance, she was just over the horizon- no popping sound but CLEARLY visible- and did not look like a falling star-and very WHITE. It seemed to me that I saw her masthead light. The rising height for the rockets was about 750 feet. Then more excitement as each ocean liner flicked off their upper decks to show the other liner what a small steamer might look like-then on full blast to contrast what a BIG ship looks like. Of course we were only 1 mile apart and showing near broadsides to each other but WHAT a sensation. I don't think anybody breathed and we were all gripping the rail mezmerized. (The ROYAL MAJESTY, in all fairness sits VERY high in the water-) I will never forget that night- it was the closest thing to timetravel I ever came to. The QUIET is uncanny and was totally unexpected. Distances are very deceiving at sea and sound REALLY travels across the water. I should like to see more experiments of this type- and it doesn't have to be in the North Atlantic over the very spot. Am not qualified to comment on Atmospherics or refraction- I can say the rockets looked white to me. I should think a completely DARK sky would have made 'em look even whiter. Over the many nights out there, I sat on the bow in front of the darkened night bridge and marvelled at the "bowl of stars" that slips right into the water- SO many and SO clear away from the shore lights. I sat for hours- usually from midnight to 3 a.m. I will always remember how inky the water looks, just a little white foam as her prowl cut the water. We were in a flat calm for nearly the whole time until hurricane Edward came up the coast the day the hull piece was coming up. The night before I remember being rocked in my bunk like a cradle! What an experience/shelley
 
Jul 9, 2000
58,615
734
563
Easley South Carolina
Thanks for the input on this one, Dave. I've seen both websites and I'm impressed with the maps that George presented on his. I think I have yours bookmarked too. I'll have to get into it in the morning.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Sep 20, 2000
1,072
4
313
Thanks, Shelley!

I appreciate not only the answer, but the amount of work you put into making it crystal clear. You are a gem, m'lady!

Sincerely,
John Feeney
 
Aug 29, 2000
4,562
25
323
John- I am a detail freak I'm afraid-worked as a cataloguing librarian for awhile! It comes from being a visual type- details can mean ALL the difference-sometimes I lose sight of the big picture while rapturing over the fiddly bits!/s.
 
Sep 20, 2000
1,072
4
313
Hi, Shelley!

Well, I'm certainly not complaining. I really did appreciate the thoroughness of your answer -- really -- sincerely! (I wouldn't kid ya here, honest!)

Many thanks!
John
 
Mar 20, 2000
3,107
25
323
Hi,

What again is the consensus of the rockets' detonating loudly? Hasn't the point been made that they didn't go off with a loud sound? I'm wondering because in flipping through Duff Gordon's book she says on p. 171 that as she and her husband boarded boat 1

"...Just beside us was a man sending off rockets and the EAR-SPLITTING NOISE added to the horror of being suspended in mid-air..."

Is this confirmed by others who left in early starboard boats, at least boat 3?

Randy
 
Sep 20, 2000
1,072
4
313
Hi, Randy!

I was just reading Reade's book -- "The Ship that Stood Still" -- on this last night, so I thought I'd pipe in.

Apparently, there's little dissension from those aboard Titanic about the nearby volume of the socket distress signals -- even Beesley described them as "splitting the night". But the tricky part is that if Californian was even 10 miles away, the sound -- following the law of inverse squares -- would have been 1/100 the volume perceived at one mile (whatever that might have been), and taken a full two minutes to reach Californian. (This he got from various present-day acoustical experts.)

So -- the argument goes -- not hearing (or perhaps not associating) the sound of the rockets aboard Californian at the time they were observed is hardly a mystery, since even at 5 miles (1/25 the volume of one mile) a minute would elapse between sighting and hearing. And the same acoustical experts suggested that -- far from being perfectly conducive to sound propagation -- the atmospheric conditions prevailing on that "calm, still night" might well have impeded sound transmission even more so than the law of inverse squares would predict. (Walter Lord also addressed these findings in "The Night Lives On".)

As stated somewhere in the transcripts, the socket signals went off with "the sound of a (artillery?) gun". (The question being refuted, I believe, was "Did it sound like a pistol?") But what would have been heard or noticed at a distance of even a few miles is quite debatable. As one technician was quoted, in "The Ship that Stood Still", "God help you if you have to rely on sound ..."

Regards y'all,
wink.gif

John Feeney
 
D

Dave Billnitzer

Guest
Hi Randy:

John summed it nicely, but think of this as an example, or maybe, as a point of comparison.

Close up, a Saturn rocket yields nearly 200 decibels, and qualifies as "deafening" on a sound scale chart. But at five miles, it's 1/25th of that, or about 8 decibels; which is about the same as a whisper, or a ticking watch. At ten miles, it's 1/100th, or 2 decibels; barely at the threshold of good hearing.

Think of this comparison: are you able to hear the roar of a jet taking off from ten miles away? From five miles? Would it sound the same as it would if you had stood alongside the runway?

Re: the discussion above as to how the rockets sounded during the experiment that RMSTI conducted a couple of years back: in the article written up in Voyager Magazine, the description of the sound was that there was an "insignificant pop."

- Dave Billnitzer
http://home.earthlink.net/!hiker1217/titanic.html
"Titanic and the Mystery Ship"
 
D

Dave Billnitzer

Guest
Hmmm. We may have here another example of that Lordite "selectivity." It looks to me as if some of Senan's article regarding the rockets has been re-written.

I had pointed out an omission from the earlier version:

(From the original article:}
"In the hour from 1am to 2am Californian time, Gibson and Stone together saw only three rockets. Three. Ignore for a moment the rockets that Stone saw alone."

I had asked:

"Why do you want us to "ignore" the rockets that Stone saw alone? It's misleading to rely only on Gibson's counts and estimates of time to suggest that they saw only three rockets between 1 and 2 am." I had then gone on to point out that according to Stone's account, he had seen his first five rockets alone, notified Capt Lord at 1:15, and then he and Gibson saw the later three, and that this is quite different from suggesting that Gibson saw only three rockets between 1 and 2 am.

The apparently revised article addresses my question in the following manner - the reference to Stone is completely removed! It now reads thusly:

"This is an important concept, bearing in mind the evidence from Apprentice Officer James Gibson aboard the Californian, which is that he saw only three rockets in the hour from 1.00 to 2.00, Californian time."

There is no longer the request to the reader to "ignore" Stone's account; in fact, the only reference to Stone that remains in the article at this point is his mistaken belief that the rockets came from a ship beyond the horizon.

(I won't dwell on the fact that Stone himself recognized the problems this idea raised: that at least one of the rockets came from the nearby ship, and again, that he couldn't understand why the rockets changed the bearings at the same time that the ship seemed to do so.)

I bring all this up not to find fault with editing and re-writing of one's work; certainly any author is justified in doing so; but at the same time, it's only fair to point out that we may have just witnessed a typical Lordite behavior, which is to overlook or simplify the inconvenient puzzles, in this case, the *complete disappearance* of the problems in Stone's account.

As Walter Lord said it so well, they are "highly selective" in presenting their evidence.

- Dave Billnitzer

PS. My apologies for the prior message regarding the noise level of the rockets, which double-posted for some reason. I was working off a different PC than the one I normally use.
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Feb 9, 1999
5,343
64
398
Randy,

My favourite reference to the sound of the rockets is (inevitably) Lowe's comment at the American Inquiry, where he almost sounds cranky about the volume:

Yes; they were incesantly going off; they were nearly deafening me

His near-testiness is partly due to his own typically idiosyncratic choice of words, and also to the general tenor of the exchanges between the Senator and the seaman at that point.

Ing
 

Philip Hind

Editor
Staff member
Member
Sep 1, 1996
1,761
66
323
England
Dear Dave,


Quote:

It looks to me as if some of Senan's article regarding the rockets has been re-written.



Just to clarify, no alterations have been made to the original article. It remains exactly as originally posted.

Phil
 
Sep 20, 2000
1,072
4
313
Dave Billnitzer wrote:

"Hmmm. We may have here another example of that Lordite "selectivity." It looks to me as if some of Senan's article regarding the rockets has been re-written."

Hmm...

I see what you mean, Dave. Though I'm not entirely sure what all may have changed, I did immediately spot an unfamiliar endorsement "byline" -- a description of Senan Molony and his accomplishments -- at the beginning of the article that I absolutely don't recall being there originally. I can say this with some conviction, since -- though the name did seem vaguely familiar -- I had no idea initially who the author of this article was! Hence the kid gloves I employed in my earliest posts, a reflection of my belief at the time that this represented, perhaps, a somewhat sophomoric "first endeavor".

And I too would like to know why Stone is to be ignored while Gibson's account is to be given full credence. Again this suggests selectivity and bias in presenting the evidence, certainly not an admirable quality in a historian.

I'm also extremely curious why this purported "mystery ship" would supposedly sail away BACKWARDS. (Since Stone and Gibson testified that they never saw anything but the red port light as the ship slowly "disappeared", it would follow that the observed ship -- if not the sinking Titanic -- therefore steamed off in reverse.)

I know one thing: If I were Senan, and had a reputation to uphold, I would certainly be very careful to thoroughly address any pertinent objections raised. To do otherwise under the circumstances smacks of demagoguery and openly invites more generalized questions regarding credibility -- certainly something no author willingly courts.

Cheers!
John M. Feeney
 
Aug 29, 2000
4,562
25
323
Just a reminder-( have had to catch up on postings.)-our reproduction rockets did NOT have the sound shell incorporated in the 1996 re-enactment at sea. The whooshing and little pop from the KILABUCK was the launch sound as the rocket was projected. Even that was clearly audible at the closer distance. No sound at all-but clearly visible were the rockets at 17 miles. Once again I must reitrate how quiet it was out there- which was no doubt a different situation on Titanic's decks with much action and sounds unfolding. I would imagine Californian ,however ,was standing quiet at the time of observation of rockets. I wonder if sound travels faster and more clearly through cold still air- the little I know of this sort of thing would seem to indicate an affirmative. This has been a fascinating discussion- even for an amateur like me.
 
Sep 20, 2000
1,072
4
313
Shelley wrote (in the prior closed thread):

"... I must reitrate how quiet it was out there- which was no doubt a different situation on Titanic's decks with much action and sounds unfolding. I would imagine Californian ,however ,was standing quiet at the time of observation of rockets. I wonder if sound travels faster and more clearly through cold still air- the little I know of this sort of thing would seem to indicate an affirmative."

Hi, Shelley!

Your supposition about sound travelling "faster" (further?) in cold, still air would be THE intuitive guess. But there's more to this than meets the eye, and Leslie Reade's acoustic experts -- fairly notable physicists -- flatly asserted that the reality of the situation is quite counter-intuitive.

Apparently, much has to do with the temperature differential at the ocean-atmosphere interface. If the water is colder than the air, the column of descending air will tend to pull sound waves downward, causing the sound propagation to be even less than that predicted by the law of inverse squares. Interestingly, in the opposite case, there is even the possibility of an "acoustical shadow" effect, wherein sound pushed upward by a rising column of air may be heard at far, but missed closer in! (see Reade, "The Ship that Stood Still", pp. 59-62; also, Walter Lord's "The Night Lives On".)

Note that Reade doesn't even make these compounding factors a major part of his arguments. They're merely included to indicate that the "laymen's expectation" for this situation, though understandable, is just plain wrong.

I might add that a ship in complete silence, as you described, really isn't the same thing as one with steam up, ready to move. The background noise alone -- just the hum of engines at close proximity -- might well be enough to drown out distant sound. And even if the Californian *had* been at a dead stop -- which we know it wasn't -- it was also surrounded by loose ice, which was described as bumping against the ship to the extent that Gill's mate, Mr. Wooten (Hooten), couldn't sleep.

To this I would add my own personal observations. I have many times driven into the middle of Wharton State Forest -- a VERY large tract of primitive land in Southern New Jersey. On turning off the engine, I'd swear I could hear crickets a mile off. But with the engine on, I couldn't hear any background noises at all, even close by. As Dave Billnitzer illustrated previously, if a distant boom is reduced to the sound of a whisper, the drone of my engine would be more then enough to drown it out. (And note: I have a 4-cylinder Nissan, not a "rod".)

Mr Reade (ibid.) also consulted with D.A.S. Little -- basically the inheritor of the Cotton Powder Company -- who asserted that the *effective* range for sound from the socket distress signal was 3-5 miles. With engines running and ice clunking, plus the necessary time lag involved at distance, I don't have a hard time believing the Californian's watch could easily have missed the sounds.

But the important point, of course, is that sound was NOT a necessary component of "rocket" distress signals, and rockets fired at sea were so UNcommon that Captain Lord and his crew should have had no problem realizing there might indeed be trouble. In fact, judging from Stone's and Gibson's testimonies, I'd say it was pretty much a known. Even Captain Lord himself had claimed "you never mistake a distress rocket".

Cheers!
John Feeney
 
Sep 12, 2000
1,513
5
313
Don't know if this is the place to ask this, but what was the average training for a ship's crew like? I mean, would they have several years training in seamanship and aship handling prior to being assigned to a boat/ship? Did they get any kid of emergency Distress Rocket firing, handling and citing training at all? What were the chances that anyonne aboard any ship at that time would have recognized those rockets?
Just curious.
Maureen.
 
Sep 20, 2000
1,072
4
313
Hi, Tad!

Paron me for "yanking" part of your comments over here. I'd started this Part 3 a little while ago, and thought I might as well try to keep it together.

Good meeting you too! I think I may have seen your posts on other threads, but indeed haven't had the pleasure of "meeting" you previously.

Tad Fitch wrote:
"I too still wonder how the "mystery ship" steamed off over the horizon without ever displaying her other light to the Californian. She must have been steaming full speed astern right into an icefield, or she must have sunk, there is no other plausible explanation. Dave, good point about the three rockets sighted after 3:00, which were fired by the Carpathia as she approached the lifeboats. If the Californian was able to see these so clearly, then why do Lordites allege that she was over 19 miles away, and that she did not see all of the Titanic's rockets because not all of them rose over the horizon, when the Carpathia was further away from the Californian than the Titanic was that night when the rockets were fired? Doesn't make much sense does it?"

Yeah. Other than possibly in the blending of Frozen Daiquiri's, I've never understood how it could be wise to proceed, propeller first, into the ice. It's one of the most strikingly improbable observations about the "disappearing" mystery ship I've ever seen.

And it is indeed curious that a ship even further to the south -- Carpathia -- could fire rockets easily observed aboard Californian, while the Titanic's rockets, closer still, were supposedly "below the horizon" or "low-lying" or whatever. How does one explain a ship with about an 8 mile range of vision to the horizon (at best) seeing CLEARLY rockets *and* the ship firing them BEYOND that purported 19.5 mile distance (33.5 miles, according to one estimate), yet fail to observe occurrences much closer.

I'm aware of the concept of "acoustical shadow", but I've never heard of a "visual" one!

Senan, could you address these points?

Cheers!
John M. Feeney
 

Similar threads

Similar threads