Water temperature


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Arun Vajpey

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What apparatus did the crew use to check the temperature of the ocean as the Titanic moved west across the Atlantic? Is there a record of this log?
 

Dave Gittins

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They simply lowered a container into the sea, collected some water and put a thermometer in it.

At 20 knots or so, this was easier said than done and short cuts were allegedly taken. Even the container used was improvised from an old paint can.

Any records went down with the ship. The water temperatures quoted are usually those recorded by Californian, plus a few recalled by Titanic officers.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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I'm afraid any logs on the Titanic that were kept, scrap, formal or otherwise, went down with the ship. The information which Dave refers to was offered up in testimony by the sources/witnesses to the inquiries.

Personally, I'm a bit skeptical of the bucket or can lowered over the side on a rope. If they didn't have firm control of it, it would be all too easily yanked away and the people attempting to do this would have nothing but rope burns to show for their trouble.
 

Bill Sauder

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I've also been skeptical of the "Bucket over the Side" explanation.

The easiest way to get the Sea Water temp is just ask Engine Room: They keep a running log of sea temperature (on most ships it's hourly) to be sure condensers and other heat exchangers are operating correctly.
 

Arun Vajpey

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>>>>> I've also been skeptical of the "Bucket over the Side" explanation.
The easiest way to get the Sea Water temp is just ask Engine Room: They keep a running log of sea temperature <<<<<<


But how did the Engine Room crew measure the sea temperature in 1912? What I want to know is if they had some kind of apparatus (even if it was crude) rigged up for it.
 

Bill Sauder

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>>But how did the Engine Room crew measure the sea temperature in 1912? What I want to know is if they had some kind of apparatus (even if it was crude) rigged up for it.<<

An ordinary mercury thermometer, similar to this one. By 1912, thermometer technology was rather old.

faux_titanic_thermometer.jpg
 

Arun Vajpey

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Thanks for that Bill. I noticed that the lower part of the thermometer casing in your picture (presumably made of brass to avoid rust) has a screw thread. So this must have fitted somewhere to the bottom by a watertight mechanism while being exposed directly to the sea?
 

Bill Sauder

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It isn't customary practice to have a thermometer in the engine spaces that goes through the hull to measure sea temperature directly: its not needed.

The thermometers were attached to pipes that fed sea water to a heat exchanger of some type. The temperature of the water in the pipe would have been the same as the open ocean: The water moves too fast for there to be a significant increase in temperature from heat picked up inside the ship.
 
Oct 28, 2000
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The story about the ol' paint pail is most likely a sea story based, as all good sea stories are, on reality. There apparently was a pail, we know this from two sources: quartermaster Robert Hichens and first class passenger Mahala Douglas. Hichens told Senator Smith:

"It was a small paint tin... It was an old one, sir. One the quartermaster got for the occasion, because we had nothing else... It would hold about a quart, sir; if it was full up.
" — Robert Hichens

Senator Smith asked how it was fastened to the rope.

"Bent on, like any other ordinary thing; bent on the handle just like a bent pin." — Robert Hichens

The bent pin and old paint bucket does not seem to have been practicable. We have a rather detailed account of how the water temperature was actually taken. It comes from Mahala Douglas in her American deposition:

"On Saturday, as Mr. Douglas and I were walking forward, we saw a seaman taking the temperature of the water. The deck seemed so high above the sea I was interested to know if the tiny pail could reach it. There was quite a breeze, and although the pail was weighted, it did not. This I watched from the open window of the covered deck. Drawing up the pail the seaman filled it with water from the stand pipe, placed the thermometer in it, and went with it to the officer in charge." — Mahala Douglas

Anyone who has ever dipped a bucket of water from a moving vessel can attest how impractical that paint pail and rope would have been, especially from a ship moving at more than 20 knots. If the quartermaster did not get rope burned hands, it's doubtful the bail of the rusty paint tin would have withstood the strain.

But, equally predictable, dippering water from a deck some 60 feet above the waterline was also impractical because of the ship's own wind. Note that Mrs. Douglass said the bucket could not reach the water for the breeze. Quite. Instead of going straight down the side, the tin would have streamed aft in the wind at quite an angle. So, the quartermaster she witnessed abandoned that fool's errand and did the logical thing – take water from the spigot.

It turns out that the pail was a jury-rigged solution to an ordinary problem of shakedown cruises — forgotten equipment. Hichens undoubtedly used a spigot as Mrs. Douglas reported when he tested the water temperature at 10 p.m. that Sunday. We can impute this from his own testimony that the proper device for measuring seawater temperature was missing. Hichens told Senator Smith that quartermasters were not supposed to use paint tins or buckets:

"They don't get no buckets at all. That is not the proper thing. The proper thing they use is a long piece of leather, leaded, the shape of that paper that is folded up on the table there [indicating]." — Robert Hichens

Titanic should have been equipped with a special leather pouch holding a thermometer intended for taking seawater temperature measurements from a high-speed ship. A streamlined shape allowed it to ride smoothly through the water so it would not pull the control line through the operator’s hands.

Why the deck department went through all this rigmarole is a mystery. As Bill Sauder pointed out (above), the temperature of the seawater was available from the engine room at any time for a phone call. Most likely we are seeing the twilight of a time-honored tradition of dipping water for a temperature reading. It wasn't practical on a ship like Titanic, but traditions change slowly at sea.

-- David G. Brown
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>So this must have fitted somewhere to the bottom by a watertight mechanism while being exposed directly to the sea?<<

No need for anything that elaborate. Take a look at the threads at the base of that thermometer. This piece of kit would have been attached somewhere in the plumbing which supplied water to the condenser, likely as not by a simple Tee or Ell fitting. You can find such fittings in the rough plumbing section of just about any hardware store or home centre.
 

Arun Vajpey

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>>>>>>> The thermometers were attached to pipes that fed sea water to a heat exchanger of some type. The temperature of the water in the pipe would have been the same as the open ocean: The water moves too fast for there be a significant increase in temperature from heat picked up inside the ship.<<<<<<<

>>>>> Take a look at the threads at the base of that thermometer. This piece of kit would have been attached somewhere in the plumbing which supplied water to the condenser, likely as not by a simple Tee or Ell fitting.<<<<<<


Thanks people; that tells me what I wanted to know.
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