What Does “Perpendicular” Mean?


Kyle Naber

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Is the “perpendicular” Titanic before or after the fracturing of the ship?

Lightoller describes Titanic as “absolutely perpendicular” in her final moments. Did this happen? Is this even physically possible? Or was Lightoller perhaps over-estimating the angle by 65 degrees?

If you’d look at the ship seconds before the break, near the base of the third funnel which would now be touching the water, the ship would have an angle of about 25 degrees down by the head with a 10 degree port list which is about to get substantially worse. No matter the angle, the sinking vessel is enormous, and it’d be very easy to call a ship with her stern suspended high in the air as “perpendicular.”

In more recent decades, we’ve come to understand points of view and how different viewing angles can affect the estimation of angle on the sinking Titanic. We’ve also seen now that testimony from Charles Joughin and memories from Eva Hart can make more sense.

Opposite of Lightoller, Eva describes the movements of the stern after the breakup as tipping over and sinking sideways. When Joughin was asked about what happened after the big port list (the break), he said that it simply sank and testimony of a vertical configuration were plain wrong.

What can we make of this? Is it easier to believe the less dramatic angles and dismiss the perfectly vertical ones as poor points of view? What are your thoughts?
 
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LukeW17

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Perpendicular meaning : at an angle of 90 degrees to a given line, plane or surface or to the ground.

The Titanic rising to exactly perpendicular (90 degrees) is unlikely but it’s possible she rose to a high angle such as 45 or 60/70 degrees which could make some witnesses such as Lightolller believe she was absolutely perpendicular.

The heavy port list and lack of vertical stern described by Eva Hart and Joughin seems the most credible due to physics and how the wreck lies today but we also have the survivors in any number of given lifeboats in numerous different directions who describe a large part of the stern in a vertical or almost vertical position and remaining there, so it’s hard to say exactly what happened as the ship sank. Obviously the darkness affects a lot of things, and that should always be remembered.

Luke
 
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Aaron_2016

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It depends on where each survivor was and their perspective. e.g. If survivors were rowing away from the bow or away from the stern they would see her stern 'sticking up' and mistakenly believe it was perpendicular, especially when the lights went out.

Her true angle can only be seen by watching her broadside.


perspective.png
 
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Aaron's drawings illustrate the problem with eyewitness accounts. From various angles things appear quite different. Add to that the confusion of words and you get some apparently conflicting statements. However, when put into each witnesses point of view, they make perfect sense.

For the record -- "perpendicular" and "vertical" mean pretty much the same thing on land. In naval architecture, however, they are distinctly different. "Perpendicular" means at 90 degrees to the keel line of a ship. "Vertical" means plumb to the earth. The need for this differentiation is obvious if you think of a ship in a seaway. The bridge face may be both perpendicular and plumb in harbor. Things change at sea where it remains perpendicular to the keel, but the keel may rise, fall, or trim with the passing of waves. As the keel moves, the bridge face is seldom vertical to the world, but retains its perpendicularity vis-a-vis the keel.

Why Lightoller confused nautical language in his testimony is anyone's guess. Most likely he simply used the first word that came to mind and it served well enough to describe what he saw. He was looking at the stern from nearly dead ahead, so he Aaron's left-hand drawing. There was no need to get into one of those discussions of faeries and pinheads.

-- David G. Brown
 
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LukeW17

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Each of the witness testimonies are interesting and fasifinating to read as they are all so different. Some people saw different things from the same lifeboat while others from many lifeboats all thought they saw the stern go vertical.
As the lights on the Titanic had only gone out moments before she went down people’s eyes had yet to adjust to the darkness so that also would have affected what they saw, what they thought they saw etc

Luke
 

Kyle Naber

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I think adjustment wasn’t necessary. The lights were dimming as the sinking progressed, so it wouldn’t be a huge jump from light to dark.
 
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Aaron_2016

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.....As the lights on the Titanic had only gone out moments before she went down people’s eyes had yet to adjust to the darkness so that also would have affected what they saw, what they thought they saw etc


Luke

Some of the survivors said they could distinctly see the stern after the lights went out and could see the funnels by the starlight glaring on the cylindrical metal. The problem is, some of the survivors may have felt it was their duty to protect the company and British shipbuilding by testifying it was too dark to see anything. e.g.


Collapsible D was very close to the ship when she broke in two.

Mrs. Brown could see everything. She said:
"I feel positive she was practically broken in two.....Dark as it was at the time we were near enough to see every feature of the ending of the great vessel."


Mr. Bright was also in her boat. He said:
"She broke in two. All at once she seemed to go up on end, you know, and come down about half way, and then the afterpart righted, itself again and the forepart had disappeared. A few seconds the after part did the same thing and went down. I could distinctly see the propellers, everything, out of the water." - He also saw the lights remain on the stern after she broke and settled back.


Now comes the problem. Mr. Woolner was also in their boat and he told reporters that he heard the explosions and saw the ship break open just like the others above. Yet he told the exact opposite when he testified and he told them it was too dark to see anything and denied she broke in two and did not hear the explosions. Something very fishy about it. e.g.

Mr. Woolner was in collapsible D with the others above.

Q - Were you looking at the Titanic when she went down?
A - Yes.
Q - As you were looking at her when she went down, do you think she broke in two?
A - I did not think so.
Q - You did not hear any explosions?
A - No, sir; only a continuous rumbling noise.
Q - As she was going down?
A - Yes.
Q - Were you where you could see the funnels?
A - I could not really see a thing when the lights went out. It was all brilliantly lighted at the stem end, and suddenly the lights went out, and your eyes were so unaccustomed to the darkness, you could see nothing, and you could only hear sounds.


At face value a historian would read his testimony and believe it was too dark to see the ship break. Yet by digging deeper we see that other survivors in his lifeboat could see everything and saw her clearly break in two, so there was adequate light to see. In fact Mr. Bright was in his lifeboat and saw the stern break and saw the lights remain on the stern after she broke, so Mr. Woolner had no excuse to not see her break, which makes his official testimony very suspect, and adds more credibility to his original statement when he told reporters that she did break.

I believe there is a legal term when a witness does not wish to say anything that might incriminate someone i.e. the company, so instead of confirming she broke, he instead told them it was too dark to see her break, which put his conscience clear, but of course it is a direct contradiction from his original statement and also the fact that other survivors in his lifeboat saw her break and described it in detail. Mr. Woolner said he saluted the captain during the evacuation. Perhaps he held a great deal of respect to the crew and what they represented and this is why he could not admit she broke in two at the Inquiry and claimed it was too dark to see anything. A sense of loyalty.


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