When could they have seen the iceberg?


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I have seen some posts where the officers on the bridge were quoted that they reported that they had seen things before the lookouts in the crow's nest had reported seeing them.

This is just what I think.:
The ice berg would have been spotted best if it was just on the horizon, standing out as a black object blotting out the stars behind it.
Note: "Survivors in the lifeboats reported seeing stars rise and set on the horizon."
But the ice berg would have been harder to see if it was closer than the horizon with just the darkness of the sea behind it unless the ice berg had some light reflected from the stars.

But that is just what I think....In the words of Ensign Willie Keith of "The Caine Mutiny" - "But you weren't
there !"....that night on the Titanic !
 
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Scott Mills

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I have seen some posts where the officers on the bridge were quoted that they reported that they had seen things before the lookouts in the crow's nest had reported seeing them.

That's certainly possible, given (as the second article points out) the lack of waves that night it is actually easier (potentially) for someone located closer to the water see the silhouette of an object blocking out the starlight on the horizon.

There is a whole hell of a lot of mystery around the iceberg sighting, bridge activity, and the collision; however, assuming that the collision played out in a way somewhat reflected in the testimony, I think a good case for close to simultaneous spotting of the berg from the bridge and from the crows nest could be made.

In fact, this is what Cameron portrays in his film if I recall correctly.
 
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Aaron_2016

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The general concensus is that the lookouts saw the iceberg immediately before the collision and they were simply too close to avoid it. However there are survivors which describe the lookouts reacting much sooner e.g.


Catherine Crosby - US Inquiry

"It was reported on the Carpathia by passengers, whose names I do not recollect, that the lookout who was on duty at the time the Titanic struck the iceberg had said: "I know they will blame me for it, because I was on duty, but it was not my fault; I had warned the officers three or four times before striking the iceberg that we were in the vicinity of icebergs, but the officer on the bridge paid no attention to my signals." I can not give the name of any passenger who made that statement, but it was common talk on the Carpathia that that is what the lookout said."

2nd officer Lightoller - UK Inquiry

"I asked him what he knew about the accident and induced him to explain the circumstances. He went on to say that he had seen the iceberg so far ahead. I particularly wanted to know how long after he struck the bell the ship’s head moved, and he informed me that practically at the same time that he struck the bell he noticed the ship’s head moving under the helm."

Q - You gathered from him, apparently, the impression that the helm was probably put over before and not after the report from the look-out?
A - Distinctly before the report.
Q - That was the inference you drew?
A - Yes.

Joseph Scarrott - UK Inquiry

Q - How soon did you feel this vibration after you heard the three strikes on the gong?
A - As I did not take much notice of the three strikes on the gong, I could hardly recollect the time; but I should think it was, well, we will say about five or eight minutes. It seemed to me about that time.


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Jim Currie

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The lookouts would not warn the bridge before ringing the bell, Aaron They would ring the bell then warn the bridge if there was immediate danger. That was the only time they would have verbal contact with the bridge. Perhaps Mrs Cosby got a little mixed-up?
 

Harland Duzen

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Many witnesses did mix up the bells representing different watches for the bells warning of ice ahead since they themselves weren't maritime saliors.
 
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Aaron_2016

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Many witnesses did mix up the bells representing different watches for the bells warning of ice ahead since they themselves weren't maritime saliors.

Catherine Crosby said that Fleet had warned the bridge and received no reply from the bridge. I believe that is true because Fleet told Major Peuchen that he rang the bridge and got no reply. He may have telephoned the bridge several times and received no reply. Only a handful of survivors heard the crows nest bell ring and their testimony is vague at best.


- 4th officer Boxhall - He claimed the bell rang when he was at various locations.

- Lookout Fleet - He was incredibly vague and kept saying "I have no idea, sir."

- Lookout Lee - He was mysteriously detained and then stated there was a dense haze which made it almost impossible to see anything ahead.

- Able seaman Scarrott - He was also vague and estimated the collision happened from 5 and 8 minutes after he heard the "three strikes on the gong".

- Quartermaster Hichens - He said the order to turn the ship was given after the bell rang and after Moody spoke to Fleet on the phone. Yet Fleet told Peuchen that nobody replied and he told Lightoller that the ship was already turning before he reported the iceberg. This makes Hichens' version suspect as his version was confusing and his opening testimony appeared to be read out in the form of a pre-written statement which may have been composed by somebody else.

- Quartermaster Olliver - He heard the bell ring but his testimony is puzzling. He said - "When I heard the report, I looked, but could not see anything, and I left that and came was just entering on the bridge just as the shock came." That statement did not make literal sense and he may have taken a short pause as he stopped to think for a moment and then continued e.g. "When I heard the report, I looked, but could not see anything, and I left that and came (pauses to think) was just entering on the bridge just as the shock came. I knew we had touched something." Either the original transcript was recorded with that grammar error, or he paused and stumbled what to say and then continued. He may have done something before he felt the collision and did not want to say e.g. toilet break, puffing a cigarette, or was offered a warm cup of tea by Boxhall. If Boxhall was drinking tea, I doubt he would put the kettle on and make one serving of tea just for himself.


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Mila

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Because for some reason my initial post was moved, but responses are still here. let me please repeat my initial post and explain what I meant.
Here's my initial post
I've just read two papers posted on this site. The firs one https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/iceberg-right-ahead.html states:

On dark, clear nights icebergs may be seen at a distance of from 1 to 3 miles, appearing either as white or black objects with occasional light spots where waves break against it.

The second one https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/lookouts.html states:

Distance to the Horizon:


From Forecastle 8.3 N. Miles


From Bridge 9.8 N. Miles


From Crows Nest 11.2 N. Miles


and then it states:

From the above it can be seen that the iceberg seen at night as a BLACK area, lacking the stars right down to the horizon that the rest of the horizon is showing, should have become increasingly dominant as the ship steamed toward it that fateful night.

So here's what I do not understand: According to the first paper the iceberg could have been spotted 1 to 3 miles ahead, but by that time it would have been much closer than the horizon was (11.2 miles), and not the starry sky would have been in the iceberg background, but rather just the ocean.
What do you think?

Thanks.

Now I will explain better what I meant.
IMG_1229.JPG


Please look at the image. Let's assume that a person is standing in a crow nest of Titanic and is looking at the icebergs (rock on the image) You could see that none of them is seen against the sky. All of them are seen against the ocean. Actually the higher an observer is the harder those rocks (icebergs) would be to spot during night time because the ocean with no waves is featureless. The sky on the other hand was starry. So IMO officers on the bridge or somebody on lower decks might have had a better opportunity to spot the iceberg because the lover one gets the better one chances to see it against the sky.
Would you agree with my assessment?
 
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Aaron_2016

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.......Let's assume that a person is standing in a crow nest of Titanic and is looking at the icebergs (rock on the image) You could see that none of them is seen against the sky. All of them are seen against the ocean. Actually the higher an observer is the harder those rocks (icebergs) would be to spot during night time because the ocean with no waves is featureless. The sky on the other hand was starry. So IMO officers on the bridge or somebody on lower decks might have had a better opportunity to spot the iceberg because the lover one gets the better one chances to see it against the sky.
Would you agree with my assessment?

Yes, I agree. The famous explorer Ernest Shackleton testified at the British Inquiry. He was asked that very question:

Q - How far would you see one of these dark bergs on a clear night, assuming it to be 60 to 80 feet high?
A - It might be only three miles, depending on the night and depending almost entirely on the condition of the sea at the time. With a dead calm sea there is no sign at all to give you any indication that there is anything there. If you first see the breaking sea at all, then you look for the rest and you generally see it. That is on the waterline. I do not say very high, because from a height it is not so easily seen. It blends with the ocean if you are looking down at an angle like that. If you are on the sea level it may loom up.

Q - That would rather suggest that your view would be that you could detect bergs of that kind better at the stem than you could at the crow’s-nest?
A - Better, the nearer you are to the waterline. When we navigated in thick or hazy weather there was always one man on the look-out and one man as near the deck line as possible.



Titaniclookout8.PNG



bergbridge2.PNG



Captain Lord
"I think I saw the ice myself before they did......I reversed the engines myself before they reported it."

Captain Passow
"We always see everything first before the look-out men do."

Captain Rostron
"We saw all the icebergs first from the bridge.....Either one of my officers or myself, before the look-outs."


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The question is not how far away an iceberg can be seen visually. Experience has shown bergs can be “seen” at best 1 to 3 miles at night. But, that’s to “see” a berg in the conventional sense of light reflected by a distant object into a human mark-I, mod-1 properly adapted to night vision. To be sure this is interesting information, but totally irrelevant with regard to what the lookouts saw and reported that night.

Modern astronomers are now in the habit of discovering planets orbiting distant stars at distances measured in thousands or millions of light years. They do it be observing the occultation of that distant star. An object is “occulted” when vision of it is blocked by something in between the observer and that object. The planets thus discovered are invisible even with the best optics, but their passage between human observers and the distant star can be measured and observed.

Lookouts since the first hollowed log drifted offshore have noticed that the presence of a big, dark, dangerous object can be observed at night not by the light it reflects, but by the way it occults a light in the background – perhaps a star on the horizon or a signal fire on shore. What is not seen gives valuable information about what cannnot be seen. The star disappears when it should be visible and sailors know something has placed itself between them and the star. It’s that “something” which is valuable, not the heavenly body.

Fleet and Lee noticed what they called “haze” in front of the ship and even remarked Titanic would be lucky to get through “that.” There was no haze. None. Modern meteorology tells us there could have been none. So, they weren’t discussing ordinary haze. In my opinion, they were making an euphimistic reference to the ice field visible as a hazy-white line on the horizon.

What they saw that caused them to ring their warning bell was not that “haze.” It was...and these are Fleet’s words...a “black mass.” Think about what an iceberg silhouetted against a light horizon would look like. You would see a line of hazy white, then a definite spot of black, and then more hazy white. The berg would be a black silhouette against the horizon.

They rang their bell just past 7 bells. According to seaman Scarrott, the warning came “five to eight” minutes before impact. Using his estimate, the berg was between 1.8 and 2.9 off the bow when first reported.

Mila's photograph (above) illustrates why the "black mass" would disappear into the blackness of the ocean as the ship approached.

The "black mass" sighting wasn't the only time the lookouts saw the iceberg. Fleet described the appearance of the berg as Titanic approached at close range. In later years he even made a drawing of what he saw in the moments before the accident. At that time, he was viewing it using reflected starlight. It was this second spotting of the berg which caused Fleet to ring the bridge on the telephone.

There is evidence that impact came within 35 and 50 seconds after this second spotting. That puts the berg at a range of just about 600 yards off the bow.

Fleet testified he said, "Iceberg right ahead!" into the telephone. Nobody recorded what Murdoch must have muttered under his breath at that moment. Perhaps Mr. Standart might offer a suggestion...

-- David G. Brown
 
M

Mila

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Yes, I agree. The famous explorer Ernest Shackleton testified at the British Inquiry. He was asked that very question:

Q - How far would you see one of these dark bergs on a clear night, assuming it to be 60 to 80 feet high?
A - It might be only three miles, depending on the night and depending almost entirely on the condition of the sea at the time. With a dead calm sea there is no sign at all to give you any indication that there is anything there. If you first see the breaking sea at all, then you look for the rest and you generally see it. That is on the waterline. I do not say very high, because from a height it is not so easily seen. It blends with the ocean if you are looking down at an angle like that. If you are on the sea level it may loom up.

Q - That would rather suggest that your view would be that you could detect bergs of that kind better at the stem than you could at the crow’s-nest?
A - Better, the nearer you are to the waterline. When we navigated in thick or hazy weather there was always one man on the look-out and one man as near the deck line as possible.



View attachment 38948


View attachment 38949


Captain Lord
"I think I saw the ice myself before they did......I reversed the engines myself before they reported it."

Captain Passow
"We always see everything first before the look-out men do."

Captain Rostron
"We saw all the icebergs first from the bridge.....Either one of my officers or myself, before the look-outs."


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Thank you for that!
It is quite amazing that without knowing about this Shackleton's testimony I came back to the same conclusion!
Yes, Shackleton knew what he was talking about. He saw many icebergs alright. I read one of his books, in which he said: "what ice gets ice keeps." Of course he meant pack ice, not the icebergs, but in the case with Titanic the iceberg got them and kept them.
 

Mark Baber

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Because for some reason my initial post was moved, but responses are still here
I moved your post to this pre-existing thread addressing the same subject but for some reason you message and the ones that were already in the thread seem to have disappeared. I don't know why.
 
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Aaron_2016

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Fleet testified he said, "Iceberg right ahead!" into the telephone. Nobody recorded what Murdoch must have muttered under his breath at that moment. Perhaps Mr. Standart might offer a suggestion...

-- David G. Brown


I believe the lookouts were not certain what they were looking at. Fleet allegedly told the bridge there was an iceberg ahead. Yet he told the Inquiry that it was just a small black mass and how "I reported it as soon as I ever seen it". Does he mean he waited until he could properly verify it was an iceberg and then told the bridge? I have to wonder how much time had passed until he realized it was an iceberg and not a cloud on the horizon or a shadow on the water. Perhaps that was why he hesitated to give a clear answer? "I reported it as soon as I ever seen it." Lookout Lee just said - "There was a haze on the water. There was nothing in sight....It was a dark mass that came through that haze and there was no white appearing until it was just close alongside the ship, and that was just a fringe at the top."

I think both men were reacting the same way if the Californian or Carpathia's lookouts had been questioned because they also did not see the icebergs before their bridge. Captain Rostron said - "Well, of course, they had all had warning about keeping a look-out for growlers and icebergs, previous to going on the look-out, and on the look-out also. You must understand, unless you know what you are looking for, if you see some very dim indistinct shape of some kind, anyone could take that as nothing at all, merely some shadow upon the water, or something of that kind; but people with experience of ice know what to look for, and can at once distinguish that it is a separate object on the water, and it must be only one thing, and that is ice."

Q - So that what it really comes to is this, if I follow you correctly, that it requires a man with some knowledge of icebergs, some experience of picking them up before he can detect them at night?
A - Precisely.


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Dec 4, 2000
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Let me repeat for clairity. When the lookouts saw the "black mass" in the "haze" they may or may not have thought they were seeing an iceberg. It really doesn't matter. And, considering that other vessels were more likely to be a threat, they would more likely have considered what they were seeing as a ship -- if they worried about the "what" of it at all. Remember, the lookout's job is simply to spot and report and not to give a detailed analysis.

Later, when in extremis with the iceberg, I'm quite certain they knew exactly what they were seeing. At the range of the second report they should have been able to recognize far more than just a silhouette. Hence, Fleet's claim to, "Iceberg right ahead!"

What they recognized or did not recognize is really not critical. The lookouts did their job and made their reports in a timely manner. The historically significant detail is the time duration between first sighting and impact. Sworn evidence from seaman Scarrott puts that duration at "five to eight" minutes. What was happening on Titanic's bridge during those minutes? Answer that and you answer both how and why the ship ran over an iceberg on a clear night.

-- David G. Brown
 
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Sworn testimony from the lookouts clearly show they had special order to look for ice.

Scarrott time is off, he already said himself: As I did not take much notice of the three strikes on the gong, I could hardly recollect the time; but I should think it was - well, we will say about five or eight minutes; it seemed to me about that time. (Question 343)
Also he could have mistaken the time with the bells for the bells for 11:30 which fit with what Lee said. The first thing that was reported was after seven bells struck; it was some minutes, it might have been nine or ten minutes afterwards. (Question 2420)
 
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Aaron_2016

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I think it's fair to say that crew members who were not doing their duty would certainly not admit to that at the British Inquiry. Lee may have stated seven bells were struck knowing they were not, and knew he would be in hot water if he stated otherwise. Lightoller said:

"In Washington it was of little consequence, but in London it was very necessary to keep one's hand on the whitewash brush."

Fleet told the US Inquiry:

"I do not think we struck seven bells. I believe it was just after seven bells."
Q - You said you did not believe that they struck seven bells, and then you said it was just after?
A - It may have been just after. We never, generally, ring bells up in the crow's nest every half hour. We generally miss it.


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Thanks to Ioannis for expressing the views of the researchers dedicated to conventional wisdom. That is, the idea that nothing new can be learned other than what fits the story handed down for 100 years. In some areas, conventional wisdom has it correct, but not in all.

Scarrott's evidence is anathema to the conventional wisdom crowd. They have books and documentaries a-plenty claiming that the berg "popped up" out of nowhere less than 50 seconds prior to impact. The conventional wisdom crew cannot accept they are wrong. Scarrott's testimony is proof of their error, so he must be debunked and attacked ad hominem. His words cannot stand or the whole Titanic canon falls to pieces.

Scarrott had no need to take notice of the lookout's alarm bell at the time. He was enjoying a light duty Sunday in the forecastle. His critical thinking would have been focused on the striking of 7 bells, which he noted happened prior to the warning rung down by the lookouts. It was only after the iceberg that what he experienced became critical. Human memory is not the best tool for recalling events that seemed of no consequence at the time. Scarrott did his best by estimating the time duration between the first warning on the crow's nest bell and impact.

What difference does it matter if he got it exactly right, nearly right, or just right within the abilities of human memory? The import of his words does not change. Some time passed between warning bell and impact ... and, that duration of time was was considerably longer than the 35 to 50 seconds of myth and misdirection called conventional wisdom.

Let me also point out that Scarrott's version fits into the daily routine of the ship. That is, it explains why Olliver was on the compass platform and why Boxhall was just coming out of the officers quarters when the lookouts rang three strikes. Conventional wisdom cannot explain the juxtaposition of these two men critical to bridge management.

When I use Scarrott's estimate of duration between the bell warning and impact I am careful to point out the failures of human memory. Generally, I use 6 minutes between the two events simply because it's halfway between 5 and 8, and because its 1/10th of an hour. This allows quick mental calculation of speed/time distance. A six minute duration puts the ship 1/10th of 22 knots -- or 2.2 miles -- from the iceberg at the lookout's warning bell.

Six minutes/2.2 miles works very will within the context of the reason Boxhall and Olliaver were on the compass platform. They were performing compass duties required ever half hour round the clock by IMM/White Star regulations and the general practice of seamanship. I've explained a myriad of times that 12:00 o'clock in Apil 14th ships time -- the time that controlled these compass actions -- was the equivalent of 11:36 in crew time by which the accident was measured.

Nuff said. My point is that Scarrott's testimony fits into the routine of the ship, company regulations and even the reason why two warnings, one by bell and a second by telephone, by the lookouts were needed that night. Conventional wisdom has to create mythical cups of tea magical icebergs to explain itself.

-- David G. Brown
 

Henry Sincic

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Ioannis,

I agree with you that David is mistaken in his interpretation of the testimony in this case (nothing against you, David, just a difference in opinion), but I do believe there are places in the Titanic story where ¨conventional wisdom¨ is highly questionable. Would you agree?
 

Scott Mills

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"Conventional wisdom" had it right, David G. Brown had it wrong. Quite simple!

Only if you just take for granted that the officers and crew of Titanic were such upstanding human beings they did what no other human beings before or since have done, which is, in Lightoller's words, "apply the whitewash" in such a way that minimized their own culpability and that of their employer in an accident that resulted in the death of 1,500 people.

Then, I suppose, you can make the claim that all other testimony from surviving crew be dismissed and the testimony of those supporting the official version of events, as posited by Titanic's surviving officers, quartermaster of record, and lookouts during the collision is unquestionably the truth

And why not? It just could not be the case that Titanic's officers and the crew of record both desperately, for very human reasons, were grasping for a narrative that absolved them of some responsibility for the deaths of people, AND were concerned for their careers, families, and livelihood.

Instead, every single one of them had an total and abiding dedication to Truth such that they could not be anything but absolutely honest... for posterity.
 
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Aaron_2016

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Instead, every single one of them had an total and abiding dedication to Truth such that they could not be anything but absolutely honest... for posterity.

This phrase rings a bell, "Every man for himself." My sister was on jury service years ago and the case was dismissed because the police had lost the evidence. The accused was formerly connected to the police service. The judge was furious to say the least and the matter was taken up outside the courtroom.

Makes you wonder what deals were made between the company and the Board of Trade who were holding the Inquiry. As Lightoller said: "The Board of Trade had passed that ship as in all respects fit for sea in every sense of the word, with sufficient margin of safety for everyone on board. Now the Board of Trade was holding an enquiry into the loss of the ship, hence the whitewash brush. Personally I had no desire that blame should be attributed either to the Board of Trade or the White Star Line, though in all conscience it was a difficult task.......I think in the end the Board of Trade and the White Star Line won.....I know when it was all over I felt more like a legal doormat than a mail boat officer."

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