When was the iceberg spotted?


TitanicNerd

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I always believed the iceberg was spotted at 11:40 PM, and hit at 11:40 PM.

However, I recently am now saying that the iceberg was spotted at 11:39 PM, and she hit the iceberg at 11:40 PM.

What do you guys say about this?
 

Dan Johnson

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Jan 9, 2012
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I don't think anyone really knows for sure.

At the time of the accident they weren't watching the clock, they were maneuvering the ship. No log has survived with a recorded time.

At best it would be "approximately at 11:40 PM."
 

Doug Criner

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Dec 2, 2009
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I think that whoever was keeping the scrap log would have recorded the times - but of course, the scrap log is gone. Unfortunately, it was not put in one the last lifeboats to leave.

I'm unsure which watchstander would have been keeping the scrap log and whether he survived. In the U.S. Navy, the duty quartermaster on the bridge keeps the log. I believe that aboard Titanic, quartermasters were used as helmsmen.
 
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Pegging the time of the accident is a lot more complex than simply spinning guesses out of movies and legends. Doing so is an insult to the many researchers who have spent years trying to get to the bottom of what took place that night. Serious Titanic researchers still cuss and discussing the subject, which is by no means a decided issue even now.

To start with you have to consider how ship's time was kept at sea, in particular aboard White Star ships. Then, you have to factor in the westward steaming of the ship. Titanic was in effect “chasing the sun,” so a day for the ship was longer than 24 hours in duration. For this reason April 14th in Titanic was to be 24 hours plus 47 minutes long. Those extra 47 minutes were to be divided evenly between the Port and Starboard Watches. Some manner of timekeeping had to be found so that both Watches served all of their minutes within calendar date Apri 14. This meant that although the Starboard watch nominally came on duty at “midnight,” it actually had to take the deck about 23 minutes earlier at 2437 hours. (You can't say 12:37 because the extra time was after midnight and, hence, neither AM nor PM.)

The clocks used by the crew would have said “midnight” at the time of the change of watch. Of course, that would not have indicated true midnight which would have been the first instant of April 15th. True midnight would still have 23 minutes in the future at the crew's change of watch. When the crew clocks had ticked off those 23 mintues...and the hands would have shown 12:23 o'clock...then all of the clocks in Titanic would have been reset to true midnight. As the following quote from the U.S. inquiry indicates, the crew was thoroughly familiar with this setback routine.


Albert Haines (Boatswain's mate): I was standing by down below. It being Sunday night, the men did not work. The men were in the mess room and I was outside. The right time, without putting the clock back, was 20 minutes to 12.


There is considerable evidence from other members of the crew that the accident took place 20 minutes prior to their “midnight” change of watch. Here are a sample of comments also taken from the U.S. Inquiry:


Edward Buley (seaman): I was in the watch on deck...at 12 o'clock we [were to be] releived by the other watch.

Frank Osman (seaman): I was waiting for one bell, which they strike, one bell, just before the quarter of the hour, before the four hours, when you get a call to relieve.

George Symons (lookout): There was an order came to the foredastle door by the boatswain to “stand by as you may be wanted at any moment.” By the time I got on deck it must have been about one bell, a quarter to twelve.

George Moore (seaman): Sunday night about a quarter to 12 I was on watch below and turned in... About 10 minutes to 12 the boatswain came and piped all hands on the boat deck, and started to get out boats.

Arthur Bright (quartermaster): One of the wat told me that the ship had collided. I went out to the after end of the ship to relieve the man I should have relieved at 12 o'clock, a man by the name of Rowe.

George Hogg (lookout): I waked up at 20 minutes to 12. I rushed up on deck...and I went blow again. I asked the time, then, of my mate Evans, and he said, “it is quarter to 12. We will get dressed and get ready to go on lookout. I dressed myself, and we relieved the lookout at 12 o'clock, me and my mate, Evans.



Simple subtraction of 20 minutes from “midnight” creates the familiar 11:40 PM of conventional wisdom. But, that crew change could not possibly have been at true midnight marking the start of April 15 because the oncoming Starboard Watch still had its 23 extra minutes to serve. And, those had to be served during calendar date April 14. (You can't borrow time from the future.) So, the 11:40 PM we all know so well could not possibly have been 11 hours and 40 minutes after noon because the extra 24 minutes of the Port Watch must have already been served. If they had not, then the accident could not have taken place 20 minutes prior to the “midnight” change of watch.

Yes, it is confusing. That's why for a century and more historians have been content to pass off the “11:40 PM” myth. They either did not understand how to compute time on a westbound vessel, or they simply ignored the necessity to do so.

The easiest way to do the computation is to change everything from Titanic ship's time to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and express everything in the 24-hour system (“military time” for those education in American public schools). This step eliminates all of the complications of AM and PM. It also places events neatly within calendar date April 15 at Greenwich. Let's start our work at 10 PM in ship's time:

10 PM Titanic = 2200 hrs. Titanic = 0058 GMT

Sometime after 0058 GMT the crew clocks must have been set back by 24 minutes so that the Port Watch could serve their extra time prior to the crew's “midnight” change of watch. When this setback occurred has great impact on the overall Titanic story, but for simplicity we don't have to concern ourselves with it here. In effect, 2200 became 2136 for Titanic's crew. But GMT remained the same 0058 hours.

If we add the remaining two hours of the Port Watch (10 PM to “midnight”) to the 24 extra minutes, we get 2 hours 24 minutes. That's the duration between 10 PM Titanic and the crew's change of watch. Adding that to 0058 gives us the time when the Starboard watch would come on deck.

0058 + 2 hrs 24 min = 0322 GMT

So, Titanic's crew should have been changing watch at 0322 GMT. There was almost universal testimony that the accident took place 20 minutes prior to that time.

0322 GMT - 20 min. = 0302 GMT Time of Accident

We know 0302 GMT by its more familiar “11:40 PM.”

0302 GMT = 11:40 PM Titanic Crew Time

If we add back the 24 minutes that the clocks were retarded at 10 PM, then we geet 12:04 which is easier to understand as 2404 hours April 14th. Then, if we account for the 2 hour 58 minutes time difference between Titanic and Greenwich, we get right back to 0302 GMT. We have now established an equivalency of times:

0302 GMT = 2404 Titanic = 11:40 PM Crew

Establishing the time of the accident says nothing about how long in advance the iceberg was first spotted. Curiously enough the ship's lookouts also said nothing about that duration. In fact, lookout Frederick Fleet made himself out to be a fool in front of Senator Smith by claiming he couldn't tell the difference in the passage of ten minutes or an hour's time. His verbal sparring with Senator Smith has an almost comic air:

Senator SMITH. How long before the collision or accident did you report ice ahead?
Mr. FLEET. I have no idea.

Senator SMITH. About how long?
Mr. FLEET. I could not say, at the rate she was going.

Senator SMITH. How fast was she going?
Mr. FLEET. I have no idea.


Senator SMITH. Would you be willing to say that you reported the presence of this iceberg an hour before the collision?
Mr. FLEET. No, sir.

Senator SMITH. Forty-five minutes?
Mr. FLEET. No. sir.

Senator SMITH. A half hour before?
Mr. FLEET. No, sir.

Senator SMITH. Fifteen minutes before?
Mr. FLEET. No, sir.

Senator SMITH. Ten minutes before?
Mr. FLEET. No, sir.

Senator SMITH. How far away was this black mass when you first saw it?
Mr. FLEET. I have no idea, sir.

Senator SMITH. Can you not give us some idea? Did it impress you as serious?
Mr. FLEET. I reported it as soon as ever I seen it.


Fortunately, there is one scrap of sworn testimony which does give us a clue as to what happened. Seaman Scarrott was lounging in the crew's mess that Sunday evening. Although technically on duty, the sailors did little work on the Sabbath other than that necessary to run the ship. Through the skylight above the mess he heard the famous three strokes on the lookout's bell announcing something dead ahead. His London testimony (questions 335 to 343) was quite clear, especially to the last question in the series about the duration between the lookout's warning and impact on the iceberg.

335 Shortly before the ship struck the iceberg did you hear the bell strike in the crow's nest? Yes

336 What did you hear? Three bells.

337 Do you know what time that was? Not ot be exact I do not, but it was round about half-past eleven.

338 Shortly afater that did you feel anything? Yes.

339 What did you feel? Well, I did not feel any direct impact, but it seemed as if the ship shook...

340 Did you feel anything besides that? No.

341 Did you feel the ship strike anything? No, not directly.

342 “Not directly,” you say? Not as if she hit anything straight on – just a trembling of the ship.

343 How long did you feel this vibration after you heard three strikes on the gong? 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 to be about that time.


There is nothing to quibble about. Scarrott obviously believed that five to eight minutes ticked past between when Fleet banged the three bell warning and impact on the iceberg. Since Fleet refused to say, we are left having to rely on Scarrott's testimony. If we averagl “five or eight minutes” to 6 minutes, it becomes easy to compute the distance between the ship and iceberg when it was first spotted. Because 6 minutes is one-tenth of an hour, then the distance traveled in 6 minutes is one-tenth of the ship's speed. Fourth officer Boxhall testified Titanic was making 22 knots, so the berg was approximately 2.2 nautical miles ahead when Scarrott heard the lookouts' warning.

Going back to the time of the accident, we can now subtract Scarrott's 6 minutes to get the moment when the berg was first reported.

0302 GMT - 6 min = 0256 GMT

0256 GMT = 2358 Titanic = 11:34 PM Crew

It should be noted that Scarrott said the three bell warning came just after seven bells, which is sailor time for 11:30 p.m. Certainly the 11:34 PM crew time shown above is in keeping with his testimony.

That's the way I see it. Others like Sam Halpern disagree. And though we may argue, we do so from positions fortified by serious research and backed up by vetted evidence. History is not a guessing game.

– David G. Brown
 
Dec 4, 2000
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What's your evidence? I've shown direct quotations from survivors who contradict your statements. How do you explain that? Are you more knowledgeable about events that night than the men who sailed the ship? Please explain how Scarrott's testimony fits into your view of the accident. And, can you explain how your 11:40 PM time is calculated -- ship's time, crew time, GMT, New York, or something else?

-- David G. Brown
 

Adam Went

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As David has very rightly and very thoroughly pointed out, the issue is a lot more complex than it might first seem. It is important to remember, TitanicNerd, that Titanic was sailing from Southampton to New York and the time difference between those locations is quite significant.

Consider it as if you're on a plane, flying to the other side of the country. If your country is big enough, there will be a time difference - for example, here in Australia, there is 3 hours time difference between Sydney in the East, and Perth in the West. But you're not going to change your clock to suit the actual time as the plane is flying through the air - you'd do it when you got to your destination, wouldn't you?

So it's the same difference, really. In essence, yes, it seems likely that the iceberg was spotted and then within a minute or so, she struck the berg. This was at approximately 11.40 PM on board the ship, but it's easy to see why there would be some discrepancies about that.

If I recall correctly, even some of the ships which Titanic reached by wireless were technically in another time zone.

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Thanks, Adam for your comments.

It's hard to believe, but time zones as we know them are only a bit older than Titanic. Until the railroads there was no need. Time was kept by the bell in the local church or civic building which rang at local apparent noon -- when the sun was highest in the sky at the longitude of the village or town. The earth rotates 15 degrees per hour. At 44 North latitude -- about where Titanic sank -- a degree of longitude is 43.28 nautical miles long. So, the zenith point of the sun moves westward at 649.2 nautical miles in an hour, or 10.82 miles per minute of time. When time was kept by local apparent noon the bells in one town would chime a full minute ahead of those in another town only 11 miles west on the same 44 North Longitude. This was no problem when people lived within earshot of the bell tower. But, when the railroads came it created havoc, especially in the United States. It was impossible to create timetables based on each little town's local time. The obvious answer was to create what we call today "time zones."

But, ships at sea did not adopt the time zone system. There was no need. From almost the beginning of world-wide sailing ships reckoned their day and time based on local apparent noon. It was only quite recent to Titanic that it became commonplace to reckon dates from midnight to midnight. Even so, ships continued using local apparent noon for setting their clocks until well after the adoption of radio. This was the practice in Titanic. What difference did it make if the clocks in one ship were a few minutes different from those of another? The cooks in Titanic were never going to call the crew of Californian to dinner. The time of meals in the passenger vessel was of importance only to the paying riders and the crew aboard that ship. Of course, every ship shared the same Greenwich Mean Time for navigational purposes. Each day the difference between ship's time could be noted and that correction factor applied to any logged times to correct them to GMT. This allowed comparing of logs in cases like collisions where it became necessary.

Bruce Ismay's personal copy of the IMM/White Star Line rulebook explained how ships of that conglomerate were required to keep time. It was spelled out on page 24 under paragraph 116:

"116. Time to be Kept. - Seventy-fifth meridian time must be used for time of arrival and at departure from Sandy Hook Lightship, Five Fathom Bank Lighthip, and other points of arrival and departure in the United States and Canada. Greenwich Mean Time must be used in Apstract Logs after the English or Irish land is made. When passing points and ships at sea, either eastbound or westbound. Greenwich Mean Time, as well as ship's time, must be used. "

While I am greatly cheered by Adam's post (above), he once again stated something that is based on myth and legend, "...it seems likely that the iceberg was spotted and then within a minute or so, she struck... ." That would be the case if it were not for the official record of the British Inquiry that I quoted in which Scarrott stated that the lookouts rang their warning bell five to eight minutes before impact on the berg. Not one shred of evidence came forth in 1912 to dispute the sailors statement. None of the crew or officers testified against him - and that includes both lookouts, Fleet and Lee. Thus, Scarrott's testimony is the historical record. Titanic's lookouts rang their warning for the iceberg some five to eight minutes before impact.

The difference between conventional myth and historic fact is a very big difference. It explains why Fourth Officer Boxhall was just coming out of the officers quarters when the lookouts rang their bell. And, it also explains why quartermaster Olliver was on the standard compass platform. Extending forward in time, this one detail tells us why Boxhall did not return to the bridge after impact and why he was instead seen in the well deck. It all comes back to what time it was when the accident took place: 11:40 PM crew or 2404 hours Titanic ship's time based on noon April 14th. Knowing that at least six minutes (the logical mean of 5 to 8 in this case) ticked past between warning and impact also explains why both Boxhall and quartermaster Hichens testified to a "two point" left turn before the iceberg, yet both lookouts swore the ships steamed straight at the deadly ice. But, all of this belongs in a different thread.

For now...it's only important to note that the historical record contains only one estimate of the time between warning bell and impact. That's Scarrott's five to eight minutes. There is no evidence in the historical record to contradict him.

-- David G. Brown
 

Jim Currie

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Try thinking in reverse using the evidence given by Lookout Fleet and helmsman QM Hichens at the US Inquiry. No obvious speculation please. :D

On the bridge

1: . "Helm is hard -a-port sir" shouted by QM Hichens and repeated by 6th Officer Moody. Titanic hits Iceberg. Time: 2340 Hours part-adjusted Watch-keepers time.

2: "Hard -a-port.. Yelled by OOW Mr. Murdoch who has been scanning the sea ahead of the ship since hearing the 3 bells. Time: 23-39-54 Hours.

3: "Ice berg right ahead sir". Yelled by 6th Officer Moody. Murdoch sees ice berg right ahead at that moment. ..23-39-53.5 Hours.

4: "What do you see?" 6th Officer Moody answers phone from Crow's Nest. Time: 23-39-50 Hours.

5: Bridge hears 3 Bell warning heard from the Crow' Nest. Murdoch immediately scans sea ahead of ship using night glasses. Time:23-23-39-45 Hours.

In the Crow's Nest

6: Lookout Fleet warns 6th Officer Moody. Time 23-39-50 Hours (as 4 above).

7: Lookout fleet calls the bridge. Time 23-39-46 Hours.

8: Lookout Fleet rings three bells. Time 23-39-40 Hours.

9: Lookouts clearly see icberg right ahead. Time: 23-39-37 Hours.

10: Lookouts think they see something ahead. Time: 23- 39-30 Hours.

Lapsed time from positive identification until impact...30 seconds. No more. Distance ahead when object ahead first detected: 1140 feet. No more.

According to QM Hichens, notes for the log book of helm and engine orders were made by the standby QM at the time although the standby QM stated that he was away from the wheelhouse at the time. Such notes might not be made directly into the Scrap Log but entered into the Movement Book which in most ships would be handy.

Jim C.

PS Times are educated guesses and based on the time of impact being exactly 23-40-00 Hours.
 
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Jim and I disagree on the actions surrounding the accident both by the men involved and the ship. However, his arguments are cogent and based on how we both know trained seaman react in such situations. The only thing missing from our discussion is a pint o' adult suds and an appropriate place to enjoy both the libation and the discussion.

Going back to the one account of the duration between crow's nest bell and impact – Scarrott's testimony – we have what I reckon as six minutes to account for. So, let's start by checking the o'clock time in April 14th ship's reckoning when those bells were struck. We have seen that 11:40 PM in crew time was 2404 hours in April 14th ship's time. Subtracting 6 minutes puts us at 2358 hours Titanic time, which is auspicious.

According to IMM/White Star regulations, the junior officers had to compare the steering compass in the wheelhouse with the standard compass on the platform every 30 minutes. That's 48 comparisons in a standard day, but 49 for April 14th in Titanic which was 47 minutes longer than the usual 24 hours. And, I would judge there would have been a 50th check of the compasses just at change of watch. It's traditional for the off-going Watch to tidy up the deck before handing things off to the relief Watch.

Note that 2358 is just before what we would normally call “midnight” on shore. What should quartermaster Olliver and Fourth officer Boxhall have been doing at that moment? Well, according to company rules they should have been preparing for the 48th compass check of April 14th. We would expect that Olliver would have preceded Boxhall in order to check the lamps (which he was doing) in preparation for the officer's visit. And, Boxhall would have been just departing for the compass. As we know, he was coming out of the officers quarters when the three strikes of the lookout's bell rang out.

The only supposition in my argument comes at this point. I believe Boxhall carried with him instructions from Captain Smtih to alter course two points to the south in conjunction with the compass check. Most lubber historians aren't aware that Titanic was navigated by the standard compass, so all course adjustments were made using that instrument. With Boxhall already going there, it was an ideal time for a course change. If we give 1 minute for Boxhall to reach the platform, and four minutes to do the required compass work, there's just one minute for him to walk back to the bridge. It's significant that this walk on the nearly life-size Titanic movie set took just under a minute to accomplish. That puts Boxhall just where he claimed to be when the ship struck – approaching the bridge on the starboard side in way of the captain's suite.

There's little doubt in my mind that both Boxhall and quartermaster Hichens spoke about a two-point turn on starboard helm. In 1912, this meant a left turn, just as I have speculated above. But, the lookouts were adamant that Titanic approached the iceberg head-on. In fact, Fleet's words when he called the bridge – “Iceberg right ahead” – prove the head-on approach. If the ship had been turning, he would have said something quite different like, “the bow is swinging toward that iceberg!”

I can find no reason not to believe both pairs of men: Boxhall and Hichens, and Fleet and Lee. Yet, in the real world a ship is either turning to port or steaming straight ahead. It can't do both at the same time. How can both pairs have been telling the truth? The simple answer is that they were not speaking of the same moment in time. Boxhall and Hichens completed that two-point turn before the Fourth Officer departed the platform. Within seconds the lookouts noted Titanic was making straight for the iceberg and Fleet was on the phone. The turn came first, then the straight-on approach.

Nobody knows when First Officer Murdoch had his “Oh S#@t!” moment. He was alone on the bridge. He may have seen the situation developing, or hearing the phone ring may have jarred him into reality. It doesn't matter. Once he understood the situation he reacted correctly. First, he issued an engine order. Next, he closed the watertight doors. Finally, as Titanic touched on the ice he shouted a helm order to swing the midships and stern out of harm's way. He could have done no more.

Boxhall was caught in a flat-out lie about an iceberg warning posted in the chartroom. He denied knowledge of it under oath, but later had to admit he actually wrote that note in his own hand and posted it for all to see. This perjury gives us reason to suspect all of his testimony. It was Boxhall who claimed to have heard Murdoch tell Captain Smith about some “port around” maneuver. But, in fact Boxhall was not on the bridge when any conversation between those two men took place. As Fourth Officer he was in charge of the Port Watch and had to “go the rounds” of his men every hour. After completing the compass work he should have gone forward to the companionway opposite the captain's suite before descending two flights to B deck. From there, he would have gone down into the well deck.

Curiously enough, Boxhall was spotted in the well deck by sailors of his watch who came out of the galley as the iceberg passed astern. The fourth officer sent one, Evans, to find the carpenter. So, Boxhall's story about what took place between Murdoch and Smith was a total lie fabricated out of whole cloth. There never was a “port around.” What really happened was reported by quartermaster Olliver who arrived on the bridge just before impact. He observed Murdoch yell “hard a port,” meaning to turn the ship's head to the right and bury the bow against the iceberg. This maneuver was absolutely necessary to confine damage to the area of the ship where contact with the berg was unavoidable. It was a masterful bit of shiphandling on Murdoch's part.

OK, let's put this in chronological order using crew time so that impact comes at 11:40 PM.

11:33 Lookouts ring bell three times
Boxhall is coming out of officers quarters
Olliver is on compass platform
Scarrott hears bell strikes in galley

11:34 Boxhall arrives on compass platform
Compass check begins followed by 2-point left turn

11:39 Course change complete; ship steady on new course
Boxhall departs compass platform
Olliver leaves compass platform seconds behind Boxhall

Lookouts note ship steaming straight for berg
Fleet telephones bridge

Murdoch signals engine room, then closes WT doors
Boxhall hears telegraphs ring
Olliver arrives on bridge to see Murdoch at WT door switch

11:36 Twelve hrs past noon, April 14th (Not midnight for anyone)

11:40 Ship strikes on iceberg
Murdoch orders “hard a-port” (right turn)
Boxhall in stairway does not see impact
Olliver sees berg go past starboard bridge wing
Hichens has helm over and sings out; heard by Olliver

Boxhall comes out on B deck; berg at “bluff of bow”
Lookouts feel starboard side of ship lift slightly

Captain Smith goes through wheelhouse on way to bridge

Male pax in smoking lounge rush on deck

11:41 Engines stop per orders from bridge
Officers go to starboard bridge wing to see iceberg

Boxhall inspects third class accommodations for damage


OK, Jim and I have now drained our pints explaining our points of view. He has done a fine job of defending the conventional wisdom about what took place. I've presented a quite different view. It's now time for others to first research what we've presented and then comment. If you don't care to do some original research, please don't comment as uninformed palaver is an insult to us and the other members of this board.

Finally, thanks to Jim for his presentation.

– David G. Brown
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>Others like Sam Halpern disagree.<<

Damn right I disagree! And for very good reasons.

I'll leave the issue of clock changes out of the picture in this discussion since the only times being questioned here is what was ship's time when the berg was spotted by the lookouts, and what was ship's time when it struck.

David said:

>>For now...it's only important to note that the historical record contains only one estimate of the time between warning bell and impact. That's Scarrott's five to eight minutes. There is no evidence in the historical record to contradict him.<<

He also said,

>> Establishing the time of the accident says nothing about how long in advance the iceberg was first spotted. Curiously enough the ship's lookouts also said nothing about that duration.<<


Actually there is plenty of evidence to contradict him.

First of all, by his own admission, Scarrott was not very sure about the time. As he said, "As I did not take much notice of the three strikes on the gong, I could hardly recollect the time." This does not seem to me to be someone on whose uncertain memory any firm conclusion about this time interval could be trusted. Perhaps what Scarrott subjectively recalled was the interval between 7 bells and when the ship struck.

Second of all, we have lookout Reginald Lee who was up in the nest with Fleet. Although Fleet was very reluctant to answer any questions which may then be turned around to put the blame on the lookouts for failure to spot the berg in time to avoid, his lookout mate Lee was much more candid about those things.

Lee gave two pieces of information which is very relevant to the questions being asked here: The first concerns the time the berg was spotted, and the second concerns the distance to the berg when it was first spotted.

Regarding the time the berg was spotted, 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. Three bells were struck by Fleet, warning 'Right ahead,' and immediately he rung the telephone up to the bridge, 'Iceberg right ahead.' The reply came back from the bridge, 'Thank you.'" This puts the time according to his estimate at 11:39-11:40. Take your pick.

Regarding the distance, Lee said that it might have been about a half a mile, more or less. He was honest enough to say he could not be too sure of the distance in the dim starlight. At 22 knots, a ½ mile is covered in a minute and 20 seconds, more or less.

But we have other evidence to confirm that the berg was only about a minute away, maybe less, when first sighted; certainly not 5 to 8 minutes if we blindly consider only what Scarrott said. This comes from standby QM Olliver who was trimming the lights on the standard compass platform located amidships. When he heard the 3-bell warning, he immediately knew what that meant and instinctively looked up. He of course could not see anything with the ship’s 2nd funnel directly in front of him, but he said that he left the platform and went forward to the bridge. As he was entering the bridge, the ship struck ice. Given the 250 feet or so distance he had to walk to get there, and including some reaction time and time to get down from the platform from what he was doing, we are talking about an interval of perhaps 50–55 seconds, give or take.

More available evidence comes from QM Hichens at the wheel and also from Fleet and Lee. This has to do with what transpired once the 3-bell warning was given. What we have is that after striking the bell 3 times, Fleet went to the loud-speaking phone located on the aft starboard side of the nest behind where Lee was standing and called the wheelhouse and reported to 6/O Moody “iceberg right ahead,” to which Moody replied “thank you.” Then, according to Hichens, Moody relayed that information to 1/O Murdoch who immediately called out “hard-astarboard” and then went to work the engine telegraphs. According to Fleet he was at the phone no more than about ½ minute when he was asked about it. According to Hichens, it was about ½ minute between the 3-bell warning and when he received the order “hard-astarboard” which he executed immediately. Also, according to Hichens the ship veered to port about 2 points before she struck. He saw her head go south of west on the steering compass in front of him; a turn to port of more than 19° from the previous held N71W compass courseline. According to Fleet, from his vantage point up in the nest, the ship veered between 1 and 2 points before she struck. It takes an Olympic class vessel somewhere between 23 and 37 seconds for her head to turn those amounts from the time the order is given. Add that to a ½ minute estimate for when the 3 bells were struck, and again we see somewhere close to a minute of time for the ship to come up to the iceberg after being sighted by the lookouts.

Lastly, a medium sized iceberg such as the one that Titanic struck cannot be seen on a dark, clear, moonless night at a distance much further than about ½ mile. This is based on measurements done by Lt. Commander Fred Zeusler of the USCG in 1925. This 1/2 mile distance was also mentioned by Cunard Commander Sir James Bisset in his book Tramps & Ladies. Recall also that Rostron on Carpathia had to port around a 30 foot high berg when it was first seen only about ¼ mile ahead of him before picking up the first lifeboat.

I think it safe to say that the berg Titanic struck was nowhere close to being 2.2 nautical miles away when first spotted David. Let’s not add that to a growing mythology created by historical revisionists.
 

Jim Currie

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NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
Just knew that'd cause you to up-periscope Sam. You and I don't often see eye to eye but on this one I must say, leaving clock manipulation aside, I agree that the iceberg that killed Titanic was not very far away at all.

As for "Conventional wisdom" David; how do you define wisdom? I prefer to think of it as the accumulation of knowledge.. i.e., something that is universally known to be true. On the other hand, as Sam pointed-out, AB Scarrott was not sure of when he heard the three bells. Having been in exactly the same predicament as that man, i.e hearing lookout bell as part of my every day life, I can assure you and anyone else that the only way he would have taken the lest bit notice of the 3 bells would have been if he heard them as the introduction to disaster. However, there's no bar to speculation, it is simply manipulation of basic information and conventional wisdom.
As far as I see it, there is only one way to arrive at any meaningful answer to satisfy the basic question in this thread.. the use of basic facts applied to accumulated wisdom. That's what I attempted to do in my little presentation. (Your thanks leave me blushing lol). I'm sure that you and Sam are aware of the 'Wisdom' I speak of.

Jim C.
 

Adam Went

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Apr 28, 2003
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Interesting discussion guys, and thanks for your intriguing posts David. I'm a bit out of the loop with it all so i'll simply add that such discrepancies with the time zones could explain why many passengers were unable to give an accurate account of what time certain events surrounding the sinking of the ship occurred - on board, they simply knew how many days it was until they would reach New York, and therefore had no real sense of the accuracy of time. Or the need for it, perhaps?

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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It's my view that the revisionist history was written back in 1912 and that I'm only pointing out the large gaps in both logic and fact that is contained within the myths and legends passed down to us.

For instance, Sam points out truthfully that an iceberg on a dark night cannot reliably be seen by reflected light at distances of even a mile and in reality would not be seen for half that distance or less. True. I have no argument with that reality, but with the misguided conclusion that historians have drawn from it. For thousands of years prior to Titanic sailors had been identifying dangers that cannot be seen by reflected light. I daresay Sam has used this technique during his sailing days. It involves noting when a distant light is eclipsed by something at closer range, the result is a silhouette. Whenever you see this at sea you know one thing for certain: something hard enough to block light is between you and the source of that light. This directly applies to Titanic. The lookouts did not first see the iceberg by reflected light. What they saw was a "dark mass." Put that into context with the light horizon created by the ice field (the lookouts called it "haze") and it becomes apparent how they were able to identify an object ahead at as much as 2.5 miles. They didn't see the iceberg, they saw the lack of light created by the berg. And, as well-trained lookouts, they reported that "black mass" to the bridge by ringing the crow's nest bell three times. It was not until the berg was within a half mile or less that Fleet and Lee were able to discern by reflected light the approximate size and shape of the fatal iceberg.

My point is that by focusing on only half the facts...the ones supporting conventional wisdom...myth and misdirection are easily supported. Every kid knows the easiest way to tell a lie is to just tell only the facts that seem to support your case.

I'm amused by attempts to refute seaman Scarrott's estimate of both time and duration by quoting other witnesses who made equally vague statements. I'm also a bit chagrined by historians who assume that the way they use language today is the same as it was used in 1912. Words change both denotation and connotation over time. For proof consider that as late as the 1960s the word "gay" was used to describe people having a good time. Today, the word has a totally different meaning. With that said, let's look at lookout Fleet's time testimony. "Three bells were struck by Fleet, warning 'Right ahead,' and immediately he rung the telephone up to the bridge, 'Iceberg right ahead.' The reply came back from the bridge, 'Thank you.'" It is easy to use this testimony to bolster the concept of less than a minute passing between warning and impact. However, this inference hangs on one word, "immediately." Today, it means quickly following, minimal time passing. The definition of a century ago was somewhat different. It meant without an intermediary event, or without delay. There was no connotation of speed. And, in that sense Lee chose his words wisely. There was no intermediate event in the crow's nest between the warning bell and Fleet's phone call. Nor was there any delay. Even so, Lee's "immediately" did not connote any duration -- short or long -- between those critical events.

Another thing, Olliver never said what he did upon hearing the three strikes on the lookout's bell other than look around him. He was, as he said, tending the lamps in the standard compass. When did he finish that job? And, why was he doing it at that precise moment? None of this background information was included in Olliver's U.S. testimony. The man simply stated his actions without illuminating them with details about what was taking place around him.

Senator BURTON. Where were you when the collision occurred?
Mr. OLLIVER. I was stand-by quartermaster on the bridge. I had been relieved from the wheel at 10 o'clock, and I was stand-by after 10 o'clock. I was running messages and doing various other duties. I was not right on the bridge; I was just entering the bridge. I had just performed an errand and was entering the bridge when the collision occurred.
Senator BURTON. Just state what happened?
Mr. OLLIVER. When I was doing this bit of duty I heard three bells rung up in the crow's nest, which I knew that it was something ahead; so I looked, but I did not see anything. I happened to be looking at the lights in the standing compass at the time. That was my duty, to look at the lights in the standing compass, and I was trimming them so that they would burn properly. 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. I knew we had touched something.

Fortunatley, the IMM/WSL rules perfectly explain why he was on the platform and why Boxhall was leaving the officers quarters door at that moment. But, they are inconvenient facts to conventional wisdom so they have been peer-reviewed out. That doesn't change history a whit, it just makes it easier to continue telling the same ol' myths. Olliver was on the platform because every half hour the steering compass had to be checked against the standard. And, that required making sure the binnacle lamps were trimmed before the arrival of the officer who was to do the work. And, at a few minutes before 2400 April 14th ship's time that was Boxhall. Note that the Fourth Officer said he was just coming out of the officers quarters. That means he was on his way to do some ship's business. The only task at hand for him was the compass check. The bottom line in all of this is that the assumption Olliver immediately left the platform after hearing the lookout's warning bell is nothing by suds off the ol' porker.

Now let's talk about that alleged "hard a-starboard" order to dodge the iceberg. If you'll note, I totally agree that a starboard helm order to turn the ship to the left came after the lookouts rang their warning bell. No quibble with that

955 The Attorney GENERAL: ... You had got an order, “Hard
a-starboard”?
Mr. HICHENS: Yes.
956 You proceeded at once to put the wheel hard astarboard?
Mr. HICHENS: immediately, yes.
957 Before the vessel struck had you time to get the wheel
right over?
Mr. HICHENS: The wheel was over then, hard over

My quibble is with the inference that Hichens' answer to question 957 refers to the "hard a-starboard" mentioned in question 956. Note that Hichens does not say which way the helm was over in his 957 answer, only that it was hard over. If we look into quartermaster Olliver's testimony we find that Murdoch's helm order when the ship struck was not "hard a-starboard," but quite the opposite. Olliver said that he heard Murdoch yell, "Hard a-port." as the ship struck.

Senator BURTON. Do you know whether the wheel was hard aport then?
Mr. OLLIVER. What I know about the wheel - I was stand-by to run messages, but what I knew about the helm is, hard aport.
Senator BURTON. Do you mean hard aport or hard astarboard?
Mr. OLLIVER. I know the orders I heard when I was on the bridge was after we had struck the iceberg. I heard hard aport, and there was the man at the wheel and the officer. The officer was seeing it was carried out right.
Senator BURTON. What officer was it?
Mr. OLLIVER. Mr. Moody, the sixth officer, was stationed in the wheelhouse.
Senator BURTON. Who was the man at the wheel?
Mr. OLLIVER. Hichens, quartermaster.
Senator BURTON. You do not know whether the helm was put hard astarboard first, or not?
Mr. OLLIVER. No, sir; I do not know that.
Senator BURTON. But you know it was put hard aport after you got there?
Mr. OLLIVER. After I got there; yes, sir.
Senator BURTON. Where was the iceberg, do you think, when the helm was shifted?
Mr. OLLIVER. The iceberg was away up stern.
Senator BURTON. That is when the order "hard aport" was given?
Mr. OLLIVER. That is when the order "hard aport" was given; yes, sir.
Senator BURTON. Who gave the order?
Mr. OLLIVER. The first officer.
Senator BURTON. And that order was immediately executed, was it?
Mr. OLLIVER. Immediately executed, and the sixth officer saw that it was carried out.

At this point it helps to think about Murdoch's choices. He could turn left or turn right. Stopping in the available time was not possible. According to Olliver, the ship was already running over the iceberg. If the First Officer turned left (starboard helm), he would swing the side of Titanic hard against the menace and might even cause it to become entangled in the starboard wing propeller. On the other hand, if he turned right (port helm) Murdoch would swing the side and stern away from the ice and confine damage to the bow where contact was already taking place. We know he chose to turn right (port helm) as Olliver stated because of actions by Captain Smith and others seconds after impact. They went to the starboard bridge wing to look aft in an attempt to see the iceberg. A right turn would have put the berg off the starboard quarter just where it was seen. However, the mythical left turn (starboard helm) would have placed the iceberg off the port quarter where it was not seen. In the end, Olliver is supported by the dictates of good ship handling, the physical damage on the hull, and the juxtaposition of the iceberg to ship after impact. We are still confounded by Hichens' testimony.

948. Had you had any instructions before she struck? Had
you been told to do anything with your helm
before she struck?
Mr. HICHENS: Just as she struck I had the order “Hard-astarboard”
when she struck.
949. Just as she struck, is that what you said?
Mr. Hichens: Not immediately as she struck; the ship was
swinging. We had the order, “Hard-a-starboard,”
and she just swung about two points when she
struck.
950. You got the order, “Hard-a-starboard”?
Mr. HICHENS: Yes.
951. Had you time to get the helm hard a starboard before
she struck?
Mr. HICHENS: No, she was crashing then.
952. Did you begin to get the helm over?
Mr. HICHENS: Yes, the helm was barely over when she
struck. The ship had swung about two points.
953. She had swung two points?
Mr. HICHENS: Yes.

Quartermaster Hichens was apparently a bit of an odd duck, but he was also a good sailor. He did not confuse port helm with starboard helm, nor left turns with right even though his claim that a starboard helm left turn maneuver was ongoing flies in the face of both the direct testimony of the lookouts and the location of damage to the hull. My suspicion is that the man had a touch of well-found paranoia about being blamed for the fatal accident if he said that at the last second he turned the ship toward the iceberg. Better in his mind was to leave the impression of a failed attempt to turn away from danger. He could not be faulted for an officer's failure to issue a critical helm order in time. But, that's just my speculation. Lacking the ability to speak to him directly we have no choice but to rely on what other people testified. The only other eyewitnesses who saw everything were in the crow's nest -- lookouts Fleet and Lee. Both were quite adamant that the ship made a straight, head-on final approach to the iceberg. Fleet was quite direct, testifying, "...we were making straight for it.” But, even more telling were his words on the telephone in the seconds before Titanic struck, "Iceberg right ahead.”

Worse for the ongoing turn myth is the placement of damage on the hull. If Titanic had been rotating to port as the myth claims, then the forefoot should have escaped damage and contact with the berg should have started farther aft, possibly as far aft as hold #2. Either that or Murdoch turned left to dodge an iceberg that was already well on his port side. "Not damned likely," to paraphrase our favorite Second Officer. Even so, I do believe Hichens and the implications of Boxhall's testimony that Titanic did turn about two points to port that night and it was to avoid ice. It was just not to avoid the deadly iceberg. Rather, Titanic was dropping to the south in an effort to take the shortest route around the ice field.

Using Sam's advance and transfer data and a bit o' my rusty high school trigonometry I found something interesting. At a range of 2.2 miles (6 minutes at 22 knots) the iceberg would have been roughly 900 feet left of the ship's track when the "black mass" silhouette was first reported. In practical terms that was dead ahead and required the 3-stroke bell signal. About five minutes later, the berg would have been some 22 to 24 degrees off the port bow -- which is when I postulate the two point (22.5 degree) left (starboard helm) turn described by Hichens and Boxhall was completed. The range was under a minute to contact, which was just enough time for Boxhall and Olliver to walk back from the compass platform and be nearing the bridge.

Anyway, my original purpose in this thread was to show our friend, Titanicnerd, the difference between self-indulgent comments and conclusions based on historical research. My thanks to Sam and Jim for engaging in this illuminating discussion. We may not agree upon exactly how the accident took place but we are united in our desire to sort out the evidence.

-- David G. Brown
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
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NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
You may have something there Adam. There is the evidence of the folks delaying going to bed and waiting to see the clock change. I have always found that rather strange.
On a fast ship heading almost west, the amount of daily change was considerable - 47 minutes in the case of Titanic.
I was on that exact same run on a fast ship (Sidonia)for a while in the early 60's. We had only a few passengers but by the time it came to unaltered midnight, those who had no reason to be about were tucked-up in their bunks. The same went for slower ships where the daily clock change was no more than 35 minutes. Day men and passengers were awake for 15/16 hours each day. By the time 11 o'clock in the evening came, everyone was knackered and the decks were almost deserted. Loosing 47 minutes of sleep for a passenger was bad enough; except for a first-tripper, loosing half of that amount for a crew member on continuous watches was a no-no.:rolleyes:

Jim C.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Chicago, IL, USA
www.titanicology.com
Those that stayed up late were mostly men who were in the smoking rooms enjoying a good cigar, drinking and playing cards or in friendly conversation with others that they met on the voyage. Many of them where traveling alone and had no reason to turn in early unless they were tired. The lights in the smoking rooms were turned off after the clock change that took place at midnight, and those that were there used that event to set their personal timepieces to the new time for the next day.

As to what people were told, it seems that the practice of posting the daily clock adjustment, as later done on passenger vessels, was not done on Titanic. Thus the reason why some people stated that they were waiting for the clock change to take place so they could accurately set their personal timepiece to the new time. For others, like Marie Jerwan and Robert Bateman, they knew from previous nights that the nightly change was somewhere about 45 to 50 minutes, and what they did was to take the time off one of the clocks in a public room like in the lounge or library so they would have the correct ship's time before winding their watches and retiring for the night; which is what both of them did at 10:30 Sunday night. Putting their watches back by 50 minutes, which is what those two also did, was good enough for them.

For most people, telling time to the nearest 5 minute interval was good enough. For others, who like to be a little more precise, telling time to the nearest minute mattered. I suspect I would have been one of those latter types if I was there.

By the way Jim, putting the clock back added extra time to your sleep. It was like turning in 11:13 instead of it really being 12:00.
I suspect on an eastbound voyage there would be a little more reluctance to stay up till 12 since you really do loose sleep because the clocks were put ahead. Passengers were not Watch-Keepers.
 

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