Navigational Confirmation of Titanic's CQD Position

Titanica!

On September 1, 1985, an expedition led by Dr. Robert Ballard located the wreckage of the Titanic on the ocean floor in position 41° 43.9’ N., 49° 56.8’ W., some thirteen miles east of where she had reportedly foundered.

Shortly after the impact with the ice, on April 14, 1912, it was the Titanic’s Fourth Officer Boxhall who had calculated her CQD position to be 41° 46’ N., 50° 14’ W. Considering that the wreck was not found at this location, armchair navigators have concluded that Boxhall’s position was wrong

However, navigational calculations, based on the evidence, confirm that Boxhall’s CQD position, of 41°46'N, 50°14'W, was correct.

By examining the evidence of the Titanic's navigating officers on April 14, 1912, we can determine the noon 14th position.

Mr. LOWE. [Senate Inq.Day 5]. We are there to do the navigating part so the senior officer can be and will be in full charge of the bridge and have nothing to worry his head about. We have all that, the junior officers; there are four of us. The three seniors are in absolute charge of the boat. They have nothing to worry themselves about. They simply have to walk backward and forward and look after the ship, and we do all the figuring and all that sort of thing in our chart room.

Junior (Navigating) Officers on watch Sunday, April 14, 1912:

8:00 a.m. - 12 Noon 4th Officer Boxhall, 6th Officer Moody (6th /O Moody, lost with the ship)

12 Noon - 4:00 p.m. 3rd Officer Pitman, 5th Officer Lowe

4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. 4th /O Boxhall. 6th /O Moody

6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. 3rd /O Pitman, 5th /O Lowe

8:00 p.m. - 12 Midnight 4th /O Boxhall, 6th /O Moody

Senator SMITH. [Senate Inq.Day 5] Did you have any part in determining the course and position of the Titanic on Sunday afternoon and evening?

Mr. LOWE. I worked the course from noon until what we call the "corner"; that is, 42 north, 47 west. I really forget the course now. It is 60 33 1/2' west -that is as near as I can remember - and 162 miles to the corner.

This evidence of Fifth Officer Lowe was given on April 24, ten days after the accident. Without the benefit of charts, log books, or sight books, all of which were lost with the ship, he was questioned on the navigation of the ship.

Third Officer Pitman, as noted above, was on watch with Mr. Lowe. He stated [British Inquiry Day 13]:

A. I thought that the course should have been altered at 5:00 p.m.

Q. Why did you think so?

A. Judging from the distance run from noon.

Accepting “60° 33 1/2' west" as S 60° 33 ½' W true and rejecting "and 162 miles to the corner,” which is obviously the distance run from noon to evening civil twilight for stellar observation, and accepting 3rd Officer Pitman's evidence ("I thought that the course should have been altered at 5:00

p.m. .... Judging from the distance run from noon"), we can calculate as follows:

Working back from the expected alter course position at the “corner” 42° N and 47° W applying 5 hrs x 22.1* knots = 110.5 miles, makes noon 14th position 42° 54.3'N, 44° 50'W.

The course being steered was S 85° W [S 62° W true]. Corroborating this, is the evidence of Quartermaster Rowe. Q QM Rowe: 17587. What course was she steering? A S. 85 deg. W. Q 17588. By the compass in front of you, I suppose?

A. By the steering compass.

At 5.45 or 5.50 p.m., the course was altered to N 71° W compass.

QM Rowe

Q. 17583. During that watch, did you alter the course at any time?

A. Yes.

Q. 17584. Do you remember when it was?

A. Yes, at 5.45.

Q. 17590. At 5.45 to what did you alter it?

A. N. 71 W.

Q. 17586. Now, before you altered course, do you remember what course your vessel was steering?

A. Yes.

Q. 17587. What course was she steering?

A. S. 85 deg. W.

At British Enquiry (15315), Fourth Officer Boxhall, in answer to the question, "Between 4 and 6, while you were on watch, do you remember the course being altered?" answered "The course was altered at 5.50."

Q. 15316. Do you remember what it was altered to?

A. I do not remember the compass course, but I remember the true course was S. 86 W.

There is a plausible reason for the five-minute discrepancy (5.45 as opposed to

5.50 p.m.) in the time the course was altered. The course change was made from the standard compass by one of the on-watch junior officers--positioned between numbered 2 and 3 funnels; Quartermaster Rowe, at the helm, was responsible for bringing the ship to the required course by order of the junior officer. QM Rowe would have noted the time as 5.45 p.m. when he commenced the alteration, whereas junior officer Boxhall would have entered into the log book record 5.50 p.m. as the time when the steering compass had settled on the new course.

As Charles H. Lightoller stated on Day 5 to the U.S. Senate Inquiry:

A. We have a standard compass and a steering compass. The standard compass is the compass we go by. That is the course that is handed over from one senior officer to another, the standard course. The junior officer goes to the standard compass which is connected with the wheelhouse by a bell, or by a bell push, wire and bell, and when she is on her course he rings that bell continually, showing the ship is on her course with the standard compass.

The other officer takes her head inside the wheelhouse from the compass the quartermaster is steering by. The standard course is on a board and the steering compass course is also on a board. Therefore, the quartermaster uses the board that is there for the steering compass. The senior officer of the watch looks to the standard compass board and passes that course along.

In the 6-8 p.m. last dog watch, it was the duty of the junior watch officer to prepare the information for evening stellar observation, i.e., time of civil twilight, stars available with approximate azimuths and altitudes. Junior watch officer Lowe determined evening civil twilight to be 22.21 GMT - Noon transit (Sun) 15:00 GMT = 7h 21m x 22 kts**= 162 miles. This is most likely what Lowe meant, when he answered from memory, that the distance was 162 miles--the distance run from noon to civil twilight for stellar observation.

Mr. LOWE. I worked the course from noon until what we call the "corner"; that is, 42 north, 47 west. I really forget the course now. It is 60° 33 1/2' west -that is as near as I can remember - and 162 miles to the corner.

From noon position 14th, 42° 54.3'N, 44° 50'W. Course S 62° W (242°T) to 5.45 p.m.=5h 45m @ 22 kts =126.5 miles gives a/c position 41° 54.9'N, 47° 20.8'W.

5.45 p.m. a/c to S 86° W (266°T) to stellar observation = 1h 36m =@22 kts =35.2 miles gives Position 41° 52.4'N, 48° 07.8'W. Distance run from noon 126.5+35.2 =161.7 (162) miles.

Course 266° T from stellar observation to 11.40 p.m. = 4h 19m @22 kts=95 miles gives CQD position 41° 45.8'N, 50° 14.5'W (41° 46'N, 50° 14' W)

Course 266° T from 5.45p.m. to 11.40 p.m.=5h 55m x 22 kts=130 miles gives CQD position 41° 45.8'N, 50° 14.3'W (41° 46'N, 50° 14' W)

Therefore, Titanic’s CQD position was correct. The wreck site, located by Dr. Robert Ballard, is 099° True, distance 13 nautical miles, from her CQD position.

* Memorandum of Mr. Pitman ** 162 miles/7h21m=22.04 kts.

Dated: 1st October 2002 Date of Publication 7th November 2002

Acknowledgements

L. Marmaduke Collins

Comment and discuss

  1. David G. Brown said:

    Captain Collins has brought us another insight into one of the mystifying aspects of the sinking--Boxhall's "final position." Even in 1912 there were questions over its accuracy. The discovery of the wreck has led to general awareness that Boxhall's CQD position was @ 13 miles west and north of where the ship probably foundered. If Captain Collins is right in his assessment of Boxhall's navigation, then an analysis of the difference between the final CQD position and the debris field yields some interesting possibilities. What Captain Collins has done is reconstruct the dead reckoning... Read full post

  2. Erik Wood said:

    If someone where to ask me (which nobody has) I would say that Dave just opened a HUGE can of worms.

  3. avatar

    Michael H. Standart said:

    A can? More like a 55 gallon drum of snakes. The notion that Titanic was dodging bergs the accident is something that George Behe brought up in "Speed, Safety and Sacrifice." Considering how this would tend to skew any calculations if the manuevers were not recorded, it's a wonder that Boxhall came as close to the ship's actual position as he did.

  4. Erik Wood said:

    A much more lethal question is why didn't Hitchens or Boxhall say anything about the manuvers if they took place? The Titanic community (excluding myself) is notoriously known for sticking to the testimony and it mentions no dodging anywhere. To say that I agree with Captain Collins or Brown would be lie, to say that I disagree would also be a lie. I am somewhere in the middle. I have always believed (or hoped) that Captain Smith as being proactive about the ice. If this current theory could somehow be proved it would make me happy. It also makes it a little easier to... Read full post

  5. avatar

    Michael H. Standart said:

    From what we discussed in Topeka and here, it would seem that a loss of situational awareness was the quintessential killer in this whole mess. It's amazing the way things came together in such a way that the set of eyes looking forward on the Bridge at the critical moment belonged to Will Murdoch.

  6. Michael F. Koch said:

    Wouldn't the passengers and crew have notice if the ship was continually swerving to avoid icebergs? I do believe the crew saw some before 1130, but just don't think she was dodging them right and left. I prefer Gittins theory and definitely don't buy that Boxhall's position was accurate and an earthquake somehow moved the wreak a whopping 13 miles to the east. If Titanic's position was accurate, why did all the other ships around state she was much further east and somewhat further south? The only reason Carpathia saw the lifeboats was they were lucky and happened to be along the course... Read full post

  7. Michael F. Koch said:

    Someone here also brought up the idea regarding situational awareness on the difficulties with lookouts eyes watering up with the cold and ship relative wind. Although, Fleet spotted the dark mass many minutes ahead of the collision, the watering eyes could certainly have hindered how early he what the mass was. It's funny that this thought has never been brought up to my knowledge in any Titanic books. Cheers! Michael Koch

  8. avatar

    Michael H. Standart said:

    I don't buy into the earthquake either. An event drastic enough to move a wreck and the surrounding seabed 13 miles would have sent massive tsunamis roaring into harbours on both sides of the Atlantic. I think it might be better to say that Boxhall's position the sum total of all the information he had was correct. GIGO factor in other words. As to whether the passengers and crew wuould have noticed the manuevering, going on near midnight, I can't take this as a given. It would depend on how radical and frequent the course changes were. From my... Read full post

  9. avatar

    Michael H. Standart said:

    Mike, I don't think the effect of the wind and the wind chill on the lookouts would have occured to a lot of people who have written on the subject because a lot of them have never been to sea. The book knowladge these researchers have is impressive and commendable, but real world practical experience is sadly lacking.

  10. Michael F. Koch said:

    Michael, is BFD some kind of nautical term I'm unaware of?? =-) I see your point on the crew not knowing, but the way Beesley and some other passengers described the collision, it leads me to believe any perturbation in the motion of the ship would have been noticed. However, I'm not sure what the difference would have been for a passenger noticing a hard-over maneuver compared to a grounding. Memory? Oh, you mean like looking at old pictures and reminiscing? Oh wait, you said making a memory! How bout, making a provocative painting of the sexy looking engaged girl you just met? =-) ... Read full post

  11. Michael F. Koch said:

    Michael, even if most of the Titanic authors were not at sea much or at all, it still seems this one would have come up at least once before. I mean, we all have run during the Winter before and noticed our eyes tearing up! Strange. Cheers, Michael Koch

  12. Erik Wood said:

    A couple of other (hole digging) notes: What Captain Collins has done is plot the course and wreck, one of which is based soley on hearsay, and the other based soley on fact. We do not know with that the ship was steering a certain course or not. None of us where there, we have to go off what the surviving officers and crew say. We do know where the wreck is today. Another piece of the mystery pie is the lookouts who where above and forward of the bridge, they do not mention the ship moving off course or dodging bergs or other objects. Some might say that because... Read full post

  13. Michael F. Koch said:

    Eric, what about the claims made by several passengers that overheard Fleet complaining that their repeated warning bells went unheeded for as much as 20 minutes prior to the collision? I'm not sure if these warnings were for the same black mass that turned out to be "the" ice berg or for other bergs, but there does appear to be evidence that the lookouts were spotting objects all along unless these were stories by Fleet. Cheers, Michael Koch

  14. John M. Feeney said:

    David: While I think your evolving premises regarding possible evasive maneuers on the part of the Titanic have tantalizing potential, one thing I'd be very wary of, regarding Captain Collins' alleged "proofs" of Boxhall's navigational correctness, *is* their reliance on the supposed perfect fit of his plots to the "known" data. In private discussions with Collins, I've argued that his course... Read full post

  15. David G. Brown said:

    Everyone--there is a great deal of difference between stating something as fact and testing what may be a useful hypothesis. Also, the truth of any hypothesis lies in whether or not it predicts future events. So, I was testing what Captain Collins wrote for that purpose. What I find is that the logical conclusion of his paper is that Captain Smith was maneuvering in some manner to avoid icebergs. Otherwise, Boxhall's "final position" would have been much close to the debris field. My statement about Boxhall taking rockets into his lifeboat and using them to attract Carpathia is a... Read full post

  16. Erik Wood said:

    Michael K: I am unaware of the testimony in which you speak. Could you point it to me?? John F: Have you been taking some kind of navigation course behind my back?? Great Post and I agree with what you have written for the most part.

  17. George Behe said:

    Michael Koch wrote: >I do believe the crew saw some before 1130, but >just don't think she was dodging > them right and left. Hi, Michael! For what it's worth, that's pretty much my own view, too (and is the one I had in mind when I wrote my book.) All my best, George

  18. John M. Feeney said:

    Sheesh, when I started writing the above there were only two total posts! (Busy thread.) Agreed on the earthquake premise, gents. It's just not a realistic scenario, for *many* good reasons -- including those upright positions at the wreck locale. (What, did the bow and stern somehow get tossed over 13 miles, only to both land on their respective "feet"? Never mind that the debris field displayed an undisturbed, predictable pattern according to Ballard. After all, that's only how he *found* the thing -- through the debris! And gee, in all that cataclysmic turmoil, nothing got buried??... Read full post

  19. John M. Feeney said:

    Side note: Is everybody else home sick with this flu (or whatever it is), too?? This is the busiest I've ever seen the Board on a weekday. ;^) Cheers, John

  20. Erik Wood said:

    John F. Wrote: Very interesting point. One that to be honest I haven't actually researched. But this leads to a myriad of other questions. Accident investigators (such as myself) often back track a ships final position with the course (s) it should have been on to attempt to... Read full post

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