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A Californian Voyage Part 1 of 3. A Coherent and Comprehensive Analysis of the Movements and Locations of the SS Californian 14-15 April 1912 by Samuel Halpern. PRESENTATION OVERVIEW. We will consider three of the terms of reference of the 1992 Reappraisal:*

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A Californian VoyagePart 1 of 3

A Coherent and Comprehensive Analysis of the Movements and Locations of the

SS Californian 14-15 April 1912

by Samuel Halpern


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PRESENTATION OVERVIEW

We will consider three of the terms of reference of the 1992 Reappraisal:*

  • Consider whether Titanic's distress signals were seen by the Californian

  • Estimate the stopped positions of the Titanic and Californian and their distance apart based on currently available evidence

  • Determine if the Titanic could have been the mystery ship seen by those on the Californian

    * The 4th term of reference had to do with the actions of Capt. Stanley Lord from 10 PM on April 14th to the time the Californian resumed her passage. This will not be addressed in this presentation.


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Approach to the Problem

  • Rely on technical analysis, not subjective judgments.

  • Look for supportive evidence from those that were there.


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Conclusions of the 1992 Reappraisal

  • The Titanic was in approximate position 41° 47' N, 49° 55' W when she struck an iceberg, and in 41° 43.6' N, 49° 56.9' W when she foundered.

  • Titanic's distress signals were indeed seen by the Californian.

  • The position of Californian cannot be deduced accurately.

    • The appointed inspector, Thomas Barnett, decided the Californian was about 41° 50' N, 50° 07' W at the time Titanic struck the iceberg, 8 to 10 miles off.

    • Deputy Chief Inspector, James De Coverly, had the Californian about 42° 00' N, 50° 09' W, about 17 to 18 miles off.

  • Barnett concluded that Titanic was seen by Californian; De Coverly concluded that she probably was not seen, but if she was, it was due to super refraction.

  • Both agree that further action should have been taken by the Californian's 2nd Officer Stone as soon as multiple rockets were seen. This action should have included:

    • Calling upon Capt. Lord and insisting he come up to the bridge.

    • Immediately ringing down to the engine room to "stand by engines."

    • Calling upon the wireless operator to try and make contact with the steamer.


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Titanic's Socket Distress Signals

"I looked at her through the binoculars and found it was her masthead light flickering. I also observed her port sidelight and a faint glare of lights on her afterdeck. I then went over to the Second Officer and remarked she looked like a tramp steamer. " ... "I then got the binoculars and had just got them focused on the vessel when I observed a white flash apparently on her deck, followed by a faint streak towards the sky which then burst into white stars." - Gibson (written report to Capt. Lord 18 April 1912).

"Socket distress signals are fired from a socket, ascend to a height of 600 to 800 feet, and then burst with the report of a gun and the stars of a rocket." - Cotton Powder Co. Ltd.

The diagram above shows approximately what Titanic's lights would look like from about 12 miles off and slightly down by the head (~5°) with a 2-point angle-on-the-bow. Height of exploding socket signal taken 600 ft above the water. Full moon also shown for reference.


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Were Titanic's Distress Signals Seen by the Californian?

"At about 12:45, I observed a flash of light in the sky just above that steamer. I thought nothing of it as there were several shooting stars about, the night being fine and clear with light airs and calms." ... "I saw the last of the rockets as near as I can say about 1.40." ..."At about 3.20, just before half-past three, as near as I can approximate, Gibson reported to me he had seen a white light in the sky to the southward of us, just about on the port beam." - 2/O Stone.

"At about 3:20 looking over the weather cloth, I observed a rocket about two points before the beam (Port), which I reported to the Second Officer. About three minutes later I saw another rocket right abeam which was followed later by another one about two points before the beam." - Gibson.

1.25 [NY time] M.P.A. [Carpathia] sends: "If you are there, we are firing rockets." - recorded in PV of the Mount Temple.

Note: 1:25 NY time = 3:15 Californian ATS

  • Not only were Titanic's rockets seen from the Californian, but also the rocket's fired from the rescue vessel Carpathia coming up from the SE beyond where Titanic had been about an hour and a quarter after the steamer they were watching had gone out of sight.


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Agreements and DifferencesA Comparison of MAIB Views Regarding Positions


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Californian's Route Across the AtlanticApril 1912



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At The Corner at 9:40 AM?

Mr. LORD. ... [witness looking at a book, afterwards identified as the log of the Californian.] I can give it to you at 9.40 o'clock and at noon.

Senator SMITH. Give it to me at 9.40.

Mr. LORD. 42, 47.

Senator SMITH. A little more specifically, please.

Mr. LORD. 42 north and 47 west.

Senator SMITH. Are you reading from the log of the Californian?

Mr. LORD. The 'Californian;' the ship's log, yes.

"On the 14th April, noon position by observation was 42° 05’ N, 47° 25’ W"- Lord, 1959 Affidavit.

  • The Californian could not have been at the Corner at 9:40 AM as written in her logbook. Distance from Corner (42° N 47° W) to reported Noon position (42° 05'N 47° 25'W) is only 19.2 nautical miles heading 285° true. The Californian was doing 11 knots heading 270° true according to testimony, and would have covered that distance in 1 hour 45 minutes.*

* There was a difference in time of 2 hours 41 minutes between the course change at 9:40 AM and Local Apparent Noon (LAN). The extra 21 minutes was due to the setback of the ships clocks from the LAN at about 42° 09’ W on the 13th of April to the LAN at 47° 25' W on the 14th of April.


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"The variation that day at noon was 24 3/4" - Lord (BI 6782).

Course changed at 09:40 to N 60° W [300°] compass - C/O Stewart (BI 8792-8793);

then at 09:55 to N 59° W [301°] compass - C/O Stewart (BI 8792-8793);

then at noon to N 61° W [299°] compass - C/O Stewart (BI 8709-8712).

Compass deviation "5 1/2 degrees I believe it was. W." - C/O Stewart (BI 8713-8714).

NOTE: True course = Compass course - Compass Variation - Compass Deviation.

Course at Noon = 299° - 24.75° - 5.5° = 268.75° true

6710. Where had you been heading before [your ship stopped]? - [Capt. Lord] S. 89 W. [269°] true.

"I steered this course to make longitude 51° W in latitude 42° N on account of ice reports which had been received.”- Lord, 1959 Affidavit.

CONCLUSION

The Californian was heading slightly southward from her noon position which was observed to be 5 miles north of the corner. Original intent was to reach the corner and remain on the 42nd parallel until 51° W. The direct course from her noon position to Boston Light would have been 271° true.

Course Change at Noon 14 April 1912


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An Ice Warning to the AntillianSome Inconsistencies

Copy of Master Service Message sent to the Antillian April 14th 1912

5:35 PM [NY time of transmission April 14th] To Captain, ‘Antillian,’ 6.30 p.m. apparent time, ship; latitude, 42.3 North; longitude, 49.9 West. Three large bergs five miles to southward of us. Regards. Lord.

At the American Inquiry

Senator SMITH. What other entries have you in the log, of your position on that date?

Mr. LORD. At 6.30...Yes; we had, 42º 5’ and 49º 10’, as having passed two large icebergs

At the British Inquiry

6693. Giving the position of three large icebergs, was it? – [Lord] Yes.

6694. Would you tell me the position that you gave him? – Forty-two deg. Five min and 49 deg. 9 min.

In Lord's 1959 Affidavit

"6:30 PM passage of 3 icebergs 5 miles south of ship reported at 7:30 to 'Antillian' 42° 5’N 49° 9’W. Parisian reported earlier same bergs at 41°55’ N 49°14’ W."

  • Some Issues with the Evidence

  • Two icebergs Vs. Three icebergs

  • Longitude 49º 10’ W Vs. 49º 09’ W

  • Latitude 42º 05’ N Vs. 42º 03’ N


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An Ice Warning to the AntillianLatitude by Polaris?

8805. What is the explanation of the two degrees’ difference of latitude? – [C/O Stewart] Two miles on account of observation.

8806. Two minutes of difference – is that your explanation? – I had the star then. I thought the star was more accurate.

8807. Is the explanation this: That at 6.30 the latitude given to the Marconi operator was latitude by dead reckoning from your noon position? – Yes.

8808. But at 7.30, an hour later, you got an observation which enabled you to fix your actual position? – Yes.

8809. Which differed two minutes north of the position by dead reckoning? – Yes.

8810. And is that observation at 6.30 recorded in your log of this star an accurate one? – Yes.

8811. Is there any room for doubt about the accuracy of that position there? – No.

“At 7.30 p.m. the Chief Officer, Mr. G.F. Stewart, reported to me a latitude by Pole Star of 42° 5 ½’ N. This with the previous observation for longitude gave me proof that the current was setting to W.N.W. at about one knot.” - Lord, 1959 Affidavit.


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An Ice Warning to the AntillianA Second Wireless Ice Report From the Californian

From PV of Olympic for April 15th 1912

5.20 p.m. [NY time of transmission April 15th] ‘Californian’ sends through following ice report: Icebergs and field ice at 42.3 north 49.9 west; 41.33 north, 50.09 west. He tells us he is 200 miles out of his course.

Notice the first set of coordinates is identical to the coordinates sent to the Antillian on April 14th. The second set is the Californian's position for noon on April 15th.

  • This message received by the Olympic at 5:20 PM on April 15th 1912 suggest three things:

  • There was no transmission error in the latitude sent in the ice message to the Antillian by Californian's wireless operator Cyril Evans on April 14th as some researchers have claimed.

  • By late afternoon of April 15th Californian's logbook still did nothave 42° 05’ N entered for the ship’s latitude for the 6:30 PM sighting of those three icebergs on April 14th.

  • The later claim by C/O Stewart and Capt. Lord that a Pole Star sighting showed that their latitude had not changed on April 14th from Noon to 7:30 PM must be viewed with some suspect.


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Course Changes Made Morning of April 14th 1912

According to his 1959 affidavit, Capt. Lord took into account a westerly set current component based on longitude sights taken at 5:00 PM and 5:30 PM showing a speed over ground 11.9 knots and 11.6 knots, respectively. 11.9 knots was used to arrive at the 6:30 PM position sent to the Antillian.


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Where Did the Californian Stop?Capt. Lord's Stopped Position

“Allowing S89°W true 120 miles from noon, and also taking into account latitude by Pole Star at 7:30 PM, I calculated my position as being 42° 05’N, 50° 07’W.” - Lord, 1959 Affidavit.

Mr. LORD. From the position we stopped in to the position at which the Titanic is supposed to have hit the iceberg, 19 1/2 to 19 3/4 miles; south 16 west, sir, was the course.


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Where Did the Californian Stop?The Virginian Contact

"At 5:45 a.m. [Virginian ATS] I was in communications with the Californian, the Leyland Liner. He was 17 miles north of the Titanic and had not heard of the disaster." - Capt. Gambell, S.S. Virginian.

"April 15th, about 5.30 a.m., I gave my position to S.S. Virginian before I heard where the Titanic sunk; that gave me 17 miles away. I understand the original Marconigrams were in Court." - Capt. Stanley Lord, letter to Assistant Secretary of the Marine Department of the BOT, 10 August 1912.


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32

"In The Arctic Current"

"But in the Arctic current you always get cold water, even if there is not any ice." - Capt. Stanley Lord (American Inquiry, p.721).

"Below I give you the temperature of air and water from noon April 14 to noon April 15. I am sir, yours, respectfully, STANLEY LORD." *

  • Significant drop in water temperature recorded from noon to 4 PM as the Californian headed westward. This strongly indicates that she came under the influence of the Labrador Current as early as 4 PM when she was somewhere near 48° 25' W longitude.

* Letter to Senator Smith from Stanley Lord dated May 11, 1912, and forwarded by P. A. S. Franklin, VP of IMM Co., to Senator Smith on May 25, 1912.


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Finding the Average Current Set and Drift Morning of 15 April 1912

An overturned lifeboat (Collapsible B) was seen by Capt. Rostron amongst the wreckage morning of April 15th. Mackay-Bennet tried to pick up same overturned boat on April 22nd which was in the vicinity of other wreckage and bodies, including Col. J. J. Astor.

Working back from the wreck site, the probable stopping point for the Titanic comes out to be about 41° 46.5' N, 49° 55.5' W. This result is just about the same as in the findings of the 1992 Reappraisal of Evidence Relating to SS Californian of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch of the Department of Transport.


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Affect of Current on the Track of the Californian

Assuming a 1 knot southerly current component was a affecting the Californian from about 4 PM onward when she was in "the Arctic current," the Californian would have been set 6.3 nautical miles south of her DR track by 10:21 PM.

By 2:05 AM her latitude would have drifted down to 41° 52' N.


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The Parisian (rated 14 knots but going at 13) was bound for Boston via Halifax from Glasgow. She was heading due west on 41° 55' N when she passed 3 large bergs in longitude 49° 14' W (probably about 5:11 PM).

Can We Learn Anything From the Parisian?

  • Some Observations

  • Major ice field extending north-south that blocked shipping was encountered near longitude 50°W.

  • No indication in her ice message to Californian that she had to change course immediately after passing those 3 icebergs (as Capt. John Knapp of the Hydrographic Office in Washington assumed).

  • By 8 PM the Parisian reported being 13 miles south of the track she was on earlier that afternoon.


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Bearing S.S.E. by Standard CompassSomething Overlooked in the MAIB Report

  • Californian's 3/O Groves and 2/O Stone both confirm stopped steamer was bearing SSE by compass (135° true).

  • Titanic's distress signals were seen to come directly over stopped steamer by 2/O Stone and Apprentice James Gibson.

  • From the Titanic the Californian had be on a line-of-bearing of 315° true.


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Where Was the Californian?Californian on 315° True Bearing Line From Titanic

"We were talking about it all the time, Sir, till five minutes past two, [by wheelhouse clock] when she disappeared." - Gibson (BI 7533)

"I sent Gibson down to you and told him to wake you and tell you we had seen altogether eight white rockets and that the steamer had gone out of sight to the S.W." - Stone (written report to Capt. Lord 18 April 1912).



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