Skip to comments.What Time Did the RMS Titanic Really Hit the Iceberg?
Posted on 04/11/2012 9:58:58 PM PDT by beaversmom
As the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic approaches, I thought Id republish an article I wrote back on April 18, 2009. Ive updated the introduction and clarified some points, but the rest remains intact and is still relevant today. Enjoy. Barry
April 14 & 15 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. If you are like me, I enjoy thinking about events like this in real time. For instance, Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at 10:15 pm EST (Eastern Standard Time) on April 14, 1865. I currently live in this same time zone so on every anniversary (April 14), originally between the hours of 10:00 pm and 10:30 pm, I would imagine the series of events that took place minute by minute. Ive done this since I was a kid so please dont assume that Im certifiable (at least not just yet)! But a few years ago I realized that I had not factored in Daylight Savings Time. For you perfectionists, by considering Daylight Savings Time, the correct tim for these events actually should take place between 11:00 and 11:30 pm EDT.
In the sinking of the Titanic, a number of different factors come into play that mess up my little game so I thought Id spend a few minutes explaining them to you (lol). The accepted facts about the sinking are this:
1. The Titanic struck the iceberg at 11:40 pm on April 14, 1912. 2. The Titanic sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later at 2:20 am on April 15, 1912.
Now here is where it gets tricky.
The times noted above were based on shipboard time (the actual time on the ship). Calculating time at sea does not follow conventional land-based time zones. This was certainly the case in 1912. But to truly know what the time difference was, relative to other time zones, requires whose version of the events you use. It has become a puzzle for many, but two main time differences are generally considered.
The first is based on the testimony of Titanics Second Officer Charles Lightoller who put the time as being 1 hour, 33 minutes ahead of New York City time (Eastern Standard Time)(EST). The other is from Charles Bigham, known as Lord Mersey of the High Court of the British Wreck Commissioners Inquiry. Bigham indicated that the time difference was 1 hour and 50 minutes ahead of EST. As many of us are not lucky enough to be in the middle of the North Atlantic when the anniversary is celebrated, here are the adjusted times for Eastern Standard Time using both calculations.
Lightollers Version (1 hour 33 minutes ahead of EST)(-5)
1. The Titanic struck the iceberg at 10:07 pm (EST) on April 14, 1912. 2. The Titanic sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later at 12:47 am (EST) on April 15, 1912.
Lord Merseys Version (1 hour 50 minutes ahead of EST)(-5)
1. The Titanic struck the iceberg at 9:50 pm (EST) on April 14, 1912. 2. The Titanic sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later at 12:30 am (EST) on April 15, 1912.
But wait, there is more! For the real perfectionists out there, what about Daylight Savings Time in the Eastern Time Zone (EDT)(Eastern Daylight Time)? Well Daylight Savings Time was not a factor in 1912 as it didnt go into use in England, Germany and the United States until WWI. However, it is in effect today. So if you attempt to reenact the minute by minute events in real time by using the EST calculations listed above you will once again be incorrect. Assuming that you are in, lets say New York City for example, during Daylight Savings Time (EDT), then these are the correct times to base your real time reenactment.
Lightollers Version (33 minutes ahead of EDT)(-4)
1. The Titanic struck the iceberg at 11:07 pm (EDT) on April 14, 2012. 2. The Titanic sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later at 1:47 am (EDT) on April 15, 2012.
Lord Merseys Version (50 minutes ahead of EDT)(-4)
1. The Titanic struck the iceberg at 10:50 pm (EDT) on April 14, 2012. 2. The Titanic sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later at 1:30 am (EDT) on April 15, 2012.
Confusing! You bet! But if this kind of perfection turns your crank, then use this last set of calculations above to get as close to the truth (as we know it) as you can get. titanic
On April 14, 1912 I struck the iceberg at 11:40 pm shipboard time and sank at on April 15, 1912 at 2:20 am shipboard time.
So the next time you think about the RMS Titanic on the evening of April 14 & 15 know what time it really struck the iceberg and when it sank based on the two options above.. You could be the hit at your next Titanic party!
Note: If you are not in the Eastern Time Zone (such as New York City) and want to know the Titanic times as listed in the last example for 2012 times, go to any Time Zone Map and calculate the difference in hours between your time zone and the Eastern Time Zone, then either add or subtract the difference to find the correct times. For instance, California (PDT) is three hours behind New York City. Dont forget about Daylight Savings Time if applicable (in this case, it is).
Lightollers Version (3 hours, 33 minutes ahead of EDT)
1. The Titanic struck the iceberg at 8:07 pm (PDT)(-7) on April 14, 2012. 2. The Titanic sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later at 10:47 pm (PDT)(-7) on April 14, 2012.
Lord Merseys Version (3 hours, 50 minutes ahead of EDT)
1. The Titanic struck the iceberg at 7:50 pm (PDT)(-7) on April 14, 2012. 2. The Titanic sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later at 10:30 pm (PDT)(-7) on April 14, 2012.
Trick question. The Titanic never hit the iceberg. The Olympic did.
Anyway, there's a pretty strong theory FOR the switch:
Well, in the next few weeks every channel with Learning, History, Hitler, Knowledge, National, or basically every channel that runs some version of “Storage Wars” or “Pawn Stars” will be running about a bazillion hours of programming on the Titanic.
It will be in there somewhere...
Actually they should have been using Greenwich mean time, in order to navigate. They should have had at least one ships clock set to that time, it is essential to knowing exactly where one might be when on the ocean, no GPS in those days.
Very interesting. And thanks to stylecouncilor for the courtesy of this ping.
Later tonight, I'll remind all of those on the Titanic ping list about the showing of A Night to Remember on TCM this weekend. Based upon some of the times indicated in this article, it appears that the film will be broadcast very close to when the berg was struck 100 year ago. It will be shown at 10 PM on Saturday night, April 14, 2012.
Read an interesting and in depth piece this week (though written some time ago) that suggested that the titanic actually briefly beached on a submerged part of the iceberg below the ship, breaking rivets (substandard anyway?) and pulling off hull plates from the bottom of the double bottom, in fact causing some or all of the flooding to be from that angle. The piece cited one piece from the inquiry board with one seaman describing active air venting from a (dry) top of the double bottom vent hole in the bow just after the incident, implying that air was being forced out below. The piece suggested that the total ventable area from the double bottom to the above area would equate to the 12 ft sq. otherwise described.
There was considerable more detail in the piece, beyond my mechanical ability to easily explain at this late hour.
The author described where such plates would be found relative to the wreck, and it is worth reading imho. The author knows a lot more than me about the wreck in general.
I think it was a little while before it sank.
I am puzzled why there was any reference to New York time as the use of GMT was a standard and it was created by the British. As a communications tech in our military, we always used “Zulu” time which zero hour reference to GMT. Whenever we made any entries into a log or teletype communications, we had to log it in Zulu time. So my view is that the logs of the radio operators on the ship would have ended their transmissions with the GMT or Zulu time. Since they were telegraphed, the written logs of other ship that received the transmissions would be key to answering your question.
The following was copied from an on-line reference explaining the history of GMT.
As the United Kingdom grew into an advanced maritime nation, British mariners kept at least one chronometer on GMT in order to calculate their longitude from the Greenwich meridian, which was by convention considered to have longitude zero degrees (this convention was internationally adopted in the International Meridian Conference of 1884). Note that the synchronization of the chronometer on GMT did not affect shipboard time itself, which was still solar time. But this practice, combined with mariners from other nations drawing from Nevil Maskelyne’s method of lunar distances based on observations at Greenwich, eventually led to GMT being used worldwide as a reference time independent of location. Most time zones were based upon this reference as a number of hours and half-hours “ahead of GMT” or “behind GMT”.
That description gibes with what I recall about the wreck. Immediately after the collision, a seaman sent to the forepeak to investigate reported hearing “a hissing sound, as of air escaping under pressure.”. That might have been the vent air from the pierced double bottom. And the 12 square feet figure was substantiated by echograms Ballard’s team took of the submerged bow section of the wreck. Those seemed to indicate that the breach was much smaller than originally thought — on the order of 12 square feet. Or so I recall ...
my understanding is that the 12 sq ft ballard came up with was only from scanning the submerged starboard bow. I am not sure if it was even possible to image the bottom half of the double bottom.
More generally, I wonder at the value of the damage imaged by ballard since we don’t know how much of it was from the impact on bottom.
Wrong, you are certifiable. ;^)
I don’t think any scans have been done of the double bottom since it’s buried too deep in the mud. But the echo Ballard did was from the starboard bow and indicated a “gash” comprising approximately 12 square feet of total area. It isn’t likely the impact with the mud bottom could have caused a gash in the hull. However, it is possible that the interpretation of that echo is wrong, and that it shows not a gash but buckled hull plates that could indeed be the result of the bow section knifing into the bottom at high speed.
here is the article in question. The guy apparently has gone down a lot on this and other wrecks, states that he saw hull plates but was unable to photograph (in detail explained).
Anyone informed on the mechanics of the possible cause of sinking care to opine on his views?
This is interesting for a couple of reasons
1) the engine room telegraphs that have been recovered have all been set at slow ahead.
2) the tiller/rudder issue, if true, certainly puts a dismal light on it. The first time I heard Lightoller’s testimony recording, it was so rehearsed and seemed designed to exonerate white star of anything at all that it was hard to believe it was not distorted, but this claim is something else.
Interesting development. I too have puzzled over the engine telegraph settings. I assumed that Captain Smith ordered the stricken liner to proceed slowly just to test her seaworthiness after the collision, but I doubt he would have continued that experiment when it became obvious how damaged she was. However, none of the passengers report that the ship was still moving ahead once the initial momentum had been shed. And several reported that there was a deafening roar as the boilers, which had been stoked for “full steam ahead,” were vented when the ship went to full stop.
As to the rudder/steering issue, I would have to know much more about the helmsman’s background and the maritime engineering behind ship’s steering mechanics before I could speak to that.
I’m skeptical of these claims, especially by author with such a vested interest in raising new assertions about the incident. But I will say there is some minimal evidence to lend them credence.
The question the tiller/rudder issue brings to mind would require knowledge I don’t have to answer - basically how fast could the ship be turned and is it reasonable to expect that to be too slow to miss an iceberg at the expected visibility distance in the conditions that night.
I wonder if background on the person said to have made the error even exists now.
I don’t doubt at all that the inquiry was to protect white star, and furthermore I suspect that since only ismay lightoller and maybe 1 other person alive would have known of any tiller/rudder nav. error, it would have been pretty easy to hide.
Also since she is lightollers grandaughter and knew her grandmother, it is very likely that she was told *something* about the titanic. issues are credibility and distortion over time/memory.
Thanks. I had the same question.