The Delivery Trip : Miscellaneous Titanic Navigation Notes

These are some navigational items gleaned from the pages of Lloyd's List. They are given here as provided in the journal:

April 3rd Titanic: 150 miles E of Fastnet - Lizard 10.30am
April 4th Olympic: bound W 70 miles SE - Brow Head 9.6am
April 11th Titanic: bound NW 40 miles W of Lizard 23 knots - Brow Head 5.30am
April 12th Titanic: 250 miles W - Brow Head - 3.46am

Michael Hughes, the curator of the Marconi archives in Oxford, provides the following details from the Olympic's PV for April 3rd:

1.35p "TR Titanic" off Lizard Gd [Good, or GLD- Lizard?] sigs & fairly strong. Nil.
2.50p 1 to GNI [Isle of Wight] & MGY
3.0p 1 from MGY
4.15 1 to MGY
7.0p Leaving Cherbourg sigs TCF [Cherbourg] & MGY
8.47 1 to GNI & sigs MGY
9.40 2 to MGY

Unfortunately there are very few known navigational points during the ship's short life; one of which was the mention that the Titanic passed closer to the shoreline in South-west England than other ships had. We know from Edward Wilding that the Titanic achieved a speed of 23.25 knots during its trip south, and also from testimony in 1912 that the ship encountered fog for a few hours. The mention in the press that the Olympic passed the Titanic off Portland would seem eroneous, unless it means they passed each other in longitude? The Titanic herself docked at Southampton at 1.15am on April 4th, as can be seen in the port authority's records (below).

Please click on the image for a larger version.

Based on the research of Ioannis Georgiou, Steve Hall and myself, the path of the Titanic on April 3rd can be hypothetically reconstructed as follows.


The analysis was performed to ascertain if the Olympic and Titanic could have seen each other during the evening of 3rd April. As can be seen, the two ships were heading in different directions. It is possible that the very faint glimmerings of each other mastlights could be see from the crows nest - if one was looking in the correct direction. The Titanic was at 51°18'N, 2°13W (approx). The end of civil twilight was at 7.19pm and nautical Twilight was at 8pm. It would therefore be difficult to see anything at distance anyway.

The Titanic's route through the southern part of the Irish Sea and into the English Channel is shown in the graphic to the left. It does highlight one problem, though. The Lloyd's location of 150 nautical miles east of Fastnet is indicated. This was at 10.30am. Then the Titanic was supposed to be off Lizard at 1.35pm. The approximate distance between these two points is some 105 nautical miles; since the route is not known with any accuracy, this distance could easily be out by about 10 miles or so. If we take this 105 miles and divide by 3 hours, then we obtain 35 knots, which is well beyond the Titanic's capability. It is therefore safe to assume that times and distances are only approximate.

In the interminable debates that permeate Titanic circles one could note that, having been hindered by fog in the early hours of the morning, the crew would be keen to make up time. If the times and locations above are approximate, and if the ship was prepared to cut corners by traversing closer to the shore than normal (eg. Penzance), and if the ship managed to exceed 23.25 knots for some periods, then this approximately 100 mile distance could indeed by traversed.


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