|Third Officer Herbert Pitman and Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall both had testified at the American Inquiry to the effect that the Titanic altered course toward New York at 5:50pm on
April 14. Neither one of them mentioned anything about the turn being late.
Mr. PITMAN. Yes, we were supposed to be at the corner at 5.50.
Senator FLETCHER. What do you mean by that?
Mr. PITMAN. That is 47° west and 42° north.
Senator FLETCHER. At 5.50 p.m. you turned what you call the “corner?''
Mr. PITMAN. The corner, yes.
However, at the British Inquiry, a few weeks later, the story that was told somehow changed, and a myth was born.
15173… (To the Witness.) Do you know at what time the course that the steamer was to take was mapped out that day? – [Pitman] Yes, noon.
15174. And, so far as you know, was the steamer's course deflected at all from the course that had been marked out at noon; did it vary to the south, or in any way from
the course which had been marked out at noon? - Yes, I considered we went at least 10 miles further south than was necessary.
15182. But you say he gave instructions to alter the course of the ship? - The course was altered at 5.50. They were the Commander's orders.
15183. Ten miles further south. Was any record made of that at the time? - No, and I thought that the course should have been altered at 5 p.m.
15184. Why did you think so? - Judging from the distance run from noon.
15214. In your opinion did she change her course sooner or later than she ordinarily would have done. She changed it, you know, at 5.50? - That was later.
15215. Then, in your opinion, had she gone in a south-westerly direction longer than she ordinarily would have gone? - I thought she had gone for three-quarters of an hour
longer on that course than she should have done.
An expected arrival time at the “corner” between 5:00 or 5:05pm is truly ridiculous. Since we know that the “corner” was about 126 miles from the ship’s noontime position, a distance
easily calculated by subtracting the distances of the ship's known daily runs from the total distance from Daunt's Rock to the “corner,” a speed in excess of 25 knots would have to have
been achieved. Unlike Herbert Pitman, Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall was very careful not to agree with Pitman’s time from noon to the “corner,” several times denying that it was he
[Boxhall] that said that the turn was delayed by about 50 minutes. But Boxhall did agree that the ship ran a good deal to the south and west beyond the “corner” when her course was
altered at 5:50pm.
The reason for coming up with the delayed turn story can be traced back to the erroneous CQD position worked out by Boxhall. To reach the Boxhall CQD position, which happens to be
about 146 nautical miles from the “corner” point, a speed of about 24½ knots would be required, assuming the ship had indeed turned the “corner” at 5:50pm. A reason was therefore
needed to decrease the mileage between the ship’s alter-course point and the famous Boxhall CQD position to get the speed of the ship down to the more reasonable value of 22 knots as
assumed by Boxhall. Since everyone, including all of Titanic’s surviving officers, believed Boxhall’s position was correct, they had to assume that the ship must have passed the “corner”
point much earlier than 5:50pm.
So where did Mr. Pitman get his 5:00 to 5:05pm expected time of arrival at the “corner” from? That answer turns out to be quite simple. Pitman simply started from Boxhall’s CQD
position at 41° 46’N, 50° 14’W, and worked the problem backwards as shown in the graphic below. Using a speed of 22 knots, he goes along a heading of 086° true, the reciprocal of
Titanic’s last known course heading of 266° true, for 5 hours and 50 minutes; time difference from 5:50pm to 11:40pm. That gets him to an alter-course point at 41° 55’N, 47° 22’W. He
then goes back along a heading of 061° true, the reciprocal of the ship’s 241° true heading from noon to the “corner,” for another 5 hours and 50 minutes; the time difference from 12
noon to a turning time of 5:50pm. The point he reaches, 42° 57’N, 44° 50’W, turns out to be just over 111 nautical miles from the corner point at 42°N, 47°W. At 22 knots, it would take
Titanic just about 5 hours and 4 minutes of steaming to cover that distance. Thus Mr. Pitman’s: “I thought that the course should have been altered at 5 p.m.”