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Aaron_2018

Titanic - 1912 Pocket Watches - Important Research

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Good evening everyone.  I am researching the Titanic disaster minute by minute.  The ship sank in 1912 and a number of pocket watches were recovered from victims and survivors in the water.  Can anyone please tell me how long their pocket watches would continue to work once they entered the water?

 

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A number of survivors said the ship had broken in two and they observed the stern section remain afloat for a long time.  The movies and documentaries show the stern sinking almost immediately, but I prefer to believe the survivors.  I was hoping the watches that were recovered might tell us how long the stern remained afloat after she broke in two.  Here are some of the stopped watches.  Would they immediately stop working the instant the owner fell into the water, or would they continue for some time?  Does each watch depend on the quality and manufacturer?  Thank you for any advice.

 

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- the pocket watches were not water resistant

- the water was freezing cold (if I remember correctly)

- water itself is not good for a watch movement regardless of type or quality

I would say that once a watch got into water it would stop ticking after a couple of seconds, maybe minutes, tops.

The people that wore these watches (or maybe they fell into the water from various places) most likely got into water at various times and so that's why the hour is the same but there's a difference in a few minutes between them.

Water will make some really small and fragile parts have to work harder and they'll meet resistance which will, most likely, make the movement stop, eventually.

Edited by gimli

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That's quite a sobering thought. Timestamping, I suppose the investigators could verify eye witness statements against these watches to a degree. 

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Thanks.  The official time of the sinking was marked as 2.20am because that was the moment her lights disappeared and many assumed the ship had gone down at that moment, including several of the surviving officers who also believed she sank intact.  However other survivors who were closer to the ship or still on the ship had stated the Titanic had broken apart and that her stern remained afloat for up to 20 minutes and that she sank around 2.30am. e.g.

 

Mr. Clench

"The lights went out after the second explosion." (Her lights disappear and many think she has sunk).  "Then she gradually sank down into the water very slowly."

Q - How long a time would you say it was after the second explosion before she sank out of sight?
A - I should say a matter of about 20 minutes.

 

Mr. Archer

He heard two loud explosions and was asked how far apart in time did they occur.  "I should say they would be about 20 minutes between each explosion. From the time I heard the first one until I heard the second one it would be about 20 minutes, sir."
 

However senior figures like 3rd officer Pitman said the ship 'disappeared' at 2.20am and he assumed she had completely sunk.  He then stated that there were several explosions heard after she had disappeared and he told the Inquiry that they occurred after the ship had sunk i.e. after 2.20am.

 

Mr. Crowe

"She sank around half past 2, from statements made by a man that was supposed to have jumped from the poop of the ship, that is, the quarter deck, into the water.  He had a watch on, and as his watch stopped at 20 minutes past 2, he said she was in a sinking condition then and her stern on end, a man named Burnett, a storekeeper aboard ship."

I was hoping to piece together the watches from the passengers and crew who were both on the bow and the stern which might indicate how long the stern remained afloat.  I believe the ship broke apart at 2.20am because that is the time that many on the bow had entered the water, and the remaining survivors and victims held onto the stern and their watches stopped near 2.30am.  Could this indicate that the stern remained afloat for 10 minutes or is it possible that the stern sank immediately after the bow and their watches continued to work in the water for 10 minutes?  Many thanks for any advice.

 

 

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I think the other thing to bear in mind is that it's very unlikely that any of the watches were set to the exactly correct time back then.  It depends how diligent the watch owners were at setting the time each day or two, how accurately they did this and whether some deliberately set their watches fast (my wife habitually sets all the clocks in our house about 5 minutes fast as she hates being late, for example).  I would guess that there may have a master clock on the ship that passengers could use to set their watches, but that's only a guess, and it was a big ship, so there's a good chance that some of those watches may not have been set for some time.  I'd say there could easily be a +/- 5 minute error between the watch displayed time and true time before the ship sank, so trying to pin down times is going to be harder than just working out roughly how long it took for a watch to stop after being immersed in water.

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