Titanic and the Traverse Tables

Recent discussions regarding the possibility that the SOS position sent by the Titanic was incorrect due to mistakes made in applying the traverse tables make interesting reading.

Traverse tables have been used for about 200 years to solve the mathematical problems involved in short distance sailing.  The tables simply tabulate the results of relevant trigonometric calculations and would have been extremely useful to navigators in the days before electronic calculators became available.  However, it should be noted that, although traverse tables are reasonably accurate for short distance sailing, they are not accurate over long distances (over 600 nautical miles).  This is because data in the traverse tables is calculated using ‘straight line’ trigonometry which cannot be applied to long distance, great circle sailing involving the use of ‘spherical trigonometry’.

An exposition of the use of the traverse tables is given in my book ‘Astro Navigation Demystified’.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s