A PV Solves a Puzzle

Mar 22, 2003
Chicago, IL, USA
Senan Molony has once again put his unique interpretation of evidence in an abortive effort to draw conclusions that just don't stand up to careful analysis. In his latest work Senan concludes that an entry in the Proces Verbal (PV) of the Mount Temple for 06:00 NY time contained an "after-notation" that the Californian became visible some time after 05:20 NY time but before 06:00 NY time.

The exact entry in the PV for 06:00 that is being made available at the Bodleian Library in Oxford had:

"6.0 Much jamming. MPA + MWL in sight."

MPA as we know is the call sign for the Carpathia and MWL is the call sign for the Californian.

The entry that preceded this for 05:20 NY time in the PV was:

"5.20 Sigs MWL - Wants my position - send SA."

Ship's time on the Mount Temple was 1 hour 46 minutes ahead of NY time. Time on the Californian was 4 minutes ahead of the time on the Mount Temple making it 1 hour 50 minutes ahead of NY. So to keep a single time reference, let's convert all times to Californian apparent time ship. This means the 05:20 NY time PV entry corresponds to 7:10 AM Californian, and the 06:00 NY time PV entry corresponds to 7:50 AM Californian.

What Senan is claiming from this discovery in the Mount Temple's PV in the Bodleian Library is that the hull of the Californian was not seen at 7:10 AM. However, by 7:50 AM the Californian and the Carpathia were both in sight. We also have testimony from Capt. Lord that the Californian passed the stopped Mount Temple about 7:30 AM, and we also know from Capt. Moore that when the Californian passed by it was within about a mile of the Mount Temple. If Capt. Lord is right about the time he came up to the Mount Temple, then at 7:10 AM, 20 minutes earlier, the Californian would have been just over 4 nautical miles away running at her maximum of 13 knots toward the Mount Temple. And furthermore, her entire hull would have been easily visible from the bridge of the Mount Temple if at twice that distance away.

What else do know about the Californian and Carpathia locations that morning? According to Capt. Rostron's testimony, he claimed that when he first noticed the Californian it was about 8 AM, and the Californian was about 5 to 6 miles away and bearing WSW true steaming towards the Carpathia. Clearly at about 8 AM the Californian was south of the Mount Temple and heading eastward across the pack ice straight toward the stopped Carpathia who was picking up lifeboats.

Now to Question 9244. Mr. Butler Aspinall asked Capt. Moore, "And I think shortly before 8 a.m. you came in sight of the “Carpathia” and the “Californian”? To which Capt. Moore replied, "Yes." Senan believes that this question must have been based on the 7:50 (Californian time) entry in the Mount Temple's PV. Now that question may well have come from Aspinall reading that entry if the PV was a copy of the same that is now in the Bodleian Library. It should be pointed out that the copy of the PV given to the American Inquiry did not have that specific information written in it. But assuming that Aspinall said 8 AM because of what was written in the PV, does Moore's affirmative response mean that the Californian and Carpathia were first sighted at 8 AM? No it does not. We know the Californian came down from the north having first crossed the pack ice going westward between 6:00 and 6:30. It then had to go southward and pass the Mount Temple before turning eastward to cross the pack ice again to get to the Carpathia. About 8 AM it was already approaching the Carpathia. Both Capt. Lord and Capt. Rostron agree on that point.

So what does that PV entry for 7:50 AM Californian time mean? What it most likely means is that Durrant, the Mount Temple wireless operator, was told that the Californian and the Carpathia were both in sight and appeared to be only a few miles apart from each other. Durrant made a short entry in his PV that simply said "MPA + MWL in sight." It does not mean that they were first sighted at that time or shortly before.

Now what about that 7:10 entry that said that the Californian asked for the Mount Temple's position? Does this imply, as Senan suggests, that they were not well in sight of each other? Not at all. As I stated above, if Lord was right about the time he passed the Mount Temple, then at 7:10 they would be only about 4 miles apart. The reason for that question is simple. Both captains wanted to compare what they had for their current estimated positions. A few minutes before, at 6:55 AM Californian time as it turns out, the Mount Temple took a Prime Vertical sight of the sun which showed that she was at 50° 09.5'W longitude, over 3 miles east of the SOS position. Their latitude however was not known with any certainty. And it is not clear that the Californian had taken any sights since the previous day. As Capt. Moore explained at the American Inquiry, "When I get him to confirm my position, I ask him if he can give me his position." The notation in the copy of Mount Temple's PV submitted to the American Inquiry read: " 5.20 Sigs. M. W. L.; wants my position; send it. We're very close." Those last three words tend to suggest two things. The coordinates exchanged between the two were not very far apart, and/or the strength of the received wireless signal was very strong indicating close proximity at 7:10 AM.

Now to the testimony of Capt. Moore at the American Inquiry and his reference to the Californian at 6 AM. Let's put it all together:

"...after coming southward and trying to find some place I could get through, on the way back again - I suppose about 6 o'clock in the morning - that I sighted the Carpathia on the other side of this great ice pack, and there is where I understand he picked up the boats. So this great pack of ice was between us and the Titanic's position...This pack of ice between us and the Carpathia, it was between 5 and 6 miles. She did not communicate with me at all. When we sighted her she must have sighted us...The Californian was to the north, sir. She was to the north of the Carpathia and steaming to the westward, because, after I had come away and after giving up my attempt to get through that pack, I came back again and steered back, thinking I might pick up some soft place to the north. As I was going to the north the Californian was passing from east to west...He was then north of the Carpathia, and he must have been, I suppose, about the same distance to the north of the Carpathia as I was to the westward of her."

Now in reading all of Moore's testimony it is clear that all times were given ship time references except when he was reading directly from the PV. The sighting of the Carpathia at 6 AM was not a reference to NY time but to apparent time ship while he was still steaming back to the north after a failed attempt to find a open passage across the ice south of where he originally stopped. We also know from Lord that the Californian was steaming from east to west across the pack ice between 6 AM and 6:30 AM. This exactly matched Moore's description of what the Californian was doing about that very same time. Did Moore actually see the California at that time? Well Senan will argue that he didn't say "I sighted" the Californian or use other such words. But read carefully what Moore was saying. "As I was going north the Californian was passing from east to west." He didn't say the Californian "must have been passing" east to west, he said "the Californian was passing" from east to west. According to Senan Moore's statement about how far north the Californian was located is only an assumption because Moore used the words "must have been" and "I suppose." But is Moore's estimate really an assumption, or is it just an estimate given while in the process of trying to visualize the situation while responding to a question. It's like responding to someone who asks "what time did you wake up last Sunday two weeks ago?" where you have to think in real time about the answer.

Now some people have taken all of this too far the other way. They assume because Moore said the ice field was 5 to 6 miles thick that Carpathia was therefore only 5 to 6 miles away and therefore the Californian had to be only 5 to 6 miles away from the Carpathia at 6 AM. Not true. Rostron said that his ship was 4-5 miles from ice field when it got light enough to see it in the morning. Moore only said it was the ice field that was 5-6 mile thick, not that the Carpathia was up against the edge of the field on the other side. Together this could easily put the distance between the two ships at closest approach roughly between 9 and 11 miles. And the distance of the Californian to the Carpathia was an estimate based on what Moore probably observed at the time the Californian was cutting across the ice. It very easily could have been based on the apparent distance between the Mount Temple and the Californian appearing to be about the same as the distance from the Mount Temple and the Carpathia, in which case the distance between Carpathia and Californian before the latter headed westward across the ice field could easily have been anywhere from 12 to 16 miles especially since the thickness of the ice field up where the Californian was crossing was only 2 to 3 miles across.

On a separate note, it would be nice to see a transcript of that PV beginning on April 14th, not just from 1.25 AM April 15th, so it can be compared to the copy given to the American Inquiry. The other thing I noticed is the call sign for the Baltic is wrong in that PV if it was copied correctly when the article was written. It was listed as M.B.L., but the actual call sign for the Baltic was M.B.C. and is correct in the PV submitted to the American Inquiry.

I do agree with Senan on one point, the devil is in the detail.