A Ship Accused


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Erik Wood

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Aug 24, 2000
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If Tracy finds it in her heart I hope she will post a paragraph that she sent me via email from a incident investigator.
 
Dec 7, 2000
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Tracy please do!

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How can we think that the ships were 16 miles apart from each other, when we know where the Titanic sank, and where it rests today, and we know where the Californian was. Capt Lord was not lying about Californian's position, because her position was also reported prior to the Titanic sinking, and there was no need to fib at that time.

Also as I said before, and as Sen says, the Californian was bound for Boston. That city was a little above 42 degrees, so there was no point in going south of that. To do so would mean that Capt. Lord steamed off course … and what would be the logic in that?

Daniel.
 
Nov 2, 2000
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Paul and Daniel, just my best guess based on the morning run of the Californian and the positioning of Carpathia. The drift IMHO is the big problem here as Senan has shown as there is really no way to know exactly what the drifts rates/directions were. Paul, I'm not sure what to believe from Stone. He was obviously attempting to protect Lord here and even seemed to catch himself as he was attempting to explain how the rockets followed the ship that steamed SW toward 2 am despite the fact he only saw the red port light. The hard thing to discount regarding the distance is what people on the Titanic were seeing regarding lights, movement etc. From the testimony it seems more favorable that Californian saw Titanic than vise versa. I suppose it could be possible if the ships were right at the threshold distance of being able to see each other. It just seems the Titanic being higher out of the water would have had a better chance of seeing Californian. Then again as Titanic's bow was going down, it would be the reverse eventually. Were Californian's mast lights as luminant as Titanic's? I just have so many questions now =-)

Michael Koch
 

Tracy Smith

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Here is the paragraph that Erik mentioned. This is part of an article written by Diana Bristow in reference to the MAIB report of 1992.

One indictment of Captain Lord has stemmed from the image of him lying in his cabin in a drunken stupor, unable to act while TITANIC foundered within sight of his ship. In fact, Lord was virtually a teetotaler. Captain Marriott, who has obviously spent much time at sea and as an accident investigator, (such was never the case with 1912 investigators) has explained that which should have needed no explanation. A person who has been awake, continuously on duty with heavy responsibilities, for extended periods of time will become abnormally tired, and will rack up a 'sleep deficit' which must eventually be paid. Shipmasters, and their officers, like airline crews, are habitually forced into irregular and long periods of duty which produce mind-numbing fatigue, for they cannot simply 'get off and go home' at the end of an eight hour shift. The master of a vessel is theoretically always on duty, even when sleeping, for the master is always responsible for everything that happens aboard the ship. These long duty periods result in a very deep sleep which the body needs to catch up. When CALIFORNIAN's watch officer, Mister Stone, sent the ship's apprentice, Gibson, to tell Captain Lord that white rockets had been seen, Lord responded in a state of somnambulism that had nothing to do with alcohol. Thus what Gibson said to him did not really register, but the young man assumed that it had.
 

Adam McGuirk

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May 19, 2002
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I have made my opinions known on several occasions and why I think they way that I do. But there is something I would like to write that is in Captain Lord's defense that I haven't said. It was foolish of me to never take this into mind...........

I have been awakened before sometimes when I am in the middle of a good sleep. Sometimes I am half dazed until I am up for a few moments. Sometimes when you wake right up your not really fast on things. Like, Tracy mentioned, Lord would have been very tired. So what I am saying is, Lord being awakened that quickly, plus when you add the calm manner of Stone, it was probally not enough to just jolt him right up, he was half up and probally just not fully aware of things because he was all the sudden awokened. If Stone would have yelled things might have been different. With Roston I am sure he was half awake at first, but then Cottom acting all excited and coming to his cabin were enough to get him going.

Adam
 

Noel F. Jones

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May 14, 2002
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EXECUTIVE PREROGATIVE!

A correspondent of mine, ex-RN during WWII and with a subsequent career in fishing and operating pleasure craft in 'partially smooth waters', vouchsafes that:

In the early 1950s the BOT inspector for his pleasure craft told him that the headmaster of his school was the father of "the mate" of the Californian. And that it was this same mate who was on watch when the pyrotechnics were observed. On putting the master 'on the shake' to so report he was told that "passenger liners frequently put on firework displays at sea" and he was to disregard them. The exchange terminated with the mate being threatened with being logged for insubordination!

How this narrative holds up in the light of the BOT enquiry I am content to leave to the array. It continues:

The mate, when later working as a docker (longshoreman) in New York, applied for exoneration from censure (I am not aware that any officer of the Californian. was censured). This was refused on the grounds that "it is the sole responsibility of the man who has seen the distress signals to take the appropriate action".

The inference of this adverse decision is that the watch officer seeing the pyrotechnics should have recalled the radio officer to duty without reference to the master.

I offer that without comment. What's more to the point :

My correspondent cites a similar but diametrically opposed case of the watch officer of a Trinity House lightship who, on reporting seeing distress pyrotechnics at night, was informed by the master that he had been listening in to the concomitant radio messages and that no further action was necessary.

On returning to the bridge the watch officer sent out a D/F bearing on the entirely reasonable grounds that a cross bearing would be useful to those other vessels better placed to assist. He did this of his own volition.

The master regarded this as insubordination, for which he was subsequently censured by the Trinity House superintendency. On appeal – presumably to a committee of 'elder brethren' – the censure was lifted because the committee deemed it that it had been his prerogative to take appropriate action without reference to the master.

Thus it seems that two maritime judicial arenas have held that it was the prerogative of the watch officer to take immediate and appropriate action without reference to the master. Specific to Californian, that the officer of the watch (Groves? Stone?) who saw the pyrotechnics should have recalled the radio officer to duty without consulting Capt.Lord.

If there is any substance in what my correspondent says this seems to absolve Capt.Lord from all subsequent responsibility, albeit without according him any accolades for resolute remedial action. And it further incriminates 'the mate' by denying him any mitigating division of responsibility. Perhaps you might care to discuss ....

I shall merely stand by to report back to my correspondent.

Noel
 
Oct 28, 2000
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A word of caution about using "horizon distance" to determine the distance between Californian and Titanic. In theory, the "hill" of the curve of the Earth limits the distance to the horizon. The higher the observer, the greater that distance. However, the tables and formulae for calculating horizon distance do not take into account any atmospheric abberations. It is possible for one ship to have seen the other without the reverse being true.

Moisture in the atmosphere changes its optical characteristics. Light rays moving from less to more moist air can be bent, or refracted. This can cause a mirage condition called "towering" that brings objects into view that are physically over the horizon. The ice field between the two ships would likely have caused variations in the moisture content of the air that night. Without wanting to argue what was seen, I just want to point out that it is possible Titanic appeared to be much closer to Californian than it was it reality...and that Titanic never saw Californian at all.

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Changing to the subject of sleep deficit--that may have been the reason for Lord's inaction, but it cannot be used as an excuse. As captain, one of Lord's responsibilities was to get enough sleep to function. If he was too deprived of sleep, then that was a failure on his part for which he must be held accountable.

The fact that Lord was sleeping "all standing" on a couch indicates that he did not intend to do more than nap that night. He was refilling his sleep bank just sufficiently to function. So, I doubt the sleep deprivation argument (although it has a certain attractiveness).

There was a great difference between the way Lord was awakened through a speaking tube and Rostron by a personal visit. Lord's officers seemed hesitant to awaken their master, while Rostron's subordinates obviously felt no such restraint. To me, that is more indicative of the personalities of the captains than of their subordinates.
 

Tracy Smith

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Dave said:

The fact that Lord was sleeping "all standing" on a couch indicates that he did not intend to do more than nap that night. He was refilling his sleep bank just sufficiently to function. So, I doubt the sleep deprivation argument (although it has a certain attractiveness).

I agree that Captain Lord did not mean to do more than just nap that night. But I suspect that he slept more soundly than he intended, because that's what his body needed. And sleep deprivation appears to be the only logical reason for his seemingly inexplicable actions/nonactions that night. I can't accept the idea that he fully understood what was going on, then "just rolled over and went back to sleep". This would have been completely out of character for him, if his entire service record is taken into account.

Dave also said:

Lord's officers seemed hesitant to awaken their master, while Rostron's subordinates obviously felt no such restraint. To me, that is more indicative of the personalities of the captains than of their subordinates.

Well, we have no idea how Chief Officer Stewart or Third Officer Groves would have behaved in this situation; whether they would have had the same hesitancy as Stone did. We cannot assume that they would have acted in the same fashion as did Stone. To blame Lord for Stone being uncomfortable with him is to absolve Stone of responsibility for his own behavior. If Stone had indeed understood that he was seeing distress rockets, he cannot be excused for not being more assertive in waking Lord because he was in awe of his captain. Indeed, the idea that Stone put his own feelings and personal comfort ahead of the needs of a ship in dire need of assistance is to put Mr Stone in a morally untenable position.
 
May 12, 2002
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Hi Dave,

You're absolutely right about the effects of moisture and temperature on the refractive index of air. It's the same effect as a mirage in the desert. What I don't follow is your statement that one ship can see another but not vice versa. The path taken by a light ray is reversible, ie if a light ray can go from Titanic to Californian (and be seen by someone on board), then light can equally well travel back from Californian to Titanic *along the same path*.

Out of interest, do you have any figures on how far towering extends visual range near an ice field? Would it make a significant difference to the figure of 15 miles I gave above? From memory, you need pretty big temperature / moisture gradients to make a large difference.

Cheers

Paul
 
Oct 28, 2000
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Paul--

That the melting of the ice during the day would have produced a different amount of moisture in the air above is easy to predict. Without a "way back" machine to travel back in time to that night, however, there is no way to know how much difference there might have been.

I have seen mirages of this sort on many occasions. Once, I saw a lighthouse displaced at least 50 miles north of its actual location and enlarged to the size of a dirigible hanger. The mirage shimmered, but was completely recognizeable down to the muntons in the windows. At the time, however, it was a good 35 to 40 miles away from my location, and was hidden from direct view by a large headland.

One-way vision is not uncommon at sea for various reasons. This is implicit in the Rules of the Road: for two ships to be "in sight" under the Rules each must be able to see the other. Why vision doesn't work the same both ways is something that I don't have the training or book learning to explain. All I know is that sometimes things are not the same looking north as looking south.

The point of the discussion is not to come to any absolute conclusions because that is impossible. Rather, I just want to warn against over reliance on theoretical horizon distances based on the heights of eye of the observers. Height of eye is a critical factor, but not the only one.


Tracy --

Both Lord and Stone placed themselves in a morally untenable position by their actions/inactions on the night of April 14/15. Neither man acted properly in the situation that they faced -- apparent distress signals from a nearby ship.

Lord was obviously a different sort of commander from Rostron. It is axiomatic in any hierarchical organization that the performance of the group reflects the qualities of the commander. If a captain expects and encourages action from his subordinates, that's what will happen. Or, if the captain expects subservience, that will occur. This is why I say that Stone's failure to properly awaken Lord was most likely a reflection of Lord's command style. As a subordinate, Stone had done all that was expected of him by his commander.

The problem here is the critical difference between reasons for action/inaction and excuses for for acting or not acting.

Stone may have had reasons for being less than emphatic about waking his captain. Lord's reason for not acting may have been that he was sleeping heavily and groggy. Both are reasons for their actions. But neither reason excuses either man from failure to act upon the suspicion that some nearby ship might be in distress.

Uncertainty over what Stone observed does not absolve the two of the requirement to have acted. After all, life was at stake that night, or rather 1,500 lives were. The mere suspicion of a nearby ship in trouble should have motivated the two men. Their failures to act put them on untenable moral ground, not my observation of those failures.

-- David G. Brown
 
Aug 14, 2002
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I think it is significant that both the U.S. Senate and Britain's Board of Trade investigations came to similar conclusions regarding the Californian. Britain looked upon Senator Smith as a buffoon and his investigation as nothing more than amateurs at play,yet had to agree as far the Californian evidence was concerned. As for which ships were where, Smith relied on an investigation by the U.S. Navy's Hydrographic Office to place who was where.Not that the Hydrographic office was incapable of error, it just shows Smith knew enough to ask for professional help rather than rely on hearsay.

Chuck
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Charles, I think you'll find that Lord Mersey had the sense enough to do the same, although whether or not they gave it the attention it deserves is a whole 'nother smoke! The one thing I can give Mersey's people credit for is that they were a lot more thorough. At least he had the presence of mind to call all of the Californian's officers.

Senetor Smiths conclusions were drawn from some very flimsy evidence. The number of people from the Californian called were two people. Gill and Lord. (The "sellout" and the chap who was under suspicion. Lovely!) As to the hydrographic office, if you ever get Senan's book...and I hope you do...you'll see that he's covered that ground pretty thoroughly, and in so doing offered some damned good arguements that Captain Knapp may have in effect "cooked the books" in regards the data offered as evidence.

Whether Senan is right can certainly can be debated, but it can't be dismissed...although I'm sure some will try.
 
May 12, 2002
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Hi Dave,

Thanks for your reply. I was merely interested to see if there were typical numbers. Seems there aren't! I agree that refraction could make the top of a taller ship visible to a shorter one and not vice versa, but Gibson could see everything from at least the bridge up on Titanic. Anyone at that height on Titanic would have been able to see anything from Gibson's position upwards on Californian as well (if refraction is the only effect). Perhaps other effects came into play (or not)?

Cheers

Paul
 
Aug 14, 2002
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Michael,

Sounds as if I'll have to get Senan's book. I've been thinking about how we scour the transcripts and it is similar to how we correspond on this message board. Just dry words on paper or on this screen. Sometimes people get an entirely different idea than the one we were trying to convey. Could it be that Captain Lord conveyed an image through his demeanor or voice that led people to believe he had something to hide? I have no way of knowing, but the people present had the benefit of those visual facial expressions that can sometimes tell much more than words. If a picture is worth a thousand words than how much is physical presence worth?

Just musing, Chuck
 
Dec 7, 2000
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I think it is significant that both the U.S. Senate and Britain's Board of Trade investigations came to similar conclusions regarding the Californian

Indeed ... they also concluded that Titanic did not split in two ...
 
Aug 14, 2002
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Daniel,

Many people thought the ship did not split including Walter Lord. When 3 out of 5 witnesses testified to that effect. People had to base their opinion on the "best evidence" available at the time. Naturally Ballad's photographic evidence is now the best evidence. Your analogy does not address my point about reading body language and demeanor, which we cannot done by looking at printed transcripts.

Chuck
 
Dec 7, 2000
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Many people thought the ship did not split including Walter Lord. When 3 out of 5 witnesses testified to that effect. People had to base their opinion on the "best evidence" available at the time.

My point exactly. Everyone was so convinced that the ship sank in once piece. They were proven VERY wrong in 1985.

Your analogy does not address my point about reading body language and demeanor, which we cannot done by looking at printed transcripts.

I don't remember actually addressing that analogy, or attempting to. My point was to show that two inquiries into Titanic had made wrong conclusions, at least about the evidence with regards to how many pieces the Titanic sank in. The same could be with the Californian issue. The inquiries asked questions that favoured and concluded that the Californian was a short distance away.

As with the how many pieces the Titanic sank in, so should the Californian issue have been laid to rest in 1985. Titanic's real position at the bottom of the ocean was confirmed, and we for the first time found out how inaccurately it was reported in 1912, this further added credence to the pro-Californian argument, which people still do not accept.

Daniel.
 
Aug 14, 2002
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The inquiries came to the conclusion that the ship went down intact because the majority (not all) of witnesses testified to that effect. Most witnesses who were closest to the ship said it split. Does that mean that those who said it did not were lying?. It was probably too dark for those further away from the ship to see what really happened. I don't think it necessarily proves that because the inquiries were wrong on this point that ALL of their conclusions are suspect. Before 1985 The Californian could claim the ice flow lay between the two ships and the Titanic was 11 or 12 miles West and 10 miles
South of her position. The actual Titanic location puts both ships on the same side of the
ice flow.
Chuck
 
Mar 18, 2000
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Sorry, Charles, but the majority of the witnesses who testified did NOT say the Titanic sank intact.

Some sample work on most of the US Inquiry says:

8 people said it broke apart
34 people did not say one way or another, and were not asked about it
3 people said it sank intact (and 2 of the 3 were officers)

I suspect the Senators came to the conclusion it sank intact because they bought into the senior officer's testimony - which, under normal circustances, should be a good way to go.
 
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