A Ship Accused


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Kyrila Scully

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I just received the new Commutator which contained a personal account of the Titanic disaster by William T. Sloper, who claimed that a ship (which he later learned was the Californian) passed quietly passed his lifeboat by a few hundred yards, and it shocked me as I had never heard that tale before. I haven't yet completed David's book, so I don't know if there is reference to this. But is there any other testimony documented to corroborate Mr. Sloper's? He wrote his account while aboard the Carpathia and presented it to two of his friends who edited newspapers back home, according to this article.
Has anyone else read this piece?
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Unless the Californian passed his lifeboat in the morning while the Carpathia was actually picking up the lifeboats, I don't see how this can possibly be true. The Californian remained hove to until after sunrise, and did not come alongside the Carpathia until after 8:00am.
 
Jun 4, 2000
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Hi Kyrilla - Yes, I have Sloper's book so have read his account before. Given some of the other 'facts' filtered through the lens of 35+ years between the sinking and him writing the book, it's hard to take his report of Californian steaming quietly past his lifeboat seriously.

For those (like me) who don't receive The Commutator, Sloper's Titanic chapter is also available in Ship to Shore magazine (Spring, 1984) and excerpted in Sloper's ET biography. (As an aside, Sloper's book The Life and Times of Andrew Jackson Sloper is supposed to be about his dad but is much more about his own life and times... )


You haven't finished Dave's book? Now it's my turn to be confused... BTW, this thread is supposed to be about Senan MOLONY's book A Ship Accused (The Case of the SS Californian: Re-examined) and I have no idea who this Maloney character people keep referring to is. ;)
 

Dave Moran

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I have a worry regarding Senan's book, which I very much admire and enjoy by the way. Nevertheless, i have one nagging doubt.

Page 45 shows a swing-o-meter, which Senan himself admits is crude, which shows that if Californian stopped at 10.21 facing NE, then by 12.20 she would have swung to face ENE, that she would have swung by two compass points clockwise - which appears to this layman to be about 25 degrees - a swing of 12.5 degress per hour.

If so, Reade's theory about Californian's swing explaining the supposed mystery ship's movements to the observers aboard Titanic, is refuted. As Senan writes...

" It can only be guessed how long it would take her to swing the remaining points neede to open the red light on her port side to southern view. "

Fair enough - except that on page 126 the diagram at the bottom of the page shows that by 4.20 a.m. Californian has swung so far that she now faces West-northwest. This is a swing of about 270 degrees over six hours - about 45 degrees an hour.

Now, in that latter case, by 12.20 Californian would now be facing SE, and beginning to face on to a Southern observer. Over the next, crucial hour, she would appera to said Southern observer to swing open her red side light...

This concerns me - have I read the diagram wrong? It is not helped by the fact that conventional portraying of the compass is reversed on p 126, with North at the bottom and South at the top.

Corrections and comments welcome, folks
 

Kyrila Scully

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Must have had a thyroid/memory loss moment there ("David's book" - what was I thinking!) Anyway, I left my magazine at work, or I'd quote the passage in context. Mr. Sloper indicated that the ship passed them during the night, hours before dawn and within enough time after the sinking that many in the water could have been saved in his opinion. Very possibly the dark object he thought he saw could have been an iceberg, and in his shock and distress from the elements, mistaken it for a ship. I believe he mentioned a flask of brandy available as well, which could cause vision problems if consumed in copious amounts.
 
Oct 13, 2000
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referring back to William Sloper's account, I would give it very little credence. it is a strange little chapter in a strange book. as someone else pointed out, although purportedly a biography of the author's father Andrew Jackson, it is more about the author himself.

the Titanic chapter itself appears out of sequence with the rest of the biography's chronology. as a matter of fact it is the very last chapter in the book, it was a last minute addition, tacked onto the end of the book just prior to the book being published.

it is a very rambling, disjointed account, the entire chapter is just 23 pages long, yet it takes Sloper over six pages just to explain how he ended up on the ship in the first place! and although it is based on Sloper's original 1912 New Britain Herald report, it was expanded and updated by Sloper sometime during the late 1940s.

this is a classic example of how dangerous it can be to depend too much on accounts remembered long after the event has passed. Sloper claims claims to remember the night Titanic sank ‘as if it were 30 days ago', yet there are several bizarre errors in his 1949 account. the most glaring by far is his pronouncement that Californian steamed right past his lifeboat in the middle of the night. a perfect example of the mind playing tricks with what he remembered and what he read in the weeks that followed.

there are not many facts about the Californian that cannot be debated, but one of the few I think even most anti-Californian authorities would agree with is that Californian was stopped for the night and never moved till the following morning.

all the best, Michael (TheManInBlack)
 
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