Californian 5 or 6 miles off My Challenge


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Dave Gittins

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Mar 16, 2000
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I will be away for a few days and I’ll leave a challenge with the forum.

Can those who maintain that Californian was within 5 or 6 miles of Titanic during the sinking answer the following questions?

1. Why did those on Californian not see Boxhall’s numerous green flares? They were keeping sufficiently good watch to see Carpathia’s rockets. From 5 or 6 miles the flares would have been obvious. Carpathia saw them from much further off.

2. Why was not Californian immediately obvious to those rowing towards Carpathia after dawn on April 15th? No doubt many were only looking towards Californian, but many were looking aft as they rowed. From their eyelevel, a ship the size of Californian would have been perfectly obvious if 5 or 6 miles off.

3. Explain how Californian came to be so far south of her last definitely truthful DR latitude.

I don’t want tales based on evidence from unqualified witnesses, or reports that were written down up to 40 or 50 years after the event. These are just three technical questions that must be answered if the 5 or 6 mile story is to be believed. If, as I maintain, Californian was more than 10 miles off, they are all answered.

Happy debating, folks!
 
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Nov 2, 2000
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Hi David!

1) The Californian originally said they saw no rockets at all. So, it wouldn't be surprising to for them to lie about anything to protect themselves. Also, one would tend to notice the rockets and not the flares as I believe the rockets would be much more of an attention getter. Whereas, on the Carpathia, they were the ones who shot them up, so all they'd notice is the flares.

2) Rowe and Hutchison I believe said ( I'll check exactly who later), the Californian was always there. 2 Carpathia crew members also saw it there at 6 am before she started up again as did Moore. Also, we Carpathia getting closer, all the attention must have been on her as right it should be. And once the rescue process started up, they were also too busy to think of other things.

3) I assume drifting in the Labradour Current.

Btw, check out this link. The maximum distance between the Titanic and Californian using the theoretical limit on viewing objects on the horizon states they could have been no more than 18.4 miles apart even assuming the crewmembers were on the same level height wise as the Titanic which they weren't. The max distance would be less than 10 miles if we use an approximate height out of the water of about 40 feet for Californian and use 15 feet out of the water for Titanic which would have been accurate as Californian reported seeing her lights until just about the end. Here's the link anyway: http://home.earthlink.net/~hiker1217/Lights/Lights.html

Best regards,

Michael
 
Nov 2, 2000
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Dave,

Californian listed her 730 position by dead reckoning. This would have placed her about 6 miles south of where she thought she was at 1130 and about 10.5 miles south of that at 230 as the Labrador Current was running north-northwest at around 1.5 kts. This alone would place her slightly over 10 miles away. The position given ,in the "adjusted log Lord gave out", at 1020 when she stopped was also too far north based on her 730 reported position and course. Lord changed his stories numerous times. IMHO, he threw the scrap log out and adjusted everything to place him just far enough to not have seen Titanic. Note: 18.4 miles is supposedly the theoretical max of viewing something on the horizon and he just happened to be 19 miles away. Of course all of this about the log is speculation since it disappeared, but I think we all know, even if we don't want to admit it, this most likely happened.

Regards,

Michael Koch
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Michael,

Just a couple of comments to help you in your argument:

I would not get wrapped around the axle over the scrap log, myself. A "scrap" log is not an official document, and is meant to be discarded after all relevant information has been entered by the Chief into the ship's log (which IS an official document, and is, by its nature, an "adjusted log"). Granted, Lord made several poor decisions...in the matter of the scrap log, a more perceptive Master might have instructed his Chief to keep all documents for possible use at some future date. On the other hand, the argument could be made that Lord and Stewart saw no need to deviate from normal procedure, simply because they didn't believe that they held material relevant to Titanic's sinking (I'm not putting words in their mouths, just making the point that there can be two sides to a story).

I had some doubts about your reference for the distance-to-horizon calculations, so I first read Andrew's Hall justification for the 18.4 figure, then ran my own calculations, using a standard distance-to-horizon calculator. First off, the theoretical distance-to-horizon from an average-sized man standing on Californian's bridge was 8.2 NM. OK, that matches closely enough. Titanic's sidelights could then be seen at a theoretical distance of 17.5 NM. That also generally matches Andrew's figures, but I don't know why he chose the sidelights, as they could not be seen at that distance. If he had chosen Titanic's masthead light, which was visible over these ranges, then the max theoretical distance would have been over 22 NM. At any rate, I don't see any nefarious coincidence with the 19 NM figure. If you think Lord said 19 NM just to stay outside the visible horizon, then someone is forgetting about the height of Titanic's masthead light. At least that's what my calculations tell me...you might want to run the numbers yourself.

Parks
 
Nov 2, 2000
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Parks,

I see your point about the masthead light. Thanks for bringing it to light, pardon the pun. J What's the exact equation to compute how far you can see on the horizon? I was just using Hall's numbers as well. As far as the ship log goes though, from what I've read, scrap logs were important being they contained the raw initial commands. I thought I remembered reading at more than source that they were not normally thrown out.

Regards,

Michael.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Michael,

Simply put, the equation is: 1.17 times the square root of your height of eye equals the distance to the horizon (in nautical miles). To figure the max distance you would expect to see an object before it's obscured by the horizon, you have to perform the equation twice (using first the height of your eye and then the height of the object you're looking at) and add the two results together.

As far as the scrap log is considered, I can tell you from personal experience that the scrap log is only used as a rough draft, if you will, until the relevant information is transferred to the ship's log; hence, the name "scrap." Oftentimes, the quartermaster of the watch enters the entries into the scrap log. Since the ship's log is a legal document, it is the responsibility of the Captain, who normally delegates that responsibility to the Chief Officer in his capacity as the Senior Watch Officer, to smooth those entries into an official record of events. That, in itself, explains why the scrap log exists...there is too much error that can be introduced into a log at the time of entry, so the scrap log was adopted to capture the initial impressions, which would later be smoothed for the legal record. After the Chief completes a day's worth of entries, he usually tosses out the scrap log. The reason? There can only be one ship's record.

Now, all I am saying is that there's nothing nefarious about the scrap log being thrown away. There's nothing in this explanation that would prevent a Master or his Chief from excluding or altering entries while smoothing the official log, but then he would also have to bring the watch officers into collusion, for the latter are required by the legal nature of the document to put their signatures to the entries for their respective watches. If you wanted to make the argument that Lord or Stewart altered the log to suit their purposes and then coerced the watch officers to stay silent about the changes, then there's nothing I could say that would disprove that. However, you would have to prove that allegation, and I think that would be hard to do. I am aware of the closed-cabin meetings that Lord had with his officers on the return to Boston, but I'm not aware of any proof as to what they discussed.

Parks
 
Nov 2, 2000
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Parks,

I still have strong suspicions the scrap log was thrown out to protect Lord and the officers hushed. However, as you say, there's no way to prove it. But if my life depended on speculating whether Californian was 20 miles away or 10 or less, I would say there is much more evidence pointing toward the latter. I'm pretty sure, we'll never know for sure though.

Michael.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Michael,

You're right...we'll never know. But allow me to say one more time in a different way that if I were digging along the lines of your argument, I would look more for collusion among Lord and Stewart or coercion of the watch officers in smoothing the official log than worry about the scrap log. The contents of the scrap log cannot be inferred by the simple fact of its absence, but there is testimony that can be evaluated regarding the activites aboard Californian during the remainder of her voyage.

As far as the 10 NM range is concerned, I can only state my personal opinion. In my watchstanding days, I could identify a ship by hull class at 10 NM during the day and identify the type of ship (we had general categories for identification purposes, such as Group IV Merchant, a modern category in which Californian would be classed if she were still afloat) by her lights at night. I have a hard time envisioning the Californian watch being confused to the extent that is inferred in these debates by a ship at that range. In my view, either the words handed down to us are deliberate and carefully-orchestrated lies or they weren't looking at Titanic.

Parks
 
Nov 2, 2000
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Parks,

I think regardless of how far she was away, Californian saw Titanic. The bit about seeing the ship looking queer with a big side of the water seems like damming evidence to me. I believe these are Groves and Stone's comments about how the mystery ship appeared.

One final educated guess on all this Californian business: If Californian's 730 pm dead reckoning placed her 19.5 miles from the wreck site and the drift was 1.5 kts/hr to the south-southeast as estimated, I would say they were right around 10 miles apart. This would make sense since the morse could only reach about 10 miles. However, there is the bit about Californian starting up at 610 and reaching the latitude of Carpathia and 5-6 miles west at 650. This would make it more like 5-6 miles away. Again, you have the pro-lord's theories as well. I think with the conflicting evidence, the 10 mile distance seems like the most resonable and appears somewhere in the middle. I wish they do some in depth documentaries on all of this though. We have already had about enough investigating on exactly how the ship sink, broken in 2 and what angle and such. It sure would be interesting to see more about the Californian Story!

Regards,

Michael.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Michael,

Well, then, maybe you're just the right kind of person to write the story. You might check with George, though, because I believe he said once that he was either preparing a manuscript or assisting someone else in writing one.

I'm not sure what to make of the "big side out of the water" comment. I can't match any of Titanic's movements with that comment. Did Californian have an unbroken line of sight view, or was there any ice in the way that altered the appearance of the distant lights?

You're right about one thing...there definitely is conflicting evidence. I have read pro- and anti-Lord theories and have thrown my own experience into the mix. I come up with no conclusion that I feel comfortable with; in fact, I sincerely doubt that this issue will ever be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. But, one can always hope.

Parks
 
Nov 2, 2000
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Parks, that's an interesting thought you made about Californian possibly being obscured somewhat by icebergs. That would surely be a possiblility being that she was on very near the northeastern edge of the ice field. As far as the "big side out of the water" comment, I also forgot to mention one of the officers said it looked as if she were listing or words very similar. Finally, regarding research, I really don't have the time with a family and FT job, however I do seem to spend an aweful lot of time here though, don't I! J

Michael.
 
Mar 18, 2000
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George stated he had supplied an unpublished manuscript of his to another researcher, for his use in preparing something, probably a book.
 
Oct 23, 2000
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Dave G.:

Looking through his bincoculars, Apprentice Gibson saw a faint detonating flash on the deck of the ship, a faint upward streak from the rocket, and finally the rocket itself going off.
Wouldn't such a detailed observation been possible only at 5-to-6 miles?

Richard K.
 
Oct 23, 2000
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Here's an additon to my original post.
From Gibson's secret affidavit to Captain Lord:

"I then watched her for some time and then went over to the keyboard and called her up continuously for about three minutes. I then got the binoculars and had just got them focused on
the vessel when I observed a white flash apparently on her deck, followed by a faint streak towards the sky which then burst into white
stars."

As I've said, what Gibson saw could surely could only have been seen at 5-to-6 miles, couldn't it?

Richard K.
 
Nov 2, 2000
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Tracy,

It's possible, they were mistaken for a twinkling star. As someone else mentioned, the signal-to-noise ratio was likely high that night. Another explanation, was she was right around 10 miles away which was the limit of the morse lamp. As I stated earlier, going by dead-reckoning and using Lord's position as gospel, the drift would have put Californian 10 miles away. However, Lord's position at 1030 was a little north of what one would expect given her 730 position and course even taking into account the dead reckoning observation. I suppose she could have changed her course in that time, but we wouldn't know that with the scrap log missing.

Regards,

Michael
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
Ahhhhh...let's not forget that the morse lamps in use then were not very powerful. Instead of using searchlights with movable shutters such as what you see today, these things just used low powered bulbs. You wouldn't be able to see them at any worthwhile distance.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Oct 23, 2000
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The fact that the officer's on watch on the Californian saw the Carpathia's rockets shortly after the stranger to the south had vanished, and then another ship appear which was undoubtedly the Carpathia herself, to me, indicates that they MUST have been close to the T.
I mean, how could they have seen the Carpathia's rockets AND THEN THE CARPATHIA HERSELF if they were out of sight of the Titanic? It just doesn't jell.

Richard K.
 

Logan Geen

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Dec 2, 2001
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Lord himself stated in the American Inquiry that they had a pretty powerful morse lamp that should have been seen at about 10 miles (see Wyn Wade's book) but I wouldn't neccessarily believe it.
 
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