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Californian...a question.

Discussion in 'Ships that may have stood still' started by Steven Christian, Dec 5, 2018.

  1. I've been reading thru the threads on this...the fors and against. I know its been covered over and over but I have a simple question. If it took the Californian 3+ hours to reach the sinking site in the morning, why wouldnt it have taken her that long to reach Titanic the night before? Curious.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2018
  2. Harland Duzen

    Harland Duzen Member

    One reason is that had the Californian responded and begun heading towards Titanic at night, Lord would of had to have gone slower to avoid collision with an iceberg and putting his crew and ship in danger* since he would't be able to see the ice so well in the darkness.

    Another possible problem was that with Titanic sending out the wrong distress position, Californian would have been heading to the wrong position and then had to back track (this happened in the morning but with the rockets, this might not have happened).

    *To summarise a captain must protect / put his crew and ship first which is why the Mount Temple stopped upon encountering ice so not to jeopardise herself.

    there are several other factors but hope the above makes sense.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2018
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  3. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    I believe she would have reached her in time (assuming they headed for the distress rockets and ignored the false distress position).

    Captain Lord was asked:

    Q - Could you have navigated with any degree of safety to your vessel at night through the ice that you, in fact, encountered?
    A - It would have been most dangerous.
    Q - What would you have done? No doubt you would have made an attempt?
    A - Most certainly I would have made every effort to go down to her.

    The irony is the Carpathia went full speed ahead and dodged many icebergs, and her Captain received the highest praise for endangering the lives of his own passengers. As the popular saying goes - 'The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.' Captain Lord of the Californian testified that he was willing to take the risk and steam to the Titanic's rescue (had he known she was in distress) but, instead the press blamed him for the enormous death toll.

    1912 headlines


    Captain Rostron said - "Although I was running a risk with my own ship and my own passengers, I also had to consider what I was going for."

    Q - To save the lives of others?
    A - Yes; I had to consider the lives of others.
    Q - You were prompted by your interest in humanity?
    A - Absolutely.
    Q - And you took the chance?
    A - It was hardly a chance. Of course it was a chance, but at the same time I knew quite what I was doing. I considered that I was perfectly free, and that I was doing perfectly right in what I did.
    Q - I suppose no criticism has been passed upon you for it?
    A - No.
    Q - In fact, I think I may say, for my associates, that your conduct deserves the highest praise.
    A - I thank you, sir.

    "I knew very well that there must be ice about. I went full speed, all we could." "We were passing icebergs on every side and making them ahead and having to alter our course several times to clear the bergs." "We saw about half a dozen. In fact, more than that. I was moving about to get between them."

    Last edited: Dec 5, 2018
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  4. Harland Duzen

    Harland Duzen Member

    Another issue is how close or far away she was to Titanic. Depending who / what you believe she was between 5 - 21 miles away (roughly summarising here) and as the "A Reality Check* " paper calculated, at 8 miles distance with extreme luck^ she would arrived just as Titanic was foundering. While she was probably further away, it complicates both the possible rescue attempt and where she was stopped April 14th.

    *The Californian Incident, A Reality Check

    ^I say "extreme luck" as the paper implies a situation where the Californian sees the rockets, communicates and immediately heads for Titanic after seeing the first few rockets and then speeds though the ice field without incident.
  5. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    True, although if she were within 10 miles then the Californian may have been able pick up survivors in the water using cargo nets. Would have been a horrific sight if they arrived in time to see her go down.

    californian1912.png .
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  6. The real issue is not whether Californian could have got to the area in time to save anyone, but the fact that she never tried during the entire time distress signal were being sent up. As to the original question asked, it took Californian about 2 1/2 hours to reach Carpathia in the morning because she took a long circumferential route to get there; unnecessarily crossing miles of pack ice twice.
  7. I think the real issue boils down to the big " IF'S ".
    "IF" Californian had only tried to wake up the wireless operator and "IF" things "MIGHT" have been different ?
    There seems to be no question that more would have been saved 'IF" Californian had gotten there on time.
    But "IF" so , how many more could have been saved ?
    And "IF" all could have been saved ?
    And probably many more "IF'S" ???
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2018
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  8. Mike Spooner

    Mike Spooner Member

    No doubt this subject as been discussed many time over the years now!
    I say to myself I am not a legal or marine expect. So I have probably like others have read the books by Sean Molony, Leslie Harrison, Peter Padfield and Paul Lee. What ever book you read one can see there is a probably here? Not all authors may not quite agree with each other. But never a less it's plainly obvious there was evidence available and never used in the two inquires?
    As professional which would like to trust to tell the true about a marine disaster! Lawyers or Marine expects?
    If you look at the time scale when the US inquiry was open. Titanic sank 15 April 1912. Senator William Smith will have authorisation for the inquiry to take place by 17 April and start the inquiry by the 19th 10.30 morning. That only gives him only a day and half to prepare and gather in the evidence. Were other Senators who will assist him, who have limited experience in sea matters and will show up in the inquiry. John Knapp is the only one who does have experience of sea matters and produce a icefield map with inaccuracy probably due to the lack of time. 83 witnesses which 53 are British subjects held in a luxury hotel ballroom Waldorf-Astoria with a time limit of a week.
    The only person who understands legal proceeds is the Lawyer Senator Smith. (One has to ask why did what to take on the inquiry in the first place)? But never a less in that time scale and period in Washington how can one be possible to gather all the information in such a short time? With other witness could offered information but never asked. I see the US inquiry as a stab in the dark and just bumbling along for the answers?
    The UK inquiry is not much better either. As one can see to day disaster inquiry take months of investigation before starting a inquiry. So what was the hurry to have an inquiry so soon after the disaster! Was it for political reason in a temp to cover up for the Board of Trade blunders who had failed to move the time on safety issues. National pride is at stake here to. Briton at the time as a sea nation must be the envy of the world. Largest Navy, largest merchant navy, largest ship builders full of steam technology, setting the bench mark for other nationals to follow. Board of Trade the ones who set the regulations for seaworthy certificates which is require by law for paying passengers. One can see if there had be any length of time to investigate into the loss of Titanic before the inquiry the Government would of been in a difficult and uncomfortable times for them.
    Never mind a hundred years ago it goes to day. When any Government make a screw up, do they come clean about it! They always try there best to squirm out of it. Personal I believe it's the worse thing to do. They would gain a lot more public respect and trust if they were put up there hand. OK were have made a mistake and this the plan been put forward to rectify the problem. It's only matter of time when the real true will come out followed by public distrust with what Governments have say.
    I see the UK inquiry the case with very clever legal professionals who will cover up for there mistakes. In fact in Paul Lee book there is an question in the way the inquiry was conducted if the inquiry was legal in the first place!
    As in any discussion for the real true you must hear the story from both side. As for Captain Lord he never got that chance to tell side of the story if it was possible or feasible for him to reach the Titanic in time. It all very well for the law telling you must responded to distress rockets. But any captain must consider his own safety ship and personal first. I ask if he had move one mile towards Titanic would he be covered by law?
    Reading those books as mention above give you a very different point of view for the real true.
    So back to my early reply. Who do you true for the real true on a sea disaster. Lawyers or professional Marine expects?

  9. Ok thanks for that. I recentley read that she left around 5am and didnt reach Carpathia until 8:30 am. I will go double check the times from different sources. Thanks again.
  10. I think it would have been the ideal on those inquiries if they had had both lawyers to handle the legal questions and professional Marine experts to handle those questions of that nature.
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  11. Mike Spooner

    Mike Spooner Member

    This is the very point I am trying to make. If you want take expert advice whether Captain Lord could or not reach the Titanic in time, who would take advice from. Professional sea or Lawyers? Just remember it's was Lawyers have come to this conclusion. As I am not a sea men but seeing from experience marine experts point of view were I can see Lord would of face quite a challenge on hand. No captain in is right mind would reacted on seeing the first rocket 12.45pm. Just remember the rockets do not say TITANIC on them! Titanic is not the only ship out there therefore you need information before you go charging into a icefield. It' too easy to treat as a computer game were just pressing key buttons hay presto problem is solved. Titanic reporting the wrong position will only delay in time. TIME IS THE ENEMY. If he has only got the guide line of rockets to follower in the pitch dark with no search light and with no experience of icefield condition to, he certainly got his hand full of worry times for his ship to arrive there in one piece and not joining the Titanic at the bottom of the Ocean! If the ship is 19-20 miles away as the crow fly, that is soiled icefield to push through. It's only Lawyers who claim the ice was soft therefore no problem to push through. The only safest way in the real world is to sail out of the ice field east then turn right. (Dog leg) Total miles now? 25-30.
    So in your wildest dream if he had set of at 1.0am what time do you think is a good time arrive to a sinking ship? If Titanic had sunk by 2.20am. O though there is case it might of been early as 2.00am.
    Was it ever work out how long does one take and the logical problems to transfer 1500 of a sinking ship in the inquiries? I am no expert I thought you are looking at lease 40-60 minutes if not longer. If that was the case you need to arrive at about 1.20am and have travelled those miles with all in 20 minutes!(Wow).You are also at great risk of running over unlit lifeboats to. Was this every discussed in the inquires? Who say he was less than 10 miles away? Lawyers not marine experts!
    However I wander if he had made attempt at 1.0am and travelled only a few miles towards Titanic before she sank. Would Captain Lord been covered within the law responding to the distress rockets?
  12. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    The irony is, more lives could have been saved if the Californian had just steamed away immediately before the Titanic had seen them, because Captain Smith must have expected they would see their rockets and come immediately to their rescue, and he even ordered the lifeboats to row towards her and ferry the passengers and then return to the Titanic to collect more. If that ship was not there, then the lifeboats would have been filled properly and remained close to the ship because they had nowhere else to go. e.g.

    Survivor Alfred Crawford
    "He pointed to a light on the port side, the two masthead lights of a vessel, and told us to pull for there and land the people and return to the ship.......He pointed in the direction of the two lights, and said: “Pull for that vessel; land your people and return to the ship.” Those were Captain Smith’s words."

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  13. Julian Atkins

    Julian Atkins Member

    Stewart should probably have kept this to himself, but at the British Inquiry in 1912, he urged Captain Lord to go down to the ship where rockets had been fired from.

    The time of this most interesting discussion or heated debate between the two is shortly after Captain Lord had been got up to the bridge when dawn had broken on the morning of the 15th April, and both Stewart and Captain Lord could see a ship where Stone had reported to Stewart just after 4am had been firing rockets much earlier in Stone's watch.

    At 5am or shortly afterwards, Captain Lord wanted to proceed on the Boston Course, but Stewart wanted him to go down on the Eastern side of the ice field to where this other vessel was in the same location Stone had described seeing the rockets much earlier in the night.

    (The above discourse alone provides a further slant on what Stewart understood of what Stone told him just after 4am when the watch changed).

    We have to consider distance, time, and speed.

    I actually think The Californian proceeded on her course to Boston very slowly through the icefield and very cautiously around 5.15am, and then this 'advance' was halted and Captain Lord ordered to wake up Evans, the Marconi operator. There is some debate when this happened as per The Californian witnesses, but John Durrant's PV on The Mount Temple is most helpful, as ever!

    Evans himself, like Cottam on the Carpathia for quite different reasons, kept no proper PV. Cottam was exhausted, and Evans was just an idiot.

    The conversation between Stewart and Captain Lord is quite important in my view around 5am on the 15th April. Stewart wants Captain Lord to go down the Eastern side of the ice field to the vessel where Stone had seen the rockets though Stone had told Stewart after 4am it was not the same vessel firing rockets.

    Captain Lord overrules Stewart, and The Californian's engines are started up and she proceeds very slowly westwards on the Boston course. At some point, and I don't think the testimony accurately described what went on - I think myself Stewart asserted himself and said get Evans up, rather than this being Captain Lord's response as per the testimony. Captain Lord then halted his progress through the ice field to await Evans being woken up, and what would ensue.

    Captain Lord's dash at high speed after the official MSG from the Virginian has always seemed to me to be far fetched and contrary to what we know of an ultra cautious Captain Lord that night!

    The descriptions from Captain Lord in the Boston Press of The Californian dashing through the western side of the ice field serve a number of purposes. Distance, time and speed. If The Californian did not proceed at full speed, and this principally relies upon Captain Lord's own evidence of this alone, then The Californian was closer to where Titanic sank, and Captain Lord's heroic dash was much less, as all we know of the cautious Captain Lord, on his first time to Boston, and the first time for The Californian as well, is that he would not have made a dash in ice infested waters even in daylight.

    That he crossed the ice field from the western side to the eastern side at 'full steam' to reach the Carpathia is contrary to what we know of Captain Lord's cautious nature.

    Ogden's photos have The Californian noted as getting near/alongside the Carpathia as 8am. Groves also has an earlier time line.

    All the above suggests The Californian was closer and over a shorter distance and made a more cautious slower speed when the Viginian's Marconi wireless messages were received.

    That Captain Lord overruled Stewart to go directly to where Stewart wanted to go on the eastern side of the ice field is in some respects very complicated. I think Stewart had assessed things very well and was more 'with it' in modern parlance.


    Last edited: Dec 7, 2018
  14. The problem with all of this is that it is highly speculative. But then again, isn't everything else when it comes to Lord and the Californian?
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  15. Samuel Halpern -

    Thanks again for all your expertise .

    IMHO you have diagnosed the problem when it comes to the discussion of Lord and the Californian that there is so much speculation, so many opinions and so much conflicting information that some of us "landlubbers" are left in a state of utter confusion .

    I am neither much in the legal sense or maritime sense so I really can't say I have any thing constructive to add to this discussion.

    The only opinion I had was that if Californian had immediately gone to Titanic's aid , there would be no way that all could have been saved by Californian alone and Lord and Californian alone should not be blaimed for the death of 1500 persons. IMHO more could have been saved, but it would have taken a miracle to save all.

    As for lack of maritime knowledge let me repeat that one period of enlistment in the Navy and only a little of a half of that in sea duty in one specialty rating does not entitle one to earn being called a "sailor" or even an "ex-sailor", so it's best for us to sit on the sidelines and be silent observers.

    The good thing about this website is that you find out just how ignorant you were about a lot of "maritime subjects" and you learn so much about them !

    But I couldn't resist asking this question.:
    I know it would have been an impossibility.
    If both Carpathia and Californian could have have arrived at the wreck site soon as the CQD was sent , or say, within an hour or so , could all have been saved ?
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2018
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  16. Getting there is one thing, but what can you practically do is quite another, especially in the dark of night and icy cold waters. The best option would have been to transfer people using lifeboats between vessels, much as was done with Andrea Doria back in 1956. And that took hours.
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  17. Mike Spooner

    Mike Spooner Member

    I hear this discuss before and probably many times over the years too.
    If as stated by officers they can see a ship light about 5-6 miles away and the early launch lifeboats told to row towards that ship and return back to recover more from Titanic. How long will it take to get there?
    The ones who are rowing are not Olympic champion rowers. You need to be a fit person and coordination timing of oars are been synchronise so that the oars are entering the water at the same with equal pulling strokes. Sounds easy! Have you tried it! It takes time and practice, it all looks too easy when seen on TV and film.
    The lifeboats are no light weight either as to the ones use in racing.
    Coming up to 2 tons each. I would guest it will take at least an hour to reach that ship, and probably truly knackered and exhausted in doing so. Then the idea of rowing back! That sounds a bit of a strange one. Surely if you have reach the ship, wouldn't be more common sense and quicker for the ship come to Titanic!
    First life boat No 7 launch at 12.45am and if had takes two hours there and back 2.45am, which by that time 2.20am, the Titanic has sunk!
    If you were to average 50 per lifeboat and to recover 1500, that requires about 30 lifeboat trips. Was this ever brought up into the inquires?
  18. mitfrc

    mitfrc Member

    It would have been absolutely impossible to save more than a few hundred additional people using the boats to transfer considering the launching times of Titanic's boats and their initial loads, and the lack of any serious number of additional boats on Californian. And once Titanic sank, only cargo nets on the Californian would have saved anyone more -- almost all able-bodied men, if not entirely, if past wrecks have precedent. I agree and I think even if Californian had responded with alacrity that there would have been more than a thousand casualties. Granted that's still hundreds of people who might have been saved.
  19. Mike Spooner

    Mike Spooner Member

    I come back again who come up with this idea that Captain Lord could of rescued the 1500 in the first place? A legal man called Lord Mersey. Was he a marine expert? Nope. What was more alarming to assist Mersey he had:
    Rear Admiral S.A. Gough-Calthope
    Captain AW Clark R.N.
    Commander F.C.A. Lyon P&O Captain
    Professor J.H. of Naval Architecture
    Marine Engineer Mr E.C. Chaston R.N.R.
    Did he ask this experts of such a feasible idea?
    I cannot imagine for one moment they would ever agree to such a crazy idea as marine expects them self!
    So did Mersey ever ask them in the first place?
    I find it quite amazing a retired experience Judge a well respected man with a high standard of education, could come up without any concrete evident that such a plan was ever possible in the first place?
    Or was something to do with POLITIC the key factor?
  20. mitfrc

    mitfrc Member

    I suspect it was predicated on the assumption that the Californian would physically come alongside the Titanic, which would of course be recklessly dangerous for Captain Lord by any measure of sanity. Without the ships lashed together, which would be an unfathomable level of risk for any mariner, even the slightest swell would send dozens leaping the gap to their deaths, and the kind of consummate shiphandling required to keep the Californian in that close is impossible with a single screw freighter with triple expansion engines. It would, again, permit the saving of a few hundred able-bodied men, exactly like standing of (the only real option) would. But it certainly has to be what Lord Mersey was 'thinking' would have happened. In reality, of course, it would be a struggle to even save hundreds with the boats because of the issue with the gangways actually being open. It's quite possible several more of the ship's officers would actually perish, because when Californian arrives they're likely to go below to organize the gangways, and find themselves still there trying to save as many as they can when the gangways go under.

    I believe that with a ship on site for rescue and putting off the women and children, many men who simply pulled away in reality would have proved themselves incredibly brave with repeated efforts to take people off at the gangways up to the very end and in circumstances of utmost danger, but the logistics would have limited those feats to bare hundreds, not the full complement of passengers and crew. With Titanic progressively sinking lower a breeches buoy would have saved a dozen at most, assuming Californian had the rig for one.

    Once the boats have done all that they could, as the ship's final groans begin, they would pull away as hard as they could with all they had aboard. At that point, Lord, standing by, would wait for the Titanic to sink. When the stern finally slips below, with his cargo nets already rigged, he would go dead slow into the mass of humanity in the sea. Fully illuminated, she would at least be a clear, easy target for the surging mass. The strongest swimmers, in the water for a bare minute or two, would have the incredible advantage of hope and confidence, with safety and life only a hundred or two hundred yards off. They would have to reach the nets and with hands numb from the cold, drag themselves up to a point where the Californian's crew could save them. The melancholy scene of horror and terror would see a thousand people drowning as they struggled to reach the lights of the Californian and the desperate climb up her nets with the crew only able to rescue a few at a time with ropes in addition to those who could 'self-rescue' by the climb on the nets. It would create a very different popular dynamic to the wreck, too, since it is certain to even out the sex ratio--though the class ratio is likely to still be skewed because swimming was a de rigeur educational activity for young men of the middle and upper classes and they are the most likely to reach the nets.

    NOTE -- this assumes Californian arrives at least an hour before Titanic founders without a shred of concern or reference to the actual time required -- just to demonstrate the extreme difficulty with the rescue. If she were only 5 miles off Titanic and had extreme luck and utmost alacrity in responding to distress signals, it would play out something like this, in abbreviated form; at any greater distance or even the slightest delay, the number she could save would be even smaller.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2019