Californian passengers were there any


Mar 28, 2002
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Hello all,

I came across this story this afternoon while googling. It's an interesting account of how an 8-year old Russian immigrant, Polly Harelkin, travelling on the Californian, spotted the rockets fired by Titanic and how her father lifted her up so that she could get a better view.

Published in The Canora Courier (Saskatchewan, Canada) on 4th March 1998:


Now, according to the Titanic Inquiry Project, there were no passengers on board the Californian that night.

I believe the girl's story is completely untrue but can someone confirm that no passengers were being carried at the time of Californian's encounter with the Titanic?

Cheers,

Boz
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Very strange. So much circumstantial stuff about the pimple and small pox etc. At the most charitable, one might conclude it is simply an error about the ship she travelled on. I've never heard anything except that the Californian carried no passengers at all that night. There are other errors in the tale, of course, but that doesn't mean so much in itself. It does sound, though, as though Polly herself really believed all this, but she was only 8 in 1912.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Polly's recollections of being on deck at such a late hour do seem to be fanciful, but I'm not so sure that the entire story is untrue. If I remember right, there is somewhere on that same website or on a linked site a listing of abstracts from ships' manifests stored in Canadian and US archives. This supposedly includes all sailings known to have brought Doukhobor immigrants from Russia to Canada directly or via US ports. I do recall that the Californian was listed as arriving in Boston with 6 passengers, but I can't vouch for that. Surely there is somebody here who has checked out the Californian's manifest?
.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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8-year olds do not sleep on board ships. Far too exciting. I can personally vouch for this having been forced by over-exuberant offspring to forego a keenly-anticipated evening bingo session ... well, it was only the Pride of Bilbao...
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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It's obvious trash. Lord sailed from London, not Liverpool, without passengers.

6676 Did you leave London on April 5th –Yes
6677 For Boston? –For Boston
6678 You arrived there, I think, on April 19th ?– Yes, I am
6679 Did you carry any passengers ?–No

There is something about Titanic that shakes the galahs from the gumtrees and brings out the bats from the belfries.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Can't help think you're passing up the opportunity of a topping conspiracy theory here, Dave. Obviously, Lord had the 6 passengers banged up in the brig, under threat of Guantanamo Bay if they revealed the state secret of California's whereabouts on the fateful night ...
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Iain, that particular table can be found here.
Unfortunately, it's just a table they cobbled together themselves and for whatever it's worth, I don't believe it. Nobody on the Californian testified to carrying any passnegers and some testified specifically against it. I would think that were any aboard who had seen what they claimed, they would hardly have kept quiet about it.
 
Jan 21, 2001
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Neither here nor there, but that article at:


lifted the entire "More about the SS Californian" directly off my website - word for word from my opening "Review" page. If that's all the research the Canora Courier did, then it makes me wonder how deeply they looked into the validity of her story.

Dave Billnitzer
 
Apr 22, 2012
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It's quite amazing how many people claim to have some connection with the tragedy. This reminds me of the old man who claimed to be the last surviving rescuer from the Carpathia.

How far away could the ship's rockets have been seen? Dumb question here, but could it have been possible that she was on another vessel somehow?
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>but could it have been possible that she was on another vessel somehow?<<

Only if it was the Titanic. Even if you buy into claims of "mystery ships" the only speculation I've seen entered into evidence as to what the purported "Mystery Ship" was included such plebian craft as Cod bankers, tramp freighters, etc. While I'm open to the possibility of a ship in between the two, it sure does seem strange that the crew would have kept quiet about what they saw. Sailors aren't exactly keen to keep secrets like that and passengers are even gabbier. While some freighters were known to have some basic passenger accomadation, not all of them did, and *no* records have been found to indicate any were in the area as close as the Californian was.

As to Cod Bankers, these fishing craft are quite common along the Grand Banks. In fact they were common enough that some tended to get run over by the large express liners. (Which is one possible reason why a number of them have "Vanished without a trace" in that area.) The problem with this is that a Cod Banker is the sort of working vessel that doesn't carry passengers.

Regarding the socket signals fired by the Titanic, it's not inconcivable that they could have been seen at up to 15 to 20 miles away if refraction was helping things along, but I don't see how they could have been seen at any range much beyond that. Any way you twist this around, I just can't reconcile anything about this lady's story with reality. That the website with this claim simply stole a section of David's website whole cloth *without* credit or attribution (A violation of copyright laws that a reputable source wouldn't have anything to do with) tells me that they aren't particularly interested in doing their own research and fact checking.

Why should I trust them?
 

Henry Loscher

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You can put this story to bed. It never happened. Quote from a very authoritative source. THE SHIP THAT STOOD STILL, bu Leslie Reade. Page 18, para 4. "By 1912 the Leyland Line offered a Second Class passage every Saturday, London to Boston, for 10 pounds, or Boston to London for $50, but on this particular voyage, beginning 5 Ajpril, 1912, The CALIFORNIAN's accommodation for the 47 passengers permitted was unoccupied.The source of this is from the British Enquirey questions 6679-82

6679 Did you carry any passengers? asked by the Attorney General Answer from Captain Lord. NO.

6680 Do you carry passengers at all? Answer. Sometimes we do, we have accommodation for passengers.

6681 You have a certificate as a passenger ship? - Yes.

6682 Home many passengers would you carry? - 47 we have accommodation for.

I hope that satisfies you.

Henry Loscher
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>D'ya think they asked Ken for permission to use his painting?<<

I have no idea. But if they nicked that paragraph from David Billnitzer's site without his permission (And he of all people should know whether or not he gave permission) that hardly inspires confidence in the rest.
 
May 3, 2005
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>>Now, according to the Titanic Inquiry Project, there were no passengers on board the Californian that night.
I believe the girl's story is completely untrue but can someone confirm that no passengers were being carried at the time of Californian's encounter with the Titanic?<<

In ANTR, Captain Lord remarks, "Well, our passengers aren't in any hurry. Wouldn't be with us if they were."
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>In ANTR, Captain Lord remarks, "Well, our passengers aren't in any hurry. Wouldn't be with us if they were."<<

As much as I like ANTR, I have to point out that not everything within is completely reliable, and that includes the memories of the witnesses that Walter Lord interviewed. Captain Lord was quite emphatic that he wasn't carrying passengers in his testimony, and the lack of any passenger list supports that. If he had been, you can bet that the immigration authorities in Boston would have taken note of any such. At this point in time, they were sticklers for that kind of thing and tended to be really unamused with undocumented passengers aboard any vessel entering a U.S. port.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Robert is quoting a line from the film screenplay. That was written by Eric Ambler, not Walter Lord - ie by a dramatist rather than a historian. The makers of ANTR did want to retain a basis of historical accuracy in their film, but not to the extent that they (or their audience) were overly concerned about minor points such as this. For the purpose of debate about historical issues, no useful evidence can be obtained from a screenplay.
.
 
May 3, 2005
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Right On, Michael and Bob !

The makers of ANTR did take a few "literary licenses", too. ["Lightoller (Kenneth More) gets all the good lines."] :)

However, this line could be taken either way - if - or if not - there were any passengers aboard - " [They] wouldn't be with us if they were [in a hurry] ." :)
 

Dave Gittins

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In fact, the makers of ANTR took so much liberty with the Californian affair that they triggered Captain Lord's final quest for a re-examination of his story. The scene of him in his bunk must have been particularly annoying to a man who kipped fully dressed on the chart room settee.
 

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