See if you can find David Brown's book, "Last Log of the Titanic" for a seaman's explanation of why the lookouts didn't see other ships' lights off to the sides. Timothy's and Adam's explanation pretty much concur with David Brown's. The lookouts were on duty to watch out for objects in the ship's path, anything that might cause danger of collision, and specifically to keep an eye out for ice and small growlers - not objects miles away on one side or the other.
Men on the bridge spotted lights ahead almost immediately after the collision, when Titanic had stopped and swung around enough to face north; ie, facing the Californian almost directly head on.
"Can someone please answer the question of why the lookouts did not see any lights from another ship untill after the collision."
Yeah, what they said.
But seriously, I don't think anybody *can* say for sure. Fred Fleet himself couldn't explain it, years later when Leslie Reade interviewed him.
But the question itself may be slightly backwards. Even as close as 8-10 miles -- most people seem to think that's a tad *too* close nowadays, but not by much -- Californian would have been be a mere speck of light on the horizon amidst a star-studded, moonless sky. She wasn't a passenger liner proper (and she didn't have any passengers that run), so she wouldn't feature any characteristic blaze or glare of light on the decks (for the benefit of the passengers, not the ship). She was only about half Titanic's length. And Leyland liners were typically so "low-slung" in profile that they were occasionally humorously described as "two masts and a funnel passing to the eastward", or similar wording.
Rather than "How could they miss it?", the more realistic question might be, "How really likely were they to see it at that distance?"
And Boxhall said the red and green lights weren't initially visible, which is consistent with Californian's heading before she swung around to show them. So all they could have seen for awhile was a white light, perhaps. Not easy to pick out from all those stars, especially since the ships were both stationary.
George Behe has an excellent new page on his web site, which depicts the apparent size of Titanic at various distances -- none terribly extreme. It's amazingly good (I'd done something similar myself), and you'd be surprised how downright tiny even a behemoth like Titanic can look a few miles away, especially bow or stern on.
In the early stages, all Californian would have shown is her sternlight, which was much lower than her steaming lights. It was probably below Titanic's horizon. As she turned round, the steaming lights would have become visible.
I've just looked at George's site and he's done a fair job. I'm very used to seeing ships at night from a known distance because where I sail we have a quarantine anchorage that gives me a known point of reference. From six or seven miles off it's obvious what kind of ship is there, particularly if binoculars are used. Deck lights reveal cranes and other hardware. That's if the ship is beam on to the observer. If she's head or stern on, she could be anything.
As I've shown on my own site, we are dealing with very small images, just a few minutes of arc wide. I'm not surprised that Stone and Gibson were not able to tell what they were seeing.
Those stars can be really pesky. I once fell for an old trick myself. I mistook Venus for the masthead light of a fishing boat approaching me. I woke up when the light got closer to the horizon instead of higher. I'm convinced that certain stars did confuse people, notably Capella and maybe Mirfak.
Melinda, the current is not relevant, since all the ships, boats and bergs are in the same current. There would be some small variations between them due to differences in draft. The boats were poorly crewed and probably making very little speed, maybe a knot or two. I'm almost certain that some were rowing for a star, especially Capella. Some thought so at the time.
Most importantly, judging the distance of a light is difficult for experts and impossible for amateurs, especially if you don't have any idea of its intrinsic brightness. How many people do you know who can estimate a distance of a mile on dry land in broad daylight? I have no faith at all in the estimates of distances from either ship. The witnesses on Titanic differ by about ten miles!
Dave wrote: "In the early stages, all Californian would have shown is her sternlight, which was much lower than her steaming lights. It was probably below Titanic's horizon. As she turned round, the steaming lights would have become visible."
Dave: Excellent insight. I hadn't considered any possibilty of a difference in relative height for the stern light, and that would make a good deal of sense. Thanks!
"Sidelight -- a colored light shining from dead ahead to 22 1/2 degrees abaft the beam. Placed on the bridge wings. Red light shows to port (left): green light to starboard (right)." [from David Brown]
Hmm. Thinking out loud somewhat here. Since Groves described the ship he saw stop at 11:40 p.m. as about 3-1/2 points abaft the starboard beam, the above would imply that Californian had yet another 1-1/2 points (about 17 degrees) to swing to starboard before her green running light would first come into view.
But I'm curious: I recall one of the Californian's crew -- possibly Lord himself -- stating that the helm was deliberately(?) left hard a'port when the Californian was stopped. Is this a standard nautical practice, perhaps used to minimize linear drift? (If a ship can't anchor, is the rudder typically left hard over as a sort of "substitute"?)
"Making complete circles" was also used at one point in the Inquiries to describe Californian's apparent motion throughout the night. Would those "circles", made under the influence of current alone, approximate in any way the normal turning radius for the ship?
Naturally, I'm thinking of Boxhall's description here of the other steamer slowly turning -- apparently approaching -- then seeming to turn and leave. I always considered this an illusion due to "rotation" alone; but with the rudder kept hard over, would Californian tend to actually make relatively wide circles as it drifted?
John -- I would trust that a 1912 sailor probably did know with reasonable accuracty the arc of the horizon swept by a one, two, or three compass points. However, the eyeballs issued to sailors in those days were not calibrated any better than those given out today. So, I would not build any theories that parse angles down to 1/2 a degree based on Groves' estimations.
A rudder works only in water that is flowing past the hull. When a ship is DIW, the hull assumes nearly the same speed as the current, so there is effectively no water flow and the rudder has absolutely no effect. There is a question on the U.S. Coast Guard master's examination that revolves around the action of the rudder of a vessel that is not making way. The answer is "nothing."
Californian may have rotated, but it did not make "circles" in the sense of a large, looping course. The ship simply changed its heading over time.
Yes Don it has. I like the way we are able to debate stuff without people accusing of personal attacks.
In one week it has became the second biggest thread in the ships that may have stood still section.
David: Fair enough, I suppose. But was there a specific *reason* the rudder the was kept hard over? The testimony, as I recall it, at least vaguely suggested that this was purposeful. (And wouldn't it in fact contribute to that swinging to some extent?)
Don wrote: "This thread has decayed into an intelligent, articulate conversation!"
Bravo, Don! You really had me going there for a minute, since the New Message List only reveals the portion up to "... has decayed".
So there I am, looking through the day's list and ..."Huh??" Then I find the full-blown item.