Captain Lord and the Californian Please Read

Dave Gittins

Dave Gittins

Member
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.
 
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Melinda Handshoe

Member
Ok,

Next question. Why didn't the life boats get any closer to the "ship" after rowing towards it for hours, in fact didn't some say it seemed to be pulling away from them?

Could the current have had anything to do with that? How fast can a current pull or push a ship?

I am honestly asking, I don't have a clue.

Melinda
 
Dave Gittins

Dave Gittins

Member
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!
 
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Melinda Handshoe

Member
Dave

Could the weight of the ships have any effect, with the current?


Melinda
 
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John M. Feeney

Member
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!
 
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John M. Feeney

Member
"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?
 
David G. Brown

David G. Brown

RIP
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.

--David G. Brown
 
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Don Tweed

Member
This thread has decayed into an intelligent, articulate conversation!
I love Astronomy! So angles and degrees speak words.
-Don
 
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Adam McGuirk

Member
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.
Adam
 
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Don Tweed

Member
The Californian will always lead the pack in controversy. It is inevitable!
I have learned more in the last few months than in the 20 or so years I have been addicted to the great lady!
-Don
 
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John M. Feeney

Member
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.

Good one! :)
 
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Adam McGuirk

Member
MY great thread is dead!!! I was hoping it would become the biggest in the section.
 
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Melinda Handshoe

Member
Hi all

Ok Adam, I will get it going again.

Nobody answered my question from my above post.

Why didn't the lifeboats get any closer to the "ship" after rowing towards it for hours, in fact didn't some say it seemed to be pulling away from them?

Melinda
 
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