Comparison of Titanic and Californian witnesses


Dec 6, 2000
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Paul - I see you mention the phone call Rowe made from the stern docking bridge, to Boxhall, which is what I belive too. However, according to Boxhall's evidence of this call, Boxhall was firing rockets *before* the call was made. See British Inquiry, # 15593.

Rowe himself also testified that rockets were also kept on the fore bridge - US pg 522.
 

Dave Gittins

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What Rowe took forward were detonators for the socket signals. These rather dangerous things were stored separately. Socket signals needed three essential parts. There was a container of gunpowder, another container holding pyrotechnics and a detonator fired by a friction match on a lanyard.

Boxhall's evidence is problematic. Maybe he was right. Maybe he was sick and he certainly was tired. I wouldn't put too much emphasis on it.
 

Paul Lee

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> I wouldn't put too much emphasis on it.

I'm seeing this a lot on this forum. It seems that anything that doesn't tie in with someone's notion is "wrong" or "mistaken" or should be "ignored"

Paul

 

Dave Gittins

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Paul, not ignored, but taken with a grain of salt and compared with other evidence. Anyway, does Boxhall's evidence matter at all in the context of the Californian?

The "Californian affair" will drive you bonkers if you rely on eyewitnesses. Eyewitness don't beat fingerprints on the murder weapon. Seek for what was physically possible.

(I'm being enigmatic again)
 

Paul Lee

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Well, I've looked at the other evidence, and Boxhall's later view of the other ship, plus his recollection of how many rockets were fired after boat 1 was sent away, plus Lowe's view of the other ship as he got said boat prepared for lowering, just doesn't tie in with what the Californian was doing that night.

Paul

 

Dave Gittins

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So what? Does that show that Californian did not see Titanic's distress signals? Does it show why Stone didn't understand them and call Lord out properly? Does it outweigh the lies told by Lord, Stewart and Stone?

Boxhall might have been seeing the Flying Dutchman while stoned on pot. It doesn't matter. It's all peripheral to the main point. Distress signals were disregarded and those responsible made unskilful attempts to cover up. Lord's apologists have been doing the same ever since.
 
May 12, 2002
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Hi Paul,

I'm one of the ones who believes that certain evidence *has* to be disregarded and a balance of probabilities considered instead. Of course, which evidence you consider to be less or more reliable is the tricky bit and the cause of much discussion! The simple reason I feel this way is because many of the eyewitnesses simply contradict each other. If you want to reconcile all the different ship movements of all the eyewitnesses that night, and do it exactly so that every report is 100% accurate, you end up with something of a flotilla of mystery ships out there.

Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. I had this brought home to me quite effectively on holiday this year. I'd gone to Guernsey, the first time in 20 years. I have a vivid memory of the coast of France from my last visit and remember being ably to make out, clearly, the nuclear power station that the tour guide mentioned. 20 years later I find that France is barely visible, even on a clear day, and really, really small. There's no way I saw what I remember!

Cheers

Paul
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>plus Lowe's view of the other ship as he got said boat prepared for lowering, just doesn't tie in with what the Californian was doing that night<<

That may be true, but befor you get all wrapped up about it, remember that you're dealing with eyewitnesses, and with all the problems that come with eyewitnesses. Very few people are really good observers, so anything you get from them has to be treated with some measure of caution. If you tried to reconcile/harmonize every bit of conflicting testimony in this whole Titanic story, and especially with this sorry mess, you'll end up either driving yourself crazy, or trying to explain it in some twisted fashion that only a theologian could love.

By all means take note of it, but don't let it distract you.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Dave wrote:
Seek for what was physically possible.
This is good advice to all. You cannot take everything you read and treat it as reliable fact. The best one can do is try to put all the evidence and testimonies into a context that must hold together and cannot violate the laws of physics. Some things will fit, others will fall out. Boxhall has on more than one occasion said something which he later corrected upon more thought. According to Rowe, his phone call to the bridge was about 12:25, a few minutes after Bright arrived. We know that the boats were not launched yet, so what he saw in the water may very well have been a small mass of floating ice that gave the appearance of a boat in the water. There were no spot lights lighting things up in the water, just whatever light was reflected that originated from the lights on the ship. From all other accounts, the 1st rocket single did not go up until sometime near 12:45, and this can be verified from observations on the Californian as well as witnesses on the Titanic.
 
Dec 6, 2000
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Another possibility, re: Rowe's lightboat sighting at 12:25, is that Rowe had set his watch back 20 minutes or so. So, 'his' 12:25, was really 12:45 by other watches. Which *could* jive with the generally reported time of the first lifeboat lowering.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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When one looks at times as reported by someone we do need to look at all the events that they talk about to see how well they stack up with each other. Not just one in isolation.

At the US Inquiry Rowes said:

Senator BURTON. Where were you the night of the collision?
Mr. ROWE. I felt a slight jar and looked at my watch. It was a fine night, and it was then 20 minutes to 12. I looked toward the starboard side of the ship and saw a mass of ice. I then remained on the after bridge to await orders through the telephone. No orders came down, and I remained until 25 minutes after 12, when I saw a boat on the starboard beam.

And at the BOT Inquiry he said:

17684. How long do you think it was from the time you commenced firing the rockets till you finished firing the rockets? - From about a quarter to one to about 1.25.
17685. Yes, that is right. You gave evidence in America about it, and I see what you said there was: "I assisted the Officer to fire them" - that is, rockets - "and was firing distress signals until about five and twenty past one." That is accurate? - Yes.
 

Inger Sheil

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This discussion has been remarkably civil for a debate on the Californian where different viewpoints are present, and I've been impressed with the civility of most of the posts. Please keep it that way - it's been great to see folks drawn back into the debate who had previously sworn off the subject.
 
Dec 6, 2000
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If we assume (yes, I know that's a touchy word) that Rowe kept 'April 14' time up until midnight, then 'April 15' time thereafter, then:

His "20 minutes to 12" jives with other reports of the collision.

His "12:25" (after his watch was set back 20 or so minutes) jives with the approx. 12:45 firing of the first rocket, and the lowering of the first lifeboat.

His "1:25" (again after the watch was set back) comes a lot closer to the accepted figures for when the last rockets were set off, around 1:45.

"Assuming", of course. No way to prove it.
 

Dave Gittins

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Paul, no offence was intended. I'm a pretty blunt bloke and inclined to call a spade a bloody shovel.

What I'm trying to get across is that you are ploughing an infertile field. All this eyewitness stuff has been written about ad nauseum by Padfield, Molony and others. All it shows is that the eyewitness accounts are irreconcilable. People saw moving lights, fixed lights, sidelights, steaming lights and sternlights. They were everything from 2 to 10 miles off. I'm convinced that at least some were seeing stars, as some thought at the time. Even the evidence on the scene at daybreak is all over the shop. Add to the unintentional inaccuracies the undoubted lies told by several witnesses and all is confusion. As well, when all is said and done, much of the evidence is inconsequential to the big picture.

It's hard arrive at definite facts, but the key to it all is in the navigational details and the physically possible. Then you must see that the whole account is internally consistent. It requires a grasp of detail and the ability to see the broad picture simultaneously. Invent a hypothesis and see where it leads you. If it makes sense, it may be correct. If it does not, discard it. Always remember that the ocean is a strange place and even those used to it get confused at times.
 

Dave Gittins

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Michael, I'm no Captain Cook, but even in my limited experience off our coast I've seen plenty of weird things and made my share of mistakes. One early one was when I lost my sense of the horizontal one dark and rough night. I actually mistook the lights of a low-flying small plane for the lights of a fishing boat. I once took Venus for a steaming light but realised my mistake as the "ship" sailed away backwards. As for abnormal refraction, after a 40°C day our coast is the freaky refraction capital of the world.

While on the subject of eyewitnesses, Parks Stephenson posted a fine account of his experience of a marine disaster. He reports having a vivid memory of a scene that he knows took place but which he also knows he could not possibly have seen. He seems to have envisaged the event reported to him very clearly and retained it as a memory. The mind, like the ocean, does strange things.
 

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