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Crew familiarity with rockets' use

Discussion in 'Rockets in the Night' started by kingbaby312, Dec 2, 2017.

  1. kingbaby312

    kingbaby312 Member

    I realise that the rockets fitted to Titanic were for that purpose, but I wonder how familiar the average seaman - and I think Stone and Gibson were very average seamen indeed - would be with the concept.

    I would appreciate any insight anyone can give. As I say - this might be a short answer.
  2. >>and I think Stone and Gibson were very average seamen indeed - would be with the concept.<<

    They would have understood it very well....or at least they should have. That's what makes some aspects of their testimony so fishy, and why neither comes across looking like the great intellectuals of the age. The prescribed standards were all a matter of law.
  3. Stone and Gibson were being very evasive. They did not want to admit that what they saw were signals of distress. They said they saw rockets throwing stars one at a time at short intervals. That is what the rule book taught them were distress signals. They admitted to each other that a vessel is not going to fire rockets at sea at night for nothing, and they admitted that they thought the vessel may have been in some sort of trouble.

    By the way, a vessel firing distress signals did not necessarily mean that it was sinking, only that it was in need of assistance.
    Michael H. Standart likes this.
  4. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    Were the rockets from the Carpathia the same kind as those on the Titanic and would the Californian crew notice the difference? Captain Moore of the Mount Temple was going to fire rockets but he hesitated as he believed it would just lead to confusion e.g.

    "I thought of sending rockets up, but I thought it far better to let it alone, because if other ships, they thought they saw them, might be coming to me."

  5. Dave Gittins

    Dave Gittins Member

    There seems to have been a big gap between theory and practice. In theory, all officers should have known all about distress signals. Certainly some lacked practical experience. Groves said he knew Californian carried distress signals, but he'd never seen them. They were stowed somewhere. Boxhall, who was far more qualified and experienced than Stone and Gibson, said he had never seen a distress signal fired until he fired one himself on Titanic.

    Practical training with distress signals today requires special arrangements. The training organisation has to get clearance from rescue services and the like. Then they know that signals will be seen at a certain time and place. Maybe in 1912 they just didn't bother and saved money.
  6. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    I went to sea in the early fifties, Dave. I was at sea, on and off, from then until 1998. In all those years, Korean War, Suez, working with the navy and the Army I was fortunate never to have seen a distress rocket fired for real. Even despite being at sea for very lengthy periods.
    The only time saw one fired for any reason, it was by special arrangement with the locals at The Tail o'The Bank off Greenock during my pre-sea training year in 1951. Then, it was an old surplus white one out of a box we had at the school. As late as 1994, I attended Offshore Helicopter Survival Training & Firefighting School at Robert Gordons, Aberdeen. (By then, I was a pretty old git and had to frequently keep my Certificates up to date).
    Even then, we were never allowed to fire pyrotechnics other that hand-held smoke and red Roman Candles.
    One thing I always knew from Day1 and that was where these things were kept and how to use them. I must say, Groves seems to me to have been a bit of a charming chancer. I'm sure you know what I mean.
  7. >>Groves seems to me to have been a bit of a charming chancer. I'm sure you know what I mean.<<

    I wouldn't believe Groves or Gibson if they told me that water was wet!
  8. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Why do you think they were being evasive, Sam? Is it that you are doing exactly the same as did the Wreck Commissioner; that their answers do not impress you?

    To claim that someone knew that someone else "does not do something for nothing" is meaningless. The term was used as a form of sarcasm.

    I suggest to you that when a normal person sees a single event which is not immediately recognizable, they either ignore it or it arouses mild curiosity, then they forget it. If it happens again, they run it through their memory banks in an attempt to identify it. If they still can't identify it, they ignore it or seek consultation. That's exactly what Stone did.

    He and Gibson saw rockets, low over a nearby ship which was almost in darkness but for a steaming light, a sidelight and a glare of accommodation lights aft. Lights which could be seen with the naked eye.
    The ship they saw could not possibly have been the biggest passenger ship in the world with portholes lit up from bow to stern like strings of Xmas tree lights. With probably a mushroom of steam vapor as an umbrella. A ship flashing away with two morse lights in their direction and lowering lifeboats while sending up shells that exploded with a very loud BANG! How could such a sight be mistaken or misunderstood? Even Gill never saw that.

    They knew that under normal circumstances, distress rockets went very high above the vessel firing them and exploded with a shower of stars of any colour. They did not see that.

    If the signals fired by Titanic were sent up at 7 or 8 minute intervals and Stone knew that when he was being questioned, why would he claim that the ones he saw were being fired at 3 or 4 minutes?
    He only considered that what he saw were distress signals, after he heard about Titanic but could not at that time have connected the two.
    I suggest to you he did not remember the interval but since the talk was of distress signals, and he knew they were supposed to be sent up at short intervals: he chucked-in the 3 or 4 minute intervals as a bonus.

    It is all very well pontification from an armchair but, setting aside what he saw, think about what Stone knew at 2 am on the morning of April 15. Then compare that with what he knew by 9 am that morning.
    Think about what any of us would have been thinking given the same circumstances.

    4 am. Saw rockets low on the horizon to the SE. Seemed to come from a nearby vessel which was about 4 to 5 miles away. The vessel eventually steamed away to the SW.
    7 am. Informed that Titanic is sinking in the direction of SSW. Thinks: "No connection with the rockets I saw at 1 am."!
    8.am Sees Carpathia to the eastward, picking up survivors. Goes into chart room and plots a DR. Thinks:" Oops! That distress signal must have been wrong. The rockets I saw must have been fired by Titanic, way below the horizon."
  9. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    I never understood how they could estimate the height of the rockets above the other ship in the distance. They would see a flash of light perhaps from the corner of their eye and by the time they focused on her and trained their binoculars on her the stars from the rocket would have descended well below their original height and much closer to her masthead. Did they actually see the moment a rocket burst or only the immediate aftermath? I'm guessing each second counted. How long would the rockets be visible and would the stars of light that were descending appear brighter than the original flash?

  10. Now why would you even ask that question? Need I remind you when asked what did he think those rockets were being sent up for, Stone's responses were:
    "I thought that perhaps the ship was in communication with some other ship, or possibly she was signaling to us to tell us she had big icebergs around her."
    "I knew they were signals of some sort."
    "I did not think what they were intended for; white rockets is what I saw them as."
    "Naturally, the first thought that crossed my mind was that the ship might be in trouble, but subsequent events showed that the ship steamed away from us; there was nothing to confirm that; there was nothing to confirm that the rockets came from that ship, in the direction of that ship. That is all I observed."
  11. Aaron,
    Moore did the right thing by not firing off any rockets for exactly the reason he gave.
    As far as the height of a rocket or shell burst, I never bought into what Stone claimed about rockets going only as high as the masthead light. The detailed description that Gibson wrote in his secret report to Capt. Lord on the 18th describes a distress signal being fired from the moment it left the deck, followed the burning fuse as it rose above the vessel, and the moment it burst into white stars. He saw that through a pair of binoculars.
  12. Do you believe anyone connected to the Californian Michael?
  13. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    When the rockets exploded would the balls of light descend outwards as they fell to the sea?


    Rockets typically fade away before the light reaches the ground. Perhaps the rockets were more powerful than Stone realized and he did not expect the light to descend so far down to the sea, and if they did it would give him the false impression that the rockets were coming from a ship behind that one?

  14. Julian Atkins

    Julian Atkins Member

    As others know full well on here from another thread I have no nautical knowledge whatsoever.

    However, I am aware of what was the legal definition of distress rockets at night were pre April 1912.

    It is quite clear to me that much of what Stone and Gibson stated in testimony and their 18th April statements to Captain Lord does not make any logical sense, neither do Captain Lord's responses to what he was allegedly told by Stone and Gibson as per the sworn testimony and Stone and Gibson's statements of 18th April. The implications of this are quite clear to me.

    I have commented upon all this at some length in the 'Stanley Lord guilty as charged' thread recently, as have many others far more expert than me.

    Stone and Lord were evasive, inconsistent, contradictory, and their demeanor in the witness box at the British Inquiry was very poor. Stone and Gibson do not corroborate each other, contrary to what would be expected.

    In respect of Gibson's report to Lord in the chart room at 2.05am there is a fundamental disagreement in the evidence that can only lead to the view that one of them was lying. Gibson reported the 8 white rockets seen to his awake Captain. Captain Lord says he was asleep or half asleep and could remember nothing of what Gibson said.

    Captain Lord also denied all knowledge of Stone's subsequent speaking tube message.

    Sam's point about Stone and Gibson being "very evasive" I would agree with, with the proviso that in the case of Stone "very evasive" is rather more charitable than I would say.


  15. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    The dramatised version of the Inquiry is intriguing to watch. Do you agree with Stone or Lord in this scene about the rockets?

    Skip to 24:10

  16. The start of the flying saucer conspiracy. It began with Titanic. :rolleyes:
  17. Mike Spooner

    Mike Spooner Member

    I understand the distressed rockets came in a pack of 12. Why was only 8 fired?