Cyril Evans and his wireless

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Michael Bezek

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Biggest mystery of the whole Californian episode-why didn't one of the officers just go to Evans' cabin, wake him up and put him on his set to find out what was going on? I really don't blame Captain Lord for the Californian affair, but the conduct of his junior officers just seems to scream incompetence! Remarks like "a ship is not going to be firing rockets at night for nothing" seem all the more idiotic when all such speculation could of been resolved by using the technology at hand. If the officers didn't want to take the initiative themselves, they should have asked Lord for permission since they were barging in on him every half hour anyway! Were the Californian's officers that bottom-of-the-barrel that it didn't even occur to one of them to do this?
 

Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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Very good question Michael. I have often thought that Stone and Gibson were not relaying the right information to Lord. If they thought that they were seeing distress signals, I wish they had had the courage to say this to Lord. Another point to consider is that this was only the Californian's second voyage with wireless.

Cheers

Paul
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Dec 2, 2000
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>>I really don't blame Captain Lord for the Californian affair, but the conduct of his junior officers just seems to scream incompetence!<<

Some would differ on that and I understand where they're coming from. Certainly the junior officers didn't impress me as being intellectual giants, and I would not disagree that they should have been a lot more assertive about all this then they were. The catch is that as the commander of the ship, Captain Lord had absolute responsibility for everything that happened on his ship...as does any captain. Even if not culpably responsible for anything that goes wrong, he still bears the burden of finding and fixing the problems, and above all, explaining it all when it does.

Whatever else may be debated, this core fact never goes away.
 

Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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One outstanding mystery regarding Evans and his wireless - his message to the Virginian shortly about 6.25 saying that the Carpathia was in sight. Someone must have given him this information. I wonder who....? If it was an officer, it must have been either Lord or Stewart. Everyone else was in bed.

However, the message to the Virginian also says that the Titanic sank at 2.00am. I cannot recall - or find - where Evans got this information. Can anyone enlighten me? Thanks!

Another interesting point: it has often been said that this was only the Californian's second voyage with wireless - but Evans (US Enquiry) said that he had made three trips on the Californian!

Cheers

Paul
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http://www.paullee.com
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Paul, I don't trust this story at all. For one thing, it comes via the press, which is always a worry. I'm inclined to think that Captain Lord told the truth about the exchange with Virginian and that it took place at around 7-30 or a bit later. As you say, where and when did Evans get the news that Titanic sank at around 2-00 a.m.?

From the full newspaper report, we see that Virginian's clock was 1 hr 30 min behind New York. If Captain Gambell accidently gave the time of his call to Californian as 6-10 NYT instead of ship's time, he roughly agrees with Captain Lord. This is another example of the very low quality of the material in the debate.
 

Paul Lee

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Also, another item to call into question Evans messaging:

At 5.30am, he messaged the Frankfurt that "we are steaming full speed now"! This didn't happen for another hour!

Cheers

Paul
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http://www.paullee.com
 

Paul Lee

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I don't recall off hand. I got the info from George Behe's (where is he by the way?) article in the Commutator about the Frankfurt. ISTR that the messages were probably ships time - the message immediately before it was the Californian asking what happened during the night etc.

Cheers

Paul
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http://www.paullee.com
 

Dave Gittins

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I've been reading my $9 AUD copy (lucky me!) of The Maiden Voyage.

Geoffrey Marcus claims that Marconi regulations required operators to remain at their posts if a dangerous situation was developing. As the ice situation was obvious bad, he argues that Cyril Evans should have remained on duty on the night of 14 April.

Marcus gives no precise source. Can anybody confirm or deny this from Marconi's documents?

Personally, I think it should have been up to the captain to decide if an emergency was developing. That was too much to ask of a young operator who was not a seaman.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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I have no information on Marconi regs, Parks Stephenson would be best on that. It would seem obvious, however, that operators would have been required to remain on duty if they heard another ship's call for help. And, that may be the sort of "emergency" anticipated in the rule Geoffry Marcus quotes--if it existed.

Ice was not an emergency. It was a navigational hazard. Being stopped by ice was not an emergency, either, it was navigational prudence. Unless requested by Captain Lord, Cyril Evans had no reason not to go off duty under the prevailing practice of the day.

-- David G. Brown
 
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I have to make this short. Geoffrey Marcus is correct...it's a common-sense practice and the kind of blanket CYA that is found in many official regulations. But Dave is also correct...the Marconi operator is not the one to determine when a dangerous situation was developing. Of course a Marconi operator will stay on duty during a dangerous situation...the key is knowing when that situation exists.

Marcus is correct when he states that Evans should have stayed on duty, but not for the reason stated above. I argue that Evans should have stayed on duty until he carried out his Master's order; specifically, Lord ordered Evans to contact Titanic to tell them that the Californian was stopped in the ice. Evans went to bed without accomplishing that task, or informing Lord that he had failed to carry out the order.

I would also argue that the message should have been sent as an MSG, which would have forced Phillips to suspend communications with Cape Race long enough to receive and acknowledge the ice message. Lord should have directed that the message be sent as an MSG, but a Marconi operator with sufficient initiative had enough authority from the direction given by Lord to format the message as an MSG. Evidently, Evans didn't even consider the possibility...after stepping on the MGY-VCE conversation, Evans simply went to bed. For failing to carry out his Master's orders, I find Evans wholly at fault for not delivering Lord's warning to Titanic.

That does not mean, however, that I find Evans at fault for what happened thereafter. We have no idea how the message would have been acted upon had it reached Captain Smith. Would it have forced a change in the captain's night orders? We cannot know.

Parks
 

Dennis Smith

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Aug 24, 2002
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Parks and all,

I agree with you, Evans was not at real fault, although as you say he failed to carry out the Master's order to notify the "SHIP" that he had stopped because of ice.

The radio officers of my generation (The Who!!!) would have suggested a TTT or (If the ice was a serious danger - which it proved to be) an XXX.

These signals were not in use at the time, but if the Master considered the threat serious enough he should have ordered that MSG be sent. At least the Radio Operators on Titanic could not (OR SHOULD NOT HAVE IGNORED IT).

FYI - an MSG while I was at sea was simply a Master's Service Message, pertaining to the running of the ship, normally to the Head Office or the Company's Agents at the next Port of Call. Most telegrams / telexes started with the prefix MSG.

Just a slightly more recent look at the situation

Best Wishes and Rgds

Dennis
 
Nov 24, 2007
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I have been told that the Californian was close at hand and could have been helpful except that the person who should have been listening to the radio was away from his post sleeping. Was this standard and could it have helped(AKA how close was she to the Titanic

[Moderator's Note: This message, originally a separate thread in the "Discovery / Salvage / Exploration / Exhibits" topic, has been moved to this pre-existing thread addressing the same subject. MAB]
 
Nov 24, 2007
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Can anyone tell me the time difference of the arrival of the California to the wreck site, had the O?R been at the ready when the distress call was placed? seems like it might of helped.
 
Nov 24, 2007
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Has anyone determined how quickly the California might have come on seen if the O/R had been at his post?

[Moderator's Note: This message, originally a separate thread in the "Aftermath" topic, has been moved to this pre-existing thread addressing the same subject. MAB]
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>seems like it might of helped.<<

Other then to arrive in time to watch the ship sink and possibly fish some of the people out of the water before they froze to death, I'm not sure what it would have helped. Whether 10 or 20 miles, she was too far away to get there in anything less then an hours time had they figured things out.

[Moderator's Note: This message and the one immediately above it, originally posted to a thread in the "Aftemath" topic, have been moved to this pre-existing thread addressing the same subject. MAB]
 
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Nov 24, 2007
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Michael, you always have good answers and I thank you. I believe that, given your hour estimate, some people could have lasted long enough to be fished out. Capt. Lord was notified several times of the rockets but decided not to act. I guess that I am fishing for a distance of separation at the time of the first rocket sighting.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>I believe that, given your hour estimate, some people could have lasted long enough to be fished out.<<

Keep in mind that the water temperature was known to be a nice balmy 28°F. In conditions like that, most people are either dead within 15 minutes or so close to it that the difference isn't worth mentioning.

>>I guess that I am fishing for a distance of separation at the time of the first rocket sighting.<<

There's no hard and fast answer out there which satisfies everybody I'm afraid and it's not all that helpful that some of the best known commentators have had something of an agenda. The most balanced website I've seen so far which, among other things, deals with the navigation problems is All At Sea With Dave Gittins. You can access it at http://users.senet.com.au/~gittins/index.html

A specific discussion of the Californian's most likely position is at http://users.senet.com.au/~gittins/calpos.html
 
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gordon harner

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Cyril Evans' duty

As an old goat who has lurked here and other Titanic sites for some time, I am always coming up with new questions, we probably all do. So my current query. Evans was instructed to send a message to Titanic that Californian was stopped due to ice. We know the message was sent, not as a MSG but as a general message. We also know that Phillips responded with shut up. What should Evans have done? I believe that he should have resent it as a proper MSG. I wonder what the result would have been if Smith had received it?

After all my putzing I am glad to be here. Thanks for your thoughts
G
 

Harland Duzen

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I'm just curious, but does anyone know where on the Californian the Wireless Cabin / hut was placed after being installed onboard?

We don't see any obvious signs of a hut or building on her Promenade deck in the April 15th photos and I don't understand how the cabin could be in her Shelter deck since it would (presumably) need wires to connect to the mast to transmit.