Going around in circles


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Paul Lee

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HI everyone,
I have been looking at Groves' account at the British Enquiry, specifically the following:

8135. Now, what did you see, and when? - As I said before, the stars were showing right down to the horizon. It was very difficult at first to distinguish between the stars and a light, they were so low down. About 11.10, ship's time, I made out a steamer coming up a little bit abaft our starboard beam.

8143. What lights did you see? - At first I just saw what I took to be one light, one white light, but, of course, when I saw her first I did not pay particular attention to her, because I thought it might have been a star rising.

8150. How were you heading? - At that time we would be heading N.E. when I saw that steamer first, but we were swinging all the time because when we stopped the order was given for the helm to be put hard-a-port, and we were swinging, but very, very slowly.

8151. You say you were heading about N.E.? - We were heading N.E.

8152. Did you notice that at the time? - Yes.

8153. Was that with a view to see in what direction the steamer was bearing? - No, for my own information.

8154. But it was at that time? - At that time, yes.

8155. Now, how did she bear, how many points abaft the beam did she bear? - Do you mean when I first noticed her?

8156. Yes? - I should think about 3 1/2 points, but I took no actual bearing of her.

8157. That would leave her S. by W.? - We were heading N.E. and she was three points abaft the beam.

8158. Your beam would be? - S.E.

8159. That would bring her about ? - S. or S. by W. - S. 1/2 W

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(Re: Captain Lord)
8237. Where was he - in the chart room? - I could not be certain where he was at that particular moment. When I spoke to him about the steamer coming up astern he was in the chart room.


8466. Yes, before she stopped at 11.40 you had had her under observation for some time, noticing her movements? - Yes, but I took no notice of the course she was making except that she was coming up obliquely to us.

8467. Was she making to the westward or to the eastward? - She would be bound to be going to westward.

8468. Was she? - She was bound to.

8469. Did you see her going to westward? - Well, I saw her red light.

8470. If she was going to the westward and was to the southward of you, you ought to have seen her green light? - Not necessarily.

8471. Just follow me for a moment. She is coming up on your starboard quarter, you told us? - On our starboard quarter.

8472. Heading to the westward? - I did not say she was heading to the westward.

8473. Proceeding to the westward? - Yes.

8474. And she is to the southward of you? - She is to the southward of us.

8475. Then the side nearest to you must have been her starboard side, must it not? - Not necessarily. If she is going anything from N. to W. you would see her port side. At the time I left the bridge we were heading E.N.E. by compass.

8476. Never mind about your heading. I am only dealing with her bearings. She is bearing S.S.E. of you - south-easterly? - About south.

8477. She is south of you and apparently proceeding to the westward? - Yes, some course to the westward.

8478. Does it follow from that that the side which she was showing to you at that time must have been her starboard side? - No it does not follow at all. If she is steering a direct west course, yes.

8479. Did you see her green light at all? - Never.


So, Groves sees two mastlights at 11.10, or 11.15, three points abaft of the Californian's beam - putting it more or less due south. He talks about the ship coming up astern (from the west), but then he talks about "it" (the first light) being a star rising - meaning a ship on the eastern horizon. He never sees a green light, but does see a red one, indicating that the ship is heading either near head-on, or 2 point abaft the other ship's port beam (otherwise the red light would be shut in and hence invisible). Groves thinks the ship is heading west.
Then the ship stops. When Stone arrives on the bridge to relieve Groves at 12.08am, the other ship is dead abeam, and the Californian is heading ENE. This means to me that the other ship was first seen to the south, heading east apparently (?!), before finally stopping in the SE.
...and then Stone indicates that the ship starts moving off at about the time the first rocket is seen. Although Gibson doesn't see the other ship move, if you compare the comparitive headings of the Californian and the bearing taken of the other ship, it certainly does seem to move from SE to S or slightly west of south. Now, I would be happy to dismiss this latter motion as perhaps due to the other ship (Titanic?) being in a weaker or stronger local current than the Californian, but I can't understand the initial sighting of the other ship!

Help!

Cheers

Paul

 

Dave Gittins

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Have you ever thought the Groves may be a liar? The two masthead lights immediately raise suspicion. So does his timing of the other ship stopping. He knew that from the papers by the time he testified. I don't trust his entire account, including the claimed attempt to use the radio.
 

Paul Lee

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Hi David,
Yes, the thought did occur to me. The impression I get from Groves is that he wanted to make a name for himself and stand up for himself in the BoT enquiry. It seems that he is contradicting almost everything that Lord et al say, even to the time that the Californian resumed her journey towards Boston.

Heres a thought for you: assume that Groves and Stone were telling the truth. Groves sees a ship at 11.15, almost due south, heading seemingly eastward. The ship stops at 11.40 in the south east. Now, if it wasn't for the fact that it would introduce a 25 minute time difference between the Californian and the Titanic, this does seem to fit in with the Titanic's movement after the collision - i.e. she went in a big arc to end up heading north-east, from her initial heading of roughly due west. Might Groves have been seeing the ending of the post-collision maneouvre?

The problem then is that it throws the timings of the rocket slightly out, as fired from the Titanic!

Cheers

Paul

 

Dave Gittins

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I wouldn't worry about the exact times of the rockets. Times throughout the whole story are rough.

The passage you quoted is one of the most totally confusing in the whole transcript, and I've read every rotten page of it. I don't know that it proves anything more that that Groves was wildly confused. It may point to his story being rather imaginative, to be polite about it.

I just don't like the fact that Groves gave his evidence after the main facts were in all the papers. I'm more impressed by the statements of Stone and Gibson, made on board Californian.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>I don't know that it proves anything more that that Groves was wildly confused. <<

Or perhaps he was the one trying to sow the confusion, or he wanted to simply look like he knew more then he really did. I don't think anyone is going to find much disagreement from either side in this mess that short of Gill, Groves is one of the most un-impressive witnesses of the lot.
 

Paul Lee

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With regard to the notion that the "other ship" came up astern, we do have Ben Kirk, lookout on the Californian who also said he noticed nothing ahead of the ship when she stopped and he came down. However, he may have been "nobbled" by Leslie Harrison.

Cheers

Paul

 

Tracy Smith

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As an interesting aside, on his next trip to Boston on the Californian, in May, I believe, Groves went to the papers there and tried to sell them a story, which was declined.

I agree with Dave in that more weight should be given to what Stone and Gibson said, especially considering that they were firsthand witnesses to most of the pertinent events under question.
 

Dave Moran

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Hmmmm...

Quick question...

Is not Lord's answer to question 8472 a denial of his answers to 8467 and 8468 ?

warmest regards

dave
 

Dave Gittins

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The witness at that point was Groves. As I said earlier, it's totally confusing. He seems to be distinguishing between 'proceeding' and 'heading'. Was she bound to be heading westward because Groves believes she was Titanic? There's the business of the red light. Then there's that so neat stopping time. It all suggests to me that Groves may be trying to square what he saw that night with what he later learned about Titanic.

One thing that should be remembered when reading the testimony is that all those in the court thought the CQD position was correct. They also assumed that Titanic had two steaming lights. These factors added to the confusion.
 

Paul Lee

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I've just read Groves' "The Middle Watch", and aprt from the confusion about the other ship's heading, his prose matches his testimony perfectly. Perhaps too perfectly.

The only significant deviation is that he says that he was awakened at 6.45 and went to the bridge and saw that the Californian "was making slow way through the water". By this time, the ship should have been proceeding at full speed!

Cheers

Paul

 

Dave Gittins

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Paul, you'll also notice that in The Middle Watch, Californian reaches Carpathia at 7-30 a.m. instead of 7-45 a.m. Groves really is problematical!
 

Paul Lee

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I've just re-read Senan's chapter on Groves in "A Ship Accused" - before I had just flicked casually through it, but I think Senan might be right. I feel that Gill and Groves, indignant that the way that the rockets were ignored concocted a cock-and-bull story to label Lord and the officers of the watch as incompetent.

Cheers

Paul

 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>I feel that Gill and Groves, indignant that the way that the rockets were ignored concocted a cock-and-bull story to label Lord and the officers of the watch as incompetent.<<

Paul, in this sailor's opinion, it was in some ways a lot worse then that. I don't think there's a lot of wiggle room regarding the fact that the officers on that ship should have responded a lot more proactively then they actually did...even if only to better assess the situation and log the hell out of everything to cover their butts no matter what decision was finally made. These people weren't idiots. None of them would have made as far as they did if they were, so one has to wonder what really happened that night.

I think that what happened is that they simply misread the situation. Rightly, wrongly, whether or not the should have recognized the gravity of the situation really has no bearing on my belief that they didn't. Everything I get out of the testimony that doesn't look like an attempt to confuse the issue gives me the impression that for Diety alone knows what reason, it just plain didn't sink in.

Not until somebody got on the wireless, got the news and the officers had their "Oh s**t moment." Everything that followed in the wake of what appears to be some honest mistakes was an exercise in damage control.

Of course, I could be wrong.
 

Paul Lee

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Hi Michael,
If I may say so, that is the first truly sympathetic, common sense post on the Californian regarding the Californian that I have ever heard!

People say that Gibson, Lord and Stone's testimony is messy, but Groves is a bloody mess! Before Dave Gittins suggested it, I wouldm't have thought Groves was a liar - based on peoples attitude towards him. But now I feel pretty sure that Gill and Groves, maybe in tandem (??) worked to inform the world that the Californian could have gone to help, just to teach Lord et al. a lesson. Just my reading of the testimony thats all!

Cheers

Paul

 
Jul 9, 2000
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Paul, you may be right. I don't think Captain Lord was some kind of saint mind you, but the reductive e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-vile Fu Man Lord thing spun by some of his harshest critics doesn't really add up either. Not in my opinion anyway. What you have here is a lousy case with lousy witnesses and like anything else going on at the inquiries, you'd be very hard pressed to find somebody who didn't have some sort of agenda and some vested interests to protect.

Even as Captain Lord would get the credit for anything that went right under his command, he would also be the one held to the ultimate accountability for anything that went wrong, and it's very hard for anyone to dispute that things didn't go badly wrong on that ship. I don't think Captain Lord would have gone down alone had criminal proceedings had been started or action taken against his certificate. The two blokes on watch would have found themselves in the hotseat as well if only because of the fact that they had the watch. That reality brings with it a measure of accountability that just doesn't go away. In light of that, it's not hard to see why others would have a vested interest in playing loose with the facts. The cold unvarnished truth would have put them in the defendant's dock right alongside their captain, and these people knew it.

I think the reason that none of this ever happened was that any such would have done nothing if not raise even more awkward questions over an affair that a lot of people wanted to see quickly forgotten.
 

Erik Wood

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As I have said before, Stanely Lord was extremely unfortunate. His wardroom lacked, any true officers. But because Lord assumed that if the situation was indeed worse then he thought it to be, his officers on watch would be persistant and bring him to action, like any good wardroom would do. Unfortunatly they didn't. As a result we are discussing what went wrong that night.

My basic answer, is very poor judgement, and even worse leadership by Stone.
 
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Alicia Coors

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But because Lord assumed that if the situation was indeed worse then he thought it to be, his officers on watch would be persistant and bring him to action, like any good wardroom would do.
Californian's officers reported their observations to the ship's commander, and he failed to act on them. It was not their job to interpret them, and for them to act unilaterally (such as by awakening the wireless operator) would have had career consequences that must be weighed in critiquing their performance. I don't get the impression that Lord was the kind of master who would welcome being "brought to action" by subordinates, and they knew it.
 

Tracy Smith

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So, Lord's officers are excused for not speaking more clearly and being more assertive because they were afraid of their captain -- to the point of putting their personal comfort ahead of what they might have suspected was an emergency situation?

At the very least, they could have wakened the First Officer and let him deal with Lord.
 
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