Heroes and Villains (that really were not)

Jim Currie

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Jim, may I request you to comment on Captain Rostron of the Carpathia in this post? A lot of people consider him a hero that night but I know that you and some others don't. I have not done any research into that subject and so remain neutral in my opinion.
A short version of my opinion of that man would be that if he fell into a cesspit, he would come out covered in diamonds and smelling of roses.
Here was a man who until the Titanic disaster, was heading for obscurity...a man who early promotion had passed by.
Here was a man who, despite knowing Titanic had hit an iceberg and needed help, drove his ship full of crew and passengers at full speed on a dark, moonless night toward the ship in distress. Not only that, but while doing so, broke the regulations and was letting of distress rockets and Company signals while keeping virtual wireless silence.
Here was a man who, had it not been for the quick thinking of Titanic's 4th Officer, Joseph Boxhall, would have piled his ship up against a solid barrier of floating ice.
If the word SALVAGE did not enter that man's mind, then he was even more stupid than his actions suggest.
Despite the foregoing, who in their right mind would attempt to cast a shadow over the credentials of a man who was feted by Governments on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean? A man who, for acting as every decent seaman should have acted, was the proud recipient of:
1. A silver cup and gold medal from the Titanic Survivors,

2. The American Cross of Honor,

3. A US Congressional Gold Medal,

4. A signed letter of thanks from the President of the United States,

5. A gold medal from The Shipwreck Society of New York and

6. A medal from The Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society?

The foregoing list was by no means the end of the honours bestowed on the man.
Captain Rostron was also granted:
The freedom of The City of New York. The Order of the British Empire (OBE). A Knighthood and The French Legion of Honour. Heavens! He was even made Aid-de-camp to his majesty King George 5th.
 
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Jim Currie

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Jim, the signals were discharged on Titanic at a regular, short interval as the regulations specified. "Short" is not defined.

It is quite possible that there was a foreign steamer between Californian and Titanic. This would match reports from both Titanic and Californian crew. Perhaps she was a Brazilian tramper out of Halifax bound for Sao Paulo with a crew panicked of the ice and literally held in line with whips, the officers all asleep. That's the third world, then and now.

That is also completely unprovable and forever shall be.

What is documented, however, is that Californian saw signals which a cautious, conservative, by the book professional should have interpreted as a distress signal, but did not. She may not have arrived in time to save anyone, and the exact circumstances of what she saw are too disputed to assign /criminal/ liability, and duplicating Carpathia's run would be unreasonable and stupid, but she should have still gotten underway, or at least woke the wireless operator.
No they were not. A total of 7 for sure were fired over a period of just over an hour. The average interval between the was 7 minutes. These signals were socket signals supplied to Titanic in lieu of guns. guns were to be fired at intervals of a minute, not 7 minutes.
If the wireless operator had been called in time, he would have been given a position which was 19 miles away to the SSW of California's position. The rockets under discussion here were seen to the SSE in the direction of the nearby vessel which was most certainly not 19 miles away. Presented with that dilemma...what would you have done?
 
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mitfrc

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What guidance to the regulations specified that "short Intervals" should be understood to mean "1 minute"? I am very used to having to read and implement guidance to regulations, there should be a memo or some other documentation from the period.

As for your question--I would have had wireless ask Titanic to clarify if they were firing rockets. It would not take a rocket scientist to figure out that two ships in distress simultaneously within thirty miles is wildly unlikely and that positions are not necessarily accurate.

At that point the question becomes--does Titanic actually provide sufficient information to allow you to determine they and the ship in distress to SSE is one and the same? Which is more or less the next question in a thread I started in another section of the board.

I know I am proposing a "via media" which will probably make no-one happy, but it is what is most congruent with modern operations and safety theory.
 

Jim Currie

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The following from the British Inquiry:
"Distress signals.
- These were supplied of number and pattern approved by Board of Trade - i.e., 36 socket signals in lieu of guns, 12 ordinary rockets, 2 Manwell Holmes deck flares, 12 blue lights, and 6 lifebuoy lights.

The following from the US Inquiry

SIGNALS OF DISTRESS.

When a vessel is in distress and requires assistance from other vessels or from the shore, the following shall be the signals to be used or displayed by her, either together or separately:

IN THE DAYTIME.


AT NIGHT.

(1.) A gun or other explosive signal fired at intervals of about a minute.
(2.) Flames on the vessel (as from a burning tar barrel, oil barrel, etc.).
(3.) Rockets or shells, throwing stars of any color or description, fired one at a time at short intervals.
(4.) A continuous sounding with any fog-signal apparatus.

I admire your confidence but would prefer not to sail under your command.:rolleyes:

So you call Sparks. He gets his equipment wound up and listens. He hears Titanic's call for help and jots down the coordinates and brings them to you.
You check them with your position. You are puzzled for a moment then your earlier opinion is confirmed. You are not seeing distress signals, nor are you hearing them. Distress signals do not look like that and if they were being sent up by the nearby ship, you would certainly hear them. You, therefore, head through the ice toward the coordinates given.

Keep in mind that it was fully 45 minutes between when Lord first heard of Titanic until he was able to get underway. Then, it was daylight and he could see where he was going. This means that if Lord had made the choice you think he should have made, it would have been about an hour after calling Sparks before he could get underway. By then, the other ship had almost gone and so had Titanic.:eek:
 
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mitfrc

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Jim,

Apologies, but in a previous thread you had indicated, at least hypothetically, that Californian could get underway promptly. Are you now asserting that is not true?

I believe I have never at any time proposed Californian be sailed in an unsafe manner. I have nothing but respect for mariners; in my own profession my principle connection with your's is to evaluate the impact of ice upon the hull, screws and rudders of a vessel, or upon locks and dams and navigation infrastructure. I know what ice can do to a vessel intimately and have no objection to the argument that Rostron's speed was unsafe, nor would I object to the argument that Lord should have proceeded at dead slow and taken utmost care in the ice even if this delayed his response, his first duty being to his own ship.

My own background in regard to the sea is limited, and I shall summarise: I have been involved in design teams for ROVs and USVs; I have never had a greater responsibility on a vessel than to organise and supervise the launch and recovery of buoys under the Master's direction and to be responsible for the safety of students aboard a research vessel. I presently manage the operation of, research in, and refrigeration systems of certain refrigerated tow tanks.

To this end I am not attempting to go against your wisdom but to combine the social considerations of the time (which could be quite unyielding and proscriptive), the known facts of modern human factors assessment in accidents and incidents, and my own experience with the business of risk management and process safety management in keeping refrigeration systems safe and emergency response to incidents with those systems, and synthesise that general body of safety practice and modern human factors analysis to understand what happened on Californian. I am unconvinced they could have done anything, but they should have gotten underway sometime between 0100 and 0200, even if it was to proceed at a dead slow in the wrong direction according to the distress signal because they then raised Titanic and got bad info.

I believe the fact they did not is a failure even if it would not have changed anything, and I am interested in theorising the reason for that failure, which at first pass as Rob and I discussed seems based on human factors--exhaustion, complacency, unclear instructions or a chain of command that didn't handle crew resource well, perhaps solely because of unavoidable cultural factors in an era that didn't have the concept of CRM and I admit did not. These are lessons still worth learning and detailed study of Californian and what she could and couldn't have known and done can still, I think, teach us lessons to make us safer in the future.
 
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Julian Atkins

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Again I beg your indulgence as have a heavy cold.

Like Rob, I have always been interested in the personalities and their characteristics and actions of the principle players on The Californian.

Jim is the arch 'agent provocateur' on here!

In Jim's post 24 above, if Captain Lord had been called to the bridge promptly and seen some of the rockets himself, I have not the slightest doubt he would have immediately run down orders to the engine room and headed to where the rockets were seen. This is common sense. Firstly it fits the ice field and the side they were on - the eastern side. Secondly it fits with his own evidence of where the 'large passenger steamer' was coming from and heading from earlier before midnight. Thirdly, rockets would indicate a CQD position far more accurately than a wireless message of incorrect co-ordinates - as we all know proved to be the case.

Let us jump to after 4.30am the next day as darkness was very slowly turning to dawn.

Captain Lord gets Stewart's report of what Stone said to him of seeing the rockets in the night. Stewart misses out a few vital details. Captain Lord refuses to go down southwards to the vessel Stewart points out to him.

There is then an unexplained delay of perhaps up to 30 minutes before Evans is woken up.

We have the 5.11am timing of Durrant on Mount Temple hearing Evans start tapping away, and Durrant replying with Titanic's CQD details. The Frankfurt chips in too with the same information. The Virginian then chips in, and 45 minutes later at around 6am or 6.05am Captain Lord gets Captain Gambell's 'official' reply of the CQD position, and only then does Captain Lord take action.

That is a staggering delay of almost 2 hours since Stone first gave his report to Stewart of seeing white rockets during the middle watch!

Stone and Groves and the rest of the crew are not roused till later, and according to Groves he sees Carpathia and Mount Temple much earlier than admitted by Captain Lord.

What on earth was going on?!

Cheers,

Julian
 

mitfrc

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Also, Jim, I see sections 1 and 3 of that regulation as introducing ambiguity, don't you? Guns fire shells, and both shells and rockets fire an explosive pyrotechnic! So is it "approximately 1 minute", or an undefined short interval?

Surely as a safety conscious man you would observe that ambiguity and take no chance whatsoever? I bear legal responsibility for the safety of a community from 16000lbs of liquid anhydrous ammonia and I cannot imagine, from that same perspective of safety and risk management, declaring that 5 minutes or so is an insufficiently short interval and therefore I am absolved of the need to treat it as an emergency. I just simply cannot imagine myself defending that in court in the same way I cannot imagine saying in a court that I found it acceptable to run an ammonia refrigeration plant without at least redundancy against single point of failure in all safety systems; surely that is a matter of professional ethics.
 

Rob Lawes

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I've long believed Jim is trying to separate sand and pepper with his socket signals argument.

Yes, the paperwork said the socket signals were in lieu of guns in terms of making a loud bang but they also threw out stars of any colour. They served both purposes.

As I have asked before. If you were out of the hearing range of the bang but saw a burst of stars, which type of distress signal would you presume the socket signals to be?

Perhaps if one signal had been fired every minute they would have attracted greater attention that is true however the Californian was still too far away to hear the bang so they would not have been taken to have been gun signals in accordance with para 1 of the regulations.

They were fired at relatively short intervals and therefore met the distress requirements of part 3 of the regulations.
(not withstanding a debate about what defines a "short interval" of course)

Stone at the British Inquiry is unable to come up with a single convincing reason why a ship would have been firing those rockets. His only line of defence is that he told his skipper and that it was the CO's job to decide. That is a classic case of upward management. As the Officer of the watch Stone had to have a full understanding of what was going on around his vessel in order to make the right decisions. He deferred the responsibility for the situational awareness to Lord. Stone may well have believed that the rockets he'd seen were distress rockets but he didn't want to be the one to make the decision. That is where the human factors of the actions come in to play. The first time he whistled down the speaking tube to report to Lord he now has devolved responsibility. You can almost imagine the relief. He now has deniability if anything goes wrong "Well I told the skipper". He neither forced his opinion or did nothing but did just enough to cover himself so that if the CO dashed up to the bridge and saw the rockets and took action it would have been "well spotted Stone" or if the CO did nothing it wouldn't have been his fault.

I really think he feared that If he had called out more loudly and the CO came up to the bridge, took one look and said "Stone you blathering idiot, they're company signals, I'm off back below, we'll discuss this in the morning" he would have been massively embarrassed and couldn't make a decision that would lead to a potential rebuke from his skipper.

Stone was potentially one of the worst kind of leaders, where making no decisions is far worse than making a bad one.
 
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mitfrc

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And the correct response is to make the call, and if you are wrong, walk into the skipper's cabin the next morning, say, "I screwed up, this is why, this is how I can avoid doing it again." I have assuredly done this before and my director supervisor answered "I left you in charge and even though I think you made the wrong call I fully support your decision". I then worked my tail off to avoid negative consequences to the org, succeeded, as was my duty, and both me and my supervisor have only been promoted further since then.

He's an excellent leader, and Iraq war veteran willing to take risks to get the job done.

So what kind of leader was Lord? Was Stone afraid justly, or was he covering up a manifest error on his part? Either way, you're right , Stone was a poor leader .
 
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Arun Vajpey

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If Captain Lord had been called to the bridge promptly and seen some of the rockets himself, I have not the slightest doubt he would have immediately run down orders to the engine room and headed to where the rockets were seen. This is common sense. Firstly it fits the ice field and the side they were on - the eastern side. Secondly it fits with his own evidence of where the 'large passenger steamer' was coming from and heading from earlier before midnight. Thirdly, rockets would indicate a CQD position far more accurately than a wireless message of incorrect co-ordinates - as we all know proved to be the case.

Julian
I also felt that Lord did not have the full picture regarding the Titanic till much later. There is the feeling that there might have been a communication gap between the deck crew of the Californian and Captain Lord. I wonder how much the crew had to do indirectly do with the scapegoat position in which Lord eventually found himself.
 
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Julian Atkins

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Let me just interject that one of Gibson's accounts is that Stone had reported to Captain Lord 5 rockets seen at around or just after 1am or shortly before. The evidence is conflicting, but there is substance to it, and has been discussed at length previously on other threads. Gibson went below to prepare a new taff rail log, and couldn't find the new one after a long time (the delay in him being below has never been properly explained) and returned apparently briefly to Stone on the flying bridge.

One of his 2 account's of Stone's report to Captain Lord via the speaking tube of the rockets seen is considerably more damning of Captain Lord's lack of a response.

It is too late for me tonight to look all this up and I have a heavy cold and am off to bed!

Cheers,

Julian
 
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mitfrc

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Gibson provided two accounts and so would never survive cross-examination in court.... Well, you're the solicitor, but I just assume that's pretty much the death knell of any testimony.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Moving to other people whose reputations might have been affected by the Titanic disaster, what about the Duff-Gordons? Legend has it that Sir Cosmo gave each crewman £5 to get them to agree not to go back to pick-up more survivors from the water, but he is supposed to have claimed that he was trying to compensate them for loss of their kit or something. In the 1958 film ANTR, Lady Lucy is shown saying that she was already feeling "most uncomfortable" in the "crowded" lifeboat while people were dying in the water. In any case, the Duff-Gordons did not come out of it smelling of the proverbial roses. Has history been unkind to them?
 

mitfrc

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Is it plausible that their dying could have saved more people than their living? No? Then history is bring unkind to them. Their behaviour was driven by shock as much as indifference.

The problem however is that Victorian society in principle expected anyone including a upper class man to die for any woman, even if third class--well, assuming she was white. A lot of third class women died. That was the bottom line cause of first class male survivors looking bad.
 
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My opinion: For the most part, all of these people did the best they could with the information and understanding they had AT THE TIME. Some did better, some did worse, and some we lauded while others were damned and often on the weight of equally dubious evidence.
 
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Jim Currie

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Jim,

Apologies, but in a previous thread you had indicated, at least hypothetically, that Californian could get underway promptly. Are you now asserting that is not true?

I believe I have never at any time proposed Californian be sailed in an unsafe manner. I have nothing but respect for mariners; in my own profession my principle connection with your's is to evaluate the impact of ice upon the hull, screws and rudders of a vessel, or upon locks and dams and navigation infrastructure. I know what ice can do to a vessel intimately and have no objection to the argument that Rostron's speed was unsafe, nor would I object to the argument that Lord should have proceeded at dead slow and taken utmost care in the ice even if this delayed his response, his first duty being to his own ship.

My own background in regard to the sea is limited, and I shall summarise: I have been involved in design teams for ROVs and USVs; I have never had a greater responsibility on a vessel than to organise and supervise the launch and recovery of buoys under the Master's direction and to be responsible for the safety of students aboard a research vessel. I presently manage the operation of, research in, and refrigeration systems of certain refrigerated tow tanks.

To this end I am not attempting to go against your wisdom but to combine the social considerations of the time (which could be quite unyielding and proscriptive), the known facts of modern human factors assessment in accidents and incidents, and my own experience with the business of risk management and process safety management in keeping refrigeration systems safe and emergency response to incidents with those systems, and synthesise that general body of safety practice and modern human factors analysis to understand what happened on Californian. I am unconvinced they could have done anything, but they should have gotten underway sometime between 0100 and 0200, even if it was to proceed at a dead slow in the wrong direction according to the distress signal because they then raised Titanic and got bad info.

I believe the fact they did not is a failure even if it would not have changed anything, and I am interested in theorising the reason for that failure, which at first pass as Rob and I discussed seems based on human factors--exhaustion, complacency, unclear instructions or a chain of command that didn't handle crew resource well, perhaps solely because of unavoidable cultural factors in an era that didn't have the concept of CRM and I admit did not. These are lessons still worth learning and detailed study of Californian and what she could and couldn't have known and done can still, I think, teach us lessons to make us safer in the future.
Hello there Mitfrc...or may I call you Mit?;)

I find your associations with ROVs intersting. I too have worked with them extensively in the offshore oil industry. I am also very familiar with Risk Management practices since among other things, I worked for Lloyds and US Underwrites as Shipbuilder's Risk Surveyor at the Old John Brown's yard in Clydebank. However, back to the subject in hand.
Allow me to walk you back through the events of the early morning of April 15.

When the engines are left on standby, they can be used at a moment's notice. From the evidence of Gill, we know that there was an Engineer Watch on duty below. The 4th Engineer Watch was before Midnight and the 3rd was on from Midnight to 4 am. Steam pressure would have been maintained. It would have been a matter of minutes to get the ship underway.
Captain Lord would have left instructions to be called at 4-30 am because he knew that at that time, the light would be strong enough for him to assess the situation regarding ice and the prevailing conditions. These would be part of his decision-making process. His engine was ready to be used in the time it took for the engineer on Watch to start it moving. That would be no more than a few minutes. However, that would only be necessary in an emergency situation. No such situation occurred until Californian was actually underweigh. His first engine movement was FULL AHEAD. Lord stopped his ship and made sure of the intelligence before acting on it. That first engine order tells us very little since it may have been used to displace clutter around the stern and give the ship steerageway.

I can understand your argument but it lacks practicability. Forget the name Californian and apply the following to any ship.

The situation at 1 am was that of a ship becalmed and completely surrounded by light ice with much heavier ice just visible half a mile to the southward. There was another ship stopped about 4 miles to the southeastward. Attempts had been made to contact that ship in the standard accepted manner for such proximity...by morse signaling lamp. This alone tells us that the reported proximity was accurate.
By 1 am, 2 positively identified pyrotechnic signals had been seen in the direction of the nearby vessels. They were reported to the Master.
Although they burst with a shower of white stars, these were soundless and did not rise to the prescribed height above sea level. The interval between them was about 6 minutes. Except for the colour of the stars they did not resemble distress signals in any way. The nearby vessel did not exhibit any other sign of distress. At this point, there was nothing which conveyed urgency to the Master. There was no suggestion that more such signals would be seen so further action was not necessary at that time. However, the Master ordered that continued efforts should be made to contact the ship and that the results of such efforts should be reported to him.
At 2 pm, the Master was informed that the nearby ship had sailed away.
At 2-45 pm. the Master was informed that the vessel in question had finally disappeared from sight.

A short analysis of the foregoing is that the master of a ship was informed of 2 indeterminate signals from a nearby ship which subsequently steamed off and eventually disappeared from sight.
Thanks to modern communications, such a thing could not happen nowadays but it did in 1912.
You wrote
"seems based on human factors--exhaustion, complacency, unclear instructions or a chain of command that didn't handle crew resource well, perhaps solely because of unavoidable cultural factors in an era that didn't have the concept of CRM and I admit did not. "

I suggest to you that a Merchant Ship's crew in 1912 was the classic example of what you term CRM. Without a clear understanding of individual function and inter-connection between crew members, a ship would never have left the dock. A merchant ship then, and for very many years thereafter, only functioned efficiently if every man knew exactly what he had to do and clearly understood the working relationship between what he did and what the man on each side of him did. I worked in the business right up until 2004 and the same system applied even then although fewer were needed.
 
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Jim Currie

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What guidance to the regulations specified that "short Intervals" should be understood to mean "1 minute"? I am very used to having to read and implement guidance to regulations, there should be a memo or some other documentation from the period.

As for your question--I would have had wireless ask Titanic to clarify if they were firing rockets. It would not take a rocket scientist to figure out that two ships in distress simultaneously within thirty miles is wildly unlikely and that positions are not necessarily accurate.

At that point the question becomes--does Titanic actually provide sufficient information to allow you to determine they and the ship in distress to SSE is one and the same? Which is more or less the next question in a thread I started in another section of the board.

I know I am proposing a "via media" which will probably make no-one happy, but it is what is most congruent with modern operations and safety theory.
I am sure that many colleagues and marine students will confrim it, but when asked "how long is a short interval", MoT instructors replied..."Not a long one...one that tells everyone you need help".
Certainly not 6 minutes during which you could boil 2 kettles and we all know "A watched kettle never boils".
 
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Jim Currie

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Again I beg your indulgence as have a heavy cold.

Like Rob, I have always been interested in the personalities and their characteristics and actions of the principle players on The Californian.

Jim is the arch 'agent provocateur' on here!

In Jim's post 24 above, if Captain Lord had been called to the bridge promptly and seen some of the rockets himself, I have not the slightest doubt he would have immediately run down orders to the engine room and headed to where the rockets were seen. This is common sense. Firstly it fits the ice field and the side they were on - the eastern side. Secondly it fits with his own evidence of where the 'large passenger steamer' was coming from and heading from earlier before midnight. Thirdly, rockets would indicate a CQD position far more accurately than a wireless message of incorrect co-ordinates - as we all know proved to be the case.

Let us jump to after 4.30am the next day as darkness was very slowly turning to dawn.

Captain Lord gets Stewart's report of what Stone said to him of seeing the rockets in the night. Stewart misses out a few vital details. Captain Lord refuses to go down southwards to the vessel Stewart points out to him.

There is then an unexplained delay of perhaps up to 30 minutes before Evans is woken up.

We have the 5.11am timing of Durrant on Mount Temple hearing Evans start tapping away, and Durrant replying with Titanic's CQD details. The Frankfurt chips in too with the same information. The Virginian then chips in, and 45 minutes later at around 6am or 6.05am Captain Lord gets Captain Gambell's 'official' reply of the CQD position, and only then does Captain Lord take action.

That is a staggering delay of almost 2 hours since Stone first gave his report to Stewart of seeing white rockets during the middle watch!

Stone and Groves and the rest of the crew are not roused till later, and according to Groves he sees Carpathia and Mount Temple much earlier than admitted by Captain Lord.

What on earth was going on?!

Cheers,

Julian
Who? Me? Heaven forbid!:rolleyes:

Hope the cold's gone. Julian.

You forget one simple thing.

If Lord was told as Gibson said he was told..." Just seen a rocket from the nearby ship, sir", why on earth would the man jump up and run out into the cold in the hope of seeing another one?
If Lord genuinely did not hear Gibson clearly and at 2-10 am was told " You know that other ship I told you about, sir? Well, he's left and is heading away to the southwest." what on earth would stop him pulling the blanket over his head and going back to sleep?
If Lord was rudely awakened at 2-45 am by the whistle on the speaking tube to receive yet another "ship's away now, sir" update... how on earth do you think he reacted?

Oh, I can well imagine the thrill of speculation and gossip, but these guys lived in the real world.
 

Jim Currie

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I've long believed Jim is trying to separate sand and pepper with his socket signals argument.

Yes, the paperwork said the socket signals were in lieu of guns in terms of making a loud bang but they also threw out stars of any colour. They served both purposes.

As I have asked before. If you were out of the hearing range of the bang but saw a burst of stars, which type of distress signal would you presume the socket signals to be?

Perhaps if one signal had been fired every minute they would have attracted greater attention that is true however the Californian was still too far away to hear the bang so they would not have been taken to have been gun signals in accordance with para 1 of the regulations.

They were fired at relatively short intervals and therefore met the distress requirements of part 3 of the regulations.
(not withstanding a debate about what defines a "short interval" of course)

Stone at the British Inquiry is unable to come up with a single convincing reason why a ship would have been firing those rockets. His only line of defence is that he told his skipper and that it was the CO's job to decide. That is a classic case of upward management. As the Officer of the watch Stone had to have a full understanding of what was going on around his vessel in order to make the right decisions. He deferred the responsibility for the situational awareness to Lord. Stone may well have believed that the rockets he'd seen were distress rockets but he didn't want to be the one to make the decision. That is where the human factors of the actions come in to play. The first time he whistled down the speaking tube to report to Lord he now has devolved responsibility. You can almost imagine the relief. He now has deniability if anything goes wrong "Well I told the skipper". He neither forced his opinion or did nothing but did just enough to cover himself so that if the CO dashed up to the bridge and saw the rockets and took action it would have been "well spotted Stone" or if the CO did nothing it wouldn't have been his fault.

I really think he feared that If he had called out more loudly and the CO came up to the bridge, took one look and said "Stone you blathering idiot, they're company signals, I'm off back below, we'll discuss this in the morning" he would have been massively embarrassed and couldn't make a decision that would lead to a potential rebuke from his skipper.

Stone was potentially one of the worst kind of leaders, where making no decisions is far worse than making a bad one.
Your turn, Rob.

I could go with your argument about guns and rockets, Rob except you must ask yourself: why was Titanic supplied with conventional distress rockets?

I would agree with you that a distress rocket giving off white stars at a distance will probably be silent. However a single such rocket is not a signal of distress, only a series of them at short (not long) intervals conveys distress.
Even then, if you stick a ship under them, and they are coming from that ship, then they must reach to a great height above that ship before they burst.
if that ship is only 4 miles away then you would most certainly hear the detonation of firing and at height of trajectory.

As to firing intervals...which version do you favour? Stone said 3 or 4 minutes. The paper "Lifeboat Launching Sequence Re-Examined" gives a total firing period of 63 minutes...that's about 16 signals at 4-minute intervals.
But only positively identified 7 signals were seen from Californian. that gives an interval of 1 every 7 minutes.

You are correct that the OOW is in charge. But tell me something: if you were on OOW and saw something which did not meet your understading of such a thing, how would you report it?
Would you:
A: Make an arbitrary decision as to what it was you were seeing and report accordingly?
B: Report what you saw and admit that you did not know what it was?

How would you feel if you reported what you saw, the CO came on the bridge and did not see anything?
More to the point: if you were a CO what would you expect your OOW to do if he saw something he did not clearly or easily recognise?

 
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mitfrc

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Jan 3, 2017
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Jim,

My name is Marina. Mitfrc is simply the initials of my first, middle, Saint, patronymic (my grandfather was a white russian exile) and hyphenated married name. Not many women talk about naval architecture on the internet and the internet can be a rough place sometimes, so I usually provide an abbreviation or pseudonym on message boards until I am comfortable with them.

I have done work on both nearshore detection ROVs and oil herding and recovery ROVs, and power management and stability systems for sonar-carrying autonomous surface vessels.

I will answer the rest of your post in a bit-just on break at work right now.