How Far Apart were Titanic and Californian?

Jan 8, 2001
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With all this continuing Pro and Anti-Lord debate going on, I just thought I would see what kind of differences in esimates on how far Titanic and Californian were from each other we could come up with. I haven't read Senan's book yet, and if I had to be labled as one or the other, I guess it would be Anti. Yet, I do realize even if the Californian were only a few miles away, there would have still been numerous logistical problems as noted by Michael, Tracy and Erik's paper. So far I think David Gittins 10-16 mile range looks to be the most objective and non-partisaned (sp?). Good Day! Michael Koch
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Objectively speaking, polls of this sort make me a tad nervous. Opinions are interesting, but the mere belief in a particular notion by a majority doesn't make it a fact. Dave Gittins, IMO, covered the problems...and they are many...in working out the distance of seperation nicely, and as he's experienced at marine navigation, I'm inclined to give it more weight then I would most other contenders. Cordially, Michael H. Standart
 

Kyrila Scully

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Apr 15, 2001
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But you all need to remember something. Yes, the Californian was just a few miles away, but AS THE CROW FLIES!!! You all seem to forget a very important detail. The Californian was hedged in all around by pack ice! They had to sail clear around it to even get to where Titanic sank. It was not a straight shot across the water. It took them hours to reach the coordinates. Now, I've never been labelled pro-Lord, but I'm not one to ignore obvious facts, either. So in the end, guessing (or even knowing) how close the Californian was to Titanic is simply a moot point. Kyrila (M.H.S.: Present company excluded...I know you know)
 
Dec 6, 2000
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Kyrila - I've seen a map, advanced by the Lord camp, which shows an ice field *between* the alleged positions of the Californian and the Titanic (sorry, I don't recall ..... wait a minute, here it is) on page 364 of THE SHIP THAT STOOD STILL. Most other maps of the site I've seen, show Californian and Titanic on the east edge of the field, with no large amount of ice between the two. However, I don't know if we can state that the Californian was hedged in *all around* by pack ice. They stopped on the eastern edge of the ice field, and I suspect remained close to the eastern edge all night. They could have sailed west out of the field, then south to reach the sinking site. The next morning, in attempting to reach the co-ordinates of the reported sinking site (which was on the *west* side of the ice field), they sailed on a westerly course through the field, then south toward the Mount Temple. After that, they sailed west to east, thru the ice field again, until they reached the position of the Carpathia, which had already picked up most or all of the Titanic lifeboats.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Interesting. The question is distance, but it is funny, there are really two things that must be considered: 1) the April 14,1912 SOS position and Lord's stated position "distance" and 2) the 1985 wreck position and Lord's stated position "distance". There was ice between the SOS position west of the ice and Lord's stated position on April 14th 1912. The 1985 position of the Titanic wreck and Lord's stated position were on the same side of the ice. I have read Dave's great site and I agree with what it says there and what Mike has stated here. Dave is a pro. (Don't anyone tell him I said so.) Just curious, I wonder if he or someone else could figure out what the probably distance waas and what if any difference in the two distances was? Maureen.
 

Don Tweed

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Mar 30, 2006
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I agree they were on the same side of the ice field. And what would have happened if the Californian had come? As she did ,firing rockets and looking nearer all the time to Titanics officers, it may have instilled hope and they may have filled the boats to near capacity! So many ????, and of course we will never know!! It all comes down to the rockets for me. They saw them and did nothing! Still, do you find fault with a Cptn. who has the sense to stop his command knowing of the danger around? Just points to ponder! -Don
 
Dec 2, 2000
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True Don, they are points to ponder. And it makes it harder for us in hindsight to say what should or should not have been a person's logical decision. But when we try, I feel it critical to place them right where they assumed that they were and not where we know them to have been. Why? Because that is the only way to make sense of the decisions that were made by anyone that night. To be honest, Lord had "assumed" that he had notified Titanic of the ice he was stopped in because he had requested a message be sent. Evans had assumed that the message was sent and received because of the response.Lord had thought the message was sent and received. Lord had even sent a message earlier about the ice to Titanic. In Lord's mind Titanic was the only ship about and as far as he knew, the Titanic had been told repeatedly of ice and he had seen a ship that he felt could not have been Titanic. Many ships were in need of repair due to ice during the last few days in that patch of the North Atlantic. So the fact is that Californian warned Titanic, Titanic ignored the messages. Even those of other ships. And even one that came from the US Navy Hydrographic Office. There were reports of drifting ships and ice impacted ships. And yet Titanic came barreling along into a known icefield with many large bergs where there were drifting out of control ships. Titanic had not performed a boat drill. According to the standards of the time, Titanic herself could have added about 400 more live bodies to the "half filled" life boats. Of 2200 people, 1500 are always stated as being there ready and waiting to be saved on deck just watching Californian not save them. I feel that this is an inaccurate assumption. Yes, of 2200 people, about 700 were saved in lifeboats, and that leaves about 1500 people. But of the 1500 people many were below decks. There were at least about 200 engineers I believe that never even tried to come up on deck. And the harsh shift work placed 33% of the crew off duty and more than likely in a deep sleep. Many of the passengers were of the farm country and I believe from habit and it was Sunday night would have been in bed in a sound sleep. If people began to realize that there was a problem in 3 rd class the first thing would be to pack up and get ready to leave. There were people who went back for purses and briefcases or other things in the WTC, why do we think that people did anything less. Most were people who had survived the 93 bombing and felt safe in the structure. The crew was basically broken up into shifts and even Lightoller was in his room awaiting instructions. How many were sounds asleep and never awakened? With the passengers, it is hard to tell, but I think that many were below decks or came up without lifebelts. If a person came up without a life belt they doomed themselves. Anyway, my guess is that the 300 bodies were probably the only people who were on deck and wearing lifebelts. The rest were either below working, sound asleep, packing their belongings and readying familes, or lost in the maze of hallways. Or they were on deck, but not in a lifebelt. If Californian had left their spot and had heard the distress call just after Evans sent his ice warning. Evans goes to Lord and tells him that at 11:40 Titanic struck an iceberg and has sent a distress signal. He gives the SOS position. (Which is wrong). Lord immediately leaves for the SOS position, but begins to see rockets firing off in a distance. He asks if Titanic is shooting of rockets. The message is confirmed that Titanic is shooting rockets. Lord asks Titanic to check their position as he sees rockets in the opposite direction. Titanic corrects their prior position. Californian turns towards the rockets. The rockets cease. Titanic sinks. Californian arrives Californian arrives, about 300 bodies were found in life belts ready to be saved but most are dead from exposure, and that leaves 1200 people are unaccounted for. Things to ponder. I still would like to know the differences in the distances. Maureen.
 

Tracy Smith

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Very good post, Maureen. You gave us all a lot to chew on. Don said: It all comes down to the rockets for me. They saw them and did nothing! Very true, Don. The question for me is why? Because nothing ever happens in a vacuum, I'm thinking that the whys will be more telling than the whats. Don also said: Still, do you find fault with a Cptn. who has the sense to stop his command knowing of the danger around? Exactly. Kind of makes me suspect that there might not have been a Titanic disaster at all if Stanley Lord had been in command of the Titanic that night, instead of the Californian. Even Leslie Reade stated that had Lord joined the White Star Line at the beginning of his career, he would have been regarded as one of their best officers.
 

John M. Feeney

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Tracy: If there was an acceptable excuse for why the Californian observed distress signals and did nothing, it should have been proffered in 1912! What we got instead was a massive, shameless cover-up -- hardly the response of a captain who's made all the right moves, but arrived at a sound *decision* that it simply wasn't safe to proceed. The "whys" might be interesting, but they don't change the facts. A captain forced to make a judgement call for the safety of his own ship would have nothing to hide. This is precisely why Captain Moore of the Mount Temple could divulge his reluctance to go *through* that ice field, beyond the CQD location, with a clean breast. He realized quite correctly that Titanic likely had been further east; but he *made* a command decision, however tough, not to jeopardize his own ship, crew, and passengers on that chance alone. (His sole reward for this honest decision, from Captain Lord and his sycophants, is the frequent, unfounded accusation that the Mount Temple "might have been the mystery ship".) Moore had a massive ice field before him; Lord's mapping of "thick ice" is unique. Moore made a genuine decision; Lord hid in his cabin. Big difference! You can dabble with the why's and wherefore's all you like, but barring the astronomically unlikely reversal of those three key issues framed by Eric Paddon, it doesn't change the verdict -- negligence! I would counter that glorifying "Lord vs. Smith" comparison by saying that if it had indeed been Captain Lord in command of the stricken Titanic, we might still be wondering what happened to the ship! (Lord barely missed the ice himself.)
 

Eric Paddon

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It almost seems as though the Lordite side in this thread would be on the order of "guilty with an explanation" and that the explanation factor should outrank the guilty factor. But I think in the end the guilty factor is the more important matter on the question of did Captain Lord do what an intelligent master should have done in response to distress signals. Frankly, this excuse that has him assuming the ship firing rockets couldn't have wireless because he was convinced it wasn't Titanic since Evans said that Titanic was the only ship he had earlier strikes me as weak in the extreme. Consider also how in Washington, Captain Lord's only reference to what Third Officer Groves thought of the approaching lights was that Groves thought it was a "star". Rather strange that he left out Groves' insistence that he thought it was a passenger liner.
 

Tracy Smith

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Well, I beg to differ in that the whys do matter. Not to you, but to me, they do. Like I said before, nothing ever happens in a vacuum with no rhyme nor reason. I know that you and Eric don't agree, and we've gone over all of this before, but I am of the belief that Lord did not get a full understanding of what was going on at the time it was happening, probably because neither Stone nor Gibson made sure that Lord was fully awake and cognizant when they reported to him. It's not as if either of them burst into the chart room, like Cottam burst into Rostron's room on the Carpathia, forcefully reporting the problem. I am thinking that when Gibson went down there, he spoke softly, then quietly left. And, again, even though knowing that you and Eric don't and won't agree, as I've read your views on this before, I am strongly suspecting that Stone and Gibson did not fully grasp what they were seeing at the time they were seeing them. If they had, it seems they would have acted with more urgency. Stone would have reported to Lord quicker, and made sure Lord fully understood that it was distress rockets he was seeing by using the word "distress" when speaking to Lord. Stone also had the option of waking Evans on his own to see what was the matter. And lastly, if he was as intimidated by Lord as has been suggested, he could have woken Mr Stewart and had him deal with Lord. He did none of these things, which leads me to believe he didn't fully understand. If we don't consider the circumstances of the actions, then the idea of Lord willfully ignoring calls for assistance doesn't add up or make a whole lot of sense. Here was a captain, who up to now had a flawless record, who had the highest confidence of his employers. Why would he just suddenly decide to throw it all away; it isn't consistent with his previous service record. If he'd had a previous record that was spotty, there would be no reason to ask why, because such negligence would have been in character for him. Even if he was "afraid" of the ice (which seems to be a pretty healthy attitude...too bad those on the Titanic did not have a similar fear!), he was smart enough to know that any effort at all, even one that was aborted by the difficulties of passing through the ice, would have been enough to keep himself off the hot seat. Also, once he did get a full wireless report of what had happened, he got going quickly enough through the ice, afraid of it or not. We agree that distress rockets were sighted by the Californian and that they were not appropriately responded to. We disagree in that you think that nothing else matters beyond this and I think that it does. So be it. We'll just have to agree to disagree on this one, as I don't see us ever coming to an agreement on this issue.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Just to clarify, I am neither for or against Lord. I am a person on a steep learning curve. Someone posted above that Californian and Titanic were on the same side of the ice in some books and not in others. I think if one researches the why of that they will find it is due to the date of publication of the written work prior to the discovery of the location of the wreck. That is not a pro-Lord comment, that is merely a fact. People who make comments here are not necessarily in little mail sorting cubicles. You do not know me Eric, do not type caste me. John even knows that I can offer information for both sides to an argument without taking sides. Maureen.
 

Eric Paddon

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Jun 4, 2002
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"I am strongly suspecting that Stone and Gibson did not fully grasp what they were seeing at the time they were seeing them" Here's my problem with this line of thinking. What were Stone and Gibson surmising, if they did not think that some kind of distress or trouble was likely the reason? They did not brush them off as celebration or fun or even company signals. We also have too much from the original statements of Stone and Gibson that indicate they did not think all was right with the vessel as well as the final confession of Stone furnished by his son to Leslie Reade that I think makes the evidence overwhelming that Stone and Gibson were not viewing them in a blase fashion. Ultimately, Captain Lord was notified three times in a 90 minute timespan which by itself indicates that this was a matter of potential seriousness from Stone's and Gibson's point. Captain Lord was certainly not too deep in the throes of sleep to not comprehend the meaning of the answer, "They appear to be white rockets." As Walter Lord notes in "The Night Lives On", he had to always get up from the chart-room settee to go over and answer the speaking tube. In light of Captain Lord's access to the statements Gibson and Stone gave, his account to the Inquiries of only having a "dim recollection" of Gibson have never struck me as credible. "And lastly, if he was as intimidated by Lord as has been suggested, he could have woken Mr Stewart and had him deal with Lord." The problem with that line of thinking is, why would someone intimidated by Captain Lord, as Stone seems to have been, go to the trouble of violating orders by making an end-run in waking the off-duty Chief Officer to do all the talking for him? That is exactly the kind of thing someone naturally intimidated by Captain Lord would not do. If the argument is made that the "why" factors of Captain Lord not responding matter more than his negligence, then I would like to ask this. What is the "why" explanation to explain his inexcusable cover-up of events in the log book, as well as his deceptions to the Leyland Line and the reporters in Boston?
 

John M. Feeney

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Sep 20, 2000
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Tracy wrote: "Even if he was "afraid" of the ice (which seems to be a pretty healthy attitude...too bad those on the Titanic did not have a similar fear!), he was smart enough to know that any effort at all, even one that was aborted by the difficulties of passing through the ice, would have been enough to keep himself off the hot seat. Also, once he did get a full wireless report of what had happened, he got going quickly enough through the ice, afraid of it or not." Tracy: Lord didn't have any more healthy respect for the ice than Smith did. He just had a slower boat! You've often made much ado of his souped-up watch -- two total lookouts (same as Titanic's *normal* contingent) versus the usual one -- but he didn't slow down, nor did he alter course one bit as a precaution against the ice he himself was well aware of. So at 10:21 P.M. (ship's time) Lord simply got *lucky* when he, too, narrowly averted disaster. Remember, they had barely run the way off the ship before they were "surrounded by loose ice". Lord didn't stop for the ice; the ice stopped him! I don't think Lord's supposed 'superior navigation', as he once brashly put it, had anything to do with it all. He just had better luck that night. As for any implied contrast between Captains Smith and Lord, there but for the grace of God would have gone the Californian, too. As for that 'got going quickly through the ice, afraid or not', you're not even remotely close to correct there. Lord was up and about shortly after 4:30 A.M.. He was then further advised of those rocket sightings (and he consulted with Stone about them). But *still* no one woke Evans until 5:20 -- almost an hour later! Then Lord deliberately waited until 6:00 A.M. to get underway, though he had wireless confirmation of Titanic's plight at 5:30! Waiting 30 minutes (or even twenty), supposedly for "daylight" is hardly rushing to the rescue! Besides which, the sun was already UP at 5:30 Californian time. (It was already light much earlier still.) Nevertheless, Lord just waited. [US 736-7]: Senator SMITH. When were you awakened? Mr. EVANS. About 3.30 a. m., New York time. Senator SMITH. And who awakened you? Mr. EVANS. The chief officer. Senator SMITH. What did he say to you? Mr. EVANS. He said, "There is a ship that has been firing rockets in the night. Please see if there is anything the matter." ... Mr. EVANS. I jumped out of bed, slipped on a pair of trousers and a pair of slippers, and I went at once to my key and started my motor and gave "C.Q." About a second later I was answered by the Frankfurt, "D. K. D., Dft.”￾ The "Dft," is the Frankfurt's call. He told me the Titanic had sunk. ... Senator SMITH. Have you got with you the message you received from the Frankfurt at 3.40 Monday morning? Mr. EVANS. No, sir; that was not an official message; that was only a conversation. But a few minutes after that I got an official message from the Virginian. Sorry, no "damn the torpedoes" laurel leaves for that feat of unimaginable tardiness. If Captain Lord made no effort to assist (or even assess!), he has only himself to blame. But this near "hero worship" you display for Stanley Lord, in spite of the facts (meanwhile finding fault with any party who might contradict him, and culpability in any party who might supply him a convenient "out") is really deplorable in its downright partisanship. Did anyone else get it right, other than Lord, in your mind?
 
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Timothy Brandsoy

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Tracy said: "...but I am of the belief that Lord did not get a full understanding of what was going on at the time it was happening, probably because neither Stone nor Gibson made sure that Lord was fully awake and cognizant when they reported to him." Not to be rude, but was Lord drunk? What does a subordinate have to do to his captain to make him understand? Maybe he thought since he was stuck in an ice field and wasn't planning on going anywhere, a few nightcaps wouldn't hurt. I think the Californian crew DID understand, but were, for whatever reason, unable to get Lord to act. I also doubt that there were only 300 people with lifebelts waiting on deck. A person would have to be heavily sedated not to be aware after all the rockets were shot off. Apparently they were very loud. What about the mass of humanity that was seen going to the stern? Even IF it were only (?) 300 people does that make it any better? IMO a proper Captain would have awoke his "Sparky" to verify the coordinates and the firing of rockets while in route. I feel Capt. Lord was hiding a lot of things. They were probably closer than even he was willing to admit. Tim B
 

John M. Feeney

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Sep 20, 2000
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Tracy wrote: "...nothing ever happens in a vacuum with no rhyme nor reason" Tracy: Nothing could be further from the truth! Despite your obvious wish here to attribute some underlying good or neutral motive to the bad actions of Captain Lord, that analogy is inherently false. Many things happen in a vacuum. Light travels through a vacuum. Time elapses in a vacuum. Our own planet whirls through a vacuum, as do all the heavenly bodies. Television pictures are produced in a vacuum, as are the graphics you're likely viewing this very message on. All in a vacuum. Sometimes, no matter how desperate the search for an appealing "explanation", stuff just happens! And whether or not there is, or ever will be, a suitable rhyme or reason revealed doesn't change the fact that the thing DID happen. Denial of actual occurrences, pending the arrival of an "acceptable explanation", is rarely a workable strategy -- in anything. That way madness lies. And how can one realistically even contemplate "why" if one refuses to acknowledge "what"? I thought you were a former police officer, so surely this shouldn't elude you. Does a crime not exist until a suspect is found? Is a convicted criminal any less guilty because the court does not understand "why"?? Scat happens!
 

Tracy Smith

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Oh, come on, John. You know that I was talking about the actions of human beings when I spoke of things happening in a vacuum. Surely you cannot be so petty as to think I was including non-human events here. Tim, Lord was a known teetotaller and Third Officer Groves did affirm this. And again, for him to willfully refuse to go to another's aid, what any decent sailor would do, is not consistent with his earlier actions as a sailor. Well, one can find a dead body, the medical examiner can determine that the person was murdered, and still the murderer has not yet been found. But a crime surely exists here. Can you say Chandra Levy? In court cases, every bit of evidence is thoroughly examined to establish guilt, one reason being that it is very important not to send a an innocent person to jail. Sometimes a person can appear to be quite guilty, but it is later determined that things are not as they orginally seemed and that the person is innocent after all. You know, innocent until proven guilty and all that.
 

Eric Paddon

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Jun 4, 2002
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"And again, for him to willfully refuse to go to another's aid, what any decent sailor would do, is not consistent with his earlier actions as a sailor" But his post-disaster conduct is quite consistent with someone who has just realized that he was guilty of negligent conduct. Eradicating all mention of the rocket sightings from the log book, taking statements from Stone and Gibson and withholding them from investigating authorities, lying to his employers, lying to the press in Boston and then arguably lying before both Inquiries. That conduct is not the mark of someone who thinks he acted in the most appropriate manner a competent master should have done that night and those are the points the other side needs to address head on.