How Far Apart were Titanic and Californian?

Mar 22, 2003
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So this flash that Gibson saw 'apparently on her deck' sprang out of the sea just as he saw the streak of the signal go skyward and then burst into stars. OK, that's surely must be insignificant in comparison to unreliable subjective estimates on the distance of lights seen at see at night. I suppose if this signal came from Titanic, then it would have been impossible to see through binoculars what Gibson described seeing from a vessel that was 22 miles away. We should simply reject all that Gibson had wrote to Lord. He was obviously making it all up.
 

Jim Currie

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I'll leave others to give you a "like" for that nonsense, Sam.

I and others (I'm sure) wait with bated breath your explanation of the following:

1. How can someone see a detonation flash without stars?
2. How can someone apparently see a flash on a deck and mistake that deck for the sea?
3, How can that same "someone" see the time fuse sparks from a projectile fired at any distance greater than, say, 8 miles?
4. How was it possible that out of 7 or 8 projectiles fired only one detonation flash was seen by one of 2 observers using binoculars?
5. How do mariners in total darkness, determine distance from a light at sea.?
6. Why did Lord, Groves, Stone, and Gibson fail to see Titanic's signal light from 12-15 am until almost 1-20 am if, during that period, they could easily see her red sidelight?

I find it sad, if not amusing that you are quite willing to accept one single part of, and use, the unsubstantiated evidence of Gibson regarding the sighting of a flash, yet you reject his evidence, corroborated by Stone, that through binoculars, he saw a signal, right on the horizon at around 3-30 am.
However, I am not surprised, since by accepting it, you must also accept that the distance separating the sinking Titanic from the Californian was as indicated by Captain Lord and that would never do.
 

Julian Atkins

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The question that needs answering is not how far apart we're they but what did Stone think he was seeing at the time.

You, Jim, describe Stone's treatment at the British Inquiry as bullying or harassment. I disagree. The questioners then are having the same difficulty we are now in understanding how Stone interpreted what he was seeing. He (Stone) says, and we all agree they were white rockets. The question is, what did he interpret them to be? One or two could be a company signal, maybe. But after the third, fourth, fifth, sixth? What then? They were fired at regular intervals and even if we suggest a rate of one every 7 minutes that's still well over half an hour of doing absolutely diddly squat other than continue to send a flashing light call up that hadn't worked at any stage up to that point so there is zero reason to believe it would at any stage there after.

So that's the real question we need to answer. What did Herbert Stone interpret those signals to mean? Sadly we will never now what went through his mind during those fateful hours but within it lies the answer to the whole story

Hi Rob,

That is a very pertinent post, and excellently posed.

I would also add to your above why Stone dithered for some 30 minutes in sending Gibson down to the chart room at 2.05am to report to Captain Lord of the 8 white rockets seen, whilst during the preceding 30 minutes or so chatting on the bridge about 'her lights look queer' 'a big side out of the water' etc etc.

And why, by 1.10 or 1.15am, Stone reports (via the speaking tube to Captain Lord) only a flash then a rocket (or if you want, 2 rockets) when 5 rockets by then had been seen. This makes no sense to me, and Gibson gives one account that contradicts Stone on all this.

I don't myself consider Stone and Gibson's 18th April statements to be a full statements or necessarily accurate (and honest) as the chat before 2.05am is significantly missing, and only came out on cross examination at the British Inquiry (plus a great deal more).

Cheers,

Julian
 
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Wish-craft. LOL. I now live in a spot when I look south at night I can see the glow of Phoenix lights. And when I look north I see the glow of Las Vegas. Theres been many a nights that I wish I could see a sky like I did at sea. I'm glad to have gotten to experiance it. Its quite something to see. At least for me it was.
 
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Mar 22, 2003
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Not quite unsubstantiated:
7922. Well, anything else? - But that I could not understand why if the rockets came from a steamer beyond this one, when the steamer altered her bearing the rockets should also alter their bearings.
7923. That pointed to this, that the rockets did come from this steamer? - It does, although I saw no actual evidence of their being fired from the deck of the steamer except in one case.
7924. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Which is the one case? - One rocket that I saw that appeared to be much brighter than the others.
7925. Was that one of the five or one of the three? - One of the three.
7926. That, you felt confident, came from the vessel that was showing you these navigation lights? - I am sure of it.
7927. That you were sure of? - Yes.

So perhaps the 6th rocket seen came from this nearby tramp steamer, the one that Stone said was altering her bearing ever since the 2nd rocket (out of 8) was seen? I suppose it went higher than just 50 ft up if it was a rocket fired from this vessel?
 

Jim Currie

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Further to my reply to Rob:

If the distress signals seen by Stone were socket signals then proportionally, they should have been seen about five timed higher above the white masthead light than that same white light was above the red sidelight.. regardless of the distance separating the two vessels.
Here is a little sketch to illustrate what I mean. It is to scale.
Code:
44571

The stars to the left of the red light are as Stone described. If the signals he saw came from the vessel in sight, and they were Cotton Powder Co. socket signals, then they should have appeared to Stone exactly as the ones above the white masthead light as illustrated.

Since Julian is anxious to discuss in detail, the interrogation of 2nd Officer Stone. I will open a new thread dedicated to the subject. I'm sure he will be able to give us an insight into what was going on from a legal point of view. I will begin by saying it as I see it.
 
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Julian Atkins

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7922 - 7927 from the British Inquiry is very significant, as Sam recognises quite rightly, and quotes above.

It is corroboration between Stone and Gibson that one of the rockets was fired from the vessel they were observing. This was when Gibson had finally come up from below searching for the new taff rail log, having missed the first 5 rockets seen by Stone (or 1 flash then 4 rockets), and both saw the following 3 together.

Stone confirms that one of these 3 rockets was much brighter than the others, and there was evidence in the case of this rocket being fired from the deck.

This is vitally important. And there is some significance that Gibson's account is more detailed. Exactly the same happens some 1 hour 45 minutes later when Gibson sees the first of the 3 Carpathia's rockets - which Stone misses, then they both see the next 2 and again Gibson sees them clearer than Stone and gives a more detailed account.

I used to have excellent long distance eyesight, and this deteriorated quite quickly at the same age Stone was on The Californian in 1912. I was in my early to mid 20's when this occurred, and have had to wear glasses for distances ever since. Prior to this I could read car number plates at a significant distance.

We have lots of pics of Captain Lord, and in later years he had considerable problems with his eyesight, as noted by his son and Leslie Harrison, but apparently due to old age.

What we don't have (except for Stewart) is any pics of Gibson or Stone after 1912. This is quite surprising considering Paul Lee and Leslie Reade were in contact with Gibson's and Stone's families (after the death of both) and also Leslie Harrison in respect of Gibson.

I have always considered something odd about Stone in 1912 in respect of his 18th April statement (kept private by Captain Lord), and his British Inquiry testimony. Gibson is not a perfect witness either.

Then in 1912 after the British inquiry Captain Lord does a 'hatched job' on Stone in his letters to the Board of Trade etc.

It is very complex and quite a mess.

Cheers,

Julian
 
Mar 22, 2003
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It is very complex and quite a mess.
Absolutely. Nothing is obvious despite what some people want to believe. I personally think Gibson was telling Lord exactly what what he saw when looking through those binoculars at the time. I leave it to others to interpret that very detailed description. I don't believe he made anything up in that report to his captain.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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If you have been to sea in a ship in any capacity then you were a "real sailor."
Then there are a lot of us real sailors out there.
Yes, Sam, as Julian points out, we can all read. have you ever been to sea? have you ever looked through binoculars at night
Yes, for your information, I have. You really know very little about me or my past experiences and interests.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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" 921. Tell me what you said to the Chief Officer?
- I have remarked at different times that these rockets did not appear to go very high; they were very low lying; they were only about half the height of the steamer's masthead light and I thought rockets would go higher than that."
There is not a single ounce of corroborative evidence to support his so-called observation.
 
May 3, 2005
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Further to my reply to Rob:

If the distress signals seen by Stone were socket signals then proportionally, they should have been seen about five timed higher above the white masthead light than that same white light was above the red sidelight.. regardless of the distance separating the two vessels.
Here is a little sketch to illustrate what I mean. It is to scale.
Code:
44571

The stars to the left of the red light are as Stone described. If the signals he saw came from the vessel in sight, and they were Cotton Powder Co. socket signals, then they should have appeared to Stone exactly as the ones above the white masthead light as illustrated.

Since Julian is anxious to discuss in detail, the interrogation of 2nd Officer Stone. I will open a new thread dedicated to the subject. I'm sure he will be able to give us an insight into what was going on from a legal point of view. I will begin by saying it as I see it.
It would seem to me that the signals were from another vessel farther beyond the vessel showing its masthead lights ?
 
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Jim Currie

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There is not a single ounce of corroborative evidence to support his so-called observation.
Are you serious? Is it your contention that unless every witness has a sworn back-up, he is lying?

When someone lies in these circumstances, there is an ulterior motive for doing so. Instead of doing a "Brer-rabbit" with this, you, an everyone else should ask the question: "What would Stone's purpose be for falsely describing what he saw?"
You and others must keep in mind that during a Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry into a loss, many witnesses are called and to tell lies under oath is fraught with danger since, in such circumstances, there is no guarantee that shipmate will tell the same tale. I remind you of the "haze" story of Fleet and Lee.


For sure, there is no corroboration as to what Stone said saw at that time...not in so many words, but I suggest to you that it is perfectly reasonable that Stone was simply describing what he saw and reinforcing what he wrote earlier in his report to Captain Lord, dated April 18. I quote:

"I made out to be a white rocket though I observed no flash on the deck or any indication that it had come from that steamer, in fact, it appeared to come from a good distance beyond her."

How do you think Stone got that impression?

If, Stone had told his questioners he thought the signals came form beyond the nearby vessel, what do you think he would next be asked?

What you are asking everyone to believe is that this insignificant person, who reportedly had little or no imagination, concocted an elaborate tale to put off his questioners.
 

Jim Currie

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What has all this to do with how far apart the two vessels were?

However, if straws you must clutch-at, make sure they are bio-degradable.:rolleyes:

So let's examine the foregoing posts.

First; Gibson gave evidence before Stone. However, Stone would have been in the hall and carefully listening to what this junior was saying.
Second: Gibson said he saw a "flash" apparently on the other vessel's deck - he did not positively identify the source of his flash.
Third: During that section of the questioning, Stone did not say that he saw a "flash" or where he saw anything. He simply said that one of the 8 signals seen, by him seemed a little brighter. When asked to be more specific, he said it was one of the three last seen by him
Was this compromise in case he forgot something or seemed less observant that his junior to his questioners? Or was it an assumption that since the rocket he saw was brighter than the others, it must, therefore, have come from a nearer source...the nearby vessel?

To summarise:

Gibson said that only one of the three rockets he saw appeared to be fired from the deck of the nearby vessel.
Stone also used the word "appeared". However, he did not use the word "flash" but based his assumption on the brightness of a single rocket. He only saw one "flash" and that was his original sighting which drew his concentration onto the nearby vessel.

Now 3-30 am:
There is no significance in who saw what first. At sea, your periphery vision usually alerts you to an anomaly.

The normal practice at sea was to "pace" back and forward while allowing your eyes to pick up an anomaly. If Gibson was pacing on the port side of the upper bridge and Stone on the starboard side or they were pacing athwartship in opposite directions, the one on the port side would have been first to pick up a flash or light of any kind in that direction. In the case of Gibson, he would then have alerted his superior. No delicious mystery... just normal.
As for superiority of eyesight? Before sitting an exam for a superior Certificate, a Merchant Navy Deck Officer had to undergo a very tough eyesight examination. Failure was the end of a career. I think you will find that's what happened to Pitman of the Titanic.

As for the evidence regarding the 3-30 am "flash"
Stone stated :
8010. What do you mean by a very great distance? A: - Such a distance that if it had been much further I should have seen no light at all, merely a faint flash.
Gibson stated:
7596. Could you see when you saw this flash at all how far away you thought it was? A: - It was right on the horizon."

"A rose by any other name" etc....What part of the above answers is it that you don't understand?


Since you both seem to prefer Gibson. So how do you twist the following?
"7731. (Mr. Harbinson.) Did the glare of light that you saw on the after part of this boat seem to be a pretty considerable distance from the masthead light? A: - Yes.
7732. It seemed to be a pretty considerable distance? A: - Yes.


Seemingly the word seem and its tenses seem to have been most seemingly! However, the following is a very rough idea of what Gibson should have been seeing had the nearby vessel been Titanic:

Code:
44530


The words "chalk" and "cheese" come to mind.

Why don't you all face up to the truth?
 
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Mar 22, 2003
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By the way, if Stone's claim was true, and if that steamer was tramp about 5 miles away with a masthead light about 100 ft above the sea, then those 8 rockets that he saw came from a vessel more than 27 miles away, assuming they burst 650 ft above the sea. Even further away if you want to assume abnormal refraction. If they came from a vessel only 22 miles away, then they should have appeared to burst a little higher than the masthead light. Or maybe the tramp was only 2.5 miles away Californian instead of 5?
But what do we know? If Stone said it was so, then it had to be so.
 

Jim Currie

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Then there are a lot of us real sailors out there.

Yes, for your information, I have. You really know very little about me or my past experiences and interests.
On the contrary, you have told us all a great deal of your past and interests. However, being at the helm of a 25 ft sailboat on Raritan Bay on a fine summer day, does not qualify you as a mariner. I am curious as to the qualification "yachtsman's mate". However, if you had any real experience of sailing at night on such a night as is under discussion, then you would know exactly what it was like to look and see the horizon.
 
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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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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.