Leslie Reade and his faults


Dave Moran

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Apr 23, 2002
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Hello folks

For several years now I have trolled about the board, occasionally joining in discussions and learning an awful lot about the Titanic and related matters.

Throughout, a perennial interest is the whole " mystery ship " question - and in my time I have ran the gamut from anti-Lord to pro-Lord and back again.

In several posts, and in reviews of the book in the Titanic Book site, I have seen statements to the effect that Leslie Reade's book - The Ship That Stood Still- is flawed or that Reade picks out elements from the evidence that supports his theses and rejects other, contradictory evidence.

Now, I own a copy of his book, which I hunted down with no small difficulty, and w as impressed by it. However, as a student of history I have a keen desire for accuracy - the truth being a far more subjective matter - and thus I would appreciate if anyone knows what the flaws in the book are alleged to be ?

Thanks in advance

warmest regards

dave
 

Paul Lee

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Hi Dave,
The only real faults I've noticed are Reade's habit of belittling those who he doesn't like. It gets quite tiresome after a while.

But it certainly changed my opinion of the Lord debate.

Cheers

Paul

 

Dave Gittins

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Two faults in Reade's book occur to me.

His analysis of the "rockets" and their sound is all wrong. The loud bang made by the socket signals occurred on the boat deck, not high in the air. When the pyrotechnics burst high in the air, there was only a dull thud.

In my opinion, Reade makes too much of statements that are both secondhand and made years after the event. I refer to Rostron's supposed retraction of his 1912 affidavit and the memories of the relatives of some Californian crewmen. He also makes too much of the unreliable Sir James Bisset, whose whole story, written with a ghost writer years after the event, is full of material that appears to be derived from the work of others, probably Walter Lord.

That said, Reade shows us what real research means. He went after every detail with great care and patience. Note how he found out the facts about company signals of the time and his pursuit of the Icelandic records of Samson.

If Reade ridicules the arguments of Captain Lord's supporters, I'll forgive him. Why not ridicule the ridiculous?
 

Inger Sheil

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I'm a tremendous fan of Reade - his ability to pioneer the use of new sources and his literary ability are among the strongest of any Titanic historians. I've come across the traces of his diligence(here a readers slip, there a note) in original documents some decades after he first accessed them in the 60s.

That being said, of course no historian is flawless. One thing that made me a bit uncomfortable was his selective quotation of material. In one instance I can think of, he used an unpublished crew affidavit, but truncated one particular statement - the first half was useful to his arguments, the second half contradicted his stance. As this material has still not been published in its entirety (although I hope to do so at a future date) and is in a private collection, researchers cannot easily go back to the source material for themselves to see the statement in its original context. I do wonder what else he might have come across in his remarkable research that did not make it into the finished volume.

An invaluable contribution to Titanic research, though - and not just to the Californian debate. I only wish he'd written more volumes on other aspects of the disaster as well.
 

Inger Sheil

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G'day Paul -

It's Lowe's affidavit, which I think I've mentioned before on the board. The statement used in part by Reade concerned Lowe's observations on the movements of the 'mystery ship'. If you're coming to the BTS convention next year or if we meet up in London I'll bring it along - his comments on what he saw of the other ship are more detailed than the evidence he gave at the British Inquiry, but I'm not suggesting it's anything revolutionary.
 

Paul Lee

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One point that Reade makes is that "Captain Lord and his friends" were pushing the Titanic-Californian distance even further apart to prevent the possibility of the two ships seeing each other.

Take for instance, the Californian's lattitude when she left the wreck site - 41 degrees 33 North. Reade doesn't seem to realise that this is the position of the debris after many hours of drift. Furthermore, this lattutude is corroborated by the Frankfurt, who, when steaming along the western side of the icefield, saw the Californian pass her bows. At the time, Frankfurt was at 41 degrees 35 North. Good corroboration there....

Cheers

Paul

 

Paul Lee

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Another thing that should be borne in mind about Reade: his knowledge of geometry is pretty poor. If you look at page 122, he asserts that the Carpathia saw Boxhall's green roman candle (which is most surely right) - but over a distance of 22 miles! If Boxhall lit the flare and held it over his head (or about 7 feet above the water), then this would mean that the maximum distance between the Carpathia and Boxhall would be about 11.5 miles! Ludicrous! And yet Stone and Gibson saw nothing!

Also, in the diagram, Reade assumes that Carpathia's speed is 18 knots, which we now know is not very likely. If you use the distances as quoted in the text, and then use the sine and cosine rule, you find the Carpathia-Californian distance to be 18 miles. I estimate that the two ship's maximum range, allowing for the horizon would be about 16 miles. Alright, allowing for an extra 2 miles in my calculations due to errors etc. would bring the two ships closer, but Gibson and Stone should have seen Carpathia's mast lights coming over the horizon. They were looking in the right general direction to see Carpathia's rockets. Please also note that this refers to the 3.15am timing on the diagram.

In another thread on this board, and on the sci.optics newsgroup, there is a discussion (started by me) about the visibility of red and green lights at night, and the concensus is that green lights do not show up as easily as red lights over distance, due to a variety of factors. But the Carpathia saw the green lights at extreme range! A thought did occur to me that the lack of green lights seen by the Californian might be due to occulting, or eclipsing of lights by the thick ice field between them, but this is something that is unknowable.

Cheers

Paul



PS Coo! 600th post!
 

Dave Gittins

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Briefly, people have tied themselves in knots trying to explain how Rostron saw Boxhall's flares from so far off. They've dragged in Roman candles and even rockets. All Boxhall had were green hand flares, much as used today. We know this because they were specified as White Star's night signal. As you say, a typical ship would see them from 10 or 11 miles off. The timing in Rostron's account is wrong, as I demonstrated several years ago. (Others had their suspicions too, but never quite nailed it).

It all comes down to Carpathia sighting tthe flares while 10 or 11 miles off, maybe less, and Californian being a bit more than 10 or 11 miles off. As Carpathia approached Boxhall, her rockets, whose visibility was limited more by their brightness than their height, were seen low on the horizon by Stone and Gibson. Her masthead lights were not seen, possible simply because they were out of range. It's all quite coherent when we take your approach and look at what was physically possible.
 

Paul Lee

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HI again Dave,
I have spent the last hour going nuts over the numbers (thank God beer is a nice distraction!).

Basically, this is what I have come up with:

A.The Californian didn't see the Carpathia company signals (blue balls not exceeding 150 feet) - which means that they must have been more than 24.6 miles apart. However, Californian did see the Carpathia's rockets, which puts the maximum distance at 41.9 miles.

a.The Carpathia did see the Californian's red side light, which means that they must have been less than 16.4 miles apart (which doesn't tie in with point A above!)

B. The Californian didn't see Boxhall's roman candles/flares, which means they must have been at least 11.5 miles apart.

b. Athough most people in the lifeboats only the Californian's white light (presumably masthead light?), Boat 9 did see her red light, which puts the maximum Californian->lifeboat distance at 10.5 miles, which doesn't tie in with point B!

C.The occupants in the lifeboats did see the Carpathia's rockets, which puts the maximum distance as being 35.8 miles....but not her blue company flares (minimum distance 18.7 miles)

c. The crew on the Carpathia saw Boxhall's green flares, which puts the maximum distance at about 11.5 miles.

I then tried drawing a triangle to work out some distances, and bearings and got horribly messed up, particularly because of point A and a!

I am estimating that my figures are right to about +/- 0.1 miles.

Cheers

Paul

 

Paul Lee

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I'm probably going to incite flames by saying this, but here goes:
looking at the figures and what was, and more importantly, was not seen, I am starting to think that the crew of the Carpathia saw another, third ship off their starboard bow at 3.00am-ish, which was not the Californian.

I see from the testimony that Lucas, in collapsible C, saw a red and white light 8 or 9 miles off - abeam the starboard side of the Titanic, not off the port bow.

Also, in the morning, Rostron saw two ships to the North, both one stackers, one with 2 masts and one with 4 masts. If you believe Leslie Reade, Rostron tardily identified one of these (the latter) as the Californian - but what about the other one?

Someone tell me I am going mad. Or not!

Cheers, mates

Paul

 

Dave Moran

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Apr 23, 2002
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Far too belatedly, I'd like to thank you all for posting with feedback - I much appreciate the time you gave to answer my query

warmest regards

dave
 

Paul Lee

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I've been going through the correspondence in the 1960s between Walter Lord and Leslie Reade at the NMM. Here's a little quiz for you:

"What was Leslie Reade's original title for his book?"
 

Dave Moran

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Apr 23, 2002
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- The Ship That Moved a Bit

- The Mysterious Affair of the Dog-Watch in the Night

- All Done With Icebergs

- Sink The Titanic

- A Night to Forget
 
Jun 10, 2004
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Leslie Reade's book is superb - I was lucky enough to see a copy in my local library and read it. However it is spoiled by a couple of points:

Reade appears to be out to "get" Lord, and this comes across as having found him guilty without trial. Not even Reade gathers enough evidence to vilify Lord as someone who could have saved large numbers of passengers. Other work here has shown that he could not have done so.

More pertinently, Lord's ship had no internal compartmentation. The forward and aft holds were just long open spaces. A mild collision with ice could have sunk such a ship. It was a big underpowered tub, with little ability to make elaborate manoeuvres at low speed. This point would have been well enough known to Lord, but I have not seen the point emphasised in the later discussion, and Reade does not mention it.
 

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