Lifeboats Don't Lie

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May 9, 2000
I am not an expert in questions of the mystery ship. My question: is a sky phenomena near the horizon instead of a light of any mystery ship fully exluded in the today's view?
After reading the article I have read some witness reports about that light the life boats were pulling toward. Some witnesses believed it was northern lights, some believed to see the light of a ship, some told to have seen a star, some answered that they did not see any light in the distance. And some reported that there was a light that disappeared.

In the hours after the collission the planet Mars, which is brighter than many stars, was moving to the north-western horizon and disappeared around one hour after midnight. Probably Mars was the only astronomical object that could be seen through the haze right above the north-western horizon before the planet disappeared. It could have looked like a light in the distance.

Maybe some thought that Mars was the light of a ship in the distance? That is what I had supposed. But I was a bit confused because Mars looks pretty red. Some witnesses told of a "white" light. If the life boats did not go north but south - we can say that they were not heading for Mars which was shining at the north-western horizon.

Then what about Jupiter? This Planet - even much brighter as Mars and all stars in that night and pretty "white" - was rising around 11 p.m. and was still close to the horizon even one hour after midnight in the southern direction. It looked like a white light in a southern (bit eastern) direction. Assuming that there was a certain haze at the horizon right above the waterline this planet was shining through the haze before any stars. You couldn't say if this bright spot is a light in a distance or a star. But this "light" was rising and not "disappearing" as some said.

Finally I will change my mind and believe that there was indeed a mystery ship. I'll think about it...

Great article!

Best regards

P.S. The sky chart of the Titanic night can be re-created on the site Scroll down and enter the coordinates of the Titanic, then take the link below to the “Whole Sky Chart” and change the date below the actual chart.

Senan Molony

Jun 28, 1998
Hi Henning,

This astronomy suggestion has been addressed under another thread.

It must be remembered that the Mystery Ship exhibited both masthead lights (two, white) and red and green sidelights.

It is thus incapable of being an illusion.

Experienced Titanic officers, and the Captain, had seen all kinds of meteorological phenomena and were in no doubt about what they say.

Boxhall had time, height, binoculars and the particular task of watching and trying to summon the mystery ship.

He first saw a faint light that approached - he said this repeatedly, and far-off celestial bodies do not move - a light that resolved itself as it came closer into masthead lights (meaning two white steaming lights), which further became a GREEN light and RED light together, below the masthead lights.

These were the red and green lights of a ship's port and starboard sidelights, meaning the vessel was directly oncoming, as Boxhall said: "meeting us."

She then ported her helm to turn to starboard and presented her red light only.

Boxhall judged her to be a three or four mast steamer.

>>Great article!<<

Thanks a lot, Henning.

I'll debate this issue any time with anyone.

People who describe themselves as 'Anti-Lordites' cannot live with the facts.

No-one has ever been able to give me a single good reason why the Californian MUST be the Titanic's Mystery Ship, and I offer the challenge repeatedly.

I can think of scores of separate reasons why she isn't, and any competent person who has read and considered the evidence comes to the same conclusion.

Once it is accepted that the Californian is not the Mystery Ship, certain things flow therefrom.

The most obvious one is that the Californian was not looking at a sinking ship - a fact repeatedly testified to by her Officer of the Watch.

It is now time to leave the Californian and start looking for candidates for the actual Mystery Ship.

Thanks again, Henning. Glad you liked it.
Mar 22, 2003
Chicago, IL, USA
I have to agree with Senan, there were no illusions. Since "Lifeboats Don't Lie," let's include a quote from an unbiased observer who was in lifeboat No. 13.
So in the absence of any plan of action, we rowed slowly forward--or what we thought was forward, for it was in the direction the Titanic's bows were pointing before she sank. I see now that we must have been pointing northwest, for we presently saw the Northern Lights on the starboard, and again, when the Carpathia came up from the south, we saw her from behind us on the southeast, and turned our boat around to get to her. I imagine the boats must have spread themselves over the ocean fanwise as they escaped from the Titanic: those on the starboard and port sides forward being almost dead ahead of her and the stern boats being broadside from her; this explains why the port boats were so much longer in reaching the Carpathia--as late as 8.30 A.M.--while some of the starboard boats came up as early as 4.10 A.M. Some of the port boats had to row across the place where the Titanic sank to get to the Carpathia, through the debris of chairs and wreckage of all kinds.

Senan Molony

Jun 28, 1998
There is no hiding place, Samuel, unless you consider Rostron also a liar.

Like the total dismissal of all the Titanic evidence by Anti-Lordites who want to persist in fantasy.

If you pull 3 or 4 miles to a ship 5-7 miles away, and the sun comes up at 4am - then that ship, if it is the stationary Californian (which didn't get going until 6am, or two hours after daylight) will be massively visible.

But it wasn't visible to any of the 700. It had gone away, they said, disappeared, couldn't be seen any more.

As to the Northern Lights, you will be aware that "seeing the Northern Lights to starboard" can indicate that the bows of a lifeboat are pulling to a LIGHT to the west.

Very simple.

Like the American Inquiry, clutching for simplicity.

They kept asking if the lifeboats were pulling for the Northern lights.

Crawford, quoted in the article, was in Lifeboat 8, the lead lifeboat, and had an unobscured view. They asked him.

Have a read of this:

Senator FLETCHER. Did you see the Northern Lights?
Mr. CRAWFORD. I did not notice.
Senator FLETCHER. Do you know whether you were moving west?
Mr. CRAWFORD. I do not know the compass, and I could not say.
Senator FLETCHER. You do not remember observing the Northern Lights?
[Pleading tone of voice, probably...]
Mr. CRAWFORD. No, sir.
Senator FLETCHER. You could not tell from the stars in which direction you were moving?
Senator FLETCHER. Did you move in the direction in which the Titanic was moving when
she went down?
Mr. CRAWFORD. No; we were the other way; that way [indicating].
Senator FLETCHER. Which way?
Mr. CRAWFORD. The Titanic was moving this way; we were that way [indicating].
Senator FLETCHER. Suppose the Titanic was going west; then you went northwest?
Mr. CRAWFORD. If the Titanic was coming along this way we went across that way, straight for the light.
Senator FLETCHER. If the Titanic was moving west you moved southwest?
Mr. CRAWFORD. Probably so.
Senator FLETCHER. Toward the light?
Mr. CRAWFORD. Yes, sir.

Pretty clear. A witness, not a newspaper report.

You know I love it when determined Captain Lord haters clutch at meteorological phenomena.

It means they just can't cope with the FACT that Rostron saw the first lifeboat he encountered directly on his course.

Go back and look at the course, Sam.

You know exactly what that means.

Carpathia's course is clear.

The lifeboats did not go north.

They hadn't the time to do so between 1am and 4am (Carpathia seen) and the first lifeboat be aboard by 4.10am and the rest within four hours.

Exhausted lifeboat complements can't row that fast if they've gone north of 41 46 N.

They physically can't do it.

So Californian is NOT the Mystery Ship.

Deal with it - or explain how the lifeboats got transported down to Rostron's neck of the woods.

And there's plenty more to explain (see article) while you're about it...
Jan 21, 2001
It's a catchy opening thesis to the article:

"FEWER and fewer revisionists of the Titanic disaster are now making the overt claim that the Mystery Ship seen off the port bow at the time of the sinking was (as the American and British Inquiries stated in 1912) the Leyland Liner Californian."

I had hoped from the opening statement there might a review of the literature from these "fewer" revisionists.

Anyway, I suppose the corollary statement must be:

"INCREASING numbers of revisionists of the Titanic disaster are now making the overt claim that the Mystery Ship seen off the port bow at the time of the sinking was NOT... the Leyland Liner Californian."

David Billnitzer
Sep 22, 2003
Coatesville, PA

While I can't say I agreed w/ everything in your article I still found it to be very impressive and further convinces me that the Californian was not Titanic's Mystery ship

Senan Molony

Jun 28, 1998
Hi Dave!

Do you understand latitude at all?

I know you are hundreds of miles from the sea.
Have you ever been on the ocean at night?
(And what have you got against that conservative columnist, by the way?)

Go back and study the map.

See how Carpathia encountered the first lifeboat.

On her course oif 52 degrees.

"Practically dead ahead."

Far south of the wreck site.

As everyone can see.

Except those who blindfold and hoodwink themselves!

Senan Molony

Jun 28, 1998
Hi Paul,

Do you remember I asked you to give me one good reason why the Californian MUST be the Mystery Ship?

Have you any argument to offer?

We remember what happened to your nonsensical suggestion that Titanic survivors who saw the red light of the Mystery Ship should be, in your view, fifteen miles away from her.

Quote from Paul Lee, on the Horizons thread, this folder, Monday February 25, 2005:

A lower distance, such as 15 miles that I and others have advocated, would put them within visible range of each other.

A red light is a sidelight. These were intended to be visible for two miles by law.

The lifeboat horizon is a maximum of 3.51 miles.

So a ship 15 miles away would be hull down, not showing red.

Readers can see Paul's "point of view" here. Scroll halfway down.

So, Paul, give me that one good reason...

The facts are all against you, and you have none to offer.

Game over.

Jason D. Tiller

Aug 20, 2000
Niagara Falls, Ontario
I can see where this discussion is going and I don't like it. So before it gets to that point, I would ask everyone to please keep it civil and to attack the issues.

Thank you all for your co-operation.

Senan Molony

Jun 28, 1998
You know, all these "Anti-Lordites" won't change their minds.

Because changing your mind takes an open mind.

So the fact that they won't is very instructive to me.
But I don't see any new recruits to the Flat Earth cause.

Sam Halpern had the Titanic steaming north after the collision, and I can post that quote too.

Yet she sank three miles SOUTH of her track!

Not very impressive in a maritime lecturer.

By the way, Sam, you quote Beesley, but you should have pointed out that Beesley spoke of the Titanic resuming her course. After stopping.

Beesley also said:

The second vessel was a small steamer some few miles ahead on the port side, without any wireless apparatus, her name and destination still unknown...
Mr Boxhall states that he and Captain Smith saw her quite plainly some five miles away and could distinguish the masthead lights and a red port light. They at once hailed her with rockets and Morse electric signals...
...we in boat 13 certainly saw it in the same position and rowed towards it for some time. But notwithstanding all the efforts made to attract its attention, it drew slowly away and the lights sank below the horizon

But if it's the Californian and five miles away, stationary throughout and long into the daylight, it has got to appear huge by the time the sun comes up.

Why do 712 people pull the other way for a different ship?

It you walk towards a lit-up building at night, it will be a lot closer and more visible after dawn.

But these "Anti-Commonsense" people tell us the Mystery Ship was the Californian which did not move before 6am.

These are facts. Not fantasy.

The Beesley quotes are on pages 65 and 66 of the Winocour edition, by the way.

Is the Beesley you quote wrong on this point, Sam? Are his 711 co-survivors also wrong? Is Captain Rostron wrong?

Beesley notes the finding of the US Senate Subcommittee against the Californian, but says it "seems impossible to believe that the captain and officers knew of our distress and deliberately ignored it."

He then says this:

Judgment on the matter had better be suspended until further information is forthcoming.

That information came 73 years later with the discovery of the wreck site of the Titanic.

That is the "revisionism," Dave.

Too bad for Leslie Reade, who spent a substantial portion of his poisonous book arguing that the SOS position was right all along!

Since the finding of the wreck, the charge of being the Mystery Ship against the Californian simply no longer stands.

Senan Molony

Jun 28, 1998
All these people - determinedly, angrily - looking through the article in the hope of finding mistakes...

Looking for some way to disagree with Captain Moore of Mount Temple, or Captain Rostron of the Carpathia... to disagree with the Cunarder's course line without appearing silly.

How can they do it?

BTW, I should explain why Leslie Reade spent ages in his book (The Ship That Stood Still) arguing that the 1912 SOS position must be correct.

It is this:

Because the Inquiries knew in 1912 that (1) the SOS/CQD position; and (2) the stop position given by the Californian; could not both be correct.

One of the positions had to be wrong!


Because the Californian observers at 42 05 N said they saw rockets to their southeast.

But if the Titanic was where she said she was in distress transmission they should actually have seen them to the southwest.

It was thus easy for to assume in 1912 that the Californian was lying.

In fact it was the Titanic position that was wrong - as we know. Californian observers were telling the truth as to where and how they saw the rockets (which they also said were 'very low-lying.')

Another look at the overall map demonstrates the point.


You can see the lines drawn from the Californian to the SOS position and the actual wreck side. They are the opposite sides in an isosceles triangle.

Now look at this "green zone" around the presumed impact point and wreck site.

Latitude never varies (unlike longitude). One minute will always be one nautical mile.

So the line of 41 50 will always be the maximum four miles that Crawford in boat 8 said he pulled ("three or four") to the north from a position on the New York track of 41 46.

That's part of the inner cordon, which bulges out because longitude varies. The southern boundary is four miles directly south.

Even if lifeboat speeds are artificially DOUBLED (to the outer cordon) one can see how far they can possibly go.

You can thus see how the Carpathia intercepted/intersected the lifeboats directly on her course.

To the south!

Even at the outer range, the Californian at 42 05 N [seeing rockets where they actually were] is still more than twelve nautical miles to the northwest.

Twelve miles.

Not the five miles that the Titanic observers aggregated as the distance to the very real and very close Mystery Ship.

A ship that was so close that Officer Boxhall testified it had "beautiful lights."

But these guys, you know, are always going to believe it's the Californian.

Without being able to coherently argue the case.
Aug 15, 2005
Darwen, United Kingdom
Good article, Senan. Well thought out and your point proven successfuly - to me, at least.
However, I cannot say that I agreed with every last detail, and there are one or two things I am left unsure about.
Another viewing may rectify this, but I'm too tired to read the entire thing again just now, So I shall do it tomorrow.

Good work.
Jan 21, 2001

There is plenty of evidence, both direct and circumstantial from the lifeboats, that Titanic's Mystery Ship's lights lay to the north.

Direct statements that Titanic's mystery ship's lights lay to the north:

Rowe (already cited in article) that Titanic's stern swung to south, bringing her bow to face north.

Beesley (already cited in thread above; thanks Sam!) who describes the Northern Lights and heading off in the direction the Titanic's bows were pointing.

Peuchen Boat 6

Senator FLETCHER. After you took to the lifeboat you proceeded to row in the direction in which the ship had been moving, westward?
Maj. PEUCHEN. No; we started right off from the port side of the boat directly straight off from her about amidship, on the port side, right directly north, I think it would be, because the northern lights appeared where this light we had been looking at in that direction appeared shortly afterwards.

(note also that Peuchen saw the Northern Lights, as did Beesley - even if Crawford did not)

Steward Hart (Boat 15)

10264. Did you see any lights of ships out at sea? - When?
10265. At any time? - Yes.
10266. Before or after you were lowered into the water? - Before and after.
10267. In which direction? - On the starboard side of the ship.
10268. Bearing how from the ship? - I should take it bearing North.

Moore (Boat 3) US 564
headed toward the light, having to keep their bow into the wind, and going against the current, and approaching small ice to the north

Here now is some circumstantial evidence: those boats heading toward the light having to "turn around" to "go back" toward the Carpathia, which had come up from the SE:

Crawford US 827, B18002, B18087
Boat 8 had to "turn around" to go to Carpathia

Wheelton US 544
Boat 11 pulled toward a light, did not seem to get any closer to it, until daybreak, sighted the Carpathia and "put the boat about" and pulled toward her.

Archer US 648
Boat 16 "we fancied we saw a light, sir, and we started to pull toward the light for a time, and then, after we had been pulling for it half an hour, we saw the Carpathia's side lights... when we saw the Carpathia, we "turned" to go back.

Draw whatever conclusions you like, but don't accept that Rowe was the only person in testimony or other primary documents who had the Titanic facing north. He wasn't.

Dave Billnitzer
Jan 21, 2001

Just one last example that demonstrates how the light seen off the Titanic's port side, and toward which the lifeboats were rowing, lay to the north. Again, we look to Boat 6:

Molly Brown's account:
"He [Capt Smith] peered down upon those in the boat... and directed them to row to the light in the distance - all boats keeping together."

Helen Candee's account:
"the Captain's final orders were: 'Keep boats together and row away from the ship.'

...He [Hitchens] said we did not even know the direction in which we were rowing. I corrected him by pointing to the North Star immediately over our bow."

Boats 3, 6, 13, 15 all give direct eyewitness accounts that the Titanic's mystery light lay to the north. Boats 8, 11, 16, and collapsible C lend inferential evidence that the light was to the north, as their occupants described having to turn around to go to the Carpathia.

I don't have the time these days (nor the interest) to repeat arguments that have taken place on these boards for some years now, but if we're going to posit that "lifeboats don't lie" - well, here are about half of them that put the mystery light to the north of the Titanic.

Senan likes to say that those of us who don't refute his arguments "can't" do so, but I suspect it would be closer to the truth to say that most of us are just tired of or bored with it by now.

David Billnitzer

Senan Molony

Jun 28, 1998
Dave Billnitzer's argument is quite contradictory.

>>There is plenty of evidence, both direct and circumstantial from the lifeboats, that Titanic's Mystery Ship's lights lay to the north.<<

The lifeboats did not go to the north.

Yet they pursued the Mystery Ship.

Look at the map, Dave. Read the article as many times as you need on Rostron's evidence.


Rostron is seeing a boat on a line that leads him to latitude 41 40 N.

That's six miles south of impact point.

Is Rostron wrong Dave? Answer this question please. Is he wrong?

If you walk towards a lit building at night will it still be there when the sun comes up? Will you have any trouble seeing it?

You keep making my point for me - that the lifeboats turned around towards the Carpathia.

Why did they turn around, Dave, from 4am when they had spent hours pulling towards a ship five miles away?

Dave Billnitzer cannot contradict Captain Rostron, who picked up lifeboat 2 at 4.10am, on the Carpathia's plotted course to the SOS position.

So where were the other boats?

Boxhall says in his American evidence:

Boxhall: I saw some lifeboat lights, but the usual lifeboat's lights. They were very dim, small lamps.
Boxhall: I saw several of the boats - in fact all of the lifeboats - when I was in my boat, which had lighted lamps in them.
Senator Smith: Had lamps in them?
Boxhall: Had lamps in them - before I saw the Carpathia.

So all these lifeboats, with their small candlepower lamps, appear to have been within a close vicinity of Boxhall's boat 2.

The one that Carpathia encountered.

Therefore they were not six miles away to impact point and then another four miles pulled towards a Mystery Ship to the north.

Six and four is ten miles, and no-one is going to see "dim, small lamps" at that distance from another lifeboat.

Of course there is voluminous evidence of other lifeboats seeing the green light in Boxhall's boat and trying to stay in touch with it!

Dave Billnitzer also can't seem to grasp the thrust of evidence in his frantic word-search for 'north.'

If Peuchen says:

we started right off from the port side of the boat directly straight off from her about amidship, on the port side, right directly north, I think it would be...

That means that the Titanic bows were pointing east. >

That's totally contrary to your argument about Titanic heading/facing north, isn't it Dave?

But you'll clutch at any mention of north, won't you?

Even when all the key evidence (see article) is about SOUTH. The pick-up point is southeast of the SOS position.

Your desperation is your undoing.

Take the man you mention, Steward Hart, a below-decks man, who contradicts experienced officers and whom you are reduced to quoting.

He says that "before and after" he left Titanic he saw a light on the starboard side of the ship.

Everyone else saw the Mystery Ship off the port bow.

But then Steward Hart says:

10268. Bearing how from the ship? - I should take it bearing North.

Do you understand the evidence you post, Dave?

If the light is on the starboard side, to the north, then the Titanic is pointing West. <

Meanwhile everyone else is seeing the MS to the southern edge of the port bow.

Game over, Dave.

But keep it up, please. I'm enjoying it.
Mar 22, 2003
Chicago, IL, USA
Game over, Dave.
Yes Senan, most of us are tired of playing your game. I for one will not indulge further with one who has no respect for individuals just because they come to different conclusions from your own. If one were take a honest appraisal of the navigational evidence, including the factoring in the affect of current that can be derived from Capt. Lord's own evidence, one can easily see the flaws in your navigational arguments. I for one will not use this forum to play you game. Your right, Game Over!
Jan 21, 2001

One last bit of red herring that wants cleaning up.

If you're still wondering how or why the lifeboats ended up south of Titanic's track if they were not chasing a mystery light ahead and to the west and south of Titanic, it's simple. Ask yourself how the icefloes, icebergs, and wreckage also ended up south of Titanic's track, and why the icefield itself stretched roughly north to south as it slowly drifted down across the shipping lanes, and you will come to your answer.

The lifeboats were caught up in the same N-S surface current that dragged wreckage and icefield to the south of the track: about 1 knot, perhaps a little stronger, which from 1:30 am to 4:30 am would give plenty of time for the lifeboats to be pulled directly into Rostron's path on his way to the wrong CQD position. This is the current that Seaman Moore in Boat 3 described having difficulty rowing against as they attempted to reach that elusive light to the north. Add to that the ineptness of the rowers ("two of our oars were soon overboard" as Elizabeth Shutes wrote about Boat 3; "imagine having to ask stewards if they know how to row!" complained Mrs. White in Boat 8; "if our safety had depended on accuracy or keeping time in rowing, it would have gone hard with us" said Beesley of the rowers in Boat 13) and the futility of the boats making any headway against the current and toward that northern light becomes painfully clear.

Still, I suppose someone could suggest that the wreckage and float ice, following the lifeboats' example, were also trying to reach an unidentified mystery light to the west and south.

Dave Billnitzer
Jan 21, 2001

One other word of caution seems advisable here; that is the danger of relying on a single witness without corroborating his accounts. Crawford has already been mentioned above in this thread in regards to the Northern Lights, which he merely says he "did not notice."

But pay attention now to his testimony on the sidelights:

Crawford, US, Day 9

Senator SMITH. Did you see any sidelights on this boat that the captain told you to pull for?
Mr. CRAWFORD. No; I could not say I saw any sidelights.
Senator SMITH. Did you see any more of that light than you have now described?
Mr. CRAWFORD. No. At daybreak it seemed to disappear. We came around and came back.

Crawford, BR

17870. Did you yourself ever see any sidelights? - Yes.
17871. You did? - Yes.
17872. What sidelight or sidelights of that steamer did you see? - There was the red and the green light.
17873. You saw them both? - Yes.

So a month later, his memory seems to have "improved" on the question of the sidelights. Too bad the BR inquirers did not know to ask him about the Northern Lights; one has to wonder if a month later he might have remembered that he *did* see them after all. However, Crawford is of little consequence on this point: all he said in the US was that he "did not notice" them; fortunately both Beesley and Peuchen did.

Dave Billnitzer
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