Lifeboats Don't Lie

Jan 28, 2003
Having been absent for a couple of days, I can't really comment on events on this thread as an additional couple of technical glitches have obscured the chronology of the posts, and even possibly some responses. However, I do think the elephant has outstayed his welcome.

Nothing to do with this current debate in terms of the actual identity of the Mystery Ship, but I have always wondered a bit about so many people's serene willingness to confidently state how many miles away they thought ships and/or lights were. Not the seamen involved, as one would expect them to be able to estimate distance. But the passengers and non-deck crew. How many of them would have known the distance to the visible horizon at varying heights i.e. when standing on Titanic's deck or, later, seated in a lifeboat? And then be able to estimate the distance comparing their position, the sighted object, and the reference horizon? Even harder on a moonless night, where only the setting stars deliniated the horizon. I'm sure, as a layperson, I could not have made much of an accurate estimate, and would have been most reluctant to try.

On the subject of the identity of the Mystery Ship, I personally think Senan raises some points in favour of his argument which are not easy to refute. And if it were not for the rocket sightings, most people would not argue against him nearly as much. However, the rocket sightings do exist, so everyone is left trying to reconstruct events under very difficult circumstances so many years on. Not much helped, I'd have thought, by 14.04.12 astronomical maps of the position of 'red' planets etc., or indeed amateur estimates of distance. Extant ships' logs (before the sinking, and thus no need for dissembling), known tracks and drift, the actual wreck site etc., however, seem reasonable evidence for deduction.

The Molony and Bilnitzer factions, if I can so stereotype them, are never going to agree. And under those circumstances, I think people have to give and take on the so-called insulting behaviour, because it seems fairly evenly distributed to me. You can either have bland discussion, or you can have a bit of passion injected. Which do you prefer? If the latter, then you can join in or abstain, and let the Moderators try to do their best to keep discussion reasonably civilised whilst allowing dissent and vibrant discussion .... or you can castigate the Moderators, and go off in a huff. Which divides those very people who have a fairly esoteric interest in common.

If I were a journalist, I'd have probably written this in one-sentence paragraphs .... unluckily, I'm an academic, so I write in long, impenetrable and annoyingly even-handed paragraphs.

Can't please everyone, then?
Mar 22, 2003
Chicago, IL, USA
Back to addressing the arguments.

Senan, I am happy that you appreciate the chart I put up which includes the track line of the Carpathia and the position of the green flare sighting based on Capt. Rostron's information. But it interesting how you then jumped to the conclusion that that proves the lifeboats were to south of the wreck site. Remember I said there were several locations on that chart that were put there based on several facts that I believe you and I are in full agreement with.

1. the location of the wreck site
2. Boxhall's CQD position
3. Lord's position for the stopped Californian
4. the position in the ice message to the Antillian
5. the position of the wreckage reported by Capt. Lord and C/E Stewart
6. the course line of the Carpathia that was worked out by Capt. Rostron

I assume there are no problems with any of that.

Unfortunately there are some problems with the conclusion you come to which is the main point of your paper. I agree that maps don't lie if the information they are based on is accurate. A simple example is the Boxhall position. Everyone (excluding Moore and Lord as you so correctly pointed out) believed the Titanic sank at Boxhall's CQD location. Boxhall believed it too and had his ashes scattered over that site after he passed away. But we now of course have confirmation that his position was wrong by about 13 miles, a position worked from a fix taken at 7:30 PM that itself came from data collected by Lightoller and Pitman. Now the position of the Carpathia on that track line was derived from Rostron. Rostron's track line was based off of a dead reckoning (DR) position for his ship when he received the CQD at 12:35 AM his time. The last fix he could have taken was during evening twilight on the 14th. So there is some uncertainty built in right there. The same is true for the Californian's stopped position. And the same would be true for the Mount Temple or any other ship headed for the area. The only firm location on that chart is the wreck site.

Now let's get directly to the issue at hand. Boxhall said they rowed around to the starboard side of the sinking Titanic on orders from someone with a megaphone on the ship. He then said they were 200 yards off the starboard beam as the ship was settling down by the head and then started to pull away "in a North-Easterly direction" and got approximately half-a-mile away when the ship sank. We know the ship sank at about 2:20 AM from many accounts. He also mentioned that some of the other lifeboats "had gone in a more northerly direction than I had gone" when he got that 1/2 mile off. So lets expand the area of interest on the chart.

Clearly Boxhall's boat could not have been in two locations separated by 7 miles just 40 minutes apart. They may have had 4 men rowing, but they obviously could not do 10.5 knots. What this points out to me is that something is very wrong with this picture.

Now I must accept what Boxhall said about being 1/2 mile away off the Titanic's starboard quarter when the Titanic sank. He was there. He should know. He was the one lighting off those green flares. Those flares are what guided the Carpathia to this lifeboat. The spot where Titanic sank is known with absolute certainty. Clearly, the thing that is not certain is the precise track that the Carpathia was on. The direction it was headed, N 52°W true, we could accept. The direction to the flare, 1/2 point off their port bow when it was seen by Rostron, we could accept. But the exact track line that the Carpathia was on seems to be too far to the south suggesting that Rostron's DR from where he started may have been inaccurate.

And the other disturbing information here comes from Boxhall himself. He said some of the other lifeboats had gone in a more northerly direction. Those were his words, not mine. As a ship's officer I would think he should know north from south.

So you see Senan, maps can lie if they are based on uncertain data.

One other point about daylight in the area. At 4 AM the eastern sky would start to brighten, but certainly you would not call it daylight yet. The times of nautical twilight, civil twilight, and sun rise for the wreck site location on April 15, 1912 are:
For 41.43'N 49.47'W
Naut Twilt 07:37 GMT = 04:27 Californian time
Civil Twilt 08:11 GMT = 05:01 Californian time
Sun rise 08:40 GMT = 05:30 Californian time
Dec 6, 2000
Molony said "Bill Wormstedt said in a previous thread that he "chooses to believe" that the Titanic was pointing north when the Mystery Ship was seen. Because he wants the Mystery Ship to be the Californian, which testified to being to the north."

Not bothering to look at what I may have said a long time ago - you propose a purpose you have no idea that I may have. I believe the Titanic pointed north based on the evidence - such as the Titanic wreck is pointed north, a FACT (you do know what a fact is, don't you?) you have chosen to ignore time and again. And Rowe's testimony, and the evidence Dave has listed above. Californian being to the north has absolutely nothing to do with why I believe Titanic pointed north pre-sinking. Your supposition of my logic is the wrong way around.

As far as your current article goes - I didn't bother to read it! Glanced at the opening paragraph, realized it was the usual hyperbole, and decided I had better things to do with my time.

Paul - what you said at 1:05 is right on the money.

Senan Molony

Jan 30, 2004
>>Titanic wreck is pointed north, a FACT <<<

No Bill, half the wreck is pointed that general direction, half the direct opposite way - south.

What does that tell us about how she was heading?


I'm not going to re-post if you don't bother to read my posts.

Even if you pick one half of her as representing an overall north facing, you still have the problem of that half only arguably representing her position when she sank at 2.20am.

Not at around 12.30 when the Mystery Ship was seen.

Furthermore hydrodynamics and airburts totally turn around a ship as it sinks.

I have posted before that ships sunk leaving harbour have been found by divers to be pointing back the way they have come.

The proof of hydrodynamics - without going into different strata of currents - lies in the very fact of two halves of the Titanic being pointing in opposite directions.

So Bill, one again, I have to say your supposed argument is actually, at best, meaningless.
Dec 6, 2000
>No Bill, half the wreck is pointed that general direction, half the direct opposite way - south.<

Immaterial statement that says nothing.

>Even if you pick one half of her as representing an overall north facing, you still have the problem of that half only arguably representing her position when she sank at 2.20am.<

Except that many survivors testified that the stern *turned away* from the bow before she sank - just as she is today on the ocean bottom.

>Furthermore hydrodynamics and airburts totally turn around a ship as it sinks.<
Which way *could* they turn it? Anyway? Including no turn at all?

>So Bill, one again, I have to say your supposed argument is actually, at best, meaningless.<

As most of your arguments are - meaningless. It is easy to find statements to disprove anything - a triffle harder to actually prove it.

Back to ignoring your long and immaterial ramblings ......

Senan Molony

Jan 30, 2004
I can't repeat myself ad infinitum.

Rostron said he saw Boxhall's flare "practically dead ahead" on his course. His course is known.

That would have led to an intercept six miles south of impact point.

Six miles south, not north.

Even if the four-or-five mile spread that Rostron talks of is applied directly to the north, using Boxhall's boat 2 as the most southerly boat -

(rather than the most eastern, for instance) -

Even putting every single other boat, seventeen of them, in a string directly to the north of boat two, NONE OF THEM will still reach the impact point.

They will ALL still be south of the New York track.

41 40 plus a maximum of 5 miles [Rostron] is still only 41 45 N.

Titanic was on the New York track of 41 46 N.

Rostron's evidence on its own proves that all the lifeboats went to the south.

That's the end of the Californian as MS, no matter how much people keep pulling her south in their continued quest for her implication.

This fact, and all other facts are against it.


No-one will address the other Elephantine obstacles suggested to Californian's being the Mystery Ship.

And I have a herd in reserve.


Nobody among my interlocutors will take the personal risk of offering me the single good reason why the Californian MUST be the Titanic's Mystery Ship, which is nothing less than... oh we can't say that, apparently.

Whatever happened to the courage of your convictions?

I rather think such persons fear the very public mincemeat I will make of any such argument.

And if people so childish as to be "insulted" by their arguments being dismantled, as a couple of persons' offerings previously were, then I am indeed sorry for them.

Heat, kitchen and maturity come to mind.


FINALLY beware of attempts to make it look as if Boxhall's flare - seen by Rostron - was some sort of parabola that in fact takes the boat back to the north.

The Inquiries' evidence is not very ample or thoroughpoing, (Captain Lord's fault no doubt, since he neglected to see much wreckage or bodies! No fault of the Inquiries, but why did the British one in particular probe so little?).......

...but there is no suggestion that Boxhall's flare was something that was FIRED from the boat.

Instead it appears to have been hand-held.

If this is the case, it arguably puts his boat to the south of 41 40, since it is seen on the port bow of the Carpathia, although there is no evidence to say how far away precisely.

The "flare" is resolutely on the lifeboat, Boxhall makes clear:

15469. I was showing green lights in the boat then, to try and get the other boats together, trying to keep us all together...
US Inquiry
Boxhall: I had been showing green lights most of the time. I had been showing pyrotechnic lights on the boat.
Senator Smith: Your boat was equipped with lights? - Yes.
Smith: I see. And after the boat was lowered you lighted them? - Yes.
Smith: Did they make a brilliant light?
Boxhall: Yes; a very brilliant light.
Smith: You think the Carpathia steamed toward these lights? - They did.
Smith: And you say that is the reason they reached you first? - Yes.
Smith: Let us clear up the light business just a little more... could you say of your own knowledge that any other lifeboat than the one you were in had lights burning on it when it came alongside or just preceding its coming alongside of the Carpathia?
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."
[Does not disagree with suggestion that his flare was on the boat itself, making it a "deck flare" rather than the "company signal" in the description of Captain Rostron.
Mar 22, 2003
Chicago, IL, USA
Senan. Please don't insult the intelligence of those on this board with the explanation you just provided. I had posted what Boxhall had said about where his boat was when the Titanic sank at 2:20 AM. That is 7 miles NE of where the flare position plots out based on Rostron's information. That of course assumed the track of the Carpathia was accurate, which was worked from some DR position at 12:35 AM ATS. Are you saying Boxhall was confused? He didn't go 1/2 mile NE from the Titanic? The other boats he mentioned didn't go off to the northward as he said they did? Hey, here it is. Word for word:
15463. Where were you at this time? - Just a little, probably 200 feet, on the starboard beam of the ship, or probably a little abaft the starboard beam of the ship.
15464. Would there be any suction there? - Well, I felt it; I saw it by the work we had pulling it round the ship's stern; seeing she was only a small boat, I judged there was quite a lot of suction.
15465. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) Did you remain in that position, about 200 feet away from the ship, until she sank? - No, I did not; I turned the boat away and pulled in a North-Easterly direction.
15466. You mean, you pulled further away from the ship? - Yes.
15467. How far were you from the ship when she did sink? - Approximately, half-a-mile.
15468. That means that you could not see what happened? - No, I could not.
15469. After she sank, did you hear cries? - Yes, I heard cries. I did not know when the lights went out that the ship had sunk. I saw the lights go out, but I did not know whether she had sunk or not, and then I heard the cries. I was showing green lights in the boat then, to try and get the other boats together, trying to keep us all together.
15470. Were there other boats round about near yours? - I could not see any boats, not when I had got so far away as that. Some of them had gone in a more northerly direction than I had gone.
Let's not talk about the Californian or mystery ships. We are talking about the Titanic, the Carpathia and lifeboat No. 2 here. Based on everything Boxhall said, how did lifeboat No. 2 manage to get 6 miles SW of the wreck site when he was 1/2 mile NE of it when the Titanic sank at 2:20 AM?