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Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
>>Could "Mystery Ship" have been a optical Illusion?<<


It could also have been a genuine mystery ship, or it could have been the Californian with the observers simply misunderstanding...or perhaps some understanding all too well...what they saw. Out on the ocean, it's easy enough to get snookerd by optical illusions, even among people with a trained eye for the sea. What you think you see out there isn't always what you really get.

Senan Molony

Jun 28, 1998

Optical illusions do not present masthead lights and a red sidelight.

Stars are not red.

The Mystery Ship could not have been the Californian by any stretch of the imagination, nor by any stretching of the known facts.

Dave Gittins

Mar 16, 2000
I prefer to leave optical illusions and abnormal refraction out of it. I've seen too many strange examples at sea, including a light that changed from green to white as it lifted above the horizon. Also, I see nor reason to expect abnormal refraction on the night in question. The sea temperature was much the same as the air temperature. When they are greatly different, all bets are off. Probably my personal record is seeing small harbour lights from more than 30 miles off. In theory, they were below the horizon and not bright enough to see. In practice, refraction raised them above the horizon and binoculars made them visible.

I am confident that the observations made from the ships involved can be explained without recourse to illusions.
Jan 21, 2001
Stars are not red."

An astronomy refresher course seems in order.

Stars come in various colors of the spectrum, including RED, depending on their size and how far along they are in their life cycle. Betelgeuse and Antares are two well-known red giant stars. Arcturus and Aldebaran are both well-known reddish-orange stars. All of these are nearing their end stages as they cool down and expand.

These RED stars have been identified and known since ancient times and used by travellers, astronomers and sailors many years BC; in fact their names are of Arabic origin and were named and charted during ancient Babylonian times.

Well-known as these RED stars are, it is unlikely that any navigator of 1912 would or could have confused them with the red sidelight seen from the Titanic and displayed by the Californian after midnight. (eg: "After midnight we slowly blew around and showed him our RED light." - Lord, US 732)

Further, three of these giant stars would have appeared in the "wrong" quadrant of the sky to have confused the Titanic's observers had they been visible that night; only one of the afore-mentioned RED stars is a northern star.

David Billnitzer

Frank McElroy

Dec 31, 2003

You have said “The Mystery Ship could not have been the Californian”, who would you say was the “mystery ship” and why?

Having read most of your books, you once suggested Mount Temple, as a candidate, do you still think so?

For the record, I am neither Lordites nor an anti-Lordites, I am just interested in the facts.
Aug 14, 2003

You are not correct Senan. There are millions of stars which are red - Arcturus, Antares, Betelgeux are three red giants which are very prominent in the night sky to name but three. Also, the planet Mars.

On the night of April 14/15 1912 Alpha Scorpius or Antares (sometimes called the rival of Mars) was very prominent to the south.
Mar 22, 2003
Chicago, IL, USA
Yes there are stars of reddish color, but there is quite a difference between a red colored star (or the red planet Mars for that matter) and the red sidelight of a ship, especially when that sidelight is seen in relation to one or more mast lights. Senan is right about one thing; there were no optical illusions.

Senan Molony

Jun 28, 1998
"Stars come in various colors of the spectrum, including RED"

I knew someone would suggest Mars or somesuch, and it would naturally fall to the correspondent quoted above to come up with the outer space angle.

He should beware that an optical illusion would absolve his particular hatred-ship of being the mystery ship, since there would be no mystery ship at all.

So here we are - Boxhall first saw a light that approached, 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 present her red light only.

Dave Billnitzer is now in the ridiculous position of trying to find red and green planets or stars, moving in conjunction with overhead masthead-light stars to justify his position.

Vast numbers of witnesses were certain that there was a mystery ship that closed to within a very short distance and later departed.

Captain Smith verified Boxhall's sightings and ordered that he send a message by Morse lamp: "Come at once, we are sinking."

There is no possibility of the vessel being an optical illusion, Dave Billnitzer, when we are discussing seasoned mariners.

Smith had decades of experience and his senior officers were all familiar with astronomy and had seen all unusual meteorological events.


@ Hi Frank - I have never stated it as my view that the Mount Temple is or was the Mystery Ship.

I have assembled a large amount of separate reports (probably not exhaustive!) about this vessel from 1912, most detailing alleged sightings of lights and rockets, the mere sighting of which [as we know from the Californian] does not make a vessel the Mystery Ship seen so close to the Titanic.

Captain Moore on Mount Temple denies seeing any lights. There are, however, a number of contradictions in his separate accounts of where he was, how quickly he travelled, and the time-posts relevant to certain positions.

You will have to make up your own mind on whether you consider his vessel to be the Mystery Ship, but he knew from the earliest that the Titanicwas sinking, was nearer than the Carpathia, and never reached the latter's position because she was confronted with an icefield and had company orders to on no account enter ice.

Boxhall said in his US evidence that he thought the mystery ship had "probably gotten into the ice" - which would at least explain her ceasing to approach and instead turning to starboard to lie off for a while.

That's an interesting and much-overlooked point from the prime witness, but it doesn't mean that any particular ship approaching from the west has to be the MS.
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