Mystery Ship the Samson


Arne Mjåland

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In an entry here 10 nov. 2000 Michael H Standert write that the actual reports put the Samson in Iceland. I wondered which port, or ports it was.
Certainly it may not be Reykjavik, becasue I had a letter from the port autorities there two years ago. They had gone through the harbour records for april 1912, which are supposed to be very accurate, and there was no sign of Samsonthere that month.
If any of you come to Norway, you should visit the AUST AGDER ARKIVET in Arendal. They have the accounts books of Samson right back to 1886 up to 1910.
In 1912 the firm Aug. Fosse, Trondheim, Norway owned the Samson.
 

Arne Mjåland

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In an entry here 10 nov. 2000 Michael H Standart write that the actual reports put the Samson in Iceland. I wondered which port, or ports it was.
Certainly it may not be Reykjavik, becasue I had a letter from the port autorities there two years ago. They had gone through the harbour records for april 1912, which are supposed to be very accurate, and there was no sign of Samsonthere that month.
If any of you come to Norway, you should visit the AUST AGDER ARKIVET in Arendal. They have the accounts books of Samson right back to 1886 up to 1910.
In 1912 the firm Aug. Fosse, Trondheim, Norway owned the Samson.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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From Dave Billnitzers site;

"In 1963 author Leslie Reade conducted a search of shipping records in Iceland, and found that the Samson was actually in the port of Isafjordhur on April 6, and again on April 20, when she paid her dock taxes."

Arne, the Samson was at best capable of six knots. In light of the distances involved, there is simply no way the Samson could make a round trip from Iceland to where the Titanic sank on the very day she sank and get back to port in Iceland again.

Quite apart from any discussion on the Californian herself, It's not improbable that other ships were in the area. (The North Atlantic routes are some of the most heavily traveled sealanes in the world.) In fact, a close look at the testimony in this mess bears out that sevearal other vessels were, at least by sunrise. However you can bet the Samson wasn't one of them.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Mike: "Several"? I know this depends on your definition of vicinity, but I can only think of *two* ships that were merely *incidentally* there -- "there" in this instance meaning within visible range of the Carpathia:

1) Californian -- stopped in ice overnight;
2) Mount Temple's unidentified steamer -- crossed MT's eastward path and was halted by the ice field.

All of the other "bystanders" were only there by reason of responding to Titanic's distress call. And at sunrise (5:21 a.m. local, c. 5:31 "Titanic Time"), as far as I know, the cast of characters on the scene only included Carpathia, Californian, Mount Temple, and that MT unknown steamer.

I know other ships were introduced as possible "mystery ship" candidates -- by Robertson Dunlop, representing Leyland's interests -- but none of those ever really panned out. Are these the ones you're referring to?

(Not trying to nitpick; I just don't follow you entirely here.)

Jan: In all fairness, I only plucked out observations which included a description of fishing or sailing vessels. (Boxhall just happened to "match" in those searches.) So while there *are* several accounts that allude to a cod banker, etc., I have no idea how these would stack up against the remainder of the recorded impressions concerning the nature of that light observed.

But it is interesting that there are so *many* interpretations of "fishing vessel". (Lightoller also -- at least indirectly -- refuted the notion of being able to see a schooner in darkness, when the subject of search lights came up at the US Inquiry. But he was speaking *hypothetically* at that point.)

Cheers,
John
 

Arne Mjåland

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Thank you Michael for the information about the Samson. On Norwegian television there was a programme about the Samson around April 15 1962. I have asked if it is possible to obtain a video of the programme, but I have had no reply yet. Interviewer was the well known reporter Kjell Arnliot Wiig. I agree to Michaels conclusion, but the television programme is certainly a bit historical information about the adventorous life of the famous sealhunter Samson in addition to all the other facts and rumours about the boat.
 

Arne Mjåland

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The Mount Temple Passengers stories.
I found an evidence given by Dr. Quatzrau, a second class passenger on the Mount Temple in an unidentified Toronto newspaper:Here is a bit of the article:
"I dressed, and coming on deck shortly before daybreak I saw a tramp steamer about half a mile north in a field of ice. She was crusing around, evidently in an attemt to get out. A Russian boat came alongside, but did not give any word. She made a circle around where Titanic was said to have sunk, as well as around us. A little later, at 6 o clock, we sighted the Carpathia to the southeast". Anybody have any comments?
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Hi, Arne:

Here's Quitzrau's affidavit from the U.S. Inquiry. It wasn't given a great deal of credence, presumably since the times specified are so hopelessly mangled -- he was awakened at midnight New York Time?; Titanic was sighted at 3:00 a.m.? (2:00 ship's time??)" -- and because it rested to a very large degree on hearsay alone. It does make for an interesting comparison with the above.

[US 1088]:
Senator SMITH. I have received also a letter from the vice consul at Toronto, Canada, addressed to me, inclosing an affidavit made by Dr. F. C. Quitzrau, which I wish printed in the record.

The affidavit is as follows:
DOMINION OF CANADA, Province of Ontario, City of Toronto:

Dr. F. C. Quitzrau; being first duly sworn, deposes and says that he was a passenger, traveling second class, on steamer Mount Temple, which left Antwerp April 3, 1912; that about midnight Sunday, April 14, New York time, he was awakened by the sudden stopping of the engines; that he immediately went to the cabin, where were already gathered several of the stewards and passengers, who informed him that word had been received by wireless from the Titanic that the Titanic had struck an iceberg and was calling for help. Orders were immediately given and the Mount Temple course changed, heading straight for the Titanic. About 3 o'clock New York time, 2 o'clock ship's time, the Titanic was sighted by some of the officers and crew; that as soon as the Titanic was seen all lights on the Mount Temple were put out and the engines stopped and the boat lay dead for about two hours; that as soon as day broke the engines were started and the Mount Temple circled the Titanic's position, the officers insisting that this be done, although the captain had given orders that the boat proceed on its journey. While encircling the Titanic's position we sighted the Frankfurt to the northwest of us, the Birma to the south, speaking to both of these by wireless, the latter asking if we were in distress; that about 6 o'clock we saw the Carpathia, from which we had previously received a message that the Titanic had gone down; that about 8.30 the Carpathia wirelessed that it had picked up 20 lifeboats and about 720 passengers all told, and that there was no need for the Mount Temple to stand by, as the remainder of those on board were drowned.

Dr. F. C. QUITZRAU.

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 29th day of April, 1912.
[SEAL.]
WILLIAM JAMES ELLIOTT,
Notary Public for the Province of Ontario.​
Any chance you could reproduce the full article here, assuming it's not to large? (I'd love to see it.)

Cheers,
John
 

Dave Gittins

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According to Wyn Craig Wade, who had access to Senator Smith's private papers, Smith only accepted Quitzrau's nonsense to please the American vice-consul in Toronto.

When looking at anything concerning
Mount Temple, remember that she was not about 49 miles from Titanic when she went to the rescue, as thought in 1912. We now know that the real distance was a good 60 miles. This makes the stories told about the schooner she sighted and the small steamer that came along with her even more irrelevant than they were in 1912.

As for for Samson, her story was manifest rubbish from the start and was finally nailed in about 1986 by Walter Lord (with help from Leslie Reade) in The Night Lives On.
 
Dec 12, 1999
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The problem that I'm still having is that passengers repeatedly referred to a "fishing" vessel out there. Maybe it wasn't Sampson. But we can't just dismiss all that.

It seems to me that people gave the impression that a ship was out there. It's lights were seen. But that ship may have been a fishing vessel --- which would have distinguished it from the Californian. What happened, it seems to me, is that this "impression" of a fishing vessel being out there eventually overlapped with the fact of Californian being somewhere in the vicinity. Wrongly, I think, the Californian became that "fishing vessel."

Smith did a sloppy job. Here's just one more hole that he never closed. In my opinion, at a minimum, he should have had Quitzrau in, and interviewed him. The fact its "hearsay" doesn't make it irrelevant, inadmissible, or unbelievable. Further, it's not "hearsay." Quitzrau is initially relating was the stewards told him, but later, it appears that he may be relating what the officers of the Mount Temple told him, direct evidence of what they observed, or what he himself observed. That affidavit is highly relevant evidence, and someone should have followed up on that.
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Jan: Fishing vessels -- sailing vessels -- don't have "beautiful" red and green running lights, do they? Even if there *was*, by some chance, some fishing vessel also out there, there was most assuredly a steamer nearby. (Although it seems rather odd that no one at the level of Titanic's decks ever mentioned *two* sets of ships' lights in that general direction!) As has been said, adding the whole Spanish Armada doesn't subtract the Califonian. (Remember those rockets they saw?)

I strongly suspect that much of the confusion arose from the fact that you can see a *heck* of a lot more from a vantage point 70 feet above the water than you can from a tiny lifeboat (depth 3 to 4 feet). So all of this is anticipated to some extent by that massive shift in perspective. Nobody saw the steamer's running lights from the water; all they could still see at that height was "a single light".

Boxhall himself said he lost sight of the light entirely once cast off in Boat #2. But this *was* the same "light" that, from the height of the bridge, had been a ship with "beautiful lights" -- visible and well-noted running lights, two masthead lights, etc. No fishing vessel there!

As for the Quitzrau affidavit, how do you explain the alleged "sighting" of Titanic at 3:00 a.m. -- New York Time or otherwise?? (Remember, this wasn't a hastily spoken verbal faux-pas, but supposedly a carefully thought out, well prepared, signed affidavit!) If Quitzrau was ignored, it seems it was with good reason -- his story just doesn't gel.

Cheers,
John
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Red and green sidelights were standard for all vessels, as was a white stern light. Only power driven vessels displayed white masthead lights while under way.

Thus, it is impossible for the white masthead light of Californian to have been misinterpreted as a fishing schooner by anyone familiar with ship's navigation lights.

Of course, any vessel at anchor would have displayed an all-round white anchor light. However, what vessel had enough anchor rode to "drop the hook" in the middle of the Atlantic?

Sailing vessels were notorious for not showing any lights. The best most could do was light oil lamps which required constant trimming. Sailing ships followed the wind and not the published steamship routes, so felt reasonably secure in remaining dark.

Titanic sank reasonably close to the Grand Banks. It is possible that one or more fishing vessels were in the vicinity, although not one scintilla of evidence has been produced of any specific vessel other than Samson. And, the evidence against that vessel does not hold up to scrutiny.

The night was clear and moonless. On such a night the brightest stars and planets can appear to be masthead lights or (today) aircraft. Anyone not familiar with the heavens can be excused for confusing a star or planet close to the horizon with a light from a ship. These days, planets are often confused with UFOs.

--David G. Brown
 
Dec 4, 2000
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John--I wasn't nit picking, just pointing out what various ships would see. We are all human.

-- David G. Brown
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Hi, David: Understood; I didn't think you were. (I was just amazed when I went back and re-read my original post.) %^}

Would I be right in assuming that sailing vessels of the period typically used only color-filtered *oil* lamps for their red and green navigation lights? (It's this that led me to suppose they'd be far less visible than those "beautiful" electric lights of a steamer.)

Cheers,
John
 

Arne Mjåland

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Oct 21, 2001
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Thank you John for additional information.
As requested I publish the complete article from the Toronto newspaper:
The Mount Temple
Passengers stories. Titanic signals seen
Toronto, Thursday. - Dr. Quatzrau, who was a passenger on board the Mount Temple, and who has been asked to give evidence before the United States Senate Committee of Investigation, in an interview to-day made the following statement of his experiences:
I retired about 9 p.m. on Sunday. I was awakened by the sudden stoppage of the machinery. I arose and looked out. I asked what was wrong and was told that the Titanic had struck an iceberg and was sinking, and that the lights of her distress signals had been seen. I dressed, and coming on deck shortly before daybreak I saw a tramp steamer about half a mile north in a field of ice. She was cruising around, evidently in an attemt to get out. A Russian boat bame alongside, but dit not give any word. She made a circle around where the Titanic was said to have sunk, as well as around us. A little later, at 6 o clock, we sighted the Carpathia to the southeast. We made a circle around what was said to be the scene of the wreck. but did not see any kind of wreckage or bodies. At 8 o clock we got a general message from the Carpathia that the Titanic had struck a berg and was at the bottom of the sea. The Carpathia said that 700 people had been saved, that all the others were lost, and that there was no need to stand by.
Do anybody know what became of Dr. Quatzrau in later life? When and where died he? He might have given other interviews not published yet?
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Other then his statement, I have no idea whatbecame of the man. He seems to have faded away into obscurity like so many others.

While his statement is interesting, I'm not convinced he would have been much use as a witness. Beyond relating what he saw for himself, (The closed mouthed Russian steamer and the ship he saw in the icefield) the rest is largely hearsay.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Thanks, Arne!

It looks like the standard interpretation -- that Quitzrau's report of "Titanic's" distress signals having been spotted was in fact based on sightings of *Carpathia's* rockets -- makes a good deal of sense. His simpler description in the article of having been awoken by the "sudden stoppage of the machinery" (without that accompanying specification of "midnight" found in his affidavit) would establish the time as about 3:25 a.m.(ship's time), when Mount Temple cut her engines and ran her way off because of the ice encountered. Between Captain Moore's testimony and Marconi Operator Durrant's evidence, it seems pretty clear that the engines were never cut *before* that.

And since Carpathia was firing rockets every 15 minutes (in response to Boxhall's flares) before she finally met up with Lifeboat 2 around 4:00 a.m., the timing would certainly fit.

(I'm very prone to accept Dave Gittins tentative hypothesis that Rostron's "2:40" was really a duration, from Carpathia's turn, rather than an actual clock time. That being the case, it couldn't have been much earlier than about 3:15 a.m. Titanic time anyway. Since Mount Temple's clocks were about 15 minutes faster, the sensational sighting Quitzrau was told about might very well have been the *first* rocket that Carpathia fired.)

What's really weird is that the article makes a lot more sense than Quitzrau's presumably carefully thought-out affidavit. At least in the article the times are relatively consistent. (Of course the story is also simpler and just a bit different.) I wonder if this is another case where "the fish kept getting bigger".

I don't have any real information myself on the man, other than what Wyn Wade dug up for "Titanic: End of a Dream". Wade describes him merely as a Toronto physician. It's also conceivable that he had some political clout: Wade explains that the vice-consul appealed to Smith to include Quitzrau's affidavit in the evidence, since the good doctor was apparently quite perturbed at not having been taken to Washington to testify. (One of Smith's associates, "Ab" Carroll, had interviewed the man and found his account basically worthless. Judging from the affidavit, I'd have to agree.)

But he certainly is an interesting sidelight! Keep us posted if you discover anything new on him.

Cheers,
John
 
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Nathan Lee Casteel

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Ok I have Confirmed this news a long time ago, The Samson WAS the Mystery ship that was between the Titanic & Californian. Oh my God Tracy I swear to God you better KEEP your MOUTH shut or I WILL shut it for you. What? What? What?
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Oh, my! Are we now witnessing e-threats on ET?

Nathan: I and many others -- Lordites, anti-Lordites, and just plain people with good common sense -- have confirmed THIS news a long time ago:

The Samson was NOT the "mystery ship". No way. No how. End of story. Finito. Kaput. Finished. The tale is sheer blarney! (Really! I wouldn't kid ya.)

Nobody much believes nowadays in the "Norwegian Fairy Tale"! (Dear colleagues, please don't hesitate to correct me if I'm wrong in this impression.)

Can I ask you a personal question, just so I can get a better fix on all this: How *old* are you? Thanks.

Cheers,
John
 

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