Rocket Colours


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Jan 5, 2001
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For my latest mine clearing exercise, I thought I'd ask:

  • Have any of the leading students of the Californian controversy ever sought to explain Captain Lord's preoccupation with the colour?

In particular I'm asking about the published people -- Padfield, Harrison, Reade, Malony, (op. cit.).

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Erik Wood

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I have studied it for some time, and I think that I understand what he was getting at (just like most officers of the sea would if they studied the available material).

Color is important, but I think Mark is hinting at something, perhaps he can explain what???
 
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Tom Pappas

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Yeah, Lord was dissembling. Maybe he thought if he could raise enough controversy over the color of the signals, he could deflect attention from the fact that, according to the maritime regulations, signals at sea of any color were to be investigated, whether thrown by a liner or illegal sealer.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi!

Thanks Erik and Tom for responding. My main point focuses on Captain Lord’s apparent obsession with the colours — as per the regulations of the time, distress signals could be any colour. There had been myths springing up stemming from the 1996 CBS mini-series on Titanic, where one of those aboard is quoted as saying that distress rockets should be red — a false statement which has become commonplace unfortunately.

Anyway, having established that Lord was asking about the colours and that distress rockets could be any colour, why was he asking? You might conclude that he was giving himself some kind of ‘alibi’ but considering the testimony of various people to the British Investigation that seems unlikely in my opinion.

Any thoughts would be appreciated as to Lord’s preoccupation with the colour.

Best regards.

Mark.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Honest confusion at the time perhaps? His own experience working against him? He would have been familier with the laws regarding the use of rockets at sea, but unfortunately, what the law allows for on paper doesn't always speak to actual practice. (Read that to mean misuses such as ships firing off rockets to salute each other, or a flotilla of fishing vessels letting each know where the others are.) Lord would have been familier with that as well.

Or as Tom said, he could have been dissembling and dodging. I don't know, but all this speaks to why this whole mess leaves me with a really sour aftertaste. The Californian has the following to offer anyone brave enough to tackle it;

•Unreliable navigation data,
•Witnesses that are dodgy, evasive and/or confused,
•Inquisitors with agendas who at the end of the day may not have even cared whether Lord was guilty of anything, and...
•Commentators with opinions which may or may not be justified but who weren't there at the time. (That includes yours truly)

Time to wash my hands....
wink.gif
 

Mark Baber

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It's been a while since I pulled Diana Bristow's "Sinking the Myths" off my bookshelf, but I seem to recall that she tries to argue that since white is not a "color", Titanic's rockets didn't meet the "any color or description" criteria.
 
Jun 4, 2000
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Not that I have the book to hand where I am right now, but this thread recalled a rather amusing snippet from Todd & Whall's Practical Seamanship, a standard merchant marine text of the time. The text actually warns against testing rockets of a night lest they be mistaken for distress signals by other vessels. This warning is inclusive of all rockets.

My memory of Bristow's take on rocket colours agrees with Mark B's. This is something I'll definitely be looking up in the library tonight.
 

George Behe

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Hi, all!

It has long been a widely-held assumption that pyrotechnics were routinely used as company signals in 1912. If such signals truly *were* commonplace in 1912, though, can any of our fellow ET members point us toward a few passenger or crew descriptions of 1912-era vessels that displayed Roman candles, flares or other pyrotechnic signals of recognition to each other as they passed in the night?

Thanks very much.

All my best,

George
 
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Tom Pappas

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If Ms. Bristow is going to suspend her apologia on so slender a thread as the physical properties of color, she would do well to establish that white light is composed of all colors, thus qualifying it eminently to be included under the rubric of "any color."
 
Sep 20, 2000
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"( ... misuses such as ships firing off rockets to salute each other, or a flotilla of fishing vessels letting each know where the others are.) Lord would have been familier with that as well."

One small problem with proposing these as possible explanations, Mike. Even if such *were* occasionally the case -- and that hasn't yet been demonstrated, as George points out -- are you suggesting that these "misuses" would normally mimic true distress signals by featuring rockets "fired at short intervals"??

One rocket doth not a distress signal make! And Captain Lord was, at one juncture, advised of *5* rockets fired from a single ship at short intervals. That hardly seems necessary or even desirable for a mere friendly "salute" or just to let someone else in the "fishing fleet" know where you are.

Plus, if Lord was indeed familiar with such supposedly mundane violations, why didn't he just say so in his own defense? There's not a hint of this throughout his testimony, just the vague suggestion -- fairly backwards, actually -- of "company signals".

Cheers,
John
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Plus, if Lord was indeed familiar with such supposedly mundane violations, why didn't he just say so in his own defense? <<

a)It may not have occurred to him that such trivia would be worth mentioning or
b)It may have been that he was simply dissembling and tapdancing as Tom said with vague references to company signals.

Unfortunately, Captain Lord is no longer available to cross examine so I can only guess. Somebody got a Oujii Board?
 
Jul 9, 2002
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With regard to CPT Lord and the rockets his ship observed that night, has anyone taken into account the fact that "distress" rockets color varied from Company to Company. This very well could have accounted for any lack of action on Lord's part. He saw white rockets. MAYBE, he was farmiliar with Red for distress. Or Green. Or Blue. Of course the flip side of this coin is that, as the Commander of a Sailing Vessel, he should have known that the number and frequency of the rockets he did see COULD HAVE meant something was amiss. Personally, I think Lord screwed up that night, but taking company signals into play, I can't entirely blame him. Cheers! Ryan
 

George Behe

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Hi, Ryan!

Distress rockets could be *any* color, though, so IMO Lord would have had no reason to be expecting to see one specific color instead of another.

All my best,

George
 
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Tom Pappas

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The variation in color of company signals is mooted by the text of the regulation:

Distress at sea is to be signaled by "...rockets or shells, throwing stars of any colour or description, fired one at a time at short intervals..."

The wise folks who formulated the regulations went out of their way to ensure that if there was any question about the intent of signals, that said signals were to be investigated.
 

Erik Wood

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Tom said: "The wise folks who formulated the regulations"

I will go on the record as saying that regulations are rarely written by "wise folks", especially those governing the sea.
 

Don Tweed

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So, is it so much the color as the intervals of time in which the rockets are fired?
This would have caused less confusion for the day.
Were the American regs tantamount to the BOT's?
I do not wish to fall into the Cptn. Lord syndrome here.
Colors and time will do!
happy.gif

-Don
 

George Behe

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Hi, Don!

>....time will do!

Not long ago on another bulletin board someone quoted a clause from the Merchant Shipping Act of 1906; the clause included the phrase:

"...rockets and/or flares, fired individually at intervals of not less than one minute,..."

All my best,

George
 

Erik Wood

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It occurs to me that no matter the evidence against or in support of Captain Lord's position some have decided to condemn the man. While I definitly see why one would do that, I think it would be wise to look at the over all picture governing his decision making.

Whether he ignored the rockets or thought that they where something different from what they where isn't the issue. The Safe a prudent navigation of his vessel and his responsibility to the men aboard it where his sole responsibility and should be the issue being discussed as apart of this over all discussion. The fate of those on Titanic does not fall upon his (Captain Lords) shoulders, his shipmate Captain Smith is to be held responsible for this.

In my professional opinion and (and with 90 years of hindsight and my career being in the age of radio) Lord made a mistake by not waking his wireless operator but the biggest mistake was not making a formal decision and having it and the situation logged.

Some have argued that the fact he did not come to Titanic's aid was a decision in and of itself. As another Master Mariner I can not blame him for staying put, his responsibility was to his ship and his men, that was it, the problems that faced Titanic where not of his creating and not his to fix. If he felt that the ice around him was not dangerous then he wouldn't have stopped for the night, because none of us where there to see what he saw none of us can say with any amount of certainty the conditions in which Lord found himself. Because he was a Captain (a position that is not easily achieved) one must IMO give him the benefit of the doubt. I can however call him a poopy pants for not having the presence of mind to have his decision and the situation logged.

I have said in several threads that my officers only need to be told what I think is important, and that my orders in and of themselves give information about a decision that I have made to a competent officer. Hindsight tells me that this was a out of the ordinary situation one that I would hope would have caught my attention.

I grew up in the era of the Coast Guard and the era of Lawyers, and era where passenger ship captains can get sued for bad food and loose there jobs based decisions that are made for the safety of the ship and not the schedule. So, every decision that is even remotely questionable is logged.

Stanely Lord is guilty for not logging and informing his officers of a decision, especially after they had awakened him more then once about the situation. He is not guilty of manslaughter and he is not some evil being that slept peacefully knowing that 1500 people 10 miles away where about to die. Before folks make comments about Captain Lords decision to sleep after his ship stopped for the night, one might try being a skipper. Hindsight helps us see what happened, it does not help the men who where in the situation.
 
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Virginia Dearing

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This certainly gave me another perspective on the responsability of Captain Lord in the Titanic situation.Phjlly43]
 
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