Samson in Titanic Triumph & Tragedy


Jan 5, 2001
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In their first book,* John Eaton and Charles Haas relate a lengthy chapter on the Californian. Although the first edition of their work was published in 1986, by the time of the second edition eight years had passed — the second edition appears to have been reprinted numerous times over the past few years. In that time, as early as 1986 Walter Lord had related Leslie Reade’s research with regard to the Samson.

One could excuse the mention of Samson as a mystery ship candidate in the first edition, therefore, as the text would probably have been written in 1984 and 1985. However, the 1994 second edition mentions the Samson, and her Chief Officer’s 1962 statement, without qualification — there is no mention of Leslie Reade’s research, for instance, which I understand effectively disproved the theory that Samson might have been ‘on scene.’ Is there reason to question Reade’s research? Did this slip through the net when the first edition was being updated and revised? Or am I just being silly?

Best regards,

Mark.

* Eaton, John P., & Haas, Charles A. Titanic: Triumph & Tragedy. Second Ed. Patrick Stephens Limited; 1994.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Mark, there may be all kinds of reasons to question Leslie Reade's research on a wide veriaty of issues as a matter of general principle. Nobody's perfect after all. Pretty much the same situation exists on other Titanic controversies, but I don't think this is one of them. The official documentation on where the Samson was...which speaks very clearly to where the ship could not have been...is about as solid as it gets.

Even Leslie Harrison dismissed this as a fairy tale. You would think that if there was anything to this, he of all people would have been all over it. With a few notable exceptions, (They're out there.)the Samson is a story nobody buys.
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Mark: I'd take that as just another example of the Eaton & Haas team's extreme bias when it comes to the tale of the Californian. Though they've otherwise compiled some excellent information on Titanic in their works, I've always found the topic of Californian to be extremely slanted there.

For example, Destination Disaster, as I recall, employs the phrase 'Captain Lord was almost completely exonerated' to describe the outcome of the 1990-92 MAIB Re-Appraisal. Yet on the two major points determined by that somewhat dubious Inquiry, Lord was indeed "acquitted" of being assuredly responsible for any lives lost, but was nevertheless still condemned as negligent for his lack of response.

The proverbial 50% glass of water may well be described as "half-full" by an optimist, and "half-empty" by a pessimist, but only a zealot would dare call it "almost completely full." ;^)

The same label is applicable to the Samson story repetition. Barring any stunning future revelations, that story was internally inconsistent to begin with, and was subsequently undermined entirely by Reade's research endeavors. (And to date, I haven't seen anything that undermines Reade on this.)

Cheers,
John
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Thanks for the replies Mike and John. I had a feeling that nobody still 'bought' the Samson story and it is unfortunate that it is still presented as fact in what is otherwise a pretty solid book.

Strangely or not, I can understand that some historians might be of a pro-Lord viewpoint. The whole point of being a historian is to loook through all the evidence, form opinions, make judgements and then record your history on that basis. It's not presenting a slanted viewpoint, contradicted by evidence, with no explanation. I find it hard to believe that Eaton & Haas could not have known about Reade's research.

I myself for instance feel that while Californian was closer to the scene than 20 miles, she was not only four miles away; and I feel that while Captain Lord did fail in his duty, it may well have been because he was not kept properly informed of developments. He does not deserve some of the accusations levelled at him, but his case is not done any good by those who present an obvious slant of the evidence.

Alas I feel that I have to second John's comment: 'Though they've otherwise compiled some excellent information on Titanic in their works, I've always found the topic of Californian to be extremely slanted there.'

Best regards,

Mark.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Well, ones results do seem to vary wildly on this sorry mess. I'm a lot more middle of the road on this nowadays and I'm not really interested in the old blame game. Rightly or wrongly, history has rendered it's verdict, and all that leaves me with is trying to understand not so much what went wrong as to understand why things went wrong.

Things get awful muddy when you get into the why. Both sides have their ups, downs, good points and bad. We've been hashing over them for years on this forum. While the Samson story is very much ingrained in Titanic lore and has to be dealt with, it remains a red herring from the standpoint of histriocity. To be very frank, I find it...irritating.

If what gets back to me from both camps is any indication, I'm not the only one. <shrug>
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Thanks for your post Mike, wise words as usual. Why would seem to be the question -- to me, it now seems equally applied to the Lordite and anti-Lordian camps.

Best regards.

Mark.
 

Eric Paddon

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To me, the attitude that so many Lordite historians have taken toward Leslie Reade's research on this point ranks as the greatest misuse of all methodological standards that historians and scholars are supposed to operate under.
 

Lee Gilliland

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I think that a point that Walter Lord in The Night Lives On should be reiterated here. "We must not forget that the Titanic hadn't happened yet." We have the vast advantage of knowing what was going on. I feel sure that had anyone on the Californian really known the Titanic was sinking, they would have tried to do something. It's just they didn't. We get to see the incident knowing that they could have saved lives then and there. They had no such knowledge. Mind you, I still think absolutely no response to the rockets, not even waking up Evans, was inexcusable.
 
Dec 6, 2000
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Getting back to Triumph & Tragedy:

Somewhere I heard that very little text (if any) was revised for the second edition, and in the cases where I specifically checked, I found none.

Many photos/paintings were changed, and I think a chapter was added at the end.
 
Dec 8, 2000
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Bill, I've never sat down for a page by page comparison (particularly with the second edition out on extended loan for so long), but from memory I'd have to agree with you re little change. That Eaton & Haas did change the text in parts is true at least once: the reference to Titanic sighting Rappahannock being deleted in the second edition.

From T:T&T,WW Norton & Co, first American edition, 1986 (cream cover with sepia photo), page 115, between the paragraphs starting 10 pm and 10.55 pm:
10.30 pm: Eastward bound from Halifax, the freighter Rappahannock emerged from her passage through an extensive ice-field, during which she had sustained rudder damage. Her acting master, Albert E. Smith, seeing Titanic's lights abeam, contacted her and sent a message by Morse signal lamp: 'Have just passed through heavy field ice and several icebergs'. After a moment, Titanic acknowledged 'Message Received. Thank you. Good night.'
This paragraph is not on page 115 in the second edition (Patrick Stephens Ltd, revised 1994, printed 1995, blue cover featuring an ED Walker painting): the paragraph starting 10 pm flows straight on to the paragraph for 10.55 pm. The index entry is, however, extant. At the time I noted this second edition deletion, I searched the surrounding text to see if the Rappahannock sighting had been moved back to an earlier night and didn't find any reference in the text. But that's only one para from 300+ pages, mightily meaningless in context? Still, why remove Rappahannock and not update information on the 'mystery ship'?

There are approx 33 additional pages of text in the second edition. This extra material mostly comprises Chapter 21: Discovery and Exploration and the inclusion of a passenger list. If changing the book's body of text wasn't a realistic option, perhaps this provided an opportunity for updating information on 'The Californian Incident' through an additional appendix.

Going back to Mark C's question (and other responses), I've checked the two index references for Samson. The information on pages 167 (three paragraphs based on the statement of Henrik Naess) and 265 (footnote reference to other ships in Titanic's vicinity) shows no change from one edition to the next. It does seem peculiar that Rappahannock was removed completely (apart from the erroneous index entry) but Samson left standing as was. Perhaps John has the right of it? To paraphrase Captain Lord himself, 'a certain degree of bias'?
wink.gif


FWIW,
F

(ps G'day Lee! Good to see you here.)
 
Dec 6, 2000
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Thanks for the info, Fiona.

I did spend a bit of time comparing the two editions years ago. Not long after the "Titanic Voices" index was completed by about 10 of us, there was some discussion about doing a better index to T&T. Quite a lot of the photos and the captions are not mentioned in the existing index, really reducing its usefulness.

But nothing ever got off the ground on this - I think we were all burned out just completing the index to "Titanic Voices"!
 
Dec 8, 2000
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Thanks in turn, Bill. There's certainly room for a 'better' index to the second edition but I do appreciate the 'burn out' factor. I appreciate even more the index for Titanic Voices, and wouldn't be without it. Thanks too for the pointer re photo captions, as I hadn't picked that up.
Cheers,
F
 

Paul Lee

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Just out of interest, what issues do people have with Leslie Reade's book? Is it his writing style (too verbose and prone to quotations), or his research?

Cheers
Paul
 

Eric Paddon

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It has always seemed to me that the problem some Lordite authors have with Leslie Reade's book is that it exposes too many unpleasant truths they aren't willing to confront. And by far, the one matter they have always seemed unwilling to confront in their zeal to depict Captain Lord as this innocent victim is the matter of Captain Lord's deliberate lies to the press in Boston, which are recorded in black and white in the Boston newspapers for all to see.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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A lot of Captain Lord's supporters don't like Reade for the same reason that of Lord's critics don't like Harrison, Malony, or Padfield. He's not on their "side." All I'll say beyond that if each has his defects (And they all do.) each also makes some valid points. Regarding who is doing which, I leave you to decide for yourself.
 

Paul Lee

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I was just intrigued by Michael Standart's statement:

"there may be all kinds of reasons to question Leslie Reade's research on a wide veriaty of issues as a matter of general principle."
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Notice the qualifyer: "May be." and that's simply because nobody is perfect, and no work is ever entirely free of bias or mistakes no matter how hard the researcher tries to keep them out.

Yes, Lord's supporters have an agenda, but then so do his critics. The trick is to try and see past that and the usual round of mudslinging that comes with this dicey controversy. For that reason, might I suggest that if you want to form an educated opinion on this, befor you ever hit any books on the subject, go to the actual testimony of the principles involved on record in the inquiries.

You can do this by clicking on The Titanic Inquiry Project

After wading through all that, give all views a fair hearing, and then your own counsel keep on what you believe.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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To be specific, Reade does make a few factual errors but they are not important in his overall work. He is quite wrong about how the socket signals worked. These made a loud bang at deck level, not high in the air, as Reade has them. That's because they were in effect little mortars. When fired they sounded like a cannon. When they released the stars they only made a dull thud. Reade's comments on how far they could be heard are not valid.

Some things are a matter of judgement. In my opinion, Reade places too much value on several bits of evidence. I don't have much faith in evidence from Captain Gambell, which comes to us via the press. I'm not impressed by Rostron's supposed change of mind, which is also second hand. I believe Rostron got in right in 1912, when he said he didn't see Californian until she was quite close to his ship. Reade uses other evidence from Bissett and Crawford that I find untrustworthy.

Where it really matters, Reade got it right. He found the facts about company signals, which were a red herring, originally introduced by Lord. Any officer would have known that no company signal lasted more than 2 or 3 minutes. Reade chased up the silly Samson story thoroughly. This should now be a dead issue, but Lord's apologists still drag it out. Reade also found the Boston reports of Lord's evasions and fictions.

Reade isn't perfect but he mounts his case like the lawyer he was. Whether a jury would convict Lord is another thing. In 1912 legal opinion was divided. The circumstantial evidence against Lord is strong, but it's possible that he was guilty only of apathy and excessive faith in an incompetent subordinate, namely Herbert Stone, followed by an amateurish attempt to save his skin.
 

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Dave!

>The circumstantial evidence against Lord is
> strong, but it's possible that he was guilty >only of apathy and excessive faith in an >incompetent subordinate, namely Herbert Stone, >followed by an amateurish attempt to save his >skin.

Absolutely. I'd have a lot more sympathy for Lord if he had been honest enough to come clean in 1912 and simply admit that mistakes were made and that his ship was indeed close to the disaster site that night. As it is, though, his transparent attempts to falsely place the Californian far away from the disaster site cast the man in a very unsympathetic light (the efforts of revisionist historians notwithstanding.)

All my best,

George
 

Dave Gittins

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George, as an practical seafarer, one thing that always strikes me as odd about Lord's story is his dogged insistence that his ship was stationary at 42° 05'N 50° 07'W all night. The one thing a ship won't do, in the absence of an anchor, is stay in the same place with the engine stopped. Wind and/or current will take her somewhere, be it ever so slowly. Lord admitted to a breeze blowing when he said "After we slowly blew around and showed him our red light." The icebergs were obviously being taken south by a current, yet his wonderful ship stayed in the same place. It's just one example of how amateurish his cover-up was. Of course, he couldn't very well do as you suggest and come clean, though he might have escaped with a suspension of his ticket. The more I've looked at the whole affair, the more I've come to see it as a series of very human fumbles rather than as some deep, dark plot. If you know the book Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel you'll get the idea. Lord was right in the Weasel Zone.
 

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