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Stanley Lord guilty as charged

Discussion in 'Accusations against Captain Lord and Subsequent Di' started by schuylervanjohnson, Sep 23, 2013.

  1. Adam Went

    Adam Went Member

    Hi all,


    I understand what you're saying but to me it's a petty argument. That's like saying "that house down the road looks like it's on fire but I haven't seen any of the neighbours who live closer to it trying to raise an alarm, so I won't take the time to go down and check everything is alright".

    It would have been simple - so very simple - to rouse the wireless operator on board the Californian and at least attempt to contact her by wireless. As I said, Evans may not have needed to contact the ship, he might well have heard the distress calls coming from the Titanic before he had a chance to. Instead they make some half-hearted attempts at contacting her via morse lamp. It would have been quicker, easier and simpler to try the wireless first.


    Thank you for your response. As you said it's a rather lengthy reply but i'll try to address it as best I can.

    First off, I can understand that a ship, even in 1912, fired rockets for different reasons. But I have a tougher time contemplating it when you consider that this was in the middle of the night, in the middle of the North Atlantic ocean. Surely the officers on the Californian must have realised that the rockets were meant to be noticed by themselves, because aside from the two ships, there was apparently no other living soul for miles in any direction. Why would the ship they were seeing be firing rockets that only they could see? Seems a rather strange amusement.

    So it doesn't matter whether it's a distress call or somebody's birthday party which is going off with a "bang" at midnight. It was meant to gain attention and it DID gain attention. Did they really think that any shipping line would be so incompetent as to allow their vessel to run out of coal hundreds of miles from the nearest shore, or that the vessel was having a Bismarck-like moment with a jammed or lost rudder? Possible, but unlikely. In fact, I don't recall hearing any suggestion even from the men on board the Californian that they had considered possibilities such as these.

    As i've mentioned previously, there was apparently no other vessels in the vicinity, so the appearance that the ship was at first listing and then moving away would have been an optical illusion based on the positions of the lights and, as you mention, reflection. The Titanic was not at a standstill even after striking the iceberg so her movements would have been accentuated from miles away, especially once the bow section went underwater. There was also no moon which would not have helped. It also helps explain why it appeared that the rockets were actually coming from further away.

    Regarding the wireless operator and other attempts to contact the ship, please see my response to Thomas as it is much the same.

    Regarding your three options, the third is the obvious one. Once the Californian moved in the general direction of the stricken vessel it would have been clear where the trouble was coming from.

    Now let me state once again that this is not intended to be an accusation against Lord or his men, I am not falling into that category. I believe they acted as best they saw fit at the time and we (and I) have the benefit of historical hindsight. But there is absolutely, unquestionably, room for criticism of their actions that night and in my humble opinion they could have tried much harder, and done much more than they did.

  2. A major problem when interpreting history is hindsight. This is called “tempocentrism” and it means the belief that what we know in our time applies to events in prior times. There is also the problem created by seeing historic events in isolation.

    Californian and Titanic are often viewed as if they were the only two vessels ever floated. Not so, and every sailor in 1912 knew it. There is no doubt that Californian's bridge watch and Captain Lord were aware somebody was trying to attract attention, but there is no proof of whose attention. In 1912 firing pyro did not mean the other ship was actually signaling Californian. It would have been quite logical for Californian to assume the other ship was signaling to a vessel out of sight beyond the vessel in sight.

    Today, we know Titanic fired pyro signals as a distress signal. On that cold April night, however, that knowledge was known only to a few thousand sailors and passengers aboard the sinking ship. And, in 1912 “rockets” and other forms of pyro were the only method for exchanging signals between ships that lacked wireless (which was most of the fleet). So, a 1912 eye would not have seen Titanic's rockets in the say way that a 2013 eye views them. We know what happened. Nobody outside of Titanic had that knowledge at the time. We cannot make tempocentric assumptions about what a sailor should have done a century ago based on modern knowledge. We can only judge a person's actions against what was known at that point in time. Californian had no proof or even logical reason to assume that a few white rockets were in fact cries for help given the state-of-the-art in night communications in 1912.

    Which brings up radio, or “wireless” as it was known then. A ship resorting to rockets in 1912 would have identified itself as probably lacking radio communications. Once again, it is easy to make the tempocentric mistake of applying 2013 knowledge and social conventions to a century ago. We live in a world where people chat incessantly on cell phones. In 1912, wireless was a novelty, one with promise, but still a novelty while pyro was the accepted means of night communications. Why should Californian's radio operator have been awakened? His receiver couldn't hear or see pyro.

    The biggest tempocentric mistake in analyzing Californian's actions is to apply our knowledge that Titanic was sinking less than 20 miles away to Captain Lord's decisions of that night. What he knew was simple. His ship had stumbled into a field of ice that raised the real threat of damage to its hull or propellers. He also knew that the captain of any ship has the primary legal and moral responsibility for the safety of the people in his ship. It was for these reasons that Captain Lord prudently chose to secure his engines and drift through the hours of darkness. Even when informed that some other ship was firing rockets Captain Lord's responsibility for his ship and its people did not change.

    I hate hypothetical history, but even so let's assume that Captain Lord had learned via wireless that Titanic was sinking. How would that have changed his responsibilities vis-a-vis his ship and its people. The answer is that nothing would have changed. Nothing. Lord's overriding responsibility remained for his command. Bluntly, a captain I has the full freedom to be a hero – but he does not have the right to do it at the cost of your life. And, that responsibility is not hypothetical.

    -- David G. Brown
  3. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

  4. >>We cannot make tempocentric assumptions about what a sailor should have done a century ago based on modern knowledge. We can only judge a person's actions against what was known at that point in time.<<

    Bingo! Give this man a ceegar!
  5. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    "Tempocentric" Now there's a word to roll round the tongue! Must admit it's a new one to me. Couldn't' find it in the dictionary but can find the 'F' word. Now there's a thought.

    However I found a deffinition here:

    Sippanondha Ketudat"

    Here's what I found:

    "Tempocentrism has to do with our paying too little attention to the future,or paying attention but in the wrong way."

    They key word her is 'anticipatory'. Some people are 'anticipating' what might have happened if Lord had followed a particular set of actions. However, to reduce the chance of acting in a tempocentric way, we have to consider all of the actions available to him then discard the impractical ones. The only people who are able to perform this exercise with any accuracy are those who are familiar with the practices of deck officers in 1912. All the rest are engaging in pure speculation.

    Jim C.
  6. Jim -- I use a slightly different definition of the word "tempocentrism." My use of the word means the application of modern knowledge, customs, and mores to past history where current ideas do not apply. Or, in the case of 1912 seamanship, the application of modern approaches to the events of Titanic. This conforms exactly to the point made by your last two sentences above.

    -- David G. Brown
  7. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Perhaps I'm wrong David but I read the definition as " applying past and present knowledge to the prediction of a future sequence of events culminating in a perceived ending". A sort of "all things being equall; this will happen resulting in that" if you will.

    I entirely agree that the pundits of the present day, frequently and wrongly apply present day knowledge and practice when suggesting an alternative course of action for Captain Lord. This same approach has often been used to the detriment of the truth by eminent authors in popular publications aconcerning Titanic and Californian. People like you and me are often left talking to a blank wall.

    Great word!

    Jim C.
  8. >>"Tempocentric" Now there's a word to roll round the tongue! Must admit it's a new one to me.<<

    It's the reason that I have what sympathy for Captain Lord that I do in spite of our obvious differences. I'm excruciatingly aware of just how deceptive and misleading all sorts of visual conditions and clues can be out at sea, even to the trained eye. Further, if Captain Lord's own subordinates thought the situation was urgent, they had an underwhelming and unimpressive way of showing it.

    I think in the end it's that element of poor communication which is the missing link in this whole story.

    Yeah, I think that consistent with seeing to the safety of his own ship, they should have done something more then they actually did. The thing is, given the nature of the information which Stone and Gibson gave him, why should he? As you said, Captain Jim, the last tangible bit of information either gave him was that the stranger had sailed away. Hardly urgent.

    The "Awwwwww HELL!!!!!" moment wouldn't come until sunrise.

    There was something else you said about Lord possibly trying to protect his officers ex post facto to the event. Too bad they paid him back by throwing him under the bus!
  9. >>I think in the end it's that element of poor communication which is the missing link in this whole story.<<

    You're right on target about that Michael. What Stone saw that night should have been alarming, but what he conveyed to Lord was anything but alarming if Gibson's account of what Stone told him was accurate. I also think Lord was trying to protect his 2/O when he was being questioned at the inquiry.
  10. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Hello Michael.

    I'm inclined to narrow the whole thing down to one vital difference in the evidence given by Stone at Gibson. As I pointed out before, it comes from their disagreement as to when and how many rockets were initially reported to Lord. Gibson's evidence agrees with Lord vis. that he received notification of one possible and one certain pyrotechnic signal sighting and told Stone to try and find out what it was all about.(Incidentally; at no time do Lord or Stone use the expression distress or even danger. Stone was merely asked to see if he could obtain any information)
    Since Gibson agrees with Lord, and it would be the natural thing for an OOW to do, I am inclined to think that Stone called Lord as soon as he was sure he saw a rocket. He also told him it was not accompanied by any sound nor did it go as high as the mainmast light of the nearby ship. Lord thought Mmmm.. doesn't sound like a problem. Anyway, I'll have this lad call her up and find out anything. He instructs Stone accordingly.

    Stone clacks-away with the signal lamp but gets no reply. He sees another three signals then Gibson comes on the scene. Three minutes or so later there is activity on the nearby vessel. Stone takes a bearing and sees it start to alter.. slowly at first then at an ever-increasing speed. She is underweigh. By this time, he has completely forgotten about the last three signals before Gibson arrives and is now totally engrossed in watching the departure of the other vessel. He thinks its' going away, when it's gone I'll send young Gibson down to tell the old man
    Meanwhile, Lord snoozes on the chartroom settee.. oblivious to all.

    Next morning when the nasty stuff hits the fan, Lord gets hold of Stone and learns the truth of the matter. He then tells Stone and Gibson to put pen to paper and write down what they remember while the thing is fresh in their memories.
    When he see what Stone has written, he realises that he was not informed, as he should have been, after the fifth signal. He sees the logic in Stone's actions but knows that such logic would be ignored should their be an inquiry.

    I think if you ask any Master about this, he would broadly agree with this assessment. It's not the first time an Old man has protected his junior in this way.

    As a footnote: Lord, like any other experienced master could not have guessed the vindictive nature of the oreal to come. He like any other experienced Master would have taken the available evidence and concluded that he had no case to answer. He had done all the things that any prudent Master would have done given the circumstances.

    Jim C.
  11. Adam Went

    Adam Went Member


    I can't remember who said it (might have been Dante), but: "The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."

    Now I would call what the Californian saw that night a moral crisis. Do they contact her, don't they contact her? Do they sail towards her, do they stay where they are? In the end, they did what was effectively.....nothing.

    Now I get the whole historical hindsight thing and I fully agree with you on it - I can't stand people who say "oh they should have done this, oh they should have done that" decades or centuries after the fact, because the truth is that they weren't there in that moment to be able to make that judgement. So that's why i'm not doing that, i'm simply making observations about what they might have done better and more thoroughly at the time.

    There's a trend around these forums to say "oh but it wasn't how they were trained". Well unfortunately sometimes in life (during times of said moral crisis especially) you've got to throw the conformity and the rule book to high hell and act on what your instinct tells you.

    Sure, they may have thought the ship didn't have wireless. Or that she was sailing away. But all the "what if" scenarios could have been permanently abolished if they'd just been a bit more thoughtful.


    I have seen a signal lamp and yes, they are bright and powerful. But obviously not enough for the Titanic. The officers had their own problems as the ship was sinking, I doubt they would have been standing there just waiting incase the ship decided to send them a morse lamp signal some time.

    You use the case of the Almerian, and that's fine. But did the Almerian have wireless? The difference is that the crew of the Californian stuck their own foot in it by describing in such detail what they saw that night. To an extent they probably have been victimised but also to an extent it is warranted.

    How far from the shore was Deutzland when she ran short of coal?

    Clearly the Titanic was sinking, so how was it also moving to such a vast degree that it affected the bearings on the Californian? Perhaps the lack of a moon had something to do with it, I don't know. But they were incompetent on other levels so I see no reason why they couldn't have been incompetent at that as well.

    As for the rockets appearing to come from a distance beyond the vessel - well, in order to get to where the rockets were, they would have had to sail right through where the weirdly behaving vessel was, would they not? Perfect, kill two birds with one stone!

  12. Nobody in Californian was facing a moral crisis. Such a crisis exists only when the people involved know they: a.) face a choice; and, b.) that either way they choose results in an outcome of great import. Clearly, in 1912 these criteria were not met.

    Yes, Californian observed a display of pyro, but in those days rockets, socket signals, blue lights, and roman candles were commonly used to signal between ships. Only if such signals were fired at “regular intervals” were they to be considered as “distress signals” under the existing Rules. This wording was (and is) generally construed to mean at an interval of close to one minute between signals. But, Boxhall in Titanic was occupied with other duties. So the sinking ship' signals were not fired in regular pattern required of distress signals. While the Fourth Officer's efforts were laudable, they did not measure up to being “distress signals” in 1912. This means that Californian had no moral responsibility to respond to Titanic's white socket signals.

    Captain Lord did recognize the possibility that his ship may have been the intended recipient of those signals. This motivated his question about whether or not they were company signals. Had they been, he undoubtedly would have responded with a like signal and then made attempts to communicate. But, Titanic never fired any sort of company signals. Again, this means Lord had no moral responsibility to take any action because nothing in what Californian's bridge reported met even a loose definition of signals from a ship in distress.

    Captain Lord lived up to both his moral and legal responsibilities that night. If anyone must carry the moral responsibility for Californian's inaction it was Captain E.J. Smith. He had the means to fire plenty of socket signals at regular intervals as required by the existing Rules of the Road. He had the manpower in Boxhall and Rowe to accomplish the task. And, he believed there was another vessel close enough to have provided some help to his stricken ship. Smith who failed to live up to his moral responsibility to use all means possible to attract help to his stricken vessel. Titanic never effectively communicated it's distress to whatever ship that lay on the horizon.

    -- David G. Brown
  13. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member


    I deal with David first.

    Excellent analysis David, wish I could have put it in that way.

    I have said before that many reasearchers only part-read the evidence.. the parts that apeal to them. Any of the bits that do not fit, they reject or ignore. Your observations concerning the nature of distress signals and morse signals is a case in point. Here's what we know about the ones in question from the evidence given by Boxhall and Stone

    2nd Officer Stone described the pyrotechnic signals he saw as: not rising very high; soundless and being fire at intervals of either 6 minutes or 3 or 4 minutes depending on what evidence you read. Groves, Stone and Gibson were signalling that vessel with a powerful signal lamp from the time she stopped until the time she moved away.

    The pyrotechnic signals being sent-up by Titanic were being sent up at intervals of almost 6 minutes, gave off a loud bang and would have illuminated the ship's funnels and superstructure. This illumination would have been enhanced by the cloud of steam vapour. Additionally: Titanic had twin morse lamps mounted atop her bridge wing cabs. These were very powerfull and were being activated continuously from just after midnight by Boxhall and two QMs.

    Additionally, as I have pointed-out ad nauseum to others:

    1. The vessel seen from the bridge of Titanic was moving for about half an hour before it stopped then turned away.
    2. Californian was stopped for the entire sinking process.
    3. The vessel seen by 3rd officer Groves approached Californian for half an hour at a speed of 12 knots.. not 22 knots and came from a direction of SSW , not from the eastward as Titanic would have done.
    4. The bearing taken by compass pelorus of the vessel seen by Stone and Gibson started altering at just after 1-15am and continued to alter for another 45 minutes.
    5. A vessel 4 or 5 miles away on a still night firing socket signals of the type sent up by a ship the size of Titanic could not be mistaken. To suggest otherwise is totally rediculous.
    6. The lookouts on Titanic did not sight a stopped vessel before the vessel hit the iceberg.
    7. The duty lookout on Californian was never questioned.


    You have drawn our attention to the part played by the people on Titanic As you can see from the foregoing, Titanic had three men dedicated to ensuring that the signals were being sent up and that the nearby vessel was contacted by morse lamp. However as David pointed out in another way; these pyrotechnic signals were to be sent up at intervals which conveyed urgency. The Titanic signals at 5 or 6 minutes did not convey urgency. You do not shout help at 5 or 6 minute intervals. The 'bang' part of them was meant to be an alternative for the gun signal which was to be at intervals of about 1 minute. Now that is urgent!
    There were at least two men on Titanic's bridge keeping the other vessel under observation using binoculars. If those on the bridge of Californian could see a few portholes and what looked like open doors on the nearby vessel (Stone) then those on Titanic had to reciprocate.

    Almerian did not have wireless. The puzzle concering her is: what made her think that a vessel near to her was in trouble to the extent that her master fired off a few white rockets?
    As for victimising the men on Californian; I agree 100%. However, if the itemised facts above are correct then such vicitmisation was and still is a slanderous act.

    I don't know exactly how far off shore the "Deutzland" was but I think that is academic.

    As for taking bearings: it is and has always been standard practice on a ship. In case you are unaware; in 1912 they used a portable ring for that purpose.. what is and was known as an Azimuth or Pelorus ring. This clipped to the top of the compass bowl and could be swivelled round it for 360 degrees. It had was fitted with sighting arrangements through which the user could simultaneously target an object and read it's bearing in degrees directly off the compass card. Here's a modern version:
    As you can see, there are two sets of sighting arrangements. One was for taking bearing of the rising or setting sun or for taking bearings of objects on the sea surface or on land. A filter was used for the sun. The other was used to take bearing of cellestial bodies. It incorporated an optic prism which could be manipulated to bring any such body and the compas card into view simultaneously. This last one was used to determine the error of the compass.

    Incidentally; the Merchant Navy pelorus, unlike the RN version was not used to take bearings relative to the ship's heading.(bow).

    All Stone had to do was to compare two compass bearings of a target taken at intervals. If they were not the same, then the object was moving. That's what he did . He would simply conlcude that a moving vessel is not in distress.
    As for the other vessel; once it turned away from Californianhe men on her bridge would loose interest. Men on the bridge of a moving vessel do not look in the direction they have been but in the direction they are going.

    If a ship is 4 miles away and her masthead light is 75 feet above her deck then a rocket fired from that ship which rose the height of her masthead light only travelled upward a distance of 75 feet. Right? If that ship had been firing a distress signal like the one fired by Titanic, said signal would have exploded in a shower of stars at a height close to 8 times the height of her masthead light. at that moment and for a few moments afterward, anyone nearby and looking at that vessel through binoculars would clearly see parts of her illumnated by the light of the signal. They may even see reflected light from the water. Right? There would be absolutely no doubt that the other ship had fired such a signal.

    Adam, to find fault with Captain Lord based on the above is just plain nonsense. To do so would need manipulation of the evidence to fit other, unrelated evidence, In my opinion, that's exactly what was done in 1912.

    Jim C.

  14. TimTurner

    TimTurner Member

    That is a Tempocentric viewpoint. That is what we believe now with our modern morality system, is that what they believed then?

    The problem (then and now) with throwing out the rulebook is that you become responsible for overruling the considered opinion of your superior officers in favor of a panic response in the heat of the moment based on possibly faulty data. For a responsible person to risk this, there must be considerable reason to believe that the rulebook is flat-out wrong.

    Again, my fundamental concern with finding Captain Lord guilty is motivation. I just don't find it plausible or reasonable that he intentionally violated his responsibility. If he suspected that 2000 people were dying, he would have attempted to rescue them. Therefore, I conclude that he didn't know that 2000 people were drowning. Whether he should have known (and is responsible for knowing) is where I find that the debate lays. Here, again, I can't see any reason that Lord intentionally blinded himself to what was going on. Therefore, I must conclude that his ignorance was due to natural causes such as confusion or mis-communication.

    If he had known that his responsibility was to investigate or rescue the Titanic, I see no reason that he would not have done it. Therefore I conclude that he did not know that this was his responsibility. Therefore, I find fault with the conclusion that he should have acted on a responsibility he didn't know he had. As Captain of a vessel, he is still responsible even in ignorance, but I find that it is illogical to claim that he should have taken a given action.
  15. >>Again, my fundamental concern with finding Captain Lord guilty is motivation. I just don't find it plausible or reasonable that he intentionally violated his responsibility. If he suspected that 2000 people were dying, he would have attempted to rescue them.<<

    I would have to point out that in the morning, when he was first made aware of the situation, that this is exactly what he tried to do. He got underway and made not one but TWO dangerous crossings of the icefield, first to get to the radioed location, then to get over to what Captain Lord had to realize was the REAL location of the sinking. This is why I take issue with attempts by some of his critics to portray him as a sociopath. He was noting of the kind. A sociopath would have shrugged it off and gone on his merry way.

    That "Awwwww HELL!!!!" moment I'm talking about would have come when he put together all the disparate and contradictory information at his disposal and realized...too late...what it HAD to mean.

    Yeah, he made his mistakes, and I'm not going to softpedal any of them, but they were understandable in light of what information he had available to him AT THE TIME, and there was no malice involved. To insinuate that there was, that's where Captain Lord's critics and I part company.
  16. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    This is really interesting.

    I like very much your approach to the debate Tim. Combining it with Michael's observation seems to me to simplify the problem as to whether Lord was guilty of anything other than behaving in a normal manner.

    He was most certainly not a Sociopath as you very correctly point out Michael. If by 'sociopath' his accusers mean that he did not follow the modern approach to command i.e. making a point of getting to know all of his men on a personal basis; understanding that each one was a warm, fealing human being with hopes,fears and a family etc., etc. Then Lord, like any other efficient ship-master, was guilty. He seems to have ran a "tight ship" but also seems to have been able to talk easily with his subordinates. This is obvious from the transcripts of evidence. He had very many friends ashore on both sides of the Atlantic and commanded great respect from those above and below him on the social scale. His observations and recorded actions after he became aware of the sinking mark him as an efficient, clever seaman. Indeed, his record was unblemished before and after the Titanic incident. He had nothing to hide and spent his entire life trying to convince anyone who would listen that such was the case. Unfortuantely he was and still is branded by ingnoramouses. Some are so through no fault of their own but the better informed have no excuse.
    A jury never got a chance to judge the man. He was branded and condemned without trial.. an act that we so-called modern people would not tollerate today. I suppose that's why I and others have kept and continue to keep the flag flying for this long-dead individual.
  17. Adam Went

    Adam Went Member


    I have to disagree. The crew of the Californian had several choices to make that night, and history tells us that at the end of it all they didn't technically make the wrong ones but they also could have done much more to make the right ones.

    I could understand the rockets being fired in just about any other scenario, but given the location of the ship, the fact that she even appeared to be at weird angles, etc and that all this carried on for quite some time - something should have clicked with even one of the Californian's senior officers that something was amiss. And i'm not saying that they should have fired up the engines and cruised on over there just to see what all the fuss was about, but even trying to contact her by wireless. They KNEW that the Titanic was in the vicinity and they KNEW for sure that she had wireless - Evans had only been told to shut up early that day.

    I'm afraid you're just getting hung up on technicalities rather than looking at the bigger picture, one that requires just a little bit of common sense and a "better safe than sorry" approach.


    Well if the "Deutzland" ran out of coal just a few miles off shore, for instance, then it would be much more understandable than if a ship like the Titanic - which, again, the crew of the Californian were aware was in the vicinity - had run out of coal hundreds of miles from the nearest shore. After all, was there not a coal shortage around that time?

    Clearly the system used to measure where the rockets were coming from and the bearings, etc are going to be skewed if, say, the bow of the Titanic was already underwater and therefore her masts are at a vastly different scale. I will confess that i'm not a seafarer myself and so have no knowledge of taking bearings, etc, but it definitely was not as accurate in those days, as evidenced by the fact that the position that even the Titanic herself gave was a long way out.

    In regards to the rest of your response I can only highlight my response to David.


    Well I agree with you, I don't believe that Lord or his crew in any way intentionally avoided what was potentially a disaster zone. And I understand that if somebody acts on morals and instincts rather than the rulebook then they are responsible for their actions, but that is how heroes are born. Protocol tells you that a neighbour shouldn't run into a flaming house to save a child, but any decent neighbour will. Protocol tells you that only lifesavers should rescue drowning people at a beach, but who with a conscience is going to stand by and watch somebody drown?

    No, sometimes you just have to trust your instincts, act, and deal with the consequences later. It was evident to the crew of the Californian that something weird was happening, and yet they chose not to follow it up apart from, as I said earlier, a few attempts with a morse lamp. When that didn't work, other methods should have been adopted.


    For once I think we're fairly close to agreement.

  18. TimTurner

    TimTurner Member

    They knew that the Titanic was in the vicinity, but they didn't know that the strange ship was the Titanic (which we know today). Trying to wire the strange ship because it is the Titanic makes no sense unless you know that is the Titanic. It could have been any other vessel.

    It ran out of coal, and the Titanic had no excuse to run out of coal. But they did not know the stranded ship was the Titanic.

    If I recall, the officers of the California actually discounted that was the Titanic because it didn't look right.

    On top of this, they tried to contact the strange ship with the most standard straight-forward communication method: The signal lamp. The strange ship appeared to ignore them.

    Yes, ignoring the rules is how some heros are born, and many disasters launched. And that's part of my point. If my neighbors house was burning down, I would have investigated. So if you read in the paper tomorrow that my neighbor's house burned down and I didn't investigate, doesn't it make sense that I didn't realize it?

    If the house is spouting flames, then certainly I would look into it. But what if all I hear is a distant beeping sound? How much suspicion do I need before I escalate? This happened to my sister recently. They heard a beeping sound, chalked it up to the neighbor leaving their alarm clock on. Later the fire department showed up because they had left the stove on, not an alarm clock. I am certain that she would have escalated if she knew it was a fire. Should she have called her neighbors? e-mailed the apartment managers? Learned semaphore and flagged down passing cars? If the neighbor doesn't answer when you knock on their door, what makes you think they'll answer if you call the home phone?

    The Californian saw unusual behavior. But was it unusual enough to escalate? The strange ship was not responding to the normal means of communication. The rocket signals were low-lying signals which didn't properly fit the description of distress signals, and looked like they might have come from behind the strange vessel (from another ship). The wireless was a new toy, and there was no reason to believe that the other ship had a wireless.

    Yes, something weird was happening. But not all weird things are house fires or sinking ships.
  19. Captain Jim: By sociopath, I mean in the conventional modern sense. The reason I dismiss such claims is that it comes from a psychiatrist who is in no position to put Captain Lord on the couch and because there is a lot of anachronistic projecting going on there.

    Was Captain Lord a flawed human being?

    Of course he was.

    Did he make mistakes that night?


    Were they out of hatred and malice or a depraved indifference to life?

    Sorry, but there's no credible evidence to support any of that.
  20. Adam – while I admire your desire to change history for the better...that can't be done. We must look at history as what took place and not as we wish things had happened. There was nothing particularly special about the location of the rockets. Ice fields were common then and common now. Perhaps the one on April 14, 1912 was a bit farther south than might be expected, but it was neither uncommon nor unusual. Otherwise, one spot in the open ocean was (and remains) pretty much like another.

    The odd angle of the vessel is a perception that any sailor of modest experience would not trust. Often enough you can't trust your eyes when looking at objects just beyond your horizon. I've seen ships on the horizon appear even stranger. More than once when I first viewed a ship coming over the curve of the earth it was upside-down and appeared almost hovering over the water. Moisture in the air can play funny tricks with light.

    Yes, Californian knew Titanic was in the vicinity. And, both ships did have radio. But, the evidence presented to Captain Lord by his bridge team did not rise to the level where action would have been demanded. The report to him was of a ship of odd appearance and somebody beyond firing a few random white signals. It is only in retrospect...meaning after the event...that the sinking of Titanic can be linked to what Californian saw that night.

    This is what I mean by tempocentric thinking: “Well, we know what happened and therefore Captain Lord should have known what we know because of what happened later that night after his bridge team made and reported their observations.” Sorry, that sort of argument only wins in court where facts have no special standing. The truth is that the events viewed by Californian were only worthy of continued observation (as Lord ordered) and did not warrant special action on Californian's part.

    As I've said above, it is Captain Smith who should have taken the action that night. He should have detailed Fourth Officer Boxhall to send off pyro at a definite interval so as to meet the then-operative definition of “distress signals.” If Smith had given the order to fire signals every 60 seconds until the socket signals were expended, Titanic would have put on a pyro display with a meaning that no 1912 officer would have mistaken. Rockets every minute would have brought Captain Lord all standing to his bridge and...well, you can speculate on the rest of the story.

    However, be careful speculating. The end might not have been as rosy as you think. It's just as likely Lord would have knocked a hole in his ship trying to come to Titanic's aide. Instead of being the “mystery ship,” Californian might have become “the other sinking” that night. Or, Lord might have become an accidental hero eclipsing the fame of Carpathia's skipper, Rostron.

    But none of this happened. History does not reveal its alternatives.

    -- David G. Brown