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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. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Gibson described the scenario as follows:

    Nothing then happened until the other ship was about two points on the Starboard bow when she fired another rocket."

    That was the second last signal seen from Californian

    "Shortly after that, I observed that her sidelight had disappeared, but her masthead light was just visible, and the Second Officer remarked after taking another bearing of her, that she was slowly steering away towards the S.W. Between one point on the Starboard bow and one point on the Port bow I called her up on the Morse lamp but received no answer. When about one point on the Port bow she fired another rocket which like the others burst into white stars."

    The above illustrated a vessel turning away to starboard from the observer...possibly turning short -round.

    At this same moment, the relative bearing of vessel under observation would alter to the left as Californian's bow moved to the right. If shortly after that, Stone took a bearing with the pelorus over the standard compass, the ship would be seen to be starting to move. At a distance of 5 + miles, unless Stone had been taking bearings of the actual signals, the last signal would seem to be coming from the vessel.

    Gibson's evidence clearly contradicts that of 2nd Officer Stone in that Gibson states that the bearing did not change until sometime between the penultimate signal and the final one.
  2. Georges G.

    Georges G. Member

    As far as I know, you can take a Compass Bearing via an Azimuth Circle mounted on a Standard Compass or a Relative Bearing via a Pelorus mounted on a Pelorus Stand. In 1912, the Compass was the supreme navigation instrument. As they were taking Compass Bearing all the time, I am pretty sure that the Azimuth Circle mounted on the Standard Compass would be cleverly located as to get the maximum horizon without structure obstructions. Thus, I would be very surprise that the OOW was taking Relative Bearing instead of Compass Bearing. I am also positive that when Stones testified that he observed the Other Vessel by Standard Compass, he was doing so by Compass Bearings, not by relative bearings. He was clever enough to know that the bearing would be constant if two vessels were not moving or just spot turn swinging. But if the Compass Bearing was altering, then one or the other vessel must have been sailing.

    How can you explain that two vessels adrift 5 miles away from each other, one was spot swinging to Port (Californian) while the other one was spot turning to Stb’d?
  3. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Standard practice taught to all those aspiring to be a bridge officer in the British Merchant Navy before 1912 and up to and after 1970 was to automatically check the bearing of a vessel when first identified. This was done using a portable Pelorus or Azimuth ring. In the MN, the same instument was used for relative bearings. In fact, relative bearings were more used by the RN than the MN. The ring was normally kept in a specially designed box as were the sextants and chronometer(s). These three were the basic tools of the trade for a navigator. The Standard compass bowl had a brass bearing ring fitted round the perimeter. The Bowl was normally co0vered with
  4. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    I was editing that last post and got hijacked.

    In fact, the Merchant Navy did not use relative bearings, only the RN did. In the unlikely event that an accurate relative bearing was required, the MN used the same instrument for both purposes.
    When Californian came to a halt, Groves would uncover the standard compass binnacle and stow the helmet to one side. He should have used use the ring mounted on the bowl to take a bearing of the ship he saw at 11-10 pm and monitor it's approach...he did not. That tells be something about the man and why he only had a 2nd Mate's certificate at the age of 24.
    When Stone arrived on the bridge he acted responsibly and immediately checked the bearing by using the compass. He also said it was abeam. This then gave his questioners and idea of how Californian was heading. he also was told by Captain Lord to report if there was any change in the relative positions of the two vessels. The only way Stone could do that was to take regular bearings. That's what he did.

    As for your turning question:

    I cannot see why Californian ever turned the opposite way, her RH turn would set up a momentum and the ship would continue to turn right until either the engine and rudder were used or an external force caused her to do so. There is not any evidence suggesting that either was the case.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
  5. For the most part, Californian was swinging most of the time to starboard. According to 2/O Stone in his written report to Capt. Lord on Aug 18, "At about 12.45, I observed a flash of light in the sky just above that steamer. I thought nothing of it as there were several shooting stars about, the night being fine and clear with light airs and calms."
    If these light airs came from variable points on the compass it would explain why Californian would swing somewhat erratically.

    In that same report Stone wrote,
    "On going up to the bridge I was stopped by yourself [Capt.Lord] at the wheelhouse door, and you gave me verbal orders for the Watch. You showed me a steamer a little abaft of our Star-beam and informed me she was stopped. You also showed me the loose field ice all around the ship and a dense icefield to the southward. You told me to watch the other steamer and report if she came any nearer and that you were going to lie down on the chartroom settee. I went on the bridge about 8 minutes past 12, [he would have got that time by the wheelhouse clock] and took over the Watch from the Third Officer, Mr. Groves, who also pointed out ice and steamer and said our head was E.N.E. and we were swinging. On looking at the compass I saw this was correct and observed the other steamer S.S.E dead abeam and showing one masthead light, her red side-light and one or two small indistinct lights around the deck which looked like portholes or open doors. I judged her to be a small tramp steamer and about five miles distant."

    For Grove to say to Stone that his ship was swinging implies that her head was more to the NE (by compass) at first, which by the way, is what Groves testified to when he said "At that time we would be heading N.E. when I saw that steamer first." Later, when he pointed out the steamer to Stone, Californian's head was pointing ENE. Stone went to the compass to verify what Grove just told him and, as he said, his own ship's head was then pointing ENE and the other steamer was SSE dead abeam. Notice Stone's previous remark about the other steamer being "a little abaft of our Star-beam" when Lord first pointed it out to him and told him she was stopped. Now, at 12:10, or thereabouts, it was dead abeam.

    As far as the other steamer altering her bearings to the SW while distress signals followed, that simply did not happen. In that same written report, Stone wrote:
    "We saw nothing further until about 3.20 when we thought we observed two faint lights in the sky about S.S.W. and a little distance apart."
    Gibson wrote about seeing 3 more rockets at 3:20:
    "At about 3.20 looking over the weather cloth, I observed a rocket about two points before the beam (Port), which I reported to the Second Officer. About three minutes later I saw another rocket right abeam which was followed later by another one about two points before the beam."
    It was at that time that Carpathia was firing rockets 'to reassure Titanic' as Rostron put it. The problem with Stones account is that those other rockets were in the SSW, but we know that Carpathia was coming up from the SE.

    Something awfully wrong with Mr Stone's bearings if you ask me.
  6. Georges G.

    Georges G. Member

    Certainly. What I was trying to say is that an OOW could take a Compass Bearing directly from the Standard Compass Azimuth Circle or take a Compass Bearing deducted from the Compass Heading against the Pelorus relative bearing. One manner or the other gave a Compass Bearing. I don’t think they were guessing a Compass Bearing only from the Pelorus. That would not be acceptable. So what I assume and believe is that all bearings taken and reported by Stones were by the Compass, whether taken from the Standard Compass or by (corrected) Pelorus.

    Here is a picture of my father in the early thirties. The Standard Compass Binnacle is outside the Wheelhouse, dead center and only covered by an easy removable brass dome. You could certainly take a Compass Bearing directly from that Compass. But if you had to take a bearing abaft the beam, then the Pelorus was certainly be the article, taking due note that the heading could swing a few degrees on either side…

  7. Georges G.

    Georges G. Member

    Samuel, I must admit that I don’t understand any better…:(

    7922. Well, anything else?
    - But that I could not understand why if the rockets came from a steamer beyond this one, when the steamer altered her bearing the rockets should also alter their bearings.

    7928. And you had further confirmation in the fact as you have told my Lord, that when the navigation lights altered their bearing, the rockets altered their bearings in a corresponding manner?
    - Yes.

    7929. That would tell you as a sailor that it was almost certain that those rockets were being fired from that steamer which was showing you those navigation lights?
    - Almost certain, yes.

    7930. I suppose, at any rate, now you have not any doubt but that that ship which was showing you the navigation lights was the ship which was showing you these series of rockets?
    - Except, as I say, that they were very low; they did not appear to go high enough to me.

  8. Georges G.

    Georges G. Member


    8066. Then you turned round?
    - We slowly swung to port the other way, swinging through to southward.

    8068. Right round this way?
    - Yes to W.S.W.

    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
  9. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Nice photograph, Georges.

    I'm curious. What kind of ship? The compass in the picture seems to be located outside a wood deck house with glass windows. There are what looks like wire stays leading up to a foremast and the side rails are protected by canvas dodgers. The little radial davit to the left of the compass is also a curiosity. Do you know what it was for?

    The standard compass on all ships was located in a position whereby it was isolated from ferrous metal or, as in the case of Titanic, with equal volumes of ferrous metal equidistant from it. If the one in your picture is that ship's standard compass then I'm afraid it must have been very inaccurate. In fact it would have been totally useless. That compass looks like it was originally a steering compass.
    By the 1930's, the standard compass was mounted above the wheelhouse and clear of all obstructions except the funnel which would be behind it. It would also have a projector "periscope" leading down to the helmsman who would have a reflection of the compass card right in front of his eyes and an additional 'standing' compass binnacle right in front of the steering telelmotor. I actually sailed in a few 1930s built ship in my early days. Two of them had even been AMCs.

    My problem is not how Stone took his bearings but how he reported them. Did he forget that normally he would have mentally applied the compass error
  10. Georges G.

    Georges G. Member

    Thank you Jim.


    SS FLEURUS (1933)
    ON 153063. 1,122G / 652N
    200 ft OA (189.8 x 33 x 20.8 (15'6")).
    T3cyl. 1240 SHP.
    65 passenger berths (41first, 24 second)
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
  11. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    If we believe the evidence of the Apprentice, Gibson, then we have to deduce that Stone was being so brow-beaten by his questioners that he didn't know his left from his right.
    When Stone and Gibson arrived on the bridge to start their Watch the other vessel was first, slightly abaft the starboard beam, then at 12-08 am dead abeam, then at 12-25, 1.5 points(17 degrees) forward of the beam. Between then and the third last signal, the sightings were between 1.5 points forward of the starboard beam and 3.5 points from the starboard bow. The 6th signal was seen 2 points on the starboard bow and the final one..No.8... 1 point on the port bow. That was the first and last time a v essel was seen on Californian's port side. Consequently, she never did swing to the left, always to the right.

    Incidentally, Sam: there is no way that the swing momentum would have been overcome by light airs.

    3rd Officer Groves initially had a problem with the direction of swing:

    "8246. Was she keeping her same position? A: - The same position, yes. We were swinging slowly to port, very slowly.
    8248. She would appear to be coming round more towards your stern? A: - No, she would appear, as we were swinging, to be working towards our head.
    8249. I thought you were swinging to port? A: - No, we were swinging to starboard - that is, to the right hand.
  12. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Thanks, Georges. More great pictures. I looked her up in the records. The SS Fleurus was actually built in 1926, by Seine Maritime in France. She was re-engined to diesel in 1950 but suffered fire on 26 June 1963 and was scuttled in October the same year.
    Georges G. likes this.
  13. Georges G.

    Georges G. Member

    Here is my own Compass Binnacle ! :eek:

    Harland Duzen likes this.
  14. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Beautiful! But did you polish the brass yourself? ;)
  15. Georges G.

    Georges G. Member

    I give it a good whack by hand about once a year. But I will tell you that even with its patina, that Bremerhaven W. Ludolph doesn’t lose any value! ;)
  16. Georges G.

    Georges G. Member

    As far as I know, in dead calm weather over a freezing ocean current, ice would drift faster than a vessel. A low drifting icefield has very little chance to generate its own wind as on the contrary over a vessel sail area. A vessel as it drifts will engender a wind thrust on its sail area that will slow her drift down and depending upon the wind center of impact, she will settle close or beam to that generated wind. If it happens that a pack ice pushes on the stern or the bow, the vessel would then turn under that ice thrust.

    The icefield was drifting southerly. The Californian had settled on an ENE heading close by the own generated beam wind. The ice field was nearby her stern. If a faster drifting pack ice pushed on her Port quarter or stern, Californian would then make an anticlockwise turn to Port. Her swing momentum would make her turn to Port easily to a WSW heading, until the own generated wind would force for her back to equilibrium on a final WNW heading.
  17. GibsonRelBearings.gif
    For the most part, Californian was swinging clockwise.
  18. Georges G.

    Georges G. Member

    I think Stones knew better than everybody else on which side Californian was turning!

    8066. Then you turned round?
    - We slowly swung to port the other way, swinging through to southward.

    8068. Right round this way?
    - Yes to W.S.W.
  19. Jim posted this earlier:
    8249. I thought you were swinging to port? A: - No, we were swinging to starboard - that is, to the right hand.

    In Stones written report to Lord on Apr 18th he wrote: "We were also swinging slowly all the time through S."
  20. Georges G.

    Georges G. Member

    Which watch are you keeping Samuel; the 8 to 12 or the 12 to 4. Groves 8249 was on the 8 to 12 but Stones 8066 was on the 12 to 4 … the watch that really matters! No?
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2017