The Best Case Scenario


mitfrc

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I would like to propose a counterfactual simulation to the board, and hopefully get volunteers who are both Lordites and anti-Lordites to collaborate on it. The objective is to establish a reasonable consensus of what Californian could have done if she had responded promptly to sighting the rockets. Scenarios will be iterated based on distance for each distance for which an argument exists, so a 5 mile scenario, 8 mile, etc, out to the limits of a plausible sighting of the rockets. The objective would be to establish with some certainty--using experience, technical knowledge, research, and historical examples--how many lives could have actually been saved.

The objective, in short, is to try and create a consensus over what the stakes of the Californian debate actually are. I don't think a resolution to the debate is possible, but eliminating the hyperbole about what Californian could have done, introduced by the lawyers themselves in 1912, seems both achievable and desirable.

Is anyone interested in committing to an open and public project on the board on those grounds?
 

Rob Lawes

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Count me in.

To make this work there has to be the acceptance firstly of the distance to enable the discussion to progress. What I mean by that is that if we play out the scenario based on 5 miles it is agreed for the purpose of the scenario that was the distance. It won't work if we say "what would happen if they were 5 miles apart?" then spend the next six pages arguing to and fro that 5 miles was not possible.
 

mitfrc

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Correct. My idea was to evaluate the scenario for multiple distances with a separate report for each distance. Start close-in and then work each progressively further distance. We make no judgement of which distance is true, that's beyond scope.
 
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I don't understand the objective? For some people like myself it has never been a question of what she could have done. That really doesn't matter. The issue has always been that those responsible on that tramp vessel to the northward saw distress signals that night and essentially did nothing about it.
 
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mitfrc

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The objective is to provide a reasonably professional estimate of the number of lives Californian could have saved, assuming realistically prompt action, as a function of distance. My desire is to see people agree to what, exactly, was at stake, dispassionately, in Californian's decision and in her position, the two things which are controversial. We would ignore the why of the first, and do a series of outcomes based on variation of the second.

I think it will be a nice synthesis of information on navigation, ice conditions, lifesaving equipment, and historical personnel transfers at sea, and serve as a deep dive into the details of some excellent past work here on how Californian might have attempted a rescue at sea.
 
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Julian Atkins

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Hi mitfrc,

I disagree with Lord Mersey's conclusions re 'The Californian Incident'.

It is not difficult to disagree with and disprove his conclusions.

This has already been done by Michael Standart, Tracey Smith and Erik Wood in a research article on here.

You can even construct an argument that had The Californian gone to the aid of Titanic in the dark it might have got sunk in the attempt, or ploughed into lifeboats, resulting in greater loss of life.

That is regardless of how far away The Californian was from the sinking Titanic.

I am with Sam on all this, because maritime law and custom required The Californian to go to aid of Titanic regardless as to whether the attempt would have been successful or unsuccessful, so long as Captain Lord did not endanger his own ship.

The above presupposes that Captain Lord was in a position to know whether Titanic was a vessel in distress.

He admitted being told by Stone of one white rocket seen which he also admitted at the British Inquiry might have been a distress signal.

Stone apparently and quite oddly and inextricably delayed relaying at least this partial information for some 20 or 25 minutes by which time further rockets had been seen.

Had Stone promptly reported his first rocket seen (without the apparent delay) at around 12.50am instead of around 1.15am, and had Stone or Captain Lord immediately woken up Evans the wireless operator, then The Californian could have been underway to where the rockets were being fired from around 1am, as The Californian had kept steam up and was ready to move at short notice.

It would have either arrived, if prompt action had been taken, just before Titanic sunk, or very shortly before, or slightly afterwards, and in a moonless sky except the starlight, and if The Californian had not sunk in the attempt, and by luck avoided sinking lifeboats, probably would have made no difference to the number of survivors.

But by virtue of maritime law and custom The Californian would have done it's duty, instead of doing nothing.

Cheers,

Julian
 
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mitfrc

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Julian,

The article you reference is a useful starting point, but is not a detailed attempt to determine the number who could be saved. This would require a minute by minute gaming of activities referenced by resources establishing times to conduct particular rescue activities. Basically, I am intending a highly detailed evolution, respecting the past work Michael Standart, Tracey Smith and Erik Wood did but intending to be a full blow-by-blow of a rescue attempt that never happened led by a professional officer in Captain Lord. I really want to avoid bringing moral judgement into it.

I do, however, think it is necessary to presume Captain Lord being told more promptly than he was to postulate such a rescue attempt, because the very existence of a rescue attempt implies the rockets being taken as distress signals from the moment they are sighted.
 

Julian Atkins

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Hi mitfrc,

What you are asking us to do is to deal with so many 'ifs' and 'buts' that it is pretty much impossible to do IMHO.

It is generally thought that Captain Rostron endangered the Carpathia on its final dash through ice bergs as it approached Boxhall's green flares in the dark, zig zagging, and swerving about... and he had many passengers aboard too.

All I can guess is that Captain Lord would have moved his engines very slowly as he stated he did for a short while at 5.15am - when by then daylight was dawning. He arguably would have been even more cautious in the dark.

If he went 6 knots per hour he would have arrived at Titanic an hour later if 5 miles away, 2 hours later if 10 miles away, and 3 hours later if 15 miles away. 4 hours later if 20 miles away [approximately]

If he went 11 knots per hour he would have arrived at Titanic 30 minutes later if 5 miles away, an hour later if 10 miles away, 1 hour 30 minutes if 15 miles away, and 2 hours away if 20 miles away [approximately]

What time he would have started his attempt is then subject to all sorts of arguments, plus whether he might (as he did that morning) go to the CQD position rather than where the rockets were seen firing from.

So, for example, if Captain Lord had responded to Gibson's report to the chart room at 2.05am of "8 white rockets seen", whatever distance he was from Titanic at that time from 5 to 19 miles, and even at maximum speed, he could never have got to Titanic before it sank. If Evans had been woken up and caught the last CQDs, and as no rockets were then being fired, he might arguably have gone to the CQD position on the other side of the icefield.

You say you are not interested in the moral issues - but these were also legal obligations!

I think I am correct to state that not at anytime in 1912 or 1914 (his last recorded utterance on the matter till 1958) or 1959 or 1961 did Captain Lord utter or give the slightest indication of remorse or sadness as to what happened to all those who died that night.

Cheers,

Julian
 
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mitfrc

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I am not disputing what you say, however because they are rational men following procedures, we can certainly project a reasonable course of action, and therefore I believe it possible to simulate a response.

I would affirmatively state that if we assume a response from Californian it would be the result of Stone not trying to interpret the rocket; he sees it, a rocket is a distress signal, and he accordingly immediately alerts Captain Lord with a bearing to a distress signal he has sighted. That is "the best case scenario", would it not be?
 

Julian Atkins

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Yes, I follow that.

But there are so many other possibilities. If Captain Lord had done what Captain Rostron did in the dark going full speed, and through the ice, to Titanic, whereas Carpathia came up from clear water initially, The Californian could easily have been sunk on the attempt. Captain Lord would not have known this in the dark that night, and so may have thrown caution to the wind same as Captain Rostron did.

Captain Moore on The Mount Temple knew for sure Titanic was sinking same as Captain Rostron, but coasted towards the CQD position when ice was encountered and would not venture to go any further in the dark.

I have given you a rough approximate timeline of distance verses speed. I am sure you could have done this yourself.

You can easily work out from my above posts that if The Californian got underway at 1am and proceeded direct to Titanic firing rockets (as opposed to the CQD position via the Marconi messages) it might have got to the sinking Titanic shortly after 1.30pm if going 13 knots/maximum speed IF Titanic was only some 5 or 6 miles away.

The general assessment these days via the experts is that The Californian was some 12 or 13 miles away. So at maximum speed of 13 or 13 1/2 knots the earliest The Californian would have arrived would be just before Titanic sank (assuming The Californian would not have been sunk on this dash). If we assume she also didn't run down some of the lifeboats, she might have arrived in time for some of those in the water to be rescued as Titanic went down so would have saved some more.

That is really as high as I can put it.

But, all honour and glory would have fallen on Captain Lord and his Officers and crew instead of Carpathia and Captain Rostron and his Officers and crew. Captain Lord was not to know at the time that Captain Rostron was to be awarded enough money to buy a very substantial detached home north of Southampton (now near the M27!).

Lots of ifs and buts in the above.

Cheers,

Julian
 

mitfrc

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I do not believe that is the case, because we can establish the knowns of the situation and then proceed as professionals would plausibly respond. I am essentially proposing a table-top MARE (Mass Accident Response Exercise), which is a pretty standard procedure/drill ex in the military.
 

Rancor

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Unfortuantly I'm not qualified to offer any assistance in these matters but I look forward to reading what you come up with. :)
 

Rob Lawes

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In the first instance I think there are three assumptions that need to be taken.

1) The distance between the two vessels.

That can be agreed using the different ones used by various sources. Run the scenario for the British Inquiry's 5 to 6 miles, then the 12 miles suggested by some, all the way to the 19 miles suggested by Lord.

2) The time of the first possible response can be no earlier than the time Stone saw the first rocket. The ship couldn't have moved before this and its pointless imagining for example that Evans never went to bad.

3) We need to agree a time from first siting of the rocket to first setting off. This fixed time needs to be added to any travel time and would assume the following, Lord wss notified of the first rocket (not Stones flash but actual rocket), Lord comes to the bridge, makes an assessment of what he sees, calls out Evans. The CQD is heard and the navigation issue resolved then Californian starts to move.

Once we agree on those 3 we can proceed.
 

Arun Vajpey

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I say it once again, the issue has never been how many lives could have been saved. The issue has always been why Californian never made an attempt.
Nail on the head. THAT is the Californian's and by responsibility Captain Lord's rub. I also do not believe that the Californian would have made a great deal of difference had she reacted as soon as the first distress call was received. But the fact that no attempt was made at all goes very much against Captain Lord although as an individual I feel that he was demonised a bit too much and received far more criticism that he deserved. Paradoxically, Lord's image was only made worse by some of his over-the-top supporters like Leslie Harrison.
 

Jim Currie

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In for a penny - in for a pound.

The proper answer to the question is that captain Lord could not have, and would not have, done anything without proper intelligence.
Calling the wireless Operator would have been to confirm that there was a vessel in distress. Evans would have confirmed this as long as he was called no later than about 10 minutes before Titanic sank i.e. about 20 minutes after the last signal was seen by young Gibson.
When he did so, he would have been able to tell Lord that there was indeed a vessel in distress but that vessel could not be the one seen firing the widely spaced signals. Because the direction to the vessel calling for help (Titanic) was most definitely not the same or anywhere nearly the same direction as the signals being seen from the Californian. This alone, may well have convinced Lord that he was not seeing a vessel in distress but that the strange rockets were being fired for an unknown purpose.

The practical answer, to this question, no matter what vessel is involved, be it Californian, Carpathia or Mount Temple...no matter the distance separating the two vessels, is "very little until dawn".
Very little because the only guide to the approximate position of the survivors...if any...would initially have been the rockets. When they stopped, the last known bearing would have been used. We know that Boxhall used green flares to attract attention. These would have guided a rescue vessel to him. However, if that rescue vessel was approaching from a northwesterly direction, then it may well have unknowingly plowed through boatloads of survivors in unlit boats.
No matter what ship or how far away, the prudent action of a good seaman would have been to approach the disaster site with caution and await daylight.

As an aside:

Captain Rostron was not a good or prudent seaman, he approached a single lifeboat at full speed. A lifeboat from a ship which had sunk through hitting an iceberg. He knew that ship had many lifeboats but nevertheless approached the only one he could see at full speed. Fortunately for him and the survivors, Boxhall's boat was the first on Carpathia's line of approach to the disaster site. Fortunately for him, Boxhall had used these flares. Otherwise, Carpathia may well have plowed through the surviving boats and eventually arrived at the eastern side of the ice barrier...at full speed. The mind boggles at the thought.
 
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mitfrc

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I agree Captain Lord would have sought proper intelligence. However the ship in distress may be not fitted with wireless. Let us presume Stone notifies him immediately of the first rocket, describing it as a distress rocket, and Captain Lord, turned in "all standing", promptly heads up on deck, likely in time to see the second.

At this point his crew is describing a tramper which may be in any kind of lawful distress at all--quite possibly a valuable tow. So it is reasonable to make preparations to get underway while calling Evans to wake up and turn on the wireless, is it not? Even with no wireless message a response is called for. I recall, Jim, you said in another thread that Californian's engines were, in modern functional language, on standby.

So that is where we stand for each of the three distance "categories" if we will. The time would be 0100 if I am correct.
 

mitfrc

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At this point Lord is in the process of preparing his ship for a rescue, and planning his course. Evans would be working the Wireless. What does he hear? He knows his ship sighted distress rockets and he knows their bearing. So, following Ron's breakdown, about ten minutes from the first rocket to Californian standing ready to get underway with her wireless operator listening for messages, Captain and officers plotting a course to the rockets and paying close attention to any visible ice.
 

mitfrc

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Answering the first part of my own question we have the following two messages at 0100:

M.G.Y. gives distress signal. D.D.C. replies. M.G.Y.'s position 41.46 N., 50.14 W. Assistance from D.D.C. not necessary as M.K.C. shortly afterwards answers distress call.

Titanic replies to Olympic and gives his position as 41.46 N., 50.14 W., and says, "We have struck an iceberg."

Evans has heard these messages--they provide an inaccurate coordinate. Captain Lord is now in the horns of a dilemma which is very much not his own fault. He has a ship firing rockets to SSE, and a distress signal providing a position SSW on the other side of the ice field. This would certainly be the most critical, and most complicated, situation to resolve in terms of any rescue operation by Californian.
 
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