The Best Case Scenario

Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
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

Jim Currie

Senior Member
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.
 
mitfrc

mitfrc

Member
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

mitfrc

Member
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

mitfrc

Member
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.
 
Samuel Halpern

Samuel Halpern

Member
Captain Lord is now in the horns of a dilemma
No dilemma. Go to what you see. Either the SOS position or your own or both could very well be wrong. To confirm, simply have your W/O ask the vessel in distress, 'are you firing rockets?'
 
mitfrc

mitfrc

Member
You are correct, that is what my first thought was: Just ask Titanic if she is firing rockets. That message--Evans will send it, of course, and then comes the question of Titanic's reply. It is a divergence from the normal emergency messages of the night before. Would it be prefaced with a statement that Californian has rockets in sight?
 
Julian Atkins

Julian Atkins

Member
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.

Hi Marina,

Evans did not hear these messages. He was fast asleep in his cabin. The first Evans heard of the disaster was when Stewart woke him up around or after 5am on the 15th April, and then got partly dressed and got his Marconi set working and he got Durrant's (Mount Temple) message to his 'CQ' call 5.11am Mount Temple time.

At around 12.20am on the 15th, Groves barges into Evan's Marconi cabin and wakes him up.This has always been very peculiar to my mind, and has never properly been explained and has been overlooked. Phillips was by then tapping out the first Titanic CQD /SOS messages. Evans, though partially woken up can remember very little of this incident (like Captain Lord at 2.05am when Gibson reports to him in the chart room). Groves, a few years older than Evans, had this encounter indelibly in his memory as recounted to Walter Lord in the late 1950s in his 'Middle Watch' essay.

Evans' own habits, as testified by Captain Lord was that he would receive reports of Evans' late night messages he had heard the previous night. Groves was in the habit of popping in to see Evans after midnight, and unusually that particular fateful night Evans had gone to bed earlier than normal and was asleep and was woken up by Groves. That Groves should wake up Evans that night rather than just go to his own room to go to sleep has always seemed to me to be curious.

So we have Groves in the habit of popping in to Evans' cabin shortly after midnight, and we also have that particular night of 14th/15th April Gibson also disappearing from the flying bridge during his watch for inordinately long periods to get a new taff rail log.

Something was not quite right that night on The Californian.

Cheers,

Julian
 
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mitfrc

mitfrc

Member
Julian, the purpose of this thread was to do a tabletop mass accident response exercise of Californian responding promptly to the rockets. I know very well he didn't hear them in reality.
 
R

Robert T. Paige

Member
Here is - once again - just my ,"IMHO" - ( ex - Navy / non-sailor )
(1) Captain Edward J. Smith - He gambled - He lost
(2) Captain Arthur Rostron - He gambled - He won
(3) Captain Stanley Lord - He didn't gamble - He lost
 
R

Robert T. Paige

Member
Hi Marina,

Evans did not hear these messages. He was fast asleep in his cabin. The first Evans heard of the disaster was when Stewart woke him up around or after 5am on the 15th April, and then got partly dressed and got his Marconi set working and he got Durrant's (Mount Temple) message to his 'CQ' call 5.11am Mount Temple time.

At around 12.20am on the 15th, Groves barges into Evan's Marconi cabin and wakes him up.This has always been very peculiar to my mind, and has never properly been explained and has been overlooked. Phillips was by then tapping out the first Titanic CQD /SOS messages. Evans, though partially woken up can remember very little of this incident (like Captain Lord at 2.05am when Gibson reports to him in the chart room). Groves, a few years older than Evans, had this encounter indelibly in his memory as recounted to Walter Lord in the late 1950s in his 'Middle Watch' essay.

Evans' own habits, as testified by Captain Lord was that he would receive reports of Evans' late night messages he had heard the previous night. Groves was in the habit of popping in to see Evans after midnight, and unusually that particular fateful night Evans had gone to bed earlier than normal and was asleep and was woken up by Groves. That Groves should wake up Evans that night rather than just go to his own room to go to sleep has always seemed to me to be curious.

So we have Groves in the habit of popping in to Evans' cabin shortly after midnight, and we also have that particular night of 14th/15th April Gibson also disappearing from the flying bridge during his watch for inordinately long periods to get a new taff rail log.

Something was not quite right that night on The Californian.

Cheers,

Julian

Again just speculation on my part.:

Do you think that if Groves had picked up those earphones as depicted in ANTR he would have - at least - recognized the CQD or SOS being sent repeatedly and would have awakened Evans to see if he could make sense of what he was hearing because he couldn't understand it himself because it was being sent too fast for him ?

Or if the detector had run down, and he heard nothing, would he have awakened Evans to see if the detector was wound up and the mechanism running , and if not for Evans to wind it up and listen to see if he could hear any thing unusual going on and if it had anything to do with those rockets he had seen ?

In ANTR , there is no indication that Groves awakened the sleeping Evans in his visit to the Marconi Room ? Or was the Marconi even in the same room where Evans slept ?
 
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Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
You are correct, that is what my first thought was: Just ask Titanic if she is firing rockets. That message--Evans will send it, of course, and then comes the question of Titanic's reply. It is a divergence from the normal emergency messages of the night before. Would it be prefaced with a statement that Californian has rockets in sight?
This is a practical exercise so look at it from a practical point of view. let's make this an Examination question for Master Mariner.

You are captain of a ship which is stopped due to sea ice in the following position. Lat. 42-05'North, 50-07'West. The conditions are flat calm, fine and clear. There is a vessel stopped for the same reason, 5 miles SSE of your ship. Your OOW attempts to contact the vessel using the ship's signal lamp.
Over an hour later, your OOW reports a rocket exploding in white stars seemingly just above a vessel in the direction of SSE. You go to the upper bridge and witness 2 more such rockets. You attempt but fail to contact the vessel using your signal light so you call your Wireless Operator.
Via your Operator, you receive a distress call from a vessel firing distress signals 17 miles away in the direction of SSW. You cannot see the vessel sending the distress call nor can you see her distress signals. Your lookout at a higher vantage point is also unable to see anything in the direction of SSW. During this time, you see additional rocket bursts just above the nearby vessel
Describe your response.

1. I would instruct my W/O to obtain confirmation of the distress signal he received.
2. While awaiting confirmation, I would check the ship's position and have the OOW make a separate check. I would also have all hands called and ring down STANDBY engines.
3 I would verify the extreme range of a standard distress signal.
4. I would check the accuracy of my Standard Compass and check the bearing of the nearby vessel. I would also check the steering compass with the Standard Compass.

Q2 You confirm your position and the accuracy of your compasses. You also determine that you should be able to see the signals of the vessel in distress low down on your visible horizon. Eventually, your Wireless Operator returns with confirmation of the distress position from several sources.
What do you do?

5. I would order continuous signaling with the morse light and instruct the W/O to inform the vessel in distress that I am doing so and ask them to confirm that they can see me and my signals. If necessary, I would, in addition to the morse light, fire my Company signals.
If the nearby vessel is the one in distress, then they will see my recognition signals and since they have wireless, be able to confirm that we are in sight of each other.

In reality, the last thing anyone would do would be to take action on the basis of a single bit of information.
 
mitfrc

mitfrc

Member
All right, Jim, I see a lot of logic in that. It is incredibly dangerous to act on insufficient information. I also am quite thankful for the way you answer, the format is convenient and easy to understand....

But some forms of information are highly proscriptive. I was thinking of treating rockets in the same way as an emergency alarm--an absolute indicator of a requirement to respond. Something for which failing to turn out is prima facie negligence, regardless of supporting data.

Is that not the case?

I do apologise about not addressing everything else at once. I am working on a reply in CRM in the other thread.
 
R

Robert T. Paige

Member
Jim, I am in agreement with you and mitfrc

From the point of view of this non-nautical layman and also one who has an interest in wireless , the Californian problem seems to boil down to the point of why , after the officer had no luck with the Morse Lamp , why he did not call the wireless operator to see if he could get any information on why the rockets were being fired.....whether they were "company signal" or "distress signals" ?
Of course this is all looking at this with *20/20 hindsight ".
Of course there is also the question of how many more could have been saved if Californian could heard Titanic's "SOS/CQD" immediately and taken action immediately .
It is one of those interesting history "What If's ? "
 
Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
All right, Jim, I see a lot of logic in that. It is incredibly dangerous to act on insufficient information. I also am quite thankful for the way you answer, the format is convenient and easy to understand....

But some forms of information are highly proscriptive. I was thinking of treating rockets in the same way as an emergency alarm--an absolute indicator of a requirement to respond. Something for which failing to turn out is prima facie negligence, regardless of supporting data.

Is that not the case?

I do apologise about not addressing everything else at once. I am working on a reply in CRM in the other thread.
Hello Marina.

Your emergency alarm cannot be mistaken for anything other than a sound indicating an emergency. In fact, there is usually a warning notice posted in appropriate locations to remind personnel of how it sounds and what it means. There is no chance of mistaking it.

If, in 1912, pyrotechnics were normally used at sea for a single purpose and that purpose was to call for help, then we could positively say that to not act positively as soon as they were seen was criminal except in extenuating circumstances.
However, in 1912 and for the years previous to that, pyrotechnics were used for a multitude of purposes...even as a means of illumination, much like star shells and even "blue lights" (which were not blue).

Never the less, The Rules concerning Distress Signals were specific and designed to be used in such a manner as to eliminate any doubt from the mind of an observer. They were, if used as prescribed by Act of Parliament, urgency signals. So much so that there was a hefty fine for anyone using them improperly.
White rockets were nor exclusively calls for help. That was one of the main faults concerning The Rules... distress signals could be of any colour or even multi-coloured. Now apply the foregoing to seeing white rockets used improperly.
I rest my case.
 
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