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The mystery ship as seen from the Carpathia

Discussion in 'Ships that may have stood still' started by Paul Lee, Sep 12, 2004.

  1. Paul Lee

    Paul Lee Member

    Hi all,
    I've used my results as discussed in another thread to try and understand the ship as seen at about 3.15am on 15/4/12 by the Carpathia.

    At this time, the OOW on the Carpathia saw two mast lights of a ship two points on the starboard bow. Some officers (not Rostron) saw the red sidelight too. At this time, the Carpathia was firing rockets.

    Now, compare this with the Californian's view of things: they saw the Carpathia's rockets, "right on the horizon", but saw no sign of the ship firing them, even with binoculars. However, the Californian would have been showing her red and mastlights in the direction of the Carpathia.

    If my results are right, then it means that at the time the Carpathia was firing off these rockets, the Californian was about 25 miles away, I put her about 2 degrees on the starboard bow. So, the Californian is not only too far away, but the bearings of the mystery ship doesn't match, and the Californian and Carprthia saw different things!

    At 25 miles, the two ships would have been out of sight to the other. - even the mastlights, The Carpathia's rockets would also be seen very low down on the horizon. I estimate that it would be about 0.2 degrees, or the equivalent of holding up something 2mms high at arms length.

    Heres a little sketch of what I think the situation was.


    Ths all makes me think that there was another ship out there that the Carpathia saw.


  2. Nice one Paul,
    Excellent work!
    Anyone ever think of an illegal fishing vessel?
    Lately that's what is going around after 95 years.
    Any thoughts?
  3. Ahh Mike we meet again LOL.
    Yes guess it was bogus, thanks for the word up in that department friend.
    But Paul once again great job on the theory's, sorry I made them look all goofy bud.
  4. RJ Emery

    RJ Emery Member

    Paul Lee,

    Interesting analysis. I, too, have been attempting to analyze what anybody saw or could have seen from their respective positions.

    First, it must be reiterated that all the stationary vessels, Titanic included, were probably drifting and turning in the current. This in itself probably accounts for some of the perceived motion.

    Second, the Carpathia came up on the Titanic's last radioed position, which has since been found to be incorrect. I'm not certain how the wrong position may have been determined or if it was transmitted in error, or if it was correct but the vessel drifted away from the collision point to the point where it actually sank.

    Third, I do believe Titanic and Californian were at least 17 miles apart. Along their common line of sight, I feel strongly there was at least one if not two vessels, neither of which were passenger steamers -- one approx. five miles from the Titanic and another approx. five miles from the Californian.

    I am not convinced, in the testimony transcripts, compass points were accurately stated or recorded. A statement like "two points off the starboard bow" I could accept. I become suspicious when directions are given as "southeast by south" or worse like SSE, given that a single typographical error could completely change the intended direction. I'm not even certain if a 32 point compass rose was a widely adopted standard in that era, leading to positional inaccuracies when something like SE is given. Did they really mean 135 degrees?

    Time lines are also difficult to establish. There was no synchronization of time. Each ship had its own local time, and something reported as 1:00 am could have been anything from 12:30 am to 1:30 am on another vessel.

    I do attach great significance to Walter Lord's interviews with survivors, few though they may have been, and other first hand accounts written after the tragedy. I do not dismiss so lightly what that body as a whole establishes. Eyewitnesses confirm there was another vessel that simply sailed away.

    My own guess is that one of the mystery vessels was an arms merchant. Two years hence, Europe was at war. Preparations for same do not occur overnight.
  5. Actually, I would suggest reading Paul's new eBook, "The Indifferent Stranger". I'm reading it for a review, but think that you would benefit from Paul's additional research over the past four years.
  6. >>Eyewitnesses confirm there was another vessel that simply sailed away.<<

    Apparently sailed away, and the problem with that is that there were only two vessels known to be in the area at the time, the Titanic being one, and the Californian being the other, both of which went absolutely nowhere throughout the time in question.

    The "mystery ship" has been done to death and after over 96 years, nobody has been able to point out who it was, and they looked very hard back in 1912.

    On the matter of eyewitness testimony, I would be very careful with any of it. While it can't be casually dismissed, eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. It's not as if the people in question don't honestly believe what they're saying, but the problem here is that practically none of them are trained observers.

    In addition to the e-book which Timothy mentioned, you might try reading through the two links I posted above and also "A Captain Accused" at https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/a-captain-accused.html
  7. The problem faced with eyewitness accounts, including trained seaman and ship's officers, is that nobody actually saw any ships. What saw were the lights of ships and distress signals that were sent up from them.

    Californian and Titanic were both stopped in the water, but they were swinging around, much more so on the California which was well documented by those who stood watch. This did indeed account for perceived motion by observers on both vessels. It should be noted that it is quite impossible to measure distances to lights without some other means of reference. The distances spoken about were estimated by the brightness of the lights seen. The night was extremely calm and perfectly clear. On a night like that, lights tend to give the appearance of being much closer than they really are. For many on Titanic, they could not see that the vessel off their port bow had two masthead lights although many thought it was only about 5 miles away. Boxhall, looking through glass, was able to resolve the lights into a pair of masthead lights coming from a 4 masted steamer.

    Although hull down from each other by an invisible horizon, the the Californian and Titanic were in sight of each other. The flash of one of Titanic's detonators was clearly seen from the upper bridge of Californian by Gibson when he was looking through a pair of glasses. He described the firing of a distress socket signal (not an ordinary rocket) in perfect detail, including the detonator flash on deck, the dim trail of a burning fuse, and the bursting of the shell into white stars.

    The socket signals later fired from Carpathia were seen from the bridge of the Californian while Carpathia was still a good 10 miles beyond where Titanic had been as she was coming up from the SE.

    You don't need any mystery ships to explain what eyewitnesses saw that night unless your purpose is to create doubt about what went on. But conjuring up one mystery ship is not enough. At least two must be interjected along the line that separated Titanic from Californian, and one of them must disappear at the moment that Titanic's lights went out.

    This is all covered in my 4-part series of articles in the THS Commutator called, "Light on the Horizon," in issues No. 177, 178, 179, and 181.

    “I Thought It Might Have Been A Star Rising”
    “I Suppose The Masthead Lights You Would See 7 Or 8 Miles”
    Titanic’s Navigation Lights
    Titanic’s Mast Light
    What Did Groves See At 11:25 p.m.?
    Where Was The Californian?
    Calculating the Distance Between Two Stopped Ships
    -Method 1 — Light on the Horizon
    -Method 2 — A Yellow-Funnel 4-Masted Steamer
    -Method 3 — The Geometry of an Icefield
    Position of Californian From 10:21 P.M. to 2:05 A.M.
    “She Shut In Her Red Light”
    A Few Remaining Issues
    -How Could the Titanic Be Mistaken for a Tramp Steamer?
    -Why Weren’t the Lights of the Californian Sighted Earlier?
    -How Could Californian’s Sidelights Be Seen From Someone In a Lifeboat?
    -How Could Californian’s Lights Suddenly Disappear Before Daybreak?
    -Why Did Californian’s Mysterious Steamer Disappear to the SW?
    “You Were Under Steam in the Direction of the Titanic for Two and One-Half Hours?”
    Summary and Conclusions
  8. RJ Emery

    RJ Emery Member

    As mentioned, conditions that night were like no other ever experienced by even the most senior of sailors and officers. No wind, no waves, very cold temperatures. Atmospheric clarity was pristine. No doubt objects viewed may have been estimated to be five miles away when in fact they were more.

    The Titanic's flares never rose higher than half the mast of the mystery ship seen by the Californian. That in itself suggests if not proves the Californian never had the Titanic in its sights. Had the Californian been watching the Titanic, the flares would have risen far higher than the mast lights seen.

    The Titanic, if visible, would have been easily noticed and recognized. The upper decks were ablaze in lights. After the collision, more than likely each lower deck's porthole lights would also have been lit.
  9. RJ,

    Titanic did not fire fares, they fired regulation distress socket signals that rose to 600-800 ft. That story about the rockets never going higher than 1/2 the mast height is just a story concocted by 2/O Stone to explain his inaction after it became clear what it was he was witnessing. The height of the bursting shell would have appeared no higher than the diameter of a full moon above the level of the horizon at the distance that the two ships were apart. Gibson's description looking through glasses of what he saw is very different from Stone's. Stone was the same officer who said that the bearing to the rockets followed the steamer as it started to steamed away to the SW after the first rocket went up. Pure nonsense since neither Titanic nor Californian were moving, and the red sidelight didn't disappear until after the 7th rocket was observed, unless you believe the ship was steaming in reverse across an field of pack ice while shooting off flares for the fun of it? Your perception of what Titanic would have looked like does not take into account the actual distance between ships, and more importantly, the sharp angle on the bow presented by Titanic to Californian after it had stopped.
  10. RJ Emery

    RJ Emery Member

    Be they flares or rockets, they were of the wrong color, were they not? Distress rockets should have been red, not white. As I recall, the lack of red rockets was one of a number of important items left off the Titanic before it sailed.

    What did white rockets signify if red was the color for distress? Did all ships abide by the white/red color scheme?

    I also recall the manner in which rockets were fired had significance. According to the convention then in place, rockets were to be fired within one minute intervals to signify distress, not spaced apart as they were fired by the Titanic.

    All ships in the immediate area of Titanic may not have been moving with their engines, but they were all in motion -- drifting and turning with the current. That makes it difficult to understand from any single perspective what may have been occurring because there was no fixed reference.

    If you are making the case there was no mystery ship and/or that it was the Titanic the Californian actually was seeing, that does not square with the facts as I presently know them.

    I accept Californian Capt. Lord's account because it was largely substantiated, corroborated and not contradictory.
  11. "I accept Californian Capt. Lord's account because it was largely substantiated, corroborated and not contradictory."

    Sam Halpern and Paul Lee clearly prove that the Californian's Captain Lord's account is unsubstantiated, uncorroborated and contradictory. Don't believe these men and their extensive research? Then read the source testimony and source material for yourself. Strip away the endless speculation, and think for yourself.
  12. >>Be they flares or rockets, they were of the wrong color, were they not? Distress rockets should have been red, not white.<<

    Nope, sorry. The socket signals fired by the Titanic were the correct colour. However, the issue of colour itself is entirely irrelevant. For a summary of the law see http://www.titanicinquiry.org/USInq/USReport/AmInqRep06.php#a6a

    Note the following:
  13. RJ Emery

    RJ Emery Member


    Don't NIGHT Rules 1 and 3 clearly indicate Titanic's firing of rockets was not in accordance with accepted rules? I would think so.

    Both the US and British inquiries were looking for a scapegoat. I do not trust their conclusions. I prefer to make my own determinations from reading the testimony, imperfect though that may be because many salient points were not fully addressed or explored. On the US side, some of that could be written off owing to the fact that politicians ran the show.

    As for red or white being significant, I would have to go back and read the reference to that in Walter Lord's writings.
  14. RJ Emery

    RJ Emery Member

    Timothy Trower,

    "... and think for yourself."

    I am doing just that. I have yet to see anything conclusive that overturns what Lord of the Californian and all but one of his fellow officers stated as happened that night.

    There was one Californian officer (whose name escapes me at the moment) who at the British inquiry was so accommodating as to say whatever he thought the Commission wanted to hear, and who contradicted his own testimony. I have dismissed just about everything that officer had to say.
  15. >>Don't NIGHT Rules 1 and 3 clearly indicate Titanic's firing of rockets was not in accordance with accepted rules? I would think so.<<

    No they don't. Please take a moment to read the whole of what I posted, noting in particular "Rockets or shells, throwing stars of any color or description, fired one at a time at short intervals." The Titanic was within the rules.

    >>"... and think for yourself."

    I am doing just that.<<

    With all due respect, what you're doing is regurgitating the legend, not the reality. You've been offered some links to primary source material as well as some research done by people who actually know the ground. You would do well to read it.
  16. RJ Emery

    RJ Emery Member

    A short interval is NOT every 4-6 minutes. A minute would be the upper limit in my mind, or at least immediately after the previous rocket died out. Given the rules of the sea as they existed just prior to April, 1912, I would not consider the rockets fired by Titanic to have been distress rockets.

    Regardless of color, did not Titanic also have more rockets in inventory? Why were they being fired at such a slow rate?

    I am so glad that in this forum there are posters who know ALL the answers, especially in myopic hindsight. To you and them I write, OTHER EXPLANATIONS EXIST, even if you and they lack the ability to comprehend them. With so many unknowns, your capacity to make absolute deterministic conclusions is simply astounding. I'm perplexed that book publishers haven't rush to your doorstep with million dollar advances.
  17. Dave Gittins

    Dave Gittins Member

    I tend to agree that Titanic's officers did a poor job of firing the signals. Somebody should have been assigned the task and kept at it as long as signals lasted. (They had 36, plus 12 ordinary rockets). I don't think this is hindsight. The task was too vital to be interrupted by helping with lifeboats, as Boxhall did. Also, the firing ended when Boxhall and Rowe left the ship. Why?

    "Short intervals" is a vague term, as was common in the regulations of the time. In practical terms, an interval of two or three minutes could have been used. After firing a signal, it was necessary to be sure the socket was free of smouldering debris, before putting in a new charge and detonator.

    Whatever the faults on Titanic, Stone's cluelessness is obvious. If he didn't understand what he was seeing, he had two options, one of which I have only seen David Brown mention. He could have insisted Lord came on deck, if only to cover his own backside. Beside that, he could have first sent Gibson for the signal book and checked out possible signals. He would soon have eliminated company signals, as none used multiple white rockets and none lasted more than a couple of minutes. That leaves distress signals.

    I have just a little sympathy for Lord, who was saddled with a goose, but the captain is ultimately responsible for whatever happens on his ship. Lord was at least casual and apathetic. When I'm really in a bad mood, I suspect he vaguely knew somebody was in trouble and consciously or unconsciously didn't want to get involved. It happens every day.

    And don't drag in more ships. This has gone on since 1912 without any third or fourth ship being produced. In any case, if more ships were on the scene, they must have had captains and crew even dumber than Stone, as they were supposedly even nearer to Titanic than Californian was.
  18. >>I am so glad that in this forum there are posters who know ALL the answers, especially in myopic hindsight.<<

    First, lose the attitude. Nobody has made any such claim, and debator's rheotoric like that don't make your case.

    >>To you and them I write, OTHER EXPLANATIONS EXIST, even if you and they lack the ability to comprehend them.<<

    We know that. We've also seen quite a few of those explainations nuked by way of careful research. Some of us have...such as Dave Gittins, Samuel Halpern, and Dr. Lee...have even done the homework. A lot of homework.

    >>With so many unknowns, your capacity to make absolute deterministic conclusions is simply astounding.<<

    However, in this instance, it's the facts which are known which are at the core of the matter. They saw the rockets and were close enough to see the flash of one of the signals being fired from the Titanic's decks. They should have done more about it then just look and speculate. Unfortunately, look and speculate is about all they really did.

    Let's be clear about something: I'm not hostile to the mystery ship proposition. There could have been one, a dozen or the whole bloody Grand Fleet operating there for all I know. The problem here is that:

    a) The supporting evidence is sketchy and easily explained away and

    b) It doesn't take away even a jot of the Californian's accountability in this issue. The rockets they saw are a fact, not a suppostion, and even in testimony, Stone admitted that a ship doesn't fire rockets for nothing. This is also a matter of documented fact. It doesn't go away and can't be talked away. He certainly should have acted more proactively then he did and failed miserably to do so.

    Where Captain Lord get's tripped up is that as the master of the vessel, he bears the ultimate responsibility for everything that occured. Even if he is not culpably responsible, he still has the obligation to identify problem areas in his command and clean up the mess. His attempt to cover it up by lying to the media when the story broke in Boston didn't help him in the least.
  19. Dave Moran

    Dave Moran Member


    Welcome to the most contentious issue of the whole Titanic discussion forum. I admire your willingness to debate, and your courage in taking up the cudgel on behalf of the officers of the Californian.

    I was once like you, y’know. It seemed impossible to me that a professional seaman with the years of experience of Stanley Lord would willingly stand-by and watch the world’s largest passenger vessel sink.

    And of course, it is. No-one would do that.

    For years I believed that Lord and his men were unfairly blamed for taking no action, that some other ship lay between them and the stricken liner, mysterious and un-named, and confusing to all observers that night.

    However, what I learned both from reading many, many books on the subject and from the wise men and women on this very site is that the problem is not whether Captain Lord and the wretched Stone and Gibson ignored the distress of the Titanic — but whether Stone, Gibson and Lord were capable of realizing that the worst shipping disaster was actually happening a few miles away from them. Whether they had the necessary skills, abilities and intelligence not just as seamen but as ordinary fallible human beings to interpret what they were seeing, in Stone and Gibson’s case, or being told, in Lord’s.

    My own belief is that a combination of exhaustion, lack of imagination, and an undue, but typical of the time, deference to the voice of authority on the part of the junior officers led to a genuine failure to communicate — first between the Titanic and the Californian, then between the bridge-crew and commander of the latter. Now, you might still believe that Lord and his men are thus unduly heaped with opprobrium for what was an error terrible in its magnitude but understandable in its context, and I would agree with you.

    But where I have problems, and I invite you to consider this yourself, is the behaviour of the officers of the Californian after they discover the Titanic had sunk.

    Even if there was a ship lying between the two ships that night, as you hold, by the morning after they must surely have realized that on the night when something terrible and strange had happened they had been in proximity to — well - something very strange and possibly terrible happening. To whit — a ship firing off rockets.

    So surely at some point each of them must have considered the possibility that their “stranger” was the Titanic ? But right from the word go, and Paul Lee shows this very nicely in his work, Lord plays down the possibility- even before its put to him ! Stone spends the rest of his life refusing to discuss it, Lord also avoids the subject until he thinks its safe to re-emerge forty-five years later and tell his tales without anyone challenging them, and on the whole they come over as men with something — well, if not to hide, then in possession of some knowledge that makes them very uncomfortable. Perhaps simply the knowledge that they failed to respond.

    So whilst anyone could, possibly, have repeated their errors that night, their subsequent behaviour from the moment they realize Titanic doesn’t reflect well on them, and simply raises the question of what they felt they had to hide. Add to that their own testimonies — and be clear here that the evidence that condemns emerges only from the mouths of the men themselves — and I’m afraid that even with another ship there, one cannot remove Californian.

    Best wishes

    Dave Moran