The mystery ship as seen from the Carpathia

Jim Currie

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Apr 16, 2008
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Hi Sam!

I don't for one minute disagree with your calculations.
Using your criteria, the chart plot places things exactly the same.
However my main concerns are with the relative bearings from Californian at the time of first confirmation that it was indeed a star and not a ship - I used 2300 hrs.
Lord said it was approaching from the eastward- say bearing 090T and eventually showed a green light.
Groves said it was approaching from 3.5 degrees abaft the beam- bearing about 195T and showing a red light.
Now - as I have said already; if Groves is right and you agree we have a radius as a position line - then Californian had to be N x E of Titanic's 2300 position and Titanic had to be approaching Californian from a little west of south. Position line 015-195 crossing 22 mile radius.

On the other hand, if Lord is right then Titanic had to be approaching from roughly 2 points on the starboard bow i.e from the east. If we assume it was 'to the east' then 'to the west is the reciprocal position line. Position line: 090-270 cutting 22 mile radius This cuts your arc position line 2 miles NE of Boxhall's CQD position and 10 miles beyond the collision point.

Plotting your position from Californian does indeed place her about 13 miles north of the collision point but then neither Lord's nor Grove's assessment of direction of approach fits.

You state that the distance Titanic's masthead light was seen from Californian was 22 miles. The nautical tables for combined height of eye give this as 21.55 nautical miles. However this is the theoretical distance.
If you recall, the Californian people waited until they were absolutely sure it was a ship's light and not a star. Every 2.7 minutes Titanic was closing the range by one mile. It follows that if they first spotted something that might have been a light at say 2245 hrs and it became clearly so at 2300 hrs then Titanic would have been 5.5 miles closer. This would then suggest a position line radius of 16 miles at 2300 hrs.(21.5 minus 5.5)
Using that range and Lord's approach bearing would place Californian once again about 4.5 miles beyond the collision point.
Using your position line of NW-SE, it would place Californian 6 miles to the NW, It would again put Groves completely out of the ball park.

My assessment is based on what Lord or Groves claimed. But if we take them right ut of the argument the problem is still there.
For the ship that Californian first saw to be Titanic;, it had to be on that 16 mile radius position line drawn from her DR position at 2300 hrs. It also had to bear within the NW quadrant of the compass. It follows that it greatest distance from Titanic at 2340 had to be 11.5 miles and the least 4.5 miles. I don't think anyone has suggested any of that.

Let me know what you think.

Cheers,

Jim
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Great discussion Jim, and good questions and points being brought up.

>>Let me know what you think.<<

Can't resist, so here goes.

When Lord said he noticed the steamer come up from the east he was not trying to be precise. Using the numbers in my post above, if the the distance between the stopped ships was 13.2 miles, then the light on the horizon when it first comes up is on a bearing of ESE true, only 2 points south of due east. So Lord's statement of seeing the light come up out of the east and eventually showing a green sidelight makes perfect sense. (If 40 minutes was the elapsed time from coming on the horizon to being stopped, then the final distance between stopped ships works out to 9.4 miles, and the initial bearing to the light on the horizon is 105° true.)

Groves said he thought the light was a rising star when he first saw it and put the time at about 11:10. That was 1/2 hour before 1 bell which was at 11:40 Californian time. At 1 bell the steamer had already stopped and was showing a red sidelight. I believe Groves started to really pay attention to the steamer closer to 11:30 Californian time, just after it had turned northward as was coming to a stop. It was then he went below to talk to Lord about it. If the steamer was really coming from 3 1/2 points abaft Californian's starboard beam, it would be coming up through the pack ice toward the Californian. And I just don't buy that picture.

I know we differ on the movement of Titanic at the time of collision, but I believe the Titanic's head was swung hard to starboard when she contacted the ice as reported by Scarrott and Olliver and ended up facing northward as stated by Rowe. After coming to a stop she would be showing Californian her red sidelight. I also put Titanic slightly more than 2 points aft of Californian's starboard beam at that time assuming Californian was pointing close to NE by compass (NNE true) as Groves thought she was, and Titanic was bearing close to SSE by compass (SE true) when she finally stopped. The arc of Californian's mast lights and green sidelight would have been just shut out from view at that time which is why, in my opinion, her lights weren't noticed until later on.

Referring back to the discussion you were having with Tad, it reminded me that Grove said that he believed the steamer he saw was a passenger vessel and that she shut her lights out before he noticed her red sidelight. Certainly a ship that was heading westward viewed on a bearing of 135 would present a relatively broad angle and show much light just before swinging to her right passing end-on to you which would certainly shut most of her lights out of view. When she finally stopped, she was showing a very fine angle on the port bow (~5 degrees). Rowe and Boxhall both reported the light they were viewing as about 1/2 point off their port bow when first seen.

Anyway, got to go for now.
 

Paul Slish

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Jan 18, 2006
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One thing several writers have claimed is that the ship seen by the Californian officers and apprentice was almost end on to the Californian.

This supposedly explains why the Titanic showed very little light to the Californian, assuming Californian men saw the Titanic. In other words it is claimed the Titanic was foreshortened to Californian.

Gibson's and Stone's testimony does not back this supposed foreshortening up.

Gibson:

"7780. Was the glare of light which you saw on the afterpart of this vessel forward or aft of the masthead light? - Abaft the masthead light.

7781. So that you would be seeing her starboard side? - No, her port side.

7782. The glare of light which you say was aft, was aft of the masthead lights? - Yes.

7783. Was that to your left or your right as you were looking at her? - To the right.

7784. Do you mean the masthead light was to the right? - No, the masthead light was to the left."

If the ship seen was almost bow on to the Californian, Gibson would not have seen the faint glare on the afterdeck to the right of the masthead light. The lights would have been all bunched up. If he could see the two sources of light going from left (masthead) to right (glare on afterdeck) then he could see pretty much the whole side of the ship.

Had it been the Titanic with her row after row of porthole lights glowing (as testified by people in lifeboats) it would have been quite noticeable to Gibson studying her with binoculars even if 13 miles off.

Gibson further testified:

"7729. What is it you expected to see? - A passenger boat is generally lit up from the water's edge."

"7728. (The Commissioner.) What was it made you think it was a tramp steamer? You saw nothing but the lights? - Well, I have seen nearly all the large passenger boats out at sea, and there was nothing at all about it to resemble a passenger boat."

The left to right orientation of the lights demonstrates this other ship was not just one half point from being end on to Californian.

Stone is even clearer:

"8074. (Mr. Laing.) (Demonstrating with models.) Here is your ship heading E.N.E.? - Yes.

8075. Here is a vessel showing her red light on your starboard beam? - From the appearance of her lights, she was more that way, heading in the same direction as ourselves.

8076. Showing a red light? - Yes."

Stone agreed the Californian was heading ENE which agrees with Groves.

Then he says the other ship was heading in the same direction as ourselves, that is the Californian.

Stone testified that the ship he saw was practically broadside to the Californian. Let me repeat that. Stone testified his nearby ship was broadside to him, not greatly foreshortened.

Stone also studied this ship with binoculars. If she were the Titanic with all her light nearly broadside to Stone she would have been unmistakable as a passenger liner even at 13 miles. Stone thought she was a tramp steamer burning oil lights.

I'm still convinced the Californian men were seeing a ship similar to themselves and Titanic was farther off on the same bearing. Both Gibson's and Stone's testimony did not point to them seeing a ship greatly foreshortened to them.

I have several other reasons for this belief that I hope to post in the future.

The Titanic officers and crew did not state they were broadside to the ship's lights they saw. They said the other lights appeared 1/2 point off the port bow initially. I don't think this is Californian and Titanic seeing each other.

The next area I will tackle is Stone's compass bearings. There are times he states "about" so he had to have done some estimating. He has Groves to corroborate him that the Californian was heading ENE by compass when he came on the bridge shortly after midnight. There is a corroboration for one of his later bearings from the testimony which I will point out in due course.

And for our friend Michael Standart, I AM NOT saying an intervening ship relieves Stone of responsibility for more quickly and clearly communicating with his Captain. I'm just interested in what physically took place out there in the vicinity of the Californian and Titanic the night of April 14 - 15, 1912.

Regards to all for their most interesting discussion.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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I'm just interested in what physically took place out there in the vicinity of the Californian and Titanic the night of April 14 - 15, 1912.
Likewise Paul. I too have more to say on this, but for now I will just comment that Gibson's observations are entirely consistent with a ship pointing up in his direction displaying a relatively sharp angle on the bow.
 
M

Mila

Guest
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.

View attachment 5945

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

Cheers

Paul
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http://www.paullee.com
Roston said the steamer he saw was between him and the lifeboat. I wonder how one could be sure what lights are closer, if nothing but the lights is seen. It is also interesting why if the steamer he saw was closer than the lifeboat, they did not see her again on their way to the lifeboats?
 
M

Mila

Guest
We know that Rostron mistook the time of green flare. We believe he saw green flare at 3:15. Then this is reasonable to assume that he mistook the time of sighting the steamer lights too. Let's say he did see the steamer at 3:15. The Carpathia and the steamer were approaching each other. Rostron should have seen more of her in the next 30 minutes. She would have taken much more important place in his testimony. All of the above makes me to believe he saw the lights at 3:50. And not at 3:15, and at that time he saw the stopped Californian.
 
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Aaron_2016

Guest
Refraction would allow him to see the green flare much earlier.


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M

Mila

Guest
Right, except he testified that right after he saw the flare he started fairing reassurance rockets. The survivors could have easily seen these rockets from 20 miles away with no refraction, but nobody did until 3:20 or something. Now think: Rostron said that when he saw the flare he thought the Titanic was still afloat 20 miles away? Why would he think that at 2:40 he was 20 miles away from the Titanic, if the only SOS position he knew about was more than 30 miles away? So it is absolutely clear that he mistook the time of the flare. He saw flare at 3:15 and the steamer at 3:50 or so at about the same time the Carpathia was observed from the Californian. The mystery of Carpathia "mystery" ship is solved!
 
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Aaron_2016

Guest
He was under pressure and hoping for the best. He steamed full speed for the Titanic's position and scanning the horizon. Any lights seen would bring him assurance that maybe one of them was the Titanic. i.e. wishful thinking. The Titanic was steaming slowly and drifting after the collision. Rostron probably had no idea how much progress the Titanic might have made towards the Carpathia before the evacuation began, and he would not know how much progress his ship was making especially as he said he changed course many times and had to avoid half a dozen iceberg. With his ship making continuous alterations he may have lost track on how far they still needed to go. Any lights seen on the horizon would bring encouragement. Strange things enter the minds of many men. e.g. After the Titanic sank Hichens reportedly thought there was a coastal buoy floating nearby, and when 3rd officer Pitman felt the collision he thought the ship was anchoring at some port. "After a little thinking, wondering where we were anchoring."


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Mila

Guest
Aaron,
all of the above does not matter. Rostron saw the green flare at 3:15. Survivors and Stone saw Carpathia rockets at 3:20 (just as they had to). There was no super refraction involved in any of these sightings. They saw what they were able to see in the standard atmosphere.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Roston said the steamer he saw was between him and the lifeboat.
What he meant was that the steamer seemed to be closer than where they were headed for. He also said the steamer was about 2 points on his starboard bow, or bearing N30W true. He was heading N52W true. He never said what happened to this vessel after it was sighted. He leaves the impression that they just continued on and never bothered to look back.

If he really saw a green flare at 2:40, and if he turned around at 0:35, then he saw that flare 2h 05m after turning for the SOS position, which he said was 58nm away. Allowing 16 knots, he would closed the distance from 58 to 25nm from the SOS by 2:40. He optimistically said he was about 20.

He saw flare at 3:15 and the steamer at 3:50 or so at about the same time the Carpathia was observed from the Californian. The mystery of Carpathia "mystery" ship is solved!
If Rostron's time of 2:40 was really 2h 40m after turning around, then it would be 3:15 his time when he really saw the flare. By 3:50am he would have been pretty close to the boat.
 
M

Mila

Guest
What he meant was that the steamer seemed to be closer than where they were headed for. He also said the steamer was about 2 points on his starboard bow, or bearing N30W true. He was heading N52W true. He never said what happened to this vessel after it was sighted. He leaves the impression that they just continued on and never bothered to look back.

If he really saw a green flare at 2:40, and if he turned around at 0:35, then he saw that flare 2h 05m after turning for the SOS position, which he said was 58nm away. Allowing 16 knots, he would closed the distance from 58 to 25nm from the SOS by 2:40. He optimistically said he was about 20.


If Rostron's time of 2:40 was really 2h 40m after turning around, then it would be 3:15 his time when he really saw the flare. By 3:50am he would have been pretty close to the boat.
Sam, what I am saying that he said he saw flare at 2:40. You and Paul Lee and others agree that actually it was at 3:15. But you all failed to realize that Rostron said he saw steamer light at 3:15. Evidently this time is as wrong as 2:40. Otherwise he would have connected the both sightings. You all tried to figure out what steamer he saw at 3:15. The answer is none. He saw the steamer (Californian) at 3:50. He got his time for the steamer sighting as wrong as his time for the rockets sifting. He knew he saw the steamer about 35 minutes after he saw the flare and here where his mistake came from.
So what I am saying there is no more Carpathia's mystery ship.The steamer was Californian and she was sighted at the time she should have been sighted.
 
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Mar 22, 2003
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Mila,
What doesn't check for me is the bearing of the steamer that Rostron sighted. N30W true does not fit a sighting of Californian.. Of course, he may have been wrong about his ship's heading at the time the steamer was sighted, but it was 2 points (about 22°) on his starboard bow. I simply cannot jump to the same conclusion as you did.
 
M

Mila

Guest
Sam, do not forget that at 3:50 the Carpathia' s course had been already adjusted to get the Carpathia to flares. If you take these 2 points of the adjusted course it very well could be where the Californian was, and if the bearing is still do not add up for you, I guess it should be adjusted. He simply could not have seen the flare and the steamer at the same time and did not place the sightings together, when he testified. Bedsides if he saw the steamer at 3:15 he should have seen more of her for the next 30 minutes, but at 3:50 he was very busy with the icebergs and the lifeboats. He no longer had time to spend looking at a distant steamer.
 
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Julian Atkins

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Sep 23, 2017
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Hi Mila,

Captain Rostron repeated first seeing a green flare at 2.40am in the USA and British Inquiries, in his report to the Cunard Line, and in other accounts at the time, and in his memoirs printed in 1931. Second Officer Bissett also repeated the 2.40am time in his memoirs in 1959.

Dave Gittins has suggested that the 2 hours 40 minutes was simply the time the first green flare was seen into Carpathia's run towards the CQD position. This fits very neatly. If you look at Captain Rostron's USA Inquiry testimony he was quite vague about certain matters and had not brought any papers or logs with him. Once the mistake was made there was little point in correcting what was probably at the time a minor detail.

We also know that Captain Rostron was reluctant to correct his 4th June 1912 affidavit in respect of certain controversial details. I expect he took the view that what had happened had happened, and these details were semantics given the huge tragedy and loss of life.

Cheers,
Julian
 
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Aaron_2016

Guest
Sam, what I am saying that he said he saw flare at 2:40. You and Paul Lee and others agree that actually it was at 3:15. But you all failed to realize that Rostron said he saw steamer light at 3:15. Evidently this time is as wrong as 2:40. Otherwise he would have connected the both sightings. You all tried to figure out what steamer he saw at 3:15. The answer is none. He saw the steamer (Californian) at 3:50. He got his time for the steamer sighting as wrong as his time for the rockets sifting. He knew he saw the steamer about 35 minutes after he saw the flare and here where his mistake came from.
So what I am saying there is no more Carpathia's mystery ship.The steamer was Californian and she was sighted at the time she should have been sighted.
Captain Rostron said at the US Inquiry that he - "Ordered company's rockets to be fired at 2:45 a.m. and every quarter of an hour after to reassure Titanic."

Gibson was on the Californian and he was asked what time he witnessed the second batch of rockets.

Q - What was it?
A - About 3.40am the Second Officer whistled down to the Captain again.
Q - Twenty minutes to four?
A - Yes.
Q - Did anything happen after that?
A - Yes.
Q - What?
A - I saw three more rockets, Sir.
Q - How much after?
A - That was about twenty minutes to four.
Q - If it was twenty minutes to four it was not very far off the beginning of dawn, was it?
A - No, dawn was just breaking.
Q - Had it got any lighter?
A - Yes.
Q - Could you see when you saw this flash at all how far away you thought it was?
A - It was right on the horizon.
Q - When you saw these three further lights did you get your glasses on to the place?
A - Yes.
Q - Could you see any sign of a ship?
A - No.
Q - No sign of a masthead light?
A - No.
Q - No sign of a sidelight?
A - No.
Q - Nothing except these flashes?
A - That is all.

It is strange that Rostron was firing rockets at the same time he could see a masthead light and it was still dark. (He also said one of his officers saw her side light as well.) Yet Stone and Gibson did not see any rockets until much later when dawn was breaking. Is it possible that they missed them because Rostron said he only fired the rockets every 15 minutes? Since Gibson and Stone saw the ship disappear at 2.05am they probably saw little reason to continue looking in that direction and they would miss the first batch of rockets that were sent up by the Carpathia.


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Mar 18, 2008
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Rostron sighted a light signal about 2:45 and believed it could be Titanic as it was high above the water and in the distance. Interestingly several Carpathia passengers mentioned to have seen a light about 2:45 a.m. or 3 a.m. or 3:15 a.m. but it was a blue light. So it can not have been the green flare Boxhall used. It must have been from the "mystery" steamer which she passed as Rostron said he saw only her masthead light, one of his Officers swore that he also saw her port sidelight.
 
M

Mila

Guest
Hi Mila,

Captain Rostron repeated first seeing a green flare at 2.40am in the USA and British Inquiries, in his report to the Cunard Line, and in other accounts at the time, and in his memoirs printed in 1931. Second Officer Bissett also repeated the 2.40am time in his memoirs in 1959.

Dave Gittins has suggested that the 2 hours 40 minutes was simply the time the first green flare was seen into Carpathia's run towards the CQD position. This fits very neatly. If you look at Captain Rostron's USA Inquiry testimony he was quite vague about certain matters and had not brought any papers or logs with him. Once the mistake was made there was little point in correcting what was probably at the time a minor detail.

We also know that Captain Rostron was reluctant to correct his 4th June 1912 affidavit in respect of certain controversial details. I expect he took the view that what had happened had happened, and these details were semantics given the huge tragedy and loss of life.

Cheers,
Julian
Julian,
Rostron also testified that he started firing rockets right after he saw the green flare. The survivors started seeing these rockets at 3:20-3:30. If Rostron started firing them at 2:40 (2:45), they would have seen them at that time. The both testimonies about the time of sighting green flare and firing rockets right after cannot be correct at the same time. One of them ought to be an error. Of course all books written later were based on that first testimony. Nobody would have remembered a few years later what time they actually saw the flare. Rostron could not have seen the green flare at 2:40. Boxhall said he saw the rockets around 3:15

Here is the screenshot from Sam's book Report into the Loss of the SS Titanic
gf.jpg
 
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M

Mila

Guest
It is strange that Rostron was firing rockets at the same time he could see a masthead light and it was still dark. (He also said one of his officers saw her side light as well.) Yet Stone and Gibson did not see any rockets until much later when dawn was breaking. Is it possible that they missed them because Rostron said he only fired the rockets every 15 minutes? Since Gibson and Stone saw the ship disappear at 2.05am they probably saw little reason to continue looking in that direction and they would miss the first batch of rockets that were sent up by the Carpathia.
In a super refraction one could see a miraged ship, but this does not mean that people from that ship could not see the first one.
A problem with sucs scenario is Californian's bearing. Rostron saw the lights not where the Californian was. What I cannot explain is how he decided the lights were between him and the Titanic. At 3:15 he was around 10 miles from the wreck site. This means the lights of the steamer he saw had to be closer than his horizon, yet he only sees mashead lights, and nobody see any deck lights. How he estimated she was between him and Titanic? I looked at boat lights at night. It is all but impossible to tell which lights are closer. If it were a super refraction then we have to assume there was yet another steamer, definetely not between Carpathia and Titanic. If there were a steamer between Carpathia and Titanic, Rostron would have seen more of her. I wonder if there were some fishing vessels from the Banks on that time?
 
M

Mila

Guest
Mila,
What doesn't check for me is the bearing of the steamer that Rostron sighted. N30W true does not fit a sighting of Californian.. Of course, he may have been wrong about his ship's heading at the time the steamer was sighted, but it was 2 points (about 22°) on his starboard bow. I simply cannot jump to the same conclusion as you did.
Hi Sam, what I meant to say that was that: if we assume that the lights were seen at 3:15 then the Californian bearing were wrong, but if the lights were seen at 3:50 (when the Carpathia was much closer to Californian) the bearing could have been just right. What bothers me in all this story is that Rostron was rather specific in his statements. For example he mentioned that he saw the flare while talking to a doctor. He also mentioned that in 5 minutes or less after that they encountered the first iceberg. Could this fact be used to establish the time somehow? With the lights of the steamer... It seams that she, whatever she was, just disappeared. A mirage will do it, but at 3:15 she could not have been a mirage of the Californian, and why in the world he said the steamer was between him and the Titanic? I think if the time was wrong, and he saw the lights at 3:50 the mystery ship was the Californian. If the time was correct, he might have mistaken lights reflecting from an iceberg with a steamer. After all Bisset described "a tiny shaft of light glistening two points off the port bow. It was the first iceberg—revealed by, of all things, the mirrored light of a star".
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