The mystery ship as seen from the Carpathia

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Mila

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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
Hi Julian,

You've read Bisset's memoir, don't you? I know he said that the first glare at (2:40) was high and when they actually reached the boats at 4 the flare was low at the water. He even speculated that the first flare (or flares) were actually "a pyrotechnic rocket", which flies much higher. So I'd like to ask you please if you remember if Bisset or Rostron specified how many these high flares they saw before starting seeing low flares? I mean what this high first one the only one before 3:20 something?
 
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>>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. <<
And that is one of the problems, memory is fallible. Boxhall stated that the rockets he saw for Carpathia were distress signals at about 3:15. These destress signals rose to heights of about 500 feet and could be seen from someone in a boat over 25 miles away. Yet nobody reported seeing rockets from the boats until about 3:15-3:30 time frame, which checks with all the other evidence that is available.

By the way, Rostron said that he was informed about the CQD at 12:35am, and that 12:35am his ship's time corresponded to 10:45am NY time. If that were true then it took Cottam 10 minutes to report to Rostron because Carpathia received the CQD with the Boxhall coordinates in it at 10:35pm NY time. Cottam said he delievered the message to Rostron within a couple of minutes, and even Rostron said, “The wireless operator had taken the message and run with it up to the bridge, and gave it to the first officer [Dean] who was in charge, with a junior officer with him, and both ran down the ladder to my door and called me. I had only just turned in. It was an urgent distress signal from the Titanic, requiring immediate assistance and giving me his position." As it turns out, Rostron was wrong about 12:35am ship's time corresponded to 10:45am NY time, a 1h 50m time difference. In fact Rostron also said when asked to provide details of his voyage up to the time he arrived back in New York, he said, “I can not give you the exact time, now, because, as a matter of fact, I have not looked at a single date or time of any kind. I have not had the time to do so.”

Bisset's memoirs, for the most part, tended to reflect was was offered in envidence at the inquiries back in 1912.
 
M

Mila

Guest
There are some questions remain even if we are to agree that both times were wrong:
1. Why the first green flare appear high in the sky, while it was low on the water when they got closer?
(It could be because when they looked at it from afar it was outlined by the horizon, but when they got closer to it, it was outlined by the ocean)
2. Why Rostron said the steamer was between them and the Titanic?
(This I do not know)
3. The steamer and the Carpathia had to get closer to each other. Why there are no more references about sighting of the steamer?
(Maybe because they were too busy with icebergs and later with the lifeboats to look around).
 
A

Aaron_2016

Guest
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?
My understanding is the masthead light was brighter and more intense than the green light, and Rostron judged the distance of each light by their brightness, and mistakenly believed the green light was further away because it was not as bright as the masthead light.

Rostron said he commenced to fire rockets at 2.45am. He also said - "Between 2:45 and 4 o'clock, the time I stopped my engines, we were passing icebergs on every side and making them ahead and having to alter our course several times to clear the bergs." This would mean the masthead light they saw could have been in a number of directions depending on which way the Carpathia was heading. They were probably turning at the same time they saw the masthead light.



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M

Mila

Guest
Boxhall said his green flares were brilliant, besides there were at least 10 miles closer than the masthead lights, assuming they belonged to the Californian. The thing about the Carpathia turning to avoid icebergs is probably a good point.
 

Julian Atkins

Member
Sep 23, 2017
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Hi Mila,

Yes, the 2.40 am timing is clearly wrong as your quote from Sam clearly shows, and Dave Gittins has provided a simple plausible explanation for this. It is a good job that other radio operators recorded the Carpathia wireless messages as Cottam on Carpathia kept no record.

As the 2.40 am timing is wrong one must question what else was wrong quoted by Captain Rostron at the time eg the height of the green flares seen. We now know he got his navigation and speed and distance wrong after heading for the CQD position.

However, I have the greatest admiration for Captain Rostron, and none of the above minor errors detracts from the honours he well deserved.

Cheers,
Julian
 
M

Mila

Guest
I wonder if Rostron or someone else from his crew specified with what speed they were moving after they entered the icebergs zone?
 
M

Mila

Guest
>>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. <<
And that is one of the problems, memory is fallible. Boxhall stated that the rockets he saw for Carpathia were distress signals at about 3:15. These destress signals rose to heights of about 500 feet and could be seen from someone in a boat over 25 miles away. Yet nobody reported seeing rockets from the boats until about 3:15-3:30 time frame, which checks with all the other evidence that is available.

By the way, Rostron said that he was informed about the CQD at 12:35am, and that 12:35am his ship's time corresponded to 10:45am NY time. If that were true then it took Cottam 10 minutes to report to Rostron because Carpathia received the CQD with the Boxhall coordinates in it at 10:35pm NY time. Cottam said he delievered the message to Rostron within a couple of minutes, and even Rostron said, “The wireless operator had taken the message and run with it up to the bridge, and gave it to the first officer [Dean] who was in charge, with a junior officer with him, and both ran down the ladder to my door and called me. I had only just turned in. It was an urgent distress signal from the Titanic, requiring immediate assistance and giving me his position." As it turns out, Rostron was wrong about 12:35am ship's time corresponded to 10:45am NY time, a 1h 50m time difference. In fact Rostron also said when asked to provide details of his voyage up to the time he arrived back in New York, he said, “I can not give you the exact time, now, because, as a matter of fact, I have not looked at a single date or time of any kind. I have not had the time to do so.”

Bisset's memoirs, for the most part, tended to reflect was was offered in envidence at the inquiries back in 1912.
Here's what I don't understand, Sam. In your book, you estimated the distance between the Titanic and the wreck site to be 48 miles. Let's say the Carpathia traveled 16 kph (at least before she reached the icebergs). This means that by 2:40 she was around 11 miles from the wreck site well within the range of seeing green flares. Am I missing something? Thank you.
 

Julian Atkins

Member
Sep 23, 2017
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Hi Mila,

You need to read Sir James Bissett's 'Tramps and Ladies' p.288 onwards

Full text of "TRAMPS AND LADIES"

This was a guy who was on the bridge at the time with Captain Rostron!

Eric L Clements' " Captain of the Carpathia" is a very good read and the appendix chapter deals with the issues you raise.

Paul Lee's "The Titanic and the Indifferent Stranger" also deals with these issues in more detail, as does Sam Halpern's work. Paul Lee's book is especially important in quoting all the available recollections of conversations between Captain Rostron and Sir James Bissett and Sir Ivan Thompson. Paul Lee, like Sam, has also examined the speed and distance covered by the Carpathia after it 'turned round' and headed for the CQD position.

Because Rostron's navigation was in error, he found Boxhall's flares by a fluke and chance. He (Rostron) considered mistakenly that Boxhall's lifeboat when picked up at 4.10 am was at the reported CQD position. This was less of a distance to when he started out on this endeavour than the distance to the CQD position, due to where the wreck was much later discovered. Rostron worked back his distance from the CQD position to when he 'turned around' and calculated his ship's speed, but both the distance and speed calculated were wrong. The wreck position was not so far a run in distance as the CQD reported position.

I hope this makes sense!

Cheers,

Julian
 
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M

Mila

Guest
Hi Mila,

You need to read Sir James Bissett's 'Tramps and Ladies' p.307 onwards

Full text of "TRAMPS AND LADIES"

This was a guy who was on the bridge at the time with Captain Rostron!

Eric L Clements' " Captain of the Carpathia" is a very good read and the appendix chapter deals with the issues you raise.

Paul Lee's "The Titanic and the Indifferent Stranger" also deals with these issues in more detail, as does Sam Halpern's work. Paul Lee's book is especially important in quoting all the available recollections of conversations between Captain Rostron and Sir James Bissett and Sir Ivan Thompson. Paul Lee, like Sam, has also examined the speed and distance covered by the Carpathia after it 'turned round' and headed for the CQD position.

Because Rostron's navigation was in error, he found Boxhall's flares by a fluke and chance. He (Rostron) considered mistakenly that Boxhall's lifeboat when picked up at 4.10 am was at the reported CQD position. This was less of a distance to when he started out on this endeavour than the distance to the CQD position, due to where the wreck was much later discovered. Rostron worked back his distance from the CQD position to when he 'turned around' and calculated his ship's speed, but both the distance and speed calculated were wrong. The wreck position was not so far a run in distance as the CQD reported position.

I hope this makes sense!

Cheers,

Julian
Thank you, Julian,

I have read all these books, and none of them could not account for a mystery steamer Rostron saw at 3:15.

Besides now I disagree with the authors that Rostron got his time wrong. He did not. He did see the flare at 2:40, when he was about 12 miles from the wreck site, which is plausible.
Btw do you know the height of the Carpathia's Bridge and masthead lights?
 

Julian Atkins

Member
Sep 23, 2017
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South Wales UK
Hi Mila,

You need to consider the position where Captain Lord stated he found wreckage on the 15th April.

You need to consider that the Carpathia did not get to Boxhall's lifeboat till 4.10 am on the 15th. He stopped his engines at around 4 am. At 2.40 am he had a further 1 hour 20 minutes to steam at fullspeed which was less than the speed he quoted otherwise he would have over shot/gone too far to the wreck sight.

I do not believe Carpathia could have seen the green flares in Boxhall's lifeboat at 2.40 am. They were not rockets that Boxhall had in the lifeboat.

When Carpathia started firing rockets (recorded in other ship's PVs as the Carpathia warned other ships via wireless she was firing rockets) in response to seeing Boxhall's green flares is recorded in time, and is much later than 2.40 am. Stone and Gibson on Californian did not see the first of these rockets they saw fired from the Carpathia till 3.20 am, and the general consensus appears to be that (via the PVs) Carpathia started sending rockets in response to seeing Boxhall's green flares at 3.15 am.

I am writing this from memory without having double checked anything, so do excuse me if I have made any mistakes.

Paul Lee's book I think will confirm all the above plus the other information you wanted.

Cheers,

Julian
 
M

Mila

Guest
You need to consider that the Carpathia did not get to Boxhall's lifeboat till 4.10 am on the 15th. He stopped his engines at around 4 am. At 2.40 am he had a further 1 hour 20 minutes to steam at fullspeed which was less than the speed he quoted otherwise he would have over shot/gone too far to the wreck sight.
Hi Julian,
No, not at full speed. At around 2:43 he was in icebergs' territory. So we have not a slightest idea at what speed he went after that, how many times they slowed down, how many times they changed their course, but before that he really traveled at full speed. So, if he traveled 17.5 knots or even 16 knots per hour, then in 2 hours it places him well within a range of the visibility of the green flares because the distance between his initial position and the wreck site was about 48 miles to begin with. Besides have you ever thought why 600 feet high Carpathia's rockets apperaed to be so low lying even at 3:30 when they at last were spotted? I believe I know why.