The Night is debunked

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Seong Ae-Mun

Dear Senan,
Hello. I hope that you did not misunderstand me. I do not want to know Eugene Daly's daughter's name so I can contact her, I was only interested to know if he or Daniel Buckley were married. Mr. Stoker says that Buckley was not married, but both of you say that Daly was. I was just wondering what his wife's name was. Was it Margaret?

Also, thank you for your analysis of Walter Lord's chapter on the California. I must admit that I do not learn much about this yet, but this conversation has made me want to read more, and then perhaps I can draw my own conclusions. Never trust something without looking into it I suppose, books show this all the time.
Most sincerely,

Okay, Senan Molony, your premise was that there were "serious factual errors" and that Walter Lord was "a bit of mythmaker."

When Mike Herbold politely asked you to back your assertions up, you offered the 36 items of "evidence" of mistakes. Many of them, such as the ten minute time differentials, or certain omissions of facts, I wouldn't even think of as "mistakes."

The problematic issue of the Titanic's exact position can't be blamed on Lord, because, as you point out, when Night Lives On was published in 1986, the Titanic wreck's position still wasn't known.

Further, let's face it, when you review Groves and Gibson's testimony, and compare it to Lord's, they are difficult to reconcile. Obviously, Walter Lord wasn't the only one who thought so. Whether two or five rockets were mentioned down the pipe, at a particular point, the fact is rockets were seen, and nothing was done.

There is a "Boston Evening Globe." I'm not sure what you meant by that comment.

A typographical error about some lawyer's last name? Come on.

In my view, your criticisms are more in the realm of nitpicking, not impeachment.

Let me tell you something. The key to impeaching someone's work is to first set up a believable premise. If you had said that there were "inaccuracies" in Lord's book, that you have "serious" doubts about the book's value because such inaccuracies suggest that there are other, more serious inaccuracies, and then spelled the 36 out - - it would have been more effective to discredit "Night Lives On."

But you discount Lord's work, saying he "writes beautifully," and even refer to him as a mythmaker. Then, you offer the 36 items of "evidence," that aren't really clear-cut evidence. Additionally, you offer unbecoming comments such as "patron saint of the Tianophiles" and "wake up, Walter." It's hardly fair. This way, you accomplish something exactly the opposite from what you intend. You make "Night Lives On" all the more credible.

I've published a 2,000 page, 3 volume treatise, on a subject other than Titanic, which is presently in the Library of Congress collection, in Washington, D.C. I'm sure there are many mistakes, typos and what not, in it. I even wrote a disclaimer in the introduction warning of the possibility of mistakes. Nonetheless, it took me ten years to produce that book, and I consider it to be very well researched.

In any event, Senan, best of luck with your book.

Tracey McIntire

Dear Senan,
I was most interested in your debunking of Walter Lord's chapter on the Californian, especially since you provided no references for your arguments. In fact, as Joe points out, there IS a Boston Evening Globe (I am originally from Boston) and Capt. Lord told them "It took 3 full hours to cover the 30 miles which separated (us) from the scene of the disaster" (April 19, 1912 issue). I assume by some of your statements that you are taking some or all of your evidence from the Senate and Board of Trade Inquiries, which themselves contain typographical and other errors. I must also point to Leslie Reade's book "The Ship That Stood Still," which also refutes some of your refutations of Walter Lord. For example, you say in your points number 16 and 33 that Capt. Lord did not have to walk from the chart room to his quarters to use the speaking tube. You state "there is no evidence for these walks" and "it appears from the evidence that a speaking tube was close at hand in the chart room." What evidence? What are your sources? I refer you to the diagram on Page 87 in "The Ship That Stood Still" that shows clearly how Capt. Lord would have had to get up off the settee and walk to the speaking tube. So you see, Senan, no one is perfect and it is wrong to take an author to task for what you see to be mistakes, and others see to be valid conclusions, without citing your references. I also find, like Joe, that some of your comments are inappropriate and can be interpreted as self-righteous. As far as the Titanic is concerned, even the most famous authors will never know the real truth. Only those who experienced the terrible disaster first hand knew and it is wrong to pretend otherwise. I hope that whoever reviews your book will give you the benefit of the doubt that you failed to give Walter Lord.
Sincerely, Tracey McIntire
Hey, I was asked not to hold back, so I didn't...

I nitpicked 42 things, only found 36, but some of those - 6 or 7 - are very serious distortions. They are as simple as calling black: white. They are direct misrepresentations of the evidence and I challenge anyone to show that they are not.

I stand corrected on the Boston Evening Globe - their text is obviously the same as that of the Boston Traveller in relation to 30 miles from the scene (Captain Lord meaning the wreckage) which Walter Lord then parlays into being 30 miles from the SOS position, which is not the case.

The charge of nitpicking I fully accept but it does not detract from what I was asked to show and that is that Walter Lord made several serious failures to transmit the evidence properly to his readers.

His book is a series of arguments and his argument that the SOS position was correct has been shown to be bunku. I'm sorry, but that's the way it is.

I salute Joe Shomi and his 2,000 word treatise.
Joe need not get annoyed because I disagreed with his assertion that TNLO was well-researched. You can still believe that if you like Joe, I can't stop you!

In any case you all have my full permission to rip my forthcoming efforts should you feel like it. This is as it should be. Comment is free = but facts OUGHT to be sacred.

Tracy quoted an illustration in The Ship That Stood Still as if it were proof. Unfortunately the Californian is lying at the bottom of the Aegean so we don't know the dispersal of her speaking tubes. It is simply not clear that there was a tube in Lord's room, nor is it clear that there was one in the chart room where he chose to lie down.

But why would he lie down to sleep on a settee that was too short for him, expecting a call, if the tube was not close to hand? Neither Stone nor Lord mentions walking to answer the tube or any delay in answering it.

Reade's book is based on an interpretation of the evidence when Capt Lord is asked "where was the tube?" He replied: "In my room."
"Where were you?" "I was in the chart room."

My interpretation is that this means Lord was sleeping beside the tube in the chart room which was "my room" at the time.

Reade prefers to interpret this to mean that Lord had a speaking tube beside his bed in his personal quarters ("my room"), but CHOSE to sleep on a short settee some distance away.

No doubt this was so that he would be in a better position to ignore any calls about rockets!!

Regards to all

Molony, author of a crap book.
There, I said it myself first.
All right, Senan, no need to get that out of joint over Walter Lord. No one even remotely suggested you authored a 'crap book.' In fact, everyone is looking forward to its publication. Once again, good luck with your book.
Just for the purposes of completion, and to answer Tracy's request for attribution of my statements pointing out the errors, they are almost all quick summaries of my own and from my own understanding of the British and American Inquiries, both of which I have in bound volume and electronic format and have perused extensively. It would simply take too much time - and space - to cite extensive passages in support, but I did it in at least one case, with specific question numbers from the British Inquiry in relation to Gibson and Walter Lord's assertion that a glare of light on an after deck was something "unusual in a freighter."
There are some remarks for which I cannot cite supporting evidence because it is absent - for instance, in relation to Stone NOT seeing "stars floating down". I know he did not say that as I know he did not say: "I have eaten egg sandwiches in New Zealand," but I cannot prove the negative of what Walter Lord has erroneously asserted. I hope this is plain.
I would say to Tracy however that both the US and British Inquiry transcripts are online and searchable, and if you can - in reverse, as it were - cite any passages which show that my corrections to Lord's assertions are themslves incorrect false in any respect, then I very much wish you would do so. Good hunting!
At the end of the day, and even in relation to little matters like the names of counsel (Aspinall printed hundreds of times in the British Inqiry) one should endeavour to get the small points right as well as the large.
Otherwise we might as well be talking about Captain Smeth of the Teutonic which hit a rock and sank in May 1910, or at least I'm nearly sure it did anyway.
And why oh why does it seem to be impossible for some people to grasp that one can have mixed views of an author like Walter Lord?
I for one completely salute him for his considerable achievements and distinct stylistic flair. If I nitpick, and point out the absence of some undergarments in the Emperor's new clothes it doesn't necessarily mean I want him burnt at the stake.
Thank God this didn't descend into an overall Californian row.

Tracey McIntire

Dear Senan,
I would just like to say that I appreciate your position. I was just trying to say that there can be different interpretations of recorded accounts (as you say about Reade's thinking the speaking tube was in Lord's sleeping quarters). Also I would not use the Senate and Board of Trade hearings as a final gauge for truth. After all, several people testified that the Titanic sunk in one piece, when we know from the wreck that she broke in two. It is good to approach ALL accounts with a grain of salt--and yes, I mean Walter Lord's too. Like I said before, the only people who will ever know the truth are those who experienced the disaster first-hand (and even some of them got it wrong!)I wish you good luck with your book.
Sincerely, Tracey
Thanks for not holding back. We needed a little spice here on the ET network. I watched your recent heated debate on the majordomo list and am gradually being sucked into the Californian vortex. Have never read Reade's book, but was able to find a copy at a reasonable price last night and look forward to reading up.
Mike Herbold
(who resents the fact that the Californian was named after mine and Joe Shomi's native state)
Tracy, love: I agree - and I'm certainly not saying the evidence given to either the US or British Inquiry necessarily represents the truth.
That's not my standpoint.

All I'm saying is that if Walter Lord or anyone else wants to use testimony in support of any argument, they should at least truthfully relate and transmit that evidence - and not distort it, misrepresent it, misremember it, or simply invent it.

Who would say to Mike that getting oneself sucked into the Californian vortex is like volunteering to serve in the Vietnam war.

BTW, Walter Lord's mistakes in TNLO are not confined to the Californian chapter, and I'm not going to expand on that. Simply to say that in my humble opinion, ANTR was by far the better book. Maybe the 31-year gap between the two of them has something to do with it. Here I rest.

Tracey McIntire

Hey Mike--Senan is right. Are you sure you want to get into the Californian incident? It is surely one of the most frustrating albeit fascinating aspects of the disaster. Better prepare yourself! I highly recommend Reade's book and I hope that you will post your opinion here in the future.
Tracey McIntire said:

> I would not use the Senate and Board of Trade
>hearings as a final gauge for truth. After all, >several people testified that the Titanic sunk in >one piece, when we know from the wreck that she >broke in two.

However, the problem in this case is not the Inquiries accounts themselves, but the interpetation!

I did an analysis a year or two ago, on just Day 7 of the US Inquiry. I don't have the exact figures at the moment, but it was something like:
45% said the ship broke apart
45% didn't say one way or another
10% said it sank intact.

If this is a valid sample of the Inquiry, far more said it broke apart, than said it went down in one piece. The people who wrote the final reports bought into the minority who said it sank intact, just as most of the rest of us did, in those days pre-1985, and pre- having easy access to the Inquiries.

Tracey McIntire

Hi Bill!
Thanks for clearing that up. I had no idea the percentage was that high. I stand corrected!

J. Browning

I couldn't help noticing Senan Molony's list of errors in 'The Night Lives On' itself contains a few errors, or at least gaps in knowledge. Just shows how difficult it is to keep on top of all the details.....

2. 'the Californian was stopped at 10:21'

10:21 according to Lord but 10:26 according to Groves (British Inquiry Question 8117)

3. Captain Lord saw the ship at 10:30

As far as I can discover the 10:30 time rests only on Lord's 1959 affidavit. Since he also says that he was talking to Groves at the time and at once pointed out the light to him, which doesn't fit with what either he or Groves said in 1912, it's a fair assumption that his memory was faulty. At the British Inquiry he said he saw the light shortly before eleven.
If we're going to nit pick Groves said he saw the light at 'about' 11.10. Since he also said he had not looked at his watch since 10:26 the 'about' must have been pretty loose. (There was no clock on Califonian's bridge)

5.'Lord said this conversation never took place'

Lord shifted ground on this one. After initially denying the conversation he later said 'I have heard so many stories about the Titanic since that I really do not know what I heard that night' (B.I. Q6848)

9. Stone did not say in evidence that he called Lord after five rockets were fired.

True, but he did say so in an affidavit drawn up for Lord while the Californian was still at sea.

10. 'I don't know but they were all white'

The wording comes from Stone's affidavit dated 18th April 1912. It's reasonable to suppose his memory of the exact words used would be better then than when he gave evidence at the Inquiry some time later.

12.Gibson said the 7th rocket came 20 minutes after the sixth.

Maybe I've missed something but I can't find that Gibson gave any time for the 7th rocket at the Inquiry. He did say that Stone's remark about the other ship steaming away was 20 minutes after the 6th rocket but not whether that was before or after the 7th rocket. (The affidavit he drew up for Lord says it was afterwards) Stone said all the rockets were fired at three or four minute intervals (B.I. Q7843, 7892) although the times he gives imply the gaps were longer.

13. '"Both men could see the white stars floating down..." simply not true'

Gibson described stars both at the Inquiry (Q7759-66) and in his affidavit. Stone did not mention stars specifically but did speak of the rockets 'bursting' (B.I. Q7842) which I think implies stars.

15. 'Stone emphatically did NOT agree'

Gibson said that Stone agreed with him about the list to starboard. (B.I. Q7756-66). Stone denied it. You pay your money and take your choice as to who to believe.

17. 'Lord has no recollection of any third call'

However Gibson confirmed it took place. (B.I. Q7574-7, also in his affidavit.) He didn't hear what was said but Lord had asked to be kept informed about the other steamer and it's difficult to see what else Stone would have been calling him about.

19. 'Lord's account echoes the evidence of Gibson'.

Not really. Lord said he was told of one rocket, Stone said he told him of five, Gibson said Stone said he told Lord of two. These are three different and irreconcilable versions. However regardless of when Stone initially called Lord both Stone and Gibson said that Lord was informed of a total of eight rockets.

21. 'Neglects to mention Lord was backed up in evidence by Stewart and by wireless messages and the log.'

Actually WL does mention the log. ('The log backed up Captain Lord, but it was hardly a reliable document. It contained not one word about any of the rockets seen during the night'). And strictly speaking Stewart didn't say the Californian left at 11:20. He said the log said they left at 11:20 which is a slightly different kettle of fish.

26.The Titanic's position was wrong.

Yes it was, but as that was not known when TNLO came out its hardly fair to call WL's failure to mention that an error.
Although WL does not say so in the text the sources note at the end indicates that the map he is talking about was the one produced by John C. Carrothers. I haven't seen this map myself but from comments about it that I have read I gather it puts Titanic about 30 miles from Californian's overnight postion. As I recall the actual wreck site is about 21 miles from Californian's overnight position. So though the distress position was not accurate neither were the arguments of Lord's defenders.

27. 27) '“Every officer on the Californian agreed the rockets resembled distress signals…”
Rubbish. Stone and Gibson said they did NOT think the ship they were looking at was in distress.'

It's not rubbish. Stone's admission that the rockets resembled distress signals can be found at B.I. Q8028-36 and Gibson's at Q7763-3. Stone's argument that the ship was not in distress was based on his belief that it was sailing away, not on the appearance of the rockets.

29. Calls WL's discussion of the theory of two rocket firing ships 'a wilful distortion'

I don't see where the distortion comes in. This theory is argued by Leslie Harrison in his book 'A Titanic Myth'. If WL implied this was the only theory put forward by Lord's defenders 'distortion' might be fair but he goes on to discuss the more moderate ship in between theory which is based on Stone's Inquiry speculations.

31. 'They suspected she was trying to get help.
Not true. '

Stone: 'the first thought that crossed my mind was that the ship might be in trouble' (B. I. Q7751 - he admittedly goes on to say that he changed his mind when he decided the ship was steaming away)
Gibson thought 'there must be something the matter with her' and that 'it was a case of some kind of distress.' (B.I. Q7755-6)

35. Lord 'an austere autocrat'.

Groves in his account 'The Middle Watch' admittedly written several decades later says that Lord was 'an austere type, utterly devoid of humour and even more reserved than is usual with those who occupy such positions'
That Lord was publically loyal to his crew does not mean that he was not also distant and dictatorial. The two attitudes are perfectly compatible.

For primary sources on the Californian I recommend Dave Billnitzer's website at


Hi all -

I am somewhat new to this board, but this thread caught my eye. In addition to the other posts, I would add a few points. Where Senan writes:

"29) p. 184. Author attacks theory of two pairs of ships, “each with one firing rockets.” ... A willful distortion. Stone believed the rockets could be coming from a distance beyond the ship he was looking at because they were so faint and low-lying."

This is not a willful distortion at all: Walter Lord is pointing out the flaws in the A.M. Foweraker articles of 1912-13; he is not criticising Stone's testimony. Foweraker had suggested two pairs of rocket-firing ships: one unknown vessel firing rockets in view of the Californian, and the other being the Titanic, firing at an unknown stranger. In doing so, WL has accurately represented (and illustrated the folly in) Foweraker's argument.

The other point is where Senan wrote:

"Tracy quoted an illustration in The Ship That Stood Still as if it were proof. ... It is simply not clear that there was a tube in Lord's room, nor is it clear that there was one in the chart room where he chose to lie down."

But it is clear if you examine the documentation. In this case, Stone's affidavit enlightens us:

"I at once whistled down the speaking tube and * you came from the chartroom into your own room and answered.* " (emphasis added.)

Hopefully that clears up those two points at least.

Tracey McIntire

Hi! Thanks for adding the extra point about the speaking tube in Lord's room. I knew there was something else in the book to affirm my point besides the diagram, but I couldn't remember what it was!
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