The Rappahannock

Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
Tried to post this last night, but the server went on strike at the last second and I had to run off to work.

FWIW, I would be extremely leery of the Rappahannock story since we get it in contradictory versions and none of them a primary source. It might help if somebody could find out where Walter Lord got his version from, but I think this one may turn out to be something of a red herring.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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With a bit of help from Inger Sheil and Maureen Zottoli, I've about sunk the Rappahannock story for good. It's too long to post here. I'm working on putting it on my web site. I'll let the forum know when it's done. Those who like red herring can sharpen their knives and clean the frying pan.
 
Dec 8, 2000
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Erik - then why do you keep using Rappahannock as absolute rather than unsubstantiated?

Dave - Goodo. Looking forward to it.

Cheers,

Fiona

(Hrm. New format for the board - that or my browser is having a nervous breakdown...)
 

Pat Cook

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Apr 27, 2000
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What the HECK happened to the message board?

If this has already been posted, I missed it. However, I first heard of the Rappanhannock from Geoffrey Marcus's book "The Maiden Voyage". This is one source, anyway.

In Chapter 8, he writes that acting captain Alfred E. Smith had just take over from her former commander, incapacitated by illness. He signalled "Have just passed through heavy ice field and several icebergs" over the 'signal-lamp'. Marcus, very good with sources, states he got this from Capt. A. E. Smith's letter to The Daily Telegraph, April 7, 1962 and also Marcus notes 'private information'. Of course, that letter was written 50 years after the event...

Hope this is of some help.

Best regards,
Cook
 

Tracy Smith

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Apr 20, 2012
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Believe DE Bristow mentions it, too. I just ordered her new booklet about the Californian, which is a combination of what she had to say about it in both her books, and probably some new comments. I seem to remember that she mentioned the Rappahannock in Titanic:Sinking the Myths.

I'm not expecting much out of the Rappahannock story, but it is an interesting point to consider.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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OK, folks. The deed has been done and the results can be seen at http://users.senet.com.au/~gittins

The key to the story is getting the arrival and departure times of Rappahannock. I knew from the start that the NYT date for the arrival was wrong, because the ship could not have taken so long to get to Britain. I guesstimated an arrival on April 19th or 20th, given the performance of the ship. The Times soon provided the rest and the Furness Withy letter is a nice little extra.
 
Dec 8, 2000
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Well, it certainly makes for interesting and convincing reading.

That Marcus wasn't more rigourous in investigating AE Smith's story is further compounded by his speculating on the reason for Rappahannock's 'Captain' (or acting captain) not being called to before the BoT enquiry. (And that the reason may be available in a BoT file 'still inaccessible to the historian"). Irregardless, The Maiden Voyage remains a firm favourite even if I may not trust it as much as I did.

BTW, a piece of trivia: Eaton & Haas had shed the Rappahannock story by the 'revised and expanded' edition of Titanic: Destination Disaster (1996). The same change was made from the first edition of Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy (1986) to the second (1995), although the index reference wasn't amended.

While I was reading Rappahannock's Warning I could hear Rumpole's awful Judge Oliphant advising 'just use your commonsense, members of the jury, just use your commonsense'.

It'll be interesting to see what others make of it too.

Good one, Dave.

F
 

Pat Cook

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Apr 27, 2000
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I KNOW I'm probably missing something here but I'm missing a lot. If we go by the first newspaper report (the second one, being 50 years later and less reliable) where are the inconsistencies? Wouldn't Smith have BEEN the Chief Officer if, as he said, the Commander was ill and he took over? Also, again I may have missed it, but Smith doesn't say he 'recently' came through ice but only that they had come through it. And, given it being on the 13th, by the time of the collision, the Funness vessel wouldn't have been near the Titanic, as the line stated.

Again, Dave, I'm not trying to argue - not my style at all - just want to clear this up in my own mind; you've done an amazing job of corraling the accounts and research.

Best regards,
Cook
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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After more digging I've just found that Rappahannock sailed for Halifax again on May 25th. That could be evidence for her being help up for repairs.

(It might also mean that I've missed a return voyage to Halifax, but I think I'm correct)
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Pat, what you say is really what I'm saying. The 1912 report is feasible, (though the date of arrival is wrong). Whether Smith really was in charge we can't tell at this distance. What is nonsensical is the 1962 version and the compound versions cooked up by various authors. I see that Cameron's CD even has the ships passing ten miles apart.
 

Pat Cook

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Ah! Thanks, Dave, for explaining it to this old dunderhead. I owe you one!

Best regards,
Cook
 

Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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I note that "The Maiden Voyage" has a picture of the Rappahannock in the ice field, taken from one of the masts I assume.

We shouldn't be seeing anything though. From Lloyd's Weekly Shipping Index, there is the following report: on April 11th, she passed through heavy field ice during *dense fog* at 43 20 N, 48 45 W.

Cheers

Paul
--
Pre-order my new Titanic ebook at http://www.paullee.com/book_details.php
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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A nice bit of data!

It supports my earlier conclusion that by 13 or 14 April Rappahannock was nowhere near the scene of Titanic's accident.

I wonder what Rappahannock's captain intended to do. He doesn't seem to be making for the 'corner' for eastbound ships. Maybe he intended to join eastbound traffic somewhere northeast of the 'corner'.
 

Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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Hi Dave,
It took quite a while to track this down (remember the email I sent you with wrong coordinate!) - a lot of inventories of Lloyds List etc. are illegible.

Talking of the corner, quite a few ships (to name a few, Ascania, Cymric, the Laurentic and Megantic), bound on the England<->Canada/US course were well north of the corner (about 46 N, 46 W), encountering numerous icebergs and an icefield up there. What on earth were they doing that far north I wonder??

Paul
 

Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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Another possibility for The Maiden Voyage picture is here:

Mar 14-15 SS "Rappahannock" 44o44'N 49oW saw 4 small pieces of ice; 15th, 45o34'N 51o12'W encountered the southern edge of a large ice field. Proceeded along the edge of the field until 46o13'N 54o15'W when we were able to proceed north to Cape Pine, thence along the coast to St.John's. The coast was fairly clear to this port, with the exception of off the port, where heavy field ice was met.
 

Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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Heres another thought. Looking at Lloyds issues, and some New York Times, there were at least three icefields, and maybe a fourth south of, or at least east of, the Grand Banks. The photo of the Rappahannock may not show it traversing _the_ icefield near the Titanic, but a icefield, at some point during its meanderings.