The Rappahannock


Arun Vajpey

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I apologize to have resurrected such an old thread but I have always wondered about the Rappahannock and its supposed exchange of morse-lamp messages with the Titanic. In the past 10 years or so I considered that encounter as a figment of someone's imagination and had practically forgotten about it. But a few days ago I started looking into related references and was surprised to find that it was mentioned even in books like Don Lynch's Titanic: An Illustrated History and Fitch et al's On A Sea Of Glass. In OASOG it is merely mentioned that the two ships crossed on Saturday night but there is no mention of Morse Signals. Apparently Chief Officer Smith of the Rappahannock had logged the encounter with a description of how the Titanic looked at night.

So, is there any definitive information about whether the Rappahannock did send ice warnings to the Titanic via the Morse-Lamp?
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Thanks, that link worked.

So, it seems like the Titanic's "Rappahannock Encounter" was a yarn after all.

I confess that I am a bit disappointed. There was something almost romantic about two ships passing each other in the night and exchanging Morse Lamp messages. Well..........:(
 
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Harland Duzen

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I personally found the 1912 account believable but might reevaluate it again...

There is an old account by someone on here who claimed a women saw Titanic and Adriatic greet each other at 6 in the morning with a whistle blast, but there doesn't seem to be any other account that validates this.
 
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Mark Baber

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Adriatic arrived at Queenstown from New York on 12 April and Liverpool the next day, according to the shipping column of The New York Times. If the two ships passed at 6 in the morning it would have to have been on the 12th.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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For many years I have tried to gather what limited information that is available about the on/off story of the Titanic's encounter with the Furness Withy ship Rappahannock. When I first read about it in the 1970s, it was in Geoffrey Marcus' book The Maiden Voyage and his description of the encounter with the huge Titanic with all her lights blazing etc as supposedly seen by the Rappahannock's acting Captain Albert Smith sounded thrilling and almost romantic in a "two ships passing in the night" sort of way. But obviously, over the years the story has been re-evaluated in a more clinical manner by experts and either considered a complete old sailor's yarn or as a toned-down possibility.

Since the Rappahannock was on an Eastbound journey from Halifax to Gravesend between April 9th and April 19th 1912 and the Titanic was headed Westbound from Southampton to New York within the other ship's time frame, it stands to logic that their paths would have "crossed" at some stage but not necessarily within visual range. But the fact that a respected work like On A Sea Of Glass mentions the encounter as a possibility, I thought it is worth looking at the whole picture. I know that the subject has been 'done to death' before but I hope my fellow members don't mind me bringing it up again.


This link might help (if it works):

The Rappahannock Warning

Looking at the above article, there are indeed two versions to the story.

In the cable sent to The New York Times on April 26th 1912, Albert Smith of the Rappahannock says that his ship encountered and went through a large ice field, sustaining considerable damage including a twisted rudder and a dented hull. The article does not say when the Rapphannock encountered that ice field and therefore it would be difficult to calculate how much time passed between the ship passing through the ice field and their reported encounter with the Titanic later. The date of encounter of the two ships is given definitely as about 10:30 pm on the night of Saturday April 13th and that the Rappahannock had emerged ( just "emerged" and not "just emerged") from a heavy rain squall earlier, presumably the same one the tail end of which was noted by Captain Lord of the Californian the next morning. While Albert Smith described the 'splendid sight' of the huge Titanic with her lights blazing, there is no mention of a Morse Lamp warning sent or acknowledgement received. But that in itself raised another question: If there was no Morse Lamp signalling and since the Rappahannock had no radio (AFAIK), how could Albert Smith have known that the large liner he was passing was the Titanic? Did he assume that after he learned about the disaster later?

The second version supposedly originated due to a letter by the same Chief Officer / Acting Captain Albert Smith of the Rappahannock, now pushing 80 years of age, to The Daily Telegraph - a respected British broadsheet, on April 7th 1962, almost 50 years later. Smith mentions no specific date but says that the Rappahannock had "just passed" a heavy ice field before encountering the Titanic, which people (Geoffrey Marcus and Eaton/Haas among them) interpreted that the encounter took place on the night of Sunday 14th April 1912. Albert Smith alludes to "fine weather, calm sea and good visibility", but that might have been the case during the encounter between the Rappahannock and the Titanic but not when the former went through rain much earlier. This time he clearly mentions "I personally signaled this information to the Titanic, and they acknowledged my message" - presumably via Morse lamp as AFAIK the Rappahannock had no wireless equipment. I don't have Marcus' book to hand (it is back in the UK) to check but just looked in both Eaton & Haas books where the actual words exchanged are quoted. Since Smith's letter to the The Daily Telegraph does not mention the actual words of either his warning message or of the Titanic's acknowledgment, from where did Eaton & Haas (and Marcus, if he also quotes them) get that information?

I personally found the 1912 account believable
I agree. But that appears to be the result of a cable sent to The New York Times and the following newspaper article. This could have allowed an error - for example, they might have missed mentioning the Morse Lamp warning or Smith might have left that out in his cable. Otherwise, the 1912 story is certainly plausible except for one thing that has bothered me over the years. I might have missed it, but my searches thus far in various books and articles do not specify whether Acting Captain Albert Smith logged his encounter with the Titanic on the night of Saturday 13th April 1912. If the encounter had indeed taken place as Smith described in 1912, would it not have been a requirement to enter it in the ship's log?

The second story from 1962 appears to be the result of an actual letter send by the then ageing Albert Smith to The Daily Telegraph and so might have been reproduced almost verbatim. In that case, things like "just passed", ambiguous weather report etc might be the result of understandable confusion of an Old Sea Dog reminiscing. This might also apply to the Morse Lamp warning but even an 80 year old is unlikely to have made that sort of mistake; can it be that the warning was erroneously left out in the 1912 report?

When Geoffrey Marcus contacted Albert Smith while researching for his book The Maiden Voyage, it was probably in response to the 1962 letter, the former must have known about the 1912 report. Therefore it looks like Marcus combined the information from both stories for his book. Eaton and Haas on the other hand, who mention the encounter as taking place on Sunday, 14th April 1912 in both Destination Disaster (1987) and Triumph & Tragedy (1987-8), appear to have used only the second story from 1962. There is no acknowledgments page in my copy of DD, but there is one with several names and institutions in T&T; Geoffrey Marcus and his book are not mentioned and so I presume that Eaton & Haas decided to go by the 1962 letter independently.
 
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For many years I have tried to gather what limited information that is available about the on/off story of the Titanic's encounter with the Furness Withy ship Rappahannock. When I first read about it in the 1970s, it was in Geoffrey Marcus' book The Maiden Voyage and his description of the encounter with the huge Titanic with all her lights blazing etc as supposedly seen by the Rappahannock's acting Captain Albert Smith sounded thrilling and almost romantic in a "two ships passing in the night" sort of way. But obviously, over the years the story has been re-evaluated in a more clinical manner by experts and either considered a complete old sailor's yarn or as a toned-down possibility.

Since the Rappahannock was on an Eastbound journey from Halifax to Gravesend between April 9th and April 19th 1912 and the Titanic was headed Westbound from Southampton to New York within the other ship's time frame, it stands to logic that their paths would have "crossed" at some stage but not necessarily within visual range. But the fact that a respected work like On A Sea Of Glass mentions the encounter as a possibility, I thought it is worth looking at the whole picture. I know that the subject has been 'done to death' before but I hope my fellow members don't mind me bringing it up again.



Looking at the above article, there are indeed two versions to the story.

In the cable sent to The New York Times on April 26th 1912, Albert Smith of the Rappahannock says that his ship encountered and went through a large ice field, sustaining considerable damage including a twisted rudder and a dented hull. The article does not say when the Rapphannock encountered that ice field and therefore it would be difficult to calculate how much time passed between the ship passing through the ice field and their reported encounter with the Titanic later. The date of encounter of the two ships is given definitely as about 10:30 pm on the night of Saturday April 13th and that the Rappahannock had emerged ( just "emerged" and not "just emerged") from a heavy rain squall earlier, presumably the same one the tail end of which was noted by Captain Lord of the Californian the next morning. While Albert Smith described the 'splendid sight' of the huge Titanic with her lights blazing, there is no mention of a Morse Lamp warning sent or acknowledgement received. But that in itself raised another question: If there was no Morse Lamp signalling and since the Rappahannock had no radio (AFAIK), how could Albert Smith have known that the large liner he was passing was the Titanic? Did he assume that after he learned about the disaster later?

The second version supposedly originated due to a letter by the same Chief Officer / Acting Captain Albert Smith of the Rappahannock, now pushing 80 years of age, to The Daily Telegraph - a respected British broadsheet, on April 7th 1962, almost 50 years later. Smith mentions no specific date but says that the Rappahannock had "just passed" a heavy ice field before encountering the Titanic, which people (Geoffrey Marcus and Eaton/Haas among them) interpreted that the encounter took place on the night of Sunday 14th April 1912. Albert Smith alludes to "fine weather, calm sea and good visibility", but that might have been the case during the encounter between the Rappahannock and the Titanic but not when the former went through rain much earlier. This time he clearly mentions "I personally signaled this information to the Titanic, and they acknowledged my message" - presumably via Morse lamp as AFAIK the Rappahannock had no wireless equipment. I don't have Marcus' book to hand (it is back in the UK) to check but just looked in both Eaton & Haas books where the actual words exchanged are quoted. Since Smith's letter to the The Daily Telegraph does not mention the actual words of either his warning message or of the Titanic's acknowledgment, from where did Eaton & Haas (and Marcus, if he also quotes them) get that information?

I agree. But that appears to be the result of a cable sent to The New York Times and the following newspaper article. This could have allowed an error - for example, they might have missed mentioning the Morse Lamp warning or Smith might have left that out in his cable. Otherwise, the 1912 story is certainly plausible except for one thing that has bothered me over the years. I might have missed it, but my searches thus far in various books and articles do not specify whether Acting Captain Albert Smith logged his encounter with the Titanic on the night of Saturday 13th April 1912. If the encounter had indeed taken place as Smith described in 1912, would it not have been a requirement to enter it in the ship's log?

The second story from 1962 appears to be the result of an actual letter send by the then ageing Albert Smith to The Daily Telegraph and so might have been reproduced almost verbatim. In that case, things like "just passed", ambiguous weather report etc might be the result of understandable confusion of an Old Sea Dog reminiscing. This might also apply to the Morse Lamp warning but even an 80 year old is unlikely to have made that sort of mistake; can it be that the warning was erroneously left out in the 1912 report?

When Geoffrey Marcus contacted Albert Smith while researching for his book The Maiden Voyage, it was probably in response to the 1962 letter, the former must have known about the 1912 report. Therefore it looks like Marcus combined the information from both stories for his book. Eaton and Haas on the other hand, who mention the encounter as taking place on Sunday, 14th April 1912 in both Destination Disaster (1987) and Triumph & Tragedy (1987-8), appear to have used only the second story from 1962. There is no acknowledgments page in my copy of DD, but there is one with several names and institutions in T&T; Geoffrey Marcus and his book are not mentioned and so I presume that Eaton & Haas decided to go by the 1962 letter independently.
Interesting post. The only thing I can add is that I've never read that any of the officers or crew mentioned getting a warning from her. A quick search of the ice warnings during the testimonies didn't show any warning from her. One would think that wouldn't have been left out during the testimonies. But if wrong about it would gladly be corrected.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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The only thing I can add is that I've never read that any of the officers or crew mentioned getting a warning from her. A quick search of the ice warnings during the testimonies didn't show any warning from her.
Agreed. But in his 1962 letter, Albert Smith says that he "personally" sent that Morse Lamp warning to the other ship and received an acknowledgment. Both Geoffrey Marcus and Eaton/Haas have actually worded the messages (what was their source, since Smith did not describe the message content in his letter?). Would anyone have gone to that extent in making up ice warning messages?

Also, would the fact that they (assuming that they existed) were Morse Lamp signals rather than wireless messages mean that they would be treated differently? Did Albert Smith log the exchange?
 
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Agreed. But in his 1962 letter, Albert Smith says that he "personally" sent that Morse Lamp warning to the other ship and received an acknowledgment. Both Geoffrey Marcus and Eaton/Haas have actually worded the messages (what was their source, since Smith did not describe the message content in his letter?). Would anyone have gone to that extent in making up ice warning messages?

Also, would the fact that they (assuming that they existed) were Morse Lamp signals rather than wireless messages mean that they would be treated differently? Did Albert Smith log the exchange?
You bring up some good points. I'm guessing the log didn't survive or at least nobody has been able to find it. I'm not a mariner so I don't get the different logs that ships use such as scrap logs that have been mentioned in different threads. From my understanding some types of logs are just thrown overboard to borrow a phrase after a short time. I don't get that. To me a log is a log but like I said I'm not a mariner so don't know the ins and outs.
 

Jim Currie

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I personally found the 1912 account believable but might reevaluate it again...

There is an old account by someone on here who claimed a women saw Titanic and Adriatic greet each other at 6 in the morning with a whistle blast, but there doesn't seem to be any other account that validates this.
Passenger ships do not and did not sound their whistle at that time in the morning, Harland - not unless they knew all the passengers were awake...particularly 1st class ones.:eek:
 

Arun Vajpey

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I'm guessing the log didn't survive or at least nobody has been able to find it

Below is an excerpt from that The Rappahannock Warning article.

During the investigation into the disaster conducted by Lord Mersey, an extensive search was made for ships that might have been in the area of the collision on the night of April 14th 1912. A letter was received from the owners of Rappahannock stating that no Furness Withy ships were involved.

There is a link within the article to a portion of that actual letter. The wording seems to suggest that The Rapphannock certainly did not encounter the Titanic on the night of Sunday 14th April 1912 ie the night of the accident. But it does not rule out the two ships passing on Saturday night.

Could Furness Withy line have deliberately "lost" the Rappahannock's log because they did not want to be dragged into the ongoing investigations? That letter is dated 14th June 1912 and so they would have had time to look at the problems that Captain Lord and the crew of the Californian were having and consider their own position, albeit it was quite different.
 
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Below is an excerpt from that The Rappahannock Warning article.



There is a link within the article to a portion of that actual letter. The wording seems to suggest that The Rapphannock certainly did not encounter the Titanic on the night of Sunday 14th April 1912 ie the night of the accident. But it does not rule out the two ships passing on Saturday night.

Could Furness Withy line have deliberately "lost" the Rappahannock's log because they did not want to be dragged into the ongoing investigations? That letter is dated 14th June 1912 and so they would have had time to look at the problems that Captain Lord and the crew of the Californian were having and consider their own position, albeit it was quite different.
It's possible that was their motivation. But from what I could gather they didn't have anything to hide and were almost 2 days travel (500 miles) from Titanic when she sank. I did a search but found no news articles from the crew or passengers telling the press of them sending a warning. But that was a quick search so maybe there is. On a side note I surfed about 10 different Titanic sites and the story is repeated often but its seems to be the exact same copy and paste article on all of them. An example below if anyone is interested. Cheers.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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I did a search but found no news articles from the crew or passengers telling the press of them sending a warning.

Let us consider this as a possibility, no more. Personally, I have no fixed opinion about the so-called Rappahannock incident but it seems to be an interesting subject for research.

I'll just play the Devil's Advocate here.

IF that warning was sent at 10:30 pm at night via Morse Lamp, I doubt if any passenger on board the Rappahannock would have noticed. In 1962, Albert Smith claimed that he sent it "personally" but that has to be a figure of speech. A Chief Officer / Acting Captain would not have operated the Morse Lamp himself but got one of the crew to do so while he gave the wording of the message to be sent. So, the crew would have known if that message had been sent and I expect Smith would have logged it. And as I said earlier, unless the other ship had acknowledged the warning (like Albert Smith claimed 50 years later), he could not have known that the other ship was the Titanic. Even if he found that out in retrospect after reaching port, he would had to log the encounter in the first place to be able to come to the correct conclusion 6 days later. Remember, in its 10-day voyage across the Atlantic, the Rappahannock would have passed several ships at night and Albert Smith would have to have a reason to specifically remember that particular encounter - unless he had duly logged it, of course.

The Carpathia reached New York on 18th April and the Rappahannock arrived in Gravesend the following day. By then the loss of the Titanic would have been world news and so Albert Smith and his crew would have heard about it. When Smith reported the encounter to his bosses at Furness-Withy offices, they probably would have asked for the log books. Also, by then there would have been press reports and speculations about the Californian having been in the vicinity etc.

Stanley Lord first testified at the American Inquiry on Friday 26th April 1912, the very same day that Albert Smith or someone at Furness-Withy sent that cable to The New York Times; the paper published the account on the following morning's edition. But the date of the encounter was said to have been Saturday 13th April 1912. Since this was an expensive cable, wording would have been limited and it is possible that the Morse Lamp warning was left out; or, NYT did not see its significance at the time. The point is that it was a bit too early for them to have realized the problems that Lord and the crew of the Californian would have in the months and years to come. But by the time Lord got around to testifying at the British Inquiry on Tuesday 14th May 1912, things would have been looking rather more grim for them and Furness-Withy would have taken note. That could have given them the incentive to avoid being dragged into the mess themselves and so that could explain that letter they sent on 14th June 1912 to the Marine Department of the Board of Trade.

Fast forwarding to 1962, Albert Smith, now pushing 80 years of age, sent that letter to The Daily Telegraph expressing his dissatisfaction about further attempts to vindicate Captain Lord etc. But in that letter (unlike in the 1912 cable to NYT) he specifically alluded to the Morse Lamp warning that he 'personally' sent to the Titanic and their grateful acknowledgment. Even allowing for age related memory lapses and the latitude normally accorded to an old sea dog reminiscing, that is too involving to simply ignore. More than anything else, why would Albert Smith come-up with such a tall tale at that stage of his life?

But in that letter, Smith did not mention the wording of his Morse Lamp message to the Titanic 50 years earlier nor of the acknowledgment received. But Geoffrey Marcus, at the time starting to work on his book The Maiden Voyage, reportedly contacted (met?) Smith and presumably got further details from him. But by the time Marcus' book was published in 1969, Albert Smith had passed on. In the book, Marcus quotes the actual wording of the message; I do not have my copy of The Maiden Voyage to hand at present but would live to know if he mentions an reference source other than Albert Smith himself.

John Eaton and Charles Haas published their books Triumph & Tragedy in 1986 and Destination Disaster in 1987. I own both books, have then to hand and checked. Both books quote the Rapphannock's messages verbatim (just like Marcus' book) but claim that the exchange took place on Sunday 14th April 1912 rather than the night before. There is no reference section at all in Destination Disaster but there is a whole page in Triumph & Tragedy. There are a whole lot of acknowledgements both personal and corporate but both Geoffrey Marcus and The New York Times are conspicuously absent. However, Marcus is mentioned in passing in the Author's Introduction page without specific details but lauding his (and other) 'excellent' work.

One assumes that Eaton and Haas started working on their books no earlier than the early 1980s, by which time Albert Smith was long gone. All that was what made me wonder if there was another source for the wording of the Morse lamp messages that the Acting Captain of the Rappahannock claimed that he sent to and received from the Titanic on the night of Saturday 13th April 1912.

In summary, the Rappahannock encounter might be true or just an old sailor's yarn. But the various coincidental dates, that disclaimer letter from Furness-Withy, Albert Smith's statements and above all the Rappahannock's missing log makes me wonder if there was something there after all.
 
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Let us consider this as a possibility, no more. Personally, I have no fixed opinion about the so-called Rappahannock incident but it seems to be an interesting subject for research.

I'll just play the Devil's Advocate here.

IF that warning was sent at 10:30 pm at night via Morse Lamp, I doubt if any passenger on board the Rappahannock would have noticed. In 1962, Albert Smith claimed that he sent it "personally" but that has to be a figure of speech. A Chief Officer / Acting Captain would not have operated the Morse Lamp himself but got one of the crew to do so while he gave the wording of the message to be sent. So, the crew would have known if that message had been sent and I expect Smith would have logged it. And as I said earlier, unless the other ship had acknowledged the warning (like Albert Smith claimed 50 years later), he could not have known that the other ship was the Titanic. Even if he found that out in retrospect after reaching port, he would had to log the encounter in the first place to be able to come to the correct conclusion 6 days later. Remember, in its 10-day voyage across the Atlantic, the Rappahannock would have passed several ships at night and Albert Smith would have to have a reason to specifically remember that particular encounter - unless he had duly logged it, of course.

The Carpathia reached New York on 18th April and the Rappahannock arrived in Gravesend the following day. By then the loss of the Titanic would have been world news and so Albert Smith and his crew would have heard about it. When Smith reported the encounter to his bosses at Furness-Withy offices, they probably would have asked for the log books. Also, by then there would have been press reports and speculations about the Californian having been in the vicinity etc.

Stanley Lord first testified at the American Inquiry on Friday 26th April 1912, the very same day that Albert Smith or someone at Furness-Withy sent that cable to The New York Times; the paper published the account on the following morning's edition. But the date of the encounter was said to have been Saturday 13th April 1912. Since this was an expensive cable, wording would have been limited and it is possible that the Morse Lamp warning was left out; or, NYT did not see its significance at the time. The point is that it was a bit too early for them to have realized the problems that Lord and the crew of the Californian would have in the months and years to come. But by the time Lord got around to testifying at the British Inquiry on Tuesday 14th May 1912, things would have been looking rather more grim for them and Furness-Withy would have taken note. That could have given them the incentive to avoid being dragged into the mess themselves and so that could explain that letter they sent on 14th June 1912 to the Marine Department of the Board of Trade.

Fast forwarding to 1962, Albert Smith, now pushing 80 years of age, sent that letter to The Daily Telegraph expressing his dissatisfaction about further attempts to vindicate Captain Lord etc. But in that letter (unlike in the 1912 cable to NYT) he specifically alluded to the Morse Lamp warning that he 'personally' sent to the Titanic and their grateful acknowledgment. Even allowing for age related memory lapses and the latitude normally accorded to an old sea dog reminiscing, that is too involving to simply ignore. More than anything else, why would Albert Smith come-up with such a tall tale at that stage of his life?

But in that letter, Smith did not mention the wording of his Morse Lamp message to the Titanic 50 years earlier nor of the acknowledgment received. But Geoffrey Marcus, at the time starting to work on his book The Maiden Voyage, reportedly contacted (met?) Smith and presumably got further details from him. But by the time Marcus' book was published in 1969, Albert Smith had passed on. In the book, Marcus quotes the actual wording of the message; I do not have my copy of The Maiden Voyage to hand at present but would live to know if he mentions an reference source other than Albert Smith himself.

John Eaton and Charles Haas published their books Triumph & Tragedy in 1986 and Destination Disaster in 1987. I own both books, have then to hand and checked. Both books quote the Rapphannock's messages verbatim (just like Marcus' book) but claim that the exchange took place on Sunday 14th April 1912 rather than the night before. There is no reference section at all in Destination Disaster but there is a whole page in Triumph & Tragedy. There are a whole lot of acknowledgements both personal and corporate but both Geoffrey Marcus and The New York Times are conspicuously absent. However, Marcus is mentioned in passing in the Author's Introduction page without specific details but lauding his (and other) 'excellent' work.

One assumes that Eaton and Haas started working on their books no earlier than the early 1980s, by which time Albert Smith was long gone. All that was what made me wonder if there was another source for the wording of the Morse lamp messages that the Acting Captain of the Rappahannock claimed that he sent to and received from the Titanic on the night of Saturday 13th April 1912.

In summary, the Rappahannock encounter might be true or just an old sailor's yarn. But the various coincidental dates, that disclaimer letter from Furness-Withy, Albert Smith's statements and above all the Rappahannock's missing log makes me wonder if there was something there after all.
I don't have the books that you have so I couldn't comment on the wording of the message. I read thru the threads on this and have come to the conclusion that he was remembering something that he came to believe happened over the years but in fact it didn't. Even his 1912 cable to the Times wasn't accurate. He stated that he didn't understand how Titanic could come to strike an ice pack. She didn't. She struck a solo ice berg. You would think by the 26th everybody knew it was a berg she stuck. Also in his 1912 message he never mentions being in command or an acting captain. That also seems to have been added to the later story. Maybe he meant he was the O.O.D. I didn't see where in either story he used the words "acting Captain". So I don't I don't know where that came from. When I was in the Navy I think the Skipper would have taken issue with an O.O.D. saying he was now the Captain. But maybe they did things different back in those days. Cheers.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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I read thru the threads on this and have come to the conclusion that he was remembering something that he came to believe happened over the years but in fact it didn't. Even his 1912 cable to the Times wasn't accurate. He stated that he didn't understand how Titanic could come to strike an ice pack. She didn't. She struck a solo ice berg. You would think by the 26th everybody knew it was a berg she stuck.
That's possible but to me its seems that exchanging Morse Lamp signals in the middle of an ocean is not something one would forget easily. Also, the tone of his 1962 letter (irrespective of how much one believes or otherwise), suggests that he was quite compos mentis at the time. As for the NYT cable and publication, the newspaper editor would have had to formulate a readable story out of the information in the cable and so things like "iceberg" "pack ice" etc could get mixed-up. Remember, on 26th April 1912 it as less than 2 weeks after the disaster, the American Inquiry was in progress and so the Titanic would have been very much in the news. The NYT in all probability had to handle several cables related to the disaster each day.
Also in his 1912 message he never mentions being in command or an acting captain. That also seems to have been added to the later story. Maybe he meant he was the O.O.D. I didn't see where in either story he used the words "acting Captain".
I recall reading somewhere (probably in that link you sent) that the actual Captain of the Rappahannock was sick at the time. In any case, the Chief Officer would have been a senior and responsible position. But more than anything else, the disclaimer letter from Furness-Withy suggests to me that there was a bit of cover-up on progress at their end. The most logical conclusion is that by then they saw what Stanley Lord & the Californian was going through and others like Captain Moore of the Mount Temple having to testify against raised eyebrows at their position. A relatively small company like Furness-Withy probably decided that it was best to avoid being involved and a Chief Officer in his early 30s would not have been difficult to convince to go along. But 50 years down the line, the entire matter would have been an entirely different prospect to Albert Smith.

Also, I have great respect for the personnel involved in the book OASOG. I feel that if they thought it was a hoax, they would not have mentioned it at all. The fact that the Rappahannock encounter is mentioned as a possibility suggests that they were willing to consider it, if not authenticate it completely.
 
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The article that Harland posted (#42 above) was written by Dave Gittins. As Dave said, "Given the navigational evidence and the time elapsed between the two accounts, it appears safe to categorise Albert Smith's 1962 story as an old sailor's yarn." Also note that there was nothing in the Apr 27th 1912 story in the Times that said anything about an ice warning being given. As for the often quoted message from the 1962 account, the Rappahannock was nowhere near Titanic at 10:30pm on the night of Apr 14th as Dave explained quite well.

As I once said, extraordinary claims seem to follow in the wake of great historical events.
 

Julian Atkins

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Hi Arun,

I'm with Sam over all this. I hope I will get this right tonight, as per Paul Lee's book ... 'Titanic and The Indifferent Stranger' (!, and suitably corrected by Sam on another thread the other week).

Paul's book contains many many claims of other ships' passengers and crew claiming things that can be demonstrably proven to be incorrect of sightings of Titanic related matters.

And of the Rappahannock... does it really matter at all? Not to me.

Titanic had enough ice warning messages. By drips and drabs they eventually became clear by the time of the Ryan case.

I would myself concentrate more on the Parisian message that Titanic forwarded on as a partially unexplored extra ice warning report, rather than the Rappahannock nonsense.

We could even have another good debate over the Mesaba message to Titanic.

But the Rappahannock - it's just fancy, isn't it? And a dead end of no consequence?

I would instead regard the Parisian as worthy of consideration and research beyond that which Sam and others have undertaken.

Cheers,
Julian
 
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Arun Vajpey

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As for the often quoted message from the 1962 account, the Rappahannock was nowhere near Titanic at 10:30pm on the night of Apr 14th
I think it is just about universally accepted now that the encounter could NOT have taken place on Sunday. But is there a small chance than an encounter could have taken place the previous night, Saturday 13th April 1912? After all, the Rapphannock started on its eastbound journey on 9th April and must have 'crossed' the path of the westbound Titanic at some point, even though it might not have been within visible distance as claimed by Albert Smith.
Also note that there was nothing in the Apr 27th 1912 story in the Times that said anything about an ice warning being given.
True and maybe that did not happen. But if Albert Smith or Furness-Withy Line sent The New York Times office a cable, would it have been worded like a letter giving all the details? Also, would the NYT not need to edit it for publication? Might the allusion to a Morse Lamp message been overlooked?

As I said, I accept that the whole Rappahannock story might well be a yarn, which means that Albert Smith was either mistaken or telling a tall tale as a young sailor in 1912. After all, someone sent that cable to NYT.

Also, specific details aside, I thought that it is rather unusual for that yarn to be carried over to 50 years later. In 1912 Albert Smith was a Chief Officer in his early 30s, hopeful of further progression and 4 stripes at some stage. Would he have risked sending that cable to NYT on a mere speculation or falsehood? One can consider it a yarn if the 80-something Smith had mentioned the encounter for the first time in 1962, but I doubt of he would have risked his career with such a claim in 1912.

It also leaves two issues unexplained. That "disclaimer" type letter that Furness-Withy wrote to the Marine Department of the Board Of Trade on 14th June 1912 and the actual source of the wording of the supposed Morse Lamp exchange between the Rappahannock and the Titanic; Geoffrey Marcus might have got it from Albert Smith himself but what about Eaton & Haas over 15 years later? They do not mention it in their acknowledgments.


And of the Rappahannock... does it really matter at all?
Well, that depends on the way one looks at it. It is like asking "Does it matter which side the first funnel fell?" or "Does it matter which lifeboat Robert Daniel was on?". This entire forum is about discussing such Titanic related matters by us enthusiasts and sometimes such 'matters' might well be trivial. IMO, as long as it does not become too repetitive or descend to silliness, it is all right.

Plenty of "outsiders" have asked me why I bother so much about the Titanic, something that happened over 100 years ago and "does it really matter now?" etc. I believe you know the answer, as well as most other ET members. :)
 
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But is there a small chance than an encounter could have taken place the previous night, Saturday 13th April 1912?
Arun, the problem I have about a visual encounter taking place around 10:30pm Sat is that Titanic would have been about 440 miles from the westbound Corner point on the GC route from Fastnet Light (at the western tip of Ireland), while Rappahannock should have been by then on the eastbound GC route toward Bishop Rock Light (at the westernmost part of the Isles of Scilly). The eastbound Corner point is 60 miles due south of the westbound Corner point. As you see from the attached, the two vessels would have separated by at least that and more both being east of their respective Corner points and well out of visual range.

As I said above, extraordinary claims seem to follow in the wake of great historical events.
1623777934413.png
 
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Jim Currie

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I don't have the books that you have so I couldn't comment on the wording of the message. I read thru the threads on this and have come to the conclusion that he was remembering something that he came to believe happened over the years but in fact it didn't. Even his 1912 cable to the Times wasn't accurate. He stated that he didn't understand how Titanic could come to strike an ice pack. She didn't. She struck a solo ice berg. You would think by the 26th everybody knew it was a berg she stuck. Also in his 1912 message he never mentions being in command or an acting captain. That also seems to have been added to the later story. Maybe he meant he was the O.O.D. I didn't see where in either story he used the words "acting Captain". So I don't I don't know where that came from. When I was in the Navy I think the Skipper would have taken issue with an O.O.D. saying he was now the Captain. But maybe they did things different back in those days. Cheers.
Actually, if the Captain is ill or is landed ashore or for any reason, cannot take command, the next in line is the Chief Officer or First Mate. The same thing happens down the ranks. In the Discharge Book at the end of the voyage, it is noted as "Acting".
Note that all the press illustrations appearing after the event show Titanic in a field of small ice with icebergs in attendance which was totally untrue.

If such a communication did occur on Saturday or Sunday, it would have happened half an hour into Murdoch's Watch and on Sunday night, the Lookouts Fleet or Lee would have remembered it. Fleet was asked if he had seen any lights before he left the crows nest and answered "no".
"17429. Did you see this light on the port bow before you left the crow’s -nest?
- No, "

If Titanic had been in communication with another vessel using her morse lights, it would have blinded the lookouts temporarily and it happening so soon before collision would have reminded Lee.

If this happened on Saturday, then as Sam pointed out, Titanic was way to the eastward of The Corner. Morse Light communication with an east-bound vessel was more than likely since the courses may have converged so far east - particularly if the vessel in question had a problem with her steering. However, if this did happen, the main concern of those on Titanic would have been the safety of the Rappahannock. Assured of that, they would assume as they did with other ice warnings, that any ice she had met with would be long gone by the time they reached the location.

I am inclined to go along with Julian's view that this is a sideline that ends in a cul de sac.
 
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