The SS Californian and Dundee: Scotland's Forgotten Leviathan (Paper)

Rob Lawes

Rob Lawes

Member
I spent the best part of my train journey to work this morning staring into my phone intently, trying to view these pictures with greater detail. That's not easy on a smart phone I can assure you.

Now, on the subject of void spaces below the flying bridge, it may have been the case on the port side but I firmly believe on the starboard side, forward of what we now agree was the transverse passage door, there are windows in the bulkhead suggesting that it's either Lord's cabin or the Chartroom on the other side. A door to the lower wheel house must have been internally through the Chartroom regardless of where it was placed because I couldn't imagine for a second the change of watch walking through the Captain's cabin.

Interestingly, the correct layout taken from the sketches above must be a combination of bits of all of them.

Lots more to consider and review.

Rob
 
H

Harland Duzen

Member
In response to the above, I would say that Leslie Harrison's drawings (with the exception of the Smoking Room entrance) is the most accurate of the two versions in regards to where the skylights were and geography of the quarters.
 
Rob Lawes

Rob Lawes

Member
Californian was at Wallsend From between October 9th - 12th and subsequently was never docked for an extended period

As soon as you mentioned Wallsend, it called to mind the most famous ship building name that is associated with that area which was Swan Hunter. Most famously they manufactured the Mauretania for Cunard.

A little bit of a google search brought up the fact that a company under the control of Swan Hunter called the Wallsend Slipway and Engineering Company looked after the ship repair side of work for Swans. The chances are that this yard may have been responsible for the work on Californian.

The Leyland Line did have ships built by Hawthorn Leslie and Company further up river at a place called Hebburn.

I wonder if Marconi fitts were done at a specific yard under contract through Marconi or if the line requesting an instillation chose the dockyard where the work was to be carried out?

Also, if the work was carried out in Wallsend under the control of Swan Hunters then, if they surrived, their company records may contain the engineering drawings showing the revision to the Californian's internal layout. This would be required for the running of cables, arials, building shelving and cabinets in etc.

I'll keep digging.
 
Julian Atkins

Julian Atkins

Member
Hi Rob,

I was aware Hawthorn Leslie and Co built steam locomotives, but that was news to me they also built ships!

Assuming the Marconi apparatus on The Californian was fitted inside what was originally a 'Mail Room' on the main deck, I would imagine the big bits of equipment would fit through that door on the main deck lifted by 4 hefty lads (there were also openings on this level on the sides). I would not have thought the conversion would have taken more than a week, including testing. I did search specifically through the Oxford Marconi Archive catalogue online to see whether there were any documents that might refer to all this, but could not find any catalogued.

I suspect any shipyard would have tendered competitively for these contracts, and the actual fitting out and installation being in the hands of Marconi employees.

Cheers,

Julian
 
Rob Lawes

Rob Lawes

Member
Hi Julian, I refer you to my post #16 in this thread concerning the potential half sisters to Californian. The two ships in question were built by Hawthorn Leslie and Co.

I'm intrigued as to how the process of contracting, purchasing and fitting the Marconi set worked.

Obviously the Leyland Line would have met representatives of Marconi, the vessel surveyed and a list of works and costs drawn up. Did Marconi have a preferred dockyard? Did Marconi carry out the installation or was the work carried out in the dockyard on behalf of Marconi with the wireless company responsible for the setting to work and trials? As I've speculated, for a retrofit, there must have been a survey and scheme of work with drawings made up. Did they survive and in who's hands?

All good and interesting avenues for study.

Rob

In other news, I'm trying to get my head around the location of the door / opening on the port side under the flying bridge. While I agree that the location of the door is aft of what would have been the side of the unused lower wheelhouse, I feel its too far forward for the cross passage area. That then begs the question, what would be the point of a door access to a void space? If that space was under a skylight then you couldn't store anything in there as it would block the light.

Was it a fan space? Did Californian have a ventilation system? If that was the case, the door would make sense but the skylight wouldn't.
 
Julian Atkins

Julian Atkins

Member
Hi Julian, I refer you to my post #16 in this thread concerning the potential half sisters to Californian. The two ships in question were built by Hawthorn Leslie and Co.

I'm intrigued as to how the process of contracting, purchasing and fitting the Marconi set worked.

Obviously the Leyland Line would have met representatives of Marconi, the vessel surveyed and a list of works and costs drawn up. Did Marconi have a preferred dockyard? Did Marconi carry out the installation or was the work carried out in the dockyard on behalf of Marconi with the wireless company responsible for the setting to work and trials? As I've speculated, for a retrofit, there must have been a survey and scheme of work with drawings made up. Did they survive and in who's hands?

All good and interesting avenues for study.

Rob

In other news, I'm trying to get my head around the location of the door / opening on the port side under the flying bridge. While I agree that the location of the door is aft of what would have been the side of the unused lower wheelhouse, I feel its too far forward for the cross passage area. That then begs the question, what would be the point of a door access to a void space? If that space was under a skylight then you couldn't store anything in there as it would block the light.

Was it a fan space? Did Californian have a ventilation system? If that was the case, the door would make sense but the skylight wouldn't.


Hi Rob,

Yes I had taken note of your post 16 re Hawthorn Leslie, and my reply above was a delayed reply!

I also totally accept your point above re the apparent port side door in Harland's enlarged pic.

I suppose if a door looks like a door it must be a door!

We probably won't know for sure till someone takes pics of The Californian as sunk on the sea bed.

It is a shame that The Californian was not better documented and more pics taken of her that are known today. I think Harland has done great work in this respect. The odd picture might still turn up...

Years ago there was a shop just off Portsmouth Hard on Queen Street that to me (then totally uninterested in ships) seemed to have thousands of pics for sale of RN Ships and MN ships. A bit further along was a tailors where my brother bought his RN 'dress uniform' and studs for his front shirt, and had his wedding reception at what is now the Royal Maritime Club on Queens Street close to The Hard.

I am quite sure there are more pics to be discovered of The Californian!

Cheers,

Julian
 
Rob Lawes

Rob Lawes

Member
Hi Julian

The shop you refer to, now sadly long closed, was Wright and Logans. They held one of the largest archives of official pictures of British ships which they had made up and sold in postcard size. I bought a few as a child with my pocket money every time we visited Portsmouth.

As for pictures of Californian, I guess between 1902 and 1912 she was just another steamer thumping around the oceans. Totally unremarkable in almost every way. After 1912 she became infamous but I guess, again it was more about the crew than the ship. A detailed wreck survey would shed more light but it would all depend on condition and if she lay upright on the sea bed.

An impressive number of ships whose names are linked to the night of April 14th were sunk in action during WW1.

Some further thoughts on fitting out times.

The 9th of October was a Monday. When you look at it a bit more closely then you need to consider that Californian would have gone alongside on the 9th depending on tides, this could have been morning, afternoon or night, and she would have sailed on Thursday 12th, again depending on tide times, morning noon or night. So in reality she would have had just 2 full days alongside.

That really doesn't seem long enough to fit out a cabin, wire a new system in and set it to work before trials.

I'm also struggling to make sense of the Brunswick Pd Lizard reference in the sailing notice.

The Lizard is obviously in Cornwall and the UK's most southerly point. But the only Brunswick's I know are in the US or Canada and more than 3 days sail away given she was supposed to arrive on.the 15th.
 
H

Harland Duzen

Member
I / we could be wrong that Californian had her Wireless fitted in Wallsend since the original article only said she was "docked and painted". That being said I presume they would need a crane or calm waters to rig the "Inverted L" antenna to the masts and would make more sense to do it in dock rather than out at sea (unless Evans wasn't the first operator and was just mistaken, but we have nothing to prove that).

Also I won't say too much about the lack of Californian Photos again, But I will admit I am baffled by the lack of high quality ones available. Back to Topic!

*Also while unrelated, I do recall seeing on the BNA a article from early 1911 which mentioned another ship having a wireless fitted at Wallsend, so it certainly was done and doable.

I'm also struggling to make sense of the Brunswick Pd Lizard reference in the sailing notice.

The Lizard is obviously in Cornwall and the UK's most southerly point. But the only Brunswick's I know are in the US or Canada and more than 3 days sail away given she was supposed to arrive on.the 15th.

Forgive me if I misunderstand your confusion Rob, but Lloyd's description for the October 19th 1911 Edition was stating that Brunswick (presumably in America like you say) was her eventual destination and at the time of writing the update, the last news they had heard from her was she had passed the Lizard on October 15th. I think by that point, Californian was out in the Atlantic.
_____________________________
Note: I probably should have added the table underneath the Lloyd's description that explained from Left to Right:

Name | Nationality | Tonnage | Port of Departure | Destination | Latest Reports

Hope that clears up any confusion, sorry.
 
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Rob Lawes

Rob Lawes

Member
Thanks for clearing that up Harland. So, she sailed from Wallsend on the 12th and passed the Lizard on the 15th for the destination of Brunswick.

In my experience fitting replacement or upgraded equipment to the various ships I've served on, a week would be a realistic time frame for the instillation of a piece of kit into the existing infrastructure.

My gut instinct would be for a period of around 10 days to do the sort of work Californian required but if you plan a job well enough and throw enough resources at it, time is flexible.

I fully agree Harland the aerial instillation would have to be done in harbour. A tile berth would be fine as there would be no requirement to go into dry dock.

The key thing here is what information was supplied to the instillation team in advance.

If similar rooms on other Leyland ships had already been converted then a lot of the work may have been completed. I wonder if there was a mail room in more or less the same location on similar sized Leyland Line ships?
 
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Rob Lawes

Rob Lawes

Member
Further to my last, Wallsend to the Lizard is very very roughly 800 nautical miles steaming which at an average of 10 knots is 3 days sail which fits nicely.
 
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