Titanic's Rockets - Senan Molony


Dec 2, 2000
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Senan,
Haven't had the pleasure of "meeting" you here before, but I just wanted to say that your article was excellent. It was something that I had always wondered about, but never knew all the details that you have provided. You brought me through the thought process and that also helped and assisted with the aupport of your theory. Thanks, great job! MAureen.
 
May 12, 2005
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Senan,

Thanks for a really interesting article.

Just a thought, though: if the rockets were fired "simultaneously" or practically simultaneously from 2 positions forward on the boat deck, wouldn't they still have looked like a single rocket from a great distance?

The Californian saw eight rockets. If the Titanic fired 16 to 18 this would have looked like 8 or 9 from a distance, right? I mean, isn't it at least plausible that individual streaks and sparks would have fused into one continuous column as viewed from a great distance?

I wonder if that's the reason for the discrepancy rather than the idea of a third ship in the vicinity of the Titanic and Californian?

Randy
 

Jason D. Tiller

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Hi Senan!

Thank you very much for a really interesting article. It was excellent and it's something I've always wondered about as well.

I don't accept Lord Mersey's conclusion one little bit that only eight rockets were fired from the Titanic that fateful night. I believe several more were fired and from both sides of the ship. Great job!

Best regards,

Jason D. Tiller
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Hello, Senan:

With all due respect -- and you've certainly put in a good deal of effort here -- I had more than a few questions/comments about the article:

1) Extracts from the U.S. Senate Inquiry are not identified as to page, making it exceptionally difficult to appraise the context of the original source. (It's pretty standard to cite US### as page number, similar to what you used for the British question numbers.) Would you consider including these in a revised edition?

2) The "supporting" observation that Gibson of the Californian "only saw 3" rockets is of very little merit, considering that it's well established that Gibson was below decks when the other five were fired, and that there's no disagreement on this between Stone and Gibson. Including this Gibson anecdote has all the weight of saying "Ernest Gill only saw 2!" (So what of it? He went back to bed.)

3) I feel there's a major logical fallacy employed in your case-making for the multiple firing positions. At first I really couldn't understand how you were construing this from the testimony cited, until I realized you seemed to be alleging that every "you" question implied "you" exclusively in the singular, not plural. Alas, modern English makes no such distinction -- a sound argument for a return to "thee" and "thou" -- and the case based on such an assumption is a shaky one indeed. Re-read in the proper context, most of these excerpts are totally ambiguous as to number, and could well have been asked, or answered, or both with "you" meaning an individual, a team, or everyone on the ship. And the assertion that "you", asked of Bright and/or Rowe, automatically means these two men only equally escapes me.

4) While you point out quite correctly that there are discrepancies in the various "Titanic" accounts about the firing intervals, you neglect to point out key concordances between those accounts and the observations on Californian.You report:
Meanwhile his description of rockets going up - sometimes together, or at one-minute intervals - is totally at odds with Boxhall’s telling the Inquiry that he himself was firing rockets at intervals of (15399) "probably five minutes".​
But you don't include:
7842. Did they come in quick succession? - At intervals of about three or four minutes. (Stone)​
This is in complete agreement with Boxhall and Lightoller (within a small margin of error), and conflicts strongly only with the one account -- Symons' -- which is also the ONLY account to claim such frequency.


There are other other objections. There are too many bits of evidence you cite with phrases like "strongly suggests", etc., that really don't gel at all. At best, many of them "may imply", but much too speculatively to be considered firm evidence. Likewise, excerpts from the testimony where an individual has said "I think ..." later put forth as "he says" are misleading as to the degree of certainty expressed.

Please don't get me entirely wrong here. While there are a number of things I did not like about the article, it's not that it isn't a good effort. It's just that without further critical review and tightening by yourself, this boat is too leaky to float. (And I'm willing to be convinced, but CONVINCE me.)

Regards,
John M. Feeney
 

Senan Molony

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I have no intention of entering into an argument as to the merits or demerits of my article, which is for others to judge.
However John M. Feeney misses my passing point in relation to Jim Gibson, apprentice officer, ss Californian.
The point is that Gibson came onto the Californian bridge at 1am Californian time and stayed there until the Leyland Liner's nearby vessel had moved out of sight.
In the hour from 1am to 2am Californian time, Gibson and Stone together saw only three rockets.
Three. Ignore for a moment the rockets that Stone saw alone. He and Gibson saw three when they were together over an hour and more from 1am by Gibson's evidence.
It is unknown how Californian time related to Titanic time. Californian time was ahead of Titanic time before midnight; thereafter it is slightly problematic. Both inquiries cut the Gordian knot by deciding that Californian and Titanic times were interchangeable throughout.
No matter which vessel had what time, the difference was not so considerable as to make any significant difference when one is considering the reality that Titanic rocket firings were contemporaneous with Californian sightings in the hour from 1am to 2am Californian time.
Gibson and Stone watched from 1am to 2am Californian time and saw three rockets. Three.
Boxhall and Rowe agree that they were firing rockets until 1.45am. Bright was also involved. Rowe and Boxhall both agree on this time, and Rowe's said he was involved in firings for forty minutes after being summoned by Boxhall.
If we accept Boxhall's five minute intervals and also accept a "similarity" between Californian and Titanic times, then it means that three men firing rockets over 40 or 45 minutes on the Titanic nonetheless resulted in two men on the Californian seeing only three rockets in the same timeframe.
Even if three men were firing from only one rocket position aboard Titanic, the situation is absurd...
Are we really to believe those three men managed to fire only three rockets between them in three quarters of an hour?
Common sense dictates otherwise.
 

Inger Sheil

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Not writing this to comment on Senan’s arguments per se — we’ve gone a few rounds on this before (not so much specifically on the number of rockets, however). At times, we have differed quite emphatically on issues relating to the Californian.

Research into the Titanic is dominated by too many accepted ‘facts’ — really interpretations of the data that have been elevated to the status of truth. I believe strongly that these ‘truths’ should be periodically examined, in some instances questioned, and perhaps in some instances the canonical interpretation should be reappraised.

This doesn’t mean that one needs to assume that every challenge to an accepted interpretation is valid, that every divergent account has the weight of truth, or that we should tear up the existing bulk of research and start from scratch. What we should do, however, is be prepared to listen, investigate for ourselves, and if necessary adapt to new ideas.

I don’t always agree with Senan, but I do admire his absolute vigilance against intellectual laziness — even when that means embracing a controversial view (alright, sometimes I’ve told him what I thought he was full of, but I admire him and his mental vigour anyway).

I’m not going to accept his arguments on the distress signals as he’s presented them at face value — any more than I accept any interpretation of data without critical examination. But what he has done is raised questions, and made me think that it would be worthwhile, when the opportunity presents itself, to return to the witness accounts and re-examine them and the points he has raised.

Ing
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Senan, I liked it when I read it and I like it now. And I believe that the above reason that Ing sites is why I thought it was good, becuase it makes you begin to think about exactly what was said and whether or not they were using the kings English or the Queens (we). (sorry)...seriously, I began to think about the inquiries and what was said. I find it hard to believe that between three men that out of forty eight possible rockets, that these three men only managed eight rockets. Only eight were sent up in this emergency. They now knew the gravity of their situation and reaching the "other ship" was critical.

I am no expert on much of anything here and all of you are much more professional in your base of knoweldge,...but I say that Senan makes a good case that merits looking into.

It also takes a lot of work to place something out there and I admire you for doing so. Maureen.
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Inger Sheil wrote:

But what he has done is raised questions, and made me think that it would be worthwhile, when the opportunity presents itself, to return to the witness accounts and re-examine them and the points he has raised.
---------------------------------------------------------------------

Oh, I don't deny this, and I came to basically the same conclusion. I'd also like very much to be able to go back to the testimony and dig a little deeper. This, in fact, was what I started to do when I began to realize how limited the actual citations were. Which is why I raised my first major point above, and *made* it my first major point. (It's also true that the Gibson account is not attributed with any specificity, though it is from the readily citeable British Inquiry.)

Now please don't get me wrong here. I would never slight anyone for making a serious attempt at research. Nor am I in any way calling you a liar, Senan. Those quotes that I *could* follow up on, since they were precisely identified, seemed quite reasonable. My frustration was that most of your excerpts were not well cited, making it truly difficult for the reader to reference them. (And it's really not that hard to do.)

And you are quite right -- I did not recognize the significance you were attributing to the "three within one hour" portion of Gibson's account at that point in the article. But the flip side of this -- if you'll be a little open-minded about it -- is that maybe your intended meaning just doesn't stand out clearly enough. Which is simply an invitation to some editorial revision.

As for your opener, Senan -- "I have no intention of entering into an argument as to the merits or demerits of my article, which is for others to judge" -- I'm left completely in the dark as to what possible meaning this has. I mean, I *am* one of those others. So isn't it a bit circular to say this? Certainly a man who listens only to his admires and ignores his critics ...

No, I think you have me entirely wrong here. I'm not arguing with your premise. I'm simply trying to point out that the somewhat journalistic style you've employed and lack of full citations does not make your case very effectively. The missing citations are a roadblock to serious inquiry. The logical non-sequiturs may ultimately be well founded, but they are nonetheless non-sequiturs. And the lack of a balanced treatment on the more tenuous elements put forth gives the paper all the markings of typically one-sided "Lordite" literature. It just doesn't behoove a historian to adopt a pet theory then extricate only the evidence that would support it. But that unfortunately is what the treatise comes across as in more than a few places.

I meant what I said originally. I'm more than willing to be convinced, but CONVINCE me. I'm not damning your premise in any way, I just don't feel you've really demonstrated it.

Just my opinion!

Sincerely,
John M. Feeney
 

Dave Gittins

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To use an expression well-known to Edwardians, Senan’s article on Titanic’s rockets is something of a curate’s egg. (Those who are not Edwardians can look it up!) Rather as literary critics can comb a Shakespearian text and find meanings never dreamed of by the Bard, Senan has taken the text of the US and British enquiries and analysed it in a degree of detail which it will not bear. By giving strict meanings to imprecise words like “you” he has constructed interpretations which cannot be justified. By trying to reconcile the accounts of numerous witnesses of varying credibility, he has produced a scenario that is seriously flawed.

He is on sound ground concerning the number of rockets fired. Lord Mersey appears to have followed Lightoller when he states that “about eight” were fired. This is typical of the tendency of both Senator Smith and Mersey to favour the evidence of the senior surviving officer. One example of this is the conclusion that the ship sank intact, as Lightoller thought, though others did not. It would be more accurate to say that “about a dozen” were fired, following the evidence of Boxhall and Pitman.

If about a dozen were fired at intervals of about five minutes, we can account for the rockets seen by Stone and Gibson on Californian being spread over about one hour. The fact that they only saw eight of the dozen need not indicate that Californian was a great distance off. For much of the time, Stone was alone on the bridge and if he was keeping a proper watch it was his duty to scan the whole horizon, rather than staring at the ship and its rockets. He could easily have failed to see some of the rockets. He would have been in for a rocket himself if say, Mauretania, had come charging over the horizon, unseen by him. Gibson is an unconvincing observer. He says that after the first eight rockets he saw three more rockets, but one was on a quite different bearing from the others. That does not give a good impression of his observational skill. Stone’s own description of the last three rockets is very vague. Though Gibson was sure that they were rockets, to Stone they were unidentified lights. Altogether, I am quite prepared to accept that these two hapless mariners were capable of failing to see all the rockets fired.

So far, I largely agree with Senan, but when he brings in “Californian’s own nearby ship”, I must bluntly disagree. This remarkable ship, whose identity has never been discovered, must meet several curious criteria.

It must have been manned by officers and crew who were either blind to Titanic’s signals or culpably ignoring them. If the latter, the matter was covered up totally, a feat quite beyond Captain Lord.

The ship, as seen from Titanic, must have mimicked Californian’s motion, showing Titanic her lights in the same sequence as Californian would have, as she slowly turned around. From Californian, she managed to look rather like the distant Titanic and vanish at about the time Titanic sank.

The ship somehow happened to stay exactly on a line between the rockets and Californian. This is a truly amazing coincidence. Even Stone realised that.

The ship somehow managed to sail away through the icefield without coming to harm.

In spite of efforts beginning in 1912, the mystery ship remains unidentified.

Senan develops a theory of two firing positions but he bases it on very flimsy evidence. He makes much of Symons’ remark that “rockets were going up simultaneously, every minute, minute intervals.” Firstly, Symons is the only one to place the rockets so close together. Secondly, nothing in the evidence is so shaky as estimations of time. A classic example comes from Frederick Scott, who had the engines running for about half an hour after the collision. Symons’ timing is a very frail support for a two firing point theory. We must also consider Symons’ use of the word, “simultaneously”. Symons was shown at Mersey’s enquiry to have a limited command of English. His repeated use of expressions like “master of the situation” and “using my own discretion” contrasted so sharply with his poor grammar that Lord Mersey strongly and probably correctly suspected that he had been coached by a solicitor. Symons’ evidence is confused and unsatisfactory in other ways. At one point the distant ship is a steamer. Soon after, it is a fishing vessel, five to ten miles off, regardless of the fact that the oil lights of a fishing boat would be invisible at such a distance. A single word from such a man must count for little.

As to the supposed two firing positions Senan is finding implications where none exist. Why shouldn’t Captain Smith give orders to a quartermaster, whether Boxhall was present or not? He was the captain! Actually, Hardy did not even say he gave orders. “He was superintending the rockets, calling out to the quartermaster about the rockets.”

Rowe says he used the port Morse light, which he would naturally do, as it was the one on the side where the distant ship lay. It doesn’t prove he also fired signals on the port side. The Morse key was probably in the wheelhouse anyway. On the starboard side, naturally Boxhall ordered people to stand clear. He was the officer and would have given orders whether the quartermasters were there or not. Also, it may not take three men to fire distress signals but extra hands would be useful. The signals consisted of several parts that had to be carefully assembled and somebody would have to check the socket for burning debris before reloading. To imply that Bright’s statement that “Rowe and I, and Mr Boxhall” fired rockets indicates two parties is stretching the language too far.

The starting time for the rockets is contentious if we accept Boxhall’s evidence about putting the lanyard away as the phone rang. However, Boxhall’s evidence is so conflicting with other witnesses that I think he must be mistaken. Four observers were sure that the rockets began after boat 7 was lowered. They were Hendrickson, Pitman, Lowe and Duff-Gordon.

Hendrickson.

4992. Then after the boats were lowered that you had been assisting in, where did you go
?–To the starboard side of the deck.
4993. Did you see any people there ?–Yes, there were not so many there as there were on
the other side in the first place. There were a good many there.
4994. Did you do anything on the starboard side ?–The boatswain called me and asked me to
1end him a hand with the boat on the after side of the bridge.
4995. That is this little bridge which is there. No. 1 boat, was it not? –Yes.
4996, Did you assist to lower that ?–To clear it– to clear the rope away and everything.
4997. Who were there at that boat ?–I could not say ; I knew the boatswain was there and an
officer, and at the time the officer started firing rockets.

Pitman.

Senator SMITH. You saw those signals of distress, did you, from the Titanic?
Mr. PITMAN. Yes.
Senator SMITH. And you saw about a dozen or so of them?
Mr. PITMAN. It may have been a dozen or it may have been more, sir.
Senator SMITH. When was this? When did you first see them; before you left the Titanic?
Mr. PITMAN. No; shortly after.
Senator SMITH. Did you see any while you were aboard the Titanic, any of that character?
Mr. PITMAN. None were fired.
Senator SMITH. None were fired?

Lowe.

Senator SMITH. Did Mr. Ismay assist in filling that boat?
Mr. LOWE. Yes; he assisted there, too.
Senator SMITH. You found him there when you turned from No. 5 to No. 3?
Mr. LOWE. He was there, and I distinctly remember seeing him alongside of me - that is, by
my side - when the first detonator went off. I will tell you how I happen to remember it so
distinctly. It was because the flash of the detonator lit up the whole deck, I did not know who
Mr. Ismay was then, but I learned afterwards who he was, and he was standing alongside of
me.

Duff-Gordon.

12496. Were they firing rockets at that time?–Yes, they had just begun while they were
lowering No. 3 life-boat.

All these witnesses place the first signals after boat 7 was launched, indicating that Boxhall was not firing them as early as Senan suggests.

It is not clear that Boxhall could have fired signals earlier. It is not clear exactly what Rowe and Bright brought to the bridge. It would make sense if the dangerous detonators were stored well away from the explosive charges and the pyrotechnics. Boxhall may well have had the main parts of the signals on hand in the wheelhouse and been unable to fire them until the detonators were brought forward.

To cut a long story short, I suggest that the conventional account is not far wide of the mark, except for the number of signals fired. Firing began at some time between 12-45 and 1-00 and continued for about one hour at intervals of 3 to 5 minutes. About 12 were fired but Stone and Gibson did not see all of them, as they did not watch them continuously. Lord Mersey put excessive faith in Lightoller’s evidence. I might add that, like Senator Smith, he also hopelessly over-estimated Californian’s ability to assist. All the same, at the end we are left with a basic fact. Stone, Gibson and Lord share responsibility for one of the more shameful episodes in the Titanic story.

In passing, I am not aware that Mersey was given to using Jewish passwords, which is what a shibboleth is.

Judges|12:6 Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he
said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce (it) right. Then
they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan.
 
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Senan Molony

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John M. Feeney wrote:

>>And the lack of a balanced treatment on the more tenuous elements put forth gives the paper all the markings of typically one-sided "Lordite" literature. It just doesn't behoove a historian to adopt a pet theory then extricate only the evidence that would support it. But that unfortunately is what the treatise comes across as in more than a few places. <<

It appears he is thus not enamoured of the idea that an argument that more rockets were fired could be relevant to the continuing discussions about Captain Lord - discussions which tend to be marked by intemperate use of language, of which I myself have been guilty in the past.

To say something is one-sided suggests the other side has been left out. In fact my interlocutor goes on to specifically make this charge by saying that only the evidence that would support a "pet theory" has been adduced.

It is time for him to support this charge with references. I look forward to seeing any germane quotation which I may have left out in order to be one-sided. My very point is two sides...! (a poor joke)...

What, exactly, are the arguments in favour of eight and only eight rockets being fired?

I can assure him and all others that I have referenced every single person who spoke at either or both Inquiries as to the *number* of rockets fired that night.

They are all there - and only Lightoller speaks of eight, "all on the starboard side." His brother officers, who also survived, speak of a "dozen or more" or "between half a dozen and a dozen," the latter from Boxhall (said by Lord Mersey to have fired 'about eight') in response to a question as to how many rockets you fired.

I am afraid that even if I sought to convince John M. Feeney - which I do not - then I would be unable to do, simply because the evidence in itself is insufficient. This I freely concede. I build a platform from stray planks. And for this reason -

Not enough witnesses were asked rocket-type questions. Few indeed were asked the same question... Rowe for instance was never asked "how many rockets did you fire?" much less "how many rockets did Titanic fire?" and thus offers us no number at all.

(The insufficiency of evidence suggests the number of rockets fired ought to be an open question, but some seem happy with what they have been told by an elderly land-based English judge. One who also told us that two torpedoes had struck the Lusitania.)

There is an obvious qualitative difference in the "you" and "Titanic" questions cited above. Obviously "How many rockets did Titanic fire?", followed by "and how many did you fire personally, and over what time?" would have been preferable.

What does a witness make of it when he is asked "how many rockets did you fire?"...
I have covered criminal trials for fifteen years and feel some insight into how a sworn witness, conscious that he is one of a succession, is likely to answer that question. He is not going to answer for anyone else. Witnesses rarely do. If they do, it is 'hearsay,' a point that led to a number of interventions in 1912.

The witness (all men in this instance) is most likely to answer for himself - or, if in any doubt as to whether "you-plural" is intended in the question, to query whether this is the case. Put yourself in a witness's shoes for a moment...

Of course we do not know what tone of voice or emphasis, or gestures, were made between counsel and witness box in 1912. I can only suggest that Boxhall is in no doubt as to what "you" meant in a question, nor Bright, who mentions only six rockets...

When Pitman is asked how many he saw (obviously an all-encompassing question) he responds that it may have been a dozen or it may have been more. He was the Third Officer. There is a distinct difference with Lightoller, who sees eight rockets as far as he can tell, "all fired from the starboard side."

Similarly Crawford is asked how many were fired and says a dozen, probably more. The question to him is uncontaminated, because he fired no rockets personally. But where are the succession of witnesses who say "eight, eight, eight..."?

There is another curiosity.

Boxhall never mentions firing rockets on the port side, but is clearly on the starboard side firing rockets for a considerable time.

Yet he signalled the mystery ship at the port side. (There were Morse lamps on both the port and starboard sides. We know Rowe used the port Morse lamp, and it is most likely that Boxhall, who testified to Morsing, used this lamp too.)
Now, one might think that human nature would lead one to fire rockets at a mystery ship, seen on the port side of a vessel, from the side on which the vessel is seen (port).

Is this unreasonable?

Or is it more likely that no rockets were fired here, but on what might be considered the distant or occluded side, where Lightoller saw eight rockets fired, "all on the starboard side."

Obviously rockets fired from either side will be seen equally well, but why signal with a Morse lamp on the port side and then dash across the bridge to the starboard side when either rail was equally good?

I meanwhile look forward to John M. Feeney's submission to this thread of the "missing" side from my argument. No doubt it will be exhaustive, not to say accompanied by US Inquiry page numbers.
 

Senan Molony

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Dave Gittins now tells us:

"It would be more accurate to say that “about a dozen” were fired, following the evidence of Boxhall and Pitman."

He also asserts:

"About 12 were fired but Stone and Gibson did not see all of them, as they did not watch them continuously."

There is a good deal of confidence being exhibited here as to numbers and, following this, as to the reason as to why some rockets may have been missed.

At the end of the day, the Californian is going to be the subject of questioning by the Titanic disaster Inquiries as soon as it is said that rockets were seen. Whether three rockets, eight rockets, or 108, the number is to some extent immaterial. Californian is certainly not lying about actually seeing 20, for instance, and only claiming 8. There is no conceivable motive to trim the account.

Dave also states:

"The fact that they only saw eight of the dozen need not indicate that Californian was a great distance off." He then describes Gibson and Stone as "hapless mariners...capable of failing to see all the rockets fired."

Hmmmm.

It should be remembered that the average distance ascribed to the Titanic's nearby ship was between 5-6 miles. Titanic witnesses could see her sidelights. She was so close they Morsed her. Yet two hapless mariners might not see one-third of the rockets this slumping Leviathan was firing.

They were on watch, but not watching when rockets were fired.

>>So far, I largely agree with Senan, but when he brings in “Californian’s own nearby ship”, I must bluntly disagree. All these witnesses place the first signals after boat 7 was launched, indicating that Boxhall was not firing them as early as Senan suggests. <

It is not I who say it. It is Boxhall. I wasn't there.
Dave suggests Boxhall is mistaken.
Perhaps he is hapless.
Dave then announces:

"All the same, at the end we are left with a basic fact. Stone, Gibson and Lord share responsibility for one of the more shameful episodes in the Titanic story."

A fact, you say?

I am meanwhile tempted to answer Dave's quote from the Good Book with the slice of Scripture that says "judge not, and ye shall not be judged."

He finally tells us what a shibboleth is, and that it is a "Jewish password."

In its modern, figurative usage, shibboleth has come to mean an "old-fashioned catchcry, a discredited dogma" which is the sense in which I use it in relation to Mersey's "eight-fired, eight-seen" coincidence.

Perhaps there are those who would still like to slay those who speak in a different tongue at the passages of.... Mersey.
 
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This forum is all new to me and I am certainly no expert. I have read a lot by the writers here of their posts and banterings here and there. But I have as yet not experienced this sort of back and forth "stuff".

Ernest Hemmingway I believe said that writing was like an iceberg, one only needs to expose an eighth of what he/she is trying to say to know that the 7/8 lurks there beneath the surface. He goes on to say that the reader will know th e rest. Of course I am badly paraphrasing him. But the point is that I found Senan's article as a mere whetting of the appetite for more.

And he is allowing the readers to find the truth there for themselves. Kind of like the first discovery of a mystery love where you see only the surface at first and yearn to seek the depth of that unknown mystery!
But I enjoyed the comments made. It is interesting to read how people come to their own conclusions.

And I still loved this piece and plan to snuggle with my books and dig deeper to seek this mystery anew! maureen.
 
D

Dave Billnitzer

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I have been following this exchange a little bit. Senan wrote this, in response to John's note:

"To say something is one-sided suggests the other side has been left out. In fact my interlocutor goes on to specifically make this charge by saying that only the evidence that would support a "pet theory" has been adduced.

It is time for him to support this charge with references."

Here is one example of one-sidedness I saw immediately. Senan, in your article, you wrote:

"In the hour from 1am to 2am Californian time, Gibson and Stone together saw only three rockets. Three. Ignore for a moment the rockets that Stone saw alone."

Why do you want us to "ignore" the rockets that Stone saw alone? It's misleading to rely only on Gibson's counts and estimates of time to suggest that they saw only three rockets between 1 and 2 am.

(Before we get to that, a better end-time for the rockets, using either Californian or Titanic time, would be 1:40 or there-abouts, not 2 am, and this shaves off a good twenty minutes off the clock that you used.)

First, when we do include the rockets that Stone saw alone, we come up against a discrepancy between Stone and Gibson. True, Gibson says he returned to the bridge five minutes before 1 am, and that he himself saw three rockets. However, Stone says that he first notified Capt Lord about the first five rockets at 1:15, and *then* he and Gibson saw the remaining three.

Second, IF Stone's times are accurate, this sequence places those last rockets occuring sometime between 1:15 and 1:40 am, which is roughly in agreement with the previously accepted time estimates.

So why did you ask the reader to "ignore" the rockets that Stone saw alone?

Third, on the other hand, if Gibson's estimate of his arrival is accurate, and if Stone's estimate of the time of his call to Lord is also accurate, this leaves us wondering about the time gap between 12:55 and 1:15. What were they doing for twenty minutes?

Another example of one-sidedness that I saw is your description of Stone's mystery ship "lying motionless and unresponsive..." Maybe one-sidedness is the wrong word; but it is at least an inaccurate presentation of what Stone said about it. He thought it was moving; in fact, he was *puzzled* about "why when the ship altered her bearings, the rockets should alter their bearings also" (his words).

Another point - you suggest that perhaps the Californian missed some of the rockets because of her distance. Then how did Stone and Gibson manage to see three more rockets at 3:30 am, more to the south and "right on the horizon" according to Gibson? (These are presumably from the Carpathia - certainly coming from the direction she was approaching from.)

Ultimately it comes back to questions about the appropriateness of the behavior of the Californian's crew; certainly this notion of "missed rockets" raises more questions about their watch-keeping vigilance than it answers any questions about the distance between the two ships.

One last observation. As Dave Gittins pointed out, you took Symons exactly at his word when he said "simultaneously." Symons also said in the same breath, "every minute, minute intervals." If we took that literally too, it would mean between 40 and 60 rockets. If we accept that Stone and Gibson did see three more rockets further away at 3:30, then their missing some 40 rockets from a closer ship suggests either immeasurable incompetence, or a much worse cover-up than the one they eventually tried to pull off.

In the end, the point you seem to be making is that Mersey picked the wrong number from the testimony. Is it really that important to the Californian's case? How many rockets did the Californian need to see? Aren't eight enough?

There's much more I could say about this, but in a message board there isn't enough space to do it properly.
 
May 12, 2005
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All,

I agree with Dave Billnitzer's remark that in the final analysis it doesn't matter how many distress rockets the Californian saw or how many exactly the Titanic fired or any of those details. It's sufficient to know that the Titanic fired them and the Californian saw them - and failed to anything about them.

I've never understood why those who defend Captain Lord choose to get lost in all these futile intricacies of argument instead of just addressing the inescapable fact that the Californian, whether she saw 8 or 12 rockets or was 5 or 17 miles away (or even further), was still in a position to do something and did not. No amount of argument can excuse the Captain's not being adequately alerted nor the wireless' not being turned on so that word could be had of possible trouble.

Everything else is incidental. Even if the most extreme and to my mind ludicrous case-scenario of the mystery ship is true, the Californian cannot be excused from responsibility for the fact of the rockets remains and the men on watch ought to have made more diligent efforts to discover the reason for them. They chose not to. They watched and waited and did nothing. Lord slept and did nothing. The Californian drifted and did nothing.

Randy
 

Senan Molony

Member
Jan 30, 2004
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It is of interest to me that Dave Gittins attacks the reliability of witnesses cited by me — Stone, Gibson, Boxhall, and Symons — without feeling the need to enter any similar caveats about witnesses put forward by himself.

Presumably this is because “my” witnesses are wearing black hats and “his” are wearing white ones, but I digress. It was ever thus.

It is of particular note that he reserves some harsh things to say about Symons, who offers us the word “simultaneously” in the transcript, on which I have dwelt for consideration.

Dave may not like the case I construct, as he is free to dislike it, but there is apparently no barrier to it being slapdash work in the fact that I have been cautious with phraseology, using words like “may imply”, “could suggest,” “seems,” and other guarded terminology as we try to find our way around this minefield.

Dave however declares, thus far without feelings of hindrance, that Symons has been “coached” in preparation for his evidence.

This seems to be based on an approach to Symons by a solicitor or agent acting for Duff-Gordon, which led to a one-hour interview in Symons’ Weymouth home on the day of his return to England. But Symons denies he was told what to say, and says he simply gave his recollection of events and the man wrote it down.

People can read this for themselves at 11580-11650. Symons states (11679); “I will not tell a lie.”

Symons, an able bodied seamen, departed in the Duff Gordon boat early in the night, obviously one of controversy. But of no relation whatsoever to Titanic’s rockets.

And who could possibly coach him to use the word “simultaneously” in relation to rockets being fired from Titanic’s decks, and for what purpose?

One could be facetious for a moment and say that Symons is of course a key witness, a name that trips off the tongue whenever and wherever Titanic is talked about. A man who cunningly inserts the word “simultaneously” into his testimony, where it has remained unremarked for years, only to disturb Dave Gittins nearly a century later. Is this the reason for the uncluttered pronouncement that Symons has been coached?

Dave in parallel would appear to offer the alternative argument that Symons, if he was not coached, was using words of which he did not know the meaning.

It is obvious that such a charge could be levelled at any witness at any Inquiry, not just then, but now and though history.

(Just as Dave may have seemed to suggest, on one possible interpretation of his earlier post, that I did not know the meaning of “shibboleth.” Some might think that he corrected me. It could equally be assumed he used a cut-and-paste from some online Old Testament that came to his aid when “shibboleth” was entered in a search engine, allowing for an ostentatious sign-off. But of course, I am very likely wrong. And the lesson is that we must beware of all assumptions.)

But in fact, Mr Gittins, (and I use the word ‘fact’ advisedly), we are fortunate in that there is evidence precisely to the point that Symons knew the exact meaning of the word “simultaneously.”

It is in his US Inquiry evidence (p. 574, Mr Feeney).

Senator Perkins asks him: “Were they working simultaneously?”
Symons replies: “Yes, they were working together.”

Again, I would invite people to read Symons for themselves. He strikes me as an honest and clear man, one who takes responsibility for his own actions and inactions, and a very educated man for his station. His vocabulary is extensive, and he uses words like “respective” correctly.

He also makes clear, without fear or favour in relation to the White Star Line, that the lookouts sought glasses as soon as they left Soton, and that he felt he could “smell ice” at 9pm. Coached?

Finally he tells the 1912 investigators that the Titanic split in two, and that the stern stood straight on end for some time before the final plunge. All in all, given what we know in 2000, I find him a remarkably reliable witness, one who does not contradict himself between the British and American Inquiries, but who in fact corrects a single word in his deposition as taken down by the British Consul. Here is a man who is anxious to get it right.

There was a rush to judgement in 1912. Let interested persons give Symons the benefit of a reading before considering the judgements passed on him here 88 years later.
 

Senan Molony

Member
Jan 30, 2004
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Dave Billnitzer is not a man I will choose to have any discussion with for personal reasons.

My article was about Titanic's rockets. Let that question be addressed, although the Anti-Lordites would seem hell-bent on eradicating any hint of Lorditism wherever it should raise its head. Why?

What is it about Anti-Lorditism that makes for a special kind of Anti-Tolerance whereby any discussion that touches on Titanic questions that might become relevant to the Californian argument must immediately be shut down by concerted attack?

Readers of this thread will see an interesting contrast in styles. There are erroneous assertions in the post of Dave Billnitzer which are apparent to me, and I hope others, but he is an individual with whom I am afraid I do not care to converse. Forgive me this childishness.

John M. Feeney meanwhile should either substantiate his serious allegation or withdraw the imputation. His silence thus far is deafening.
I will watch for his post. He has placed that burden upon himself in a public forum and the readers will make their own minds up.

I tried earlier not to be drawn into yet another Californian harangue, a misplaced hope. I have better things to occupy my time, such as the seven month old baby that now gurgles on the floor, seeking her father's attention no doubt.

Thus, adieu to this thread - and let future readers take from it what they will.
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Gauntlet thrown, gauntlet retrieved! (I can see I've been too gentle here.)
================================================
Senan Molony says:

'It is a tribute to the British Inquiry that the idea of eight rockets and EIGHT ALONE
was so assiduously implanted into public consciousness ...'

'Lord Mersey first espoused this DOGMA ... :

'"In all, Mr. Boxall fired ABOUT eight rockets. There appears to be no doubt that
the vessel whose lights he saw was the Californian. The evidence from the
Californian speaks of eight rockets having been seen between 12.30 and 1.40. The
number sent up by the Titanic was ABOUT eight. The Californian saw eight."'
...
'When we ignore Lord Mersey and examine what the Titanic witnesses who gave
evidence had to say, it is suddenly revealed that there was no agreement that
EIGHT AND EIGHT ALONE WERE FIRED.'

(all emphases mine)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
The article starts right off with a mock dramatic premise based on false pretenses. Senan’s own
quote from Lord Mersey stipulates “ABOUT eight”, yet Senan immediately twists this broad
approximation into a “DOGMA” of “EIGHT ALONE“ supposedly espoused by Lord Mersey.
================================================
Senan Molony says:

'How many rockets were fired from the Titanic, according to that ship’s crew?

'Third Officer Herbert Pitman: "It may have been a dozen or it may have been
MORE, sir."' (emphasis Senan's)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
The FULL statement (US 293):

Senator SMITH. Did you see any rockets?
Mr. PITMAN. I should say ABOUT A DOZEN rockets were fired.
Senator SMITH. What did you see? What did they do?
Mr. PITMAN. They were fired from the rail. They make a report while leaving the rail,
and also an explosion in the air, and they throw stars, of course, in the air.
Senator SMITH. Red in color?
Mr. PITMAN. Various colors.
Senator SMITH. You saw those signals of distress, did you, from the Titanic?
Mr. PITMAN. Yes.
Senator SMITH. And you saw about a dozen or so of them?
Mr. PITMAN. It MAY have been a dozen or it MAY have been more, sir.

(all emphases mine)

It seems just a wee bit biased to skip entirely over the PRIMARY (and most definite) response,
and cite only the secondary, more "IFFY" answer. Of course, this one better supports the initial
"thesis", but that hardly makes for a balanced treatment.
================================================
(more to come)
 
May 12, 2005
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Senan,

I was going to resign myself to being ignored until I read your remarks dealing with Symons. As I know not a little about the events concerning boat 1, I will be heard out on this. I doubt Symons was coached on any matters dealing with the Californian but I can at least tell you that it is absolutely true, based on knowledge provided by the Duff Gordons' descendents themselves, that George Symons WAS INDEED COACHED by the couple's attorneys in regard to boat 1's failure to return for a rescue.

This is fairly obvious to anyone reading the transcripts, in my opinion, but two years ago, after almost complete silence on the matter of the Titanic, the late Earl of Halsbury, Lady Duff Gordon's grandson, confirmed to me his knowledge that the Tweedie law firm, of which Duke and Vaughan were representatives,did conspire to save the Duff Gordons' reputations by instructing them to deny that they objected to a rescue of the drowning when in fact they had done so. Almost all, to my knowledge, of the sailors in boat 1 were approached by the Duff Gordons' solicitors. Only Symons was directly coached as he had been in charge. The others were not considered important as they were not seen as a threat, most having admitted that they hadn't heard the conversation about going back anyway.

Now this may all be "by the way" to you but at least in reference to boat 1 and the Duff Gordons it is true that George Symons was coached in his evidence.

Randy
 
Sep 20, 2000
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(continued)
================================================
Senan Molony says:

'Quartermaster Arthur Bright: "Six were fired in all, I think (but implies these were ones solely fired by him and fellow Quartermaster George Thomas Rowe alone — and after Boxhall had previously been firing rockets.)'
------------------------------------------------------------------------
The FULL story (US 832):

Mr. BRIGHT. I went out to the after end of the ship to relieve the man I should have relieved at 12 o'clock, a man by the name of Rowe. We stood there for some moments and did not know exactly what to do, and rang the telephone up to the bridge and asked them what we should do. They told us to bring a box of detonators for them - signals. Each of us took a box to the bridge. When we got up there we were told to fire them - distress signals.
Senator SMITH. Who fired them?
Mr. BRIGHT. Rowe and I, and Mr. Boxhall, the fourth officer.
Senator SMITH. How long did you continue firing the rockets?
Mr. BRIGHT. Six were fired in all, I think.
Senator SMITH. One at a time.
Mr. BRIGHT. Yes, sir; at intervals.

Senan CLAIMS an implication that is by no means apparent from the FULL context. A mere
comma injected, a slight parsing of a sentence indicating perhaps nothing more than a pause, somehow is translated with the precision of a Boolean expression: (Rowe & I) & (Mr.Boxhall).
================================================
 
Sep 20, 2000
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(continued)
===================================
Senan Molony says:

Meanwhile his description of rockets going up - sometimes together, or at
one-minute intervals - is totally at odds with Boxhall’s telling the Inquiry
that he himself was firing rockets at intervals of (15399) "probably five
minutes".
-------------------------------------------
The FULL Q&A:

15398. Did you send them up at intervals one at a time? - One at a time, yes.
15399. At about what kind of intervals? - Well, probably five minutes; I did not take any
times
.

(emphasis mine)

Um... Kinda left something off there, didn't we, Senan? The actual answer sounds just a shade
different, but of course, if you're just trying to support your own contentions ...

And as previously pointed out:

7842. Did they come in quick succession? - At intervals of about three or four minutes. (Stone)

Gee. The Californian even agrees!
 

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