Was Californian Caught in an Eddy?


Mar 22, 2003
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Alex, just because it was reported that the ice was 16 ft high does not make it so unless someone was able to somehow actually measure its height. Here is what Rostron said about the field in his 1913 article:
1563988819997.png


Rostron had to as far south as 41° 15'N to get around it.
 
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Andrew

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Just to bring a broader perspective back to things momentarily:
We have two mystery vessels that pirouette around between Titanic and Californian, showing various combinations of sidelights, before deciding to steam away through the icefield in the dark & into the mists of time.
Why were they so scared of approaching the rocket-firing vessel, clearly visible to them & evidently not looking too stable?
What reason was there to turn and run?
By any logic it's inexplicable, and food for thought.....
 

Jim Currie

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Just to bring a broader perspective back to things momentarily:
We have two mystery vessels that pirouette around between Titanic and Californian, showing various combinations of sidelights, before deciding to steam away through the icefield in the dark & into the mists of time.
Why were they so scared of approaching the rocket-firing vessel, clearly visible to them & evidently not looking too stable?
What reason was there to turn and run?
By any logic it's inexplicable, and food for thought.....
Not as I see it. Try this.
You have one vessel approaching from the east showing a single masthead light. It meets the ice about 4 miles to the southeastward of Californian. At 11-30 pm it, turns away from it and stops.
Meantime. another vessel showing to masthead lights and on the far side of the ice, approaches the western edge of the ice. It too meets the ice and turns away, pointing Northwestward before stopping or even steaming away It's lights are obscured by the intervening ice.
An hour later, Titanic's rockets are sighted almost on the horizon in the direction of the vessel with the single mast. These are ignored by the mystery vessel as are the persistent attempts by Californian to make contact by signal light. Eventually, both mystery vessels have left the area. End of story... no big deal. it is possible that the vessel on the western side of the ice did not even see Titanic's rockets as her crew would be looking at the surrounding sea for approaching danger.
 

AlexP

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Meantime. another vessel showing to masthead lights and on the far side of the ice, approaches the western edge of the ice.
Maybe you could explain how Mr. Groves was able to see a steamer at the western edge of the ice from his starboard beam that was facing east?
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Maybe you could explain how Mr. Groves was able to see a steamer at the western edge of the ice from his starboard beam that was facing east?
Alex, the starboard beam was facing SE, port beam was facing NW, his bow was facing NE and his stern was facing SW. From the upper bridge you could look all around you with only the ship's masts and funnel blocking parts of your view. So what someone sees from the bridge has nothing to do with how the ship is facing.
 

AlexP

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Alex, the starboard beam was facing SE, port beam was facing NW, his bow was facing NE and his stern was facing SW. From the upper bridge you could look all around you with only the ship's masts and funnel blocking parts of your view. So what someone sees from the bridge has nothing to do with how the ship is facing.
I understand it, but then what is the meaning of the testimony
“About 11.10, ship's time, I made out a steamer coming up a little bit abaft our starboard beam.”
What is the meaning of any testimony in regards to relative bearings?

Mr. Groves also testified:
“Yes, but I took no notice of the course she was making except that she was coming up obliquely to us”.
What do you make about this “obliquely”? The Titanic was heading west at that time, was she not? Then Mr Groves should have been able to see the whole length or no?
 

Julian Atkins

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Hi Alex,

I agree with you that Groves' testimony of the "passenger steamer" he saw coming up a little abaft of the starboard beam, and coming up obliquely, and steaming westwards at the same time, when The Californian was then heading approximately NE, makes no sense to me at around 11.10pm or 11.15pm.

However, to someone who dealt with Court cases many years ago, I myself find it fits into a sort of peculiar witness that gives equally peculiar evidence. Often you would have these sort of witnesses provide a written statement, and of course you would never call them to give evidence in Court! In other situations, they provide a sort of 'OK' witness statement but then add lots of additional details in Court when in the witness box that show they are barking mad! ('Barking mad' being a sort of legal jargon of the witness being totally unpredictable in Court, and 'going off on one', as oppossed to them actually having a mental disability). A sort of 'hostile' witness in the legal sense of 'hostile', but who's 'hostile witness' status is not apparent till they go in the witness box.

Robertson Dunlop, Counsel for the Leyland Line, chose not to treat Groves as a 'hostile' witness, probably because Dunlop was so unprepared, but he ought to have done, if necessary asking for an adjournment.

(Later in Dunlop's 'summing up' speech to Lord Mersey, he did describe Groves as in effect a 'hostile' witness, but he had missed the opportunity to cross-examine Groves when Groves gave his evidence - a fundamental and very important stage in any court proceedings - if a witness turns 'hostile' to his own side).

(One could construct an argument, that Dunlop, instructed ie paid to appear for the Leyland Line, which was in turn owned by the IMM, did a pretty poor job in representing the interests of Captain Lord, but that is for another thread).

Now, if you consider Groves' timings as being in error at 11.10pm or 11.15pm as being then some 30 minutes later, then it is just plausible that what he described in his testimony would fit, bearing in mind his own wrist watch was running 5 minutes fast, and there was a 12 minute difference between ATS on Titanic and The Californian.

There is a certain 'earnestness' in some witnesses giving their evidence - these type of witnesses know what they want to say, but actually jump about all over the place due to nerves or a line of questioning that stumps them and they loose track of what they want to say. The sort of witness who doesn't listen carefully to the questions being asked of them.

Being very charitable Groves, I think this is perhaps some explanation as to what happened while he was giving his evidence. He probably did see his "passenger steamer" heading westwards at 11.15pm (showing a green sidelight) via his wristwatch which would equate to 11.10pm, and reported this to Captain Lord in the chart room at 11.25 or 11.30pm via his wrist watch, but got completely mixed up in the witness box, and missed out a chunk of his memory, and jumped to his (claimed timing of) 11.40pm memory of what he saw.

A less charitable view is that he simply made it all up. The 2 masthead lights he claimed he saw is but one example of this.

It did not help that in the late 1950s and early 1960s (before he died in 1963) Groves corresponded with both Walter Lord and Leslie Harrison, and both interviewed him (I don't myself believe that Leslie Reade met Groves, despite the suggestion in Reade's book, but relied on what Walter Lord 'had' on Groves). Because it suited Reade to base some of his book on Groves seeing a "passenger steamer"/"Titanic", Reade did not apply the same critical analysis to Groves' evidence that he subjected Captain Lord to. It didn't suit Reade's case to pull apart Groves' evidence - but we know better now!

Groves refused to be drawn on any details in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and refused to provide any amplification on the matters that have so much interested those interested in 'The Californian Incident', instead sticking to what he testified to in 1912. Except for a few titbits.

Compare this to 1958 and 1959 between Captain Lord and Leslie Harrison. Captain Lord had a quite substantial record of documents from 1912, and handed them over to Harrison. According to Harrison, a few more were found just as the 1959 Affidavit was being prepared for Captain Lord to approve, and required amending. Then in 1961 Captain Lord was subjected to hours of interview that was taped recorded and has been transcribed. The 1959 Affidavit includes substantial exhibits.

What did Groves do a year or so before 1959? His 'Middle Watch' essay to Walter Lord! The only original document he provided, was his own copy of the British Inquiry proceedings, to Harrison. No other document Groves might have kept was ever disclosed.

Cheers,

Julian
 
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AlexP

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Now, if you consider Groves' timings as being in error at 11.10pm or 11.15pm as being then some 30 minutes later, then it is just plausible that what he described in his testimony would fit, bearing in mind his own wrist watch was running 5 minutes fast, and there was a 12 minute difference between ATS on Titanic and The Californian.
Thanks for the info!
Could you please explain how it will fit? If 11:10 was 11:40 then it means that it was not the Titanic he was looking at.
 

Jim Currie

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To suggest that any certificated Deck Officer was mistaken about a relative bearing is totally ludicrous, to say the least.
The ability to clearly judge the direction of another vessel and how that vessel is heading or may be heading relative to his own vessel is central part of all Deck Officer Certificates, including that of Master Mariner. Let's look at the evidence of Groves regarding the direction of the ship he saw.
As far as I can see, Captain Lord denied that Groves had told him any such thing. Somebody was covering up that second sighting. If Groves had been on the ball, he would have seen exactly the same ship as seen by Lord and later Gibson and Stone. If Groves had been signalling that ship before she stopped, Lord would have seen him doing so.


 

Jim Currie

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I see it differently. Mr. Groves testified the Californian was heading NE. The steamer (The Titanic) was moving westward and she "was a little bit abaft our starboard beam. " "A little bit", Jim, is a little bit.
View attachment 44905
You have completely missed out the most essential in formation from your plot... the plot of the path of the Titanic relative to the stopped Californian from first sighting. If the ship seen by Groves had been Titanic, then he would have seen her on the starboard bow... forward of the starboard beam...not abaft it a little bit or an enormous bit. He would also have seen her green, not red light and one, not two white masthead lights.
 

AlexP

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You have completely missed out the most essential in formation from your plot... the plot of the path of the Titanic relative to the stopped Californian from first sighting. If the ship seen by Groves had been Titanic, then he would have seen her on the starboard bow... forward of the starboard beam...not abaft it a little bit or an enormous bit. He would also have seen her green, not red light and one, not two white masthead lights.
I believe my plot is about right. Mr. Groves sees the Titanic somewhere around SE and some 20 minutes later she stops around SSE. What is wrong with this? Could you please explain?
 

Julian Atkins

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Hi Alex,

I am not going to quote Groves' testimony, but I agree it is very confusing what he said in his testimony on these matters - to those of us now looking back.

Groves always maintained that it was a "passenger steamer" he saw, and he claimed he told Stone this in his testimony when he handed over the new watch to Stone around 12.10 that night. Groves also testified he told Captain Lord he had in sight a "passenger steamer", and in fact Captain Lord's wreck commissioners statement included this detail, and because Captain Lord denied that Groves' told him this when Captain Lord was in the witness box in London, he had his wreck commissioners statement quoted back at him on this point.

Groves only saw one ship, but in my above post I provided some explanation as to why Groves might have muddled up the timings.

He was, when he took the stand at the British Inquiry, about to completely undermine Captain Lord, and he must have been inwardly nervous; as to what he planned to say on oath, and the consequences and the 'fall out' from it.

Now here is something that I think may have been overlooked. Groves probably expected Ernest Gill to give evidence in the UK first, same as in the USA. After all, Gill had a first class ticket on the Cestrian (of the Leyland Line) home to the UK, but things were to go somewhat wrong with the British Inquiry schedule. The Duff Gordons were not yet home in the UK on the 14th May, and Gill had apparently gone off on his honeymoon when he returned to the UK on the 15th (presumably Gill got a special licence - if special licences were possible in 1912 - to get married immediately on his return, or his wedding had been planned beforehand), and it would appear The Californian witnesses were asked to attend on 14th May (and 15th May), rather earlier than they may have expected to give evidence to the British Inquiry, by a few days.

So Groves had to face the British Inquiry without Gill having given evidence first. Gill did not give his testimony till 4th June to the British Inquiry, some 2 1/2 weeks after Captain Lord, Gibson, Stone, Groves, Stewart and Evans.

Cheers,

Julian
 

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