It's possible. As I recall, there were a number of ships puttering around the area at one time or another, so I think in time, the boats would have been spotted and possibly by the Californain. How long this would have taken may well be another matter. Californain was not really an ideal ship for a rescue (though she certainly would have been better then nothing!) being small and ill equipped. Without the more extensive resources of the Carpathia, I suspect the casualties would have been a lot higher no matter what.
I doubt if the Californian would have spotted the boats: they certainly didn't see Boxhall's flares that morning and would probably have pushed through the ice in a west, or south westerly direction, which is what she did on April 15th.
It would be interesting to know when the first ship would have arrived on the scene, if the disaster hadn't happened. That might give us some clue as to how long the survivors would have drifted before they were picked up.
The earlies ship passing through the area and seeing debris that I noted was April 20th, but it was in dense fog. After that, the next was April 22nd. I doubt the people in the boats could have survived that long.
I think they would have been in quite a lot of trouble. The current was carrying them south with the ice and taking them away from the shipping track. As Paul says, Californian was out of sight. Also, Californian had no reason to go south, as she was bound for Boston and was already south of her track.
Their best chance might have been Birma, which was eastbound and had to get around the icefield. Maybe she would had spotted the boats in the process. Being scattered about the ocean wouldn't have helped their chances, nor would the overloading of some boats. The rising wind on 15 April may have caused rough enough seas to swamp boats. Overall, their position was bad, though at least daylight might have helped them find the food and water in the boats.
Don't forget, after being out of radio contact for more than a few hours, questions would have started to be asked. I think it likely that White Star would have started asking ships to detour along the Titanic's track and look, within a few days, anyway.
It probably wouldn't have helped the lifeboats though.
It would have been a little like the Waratah, lost without trace.
Interesting idea: if the Titanic had disappeared without any warning or notice and then was found many years later, what do you think the reason behind the sinking would have been? One possibility is that, since the ship was in two pieces, it might have been thought that she foundered in heavy seas. I'm not sure an iceberg collision would have suggested due to the fact that most of the damage is buried in the mud.
Well, had the Titanic "Disappeared without a trace" I think it unlikely that the wreck would have even been found. Knowing where it happened at least gave searchers a baseline to use to plot the most probable location of the wreck. Not knowing this, I believe the whole thing would have been written off as a mystery and quickly forgotten. At least until some wag could try to connect it to the Bermuda Triangle, but that's a rant for another day.
Another thing that would have reduced the survivors' chances is that it seem nobody though to take a sextant and Nautical Almanac in a boat. Given these aids, a capable officer could have organised the boats, ensured each had adequate rowers and headed for the eastbound shipping lane south of the wreck. All that was needed was the latitude The wind was favourable and they might have made it.
With the dispersal of the wreckage in later days to the east of the wrecksite (and, in the case of the flotsam seen by the Rhein and Bremen c. 20/4/12, slightly to the north, at 42 degrees N), the occupants of the lifeboats, possibly weary from rowing and exposure, would have been carried further away from the southerly shipping lanes.
On the other hand, if boat 8 had rowed north for a little bit longer, and hadn't turned round when she saw the Carpathia, she may have got within visual range of the Californian at daybreak, and they could have signalled her by setting fire to items in their boat, as one lifeboat did. That may have resulted in a premature rescue.
Rowing against a current, I'd be surprised if any boat could have made it to within easy visual range of the Californian in any reasonable amount of time if at all. There's only so much mere muscle power can do when fighting a current backed up by the weight of the entire North Atlantic. That would have to be some rowing team to manage such a feat!
When you get down to it, it's a good thing Titanic had a wireless and others were listening.
>>Another thing that would have reduced the survivors' chances is that it seem nobody though to take a sextant and Nautical Almanac in a boat. Given these aids, a capable officer could have organised the boats, ensured each had adequate rowers and headed for the eastbound shipping lane south of the wreck. All that was needed was the latitude The wind was favourable and they might have made it.<<
Actually, Dave, a few of the officers did think of organization ahead of time. Some of the data suggests that as soon as 14 hit the water, one task that Lowe had on his mind was to organize the boats, and he did a fine job, creating a small flotilla of four boats, then assimilating Collapsibles A and D (more or less) later one. That attempt helped to save lives. If he hadn't tied those boats together, he wouldn't have been able to distribute the passengers among the other three boats (4, 10, and 12) and he wouldn't have been able to safely take 14 back to pick up some of those in the water. However, imagine what could have been done if other flotillas had been made, or if, on the rare chance, all the boats had come together to create one large flotilla. Perhaps more boats could have gone back and ultimately more people could have been pulled from the water. He had the right idea, but it just didn't seem to go far enough. Whether or not that idea had occurred to the other surviving officers is uncertain.
The only other officer who seemed to catch a glimpse of the idea was 4th officer Boxhall. I read that when he was lowered in 2, he had a lantern, a flaregun, and something else with him (I don't remember what else he supposedly had), so he had made an attempt for his boat to be seen and rescued, as well as search for other boats on the sea. Furthermore, as soon as LB #2 hit the water, Boxhall instructed those rowing to head toward the stern. This seems to have had two intents: First, to do as Joseph had been ordered and head to the aft D-Deck doors to retrieve more people (although no one ever showed up there). Second, it's a reasonable supposition that he knew early on that many of those on board would eventually head for the stern and make a jump for it (the fact that he was the only junior officer to have gone below to see the actual damage may have allowed Boxhall to come to this conclusion). He was therefore prepared beforehand by having his boat near the appropriate vicinity to pick up surviving jumpers (whether or not he had actually pulled any out of the water, I am unaware. Was Cyril Ricks' broken body one of these?). So it appeared as if the 4th officer had made attempts for organization, although along slightly different lines than that of the 5th officer.
It has been theorized by Inger that Moody was intended to eventually board and command Collapsible A and take the pertinent logs and documents with him. Since she asserted this as a theory, I can only presume there is no evidence of this plan, otherwise it would be more than just a theory. I also presume, then, that this plan of organization wasn't tested by action, as the officers and those lowering lifeboats ran out of time, so claiming this as an attempt for organization and preparation is only speculative. Inger, if you have support for this theory, I'd love to see it. When we talked about this before, you seemed merely speculative of this intent, so I don't recall your sharing any evidence to support this.
As for the logs and important documents necessary for the Inquiries that had no doubt been suspected by officers (and even Andrews himself), it was claimed that such an act of saving them was dismissed due to being caught up in the salvage of the passengers. I still insist that Andrews and the Captain should have given those documents to the first officer gone (3rd Officer Pitman in 5, very early on), instead of waiting to give them to 6th Officer Moody at the end, in order to makes sure that these said documents were safely away. Of course, I may be missing something, so I am not going to proclaim that such a decision hadn't been considered by Andrews and Smith beforehand. Still, this makes better sense to me than waiting for Moody. Getting those documents off the ship would have been of utmost importance, along with lowering the passengers in the lifeboats. I'm not placing blame, as that is irrelevant, but I am expressing what makes sense to me. This is how I see the situation, and nothing said will change this opinion.
In any case, we were talking about preparation and organization in the lifeboats, so I apologize for digressing somewhat in the previous paragraph.
In the end, Dave, I would say that certain preparations for organizations in the lifeboats were explored and attempted to the best of circumstances, but other factors involved - pitch-blackness, coldness, fear of having boats swamped, not to mention the concern of those in the lifeboats to stay alive and conscious - seemed to have dominated the actions in the lifeboats that night and therefore redirected such attempts of organization.
There were several ways for a ship to contact another ship. Wireless was the best way.
1. Wireless telegraph
2. Rockets could be shot a few hundred feet in the air.
3. Light signals could be sent from ship to ship (with something like a search light)
4. Semiphore flags (I'm not sure if the Titanic was equipped with these)
The problem is that most of these were line-of-sight, so you actually had to see the ship to communicate. Wireless was able to talk to ships hundreds of miles away.
If the wireless had broken, nobody would have come to help the Titanic until another ship stumbled upon the lifeboats floating in its path.