Which Californian controversey book is the most accurate in your opinion


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I believe to this date, books that have been written about the Californian controversey include Peter Padfield's "Titanic and the Californian", Leslie Harrison's "A Titanic Myth" ,Leslie Reade's "The Ship the Stood Still", and Senan Malony's"A Ship Accused".

My favorite is "The Ship That Stood Still", because try as the pro Lordites may to insist Titanic viewed another ship, Californian did see Titanic's rockets, and this book convinced me of that.Which is your favorite?


regards

Tarn Stephanos
 

Tracy Smith

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All of those books are good and valuable, but I must admit I'm partial to Senan's new book. So far as reading about Lord, the man, Harrison's book has the most biographical data, followed by Reade's book.

Tarn, give Senan's book a chance. It's well worth the read.
 
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If its about Titanic, it will find a home on my bookshelf, so I will definatly be getting his book. (But i do beleive Californian was the ship seen from Titanic, and vise verse)

Regards

Tarn Stephanos
 

Tracy Smith

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Get back with me after you've read the book....
happy.gif


Also, read some of the comments on the board that Inger Sheil, Mike Standart,and Mike Tennaro have made on the book, as all three have read the book.
 

Eric Paddon

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Reade's book is the only full-length one about the Californian that I need to keep at this or any other point. For me, the debate is over because there is not a single Lordite book that can ever change three unalterable facts. (A) Stone and Gibson saw Titanic's rockets and thought they indicated some kind of distress (B) Captain Lord was negligent in not waking the wireless operator after receiving multiple messages from Stone and Gibson that should have led him to interpret distress rockets as a possbility to be investigated and (C) Captain Lord willingly covered-up for days afterwards information about what the Californian had seen that night, which included lying to his employers and to the public, especially in Boston when he lied to the reporters following the emergence of both Gill's and Carpenter McGregor's stories in the press. To me, it makes no difference whether Californian was eight or fourteen miles away ultimately because points A, B and C will always be the damned spots that will not out.
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Tarn: Reade's, of course. :)

Not only does Reade deliver a thorough analysis of the testimonies, but (as you know) he conducted a great deal of independent research himself. That alone puts him light years ahead of any mere revisionist accounting based solely on the the hearings and subsequent rebuttals.

(Of course the most accurate books on the testimony are the Inquiries themselves.)

Again, Eric, I think you've said it all in a nutshell.

Cheers,
John
 

Inger Sheil

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I've always been very partial to Reade on many levels (both for the strength and originality of his research and his literary technique), but recently reading Senan's new book has convinced me that A Ship Accused has a place the equal of The Ship that Stood Still.
 
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I agree with both of you (Eric and John). What has always amazed me is how some of my close pro Lordite friends underplay the fact the Californian spotted rockets being fired the same time as Titanic fired hers, and some have suggested there may have been another ship in the area firing rockets at the same time. Thats just silly. Some pro Lordites suggest even if the Californian's wirless man had been awakhed and had heard Titanic's calls for distress, she would not have reached Titanic in time anyway.


How far from the site of recovery of survivors did Carpthia and Californian meet up with each other?

I am convinced without a shadow of a doubt, the ship seen from the decks of Titanic was the Californian, and the ship seen from the Californian was the sinking Titanic.

Regards

Tarn Stephanos
 
Jul 9, 2000
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I'll throw in with Inger on this one regarding "A Ship Accused" and I would have to respectfully differ with anyone, no matter what "side" they take, that any one book is the last and final word on the subject or insist that the "debate is closed." That numerous people can look at exactly the same evidence and come to very different conclusions tells me that the debate is anything but closed.

Regardless of where anyone stands on this thorny issue, the one thing I think I can say with utter confidence is that the Californian Controvesy will be alive and well long after were gone.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

Eric Paddon

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The idea that there are multiple perspectives on a controversial issue IMO is not and should not be the ultimate indicator of whether we can consider a key part of the debate closed. Points A, B and C that I have referred to are the key questions at stake on the simple question that the Californian controversy must be boiled down to from points A, B and C: Was Captain Stanley Lord negligent? On that one, I confess that I'm at a loss to understand why there is a "controversy" at all. What possible "different" conclusion is there to explain the matter of Captain Lord's inaction following his receipt of multiple messages from Stone and Gibson regarding rockets, and what possible "different" conclusion is there regarding his blatant lies after the fact all the way up to his testimony to the Inquiries (and which even continued during the Inquiries on some additional points)?

It seems to me that Lordites keep framing the debate the wrong way in which their focus is to keep proving that Captain Lord could not have saved many people (at least that's the sense I'm getting from this latest debate, as opposed to the contemptible Padfield-Harrison school of trying to prove they didn't see Titanic's rockets or trying to bandy laughable stories about the Samson) which is not and never has been the point. The point is did Captain Lord do all that could have been expected that night given the knowledge he possessed, and there is no way IMO that one can do the historical record justice by coming to any conclusion other than his being negligent and engaging in a cover-up afterwards.
 

Tracy Smith

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Well, I still don't see what the harm is in reading Senan's book, even if you are convinced that your opinion will not change.

I don't agree with a whole lot of what Leslie Reade had to say, but I certainly did not refuse to read Reade's book in the first place. I want to read everything on both sides of this issue in order to be as informed as possible. And even though I don't agree with Reade's basic conclusions, I did find the book to be of great value and it gave me much to think about. For instance, I found what he had to say about Stone's psychological issues and family background to be most interesting, certainly worth following up on and looking further into.

And though you do not agree with Peter Padfield or Leslie Harrison, there is no need to descend into name calling by referring to them and their work as "contemptible". I certainly would never refer to Leslie Reade in such a manner; I don't have to agree with someone in order to respect them.
 

Eric Paddon

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My criticism of Padfield and Harrison is based on what I regard to be their misuse of sound historical methodology to advance their respective theses. Describing an author's work as "contemptible" if it advances a POV that requires disregard of certain methodological standards is nothing new in my particular profession, which is the world of history academia and has gone on for years (this also happens on the matter of other controversial issues such as the JFK Assassination, the McCarthy era and Soviet espionage in America etc). It is only because there is that kind of healthy row over certain areas of controversy that sometimes the good interpretations can be separated from the bad. When such phrases are used in the review of an author's work and research, it is not "name-calling" if a word like "contemptible" is used to describe the reviewers genuine belief that what the author has done is to push a theory totally at odds with the full record of information and evidence by resorting to selective and in some cases distortion of the record to suit an agenda, as I believe those like Harrison and Bristow have done in the past.

Also in the case of Leslie Harrison, I would note that one reason why we were denied the opportunity for many years to see Leslie Reade's book was because he engaged in a concerted effort to suppress the book from being published, which came after he withdrew permission for Reade to quote from material that Harrison had loaned after Harrison had previously given permission for its use. The circumstances surrounding Harrison's role in that affair have left me with a not very favorable opinion of the man and his work because it seems to me that he demonstrated in that instance that his role in the Californian affair is to act solely as a defense counsel and not as an objective researcher.

In this instance, having read Harrison's work and other Lordite authors in the past, as well as the primary source of the testimony of Lord, Stone, Gibson, Groves etc., my reluctance to read any new book that purports to "exonerate" Captain Lord without denying the facts of the aforementioned points A, B and C, (as I have been told) is I think at least a bit easy to understand from my perspective.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>The point is did Captain Lord do all that could have been expected that night given the knowledge he possessed, <<

Eric, how do you know what Captain Lord knew that night? Testimony is interesting, but the takes on that are endless. Where one side sees an evasive witness, the other sides sees a man confused or somebody they don't want to trust for some reason or another. The testimony is useful, but much depends on how far we can trust the parties asking the questions and those giving the answers. If it were otherwise, nobody would have to indulge in that ever popular passtime known as "reading between the lines."

Where one side sees questioners pressing hard for "the truth" the other sides sees inquisitors with "an agenda" who badger witnesses into telling them what they want to hear or hound them with leading questions. (And neither side is completely wrong either.That's why I've moved away from taking "sides" to trying to understand the whys of what happened.)

In light of that alone how can anyone on either side say the debate is over? I can't make that assumption, and I would be very leery of making assumptions about what anybody was thinking that night. If you want to say that A, B, and C, closes the debate...fine. We'll have nothing further to discuss on the matter and I hope no hard feelings. (I won't have any such.) For myself, I'll go looking around, give everyone a fair hearing, do own fact checking, and keep my own counsel on who I agree with and who I don't.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

Eric Paddon

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"Eric, how do you know what Captain Lord knew that night? Testimony is interesting, but the takes on that are endless."

Except in Captain Lord's case, we have a lot more than just his own testimony before the Inquiries. We also have the statements of Stone and Gibson that were presented directly to Captain Lord, and it defies credibility to suggest that he did not read their contents after going to the trouble of asking for those statements, which contain descriptions of his conduct totally at variance with what he described before the Inquiries. Then there is the matter of his conduct before the reporters in Boston. In both of these cases we are talking about a clear and discernible trail of evidence that is detailed and clear enough for the historian to make his or her judgment with regard to his conduct. The statements Stone and Gibson gave to the Captain show that he was notified three times between 1:15 and 2:45 regarding the matter of a ship firing rockets and in light of that information, coupled with the fact that on the critical first notification from Stone he was informed the rockets were all white, and when Gibson came down, Captain Lord asked if there were colors and he was again told they were all right. With that information in his possession, Captain Lord should have taken precautionary action. How easy it would have been then to simply do what he strangely felt the need to do four hours later when he had Chief Officer Stewart awake Evans specifically to check on the ship that had been firing rockets in the night.

"how can anyone on either side say the debate is over? I can't make that assumption"

But if you are not refuting the magical A, B and C of the equation, then what is the other side trying to prove, ulitmately? I haven't heard a single satisfactory answer on this point and if you find my take on this to be obstiante from your standpoint, then tell me just what alternate hypothesis to A, B and C I'm supposed to consider?

When there is a relevant body of evidence to suggest how events happened, then it becomes easy for any historian to declare that we know with 100% certainty what went on, and how we can judge that accordingly. The process of evaluating history is not one of a constant state of mutual uncertainty about the truth of an event.

I don't have any hard feelings either toward you or anyone else in this forum, but I think I'm still waiting to hear a satisfactory answer to the critical objection I have regarding an "exoneration" of Captain Lord centered on A, B and C. If you think it's not right for me to regard the debate as over based on those three points, then why are they irrelevant if the intent is not to refute those points?
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Well, I'd have to agree that "contemptible" is quite the appropriate word for all that nonsense like "Roman candle type flares", etc., that Harrison introduced merely to obfuscate the issues. If Padfield likewise attempted merely to refute what was already firmly established within the testimonies -- that Stone and Gibson indeed witnessed rockets, white rockets (undoubtedly Titanic's) -- then the same word applies. There's certainly nothing commendable about a deliberate distortion of the factual evidence.

I myself have *no* interest in reading "all sides" of an issue if that supposedly implies perusing every published advocacy piece, however flawed in its underpinnings. (Life is simply too short, and I'm selective about my reading -- history, not fantasy.) This is one very definite reason I have never had ANY interest in Harrison's book. It's remarkably apparent to me that he generally found it quite unnecessary to have his strongly held *views* coincide with historical fact. This is abundantly clear even in his MMSA petitions, where the growing tendency to simply fantasize historical details and attempt to dazzle the reader with irrelevancies is profoundly evident.

Reade's work, on the other hand, is a scholarly tome -- a solid, factual history. I don't agree with *all* of his conclusions either. But I can identify with a high degree of certainty what he based them on, via those copious endnotes. Reade's analysis proceeds from readily identifiable research, not from his own mere say-so. Harrison's slanted treatise, on the other hand, is simply not in the same category. (And his efforts to squelch Reade's magnum opus are reprehensible in the extreme!)

As for Molony's book, I already have the Inquiries, and can draw my own conclusions without assistance. Having directly questioned, without satisfaction, the underlying validity of several of Molony's conjectures in his "Titanic's Rockets" article, I fail to see how his analysis can now enlighten me -- "exasperate", perhaps, but not enlighten. And I firmly agree: if the book doesn't overturn those three key issues, it doesn't exonerate Lord. (If it is so compelling, I'm forced to ask, why has NO ONE yet trotted it out and *cited* it in triumphal refutation of the guilty verdict?)

I'm also very puzzled that many have responded to Eric's posts, but not to his points! (Nor to my own, in support of those contentions.) Is there some reason we should expect a mere emotional backlash that completely ignores those three critical elements? Let's face it: they *are* incredibly damning, and since they constitute the crux of Eric's argument -- indeed, of the whole Californian "controversy" -- why are they consistently dodged? If there's any real merit to this defense of Lord's conduct, let's have at it. Why dabble in various and sundry minutiae when the critical issues are right here on the table?
 

Tracy Smith

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John, you mention "emotional backlash". I would think the use of the word "contemptible" does indicate some emotion. Non-emotionally laden words to convey your opinions of Harrison, etc, would be "wrong", "mistaken", and so on.

John said:

I'm also very puzzled that many have responded to Eric's posts, but not to his points!

No one has responded to Eric's points because of his "case closed" attitude, the "I've made up my mind, don't bother me with other ideas" tone. We all have better things to do than beat our heads against a wall.....

And as most of us have found through experience, it's not worth turning this board into a pissing contest, as such Californian discussions here tend to turn into.

But I'll say that I'm still of the opinion that one cannot make informed comments on any sort of material that one has never read. Come on guys, read the book. It won't bite, I assure you.

In closing, what Mike says pretty much sums it up for me:

"If you want to say that A, B, and C, closes the debate...fine. We'll have nothing further to discuss on the matter and I hope no hard feelings. (I won't have any such.) For myself, I'll go looking around, give everyone a fair hearing, do own fact checking, and keep my own counsel on who I agree with and who I don't."
 

Eric Paddon

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"No one has responded to Eric's points because of his "case closed" attitude, the "I've made up my mind, don't bother me with other ideas" tone. We all have better things to do than beat our heads against a wall....."

With all due respect, my "case closed" attitude on Captain Lord's negligence stems from the fact that those on your side will *not* respond to points A, B, and C and that's the consistent thing I've been noting. I have not hesitated to go into detail as to why I feel as I do that the matter of Captain Lord's negligence should not be a subject of controversy based on the documented historical record (he was thrice notified by Stone and Gibson about white rockets; and then he lied afterwards and covered up), and it seems to me that if the other side wants to be critical of my position, then they shouldn't simply tell me to spend my money on a book, they ought to engage in a dialogue focusing on the critical points I have made. To characterize my posts as "don't bother me with the other side" is neither nor fair nor acccurate because repeatedly I have asked questions related to the points that I, as an anti-Lordite, feel must be answered by any new study in order for it to be worth my while, and this I am just not seeing.

I reiterate: How can Captain Lord be exonerated of negligence if points A, B and C are not going to be refuted? I think those on the other side would be better served answering that question.
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Well, who's turning this into a pissing contest? Certainly not Eric! (Certainly not I.) I believe Mr. Paddon has posed a perfectly reasonable, well-framed set of criteria that none of the Lordite persuasion have even remotely addressed. To be frank, it strongly *appears* that no substantial opposition has been offered regarding those three points because there *is* no reasoned response to them other than, "True."

Whatever impression of closed-mindedness you may have concerning Eric, why not just formulate a sound rebuttal to those three key issues for the benefit of the entire Board, so maybe we can all stop piddling around in the dark and be made fully aware of the merits of this Lordite position? To date, all it ever seems to boil down to is a vague claim of "I'm not convinced ...". Nevertheless, a robust body of evidence does exist, and the *specifics* of it are rarely challenged in earnest. Could it be that it's not Eric who's closed-minded here?

And as Mister Paddon asked, if those three criteria aren't appropriate in your mind, what objective criteria would you apply in assessing Lord's guilt or innocence?
 

Inger Sheil

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Um...what personal conclusions I've drawn about this matter are probably closer to Reade's than any other author, so I don't know if I'm lumped in with the 'emotional backlash' John perceives! Having voiced in the most emphatic way agreement that the Californian saw rockets, I don't see that as an issue of contention so have left it unaddressed.

Eric stated that The process of evaluating history is not one of a constant state of mutual uncertainty about the truth of an event. Experience with those who had the misfortune of formally instructing me in historical methodology at Sydney University, as well as my own subsequent dabbling in various historical fields, has taught me that 'history' is a highly artificial construct and a constant battlefield of ideas and interpretation. The pendulum of revision and counter-revision swings constantly, and advocates of ideas aggressively contend with their interpretation. Personally, I don't have a problem with this.

In the case of the Californian, I have absolutely no brief to exonarate Lord or his crew, or desire to do so. I believe that the evidence establishes that distress rockets were sighted from the Bridge of the Californian. I'm still savagely jetlagged, so hopefully can get away with just reciting the following anti-Lordite catechism [you'll have to forgive me for the phrase 'anti-Lordite', John - it's easier shorthand for some of the more cumbersome phrases describing my position in relation to the Californian's crew]. I believe that the crew on watch were aware something was amiss. I've lost count of the times I've declamed as the argument's clincher - often across a restaurant or pub table - Occam's razor (in Latin if the memory is up to it on the day)...usually with a defiant ring of 'and that settles that' to the tone.

I don't forsee that broad view changing (unless someone produces something very new and very startling). I do believe, however, that there is room for discussion and assessment over the culpability of individual players - Lord's admission that there was a slackness on the Californian I take as correct, but who was slack and to what degree? Lord, I believe, covered up after the fact (as did several of his officers), but what exactly did he and his officers do or not do, and why did they do (or not do) what they did? That is far less clear to me, and I think the case is far from closed.

As for other issues regarding the mystery ship, such as whether there was another ship sighted from the Titanic, it is here that I find the ground far more slippery. Molony first strongly inspired me to challenge my complete acceptance of Reade's interpretation of events, but it was Boxhall's and Lowe's words that really made me wonder...

Perhaps Reade is correct about the ship the Titanic saw - I'm very willing to concede that is a possibility. At the same time, I have to confess to doubts and acknowledge that the other side can be argued very effectively as well.

I'm not trying to 'subtract the Californian' (in Reade's memorable phrase). What I'm simply trying to do, as a student of certain historical events, is come to a fuller understanding of both what happened and why it happened as it did. If you're absolutely certain in your own mind that you know the truth in all its broad and intimate detail, then good luck to you and God go with you in your delightful certitude. I'm afraid, though, that I feel considerable discomfort with that. It doesn't sit particularly well with my own critical thought processes.

As I said in another thread, I make the basic assumption that those on this board participating in this discussion are neither fools, knaves, intellectual charletons or blithering idiots. Those who have actually read Senan Molony's book - some of whom have posted to this board - are among the most well-read Titanic researchers in field...and their praise of the book is warm and enthusiastic. To what do those who have not read the book, yet presume to attack it, attribute these responses? Do you think we are fools, knaves or charletons?

John wrote:

Reade's work, on the other hand, is a scholarly tome -- a solid, factual history. I don't agree with *all* of his conclusions either. But I can identify with a high degree of certainty what he based them on, via those copious endnotes. Reade's analysis proceeds from readily identifiable research, not from his own mere say-so.

This not only very precisely expresses how I feel about Reade, but also how I feel about Molony's book. I have - and continue to - debate issues pertaining to the 'mystery ship' at great length with him. He is very well aware of the points on which I disagree with him, and has always extended to me the courtesy of believing my position - even when at its furthest from his own - an honourable one based on my own attempts to understand and interpret events as best I can with the data to which I have access.
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Inger wrote: "I don't know if I'm lumped in with the 'emotional backlash' John perceives!"

Inger: Not at all. And as for myself, I don't presume to attack the book, only the premise apparently proferred that it somehow vindicates Lord. On that we appear to be in complete agreement.

But since this thread does not deal strictly with Senan's book (not that it usually matters), and since those three critical observations have been introduced, I for one would sincerely like to see them addressed by those who seemingly find them objectionable or irrelevant. (Which, of course doesn't include you.) Those three crucial issues are perennially danced around, but seldom squarely dealt with, by the would-be supporters of Captain Lord. (If they were, I doubt we'd be hearing allegations of any "controversy" at all.)

Not having had the good fortune you've obviously enjoyed in interpersonal dealings with Mr. Molony, I doubt my conceptions on that particular topic will change any time soon. But saying that doesn't label anyone as a "fool, knave, or charlatan"; it merely indicates a genuine difference of opinion on the author and subsequent reluctance to part with "the green".

Tracy: Simply "wrong" or "misinformed" would be woefully inadequate as descriptions of Harrison's work. "Randomly crossing over from non-fiction to fiction" is far closer to the truth.
 
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