Why didn't the Titanic's lookouts see the Californian?


Mar 22, 2003
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I assumed so too. I think you can be sure that Lightoller and the Press were using poetic licence since it woud have been a hige law suit if the chnel hd been blocked by the back end of a grounded liner. You've sailed in that area> If i remember rightly the current can be fierce at Spring Tides. If so, the you want to maintain speed within the channel.
Those accounts were before they opened up the Abrose channel. Here is the path they had to take in those earlier years.
1615499594758.png
 
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Seumas

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Great book. One of my favorites.
:D

"The Maiden Voyage" was a real "eye opener" when I first read it. I had previously looked upon Smith as being a wronged and tragic heroic figure. That book changed all that.

The crying shame it is not all that well known a Titanic book and yet it has a ton of common sense in it and Marcus makes his arguments well.

Just out of interest Sam, did you ever have any correspondence with Geoffrey Marcus whilst he was alive ?

He also wrote a book a book about social, political and cultural life in Britain between Victoria's death and the start of WW1 called "Before the Lamp Went Out" which I've been trying to track down a copy of for years.
 

Jim Currie

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What I am referring to Jim is not Smith's post-collision actions.

Rather his pre-collision actions.

Smith's whole set up for ensuring that warnings of ice were delivered to the bridge immediately upon receiving them and that each new watch was appraised of the changing situation was flimsy and too trusting.

Bride and Phillips were never given such a simple thing as an order to bring ice warnings to the bridge as soon as they had transcribed them. They took them up (well, the ones that did get there anyway) when they had a moment to spare.

The testimony from the four surviving officers regarding ice warnings was notoriously confusing and contradictory.

Our quartet all had different memories (and sometimes no memory at all) of who saw what ice messages tacked to the chart room wall on the night of April 14th. Smith's system of keeping his officers "in the know" was rotten and quite incredible for such an experienced captain.

I won't ever be convinced that Smith wasn't at fault for that. The man had become overconfident and children's bodies floating on the North Atlantic was the horrific result.

With regard to not reducing speed and the failure to turn much further south than they did. There's nothing more I can add that haven't already posted.

The likes of Sam Halpern, Dave Gittins, Bill Wormstedt, George Behe, Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton et al have written extensively about the failings regarding speed and there for years. Their case is solid and in some cases based on decades of research into the disaster. I trust them impeccably when it comes to that.
I'll address your points in order, Seamas.
First: The Marconi Operators were not employees of the shipping Company but of the Marconi Company. As such, they had a laid down protocol regarding the receipt and sending of messages....particularly navigation warnings and master to master messages. these were to be delivered to the bridge immediately. That was nothing to do with the Master but was the responsibility of the Operator on duty. So Smith cannot be blame for another not following the rules.
The standard practice on every MN ship was for all navigation warnings to be plotted on the chart on the chart desk and the warning message to be pinned to the chart room message board. There was nothing done differently on the Titanic from any MN ship I ever sailed in. the Juniors performed these duties.
Warnings would also have been written in the Master's Night Order Book which had to be read and signed by every OOW coming on duty. That too was standard MN regs.
. The ice warning positions were known well before 8 pm that night otherwise how was Lightoller be able to work an ETA. ice?
Smith was no responsible for a single death.. that was the result of hitting an iceberg. The lives of women and childen were his very first priority. in fact, it might be claimed that the the fact that so many were saved should be his epitaph.

As for your list of lllustrious names? They might have been digging for years, but if they didn't have all, or know how to use all, the right tools , they will continue to come up with intelletual inexactitudes, assumptions and downright fabrications.
 

Seumas

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I'll address your points in order, Seamas.
First: The Marconi Operators were not employees of the shipping Company but of the Marconi Company. As such, they had a laid down protocol regarding the receipt and sending of messages....particularly navigation warnings and master to master messages. these were to be delivered to the bridge immediately. That was nothing to do with the Master but was the responsibility of the Operator on duty. So Smith cannot be blame for another not following the rules.
The standard practice on every MN ship was for all navigation warnings to be plotted on the chart on the chart desk and the warning message to be pinned to the chart room message board. There was nothing done differently on the Titanic from any MN ship I ever sailed in. the Juniors performed these duties.
Warnings would also have been written in the Master's Night Order Book which had to be read and signed by every OOW coming on duty. That too was standard MN regs.
. The ice warning positions were known well before 8 pm that night otherwise how was Lightoller be able to work an ETA. ice?
Smith was no responsible for a single death.. that was the result of hitting an iceberg. The lives of women and childen were his very first priority. in fact, it might be claimed that the the fact that so many were saved should be his epitaph.

As for your list of lllustrious names? They might have been digging for years, but if they didn't have all, or know how to use all, the right tools , they will continue to come up with intelletual inexactitudes, assumptions and downright fabrications.
Jim, that's not correct about the Marconi men.

I believe it was Parks Stephenson (he is the "go to" guy for info about the Titanic's radio, what he doesn't know about it ain't worth knowing) who a number of years ago looked into the issue of the Marconi men's exact legal standing aboard the ship. He looked at the actual contracts signed between Marconi and White Star.

He found that they were indeed bound to the orders from their captain. So Smith did have the option to order Bride and Phillips to promptly report to the bridge with every ice warning as soon one had been received and jotted down.

The messy testimony of the four surviving officers regarding what they knew of ice warnings shows that there was poor communication between the officers regarding what warnings from what ships they knew or did not know about.

For example: Lightoller claimed he told Pitman of one particular message. However, Pitman denied this. One was telling the truth and the other wasn't. Which one was being honest ? Who knows ?

After the RMS Caronia message was received on either late morning or early afternoon (there is uncertainty over the time) on April 14th, the whole of issue of "who knew what", "who saw what" and "who said what" regarding these wee slips of paper that could have made all the difference, descends into farce.

Smith's system for a) making sure all his officers were kept up to date on developments and b) ensuring a steady flow of relevant information to his bridge from the wireless room was in both cases lax and far too trusting of his subordinates.

The Master's Night Order Book (and with all the ships papers) was destroyed in the sinking. Therefore, none of us can say what was written in it and what was not.

I'm sure that the authors I mentioned would be flattered to be called "illustrious" !

However Jim, I can't accept your scepticism of their research. It's not even up for debate. They are the best. Even some people who bore grudges against the authors said they could not fault "On A Sea of Glass" or "Report Into the Loss....". The late John P. Eaton who died recently was another sterling historian of the disaster.
 
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Cam Houseman

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However Jim, I can't accept your scepticism of their research. It's not even up for debate. They are the best. Even some people who bore grudges against the authors said they could not fault "On A Sea of Glass" or "Report Into the Loss....". The late John P. Eaton who died recently was another sterling historian of the disaster.
Why not?
 

Mike Spooner

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Mike - It depended on the type of ship, but in most ships, the 8 to 12 Watch was the Captain's Watch. He did not keep it himself but it was usually taken by the most Junior Watch Keeping officer. In the case of Titanic, that was Lightoller and on Californian it was Groves. However, until that officer proved himself, the captain was off and on his bridge frequently but not so much as to destroy the confidence of the Officer of The Watch
At the time of Titanic, in my time and years thereafter, the OOW did not leave the bridge... not even for a call of nature. He paced the deck (I'm sure you've heard of that?) for four hours at a time. Boring? You bet it was, particularly if you sailed from Honolulu to Sidney Heads - right down the center of the Pacific in a 10 knot ship without ever seeing another ship. However he was the first responder when action had to be taken to alter the course of the ship. I've told you where he should be but obviously you did not understand or want to understand my explanation.
Read the evidence - there was no delay time in giv8ing the first helm order.
Jim. Having a bit more time to read your relies. First I would agree with you on the safety precaution captain Lord took for his crew and ship safety was the right thing to do. Which Smith was far from lacking in doing the same. Quite frankly he was responsible for the 1500 who lost there lives.
I cannot not agree with you trying to get Murdoch of the hook for his part in the lost of Titanic to. He was in charge of the ship at the time. Don't give me any excuses did not know he was in the icefield area of course knew. He is a senior officer with high qualification and with years of sea experience. He knew at the time the ship was in danger specially at the speed they were going at. But he needs a reason to tell the captain of reduce the speed. From his own initiative he will go to the starboard wing for a better view of the situation. In doing so he has now left the centre command post unattended. This is own the risk he has taken on himself. Yet he had another officer on duty who could be in that position whist on the wing, that was 4th officer Boxhall. Yet I find it extraordinary how Boxhall wasn't on the bridge to. We hear he was in his quarter at the time. For him to be in his quarters he must of got permission from Murdoch to so. This is only further risk he has taken on himself. He also under captain order was to inform him immediately of any change in the weather. Well we know a haze come up but never did informed Smith. Again at his own risk. The ship is 94 feet wide. Where I can see he is probably a good 40 feet away from the centre point of the bridge. Hitchens is in a enclosed wheel house. For Murdoch to give the order hard over to starboard and that dash near to the wheel house so that the order can be heard will cost him in time. It may only be seconds, but that could of made all the different.
As for the crow nest lookouts you point out they are a tough bunch of fellows dealing with the cold wearing warm coats and waterproof clothing ect. Which would agree on. But how tough they may be the one thing they cannot escape is watery eyes from the cold wind into a warm eye balls giving them blurred vision. Which is probably the reason why they didn't see the berg in time. However a officer on the bridge behind a windshield and the luxury of a pair binoculars on hand has a better chance of seeing things ahead than those the crow nest lookouts did. Therefore officers on duty are part of the lookout team to, were Boxhall should be given the order to joint in.
As for the navigation error in progress you have covered it your self under article: Re- Opening Titanic's Can of Worms!
 

Jim Currie

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Jim, that's not correct about the Marconi men.

I believe it was Parks Stephenson (he is the "go to" guy for info about the Titanic's radio, what he doesn't know about it ain't worth knowing) who a number of years ago looked into the issue of the Marconi men's exact legal standing aboard the ship. He looked at the actual contracts signed between Marconi and White Star.

He found that they were indeed bound to the orders from their captain. So Smith did have the option to order Bride and Phillips to promptly report to the bridge with every ice warning as soon one had been received and jotted down.

The messy testimony of the four surviving officers regarding what they knew of ice warnings shows that there was poor communication between the officers regarding what warnings from what ships they knew or did not know about.

For example: Lightoller claimed he told Pitman of one particular message. However, Pitman denied this. One was telling the truth and the other wasn't. Which one was being honest ? Who knows ?

After the RMS Caronia message was received on either late morning or early afternoon (there is uncertainty over the time) on April 14th, the whole of issue of "who knew what", "who saw what" and "who said what" regarding these wee slips of paper that could have made all the difference, descends into farce.

Smith's system for a) making sure all his officers were kept up to date on developments and b) ensuring a steady flow of relevant information to his bridge from the wireless room was in both cases lax and far too trusting of his subordinates.

The Master's Night Order Book (and with all the ships papers) was destroyed in the sinking. Therefore, none of us can say what was written in it and what was not.

I'm sure that the authors I mentioned would be flattered to be called "illustrious" !

However Jim, I can't accept your scepticism of their research. It's not even up for debate. They are the best. Even some people who bore grudges against the authors said they could not fault "On A Sea of Glass" or "Report Into the Loss....". The late John P. Eaton who died recently was another sterling historian of the disaster.
Have to correct you, Seumas.

What I told you about the message protocol followed by Marconi Operators was always the case.
The contract between Marconi and a Company had a clause in it to the effect that all Marconi Operators would be subject to the absolute commands of the Master of any of the Company vessels. Besides the Night Order Book, each passenger ship had and still has, a Master's Standing Orders, a copy of which would have been made available to all senior officers including Jack Phillips. These would have contained instructions regarding reasons forimmediately notifying the Master at all times. and would have included the receipt and sending of wireless messages containing navigation advice or warnings. The subject of distress was already dealt with in Rule 9 (I think) of the 1906 Berlin Convention Here is how Bride described the protocol
"16415. Was that what you always did when you got a message - ?
16416. (The Attorney-General - To the witness.) What was your practice when you got a message?
- If it was for the navigating staff or the Captain we delivered it personally."
6420. Then this is the only message you received during the whole of this voyage that could in any way affect the navigation of the ship?
- Yes."

Now do you understand?
According to Bride, the surviving W/O there was but one ice warning delivered to the bridge when he was on duty from 2pm to 8pm that afternoon and it was about ice bergs.

As for the Coronia ice warning. I'll let Lightoller tell you about that:
"Mr. LIGHTOLLER. The commander came out when I was relieved for lunch, I think it was. It may have been earlier; I do not remember what time it was. I remember the commander coming out to me some time that day and showing me a telegram, and this had reference to the position of ice... An approximate position and presumably the maximum eastern longitude.
Senator SMITH. A warning to you, of its proximity?
Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Giving the position. No warning, but giving the position - a mere bald statement of fact.
Senator SMITH. Did you regard it as a warning when you got that information?
Mr. LIGHTOLLER. We get those repeatedly and various other things, and we regard them as information...
Senator SMITH. What did you do about it?
Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Worked approximately the time we should be up to this position.
Senator SMITH. What did you find?
Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Somewhere around 11 o'clock."

No confusion there.
As for Pitman's memory?
The Coronia ice message would not overly concern him. He would not know about it until 3 hours after it was reported and Boxhall had plotted it. Boxhall would draw his attention to it at 4 pm that afternoon when he, Pitman, went on Watch and, then, he would also know that Lightoller had calculated that Titanic would be in the vicinity and well to the south of it after he went off Watch at 8pm and she would be past it before he came back on duty at Midnight. However, he did remember the Californian warning of bergs.

I' sure "On a Sea of Glass" is an excellent read. However the same authors co- published the Lifeboat Launching Sequence which has at least one glaring contradiction. So forgive me If I prefer to number them among "the best".
 

Rose F.

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Now what can that be?
It's been a while since I went over the relevant articles, but aren't there a few cases where one survivor said they launched the lifeboats in one order but another said a different order for those same four boats?

I'll let Currie speak for himself on the matter, but that's my first thought as far as what might be seen as contradicting.
 
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Jim Currie

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Now what can that be?
Since you had apart in it, Sam, I'll let you tell us.

However I doubt you will, so I'll take this back to the subject of the thread and ask you a couple of questions about it.
1.You claim the lookouts on Titanic did not see Californian's lights because initially she was showing Titanic her stern light. How was that possible if Californian was intially heading NE and swinging to starboard before the approaching vessel was seen and Titanic was SE of Californian when she stopped?
2. For the stern light to be visible from Californian at all, the maximum separation ditance between the two vessels had to have been about 18 miles. So why was it that Californian's lights were not seen from the Carpathia at 4 am and vice vesa the next morning when the separation distance was much the same?
 
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Jim Currie

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It's been a while since I went over the relevant articles, but aren't there a few cases where one survivor said they launched the lifeboats in one order but another said a different order for those same four boats?

I'll let Currie speak for himself on the matter, but that's my first thought as far as what might be seen as contradicting.
Sam knows perfectly well the two points of contradiction.
 

Rose F.

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Sam knows perfectly well the two points of contradiction.
Sam might, but the rest of us haven't been in the weeds deep enough to know what it is you're talking about.

Then again, it might be worth a thread on its own, if there isn't one already.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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There are contradictions in testimonies all over the place. Not only among different eye witnesses, but also contradictions from the same eyewitness. And that is to be expected. The lifeboat article, as well as my own published work, bring out those contradictions. It becomes a problem of sorting out the various claims and so forth, and then trying to put everything together in way that appears to fit best when that is possible, keeping in mind that not everything reported is precise, especially when it comes to subjective assessments such as clock times, durations, directions and distances.

As far as the lifeboat article, I suggest people take the time actually read it. If you then want to disagree, then that is fine.

As far a seeing a stern light at max geographic range, that is very problematic. For any light to be seen not only must it be within the max geographic range but it also must be within its luminous range under the prevailing meteorological visibility conditions at the time of observation. Bear in mind that the required distance for a stern light under nominal range conditions was only 1 mile, while for steaming lights it was 5 miles.
 
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Seumas

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There are contradictions in testimonies all over the place. Not only among different eye witnesses, but also contradictions from the same eyewitness. And that is to be expected. The lifeboat article, as well as my own published work, bring out those contradictions. It becomes a problem of sorting out the various claims and so forth, and then trying to put everything together in way that appears to fit best when that is possible, keeping in mind that not everything reported is precise, especially when it comes to subjective assessments such as clock times, durations, directions and distances.

As far as the lifeboat article, I suggest people take the time actually read it. If you then want to disagree, then that is fine.
For what it's worth Sam, I and I'm sure the clear majority of people interested in the subject do fully accept the timeline that your co-authors Bill Wormstedt and Tad Fitch gave in "Report Into the Loss ...".
 
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