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

Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
Hello Captain Jim. It is nice to be able to comment again on ET, and I see that you are still keeping these, what you call 'whippersnappers' in order my friend, LOL.

I have been in the Doldrums for a few years because of my old desk top finally packing up on me, I lost everything, including all my contacts. I did get a lap top, but through not making a copy of my password, and not being unable to remember it, I was just a spectator following the discussions on ET, longing to join in and give you a little support as I used to do before the desk top conked out.

I eventually got in touch with Phil, and through his kindness and help, I am now able to make comments again. So it is with much gratitude that I say my thanks to Phil for his help.

I do hope that you are keeping well Jim, and that all is ok in your neck of the woods.

Best regards my friend.

Martin.
Hello there. Martin me old "Whippersnapper". lol Just saw this after I posted an answer to you.. "Get in line there - lad" :D
As usual, you can see I still use my "rope's end" on friens and friend alike (no foes - just mis-informed);)
 
Martin Cooper

Martin Cooper

Member
Hello there. Martin me old "Whippersnapper". lol Just saw this after I posted an answer to you.. "Get in line there - lad" :D
As usual, you can see I still use my "rope's end" on friens and friend alike (no foes - just mis-informed);)
Hi Jim.

Yes, I heard that shot across my bows, LOL.


With Seumas talking about the book 'The Maiden Voyage'. I knew I had a copy of it amongst my book collection. So I dug it out and had a look through it. My copy is a paperback, and on page 92 it says that, 'on the captains inspection tour', that the captain, the chief officer, the chief engineer, the purser, the chief steward, the senior surgeon, and all heads of departments, in their best uniforms, proceeded with measured tread from stem to stern on their inspection. So, I was quoting what it says in 'The maiden voyage' as to the reason why no boat drill was done on that Sunday.

As you lnow Jim, I was not a Navy man, I was a railwayman for many, many years, and was also in the TA and served in The Queens Lancashire Regiment. I have been retired now for a number of years, and spend my time going for walks in the countryside, making models, reading a good book, and visiting various sites including ET on my computer.

I recantly made a model of HMS Warspite, my dear old dad remembered this fantastic Battleship when he was in the Normandy Landings, she bombarded the beaches while he and his mates were in the landing craft, he always said that she was a fine ship, she was known as 'The Grand Old Lady'.

Stay safe and keep well Jim.

Martin.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Jim Currie
Martin Cooper

Martin Cooper

Member
Hi Jim.

Regarding your earlier post.

Way back in 2010, I posted a very similar post regarding Capt Smith, ie, ice warnings, speed, glasses, extra lookout at the prow of the ship, etc, and apparently got the seal of approval from you back then. Also a couple of years ago, you posted a comment saying that Smith didn't know the extent of the ice barrier from north to south, however, now you appear to have changed your mind about it. Anyway, that is all by the by now.

Capt Smith was on the bridge speaking with the OOW (Lightoller), and commenting on how clear it was, but he did say to Lightoller that if it became in the slightest degree hazy that they would have to slow the ship down.

Meanwhile up in the nest, Jewell and Symonds were on lookout, and they saw a slight surface haze which lay along the western horizon. Symonds sniffed the air, and said 'by the smell of it there is ice about', they were later relieved in the nest by Fleet and Lee.

What I am wondering is, did Jewell and Symonds report this haze and the smell of ice, and if so, then why didn't Smith slow the ship down as he said earlier to Lightoller, and as an extra precaution post an extra lookout at the prow of the ship, which I believe had a telephone to the bridge, and was a good few yards ahead of the foremast. You never know, this lookout at the prow could well have spotted the berg well before Fleet did and informed the bridge that bit earlier giving them a little more time to avoid it altogether. It might have been a very close run thing and missed the berg by just a few feet, but it could have been the difference between saving the ship or losing it and over 1500 lives.

What do you think Jim?

Should I prepare myself for a full broadside and a taste of the cat, or can I come out of hiding from behind the settee and stop waving my white flag? LOL.
 
Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
Hi Jim.

Regarding your earlier post.

Way back in 2010, I posted a very similar post regarding Capt Smith, ie, ice warnings, speed, glasses, extra lookout at the prow of the ship, etc, and apparently got the seal of approval from you back then. Also a couple of years ago, you posted a comment saying that Smith didn't know the extent of the ice barrier from north to south, however, now you appear to have changed your mind about it. Anyway, that is all by the by now.

Capt Smith was on the bridge speaking with the OOW (Lightoller), and commenting on how clear it was, but he did say to Lightoller that if it became in the slightest degree hazy that they would have to slow the ship down.

Meanwhile up in the nest, Jewell and Symonds were on lookout, and they saw a slight surface haze which lay along the western horizon. Symonds sniffed the air, and said 'by the smell of it there is ice about', they were later relieved in the nest by Fleet and Lee.

What I am wondering is, did Jewell and Symonds report this haze and the smell of ice, and if so, then why didn't Smith slow the ship down as he said earlier to Lightoller, and as an extra precaution post an extra lookout at the prow of the ship, which I believe had a telephone to the bridge, and was a good few yards ahead of the foremast. You never know, this lookout at the prow could well have spotted the berg well before Fleet did and informed the bridge that bit earlier giving them a little more time to avoid it altogether. It might have been a very close run thing and missed the berg by just a few feet, but it could have been the difference between saving the ship or losing it and over 1500 lives.

What do you think Jim?

Should I prepare myself for a full broadside and a taste of the cat, or can I come out of hiding from behind the settee and stop waving my white flag? LOL.
No, Martin, just put your glasses on.

First: I cannot find ant evidence that Jewell or Symonds saw a mist ahead. Symonds claimed he could smell ice but that is a term ,rather than ice having a scent. It is a sensation felt when air cooled by the proximity of ice is inhaled through the nose.
On the other hand, the Lookouts these two relieved- Fleet and Lee - referred to a phenomenon seen ahead. One declared it to be a lightening of the horizon about 2 points on each bow, while the other claimed it was so dense as for it to be hard to see anything through it.
To my mind, there was no haze... you don't get haze in mid ocean, and the formation of it's cousin "mist", is due to warm, moisture-laded air meeting cold air and or a cold surface. At the time in question, there was no wind to carry warm air. There was simply cold surfaces and cold- dry air above them. I'm sure you have experienced a cold, clear, crisp winter evening.

A bow Lookout is only more useful than a Nest Lookout when there is poor visibility and/or there is a direct warning of danger ahead of the ship. It is useless in heavy weather. Since Titanic had a nest with two men in it - it was clear and they had no direct indication of icebergs ahead, Smith obviously decided there was no need for a bow lookout. On the other hand "belt and braces" were needed in the event of a warning of ice in the direct path, as was the case with Lord on the Californian
 
Martin Cooper

Martin Cooper

Member
Well Jim, you are the sailor and should know a lot more about these things than a landlubber. LOL.

However, there is something niggling about this 'haze'. You see, I have various books written by various authors regarding RMS Titanic, and most of them mention in their books about a haze. And it does seem rather odd that Capt Smith should say to Lightoller that if it becomes the slightest degree hazy we will have to slow the ship down, makes me wonder what was on his mind when he mentioned haze.

Geoffrey Marcus in his book 'The Maiden Voyage', mentions that 'Lightoller was mindful of what Smith had said, and was closely watching the weather, and keeping a sharp lookout for ice, knowing that if there was ice about, there might well be a certain amount of surface haze'.

So if Lightoller knew this, then surely an experienced man such as Capt Smith would also have known this as well.

Marcus also goes on to say that there was talk in the officers quarters about the ship getting into the ice around 10pm till about midnight, so again, if they knew this, then so must have Capt Smith. And of course this might well have been confirmed if the wireless message from the Mesaba had been taken to the bridge instead of being left in the W/O, and also if Phillips had not told the Californian to shut up whilst being given an ice warning and the position of the Californian. That is another thing Jim, at least Capt Lord did have the common sense to have a bow lookout at the time.

There was no moon that night, therefor no moonlight to reflect off the ice, also the sea was, according to some, like a mill pond or a flat calm, therefor no white foam at the base of the berg for the lookouts to spot in advance, it is also assumed that the berg had recently rolled over and was presenting a dark side toward the ship.

It all seems a little odd as to why an expreienced Capt like Smith, should mention slowing down if there was the slightest haze, and knowing that the ship could well encounter ice between 10pm and midnight, then why did he decide to leave the bridge at such a rather crucial time? It all does seem very strange to my mind, you would think that any good Captain, would want to guide his command through any sort of dangerous situation and see it through safely. I wonder if Capt Smith had somthing else on his mind that may have clouded his judgement?

Well Jim, with it being the 6th June yesterday, 77 years since D-Day. I was looking at the model I made of HMS Warspite, and thinking of my dear old dad and all the rest of those brave men that helped to free the world from tyrany. The world owes those men their gratitude, it is a debt that cannot be repaid, God Bless them all.

One of the American Battleships had to leave the scene, which left the American forces short of support with their landing. The Captain of HMS Warspite knowing that he had done his job on the British landing beaches, decided to help the Americans out. He left HMS Ramillies at the British landings and sailed his ship HMS Warspite to the aid of the American forces, where she bombarded the beaches where they were to land, this earned Warspite great praise from the Americans. The 'grand old lady' did her job well, what a pity she was not preserved for posterity, one of Britains finest Battleships ever built.

Martin.
 
Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
Great stories of the old days, Martin. I remember them only too well.

As for what was written about who said what? here is Lightoller's evidence in full:
"Yes. We [Capt. Smith] spoke about the weather; calmness of the sea; the clearness; about the time we should be getting up toward the vicinity of the ice and how we should recognize it if we should see it - freshening up our minds as to the indications that ice gives of its proximity. We just conferred together, generally, for 25 minutes....We commenced to speak about the weather. He said, 'there is not much wind.' I said, 'No, it is a flat calm,' as a matter of fact. He repeated it, he said, 'A flat calm.' I said, 'Quite flat; there is no wind.' I said something about it was rather a pity the breeze had not kept up whilst we were going through the ice region. Of course, my reason was obvious, he knew I meant the water ripples breaking on the base of the berg. We then discussed the indications of ice. I remember saying 'In any case, there will be a certain amount of reflected light from the bergs.' He said, 'Oh, yes, there will be a certain amount of reflected light.' I said or he said - blue was said between us - that even though the blue side of the berg was towards us, probably the outline, the white outline, would give us sufficient warning, that we should be able to see it at a good distance, and as far as we could see, we should be able to see it. Of course, it was just with regard to that possibility of the blue side being towards us, and that if it did happen to be turned with the purely blue side towards us, there would still be the white outline."
Even without a wind or any size of sea, they would have expected a long - low swell in that part of the ocean. Even in a ship like Titanic on such a night, a long, low swell would have been apparent. A large berg would behave like a ship in such a swell and displace water as it slowly pitched rolled and gyrated. Consequently, there would be a bright phosphorescence around its base. Not so with small ice in such conditions.
Lightoller also said:
"Capt. Smith made a remark that if it was in a slight degree hazy there would be no doubt we should have to go very slowly."
He used the adjective "hazy" to indicate a reduction in visibility which is entirely different from the noun haze and did so because in the North Atlantic in spring time there is a great deal of fog and the first sign of it is a fine mist.
I think you will find that other captains expected to, and in fact, did, meet with fog westward of 50 West
Smith was within a few feet of his bridge from the time he left Lightoller until they hit the ice. In fact, I think you will find that he was on and off it several times including wheh Boxhall reported the 7-30 pm position to him, and would have been nearby at the change of Watches at 10 pm

Be careful when passing on what some one writes in a book, Martin,
Geoffrey Marcus, like so many others when writing about this subject assumed certain things including what was in the minds of individuals. If he had any first-hand knowledge, he would have known that Lightoller knew as we all did, that you only get mist or sea smoke near ice when there is warm air bearing moisture in proximity to it. That is what causes the fog banks in spring. (and your breath to smoke in winter).
He also did what many authors did and still do, and that was, that he failed to read the evidence properly and in its entirety. There were two times for arrival at or near the proximity to where ice had been... note the use of the word "had". Lightoller thought 9-30 pm and Moody thought after 11 pm. Both these times were bases on Longitude - not latitude and that is important because to them, latitude was by far the most important consideration. I find no evidence that this was discussed in the messroom and in fact, Lightoller made his guess between 7-30 and 8 pm that night after dinner

Incidentally, I have been in thick fog in a force 12 with icebergs in the area when crossing the Grand Bank. It ain't funny!
 
Martin Cooper

Martin Cooper

Member
Great stories of the old days, Martin. I remember them only too well.

As for what was written about who said what? here is Lightoller's evidence in full:
"Yes. We [Capt. Smith] spoke about the weather; calmness of the sea; the clearness; about the time we should be getting up toward the vicinity of the ice and how we should recognize it if we should see it - freshening up our minds as to the indications that ice gives of its proximity. We just conferred together, generally, for 25 minutes....We commenced to speak about the weather. He said, 'there is not much wind.' I said, 'No, it is a flat calm,' as a matter of fact. He repeated it, he said, 'A flat calm.' I said, 'Quite flat; there is no wind.' I said something about it was rather a pity the breeze had not kept up whilst we were going through the ice region. Of course, my reason was obvious, he knew I meant the water ripples breaking on the base of the berg. We then discussed the indications of ice. I remember saying 'In any case, there will be a certain amount of reflected light from the bergs.' He said, 'Oh, yes, there will be a certain amount of reflected light.' I said or he said - blue was said between us - that even though the blue side of the berg was towards us, probably the outline, the white outline, would give us sufficient warning, that we should be able to see it at a good distance, and as far as we could see, we should be able to see it. Of course, it was just with regard to that possibility of the blue side being towards us, and that if it did happen to be turned with the purely blue side towards us, there would still be the white outline."
Even without a wind or any size of sea, they would have expected a long - low swell in that part of the ocean. Even in a ship like Titanic on such a night, a long, low swell would have been apparent. A large berg would behave like a ship in such a swell and displace water as it slowly pitched rolled and gyrated. Consequently, there would be a bright phosphorescence around its base. Not so with small ice in such conditions.
Lightoller also said:
"Capt. Smith made a remark that if it was in a slight degree hazy there would be no doubt we should have to go very slowly."
He used the adjective "hazy" to indicate a reduction in visibility which is entirely different from the noun haze and did so because in the North Atlantic in spring time there is a great deal of fog and the first sign of it is a fine mist.
I think you will find that other captains expected to, and in fact, did, meet with fog westward of 50 West
Smith was within a few feet of his bridge from the time he left Lightoller until they hit the ice. In fact, I think you will find that he was on and off it several times including wheh Boxhall reported the 7-30 pm position to him, and would have been nearby at the change of Watches at 10 pm

Be careful when passing on what some one writes in a book, Martin,
Geoffrey Marcus, like so many others when writing about this subject assumed certain things including what was in the minds of individuals. If he had any first-hand knowledge, he would have known that Lightoller knew as we all did, that you only get mist or sea smoke near ice when there is warm air bearing moisture in proximity to it. That is what causes the fog banks in spring. (and your breath to smoke in winter).
He also did what many authors did and still do, and that was, that he failed to read the evidence properly and in its entirety. There were two times for arrival at or near the proximity to where ice had been... note the use of the word "had". Lightoller thought 9-30 pm and Moody thought after 11 pm. Both these times were bases on Longitude - not latitude and that is important because to them, latitude was by far the most important consideration. I find no evidence that this was discussed in the messroom and in fact, Lightoller made his guess between 7-30 and 8 pm that night after dinner

Incidentally, I have been in thick fog in a force 12 with icebergs in the area when crossing the Grand Bank. It ain't funny!
Thanks for the information Jim.

Yes, some authors do tend to use a good bit of what they call 'licence', some more than others. Even Walter Lord in his book 'ANTR' used it, especially with Californian and Capt Lord, and just look how they portrayed him, his officers and his ship in the film of the same name.

Regarding the Californian, the title of this thread is 'Why didn't the Titanics lookouts see the Californian', well, I should of thought that was obvious, because they were too far away from each other, both ships would have been over the visible horizon, a good 20 or more miles apart.

Force 12, thick fog and icebergs, that doesn't sound all that healthy Jim, glad you made it safely mate.

Martin.
 
Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
Thanks for the information Jim.

Yes, some authors do tend to use a good bit of what they call 'licence', some more than others. Even Walter Lord in his book 'ANTR' used it, especially with Californian and Capt Lord, and just look how they portrayed him, his officers and his ship in the film of the same name.

Regarding the Californian, the title of this thread is 'Why didn't the Titanics lookouts see the Californian', well, I should of thought that was obvious, because they were too far away from each other, both ships would have been over the visible horizon, a good 20 or more miles apart.

Force 12, thick fog and icebergs, that doesn't sound all that healthy Jim, glad you made it safely mate.

Martin.
Spot-on Martin.
OH! and I forgot to tell that during Ice, fog and storm, we were trying to lash down a spare prop which had broken loose in the forward hold and penetrated the ship's side. That too was a maiden voyage and we limped into St, Johns Newfoundland and had 4K rivets renewed in the bow plating. Happy days!
That was back in 1955.
 
Martin Cooper

Martin Cooper

Member
Spot-on Martin.
OH! and I forgot to tell that during Ice, fog and storm, we were trying to lash down a spare prop which had broken loose in the forward hold and penetrated the ship's side. That too was a maiden voyage and we limped into St, Johns Newfoundland and had 4K rivets renewed in the bow plating. Happy days!
That was back in 1955.
Hells Bells Jim, it sounds like you were very fortunate to get to Newfoundland.

Odd isn't how some men seem to choose a profession that can bring all sorts of risks or hazards, but then again I suppose that is what many blokes like about their jobs.

I enjoyed my long career as part of the train crew on the railway, yes, there were times when situations made the heart beat a little faster, but we all knew our jobs and we all did the right things to avoid any calamity.

Working over the Settle-Carlisle line with long heavy goods trains in winter could sometimes be a nightmare especially at night. The weather changes so fast over that bleak moorland, and if you had some bad coal for the engine it made the fire burn like a wimberry, steam pressure fell and you struggled to get to the summit at Ais Gill. But you took the rough with the smooth, did your job and carried on, and if you couldn't make it to the summit, then it was a case of making sure that you had protected the train by laying down detonators, and informing the bobby (signalman), and arranging for assistance from either the front or rear.

I have some great memories of working over the Settle-Carlisle line, it could be lovely in the summer months, but also a nightmare during the winter.

Like you say Jim, Happy Days.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Jim Currie
Cam Houseman

Cam Houseman

Member
I should of thought that was obvious, because they were too far away from each other, both ships would have been over the visible horizon, a good 20 or more miles apart.
1623202528442
 
Top