A PV Solves a Puzzle


THE devil is in the detail... and nowhere is that phrase more true than in particular areas of Titanic study.

There has been controversy, for instance, over an impression given - to some - by remarks made by Captain James Henry Moore in his Inquiry evidence. This article will enter new evidence to clarify the matter.

Moore was Master of the Canadian Pacific vessel Mount Temple, which learned of the Titanic’s emergency early in the night and reached what she believed was the scene at 4.30 a.m.

Mount Temple

Moore then found his ship on the western side of a great ice barrier, and gradually felt sure the Titanic had collided on the eastern side, perhaps as many as eight miles further east. His conviction would be vindicated three quarters of a century later.

Enter the devil - and a lack of detail. Captain Moore eventually saw the Californian as the dawn lengthened into day. Captain Stanley Lord of that vessel would later be vilified as the villain of the piece. The detail is in the question of the time his ship was seen.

Californian passed the stationary Mount Temple at 7.30 a.m. “I passed her somewhere about half-past seven — somewhere in the vicinity of half-past seven,” said Captain Lord at Q. 7260 of the British Inquiry.

Both ships were then near the empty SOS position – while the Titanic wreckage would be found 73 years later in a location more than 13 nautical miles to the east and a little to the south of the distress co-ordinates.

Captain Lord claimed that the Californian was 19½ miles from the SOS position when she stopped for the night. His vessel would have drifted a few miles southward by the time her crew learned of the disaster, hours after 1,500 people had died.

Captain Lord said his ship got underway at 6 a.m. She had a top speed of 13 knots (nautical miles per hour), which was attained for most of the next ninety minutes until she made rendezvous with the Mount Temple at 7.30. 

So far, so good. Lord’s estimate of his distance away is consistent with his testified position, overnight drift, his time of starting, and his speed.

Yet there have been claims that Californian was visible to the Mount Temple at 6 a.m.! If true, this would obviously damage Captain Lord’s claim as to distance. If Captain Moore can see Californian, she can’t be too far away at the time she starts engines.

Captain MooreMoore, mind you, did not explicitly state that he could see the Californian at 6 a.m. This is what he did say:

”I suppose about 6 o'clock in the morning… I sighted the [Cunarder] Carpathia on the other side of this great ice pack, and there is where I understand he picked up the boats. So this great pack of ice was between us and the Titanic's position…

[testimony excised]

“I saw the Californian myself cruising around there, sir… She was there shortly after me…

[testimony excised]

Senator Smith: On which side of the ice pack was the Californian?

Moore: “The Californian was to the north, sir. She was to the north of the Carpathia and steaming to the westward, because, after I had come away and after giving up my attempt to get through that pack, I came back again and steered back, thinking I might pick up some soft place to the north. As I was going to the north the Californian was passing from east to west.

[A statement that does not include positive visuals.] 

Senator Smith: And you were also cut off from the Carpathia by this ice pack?

Moore: Yes, sir; by this ice pack. He [Californian] was then north of the Carpathia, and he must have been, I suppose, about the same distance to the north of the Carpathia as I was to the westward of her.”

‘Must have been’ and ‘I suppose’ in the last paragraph above are, of course, assumptions.

Moore would have known a good deal from wireless transmissions.

At the Inquiry, his outline of events would have been informed by what he learned from subsequent developments. Since the Californian passed him at 7.30, heading south, she must also have crossed the icefield. Moore knew her to have been initially on the far side.

The only positive linkage by Captain Moore of a time with the Californian comes in the British Inquiry -

Q. 9244. And I think shortly before 8 a.m. you came in sight of the Carpathia and the Californian?

Captain Moore — Yes.

It can be seen that while “shortly before 8 a.m.” is highly inexact, it does not at all fit in the context of a 6 a.m. “sighting,” a claim Moore does not make, and which comes only from a particular interpretation of his words.

Now, however, comes true context for this arcane area of dispute. And a context for question 9244 - which was asked because counsel had access to papers to assist in the guidance of witnesses.

Q. 9244 stems directly from the PV, or wireless log, of the Mount Temple.

The suggestion that “shortly before 8 a.m. you came in sight of the Carpathia and the Californian?” is based on the Mount Temple’s PV.

The PV provides a time of 7.46 a.m. ship’s time for the Carpathia and the Californian being in sight.

This is indeed “shortly before 8 a.m.,” and Captain Moore naturally agrees when the suggestion is put to him in this form.

The “6 a.m. contention” has been able to persist because of the absence from the official record of the Mount Temple PV. But this wireless record will soon be generally available.

The wireless log of the Mount Temple is currently being conserved at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England. This institution was gifted historic papers by the Marconi company in 2004.

Encyclopedia Titanica has seen the Mount Temple PV, with Phil Hind (of this parish) verifying what it contains.

Included is this entry:

6.0       Much Jamming.  M.P.A.+ M.W.L. in sight. [Carpathia and Californian in sight]

The 6 a.m. featured here, which may have led to some erroneous newspaper reports, is New York time (Eastern Standard Time), which was maintained by all wireless operators west of longitude 40° W.

Mount Temple’s ship time (the local time for her location, as she saw it) was one hour and forty-six minutes ahead of New York.

From the evidence of Mount Temple wireless operator John Durrant:

9437. (The Solicitor General) Then if I add 1 hour and 46 minutes to the time you have written down I shall get what your ship’s time was?

Durrant — Yes.

Therefore the notation ‘M.P.A.+ M.W.L. in sight.’ is entered for 7.46 a.m. ship’s time on the morning of April 15, 1912. It is ‘shortly before eight.’

It has nothing to do with 6 a.m. ship’s time.

Captain Moore read long extracts from his ship’s PV into the record at the American Inquiry – which is probably why some scholars may have felt the Mount Temple account was already available, with no need to seek out the actual document.

The PV, appended in extract at the end of this article, establishes however that Captain Moore left out some elements in the chronology he read out to Senators for the morning of April 15, 1912.

In particular, he left out ‘M.P.A.+ M.W.L. in sight.’ from the entry at 7.46 a.m. ship’s time.

This may have occurred because Moore was interrupted at precisely this point while reading the wireless entries into the record –

“3.20. [New York time – 5.06 a.m. ship’s time] Birma and Frankfurt working. We back out of ice and cruise around. Large bergs about. That is our ship. We back out of the ice.

3.25. Californian calls C. Q. I answer him and advise of Titanic and send him Titanic's position.

3.40. Californian working Frankfurt. Frankfurt sends him the same.

4.00. Californian working Virginian.

4.25. Californian working Birma.

5.20. Signals Californian. Wants my position. Send it. We are very close.

This is my ship and Californian, sir. When I get him to confirm my position, I ask him if he can give me his position. I understand he is cruising, because after we go up toward him he goes to the south and misses us, passes about a mile off, and then he gets where we came from. Then we go over the ground, and we have not seen anything of the ship [Titanic], and we think we must cruise on farther.

6.00. Much jamming.

Senator Smith [Interrupting] That is, jamming his operators?

Moore: Yes, Sir:

6.45. Carpathia reports rescued 20 boatloads.”


Moore at 6 a.m. New York time (7.46 a.m.) does not get the chance to finish the line of the actual PV, which notes that MPA (Carpathia) and MWL (Californian) are ‘in sight.’

Nor does he return to it after the interruption – but proceeds to the next entry.

This was an unfortunate omission. The record is now corrected, and will shortly be available for interested and accredited scholars to inspect at the Bodleian.

It is true that 7.46 a.m. ship’s time is not the actual time Californian was in sight – because the ships passed at around 7.30 a.m., and the Californian would have been visible for quite some time before that. 

Yet the previous entry, at 5.20 a.m., clearly suggests (and does so at 7.06 a.m. Mount Temple time), that the hull of the Californian is not yet visible.

The Californian’s becoming visible thereafter is then attached as an after-notation to the entry about ‘much jamming.’

But the idea that the Californian was visible to the Mount Temple at 6 a.m. Mount Temple time can surely now no longer stand. The evidence is all against it.



Page 33

a.m.         Monday April 15th 1912

1.25        M.P.A. [Carpathia] sends : “If you are there, we are firing rockets.”

1.40        M.P.A. Clg M.G.Y.  [Carpathia calling Titanic]

1.58        S.B.A.  thinks he hears M.G.Y.  [Birma thinks he hears Titanic]

So sends – “Steaming Full Speed To You; shall arrive you six in Morning. Hope you Are Safe. We are only 50 Miles Now”

2.0       M.P.A. Clg M.G.Y. [Carpathia calling Titanic]

3.0       All quiet. – We’re Stopped Amongst Pack Ice

3.5       S.B.A. and D.F.T. Working [Birma and Frankfurt]

3.20     S.B.A. and D.F.T.  Working

3.21     3.25     We Back Out Of Ice & Cruise Around. Big Bergs About.

Page 34

a.m.      Monday April 15th 1912

3.25     Answer M.W.L. [Californian] CQ - Nil {Advise Him of M.G.Y. and send him M.G.Y’s position} [Californian advised about Titanic]

3.40     M.W.L. Wkg D.F.T. [Californian working Frankfurt]

– D.F.T. Does the Same  [Frankfurt advises him of the Titanic]

4.0       ..          ..          M.G.N.  [Californian working Virginian]

4.45     ..          ..          S.B.A.    [Californian working Birma]

5.20     Sigs M.W.L. [Californian] – Wants My Position – Send SA. [Send position] 

6.0       Much Jamming.  M.P.A.+ M.W.L. in sight [Carpathia and Californian in sight]

6.45     M.P.A. [Carpathia] Reports Rescued 20 boatloads

7.15     More jamming – M.P.A. [Carpathia] Working M.B.L. [Baltic] 

7.30     M.B.L. sends M.S.G. [service message] to M.W.L.  [Baltic to Californian]

7.40     M.P.A. [Carpathia] Calls CQ and says “No need to std by him”  Advise my Captain, who has been cruising around the ice field with no result. Ship engines reversed.

            M.P.A. [Carpathia] and M.K.C. [Olympic] Very Busy All Day – Much Jamming 

            Going On. M.P.A. and M.K.C. Still Busy. [Carpathia and Olympic]

Relates to Ship:

Mount Temple


With thanks to Michael Hughes, The Douglas Byrne Marconi Archivist, Bodleian Library, Oxford.
Ship photo Senan Molony, text copyright 2006.
Captain Moore sketch, Washington Times.


Senan Molony