The SS Californian and her Captain Stanley Lord became notorious for their failure to respond to distress signals sent up by Titanic. It was alleged that officers on the nearby vessel observed the signals but ignored them.
The Californian had left Liverpool carrying a mixed cargo but no passengers on 5 April 1912, bound for Boston. She received several ice warnings and at 6.30 p.m. Lord himself ordered an ice warning sent to the Antillian, this was overheard by the Titanic. Lord did every thing a good Captain should do. He doubled the look out and slowed down. At 10.21 he decided to go no further and ordered the engines stopped. About an hour later Lord saw what he thought was a steamer passing to the south., Third Officer Groves was instructed to raise the ship by lamp but without success. The wireless officer was by now off-duty and therefore did not hear Titanic's distress signals. However it would appear that the rockets sent up by Titanic were observed from the deck of the Californian, however, they were not interpreted as distress rockets and in retrospect, the actions taken in response to them were woefully inadequate.
Captain Lord lost his command shortly after his role in the Titanic incident became known however the Californian resumed her normal service.
Summary of the Californian’s Career 1902 -1915
Compiled by Harland Duzen
January 30th - February 20th 1902 — Californian departed on her maiden voyage from Dundee to New Orleans. In command is Captain Jaffer.
March 1902 — Charted for 5 voyages by the Dominion Line. Funnel painted in Dominion Line Livery (red funnel with white band and black top). Begins first charted voyage on March 29th from Liverpool to Portland.
May 16th 1902 — Collides with pier head while arriving in dock in Liverpool “sustaining damage to several of her plates and hawsepipe”.
March 1903 — Reverted back to Leyland Line ownership.
December 12th 1903 — While departing New Orleans, runs aground and becomes stuck for two days. The vessel “sustained no apparent damage.”
April 4th 1907 — Arrives in Galveston from Cardiff having lost a propeller blade. Emergency repairs were made whilst at sea: “The vessel was tilted forward and repairs made while the wheel was exposed.” Californian then departed April 5th to Liverpool for further work.
April 25th 1907 — Arrives back in Liverpool. She’s back in service shortly afterwards reported to be in New Orleans on May 11th. (Under command by a Captain Partan?)
September 25th 1908 — Arrives in New Orleans from London and reports observing wreckage: “Sept. 7, in lat. 49 20 N. 6 10 W, passed though large quantity of new cases floating deep in water, marked ’S.M & Co., Cairo’ also a quantity of white painted wreckage, apparently part of ship’s upper works. Weather at time fine and smooth sea.”
March 27th 1911 — Stanley Lord becomes Captain of the Californian and on March 30th departs Liverpool on his first voyage commanding her.
October 1911 — ‘’Docked and painted” at Swan Hunter Shipyard in Wallsend (the same shipyard that built the Carpathia, Titanic’s rescue ship).
October 1911 - April 1912 — Ship is fitted with a Marconi Wireless System capable of transmitting “250 miles” on the ship’s 60-volt dynamo.13 The ship’s wireless callsign is MWL and her first Wireless Operator is Cyril Frumstone Evans.
22nd February 1912 — Used to deport a French Women from New Orleans back to Le Havre after “she was brought to this country [America] for immoral purposes.”
April 5th - 19th 1912 — Departs London heading for Boston and during her voyage stops in an ice field and controversially doesn’t respond to Titanic’s distress rockets or sinking.
April 19th - 27th 1912 — While in Boston, one of the ship’s Firemen, William Kennerdale, dies “after spitting blood”. At this time as well, the ship’s proximity to the Titanic becomes known to the American Press and her Captain and some crew attend the US Titanic Inquiry.
April 27th - May 10th 1912 — Travels from Boston to Liverpool for Captain, Officers and several crew members to attend as witnesses to the UK Titanic Enquiry.
May 17th 1912 — William Master replaces Stanley Lord as Captain of the Californian.
July 2nd 1913 — While in port at Vera Cruz, she suffers “slight injury” and “considerable damage to cargo” after a fire erupts in her No.3 and No.4 Holds.
November 9th 1915 — On voyage as a troopship between Saloniki and Marseille, She is crippled after being torpedoed by U-boat U-34 and later sunk after being torpedoed again by U-35, with the loss of one life, that of Firemen Richard John Harding. She now lies off the coast of Cape Matapan, Greece at 36.23N., 22.29E.