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The Titanic and the Californian

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Showing 1-14 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 16, 2011 6:19:15 AM PDT
Carlos says:
I downloaded the Kindle version of the Titanic and the Indifferent Stranger The Titanic and the Indifferent Stranger and found it to be a refreshing breath of fresh air from the usual Titanic books, either the Jack and Rose movie cash-ins or some of the ones brought out to capitalise on the 100th anniversary.
The basic story is that the Titanic sent up rockets to attract a ship nearby that failed to respond. Somewhere nearby, another vessel, the Californian, saw a ship come up, stop, fire rockets and disappear into the night. Its more complicated than that.
The Californian was blamed, and it would seem with good reason. Although there are many reasons why one or two unknown ships may have been in the area and could account for the unheeding vessels; the crucial point is the rockets. The law prescribes that rockets of any colour or description fired one at a time at intervals are one of the ways to procure help at sea at night. This is exactly what the Californian's officers were seeing! Some say they should have been minute intervals, and not five minute intervals, but this is irrelevant. Rockets going up should always be treated as signals; even landlubbers on the Titanic recognised this as it helped to shatter their cosy illusions about their ship's invincibility.
Other mysteries remain: why did the officers not wake the Captain up, as they had suspicions that all was not right on the other ship? And why not wake up the wireless man? They would have known in minutes what was going on between 5 and 20 miles away. I am not sure if anyone could have been rescued but they might have tried.
Its interesting to debate, especially in hindsight. Now that everyone in the story is dead, thats all we can do.

Posted on Sep 18, 2011 5:40:50 PM PDT
Lindsay B. says:
I had no idea that the Californian might have been able to help. Thank you for sharing. This sounds like an interesting book I'll have to pick up.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 26, 2012 10:23:37 AM PST
It does seem incredible that the officers on the Californian didn't respond to seeing the rockets. I have a masters license and I can't imagine not responding if it's true they saw those rockets. It's also surprising they didn't wake the captain since it is a golden rule to wake him when anything out of the ordinary occurs. Unfortunately there have been too many instances of negligence by ships officers and crew which have contributed to maritme tragedies. The sinking of the JOOLA in 2002 is a good example of this although it was not the primary cause of the tragedy.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 26, 2012 11:23:37 AM PST
Bubba says:
Some people believe that the Californian was unable to see the Titanic due to an optical phenomenon known as "super refraction". It is also believed that super refraction prevented the Titanic's lookouts from seeing the iceberg in time.

Titanic: A Very Deceiving Night

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 26, 2012 12:21:43 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 26, 2012 12:30:14 PM PST
F. Gleaves says:

'On Sunday 14 April at 19:00, the Californian's only wireless operator, Cyril Evans, reported three large icebergs 15 miles (24 km) north of the course the White Star Line passenger ship Titanic was heading. The Titanic's wireless operator Harold Bride received the warning and delivered it to the ship's bridge at 22:20 that evening...'

After encountering another iceberg, Captain Lord 'saw a ship's lights approaching. Lord went to the wireless room to find out if Evans knew of any ships in the area. He met him on the way and informed him that he did: "only the Titanic." Lord instructed him to call and inform her that the Californian was stopped and surrounded by ice.'

'On deck, Third Officer C.V. Groves also saw the lights of another ship come into view on the horizon off the Californian's starboard side, and less than ten miles away. To him, she was clearly a large liner as she had multiple decks brightly lit.'

'Fifteen minutes after spotting the vessel, Groves went below to inform Lord. He suggested that the ship be contacted by Morse lamp, which was tried, but no reply was seen.'

'The Titanic's on-duty wireless operator, Jack Phillips, was busy working off a substantial backlog of personal messages with the wireless station at Cape Race, Newfoundland, 800 miles (1,300 km) away, at the time. When Evans sent the message that they were stopped and surrounded by ice, the relative proximity made the Californian's signal loud in Phillips' headphones (both radio operators were using spark gap wireless sets whose signals bled across the spectrum and were impossible to tune out). As Evans attempted to transmit his ice message, Phillips was unable to hear a separate, prior message he had been in the process of receiving from Cape Race, and he rebuked Evans with: "Shut up, shut up! I am busy; I am working Cape Race!" Evans listened for a little while longer, and at 23:30 he turned off the wireless and went to bed.'

'Ten minutes later the Titanic hit an iceberg. Ten minutes after that her lookout, Frederick Fleet, spotted a nearby ship. She sent out her first distress call 25 minutes later.'

The Californian continued trying to contact the ship (Titanic) by Morse lamp, without response.

By 2:00 the ship appeared to be leaving the area. A few minutes later Crewman Gibson informed Captain Lord as such and that eight white rockets had been seen. Lord, who said that he had been asleep (and later claimed no recollection of the visit), asked whether they were sure of the color. Gibson said yes and left.

At 2:20, the Titanic sank.

Captain Lord didn't get up until 4:30 and took a needlessly roundabout route to the Titanic's last position after hearing she had already sunk.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 29, 2012 12:15:42 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 29, 2012 12:36:55 PM PST
Just Leigh says:
I'm not sure I know what a Morse lamp did. Did it use the same Morse signals (CQD), the new ones, or did it matter? Did the Titanic deploy a Morse lamp as well as the wireless?

There was really no excuse for blowing off rockets. Perhaps alcohol was a factor. I wonder if any superstitous seaman (is there any other kind?) willingly sailed with that lot ever again.

So close, so close....

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 29, 2012 2:08:24 PM PST
Bubba says:
The Titanic and the Californian Morse lamps used the International Morse code, the same code was used by their wireless radio operators.

There had been a number of different versions of Morse code used since it was first introduced, the International Morse code became standardized in 1865.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 29, 2012 5:59:24 PM PST
F. Gleaves says:
Captain Lord had seen several icebergs, and his radio operator had attempted to notify Titanic.

Lord didn't want to risk his ship in the ice field, and perhaps had heard enough about Titanic being 'unsinkable' that he thought she'd be fine until morning when he could pick his way safely through the ice field.

When he realized his mistake in the morning and saw the path clear to the Titanic, he steamed to the other side of the ice field so it wouldn't be so obvious that he could have easily rescued her survivors.

Posted on Dec 29, 2012 6:11:30 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 29, 2012 6:13:39 PM PST
Just Leigh says:
Thanks, but I'm still curious: Does anybody know if the Titanic deployed Morse lamps that night?

From what I remember, Captain Lord escaped censure because there was not at that time a reuirement that ships carry a Morse radio at all.

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 3:14:53 AM PST
The breakdown in communication between the Titanic and Californian is regretfull, but considering the technology available back then it is minor compared to what happened on the JOOLA in 2002. It was one of the worst maritime tragedies in history--close to 2000 died and only 64 survived. No message was sent out from the ship when it began capsizing, and government personell responsible for tracking the modern, German built car/ferry never responded when they stopped receiving hourly updates after 11pm. It was nine hours later before rescue operations were inniated. Subsequent investigations revealed the ship had very little of the required communication equiptment--it was relying primarily on VHF transmissions.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2012 8:49:37 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 30, 2012 8:52:39 AM PST
Bubba says:
It appears that the crew on Californian had tried to contact the Titanic twice using a Morse light. The crew on the Californian did not see any Morse light signals from the Titanic. One of several of the odd things regarding the Californian is that the captain had not ordered the wireless operator to turn on the wireless set after he was told of a nearby ship (the Titanic) using rockets. Even though the Californian had stopped and was not under propulsion, the boilers were still providing electrical power to the ship - and the wireless set. The Titanic's radio operator was on duty during the sinking until the power to the wireless set failed.


In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2012 4:25:02 PM PST
Just Leigh says:
Thanks, Patrick. Oh my God. I'll have to look the Joola up. I suppose if there had been a Kardashian on board....

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 31, 2012 11:03:29 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 31, 2012 11:08:51 PM PST
F. Gleaves says:
The MV Doņa Paz was a Philippine-registered passenger ferry that sank after colliding with the small motor tanker Vector on December 20, 1987. Doņa Paz was traveling from Leyte island to Manila, the country's capital.

With a possible death toll of 4,375 people, the collision and fire which sank both ships was probably the deadliest peacetime maritime disaster in history.

The revised official death toll was 1749, including the entire 60-man crew of the Doņa Paz and 11 of the 13-man crew of the Vector. Another 2600 unofficial passengers were believed to have bought reduced-price passage after boarding, based on missing persons reports. Of the 24 passengers who survived, only five were listed on the manifest.

The Doņa Paz had only one apprentice member of the crew monitoring the bridge when the accident occurred. Other officers and crew were either drinking beer or watching television.

However, the Doņa Paz was cleared of blame when subsequent inquiries revealed that the Vector was operating without a license, lookout or properly qualified master.

Neither ship seems to have had a functioning radio.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 2, 2013 8:05:30 AM PST
That's pretty sad especially since a VHF marine radio can cost less than a hundred dollars.
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Discussion in:  History forum
Participants:  7
Total posts:  14
Initial post:  Sep 16, 2011
Latest post:  Jan 2, 2013

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