Mysterious Waif of the Waves.. MGU?
by Jim Currie
SS Bitish Empire
Drawing created circa 1902.. Artist unknown
Unresolved questions regarding the April 1912 voyage of the SS Campanello and the possibility of her involvement in the Titanic disaster.
Born at Palmer's of Jarrow on August, 29,1901 to 'parents', British Shipowners Limited. She was christened British Empire and given the official number 115224. At birth, she was 470 feet long and 56.8 feet wide; sported one funnel, four masts and was fitted with twin propellers which would give her a maximum speed of 13 knots. .
Although she had room for 70 first class passengers and 2,200 third class passengers, – she spent the first 5 years of her life as a cargo ship chartered to the Phoenix line, – carrying cargo across the Atlantic from Antwerp in Belgium to New York. Her gross tonnage was 9291.
However, when she reached the age of 5 years, her British 'parents' tired of her and put her up for sale. She was taken in by a family of foreign people – Italians by the name of Navigazione General Italiana. They did not like the nationalistic name with which she had been christened and so changed her name toCampania - something more to their liking.
The new Italian 'parents' had great ambitions for this latest addition to their family. They were very much involved with transporting immigrants from Italy to the New World so they decided to provide her with lots of new things and to utilze her passenger-carrying ability; fitting her out with means by which she could carry immigrants. Therefore she went into one of their shipyards and was altered to enable her to carry lots of people.
On March17, 1907 she commenced the first of many round trip voyages; Genoa – Naples - Palermo – New York. By this time, she was getting older and more experienced and very good at her job. So much so, that in 1910, when she was 8 years old, she was hired out to the Northwest Transport Company for 2 round trip voyage charters; Hamburg -Rotterdam – Halifax Nova Scotia – New York - Hamburg. In that same year of 1910, her Italian 'parents' tired of her and sold her on to The Canadian Northern Steamship Company which ran a service between Avonmouth, in England and the Canadian eastern seaboard.
Campania's new 'parents' had just purchased the Uranium Steamship Company which was engaged in transporting immigrants from Europe to North America. Consequently, she was added to that company's existing fleet consisting of three ships; Principello, Uranium and Volturno. The intention was for her to join the other three on the North America route but to start the voyages from Rotterdam instead of Hamburg. However, there was a problem! There was another vessel with the same name– a regular visitor to New York since 1893 – the Cunard Steamship Company vessel SS Campania. Consequently, to avoid confusion, her new 'parents' re-named her Campanello. Thereafter, for the next 4 years, up until 1913; along with her sisters she plied her trade between Europe and the New World on a regular schedule carrying thousands of hopefuls from old Europe to a new life across the ocean.
In October, 1913, the Volturno was consumed by a a deadly fire and sank in mid-Atlantic. The remaining three ships continued as before until 1914. In that year, at the out-break of WW1, Campanello was 'called-up' for war service by the Canadian Government and worked as a military transport for the following two years. At the end of that period, she and her two remaining step-sisters: Principello and Uranium were sold to the Cunard Steamship Company. Cunard gave Campanello a new name – Flavia.
And so, for the last two years of WW1, our wandering waif, renamed Flavia, crossed the Atlanic, back and forth doing her bit for the war effort. She nearly made it!
At about 5 am on the morning of 24th of August, 1918, just over 11 weeks before the 11th hour of the 11thDay of the 11th Month - the signing of the Armistice which signalled the end of that terrible war - Flavia was en route from Montreal to Avonmouth in the Bristol Channel. She was 30 miles northwest of Tory Island, off the coast of Donegal, Ireland when without warning, she was torpedoed by the german submarine U 107 commanded by Captain Kurt Siewert and sent to the bottom with the loss of a single life. She lies there to this day at a depth of 105 metres. Althought the official records show one fatality; there is an account from a survivor which suggests that in fact, 374 souls were lost that morning.
Ω Ω Ω Ω Ω Ω
The life and death of this particular 'waif' was not remarkably different from many similar vessels built before 1914 and eventually lost during the Great War of 1914-18. However, there was one particular set of circumstances which just might make her a significant player in the world's most celebrated sea disaster – the loss of the RMS 'Titanic'.
During the two official inquiries into the loss of the new White Star liner, it was revealed that while Titanic was struggling for her life – while her lifeboats were being made ready and while they were being launched – a vessel was seen approaching her position from almost right ahead. This vessel remained in the vicinity for at least two hours before disappearing from sight.
To those on board Titanic; the sight of the approaching stranger would surely have seemed an act of providence. However, their relief at seeing her must have turned to puzzlement, followed in quick succession by amazement, disbelief, despair and finally, anger when this potential saviour seemingly ignoring their plight – turned away from the scene and finally vanishing into the darkness.
Because of highly publicised eye-witnesses accounts and press articles regarding the incident, the authorities could not ignore it. So they set about establishing an identy for the vessel in question. They didn't spend too much time over their search and settled for the most convenient candidate. ...the Leyland Liner SS Californian.
The story of the Californian has been told many times previously however here is a brief reminder:
The SS Californian under the command of Captain Stanley Lord, had been heading west at the time of theTitanic disaster, but an hour and a half before Titanic hit the iceberg, Californian had been stopped by an ice barrier. The distress position transmitted by Titanic was some 19.5 miles to the south-south west of whereCalifornian was stopped. However, in their evidence, Californian's officers reported seeing rocket signals to the south-south east of their location - not to the south-south west! Despite this glaring discrepancy and other contrary evidence, the British Wreck Commissioner found: "When she first saw the rockets the "Californian" could have pushed through the ice to the open water without any serious risk and so have come to the assistance of the "Titanic." Had she done so she might have saved many if not all of the lives that were lost."
By the same token, the US Inquiry reported that they were of the opinion that the SS Californian"was nearer the Titanic than the 19 miles reported by her Captain."- that "her officers and crew saw the distress signals of the Titanic and failed to respond to them in accordance with the dictates of humanity, international usage, and the requirements of law", In their opinion: "such conduct, whether arising from indifference or gross carelessness, is most reprehensible, and places upon the commander the Californian a grave responsibility.".
Captain Lord carried these outrageous accusations with him to his grave!
Back to our 'Waif of the Waves'!
Having looked at all the available evidence concerning the SS Campanello I believe there is enough of it to place her firmly on the list of contenders for the title of 'Titanic Mystery Ship'
Because it could not be followed up, one crucial piece of evidence was blantantly manipulated or down-right ignored by Inquiry members and subsequently by some researchers. This was the evidence given by Titanic's 4th Officer Joseph Boxhall relative to the lights of a vessel he and many other surviving witnesses saw almost right ahead of Titanic at about 10:30pm New York time on April 14; just after the first distress signal was sent out. In Boxhall's own words he "saw two masthead lights of a steamer, just slightly opened, and later she got closer to us, until, eventually,[boldness of this author] I could see her side lights with my naked eye.". The center set of the following sketches illustrate what he was describing:
As every deck officer and serious researcher knows; Boxhall was describing a moving vessel whereas,Californian was stopped and had been so for a considerable time before Titanic hit the iceberg. He would know it was a three or four masted vessel since the highest of the white masthead lights would be forward of the red navigation light. Here is more of Mr. Boxhall's evidence:
First; on day 10 of the US Senate Inquiry: " the masts were pretty close together. She might have been a four-mast ship or might have been a three-mast ship, but she certainly was not a two mast ship."
Then on Day 13 of the Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry regarding the same subject in answer to question 15401 : " I was paying most of my attention to this steamer then, and she was approaching us; and then I saw her sidelights. I saw her green light and the red. She was end-on to us. Later I saw her red light. This is all with the aid of a pair of glasses up to now. Afterwards I saw the ship's red light with my naked eye, and the two masthead lights. The only description of the ship that I could give is that she was, or I judged her to be, a four-masted steamer."
It has been claimed by researchers that in fact, the relative movements in bearings between the two ships was due to Californian swinging round causing the changes in navigation light configuration. However, they ignore the fact that there was only one way in which Boxhall could dispense with the use of aids to vision and that would be when the other ship got close enough for him to use the naked eye. He clearly states that he did eventually see all of the other ship's lights with the naked eye. Theoretically, it was possible for red and green sidelights of a ship similar to 'Californian' or 'Campanello' to be visible from the bridge of Titanic at a maximum separation of 16 miles . However, in practical terms, This could only have been achieved by using a telescope. It is highly unlikely that such lights would be visible to the naked eye at a distance greater than 5 miles.
In the previous sketch; reading the top and bottom centre sketches; we first see the steaming lights of ship approaching on a course which will cause her to pass to the left of us. If she keeps on course; after a while we will see her masthead lights and her left (port) side red light - she is getting nearer. If she turns toward us then turns away from us to the right; she will first show us all her navigation lights. At that moment, she will be 'end-on' to us. If she next turns away to the right, her left side will eventually become fully 'open' to us and if she continues to turn right, there will come a moment when her white stern light becomes visible and all her other lights 'disappear'. The movement of such a ship relative to Titanic can be illustrated as follows:
There are two basic requirements for candidates for the title of 'Mystery ship. The first being that she must have been underway (moving). The other is the the time when she was first seen from Titanic - at 10:30pm New York time. This time associated with Boxhall's evidence gives a time of origin from which all other mystery ship timing evidence flows. It does not require any fancy manipulation of apparent ship time or depend on whether Titanic's clocks were or were not altered. Simply put: any candidate for 'mystery ship' must have been underway and to the west of Titanic at approximately 10-30pm New York time and to have followed a route similar to the one shown in the previous illustration . In addition, it must have travelled that route during the period.. late April 14 to early April 15, 1912. Does Campanello match up? Let's see.....
After her arrival at Rotterdam,Campanello's Captain was reported as saying that during the period April 14/15, his ship was confronted by pack ice, field ice and bergs between 42°00'N..50°16'W and 41°10'N..49°00'W.
By the wording of his report -"during the period 14/15 April"- her Captain is telling the reader that he first encountered the ice on April 14 and finally got clear of it the next day on April 15. Since he gives coordinates indicating the extent of the pack ice, his ship must have travelled along a course indicated by those coordinates during the period in question. The following sketch suggests the track followed byCampanello as described by her Captain. I have included the positions of Titanic, Carpathia and Californianfor reference. I also show the actual and intended tracks for Carpathia and the relative New York times and positions for her and the mystery vessel during the period 10:30pm April 14 and 02:20am April 15.
In the above sketch, the distance from (A) in 42-00'N., 50-16'W. to position (C) in 41-10'N.,49-00'W is approximately 96 miles. Since Campanello was a 13 knot ship, she could not have covered that distance in less than 7 ½ hours. However, we do not know where and at what time along the line (A-B), Campanello first met with the ice. If she was indeed the vessel seen by Boxhall at 10:30pm New York Time and if she had come from the north and was heading down the western edge of the ice; it would mean that the latest time of arrival at point (A) would have been about 9:15pm New York time on April 14. 1912. Thre is, in fact, evidence of a vessel to the southward of Californian at that time. It was given by Californian's Third Oficer Charles Groves on Day 8 of the UK Inquiry. He told of seeing a vessel approaching Californian from the southward at about 9:20pm NYT on April 14. This vessel, unlike Titanic, had two white masthead lights!
Since the distance from point (A) back to New York is 1191 nautical miles, Campanello's departure time from her berth at New York would have needed to be in the early hours of April 11th... possibly later if she picked up some of the Gulf Stream. Her scheduled time of departure from New York was indeed April 11, 1912!
In the previous sketch, we also see the intended track of the Carpathia and her approximate position where she found Mr. Boxhall's boat. It might be argued that the mystery vessel; as well as having seen the distress signals from Titanic - could not have avoided seeing the signals from Carpathia nor could the men onCarpathia have missed seeing the mystery vessel. In fact, by the time Carpathia fired her first rocket, the mystery ship –Campanello or A. N. Other – would have been over 25 miles to the southwestward. In any case; all eyes on both ships would have been straining ahead, watching for ice!
At this juncture, the evidence in favour of Campanello being the likely candidate is compelling. That is, until we learn her average voyage time from New York to Rotterdam would be 11 days and that she arrived at Rotterdam from New York on April 25, 1912 and that 2 days previously, at 9-30am on April 23, she was 140 miles west of Bolt Head in Devon, England.
The April 23 position west of Bolt Head works in perfectly with the April 25 arrival date. However, the April 25 arrival date at Rotterdam minus the average voyage time of 11 days allows for a departure date from New York no earlier than April 14 – the day of the disaster. From New York, it would take Campanello 3 days 19 hours steaming to reach the ice barrier, meaning; if she left New York on April 14, she would not have been in the vicinity of the disaster site before late April 17. So it seems she was not the culprit after all. But then her Captain throws another 'spanner in the works'... he reported that his ship was 'a day away' from Titanic when he heard about the disaster. A day away ? Was that the next day – April 15? or a day's steaming – 308 nautical miles – away? Whatever he meant; it puts his ship firmly back in the 'ball park' because it gives a target day of April 15/16 and a new York departure of around Noon on April,11.
Perhaps a closer look at the round-trip voyage of the 'Campanello during March/April, 1912 might help to clarify matters?
The Voyage of the SS 'Campanello- March 23 to April 25, 1912
At the time of the Titanic disaster, Campanello was on the Rotterdam, Halifax - Nova Scotia - New York - Rotterdam run. On the voyage in question, she sailed from Rotterdam on Saturday, March 23,1912 and arrived at Halifax the following week, on Wednesday, April 3 – an eleven day outward voyage!
At Halifax, she disembarked passengers and some cargo before sailing for her final destination; New York. She arrived there on April 8. Her scheduled departure date from New York on the return journey to Rotterdam was April 11, 1912. She finally arrived at Rotterdam, Holland on April 25.. a fourteen day homeward voyage that would normally have taken her less than 11 days!
Every North Atlantic man will tell you that the voyage westward takes longer than the same journey going east. In this case, it seems that Campanello was the exception to the rule. She either took a much longer route on the way back from New York to Rotterdam or was delayed leaving New York. Only a sighting of an official record of her time of departure from that port will clear up that matter!
If her Captain chose the shortest, most direct route between New York and Rotterdam, 'Campanello' would require to steam a distance of 3,270 nautical miles. On the other hand, if he chose to follow the same return track followed by the RMS 'Olympic' and other trans-atlantic liners- the southernmost track - his ship would cover a total distance of 3,453 nautical miles. However, the fact that he reported finding ice in latitude 42 North, tells us he was well to the north of the main east-bound liner route. This favours choosing the shortest, most direct route back to Rotterdam... was he saving coal?
Regardless of the route chosen, and barring lengthy breakdown - if Campanello sailed from New York on April 11; at her average speed of 13 knots, she could have been expected to arrive at Rotterdam sometime during April 22. She did not! – acording to the report, she arrived at Rotterdam 3 days later.. So what happened? Did she sail from New York on April 14 ? If so, then she was three days late in sailing. Obviously she had been at longitude 49°West at some time during her homeward voyage. Therefore, if she was, as reported,140 miles west of Bolt head at 9-30am on the morning of April,23, 1912 and had maintained her average speed after passing the ice barrier, then she was at 49°West at or near midnight on April 18, 1912 and must have sailed from New York on April 14. This means she negotiated the ice barrier during the evening of April 18.. not as reported; during April 14/15 and could never have been 'a day away' from Titanicwhen she heard of the disaster.
There is a three day gap in theApril voyage of theCampanello and a great deal of contradictory information regarding her movements between April 11 and April 18, 1912.
Regardless of whether this ship was or was not the culprit who 'turned away', there is a footnote to her story which must rank amongst one of the weirdest coincidences relative RMS 'Titanic'
Many readers will be familiar with the passenger list and list of survivors. Among the latter are two outstanding individuals. Both gave extensive evidence at the US Senate Inquiry. These were Colonel Archibald Gracie and Mr. Lawrence Beesley. The latter was the author of a much quoted account of the maiden voyage of Titanic, her sinking and his subsequent survival.
Although the spelling of one of the names differs by a single letter, I'm sure the following quote from part of Campanello's 'birth' notice in The South Shields Gazette of Saturday, 31st August, 1901 will be of interest to some.
Launch at Jarrow
There was a launch on Thursday at the Jarrow yard of Palmer's Shipbuilding and Iron Company, Limited..... a finely modelled twin screw steamer....... The vessels have been constructed for the British Shipowners' Company, Limited (Gracie, Beasley, and Co.) of Liverpool for their Antwerp- New York trade and she is a sister ship to the British Prince and the British Princess which carries such an excellent reputation as transports, having been chartered by the Government for a considerable period to carry troops, etc., to South Africa. The christening ceremony was gracefully performed by Miss Elizabeth M. Gracie, daughter of Mr. W. Gracie, one of the managing owners of the British Shipowners' Company.
Captain Jim Currie.. July, 2011.
Information Sources consulted:
- "RMS Titanic Navigation and Ice Reports" by Dr. Paul Lee.
- Thanks to Mr. Senan Molony for a sighting of Marconi Company Communications Chart for April,1912 and for his editing assistance .
- Reed's Table of Distances, 11th Edition, 1947.
ANOTHER OPINION ABOUT BOXALL SIGHTING:
In the article "Mysteries - The Californian Incident" provided by “Atlantic Liners” (
Fourth Officer Boxhall thought that the other ship was moving, as did several other witnesses. Boxhall said that he saw two masthead lights first, ahead, on the port bow. Then he saw two steaming lights. Then he saw her green sidelight, and then her red. The red light he could see with the naked eye. Boxhall thought she was on the move, that she was steaming towards them. But then he said: “I do not think she was doing much steaming. I do not think the ship was steaming very much, because after I first saw the masthead lights she must have been still steaming, but by the time I saw her red light with my naked eye she was not steaming very much. So she had probably gotten into the ice, and turned around.”
If the ship he was watching showed her mast lights and steaming lights, and then Boxhall saw her green starboard light, followed by her red port light, with changes in the distance between her masthead lights at the same time, there might be another explanation, however. Perhaps she was not really steaming at all, but only appeared to be steaming. Since the Titanic’s bow was pointing slightly west of north, and this other steamer sat slightly off the Titanic’s port bow, then Boxhall’s seeing her green starboard light would mean that the other ship was pointing generally northeast. When her red port light appeared, that would mean a change in her bearing - that she could have been pointing in any general direction between west-northwest and southeast. Boxhall took this change of lights to mean that she was steaming almost head on for them, first showing one light and then the other, along with other evidence like a change in the distance between her two mast lights. This is all well and good, but it is important to note that the Californian was pointing northeast early on during the disaster, and was slowly rotating on her axis with the currents until she pointed west-southwest by the time the ship she was watching vanished. This type of swing could have played a cruel trick on the Fourth Officer’s eyes, making it appear that the other ship was steaming for them.
So it is possible that Boxhall was mistaken in thinking the other ship was moving. But the question still stands, was the ship he saw the Californian? The Lordites don’t think so.
But if the ship that Boxhall saw wasn’t the Californian, and the ship the men on the Californian saw wasn’t the Titanic, then what were they seeing? And why did the men on the Californian see eight white rockets being fired from a ship sitting in the general direction that the Titanic was if that ship wasn’t the Titanic?
The Lordites [defenders of Captain Lord] explain these questions with two theories.
The first is that there were actually four ships in the area, two pairs, and that neither pair was ever in sight of each other. In each pair, there was a ship to the north and a ship to the south. In one pair, the Californian was the northern ship, and in the other pair, the Titanic was the southern ship. According to this theory, both southern ships came up from the east and stopped between 11:30 and 12:00 p.m., and later fired off eight white rockets. Then, both southern rocket- firing ships began to fade from the northern ship’s view, finally disappearing about 2 1/2 hours after they first stopped. In the Titanic’s case, she sank, and in the Californian’s pair, the other ship steamed away. [This is according our opinion the correct theory, the pair Campanello/Titanic and the pair X/
This theory makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
The odds against such an occurrence - especially the part about each southern ship firing eight white rockets at the same time - are astronomical to the point that one might get a chuckle out of a mathematician when asking him to compute such odds. This theory especially holds no water because by morning, both of the “mystery” ships (the southern one in the Californian’s pair, and the northern one in the Titanic’s pair) disappeared completely, and not a trace of them has ever been found. Since these phantom ships cannot be found or identified, this theory looks less and less probable every time one thinks about it.
The second theory the Lordites put forth is that the Californian did actually see the Titanic’s rockets, but that the ship they were looking at while the rockets appeared to burst over it was not the Titanic. In other words, this theory holds that there was a ship sitting between the Titanic and the Californian, and that neither the Titanic nor the Californian ever saw each other, but that each was looking at this ship in the middle. This, they say, would explain why Captain Lord and his officers did nothing when they saw the rockets, because they mistakenly thought the rockets were coming from the ship they were looking at. Since the ship they were looking at appeared to be all right under scrutiny, they had no worries, nor felt the need to investigate.
The first problem with this theory is that the ship that Stone and Gibson were watching did not look all right. In fact, they were worried that something was wrong with her, as per their conversation while the rockets went up. Then there is the other problem: identifying the third ship. Not only do the odds not favor a ship’s coming directly in between both ships’ line of sight over a distance of up to twenty miles, but no one has ever turned up and irrefutably identified this mystery ship.
The Lordites feel that they turned up the mystery ship, however. They say that it was the Norwegian fishing vessel Samson (it has also been spelled Sampson). Shortly after the sinking, First Officer Naess of the Samson signed a “confession” that said that the fishing vessel had been illegally sealing and had actually seen the distress rockets as they were fired. The men on the Samson, according to this statement, thought that the rockets were actually signals to “heave to and prepare to be boarded” from an official vessel that had caught them red-handed in the middle of their illegal act. In fear, the men turned and hightailed it out of the area. And, according to Naess, it wasn’t until later that they learned of the Titanic disaster and found out what was really happening that night. Naess continued to express his sorrow over the fact that they didn’t do anything when they could have, possibly, saved many lives.
Usually, a signed confession is pretty solid. And thus far, it would appear that the Lordites have found their “mystery” ship that lay between the Titanic and the Californian. However, Naess’ confession had a few problems.
First of all, the date was wrong. . . Naess said this event had transpired on the 13th of April. Second of all, Naess said that the Samson was off Cape Hatteras at the time. Cape Hatteras is off the coast of North Carolina, U.S; thousands of miles southwest of where the Titanic went down.
In the 1960’s, after Leslie Harrison had taken up Captain Lord’s case, he interviewed Mr. Naess, who was still living at the time. Naess was all too happy to give Harrison a statement, and miraculously, this statement put the Samson off Cape Race, in the right vicinity. The date was still wrong, however.
Then, Harrison came across a typewritten statement in which the dates, times, and the locations were all correct down to the last detail. The difficulty with this interesting document, however, is that it was not signed.
And then there was the final nail in the Samson’s coffin: records from the port of Isafjordur, Norway turned up. In the Supplementary Revenue Book of the port’s records, the Samson was shown to have left the port on April 6, 1912, and to have returned to it on April 20, 1912.
Fourteen days to get from Norway to the Titanic scene, and back to Norway - a round-trip journey of many thousands of miles, in fourteen days. Calculations show that she would had to have been a. . . significantly. . . faster ship than even the Lusitania and Mauretania, the fastest ships of the day. And the Samson was a 506-ton vessel with a hull that looked like that of a sail-powered clipper ship, with only the slowest of engines and a single stack, that still had the ability to harness the wind for propulsion - probably because it was faster than her little engines.
So much for the Samson.
Back on terra firma, during the American Inquiry, Senator Smith was not an experienced seaman, and he wanted the help of someone who knew about these things to help him make accurate conclusions on the Californian problem. Hence, he turned the matter over to Captain John J. Knapp, of the U.S. Hydrographic Office. Knapp was present at every day of the Inquiry, and he began putting the evidence together.
Three weeks of exhaustive work led Knapp back to the subcommittee, where he gave a detailed report, complete with a chart showing positions of various objects closely connected to the enigma.
Included on the chart were the radioed position of the Titanic and the position of the Californian during the night as worked out by Captain Lord. There were also two arcs stemming from each ship. Both arcs were of an equal distance apart from each other and from the ship they stemmed from.
Knapp explained that these arcs were drawn to show 1: the distance at which the “curvature of the earth would have permitted the side lights of the Titanic to be seen by a person at the height of the side lights of the Californian”, or vice versa. This was the outer arc in each case, a range of 16 miles. The arcs were also drawn to show 2: “approximately the distance after reaching which the curvature of the earth would have shut out the side lights of the Californian from the view of one in a lifeboat in the water” at the Titanic’s position, or vice versa. This was the inner arc in each case, a range of 7 miles.
Essentially, this means that no one on the Boat Deck of the Titanic could have seen the Californian’s red or green lights if she was more than sixteen miles away and no one standing on the open bridge of the Califor- nian could have seen the Titanic’s red or green lights if she was more than sixteen miles away. It also means that no one sitting in one of the Titanic’s lifeboats could have seen the red or green lights of the Californian if she was more than seven miles away.
This said, Captain Knapp was asked if there was another vessel between the two ships after the Titanic’s collision. His response was: “From being present at hearings before your committee and from reading the printed testimony of witnesses examined by the committee I am led to the conclusion that if there was any vessel between the Californian and the Titanic at the time referred to she does not seem to have been seen by any of the ships near there on the following morning, nor have there been any reports submitted to the Hydrographic Office which would indicate that there was any such steamer in that locality. The evidence does not indicate to me that there was any such steamer in those waters, especially in view of the fact that no such steamer was seen by other steamers or by those in the lifeboats the following morning, and as the ice barrier, from all reports, between the reported position of the Californian and that of the Titanic was impassable to a vessel proceeding to the westward, and there is no testimony to show that if such a steamer was between the Californian and the Titanic she proceeded to the eastward, the captain of the Californian, having testified that he last saw the said steamer proceeding to the westward and being on a bearing to the westward of the Californian. Nothing appears in the testimony to show that the steamer so seen reversed its course and proceeded eastward.”
Since there is no evidence - none then, and none now - to prove that there was a third ship between the Titanic and the Californian, and since such an occurrence is at the very best highly improbable, one cannot take the theory of this third steamer’s presence seriously.
Once again - and after ‘much ado about nothing’, as Shakespeare might say - we are left with two ships: the Titanic and the Californian. In lieu of a third steamer, this means that despite the variations in testimony, the two vessels must have seen each other.
So, again, we are left with the exasperating question: how close were they? The simple answer, accord- ing to John Knapp, is between 7 and 16 miles. Since he had heard no testimony that anyone in the lifeboats had seen the sidelights of the Californian, this implied to Knapp that they were farther apart than seven miles. However, some evidence, such as that from Steward Etches in the lifeboat, points out that he could quite clearly see the other vessel from his low vantage point. And with so many people on both ships testified to distances like 3 miles, 5 miles, 7 miles, and 10 miles, one is led to the conclusion that the Californian was even closer to the Titanic than the seven miles Knapp indicated. And she was most certainly not further away than seven miles.
All of this leaves the Lordites with no identification, no proof of any sort for a mystery ship; only a theory that maintains that an extremely improbable set of occurrences must have happened because they believe that the Californian’s men, and especially Captain Lord himself, could not have made a mistake that might have allowed people to die - a very poor foundation, indeed, to build a sensible and viable case on.
In order to defend Captain Lord of any wrongdoing, the Lordites will even go so far as to attempt to subtly discredit any witnesses whose testimony damns Captain Lord - and not even the Californian’s officers are immune from such treatment.
One instance of this concerns Third Officer Groves. Groves testified quite plainly that the ship he saw approaching from the southeast was “evidently a passenger steamer coming up on us.” When asked how he could tell it was a passenger liner, Groves responded: “The number of deck lights she was showing.” He said that there was a brilliant glare from them, and that although a small passenger steamer might have a brilliant light, she “would not show the light I saw from this steamer.” When asked if he thought this vessel he saw was the Titanic, Groves responded: “Most decidedly I do, but I do not put myself as being an experienced man.”
The Lordites never even thought it prudent to divulge what Groves saw and what he took it for. They did, however, quote a man named Robertson Dunlop. Dunlop had been hired by the Leyland Line to go to the British Inquiry and try to convince the board that Groves, Stone, and Gibson never saw the Titanic. Accordingly, Dunlop dismissed Groves’ testimony with an attack on his reputation, by telling the board that Groves’ testimony was “largely the result of imagination stimulated by vanity,” - that in effect being in the spotlight had carried him away. By using Dunlop’s statement, and by concealing what Groves actually saw while on duty, they hoped to discredit Groves’ reliability while trying to make the need for such an attack unnecessary. In point of fact, the manner in which Groves was responding to the line of questioning does not show him to have been carried away with being in the spotlight at all, especially how he said, “. . . but I do not put myself as being an experienced man.”
There was another case where Groves was steamrolled by the Lordites. When he arrived on the bridge of the Californian on the morning of April 15, he did so at about 6:50 a.m., give or take a couple of minutes. The Lordites acknowledge this, but do not go on to tell what Groves saw upon reaching the bridge: the Carpathia. Groves testified that when he arrived, he saw “a four-masted steamer abeam on our port side.” Although he didn’t know it at the time, he learned afterwards that “she was the Carpathia.” At that time, she was about five miles away, with her flag at half-mast. The reason for the Lordites’ concealing this evidence? Because they try and place the Carpathia about this distance away from the Californian an hour and a half later, in an attempt to have evidence that the Californian’s distance from the Titanic was 19 1/2 - 20 miles away.
The Lordites even have to be careful what evidence they use from Captain Lord himself, the man they are valiantly trying to defend. For instance, Captain Lord said that he saw a green light from the ship that approached from the east. Yet the Lordites try to say that the ship actually approached from the southwest. They base this upon the fact that at the time, the Californian was pointing northeast, and that Third Officer Groves said the other ship was “a little bit abaft our starboard beam.” This would mean that the ship did in fact come up from the southeast. However, they carry this to the extreme and try to use Groves’ sum- mary that the ship was “coming up astern” (abaft the beam is technically astern) by saying that she came up from directly astern of the Californian, or to the southwest. Captain Lord’s testimony that he saw a green starboard light from a ship coming over the horizon to the east could throw a monkey wrench in the house- of-cards line of reasoning that they’ve built, so the Lordites generally ignore it.
As a side point, Captain Lord stated emphatically that the ship he saw “coming along” was not the Titanic, but rather that she was a small freighter about the Californian’s size. He stated twice, however that when he saw her, he thought she was “4 miles” off, not 20 or 30 as he said the Titanic was. Interestingly, it was that ship that Stone and Gibson saw firing the rockets - the same ship that Groves had observed with the Captain - and who the next morning were of the opinion that it was the Titanic. Groves even stated at the British Inquiry that he felt sure it was that ship that had been the Titanic.
All in all, it’s quite an ironic thing. Captain Smith, in charge of the Titanic, had numerous ice warnings, and yet on a flat calm sea in the dead of night with no moon to illuminate the icy scene, Smith maintained his ship’s fast speed - faster than the ship had ever traveled at any other point. As a direct result of his actions, 1,500 people - including himself - lost their lives, and the lives of countless others were changed forever. Yet Captain Smith still commands some respect, admiration, and even sympathy.
Captain Lord, on the other hand, prudently stopped his ship for the night in the middle of the same ice field. In doing so, he prevented any damage to his ship, or loss of life due to such damage. He turned in late at night and rose early the next morning, trying to rest for a little while still being ready to take command in an emergency in the meantime. Yet Captain Lord’s reputation is permanently tarnished.
And yet the reason his reputation is permanently tarnished is because of his own failure to react to the warnings that his men were giving him. The truth of the matter is that the men on the Californian, includ- ing Captain Lord, all made mistakes that night. What Captain Lord himself later admitted in a letter six months later, that there had been “a certain amount of ‘slackness’ aboard the Californian the night in ques- tion,” was certainly true. Unfortunately, however, Captain Lord and his men could not know that they had inadvertently been caught up in the middle of what would become the most infamous shipwreck in all of history. They just made honest mistakes.
The inescapable fact is that the men on the Californian saw eight white rockets, and told Captain Lord, who promptly did nothing. Whether it was the Titanic or not is irrelevant, because no matter what ship fired the rockets, white distress rockets at sea mean only one thing: distress. In point of fact, the men on the Californian did nothing about white rockets being fired from two ships that night: the Titanic (the only logical conclusion to reach after an objective examination of the evidence) and the Carpathia. Even if by some miracle it was not the Titanic that they ignored - even though it probably was - then they ignored the distress of another ship.
Just how important is all of this? Could the Californian theoretically have reached the Titanic in time to save everyone on board her? If she really was as close as 7 miles, then there is a possibility that she could have. Even if she had arrived just after the great liner had gone down, she could have maneuvered very close to the wreckage and the 1,500 people in the water, and lowered her boats to effect a rescue of at least some of them. However, with each additional mile that sat between the Californian and the Titanic, the chances of her arriving in time grew more and more remote. And with ice sitting between her and the Titanic, it might have taken too long altogether.
Since she may very well have gotten there too late anyway, does it matter that she didn’t try in the first place? Yes. It does. T he Carpathia was 58 miles away, a nd t ried, t he Mount Temple, t he Virginian, a nd ot her ships all tried, even though they were about the same distance away as the Carpathia or even farther off. The Titanic’s beautiful sister ship Olympic was some four-hundred miles away, and she even trained every nerve and pushed her engines to the very limit and perhaps beyond in an attempt to get to the Titanic in time. Yet the Californian, the nearest ship proven to be in the area, something like seven miles away - or possibly less - never even woke up her wireless man to see if something was going on, never even tried. She was the only ship that even had a chance of reaching the Titanic in time, and yet she did nothing.