Second ship? {'Californian' controvery} : LUSENET : TitanicShack : One Thread

One of the historical accounts suggested that there was another vessel closer than the Carpathia when the Titanic sunk (called the California, I think) which provided no aid to the Titanic. It wasn't mentioned in the movie...was it really there or not?

-- Laura (, January 21, 1998


Response to Second ship?

There was indeed a second ship...there is much controversy as to its identity, but most are of the opinion it is the "Californian".

The scenes dealing with the "Californian" were shot for the movie, but not included in the release print.

-- Thomas M. Terashima (, January 21, 1998.

Response to Second ship?

The Californian was only about 20 miles from the Titanic at the time of the sinking(the Carpathia, about 60). She had stopped for the night because of the ice flows in the area. The sad thing was that her radio operator had shut down the radio at around 11:30 that night(Titanic hit the berg at 11:40)so the distress calls were not heard. Later that night, the captain of the Californian was awakened and told of rockets being fired off in the distance. Because of the angle of the Titanic as she settled, it looked to those on he Californian as if the steamer(Titanic)was continuing on a course to the southwest. For whatever reason, the Captain did nothing more about it and went back to sleep. Since the Titanic disaster, and because of her, Maritime rules (radio must be on,ect.) have been changed and what happened on that night in April of 1912 would most likely never occur again.

-- Jim (, January 21, 1998.

Response to Second ship?

Eva Hart, one of the last living survivors who past away a year ago, vividly recalled seeing the Californian about 9 miles away. Discovery's "20th Century Adventures-Titanic" documentary reported it was 5 miles away. The captain of Californian had a completely tarnished reputation after the incident. Some believe he simply didn't want to be involved.

-- Bob Gregorio (, January 21, 1998.

Response to Second ship?

There is no more bitterly disputed controversy in all of Titanic lore than the location of the Californian on the night of April 14-15, 1912. Ironically, both the Leyland Line, owners of the Californian, and White Star were controlled by IMM, J. P. Morgan's gigantic shipping trust.

For those interested, George Behe (a Vice-President of the Titanic Historical Society) maintains a "Titanic Tidbits" page at with several pages devoted to the Californian controversy, including correspondence with Capt. Lord's (the Californian's skipper) most vocal defender.


-- Kip Henry (, January 21, 1998.

Response to Second ship?

The subject of the Californian has been a controversy for years among students of the Titanic, although it probably shouldn't be.

I agree with Walter Lord that the evidence is overwhelming that the Californian was in the area and saw the distress rockets sent up by Titanic. As he puts it, "her [the Californian's] own officers' accounts put her at the scene of the sinking." To believe otherwise, I think, requires a certain willful disregard of the facts.

The night watch on the Californian, which had stopped for the night because of the ice in the area, saw a "large steamer" come rushing out of the southeast at about 11:30. At 11:40 this steamer suddenly seemed to put out all her lights, which is exactly what it would look like at that distance (7-12 miles) if the steamer had made a sudden, sharp turn to port.

At the exact time the Titanic fired eight white distress rockets, the night watch on the Californian saw this "large steamer" fire...eight white rockets. Reports written by surviving officers of Titanic during the journey to New York (aboard the Carpathia) and reports written by the on-duty officers of the Californian (also before reaching port) match up perfectly as to the time, number, and color of the rockets. They couldn't fit better if they had gotten together and tried to make them match.

The officers of the Californian noted the "strange behavior" of this steamer, how it seemed to be just sitting there, with its lights at a "funny angle". On the Titanic, at this time, many officers and other people on the upper decks of the ship noticed the lights of a ship on the horizon to the north. They tried signaling it with morse lamp. The officers of the Californian noted, in the log, that they thought that perhaps the "large steamer" was trying to signal them with morse lamp, but after a brief attempt at a response, they concluded that it must be only a mast light flickering.

At about 2:15-2:20 A.M., the "large steamer", which had seemed to get lower and lower on the horizon, vanished, according to the reports of the Californian's officers. The Titanic sank at 2:20 A.M.

"...was it really there or not?" Hmmm. You figure it out.

To use the old lawyer line: These are the facts, and they are not in dispute.

-- thomas shoebotham (, January 21, 1998.

Response to Second ship?

Until his death in the late 1950's, The Californian's Captain Lord (and his latter-day defenders, "Lordites," in Titanic-speak) claimed that there was a third ship in between the Titanic and the Californian, which was seen from both ships. This is based largely on Capt. Lord's assertion that the ship HE saw was a small tramp steamer not unlike his own, not a large passenger liner (his third officer disagreed on this point, but Capt. Lord's defenders ignore or discount his testimony).

The officers on watch that night also claimed that the rockets fired by the strange vessel **appeared** to explode at mast-top level, whereas Titanic's rockets exploded far above the masts and rigging. A "mystery" ship between the Californian and the Titanic would account for this. The Lordites have, over the years, advanced many candidates for this "ship in between," but have never offered convincing proof.

Capt. Lord's defenders also claim that the Californian was too far away to be of help, anyway. They base this on the fact that his officers could not hear the report of the rockets as they exploded. The explosions made by Titanic's rockets, claim the Lordites, **should** have been audible up to 10 miles away (the fact that they SAW the rockets, apparently, is irrelevant). They also point out that, after sunrise, it took the Californian two hours to wind its way through the ice field to reach the Carpathia, as it was recovering the last of Titanic's lifeboats.

As Tom noted above, the only way one can take these claims seriously is by disregarding the large body of evidence which puts the Californian squarely at the scene. She was close enough that, when her wireless operator tried to send the last ice warning to Titanic, the message literally blasted in the ears of Titanic's Jack Phillips. Capt. Lord's watch officers **testified** in both the US and UK inquiries that they openly pondered whether the strange ship was in distress. Much later, they could see the rockets being fired by Carpathia as she raced North, and later still could see Carpathia well enough to make out her single funnel and four masts.

And even if the Californian was 20 or more miles away, as the Lordites claim, the Carpathia was nearly 60 miles away, but she came. Titanic's sister ship Olympic was **400 miles** away and eastbound, but she reversed course to render assistance, as did several other ships. Capt. Lord, on the other hand, wouldn't even wake up his wireless operator and turn on his radio.

As I mentioned in a earlier post, George Behe has a great deal of text on the Californian at his "Titanic Tidbits" web page. See my earlier post for the URL.


-- Kip Henry (, January 21, 1998.

Response to Second ship?

Interestingly, I have heard that another ship was closer to the Titanic than the rescue ship Carpathia: the Mount Temple, which was also a faster ship than the Carpathia. Unfortunately, it was on the other side of the ice field from the Titanic.

The captain of the Mount Temple got the Titanic's distress call about the same time as Carpathia, made a heroic effort to get to the scene, but simply couldn't not make it through or around the ice field in time. When the Mount Temple arrived, sometime after dawn, the Carpathia was doing final mop-up and had picked up all the lifeboats.

Still, at least he responded; Captain Lord of the Californian (no relation to scholar Walter Lord) chose not to know until it was too late and was (justly) criticized for the rest of his life.

-- Thomas Shoebotham (, January 24, 1998.

i have read a lot about not just the titanic, but other events having to do with her. yes the californian was there and saw the the rockets but think about this. the californian saw a ship at 11 p.m. the titanic saw nothing-no ship until after midnight. my take on it is that a third ship first came across the californian, then the titanic and what makes me believe this is what i had just mentioned. the titanic would have seen the lights at 11 p.m. if the californian supposedly saw hers. interesting point is it not? andy

-- (, July 30, 1999.

One of the problems involved with the California incident is the fact that the California saw their mysterious ship to the south-east before the Titantic saw their mysterious ship to the north-west. This has a simple explanation - the Titanic was a large, well-lit passenger liner, whilst the Californian was a smallish steamer. Stands to reason that on a night like that, when the stars were so brilliant and the sea so still, that the stationary Californian would have seen the moving Titanic first.

-- Marc Jones (, September 08, 1999.

For over 30 years, I have listened to the back-and-forth claims and counter-claims of the Lordites and the Anti-Lordites, and frankly -- apart from satisfying a certain intellectual restlessness -- this argument seems to yield little more than bewildered confusion and annoyed exhaustion. I suppose this explains why I have never become a partisan of either viewpoint. It has struck me that each side grounds its claims in the evidentiary minutia that emerges from a close study of testimony given at the official inquiries; of the positions and movements of ships; of the sequence and timing of events on that terrible night; and on the pronouncements of sailors as to how ships actually look in a dark and open sea. But I have heard of another dimension to this controversy that has attracted little commentary from the contending camps. This infrequently mentioned angle keeps me from putting my thoughts on this issue to rest -- like a man who would turn in for the night if only he could budge the broken "off" switch on his alarm clock. I wish some competent Titanic authority would address it.

Here it is: I have heard it said that when the Carpathia arrived at the Titanic's self-reported last position to begin her mission of mercy on the morning of April 15, she found nothing -- no Titanic, no Titanic lifeboats, no wreckage, nothing. Carpathia had to hunt around until she stumbled across Titanic's huddled lifeboats some distance from where they were supposed to be. This fact -- if that's what it is -- has provided a basis for Lordite allegations that the Titanic didn't really know where she was after 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912. They allege that the position given in Titanic's distress calls -- a position worked out by means of dead reckoning and calculated by a stressed and harried officer shortly after the collision -- was wrong, because that officer was never told how fast Titanic had been steaming since her actual position had been taken at noon that day. Those who tell this story say that Titanic had been traveling faster than anyone on the bridge really knew and that she was actually well to the west of her reported last position -- and too far away from the Californian for those on either ship to have been physically able to see the other.

Into the 1980s, I found this tale intriguing, if slightly "conspiracy theory" in hue. But then came the news that the clever people hired by Dr. Ballard to find the Titanic's remains had done so, but not in the spot where everyone had thought they would be. It was said that the wreck lies several miles to the west of where it was expected. Ever since, it has been my impression that the rationale for partially reversing the British court of inquiry's 1912 opprobrium on Captain Lord was this revelation that Titanic and Californian had been proven to have been much further apart than was thought at the time.

So, Titanic experts, what's your take on this theory? Is there reason to believe the suggestion that Titanic's officers didn't really know where they were on Sunday evening? Is it possible that Titanic was so much further along her course by 11:40 p.m. that she and Californian were "over the horizon" and therefore invisible to each other? Were Titanic's boats -- and the wreck itself -- really found in a position that was far enough away from the Californian to prove that the vessel seen by Captain Lord and his crew must have been the mysterious "third ship" of Lordite lore? Is any of this on the level, and if so, what are the implications for the Californian controversy?

-- Blair Thompson (, August 07, 2003.

Yes there was.

-- Tommy Lynskey (, August 14, 2003.

there probably was not that

-- anonymously answered, January 07, 2004

First, The Spark transmitter and the early reciever wth the earphones used on both vessels would have been loud enough to blasted the ears of the operators of both vessels even if they had been, and could have been over the horizen.

The Titanic could have drifted after the engines where shut down a couple of miles. The ship could have "sailed" a mile or so on it's 2.5 mile plunge to the bottom. the error was a bit more than this. Lord's ship was between 9 and 16 miles from the R.M.S. Titanic, in theory another ship could have been in the middle and there are one or two vessels involved in smuggling that are cannidates for the "mystery vessel. In 1912 Wireless or Radio Operators Worked for the Marconi company, and were paid to send messages, for passengers, hence "the keep quite you fool, I am working Cape Race", message sent back in response to the California's warning.

I personally believe that when the Titanic went hit the iceberg she was about 4 miles West of her reported position. This would not take much of an error in the computed speed of the vessel and would take either a good star sight or a new sun site to catch.

There was a lot of history that wasn't in the movie a good bit that was made up and a lot of history that was in the movie. Many a brave man died as a gentleman when she went to the bottom. After that vessel sank the tradition became Women, Childern and Married Men first, as there were so many widows with childern and no provider left after the sinking.

A good book to start with is "The Maiden Voyage"

-- Kirk Morrison (, July 06, 2004.

The californian's wireless operater went to bed when the titanic struck the iceberg. The wireless operater went to bed and when he awoke someone siad they saw the distress signal from the Titanic. The californian never came to help. The californian is still in question to this day.

-- Steven E Richardson (, November 25, 2004.

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