7083. This steamer had been in sight, the one that fired the rocket, when we sent the last message to the “Titanic,” and I was certain that the steamer was not the “Titanic”, and the operator said he had not any other steamers, so I drew my conclusion that she had not got any wireless.
He therefore decided to signal what he thought to be the nearby, small ship, about four miles away, with his powerful electric morse lamp. But his signals were not replied to, as the scintillation caused by the turbulence in the air path along the approximately 10 miles distance between the two ships (which effect Beesley has noticed was causing the stars to appear to be flashing messages across the sky to one another) in fact scrambled the meaning out of the real Morse lamp communications between these two vessels. Captain Lord described this incident as follows:
“She came and lay at half-past 11, alongside of us until, I suppose, a quarter past, within 4 miles of us. We could see everything on her quite distinctly, see her lights. We signalled her, at half-past 11, with the Morse lamp. She did not take the slightest notice of it. That was between half-past 11 and 20 minutes to 12. We signalled her again at 10 minutes past 12, half-past 12, a quarter to 1 o’clock. We have a very powerful Morse lamp. I suppose you can see that about 10 miles, and she was about 4 miles off, and she did not take the slightest notice of it.”
We know that in reality these two vessels were about 10 miles apart because in the morning, when the breeze which sprang up with the dawn had dispersed the thermal inversion, restoring normal refraction, it was clear from the rescue ship Carpathia that the Californian was about 10 miles away, as the Carpathia’s Second Officer, James Bisset, recorded on page 291 of his memoirs, “Tramps and Ladies”:
“While we had been picking up survivors, in the slowly increasing daylight after 4.30am, we had sighted the smoke of a steamer on the fringe of the pack ice, ten miles away from us to the northwards. She was making no signals, and we paid little attention to her, for we were preoccupied with more urgent matters; but at 6am we had noticed that she was under way and slowly coming towards us”. “When I took over the watch on the bridge of the Carpathia at 8am, the stranger was little more than a mile from us, and flying her signals of identification. She was the Leyland Line cargo-steamer Californian, which had been stopped overnight, blocked by ice.”
And Bisset’s observation of the Californian being 10 miles north of Titanic’s wreck site until 6am on 15th April 1912 is corroborated by the following evidence of Captain Moore of the Mount Temple, who raced to Titanic’s distress position but found himself on the west side of the ice barrier, while Titanic sank to its east:
JHM276. “…when I got the position in the morning I got a prime vertical sight; that is a sight taken when the sun is bearing due east. That position gave me 500 9 1/2′ west. [10 miles west of Titanic’s wreck site at 49.46W]
JHM289. On which side of the ice pack was the Californian?
– The Californian was to the north, sir. She was to the north of the Carpathia…
JHM290. And you were also cut off from the Carpathia by this ice pack?
– 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.”