A Very Deceiving Night: Light on the port bow

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Lightoller. With Titanic stopped and facing north, it is revealing that the following 10 witnesses, drawn from Titanic’s most senior surviving officers, quartermasters, lookouts, able seaman, stewards, as well as from her First as well as Third Class passengers, all agree that the only ship they saw as Titanic was sinking was off Titanic’s port bow, putting the nearby ship northwest of Titanic’s wreck site:

Lightoller, Second Officer: 13894. I knew there was, if I may mention it, this light on the port bow about two points; I had already been calling many of the passengers’ attention to it, pointing it out to them and saying there was a ship over there, that probably it was a sailing ship as she did not appear to come any closer, and that at daylight very likely a breeze would spring up and she would come in and pick us up out of the boats, and generally reassuring them by pointing out the light.

Boxhall, Fourth and Navigating Officer: 15392. And then you saw this light which you say looked like a masthead light?
– Yes, it was two masthead lights of a steamer.

  1. Could you see it distinctly with the naked eye?
    – No, I could see the light with the naked eye, but I could not define what it was, but by the aid of a pair of glasses I found it was the two masthead lights of a vessel, probably about half a point on the port bow, and in the position she would be showing her red if it were visible, but she was too far off then.

Harold Godfrey Lowe, Fifth Officer: 15825. Did you look for any lights at this time at all?
– As I was getting the emergency boat ready, No. 1, Mr. Boxhall was firing the detonators, the distress signals, and somebody mentioned something about a ship on the port bow, and I glanced over in that direction casually and I saw a steamer there.

  1. What did you see of her?
    – I saw her two masthead and her red sidelights.

Quartermaster Rowe:  17673. And at that time you saw this white light?
– Yes.

  1. How was it bearing from you?
    – When I first saw it it was half a point on the port bow, and roughly about two points when I left the bridge.

Quartermaster Hitchens: 1162. What light?
– There was a light about two points on the port bow…

Frederick Fleet, Lookout:  FRF242. And what did you do then?
– We got the oars and pulled for the light that was on the port bow.

James Johnson, saloon steward: 3481. You said something about seeing a light?
– Yes.

  1. Did you see that light from the deck of the “Titanic”?
    – I should think we saw it for about twenty minutes on the port bow.
  2. How broad from the port bow?
    – I should think from where I was standing we pulled a mile and a half or two miles after it.
  3. Was it nearly right ahead?
    – No, something like an angle.
  4. A right angle?
    – A left angle from the port bow rather.

Bedroom Steward Henry Samuel Etches: HSE127. (Senator Smith) Did you see lights while you were lying by, after or before the Titanic sank, from any other ship?
– After the
Titanic had sunk we pulled a good distance out farther from her, after the cries were all over. We pulled away, and a light we thought was a mast headlight of a ship was across where the port bow of the Titanic would have been at the time. During the time the Titanic was there I saw no light. I was looking at the Titanic the whole of the time.

First Class passenger Colonel Archibald Gracie:  I reassured them and pointed out to them the lights of what I thought was a ship or steamer in the distance.

Mr. Astor came up and he leaned over the side of the deck, which was an enclosed deck, and there were windows and the glass could be let down. I pointed toward the bow, and there were distinctly seen these lights – or a light, rather one single light. It did not seem to be a star, and that is what we all thought it was, the light of some steamer.

We all went up on deck and stayed there. We walked over to the port side of the ship, and there were five of us standing, looking, and we thought we saw a light.

Third class passenger Olaus Abelseth: OLA009. On what deck were you standing?
– Not on the top deck, but on – I do not know what you call it, but it is the
hind part, where the sitting room is; and then there is a kind of a little space in between, where they go up on deck. It was up on the boat deck, the place for the steerage passengers on the deck. We were then on the port side there, and we looked out at this light. I said to my brother-in-law: “I can see it plain, now. It must be a light.”

OLA010. How far away was it?
– I could not say, but it did not seem to be so very far. I thought I could see this mast light, the front mast light. That is what I thought I could see.

A little while later there was one of the officers who came and said to be quiet, that there was a ship coming. That is all he said.

I hope by blogging chapters from my book, A Very Deceiving Night, it will contribute to the ongoing discussions regarding the atmospheric conditions on the night of the tragedy and the true causes of the disaster. At the moment, the book is only available as an e-book. If you wish to purchase it then you can do so in Amazon Kindle format here and other formats, including Apple, Kobo and Nook, here. Thank you.

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