FALSE. Apologists for Captain Lord have tried to come up with the names of other ships in an attempt to say that these were nearer to the Titanic than the Californian. The most famous of these was a Norwegian sealer called the Samson, based on the typescript of a journal supposedly kept by one of her crew. According to the typescript, the original of which has vanished, the Samson lay near the Titanic, saw the rockets, but was engaged in illegal sealing operations and was afraid to show herself. But unfortunately for the well-intentioned supporters of Captain Lord, the same document puts the Samson south of Cape Hatteras the previous afternoon. And, as Walter Lord points out in his book, The Night Lives On, ‘Not even the Mauretania’s mighty turbines could have propelled her to the icy waters off Newfoundland in time for the big show.’
Furthermore, Leslie Reade, author of the brilliant book about the Californian Incident, The Ship That Stood Still, discovered official records in Iceland which prove that the Samson was in the fishing port of Isafjordhur on April 6th, 1912, and then again on April 20th, 1912. She therefore would have to have made the 3,000 mile journey to the Titanic and back in only 14 days, which was not possible for the 6-knot Samson.
In fact, the so called ‘mystery ship’ between the Californian and the Titanic that night was nothing more than the result of abnormal atmospheric conditions which made the lights of both ships appear nearer to each other than they really were. Lord tragically mistook Titanic for this mystery ship, which appeared to him to be a four-hundred foot ship five miles away, instead of the eight-hundred foot ship ten miles away that it really was. What they thought was the mystery ship steaming away over the horizon, was in fact Titanic sinking gradually into the sea.
Similarly, from Titanic the mystery ship appeared to sail away, despite Californian remaining stationary all night, but this was an illusion caused by the drifting Californian’s slow swinging to starboard, which made her appear from Titanic to be turning away. Her slow swinging to starboard eventually shut out Californian’s masthead light, opening her much lower stern light, which was below the horizon of those in Titanic’s lifeboats, thus making the so called mystery ship seem to disappear, even though Californian’s engines were stationary all night.
It was this same swinging motion which only revealed Californian to Titanic at about 12.20 a.m., even though Californian had been stationary since 10.21 p.m. that night. This is because when Californian first came to a stop she was heading northwards, and therefore showing Titanic only her low, stern light; but by about 12.20 a.m. Californian’s continuous slow swing to starboard had opened out her much higher masthead lights to Titanic, which were then noticed from the decks of the sinking liner. In reality, the mystery ship seen from the Titanic was the Californian, and the mystery ship seen from the Californian was the Titanic.
Furthermore, we can prove this. We have already seen from Titanic’s noon longitude that her clocks were two hours and two minutes ahead of New York Time (See question 55). We can similarly calculate from Californian’s noon longitude of 47.25W that her clocks were one hour 50 minutes ahead of New York Time, and this was confirmed by Captain Lord:
STL098: ‘There is an hour and fifty minutes time between New York and my noon position on the 14th.’
Titanic time (at NYT+2hrs and 2mins) was therefore 12 minutes ahead of Californian time (at NYT+1hr and 50mins). This means that when Stone and Gibson on the Californian observed Titanic’s lights disappear at ‘Five minutes past two by the wheelhouse clock’ (Gibson 7565), it was in fact 17 minutes past two on the Titanic.
Now, we know from Third Officer Pitman that Titanic disappeared beneath the waves at exactly 2.20am:
HJP634: ‘Can you fix the exact moment of time when the Titanic disappeared?’
‘2.20 exactly, ship’s time. I took my watch out at the time she disappeared, and I said, “It is 2.20,” and the passengers around me heard it.’
But we also know from the following testimony of First Class passenger Emily Ryerson and Lookout George Symonds, respectively, that Titanic’s lights went out about three minutes before she disappeared beneath the waves:
Ryerson: ‘I was in the bow of the boat with my daughter and turned to see the great ship take a plunge toward the bow, the two forward funnels seemed to lean and then she seemed to break in half as if cut with a knife, and as the bow went under the lights went out; the stern stood up for several minutes, black against the stars, and then that, too, plunged down…’
Symonds, 11512: ‘…and that is the time when I saw her lights go out, all her lights. The next thing I saw was her poop. As she went down like that so her poop righted itself and I thought to myself, “The poop is going to float.” It could not have been more than two or three minutes after that that her poop went up as straight as anything; there was a sound like steady thunder as you hear on an ordinary night at a distance, and soon she disappeared from view.’
Therefore Titanic’s lights went out at 2.17 a.m., exactly when Stone and Gibson observed them go out from the bridge of the nearby Californian.
If you’d like to read the full book of101 Things You Thought You Knew About The Titanic…But Didn’t!, or any of my other books on Titanic, please visit my Author Page on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/tim-maltin/e/B005LNHYEQ/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_1