FALSE. Although Californian was only about 10 miles away, she would not have begun to move until after Titanic’s rockets were reported to Captain Lord and he had woken up the wireless operator to get confirmation. Given that Californian’s Second Officer, Herbert Stone, first observed Titanic’s rockets at 1.10 a.m., and even assuming they had ignored the incorrect distress position given by Titanic and gone instead in the direction of the rockets they could see, Californian would not have been underway before 1.20 a.m., or about an hour before Titanic sank. Given that Californian’s top speed was 14 knots, this means she could have arrived only as Titanic was preparing for her final plunge.
Californian would have had to stand off the sinking Titanic at this stage and would therefore only have been able to haul people out of the water. Given the sub-zero temperature of the water at Titanic’s wrecksite, this would have met with limited success and those she did manage to save would probably not have been more than those who were in Titanic’s lifeboats anyway, as many of these people would not have taken to the lifeboats if they had clearly seen a rescue ship on its way.
This is a far cry from Senator Smith’s conclusion to the American Enquiry that:
‘Had [Captain Lord] been as vigilant in the movement of his vessel as he was active in displaying his own signal lamp, there is a very strong probability that every human life that was sacrificed through this disaster could have been saved.’
And Lord Mersey’s judgment in the British Enquiry:
‘The night was clear and the sea was smooth. 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.’
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