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Signals From the Ship of Mystery

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Signals From the Ship of Mystery

Post by Karen on Wed 2 May 2012 - 17:17



Some of the most startling evidence that has been given during the Titanic inquiry was forthcoming when proceedings were resumed in the week.
Captain Lord, of the Leyland liner Californian, said his vessel on the night of the disaster was near the spot where the Titanic sank. He was in an ice field. Another steamer was four or five miles off but it was not the Titanic. The ship, however, disappeared at about the time the Titanic sank.
The second officer admitted that the mysterious vessel sent up eight rockets, but he did not look upon them as signals of distress. He sent an apprentice with a message to the captain about the signals.
Captain Lord did not recollect receiving the message, but the apprentice asserted positively that he obeyed the order and told the second officer so.
The third officer is convinced that the strange vessel was the Titanic, although Captain Lord did not think she was a passenger steamer. There was no entry in the ship's log of the second officer having seen rockets. The scrap log book was destroyed.
Allegations have been made that the safety of third-class passengers was not considered as much as it should have been. The evidence of John Hart, a third-class steward, explained why more were not saved. He said they refused to put on lifebelts, and thought they were safer on the ship.
Another steward told how the last words he heard Captain Smith speak were to the effect that they were to do the best they could for the women and children and then look out for themselves.
Public interest in the inquiry has been intensified by the allegations of a fireman named Hendriksen that Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon, when escaping from the sinking liner, persuaded the men in their boat not to attempt the rescue of any of those fighting for their lives in the icy sea.
Hendriksen repeated his allegations, but Able Seaman Symons, who had charge of the boat, denied that Sir Cosmo or Lady Duff-Gordon did or said anything to influence his action.

If Not the Titanic, What Was the Mysterious Vessel?

When the court resumed on Tuesday, Mr. Stanley Lord, master of the Leyland liner Californian, said at 10:20 on the night of the disaster the Californian had to stop and reverse engines on account of ice. It was field ice right ahead as far as he could see to the northward. He turned round and stopped until daylight, between five and six in the morning. Close on eleven o'clock on the Sunday night, after he had stopped, he saw a steamer's light approaching from the eastward. He saw a white light. He asked the wireless operator what ships he was in communication with, and he replied, "Only the Titanic."
Did you think the vessel was the Titanic? - No. I remarked at the time that it was not the Titanic.
The vessel would be six or seven miles away. I did not see any coloured lights. I told the wireless operator to let the Titanic know that we were stopped, surrounded by ice. That message was sent about eleven o'clock, ship's time, and was not acknowledged. The wireless operator on the Titanic had told our operator to "keep out," as he was busy with Cape Race.


Asked as to the size of the approaching vessel, Captain Lord said she was something like the Californian - a medium-sized steamer. The third officer attempted to communicate with her by Morse lamp, but he did not get any reply. It was noticed that the ship had stopped about 11:30.
At 12:40 the second officer said the steamer was still in the same position, and she would not reply to him. A little later a report was made to him in the chart-room that the vessel was slowly altering her bearings towards S.W., and had sent up a white rocket.
"This mysterious vessel would be between the Californian and the Titanic. It must have been well within sight of the Titanic?" said Lord Mersey, and the Attorney-General agreed.
The Attorney-General (to Captain Lord): Did you see one or two masthead lights? - I only saw one; the third officer saw two; the second officer saw one.
The President: The Titanic would have two.
The Attorney-General: The Titanic was the only ship near you? - Oh, no. She was thirty-two miles from us according to where I met the wreckage.
The captain, in further reply to the Attorney-General, said that at a quarter past twelve o'clock he left the deck and went down to the chart room. He remembered an apprentice named Gibson opening and closing the door of the chart room some time after half-past one, but he did not know what Gibson had called for. He was asleep at the time.
"Did your second officer tell you rockets had been sent up?" asked the Attorney-General.
"That was the message the boy was supposed to deliver to me, though I never heard it till next day."
Did the boy deliver the message to you, and did you inquire whether they were all white lights? - I do not know.
But that is very important. - I have spoken to him since in regard to what happened. He came to the door, I understand. I opened my eyes and said, "What is it?" and he says he gave me the message.
You do not doubt it? It means that the boy did go to the chart house. Did he tell you about the rockets from the ship, and did you ask him whether they were white lights, instructing him at the same time to report if anything further occurred? - That is what he says.
Have you any reason to doubt that it is true? - I have no recollection.
Do you mean to say you said this in your sleep? - Very likely. I was half awake. I have no recollection of this lad saying anything to me.
James Gibson, twenty, an apprentice on the Californian, said he went on duty at twelve o'clock, and twenty minutes later he noticed a white masthead light, with a red side light, and a glare of lights on her after-deck.


The Solicitor-General: Would you see any second masthead light? - Not distinctly, sir. The lights were from four to seven miles away. The second officer told me at about one o'clock that the ship had fired five rockets and that he had reported it to the captain. The captain had told him to call her up in the Morse lights, but she had not answered, and had fired more rockets.
Did you see her fire more rockets? - I saw her fire three rockets. When I reported the position to the captain in the chart-room at 2:05 a.m. he asked me whether the rockets were all white or any colours in them. I told him that they were all white.
Did he give any instructions? - No, sir. He asked me the time.
The President: Was he awake? - Yes, sir.
Joseph Stone, second officer on the Californian, said the ship they could see was five miles away. At 1:10 he reported to the captain that he had seen a white light in the sky which he took to be a rocket. He took out his binoculars, and then saw four other flashes, which he thought might mean signals to some steamer, possibly to tell them of the presence of icebergs.
Mr. Aspinall, K.C.: Do you seriously mean that? - I did not know what they were.
The President: Is that the way steamers communicate with one another? - No.
Mr. Aspinall: They were not being sent up for fun were they? - No, sir.
The President: You know you do not make a good impression.
Mr. Stone said it never occurred to him at the time that the vessel was in distress.
The President: What you saw was exactly what you had been taught as signals of distress - is that true? - It is true that similar lights are distress signals.
Charles Victor Groves, third officer on the Californian, said on Wednesday that he saw the light of a steamer ten or twelve miles away on the starboard beam at 11:10 on the night of the disaster. It was difficult to distinguish between ships' lights and the stars, the latter being visible right down to the horizon. He first saw what he took to be one white light, but he did not pay particular attention to it as he thought it might be a star rising. At 11:15 he noticed two masthead lights, and reported to the captain, telling him there was a steamer coming up on the starboard quarter. The captain told me to call up the steamer on the Morse lamp. I did so, but got no reply at first. Later I saw what I took to be a light answering. I sent back the word, "What?" meaning "What ship?" The light was still flickering, and on examining it with my glasses I came to the conclusion that it could not be a Morse lamp.


Replying to further questions by Lord Mersey, Groves said that Captain Lord, who had gone away, returned to him as he was signalling, saw the light on the steamer flickering, and said, "She is answering you." He had previously remarked that the ship did not look like a passenger steamer, and Groves had replied, "It is, sir." The captain replied to this: "The only passenger steamer near us is the Titanic." A little later the vessel stopped, and her lights seemed to go out. This was at 11:40 p.m.
Examined by Mr. Dunlop (for the Leyland Line), Groves said that, according to the latitudes previously given in evidence, the Titanic must have been about thirty-one miles off.
The President: Did you think, then, that the vessel you saw about four or five miles off was the Titanic? - Most decidedly I did, but I do not hold myself as an expert. It was a large passenger steamer because of the deck lights.
Groves was closely questioned by the Solicitor-General as to the ship's log books. He said that the old scrap-log was thrown away - probably "over the side," but he did not know.
The President: If you had been on the bridge between twelve and four instead of your watch, and had seen a succession of white rockets, would you have made a record of the event? - Most decidedly, my Lord; that was what the log book was for.
Therefore, if Mr. Stone did what you think was his duty, this scrap log-book, which was thrown away or lost, would constitute a record of his watch? - Yes, my lord.
The Solicitor-General said he would call the chief officer to give evidence on this point.
This witness, George Frederick Stewart, stated that he went on duty at 4 a.m. on April 15 to relieve Stone. The latter reported to him that about one o'clock he had seen white rockets fired. When he heard this he thought that Stone had seen a ship firing rockets in reply to another vessel.
The Solicitor-General: Did it not enter your head that they might have been distress signals? - Yes. I took the glasses, and observed a steamer to the southward, with two masthead lights and two lights amidships.
He (Stewart) did not think it could have been the Titanic that sent up rockets. But he had not found out what the vessel was.
Questioned as to the ship's scrap log-book, Stewart said it was written up every day, and each page when used was destroyed. That was the custom of the ship. He entered everything in the log-book that he found in the scrap log.
The President: Does that convey to you that there was no reference in it to these distress signals? - Yes.
John Durrant, Marconi operator of the Mount Temple, said that he never went to rest until 1 a.m., though he had a rest after mid-day. He started work in the morning from 7:30, at the earliest. It was 12:11 a.m. when the first message was received that the Titanic had struck. At 12:34 he heard the Frankfort answering the Titanic, and the latter vessel giving her position. The Frankfort replied, "What is the matter with you," and the answering message was, "Titanic struck an iceberg and sinking - please tell captain." "O.K., will tell the bridge right away," was the Frankfort's message, and "O.K.; yes, quick," was the Titanic's answer.
Eight minutes later, the Titanic sent the S.O.S. message. There was no difference in point of urgency, but C.Q.D. was better known, S.O.S. is a new call. At 12:43 the Titanic called the Olympic, at 12:45 the Caronia, and at 12:46 the Virginian, and Durrant kept out after getting her position.
At 1:06 the Titanic was answered by the Olympic, which was told, "Captain says, "Get your boats ready. Going down fast by the head." At 1:27 the Titanic sent out the message, "C.Q.D. Engine-room flooded." This was a general message, and was sent broadcast over the waters. At 1:33 the Titanic acknowledged a message from the Olympic; that was her last word. At 1:41 the Frankfort and the Birma called, but got no reply; the Olympic called in vain at 1:56; and later one of the ships said, "All quiet now. The Titanic has not spoken since 1:33."
All the ships continued speaking for the next three hours, reporting the progress of their race to the ship which had already sunk. At 3:44 the Birma told the Frankfort he thought he heard the Titanic, so called, "Steaming full ahead for you. Shall arrive at six. Hope you are safe. We are only fifty miles away now."


A steward named Hart said, on Thursday, he had charge of about fifty-eight third-class passengers, the majority women, on Deck E. Some put lifebelts on, others would not trouble. Some went to the boat deck, but, thinking they would be safer on the ship, returned to their cabins.
The word was passed round, "Women and children to the boat deck." It was loud enough for everybody to hear. He went at the head of the third-class passengers himself and showed them past the second-class portion of the ship to the main gangway to the boat deck. There were about seventy people, including about fourteen of the crew in boat No. 15.
Sir John Simon: When you left the third-class part of the ship for the last time were there a number of people left? - Yes, they refused to go to the boats.
Edward Brown, a first-class steward, told how while he was assisting in launching a collapsible boat Mr. Ismay stood by and kept calling out, "Women and children first."
One of the last incidents on the ship seen by Brown was the passing of Captain Smith with a megaphone while they were dealing with the collapsible boats. He said: -

Well, boys, do the best for the women and children, and then look out for yourselves.

The captain went on the bridge, and the ship sank a few minutes later.


When the proceedings were resumed on Friday Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon occupied seats behind their counsel.
Hendriksen was cross-examined by Mr. Duke, and admitted that he had never made the statement that the Duff-Gordons persuaded them to go back until he gave his evidence a week previously. When he said, "It is up to us to go back," he did not speak to anyone particularly, but to all in the boat generally.
Hendriksen admitted that he parted from the Duff-Gordons on terms of respect, and that Sir Cosmo gave each man in the boat 5 pounds to make up for the loss of his kit. He made out a list and took it to Sir Cosmo, and got his 5 pounds. He and the other men wrote their names of Lady Duff-Gordon's lifebelt in memory of the event, and they were all photographed together by a passenger.
Was not Lady Duff-Gordon all the time she was in the boat violently seasick and lying on one side of the boat? - She was, but she lifted her head up and spoke now and again.
You think she heard you suggest that the boat should go back? - Yes.
If she heard, then Oswald, who was alongside Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon, should have heard? - Yes. Everybody in the boat ought to have heard.
Able Seaman Symons said Mr. Murdock, the chief officer, told him to take charge of No. 1 boat. Two ladies came running from the top saloon deck and asked Mr. Murdock if they could get in. He said, "Yes." Then three gentlemen came, and asked if they could jump in, and Mr. Murdock said, "Yes." He looked round for more, but could see no more - only a few of the crew.
"Was there any attempt to find women and children?" asked Lord Mersey.
"Yes; Mr. Murdock was running round looking for them."
Symons said his orders were to stand off, and come back to the ship when called. He saw rockets sent up, and he also saw, about five or ten miles off, a steamer having Morse lights.
Sir Rufus Isaacs pointed out that, in view of previous questions (concerning the Californian), the importance of that statement would be appreciated.
Symons said he pulled away about 200 yards. Just a little later, when he saw the ship was doomed, he told the men to row a little further to escape suction. He said nothing to anybody about the ship being doomed. When she disappeared he heard a "decent few" cries for help. He was rather surprised someone did not suggest going back. It seemed a reasonable thing for someone to suggest.
"Was it not cowardice that prevented the passengers and you going back?" asked Mr. Scanlan, M.P., (Seamen's and Firemen's Union), bluntly. - No.
In reply to Mr. Clem Edwards, he said he received the 5 pounds in the shape of an order on a piece of paper, and had not changed it.
Have you paid any money into a bank quite recently? - That is not for me to answer.
Where is the order? - At home.
How much is the order for? - Five pounds.
You will swear that? - Yes, by Heaven above.
Symons said the first he heard of a passenger saying it was too dangerous to go back was when he read Hendriksen's evidence.
Sir Rufus Isaacs secured the admission from him that on Tuesday night he was asked to make a statement by somebody on behalf of Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon. He explained that he returned on the Saturday, and a telephone message reached his parents' house at Weymouth on Tuesday that a gentleman was coming to see him. He came in the evening and took a statement.
Did the gentleman ask you whether you used your own discretion in deciding not to go back? - Yes.
There was some laughter at this answer, which was renewed when Symons also admitted that the gentleman also used the phrase "master of the situation."


With reference to the statement taken from Symons, Mr. Duke explained that it was taken by a solicitor on instructions from a connection of Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon while they were at sea, the solicitor thinking it a proper thing after the statement made by Hendriksen to try and ascertain what other members of the crew said.
Symons said he was not afraid to go back, and Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon did not interfere in the least with his decision. He took the responsibility then, and he took it now.
It is a good deal easier to talk about cowardice here than it was to make up your mind in a position like that? - Yes.
James Taylor, a fireman, who sat next to Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon in the boat, said there was a suggestion of going back, but by whom it was made he didn't know. Lady Duff-Gordon said she thought the boat would be swamped if we went back. There were two gentlemen in the boat who spoke in the same way - that we should be swamped if the boat went back. Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon did not take any part in this conversation.
You say that two of the gentlemen in the boat agreed with the observation of the lady? - They said it would be dangerous.
What did you think yourself? - That it would be dangerous.
Albert James Edward Horswell, seaman, declared that nothing was said about going back. He thought it would have been safe to do so. It was not a human thing to leave those people to perish, but he had to obey orders.


Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon, giving evidence, said there were no other passengers visible when the boat was lowered. He heard the cries like a prolonged wail, but it did not occur to him to return, and he heard no discussion about the boat returning.
He did not think it would have been possible to return. After the Titanic sank he lost all idea of her position. He did not agree that they could have saved many lives if they had gone back. He thought the men rowed away immediately.
The President: What! Rowed away from those cries? - Oh, no. I don't know in which direction they rowed. I think they started rowing to deaden the sound.
The Attorney-General: You said they were rowing away from the Titanic? - I meant they went on rowing. I had been watching the Titanic to the last moment, and when she had gone down we lost all idea of where she had been.
They were not rowing towards the cries? - I didn't think about it. I did not know in which direction they were rowing.
Didn't you think whether your boat could save any of the people in the water? - It might have been possible, but it would have been very difficult going back that distance to find anybody in the dark. At that time I was not thinking about it. I was attending to my wife. You know she had had a rather serious evening.
Did you hear one of the ladies say anything about the danger of being swamped? - No, I did not.
Did you hear any discussion at all about being swamped? - No, I did not hear the subject raised.


So far as you were concerned, no notice was taken in your boat of the cries of these drowning people? - No.
No conversation about it? - I think there was none.
If I follow you correctly, no thought entered your mind that you ought to go back and try to save some of these people? - I don't think it would have been possible, for one thing.
Please answer the questions? - Well, no, I suppose not.
The President: The last witness (Horswell) told us that in his opinion it would have been quite safe to go back. What do you say? - I don't know, my lord, whether it would have been safe. I don't know. I think it would have been hardly possible.
Why not possible? - I don't know which way we should have gone.
Sir Cosmo emphatically declared that neither his wife nor anyone else said they would be swamped if they went back.
Questioned as to the gifts to the men, Sir Cosmo said: - "What happened was this. There was a man sitting next to me in the dark about 6:30 after the Titanic had sunk. He said, "I suppose you have lost everything." I said, "Of course." He said, "But I suppose you can get more. We have lost all our kit, and the company will give us nothing more. Our pay will stop tonight, and all they will do will be to send us back to London." I said, "Oh! you fellows need not worry about that. I will give you a fiver each to buy a new kit."
"When we were going on the Carpathia I asked Hendriksen to get the names of the men, and I told the captain of the Carpathia that I had promised to give them 5 pounds. He said, "It is quite unnecessary," but I laughed and said, "I have promised it, and have got to give it to them."
The inquiry was adjourned until tomorrow.


Amongst the passengers on board the White Star liner Baltic, which arrived at Queenstown on Friday from New York, was Mr. Bride, the second wireless operator of the Titanic. He proceeded to Liverpool on the vessel.

Source: Lloyd's Weekly News, May 19, 1912, Page 8

Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"

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