Thursday, 6 July 2017


"I saw the masthead lights first, the two steaming lights— and then as she drew closer I saw her sidelights through the glasses, and eventually I saw her red light. I had seen the green, but I saw the red most of the time. I saw the red light with my naked eye."

Padfield, Peter. The Titanic and the Californian (p. 161). Thistle Publishing. Kindle Edition.

One of the most controversial aspects of the Titanic disaster was the implication that the master, Stanley Lord, of the Californian stood by within visual distance of the sinking Titanic and did not go to her assistance. Arguments will rage in favour of Stanley Lord and against, getting no closer to the truth than the alleged separation of the two steamers. Officer Boxhall, who survived the Titanic sinking, made an astonishing declaration at the American Inquiry that he saw a steamer approaching off Titanic's port bow within 4 or 5 miles (Titanic's bow attitude at this stage heading northward). 

Subsequent to this and after numerous failed attempts to call up the steamer by electric Morse and no response from the other steamer to the signaling and distress rockets, it altered course and headed away from the disaster scene into the southwest (showing her disappearing stern light). Of course, the Californian was stopped overnight and never at any stage during the disaster did she steam towards the Titanic. Whatever mystery steamer this had been, did not come to the aid of those in peril on the sinking Titanic. 

Returning to the witness statement above and applying it to what Captain Bruce, his chief officer and chief engineer, saw astern of the Harlow on the night of 27 July, it is clear from the statement that the red side light was easier to see with the naked eye than the green side light. I have assumed that if only the red side light were seen from Harlow's port quarter, some 0.5 mile from shore, the large steamer in question was heading almost directly southward away from shore. 

If, however, the green side light was present but not 'visible', the large steamer might very well have been making directly for the Harlow, FOR ASSISTANCE. This would support a theory that there might very well have been a burning oil barrel on her forward deck signalling distress and mimicking bush fires, added to by two distinct flashes of light, very possibly distress rockets. 

Furthermore, and most importantly, the red side light (and green) was only visible to Boxhall as the steamer drew nearer, within 4 miles or less. This distance correlates with the Harlow's chief engineer, Alfred Harris' statement that he estimated that the large steamer with red side light was about 4 miles astern of the Harlow.

Given that the red and green side lights were designed to be seen up to a distance of 2 miles, but could be seen at a greater distance depending on conditions, this separation distance was probably significantly less than 4 miles. At such close range there can have been no mistaking that it was a steamer astern AND NOT some mirage or visual hallucination. There could have been no other large steamer astern than the Waratah herself. 

P.S. In case there are readers not convinced by what officer Boxhall saw, perhaps suffering from the same hallucinations as the three crew on board Harlow, there was a further confirmation of the mystery steamer, north of Titanic's bow. Colonel Gracie, survivor:

"These ladies were Mrs E. D. Appleton, Mrs Cornel and Mrs Murray Brown, the publisher's wife from Boston, and Miss Evans. They were somewhat disturbed of course. I reassured them and pointed out to them the light of what I thought was a ship or a 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 towards 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. . . I should say it could not have been more than 6 miles away."
"Was it ahead?"
"Ahead towards the bow, because I had to lean over, and here was this lifeboat down by the side at that time, and I pointed right ahead and showed Mr Astor so he could see and he had to lean way over."

Padfield, Peter. The Titanic and the Californian (p. 162). Thistle Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Colonel Gracie and Mr. Astor would not have seen the side lights of a steamer 6 miles distant. Boxhall saw the exact same thing at a later time when the steamer was closer and the side lights had come into view. The bearing was exactly the same in both separate eye witness accounts!


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