Monday, 10 July 2017


Sir Rufus Isaacs, Titanic disaster:

"I have been most anxious, and I have been throughout, to find some possible excuse for the inaction on the part of the Californian. It is not a case of desiring to bring home to them that they did not do their duty— our anxiety and your Lordship's anxiety would be, if possible, to find some reason to explain the failure by them to take any steps when they had seen the distress signals. I can only say that to me it is a matter of extreme regret that I have come to the conclusion that the submission I must make to you is that there is no excuse. . . ."

Padfield, Peter. The Titanic and the Californian (p. 264). Thistle Publishing. Kindle Edition.

In trying to understand the conflicting complexity of the Harlow witness account, we need to be reminded about the serious nature of inaction when it came to witnessing another vessel in distress. Censure was a very real possibility for Captain Bruce and his officers if the witness account had been acknowledged for what it obviously was (Merchant Shipping Act, 1906). Careers and reputations were at stake. It is no wonder that the incident was not reported on arrival at Durban and ultimately bush fires blamed for causing the mirage of a burning steamer astern of the Harlow. It must have taken great bravery for Captain Bruce to have admitted that he was absolutely certain that Waratah foundered astern of the Harlow, going so far as to give coordinates, depth of wreck and the feasibility of dragging the vicinity to confirm what he knew to be true. 

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