The Californian

The controversy over the ship that the survivors saw during the Titanic disaster rages to this day. Some enthusiasts align themselves with the story that the "mystery" ship was in fact the Californian of the Leyland Line, while others argue that it could not possibly be. The captain of the Californian was Stanley Lord.

Most enthusiasts agree on the following:

  1. That both the Titanic and the CA were somewhere on the North Atlantic on April 14/15 1912.
  2. That each ship saw another ship on the horizon during the night.
  3. That distress rockets were sent up from the Titanic.
  4. That some sort of aerial exploding projectiles was seen from the Californian.

This topic is a regular discussion subject, you often will find blood pressures rising over it...

The Lordites

The Lordites support the conclusion that the Californian was not the "mystery" ship. Their argument goes something like this...

The two enquiries (US and UK) reached a too-hasty decision regarding the CA. The numerous discrepancies in the testimony from the witnesses from both ships were not thoroughly examined and reconciled. Estimates of time, distance, bearings, lights, sounds, colors, time, etc. are not consistent. The CA was too far away, perhaps as far as 19 to 30 miles away.

The ship seen from the Titanic was moving, and the CA was stationary.

There might have been one or more ships between the Titanic and the CA.

The Anti-Lordites

Those opposing the Lordite viewpoint contest that...

The two enquiries came to the correct conclusion based on the testimony. The numerous discrepancies do not need to be reconciled, as they are minor in comparison with the evidence regarding the rockets. Estimates of time, distance, bearings, etc, are only that, estimates. The respective movements of each ship correspond precisely. The CA was indeed stopped, but swinging her bow with the current, which gave the illusion of motion as seen from the Titanic. The presence of a third ship, real or theoretical, is irrelevant after the CA's sighting of distress rockets.

The discrepancies and points of argument are too many to list individually here; many books have been written since 1912 covering these various aspects. The above is but a summary of recurring statements given by both sides.

The "Mystery" Ship

If there was indeed a "mystery" ship, what could it be?

  1. The Californian, because her officers saw 8 rockets at about the same time the Titanic fired a similar number. No ship firing rockets has been discovered in addition to the Titanic and Carpathia.
    (This was the reasoning given by the British BOT Inquiry.)
  2. The Samson (a Norwegian sealer), because of a diary published by her first officer sometime in 1960s. This story largely persists, even though it was rejected by the Lordites themselves as "too speculative" in the late 1960s.
  3. The Mt Temple, from second-hand allegations that one of her officers saw rockets as they approached the ice field around 3:30am.
  4. The names of numerous other ships are often mentioned, but rarely with supportive documentation. Among such names are the Frankfurt, the Dorothy Baird, the Saturnia and the Plymouth.

Californian Incident References

There are numerous published worked with more information on the Californian incident, some of which deal exclusively with this subject. See the book list for complete references.

The Lordites list:

The Anti-Lordites list:

...and for the balanced viewpoint: