A recent Channel Four documentary, Titanic: A Dead Reckoning, once again brought to the fore the fact that for 109 years Captain Stanley Lord, master of the Californian, has been a convenient scapegoat for the loss of life incurred by the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.

The programme produced evidence to show that Captain Lord’s ship, the Californian, was about twenty miles from the Titanic when the latter struck the Iceberg; Titanic would not have been visible at this distance. It also showed that Captain Lord’s actions were consistent with those of a prudent shipmaster. He had stopped his ship clear of the icefield well before the Titanic tragedy started to unfold and had warned other shipping, by radio, of the presence of ice and icebergs. Advice that the Titanic chose to ignore.

Whilst rockets launched by the Titanic were seen by observers on the Californian, they were not at the laid down time interval to suggest they were distress signals.

Importantly, the programme provided evidence to show that the Californian was not the vessel seen by the Titanic, instead suggesting that ship was in fact the Mount Temple. The 1992 reappraisal of the Californian’s involvement came to some odd conclusions, not least concerning the latitude of the ship, which was reasonably established as 42.05N at 19:30.

The 1912 formal inquiry was a whitewash and the 1992 MAIB reappraisal was very narrow in scope, but could still have declared that the blame for the tragedy was attributable to the Board of Trade and with Captain Smith, master of the Titanic. The documentary correctly attributes the blame and concludes that Captain Lord was not derelict in his duty.

I hope, even now, Nautilus will approach the shipping minister with the objective of having a public apology made to Captain Stanley Lord, in Parliament, it is the least he deserves 109 years after the event.

Chris Walford

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