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The Californian:

Questions and Answers (II)

Why does your book fail to mention that Third Officer Groves could clearly see the Carpathia directly EAST of the Californian when he reached the Californian's bridge at 6:50 a.m.?

AUTHOR'S ANALYSIS: This statement is true. Indeed, Leslie Harrison ALWAYS tells Captain Lord's version of the story, and he often resorts to culling carefully-chosen fragments of testimony from other witnesses in an attempt to bolster the apparent strength of Lord's case.

Example: Leslie Harrison has always acknowledged that Third Officer Groves came up to the Californian's bridge at 6:50 a.m. on the morning of April 15th; for some strange reason, though, Harrison has never deemed it advisable to tell his readers what Groves SAW upon reaching the bridge.

The reader will find it instructive to review Groves' own testimony regarding this subject:

All this occurred an hour and a half before Leslie Harrison would have his readers believe it really happened. Nowhere is Harrison's selective presentation of evidence more blatant and calculated than in his failure to tell his readers about Third Officer Groves' sighting of the Carpathia and the Mt. Temple at 6:50 a.m.

Californian's Overnight Position: At 6 a.m. Carpathia's Second Officer James Bisset sees the Californian at what he estimates to be ten miles north of the disaster site.
Position A: Shortly after 6 a.m. the Mt. Temple's Captain James Moore sees Californian traversing the icefield half-a-dozen miles north of the Carpathia.
Position B: At 6:25 a.m. Californian notifies the Virginian that she is already within sight of the Carpathia and the Titanic's lifeboats.
Position C: At 6:50 a.m. Californian's Third Officer Charles Groves sees the Carpathia directly east of the Californian. The Mt. Temple is visible a mile and a half south of the Californian.

Why does your book claim that Californian did not come within sight of the Carpathia until AFTER passing the Mt. Temple, when Groves and Captain Moore both testified that Carpathia was directly EAST of the Mt. Temple and was clearly visible from the latter vessel's position?

AUTHOR'S ANALYSIS: Captain Rostron testified to having seen two vessels on the western side of the icefield at around 6 a.m. (These vessels turned out to be the Mt. Temple and the Almerian, both of which had approached the icefield shortly before daylight.) Rostron did not notice the Californian until she approached (from the southwest) to within five or six miles of the disaster site at around 8 a.m. (Carpathia time - not Californian time.)

Leslie Harrison, though, seems to think that Captain Rostron's failure to notice the Californian half-a-dozen miles north of the disaster site at 6 a.m. means that the Californian therefore "wasn't there." This is a great leap in logic that is not supported by Captain Rostron's own written description (to Captain Lord) of his preoccupation with the rescue:

"I'm sorry I cannot give you any detailed description of the two steamers seen by me... You can imagine I was quite busy enough... I'll do what I can, but you know I can only say what I know and what I saw, and 'pon my word it isn't much and I'm sorry too."

Besides, by stressing what Captain Rostron FAILED to notice at 6 a.m., Leslie Harrison has completely avoided having to explain what Third Officer Groves, Captain Moore and other neutral observers DID see at 6 a.m. - namely, the Californian's proximity to the disaster site much earlier than Harrison would have us believe.

Why does your book fail to mention Groves' testimony that Californian reached the disaster site at 7:45 a.m. instead of 8:30 a.m. like Captain Lord alleged?

AUTHOR'S ANALYSIS: Captain Rostron testified that Californian had approached to within five or six miles of the Carpathia at 8 a.m. (Carpathia time.) Similarly, Captain Lord testified that Californian reached the disaster site at 8 a.m. (Californian time.) Leslie Harrison would have us believe that Captain Rostron's 8 a.m. sighting of the Californian is consistent with the scenario that Californian covered the last five or six miles to the disaster site between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. However, Harrison fails to point out to his readers that the clocks on board Californian and Carpathia were NOT keeping the same time (due to the fact that the two ships had previously been headed in opposite directions on the Atlantic steamer track.)

Once again Leslie Harrison unquestioningly accepts Captain Lord's version of events without acknowledging the existence of (or making the slightest attempt to address the implications of) the evidence given by Third Officer Groves. Groves' unsettling testimony that Californian reached the disaster site forty-five minutes earlier than Captain Lord claimed simply "doesn't exist" as far as Harrison is concerned; after all, to acknowledge the existence of such testimony would suggest that the Californian was closer to the disaster site than Harrison believes.

And that would never do.

Since Groves testified that he synchronized his own watch with Californian's clock on the evening of April 14th, why should we doubt Groves' testimony about the timing of certain key events on the morning of April 15th?

AUTHOR'S ANALYSIS: The above-mentioned Inquiry questions were directed at Third Officer Groves and Chief Officer George Stewart and have to do with the calculation of Californian's position at noon on April 15th.

Questions 8819/20 (to Chief Officer Stewart) merely reiterate the above information:

Leslie Harrison seems to be suggesting that the accurate calculation of Californian's position at noon on April 15th proves that Captain Lord's timing of events earlier that morning is also accurate. Nothing could be further from the truth. The location of the Californian at noon has absolutely nothing to do with what time she arrived at the disaster site that morning.

It is interesting, however, to consider Harrison's suggestion that the timepieces of his officers were all synchronized and were keeping the correct ship's time at noon on April 15th. One can't help but wonder if these officers' timepieces were also synchronized with Groves' watch earlier that morning when Groves witnessed Californian's 7:45 a.m. arrival at the disaster site.

In any case, Leslie Harrison is unable to (and does not even attempt to) explain why Third Officer Groves (who synchronized his watch with ship's time before going on duty) testified that Californian arrived at the disaster site forty-five minutes earlier than Captain Lord later claimed.

Why do you feel Captain Moore and Captain Gambell both felt compelled to lie about what they saw and heard regarding the Californian's movements that morning?

AUTHOR'S ANALYSIS: The Mt. Temple's Captain Moore testified to having seen Californian a mere half-dozen miles north of the disaster site at around 6 a.m. Californian time. The Virginian's Captain Gambell said that, at 6:25 a.m. Californian time, Californian informed him by wireless that she could see the Carpathia picking up survivors. Leslie Harrison tells us he has never alleged that either Captain Moore or Captain Gambell lied about what they observed that morning. That's perfectly true. Indeed, Harrison has never had any reason to do so, since his written works have never so much as mentioned the existence of the above evidence. It seems clear that Leslie Harrison finds it easier to ignore the testimony of Moore and Gambell than to explain the existence of that testimony to his readers.

It is a simple matter for a writer to make threadbare statements about what he believes did NOT happen in a certain historical scenario, but that writer is doing a disservice to his readers when he fails to describe what he feels the evidence indicates DID happen. Are we to believe that Leslie Harrison believes the above two shipmasters were somehow "mistaken" about what they observed on the morning of April 15th? If this is truly the case, neither of the captains in question should have been trusted out of sight of land with the vessels under their command - their minds were too prone to playing tricks on them for their employers to entrust the lives of innocent passengers to their care.

Does Leslie Harrison believe that Third Officer Groves was lying about having sighted a big, brightly-lit passenger steamer approaching the Californian? Harrison says he has never accused Groves of lying. Does Harrison therefore believe that Groves was simply "mistaken," too? Or does he truly believe Robertson Dunlop's assertion that Groves became "carried away" by the drama of his appearance at the British Inquiry and decided to spice up his testimony with a little fanciful fiction? Would an irresponsible officer like that have been entrusted with the Californian's well-being between 8 p.m. and midnight on the night of April 14th?


As the overall title of this essay suggests, the "Californian Incident" is an artificial mystery which has arisen soley due to the selectiveness shown by certain Lordite writers (Leslie Harrison, Jack Eaton, Chuck Haas etc.) in deciding which evidence to present to their readers and which evidence to withhold. After all, it's a simple matter to "prove" the Californian was twenty miles from the sinking Titanicc if one consciously suppresses or ignores all evidence to the contrary.

That's not History, but it happens nevertheless.

The reader will recall Leslie Harrison's comment that "...I unreservedly accept his [Captain Lord's] version of the events of the morning of 15 April 1912, as confirmed by his consistent evidence given on oath at the British and United States inquiries, and in his sworn affidavit of 23 June 1959..."

However, the reader will also note that Leslie Harrison studiously avoids comparing the reliability of Captain Lord's 1959 affidavit to that of Sir James Bisset's 1959 recollections in which Bisset described seeing the Californian at 6 a.m. about ten miles north of the disaster site. Indeed, it is only by ignoring or suppressing evidence like Bisset's that Leslie Harrison and his fellow Lordites can continue to sustain their defense of Captain Lord and the Californian.

Second Officer James Bisset

The reader might easily wonder if the present author's mention of "suppressed evidence" is accurate; that is, would a Lordite author truly go so far as to suppress evidence that counters his defense of Captain Lord? The answer to this question is a definite "yes." Consider the following:

In 1992, at a Liverpool press conference covering the reissue of his book, "A Titanic Myth," Leslie Harrison made the following comment: "...unless the Minister acts to absolve Lord, a new book will be published in December based on the papers of an author whose book we managed to kill before it came out."

Leslie Harrison was referring to an anti-Lordite book called "The Ship That Stood Still," written by the late Leslie Reade. Several years prior to 1992 Harrison had granted Leslie Reade permission to utilize some of his Californian material in his upcoming book. Right before the book's scheduled publication date, however, Harrison suddenly retracted his permission for Reade to use the material in question; this threw the publisher's schedule into turmoil and forced the cancellation of Reade's book altogether. Leslie Harrison's admitted goal of "killing" the writings of an anti-Lordite author was thus achieved - and explains why Harrison was so alarmed at the book's impending appearance in 1992.

The reader might well ask why Leslie Harrison is willing to go to such lengths to stifle the free and open exchange of information about the Californian incident. The answer to this question was brought out at the above-mentioned press conference, where Leslie Harrison was quoted as saying that his defense of Captain Lord "has become a moral crusade." This statement starkly underlines the fact that Harrison's overriding motivation has been to clear Captain Lord rather than attempt to uncover the truth; the reader will recognize that the latter goal is mutually exclusive of the first and SHOULD be the primary consideration of every historian. It thus becomes clear that Leslie Harrison's writings have a hidden agenda which has compromised his ability to write objectively about the Californian issue. It has also caused Harrison to fear - and oppose - the publication of the anti-Lordite viewpoint.

Leslie Harrison's repeated attempts to muzzle the anti-Lordite viewpoint speak volumes about the so-called "strength" of his defense of the Californian. Indeed, it is interesting to note that the lawyer retained by Leslie Harrison's own publisher made the following observation regarding Harrison's attempts to come to grips with his intellectual opponents:

"My overall impression is that [Harrison] considers those who decline to share his beliefs to be either hypocritical and actuated by malice or suffering from culpable delusions caused by obsession or prejudice."

We will close this essay with some sentiments that the present author expressed to Leslie Harrison in a final letter dated March 10, 1995; the reader might want to consider these sentiments very carefully when weighing the reliability of the carefully-chosen bits of evidence that the Lordites publicize in their defense of the Californian's master:

"When Lordite researchers commence digging for information about the Californian affair, their purpose is always to find FAMILIAR things; that is, the only information they deem important always seems to coincide with their own preconceived opinion that Captain Lord was innocent. Whenever Lordites stumble across something "strange," they shy away from it because they cannot explain it and because it has no place in their comfortable view of the Californian incident. The testimony of Third Officer Groves, Captain Moore, Captain Gambell and others falls into this category - crucial evidence that has been omitted from Lordite writings because it "has no place" in the Lordite scheme of things.

"I would counsel you to be wary of evidence given by others, for in all evidence there is some interpretation. The eyes see, the mind explains. But does the mind explain correctly? The mind only has what experience and education have given it, and perhaps that is not enough. Because one has seen does not mean one knows.

"You are your own best teacher, Mr. Harrison. My advice is to question all things. Seek for answers, and when you find what seems to be an answer, question that, too."

The author would like to express his grateful thanks to Dave Billnitzer for his invaluable suggestions on how to make the Californian incident more understandable to the average reader. Interested researchers are urged to visit Dave's outstanding web site devoted entirely to the Californian affair. (See page one for the URL.)

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