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S17 Ep6

Abandoning the Titanic

Premiere: 11/4/2020 | 00:00:30 | Closed Captioning Icon

Join a team of investigators as they search for the identity of the captain of a “mystery ship” that turned away from the “unsinkable” Titanic in its darkest hour, abandoning thousands of lives to the icy waters and their deaths.



About the Episode

The sinking of RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912 is one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history. Mainstream retellings of the tragedy often overlook that the “unsinkable” Titanic was not alone when it sank. A mystery ship was spotted within view of the sinking ship, but instead of sailing closer to aid the drowning passengers, the mystery ship seemingly ignored a fusillade of rockets and signals and sailed away. American and British inquiries accused the SS Californian and its captain, Stanley Lord, of abandoning the Titanic. Decades later, the discovery of Titanic’s wreck exonerated Lord and the Californian’s role in the disaster, re-opening accounts that implicate another ship.

In Secrets of the Dead: Abandoning the Titanic, join a team of investigators as they search for the identity of the mystery ship that turned away from the Titanic in its darkest hour, abandoning thousands of lives to the icy waters and their untimely demise.

Running Time: 60 minutes

Film Interviewees:

  • Charles A. Haas – Titanic Historian and Author
  • Caroline Heaven – Titanic Historian and Lecturer
  • Stephen W. Hines – Titanic Author
  • David Hutchings – Naval Architect and Titanic Author
  • Marc Isaacs – Maritime Law Expert
  • Dorothy Kendle – Daughter of Edith Brown (Titanic 2nd Class Passenger)
  • Jean Legg – Daughter of Sid Daniels (Titanic 3rd Class Steward)
  • Senan Molony- Journalist and Titanic Author
  • Bill Sauder – Titanic Historian
  • Paul Slish – Titanic Researcher
  • Parks Stephenson – Titanic Historian and Naval Officer
  • Ronald Warwick – Commodore, Cunard Line (Ret.)


  • On April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic departed the English city of Southampton on its maiden voyage heading to New York City. The British passenger liner, operated by the White Star Line, was under the command of Capt. Edward John Smith and carried 1,300 passengers and a contingent of 900 officers and crew.
  • Believed to be “unsinkable,” the Titanic was built to withstand a blow from another ship but not an iceberg. Up to the point of collision, the ship was not in an ice field and the icebergs in view were seen at a great distance. Smith was not stationed on the ship’s bridge at the time of collision.
  • The SS Californian was one of several ships in the area on April 14, 1912. The 440-foot-long ship with general cargo had a crew of 47, headed by Capt. Stanley Lord. Earlier that day, Californian’s wireless operator, Cyril Evans, exchanged messages about ice, weather conditions and its location with other ships in the area. Titanic telegraph operator Jack Philips ignored this message while receiving information from a relay station in Cape Race, Newfoundland. Evans then signed off from the wireless room of Californian.
  • At 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912, three bells pierced the night, signaling that something lay directly in the Titanic’s path. It was an iceberg and there was not enough time for the ship to turn and avoid colliding with it. In just 30 seconds, Titanic struck the iceberg, then made the fatal mistake of sailing on for another 10 minutes. The water flooding into the damaged hull created tremendous pressure, forcing Capt. Smith to stop the ship.
  • Shortly after midnight on April 15, 1912, Titanic’s wireless operators began sending SOS signals to nearby ships. The SOS reached Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic, as well as Mesaba, Mount Temple, Baltic, Frankfurt, Californian, Virginian, Birma and the eventual rescue ship, Carpathia.
  • As lifeboats aboard Titanic were being lowered into the icy waters, a mystery ship, long believed to be SS Californian, could be seen in the distance by passengers, but did not sail closer to Titanic to offer assistance.
  • Titanic sank at approximately 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, claiming the lives of 1,500 passengers. With the Californian stopped in the ice before any SOS messages were sent from the Titanic, the ship didn’t see the sinking liner’s calls for help until dawn, hours after they’d been sent. The Californian then immediately headed toward the drowned ship, encountering both the Mount Temple and the Carpathia, which brought 700 survivors back to New York City.
  • A mere four days after the tragedy, the United States launched an inquiry into the Titanic disaster, quickly concluding that, based on the testimony of 80 witnesses, Californian was the only ship the Titanic crew and passengers could have seen. However, multiple details, including log tampering and damning testimony from two passengers, suggest the Mount Temple was the mystery ship.
  • Both the U.S. and British inquiries determined that the Californian and Capt. Lord could have “pushed through the ice to open the water without any serious risk” and done more to save the passengers on the Titanic. Lord and Californian crewmembers faced years of criticism for their role in the tragedy; however, no formal charges were ever brought against them.
  • Decades later, on September 1, 1985, the wreck of Titanic was found at its true final resting place. A 1992 Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report stated, “Californian was between 17 and 20 miles from Titanic at the time of the collision,” matching the navigation calculation from Lord’s testimony, and finally vindicating him and Californian.

Series Overview

Secrets of the Dead is a perennial favorite among PBS viewers. Now in its 18th season, the series uses the latest scientific discoveries to challenge prevailing ideas and share fresh perspectives on historical events. Secrets of the Dead has earned 10 CINE Golden Eagle Awards and six Emmy nominations, among numerous other awards.  The series is available for streaming simultaneously on all station-branded PBS platforms, including and the PBS Video app, which is available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast. PBS station members can view episodes via Passport (contact your local PBS station for details). Secrets of the Dead is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET.

Production Credits

Secrets of the Dead: Abandoning the Titanic is a production of TH Entertainment, LLC, in association with THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET. Directed by Gregory Hall. Written by Sean Molony, Gregory Hall and Steven J. Shearsby. Barbara Hall and Bretton Hunchak are executive producers for TH Entertainment. Narrated by Jay O. Sanders. For Secrets of the Dead: Stephanie Carter is executive producer. Stephen Segaller is executive in charge.


Funding for Secrets of the Dead is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by public television viewers.

About WNET

WNET is America’s flagship PBS station: parent company of New York’s THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its new ALL ARTS multi-platform initiative, its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each month. WNET produces and presents a wide range of acclaimed PBS series, including Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, and the nightly interview program Amanpour and Company. In addition, WNET produces numerous documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings, as well as multi-platform initiatives addressing poverty and climate. Through THIRTEEN Passport and WLIW Passport, station members can stream new and archival THIRTEEN, WLIW and PBS programming anytime, anywhere.


♪♪♪ -♪ Oh, they built their ship, ♪ ♪ To sail the ocean blue ♪ ♪ And thought they had a ship ♪ ♪ That the water wouldn't go through ♪ [ Bell clanging ] -Three clangs of the bell in the RMS crow's nest in April of 1912 unknowingly signaled the impending deaths of 1,500 people.

In that moment, the next 100 years of history would be breached by this reckless tragedy, provoking a relentless pursuit of answers as to why so many had to die.

In the last hours, death came as the leveler to a world of class, wealth, and privilege, a world abruptly swamped by struggling steerage-class immigrants as keen as any aristocrat to escape the gruesome demise that confronted them.

♪♪♪ As death became certain, the magic of Marconi's wireless telegraph machine sprang to life, sending frantic pulses and pauses of Morse code into the unseeing night... [ Beeping ] ...when suddenly, off the port bow, an unannounced and unidentified light on the horizon of the night sky became a shimmering gleam of hope.

A ship approached within just a few miles.

The was not alone.

Now, startling revelations suggest an answer to the mystery that has haunted the tragic disaster for so long -- the identity of the ship that turned its back on the 'Abandoning the ♪♪♪ -On April 22, 1912, just seven days after the dream ship RMS sank beneath the waters of the North Atlantic, a man walked into the offices and stunned the reporters.

-This gentleman who walked into our busy newsroom identified himself as Friedrich Quitzrau.

And he was a doctor, and the story he unfolded was amazing.

-Thus began one of the enduring mysteries surrounding the loss of the one that has lasted 108 years.

♪♪♪ 1912 -- in Great Britain, a time of wealth, confidence, new beginnings... a most auspicious moment for the invincible and unsinkable to set out on her maiden voyage... only to sail into the annals of history.

The Royal Mail Ship is the second of three ocean liners built for the White Star line by Harland and Wolff in Belfast, the sister ship to the RMS which preceded lucrative mail and passenger routes.

RMS is designed to be the pinnacle of British passenger transport, departing Southampton for New York City with 1,300 passengers and a contingent of 900 officers and crew.

-In the early 1900s, we were shifting from a period of ships that were driven by sail and wood to ships that were driven by steam and steel.

They were bigger ships. They were faster ships.

was really built as a strong ship to withstand the blow from another ship, and it was not built to be a ship that would even encounter an iceberg.

is known as 'The Ship of Dreams,' and in dramatic portrayals today, we see her sent off from Southampton with great fanfare and ticker tape.

Well, it -- it wasn't like that in truth at all.

-There was not so much interest in because -The sister ship had taken all the garlands and the accolades the previous year.

She had inaugurated this new great class of ships of which the So her departure was not attended by pomp and state and ceremony.

The ship herself wasn't even full.

It hadn't been this hot ticket that everybody imagines to get on board.

-The earlier debut isn't the only reason the isn't carrying a full complement of passengers.

-That was because of the historic strangeness of a national coal strike which had caused all shipping to be in question, and, you know, whole schedules of sailings were canceled.

-The 37-day coal strike by a million British miners is an annoying burden for many of Europe's transatlantic travelers.

It also brings unemployment and financial hardship to the thousands who work in Great Britain's shipping industry until it ends on April 6th, just four days before the is to depart.

-White Star Line had promised fatefully that they would sail the on the given day of April the 10th, 1912.

-With the departure date now confirmed, becomes the epicenter of employment as White Star quickly fills all positions available.

-My dad was put onto the maiden voyage of the Then he was selected to go on the and he was thrilled.

-Just as White Star promised, on April 10, 1912, the pulls away from Southampton with her newly hired crew and eager passengers.

-The had had a wonderful maiden voyage so far.

The weather gods had been smiling on Captain Smith and his command.

Bright sunshine, smooth seas ever since leaving Queenstown in Southern Ireland, and the ship had been performing exceptionally well.

She had made up steadily increasing mileages each day.

And there was a great deal of pleasure being felt amongst the passengers at the prospect of making a smart arrival in New York.

-White Star's most seasoned and most trusted captain of maiden voyages, 62-year-old Edward John Smith, is at the helm of the line's newest edition.

-Captain Smith of the was a cultured, well-coiffed man, very presentable with his trimmed white beard, and inordinately popular.

He had a devoted following.

In those days, hard though it is to believe today, you know, maritime skippers were almost like rock stars.

They had their personal coterie of society, grand dames and wealthy plutocrats.

He commanded the He had taken her out in June 1911 to New York.

♪♪♪ -Alongside Captain Smith, and drawn from the Royal Naval Reserve, seemingly experienced crew includes officers who are familiar with sailing with Captain Smith and the elite of the Edwardian class.

-Aside from the captain, the only two senior officers that were allowed to freely mingle were the ship's doctor and the purser, and that was it.

In 1912, the distance between officers and passengers was great.

Officers were given very strict instructions -- be polite, answer their questions quickly, and then go about your business.

There was no socialization.

-Captain Smith is no stranger to the North Atlantic route to New York.

And neither are his two executive officers, Chief Officer Henry Wilde and First Officer William Murdoch, both of whom had just sailed with Smith on the As The Ship of Dreams heads west, opening up to speeds close to her maximum, Captain Smith and his officers tend to the well-oiled machine.

Senior Officers Wilde, Murdoch, and Lightoller take their shifts as officers of the watch, while Junior Officers Pitman, Boxhall, Lowe, and Moody maintain the ship's performance and position.

♪♪♪ [ Waves crashing ] ♪♪♪ -The year in which they encountered the iceberg was admitted by all to be an unusual year in which the icebergs were flowing further south.

-If the I would think that the captain would be on the bridge.

But keep in mind that up to the point of collision they were not in an ice field and the bergs that had been seen were seen at a great distance.

So the clear and present danger was not really at hand.

♪♪♪ -The ice, for weeks past, posed serious challenges to mariners.

But on this particular Sunday, we know that many of the masters of vessels, the captains with their own commands, they were taking things in a very cautious manner.

And some ships like the were coming in with damaged and buckled plates.

-The SS in the area that night.

-She was about 440 feet long with a general cargo.

It was a crew of 47.

And at her head was a Bolton shipmaster, aged only 35.

His name was Captain Stanley Lord, and he had made a meteoric rise in his profession, and he had a reputation as a fine navigator.

-In Lord's own words, It was an 'extraordinary night.'

The sea was completely flat calm, and there was a clear night.

-No waves. No nothing. Absolutely calm.

There was no moon but plenty of stars.

-That Sunday had proven to be a long day, at least for the captain of the single-funnel cargo ship.

-The night of the accident, Lord had been on duty for a long shift of 16 hours.

And he was tired. You know, he was in an ice field.

He was command of a ship, and he wanted to make sure it was safe.

-This was practically the first time the had had a Marconi operator aboard, and the Marconi operator himself had only made two previous voyages, and that was on another ship.

-The wireless operator, Cyril Evans, has also had a busy day, exchanging messages about the ice, weather conditions, and its location with other ships in the area.

♪♪♪ -But on the upon the ears of Jack Phillips.

telegraph operators are also busy.

In addition to ship-to-ship messages, they are finally within range of the first North American relay station -- Cape Race, Newfoundland.

-Suddenly, Phillips was assaulted by this unwanted information about some small freighter being stuck in pack ice somewhere to his north, when his own ship was racing, as he knew, for New York.


With receipt of that reply, a reply that possibly sealed fate, Cyril Evans signs off from the wireless room of the Just an hour later, the would come to haunt the captain and officers of the Captain Smith could not have known that his ship was not where his officers reported it was or how it negated the impact of the ice warnings being received throughout the day, leaving safe passage dependent on the lookouts in the crow's nest.

-When you're a lookout, it is not necessary for you to be able to say what it is you're seeing.

Your job is to just raise the alarm.

'I have something there.'

-They were huddled up against the cold, peering.

And their blearing eyes naturally produced tears which made it harder still, blinking those away, and staring and looking all over the sea.

Their job was to identify objects.

And they would ring a bell to send that signal to the bridge.

It would be one bell for somewhere on the port side.

[ Bell clangs ] It would be two bells for something to the starboard.

[ Clang, clang ] And it would be three bells for an object ahead.

[ Clang, clang, clang ] Now, once they had rung -- clang, clang, clang! -- their job was done.

-Then the officers on the bridge identify it and decide what they're gonna do about it.

That's not the lookout's problem.

Lookout doesn't have to provide an identity.

-There were men on the bridge who had done exams, who had passed seamanship courses, who had achieved certificates.

[ Clang, clang, clang ] -At 11:40 p.m., April 14, 1912, three bells pierce the night, signaling the An iceberg, dead ahead, without ample time to avoid it by the turn of the wheel.

The duty to respond to the alarm falls to First Officer Murdoch, who, by training and instinct, goes to the open bridge wing to determine a course of action.

♪♪♪ He gives the orders for evasive measures to turn the ship.

But it's too late. Not enough time.

In just 30 seconds, the ship strikes the massive iceberg, bringing Captain Smith to the bridge.

[ Metal scraping ] ♪♪♪ Smith calls on the officers to provide two key pieces of information -- the ship's position and the status of the damage.

Both responses are flawed, and both have deadly consequences.

-A position is established by celestial observations, and there's basically two ways you can do it.

One is by using the sun.

But you can't get a -- what we call a fix.

You can't get an exact position from the sun.

You can get a latitude, and you can use estimates to get a longitude.

Now, the next way you can get a fix is by the stars.

If they managed to get a fix by the stars on the evening prior to the collision with the iceberg, then anything after that has got to be estimated.

You know, so, they're gonna say, 'Right. We're doing 23.5 knots.

We've got a current that is going the opposite way,' or whatever.

'We're altering the course,' which will affect the speed.

So everything is estimated.

So it's quite conceivable that the estimates were wrong.

But how accurate was the evening stars?

-Fourth Officer Boxhall is responsible for setting position for the S.O.S.

The Captain's order is to set a dead reckoning -- a calculation based on the last known position adjusted by time, speed, current, and direction -- and then transmit those coordinates.

Boxhall's calculations are reviewed, deemed wrong, and recalled.

13 minutes later, a new position is sent to all ships able to receive the message.

-It's very easy to make a mistake, if he did make a mistake.

-There a mistake.

While the ship's new coordinates are being released, the wounded continues to steam west.

-One of the great misunderstandings of the disaster is that she collided with the berg, stopped, and drank her death water, her fatal fill of thousands of tons of water.

Not at all.

They paused merely, and then they got under way again and drove water against the damage.

-After the she carried on for another 10 minutes, and the captain eventually had to stop the ship because the water was creating a lot of pressure on the hull and making the water flood into the ship.

was an extremely large ship, and people think that everything associated with it was as large as imaginable.

And that's not exactly the case.

And unfortunately, it's the case with the bilge and the ballast pumps.

And they're plumbed in such a way that they're really meant to deal with flooding, not flooding en masse at the extreme end of the ship.

The pipes just are not laid out that way.

-During the inquiry, Edward Wilding, who was the ship's designer, was asked about the rate of flooding.

And he calculated that was taking on 500 tons of seawater a minute.

[ Rumbling ] -Shortly after midnight, Thomas Andrews, the builder of the completes his review of the damage.

His dire assessment is reported to Captain Smith -- the has less than two hours to live.

♪♪♪ is taking on water at an incredible rate.

And as the ship goes down, she is guaranteed to take hundreds of victims with her.

In the throes of desperation, as the lifeboats are readied, the wireless operators pump out the S.O.S., pleading for any able ship to come.

[ Morse code clicking ] -This great hefty tome is And every ship gets a -- sailing ships, as well, and steam ships -- They all get an individual entry here, giving details of their ownership and so on.

This rolls alphabetically.

We have thousands upon thousands of ships.

Just illustrating the vast forests of masts that were going across the North Atlantic at that time.

-There were over 200 westbound ships on the North Atlantic at the time the sank.

Now, they were spaced over the ocean, and they weren't all right in that vicinity, but there very well could have been several that in that vicinity.

-The amazing thing about all this in the midst all this huge forest of pages, is that those ships that are listed as having wireless consist of just this amount.

Just those few pages there.

So, prior to the advent of wireless, if you think about it, ships were limited to communicating only with those ships they had in view.

The great thing about wireless is that suddenly you are broadcasting over the curvature of the earth and ships you couldn't see.

splits the night for more than 500 miles.

The S.O.S. reaches sister ship, the as well as the the the the and the eventual rescue ship, the whose captain announces they are lighting up and coming at full speed.

♪♪♪ -It was the Board of Trade that permitted the with the inadequate number of lifeboats.

The had lifeboats to accommodate about 1,100 people when the vessel itself could accommodate 3,500 people.

-If every single seat in every single boat had been filled, half of the people on board were still destined to die.

Clearly, there was a situation that would have lent itself very well to people becoming panic-stricken.

The and the had been equipped with special davits, the crane-like devices that lowered lifeboats over the side.

And those davits were designed to handle up to 4 lifeboats each.

So that meant, with 16 sets of davits, the could have had 64 lifeboats on board, which would have been more than enough to save everybody on that ship that night.

-When my grandfather came down, he said, 'I've just been up on deck,' he said.

And he saw them uncovering the lifeboats.

-The officer came and said, 'Go to these cabins and tell everyone in the cabin that they must dress warmly, put life jackets on, go up on deck.'

And he was told to stay calm, not create panic.

-So they went up the stairs, and as they go through, they saw all the ice on the upper decks.

All the people there, they were saying, 'She's not gonna go down. She's unsinkable.'

They kept saying that all the time.

Then the order come -- 'women and children first.'

And the men had to stand back.

-'All hands on deck.

Report to your lifeboat stations immediately.'

-It was bitterly cold.

-People didn't want to get into the lifeboats because there was no obvious sign that the ship was sinking.

People didn't want to leave loved ones behind, especially the men.

People didn't want to leave everything they owned in the world, their luggage that they were emigrating with to the new world.

No one believed that the ship was actually sinking.

-They're on this ship. They'll be safe.

It's unsinkable.

They'll be great. They'll get there.

-Around 12:15 a.m., passengers and crew are given another reason to be hopeful.

-When she eventually came to a halt, Boxhall thought he saw some lights.

He got the binoculars out, looked over in that direction, and saw the red and port starboard lights of a ship, which indicated that this ship was coming directly towards The captain came up, and he also saw these lights through binoculars.

-Distance is hard to judge at sea, but Captain Smith saw it as being close.

-And this ship is the bowl of their salvation.

They invest everything in this.

And maybe people shrink back from the boats.

And maybe that plays a role in the fact that many of the early boats left ill-filled and that people went to their deaths as a result.

-With the clock ticking off the two hours shipbuilder Thomas Andrews had predicted it would take for the to sink, the pressure to get lifeboats launched is intense.

-They watched as number-12 boat went down.

And as it was going down, my mother could see that that boat was half-empty.

You could've got more than 20 people in there, she said.

While she was looking up, she saw a light, a bright light in the distance.

♪♪♪ She said, 'Look!

That light, that ship is coming to our rescue.'

-And now they're asking themselves, 'Do I need to trust my life to this wooden cockle shell that's about to go down into a crevasse of depth on a dark night when we might be lost?

When the ship might steam later off to New York leaving us behind?'

-It was 70 to 80 feet down to the water.

And then there was the matter of getting the boat, which wasn't just right next to the side.

It would certainly, you know, cause you to think, 'I'm much safer on the deck here, and we'll just wait till the ship arrives and we'll be okay.'

-As the first lifeboats reach the icy waters, the mystery ship can still be seen in the distance.

-Must have been terrified of what was going to happen and whether that ship was gonna come near them.

-The mighty vessel is taking on seawater.

Officer Boxhall and the telegraph operators continue to reach out to the ship seen off the port bow.

-The ship seen from the for the officers to use a Morse lamp.

-The Morse lamp and the Marconi system were both operated on Morse, invented by Samuel Morse, in the middle of the 19th century, except it took longer for a Morse lamp because you had to have a long show for a dash... and then needed a shorter pulse for a dot.

Whereas if you had a key... [ Tapping code ] were pulsing it out much faster then using the long form.

-Who actually sent and received these messages?

When the sank, it was Officer Boxhall.

He estimated the distance about 5 miles.

-They were using the lamp, and they thought they were communicating with the ship.

Of course, they were desperate but still think that they felt that they had some some hope of raising a light.

-Boxhall said he'd asked for the rockets to be brought up to the deck.

And they started to fire them off.

[ Explosion and sizzle ] -Rockets were being fired about every 5 minutes.

But in those days, rockets used to do that with other ships as an identification.

It wasn't a distress signal at all.

-Witnesses, crew, survivors have said that they had seen the ship on the horizon that should have come to the rescue that didn't.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -To Captain Smith, it seems impossible for the unresponsive ship to have missed or ignored the rockets, the flashing Morse lamps, and the S.O.S. messages pulsing through the night.

But it remains far off in the distance.

It isn't coming.

The captain, Stanley Lord, is a dour-faced man who looks much older than his 35 years, the very antithesis of a rock-star captain.

At 10:20 p.m., the and Captain Lord decides to stop the ship until morning when he can determine the safest passage.

-Evans switched off his apparatus, and, unfortunately, he never again went to his machine until somewhere after 5:00 in the morning.

♪♪♪ officers anticipate the loading process will be chaotic and that pandemonium will ultimately set in.

[ Passengers shouting ] Before leaving the bridge, they are issued revolvers.

[ Passengers shouting ] -The was in trouble.

The lifeboats were being prepared.

The sound of boats being deployed outward on the ship's davits.

Ropes squealing and pulleys and all kinds of confusion.

And noise from the passengers themselves, in many cases who had come out on deck having absolutely no idea what they were going to do or what the ship was going to do.

So we have this tremendous babble of voices.

-There's some bad sounds here, and you're realizing for the first time that you are going to descend 70 feet to the water.

-People were beginning to panic.

[ Passengers shouting ] ♪♪♪ -Far below, in the belly of the beast, there was a grim procession of steerage men coming from forward where they were housed.

They were shunting and grumbling towards the stern of the ship... then ascend to the deck that they have been allocated, which is the shelter deck, aft.

And from there, they must look up, and they see the boats.

But they know that those are boats that don't belong to them.

There are no boats at the shelter deck level where they are.

-Some will have no choice but to jump from the decks.

Many won't survive the fall.

-And there, a kind of a hidden flaw in the design of these life jackets manifested itself.

If you jumped, these cork panels, both in front of you and in back of you, would rise up under your chin... and very probably break your neck.

-If you have self-possession enough to gather your senses, you are now in the horrible position -- and somebody has put you in that position -- of realizing you have to wait a full hour before your appointment with a bone-chilling death.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -I think that the captain made the correct decision at the time, because he knew what situation he was in.

was a ship that was sinking.

It was sending flares 900 foot into the air.

It was trying to Morse the ship.

The passengers, the crew could see the ship.

-It's possible the keeps the mystery ship that's seen on the horizon from coming to her rescue.

-Whether the mystery ship thought would not sink, whether it thought that And was obviously portrayed as being unsinkable.

It was its own lifeboat.

Why would he put his ship in danger to a ship that wasn't gonna sink?

-The master of vessel would be required to render assistance to another vessel at sea, even if that vessel was an enemy vessel, to the extent that it was practical to do so without endangering your own vessel.

Now, that leads us, of course, to the discussion about whether going into an ice field that has already claimed one vessel would be a prudent course of action.

-Scattered around the now bow-down sinking behemoth, the lanterns in the lifeboats can be seen bobbing in the dark, certainly visible to the lurking ship.

Yet, they are ignored.

-A couple of officers decided that these lifeboats went their way had to have lanterns.

And a lamp trimmer called Samuel Hemming went down to the forecastle and fetched lanterns -- hurricane lights about so high -- and handed them individually into each lifeboat.

-As lifeboats are lowered and float away, panic and the fight for survival set in aboard the [ Passengers shouting, water splashing ] -Late in the evening, you actually see evidence of the crowds pushing forward towards the lifeboats.

It got so bad that the crew actually had to form a circle, locking their arms, and allowing only women and children to come through.

-And now there's real panic on the way.

Passengers trying to climb into lifeboats are told to get out or to face being shot.

-One of the men in the group said, 'There's nothing for you now here, lad.

It's every man for himself. You best jump. Good luck.'

Um... But the attraction of the boat, which still had lights on, was far more comforting than looking at the black, icy water.

And where would he swim to?

♪♪♪ -People were throwing things over the side.

There were barrels, doors, everything that could float.

They were jumping over.

♪♪♪ -Still visible from the lifeboats, the lights of the mystery ship start to fade, leaving the desperate abandoned.

-Those lifeboat lanterns were snuffed out one by one, I feel sure... as people inside those boats realized with the slumping and sinking and loss of the RMS that soon a thrashing horde of swimmers would be on their way to their lifeboat.

[ People shouting ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -What we know of the ships in the area, it seems like the was on the eastern side of the field of ice, and some of the other ships were on that western field, and the western field was apparently just simply thicker and more visible and was dangerous.

-Which, again, would demonstrate that this ship was not the because we believe the was more than 20 miles away during this time.

-There were other ships in the area, and there were other suspects for the mystery ship.

was one.

The captain of the not to go into the ice field under any account, otherwise, his ship, he would be held personally accountable for any monies lost.

-The was bound west for Saint John, New Brunswick, in the Canadian Maritimes built in 1901.

She was always a workaday ship. That was her role.

She was to ferry immigrants.

She was of 8,790 tons, some 6,600 tons net, in comparison to the about just under 8 times smaller.

She had four masts, single funnel, yellow.

There wasn't much luxury or prestige about the -James Henry Moore is master of the At 52 years old, with 13 years as captain, he is well-seasoned, a company man working for the Canadian Pacific Line, sailing with the specific instructions not to cross the ice, but to go around it.

-He had more passengers on board the than the did.

So much for the idea of the being the wonder ship, Ship of Dreams, the largest.

She certainly wasn't the most filled that night.

The She had some 1,400 in her steerage alone.

Captain Moore was taking no chances, unlike the steaming, charging which had been heading at 22 to 23 knots towards an ice field.

-We're not gonna go in and imperil our own ship and risk our own lives and the lives of our passengers to go deeper into an ice field that has already damaged the greatest ship ever built.

-The got the distress signals that night.

Her operator, John Oscar Durrant, was staying up late when he heard this dread news flashed out to the ether that the was sinking.

-There were rules that were given to these captains as to what they did in ice, and at that time, you answered to your boss.

-In his own ledger of messages received and transmitted, Durrant writes that he tried to reply, but the I say 'received and transmitted,' but, in fact, a curious feature of this saga is that the never transmitted a further wireless message that night.

-Observing the unfolding horror, the mystery ship ignores pleas for help, but remains visible from the lifeboats and decks.

-Boxhall could see not only mast headlights, but green and red.

He could even see portholes in her hull.

How tempting that prospect of salvation must have been.

-The fate of the remaining passengers and crew aboard the is sealed -- they will go down with the ship.

-The first boat goes off at 12:45, and by 2:20 a.m., the sinks.

And those last two boats that leave the literally float off the ship as it goes down.

♪♪♪ -We have evidence from the passengers who went out in the lifeboats -- they were speaking about her eight decks of light, eight decks one on top of the other.

She was festooned with light.

-The mystery ship, and the passengers in the ill-fated liner's lifeboats, witness the remains sinking to the ocean floor.

♪♪♪ -And they withdrew their oars, and they just watched as the ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -One lady in the boat said, 'By God, it's gone.

Just like that, the gone!'

♪♪♪ -How could any ship leave a ship, especially of size, in distress?

Nobody can explain it, and I don't know if anybody ever will.

-When they're on the lifeboat waiting for rescue, he said the screams and the cries were awful.

[ People screaming in distance ] He could do nothing to help.

They couldn't help anybody.

But as the hours went on, the worse than those cries for help was the silence, when they knew those people had lost their struggle.

-The saddest number of that night is that although had lifeboat space for 1,178 people, there were nearly 500 seats that were sent away empty.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -As dawn breaks, Evans, the hears distress cries from hours before and alerts Captain Lord.

The captain immediately readies his ship and sets course for the location given in the S.O.S. message.

-This position was to the south and west of where the -Hours earlier, the nearby set course for the and sailing full speed through the ice field.

At 4:00 a.m., lifeboats are spotted nowhere near the reported S.O.S. position.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Lord went first west and to the site, to the point where the distress signals were reportedly from.

He realized that there was -- he was in the wrong position and actually had to go back through the ice field again at full speed to the where they were picking the lifeboats up.

On the way, he actually passed a stationary who was not making any effort to go to aid.

-Captain Lord arrived at the right around 8:30 a.m. when they were getting the last of the survivors, but he exchanged messages with the captain of the and said he would stay and search for any other survivors, which he did for another good two hours.

-But he finds none.

Meanwhile, without word or aid from the the 700-plus survivors of the sail to New York City on board the The and the while in New York, an inquest into the sinking must be initiated.

Someone has to be blamed.

And Senator Alden Smith will see to it.

-It is remarkable to think that the hearings, the American hearings, began the day following the docking of the ship.

This is an unheard-of speed on the part of any legislature to get to an inquiry so quickly.

♪♪♪ -The launching of the American inquiry was probably reasonable in the circumstances, considering that this was ultimately an American-owned vessel, although British-flagged, considering that many of the passengers that lost their lives on board were American, considering that the vessel was bound for the United States of America.

-The U.S. inquiry begins in New York on April 19th, just four days after the sinking.

The Smith Inquiry, which can apportion blame but not render consequences, calls 80 witnesses to determine who is at fault.

Based on the testimony, the committee quickly concludes the the crew and passengers could have seen, and Captain Lord comes under suspicion.

-Captain Lord had been interviewed by the inquiry as a witness to assist them in their findings, and then they very soon honed in on him and on his own ship's responsibility and alleged inactions.

-The fact that they were concentrating on Lord meant that they weren't concentrating on other things that obviously might be to the detriment of the White Star Line.

-As soon as something is decided by officialdom, then most people are willing to go with that and not to look beyond it.

-Captain Lord's, you know, situation is that he was probably the wrong man at the wrong place at the wrong time.

♪♪♪ -Steaming from the reported sinking site of the Captain Moore got the to the docks of Saint John.

-She made her landfall.

The ropes were thrown ashore and secured to capstones.

She berthed normally.

But she was already a ship that was seething with rumor and dissension.

A lot of anger on board about the alleged happenings on the night the went down.

-After disembarking on April 19th, many of crew and passengers seize the opportunity to tell their stories.

Curiously, of the details in the passengers' accounts.

-Despite the fact that they had come across an extraordinary incident, there's no mention at all made in the log of the for anything after April the 14th, 1912.

That's the fateful Sunday.

There's something even more strange about that official log.

There are pages missing in the log, and it looks as if it's been re-stitched, as if pages have been introduced.

-The mystery of the missing notes in the ship's log is compounded by an additional detail, obviously added later, discovered in the Marconi log.

-Why this additional detail that didn't seem to be there originally was added, particularly after a casualty has happened and people are investigating as to why it happened, it is a question mark as to why did this occur, who did it, and what was the motivation in doing it?

It does make you wonder why any logbook would be altered the casualty occurs.

In my own practice in advising the ship-owner clients, I would say that you don't go back and try to change entries in the logbook that have already been made.

-Dr. Friedrich Quitzrau takes his shocking account to the press and details what happened on board the as the sank.

-Dr. Quitzrau told the that the had been in sight of the had turned to her aid, had reached the ice field, and had seen the And he said the captain had lost his nerve, had failed to enter the ice field.

The journalists were astounded at this story, and naturally they sent to Saint John offering comment to Captain Moore, who was there, and he cabled back a furious denunciation.

♪♪♪ -On the same day, in two countries, Dr. Quitzrau's statements in Toronto would be substantiated -- first, at the U.S. inquiry by officer Boxhall, and in Canada, as the crew's claims emerged, two them particularly damning.

-One of them was the ship's cook who said that the could see the hull of the and could hear the noises -- the lowering of lifeboats, the cries of passengers, he said, could even see lifeboats in the water.

-Meanwhile, there was an officer, Arthur Henry Notley, who left the as soon as she made landfall.

-Third Officer Arthur Notley of the was so incensed at what went on in that ship that he refused to serve in it any longer.

-As the U.S. inquiry pushes forward, Senator Smith never pauses to consider the reports from the His keen focus remains on the and he calls her captain and crew to testify about what they saw and heard that night.

-The men testified that they saw rockets towards the southeast.

The S.O.S. position from the computed position was to the southwest.

-By accepting that the the unwitting admission of seeing rockets becomes the foundation of Senator Smith's case for putting the blame and shame on Captain Lord.

-When he was called to the inquiry, I don't think he had any significant knowledge that he was going to be grilled or scapegoated as he was.

-He was already being vilified in the press as being master of the mystery ship, which was taken to be the -The news traveled, and prior to the commencement of the British inquiry, it is clear Senator Smith determined that if Lord had come to the rescue of the 1,500 lives would not have been lost.

-The British inquiry followed on from the American inquiry.

You know, why reinvent the wheel?

They just took whatever they had found and used it in their own inquiry.

-The British hearings follow suit, discounting and ignoring the possible role, while targeting the Captain Lord.

♪♪♪ -'Had she done so, she might have saved many, if not all of the lives that were lost.'

[ Rockets exploding ] -If the saw rockets to the southeast, the could not have been where it said it was.

Both details cannot be true.

♪♪♪ -The actual positions of the and the The position was an estimated position, and the so she had time to take star sights and get an accurate position.

-The American investigation disregards the choosing to believe it saw the rockets to the southwest, a location never reached.

This decision allows those in charge of the hearings to conclude the mystery ship that abandoned the could only have been the -You can add it to the bucket of whitewash that was pulled over the whole inquiry.

-The position was proved after they found the wreck to be miles out.

[ Rockets exploding ] -So it was the British inquiry that had it wrong, not the officers observing.

-And there were other details, witnessed from the deck of the that night in 1912, that should have ruled out the as the mystery ship.

♪♪♪ -Fourth Officer Boxhall saw masthead lights, two of which were close together.

-To the trained maritime eye of Boxhall, the mystery ship's most visible characteristic were those two front masts.

This singular description of the ship lay dormant until an obscure note in the World War I files of the German National Archives, the Bundesarchiv, corroborates Boxhall's statement.

-We have two mariners separated by less than five years in the distance of time seeing a ship and describe the most noticeable feature about her as being the fact that the masts appear to be very close together.

♪♪♪ -On December 16, 1916, a German navy merchant raider sighted the It is this fateful chance encounter in history that will expose the mystery ship.

-When she saw the approaching that December of 1916, her course was described in what's known as the Kriegstagebuch, which is a German war diary, the war diary of the SMS the German raider that sank the -The war diary was submitted here, to the Imperial Navy Office in Berlin.

-And up here, we have the words 'Ganz Geheim.'

'Very secret' or 'top secret.'

And in here is mention of the And as she's being watched, the through field glasses, the captain notes -- and it's here -- that she had masts that were very close together, exactly the same phrase used by Boxhall.

The same phrase. The masts 'close together.'

♪♪♪ -The German notes match Boxhall's description of the ship he saw four years earlier from the decks of the sinking It's another piece of circumstantial evidence supporting the idea that the mystery ship was really the ♪♪♪ And on September 1, 1985, the wreck of the is found at her true final position, vindicating Captain Lord.

♪♪♪ -When they discovered the ship, the wreck of the ship, Lord's calculations, his navigation all matched.

And they eventually realized that the the signals were wrong, that his navigational skills were spot on and he was where he said he was.

-It was in the 1992 MAIB report where they again reexamined it with the finding that the was not where people had originally believed it had been, and therefore, to the suggestion that the was not this mystery ship that the passengers on board the saw when they were -- when the ship was sinking.

-The arrogance documented by two inquires that the master of the falsely maligned a superior captain for a lifetime.

-This really is Captain Lord signed, sealed, and delivered as sacrificial victim.


-Captain Lord bore his sort of cross with dignity, you know, all his life.

-The responsibility for the disaster was the officers of the They were the ones running the ship at that time.

I don't think we can lay the blame on any other ship.

-Captain Lord was one of the great scapegoats in maritime history.

-Two captains -- Lord and Moore.

One now finally vindicated, and one understood to be guilty.

But of what? Simply being the mystery ship?

Moore's decision that he could not safely render aid to the does not make him responsible for those who died that night.

Captain Smith, who received no blame from the British inquiry and had a statue erected in his honor, was and is ultimately responsible for the loss of the -The 1,500 people that lost their lives in the did not lose their lives entirely in vain.

The legacy of what's happened from the is the reforms that have happened in terms of safety of life at sea.

So probably tens of thousands or more have been saved over the 108 years since it happened because of the reforms that were made to maritime law as a result of it.

-♪ It was sad, it was sad ♪ ♪ It was sad, so so sad ♪ ♪ It was sad when that great ship went down ♪


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