Two issues split the Titanic camp into warring factions: salvage and the Californian issue. The latter issue involves the role of Captain Stanley Lord of the SS California. On the night Titanic went down in 1912, his ship was in the vicinity. Due to the ice on the ocean, he had decided to shut down and wait till morning to proceed. His wireless operator had gone to bed and while rockets were spotted he did not believe it was a distress signal. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Captain Lord came under fire for failing to act. It was something that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
The two camps, the Lordites (pro-Lord) and the anti-Lordites (against Lord) have very different perspectives on the role of Captain Lord. The Lordites argue that the enquiries were hasty and a rush to judgment. The anti-Lordites argue the enquiries got it right, that Lord failed to act when the rockets were sighted. Now comes a new book that will likely reignite the debate. Daniel Allen Butler’s The Other Side of Night, according to the Scotsman makes a startling claim that Captain Lord was a sociopath. According to the article, Butler had commissioned a series of clinical psychologists to examine Lord’s sworn testimony as well as reports of his actions both before and after the tragedy.
“White rockets meant that somebody, somewhere, was about to die, yet Lord choose to ignore them. What has remained unexplained for more than nine decades is why Lord would so callously choose to disregard such a plea for help. “The answer, which lies in medical science, is that Stanley Lord was a man without conscience: he was a sociopath.”
The article notes that there were allegations that the officers under Lord were coerced to testify to support his position and that the ship’s log, which would have proved the exact location of the California, disappeared. And Butler argues Lord’s story changed over time while others stayed the same. Add to allegations he falisified entries in the logbook and the fact he expressed no sympathy for the victims over the years lends credence, Butler argues, that Lord was a sociopathic personality.
Well that is surely going to get those who support Lord fuming and dashing to their keyboards to type out responses. As for the book, I have not read it so I cannot say whether it is good, bad, or just okay. However relying on psychologists to render an opinion about a historical person is dubious. There was a trend in history many years ago to apply the techniques of psychology to historical figures. The problem is that you do not have the person right there so that you can make a proper clinical analysis. In the case of historical figures you have to rely on what was written about them or what they wrote about themselves. Certainly you can gain insights but it is far from a proper analysis or even a diagnosis. Without the person right there it is difficult to render a truly objective opinion as to what the true mental state was.
One feature I have thought about adding to my news site was citing examples of Titanic cliches. They have become so common and overwrought as to become satires on the person saying them without it being intentional on their part. I had thought about starting a weekly column over at my news site but I think this lends more to blog. Let the Titanic Cliches begin and today we start with, naturally, a politician from Minnesota. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann(R) while speaking before the U.S. House of Representatives said the following:
Last weekend my family sat down and we were watching the commercial movie “Titanic.” And as I was listening to Dr. Burgess from Texas talk about the debt and the burgeoning debt load that the United States takes, once the ice gash came in the side of the Titanic, which we all remember was called the “unsinkable Titanic,” we think of the United States. Nothing can possibly sink the United States. We will always be a superpower. But one thing that has kept us a superpower has been freedom, free market economists. We are in the process of watching the deconstruction of free market economists before our very eyes, something we have never seen. But as the ice ripped that hole in the Titanic, water started being taken on, and the engineer came out and brought the blueprint of the Titanic. Water came into the first chamber, spilled over to the second, spilled over to the third, and by the time it filled up so many chambers, it was over. It was impossible to resurrect that ship.
At least she did try to make it work and much better than saying (as some often do) that what is going on is like rearranging the deck chairs on Titanic.
You have to give the folks over at the Hammacher catalog credit. Each year they try to find very pricey toys for those with disposable income and no concern for our troubled economy. And this is no cheap toy but a six foot, 1:150 scale model of the famous ship with three propellers powered by three 550-watt electric motors. According to the description, the model has been “Painstakingly reproduced at 1:150 scale and involving over 400 man-hours in its assembly, the model is constructed from over 300 individually handcrafted pieces, including sculpted cedar strips that overlay the molded fiberglass hull, white maple planks (stained to replicate the color of the originals) for the decking, and mahogany for various superstructures.” It comes with two rechargable batteries that allow for three hours of cruising power and allowing the model to cruise at 5 mph on calm water. Remote requires eight AA batteries (not included!–you would think for the money they could toss them in for free).
It will cost you $2,500 and requires freight delivery. Iceberg not included. 🙂
The recent issue of The Titanic Commutator (Titanic Historical Society, Vol 33, Number 186) reports of a recent attempt to sell a fake Titanic envelope. The envelope was put up for sale online at the UK eBay site with an asking price of £750. The letter appeared to have sent from RMS Titanic to a Mrs J Woods, Altringham, Manchester. But according to Paul Louden-Brown it is a very clever fake.
The stamp used on the envelope appears at first glance to look legitimate but a closer examination reveals it is likely a stamp issued between 1934 and 1936. The King George stamp of 1912 looks similar to 1934-1936 but there are important differences. There was no solid color behind the King’s head in 1912 but rather lines. Also the 1934-1936 stamp turns out to be a rare stamp used for only two years. Brown also notes the paper used is typical of the waxed paper used after World War I rather than what was in use in 1912. Also the handwriting style Brown notes is more typical of the years after World War I. Other things such as the postmark being too large and the lettering too thin point to it being a fake. And it is not difficult to fake franking marks by using a heavy object.
The lesson here is simple: be very careful in buying Titanic memorabilia. Buy only from reputable sources that have authenticated the items as being genuine. And never ever buy such memorabilia sight unseen over the Internet.
In the Titanic FAQ posted on this site, I noted that several years ago the movie A Night To Remember had been put on a computer disc and viewable through the dvd player on your computer. But I was not sure that it had been converted to a full movie dvd. As it turns out, it is available as part of the Criterion Collection. The dvd is well worth getting for several reasons. First, the digital transfer is excellent with clear images and sound. Second, the this dvd like the computer version has the audio commentary by Don Lynch and Ken Marschall. That alone is worth the price in my book. They give a running commentary on every scene putting it all in context for those new to Titanic and those who have been avid enthusiasts for years. Finally there is a documentary called “The Making of A Night To Remember” which has some rare behind the scenes footage.
I have seen a lot of Titanic movies over the years and I still come back to this one as the best. I know many out there like Cameron’s Titanic, which is a fine movie in its own right. But it is a fictional story set in a historical context while A Night To Remember is based upon Walter Lord’s book of the same name. Remember to get the Criterion Collection and not just some poor quality copy that is floating out there. I got mine at Amazon but I imagine other places sell it as well.