United States Senate Inquiry


Pleas For Help


This distress call was heard by the wireless station at Cape Race that evening at 10.25 p.m. New York time, together with the report that she had struck an iceberg, and at the same time was accidentally overheard by the Mount Temple, which ship was immediately turned around (p. 760) toward the Titanic. Within two or three minutes a reply was received from the Frankfurt. Within ten minutes the wireless operator of the Carpathia fortunately and largely by chance heard the Titanic's C.Q.D. call (pp. 901 and 929), which he reported at once to the bridge and to the Captain. The Carpathia was immediately turned around (p. 19) and reported her latitude and longitude to the Titanic, together with the fact that she was steaming full speed toward the stricken ship (pp. 148 and 901). The Frankfurt, however, did not give her latitude or longitude, and after waiting 20 minutes asked the operator of the Titanic, "What is the matter?" To this the Titanic replied that he was a fool (pp. 151 and 153).

In view of the fact that no position had been given by the Frankfurt, and that her exact distance from the Titanic was unknown at that time, the answer of the operator of the Titanic was scarcely such as prudence would have dictated. Notwithstanding this, however, the Frankfurt was overheard by the Mount Temple to report "Our captain will go for you" (p. 929). Communication was promptly established with the Olympic and the Baltic (pp. 151, 158, and 901), and the Coronia, some 800 miles to the eastward, overheard the Titanic's C.Q.D. call. The wireless messages of the Titanic were recorded in part by the Cape Race station (p. 175) and by the Mount Temple (p. 929), and in part by the Baltic (pp. 1059 and 1060). The Mount Temple last heard the Titanic after the accident at 11.47 p.m. New York time (p. 929). The Baltic and the Carpathia lost touch about the same time, the last message they received being "Engine room getting flooded" (pp. 107 and 1062). The Virginian last heard the Titanic's signals at 12.27 New York time, and reported them blurred, and ending abruptly (p. 175).


This information is contained in a report received by the Associated Press from Cape Race, and communicated by them to the public, and also to Vice President Franklin of the White Star Line, and later verified from his office in Montreal, as follows (p. 1023):

Sunday night, April 14.

At 10.25 o'clock to-night the White Star Line steamship Titanic called "C.Q.D." to the Marconi wireless station here and reported having struck an iceberg. The steamer said that immediate assistance was required.

Half an hour afterwards another message came, reporting that they were sinking by the head, and that women were being put off in the lifeboats.

The weather was calm and clear, the Titanic's wireless operator reported, and gave the position of the vessel as 41.46 north latitude and 50.14 west longitude.

The Marconi station at Cape Race notified the Allan liner Virginian, the captain of which immediately advised that he was proceeding for the scene of the disaster.

The Virginian at midnight was about 170 miles distant from the Titanic and expected to reach that vessel about 10 a.m. Monday.


The Olympic at an early hour this (Monday) morning was in latitude 40.32 north and longitude 61.18 west. She was in direct communication with the Titanic and is now making all haste toward her.

The steamship Baltic also reported herself as about 200 miles east of the Titanic and was making all possible speed toward her.

The last signals from the Titanic were heard by the Virginian at 12.27 a.m.

The wireless operator on the Virginian says these signals were blurred and ended abruptly.


At this time the committee thinks it advisable to invite attention to the reported positions of the vessels in the vicinity of the Titanic when her calls of distress were being sent out.

The Californian, of the Leyland Line, west-bound, was in latitude 42º 05' north, longitude 50º 07' west, and was distant in a northerly direction 19 1/2 miles according to the Captain's figures (p. 717).

The Mount Temple, of the Canadian Pacific Railroad Line, west-bound, was in latitude 41º 25' north, longitude 51º 14' west, and was about 49 miles to the westward of the Titanic (pp. 759 and 760) and on her return to the Titanic's position passed an unknown schooner.

The Carpathia, of the Cunard Line, east-bound, was 58 miles away, and she steered a course north 52º west to reach the Titanic (p. 20).

The Birma, a Russian ship, was 70 miles off at 12.25 a.m. on Monday, the 15th of April (pp. 780 and 929).

The Frankfurt, of the North German Lloyd Line, east-bound, was in latitude 39º 47' north, longitude 52º 10' west, 153 miles to the southwest (p. 772).

The Virginian at midnight was about 170 miles distant from the Titanic (p. 175).

The Baltic, of the White Star Line, east-bound, was about 243 miles southeast of the Titanic's position at about 11 o'clock Sunday evening, New York time (p.1056).

The Olympic, of the White Star Line, east-bound, at 12.14, New York time, was about 512 miles to the westward, in latitude 40º 22' north, longitude 61º 18' west (p. 771).


Sixteen witnesses from the Titanic, including officers and experienced seamen, and passengers of sound judgment, testified to seeing the light of a ship in the distance, and some of the lifeboats were directed to pull for that light, to leave the passengers and return to the side of the Titanic. The Titanic fired distress rockets and attempted to signal by electric lamp and Morse code to this vessel. At about the same time the officers of the Californian admit seeing rockets in the general direction of the Titanic and say that they immediately displayed a powerful Morse lamp, which could be easily seen a distance of 10 miles, while several of the crew the Californian testify that the side lights of a large vessel going at full speed were plainly visible from the lower deck of the Californian at 11.30 p.m., ship's time, just before the accident. There is no evidence that any rockets were fired by any vessel between the Titanic and the Californian, although every eye on the Titanic was searching the horizon for possible assistance.


The committee is forced to the inevitable conclusion that the Californian, controlled by the same company, was nearer the Titanic than the 19 miles reported by her captain, and that her officers and crew saw the distress signals of the Titanic and failed to respond to them in accordance with the dictates of humanity, international usage, and the requirements of law. The only reply to the distress signals was a counter signal from a large white light which was flashed for nearly two hours from the mast of the Californian. In our opinion such conduct, whether arising from indifference or gross carelessness, is most reprehensible, and places upon the commander the Californian a grave responsibility. The wireless operator of the Californian was not aroused until 3.30 a.m., New York time, on the morning of the 15th, after considerable conversation between officers and members of the crew had taken place aboard that ship regarding these distress signals or rockets, and was directed by the Chief Officer to see if there was anything the matter, as a ship had been firing rockets during the night (p. 736). The inquiry thus set on foot immediately disclosed the fact that the Titanic had sunk. Had assistance been promptly proffered, or had wireless operator of the Californian remained a few minutes longer at his post on Sunday evening, that ship might have had the proud distinction of rescuing the lives of the passengers and crew of the Titanic.


The committee deems it important to emphasize the meaning of signals of distress and includes in its report the international code, which is as follows:


When a vessel is in distress and requires assistance from other vessels or from the shore, the following shall be the signals to be used or displayed by her, either together or separately:


(1.) A gun or other explosive signal fired intervals of about a minute.
(2.) The international code signal of distress indicated by NC.
(3.) The distant signal, consisting of square flag, having either above or below it a ball or anything resembling a ball.†
(4.) The distant signal, consisting of a cone, point upward, having either above it or below it a ball or anything resembling a ball.
(5.) A continuous sounding with any fog-signal apparatus.
† - This is purely a code signal, and is not one of the signals of distress given in the Rules of the Road, the needless exhibition of which entails penalties upon the master of the vessel displaying it.


(1.) A gun or other explosive signal fired at intervals of about a minute.
(2.) Flames on the vessel (as from a burning tar barrel, oil barrel, etc.).
(3.) Rockets or shells, throwing stars of any color or description, fired one at a time at short intervals.
(4.) A continuous sounding with any fog-signal apparatus.