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The Californian, Titanic Villain

Updated on November 21, 2015
A photograph of the SS Californian.
A photograph of the SS Californian. | Source

Analysis: Risks and Perils

During its inquisition, the SS Californian and its crew were under fire for having its communications system turned off for the evening. As a result, it didn't hear the desperate pleas from the sinking Titanic.


But let's suppose for a moment that the Californian did in fact receive the messages. Here are the risks it would face traveling towards the Titanic's location:

  • Iceberg-laden waters: The ocean was overflowing with dangerous, ship-annihilating icebergs. And lots of them, at that!
  • A calm ocean: While it sounds good on the onset, consider for a fact that a calm ocean means no foam at the base of icebergs to help lookouts spot them sooner.
  • A moonless night: A dark sky means it's harder to see.

If the Californian had magically arrived at the Titanic's location without harm, there would be further possible impediments:

  • A rapidly sinking ship means a panicked crowd of passengers. It could easily lead to swamping even under the most organized leadership. Swamping could mean injury or death to passengers/crew members.
  • Several hundred passengers remained trapped below decks, either by choice or by the ship's very complicated maze-like structure. Likely, the Californian would only have time to address those passengers who had made it to the ship's boat deck.
  • If any Californian crew boarded the Titanic, they faced possible death from falling objects/freezing cold water.
  • There were only so many crew members. At least a few competent people must man each of the lifeboats, and people must be around to assist the survivors to board the ship.
  • Confusion among the ranks and "too many chiefs, not enough indians." Titanic crew and Californian crew would both be trying to corral passengers. Unless extremely organized, there would be widespread confusion. The passengers would likely trust the Titanic crew over an unknown Californian crew leadership.
  • Even under the best conditions, it would take hours to ensure everyone boarded. When the Carpathia arrived, it took several hours to load all 705+ Titanic survivors. Imagine how much longer it would take for even more survivors. Time is not on your side when it comes to exposure to freezing cold water and air.
  • Time, time, time. Not enough time to save everyone off the ship would mean people being plucked out of the water in massive quantities. Fatigue and possible injury would set in among the crew, which would lead to less efficiency in the rescue operation.

Sinking of the RMS Titanic.

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, many more survivors could have been saved. However, it would have been an extremely dangerous operation and it's likely that several crew members of the Californian could have been injured or killed.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts! You can vote in the poll below.

A photograph of the ill-fated RMS Titanic.
A photograph of the ill-fated RMS Titanic. | Source

Could most of the passengers and crew of the Titanic have been saved by the Californian?

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