by Terri Bey
I am currently reading ''The Titanic and the Indifferent Stranger: The Complete Story of the Titanic and the Californian," by Dr. Paul Lee, an esteemed Titanic author, and expert, who is also a member of the Titanic Book Club. The author discusses both sides of the "Californian Incident." The brand new "unsinkable" White Star Liner RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg at 11:40 pm on April 14, 1912. As the great liner was sinking, she fired 8 white distress rockets for about an hour. Various officers and passengers stated in Inquiries and in the press that they saw the white lights of a "mystery ship which sat there, but never came to assist." The "mystery ship" was believed to be the Leyland Line tramp steamer, the S.S. Californian, led by Captain Stanley Lord, who claimed innocence.
I am about a third of the way through, but I do want to say that from what I have read, I highly recommend this well-written book. Dr. Lee's writing is excellent and the reader gets a clear understanding of the testimony in the British Inquiry, as that is where I am in this book. In the introduction, Dr. Lee informs the reader of the purpose of the book, which is to give a full account of this incident. The reader then reads about nautical terms and such.
Dr. Lee uses quite a bit of the British Inquiry testimony in his book. As he said in the Introduction, he uses the source, "word for word." I found the Inquiry testimony to be very helpful. I think the reader will understand what was in that person's mind. Some of the testimony from the Californian's Captain and Officers just made me so frustrated. Second Officer Herbert Stone's denial that the ship shooting the rockets was the Titanic annoyed me. Donkeyman Ernest Gill's testimony didn't ring true to me. He was very inconsistent. First the ship he saw as a "Big German" was moving. He then said he "could not see it anymore." He later said he could not decide whether the ship was going towards New York or Europe. All he confirmed was something happened that night.
Overall, I really recommend "The Titanic and the Indifferent Stranger: The Complete Story of the Titanic and the Californian," by Dr. Paul Lee. It is a page-turner as well as a very informative book.