The most infamous steamship to pass down a Dundee slipway was the ill-starred SS Californian.
She was built by the Caledon for the Leyland Line and launched in 1901.
The Californian weighed 6223 tons (then the largest ship ever built in the east of Scotland), measured 447 feet long and had a steam engine powered by boilers constructed at the Lilybank Foundry in Kemback Street, giving her an average speed of 12 knots.
Inaction during the Titanic sinking
The Californian’s notoriety is due to her inaction during the sinking of the RMS Titanic, despite being the closest ship in the area.
When Titanic’s SOS came over the radio, the Californian’s operator was off duty and the call went unanswered.
Rockets were seen in the distance, but a decision was taken not to investigate them.
Only vessel close enough
Some 1500 died in the disaster – and only the SS Californian had been close enough to rescue them.
A US Senate enquiry called the Californian’s lack of action “reprehensible.”
The British enquiry concluded that had the Californian responded to Titanic’s rockets and steamed to assist the stricken liner, it “might have saved many if not all of the lives that were lost.”
The Californian’s own fate
As matters transpired, the ill-starred Dundee ship was sunk by a German submarine in 1915.
The Californian looked in better shape on a painting which appeared at Bonham’s London rooms on October 6.
Titled The SS Californian en route to America, oil on canvas laid to board, 15 x 29 inches, it shows the vessel under steam in choppy seas and was described as English School, early 20th century.
With a strong following wind, it sold away for a double estimate £3570.
I do not think the Dundee public collections have a painting of this vessel.