I was watching Titanic on TV this evening and decided to do a google search on the sinking and ended up at Wikipedia. In perusing the site, I did not realized that there was another ship, the SS California (SSC), much closer than the Carpathia. The saddest thing is that the SSC was much closer than the Carpathia and could have rescued many of the passengers. Read on for more information.
It sounds like the actual circumstances are uncertain around the situation and there is some uncertainty about whether the SSC was actually there. However, from Wikipedia and other sites, it sounds like the crew from the SSC actually saw the signal rockets from the Titanic. Additionally, their radio officer was asleep in bed and so he was not awake to hear the radio distress calls. Here is a site dedicated to this story.
If this is indeed accurate, what a horrible tragedy. More than 1500 died on the Titanic and had the SSC arrived on scene earlier, many of those could be saved. It is unclear how many more would have survived and some people even suggest that all of the them. That is a bold statement, but it is clear that the numbers would be much higher.
Reviewing the sites suggest that the data is not clear, but it does sound like the SSC may have been nearby. It is unclear why they did not respond when they saw the rocket in the sky and at least did not wake the radio operator to listen and see if there is any traffic.
One result of this whole thing is that maritime rules changed to require 24×7 radio operations on all vessels. A vital change clearly, but unfortunately too late to help the unfortunate passengers on the Titanic.