The SS Californian was a cargo vessel that departed from London on April 5, 1912 and was en route to Boston, Massachusetts. She carried with her no passengers and a crew of 55 men and under the command of Captain Stanley Lord.

On April 14, 1912 Captain Lord ordered that the engines be stopped as the ship encountered an icy field. Californian decided to stop for the night and would resume voyage in the morning. After the decision to stop voyage for the night Captain Lord spotted another ship's lights in the distance. When Lord asked Californian's wireless operator if he knew of any ships in the area, the wireless operator said it was Titanic.

Californian's wireless operator attempted to warn Titanic of the ice fields but was interrupted by Titanic's wireless operator, Jack Phillips, as he was trying to catch up on personal messages that needed to be sent. Californian's wireless operator then called it a night turned off his headset and went to bed. Twenty-five minutes later Titanic's first distress call was sent out.