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Posts Tagged ‘April 14 1912’

Upon hearing of the Titanic’s sinking, Senator William Alden Smith called for an immediate investigation. The senate agreed to Smith heading a subcommittee to hear testimony.

One of the first aspects to catch Senator Smith’s attention was correspondence by Bruce Ismay to hold White Star’s RMS Cedric over so he and the crew could immediately return to England. One of these messages was: “Most desirable Titanic crew aboard Carpathia should be returned home earliest moment possible. Suggest you hold Cedric, sailing daylight Friday unless you see any reason contrary. Propose returning in her myself. Please send outfit of clothes, including shoes, for me to Cedric. Have nothing of my own. Please Reply. Yamsi” {Ismay backwards}

Senator Smith left Washington, DC and arrived in New York City as Carpathia was docking. He immediately spoke with Bruce Ismay, who was willing to cooperate.

The hearings began at 10:30am on April 19th at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel {owned by John Jacob Astor}. Bruce Ismay was the first witness called. A week into the hearing the proceedings were moved to the new caucus room of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. They were the first hearings to be held in that room.


Included is a small sampling of Frederick Fleet’s Testimony:
Senator Smith: Did you make any request for glasses on the Titanic?
Fleet: We asked (for) them in Southampton (England), and they said there was none for us. . . .
Smith: You had a pair of glasses from Belfast to Southampton?
Fleet: Yes, sir, but none from Southampton to New York. . . .
Smith: Suppose you had glasses such as you had between Belfast and Southampton, could you have seen this black object (the iceberg) at a greater distance?
Fleet: We could have seen it a bit sooner.
Smith: How much sooner?
Fleet: Well, enough to get out of the way.

Testimony lasted for over seventeen days, ending on May 25th, with eighty-two witnesses called and over eleven hundred pages of testimony taken.

Issues covered included but were not limited to:

–confusion of crew
–weight capacity of lifeboats
–lifeboats not filed to capacity
–no boat drills for passengers
–why there were not enough lifeboats on board {due to outdated British Board of Trade Regulations}
–ice warnings not heeded
–ice warnings not properly posted
–Titanic trying to set a record
–Captain Smith was blamed for traveling too fast and not slowing down in ice
–failure of nearby ships to respond to the distress signals
–treatment of passengers in the different classes
–efforts to identify the mystery ship believed to be seen

Final testimony ended when Senator Smith visited Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic, to interview it’s crew. The Olympic was now in Port in New York.

The final report was published on May 28th. Senator Smith and the American Senate Investigation was criticized in Britain for their lack of knowledge concerning shipping and sometimes foolish questions.

Here is a portion of the testimony of Second Officer Lightoller, as he was questioned by Thomas Scanlan:
Scanlan: “Although there were abnormal difficulties you took no extra precautions whatever.”
Lightoller: “Have I said so?”
Scanlan: “In view of the abnormal conditions and of the fact that you were nearing ice at ten o’clock, was there not a very obvious reason for going slower?”
Lightoller: “Well, I can only quote you my experience throughout the last twenty-four years, that I have been crossing the Atlantic most of the time, that I have never seen the speed reduced.”
Scanlan: “Is it not quite clear that the most obvious way to avoid it is by slackening speed?”
Lightoller: “Not necessarily the most obvious.”
Scanlan: “Well, is it one way?”
Lightoller: “It is one way. – Naturally, if you stop the ship you will not collide with anything.”
Scanlan: “What I want to suggest to you is that it was recklessness, utter recklessness, in view of the conditions which you have described as abnormal, and in view of the knowledge you had from various sources that ice was in your immediate vicinity, to proceed at 21 ½ knots?”
Lightoller: “Then all I can say is that recklessness applies to practically every commander and every ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean.”
Scanlan: “I am not disputing that with you, but can you describe it yourself as other than recklessness?”
Lightoller: “Yes”
Scanlan: “Is it careful navigation in your view?”
Lightoller: “It is ordinary navigation which embodies careful navigation.”

Immediately upon the end of the American Senate Investigation, Bruce Ismay and the Titanic crew returned to England. There they appeared before the British Inquiry, conducted by the British Board of Trade. Due to their own outdated laws, there were few repercussions. Lord Mersey presided over the hearings with several experts. The hearings were opened in the Wreck Commissioner’s Court, Royal Scottish Drill Hall, Buckingham Gate, Westminster, on 2nd May, 1912. Ninety-eight witnesses were questioned during May and June. The final report was published towards the end of July. The employees of the White Star Line have been noted as trying to avert any testimony that would damage the shipping line and Captain Smith. The British Inquiry cleared Captain Smith and the White Star Line of any negligence in the loss of the Titanic. There are over eight thousand pages of documents on the Titanic with the British Board of Trade. One very important piece is “Correspondence dealing with the original plans of the Titanic, showing the ship was originally to be fitted with 32 boats. This would have given capacity for over 2,000 people, significantly greater than the 1,178 that were ultimately provided for.”

Both inquiries placed little blame on anyone. Senator Smith did blame Captain Smith for not slowing down in those ice conditions. The British inquiry stated that “maintaining speed and course in such conditions was common practice.”

Both inquiries blamed Captain Stanley Lord of the Californian. Stating “could have rescued all aboard the Titanic if he had taken immediate action to steam towards the liner firing the distress rockets.”

Both investigations presented recommendations for safer travel. Including:
–regular lifeboat drills
–twenty-four hour radio watch on every liner
–all ships accommodate lifeboats for everyone on board
–ship construction should feature watertight decks
— transverse and longitudinal watertight bulkheads as well as high double bottoms
–speed should be reduced in fog, ice or other zones of possible danger

After the inquiries many first class male passengers came under scrutiny for surviving, especially J. Bruce Ismay and Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon.

The Titanic disaster also led to the following changes:

1914 establishment of International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea

International Ice Patrol established

The Titanic disaster marked the end of the Edwardian Era. The general feeling of confidence ended, including faith in technology. The rich began to question the meaning of their wealth and the chivalry seen the night of the sinking has not been seen since. Nobody believed in an unsinkable ship after the Titanic disaster.

Note: James Cameron used the Senate Records when writing his script for the hit movie, Titanic. Mr. Cameron has written. “Those scenes in my film are scripted and staged precisely as the event was described by witnesses.”

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Before Carpathia even arrived in New York, The White Star Line made efforts to recover the dead from the Titanic disaster. Four ships, including the Mackay-Bennett, were chartered to retrieve the bodies left in the disaster area.

John Snow and Company Ltd, Halifax’s largest funeral directors, were hired to assist with funeral arrangements.

The MacKay-Bennett left Halifax on Wednesday, April 17 for the disaster area. Many vessels reported seeing bodies or wreckage in the Atlantic waters. The crew arrived in the area on Saturday, April 20.

These ships searched for the disaster site for six weeks. The MacKay-Bennett gathered so many bodies they were overwhelmed and quickly ran out of supplies to embalm the corpse. For this reason many third class passengers and crew members were returned to the sea. First class passengers were given priority to be preserved in packed ice and embalmed and placed in a casket. Captain Larnder justified this by saying these first class passengers were wealthy men with large estates to be settled.

Some of the bodies were so badly disconfigured that identification would be impossible. They were wrapped in a cloth and weighted down to be recommitted to the sea. Rev. K. C. Hind conducted a service for the bodies before they were returned to the sea. Each body that was preserved was given a number and the possessions on their body were bagged with the same number.

The Minia, Montmagny and Algerine assisted the MacKay-Bennett in recovering the bodies. The last body recovered was saloon steward, James McGrady. A month later the RMS Oceanic came across Collapsible lifeboat A while on a transatlantic voyage. This lifeboat had three bodies inside.

These vessels retrieved three hundred and twenty eight bodies. One hundred and nineteen of these bodies were buried at sea.

John Jacob Astor IV, the richest man aboard Titanic, was found. His remains were released to his son, Vincent.

The remaining two hundred and nine bodies were brought to the Canadian port of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Most of the victims of the Titanic disaster were never recovered, including Captain Edward J. Smith.

Fifty-nine bodies were returned to their families for burial.

One hundred and fifty bodies were not identified and returned to Halifax for burial. The city’s Mayflower Curling Rink was turned into a temporary morgue. Three different cities in Halifax were prepared to bury the victims. The burials began on May 3rd with many Halifax families turning out to pay their respects.

One hundred and twenty-one bodies were buried at Fairview Lawn Cemetery. Nineteen were buried in the Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery and ten in the Baron de Hirsch Jewish Cemetery. Headstones were erected by the White Star Line that fall with the victim’s body number {in hopes of identification} and date of death. Some families or groups did commission more elaborate gravestones. Memorials have been erected to Captain Smith, the Titanic musicians and the Titanic engineers.

Fairview Lawn Cemetery also holds the dead from the Great Halifax Disaster of 1917.

Years later when the Titanic wreckage was found pairs of shoes were found lying with the debris on the seabed.

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Three days after the Carpathia picked up the Titanic survivors, the ship docked in New York. Various groups were already working to collect funds to assist the survivors in need of help.

In the last three days the details had been sketchy at best and there was great speculation. Some reports even said that Titanic was being towed in for repairs, that all were lost and that all were saved.

Naturally The White Star Line wanted to believe the more positive reports that all were saved. Their offices were inundated with request from family members, but they did not know anymore than anyone else. They even dispatched a train to Halifax, Nova Scotia with family members of those on the Titanic. When the true situation was realized, the train turned around.

Carpathia arrived in New York on April 18, 1912 at 9:25pm, docking at Pier 34. The voyage had been difficult as she encountered fog, ice, rough seas and thunderstorms. She first stopped at the White Star Line pier and dropped off the Titanic lifeboats. She then moved to the Cunard pier where the passengers disembarked. Only after her arrival did the awful truth sink in.

Small boats greeted Carpathia in the harbor. Family members were on board longing for answers, but most of the occupants were from the press.

One source reported, “Philip Franklin, Vice President of the White Star New York office, was so shocked at the news that he could not believe it and insisted the Titanic was unsinkable. “

Southhampton, England had the greatest loss. Titanic had left this town on her maiden voyage only five days earlier. Southhampton lost five hundred forty-nine men in the disaster.

About 40,000 people stood on the docks when the Carpathia arrived. Many were heartbroken to realize their loved ones were not there to meet them and had perished in the disaster.

Eyewitnesses reported there “were many pathetic scenes” when the Titanic’s survivors disembarked.

Some survivors were taken to the hospital to treat their injuries. Others made their way to hotels or their home town. Third class passengers were now in a new city without a penny to their name, homeless and broke. The White Star Line and other charities were on hand to provide some short term relief.

Margaret Brown was one of the last passengers to disembark. She’d stayed onboard assisting those in need until everyone had safely disembarked. When she disembarked at three o’clock that morning the press was waiting and swarmed around her. Asking how she survived she replied “Typical Brown luck. I’m unsinkable.” In that moment a legend was born.

Captain Rostron and the Carpathia crew were later awarded for their rescue work. Margaret Brown presented Captain Rostron with a silver cup and gold medal. Crew members were awarded bronze medals and the officers were awarded silver medals. President Taft presented Captain Rostron with the Congressional Gold Medal. Later, King George V would knight Captain Rostron.

Words of sympathy were expressed from around the world. King George V said “ The Queen and I are horrified at the appalling disaster which has happened to the Titanic and at the terrible loss of life. We deeply sympathize with the bereaved relatives and feel for them in their great sorrow with all our hearts.” George, R. ET. I.

After completing his testimony Captain Roston and the Carpathia returned to service. Captain Roston died in 1940.

Services were held for the victims all over the world. In London, services were held on April 19 at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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RMS Carpathia arrived an hour after the RMS Titanic sunk to her watery grave. Her rockets were spotted by those in the lifeboats at three thirty that morning.


The RMS Carpathia was owned by the Cunard Line. Her maiden voyage was on May 5, 1903. {She would be Torpedoed off Ireland by German submarine on July 17, 1918}. She left New York City on April 11, 1912 and was sailing towards Fiume, Austria-Hungary {now Rijeka, Croatia} on April 14, 1912.

Harold Cottam was the Carpathia wireless operator. He missed the initial Titanic SOS messages because he was on deck. When he returned Cape Race, Newfoundland told him of the CQD/SOS messages and he then received Titanic’s distress signal. He awakened Captain Rostron who immediately set sail for Titanic. They were fifty-eight miles away from the sinking vessel.

Captain Arthur Henry Rostron was given the command of the RMS Carpathia on January 18, 1912. He went to sea when he was thirteen years old. In January 1895 he joined the Cunard Line. In 1912 Captain Rostron and RMS Carpathia made regular trips from New York City to Fiume, Italy. Headed to Europe the vessel carried a large number of tourist. On the return trip to New York City the steamer would carry emigrants.

This was the first disaster Captain Rostron responded to. However, he spared no effort or cost. He ordered that his lifeboats be swung out, all gangway doors opened, stewards to keep passengers and survivors separate, blankets prepared, extra rooms and the library and smoking rooms prepared, soup and hot drinks ready, rope ladders and extra chairs used to bring the survivors on board, pursers to gather names and stewards to see after the survivors, and the doctor summoned. He clearly rose to the challenge and acted in a timely and professional manner.

Understanding the severity of the situation, Captain Rostron ordered all heat sources to be cut off. This allowed the boilers to work faster, build more power and produce more steam. This could have been very dangerous with so much ice and he understood this, posting additional lookouts.

The Carpathia arrived at the scene at four o’clock in the morning. The Captain and crew were met with a scene of the vast ocean and nothing else upon reaching the given concordance of the Titanic’s location. Captain Rostrom testified they were met with “only a sea covered with wreckage and debris”. He ordered the engines stopped as the crew searched for life. Finally someone pointed out a flare from a lifeboat in the distance.

The passengers on Carpathia were stunned by the scene that greeted them the morning of Monday, April 15, 1912. One passenger described it as “fields of ice on which, like points on the landscape, rested innumerable pyramids of ice.”

On board Carpathia was Charles H. Marshall, whose three nieces were travelling aboard the Titanic. {All three women survived and were surprised to find their uncle upon being rescued}.

Lifeboat number two was the first to be rescued at 4:10am. She was under the command of Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall. Elizabeth Walton Allen was the first passenger to be brought aboard Carpathia. She confirmed to the crew that Titanic had indeed sunk.


As passengers were brought on board many were in shock or sobbing, while others quietly reflected on the events of that night. Many were still under the impression that their loved ones had been saved and rescued.

The rescue effort took over four hours. Survivors were brought aboard by a variety of means such as climbing rope ladders, slings, chairs and children hoisted up in mail sacks.

The last lifeboat to reach the Carpathia was number twelve. There were seventy-four people on board, including Office Lightoller, who was the last to board the vessel. Some of the boats had been adrift for eight hours. All of Titanic survivors were on the Carpathia by nine o’clock that morning.

On board the Carpathia survivors looked for their loved ones. A few had joyful scenes of being reunited, but most saw their hopes dashed as their loved ones failed to appear and reality began to sink in. After being rescued all of the survivors were inspected by a doctor and given food and drink.

The final count onboard the Carpathia was 705 survivors out of 2223 that had started the Southhampton to New York voyage.

After everyone was on board Captain Rostron held a service and moment of silence over the disaster site for those lost at sea.

Due to insufficient resources, Captain Rostrom decided to return to New York instead of continuing on to Europe.

The California arrived at the site of the disaster at 8:30am. Hearing of the sinking she worked her way through the ice to be of assistance. Finding no other survivors she then continued on to Boston.

Titanic’s wireless operator, Harold Bride, was taken to Carpathia’s wireless room where he worked with Harold Cottam. The men did not leave the room and worked transmit a list of survivors names and personal messages to relatives. The men even refused to answer a request from President Taft, requesting information on his military advisor Archibald Butt.

“One of the messages that the New York White Star line did receive from the Carpathia confirming the disaster is as follows:
Steamship Carpathia, April 17, 1912 (via Halifax)
Deeply regret advise you Titanic sank this morning, after collision iceberg, resulting serious loss life. Further particulars later. Bruce Ismay.
This was received by Mr. Franklin at the White Star office in New York at 9 a.m. on April 17. Two days after the sinking. This gives you an idea of how slow news was traveling.”

Now the passengers and survivors aboard Carpathia had nothing to do but wait to reach New York.

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Sunday, April 14, 1912 was coming to an end on the Titanic when tragedy struck. That morning passengers attended church services with Captain Smith officiating the First Class sermon. In the evening some first and second class passengers had a hymn sing. A lifeboat drill had been planned for that Sunday morning, but was cancelled for [now] unknown reasons.

Titanic was the largest ship in the world, beating her sister ship, Olympic by one hundred feet. She had the largest engines ever on a ship and was able to generate more steam than any ship. She had the capability of carrying 3,547 people. There were 2,223 people aboard preparing to sleep for the night and the majority of them were not worried. {There were a small handful that testified to premonitions and at least one passenger refused to sleep during at night.} These crew members and passengers had every confidence in the vessel on which they were sailing.

Throughout the day Titanic received a number of ice warnings. The first two were acknowledged by Captain Smith. He’d even ordered a new course, farther south, after receiving a report from RMS Caronia at nine o’clock that morning and RMS Baltic at 1:42pm. That afternoon there were problems with the Marconi wireless equipment. The operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride spend over six hours that afternoon repairing the faulty machinery. The company that owned the equipment suggested operators wait until they returned to port and allow company technicians to fix the faulty equipment. If Phillips and Bride had followed company protocol, most likely no help signals would have been able to be sent out after the disaster occurred. No one would have known the Titanic needed help and very possibly everyone aboard would have perished.

Ice conditions were the worst they’d been in the last fifty years. With no moon and a calm sea, Captain Smith and his crew had a false sense of safety. Archibald Gracie testified “the sea was like glass, so smooth that the stars were clearly reflected”. The ice conditions were attributed to a mild winter which caused a large number of icebergs to break away from the coast of Greenland. Research now shows that the high tides were due to the fact that in January of that year the moon had moved closer to earth than any time in the past fourteen hundred years. There were at least four other ice warnings that did not reach Captain Smith that day. A final message received from Californian at 10:30pm and Phillips replied “Shut up! Shut up! I’m working Cape Race.”

Unaware of the additional ice warnings, the ship did not reduce speed and was running at twenty-two knots {approximately twenty-five miles per hour}. These vessels were constantly driven at close to their full speed, treating hazard warnings as advisories rather than calls to action. It was widely believed that ice posed little risk; near misses were not uncommon, and even head-on collisions had not been disastrous. Harold Lowe testified that standard maritime practice was “to go ahead and depend upon the lookouts in the crow’s nest and the watch on the bridge to pick up the ice in time to avoid hitting it.” Captain Smith even declared this in a 1907 interview where he said “imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.”

Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee were the lookouts in the crow nest having gone on duty at ten o’clock that evening. The men had no binoculars with them on this maiden voyage. Fleet spotted the iceberg at 11:39pm. He immediately rang the bell and told Sixth Officer James Moody “iceberg right ahead”. Moody attempted to turn the ship to port {left}. Testimony showed that Moody told Captain Smith he was trying to swing the bow around the iceberg. The engines could not be immediately reversed and it took time to reverse the engines and tillers which resulted in a delay. Had the ship been turned while maintaining full speed the iceberg would most likely have been missed with feet to spare. Less than a minute after spotting the iceberg, the ship collided with the object.

The iceberg was only about two hundred feet above the surface but below the surface it is believed the object went down an additional one thousand feet. The underwater ice scraped the starboard {right} side of the ship for about seven seconds causing chunks of ice to fall onto the deck. The engines stopped minutes later, but the damage was already done as the iceberg buckled the plates and popped the rivets. Boiler room number six soon filled with icy water. The engineers and stokers worked fervently to keep the boilers from exploding from the hot pressure of the steam. The stokers and firemen were ordered to draw down the fire and vent the boilers. Thomas Andrews, the designer, had built Titanic to stay afloat with four of her sixteen bulkheads flooded. Each bulkhead was separated by a watertight door, which was immediately closed as water began to seep into the vessel. Water soon spilled over from one bulkhead into the next. One historian said “There has only been one iceberg, and its history lasted for a minute”.

Many passengers felt a bump or shudder but did not know what it was. Captain Smith felt the collision in his cabin, after going to the deck and being told of the situation he summoned Thomas Andrews. An inspection showed that five of her bulkheads were now flooded and Thomas Andrews had the unfortunate job of explaining to Captain Smith that Titanic would indeed flounder within the next hour to ninety minutes. By this time water was pouring in fifteen times faster than she could be pumped out. In the first half hour of impact the ship angled at a 4.5 degree angle, but then slowed down to a five degree angle over the next hour, which gave many aboard a false hope. Both men knew there were not enough boats to save the 892 crew members and 1,320 passengers onboard.

Captain Smith ordered the lifeboats to be lowered at five minutes after midnight. {Time was shipboard time. Testimony shows they were about two hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time}. The Captain also told Phillips and Bride to send distress calls out over the wireless. The mail sorters began moving mail up to the top deck in an effort to save the correspondence. Stewards began moving from door to door to rouse the sleeping passengers. At first many of the passengers and stewards were reluctant to comply, not wanting to believe there was a problem and longing to remain in their warm rooms. At fifteen minutes after midnight stewards began ordering passengers to put on their lifebelts. Due to the sound of the high pressure steam moving from the boilers through the funnels, most on deck found it difficult to hear and had to use hand signals to communicate. Captain Smith was in shock and Officer Lightoller asked if “women and children first” should be loaded into the lifeboats. When the Captain nodded in affirmation Lightoller took charge on the port side and Murdoch took charge on the starboard side. The two officers interpreted the orders completely differently. Lightoller thought it meant women and children only and lowered lifeboats with empty seats if not women or children were around. Murdoch believed the orders meant women and children first and allowed men to board the lifeboats if no women or children were around.

The lifeboats were able to hold about sixty-eight people, but the first lifeboat to leave only had twenty-eight people aboard. Titanic was designed to accommodate sixty-eight lifeboats but only had sixteen wooden and four collapsible boats onboard. These boats were intended to be used in event of emergency to transfer passengers to another ship and not to clear the entire boat. The majority of passenger ships at that time did not have enough lifeboats for their passengers, however had more than the law required. Due to lack of training the crew was unprepared for such an emergency. All reports seem to show that Captain Smith was in shock. In his long and illustrious career the only collision he’d encountered at sea was when the Olympic collided with the RMS Hawke and was damaged. The band came on deck and began to play music to keep the passengers calm. At first they played upbeat ragtime pieces but most people believe the final song they played was “Nearer, My God, To Thee.”

Passengers were reluctant to load the lifeboats at first. John Jacob Astor declared: “We are safer here than in that little boat.” Rocket flares were sent up as a call for help. The California was nearby but the wireless operator turned his radio off at eleven thirty that evening. First and second class passengers had a better chance of reaching a lifeboat, than third class. This is because United States immigration laws required third class stay quarranted so there was no spread of disease.

By 1:45am the boiler rooms were completely flooded. Lifeboat fifteen was nearly lowered onto another lifeboat. Lifeboat eleven was filled overcapacity. There were not enough seamen to man the boats and other men were allowed to enter to help row. In many of the boats the women helped to man the oars. Panic began to erupt in the last fifteen minutes of the lifeboats being lowered. The severity of the situation was beginning to register with the passengers. Fifth Officer Lowe fired three warning shots to restrain the crowd. The last boat, Collapsible D, was launched at five minutes after two o’clock in the morning with forty-four people onboard. Shortly after this boat left Captain Smith is reported to say “Now it’s every man for himself.”

The Carpathia answered the Titanic’s distress call at 12:25 am. The last CQD message was received by The Virginian at 2:17am. Half an hour earlier RMS Olympic messaged from 500 miles away: “Am lighting up all possible boilers as fast as can”. But it was too late.

At 2:15am the stern began to lift to a thirty five to forty degree angle and water rapidly poured into the ship. Father Thomas Byles was hearing confessions and giving absolutions. Thomas Andrews was last seen in the first-class smoking room, without a lifebelt, staring at the painting above the fireplace. No one knows for sure where Captain Smith was in those final moments, but there reports of seeing him on deck or headed toward the wheelhouse.

Survivors reported hearing a great noise which is now believed to be the boilers exploding. Beesley described it as “partly a groan, partly a rattle, and partly a smash, and it was not a sudden roar as an explosion would be: it went on successively for some seconds, possibly fifteen to twenty”. The stern was now raised to a ninety degree angle as the ship split in two. After another minute, the lights flickered once and then permanently went out, plunging Titanic into darkness. Jack Thayer recalled seeing “groups of the fifteen hundred people still aboard, clinging in clusters or bunches, like swarming bees; only to fall in masses, pairs or singly as the great after part of the ship, two hundred fifty feet of it, rose into the sky.”

Titanic sank at 2:20am. Two hours and twenty minutes after she hit the iceberg. Mrs. Stephenson in lifeboat number 4 stated, “She then gave her final plunge and the air was filled with cries. We rowed back and pulled five more men from the sea. Their suffering from the icy water was intense and two men who had been pulled into the stern afterwards died, but we kept their bodies with us until we reached the Carpathia, where they were taken aboard and Monday (April 15) afternoon given a decent burial with three others.”


Hundreds were plunged into the icy waters, which were reported to be twenty-eight degrees. The cries of those fighting for their lives were horrific. Second Officer Lightoller described the feeling of “a thousand knives” being driven into his body as he entered the sea. Some of those in the water died of immediate heart attacks but many died from hypothermia which can take about twenty minutes on average. The pocket watch recovered from a victim showed the time stopped at 2:28am. As Beesley later wrote, the cries “came as a thunderbolt, unexpected, inconceivable, incredible. No one in any of the boats standing off a few hundred yards away can have escaped the paralyzing shock of knowing that so short a distance away a tragedy, unbelievable in its magnitude, was being enacted, which we, helpless, could in no way avert or diminish.” “The sounds of people drowning is something that I cannot describe to you and neither can anyone else. It is the most dreadful sound and their is a terrible silence that follows it.”, described Eva Hart years later.

Only a few in the water survived by swimming to collapsible Boat B. Second Officer Charles Lightoller, wireless operator Harold Bride, chief baker Charles Joughin and Archibald Gracie finally found their way onto the keel of the collapsible. Jack Phillips also made it onto this collapsible but he did not survive the night. After twenty minutes the cries subsided as death overtook those in the water and there was a long silence. Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon recalled after the disaster a man cried in a dull, monotonous and helpless way. She said that “the very last cry was that of a man who had been calling loudly: “My God! My God!”


Another survivor would remember the “People were screaming and screaming and then the silence was terrible.”

After the yells and shrieks subsided Fifth Officer Lowe mounted the solo rescue attempt to help those in the water. The tied five lifeboats together, transferred the occupants and took eight men to help him find survivors. Only a few voices could still be heard. Five people were rescued from the water. Survivor Ida Hippach said “the water was very still and the sky had many stars! You can’t think how it felt out there all alone by ourselves in the Atlantic. And there were so many shooting stars I never saw so many in my life. You know they say when you see a shooting star someone is dying. We thought of that, for there were so many dying, not far from us.”


Most of the lifeboats were not properly stocked with emergency provisions. Only one had a lantern. As dawn approached the wind rose and the sea became increasingly choppy. The only thing survivors could do now was to wait and wonder if they would be rescued. Second Office Charles Lightoller and wireless operator Harold Bride were the only ones aware that help was on the way. Carpathia was headed in their direction. Can you imagine being in that life boats, having just experienced this terrible tragedy? Now you are waiting, but you’re not sure what you are waiting for. What would you be waiting for?

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