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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–why there were not enough lifeboats on board {due to outdated British Board of Trade Regulations}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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The crew kept the ship running smoothly and it took a cast of thousands to keep this huge vessel running smoothly.

The 322 stewards and twenty-three female crew aboard performing more than fifty-seven different functions in the dining saloon’s of each class, public rooms, cabins and recreational facilities. Today we would refer to these men and women as a waiter, waitress, maid, or attendant.

Each class had their own bath and bedroom stewards. These included keeping the areas were supplied, assisting passengers with dressing and serve passengers that desire to eat in their room. These poorly paid crew members were responsible for anywhere from three to twenty five rooms depending on their clientele. Separate stewards were responsible for maintaining clean bed sheets, bathroom towels and table linens.

There were sixty-two individuals working in the galley and kitchen. These consisted of chefs, cooks, bakers, butchers, and scullions {dishwashers}. Thirteen of these crew members survived.

The Purser’s Office employed four clerks to deal with the passenger’s needs and requests.

Below ship the engineers and coal men worked to keep the engines running smoothly. Their sleeping conditions were cramped bunk rooms.

Above deck Captain Smith and his officers were on duty to steer and navigate the vessel.

Below is just a few of the crew that worked on this beautiful ship:

Captain Edward John Smith had been working for the White Star Line since 1880. He quickly rose through the ranks to become the favorite Captain of many first class passengers. He was known as the “Millionaire’s Captain” and some passengers would only sail with him. He was regarded as a “safe captain” in 1903. He captained such ships as the Majestic, Baltic and Adriatic, all the largest ships of their days. When Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic, launched in 1911, Captain Smith was put in charge. He had a reputation as the one of the world’s most experienced sea captain. He was in charge of the Olympic when it collided with the HMS Hawke on September 20, 1911. The repairs on Olympic pushed back Titanic’s maiden voyage almost three weeks. Most reports stated that Captain Smith planned to retire after Titanic’s maiden voyage. However according to Wikipedia the Halifax Morning Chronicle reported on April 9, 1912 that “Smith would remain in charge of Titanic “until the Company (White Star Line) completed a larger and finer steamer.” On the night of April 14, 1912 he attended a dinner party in honor of George Widener. Stories vary as to how Captain Smith spent his final moments, but he went down with his ship. His body was never recovered. Edward J. Smith left behind a wife and young daughter. A monument was erected to him in Lichfield, England.

Violet Jessop was the oldest of nine children. She began working on the Olympic in October 1910 as a stewardess. She was aboard when the vessel collided with the HMS Hawke. She was on the Titanic’s maiden voyage in the same capacity. She was ordered into lifeboat 16, where she cared for an infant. She said the next morning on the Carpathia a woman grabbed the child without saying a word. After the Titanic sinking, she served on the Olympic and Britannic. She was aboard the Britannic in 1916 when the ship hit a mine and sunk in the Aegean Sea. She said she was sucked under and later pulled into a lifeboat. She continued working for the White Star Line and later the Red Star Line, where she took two around the world cruises. At some point she wrote her memoir which were not published until after her 1971 death.

Harold Bride and Jack Phillips were the two British wireless telegraphists that worked tirelessly after the Titanic collided with an iceberg. Phillips was from Surrey, England. He began work for the Marconi Company in 1906 and worked on several ships for both the White Star Line and Cunard Line. Bride was the youngest of five children from London, England. He began working for the Marconi Company in 1911. On April 11, the day the ship sailed, the duo celebrated Philips 25th birthday. On Saturday there was equipment failure and it took all day for them to get it back up and running properly. Reports show Philips delayed in transmitting an iceberg warning to the bridge, at 9:30pm, that could have prevented this disaster. Philips sent out CQD and SOS messages while Bride ran messages back and forth to the Captain. Bride reported that Phillips continued working after Captain Smith released them at 2am. Both men were swept overboard and swam to overturned lifeboat B. Phillips did not survive, and Bride said he’d most likely exhausted himself earlier. Bride survived and assisted the wireless operator on the Carpathia. He had to be carried off of the Carpathia due to injuries to his feet. He continued to work as a Marconi officer aboard ship vessels and died in 1956.

William Murdock was on the bridge during the collision. He worked diligently to help load the lifeboats. He had sixteen years maritime experience behind him. He served as First Officer on the Maiden Voyage. The body of the Scotsman was never found.

Harold Lowe was from Wales. He claimed to run away at fourteen and begin a life at sea. The Titanic was his first trip on the North Atlantic. He was put in lifeboat 14 to help row. He later gathered five lifeboats together and tied them to one another, as he redistributed the passengers. He took the only lifeboat that returned to look for survivors in the water. He picked up four survivors, one of which died in the lifeboat. He remained at sea and joined the Royal Naval Reserve during WWI. He died in 1944.

Charles Lightoller was from Lancashire, England. He went to sea at the age of thirteen and by 1895 survived a cyclone, shipwreck and fire at sea. He briefly left the sea life for other pursuits but soon returned. He served as Second Officer on the Maiden Voyage. He helped load the lifeboats. Once in the water he saw for Collapsible Boat B and stayed upon it all night. He was the most senior surviving officer to survive. He served in both WWI and WWII British Navy. He died in 1952.

Frederick Fleet was a lookout for the Titanic when she hit the iceberg. He’d been at sea for nine years by the time of the Titanic disaster. He reported “Iceberg Right Ahead” to the bridge. He helped load the boats, survived and continued working on the sea until 1936. He died in 1964.

Charles Joughin was the chief baker that survived the cold 28 degrees of the Atlantic because of his alcohol level. At the time of the sinking he and some other chefs were filling the lifeboats with food and supplies. By all accounts he refused a lifeboat for himself, although he helped others board and threw deck chairs overboard. At some point he found time to consume a considerable amount of spirits. By all reports he stepped off the bow as the ship went down and into the water where he remained for over three hours. His testimony said he swam and treaded water until he was pulled into a lifeboat after daylight. He died in 1956.

Musicianssee my article on these heroes

There were five postal clerks, two American and three British. The five clerks worked to save the 200 bags of registered mail as the hauled the to the upper decks. None of these men survived.

There were twenty five engineers and ten electricians and boilermakers aboard ship. These men were the highest paid of the crew and none of them survived. These men worked feverishly after the collision to keep the ship afloat as long as possible. These men had also been battling a fire in Boiler Room 6 for most of the voyage. There were apparently 163 stokers to keep the boilers running. Only a handful of the stokers, trimmers and greasers survived. A memorial was erected to these men in Liverpool, England. PBS is currently running a very interesting special about these men and the work called “Saving the Titanic.

First Class, Second Class, Third Class information

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