The Mystery of the Titanic
- She was the largest ship in the world at the time
- She was proclaimed unsinkable
- She collided with an iceberg and sank on her maiden voyage.
The element of Greek tragedy
- If only she heeded the 7 ice warnings, she received on the day of the sinking
- If only she had slowed down – she was travelling at 22 knots, close to maximum speed
- If only she had enough lifeboats – hopelessly outdated safety regulations resulted in the British Board of Trade certifying her fit to carry passengers. Lifeboats on Titanic had capacity for only 1,178 people even though she was carrying 2,228 passengers and crew on board, at the time of the disaster.
- Out of the 2,228 passengers & crew, only 705 survived due to lack of lifeboats, insufficient emergency training of the crew and generally the unpreparedness of the Captain and officers for such an eventuality. The last survivor, a third class passenger, Millvina Dean died in 2009.
In 1867, Thomas Henry Ismay purchased the bankrupt shipping company, “White Star Line” for the sum of £1,000. The new company agreed to order all its ships from “Harland and Wolff” in Belfast.
The first ship, “Oceanic (I)”, was launched at Belfast in 1871.
In 1891, Henry’s eldest son, Joseph Bruce Ismay, took over the running of the company.
In 1899 “Oceanic (II)” was launched.
The keel for Titanic was laid down in March 1909.
Titanic completion was planned for March 20, 1912 but in September 1911, Olympic was involved in an accident and had to return to Belfast for repairs. This incident forced the White Star Line to delay the maiden voyage of Titanic until 10 April 1912.
Titanic used the Marconi wireless system and the apparatus aboard the Titanic was the most powerful on any vessel. In January Titanic was assigned the call letters MGY. Marconi was an Italian and his mother was Annie Jameson whose family owned the Jameson Whiskey Distillery in County Wexford. One of Marconi’s first paid commissions was to report on one of the highlights of the yachting calendar, the Kingstown Regatta, in 1898. Signals were sent from a converted boat in Dublin Bay to the Harbourmaster’s House, now Moran Park House.
Titanic’s sea trials began on 2nd April – and following successful tests, Titanic was certified fit to carry passengers by the British Board of Trade. It then steamed south to Southampton to begin its maiden voyage.
Southampton, Cherbourg & Cobh:
In Southampton, the fitting-out of the ship had to be completed – staterooms were completed to perfection – carpets laid, draperies hung etc. Cargo including food, drinks and a 25hp Renault car etc had to be hauled abroad. Fresh food supplies were transferred to the vessel’s spacious refrigerators & storerooms on G deck plus beer, stout, wines, spirits etc. Included in the provisions were 8,000 cigars. Captain Smith himself was very fond of a good cigar.
Thomas Andrews MD of H & W and J Bruce Ismay were complimentary passengers abroad Titanic. Andrews lead the “guarantee group”, the people responsible with ensuring a smooth voyage and dealing with any unexpected problems, should they arise.
Titanic departed Southampton on Wednesday, 10 April 1912. On board were many prominent passengers:
Mr Isidor Straus was born in Bavaria. He immigrated to the United States and acquired ownership of Macy & Co. in 1896. Isidor and his wife Ida were returning from a trip to Europe. They boarded the Titanic (1st Class) at Southampton with their manservant & maid. The Straus’s ticket cost £221 15s 7d. Isidor Straus and his wife were both lost in the disaster.
Fr Frank Browne was born in Sunday’s Well in 1880. His mother, Brigid, died the following day. His father died when Frank was in his teens. As a result the father figure in Frank’s life was his uncle, Robert Browne, Bishop of Cloyne whose cathedral was in Cobh (Queenstown). Frank had a great love of photography from a very early age. In 1912, his Uncle Robert gave him a trip of a lifetime – a 2-day cruise on the world’s largest liner, RMS Titanic. He boarded Titanic at Southampton (2nd Class) with his camera and disembarked at Cobh.
Mr William Henry Gillespie boarded Titanic at Southampton as a 2nd class passenger. Some of the carpets on the Titanic were manufactured in Abbeyleix where he worked. Viscount De Vesci owned the factory. Mr Gillespie died in the sinking.
During Titanic’s departure from Southampton and owing to the water disturbance caused by its huge propellers, the liner “New York” suddenly snapped its moorings & its stern began to arch out towards Titanic. Captain Smith narrowly avoided a collision by ordering “Full Astern” & halting Titanic. After an hour delay, Titanic proceeded to Cherbourg
In Europe, the “season” was now approaching its end and there were many socially prominent passengers on the Cherbourg manifest. First Class passengers embarking were the super rich & rich of the time.
The wealthiest was Colonel John Jacob Astor, 47 years old with his young pregnant bride, an 18-year-old New York girl, Madeleine Talmage Force. Colonel Astor was at the centre of a scandal because of his divorce and subsequent marriage. They were returning from a winter trip to Egypt & Europe. They boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg with their manservant, maid and private nurse and their pet Airedale Terrier. Their ticket cost £224 10s 6d. (estimated to be about 63,000 British pounds today). J J Astor was lost in the sinking – his wife was saved on lifeboat No. 4.
Also embarking at Cherbourg was Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, who was educated at Eton and in 1900, married Lucy Wallace, a fashion designer. Sir Cosmo was a proficient fencer and represented Great Britain at the 1908 Olympics, held in London.
On the journey to Queenstown, passengers spent their time inspecting & enjoying the comforts of the ship’s public rooms, decks & staterooms. The “guarantee group” from H & W headed by Thomas Andrews oversaw a dress rehearsal of an emergency: the alarm bells rang out for a full 10 seconds & the watertightdoors in the bulkheads slid down into place so that water could not escape from one compartment to another.
Titanic reached the Cobh Harbour opening at Roche’s Point on Thursday morning. 113 3rd class passengers, 7 2nd class passengers, 3 1st class passengers embarked & 1,385 sacks of mail was ferried to the ship. Frank Browne, disembarked clutching a packet of photographic plates, pictures he had taken of the ship & the trip so far. Amongst the 3rd class passengers embarking was a family from Athlone: Margaret Rice & her 5 sons & Daniel Buckley from Ballydesmond, Co Cork. The Rice family were all lost in the disaster while Daniel Buckley survived. There were 706 3rd class passengers in all on board Titanic.
On its departure from Cobh, Titanic followed the “Outward Southern Track” on its way to New York. Titanic’s 1st class accommodation was a work of sheer beauty: a grand staircase, oak-panelled corridors, revolving doors, cut glass light fittings, thick carpets, draperies, suites of cabins in period décor, Turkish & electric baths, swimming pool, squash court, library, gym & 3 elevators were all available to first class passengers.
Second class accommodation was more luxurious than first class on other liners. Some 2nd class passengers, on embarkation, felt sure that they had been mistakenly assigned 1st accommodation; such was the luxury of it all.
Third class accommodation & food on E, F & G decks was better than 3rd class on other vessels. They had their own promenade decks; open well decks forward and aft. However, 3rd class passengers were segregated – men forward & women aft.
Sunday 14 April 1912:
Additional boilers were fired up on the Sunday morning anticipating a swift dash to New York. 24 of Titanic’s 29 boilers were alight driving Titanic at about 22 knots & it was planned for an all-out run on Monday.
7 Ice warnings were received:
Warning 1) 9am: “Caronia”. This message was delivered to the bridge.
Warning 2) 1.42pm: “Baltic”. This message was delivered to Capt Smith who gave it to Mr J Bruce Ismay, Chairman and Managing Director of the White Star Line, to consider. Bruce Ismay put it in his pocket and walked away. The Captain asked for its return at 7.15pm & posted it in the chart room as per normal practice.
Warning 3) 1.45pm: “Amerika” – This message was not sent to the bridge.
Between 5.30pm & 7.30pm, air temperature dropped about 10ۨ F and water temperature dropped below freezing point. These were strong indications of ice.
As a result, 3 precautions had been taken:
(1) Altering the ship’s course very slightly
(2) Closing the forecastle hatch to prevent the lookouts being blinded.
(3) Warning the lookouts (eyes of the ship) in the crows’ nest: “Keep a sharp lookout for ice”.
However, the ship did not slow down.
Warning 4) 7.30pm: the steam ship, Californian, sent this message. The ice message was taken to the bridge.
Sunday evening, Captain Smith joined a dinner party given in his honour by the Wideners in the ship’s A La Carte Restaurant.Mr Widener was heir to probably the largest fortune in Philadelphia. Captain Smith excused himself from the dinner party about 9pm, went to the bridge and met Lightoller where he discussed the flat calm. At 9.30pm, Capt Smith retired with the words: “If it becomes at all doubtful let me know at once, I shall be inside”.
Warning 5) 9.40pm: the steam ship, “Mesaba” sent another warning. It never reached the bridge because Jack Philips was extremely busy with commercial traffic to the Cape Race shore station.
At 10pm, First Officer Murdock relieved Lightoller and Fred Fleet & Reginald Lee relieved the lookouts in the crow’s nest. (10.00pm – 12.00pm)
Warning 6) 10.30pm: a freighter from Halifax contacted Titanic by Morse Signal Lamp: “Have just passed through heavy field ice and several icebergs”. Titanic replied: “Message received. Thank you. Good night”.
At 10.30pm Captain Stanley Lord of the Californian ordered his ship to stop, blocked by floating ice. Shortly afterwards, Lord noticed an approaching vessel to the east & at 10.55pm he asked his wireless operator, Evans, to identify it. When told that Titanic was the only vessel in the vicinity, Lord ordered Evans to contact it & let her know that they were stopped in ice.
Warning 7) 11.00pm: Evans immediately sent the ice message. Before he could finish, Jack Philips, senior wireless operator on Titanic, abruptly broke in: “Keep out! Shut up! You’re jamming my signal. I’m working Cape Race.” Evans turned off his station & went to bed at 11.30pm, as usual. This ice warning never reached the bridge.
At 11.40pm Fleet banged the bell 3 times & grabbed the telephone: “Iceberg right ahead”. Murdock immediately ordered engines stopped & reversed. The iceberg was higher than the forecastle but not as high as the crow’s nest – about 100’ above the water. Murdock shouted “hard-a-starboard” & full speed astern. Titanic very slowly veered to port but grazed off the iceberg with little discernible noise. Murdock immediately shut down the watertight doors in the bulkheads. The time between sighting the iceberg and the collision was about 37 seconds. A spur projecting from main bulk of the iceberg struck Titanic underbelly about 12’ above the keel, scrapping and bumping along a 300’ forward length of it’s starboard side opening it to the sea. According to some passengers it was a long faint grinding sensation.
To passengers & crew alike, the collision (lasting about 10 seconds) did not appear to be serious.
- It looked to the lookouts, Fleet & Lee, as nothing more than a close shave.
- QM, Thomas Rowe, on watch at the stern of the ship, felt a curious motion break the steady rhythm of the engines. He stared & thought he was seeing a windjammer pass along the starboard side. Then he realised it was an iceberg. Still, he did not think that anything very significant had happened and continued his watch.
- Off-duty crew gossiping in the first class dining saloon heard the rattle of silverware & china set on the tables & one of them suggested the ship had probably only dropped a propeller.
- A Swiss girl, accompanying her father on a business trip, woke up with a start thinking it was like the lake ferries in Zurich making a sloppy landing.
- Mr & Mrs George Harder, young honeymoon couple, heard a dull thump & felt the ship quiver & a sort of rumbling scraping noise along the ship’s side. They looked out the porthole and saw a wall of ice glide by.
- In the smoking room on A deck, a group of 1st class men – playing cards, enjoying a final cigar & drink before bed heard a faint grinding noise. All were instantly on their feet and ran out onto the deck just in time to see the iceberg scraping along the starboard side, a little higher than the boat deck. Again, they felt that nothing much had happened and returned inside to their card game.
- Lawrence Beesley, a 2nd class passenger and science teacher in Dulwich College, was reading in his cabin, pleasantly lulled by the dancing motion of the mattress, when he noticed a slight heave of the engines and shortly after the regular dancing movement on his mattress seemed to stop. He went up to the Boat Deck where the lifeboats were being cleared but then decided to return to his cabin and as he did so he noticed a strange sensation as he descended the stairs; the stairs seemed to be level but his feet did not fall quite where they should. He put on warm clothes and then returned to the Boat Deck. Beesley was allowed to board lifeboat No. 13 which was finally lowered away at 1.25am with 64 people aboard.
- Down in boiler room No. 6, Leading Fireman Fred Barrett was talking to the second engineer when the warning bells sounded & light flashed red above the watertight door leading to the stern. Then they felt a thud… a grinding, tearing sound … and the whole starboard side of the ship seemed to give way – sea water cascaded in and the two men leaped through the watertight door into boiler room No. 5 as it slammed down behind them
- Several tons of ice crumbled off the iceberg and landed on the forward starboard well deck as it scraped along the side. This was the third class recreation area and passengers were observed playfully throwing chunks of ice at each other, not realising the seriousness of the situation.
- Lady Cosmo Gordan, woke up with a jolt, and it seemed that somebody had drawn a giant finger along the side of the ship.
- Capt Smith rushed onto the bridge, peered over the starboard bridge wing looking for the iceberg but saw nothing
- Bruce Ismay also woke up with a start & felt sure the ship had struck something. He pulled a suit over his pyjamas and climbed to the bridge. Captain Smith broke the news about the iceberg. Ismay then asked: “Do you think the ship is seriously damaged?” and Smith slowly replied: “I’m afraid she is”.
- When Daniel Buckley, Steerage passenger, was woken up, he jumped out of his bunk and splashed into water up to his ankles. He got dressed immediately and went to investigate.
At midnight, G deck forward was already flooded. After a fast inspection tour of the damaged areas, Thomas Andrews estimated that the ship had an hour and a half or possible two before it sank. The bulkhead between the 6th & 5th compartments only went as high as E deck. If the first 5 compartments were flooded the bow would sink so low, floodwater in the 6th compartment would overflow into the 5th and so on – there was no way out; the ship was doomed.
All this time, there were no emergency bells ringing or sirens blazing – but all over Titanic in one way or another word was spreading among passengers that the situation was serious. For many (especially in 1st & 2nd class) first word came from their stewards.
- John Hardy, 2nd class steward,roused 20 – 24 cabins. Each time he threw the door wide open and shouted: “Everyone on deck with lifebelts on, at once!”
- Mr Benjamin Guggenheim, 1st class passenger, a playboy scion of New York, boarded Titanic at Cherbourg with his valet, chauffeur and “mistress” Mrs Aubart. After the collision, Bedroom Steward, Henry Etches helped Mr Guggenheim to fit his lifebelt and sent him up to the Boat Deck. Despite Etches best efforts, Guggenheim soon returned to his room and changed into his finest evening wear, his valet, Mr Giglio did likewise. He was later heard to remark “We’ve dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.” One of his final acts was to write the following message:“If anything should happen to me, tell my wife I’ve done my best in doing my duty.” They were all lost.
- Major Arthur Peuchen, 1st class,dressed up in warm heavy clothes, picked up a good-luck pin & 3 oranges & left his cabin, leaving behind a box containing 200,000 dollars in bonds & 100,000 dollars in preferred stock.
Just after midnight, Captain Smith went to the wireless room & ordered Phillips to call for assistance, CQD…CQD….
At about the same time that night, Harold Cottam, the wireless operator of the steam ship, Carpathia, was tired because he had been hard at work in the wireless “shack” since 7am. As he undressed for bed he fortuitously kept the earphones on his head. He decided to call Titanic: MGY (Titanic): “I say, old man, do you know there is a batch of messages coming through to you from MCC (Cape Cod). MGY (Titanic): (breaking in) “Come at once. We have struck an iceberg. It’s CQD, old man. Position 41ۨ 46’ N, 50ۨ 14’ W”. Cottam immediately reported to Captain Rostron and an emergency plan was sprung into action. The Carpathia, with all hands on deck, changed direction & headed, full steam to Titanic’s assistance, about 58 miles away.
The broad corridor on E deck was the way from one end of the ship to another – the officers called it “Park Lane” and the crew “Scotland Road”. Shortly after midnight, it was crowded with people, pushing & shoving; most were steerage passengers slowly making their way aft. Some were carrying boxes, bags and trunks. Some made their way up the stairs to the open well decks forward and aft. There was now a slight tilt in the decks.
On top, the boat deck teemed with seamen, stewards, firemen, chefs etc ordered up from below. They began to clear the 16 lifeboats, 8 on each side – Nos. 1 – 16 and 4 collapsible lifeboats, A, B, C & D. Their combined capacity was 1,178 people.
At 12.30am, Captain Smith gave the order to start loading the lifeboats: “Women & children first” and at signs of panic, he called out: “Be British”. Most 1st class passengers were on the boat-deck by this time. However, women were reluctant to enter the lifeboats – they felt safer on the big ship than in the tiny lifeboats. The seriousness of the situation had not sunk in for many. Most 3rd class passengers had not even reached above decks. The White Star Line denied at later Inquiries any favouritism to 1st class passengers but the facts indicate the contrary. At 12.40am 3rd class passengers were observed praying in the 3rd class dining saloon below decks. Clearly, a large number of crew had been delegated with restraining 3rd class passengers.
Meanwhile, on the boat deck, Wallace Hardley, the ship’s bandleader & his band played ragtime tunes to maintain moral. All of them were lost in the disaster.
1st Officer Murdock took charge of the starboard side (odd numbered lifeboats) & 2nd Officer Lightoller took charge of the port side (even numbered lifeboats)
At 12.45 Lightoller lowered port lifeboat No. 4from the boat deck to the promenade deck (A Deck). The windows however were closed & Lightoller sent someone down to crank them open. He went on loading other lifeboats from the boat deck. After an hour(1.45am) he returned to lifeboat No. 4 & loaded it with the cream of New York & Philadelphia society – Mrs Widener, Mrs Astor & Mrs Carter. John Jacob Astor helped his pregnant wife into the boat & asked if he could join her. “No Sir,” replied Lightoller, “no men are allowed in these boats until the women are loaded first.”
Meanwhile, Cottam from the rescue ship, Carpathia, kept in constant touch with Titanic and the last message received at 1.45am reported: “Engine room full up to the boilers …”. This was the last Titanic signal Cottam heard.
At 12.55am lifeboat No. 6 was lowered on the port side – containing Denver socialite Margaret “Molly” Brown. Halfway down someone calls: “We’ve only one seaman in the boat!” Major Arthur Peuchen, vice-commodore of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, agreed to slide down the falls to assist. QM Robert Hichens was in charge, whose behaviour towards the female passengers in the lifeboat & reluctance to go back to pick up survivors was much criticised afterwards. There were only 23 passengers aboard even though its full capacity was 65 passengers.
Isidor & Ida Strauss refused to leave the ship. Ida refused to listen to pleas to board the lifeboat: ”No! I’ll not be separated from my husband. As we have lived so will we die, together”. When Mrs Stuart White climbed into lifeboat No. 8, a friend jovially called out: “When you get back you’ll need a pass. You can’t get back on tomorrow without a pass!” Some women required some gentle persuasion to enter the lifeboat – Mrs Charlotte Collyier was dragged screaming from her husband & thrown in. In spite of having a capacity for 65 passengers, lifeboat No. 8 carried only 28 passengers. Lucy-Noel Martha, Countess of Rothes took the tiller all night. Captain Smith gave instructions to those in charge of the lifeboats to row to the nearby steamer (Californian), land its passengers & come back for more.
At about 1.00am, Chief Officer Wilde asked Lightoller to help him find the firearms. Wilde shoved one of the guns into Lightoller hand saying: “You may need it”.
J Bruce Ismay assisted in loading lifeboat No. 5. He dashed to & fro in his carpet slippers, shouting instructions, giving orders & urging men to hurry up: “There’s no time to lose”, he shouted. 3rd Officer Pitman couldn’t take his behaviour any more and retorted: “I await the commander’s orders”. As lifeboat No. 5 was lowered Dr. Frauenthal jumped in, dislocating two of Mrs Stengel’s ribs & knocking her unconscious. Ismay then continually urged 5th Officer Lowe to lower the lifeboat quicker. Lowe exploded: “You’ll have me drown the whole lot of them!” Ismay, completely embarrassed, turns and walks away.
At 12.45am, QM Thomas Rowe, still on watch at the stern of the ship, saw a lifeboat floating near the starboard side and phoned the bridge to enquire. An incredulous voice enquired as to who he was & then ordered him to fetch some rockets and report to the bridge. Rowe began firing the distress rockets, which shot up, to a height of 800’ before exploding. In between rocket firing, Rowe tried to contact the mystery ship, the Californian, with the Morse lamp. On board the Californian, 3rd Officer Stone observed flashes of rockets in the sky & reported it to Captain Lord who advised him to keep signalling the vessel using the Morse lamp. This, he did, unsuccessfully.
Murdock launched lifeboat No. 3 with ladies & children & after no more women could be found, men passengers were accepted – men were luckier on the starboard side. Murdock did not appear to enforce the “women first” rule as strictly as Lightoller. There were 32 in lifeboat No. 3 in spite of the fact that it had a capacity for 65 passengers. Lifeboat No. 12 was lowered at 12.25am with 40 women & children. Again, its capacity was 65 passengers. As it descended a man jumped into it from B deck.
At about 1:10am, 1st Officer Murdock allowed Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, his wife Lucille & her secretary, into lifeboat No. 1. According to Sir Cosmo when he asked Murdock if they could enter the boat, Murdock replied: “Oh, certainly do, I’ll be very pleased.” Two American men were allowed in also. Murdock added 6 stokers to crew it and put lookout, Symons, in charge. The boat left with only 12 – its capacity was 40. After Titanic sank, leading Fireman Charles Hendrickson asked the people in the lifeboat whether they ought to go back to help the people struggling & dying in the water but Lady Duff-Gordon warned they might be swamped. Then, Fireman Robert Pusey complained to Duff-Gordon that they had lost all their “kit” and that their pay would end when the ship sank, so the wealthy Sir Cosmo offered all the men five pounds on their return. This was a pledge he would honour on board the Carpathia. Later Sir Cosmo appeared before a packed British Inquiry to defend himself against the accusation that he had bribed the crew to secure his escape from the Titanic.
Around this time also, down in 3rd class, a swarm of people were waiting in the cul-de-sac at the foot of the main steerage staircase on E Deck. Sensing danger, some 3rd class passengers reached the boat deck by circumventing barriers between 3rd class & 1st class or by breaking them down. 3rd class steward, John Hart took 2 small groups of 3rd class women & children up to the boat deck between 1am & 1.30am. Murdock then ordered him to take charge of lifeboat No. 15, which was launched at 1.30am. The majority of 3rd class passengers were then left waiting on E deck with nobody to guide them or help them. John Hart, later at the Inquiry, admitted that 3rd class passengers were falsely reassured & kept below decks until 1.15am when most of the boats were gone. 3rd class passenger, Daniel Buckley & other 3rd class passengers climbed up stairs to a gate into 1st class area. A seaman guarding the gate refused to let them go through. When the situation became threatening, the seaman locked the gate and fled. The men then smashed through the gate and eventually reached the boat deck. On the after well deck, some 3rd class passengers climbed their way up a crane and crawled along the boom to the 1st class decks and then on up to the Boat Deck. Lifeboat No. 16 was lowered at 1.35am with 50 on board. Its capacity was 65 passengers. Daniel Buckley & several other men jumped in. Most of the men were forced out when the officers threaten to shoot them. Daniel put a woman’s shawl around his bowed head and started crying – the disguise worked – he got away.
At 1.30, panic set in among male passengers as lifeboat No. 14 was being lowered – some threatened to jump into the almost full (60) boat. Lowe fired shots between the boat & the ship as a deterrent – the men moved back.
Murdock also fired shots to deter men rushing lifeboat No. 15.
A group of men desperately tried to rush collapsible lifeboat C. Purser Herbert McElroy fired his pistol and the culprits were removed. “It’s women first”, yelled the Purser. When no more women could be found, the boat was released for lowering and as it was lowered 2 men stepped into it – William Carter & Joseph Bruce Ismay. There were 42 people on board.
Lifeboat No. 11 was overloaded with 70 passengers but was lowered successfully.
Lifeboat No. 13 was lowered with 64 passengers including Lawerence Beesley. This lifeboat was nearly swamped by a great volume of water being discharged from the ship’s side by the pumps. When the lifeboat reached the water, they struggled to detach the falls & inadvertently drifted below lifeboat No. 15, which had begun its descent. Fortunately their shouts of alarm were heard on the boat deck & the lowering of lifeboat No. 15 stopped. Lifeboat No. 13 succeeded in cutting the falls and drifted out from underneath.
At 2am, only collapsibles A and B remained lashed to the roof of the officer’s quarters, either side of the forward funnel. At 2.05 Capt Smith released Phillips & Bride telling them: “It’s everyman for himself”.
At 2.10 the ship’s bow suddenly plunged as Lightoller & the crew desperately tried to release collapsible B. The wave caused by the plunge washed Lightoller into the water. The wave also carried the un-launched collapsible B over the deck’s edge and it floated off upside down. Later, Lightoller along with some crew & passengers managed to clamber aboard the bottom of the upturned collapsible B. At about this time, Colonel Archibald Gracie described the following scene as he retreated, before the rising water, to the stern of the ship: “There arose before us from the decks below, a mass of humanity lines deep, covering the boat deck facing us … there were women as well as men & they seem to be steerage passengers who had just come up from the decks below”. Needless to say, all the lifeboats were long gone.
As the ship’s stern angled up to a perpendicular, people started panicking – some fell & some jumped overboard. People could hear popping & cracking noises from the ship …the crash of glassware … the clatter of deck chairs sliding down the tilted decks … the screaming of people as they lost their grip and fell into the water… A steady roar thundered across the water, as everything movable on the ship broke loose. The lights flashed on & off and then went out for good. The stays holding the first funnel snapped & the giant funnel toppled forward, striking the water. Scores of swimmers were crushed beneath it. Then there was a huge explosive noise and the stern settled back into the water for a minute or so and then it too began to slide under the water, picking up speed as she went until the sea closed over her stern. It was 2.20am. All that remained were the hopeless cries for help from the people struggling in the freezing water (28° F).
Some time after the sinking, 5th Officer Lowe & 4 volunteer crewmen rowed back to the scene. They picked up 3 survivors but one of them died shortly after.
At 4.00am the Carpathia arrived at the scene. At 4.10am passengers from lifeboat 2 began to clamber abroad. At 6.15am, collapsible C with Bruce Ismay aboard came up. About 8am the overturned collapsible lifeboat B arrived with second officer Lightoller in charge. Lightoller himself was the last person up the ladder, the last survivor to board Carpathia and the only senior officer to survive Titanic.
At 5.15, Captain Lord of the Californian, noticed the Carpathia bearing south southeast. He instructed Evans, his radio operator to investigate & on being informed that the Titanic had sunk during the night, Lord ordered the Californian to proceed immediately to the scene of the disaster. About 8.30am Californian stopped alongside the Carpathia.
Captain Rostron headed back to New York with 705 survivors leaving the Californian to search for any further survivors. None was found.
There were 2 Courts of Inquiries into the disaster, the US Inquiry chaired by Senator William Smith and the British Inquiry chaired by Lord Mersey. They sought to enquire into the nature of the disaster, its causes and the inadequacies of the safety procedures. The Americans called 3 steerage passengers to testify while the British Inquiry called none. The British report describes as “unfounded” the very gross charge against Sir Cosmo Duff Gordan that having got into No. 1 lifeboat, he bribed the crew in it to row away from the drowning people. Lord Mersey, British Inquiry, also dismissed the charge against Mr Ismay’s lack of moral duty on the night – that he abandoned the Titanicin the last lifeboat knowing there were women & children still on board. The British Inquiry also took the lead from the Americans in condemning Captain Stanley Lord for not going to the rescue. The British Report, not surprisingly, whitewashed the British Board of Trade, the body responsible for the legal insufficiency of lifeboats.
Report of the Court: “The court, having carefully enquired into the circumstances of the above mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons appearing in the Annex hereto, that the lost of the said ship was due to a collision with an iceberg, brought about by the excessive speed at which the ship was being navigated.”
Total number of passengers: 1,316
1st Class Total: 325 (180M, 145F) – 60.5% survived
2nd Class Total: 285 (179M, 106F) – 41.7% survived
3rd Class Total: 710 (510M, 196F) – 24.5% survived
Crew Total: 991 – 23.8% survived
By Michael O’Flaherty
“THE IRISH ABOARD TITANIC” by Senan Molony
“TITANIC Triumph and Tragedy” by John B. Eaton
“Fr Brown’s Titanic Album” by EE O’Donnell
“The story of TITANIC as told by its survivors” by Lawrence Beesley, Archibald Gracie,
Commander Lightoller, Harold Bride – edited by Jack Winocour
“Titanic Tragedy” by Vincent MacDonnell
“Titanic – Behind the Legend” by William Blair
“101 things you thought you knew about the TITANIC but didn’t!” by Tim Maltin and Eloise Aston
“A Night to Remember” by Walter Lord
“Report on the loss of the SS TITANIC” – The Official Government Inquiry