In 1862 a child was born who would provide the world with an uncanny glimpse of the future. His name was Morgan Robertson and after spending his early life at sea he settled down at 36 years of age to write novels of ships and sailors. A total of 14 novels flowed from his pen before that which he called his "spirit writing partner" deserted him, putting an end to his literary efforts. The novel we're concerned with here was published in 1898 and was called "Futility" (later re-titled "Futility or "The Wreck of the Titan"). In this book Robertson described an ocean liner far greater than anything man had yet to build. She was 800 feet long, weighed 70,000 tons, was triple screw and could, on the open sea, sail at 24 - 25 knots. She had 19 watertight bulkheads and, by virtue of this, was labeled "unsinkable". She also carried too few lifeboats for her complement. The ship in the novel struck an iceberg on a cold April night and sank with a heavy loss of life. Her name was, "Titan". In 1915 Morgan Robertson died by his own hand, alone and penniless, in a hotel room in New Jersey facing the ocean he so loved.
In 1867 a company was born which would breathe life into Morgan Robertson's novel. Thomas Henry Ismay purchased the name of the bankrupt White Star Line, a fleet of sailing ships that had served the Australian gold field trade. Together with the men of the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast Northern Ireland he set about building a fleet of steamers and preparing to enter the lucrative North Atlantic service. In 1907 his son, Joseph Bruce Ismay, now owner of the line, went to visit his friend and business associate William James Lord Pirrie at his residence, Downshire House, in Belgrave Square, London.
Pirrie was the managing director of Harland and Wolff and while the dinner was a social occasion it was also time to discuss the White Star's desire to build the largest, most luxurious trio of liners that the world had yet seen. They would be 882 feet long, weigh 66,000 tons, triple screw and do 24 - 25 knots on the high seas. They would also have 15 watertight bulkheads and, due to a magazine article, would come to be labeled as "unsinkable".
The first of these giant's keels was laid December 16th, 1908 and she was named "Olympic", the third would not be started for quite some time yet. The one we're concerned with had her keel laid on March 31, 1909. Her name, "Titanic"
May 31, 1911 - Belfast.
She awaited her entrance into what would soon be her native element. More than 100,000 people were on hand both at Queens Island where she was still in the gantry and on the opposite shore. Those with a few shillings to spare had purchased places with a good view or a cruise on a local ferry boat, the Slieve. Those with less wealth positioned themselves as best as they could, awaiting the signal from the yard.
A red flag was hoisted on her stern post and a red rocket roared skyward. The foremen blew their whistles and shouted for the men who were knocking the blocks from under the giant hull to get clear, the launch was about to begin.
At 12:13 a second red rocket went aloft and several foremen pulled the release valve lever. The hull hesitated a second then started to move, slowly at first then gathering momentum till it slid into the waters of the River Lagen. As she slowed to a halt from the drag chains, tugs moved in and started moving her to her berth for fitting out.
She was but an empty hull at this point but soon the work started anew. The boilers had to be installed; the engines, then the work could begin in earnest on the interiors and the deckhouses.
On September 20, 1911 the Olympic collided with the British cruiser H.M.S. Hawke and had to be returned to Harland and Wolff for repairs. Being in service Olympic took priority over Titanic and parts and workmen were diverted to get her back on the job and this delayed Titanic's completion as replacements had to be obtained. By October 11, 1911 the plans had been finalized and Titanic's maiden voyage was set for April 10, 1912.
March 29, 1912 - Belfast
79 men of the support crew were signed on and she was ready for sea trials. Alexandria Towing Company of Liverpool provided escort tugs and the galleys for all but the passengers were provisioned and the staff was aboard. Heavy winds whipped up the water though and the tests were postponed for fear of damage to the hull in the rather narrow Victoria Channel. The delay continued until April 2nd when the water had calmed.
April 2nd, smoke rolled from the number 2 and 3 funnels as the engineers started getting up steam. The wireless men were aboard and tuning their equipment, the latest thing in telegraphy, as well as making connections and testing the generators. By 6am the tugs had returned and Hercules, Harland and Wolff's yard tug had the honor of sending the first line aboard.
She was now free of her moorings, the hawsers to the jetty having been released and the remainder of the tugs attached. Just off the town of Carrickfergus she halted, the tugs cast off and headed back to Belfast their job done. The "pilot aboard" flag broke out at the halyard and the engine room telegraphs were moved to start the engines. She started to move much as at her launch, slowly at first gaining momentum as she went building to near 20 knots. She was then allowed to coast to a stop with the engines on stand-by. Other routine tests were conducted and then the engines were ordered full astern. She shuddered as the screws started reversing and then slowly stopped. It was just slightly less than one half mile to accomplish this, 850 yards or about 3 times her length.
More tests including a serpentine course were ordered and then as she re-entered Belfast the Board of Trade representative, Mr. Caruthers, requested one more and the port and starboard anchors were dropped. A Board of Trade certificate was issued, valid for one year, and she was ready to begin her career.
She entered Southampton the night of August 3 and was turned and moored to the White Star Dock, berth 44. In 7 days she would be at sea.
April 10, 1912 - Southampton
The passengers were boarding as Captain E.J. Smith went over the last paperwork just prior to sailing. He had come aboard about 7:30 am, as had Maurice Clarke of the Board of Trade to clear her as an "emigrant ship". (All passenger liners of that time were emigrant ships if they carried more than 50 steerage passengers). At 8:00 am the Blue Ensign was hauled up at the stern. E.J., as a Commander in the Royal Navy Reserve, held a Blue Ensign Warrant (# 690) from the Royal Navy which allowed him to fly this flag. At the same time the White Star Pennant was hoisted to the top of the mainmast (the mast nearest to the stern).
The crew was mustered and the headcount turned in. While this was going on starboard life boats 11 and 15 were lowered to the water with officers Lowe and Moody in charge and rowed around the dock then hoisted back to the boat deck.
It was noted that number 10 coal bunker (starboard, aft in boiler room 6) had a fire burning in it, probably as a result of not wetting the coal before loading. The men were watering it with fire hoses and the Chief Engineer assured Captain Smith that the situation was under control. It appears that E.J. made no mention of this to the Board of Trade representatives as nothing was stated on the survey form.
The Board of Trade's men left and soon Trinity House Pilot George Bowyer stepped onto the bridge. "Uncle George" as he was known had been handling the White Star liners since they started sailing from Southampton. The officers left for their duty stations, Wilde to the forecastle head to handle the mooring lines and the tug's hawsers with Lightoller to assist him, Murdoch to the stern for the after lines and tugs, Pitman on the docking bridge to relay orders to Murdoch from the telegraphs, Boxhall and Lowe on the navigating bridge to handle the telegraphs and telephones respectively and Moody at the gangway.
At noon Smith nodded to a quartermaster and the Titanic spoke with a blast of her huge whistles. Blue Peter (the flag that told merchants the ship was departing and to collect any debts) was hoisted to the foremast and the whistles roared twice more. Threes blasts, the signal of departure.
Pilot Bowyer ordered "make fast the tugs" and the replies came back from the various stations “Tugs fast, Sir."
The tugs maneuvered her through a tight 90 degree turn and she stood awaiting engine orders. The engine room telegraph rang and moved to "ahead slow", the tow outboard propellers started to rotate and she was under power.
As she passed down the River Test towards the Nab Light Vessel the water displaced by her huge hull raised the volume of water under the New York, moored at Berth 38 just outboard of the Oceanic. New York rose with the water and her ropes went slack. As Titanic passed by, the water dropped from under her and her hawsers snapped with a noise like gunshots and her stern started to swing towards Titanic, drawn to her by the suction.
Captain Gale of the tug Vulcan saw what was happening and heard someone shout for him to push New York away. Realizing this was impossible he sent a line to the New York's port quarter and, when that one parted, sent another which held.
While Vulcan was getting her line aboard New York, Captain Smith and Pilot Bowyer had given the order of full astern and Titanic came to a stop then started backing slightly passing the New York's stern. Additional tugs were attaching to the New York by now and she was moved to another mooring spot and Titanic was again on her way.
After making the "S" turn at Calshot Spit and clearing the Bramble she picked up speed again then slowed near the Nab Light Vessel so Pilot Bowyer could be dropped off. She then was ordered ahead, the American flag at her foremast indicating her destination, and stated the 67 mile crossing to Cherbourg France, her first destination.
She sailed across the English Channel at a leisurely 15 knots; no one was concerned about making up the time lost in the near collision with New York. She passed the sea wall into Cherbourg Harbor and dropped anchor at 6:30 pm and awaited the tenders, Nomadic and Traffic, which would bring the passengers who were boarding here to the ship and take those who had paid only to cross to Cherbourg away.
By 8:00 pm the tenders were away and the anchor was being raised. Ten minutes later she was outward bound, her next stop Queenstown, County Cork, Ireland.
April 11, 1912 - Queenstown
The anchor splashed into the ocean again at 11:30am and once more she prepared to take on passengers. As at Cherbourg some few departed having paid for the trip to Queenstown and no further. Among them was Francis M. Brown, a candidate for the priesthood in the Jesuits. It is to him we owe many of the photographs of her during this part of the voyage and he took the final picture of her from the tender as he was being taken to the Queenstown quay.
Along with the passengers went John Coffey, a fireman, who deserted her seemingly having joined to get a free ride home as his address of record was Queenstown.
Sometime while the exchange of passengers was taking place another stoker climbed up inside the dummy 4th funnel to get a breath of fresh air. His begrimed face showing at the top of the stack was taken as a bad omen.
The last paperwork was finalized and she was ready to depart for New York.
1:30pm, the starboard anchor came clanking up, the whistle bellowed three times and the propellers started to turn. Eugene Daly, a third class passenger stood on the third class promenade aft and watched as his homeland slipped by. As he did he picked up his Irish pipes and played a dirge, "Erin's Lament" as if mourning the country he might never see again.
She stopped off Roche's Point to drop the Pilot and was under way once again, headed into the sunset and into history.
April 12 - 14, 1912 - At Sea
One can only imagine the voyage.
In first class the luxuries were plentiful. The Aeolian organ in the first class entrance from the boat deck, the Turkish baths, the swimming bath, a squash racket court with a pro (Fred Wright), the Gymnasium complete with instructor (W.T. McCawley), and a well stocked library. There was the vast space of the promenades to take exercise in the form of a stroll around the deck and of course the sumptuous meals of the dining saloon and the ala cart restaurant.
Second class did not have the amenities of the first but still had their own smoking room and a library as well as space to walk and take in the invigorating sea air. They were well off as the second class on Titanic was equal to or better than first class on many of the older ships.
Third class had a public room with a piano and the open space of the well decks fore and aft for a promenade and though the decor was plain and the food did not compare to the other classes they also fared better then previous travelers of their station.
The hours passed into days and she sailed on at a consistent 75 RPM of the propellers or 21.5 knots and the trip was for the most part uneventful.
Saturday passed into Sunday and evening approached. She had seen her last sunset.
April 14th, 1912 - Evening
At 6:00 pm Charles Herbert Lightoller relieved Chief Office Wilde on the bridge placing him in command of her. Time passed and at 7:15 First Officer Murdoch ordered Lamp Trimmer Samuel Hemming to close the forward forecastle hatch and skylight to prevent the light from interfering with the lookout's vision.
At 7:30 a wireless from the Californian from Antillian was intercepted by her wireless operator and delivered to the bridge. It warned of three large icebergs 5 miles to the south of Titanic. Lightoller took a stellar sighting and gave the information to Boxhall to plot on the chart.
8:55 pm Captain Smith left the party he was attending and went to the bridge. He discussed the weather and how calm the sea was with Lightoller and at 9:20 went to his cabin leaving word that he should be called "if it becomes the least doubtful".
At 9:30 Lightoller tells the lookouts to "keep a sharp lookout for ice" and in particular "small ice and growlers" till daylight.
9:40 pm a wireless comes in from the Mesaba warning of heavy pack ice, large icebergs and field ice. Jack Phillips was alone in the wireless room as Harold Bride was taking a nap. Phillips, busy with traffic for Cape Race, sets the message aside for later delivery to the bridge and it is forgotten.
Lightoller was relieved at 10:00 pm by Murdoch. They discussed the evening and Lightoller gave Murdoch the pertinent information that was required when the watch is handed over to another officer and went off to do his rounds of the ship.
At the same time the lookouts, Symons and Jewell, were relieved by Fredrick Fleet and Reginald Lee. Lightoller's orders about ice were passed along to them.
About 10:50 pm The Californian's wireless man, Cyril Evans, is told to notify ships in the area that the freighter was stopped in ice. The Captain, Stanley Lord does not tell him to send it "master to master" and Evans sends to Titanic that they are stopped and surrounded by ice. This was sent as a casual message to the Titanic's operator and Evans was rebuffed by him, "Shut up! I'm working Cape Race!" Evans shut down his set at 11:30 and went to bed. Californian only carried one wireless man.
On Titanic the night went on. Seven bells (11:30) sounded. It was just another routine night aboard ship.
April 14th, 1912 - 11:40 pm
Fleet and Lee had noticed a slight haze ahead and a bit off either side of the ship around 11:30 and were watching it to see if there was something beyond it. They watched and waited. Fleet noticed something and rang the crow's nest bell three times and grabbed the telephone to the bridge. A voice answered "Yes. What do you see?", "Iceberg right ahead!", "Thank you."
The men waited their nerves on edge. Why wasn't she turning? Then she started to turn to port and the berg glided past. There was little noise other than ice hitting the deck and they thought it had been a close call, neither one thought that Titanic was in trouble.
On the bridge the officers had been alerted by the sound of the three clangs of the crow's nest bell. Moody answered the phone and repeated the message to Murdoch "Iceberg right ahead". Murdoch rushed to the telegraphs pulling them around to full reverse and calling out to the quartermaster "Hard-a-starboard!" Robert Hitchens at the wheel spun it till it could turn no further as Murdoch rang the alarm bell and threw the lever that would close the watertight doors.
The iceberg bumped and scraped along the hull far below the waterline, about 12 feet above the keel. When it was all over Titanic was taking water in her first 6 compartments.
Smith came on the bridge and asked Murdoch what they had struck. Murdoch answered that it was an iceberg and that he had tried to "port around it". He also said he had closed the watertight doors. Smith asked if the alarm for the doors had been rung and Murdoch said it had.
Boxhall was then sent to inspect the ship and report damage. He saw none himself but was told by one of the Postal Clerks that water was coming in the lower mail sorting room on and they were moving the mail up to the deck above. On his way back to the bridge Boxhall had alerted Lightoller and Pitman and they now reported to the Captain. He then was told by Smith to work out their position and gave it to Smith who headed towards the wireless room. It was now a few seconds before midnight, April 14th 1912 was over.
April 15th, 1912 - North Atlantic
Latitude: 41 degrees 46 minutes north, Longitude: 50 degrees 14 minutes west.
By now Thomas Andrews of Harland and Wolff is on the bridge and he and Smith take a fast tour of the ship's forward area. They are back on the bridge in 10 minutes.
Smith asks how long and Andrews after some fast calculations tells him "An hour and a half, possibly two. Not much longer." Smith orders the boats uncovered.
A few minutes later Captain Smith walks into the wireless room and tells Phillips to send the call for assistance he hands him the paper with the position of the ship and returns to the bridge. The order has been given to get the passengers up and into lifebelts. Many, still confused as to why they have been awakened, line up at the purser's office to get their valuables. Most are still unaware of the urgency and make no preparations to leave the ship.
It's 12:25 and the order has been passed to load the boats. At 12:45 the first one, number 7, is lowered with 28 people in a boat designed for 65. The boat rows away from the ship and its passengers sit there for the next 90 minutes watching Titanic sink.
In the third class dining room a number of people are praying, rosaries in their hands.
On the bridge Boxhall has Quartermaster Rowe start firing distress rockets which shoot up to a height of 800 feet and explode in a burst of 12 white stars. Boxhall also sees a ship approach head on with two masthead lights visible to his naked eye. He believes the ship to be a four-masted steamer.
Lightoller lowers boat 4 to the promenade deck to load people through the windows there but the windows are closed. He sends a hand to open them and the group that has assembled there waits. The bulkhead between numbers 5 and 6 boiler rooms bursts and water rushes in. Engineer Harvey orders Leading Fireman Barrett up the escape ladder and turns to assist his friend Engineer Shepherd, the two are swallowed up by the water.
12:55 am boat 6 portside is lowered. Margaret Brown is picked up and dropped into the descending boat. The passengers notice there is only one man present and call for more to aid in rowing. Major Arthur Peuchen is allowed by Lightoller to slide down the falls, the only man Lightoller will let in a boat this night. Boat 6 contains 28 passengers.
As boat 5 starts down Bruce Ismay stands by after helping load it telling the sailors to "Lower away! Lower away!" Officer Lowe tells him "You want me to lower away quickly? You'll have me drown the whole lot of them!" Ismay, now silent, stands back and keeps quiet.
Boat 3 is loaded by Murdoch and when there are no more women present men are allowed to get in. The boat leaves with 32 aboard, 11 of them crewmen. Murdoch is also in charge of Emergency Boat 1, forward, starboard. The boat holds 40, it leaves with 12. Seven of them are crew.
Other boats leave, more passengers in each than the ones before. People are starting to realize that the danger is real.
At 1:30 there are signs of panic. Lowe has to fire shots along the side of the ship to contain a crowd who threaten boat 14. Lowe has been ordered to leave and assume command of 14 and he clears the ship and starts to gather 4, 10, 12 and 14 into a group.
It is now very clear Titanic will founder. Benjamin Guggenheim and his valet appear in evening clothes stating "We've are dressed in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen."
By 1:40 most of the boats forward have gone. Collapsible C has been put in the davits in place of the now departed number 1 and Chief Officer Wilde calls for woman and children, no one responds. Ismay and first class passenger Billy Carter (the owner of the Renault in forward hold #2) get into the boat and it is lowered. By now the list is pronounced enough that the boat has to be pushed away from the hull so the rivets will not tear the canvas that makes up its sides.
1:55, Lightoller returns to load boat 4 through the windows of the promenade deck. Again a boat is lowered with too few seamen and Quartermaster Perkins slides down the falls to help. Seven more men are pulled from the water, two die of exposure.
Collapsible D is now in the davits once occupied by boat 2. There are 1500 aboard and 47 seats in the boat. Lightoller has the men lock arms and form a circle around the boat allowing only women and children to pass. The boat starts to lower and two men jump into it from the deck below.
It is 2:05 am. Captain Smith goes to the wireless room and releases the operators from their duty. Phillips starts to gather their papers while Bride keeps working the key. Smith returns to his bridge to await his fate.
At 2:10 collapsible B is washed from the deck while the seamen are attempting to attach the davits. The men working on it including Lightoller find themselves in the water. The boat floats away upside down.
Father Thomas Byles hears confessions and recites the rosary with the faithful on the aft end of the boat deck.
The band, which has been playing ragtime and light music stop playing their leader, Wallace Hartley, starts what many believe to be the final tune of the evening, the hymn "Nearer My God to Thee" which he had always said he reserved for his funeral.
She sinks faster now. People are washed off the forward end of the boat deck, the bridge is submerging. The forward funnel snaps its guy wires and crashes down crushing the starboard bridge wing and many of the swimmers in doing so. The stern rises from the water, the 1500 souls remaining move further and further aft.
There is a roar as everything not bolted down breaks free and rushes forward. The lights, kept alive by the engineers (all were lost), flicker once then go out for good. The second and third funnels break away.
More noises are heard and she breaks apart between the 3rd and 4th funnels the water filled bow section planes away underwater, the fourth funnel goes the way of the others and the stern settles back almost level then rises perpendicular and as at her launch, slowly at first, then with gathering momentum it slides beneath the surface.
It is 2:20, April 15th, 1912. The day has just begun. She is gone.
We now take a pause from the history of the Titanic and look into a few of the other ships involved that night.
The Caledon Shipbuilding Company launched their latest creation this date. She was 447.5 feet long, 53.5 feet in beam and had a gross tonnage of 6,223. Designed mainly for cotton hauling she was destined to fly the flag of the Leyland Line.
During construction she had her upper bridge deck modified to include 19 staterooms and was certified for 47 passengers and would carry a crew of 55.
During this time the Leyland Line was acquired by the International Mercantile Marine.
Her sea trials were on the 23rd of January 1902 and she left Dundee on her maiden voyage the 31st of January headed for New Orleans, arriving on March 3rd.
April 14, 1912 - North Atlantic
Californian had left Liverpool for Boston and by April 14th was approaching the same ice field where Titanic was to meet her fate. At 6:30 pm three large icebergs were spotted to the south of the ship. The lookouts were doubled at 8:00. Around 10:15 Captain Stanley Lord and his Third Officer Charles Victor Groves noticed a light rising in the east which Groves mistook for a star. Lord was of the opinion that it was a ship coming over the horizon and was soon proved right. At 10:21 Lord ordered the engines to full reverse and had the helm put hard-a-port to stop the ship. She came around to a heading of ENE (NE true) and slowed to a halt.
Lord gave orders to keep up the steam incase they had to maneuver to prevent bumping into icebergs at 10:30 and pointed out the approaching ship to his Chief Engineer W. Mahan.
AT 10:55 he was leaving the saloon and ran into Cyril Evans, the wireless operator, and asked him if there were any other ships in the area. Evans replied "Only Titanic" and Lord was of the opinion that the approaching ship was too small to be Titanic but told Evans to contact her anyway and warn her that they were stopped in ice.
Evans left to send the message. Lord had not told him to send it "master to master" and he sent a casual "do you know we are stopped and surrounded by ice" which earned him the brush-off from Jack Phillips "Keep out! Shut up! I am busy, I am working Cape Race!" It was not unusual for this to occur though and Evans was not upset by it, Titanic had a wealthy passenger list and a lot of private traffic to send. Evans turned off his set and went to bed around 11:30. If he had stayed on the air for another half hour or had sent the ice warning "master to master" the Titanic may well have avoided the iceberg. This is not to place the blame on Evans. He received no direct order to send the telegram in that fashion and as he had been on duty all day and was the only wireless man aboard.
At 11:30 the vessel approaching Californian appeared to be but 5 miles away, still steaming from the east and Lord could see her green running light (starboard). He told Groves to try and contact her using the Morse lamp on the bridge but there was no response.
About 11:40 he and Groves noticed that the other ship seemed to put out all her lights. What they didn't realize is that she had made a sudden turn to starboard and now was facing them by the bow. They could see her red (port) running light now though. What they also didn't realize was they had just witnessed one of the greatest sea disasters of the 20th century.
At 12:30 Earnest Gill, carried on the crew list as a fireman but in reality a donkey engine operator or donkey man, came on Californian's deck as he couldn't sleep. After about 10 minutes he saw a white rocket burst over a ship he estimated to be about 10 miles away but thought it must be a falling star. In about 8 minutes another rocket was seen by him in the same place. It was not his job to report these to the bridge so he returned to his bunk. In his later statements and testimony he would recall that the rockets threw out stars. He did not hear any sounds though like the explosions of the rockets or the steam escaping from the stricken liner.
A little past midnight Second Officer Stone came on deck and relieved Third Officer Groves. Captain Lord had detained him at the wheelhouse door and pointed out the ship they had been watching and the icebergs, telling him to call him if Californian came any closer to them. Stone saw the red sidelight of the ship and the masthead light as well as some other lights that appeared to be portholes or open gangway doors and felt she was about 5 miles distant. AT 12:45 he too saw the rockets bursting and reported this to Lord stating they were "all white" (the recognized color for distress). Lord told him to keep trying to contact her with the Morse lamp and send Apprentice Gibson down to get him if they succeeded.
Around 2:00 am the other vessel appeared to be steaming away and Stone sent Gibson down to tell Lord. Lord acknowledged the conversation that included the mention of 8 rockets total and asked "are you sure there were no colors in them?” Gibson replied they were all white rockets and returned to the bridge. Later Lord would give a sworn statement that he had no recollection of this conversation and that he had asked "What is it?" and there was no reply from Gibson.
No one thought that instead of steaming away the other ship might have been sinking.
At 4:30 Chief Officer G.V. Stewart awakened Lord and when Lord came to the bridge he could see clear water to the west. At 5:15 he put the engines on stand-by.
Somewhere in this timeframe Chief Officer Stewart mentioned to Captain Lord that there was a four masted steamer lying south-south-east of Californian and he was concerned that she might be in distress as they had seen her fire rockets in the night. Lord told the radio operator to find out if there were any vessels in distress and got the news that Titanic had collided with an iceberg. Lord ordered the Californian under way.
She proceeded east through the ice field and then south, turned back and went to Titanic's last position, arriving alongside Carpathia around 8:30am.
Carpathia was launched this date from the C.S Swan & Hunter Ltd yards. A decent sized ship for her day she was 540 ft long, 64.5 feet wide and had a gross tonnage of 13,603. She was built for the Liverpool - New York passage but was soon diverted to the Trieste - New York run when Cunard became the agents for Hungarian emigration. In 1904 she was returned to the Liverpool - New York trip and in 1905 after being converted to a mostly 3rd class vessel she was returned to the Mediterranean run.
Her Captain, Arthur Henry Roston, was born in Bolton England in 1869. After time spent in training and sailing ships he moved on to steamers, as many officers did then, and joined Cunard in 1895. He took command of Carpathia in January 1912.
Carpathia left Pier 54 in New York on April 11, 1912 bound for the Mediterranean.
April 14th, 1912 - Midnight
The Marconi operator of Carpathia, Harold Cottam had been on duty since 7:00 am and was more than ready for bed. As he undressed, he put his headphones back on as he was waiting confirmation from a message sent earlier. He bent over to unlace his boots and heard Cape Cod sending commercial messages for Titanic and wrote down several with the intent of forwarding them in the morning. He then called Titanic to advise her of the waiting messages.
Carpathia (MPA): I say, old man, do you know there is a batch of messages waiting for you from MCC (Cape Cod)?
Titanic (MGY) : <breaking in> Come at once. We have struck an iceberg. It's a CQD, old man. Position 41 46' N, 50 14' W.
Carpathia (MPA): Shall I tell my captain? Do you require assistance?
Titanic (MGY): Yes. Come quick.
Cottam ran for the bridge.
He went to First Officer H.V. Dean who moved as fast. Practically shoving Cottam ahead of him he headed down the stairs to the captain's cabin. Rostron was not yet asleep and was irritated when they entered without knocking. He demanded to know the reason.
Cottam: Sir, I have just received an urgent distress call from Titanic...
Rostron sat up.
Cottam: ...she requires immediate assistance...
Rostron's feet hit the floor.
Cottam: ... she has struck an iceberg and is sinking. Her position is 41 46' North, 50 14' West.
Rostron was dressing by this time, fast.
Rostron: Are you certain?
Cottam: Yes, sir.
Rostron: Absolutely certain?
Cottam: Yes, sir.
Rostron went out the door and entered the chart room. Titanic was 58 miles from him. The course was North 52 degrees west.
As the boson’s mate passed the chart room window Rostron ordered him to prepare the boats for lowering and reassured the stunned crewman that Carpathia was in no danger. He then called for Chief Engineer Johnson.
Johnson was told to call out extra stokers and make all speed possible. The doctors were next to be summoned.
When they arrived they were assigned to handle each class of passenger, the English doctor in first, the Italian to second and the Hungarian to third.
Carpathia had begun her race against time.
Harold Cottam sat at his set in the Marconi room with a steward to act as a messenger; each new message from Titanic went straight to the bridge.
12:50 Titanic to Olympic: I require immediate assistance.
1:10 Titanic to Olympic: We are in collision with a berg, have your boats ready.
1:25 Titanic to Olympic: We are putting women off in small boats.
1:35 Titanic to Olympic: Engine room flooded.
1:45 Titanic to Olympic: Engine room full up to the boilers.
That was the last signal Cottam heard directly from Titanic.
Carpathia raced on at an astonishing 17 knots, more than her design limit of 14.5 knots said she could do.
At 2:30 Chief Officer Hankinson reported all was in readiness.
At 3:00 Rostron ordered rockets fired at regular intervals to let Titanic know they were coming and started firing Cunard's night signal as well.
3:35 and Carpathia was at Titanic's reported position only nothing was there, just a flat, calm sea. Then at 4:00 a green light was spotted about 300 yards ahead, a small boat. Rostron ordered "ahead dead slow" and the whistle blasted into the night to tell them that help was at hand.
By 4:10 the first boat was hooked on and the passengers were boarding. Boxhall went to the bridge and told Rostron that Titanic had sunk at 2:20.
At 7:00 the last boat arrived with one of the collapsibles in tow and Second Officer Lightoller was the last survivor to board.
Californian soon pulled up alongside and Rostron after having circled the area looking asked them to make a final search for survivors.
At 8:50 Rostron had Carpathia turned west towards New York, making a final pass through the area, but a huge icefield that stretched to the horizon blocked their path, the bergs towering above the pack ice which, in itself, was 6 to 12 feet over the waterline. For 4 hours Carpathia steamed around the icepack logging 56 miles before she was clear of it. On board were 705 survivors. Left behind were 1,523 souls.
As Carpathia proceeded around the ice the other ships which were steaming towards the disaster returned to their original courses. The Mount Temple which was at the western edge of the icefield headed west again, Californian steamed around the ice and resumed her journey, and Olympic proceeded towards England, all entertainment cancelled by order of the Captain, the passengers in a somber mood indeed.
Onboard Carpathia there remained one duty to perform. William F. Hoyt (first class), Sidney Siebert (Steward), and an unidentified fireman had all died of exposure after boarding Carpathia and Edvard Lindell from third class had been taken aboard dead.
At 4:00 pm, Carpathia stopped her engines. The weather was windy now and very cold. Father Anderson read the burial service and as he gave the benediction the Carpathia's crew reverently picked up each body and lowered it over the side, commiting them to the deep. A moment of slience followed and then Carpathia put on speed and resumed her passage back to New York.
Rostron went to Dr. McGee's cabin to talk with Bruce Ismay and recommended that he notify the White Star of what had happened. On a piece of paper Ismay wrote, "Deeply regret to advise you Titanic sank this morning after collision with iceberg, resulting in serious loss of life. Full particulars later. Bruce Ismay" The message was taken by Rostron to the radio room where it was sent to P.A.S. Franklin, the U.S. vice president of White Star in New York. Later, after a conference with the Titanic's surviving officers Ismay sent a second message requesting that the Cedric be held in New York for returning the crew to England as fast as possible. "Very important that you hold hold Cedric daylight for Titanic's crew. Answer. YAMSI" (YAMSI was Ismay's personal signature for private messages)
Meanwhile Harold Cottam, Carpathia's only wireless operator, was starting to send the list of survivors complied by purser Brown. Cottam was worn out, he had had no sleep for 24 hours and showed it. In response to a message from Olympic he sent, "I cannot do everything at once. Patience, please." He did, however, manage to transmit a brief account of the sinking that ended with, "Please excuse the sending, but am half asleep". When the survivor lists arrived Cottam was overwhelmed. He began sending the names to Olympic who was relaying to Cape Race but was close to collapse from the strain. Rostron appealed to Harold Bride, Titanic's junior wireless man, and he agreed, having to be carried to the radioshack due to his frostbitten and injured feet.
The two Marconi operators now continued sending survivors names, ignoring all requests for information from public and private sources. Even President Taft's request for information on his friend and aide Archie Butt went unanswered. The men were snowed under by the magnitude of the task before them.
At the private station on top of the Wannamaker's building in New York a young David Sarnoff (he would go on to become head of CBS and one of the greatest men in the field of communications) was tuned in to the marine traffic on the morning of April 15th. He heard the first signals of the disaster and remained at his station (MHI) taking down all the messages he could hear. His was the source for many of the newspapers and wire services for the first reports on the disaster. At 1:30 am Carr Van Anda, managing editor of the New York Times, was handed the first report on Titanic's CQD. He called papers in other cities (Montreal and Quebec) and he and his staff assembled everything that was known, at the time, of Titanic. The first morning edition of the Times hit the street with it's headline boldy proclaiming that Titanic has sunk when most of the other papers were just printing the first bulletins. This did much to fix the disaster in people's minds and secured a place in journalism for the Times that it has never relinquished. A copy of that paper still hangs in the office of the managing editor.
The White Star offices in both New York and Southampton were mobbed as news of the sinking started to reach the public. In New York, Franklin made statement after statement, each a little less hopeful, that Titanic had survived the collision till the awful truth arrived in the form of Ismay's first message, then he could no long deny it and broke down saying, "we can replace ths ship, but never the lives.."
By the 17th of April most of the survivor's names had been transmitted and New York Harbor was preparing to recieve them. Carpathia was slated to dock at Pier 54 abround 9:00 pm the everning of the 18th. The Superintendant of the Port ordered that only Fathers, Husbands, Sons, Mothers, Wives, and Daughters of survivors be allowed at the pier and no more than two for any given survivor. Fourty inspectors were to be in attendance to see that this was carried out. The idea was to save those who had lived through this ordeal from unnessary exposure and morbid curiosity. The Secretary of the U.S. Treasury wired an order that Custom's regulations were to be suspended for the survivors and Immigration waived all inspection of the steerage passengers.
The night of April 18th, 1912 was cool and rain was falling as the polie started setting up the ropes that would hold back the expected crowds. All pier passes were carefully checked, there was to be no mob scene when they disembarked. Morgan, the Astors, the Guggenheims, and the Thayers had requested that reporters be held back behind the ropes and not admitted to the pier, this was granted and the hotels near the pier set up special telephone lines so they could call in their stories.
Carpathia had cleared Ambrose Light and was greeted by a horde of small boats carrying reporters. They shouted questions and flash power flared as they tried to photograph the historic entrance to the port.
Lighting and thunder roared through the skys as she passed the Statue of Liberty, the Battery, and moved on towards her dock. She then surprised the assembled throng by passing Pier 54 and turning towards the New Jersey shore, then turned again and stopped ajacent to the White Star piers (59 and 60). Carpathia was performing her final task, delivering the Titanic's lifeboats to their owners. The Merrit and Chapman tug, Champion, stood by as 4 of the boats were lowered to her deck and 7 others put into the water. Champion then took those 7 in tow and brought them over to the White Star pier where they were secured and the boats on her deck lowered and tied up as well. Two of Titanic's boats remained on Carpathia's foredeck.
The Carpathia now started her engines and moved to her own pier, her journey into history almost complete. She moved slowly now, almost as if in respect for those who had died. At 9:30 pm she had been warped into Pier 54 and was ready to discharge her passengers. The sound of babble among the crowd quieted to a mear murmur and a sort of moan went up as the first of Titanic's passengers appeared at the gangway door. Many of them were wearing clothing that ill fit them, donated by Carpathia's passengers, having lost all in the sinking. the survivors, surrounded by their relatives were led to a line of cars waiting to take them to their homes or hotel rooms, provided by the White Star Line. They went as befitted their station in life. Bruce Ismay to the Ritz-Carlton, Mrs. Astor (met by her stepson Vincent and a nurse and two doctors) to the family home on 5th Avenue, Dorothy Gibson the actress and her mother to a hotel in downtown. By 11:00 pm the steerage disembarked. The crowds had scattered by now and no reporters were there to ask questions, steerage passengers, even from Titanic, were not newsworthy.
Then came Titanic's crew who left by the after gangway and were taken by the Immigration Tender George Starr to Pier 60 (White Star Pier) rather than make them walk through the streets and be annoyed by onlookers.
Carpathia lay moored at her pier, her passengers from the aborted voyage to Italy were saddened by the events but happy to have been part of a great rescue operation. They were encouraged to go ashore while Carpathia was restocked, coaled, and cleaned and the entire store of fresh linend transfered from the Saxonia so she could resume her voyage with all speed. Only a few of Carpathia's passengers did not return to complete their trip.
Cunard refused all attempts by White Star to compensate them for their losses in the rescue and added to the cost by giving an extra month's wages to all the crew who were involved in it.
Carpathia departed New York on April 20th at 4:00 pm, bound once again for the Mediteranian. The story of Titanic and the people who came to her aid now belonged to history.
The facts in this article are public domain; the article itself is copyright 2001 by Historical Titanic and its author(s). Permission must be obtained from the author or webmaster prior to using it on another web site. Duplication in print or other media including electronic storage for monetary gain is prohibited.