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The loss of the R.M.S. Titanic: Chapter 6
  Posted on Mon 11 Oct 2004 (34161 reads)
CHAPTER VI

THE SINKING OF THE TITANIC SEEN FROM HER DECK


The two preceding chapters have been to a large extent the narrative
of a single eyewitness and an account of the escape of one boat only
from the Titanic's side. It will be well now to return to the Titanic
and reconstruct a more general and complete account from the
experiences of many people in different parts of the ship. A
considerable part of these experiences was related to the writer first
hand by survivors, both on board the Carpathia and at other times, but
some are derived from other sources which are probably as accurate as
first-hand information. Other reports, which seemed at first sight to
have been founded on the testimony of eyewitnesses, have been found on
examination to have passed through several hands, and have therefore
been rejected. The testimony even of eye-witnesses has in some cases
been excluded when it seemed not to agree with direct evidence of a
number of other witnesses or with what reasoned judgment considered
probable in the circumstances. In this category are the reports of
explosions before the Titanic sank, the breaking of the ship in two
parts, the suicide of officers. It would be well to notice here that
the Titanic was in her correct course, the southerly one, and in the
position which prudence dictates as a safe one under the ordinary
conditions at that time of the year: to be strictly accurate she was
sixteen miles south of the regular summer route which all companies
follow from January to August.

Perhaps the real history of the disaster should commence with the
afternoon of Sunday, when Marconigrams were received by the Titanic
from the ships ahead of her, warning her of the existence of icebergs.
In connection with this must be taken the marked fall of temperature
observed by everyone in the afternoon and evening of this day as well
as the very low temperature of the water. These have generally been
taken to indicate that without any possibility of doubt we were near
an iceberg region, and the severest condemnation has been poured on
the heads of the officers and captain for not having regard to these
climatic conditions; but here caution is necessary. There can be
little doubt now that the low temperature observed can be traced to
the icebergs and ice-field subsequently encountered, but experienced
sailors are aware that it might have been observed without any
icebergs being near. The cold Labrador current sweeps down by
Newfoundland across the track of Atlantic liners, but does not
necessarily carry icebergs with it; cold winds blow from Greenland and
Labrador and not always from icebergs and ice-fields. So that falls in
temperature of sea and air are not prima facie evidence of the close
proximity of icebergs. On the other hand, a single iceberg separated
by many miles from its fellows might sink a ship, but certainly would
not cause a drop in temperature either of the air or water. Then, as
the Labrador current meets the warm Gulf Stream flowing from the Gulf
of Mexico across to Europe, they do not necessarily intermingle, nor
do they always run side by side or one on top of the other, but often
interlaced, like the fingers of two hands. As a ship sails across this
region the thermometer will record within a few miles temperatures of
34°, 58°, 35°, 59°, and so on.

It is little wonder then that sailors become accustomed to place
little reliance on temperature conditions as a means of estimating the
probabilities of encountering ice in their track. An experienced
sailor has told me that nothing is more difficult to diagnose than the
presence of icebergs, and a strong confirmation of this is found in
the official sailing directions issued by the Hydrographic Department
of the British Admiralty. "No reliance can be placed on any warning
being conveyed to the mariner, by a fall in temperature, either of sea
or air, of approaching ice. Some decrease in temperature has
occasionally been recorded, but more often none has been observed."

But notification by Marconigram of the exact location of icebergs is a
vastly different matter. I remember with deep feeling the effect this
information had on us when it first became generally known on board
the Carpathia. Rumours of it went round on Wednesday morning, grew to
definite statements in the afternoon, and were confirmed when one of
the Titanic officers admitted the truth of it in reply to a direct
question. I shall never forget the overwhelming sense of hopelessness
that came over some of us as we obtained definite knowledge of the
warning messages. It was not then the unavoidable accident we had
hitherto supposed: the sudden plunging into a region crowded with
icebergs which no seaman, however skilled a navigator he might be,
could have avoided! The beautiful Titanic wounded too deeply to
recover, the cries of the drowning still ringing in our ears and the
thousands of homes that mourned all these calamities--none of all
these things need ever have been!

It is no exaggeration to say that men who went through all the
experiences of the collision and the rescue and the subsequent scenes
on the quay at New York with hardly a tremor, were quite overcome by
this knowledge and turned away, unable to speak; I for one, did so,
and I know others who told me they were similarly affected.

I think we all came to modify our opinions on this matter, however,
when we learnt more of the general conditions attending trans-Atlantic
steamship services. The discussion as to who was responsible for these
warnings being disregarded had perhaps better be postponed to a later
chapter. One of these warnings was handed to Mr. Ismay by Captain
Smith at 5 P.M. and returned at the latter's request at 7 P.M., that
it might be posted for the information of officers; as a result of the
messages they were instructed to keep a special lookout for ice. This,
Second Officer Lightoller did until he was relieved at 10 P.M. by
First Officer Murdock, to whom he handed on the instructions. During
Mr. Lightoller's watch, about 9 P.M., the captain had joined him on
the bridge and discussed "the time we should be getting up towards the
vicinity of the ice, and how we should recognize it if we should see
it, and refreshing our minds on the indications that ice gives when it
is in the vicinity." Apparently, too, the officers had discussed among
themselves the proximity of ice and Mr. Lightoller had remarked that
they would be approaching the position where ice had been reported
during his watch. The lookouts were cautioned similarly, but no ice
was sighted until a few minutes before the collision, when the lookout
man saw the iceberg and rang the bell three times, the usual signal
from the crow's nest when anything is seen dead-ahead.

By telephone he reported to the bridge the presence of an iceberg, but
Mr. Murdock had already ordered Quartermaster Hichens at the wheel to
starboard the helm, and the vessel began to swing away from the berg.
But it was far too late at the speed she was going to hope to steer
the huge Titanic, over a sixth of a mile long, out of reach of danger.
Even if the iceberg had been visible half a mile away it is doubtful
whether some portion of her tremendous length would not have been
touched, and it is in the highest degree unlikely that the lookout
could have seen the berg half a mile away in the conditions that
existed that night, even with glasses. The very smoothness of the
water made the presence of ice a more difficult matter to detect. In
ordinary conditions the dash of the waves against the foot of an
iceberg surrounds it with a circle of white foam visible for some
distance, long before the iceberg itself; but here was an oily sea
sweeping smoothly round the deadly monster and causing no indication
of its presence.

There is little doubt, moreover, that the crow's nest is not a good
place from which to detect icebergs. It is proverbial that they adopt
to a large extent the colour of their surroundings; and seen from
above at a high angle, with the black, foam-free sea behind, the
iceberg must have been almost invisible until the Titanic was close
upon it. I was much struck by a remark of Sir Ernest Shackleton on his
method of detecting icebergs--to place a lookout man as low down near
the water-line as he could get him. Remembering how we had watched the
Titanic with all her lights out, standing upright like "an enormous
black finger," as one observer stated, and had only seen her thus
because she loomed black against the sky behind her, I saw at once how
much better the sky was than the black sea to show up an iceberg's
bulk. And so in a few moments the Titanic had run obliquely on the
berg, and with a shock that was astonishingly slight--so slight that
many passengers never noticed it--the submerged portion of the berg
had cut her open on the starboard side in the most vulnerable portion
of her anatomy--the bilge. [Footnote: See Figure 4, page 50.] The most
authentic accounts say that the wound began at about the location of
the foremast and extended far back to the stern, the brunt of the blow
being taken by the forward plates, which were either punctured through
both bottoms directly by the blow, or through one skin only, and as
this was torn away it ripped out some of the inner plates. The fact
that she went down by the head shows that probably only the forward
plates were doubly punctured, the stern ones being cut open through
the outer skin only. After the collision, Murdock had at once reversed
the engines and brought the ship to a standstill, but the iceberg had
floated away astern. The shock, though little felt by the enormous
mass of the ship, was sufficient to dislodge a large quantity of ice
from the berg: the forecastle deck was found to be covered with pieces
of ice.

Feeling the shock, Captain Smith rushed out of his cabin to the
bridge, and in reply to his anxious enquiry was told by Murdock that
ice had been struck and the emergency doors instantly closed. The
officers roused by the collision went on deck: some to the bridge;
others, while hearing nothing of the extent of the damage, saw no
necessity for doing so. Captain Smith at once sent the carpenter below
to sound the ship, and Fourth Officer Boxhall to the steerage to
report damage. The latter found there a very dangerous condition of
things and reported to Captain Smith, who then sent him to the
mail-room; and here again, it was easy to see, matters looked very
serious. Mail-bags were floating about and the water rising rapidly.
All this was reported to the captain, who ordered the lifeboats to be
got ready at once. Mr. Boxhall went to the chartroom to work out the
ship's position, which he then handed to the Marconi operators for
transmission to any ship near enough to help in the work of rescue.

Reports of the damage done were by this time coming to the captain
from many quarters, from the chief engineer, from the designer,--Mr.
Andrews,--and in a dramatic way from the sudden appearance on deck of
a swarm of stokers who had rushed up from below as the water poured
into the boiler-rooms and coal-bunkers: they were immediately ordered
down below to duty again. Realizing the urgent heed of help, he went
personally to the Marconi room and gave orders to the operators to get
into touch with all the ships they could and to tell them to come
quickly. The assistant operator Bride had been asleep, and knew of the
damage only when Phillips, in charge of the Marconi room, told him ice
had been encountered. They started to send out the well-known "C.Q.D."
message,--which interpreted means: C.Q. "all stations attend," and D,
"distress," the position of the vessel in latitude and longitude
following. Later, they sent out "S.O.S.," an arbitrary message agreed
upon as an international code-signal.

Soon after the vessel struck, Mr. Ismay had learnt of the nature of
the accident from the captain and chief engineer, and after dressing
and going on deck had spoken to some of the officers not yet
thoroughly acquainted with the grave injury done to the vessel. By
this time all those in any way connected with the management and
navigation must have known the importance of making use of all the
ways of safety known to them--and that without any delay. That they
thought at first that the Titanic would sink as soon as she did is
doubtful; but probably as the reports came in they knew that her
ultimate loss in a few hours was a likely contingency. On the other
hand, there is evidence that some of the officers in charge of boats
quite expected the embarkation was a precautionary measure and they
would all return after daylight. Certainly the first information that
ice had been struck conveyed to those in charge no sense of the
gravity of the circumstances: one officer even retired to his cabin
and another advised a steward to go back to his berth as there was no
danger.

And so the order was sent round, "All passengers on deck with
lifebelts on"; and in obedience to this a crowd of hastily dressed or
partially dressed people began to assemble on the decks belonging to
their respective classes (except the steerage passengers who were
allowed access to other decks), tying on lifebelts over their
clothing. In some parts of the ship women were separated from the men
and assembled together near the boats, in others men and women mingled
freely together, husbands helping their own wives and families and
then other women and children into the boats. The officers spread
themselves about the decks, superintending the work of lowering and
loading the boats, and in three cases were ordered by their superior
officers to take charge of them. At this stage great difficulty was
experienced in getting women to leave the ship, especially where the
order was so rigorously enforced, "Women and children only." Women in
many cases refused to leave their husbands, and were actually forcibly
lifted up and dropped in the boats. They argued with the officers,
demanding reasons, and in some cases even when induced to get in were
disposed to think the whole thing a joke, or a precaution which it
seemed to them rather foolish to take. In this they were encouraged by
the men left behind, who, in the same condition of ignorance, said
good-bye to their friends as they went down, adding that they would
see them again at breakfast-time. To illustrate further how little
danger was apprehended--when it was discovered on the first-class deck
that the forward lower deck was covered with small ice, snowballing
matches were arranged for the following morning, and some passengers
even went down to the deck and brought back small pieces of ice which
were handed round.

Below decks too was additional evidence that no one thought of
immediate danger. Two ladies walking along one of the corridors came
across a group of people gathered round a door which they were trying
vainly to open, and on the other side of which a man was demanding in
loud terms to be let out. Either his door was locked and the key not
to be found, or the collision had jammed the lock and prevented the
key from turning. The ladies thought he must be afflicted in some way
to make such a noise, but one of the men was assuring him that in no
circumstances should he be left, and that his (the bystander's) son
would be along soon and would smash down his door if it was not opened
in the mean time. "He has a stronger arm than I have," he added. The
son arrived presently and proceeded to make short work of the door: it
was smashed in and the inmate released, to his great satisfaction and
with many expressions of gratitude to his rescuer. But one of the head
stewards who came up at this juncture was so incensed at the damage
done to the property of his company, and so little aware of the
infinitely greater damage done the ship, that he warned the man who
had released the prisoner that he would be arrested on arrival in New
York.

It must be borne in mind that no general warning had been issued to
passengers: here and there were experienced travellers to whom
collision with an iceberg was sufficient to cause them to make every
preparation for leaving the ship, but the great majority were never
enlightened as to the amount of damage done, or even as to what had
happened. We knew in a vague way that we had collided with an iceberg,
but there our knowledge ended, and most of us drew no deductions from
that fact alone. Another factor that prevented some from taking to the
boats was the drop to the water below and the journey into the unknown
sea: certainly it looked a tremendous way down in the darkness, the
sea and the night both seemed very cold and lonely; and here was the
ship, so firm and well lighted and warm.

But perhaps what made so many people declare their decision to remain
was their strong belief in the theory of the Titanic's unsinkable
construction. Again and again was it repeated, "This ship cannot sink;
it is only a question of waiting until another ship comes up and takes
us off." Husbands expected to follow their wives and join them either
in New York or by transfer in mid-ocean from steamer to steamer. Many
passengers relate that they were told by officers that the ship was a
lifeboat and could not go down; one lady affirms that the captain told
her the Titanic could not sink for two or three days; no doubt this
was immediately after the collision.

It is not any wonder, then, that many elected to remain, deliberately
choosing the deck of the Titanic to a place in a lifeboat. And yet the
boats had to go down, and so at first they went half-full: this is the
real explanation of why they were not as fully loaded as the later
ones. It is important then to consider the question how far the
captain was justified in withholding all the knowledge he had from
every passenger. From one point of view he should have said to them,
"This ship will sink in a few hours: there are the boats, and only
women and children can go to them." But had he the authority to
enforce such an order? There are such things as panics and rushes
which get beyond the control of a handful of officers, even if armed,
and where even the bravest of men get swept off their feet--mentally
as well as physically.

On the other hand, if he decided to withhold all definite knowledge of
danger from all passengers and at the same time persuade--and if it
was not sufficient, compel--women and children to take to the boats,
it might result in their all being saved. He could not foresee the
tenacity of their faith in the boat: there is ample evidence that he
left the bridge when the ship had come to rest and went among
passengers urging them to get into the boat and rigorously excluding
all but women and children. Some would not go. Officer Lowe testified
that he shouted, "Who's next for the boat?" and could get no replies.
The boats even were sent away half-loaded,--although the fear of their
buckling in the middle was responsible as well for this,--but the
captain with the few boats at his disposal could hardly do more than
persuade and advise in the terrible circumstances in which he was
placed.

How appalling to think that with a few more boats--and the ship was
provided with that particular kind of davit that would launch more
boats--there would have been no decision of that kind to make! It
could have been stated plainly: "This ship will sink in a few hours:
there is room in the boats for all passengers, beginning with women
and children."

Poor Captain Smith! I care not whether the responsibility for such
speed in iceberg regions will rest on his shoulders or not: no man
ever had to make such a choice as he had that night, and it seems
difficult to see how he can be blamed for withholding from passengers
such information as he had of the danger that was imminent.

When one reads in the Press that lifeboats arrived at the Carpathia
half full, it seems at first sight a dreadful thing that this should
have been allowed to happen; but it is so easy to make these
criticisms afterwards, so easy to say that Captain Smith should have
told everyone of the condition of the vessel. He was faced with many
conditions that night which such criticism overlooks. Let any
fair-minded person consider some few of the problems presented to
him--the ship was bound to sink in a few hours; there was lifeboat
accommodation for all women and children and some men; there was no
way of getting some women to go except by telling them the ship was
doomed, a course he deemed it best not to take; and he knew the danger
of boats buckling when loaded full. His solution of these problems was
apparently the following:--to send the boats down half full, with such
women as would go, and to tell the boats to stand by to pick up more
passengers passed down from the cargo ports. There is good evidence
that this was part of the plan: I heard an officer give the order to
four boats and a lady in number 4 boat on the port side tells me the
sailors were so long looking for the port where the captain personally
had told them to wait, that they were in danger of being sucked under
by the vessel. How far any systematic attempt was made to stand by the
ports, I do not know: I never saw one open or any boat standing near
on the starboard side; but then, boats 9 to 15 went down full, and on
reaching the sea rowed away at once. There is good evidence, then,
that Captain Smith fully intended to load the boats full in this way.
The failure to carry out the intention is one of the things the whole
world regrets, but consider again the great size of the ship and the
short time to make decisions, and the omission is more easily
understood. The fact is that such a contingency as lowering away boats
was not even considered beforehand, and there is much cause for
gratitude that as many as seven hundred and five people were rescued.
The whole question of a captain's duties seems to require revision. It
was totally impossible for any one man to attempt to control the ship
that night, and the weather conditions could not well have been more
favourable for doing so. One of the reforms that seem inevitable is
that one man shall be responsible for the boats, their manning,
loading and lowering, leaving the captain free to be on the bridge to
the last moment.

But to return for a time to the means taken to attract the notice of
other ships. The wireless operators were now in touch with several
ships, and calling to them to come quickly for the water was pouring
in and the Titanic beginning to go down by the head. Bride testified
that the first reply received was from a German boat, the Frankfurt,
which was: "All right: stand by," but not giving her position. From
comparison of the strength of signals received from the Frankfurt and
from other boats, the operators estimated the Frankfurt was the
nearest; but subsequent events proved that this was not so. She was,
in fact, one hundred and forty miles away and arrived at 10.50 A.M.
next morning, when the Carpathia had left with the rescued. The next
reply was from the Carpathia, fifty-eight miles away on the outbound
route to the Mediterranean, and it was a prompt and welcome
one--"Coming hard," followed by the position. Then followed the
Olympic, and with her they talked for some time, but she was five
hundred and sixty miles away on the southern route, too far to be of
any immediate help. At the speed of 23 knots she would expect to be up
about 1 P.M. next day, and this was about the time that those in boat
13 had calculated. We had always assumed in the boat that the stokers
who gave this information had it from one of the officers before they
left; but in the absence of any knowledge of the much nearer ship, the
Carpathia, it is more probable that they knew in a general way where
the sister ship, the Olympic, should be, and had made a rough
calculation.

Other ships in touch by wireless were the Mount Temple, fifty miles;
the Birma, one hundred miles; the Parisian, one hundred and fifty
miles; the Virginian, one hundred and fifty miles; and the Baltic,
three hundred miles. But closer than any of these--closer even than
the Carpathia--were two ships: the Californian, less than twenty miles
away, with the wireless operator off duty and unable to catch the
"C.Q.D." signal which was now making the air for many miles around
quiver in its appeal for help--immediate, urgent help--for the
hundreds of people who stood on the Titanic's deck.

The second vessel was a small steamer some few miles ahead on the port
side, without any wireless apparatus, her name and destination still
unknown; and yet the evidence for her presence that night seems too
strong to be disregarded. Mr. Boxhall states that he and Captain Smith
saw her quite plainly some five miles away, and could distinguish the
mast-head lights and a red port light. They at once hailed her with
rockets and Morse electric signals, to which Boxhall saw no reply, but
Captain Smith and stewards affirmed they did. The second and third
officers saw the signals sent and her lights, the latter from the
lifeboat of which he was in charge. Seaman Hopkins testified that he
was told by the captain to row for the light; and we in boat 13
certainly saw it in the same position and rowed towards it for some
time. But notwithstanding all the efforts made to attract its
attention, it drew slowly away and the lights sank below the horizon.

The pity of it! So near, and so many people waiting for the shelter
its decks could have given so easily. It seems impossible to think
that this ship ever replied to the signals: those who said so must
have been mistaken. The United State Senate Committee in its report
does not hesitate to say that this unknown steamer and the Californian
are identical, and that the failure on the part of the latter to come
to the help of the Titanic is culpable negligence. There is undoubted
evidence that some of the crew on the Californian saw our rockets; but
it seems impossible to believe that the captain and officers knew of
our distress and deliberately ignored it. Judgment on the matter had
better be suspended until further information is forthcoming. An
engineer who has served in the trans-Atlantic service tells me that it
is a common practice for small boats to leave the fishing smacks to
which they belong and row away for miles; sometimes even being lost
and wandering about among icebergs, and even not being found again. In
these circumstances, rockets are part of a fishing smack's equipment,
and are sent up to indicate to the small boats how to return. Is it
conceivable that the Californian thought our rockets were such
signals, and therefore paid no attention to them?

Incidentally, this engineer did not hesitate to add that it is
doubtful if a big liner would stop to help a small fishing-boat
sending off distress signals, or even would turn about to help one
which she herself had cut down as it lay in her path without a light.
He was strong in his affirmation that such things were commonly known
to all officers in the trans-Atlantic service.

With regard to the other vessels in wireless communication, the Mount
Temple was the only one near enough from the point of distance to have
arrived in time to be of help, but between her and the Titanic lay the
enormous ice-floe, and icebergs were near her in addition.

The seven ships which caught the message started at once to her help
but were all stopped on the way (except the Birma) by the Carpathia's
wireless announcing the fate of the Titanic and the people aboard her.
The message must have affected the captains of these ships very
deeply: they would understand far better than the travelling public
what it meant to lose such a beautiful ship on her first voyage.

The only thing now left to be done was to get the lifeboats away as
quickly as possible, and to this task the other officers were in the
meantime devoting all their endeavours. Mr. Lightoller sent away boat
after boat: in one he had put twenty-four women and children, in
another thirty, in another thirty-five; and then, running short of
seamen to man the boats he sent Major Peuchen, an expert yachtsman, in
the next, to help with its navigation. By the time these had been
filled, he had difficulty in finding women for the fifth and sixth
boats for the reasons already stated. All this time the passengers
remained--to use his own expression--"as quiet as if in church." To
man and supervise the loading of six boats must have taken him nearly
up to the time of the Titanic's sinking, taking an average of some
twenty minutes to a boat. Still at work to the end, he remained on the
ship till she sank and went down with her. His evidence before the
United States Committee was as follows: "Did you leave the ship?" "No,
sir." "Did the ship leave you?" "Yes, sir."

It was a piece of work well and cleanly done, and his escape from the
ship, one of the most wonderful of all, seems almost a reward for his
devotion to duty.

Captain Smith, Officers Wilde and Murdock were similarly engaged in
other parts of the ship, urging women to get in the boats, in some
cases directing junior officers to go down in some of them,--Officers
Pitman, Boxhall, and Lowe were sent in this way,--in others placing
members of the crew in charge. As the boats were lowered, orders were
shouted to them where to make for: some were told to stand by and wait
for further instructions, others to row for the light of the
disappearing steamer.

It is a pitiful thing to recall the effects of sending down the first
boats half full. In some cases men in the company of their wives had
actually taken seats in the boats--young men, married only a few weeks
and on their wedding trip--and had done so only because no more women
could then be found; but the strict interpretation by the particular
officer in charge there of the rule of "Women and children only,"
compelled them to get out again. Some of these boats were lowered and
reached the Carpathia with many vacant seats. The anguish of the young
wives in such circumstances can only be imagined. In other parts of
the ship, however, a different interpretation was placed on the rule,
and men were allowed and even invited by officers to get in--not only
to form part of the crew, but even as passengers. This, of course, in
the first boats and when no more women could be found.

The varied understanding of this rule was a frequent subject of
discussion on the Carpathia--in fact, the rule itself was debated with
much heart-searching. There were not wanting many who doubted the
justice of its rigid enforcement, who could not think it well that a
husband should be separated from his wife and family, leaving them
penniless, or a young bridegroom from his wife of a few short weeks,
while ladies with few relatives, with no one dependent upon them, and
few responsibilities of any kind, were saved. It was mostly these
ladies who pressed this view, and even men seemed to think there was a
good deal to be said for it. Perhaps there is, theoretically, but it
would be impossible, I think, in practice. To quote Mr. Lightoller
again in his evidence before the United States Senate Committee,--when
asked if it was a rule of the sea that women and children be saved
first, he replied, "No, it is a rule of human nature." That is no
doubt the real reason for its existence.

But the selective process of circumstances brought about results that
were very bitter to some. It was heartrending for ladies who had lost
all they held dearest in the world to hear that in one boat was a
stoker picked up out of the sea so drunk that he stood up and
brandished his arms about, and had to be thrown down by ladies and sat
upon to keep him quiet. If comparisons can be drawn, it did seem
better that an educated, refined man should be saved than one who had
flown to drink as his refuge in time of danger.

These discussions turned sometimes to the old enquiry--"What is the
purpose of all this? Why the disaster? Why this man saved and that man
lost? Who has arranged that my husband should live a few short happy
years in the world, and the happiest days in those years with me these
last few weeks, and then be taken from me?" I heard no one attribute
all this to a Divine Power who ordains and arranges the lives of men,
and as part of a definite scheme sends such calamity and misery in
order to purify, to teach, to spiritualize. I do not say there were
not people who thought and said they saw Divine Wisdom in it all,--so
inscrutable that we in our ignorance saw it not; but I did not hear it
expressed, and this book is intended to be no more than a partial
chronicle of the many different experiences and convictions.

There were those, on the other hand, who did not fail to say
emphatically that indifference to the rights and feelings of others,
blindness to duty towards our fellow men and women, was in the last
analysis the cause of most of the human misery in the world. And it
should undoubtedly appeal more to our sense of justice to attribute
these things to our own lack of consideration for others than to shift
the responsibility on to a Power whom we first postulate as being
All-wise and All-loving.

All the boats were lowered and sent away by about 2 A.M., and by this
time the ship was very low in the water, the forecastle deck
completely submerged, and the sea creeping steadily up to the bridge
and probably only a few yards away.

No one on the ship can have had any doubt now as to her ultimate fate,
and yet the fifteen hundred passengers and crew on board made no
demonstration, and not a sound came from them as they stood quietly on
the decks or went about their duties below. It seems incredible, and
yet if it was a continuation of the same feeling that existed on deck
before the boats left,--and I have no doubt it was,--the explanation
is straightforward and reasonable in its simplicity. An attempt is
made in the last chapter to show why the attitude of the crowd was so
quietly courageous. There are accounts which picture excited crowds
running about the deck in terror, fighting and struggling, but two of
the most accurate observers, Colonel Gracie and Mr. Lightoller, affirm
that this was not so, that absolute order and quietness prevailed. The
band still played to cheer the hearts of all near; the engineers and
their crew--I have never heard any one speak of a single engineer
being seen on deck--still worked at the electric light engines, far
away below, keeping them going until no human being could do so a
second longer, right until the ship tilted on end and the engines
broke loose and fell down. The light failed then only because the
engines were no longer there to produce light, not because the men who
worked them were not standing by them to do their duty. To be down in
the bowels of the ship, far away from the deck where at any rate there
was a chance of a dive and a swim and a possible rescue; to know that
when the ship went--as they knew it must soon--there could be no
possible hope of climbing up in time to reach the sea; to know all
these things and yet to keep the engines going that the decks might be
lighted to the last moment, required sublime courage.

But this courage is required of every engineer and it is not called by
that name: it is called "duty." To stand by his engines to the last
possible moment is his duty. There could be no better example of the
supremest courage being but duty well done than to remember the
engineers of the Titanic still at work as she heeled over and flung
them with their engines down the length of the ship. The simple
statement that the lights kept on to the last is really their epitaph,
but Lowell's words would seem to apply to them with peculiar force--


"The longer on this earth we live
And weigh the various qualities of men--
The more we feel the high, stern-featured beauty
Of plain devotedness to duty.
Steadfast and still, nor paid with mortal praise,
But finding amplest recompense
For life's ungarlanded expense
In work done squarely and unwasted days."

For some time before she sank, the Titanic had a considerable list to
port, so much so that one boat at any rate swung so far away from the
side that difficulty was experienced in getting passengers in. This
list was increased towards the end, and Colonel Gracie relates that
Mr. Lightoller, who has a deep, powerful voice, ordered all passengers
to the starboard side. This was close before the end. They crossed
over, and as they did so a crowd of steerage passengers rushed up and
filled the decks so full that there was barely room to move. Soon
afterwards the great vessel swung slowly, stern in the air, the lights
went out, and while some were flung into the water and others dived
off, the great majority still clung to the rails, to the sides and
roofs of deck-structures, lying prone on the deck. And in this
position they were when, a few minutes later, the enormous vessel
dived obliquely downwards. As she went, no doubt many still clung to
the rails, but most would do their best to get away from her and jump
as she slid forwards and downwards. Whatever they did, there can be
little question that most of them would be taken down by suction, to
come up again a few moments later and to fill the air with those
heartrending cries which fell on the ears of those in the lifeboats
with such amazement. Another survivor, on the other hand, relates that
he had dived from the stern before she heeled over, and swam round
under her enormous triple screws lifted by now high out of the water
as she stood on end. Fascinated by the extraordinary sight, he watched
them up above his head, but presently realizing the necessity of
getting away as quickly as possible, he started to swim from the ship,
but as he did she dived forward, the screws passing near his head. His
experience is that not only was no suction present, but even a wave
was created which washed him away from the place where she had gone
down.

Of all those fifteen hundred people, flung into the sea as the Titanic
went down, innocent victims of thoughtlessness and apathy of those
responsible for their safety, only a very few found their way to the
Carpathia. It will serve no good purpose to dwell any longer on the
scene of helpless men and women struggling in the water. The heart of
everyone who has read of their helplessness has gone out to them in
deepest love and sympathy; and the knowledge that their struggle in
the water was in most cases short and not physically painful because
of the low temperature--the evidence seems to show that few lost their
lives by drowning--is some consolation.

If everyone sees to it that his sympathy with them is so practical as
to force him to follow up the question of reforms personally, not
leaving it to experts alone, then he will have at any rate done
something to atone for the loss of so many valuable lives.

We had now better follow the adventures of those who were rescued from
the final event in the disaster. Two accounts--those of Colonel Gracie
and Mr. Lightoller--agree very closely. The former went down clinging
to a rail, the latter dived before the ship went right under, but was
sucked down and held against one of the blowers. They were both
carried down for what seemed a long distance, but Mr. Lightoller was
finally blown up again by a "terrific gust" that came up the blower
and forced him clear. Colonel Gracie came to the surface after holding
his breath for what seemed an eternity, and they both swam about
holding on to any wreckage they could find. Finally they saw an
upturned collapsible boat and climbed on it in company with twenty
other men, among them Bride the Marconi operator. After remaining thus
for some hours, with the sea washing them to the waist, they stood up
as day broke, in two rows, back to back, balancing themselves as well
as they could, and afraid to turn lest the boat should roll over.
Finally a lifeboat saw them and took them off, an operation attended
with the greatest difficulty, and they reached the Carpathia in the
early dawn. Not many people have gone through such an experience as
those men did, lying all night on an overturned, ill-balanced boat,
and praying together, as they did all the time, for the day and a ship
to take them off.

Some account must now be attempted of the journey of the fleet of
boats to the Carpathia, but it must necessarily be very brief.
Experiences differed considerably: some had no encounters at all with
icebergs, no lack of men to row, discovered lights and food and water,
were picked up after only a few hours' exposure, and suffered very
little discomfort; others seemed to see icebergs round them all night
long and to be always rowing round them; others had so few men
aboard--in some cases only two or three--that ladies had to row and in
one case to steer, found no lights, food or water, and were adrift
many hours, in some cases nearly eight.

The first boat to be picked up by the Carpathia was one in charge of
Mr. Boxhall. There was only one other man rowing and ladies worked at
the oars. A green light burning in this boat all night was the
greatest comfort to the rest of us who had nothing to steer by:
although it meant little in the way of safety in itself, it was a
point to which we could look. The green light was the first intimation
Captain Rostron had of our position, and he steered for it and picked
up its passengers first.

Mr. Pitman was sent by First Officer Murdock in charge of boat 5, with
forty passengers and five of the crew. It would have held more, but no
women could be found at the time it was lowered. Mr. Pitman says that
after leaving the ship he felt confident she would float and they
would all return. A passenger in this boat relates that men could not
be induced to embark when she went down, and made appointments for the
next morning with him. Tied to boat 5 was boat 7, one of those that
contained few people: a few were transferred from number 5, but it
would have held many more.

Fifth Officer Lowe was in charge of boat 14, with fifty-five women and
children, and some of the crew. So full was the boat that as she went
down Mr. Lowe had to fire his revolver along the ship's side to
prevent any more climbing in and causing her to buckle. This boat,
like boat 13, was difficult to release from the lowering tackle, and
had to be cut away after reaching the sea. Mr. Lowe took in charge
four other boats, tied them together with lines, found some of them
not full, and transferred all his passengers to these, distributing
them in the darkness as well as he could. Then returning to the place
where the Titanic had sunk, he picked up some of those swimming in the
water and went back to the four boats. On the way to the Carpathia he
encountered one of the collapsible boats, and took aboard all those in
her, as she seemed to be sinking.

Boat 12 was one of the four tied together, and the seaman in charge
testified that he tried to row to the drowning, but with forty women
and children and only one other man to row, it was not possible to
pull such a heavy boat to the scene of the wreck.

Boat 2 was a small ship's boat and had four or five passengers and
seven of the crew. Boat 4 was one of the last to leave on the port
side, and by this time there was such a list that deck chairs had to
bridge the gap between the boat and the deck. When lowered, it
remained for some time still attached to the ropes, and as the Titanic
was rapidly sinking it seemed she would be pulled under. The boat was
full of women, who besought the sailors to leave the ship, but in
obedience to orders from the captain to stand by the cargo port, they
remained near; so near, in fact, that they heard china falling and
smashing as the ship went down by the head, and were nearly hit by
wreckage thrown overboard by some of the officers and crew and
intended to serve as rafts. They got clear finally, and were only a
short distance away when the ship sank, so that they were able to pull
some men aboard as they came to the surface.

This boat had an unpleasant experience in the night with icebergs;
many were seen and avoided with difficulty.

Quartermaster Hickens was in charge of boat 6, and in the absence of
sailors Major Peuchen was sent to help to man her. They were told to
make for the light of the steamer seen on the port side, and followed
it until it disappeared. There were forty women and children here.

Boat 8 had only one seaman, and as Captain Smith had enforced the rule
of "Women and children only," ladies had to row. Later in the night,
when little progress had been made, the seaman took an oar and put a
lady in charge of the tiller. This boat again was in the midst of
icebergs.

Of the four collapsible boats--although collapsible is not really the
correct term, for only a small portion collapses, the canvas edge;
"surf boats" is really their name--one was launched at the last moment
by being pushed over as the sea rose to the edge of the deck, and was
never righted. This is the one twenty men climbed on. Another was
caught up by Mr. Lowe and the passengers transferred, with the
exception of three men who had perished from the effects of immersion.
The boat was allowed to drift away and was found more than a month
later by the Celtic in just the same condition. It is interesting to
note how long this boat had remained afloat after she was supposed to
be no longer seaworthy. A curious coincidence arose from the fact that
one of my brothers happened to be travelling on the Celtic, and
looking over the side, saw adrift on the sea a boat belonging to the
Titanic in which I had been wrecked.

The two other collapsible boats came to the Carpathia carrying full
loads of passengers: in one, the forward starboard boat and one of the
last to leave, was Mr. Ismay. Here four Chinamen were concealed under
the feet of the passengers. How they got there no one knew--or indeed
how they happened to be on the Titanic, for by the immigration laws of
the United States they are not allowed to enter her ports.

It must be said, in conclusion, that there is the greatest cause for
gratitude that all the boats launched carried their passengers safely
to the rescue ship. It would not be right to accept this fact without
calling attention to it: it would be easy to enumerate many things
which might have been present as elements of danger.


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