9 Mystery Ship

Almost like a benediction everyone around me on the upturned boat breathed the two words, “She’s gone.”

– Second Officer. Charles Lightoller.

Chief Officer George Stewart began his watch close by on the Leyland Lines vessel Californian at 4.00am on Monday, 15 April 1912. After realising the ship had stopped, he relieved Second officer Herbert Stone. During his briefing, Stone mentioned the ship had stopped because of ice. Stewart had retired for the night at about 9.30pm.

Between 12.00 and 1.00am Stone had also seen a ship about four or five miles off, firing white rockets. Stewart asked Stone what he did after seeing the rockets. Stone replied “As soon as she started firing the rockets, she started sailing away.”

Stone did not mention he had seen five rockets, then three more, eight in total. But, did tell Stewart he had called the unknown ship up repeatedly with the Morse lamp, but got no reply. Stone also stated he had reported the ship to the Captain. Stone was asked if he thought they might be distress rockets, he said no, but had rather thought that the vessel, may have been signalling another vessel to the south of that position, out of the sight of the Californian.

Stewart picked up his binoculars and scouted the surrounding horizon through the early morning darkness. To the southward he spotted a steamer, displaying two masthead lights and a few lights amidships. Pointing to the ship, Stewart asked Stone if that was the ship he saw. Stone told him that it was not the same ship he had seen earlier, firing the white rockets. In fact, he did not believe he had seen that ship before.

Carpathia had reached the last known position of Titanic by 3.30am. Captain Rostron and his Officers were faced with nothing but water and ice around them. There were no survivors in lifeboats, no lights, no persons swimming or floating in the water, or any signs of wreckage and most of all, no Titanic.

After interviewing all his heads of department and making sure all preparations had been made for a large scale rescue, Rostron went to his ship’s bridge. While there, he made enquiries to make certain that his orders had all being carried out. At about 3.40 am, he spotted a flare, ahead from the bow. The flare was a long way off, Rostron thought it must have been the Titanic, still afloat.

Rostron ordered Carpathia to proceed through the ice field. A large iceberg appeared in front, which Carpathia had to port around. Rostron continued taking precautions to ensure that his ship, on a rescue mission, did not meet the same fate as Titanic. He stayed well clear of anything that looked like ice.

Carpathia passed icebergs on every side, having to alter course several times to avoid them. As the ship drew closer to the source of the flare, it quickly became apparent the light was from a lifeboat, not from the great ship Rostron had heard about for its size, opulence and splendour. At 4.00am, Carpathia came close to lifeboat No 2. Another iceberg was close by. To protect the ship and the nearby lifeboat, Rostron had to starboard to get clear. Once in position with lifeboat 2 alongside, Carpathia was stopped.

The telephone rang for a few minutes.

From the crow’s nest of the pride of the White Star Line, Lookout Fleet was shocked to see the towering “blue berg” quickly rising up over the horizon. Fleet immediately telephoned the bridge to inform First Officer Murdoch of an iceberg right ahead. Unfortunately, the situation became life threateningly serious when the phone was left ringing for two to three minutes before it was answered. And, of course, by that time, it was far too late. Impact was unavoidable as the great achievement of man could not possibly avoid a collision with the mountain of ice in her path.

Was it this unanswered telephone call that sent Titanic to the bottom of the North Atlantic? This is the story of seamen off the ill-fated ship. Ironically, the names of these sailors, if it was sailors, if it was an individual sailor also, a name has never actually been divulged. Which is not all that surprising when dealing with myths. Names can never be given. Simply, any such information can be checked and verified.

This story fits quite nicely with rumours that circulated in 1912 and later years about events leading up to the collision and subsequent sinking of Titanic. However, after the wreck’s discovery in 1985 by Robert Ballard from the Smiths Hole Oceanographic Institute, many of these stories and rumours have proven to be incorrect.

The Seamen’s story is as follows: “It was a perfect night, clear and starlight. The sea was smooth. The temperature had dropped to freezing Sunday morning. We knew or believed that the cold was due to the nearness of bergs, but we had not even run against cake ice up to the time the ice mountain loomed up. Titanic raced through a calm sea in which there was no ice into the berg that sank her.”

“The First Officer of the watch was Murdoch. He was on the bridge. Captain Smith may have been near at hand, but he was not visible to us who were about to wash the decks. Hitchens, quartermaster, was at the wheel. Fleet was the outlook”

“Fleet reported the berg, but the telephone was not answered on the bridge at once. A few minutes later, the telephone call was answered, but it was too late.”

“It was 11.40 P.M. Sunday, April 14. Struck an iceberg. The iceberg was very dark and about 250 feet in height.”

“The Titanic struck the berg a glancing blow on the starboard bow. The ship, which was traveling between twenty and twenty-three knots an hour, crashed into the berg at a point about forty feet back to the stern.”

“Titanic’s bottom was torn away to about the fore-bridge. The tear was fully fifty feet in length and below the water line.”

Already, there are a few discrepancies between the story and the actual events, leading up to the disaster. First, The source of the story states that the temperature had dropped to freezing on Sunday morning. Sunday April 14, 1912, however, began remarkably mild for April. Many of the passengers including Colonel Archibald Gracie testified, they had been enjoying the sun throughout the morning. The temperature had continued to drop during the afternoon, to freezing by Sunday night. Titanic’s Marconi room had continued to receive berg warnings throughout the day of Sunday April 14. Titanic was 50 nautical miles away from the reported ice field by 7.30 pm.

It was general knowledge after the rescue ship Carpathia arrived in New York with Titanic’s surviving passengers and crew that Frederick Fleet was the lookout person that alerted Murdoch on the ships bridge of the looming peril, prior to collision. Also present in the crows-nest was Reginald Lee. But that was not publicised in most news papers and other news sources of the time. The source of this story only mentions Fleet as being on lookout at 11.40 P.M. on Sunday 14 April.

“Titanic’s bottom was torn away to about the fore-bridge. The tear was fully fifty feet in length and below the water line”. This statement indicates a huge gash below the water line of the ships massive hull. This was the subject of some conjecture between 1912 and 1985 before the wreck of Titanic was finally discovered. Along with notions that the ship sank intact or the ship broke in two, prior to its final plunge to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean.

After the expedition to the wreck site, visible evidence was produced proving the ship was sunk by a series of rivets popping from seams in her hull from the pressure provided from the collision, to a maximum length of 245 feet, opening five of her sixteen water tight compartments to the Atlantic Ocean.

The story continues: “Murdoch, after the ship struck the berg, gave orders to put the helm hard to port and the ship hit the berg again.”

“Afterwards Murdoch gave an order to the carpenter to sound the wells to learn how much water the ship was taking in. The carpenter came up and told Murdoch the Titanic had seven feet of water in her in less than seven minutes.”

“Then Captain Smith, who had put in an appearance, gave orders to get the boats ready.”

“There was less than ten minutes between the time Titanic first struck the berg and the second crash. Both of which brought big pieces of ice showering down on the ship.”

“Orders came to the crew to stand by the boats. The boats were got out. There were twenty-two boats all told.”

Visible evidence of the stern of Titanic since its discovery in 1985 indicates no damage from the berg towards the stern of the ship. Murdoch’s order to “Hard to port,” prevented any further damage to Titanic from the collision with the berg. No other witness evidence claims the ship hit with the berg a second or third time.

Evidence from Second Officer Lightoller and quartermaster Hitchens both stated Captain Smith gave orders to the ships carpenter to sound the ship, not Murdoch.

Titanic’s total lifeboat number was twenty boats. 14 standard lifeboats, 2 emergency cutters and 4 collapsible boats. Not the stated 22 in this story. The stated number of lifeboats may have been as a result of the confusion evident prior to Carpathia’s arrival into New York, when news about the disaster were sketchy, to say the least.

The story continues: “Ismay, with his two daughters and a millionaire, Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon, and the latter’s family, got into the first accident or emergency boats, which are about twenty-eight feet long, and were ready for lowering under the bridge. The boat in which Ismay and Sir Cosmo left were manned by seven seamen. There were seventeen persons in that boat.”

“This boat pulled away from the ship a half hour before any of the lifeboats were put into the water. There were thirteen first-class passengers and five sailors in the emergency boat. Both boats were away from the ship within ten or fifteen minutes of the ship crashing into the berg.”

This is a strange part of the story as no survivor testimony or evidence supports this twist of the tale. Certainly no mention of Ismay’s daughters, Margaret and Evelyn being onboard Titanic during her maiden voyage is mentioned in the list of passengers or crew and no mention from survivors indicates the presence of Ismay’s daughters being onboard. History has also never substantiated this claim.

This section of the story is certainly worthy of a modern day conspiracy theory of an attempted cover-up from the senior Officers of Titanic, while attempting to protect the most important dignitaries onboard the ship in her most perilous mishap.

The first boat launched from Titanic was in fact a standard lifeboat 7 from the starboard side, supervised by Murdoch, assisted by Third Officer Herbert Pitman, Fifth Officer Harold Lowe and White Star Line chairman, Ismay. The first boat away did not leave until 12.45 am, over an hour after the collision, not the stated ten or fifteen minutes. The emergency cutter lifeboats could carry a maximum of forty persons, not the stated sixty. The standard lifeboats however could hold a capacity of sixty-five persons and even the collapsibles could hold a maximum of forty-seven persons each.

The Duff-Gordon’s actually evacuated the Titanic on boat 1, which was the emergency cutter from the starboard side, which was the fifth lifeboat to launch from the stricken liner at 1.05 am, with ten other occupants.

J. Bruce Ismay stayed onboard Titanic, assisting with the loading on the starboard side, before leaving the sinking ship on collapsible C at 2.00 am, after exhaustively checking and ensuring that there were no other women and children on the starboard side, nearby.

~ ~ ~ ~

As the survivors from the first lifeboat were climbing aboard Carpathia at 4.10am. daylight was dawning. All around them the horror of the events that had occurred over the past few hours became apparent. The remaining lifeboats became visible, within an area of about 4 miles or 6 kilometres. About 20 icebergs surrounded the vessel, varying in size from 150 to 200 feet high with numerous smaller growlers, ranging between 10 to 12 feet high by 10 to 15 feet long. It seemed incredible to Carpathia’s crew their ship had successfully avoided so many icebergs, Rostron was amazed they hadn’t hit any of them. He later commented to a close friend, Captain Barr, also of the Cunard Line “When day broke, I saw the ice I had steamed through during the night, I shuddered, and could only think that some other hand than mine was on the helm during the night”.

Rostron remained on the bridge as Titainic’s survivors came aboard. He asked for the officer in charge of the first lifeboat – Fourth Officer Boxhall – to come to the bridge.

Still suffering from exposure from the cold and shivering in front of Rostron, Boxhall explained how Titanic had sunk about 2.30am. His voice broke when he told Rostron about the hundreds of people, maybe a thousand or more, who had gone down with the ship, as they could not possibly have survived the icy cold water.

The toll of the sinking surprised Rostron, maybe it was emotion that caused him to pause a few moments after hearing about the number of victims. He finally replied, “Thank you mister, go below and get some coffee and try to get warm.”

Stewart spoke to Captain Lord of the Californian, at 4.30am, mentioning that the second officer had said he had seen rockets, during the middle watch. Lord replied “Oh yes I know, he had been telling me.”

Both Lord and Stewart proceeded to the bridge, where Stewart pointed out the ship he had pointed out to Stone. Lord was preparing to start the ship, to proceed through the ice to continue their voyage. Stone asked Lord if he was going to find out why the other ship had been firing rockets. Lord replied “No, she looks all right; she is not making signals now.” Stewart had not told the Captain that Stone did not believe it was the same ship he had been watching through the night. Stewart made a quick check of the ships scrap logbook to discover that Stone had not made any mention of the white rockets he had observed from the ship south of their position, overnight.

At 5.15am Californian got under way. She began very slowly as the ship was still surrounded with the ice that had menaced them the night before, causing them to stop overnight.

At 5.40am Chief Officer George Stewart entered the cabin of Californian wireless operator Cyril Evans, saying ”There’s a ship been firing rockets”. Then asking, “Will you see if you can find out whether there is anything the matter?”

This information startled Evans, he immediately jumped out of his bunk, quickly slipped on a pair of trousers and slippers, then applied his headphones at once. He listened to find out if anyone was transmitting, but he could not hear anything, so he sent out a CQ message.

The Canadian Pacific vessel, Mount Temple answered his general call, saying “Do you know the Titanic has struck an iceberg, and she is sinking”, giving Evans Titanic’s position. Evans was hardly able to gather his thoughts, when the German steamer, Frankfurt jumped in, informing Evans of the same horrifying news and again giving the position of the stricken liner.

Cyril Evans had written down Titanic’s position. Then handed it to Stewart, who then left the room to notify Captain Lord at about 5.50am. Evans then contacted the Virginian, of the Allan Line. The Virginian gave Titanic’s position of 41.46 North, 50.14 West, saying “she is sinking, passengers in boats”. Throughout these transmissions, Evans was aware that the Frankfurt, Virginian and a Russian liner Birma were sailing to the position to give assistance, although Evans had no idea how far from Titanic’s reported position these vessels were.

The Frankfurt had passed Californian on her way to Europe earlier the day before, but how far east of Titanic’s position, Evans did not know. The Virginian was coming from the direction of Cape Race, but he did not know their position at the time of transmission. He did know however, that his equipment had a maximum range between 100 and 240 miles.

By 6.10am the Californian was sailing the 19 to 20 miles to the last position of Titanic. Evans had not heard anything from Carpathia until about 8.30 when they arrived at the position, alongside Carpathia.

Thirty year old secretary from London, Laura Mabel Francatelli, later recalled her joy at seeing Carpathia arrive at the disaster scene “Oh at daybreak, when we saw the lights of that ship, about 4 miles away, we rowed like mad, & passed icebergs like mountains, at last about 6:30 the dear Carpathia picked us up, our little boat was like a speck against that giant. Then came my weakest moment, they lowered a rope swing, which was awkward to sit on with my life preserver ’round me. Then they hauled me up by the side of the boat. Can you imagine, swinging in the air over the sea, I just shut my eyes & clung tight saying ‘Am I safe?’ at last I felt a strong arm pulling me onto the boat”.

Survivors on lifeboat 13 started boarding at 6.30am. Among them was Second Class passenger, Lawrence Beesley. Being a science teacher, Beesley was sceptical about superstitions. This scepticism reflected in a comment from him “I shall never say again that 13 is an unlucky number. Boat 13 is the best friend we ever had”.

Over the next few hours, boatload after boatload of survivors came alongside and boarded Carpathia. Many of her passengers were aware that something was happening and wanted to take a look, so lined the side rails of the decks to watch the boats and the people coming aboard. As the survivors came aboard, they were separated into their various Classes, names were taken, medical checks were carried out. Then the survivor was escorted to the relevant dining saloon and given hot coffee, soup and sandwiches and if required, whiskey and brandy. All the lifeboats were hauled onboard, except for the upturned and damaged collapsible boats, which were abandoned.


Left – Titanic survivors coming aboard Carpathia, Right – Titanic lifeboat hauled aboard.

Middle top – Collapsible B with survivors. Middle bottom – lifeboats coming alongside Carpathia

Rostron was impressed with the way his crew carried out their duties and followed his orders so precisely throughout the entire rescue operation. He was also amazed with the behaviour of Titanic’s survivors. He always remembered the orderly way in which the survivors boarded Carpathia, With the exception of one woman, there were no anxiety displays – in fact the survivors boarded Carpathia in complete silence. Rostron noticed the many survivors who were hardly wearing anything and imagined how quickly they had to abandon Titanic.

The last survivors to board Carpathia did so at 8.30am. For those in greatest need, Carpathia’s own First Class passengers gave up their cabins. The most prominent guests being Mrs Astor, Mrs Widener and Mrs Thayer, who were assigned to the Captains quarters. All in all, there were an extra 705 passengers onboard Carpathia.

Throughout the rescue process, as each boat came alongside, those already onboard waited eagerly as more boarded to see if their loved ones were included. A few scenes of joy erupted as some were reunited. As the process continued, many came to the realisation that there would be no reunion, as their loved ones had perished.

Rostron was now faced with another decision, where to take the survivors. The ship’s doctor, McGhee, was examining White Star Lines president, J. Bruce Ismay. It is believed that Ismay may have been suffering from an anxiety breakdown after the sinking of Titanic. Rostron asked Ismay, his impression on where to take the survivors. Ismay left that decision up to Rostron.

The Azores would have been the better decision, but according to Rostron, the survivors had been through enough already and needed to disembark as soon as possible and, in any case, Carpathia did not have enough provisions to last a voyage to the Azores. Nova Scotia was closer, but Rostron, worried about the extra passengers, decided that the ordeal of travelling through much more ice may be detrimental to their wellbeing.

RMS Olympic sent a wireless message, suggesting they be transferred to her, but again, Rostron believed they did not need the ordeal of being transferred to another vessel, also, Olympic was Titanic’s sister ship, Rostron believed the survivors would have hideous memories brought to mind if they were expected to transfer to Olympic. After conversing again with Ismay, Rostron believed it had to be New York. New York was the most expensive option for the Cunard Line. It was also the best option for the survivors.

First Officer William Murdoch shot himself

William McMaster Murdoch was born in February 1873, into a seafaring family, to Captain Samuel Murdoch and Jane Muirhead McMaster, at Dalbeattie, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. Murdoch was educated at the old Dalbeattie Primary School, then at Dalbeattie High School in Alpine Street, where Murdoch became top in his class for mathematics, gaining his diploma in 1887.

Following School, William Murdoch began his seafaring career. He served his apprenticeship at William, Joyce and Coy in Liverpool. In the fourth year of his five year apprenticeship, Murdoch was confident enough to pass his Second Mates Certificate in his first attempt, while serving on the Charles Cosworth, a 1079 ton Bargue from Liverpool

In 1892, Murdoch joined the Iquiqe as Second Officer with his father, Samuel Murdoch as commander on a voyage that would last 18 months from Rotterdam to Frederikstad in Sweden, then Capetown, Newcastle, Antofagasta and Iquiqe. In 1895 Murdoch gained his First Mates Certificate on the Saint Guthbert, sailing from Ipswich to Mauritius to Newport in Wales via Newcastle, Callao and Hamburg.

Murdoch gained his Extra Masters Certificate No. 025780 at the age of 23 on his first attempt, gaining the privilege of obtaining the highest British Board Of Trade Certificates within the shortest possible time. As a comparison, both Titanic’s Captain Edward John Smith and Chief Officer Henry Wilde failed their Extra Masters Certificates on their first attempt.

During the Boer War, Murdoch trained as a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Reserve, qualifying him to join White Star Line, as a steam ship officer in 1899. Between 1899 and 1912, Murdoch served on many White Star Line vessels, gradually rising in rank from Fourth Officer to First Officer. First, the first luxury ship, Medic, where Murdoch became friends with Charles Lightoller on the Australia run. Murdoch became third officer in 1900.

William Murdoch joined the Runic in 1901, also on the Australia run, becoming Second Officer, and becoming popular among his colleagues, gaining the reputation of the “best and smartest sailor afloat”. While aboard the Runic, in 1903, Murdoch met a New Zealand School teacher, 29 year old, Ada Florence Banks, beginning a long distance correspondence relationship.

Also in 1903, Murdoch entered the North-Atlantic run, joining the Arabic, as Second Officer. During Arabic’s maiden voyage, Murdoch overturned his Captain’s order by narrowly averting serious danger, when another ship was spotted bearing down on Arabic. Murdoch, displaying his quick thinking and cool head, rushed into the Wheel House, brushing aside the Quartermaster and steered his vessel straight ahead, after his superior Officer, Fox, had ordered “hard-a-port”. The two ships passed within inches of one another. Arabic’s Captain Jones later remarked, how impressed he was with Murdoch’s action. Any alteration in course at that moment would have resulted in disaster.

Murdoch became the First Officer on board the Celtic in 1904, which was the largest ship afloat in 1901, and the first of the Big Liners, with a gross tonnage of 21,035. Murdoch also made two voyages with the International Mercantile’s America Line, onboard the former White Star Lines’ Germanic, during 1904, with Captain Bartlett.

Murdoch rejoined his friend Charles Lightoller on the Oceanic in January 1905 to February 1906. Oceanic as the first White Star Line vessel to suffer a mutiny. According to an article in the New York Times on October 12, 1905, 35 stokers were imprisoned, after complaining about their working conditions and accommodation.

Serving on Cedric for two voyages, Murdoch was First Officer from February 1906 to May 9, 1906. He then transferred to the Teutonic for three voyages as part of his training for his service in the Royal Naval Reserve – as the Teutonic was armed. After serving again on the Cedric as Second Officer, he then rejoined Oceanic as First Officer on May 9, 1906.

William Murdoch, at 34 years old married Ada Florence Banks, who was 33 years old, on September 2, 1907 at St. Denys Church in Southampton. They made their home at 94 Belmont Road, Southampton – now 116 Belmont Road.

According to The London Gazette on September 10, 1909, Murdoch was promoted from Sub-Lieutenant to Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve on 8 September 1909. In May 1911, he was sent to Belfast, Northern Ireland, to join White Star Line’s newest and largest ship, Olympic. Murdoch was known to be a “canny and dependable man” by the time he joined Olympic in May 1911.

Olympic, the first of the new Olympic-Class super-liners of the White Star Line, was designed and built to outclass the Cunard Lines Lusitania and Mauritania, sacrificing speed for sheer size and luxury. At 45,324 gross registered tons, Olympic required the finest crew White Star Line could muster.

Captain E. J. Smith assembled the crew, including Henry Wilde as Chief Officer, William Murdoch as First Officer and Henry McElroy as Chief Purser. Leaving Southampton on June 14, 1911, Olympic began her maiden voyage to New York.

Olympic’s fifth voyage to New York had to be abandoned on September 20, after her hull was severely damaged in a collision with the Royal Navy Cruiser, HMS Hawke. Olympic had to return to Belfast for six weeks of repairs, which delayed the completion of the second Olympic Class vessels – Titanic.

The incident between HMS Hawke and Olympic was a financial disaster for White Star Line, as White Star’s insurance company, Lloyds Of London, refused to pay insurance claims for the damage. Murdoch rejoined Olympic on December 11, 1911.

Two more incidents further marred Olympic’s career. In March 1912, Olympic struck a sunken vessel and lost a propeller, further delaying the completion of Titanic, then she nearly ran aground while leaving Belfast on her way back to Southampton.

Soon after these incidents, Murdoch received the news that he was to join the larger newer vessel of the Class – Titanic.

Following Titanic’s sinking, there were many reports that First Officer William Murdoch had committed suicide on the boat deck, before she sank beneath the surface. These claims seem to be mere rumour as contradicting accounts were presented by surviving passengers and crew.

Many newspaper reports contained quotes from “Anonymous” witnesses, indicating they may have been fabricated stories, while many other accounts claimed that another Officer, other than Murdoch, committed suicide. Still other reports and accounts state that Murdoch shot himself at different times throughout the lifeboat launching and eventual sinking, while yet others claim that Captain Smith shot himself and some claim that it was Chief Officer Henry Wilde who shot himself.

Second Officer Charles Lightoller was a good friend of Murdoch and highly respected him. He worked beside Murdoch onboard Arabic on the occasion that Murdoch averted a serious collision. A letter that Lightoller sent to Ada Murdoch from New York on Aril 24, 1912, on behalf of himself and the other surviving Officers – Fourth Officer G. Groves Boxhall, Third Officer H. J. Pitman, and Fifth Officer H. G. Lowe – expressing their disgust at the reports of Murdoch’s suicide. The letter reads as follows:

“Dear Mrs. Murdoch,

I am writing on behalf of the surviving officers to express our deep sympathy in this, your awful loss. Words cannot convey our feelings, – much less a letter. I deeply regret that I missed communicating with you by last mail to refute the reports that were spread in the newspapers. I was practically the last man, and certainly the last officer, to see Mr. Murdoch. He was then endeavouring to launch the starboard forward collapsible boat. I had already got mine from off the top of our quarters. You will understand when I say that I was working the the port side of the ship, and Mr. Murdoch was principally engaged on the starboard side of the ship, filling and launching the boats. Having got my boat down off the top of the house, and there being no time to open it, I left it and ran across to the starboard side, still on top of the quarters. I was then practically looking down on your husband and his men. He was working hard, personally assisting, overhauling the forward boat’s fall. At this moment the ship dived, and we were all in the water. Other reports as to the ending are absolutely false. Mr. Murdoch died like a man, doing his duty. Call on us without hesitation for anything we can do for you. Yours very sincerely. Signed C. H. Lightoller.”

Ada Murdoch authorised the letter to be published in The Dumfries & Galloway Standard & Advertiser, on May 11, 1912.

Wireless operator Harold Bride also claims that Murdoch died after Titanic sank, from hypothermia. In 1954, Bride told maritime historian Mr. Ernest Robinson:

“They had been part of a group trying to launch the forward starboard collapsible lifeboat, normally stored on the roof of the officers’ quarters. Bride initially on Port side, assisting with Collapsible B. This falls bottom-up on the boat-deck. Bride goes round to Collapsible A over the deck-housing. Bride is near Murdoch, who is helping to sort Collapsible A. Bridge goes under, boat deck engulfed, Murdoch and Bride are both swept off the boat-deck and into the sea. Some men are swimming towards Collapsible A, which has floated off. The forward funnel stays part with sounds like gunshots as the funnel sways forwards and to starboard and crashes down on those swimming near Collapsible A. That boat is swamped, those in it hurled out, as it is moved farther away off the starboard side. Bride is on the wrong side of the funnel and is swept towards the centreline of the submerged bow section, now sinking more rapidly. Like Lightoller, he is sucked down, but unlike Lightoller he comes up under the still-capsized Collapsible B. B is there because of being sucked sideways towards the centreline of the sinking ship. After a time of great fear, Bride manages to emerge from under Collapsible B and hangs onto its side. Later he reaches the top when people help him up, by then the Titanic had gone under. In the sea, Bride sees Murdoch clinging to a deck chair but already dead, Moody is by his side, also dead.”

~ ~ ~ ~

A wireless message was sent to the Californian, floating nearby, announcing Rostron’s decision to sail to New York “I am taking the survivors to New York. Please stay in the vicinity and pick up any bodies”. Before proceeding, Rostron wanted Carpathia to cruise around the wreck site, to ensure all who could be picked up had been plucked out of the icy waters. Navigating through the debris field, Carpathia passed many small items of wreckage, deck-chairs, cushions, empty lifebelts and several white pilasters, but nothing distinctive, except one body floating on the surface. Realising nothing more could be done, Rostron plotted his course to New York.

Continuing to do all he could for the survivors, Rostron arranged a short memorial service for all those who had had their dreams washed away – the wives, husbands, sons, daughters, uncles and aunts, grandmothers and grandfathers, who perished in the water, leaving nothing but icebergs and growlers as grave markers.

An Episcopalian clergyman, Reverend Anderson, gave thanks and paid respects to the lost, watched by the people of Titanic and Carpathia. As final prayers were being said at 8.50am, Carpathia steamed over the grave of Titanic. Then, set out full steam ahead for New York.

Again, Rostron went below to check J. Bruce Ismay, who was lodged in Doctor McGhee’s cabin. He suggested he may need to send a wireless message forward to New York, informing them of the disaster. Ismay agreed and wrote “Deeply regret advise you Titanic sank this morning after collision with iceberg, resulting in serious loss of life. Full particulars later”. After asking Rostron’s opinion, the message was sent.

Rostron realised the severity of Ismay’s condition. Ismay seemed overcome with grief and shock at the tragedy, seeming to be very emotional, he was barely talking to anyone and if he did talk, he wasn’t saying much and more alarmingly, he was refusing to eat anything much. Rostron placed Ismay in the continuing care of Dr McGhee, ordering he to be left alone in peace. Ismay remained in the Doctor’s cabin for the entire journey to New York.

Carpathian, Californian

Top Left Cunard Lines Carpathia, Top Right, Leyland Lines Californian.

Centre Left, Titanic Survivors on deck of Carpathia. Centre Right Captain Arthur Rostron.

Bottom Left, Titanic Lifebelt, Bottom Right Titanic survivors onboard Carpathia

For the next few days, before reached New York, Rostron had declared a news freeze from Carpathia. He insisted the wireless set would be used only for official messages and private messages from Titanic survivors only. During this time, frantic messages were received from land stations demanding further information about the disaster. Rostron ordered they be ignored, even messages from U.S President Taft. Rostron wanted to avoid any chances of false information being transmitted.

The news blackout from Carpathia attracted the attention of America’s most influential newsman. William Randolph Hearst. The owner of Americas largest newspaper chain. Hearst had a long standing hatred for White Star Line, in particular, J. Bruce Ismay, since Ismay refused to co-operate with him over two decades earlier, while Ismay was a White Star Line agent, based in New York. Hearst saw the Titanic disaster, and the fact that Ismay survived, to run a scathing campaign against Ismay in retaliation for his non co-operation, That retaliation formed the foundation of Hearst’s systematic newspaper campaign that would haunt Ismay for the rest of his life.

Before Carpathia reached New York, many rumours surrounding the disaster were brewing, as news was sketchy at best. Many survivors were sending messages to relatives and loved ones. As these messages were being picked up on land based stations, they were forwarded on to New York and England. Any snippet of news about the disaster included in these messages, were forwarded onto news agencies.

One rumour was adapted from a single word by the vice president of Titanic’s owners, the International Mercantile Marine Company, Philip Franklin, who stated about the disaster “I thought her unsinkable, and I based my opinion on the best expert advice available. I don’t understand it”. The single word, being “unsinkable” was immediately picked up by the media, who ran the quote as claiming, “White Star said Titanic is ‘unsinkable”. Thus generating the myth that exists today.

Titanic surviving Officers

Top – The Officers of Carpathia, surround Captain Rostron.

Bottom – The surviving Officers of Titanic – Back left to right – Fifth Officer Harold Lowe, Second Officer Charles Lightoller, Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall. Seated – Third Officer Herbert Pittman,

A further message sent from Carpathia helped to seal Ismay’s fate with his nemesis in America, and a Senator. The message “Most desirable Titanic crew aboard Carpathia should be returned home earliest moment possible.  Suggest you hold Cedric, sailing daylight Friday unless you see any reason contrary.  Propose returning in her myself.  Please send outfit of clothes, including shoes, for me to Cedric.  Have nothing of my own. Please Reply. Yamsi”. The name Yamsi is Ismay in reverse.

Senator William Smith urged the Senate to investigate the sinking of Titanic. He was granted that approval and a Senate sub-committee, headed by Smith himself, was set up.

Smith knew if Ismay and the crew were to return to England, it could become problematic for them to return to the U.S. at a later date, so Senator Smith boarded a train to New York. He soon realised his fear was unfounded, as Ismay was more than willing to co-operate.

The same could not be said about Ismay’s arch enemy, W Randolph Hearst, who believed the message from Ismay to be some kind of code. If Ismay wanted to leave the U.S. for England as soon as possible, then obviously Ismay had something to hide.

So the story of Ismay ordering Captain E.J. Smith to break the trans-Atlantic speed record, thus causing the Titanic disaster, was born. That story was reinforced after Carpathia docked in New York, as several First-Class passengers, while making insurance claims, used the story to bolster their claims.

One such claim was made by First Class passenger Elizabeth Lines, who stated at the Senate inquiry that she overheard a comment from Ismay during a two hour conversation with Captain Smith on Saturday 13 April: “We will beat the Olympic and get into New York on Tuesday”. It is not absolutely clear what she meant by that comment. RMS Olympic was in the North-Atlantic at that time. But, was on her return voyage from New York to Southampton at the time of the disaster, not Southampton to New York. So, it’s not known if Lines thought the Olympic was also sailing to New York at that time, if Ismay was hoping to beat Olympic into New York, or not. In any case, RMS Olympic had at no time held any speed record from Europe to the U.S.,or vice versa.

Captain Rostron’s decision to order the news blackout was also blamed on Ismay as numerous newspapers around the world went to print.

For instance The Bendigo Advertiser, a newspaper in Victoria, Australia, wrote on Saturday April 20, 1912 – indicating how slowly news travelled in 1912 – “It is thought Mr. Joseph Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star Line, who is among the rescued passengers on board the Carpathia, has used his influence to prevent the transmission of news”. The comment here, also reflected many articles about the lack of news coming from Carpathia, was contained in the Hearst syndicated newspapers, throughout the United States. Hearst continued to blame all aspects of the Titanic


TITANIC: The Legend, myths and folklore Copyright © 2013 by Bruce Alpine. All Rights Reserved.

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