My mother had a premonition from the very word ‘GO.’ She knew there was something to be afraid of and the only thing that she felt strongly about was that to say a ship was unsinkable was flying in the face of God. Those were her words.”
— Eva Hart, – Titanic survivor
Being a survivor of the most famous maritime disaster of all time was in many ways a tough legacy for some to live with and in some cases, some simply couldn’t, and later took their own life. The Titanic survivors carried the burden of explaining the tragedy to the world and justifying why their life was spared above others.
The great injustice of the story of survival on the Titanic was that the wealthy survived and the poor perished. Even to the point that many second and third-class women and children were sacrificed at the expense of notable and wealthy men.
“I can never understand why God would have spared a poor Finnish girl when all those rich people drowned.”
— Anna Turja Lundi, Titanic survivor.
J. Bruce Ismay would survive the Titanic but was murdered by the press for his decision to place his life above those of passengers. This was exemplified at the highest manner by J. Bruce Ismay – The owner of Titanic and a man who should have accepted much responsibility for the lack of lifeboats and other cost-cutting measures that inevitably lead to the sinking of Titanic. Ismay managed to find a spot on a lifeboat and watched hundreds of paying passengers die on the morning of April 15, 1912.
J. Ismay Retired as planned from the International Mercantile Marine in June 1913. Still, the position of managing director of the White Star Lines that he hoped to retain was denied him, surviving the Titanic Disaster had made him far too unpopular with the public.
He spent his remaining years alternating between his homes in London and Ireland. Because Ismay had never had many close friends, and subsequently had few business contacts, it was mistakenly easy to assume that he had become a recluse, he did enjoy being kept informed of shipping news, but those around him were forbidden to speak of the Titanic. He died in 1937.
A Complete Titanic TEACHING UNIT
Madeline Astor, Aged 19, was the maiden of the richest man on board.
The maiden of multi-millionaire Jacob Astor, Madeline inherited from her husband the income from a five million dollar trust fund and the use of his home on Fifth Ave and in the Newport so long as she did not marry. In August 1912, she gave birth to a son with whom she was pregnant on the Titanic, and she named him after her husband, John Jacob Astor. She relinquished the Astor income and mansions during WWI to marry William K. Dick of New York. She had two more sons; she divorced Dick in Reno, Nevada, in 1933 to Marry Italian Prize Fighter Enzo Firemonte. Five Years later, this marriage also ended in divorce. She died in Palm Beach, Florida in 1940 at age 47.
“As I was put into the boat, he cried to me, ‘It’s all right, little girl. You go. I will stay.’ As our boat shoved off he threw me a kiss, and that was the last I saw of him.”
— Mrs Daniel Warner Marvin – On her honeymoon
The ‘Unsinkable’ Molly Brown
Molly’s life took a surprising turn after the sinking. Previously, her efforts to be accepted by Denver society had been unsuccessful, the Selflessness and heroism she had shown on the Titanic prompted her neighbours, for a short time, to open their doors to her.
In 1924 she was named a potential candidate for Congress. As time passed on, however, she grew increasingly eccentric. Her husband died without leaving a final will and testament, and she found herself at odds with her children over his money.
In 1932, at the age of 65, she died suddenly in New York City after a stroke. It was only after her death when she became the subject of the hit Broadway musical and film, “The unsinkable Molly Brown” That she gained some of the fame she would have so enjoyed in life.
“Not until the last five minutes did the awful realization come that the end was at hand. The lights became dim and went out, but we could see. Slowly, ever so slowly, the surface of the water seemed to come towards us. So gradual was it that even after I had adjusted the life jacket about my body it seemed a dream. Deck after deck was submerged. There was no lurching or grinding or crunching. The Titanic simply settled. I was far up on one of the top decks when I jumped. About me were others in the water. My bathrobe floated away, and it was icily cold. I struck out at once. I turned my head, and my first glance took in the people swarming on the Titanic’s deck. Hundreds were standing there helpless to ward off approaching death. I saw Captain Smith on the bridge. My eyes seemingly clung to him. The deck from which I had leapt was immersed. The water had risen slowly, and was now to the floor of the bridge. Then it was to Captain Smith’s waist. I saw him no more. He died a hero. The bows of the ship were far beneath the surface and to me only the four monster funnels and the two masts were now visible. It was all over in an instant. The Titanic’s stern rose completely out of the water and went up 30, 40, 60 feet into the air. Then, with her body slanting at an angle of 45 degrees, slowly the Titanic slipped out of sight.”
— Robert W. Daniel – Philadelphia Banker
“I was on the whale deck in the bow calling the watch that was to relieve when the ice first came aboard. The collision opened the seams below the water-line but did not even scratch the paint above the line. I know that because I was one of those who helped to make an examination over the side with a lantern. I went down into the engine-room at 12:40am. We even made coffee, so there was not much thought of danger. An hour later I was still working at the light engines. I heard the chief engineer tell one of his subordinates that number six bulkhead had given way. At that time things began to look bad… I was told to go up and see how things were, and made my way up a dummy funnel to the bridge deck. By that time all the boats had left the ship, yet everyone in the engine-room was at his post. I was near the captain and heard him say, ‘Well boys, it’s every man for himself now.’”
— Alfred White – a greaser in the engine-room
“When the Titanic struck the iceberg, I was in bed. However, for whatever reason I was awake and remember the jolt and cessation of motion. A steward knocked on the stateroom door and directed us to get dressed, put on life preservers and go to the boat deck, which we did… The steward as we passed was trying to arouse passengers who had locked themselves in for the night. Elevators were not running. We walked up to the boat deck. Al was calm and orderly. An officer was in charge. ‘Women and children first,’ he said, as he directed lifeboat number 11 to be filled. There were many tearful farewells. We and Uncle Jim said good-bye… The lowering of the lifeboat 70 feet to the sea was perilous. Davits, ropes, nothing worked properly, so that first one end of the lifeboat was tilted up and then far down. I think it was the only time I was scared. Lifeboats pulled some distance away from the sinking Titanic, afraid of what suction might do… As row by row of the porthole lights of the Titanic sank into the sea this was about all one could see. When the Titanic upended to sink, all was blacked out until the tons of machinery crashed to the bow… As this happened hundreds and hundreds of people were thrown into the sea. It isn’t likely I shall ever forget the screams of these people as they perished in water said to be 28 degrees… At this point in my life I was being brought up as a typical British kid. You were not allowed to cry. You were a ‘little man.’ So as a cool kid I lay down in the bottom of the lifeboat and went to sleep. When I awoke it was broad daylight as we approached the Carpathia. Looking around over the gunwale it seemed to me like the Arctic. Icebergs of huge size ringed the horizon for 360 degrees.”
— Marshall Drew Eight-year-old travelling with his Aunt and Uncle
“When our boat had rowed about half a mile from the vessel the spectacle was quite fairylike, The Titanic, which was fully illuminated, was stationary, like some fantastic piece of stage scenery. The night was clear and the sea smooth, but it was intensely cold. Presently the gigantic ship began to sink by the bows, and then those who had remained on board realized the horror of their situation. Suddenly the lights went out and an immense clamor filled the air in one supreme cry for help. Little by little the Titanic settled down, and for three hours cries of anguish were heard. As moments the cries of terror were lulled and we thought it was all over, but the next instant they were renewed in still keener accents. As for is we did nothing but row, row, row to escape from the death cries. In our little boat we were frozen with cold, having left the ship without overcoats or rugs. We shouted from time to time to attract attention, but obtained no reply. A German baron who was with us fired off all the cartridges in his revolver. This agonizing suspense lasted for many hours until at last the Carpathia appeared. We shouted ‘Hurrah!’ and all the boats scattered on the sea made towards her.”
— Paul Chevre – French Sculpture
“As I dressed, I heard the order shouted, ‘All the passengers on deck with life belts on.’ We all walked up slowly with the life belts tied on over our clothing, but even then we presumed that this was merely a wise precaution the captain was taking. The ship was absolutely still, and except for the gentle, almost unnoticeable, tilt downwards, there were no visible signs of the approaching disaster. But, in a few moments, we saw the covers being lifted from the boats and the covers being lifted from the boats and the crews allotted to them standing by and uncoiling the ropes, which were to lower them. We then began to realize that it was a more serious matter than we had at first supposed. Presently we heard the order, ‘All men stand back away from the boats. All ladies retire to the next deck below.’ The men all stood away and waited in absolute silence, some leaning against the end railings of the deck, others pacing slowly up and down. The boats were level with the deck where all the women were collected, the women got in quietly, with the exception of some, who refused to leave their husbands. In some cases they were torn from their husbands and pushed into the boats, but in many instances they were allowed to remain, since there was no-one to insist that they should go.”
— Lawrence Beesley – English Schoolmaster
“After sinking with the ship, it appeared to me as if I was propelled by some great force through the water. This might have been occasioned by explosions under the water, and I remembered fearful stories of people being boiled to death. Again and again I prayed for deliverance, although I felt sure that the end had come. I had the greatest difficulty in holding my breath until I came to the surface. I knew that once I inhaled, the water would suffocate me. When I got under water I struck out with all my strength for the surface. I got to air again after a time, which seemed to me to be unending. There was nothing in sight save the ocean, dotted with ice and strewn with large masses of wreckage. Dying men and women all about me were groaning and crying piteously. By moving from one piece of wreckage to another, at last I reached a cork raft. Soon the raft became so full that it seemed as if she would sink if more came on board her. The crew for self-preservation had therefore to refuse to permit any others to climb aboard. This was the most pathetic and horrible scene of all. The piteous cries of those around us still ring in my ears, and I will remember them to my dying day. ‘Hold on to what you have, old boy!’ we shouted to each man who tried to get on board. ‘One more of you would sink us all!’ Many of those whom we refused answered as they went to their death, ‘Good luck – God bless you!’”
— Colonel Archibald Gracie Jumped from the top deck and was sucked down with her
“A number of us who were enjoyed the crisp air were promenading about the deck. Captain Smith was on the bridge when the first cry from the lookout came that there was an iceberg ahead. It may have been 30 feet high when I saw it. It was possibly 200 yards away and dead ahead. Captain Smith shouted some orders… A number of us promenaders rushed to the bow of the ship. When we saw he could no fail to hit it, we rushed to the stern. Then came a crash, and the passengers were panic-stricken.”
— George Brayton – First Class Passenger
“I saw the way she was carrying herself and the quiet, determined manner in which she spoke, and I knew she was more of a man than most aboard, so I put her in command at the tiller. There was another woman in the boat who helped, and was every minute rowing. It was she who suggested we should sing, and we sang as we rowed, starting with ‘Pull for the Shore.’ We were still singing when we saw the lights of the Carpathia, and then we stopped singing and prayed.”
— Seaman Thomas Jones praised the courage of the Countess of Rothes in lifeboat number eight.
“I was in my bunk when I felt a bump. One man said, “Hello! She has been struck.” I went on deck and saw a great pile of ice on the well deck before the forecastle, but we all thought the ship would last some time, and we went back to our bunks. Then one of the firemen came running down and yelled, “All muster for the lifeboats.” I ran on deck, and the Captain said, “All firemen keep down on the well deck. If a man comes up I’ll shoot him.” Then I saw the first lifeboat lowered. Thirteen people were on board, eleven men and two women. Three were millionaires one was Ismay [J. Bruce Ismay, Managing Director of the White Star Line; a survivor]. Then I ran up on to the hurricane deck and helped to throw one of the collapsible boats on to the lower deck. I saw an Italian woman holding two babies. I took one of them, and woman jump overboard with the baby, while I did the same the other. When I came to the surface the baby in my arms was dead. I saw the woman strike out in good style, but a boiler burst on the Titanic and started a big wave. When the woman saw that wave, she gave
up. Then, as the child was dead, I let it sink too.
I swam around for about half an hour, and was swimming on my back when the Titanic went down. I tried to get aboard a boat, but some chap hit me over the head with an oar. There were too many in her. I got around to the other side of the boat and climbed in.”
— Harry Senior – Fireman
“We did not begin to understand the situation till we were perhaps a mile or more away from the Titanic. Then we could see the rows of lights along the decks begin to slant gradually upward from the bow. Very slowly the lines of light began to point downward at a greater and greater angle. The sinking was so slow that you could not
perceive the lights of the deck changing their position. The slant seemed to be greater about every quarter of an hour.That was the only difference.
In a couple of hours, though, she began to go down more rapidly. Then the fearful sight began. The people in the ship were just beginning to realize how great their danger was. When the forward part of the ship dropped suddenly at a faster rate, so that the upward slope became marked, there was a sudden rush of passengers on all the decks towards the stern. It was like a wave. We could see the great black mass of people in the steerage sweeping to the rear part of the boat and breaking through into the upper decks. At the distance of about a mile we could
distinguish everything through the night, which was perfectly clear. We could make out the increasing excitement on board the boat as the people, rushing to and fro, caused the deck lights to disappear and reappear as they passed in
front of them.
This panic went on, it seemed, for an hour. Then suddenly the ship seemed to shoot up out of the water and stand there perpendicularly. It seemed to us that it stood upright in the water for four full minutes.
Then it began to slide gently downwards. Its speed increased as it went down head first, so that the stern shot down with a rush. The lights continued to burn till it sank. We could see the people packed densely in the stern till it was gone
. . .
As the ship sank we could hear the screaming a mile away. Gradually it became fainter and fainter and died away. Some of the lifeboats that had room for more might have gone to their rescue, but it would have meant that those who were in the water would have swarmed aboard and sunk her. ”
— Mrs D. H. Bishop – Eyewitness account from Lifeboat