Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters, The



THE Story of how the Titanic sank is told by Charles F. Hurd, who was a passenger on the Carpathia.

He praised highly the courage of the crew, hundreds of whom gave their lives with a heroism which equaled but could not exceed that of John Jacob Astor, Henry B. Harris, Jacques Futrelle and others in the long list of first-cabin passengers. The account continues:

"The crash against the iceberg, which had been sighted at only a quarter mile distance, came almost simultaneously with the click of the levers operated from the bridge, which stopped the engines and closed the water-tight doors. Captain Smith was on the bridge a moment later, summoning all on board to put on life preservers and ordering the life-boats lowered.

"The first boats had more male passengers, as the men were the first to reach the deck. When the rush of frightened men and women and crying children to the decks began, the 'women first' rule was rigidly enforced.

"Officers drew revolvers, but in most cases there was no use for them. Revolver shots heard shortly before the Titanic went down caused many rumors, one that Captain Smith had shot himself, another that First Officer Murdock had ended his life, but members of the crew discredit these rumors.

"Captain Smith was last seen on the bridge just before the ship sank, leaping only after the decks had been washed away.

"What became of the men with the life-preservers was a question asked by many since the disaster. Many of these with life-preservers were seen to go down despite the preservers, and dead bodies floated on the surface as the boats moved away.

"Facts which I have established by inquiries on the Carpathia, as positively as they could be established in view of the silence of the few surviving officers, are:

"That the Titanic's officers knew, several hours before the crash, of the possible nearness of the icebergs.

"That the Titanic's speed, nearly 23 knots an hour, was not slackened.

"That the number of life-boats on the Titanic was insufficient to accommodate more than one-third of the passengers, to say nothing of the crew. Most members of the crew say there were sixteen life-boats and two collapsibles; none say there were more than twenty boats in all. The 700 escaped filled most of the sixteen life-boats and the one collapsible which got away, to the limit of their capacity.

"Had the ship struck the iceberg head on at whatever

{illust. caption = MRS. GEORGE D. WIDENER

Mrs. Widener was saved,....}

{illust. caption = George D. WIDENER

Who with his son....}

{illust. caption = Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y. WILLIAM T. STEAD

The great English writer, who was a passenger on board the ill-fated White Star Line Steamer Titanic.}

speed and with whatever resulting shock, the bulkhead system of water-tight compartments would probably have saved the vessel. As one man expressed it, it was the impossible that happened when, with a shock unbelievably mild, the ship's side was torn for a length which made the bulkhead system ineffective."

After telling of the shock and the lowering of the boats the account continues:

"Some of the boats, crowded too full to give rowers a chance, drifted for a time. Few had provisions or water, there was lack of covering from the icy air, and the only lights were the still undimmed arcs and incandescents of the settling ship, save for one of the first boats. There a steward, who explained to the passengers that he had been shipwrecked twice before, appeared carrying three oranges and a green light.

"That green light, many of the survivors say, was to the shipwrecked hundreds as the pillar of fire by night. Long after the ship had disappeared, and while confusing false lights danced about the boats, the green lantern kept them together on the course which led them to the Carpathia.

"As the end of the Titanic became manifestly but a matter of moments, the oarsmen pulled their boats away, and the chilling waters began to echo splash after splash as passengers and sailors in life-preservers leaped over and started swimming away to escape the expected suction.

"Only the hardiest of constitutions could endure for more than a few moments such a numbing bath. The first vigorous strokes gave way to heart-breaking cries of 'Help! Help!' and stiffened forms were seen floating on the water all around us.

"Led by the green light, under the light of the stars, the boats drew away, and the bow, then the quarter, then the stacks and at last the stern of the marvel-ship of a few days before, passed beneath the waters. The great force of the ship's sinking was unaided by any violence of the elements, and the suction, not so great as had been feared, rocked but mildly the group of boats now a quarter of a mile distant from it.

"Early dawn brought no ship, but not long after 5 A. M. the Carpathia, far out of her path and making eighteen knots, instead of her wonted fifteen, showed her single red and black smokestack upon the horizon. In the joy of that moment, the heaviest griefs were forgotten.

"Soon afterward Captain Rostron and Chief Steward Hughes were welcoming the chilled and bedraggled arrivals over the Carpathia's side.

"Terrible as were the San Francisco, Slocum and Iroquois disasters, they shrink to local events in comparison with this world-catastrophe.

"True, there were others of greater qualifications and longer experience than I nearer the tragedy—but they, by every token of likelihood, have become a part of the tragedy. The honored—must I say the lamented—Stead, the adroit Jacques Futrelle, what might they not tell were their hands able to hold pencil?

"The silence of the Carpathia's engines, the piercing cold, the clamor of many voices in the companionways, caused me to dress hurriedly and awaken my wife, at 5.40 A. M. Monday. Our stewardess, meeting me outside, pointed to a wailing host in the rear dining room and said. 'From the Titanic. She's at the bottom of the ocean.'

"At the ship's side, a moment later, I saw the last of the line of boats discharge their loads, and saw women, some with cheap shawls about their heads, some with the costliest of fur cloaks, ascending the ship's side. And such joy as the first sight of our ship may have given them had disappeared from their faces, and there were tears and signs of faltering as the women were helped up the ladders or hoisted aboard in swings. For lack of room to put them, several of the Titanic's boats, after unloading, were set adrift.

"At our north was a broad ice field, the length of hundreds of Carpathias. Around us on other sides were sharp and glistening peaks. One black berg, seen about 10 A. M., was said to be that which sunk the Titanic."



AMONG the most connected and interesting stories related by the survivors was the one told by L. Beasley, of Cambridge, England. He said:

"The voyage from Queenstown had been quite uneventful; very fine weather was experienced, and the sea was quite calm. The wind had been westerly to southwesterly the whole way, but very cold, particularly the last day; in fact after dinner on Saturday evening it was almost too cold to be out on deck at all.


"I had been in my berth for about ten minutes, when, at about 11.15 P. M., I felt a slight jar, and then soon after a second one, but not sufficiently violent to cause any anxiety to anyone, however nervous they may have been. However, the engines stopped immediately afterward, and my first, thought was, 'She has lost a propeller.'

"I went up on the top (boat) deck in a dressing gown, and found only a few persons there, who had come up similarly to inquire why we had stopped, but there was no sort of anxiety in the minds of anyone.

"We saw through the smoking room window a game of cards going on, and went in to inquire if they knew anything; it seems they felt more of the jar, and, looking through the window, had seen a huge iceberg go by close to the side of the boat. They thought we had just grazed it with a glancing blow, and that the engines had been stopped to see if any damage had been done. No one, of course, had any conception that the vessel had been pierced below by part of the submerged iceberg.

"The game went on without any thought of disaster and I retired to my cabin, to read until we went on again. I never saw any of the players or the onlookers again.


"A little later, hearing people going upstairs, I went out again and found everyone wanting to know why the engines had stopped. No doubt many were awakened from sleep by the sudden stopping of a vibration to which they had become accustomed during the four days we had been on board. Naturally, with such powerful engines as the Titanic carried, the vibration was very noticeable all the time, and the sudden stopping had something the same effect as the stopping of a loud-ticking grandfather's clock in a room.

"On going on deck again I saw that there was an undoubted list downward from stern to bows, but, knowing nothing of what had happened, concluded some of the front compartments had filled and weighed her down. I went down again to put on warmer clothing, and as I dressed heard an order shouted, 'All passengers on deck with life-belts on.'

"We all walked slowly up, with the belts tied on over our clothing, but even then presumed this was only a wise precaution the captain was taking, and that we should return in a short time and retire to bed.

"There was a total absence of any panic or any expressions of alarm, and I suppose this can be accounted for by the exceedingly calm night and the absence of any signs of the accident.

"The ship was absolutely still, and except for a gentle tilt downward, which I don't think one person in ten would have noticed at that time, no signs of the approaching disaster were visible. She lay just as if she were waiting the order to go on again when some trifling matter had been adjusted.

"But in a few moments we saw the covers lifted from the boats and the crews allotted to them standing by and coiling up the ropes which were to lower them by the pulley blocks into the water.

"We then began to realize it was more serious than had been supposed, and my first thought was to go down and get some more clothing and some money, but, seeing people pouring up the stairs, decided it was better to cause no confusion to people coming up. Presently we heard the order:

"'All men stand back away from the boats, and all ladies retire to next deck below'—the smoking-room deck or B deck.


"The men all stood away and remained in absolute silence leaning against the end railings of the deck or pacing slowly up and down.

"The boats were swung out and lowered from A deck. When they were to the level of B deck, where all the women were collected, they got in quietly, with the exception of some who refused to leave their husbands.

"In some cases they were torn from them and pushed into the boats, but in many instances they were allowed to remain because there was no one to insist they should go.

"Looking over the side, one saw boats from aft already in the water, slipping quietly away into the darkness, and presently the boats near me were lowered, and with much creaking as the new ropes slipped through the pulley blocks down the ninety feet which separated them from the water. An officer in uniform came up as one boat went down and shouted, "When you are afloat row round to the companion ladder and stand by with the other boats for orders.'

"'Aye, aye, sir,' came up the reply; but I don't think any boat was able to obey the order. When they were afloat and had the oars at work, the condition of the rapidly settling boat was so much more a sight for alarm for those in the boats than those on board, that in common prudence the sailors saw they could do nothing but row from the sinking ship to save at any rate some lives. They no doubt anticipated that suction from such an enormous vessel would be more dangerous than usual to a crowded boat mostly filled with women.

"All this time there was no trace of any disorder; no panic or rush to the boats and no scenes of women sobbing hysterically, such as one generally pictures as happening at such times everyone seemed to realize so slowly that there was imminent danger. When it was realized that we might all be presently in the sea with nothing but our life-belts to support us until we were picked up by passing steamers, it was extraordinary how calm everyone was and how completely self-controlled.

"One by one, the boats were filled with women and children, lowered and rowed away into the night. Presently the word went round among the men, 'the men are to be put in boats on the starboard side.'

"I was on the port side, and most of the men walked across the deck to see if this was so I remained where I was and soon heard the call:

"'Any more ladies?'

"Looking over the side of the ship, I saw the boat, No. 13, swinging level with B deck, half full of ladies. Again the call was repeated, 'Any more ladies?'

"I saw none come on, and then one of the crew, looking up, said:

"'Any more ladies on your deck, sir?'

"'No,' I replied.

"'Then you had better jump.'

"I dropped in, and fell in the bottom, as they cried 'lower away.' As the boat began to descend two ladies were pushed hurriedly through the crowd on B deck and heaved over into the boat, and a baby of ten months passed down after them. Down we went, the crew calling to those lowering each end to 'keep her level,' until we were some ten feet from the water, and here occurred the only anxious moment we had during the whole of our experience from leaving the deck to reaching the Carpathia.

"Immediately below our boat was the exhaust of the condensers, a huge stream of water pouring all the time from the ship's side just above the water line. It was plain we ought to be quickly away from this, not to be swamped by it when we touched water.


"We had no officer aboard, nor petty officer or member of the crew to take charge. So one of the stokers shouted: 'Someone find the pin which releases the boat from the ropes and pull it up!' No one knew where it was. We felt on the floor and sides, but found nothing, and it was hard to move among so many people—we had sixty or seventy on board.

"Down we went and presently floated, with our ropes still holding us, the exhaust washing us away from the side of the vessel and the swell of the sea urging us back against the side again. The result of all these forces was an impetus which carried us parallel to the ship's side and directly under boat 14, which had filled rapidly with men and was coming down on us in a way that threatened to submerge our boat.

"'Stop lowering 14,' our crew shouted, and the crew of No. 14, now only twenty feet above, shouted the same. But the distance to the top was some seventy feet and the creaking pulleys must have deadened all sound to those above, for down she came, fifteen feet, ten feet, five feet and a stoker and I reached up and touched her swinging above our heads. The next drop would have brought her on our heads, but just before she dropped another stoker sprang to the ropes, with his knife.


"'One,' I heard him say, 'two,' as his knife cut through the pulley ropes, and the next moment the exhaust stream had carried us clear, while boat 14 dropped into the water, into the space we had the moment before occupied, our gunwales almost touching.

"We drifted away easily, as the oars were got out, and headed directly away from the ship. The crew seemed to me to be mostly stewards or cooks in white jackets, two to an oar, with a stoker at the tiller. There was a certain amount of shouting from one end of the boat to the other, and discussion as to which way we should go, but finally it was decided to elect the stoker, who was steering, as captain, and for all to obey his orders. He set to work at once to get into touch with the other boats, calling to them and getting as close as seemed wise, so that when the search boats came in the morning to look for us, there would be more chance for all to be rescued by keeping together.

"It was now about 1 A. M.; a beautiful starlight night, with no moon, and so not very light. The sea was as calm as a pond, just a gentle heave as the boat dipped up and down in the swell; an ideal night, except for the bitter cold, for anyone who had to be out in the middle of the Atlantic ocean in an open boat. And if ever there was a time when such a night was needed, surely it was now, with hundreds of people, mostly women and children, afloat hundreds of miles from land.


"The captain-stoker told us that he had been at sea twenty-six years, and had never yet seen such a calm night on the Atlantic. As we rowed away from the Titanic, we looked back from time to time to watch her, and a more striking spectacle it was not possible for anyone to see.

"In the distance it looked an enormous length, its great bulk outlined in black against the starry sky, every port-hole and saloon blazing with light. It was impossible to think anything could be wrong with such a leviathan, were it not for that ominous tilt downward in the bows, where the water was by now up to the lowest row of port-holes.

"Presently, about 2 A. M., as near as I can remember, we observed it settling very rapidly, with the bows and the bridge completely under water, and concluded it was now only a question of minutes before it went; and so it proved."

Mr. Beasley went on to tell of the spectacle of the sinking of the Titanic, the terrible experiences of the survivors in the life-boats and their final rescue by the Carpathia as already related.

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