Saturday, April 14, 2012

Remembering Titanic

At this very moment, 100 years ago today, the great liner Titanic was steaming her way across the Atlantic, toward New York, and toward her ultimate destruction. Depending on what time you're reading this, passengers would have been different things at this moment in the past: Walking the promenade decks; Playing with their dogs; First Ladies gossiping over tea; First class passengers would have been enjoying their last meal; All could have been settling into bed, reading or telling stories to children about far away lands; They could be asking what that jolt was, or why the engines were no longer humming; Or they could have been praying for salvation from the icy water that was quickly enveloping them and everyone else.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have an everlasting love and obsession with that 'Unsinkable' ship, and try as I might, I simply cannot ignore any time that I have a chance to learn something new about her. Tonight is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic, and I felt it only right to tell some of her untold stories.

The Last Meal

As served in the first-class dining saloon of the R.M.S. Titanic on April 14, 1912.

First Course
Hors D'Oeuvres 

Second Course
Consommé Olga
Cream of Barley

Third Course
Poached Salmon with Mousseline Sauce, Cucumbers

Fourth Course
Filet Mignons Lili
Saute of Chicken, Lyonnaise
Vegetable Marrow Farci

Fifth Course
Lamb, Mint Sauce
Roast Duckling, Apple Sauce
Sirloin of Beef, Chateau Potatoes
Green Pea
Creamed Carrots
Boiled Rice
Parmentier & Boiled New Potatoes

Sixth Course
Punch Romaine

Seventh Course
Roast Squab & Cress

Eighth Course
Cold Asparagus Vinaigrette

Ninth Course
Pate de Foie Gras

Tenth Course
Waldorf Pudding
Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly
Chocolate & Vanilla Eclairs
French Ice Cream

The repast was served with a different wine for each course. Following the tenth course fresh fruits and cheeses were available followed by coffee and cigars accompanied by port and, if desired, distilled spirits. If I was ever to meet an untimely end, there would be little else as fitting for a final meal as this.

Ida and Isadore Strauss

When the order to abandon ship was given, many ignored the order and continued their partying or sleeping.  Not Isadore and Ida, who were an elderly married couple on board the Titanic, sailing back to their very successful and prosperous lives in New York City.  Isadore was the co-owner of the famous Macy's Department store. When he got on board the ship he was worth 50 million dollars. They and their maid, Ellen Bird, went to the lifeboats.  Women and children first was the call that rang out, and of course, Isadore understood. He made sure their maid got into the lifeboat. Then his wife. But when Ida realized that Isadore was not going to get in the lifeboat, she got out and walked up to her husband. She, as well as many others at the scene, knew that he was going to stay behind so that younger men could get in the boats ahead of him.

Eyewitnesses testify that this is what she said to her husband: "I have lived all these years with you. Where you go, I go."  The last anybody saw of them, the two were sitting on deck chairs and holding hands, until a mighty wave washed over them and carried them out to sea. The elderly couple lying in bed portrayed in the Titanic movie, is an homage to this brave and loving couple who refused to part.

Days later a recovery ship came by the spot where the Titanic went down, and the sailors saw the frozen bodies of hundreds floating in the North Atlantic. The body of Isadore Straus was recovered and later buried in New York City. The body of Ida was never recovered.


On April 21, 1912 just a few days after the Carpathia docked with survivors from the Titanic, the following story ran in the New York Herald. It told how a heroic black Newfoundland named Rigel saved the lives of the people in the fourth lifeboat.

Survivor's Cries Weak, Dog's Bark Causes Rescue of Boatload
Rigel, whose master sank with the Titanic, Guides the Carpathia's Captain to Suffering Passengers Hidden Under Rescue Ship's Bow. 
Not the least among the heros of the Titanic was Rigel, a big black Newfoundland dog, belonging to the first officer, who went down with his ship. But for Rigel, the fourth boat picked up might have been run down by the Carpathia. For three hours he swam in the water where the Titanic went down, evidently looking for his master, and was instrumental in guiding the boatload of survivors to the gangway of the Carpathia.  
Jonas Briggs, a seaman aboard the Carpathia, now has Rigel and told the story of the dog's heroism. The Carpathia was moving slowing about, looking for boats, rafts or anything which might be afloat. Exhausted with their efforts, weak from lack of food and exposure to the cutting wind, and terror stricken, the men and woman in the fourth boat drifted under the Carpathia's starboard bow. They were dangerously close to the steamship, too weak to shout a warning loud enough to reach the bridge.  
The boat might not have been seen were it not for the sharp barking of Rigel, who was swimming ahead of the craft and valiantly announcing his position. The barks attracted the attention of Captain Rostron and he went to the starboard end of the bridge to see where they came from and saw the boat. He immediately ordered the engines stopped and the boat came alongside the starboard gangway.  
Care was taken to take Rigel aboard, but he appeared little affected by his long trip through the ice cold water. He stood by the rail and barked until Captain Rostron called Briggs and had him take the dog below. 
Harold Bride

On the night of the sinking Bride relayed messages to and from Captain Smith on the bridge regarding the progress of the Carpathia and other ships in the vicinity, whilst Phillips worked the key:
"I was conscious of waking up and hearing Phillips sending to Cape Race. I read what he was sending. It was a traffic matter. I remembered how tired he was and got out of bed to relieve him. I didn't even feel the shock. I hardly knew it had happened until after the captain had come to us. There was no jolt whatsoever.
I was standing by Phillips telling him to go to bed when the captain put his head into the cabin.
'We've struck an iceberg,' the captain said, 'and I'm having an inspection made to tell what it has done for us. You better get ready to send out a call for assistance. But don't send it until I tell you.'
The captain went away and in ten minutes, I should estimate the time, he came back. We could hear a terrible confusion outside, but there was not the least thing to indicate that there was any trouble. The wireless was working perfectly.
'Send the call for assistance,' said the captain, barely putting his head in the door. 'What call should I send?' Phillips asked. 'The regulation international call for help. Just that.'
Then the captain was gone. Phillips began to send CQD He flashed away at it and we were joking while he did so. All of us made light of the disaster. We joked that way while he flashed signals for about five minutes. Then the captain came back.
'What are you sending?' he asked.
'CQD' Phillips replied.
The humour of the situation appealed to me. I cut in with a little remark that made us all laugh, including the captain.
'Send SOS,' I said. 'It's the new call, and it may be your last chance to send it.'
Phillips with a laugh changed the signal to SOS."
Both operators stayed at their post after their release, but were forced out onto the deck by the water surging into the wireless room:
"I noticed as I came back from one trip that they were putting off women and children in lifeboats. I noticed that the list forward was increasing. Phillips told me the wireless was growing weaker. The captain came and told us our engine rooms were taking water and that the dynamos might not last much longer. We sent that word to the Carpathia.
I went on deck and looked around. The water was pretty close up to the boat deck. There was a great scramble aft, and how poor Phillips continued to work through it I don't know. He was a brave man. I learned to love him that night and I suddenly felt a great reverence to see him standing there sticking to his work while everybody else was raging about. I will never live to forget the work of Phillips during the last awful fifteen minutes.
I looked out. The boat deck was awash. Phillips clung on sending and sending. He clung on for about ten minutes, or maybe fifteen minutes after the captain had released him. The water was then coming into our cabin.
While he worked something happened I hate to tell about. I was back at my room getting Phillips's money for him, and as I looked out the door I saw a stoker, or somebody from below decks, leaning over Phillips from behind. Phillips was too busy to notice what the man was doing. The man was slipping the life belt off Phillips's back."
Bride and Phillips managed to deter the stoker and left the wireless room and headed out to the boat deck:
"From aft came the tunes of the band. It was a ragtime tune, I don't know what... Phillips ran aft and that was the last I ever saw of him alive.
"I went to the place I had seen the collapsible boat on the boat deck, and to my surprise I saw the boat and the men still trying to push it off. I guess there wasn't a sailor in the crowd. They couldn't do it. I went up to them and was just lending a hand when a large wave came awash of the deck.
"The big wave carried the boat off. I had hold of an oarlock and I went off with it. The next I knew I was in the boat.
"But that was not all. I was in the boat and the boat was upside down and I was under it. And I remember I realised I was wet through, and that whatever happened I must not breathe, for I was underwater.
I knew I had to fight for it and I did. How I got out from under the boat I do not know, but I felt a breath of air at last...
I felt I simply had to get away from the ship. She was a beautiful sight then. Smoke and sparks were rushing out of her funnel. There must have been an explosion, but we heard none. We only saw the big stream of sparks. The ship was gradually turning on her nose, just like a duck does that goes down for a dive.
Bride recalled that he could hear the band playing right up to the end, but not ‘Nearer My God To Thee!": he recalled them playing ‘Autumn’. He also recollected that there was little suction when the ship went down. He was finally able to climb aboard the upturned hull of Collapsible B.
"There was just room for me to roll on the edge. I lay there not caring what happened. Somebody sat on my legs. They were wedged in between slats and were being wrenched. I had not the heart to ask the man to move. It was a terrible sight all around - men swimming and sinking. I lay where I was, letting the man wrench my feet out of shape. Others came near. Nobody gave them a hand. The bottom-up boat already had more men than it would hold and it was sinking."
Harold Bride had survived but but suffered from badly frozen and crushed feet, due to the effects of the cold and the position in which he was sitting on the collapsible’s hull. He described the rescue by the Carpathia:
"One man was dead. I passed him and went up the ladder, although my feet pained terribly. The dead man was Phillips. He had died on the raft from exposure and cold, I guess. He had been all in from work before the wreck came. He stood his ground until the crisis had passed, and then he collapsed, I guess. But I hardly thought that then. I didn't think much of anything. I tried the rope ladder. My feet pained terribly, but I got to the top and felt hands reaching out to me. The next I knew a woman was leaning over me in a cabin and I felt her hand waving back my hair and rubbing my face."
On the voyage to New York aboard Carpathia Bride and an exhausted Harold Cottam worked together to send countless personal messages and names of the saved to land. Incidentally, Bride and Cottam had met before the disaster and were good friends. After the tragedy they stayed in contact for many years.

After a spell in hospital Harold Bride returned to England and finally returned to work as a wireless operator.

The Men Who Stayed Behind
Said one survivor, speaking of the men who remained on the ship. "There they stood--Major Butt, Colonel Astor waving a farewell to his wife, Mr. Thayer, Mr. Case, Mr. Clarence Moore, Mr. Widener, all multimillionaires, and hundreds of other men, bravely smiling at us all. Never have I seen such chivalry and fortitude. Such courage in the face of fate horrible to contemplate filled us even then with wonder and admiration."

A number of steerage passengers were yelling and screaming and fighting to get to the boats when the ship was sinking. Officers drew guns and told them that if they moved towards the boats, they would be shot dead. Major Butt had a gun in his hand and covered the men who tried to get to the boats.

The following story of his bravery was told by Mrs. Henry B. Harris, wife of the theatrical manager:
"The world should rise in praise of Major Butt. That man's conduct will remain in my memory forever. The American army is honored by him and the way he taught some of the other men how to behave when women and children were suffering that awful mental fear of death. Major Butt was near me and I noticed everything that he did. 
"When the order to man the boats came, the captain whispered something to Major Butt. The two of them had become friends. The major immediately became as one in supreme command. You would have thought he was at a White House reception. A dozen or more women became hysterical all at once, as something connected with a life-boat went wrong. Major Butt stepped over to them and said: 
" 'Really, you must not act like that; we are all going to see you through this thing.' He helped the sailors rearrange the rope or chain that had gone wrong and lifted some of the women in with a touch of gallantry. Not only was there a complete lack of any fear in his manner, but there was the action of an aristocrat. 
"When the time came he was a man to be feared. In one of the earlier boats fifty women, it seemed, were about to be lowered, when a man, suddenly panic-stricken, ran to the stern of it. Major Butt shot one arm out, caught him by the back of the neck and jerked him backward like a pillow. His head cracked against a rail and he was stunned. 
" 'Sorry,' said Major Butt, 'women will be attended to first or I'll break every damned bone in your body.'
"The boats were lowered one by one, and as I stood by, my husband said to me, 'Thank God, for Archie Butt.' Perhaps Major Butt heard it, for he turned his face towards us for a second and smiled. Just at that moment, a young man was arguing to get into a life-boat, and Major Butt had a hold of the lad by the arm, like a big brother, and was telling him to keep his head and be a man.
"Major Butt helped those poor frightened steerage people so wonderfully, so tenderly and yet with such cool and manly firmness that he prevented the loss of many lives from panic. He was a soldier to the last. He was one of God's greatest noblemen, and I think I can say he was an example of bravery even to men on the ship."
Among the chivalrous young heroes of the Titanic disaster were Washington A. Roebling, 2d, and Howard Case, London representative of the Vacuum Oil Company. Both were urged repeatedly to take places in life-boats, but scorned the opportunity, while working against time to save the women aboard the ill-fated ship. They went to their death, it is said by survivors, with smiles on their faces.

Both of these young men aided in the saving of Mrs. William T. Graham, wife of the president of the American Can Company, and Mrs. Graham's nineteen-year-old daughter, Margaret.

Afterwards relating some of her experiences Mrs. Graham said:
"There was a rap at the door. It was a passenger whom we had met shortly after the ship left Liverpool, and his name was Roebling--Washington A. Roebling, 2d. He was a gentleman and a brave man. He warned us of the danger and told us that it would be best to be prepared for an emergency. We heeded his warning, and I looked out of my window and saw a great big iceberg facing us. Immediately I knew what had happened and we lost no time after that to get out into the saloon. 
"In one of the gangways I met an officer of the ship. 
" 'What is the matter?' I asked him.
" 'We've only burst two pipes,' he said. 'Everything is all right, don't worry.'
" 'But what makes the ship list so?' I asked.
" 'Oh, that's nothing,' he replied, and walked away.
" 'Mr. Case advised us to get into a boat.
" 'And what are you going to do?' we asked him.
" 'Oh,' he replied, 'I'll take a chance and stay here.' 
"Just at that time they were filling up the third life-boat on the port side of the ship. I thought at the time that it was the third boat which had been lowered, but I found out later that they had lowered other boats on the other side, where the people were more excited because they were sinking on that side. 
"Just then Mr. Roebling came up, too, and told us to hurry and get into the third boat. Mr. Roebling and Mr. Case bustled our party of three into that boat in less time than it takes to tell it. They were both working hard to help the women and children. The boat was fairly crowded when we three were pushed into it, and a few men jumped in at the last moment, but Mr. Roebling and Mr. Case stood at the rail and made no attempt to get into the boat. 
"They shouted good-bye to us. What do you think Mr. Case did then? He just calmly lighted a cigarette and waved us good-bye with his hand. Mr. Roebling stood there, too-- I can see him now. I am sure that he knew that the ship would go to the bottom. But both just stood there." 

Love and Lightning Bugs,
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