Titanic loss world’s greatest marine disaster (1912)

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Loss of Titanic with 1,500 greatest marine disaster of the world

Scene of desolation on spot when help arrived

All that remained of the $10,000,000 floating palace were some bits of wreckage and lifeboats containing the survivors

More than 1,500 persons, it is feared, sank to their death early Monday when within four hours after she crashed into an iceberg, the mammoth White Star line steamer Titanic, bound from Liverpool to New York on her maiden voyage, went to the bottom off the Newfoundland banks. Of the approximately 2,200 persons on board the giant liner, some of them of world-wide prominence, only 675 are known to have been saved. The White Star line offices in New York, while keeping up hope to the last, were free to admit that there had been “horrible loss of life.”

Accepting the early estimates of the fatality list as accurate, the disaster is the greatest in the marine history of the world. Nearest approaching it in magnitude were the disasters to the steamer Atlantic in 1873, when 574 lives were lost and to La Bourgogne in 1898 with a fatality list of 571. Should it prove that other liners, notably the Allan liners Parisian and Virginian, known to have been in the vicinity of the Titanic early Monday, had picked up others of her passengers, the extent of the calamity would fortunately be greatly reduced. This hope still remains.

News of the sinking of the liner and the terrible loss of life in consequence came early Monday evening with all the greater shock because hope had been buoyed up all day by reports that the steamship, although badly damaged, was not in a sinking condition and that all her passengers had been safely taken off. The messages were mostly unofficial, however, and none came direct from the liner, so that a lurking fear remained of possible bad news to come.

Remained afloat three hours

Shortly after seven o’clock Monday night there came flashing over the wires from Cape Race, within 400 miles of which the liner in the treacherous Newfoundland banks region had struck the berg which brought her to grief, that at 2:20 o’clock Monday morning, three hours and fifty five minutes after receiving her death blow, the Titanic had sunk. The news came from the steamer Carpathia, relayed by the White Star liner Olympic and revealed that by the time the Carpathia, outward bound from New York and racing for the Titanic on a wireless call, reached the scene, the doomed vessel had sunk.

>> Scenes of horror and heroism on sinking Titanic (1912)

Left on the surface, however, were lifeboats from the Titanic, and in them as appears from the meager reports received up to a late hour, were some 675 survivors of the disaster. These, according to the advices, the Carpathia picked up and is now on her way with them to New York.

For the rest, the scene as the Carpathia came up was one of desolation. All that remained of the $10,000,000 floating palace on which nearly 1,400 passengers had been voyaging luxuriously to this side of the Atlantic, were some bits of wreckage. The biggest ship in the world had gone down, snuffing out in her downward plunge, it appeared, hundreds of human lives.

Believe few men saved

A significant line in the Cape Race dispatch was the announcement that of those saved by the Carpathia nearly all were women and children. Should it prove that no other vessel picked up any passengers of the sinking liner this might mean that few of the men on board had been saved, as the proportion of women and children among the passengers was large. The same facts would likewise spell the doom of practically the entire crew of 860.

In the cabins were 230 women and children, but it is not known how many there were among the 740 third class passengers.

In the first cabin there were 128 women and 15 children and in the second cabin 79 women and eight children.

Notable persons, travelers on the Titanic, whose fate was in doubt in the lack of definite advices as to the identity of the survivors, were Mr. and Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Major Archibald Butt, aide to President Taft, Charles M. Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Pacific of Canada, his wife and daughter, W T Stead, Benjamin Guggenheim, F D Millett, the artist, and J G Widener of Philadelphia, Mr and Mrs Isidor Straus, J B Thayer, vice-president of the Pennsylvania railroad, J Bruce Ismay, Henry B Harris, the theatrical manager, and Mrs. Harris, and Col. Washington Roebling, builder of the Brooklyn bridge.

A ray of hope appeared shortly before eleven o’clock last night in a message to New York from the operator at the Marconi wireless station at Sable Island near the scene of the disaster. Answering an inquiry regarding the delivery of wireless messages to the passengers of the Titanic, the operator reported that it was difficult to deliver them, “as the passengers are believed to be dispersed among several vessels.” Even this faint indication that other vessels than the Carpathia had picked up survivors of the Titanic was eagerly seized upon by thousands of relatives and friends of those who had set sail on her for this country.

Message from Olympic

New York, April 15 – The text of the message from the steamer Olympic reporting the sinking of the Titanic and the rescue of 675 survivors which reached here late tonight, also expressed the opinion that 1,800 lives were lost.

“Loss likely totals 1,800 souls,” the dispatch said in its concluding sentence.

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It is hoped and believed here that this is an error unless the Titanic had more passengers on board than was reported. The list as given out showed 1,310 passengers and a crew of 860, or 2,170 persons in all. Deducting 675, the known saved, would indicate a loss of 1,495 persons. The Olympic’s dispatch follows:

Carpathia reached Titanic position at daybreak. Found boats and wreckage only. Titanic sank about 2:20am in 41:16 N, 50:14 W. All her boats accounted for containing about 675 souls saved, crew and passengers included. Nearly all saved women and children. Leyland liner Californian remained and searching exact position of disaster. Loss likely total 1,800 souls.”

Must suffer from exposure

New York, April 15 – Even the survivors of the Titanic disaster have gone through hardships of exposure and peril which may have left many of them in a serious condition. A dispatch announced at the White Star offices late tonight that those rescued by the Carpathia were picked up from a “small fleet” of lifeboats at 10:30 o’clock Monday morning. It was eight hours before that that the Titanic is reported to have gone to the bottom.

In the opinion of Vice-President Franklin the Carpathia will hasten with all speed to make this port, in order that those survivors suffering worst from exposure may be able to obtain proper medical attention. The dispatch accounted for 675 survivors on the Carpathia.

Waiting for more messages

New York, April 15 – The White Star line offices had endeavored vainly from eight o’clock up till 11:00pm to get further word from the Olympic about the Titanic. Vice-President Franklin said of eleven o’clock, they were still hopeful of getting another message tonight.

The company was also trying to get into wireless communication with the Carpathia and filed a message asking that if possible the complete list of the names of the 675 survivors said to be on board the Carpathia be sent by wireless.

Such a list Vice-President Franklin believes to be of the utmost importance as hope was waning among the White Star line officials tonight that any others than these 675 persons had survived.

>> Early report: The Titanic is “unsinkable” (1912)

Amidst confusion at the offices the situation was studied as calmly as possible. Mr Franklin figured that notwithstanding his fervent hope to the contrary, the Allan line steamers Virginian and Parisian could have hardly reached the scene of the disaster in time to have been of assistance. When the Virginian first reported her receipt of the “CQD” signal late last night, she said she was not likely to be able to reach the Titanic before 10:00am today. This hour would have been nearly eight hours after the Titanic sank. It was equally doubtful that the Parisian could have reached the scene in time.

Believes captain gave life

Mr Franklin said that from his knowledge of Captain Smith’s gallantry and heroism on other occasions, the veteran navigator must have stuck to his bridge and gone down to his death.

There was discussion as to whether all of the male passengers had sacrificed opportunity to save themselves by giving women and children the first chance at the boats.

“There is no rule of the sea,” said Mr Franklin, “which requires such a sacrifice. It is a rule of courtesy on land as well as sea that gallant men have often observed in time of disaster.”

It was generally true that men made this sacrifice at sea to the women of the steerage as well as the wealthier class, who afforded first and second cabin.

The White Star line officers figured from their data that the Olympic was 40 miles from the scene of the Titanic’s sinking, when she sent the news of it at seven o’clock tonight. At that hour, the Carpathia was estimated to be 1,080 miles east of Sandy Hook.

Crowds besiege officers

New York, April 15 – By midnight, Bowling Green, in front of the White Star line offices, was the parking place of a large number of automobiles of prominent residents of the city who had driven down town for first hand information. Wealth and society rubbed elbows with poverty in the crowd that besieged the steamship line officials and both classes were in deep grief.

There were many instances of fashionably-gowned women going into hysterics when the hopeful reports of the afternoon were blasted with the news that only 675 persons had probably been saved.

Vincent Astor, only son of Col. John Jacob Astor, accompanied by A J Biddle of Philadelphia and Colonel Astor’s secretary, was among the crowd at the offices and all three left with tears in their eyes after a 15 minute conference with Vice-President Franklin. Relatives of Isidor Straus and of a number of other prominent passengers had similar conferences with Mr Franklin and came away with the same dejection.

Insured for $5,000,000

The Titanic was insured at Lloyd’s [Bank of London] for $5,000,000. It is understood that there was no specie aboard the liner, but large insurances had been written on diamonds and other valuables in her cargo.

No definite confirmation is obtainable as to the amount of valuables on board but it is generally understood that the vessel took diamonds of great value consigned to dealers whose estimated value is as high as $5,000,000, but this is admittedly largely conjecture. She also took a large amount of bonds.


Top photo: White Star Line’s Broadway offices in New York, where people await Titanic news

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