Titanic survivor: No alarm when iceberg first struck (1912)

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No alarm felt when steamer first struck

Passengers came on deck to get view of big berg

Terrible suffering in the lifeboats

Carpathia gave tenderest care to the rescued — four buried at sea

by Miss Caroline Bonnell

“Well, thank goodness, Nathalie, we are going to see our iceberg at last.”

That — that single, foolish little sentence — was the one thing, of all things, that I said to my cousin as the great, beautiful Titanic was shivering beneath her death blow.

And yet it was the most natural remark in the world for me to make that Sunday midnight at the very minute when the hand of death began pulling down its terrible cargo of souls. For though, the world has not come to realize it, that was a hidden hand — a hand so hidden that none of us suspected, for an instant, how strong and how cruel it was until less than two hours afterward, it gave a quick, final jerk, and the titan of vessel sank beneath the swells.

Blow is terrific

My cousin, Nathalie Wick, and I, were lying in our berths half asleep when the blow came. It was terrific. For a second the whole boat just stood stock still in its swift tracks and then it gave a great shiver all through.

After that, everything was death quiet for a minute.

Then …

“Oh, she’s hit an iceberg,” came ringing through the window in a woman’s shrill voice.

For ten minutes after the blow, Nathalie and I lay in bed and discussed whether are not we would get up to view the berg. Nathalie was pretty sleepy, but I had been up to fill a hot-water bottle, and was wide awake enough for anything. Finally we decided to “go up” as we had been wanting to see an iceberg all the way over, but had been told that it was probably too late in the season.

>> Also see: Liner Titanic strikes iceberg, sinking head down

Went on deck

We just slipped on our shoes and stockings and put on some heavy outside wraps and went up. When we got out onto the deck everything was as calm as an August afternoon. The sea was as smooth as glass; there was not a berg nor an ice floe in sight, and the sky was just thick with stars. I never saw so many stars in the heavens in my life as there were that night. The water itself was glittered blue with their glow.

We had just decided to go back to bed when an officer came up to us and to another group of people who had gotten up to find out what was the matter.

“Go below and put on your life belts,” he said. “You may need them later.”

We went down at once and told my aunt and uncle, Mr and Mrs George Wick, what we had been told.

Uncle George just laughed at us. “Why, that’s nonsense, girls,” he said. “This boat is all right. She’s going along finely. She just got a glancing blow, I guess.”

>> See a cross-section of the Titanic here

That’s the way every one seemed to think, and we went into our state room, but in a minute or so an officer knocked at the door and told us to go up on the “A” deck. He said there was really no danger, and that it was just a precautionary measure. We got a few clothes on and went up. I picked up my eyeglasses in my excitement and left my watch lying on the dresser, Nathalie hung her watch around her neck. We both wore two or three coats; it was so cold outside.

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When we got on deck uncle and aunt were there and I went down again to another part of the steamer and got my Aunt Elizabeth. When I got back with her, there were crowds of people standing all around. No one seemed very excited, every one was talking and it seemed to be the general idea that we would soon be ordered back to bed.

Just then an officer came up to us and said we should go up to the next deck — the boat deck. By that time nearly every one was up. Mrs John Jacob Astor was there; sitting in a steamer chair. Her husband, Colonel Astor, was beside her and her maid was helping her to finish dressing.

There was no confusion here even then, although we noticed that the boat was beginning to list to the starboard considerably. The men who had been in the smoking room at the time the ship struck said that they had seen the berg as it passed, and that most of it was under water. Whatever damage was done to vessel was done beneath the water line, we knew, for above she was in perfect condition. She had hit the berg alongside, we found out, and not in front.

Told to get ready

After we had been on the top deck for a while, considerably more than at hour, I should say, the women were told to stand in a group by themselves and to be ready to get into the lifeboats. The men drew back and the women stood at the railing.

This was the condition which prevailed on our side of the boat. On the other side the men and women were not told to separate, and that accounts for the men who were saved. Mr Ismay, director of the line, was on that side of the boat, and so, of course, got in one of the lifeboats with the other men. There was very little discipline. In fact, there was practically none. People had to he begged to get into the lifeboats. No one thought the Titanic was going to sink, and passengers did not feel like trusting themselves to tiny open rowboats when they were aboard the biggest liner in the world. At least, they so argued with the officers.

As soon as the men withdrew, the women were told to get into the lifeboats. Most of them that did so were urged to it by their men relatives, the officers taking little part in it. We never once saw the captain.

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