Sinking of the Titanic

"Der Untergang der Titanic," a 1912 engraving by Willy Stöwer, depicts Titanic's final moments.
"Der Untergang der Titanic," a 1912 engraving by Willy Stöwer, depicts Titanic's final moments.

NEW YORK, April 16, 1912 (UP) - Hope for the safety of passengers of the ill-fated Titanic, which foundered early Monday morning off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, other than those reported by wireless from the Cunarder Carpathia as en route to this city, was practically abandoned this afternoon.

Latest reports placed only 866 persons and they chiefly women and children, on the Carpathia, while even the officials of the White Star line admitted there was practically no hope for the remaining 1,492 of the ship's company of 2,358 souls.


That all would have had a chance of safety had there been lifeboats and rafts enough, was the general belief of navigators.

But the liner, newest and greatest of transatlantic ships, carried only 20 large, modern lifeboats, and they were loaded to the gunwales with the women and children, who, in accordance with the unwritten law of the sea, had been put over the side first.


Most of the men were missing. Colonel John Jacob Astor; Major Archie Butt, President Taft's aide; Benjamin Guggenheim, Jacques Futrelle, Wm. T. Stead, F.D. Millet, Henry B. Harris-all of the well-known personages who had taken passage on the gala day of the Titanic's departure from her home port, were not included in the list of those reported saved.

The inference was that they had remained on the ship and gone to the bottom with her, a sacrifice to the custom which fails to compel enough lifeboats and rafts on ocean steamers to take off everyone on board.

Up until noon there had been a faint, glimmering hope that in addition to the Carpathia other vessels had rushed to the scene on receipt of the wireless appeal for aid had been in time to make rescues.

Rumor had the Allan liner Virginian taking off some. But this hope faded when Capt. Gambell wirelessed his agents that he had reached the scene too late.

"There was none left to rescue, and I am proceeding on my voyage," was the melancholy word sent, and with it crumbled the hopes of the White Star agents here who had said this was the best chance of cutting down the death list.


Vice President Franklin, of the White Star, stunned by the magnitude of the disaster, said soon after noon that the Carpathia would reach this city with the survivors late Thursday or early Friday.

He said that he believed the Olympic was standing by the scene of the wreck, combing the seas while acting as a wireless relay station to Cape Race. This, however, he carefully explained, was conjecture. He said that the California, of the Anchor line, also was searching for survivors but that he had no direct word from her.

One scant hope that was clung to by the line officials that there might be survivors unaccounted for, came from the deduction that the steamer had drifted some 34 miles from the time she struck and the time she sank.

There was a chance that some of the lifeboats or the life rafts that were lowered first might have drifted away and not been reached by the Carpathia.

Although admittedly only a straw, it was clung to by those having relatives whose names were not included in the list of the survivors which was sent to this city.

That most of the women and children were in the boats picked up by the Carpathia, was believed by marine experts here to indicate the possibility that the iron discipline of the merchant marine was maintained to the last. Capt. Smith, of course, his friends say, went down with his ship.


Reports from the stations along the Nova Scotia coast say that the weather offshore today was foggy and that there was a heavy thunderstorm last night which traveled eastward. The weather conditions, it was frankly stated, left little hope for the rescue of any survivors that might still be afloat.

The wireless people admitted that they were unable to get messages to any of the steamers in the vicinity. They said that they had been unable to pick up the Carpathia, although they had many messages for the survivors who were on board.

They said, however, that they were trying to reach her through a system of relays and hoped to do so if not today then tonight when atmospheric conditions would be better for wireless telegraphing.

The scenes at the offices of the White Star line were heart-rending in the extreme. Millionaires and wives of millionaires importuned the officials to do something, but to all the only reply was made:

"We have done all we could. Money can do no more."

When the Titanic plunged headlong against the wall of ice at 10:40 p.m. on Sunday night, her fate established that no modern steamship is unsinkable and that all of a large passenger list cannot be saved in a liner's small boats.


The White Star line believed that the Titanic was practically invulnerable and insisted until there was no doubting the full extent of the catastrophe that she could not have been lost.

It has been many years since the world was left in such suspense and dread as followed the first faltering calls for help from the crushed Titanic.

At 10:50 p.m. on Sunday, the Virginian, speeding on her way to Glasgow, picked up the White Star steamships' frantic S.O.S., the Marconi signal of distress and peril that clears the air of all lesser messages and that turns ships at sea out of their course.

Dash by dash and dot by dot the wireless operator of the Virginian caught the cry for help:

"Have struck an iceberg. Badly damaged. Rush aid."

Seaward and landward, Phillips, the Titanic's wireless man, was hurling the appeal for help. By fits and starts-for the wireless was working unevenly and blurringly-Phillips reached out to the world, crying the Titanic's peril.

A word or two, scattered phrases, now and then a connected sentence, made up the messages that sent a thrill of apprehension for a thousand miles east, west and south of the doomed liner.

Other rushing liners besides the Virginian heard the call and became on the instant something more than cargo carriers and passenger greyhounds.


The big Baltic, 200 miles to the eastward, turned again to save life, as she did when her sister of the White Star fleet, the Republic, was cut down in a fog in January, 1909.

The Titanic's mate, the Olympic, the mightiest of seagoers, save the Titanic herself, turned in her tracks.

All along the northern lane the miracle of the wireless worked for the distressed and sinking White Star ship.

The Hamburg American Cincinnati, the Allan liner Virginian, the Parisian from Glasgow, the North German Lloyd Prinz Frederich Wilhelm, the Hamburg American liners Prinz Adelbert and America, all heard the S.O.S. and the rapid, condensed explanation of what had happened.

Further out at sea was the Cunarder Carpathia, which left New York for the Mediterranean on April 13 and which had felt the chill in the air which all sailors know means the proximity of ice.

Round she went and plunged back westward to take a hand in saving life.

While they sped in the night with all the drive that steam could give them, the Titanic's call reached to Cape Race, and the startled operator there heard at midnight a message which quickly reached New York:

"Have struck an iceberg. We are badly damaged. Titanic, latitude 41.46 N, 50.14 W."


Cape Race threw the appeal broadcast wherever the apparatus could carry.

Then, for hours, while the world waited for a crumb of news as to the safety of the great ship's people, not one thing more was known save that she was drifting, broken and helpless, and alone in the midst of a waste of ice.

And it was not until 17 hours after the Titanic had sunk that the words came out of the air as to her fate.

There was a confusion and tangle of messages - a jumble of rumors. Good tidings were trodden up on by evil.

It was at 12:17 a.m., while the Virginian was still plunging eastward, that the direct communication from the Titanic ceased. The Virginian's operator, with the Virginian's captain at his elbow, fed the air with blue flashes in a desperate effort to know what was happening to the crippled liner, but no message came back. The last word from the Titanic was that she was sinking. Then the sparking became fainter. The call was dying to nothing. The Virginian's operator labored over a blur of signals. It was hopeless. So the Allan ship strove on.

There has been no explanation of that dying away of the wireless. Maybe the apparatus was injured when the huge vessel plunged headlong against the iceberg. Possibly the supply of fuel for the wireless motors gave out, or it just may have been that someone in authority decided that it was best to wait before flinging futile news abroad.


At any rate the Titanic, already waterlogged, her end a certainty, her people straining their eye for the first streak against the horizon that would show the approach of help, was as much cut off from the world as though she were already on ocean bottom.

Although the Virginian had been the first to hear the appeal the Carpathia was the first of the relief ships to arrive. Her pathway was strewn with perils, for on every side mighty bergs uprose in a quiet sea.

The sound of their collision and grinding - "ice growling" as the old skippers know it - was audible and alarming.

As the wireless told the story in fitful, interrupted periods, the seaways between the icebergs were crowded with the boats of the Titanic, and the great ship herself, bow crushed, half full of water forward, was heeling forward on her forefoot.

It was a spectacle of marine disaster that can never fade from the memory of the seamen who came up on the Carpathia - the most wonderful of ships on the verge of her end and many of her people scattered over the face of the waters in rocking boats.

It appears that Capt. E.J. Smith of the Titanic, the admiral of the White Star fleet, the careful veteran of the Atlantic who has brought so many of the line's finest ships to this port on their maiden trips, realized that there was small chance of his vessel staying above water and that reliance must be had on the small boats.


They were capable of holding fifty persons each in smooth water. The women and children were put in some of these boats, each boat in charge of an officer of the ship.

Then the old men and such of the men passengers as were ill or afflicted were ordered into the boats.

It is supposed that the 800 on the Carpathia are mostly women. So far as could be told from the scant wireless messages from the ships that found the Titanic, these boats were afloat and bending away from the Titanic and threatening icebergs when the Carpathia blazed through the gloom.

It was a long and perilous task, but the Carpathia was so maneuvered that 800 of the Titanic's passengers - mostly women - found their way to her decks.

At about 1:20 a.m. a message reached Halifax announcing that most of the passengers were then in lifeboats and that the Titanic was sinking slowly by the head.

Other messages of a confusing and contradictory nature reached here from Halifax, Cape Race and other wireless stations. From Canso, N.S., word came that the Titanic had transferred her passengers to the Parisian and Carpathia and was at 2 p.m. being towed to Halifax by the Virginian.


The Canadian government marine agency at Halifax received a wireless at 4:15 p.m. that the Titanic was sinking. It was said that the steamship towing the Titanic was trying to get her in shoal water.

At 4:30 o'clock in the morning Montreal had heard by wireless from the Virginian that the Titanic was still afloat and that her engines were working.

At that hour, according to reports, she was slowing making toward Halifax and toward the Virginian, which was nearing her.

But at that hour she was long under the sea. So it went all day, but the officials of the White Star line held to the announcement that passengers and ship had been saved.

In the absence of definite tidings, it seemed reasonable to P.A. S. Franklin, vice president of the international mercantile marine company, that the rescuing ships had got to the Titanic in time to save the lives of her people.

They felt positive also that the modern construction of their newest and greatest ship was such that she could not sink.

Commodore Franklin pointed out that the forward bulkheads might have been crushed, the forward compartments flooded, but that the rest of the compartments would buoy up the Titanic.


It was not until late evening yesterday that the officials were forced to accept the worst news that had come to them that the Titanic was gone.

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