NEW YORK, April 19, 1912 (UP) -- The mountain of ice that destroyed the Titanic was of almost the color of water. It was impossible to distinguish it at a great distance and the big liner was rushing through the water at such a fearful rate of speed that when the lookout in the crow's-nest reported "Ice ahead!" there was not time to transmit the reverse order to the engine room before the crash came.
That the ordinary rules of caution while passing through the ice fields were disregarded is known, where the responsibility rested will be determined by the congressional investigation here or the board of trade in London. But they cannot question Capt. Smith.
The veteran seaman carried to the bottom of the ocean knowledge of the truth or falsity of the allegation that his orders were imperative to take the northerly route, the short cut, and make a record for quick passage with a new steamer.
The captain was not standing watch when the liner struck.
Chief officer Murdock was on the bridge and he immediately pushed the electronic button which automatically closed the doors. As he did this Capt. Smith rushed to the bridge and made tests of the lighting apparatus and called for a report from the engine room, while Murdock was signaling full speed astern.
But already there was a drop by the bow and from the engine rooms came the report that the vessel was taking water forward. The shock had been left everywhere, but there was no alarm. How could hitting some ice hurt the "biggest vessel afloat?'
Not a soul on the steamer had even the faintest inkling of the horrible tragedy that had beer set in motion, but soon Capt. Smith noticed that the big ship was dropping forward and the indications were that the bulkheads were giving way and the engine rooms were being endangered.
Then he gave the order to get the boats ready and the passengers over side, and at the same time sent word to wireless operator Jack Phillips to send out the international call, the continental appeal for aid.
"Get all persons on the boat decks," came the sharp order, and the army of stewards obeyed at once. Everyone was ordered to assemble on the deck with lifebelts on. Many refused. They could not realize that there was danger.
But the presence of the crew at collision stations and the uncoiling of lifeboat ropes soon indicated to everyone that business was meant.
Then came the sharp command: "Women and children first!" and there were revolvers in the hands of officers, showing the orders were to be enforced.
No distinction was made between the women of the steerage and the women of the first cabin. At first they refused to enter the boats. The women felt that they were safer on the liner than in the lifeboats, and the crew did not stand to ceremony, but promptly picked them up bedily and threw them into the boats.
Steerage passengers, men, made a rush for the boats. Murdock's pistol was out. It spoke twice. Two men dropped. A third was felled by a quartermaster's fist. The panic was over, the men fell back.
Over the sea from the davits the loaded boats were swung and promptly dropped.
One capsized and the occupants drowned. A collapsible lifeboat, one of a new type, also turned over in the water and the occupants lost their lives, although it was later righted and got into commission.
The boats rowed away six for a group, the others widely scattered, the women protesting and insisting there was no need to have left the vessel.
And then the women in the boats saw the great Titanic, the boat they had believed unsinkable, break in twain. At the same time there came a roar and a series of explosions. The boilers, under which the fires could not be drawn, had exploded when the icy water rushed in.
The after part seemed to right itself and bobbed up and down. Its top was black with men and women who could not be taken off because there were not sufficient lifeboats and rafts.
Another explosion came, and then the great mass of steel sunk down into the waters, raised again and then plunged forward to disappear forever. And as she went down, from the wreck came the last feeble strains of the music of the heroic ship's band playing "Nearer My God to Thee."
Women, horror stricken, tried to jump overboard. They had to be forcibly restrained. Others fell back unconscious.
Meanwhile many of the boats were rowed to the scene of the wreck. There was a mass of floating debris dotted with bodies.
One man, powerful of frame, was found with blood pouring from his ears and mouth. He was still alive, but as he was dragged into the boat he died.
The people in the boat believe that he was Major Archibald Butt, U.S.A., aid to President Taft. His body was quickly put over side, as live survivors were noticed and hurriedly picked up.
Then came the awful wait. It was not known that assistance was coming. Most of those on vessel did not know that the Carpathia had heard the last frantic appeal for help and was rushing through the ice fields, piloted by brave Capt. Rostron, at a faster rate of speed than she was compelled to make on her trial trip, to save the pitifully small number of survivors. And with daylight the survivors in the midst of grinding ice fields, with the sea rising and a storm plainly approaching, saw the smoke of the Carpathia coming up.
Her crew were at their posts, slings were already over side to hoist the survivors on board, and there was not an instant's delay in the transfer.
The plight of the survivors in the boats was pitiful in the extreme. Few of the women or men had sufficient clothing, and they shivered in the bitter cold blasts that came from the great field of ice which surrounded them. The bergs and cakes of drift ice crashed and thundered, bringing stark terror to the helpless victims. Frail women added with the heavy oars tearing their tender hands until the blood flowed. Sailors had stood aside, deliberately refusing life that the women might have a chance for safety, although their places were in the boats.
Daybreak found in the little fleet bobbing and tossing on the surface of the ocean. It was not known whether help was coming. Panic seized some of the occupants. Some of the women tried to jump into the water and had to be forcibly restrained. The babies, little tots just old enough to realize their position, found themselves heroes. They set an example which moved their elders to tears as they told of it last night. Some tried to comfort their stricken parents.
Last night the White Star line, through its managing director, J. Bruce Ismay, declaimed responsibility, saying that it was "an act of God." Ismay justified his action. He said he took the last boat that left the ship.
"Were any women and children left on the Titanic when you entered the boat?" he was asked.
The reply was: "I am sure I cannot say."
Edward Wheelston, chief steward of the Titanic, gave the following account of the disaster:
"It was about 11:45 Sunday evening; the night was quite clear with a slight fog just commencing to rise. There had been dancing and music all evening. Many of the passengers were yet on deck and in the saloon.
"There was a sudden crash amidships. There was no immediate commotion. Passengers were somewhat startled, but they did not at first realize the extent of the disaster. The officers of the ship reassured the passengers as they themselves did not fully realize the situation.
"It was fully half an hour before full realization dawned upon the passengers and the officers of the ship. The ship began to fill and settled by the head. The wireless operator began sounding the alarm and kept it up for at least two hours. In fact, the wireless did not go out of commission until just before the ship sank.
"When the boat began to settle we thought it advisable to begin lowering the lifeboats. The nearest ship was seventy miles away and it would at least be morning before the rescuers would arrive and the boat was settling rapidly. All the boats were lowered.
"On the starboard side men were permitted to join their wives. On the starboard only women and children were allowed to enter the boats. That accounts for the fact that in some few instances the families were not separated.
"The men on the larboard side bade their wives goodbye as it they were separating only for a short time, for even then nobody believed that there was going to be anything serious. I heard Col. Astor tell his wife that he would meet her in New York.
"I saw Maj. Butt. He was very calm. He gave orders and pacified the men who were inclined to be panicky. The last I saw of him he was standing at the rail, looking into the water.
"The ship's band played as the boats were being lowered. These musicians were the real heroes. They played the selections from the operas and the latest popular melodies of Europe and America. Only before the final plunge did they change the character of the program. Then they played "Nearer, My God, to Thee."
We had been in the water about two hours-at least I think it was about two hours-when we in the lifeboats, the women and the children and the few men, suddenly saw the boat lurch upward and sink.
"There were many women who refused to leave their husbands and who remained and went down with them. There were at least 1,000 people in the water at one time. Most of these died of exposure that a large number perished when the boilers exploded.
"At one time, while we were waiting for the rescue boat, every time we moved our oars we struck a corpse. Many women died of exposure while we were floating about. They were buried at sea.
"During the time that we were in the water, in the lifeboats, the women were remarkably calm, and the children were very brave.
"Some of the women and the rescued babies were very small and women voluntarily gave up their lives to protect them. Luckily, the women did not see the sinking of the Titanic. It was too dark.
"Only when day dawned and they saw a few sticks and timber did they realize it. All around us in the early light we could see the bodies.
"We sighted the Carpathia shortly after dawn and the survivors were quickly taken on board the Carpathia. There was no time lost in moving away from the scene of the catastrophe."