FROM THE MORGUE
Copyright 2012 by William A. Mays, Proprietor
May 4, 1912
This is a story which can be told in a few lines or in a thousand pages. The few lines will tell you that the White Star steamship Titanic, the greatest vessel ever launched, sailed from Southampton, England, on Wednesday, April 10, and after proceeding a trifle over 1,700 miles on her course, with about 1,100 miles to go before she reached New York, ran afoul of a mammoth iceberg, was slit open almost her full length at 9:30 o'clock at night and inside of four hours was sunk in two miles of water off the Newfoundland Banks, taking down with her 1,595 human beings. Seven hundred and forty-five persons took to the boats and were later picked up by the Cunard liner Carpathia, outward bound, and returned to New York, arriving on the night of April 18.
In detail, no greater story of horror and calamity could be written—it would be impossible for the most vivid imagination to conceive it. The great ship going down to her doom in the semi-darkness, her captain on the bridge, the band playing "Nearer, My God, To Thee," and the gallant gentlemen who had escorted their women to the lifeboats dying like heroes.
The list of dead alone would take many pages of this paper, but just glance at those who head it: Colonel John Jacob Astor, one of the greatest land owners in America, returning from a honeymoon trip with his bride; Benjamin Guggenheim, of the famous family of that name; Major Archibald Butt, military aide to President Taft; Isidor Straus, merchant and brother of Nathan Straus; Henry B. Harris, the well-known theatrical manager; George D. Widener, traction promoter of Philadelphia; Charles M. Hayes, President of the Grand Trunk Railroad; Colonel Washington Roebling, Frank D. Millet, the famous painter; W.T. Stead, the editorial writer; Jacques Futrelle, the novelist. All gone beyond any question of doubt. Mrs. Astor was saved; Mrs. Straus refused to leave her husband and died with him.
Among the saved was Mr. Bruce Ismay and his man servant. He is the managing director of the line and the impression prevails that he and not Captain Smith was in command of the ship, and was trying to make a record for her on her maiden voyage. The Titanic was being driven at the rate of from 21 to 23 knots an hour—accounts differ as to the precise speed. The night was clear, the stars were shining brightly. Earlier in the day two wireless warnings had been received by the ship telling the captain to be on the lookout for icebergs, which were unusually large and numerous. The first officer was on the bridge; the captain was below. There were men aloft on the lookout. Suddenly the forward man shouted out a warning of heavy ice ahead. It was too late to alter her course and the usual thing was done—one propeller reversed, the other speeded up and the helm put hard down. And then that great thing of steel and wood was sheared below the water line by a projecting ledge of ice just as easily and as neatly and cleanly as though it had been paper, and what cost eight millions of dollars to build received a death wound in less than two minutes of time. The Titanic had been declared by experts to be unsinkable, but they hadn't reckoned on any such calamity as this. Below decks the water rushed in in a flood; above there was no alarm. The engines stopped; the lights began to wane and went out; the word went to the captain. Just what he did at the critical moment no one knows as yet. What is known is that immediate preparations were made to man the lifeboats, and the order went forth "women and children first." It's the way of the Anglo-Saxon race. Henry Harris escorted his wife to the side, kissed her and calmly said, "Good-bye, my dear." John Jacob Astor had his bride by the arm. He assisted her with deference just as he assisted many other women. The order came to let go, and he touched his hat in salute. The rest of it was like that. Mrs. Isidor Straus clung to her husband, refused to go without him and died with him. Seventeen boatloads of stricken women were rowed away to watch from afar the settling of the leviathan. Those who looked say there came the roar of an explosion. The Titanic parted almost in the centre, the bow went softly and easily down headforemost, followed by the stern end; cries came across the icy water—that was all. Wreckage floated about among the bits of drifting ice; no bells tolled for the dead, and there was nothing left except latitude and longitude to mark their burial ground.
At the first hint of danger Captain Smith told Phillips, one of the wireless operators aboard to get ready to send a call for assistance, and in ten minutes after that he was told to let it go, and he began sending the "S O S." The call was picked up by the Carpathia and the news came back that she was heading for the stricken vessel. Other vessels answered after that, the Olympic, a sister ship, the Parisian and the Virginian, and they all headed for the scene of the disaster. The first to arrive was the Carpathia, but it was too late then to do anything but pick up the survivors who were in the boats among the ice.
Those who were in the boats and saw the ship go down, spent hours of horror before the dawn came with the Carpathia.
Some of the boats, crowded too full to give rowers a chance, drifted for a time. None had provisions or water; there was lack of covering from the icy air, and the only lights were the still undimmed arcs and incandescents of the settling ship, save for one of the first boats. There a steward, who explained to the passengers that he had been shipwrecked twice before, appeared carrying three oranges and a green light.
That green light, many of the survivors say, was to the shipwrecked hundreds as a pillar of fire by night. Long after the ship had disappeared, and while confusing false lights danced about the boats, the green lantern kept them together on the course which led them to the Carpathia.
As the end of the Titanic became manifestly but a matter of moments, the oarsmen pulled their boats away, and the chilling waters began to echo splash after splash as passengers and sailors in life-preservers leaped over and started swimming away to escape the expected suction.
Only the hardiest of constitutions could endure for more than a few moments such a numbing bath. The first vigorous strokes gave way to heartbreaking cries of "Help! Help!" and stiffened forms were seen floating, the faces relaxed in death.
|Greatest Ship Ever Built Goes Down
With 1,595 Passengers and Crew.
|Among the Lost are John Jacob Astor, Isidor Straus,
Benjamin Guggenheim, Major Butt and Henry Harris.
The following is the Police Gazette's contemporary coverage of the Titanic disaster. It comes from a very rare issue that is not available on microfilm or in any public library.
|Center Spread of the May 4, 1912, Issue of the Police Gazette
Shown along with the Titanic are Captain Edward Smith (left) and John