It had been a long three days since Titanic sank when Carpathia arrived bearing Titanic’s survivors. What had been first optimistic news turned grim after the miscommunication had been sorted out. Titanic had sunk and 1500 had perished out in the cold North Atlantic. News as to who exactly had survived was not fully known as Carpathia had kept a media blackout during its journey to New York. There was a reporter on board but had to keep his notes secret in a cigar box lined with champagne corks. He would toss it towards a Hearst editor in a tugboat in New York harbor where it would be raced for a special evening edition of New York World. 50 tugboats full of reporters yelled at the ship through megaphones offering money for eyewitness accounts. Carpathia first stopped at Pier 59, the White Star Line pier and offloaded Titanic’s lifeboats. They were all that were left of the ship aside from the flotsam and jetsam that would be found later in the Atlantic. Then Carpathia proceeded to Pier 54 and the Titanic survivors disembarked. It was only then it was truly known who did survive and who did not.
Pier 54 is now part of Chelsea Piers and is located at Little West 12th Street and the Hudson River (in the Meatpacking District and Greenwich Village area). It is now part of the Hudson River Park. It is now used mostly for concerts, exhibits, and free movies. Several television shows have used the Chelsea piers as a backdrop for television shows (Law & Order, Spin City, The Apprentice). There is a desire to convert it into a nautical museum though that has yet to come to fruition. There is also a plan to redevelop Pier 54’s original style pier for mixed use space.
Eaton, John P.; Haas, Charles A. (1994). Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy. Wellingborough, UK: Patrick Stephens
Lord, Walter (2005) . A Night to Remember. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin
Lord, Walter (1987). The Night Lives On. London: Penguin Books
Lynch, Donald (1998). Titanic: An Illustrated History. New York: Hyperion
Initial reporting in American newspapers was a mixture of wishful thinking, press statements from White Star, and jumbled messages that conveyed the disaster was not that bad. Headlines blared the following:
ALL TITANIC PASSENGERS ARE SAFE (Baltimore Evening Sun, 15 April)
ALL SAVED FROM TITANIC AFTER COLLISION (New York Evening Sun 15 April)
And news reports indicated Titanic was being either towed to Halifax or to New York. It turns out though that another ship in distress, an oil tanker being towed to port, got mixed in with reports about Titanic. Wireless messages were constantly being bounced about, were often short, and since Morse code was used easy to mix up things before sending the message forward. And that is what essentially happened. The New York Times was the first to report it correctly. After three days of listening to messages and doing research, managing editor Carl Van Anda realized that no messages had been transmitted by Titanic since its distress calls. Their late edition would read:NEW LINER TITANIC HITS AN ICEBERG;SINKING BY THE BOW AT MIDNIGHT. Other newspapers would be forced to report it as well.
Confusion reigned in the United States owing to news reports that later were found inaccurate. Some reports said Titanic was okay, others not. It was attributed, in part, to mashed up wireless messages that got reported widely in the press making it sound less of a tragic event than it really was. The New York Times was one of the papers that got it mostly right. Final confirmation of what happened would occur when Carpathia arrived bearing the survivors and the only remaining parts of Titanic to survive–the lifeboats.
If researchers at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia are right, best to be on a ship sinking slowly rather than one sinking fast reports the New York Times. They concluded the rate of sinking results in either “Women and Children First!” or “Every Man For Himself!” scenarios. Titanic’s sinking (1912) and Lusitania’s (1915) were used to test their hypothesis. Titanic sank slowly allowing for more children and women to survive. Lusitania sank fast so women and children had a lesser chance to survive.
“When you have to react very, very fast, human instincts are much faster than internalized social norms,” said Benno Torgler, an economics professor at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, and one of the authors of the study, published in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
I am not sure this really tells us anything new about human behavior. There were a lot of factors that played into how many survived Titanic. And “Women and Children First” was not universal on Titanic. Lightoller enforced it but not other officers. There also was little panic. Lusitania, on the other hand, is a different story. A torpedo fired from a German submarine fatally ruptured her. She went down fast and everyone had to race to the lifeboats. In such situations, there is little time. One must move fast.