Tag Archives: Titanic

Titanic Chronology: 17 April 1912:The Grim Task of Collecting Bodies

CS Mackay Bennett (circa 1884) Artist Unknown Public Domain
CS Mackay Bennett (circa 1884)
Artist Unknown
Public Domain

With confirmation that Titanic sank with great loss of life, the next task was to collect bodies floating in the Atlantic. The cable ship Mackay Bennett was the first ship hired by White Star (others would be employed as well)to retrieve bodies. The ship emptied itself of its normal stores in Halifax, Nova Scotia and brought aboard supplies for its new mission:

  • Embalming supplies and coffins (100)
  • Chief embalmer of John Snow & Co.,John R. Snow Jr.
  • 100 tons of ice to store the bodies
  • Canon Kenneth Hind of All Saints Cathedral, Halifax

Mackay Bennett left Halifax at 12:28 pm on 17 April 1912. Due to heavy fog and rough sears it would take four days to reach where Titanic sank. They began recovery at 0600 on 20 April. Bodies were manually recovered by skiffs and brought back to the ship. They recovered 51 bodies but realized they did not have enough embalming supplies on hand. Since the laws at the time required bodies to be embalmed before unloading from ships docking in a Canadian port, they followed a general procedure:

  • First class passengers were embalmed and placed in coffins
  • Second class passengers were embalmed but wrapped in canvas
  • Third class passengers were buried at sea

Bodies that were brought back were either transported by relatives to their final resting place or interred in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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The Sad Parting

The Sad Parting From Story of the Wreck of the Titanic;Marshall Everett;1912 Artist Unknown Public Domain
The Sad Parting
Illustration from Story of the Wreck of the Titanic(1912,Marshall Everett)
Artist Unknown
Public Domain

The Daily Mail went through its archives in 2012 and reprinted the coverage of Titanic’s sinking. The report on Tuesday 16 April 1912 related the ship had struck an iceberg, had sunk, but no lives lost. The following day on 17 April the full horrible truth had been learned. The ship had sunk but 1500 people had died which included some very prominent people. Questions are raised about not enough lifeboats for all and out dated rules. The shift in mood is dramatic to read and I encourage you to take a look. You can read the article here.


Titanic Sunk

Front Page, New York Herald, 15 April 1912 Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress,www.loc.gov)
Front Page, New York Herald, 15 April 1912
Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress,www.loc.gov)

23:40 (11:40 p.m.) Lookouts Fleet and Lee sight iceberg. Bell rung and call to bridge. Murdoch orders helm hard a-starboard and engines reversed. Starboard side scraped by iceberg for 300 feet puncturing hull in various places. Water fills forward compartments.

1200 (12:00 a.m.) Thomas Andrews tells Captain Smith ship is sinking estimating ship can stay afloat estimating no more than 2 hours. Lifeboats are lowered by hand, evacuation of passengers begins. Wireless is used to alert nearby ships. RMS Carpathia responds and begins moving towards Titanic.

02:20 (2:20 a.m.) Titanic sinks at 2:20 a.m.with over 1,500 lives lost.

0400 (4:00 a.m.) RMS Carpathia arrives and rescues approximately 710 from lifeboats. Captain Rostron of Carpathia said the area was an ice field with at least 20 large bergs measuring up to 200 feet in height and numerous smaller bergs.

18 April 1912 0930 (9:30 a.m.) RMS Carpathia docks at New York Pier 54. Prior to that it offloaded the only remaining piece of Titanic afloat, the lifeboats. Due to confusing communications, the initial reports were more promising about the the severity of the tragedy. The confusion was caused by mixed up bits of wireless communication resulting in erroneous reports of Titanic being towed to New York and less lives lost. By the time Carpathia arrived in New York, everyone knew that over 1,500 had died in the tragedy.


Just In Time For Titanic Anniversary:Letter Up For Auction Tells Family To Pay For Remains

The UK Daily Mail is reporting a letter up for auction at Henry Aldridge & Son shows the callous indifference of White Star to grieving families. The letter, sent to Christopher Moody–the brother of Titanic officer James Moody–informs that the can arrange transport of his remains but they will need a £20 deposit for “for any expenses and land charges….” The letter also points out that once he took charge of the body, he would be responsible for all expenses after that.

1) Did White Star Attempt To Commit Fraud?

The Daily Mail says that White Star already knew that James Moody’s remains had not been found as they had been catalogued. Now you can look at this one of two ways:

1)The body had been marked as recovered or they had been told it had been recovered;

2)They were making plans in case it was found.

I doubt White Star was going to commit fraud here (hitting up grieving family members for money when there was no body likely would get some legal notice). Rather either it was miscommunication about his remains or they were simply being proactive in case of recovery. The body was never recovered so money was ever paid to White Star by Christopher Moody.

2)Was White Star Charging To Transport The Body?

It seems an odd position for White Star to take. Why charge for bringing the body of 6th officer James Moody home to England for burial? Here is what the letter actually say on this point:

Should you after further consideration desire the remains of your Brother to be returned will you kindly telegraph us in the morning at the same time sending us a deposit of £20 for any expenses and land charges on the other Side and we will at once cable New York asking then to arrange this if practicable.

A reasonable interpretation of this paragraph is they are not charging to transport the body to England but “expenses and land charges on the other Side….” That would likely mean whatever fees imposed to transport the body away from the ship. They could not store the body on the ship, it would need to go somewhere right away unless Christopher was there to meet the ship when it docked. So they asked him to deposit money so they could make those arrangements on his behalf.

Now I am not saying White Star ought not to have paid those fees. I think it would have been the right thing to do. This was poor public relations on their part and just adds to the overall impression that White Star was callous and cheap. This was not uncommon then and still a sore issue today after a major disaster at sea or on land. Who pays for the removal, transport, and storage of bodies awaiting final disposition? Families are often shocked when, after the loss of a loved on in a terrible disaster,they get a bill for transport or storage of their loved ones remains. Insurance may cover some, all, or none of it. White Star believed its duty was to transport the remains but not to pay for carriage and storage fees beyond the ship.

That of course is less lurid than saying White Star charged relatives to transit remains across the ocean. It makes for a great headline but not quite the truth.

Source: Amazing Letter Reveals For The First Time How Titanic Owners Demanded Huge Sums From Grieving Families To Be Reunited With Bodies Of Ship’s Crew(14 April 2015,Daily Mail)

Additional Sources

1. James Paul Moody Encyclopedia Titanica

2. A memorial plaque for James Moody is at Church of St. Martin, Scarborough. You can read a write-up at Encyclopedia Titanica or you can view a photo of it here (Flickr).

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Titanic Chronology: 1 April – 12 April 1912

Poster Advertising Vinolia Otto Soap for Titanic Image:Public Domain
Poster Advertising Vinolia Otto Soap for Titanic
Image:Public Domain

1 April-Titanic’s sea trials postponed by bad weather.
2 April- 0600: Sea trials begin. Fire in boiler room six coal hold.
2000 (8.00 p.m.): Trials completed; Titanic returns to Southampton.
4 April-Titanic berths at Southampton around midnight.
10 April-Titanic departs Southampton at 12 noon. While departing,suction from propellers causes New York to break moorings.Collision is averted by tugs and extra speed from Titanic.
17:30 (5:30 p.m.): Arrival at Cherbourg, France. 274 passengers board including John Jacob Astor.22 passengers disembark.
20:30 (8:30 p.m.): Departs Cherbourg for Queenstown,(Cobh), Ireland.
11 April-11:30 (11:30 a.m.) Titanic arrives in Queenstown. 120 passengers board. Among those who depart Titanic is Francis Brown
(later Father Brown, SJ) with his camera and photos of life aboard ship.
13:30 (1:30 p.m.). Titanic departs Queenstown bound for New York with 2,206 passengers and crew.
12 April-Titanic travels 326 miles.


Titanic News: Premier Exhibitions Merges With Dinoking; Residents Try Saving Titanic Lighthouse

1. It was announced just before the Easter holiday that Premier Exhibitions is merging with Dinoking, a Canadian company that produces the “Dinosaurs Unearthed” exhibit. Premier will acquire all outstanding shares and its principal shareholder Daoping Bao will take over as president of the combined company. The deal is subject to shareholder approval in August. According to terms of the deal, Dinoking will become a subsidiary with 47 percent of the voting stock. Now we understand why there was a reverse stock split.
Source: Merger On Deck For Titanic Exhibitor Connected To Hopcat Owner Mark Sellers(6 April 2015, Mlive.com)

St John's Point Lighthouse, St John's Point, County Down, Northern Ireland(October 2009) Photo:Ardfern(Wikimedia)
St John’s Point Lighthouse, St John’s Point, County Down, Northern Ireland(October 2009)
Photo:Ardfern(Wikimedia)

2 Folks who live in Killough in Northern Ireland are not happy with plans to modernize the lighthouse at St John’s Point. The lighthouse uses a 6 ton lamp with mercury to light the way for seafarers but authorities want to replace it with an LED lamp. Though the light itself is automatic, its mercury is a cause for a concern. So it must go even though it poses no harm to anyone since the light is atop the lighthouse and the only people who might be at risk would be the occasional person doing routine maintenance. Locals do not want an ugly LED lamp in the lighthouse that once saw Titanic pass by. Ellen Peter says: “If that were to go, all you would have would be a thing like a bicycle light or an airport landing light.”
Source: Campaign To Save Titanic’s Guiding Light(5 Apr 2015,Sky News)

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Titanic Hotel To Open Doors To All On 15 April

Photo:public domain
Photo:public domain

30 James Street Hotel, the former home of White Star Line offices in Liverpool (formerly known as Albion House), will open its doors to everyone on 15 April. All 63 rooms will be opened up so that people can tour the entire hotel. Additionally those who proven connections will be allowed to stay overnight–for free.

To earn that special treat, you have to submit stories that prove the connection. And the most interesting will get a free overnight stay for two and an invite to the gala dinner. Lawrence Kenwright, one of the owners told the Liverpool Echo:

We want these people to share it and enjoy it with us and that is why we’re doing this. The occasion will be extra special too because 15 April will mark the 103rd anniversary or the Titanic disaster and with Liverpool having a rich maritime history, we’re extending the offer to those who have worked in shipping or on Liverpool’s docks. We want to hear the best stories and we’re looking at putting them into a commemorative book about the building too.

Source: 30 James Street Hotel To Open Doors To Mark Titanic Anniversary(2 April 2015, Liverpool Echo)

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April Fools Day

cmdytragThere is really no way to fool a Titanic enthusiast. I could mock-up some news reports that Titanic II has been approved and under construction or that some new Titanic artifact has been found. Or that a certain eccentric English gentleman who claims ownership of the wreck went to court recently and convinced a UK court that he, as the lawful owner of Titanic, has final say over its disposition and not Premier Exhibitions. Or that during construction in a building formerly used by the original White Star Line papers were found that positively proves that Titanic was sunk by a German submarine.

None of that would fool a real Titanic enthusiast. Over in China they are building a Titanic exhibit that will not only look like Titanic but will simulate the sinking. That is a true story as bizarre as it sounds. Forget the wax museum approach! We will make you feel the shakes and shudders of Titanic heading to its watery grave. No word if they will air cool the exhibit so you feel the freezing temperature of that awful night. Of course if you are paranormal expert, why not seek out the ghosts? Stories abound of Titanic exhibits being haunted. But why? I mean why hang around an exhibit about the ship you died on? Do you really need a character like the one played by the lovely Jennifer Love Hewitt to tell you to move into the light?

The greatest April Fools Day joke was done by Clive Palmer. He spent serious money to wine and dine the rich about his Titanic II. A ship to look like the old one but with all the new safety features of today. And to make it more like 1912, passengers will truly have that feel with segregated sections and uncomfortable sleeping down on third class (called steerage back then). He had plans drawn up and preliminary tests done. He even supposedly signed a preliminary deal with a Chinese shipyard. Alas it is not come to pass. No construction has started, Chinese workers are unimpressed, and Palmer himself is in a row with the Chinese government. An expensive April Fools Day joke for him.

So today I just give it a pass. There is no fooling a Titanic enthusiast. Because on 15 April, it will be 103 years since it sank. And that is not joke.

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Titanic Tidbits

RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912.
RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912.

1.  A lump of coal and a rusticle that were salvaged from Titanic in the 1990’s are going up for auction. The coal was brought up in 1994 (the Titanic Research & Recovery Expedition) and the rusticle from the ship’s hull from the 1998 French expedition to the site. The go under the hammer today at JP Humbert Auctioneers (UK).
Source: Chunk Of Titanic Goes Under The Hammer(10 Mar 2015,Advertiser & Review)

2.The UK Guardian’s Chase Condrone gave Titanic Museum at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee a good review. She notes the museum crafts reality and theatre into one with people dressed up in period costumes, the original items on display, the ability to feel the coldness of that night. It also makes her in one case feel a bit creepy:

I walk up to a narrow trough of water, and a sign tells me to plunge my hand into it. The water is 28 degrees: the temperature of the Atlantic that night. In his 1915 poem The Convergence of the Twain, Thomas Hardy saw the Titanic and the iceberg as “twin halves of one august event”. My iceberg is just a picture, but this room is nonetheless creepy, and as I trail my hand in the trough of icy water, I feel certain that I could never know the experience of the Titanic.

Source: For $27 You Can Experience The Sinking Of The Titanic – In Landlocked Tennessee (12 Mar 2015,The Guardian)

3. Eurogamer.net reports that a proposed project called Titanic Honor & Glory will be the most ambitious recreation of the disaster to date. While it will be a game, the developer has hired a team of contributors to make it historically accurate (except of course the fictional aspects of the story). There will be interaction with real-life Titanic passengers and crew. Sounds pretty ambitious and hopefully will come to pass.
Source: Ambitious Titanic Game Lets You Explore The Sinking Ship In Real-Time (eurogamer.net,24 Feb 2015

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