Tag Archives: White Star Line

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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Titanic Chronology April 15-16, 1912

Photograph of iceberg taken by chief steward of Prinz Adalbert on morning of 15 April 1912 near where Titanic sank. At the time he had not learned of the Titanic disaster. Smears of red paint along the base caught his attention. The photo and accompanying statement were sent to Titanic’s lawyers, which hung in their boardroom until the firm dissolved in 2002. Public Domain

1. Titanic struck the iceberg at 11:40 pm ship time on 14 April 1912. The night was moonless and the sea calm with temperatures at or below freezing. Titanic was moving quickly but did not see the iceberg until it was nearly upon them. An attempt to steer around it resulted in a collision on Titanic’s starboard side. The iceberg would puncture Titanic enough so that the first five compartments would flood. Since the compartments were not totally sealed all the way up, water would go from one compartment to the other making her sink at the bow.

2. Titanic would transmit signals by wireless telegraph, Morse lamp, and rockets. The ship nearest by most accounts was SS Californian. Her telegraph operator turned off his equipment at 11:30 pm and never heard the distress calls. Questions linger to this day whether or not they saw Titanic or her rockets being fired. The SS Carpathia received the SOS and its captain, Arthur Rostron, immediately ordered to proceed directly to the last known coordinates to locate survivors despite having to navigate a dangerous ice field on a moonless night.

RMS Carpathia (date unknown) Image: public domain
RMS Carpathia (date unknown)
Image: public domain

3. RMS Titanic would sink on 15 April 1912 at 2:20 am. Although Titanic met the British Board of Trade regulations and exceeded it for the number of lifeboats required, it did not have enough for the full complement of passengers and crew. As a result over 1,500 men, women, and children would had no means of escape from the sinking ship.

4. SS Carpathia arrives at 4:10 am to rescue survivors who were in lifeboats or able to reach them. 71o survived the initial sinking but the final tally would be 705 due death from freezing cold. SS California would arrive later but would find no survivors. At 12 noon Carpathia sounded her horns and began heading back to New York.* It was the moment that many wives knew for certain their husbands had perished.

Collapsible lifeboat D photographed by passenger on Carpathia on the morning of 15 April 1912. Public Domain(Wikipedia)
Collapsible lifeboat D photographed by passenger on Carpathia on the morning of 15 April 1912.
Public Domain(Wikipedia)

*SS Carpathia was on her way to Fiume then part of Austria-Hungary in the Adriatic Sea. Today the city is Rijeka and major city in Croatia owning to its deep port and cultural significance.

Eaton, John P.; Haas, Charles A. (1994). Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy. Wellingborough, UK: Patrick Stephens
Lord, Walter (2005) [1955]. 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

Encyclopedia Titanica: Titanic Facts, History and Biography

Take a look at  Amazon Titanic Books

New York Times Reports Titanic Sunk With Loss Of Life (16 April 1912)

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.

New York Times Front Page 16 April 1912 Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)
New York Times Front Page 16 April 1912
Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)

Titanic: Lingering Images

Titanic. Put that into a search engine and you get a lot back. Lots of sites to explore devoted to the subject (shameless plug alert for Titanic News Channel) along with sites that incorporate it in some fashion. Of course the entertainment news sites are full of stuff about the stars of that Cameron movie and what they think today about their roles. The movie is still widely popular and many will likely see the 3-D version. It is a visually stunning movie with perhaps the best recreation of what the ship and people looked like in 1912.

The 100th anniversary has come and gone. And yet people still flock to Titanic Belfast and other Titanic connected sites and exhibits. The question I posed in 2012 still holds true today: Why Does Titanic Still Grab Us? I said back then that a National Geographic documentary provided a clue and that is images linger long after leaving. And with Titanic its images remain with us. There are a lot to choose from: photos of the ship, the crew, the passengers, stories of their lives, the names of the band that played on that fateful night. The list goes on. The image of the  grand ship stays with us because it has so many stories to tell and those stories have images that linger.

There have been numerous books on Titanic to keep those images such as  Walter Lord’s  A Night To Remember (and later its sequel The Night Lives On) that connect us to what happened in 1912.  And the movies that follow bring it even more alive in the big screen. Add to it the Titanic memorials and exhibits all over the world. Some ask why this ship is remembered while other maritime disasters with great loss of lift isn’t. The images linger.

Some images provoke disagreement. To salvage or not or was Captain Stanley Lord a villain? The images of the wreck itself are testament to the final outcome. It lies, broken in two, two miles below the surface of the ocean. And it is slowly being claimed by the sea. The artifacts brought up by the various salvage expeditions will soon be all the remains of that once great ship. At Titanic memorials on land and sea, people will remember those who died on Titanic. We know it ought not to have happened. So many what-ifs could have changed the outcome but they all added up to the same deadly outcome for over 1500 people.

The images linger.

Titanic mural at Newtownards Road and Dee Street in Belfast, NI. (Andy Welsh,http://www.flickr.com/photos/wallrevolution/68715920/)
Titanic mural at Newtownards Road and Dee Street in Belfast, NI.
(Andy Welsh,http://www.flickr.com/photos/wallrevolution/68715920/)

Titanic’s Last Stop:Queenstown(now Cobh),Ireland

Cobh (formerly Queenstown) Ireland was the final stop for Titanic before setting off to New York. Titanic arrived on 11 April at 11:30 a.m and took on 120 passengers. One notable person to depart was Francis Brown (later Father Brown,SJ)whose photographs of the ship on its only sailing would become an important historical artifact.

Titanic at Cobh Harbor, 11 April 1912 Public Domain (Cobh Heritage Centre, Cobh, Ireland)
Titanic at Cobh Harbor, 11 April 1912
Public Domain (Cobh Heritage Centre, Cobh, Ireland)

Video:Construction and Launch of RMS Olympic In 1910

The opening scene of A Night To Remember has Titanic being officially christened. In reality, Harland & Wolff never had such ceremonies for launching ships they constructed. If the ship were important enough, they might invite certain important people to watch its launch. Usually it would be just the workers and those who designed the ship at Harland & Wolff to be in attendance. Here is a video that shows the construction of RMS Olympic and its launch.

Titanic Telegram Update

According to an article at Smithsonianmag.com, its history can only be dated back to 1988 when it was discovered it was found in an envelope marked “This is 86 years old.” Apparently the paper stock and ink match the time period at issue. But due to lost records (from Titanic)it cannot be verified it was sent from the ship. Nor is their any proof that it was actually delivered to White Star Line in New York independent of the telegram. Nor can it be ascertained who saw it if it was in fact delivered. One interesting note from the Smithsonian write-up: it failed to sell at auction on Saturday.

Western Union telegram informing Millsaps College beats Mississippi A&M (now MSU)in football, 19-13. Photo:Natalie Maynor via Wikipedia
Western Union telegram informing Millsaps College beats Mississippi A&M (now MSU)in football, 19-13 in 1930.
Photo:Natalie Maynor via Wikipedia

Source:The Mystery of a Titanic Telegram–Did the Titanic’s owners know about its collision with an iceberg?(Smithsonianmag.com,9 Nov 2015)