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.