Wednesday, March 22, 2017

WHO WAS the boy with an injured arm put into Lifeboat No.6 by the Captain?

Who was the boy with an injured arm put into Lifeboat No.6 by the Captain?
I set out to nail down his identity, only to discover:
a) everyone already knew who he was
b) everybody was wrong
c) the surprising reason everybody was wrong, and
d) the Canadian connection to the prime suspect.
It all started with a brief account in Titanic survivor Archibald Gracie's 1913 book 'The Truth About the Titanic'.   He had spoken with fellow survivor Helen Churchill Candee about her experiences on the sinking ship (She left in Lifeboat No. 6).  He wrote:
"Just before her boat was lowered away a man's voice said: "Captain, we have no seaman." Captain Smith then seized a boy by the arm and said: "Here's one." The boy went into the boat as ordered by the captain, but afterwards he was found to be disabled..."
Gracie wrote that the boy tried to help row the lifeboat, but "(when) he tried to do so, it was futile, because of an injury to his arm or wrist."
The story appeared to be corroborated by Titanic quartermaster Robert Hichens and lookout Frederick Fleet who were the only two crewmen in the lifeboat and who testified before the American Inquiry that a stowaway who popped up in the boat proved useless in helping row because of an injured arm or wrist. He was, they said, "an Italian."
Even Major Arthur Peuchen, who climbed down a rope to help row the boat, remembered the stowaway and his injured arm.
To top it off, a survivor named Philip Zanni, described by a newspaper (*) as "an exceptionally well-spoken Assyrian", told a reporter he managed to sneak into a lifeboat where he "was placed at one of the oars." He provided a clue (a woman in the boat with a dog) which confirmed he was saved in No. 6.
* Niles Daily News (Ohio), 25 April 1912, Survivor from Titanic Arrives in Niles
Well, that seemed to be that. Mystery solved, right?
But something about the incident kept nagging me. After a few days, I went back to the evidence to determine what it was. It didn't take long.
Zanni said he snuck into the boat. He never mentioned the Captain. Candee said the boy was placed in the boat by the Captain. Being ordered into a lifeboat by the Captain to help row would have made him a more heroic figure, and yet all his life Zanni never said that it happened that way.
Hichens and Fleet said the stowaway was an "Italian". Zanni was middle-eastern, which would make him "Italian" in the eyes of the British crewmen. But Candee told Gracie that she didn't think the boy she saw was "Italian."
Peuchen said the stowaway climbed out from under the womens' skirts a half hour after the lifeboat was afloat on the ocean. Candee said she saw the boy put into the boat "just before the boat was lowered."
I couldn't deny the obvious. They were talking about different people!
But if the boy with the injured arm wasn't the stowaway with an injured arm, who was he?
Major Peuchen provided the determining clue. He told the American Inquiry that the occupants of No. 6 were counted after he got in the boat and apart from him "there were exactly 20 women, 1 quartermaster, 1 sailor and 1 stowaway..."
If all the men and boys in the boat were thereby accounted for, that could only mean that the person put into the boat by the Captain WAS A GIRL!
In fact, it made more sense.
While Mrs. Candee said she heard a man, presumably Hichens, request a seaman, it doesn't make sense that the Captain would pick a  boy at random off the deck without a clue as to whether he could row or not.
But, if he was responding to the call "Any more women?", which survivors said was repeated endlessly at every lifeboat, then "Here's one" would be an appropriate answer.
But which girl?
A Google search for anyone with an injured arm in Lifeboat No. 6 serendipitously turned up an interview with one woman in which she said the shock of the collision pushed her into the wall of her cabin, injuring her shoulder. She had an injured arm, I squeaked!

The Day
April 19, 1912 Page 3
                                                         Some Male Cowards
                                            Who Had to Be Tossed Out of Boats
                                                         Meant for Women

New York, April 19---Mrs. Fannie Douglass, of Montreal, said that when it was realized the collision was serious on the Titanic that there was a scramble for the lifeboats. Mrs. Douglass said: "I am only hoping that my reason will hold out. What I have gone through is enough to undermine one's reason. I was in bed at the time, but so powerful was the shock that I was thrown across my stateroom and my arm was injured..."

This contemporary news photo (below) shows Mrs. F.C. Douglas (proper spelling), of Montreal, a young woman with a short, boyish haircut being escorted away from the rescue ship Carpathia.  

Though 27, you can see how she could be mistaken for a younger boy at a quick glance.  Blow the picture up. Compare with Amelia Earhart's looks.
Suzette Douglas told a reporter for the Montreal Standard that she had spoken with the Captain briefly before she got into the lifeboat.
She "claimed Captain Smith was nearby as they got into the boat, and that he asked her whether her mother was comfortable," wrote author Alan Hustak in "Titanic, The Canadian Story" (Vehicule Press, 1998).
By coincidence, Helen Candee actually sat beside Mrs. Douglas's distraught mother in boat No.6.
And, by even greater coincidence, Senator Alden Smith at the American Inquiry asked both Hichens and Fleet about a "Mrs. Douglas."

Senator SMITH.
You are quite sure that a lady in that boat, a woman, did not have the tiller?
I am sure of it; positive.
Senator SMITH. A Mrs. Douglas?
Nobody. Just the quartermaster who was there all of the time.


Senator Smith
Do you recollect whether Mrs. Douglass, of Minneapolis, was in that boat?
     I do not know her at all, sir.
    Senator SMITH.
    Have you had any talk with her about it?
    Never have spoken to her or seen her, to my knowledge.

Mrs. Mahala Douglas, of Minneapolis, left the Titanic in lifeboat No. 2. Mrs. F.C. (Frederick Charles) Douglas, of Montreal, left in No. 6. Did Senator Smith ask about the wrong Mrs. Douglas? And why was he asking at all?
Those questions will probably never be answered after all the time that has passed.
And unless a new, more detailed interview with Suzette turns up, we will never know if she was a victim of legendary mistaken identity.  Still, Mrs. Candee appears to have heard one thing, saw another,  and learned of something different. She then added two and two --- and got five.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The order Titanic's lifeboats reached the Carpathia. Maybe.

In what order did Titanic's lifeboats reach the rescue ship Carpathia?  And at what times?

Those question have bedeviled Titanic researchers since the wreckage of the mighty ship was discovered on the ocean floor thirty years ago.

Not that anything turns on the answers.  But it's just the kind of loose end that history buffs like to tie off.

Veteran Titanic researchers have taken a shot at unravelling the lifeboats-at-the-Carpathia conundrum, notably Senan Moloney ("A chronology of rescue", Voyage 75, The Official Journal of the Titanic International Society, Inc., Spring 2011) and George Behe ("The Recovery of Titanic's Lifeboats"; Report Into The Loss Of The SS Titanic, A Centennial Reappraisal; The History Press, 2011, reprinted 2012).

But it was a close reading of the address delivered by Washington Dodge before the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on May 11, 1912, that's provided the key to at least part of the enduring mystery.

That answer in due time.  Let's begin at the beginning...

The first of Titanic's lifeboats to reach the Carpathia, by all accounts, was No. 2. Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall was in charge. No. 2 was the only boat with a working lamp and Boxhall fired flares to attract the Carpathia's attention.

The next boat was No. 1.  It reached the Carpathia about a half hour after No. 2, according to Boxhall.  The length of time separating these first boats led some to believe that No.1 was actually the first to be rescued.

Senator SMITH.
About how long was it after you arrived before the other boats arrived?
The first boat did not arrive until at least half an hour after I arrived there.

"... I thought we were the first boat aboard, but I found that the boat that had the green lights burning was ahead of us. We were the second boat aboard."  Charles Stengel, American Inquiry.

Next came three boats in short order--- No. 5, No. 7 and No. 13.

No. 5
"I was on the second boat picked up." Passenger Anna Warren, Portland Oregonian, April 27, 1912

How long after your boat was reached by the Carpathia was it before No. 7 was reached?
It may have been 20 minutes. I did not assist in unloading No. 7.

Dr. Washington Dodge was in No. 13.

"We reached this Steamer after about ¾ of an hour and found her taking aboard the occupants of 3 boats that had reached her ahead of us - On boarding her I found my wife & son, who were in the second boat to load received -" he wrote aboard the Carpathia in an unpublished account.

Lifeboats Nos. 1, 5, and 7 were the three boats ahead of his.  His wife and son got off the sinking Titanic in No. 5, but changed boats in mid-Ocean to No. 7.  The game-changing information provided by Dr. Dodge came in his speech to the Commonwealth Club:

"When our boat reached the ship's side we passed in front of her bow, to reach the port side, where we would have the shelter from the wind, and a smoother sea to disembark. An officer of the "Carpathia" called to us to come up on the starboard side. The vessel was then unloading lifeboats on each side Those of us who were rowing endeavored for five minutes to pull back across the bow of the ship, but so ineffective were our efforts, that we were unable against the wind to make any progress. We finally had to disembark on the port side."

"As the "Carpathia" had taken aboard the occupants of four or five lifeboats before ours arrived, I was naturally consumed with anxiety to ascertain whether my wife and child were aboard. After short search I found them in the dining Loon, where the women and children were being tenderly cared for, and being revived by the administration of warm drinks and the application of warm wraps."

The two points that will prove crucial to determining which boats arrived when are the fact that the sheltered side of the Carpathia was the port side, and that the Carpathia "was then unloading lifeboats on each side."

If four boats--- not counting the earliest, No. 2--- were unloading on the port side, which boats were unloading on starboard?

There was certainly No.9.

"Our boat was the first taken up on our side of the ship," said Second Class passenger Sidney Collett (Syracuse Post Standard, April 24, 1912).

"It was 45 minutes before we reached the Carpathia and while they were picking up boats on one side we went around on the other side." ( COLLETT TELLS HIS STORY,  The Auburn (New York) Citizen, Tuesday 23rd April 1912)

And Titanic Boat No. 3 is a prime candidate for arriving shortly after No. 9.

First, its one of the Titanic's forward boats starboard,  like Boats 1,5 and 7.

While there are no clues in the accounts of survivors in No. 3 that would help to place the lifeboat in order of arrival, and  time references are unreliable  (they can range as much as an  hour-and-a-half apart in some cases) one measure of placement may do the trick.  Ordinal position.

Steward William Ward told the U.S. Senate Inquiry he believed his boat, No. 9, was "About the fourth or fifth boat to be picked up."

Mrs. Margaretta Spedden, saved in No. 3,  wrote in her diary "We were about the fifth to reach her, and it didn't take long to get us on board."

That estimate by passenger and crewman jibes well with the actual placements of both lifeboats, without their knowing it.  Mrs. Spedden's estimate of being in the fifth boat to reach the Carpathia also shows that the lifeboat was one of the earlier ones to arrive, reinforcing its position after No. 9---or possibly simultaneously.

But is there any evidence that No. 3 unloaded on the Carpathia's starboard side? No. Its only the estimate by occupants of both boats (3 and 9) that they were in the fifth lifeboat to arrive that implies they might have been on the same side of the Carpathia.

The next boats came in clusters.  There were No. 14 towing Collapsible D on the port side, and Collapsible C just ahead of No. 11.

It appears Boat 14 and D arrived before C and 11.

Thanks to Dr. Dodge, we know 14 and D were unloaded on the port side of the Carpathia.

Passenger Hugh Woolner was in Collapsible D:

"...eventually we came alongside the Carpathia on her way with a crowd of tourists on their way to Gibralter. Getting under the lee side, we made fast..."
(New York Sun, April 19, 1912)

On the starboard side there was some jockeying for position.

"Getting alongside, 5 empty boats were drifting about. We were the sixth to arrive. They threw us ropes to steady our boat. Just then the collapsible raft, in which Mr. Bruce Ismay sat, came along and almost collided with our boat." said Edith Russell, who was in No. 11, in a 1934 account.

It seems C took precedence.

Stewardess Annie Martin, also in No. 11, was quoted in the Guernsey Press (May 2, 1912):
"We saw him taken onboard the Carpathia. We recall him sitting on his haunches on the stern of the boat that was cleared by the Carpathia just before ours. He just sat there like a statue, blue with cold, and neither said a word nor looked at us. He was nearly dead when taken onboard, for he was wearing only nightclothes and an overcoat."

While its tempting to say that the two pairs of boats were rescued on opposite sides of the Carpathia, there's no real evidence to support that position.

An officer on the Carpathia was quoted in the newspapers saying "Mr. Ismay reached the Carpathia in about the tenth life-boat."

If you assume Boats 14 and D preceeded Collapsible C,  you actually get Collapsible C as the tenth (2,1,5,7, 13, 9, 3, 14, D, C) to arrive.
Lifeboat No. 11 would then, coincidentally, be the 11th of Titanic's boats to reach the rescue ship.
That would leave seven more boats.

Steward Charles Mackay testified before the British Inquiry:

10858. Can you tell us in what order your boat reached the "Carpathia" the following morning? Were you the first or the last?
- Now you have got me guessing. I should say we were the last but three or four in.

If he was right, that would mean the remaining boats were almost evenly distributed between Carpathia's port and starboard sides.

There's pathetically little evidence to place No. 15 in the list of lifeboats reaching the Carpathia.  But being the only starboard boat still unplaced, and the remaining lifeboats all port boats, its more than likely that No. 15 arrived after No. 11, and before the port boats showed up.

The rest of Titanic's boats are easy to locate.

They can be divided into two groups.  Nos. 6,8, and 16 in one; Nos. 4, 10, and 12 in the other.
No. 6 and No. 8 were both port boats on the Titanic and were sent off one after the other.  At some point No. 6 tied up to No. 16 and took a stoker from No. 16 to help row. So its no surprise that these three boats would arrive closely bunched together.

Boats 4, 10, and 12 were among the five tied together on Fifth Officer Lowe's orders. Having them show up at the Carpathia's side together also makes sense.

The first grouping was unloaded on Carpathia's starboard side.

The Countess of Rothes (Lucy Noël Martha Dyer-Edwards) was in lifeboat No. 8. A letter she wrote in 1955 to Sir Walter Lord, author of A Night To Remember, provides this enlightening snippet:

I looked & thought I saw dim lights & in a little while we were certain - & told the others - but we were a long way from the Carpathia took us another hour to reach her & then we were dashed against her side as we were too exhausted to get round to her lee side - but one of her sailors jumped into our boat with a rope & we were hauled on board at last 

Her maid Roberta Maioni offered a bit more detail in her remembrance:

"We soon reached the Carpathia and were taken up her great side one more time in a kind of a cradle- just a piece of board, strong hands and a willing hands at the top. 
This was no easy operation, for the lifeboat was being dashed along the Carpathia's side and while waiting to be taken up we were jerked backwards and forwards by the fury of the waves."

First Class passenger Arthur Peuchen was in Lifeboat No.6. An answer of his at the American Inquiry suggests No. 6 arrived before No. 8.

Did you observe in what manner these boats reached the Carpathia? What position was your boat in, for instance, among the first or the last?
I think there were about two or three after us. We were almost the last. We were about the last, with the exception of two or three.

As for No. 16, the evidence, palty as it is, supports the idea that it, too, landed ahead of No. 8.

Remember, although Nos. 6 and 8 were launched one after the other, No. 6 found itself so undermanned that it needed to tie up to No. 16 to take a rower to help.  That might put No. 6 and No. 16 closer together at rescue time.

And the only clue provided regarding lifeboat No. 16 comes from steward Charles Andrews at the American Inquiry:

On the way to the Carpathia we saw some of our boats also proceeding. When we arrived there, there were one or two boats set adrift.
Senator BOURNE.
Who set them adrift, and why?
That I do not know sir. I think they were damaged boats, sir.

As it happens, Boat 6 was set adrift after its passengers were taken aboard the Carpathia.

As for the remaining lifeboats...

Steward William Burke was in No. 10. He told the American Inquiry:
"At one time we were tied up with three boats together, until I gave the order myself in that boat to cut us adrift that we might go to a collapsible boat that was in distress. When they cut our boat adrift I found an officer in another boat had come to the aid of this collapsible boat, so we remained there for some hours, drifting about. At daybreak, we made fast to another officer's boat, and we arrived alongside of the Carpathia with these two boats tied together."

Fifth Officer Harold Lowe in No. 14 went to the aid of Collapsible D. The other officer that Burke talks about was Second Officer Charles Lightoller who was rescued himself from overturned Collapsible B in Boat 12.

And that leaves No. 4, which, by elimination, arrived at the Carpathia before No. 10.

To sum up, the order that Titanic's lifeboats reached the Carpathia appears to be:'

( July 15, 2016.  The placement of Lifeboat 2 has been changed to starboard. Reader "Jay" pointed out that Carpathia Captain Rostron said in his memoir 'Home from the Sea' that he picked up the first of Titanic's boats on his starboard side. This clarifies (for the landlubber) his statement at the Senate hearing:
"Previous to getting the first boat alongside, however, I saw an iceberg close to me, right ahead, and I had to starboard to get out of the way. And I picked him up on the weather side of the ship. I had to clear this ice.")

                      Port                   Undetermined             Starboard
                           4                                                       8
                           10                                                     16
But, to complicate matters a little more, it's a little known fact that the Carpathia put at least two of her own lifeboats in the water.

Assistant cook John Collins gave this evidence at the American Inquiry:
"Then the Carpathia blew her horn, and we all seen the Carpathia. She stopped in the one place. We were at this time within a mile of her, and she did not make any sign of coming over near to us. She stopped in the one place, and, I think, lowered two or three of her own boats, and her own boats were kept in the water when one of our boats, the sailboat, went up alongside of her."

Robert Vaughan was a 17-year-old "water and mess boy" on the Carpathia. The Ottawa Citizen (Aug. 26, 1959) carried an interview with him about the rescue of Titanic's passengers. He said:

"When the survivors saw us they cheered. There was no sign of the Titanic herself. We started picking up survivors immediately and only launched two of our own boats."

How the presence of an additional two lifeboats around the Carpathia affected the perceptions of survivors can never be known.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"You men get out of that boat or I'll kill you." FOUND: Daniel Buckley's long-lost deposition.

As a former newspaper reporter, I've always been interested in how the newspapers of 1912 covered the Titanic disaster.

I recently began paying special attention to coverage of the Senate Titanic hearings, to compare the formal transcript with newspaper stories on the testimony of witnesses.

I was reading of steerage passenger Daniel Buckley's appearance at the Senate inquiry ---in the Connecticut newspaper, The Day, of May 4, 1912---when I was struck with the feeling that something seemed odd about the story.,392126

Odd how? While the gist of the story was what I remembered, there were details that sounded new. So I checked the transcript, and, sure enough, the newspaper story was radically different.  It was way beyond the normal disparity between what appears in the press and the formal transcription of the (alleged) words spoken at the hearing.

Was it a case of bad reporting? Or something more?

After weighing all the options, only one answer made sense.  The reporter wasn't reporting Buckley's testimony!  

What was printed in The Day as the purported account of Buckley's questioning before the Senate Titanic Inquiry was actually a long-lost deposition given by Buckley to Senate investigators before the Inquiry was in session!

Of course.  No wonder the opening sentence ("I, with three companions from County Cork, Ireland, took a steerage passage on the Titanic.") read more like a sworn legal document than the words of a Irish immigrant barely out of his teens.

Titanic researcher Senan Molony has called the missing depositions 'the holy grail' of Titanic  research.

"Raising to the light of day the missing depositions – if, indeed, they still exist - ought to be a prime goal of Titanic research. Two have recently seen the light of day, and are enough to encourage a certain hope. They also inspire the possibility that this material may be the Holy Grail… with inherent power to rewrite history."

Molony was writing specifically of the depositions taken for the British Inquiry from 212 crew members who returned to England following the disaster. The Buckley deposition, if that is what it is, was taken for the earlier Senate Inquiry and would be the earliest on record.

But how and why did it appear in the middle of an obscure story in an east coast state and nowhere else?

As a former newspaper court reporter, I can hazard a guess.

Buckley gave his official evidence on May 3, 1912.  According to the Senate Report on the sinking of the Titanic,  on that day Senator William Alden Smith, Inquiry chairman, took testimony from six witnesses. He questioned them separately---that is, alone, without the rest of the committee present.

The reporter for The Day accurately names five of the six.

"Among the witnesses yesterday were Daniel Buckley, a steerage passenger; Melville E. Stone, of the Associated Press; Jack Binns, wireless operator on the steamer Republic, when she went down ... and George Harder, of Brooklyn, a first cabin passenger."

Elsewhere in the story he mentions "Olaus Abelse, who was in the Titanic steerage".  This is obviously Olaus Abelseth, the second steerage passenger to testify that day.

There is no mention of Norman Chambers, another first cabin survivor.

The snippets of testimony from four of the five men that he names in his story can reasonably be found in the transcript of the session.  Only Buckley's account stands out.

The best explanation I can give is that the reporter wasn't there for Buckley's questioning.  He approached Senator Smith afterward for help in recreating what Buckley said.  Instead, Smith gave him the depostion, which covered the same ground, and the reporter ran with it.

For a comparison with how Buckley's testimony was covered in other newspapers, see this story in The Telegraph, May 4, 1912.,5421140

As an added curiousity, the same story in The Day reported on the testimony of "Thomas Watkins, another steerage passenger."  Here, in its entirely, is what the newspaper said:

"Thomas Watkins, a professional swimmer, testified."

"I swam about 14 miles, the night the Titanic went down, before I was rescued. I take these accidents as a matter of business. I have been in similar accidents before, but I lost $2,200 this time."

There was nobody named Thomas Watkins on the Titanic passenger list. Nor was Thomas Watkins mentioned in the official Senate Inquiry Report.   Was Senator Smith duped by a phony survivor to the point of taking his sworn testimony?

I initially thought that Thomas "Watkins" was actually Thomas McCormack, another Irish survivor, who, like Buckley, travelled in steerage.  In his accounts, he said he swam for hours before being rescued. I considered the possibility that he said in his deposition that he swam "about 14 miles."

But, although you can find many first, second and third-hand accounts of McCormack's experience on the Titanic, there is never a mention of his being a professional swimmer, having swum 14 miles, or losing $2,200.  So, who was the Thomas Watkins who testified at the Senate Inquiry?  We'll probably never know.

Here, then, is what I believe to be the deposition taken from Daniel Buckley, as reported in The Day, May 4, 1912:

I, with three companions from County Cork, Ireland, took a steerage passage on the Titanic. The night of the tragedy I was awakened by a grating noise. That was when our ship hit the iceberg. My friends and I dressed hastily and started for the boat deck.
We found that officers of the ship had locked a gate to prevent steerage passengers from going up on the first cabin deck. The water was rising fast. We broke the gate and rushed up on deck.
One of the first class passengers said to me: 'here buckle this preserver on; you will need it.' I helped to lower lifeboat No. 6. There being no women around men started to fight their way into it. An officer fired several shots over their heads.
Just as we lowered the boat and stood ready to shove off we saw a group of women on deck. The officer ordered 'you men get out of that boat or I'll kill you.'
Almost all the men except myself got out. I was crying when I jumped into the boat and fell face forward on the floor.
Mrs. John Jacob Astor took pity on me. 'Stop crying,' she told me 'and take this shawl and wrap it over you.'  Officers saw me wrapped in Mrs. Astor's shawl. They thought  I was a woman and let me be. Then they loaded a lot of other women in the boat.
 We had rowed about 200 yards away when the Titanic went down, with a noise like thunder.
I would be dead today if it were not for the mercy of Mrs. Astor, and her goodness," said Buckley.
The witness, 21 years old, told his story without shame and apparently with no realization of the light in which he was placing himself.
"Was any preference shown as regards first cabin and steerage women," asked Senator Smith.
"Not that I could see, " replied Buckley. "The women were loaded into the lifeboats as fast as they came on deck. It made no difference who they were just so they were women."
"What sort of people were with you?" inquired Senator Smith.
"There were 20 or 30 passengers, all classes, I should say, and some firemen and stewards."
"Were there any women left on deck?"
Yes, there were some.The officers ordered us out and when we didn't go one of them shot his revolver over us six times. Then they threw us out,  until there were only six men left,  and the women began to climb in, mostly steerage passengers."
"A fireman in my boat said that she hadn't been sunk by ice at all. He said that they had been trying to make a record with her and her boilers burst."

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Snoopy reporters paid to solve a Titanic puzzle

Toledo News-Bee
April 24, 1912
                                                    It Costs the Newspapermen
                                                    $100 To Learn They're Stung

The joke is on those wise New York newspapermen, and it cost them just $100 to find it out. One of the enterprising journals of the metropolis dispatched a tug to meet the liner Carpathia as it neared New York with survivors of the wrecked Titanic.
On its way the press boat caught this wireless code message directed at Carpathia:
"If any rurhuman alegroness pessimabe herkeluaur buauing nbonrd claiming have alforjin from me ospiinylle false overgordel to orbing with all compnrsero consistent with procedidng nestilvitas minde sinturnus ipsuillees modify entedrntess and eninbindo procedure and ditifico egogue enerveinis or enerveront.
Scenting mystery, the newspaper promptly printed the dispatch and offered $100 reward for a correct translation. Manager Sumner of the Cunard Line, which owns the Carpathia, telephoned the paper to send a representative and $100 to him.
"I think I can translate the cipher,"he said,"as I wrote it myself."
Then he informed the paper that the message merely warned the Carpathia not to let any newspaper boats send reporters aboard, and ordered the Captain to rush to New York.
The joke was all the funnier when it came out that the press boat in question relayed the code message to the Carpathia, thus killing its own chances to board the rescue ship and interview survivors.

How Far South Was The Iceberg That Holed The Titanic?

The Sunday Morning Star
Wilmington, Delaware
April 28, 1912
                                                 The Titanic's Position
   It will probably surprise most persons to know how far south the Titanic was when it encountered the iceberg that gave the steamship its death blow. The location of the boat given by the wireless call for help was 41:46 north and 50:14 west. A reference to the map will show that this point is south of all the New England states. A map of Europe will show the location of the Titanic when it went down ever more strikingly. The ship sailed from Southampton, England, in latitude about 50 north, and she was at least 9 degrees, or about 600 statute miles, south of that latitude when she struck the iceberg. She was in a latitude not only far south of the English channel, but farther south than any part of Germany, France, or Austria. She was about the same latitude as Rome and Constantinople. The Riviera, where many Europeans and Americans go to find a mild winter climate is farther north than was the Titanic when she ran into the ice field.
    In fact the Titanic was in the same latitude as the Adriatic Sea and the northern part of the Mediterranean. She was not more than 100 miles north of the Azores, which is on the southernmost course across the Atlantic, even for ships bound for the Mediterranean. If a line was drawn from New York City to Madrid, Spain, that line would pass near the point where the Titanic sank in a great field of ice. All reports show that the ice field was fast moving south.
    These facts raise and interesting question: How far south would the Titanic have had to go to have escaped the ice?

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Two Tales of Mrs. Coutts Reveal A Heroic Act By Moody, Titanic's Junior Officer

There's nothing more frustrating for a Titanic researcher than finding a first-hand account by a Titanic survivor that's clear and detailed---only to discover another first-hand account by the same survivor that's just as clear and just as detailed but which completely contradicts the first one.


Take the two tales of Winnie Coutts.

The first appeared in the Washington Post (and can be found on Encyclopedia Titanica in their biography of Winnie Coutts):

 (all emphases mine)

The Washington Post
Saturday 20 April 1912 

From the lips of the woman who was saved from the Titanic came today one of the most glowing tributes yet paid to the heroism and self-sacrifice of the brave men who gave their lives that women and children might be spared a watery grave. 

Mrs William Coutts, of this city, described in graphic manner how she and her two sons, Neville and William 3 and 9 years old, respectively, were rescued through the bravery of men aboard the doomed vessel. 

“My husband had sent me money to buy second-class passage for the children and myself.” Said Mrs Coutts, “but I went in the steerage. I wanted to save the difference in passage money to help build up our home.” 

“I was asleep when the ship struck. The crash was slight that I thought little of it. I lay awake for fully fifteen minutes before I got up. I dressed myself slowly, and then went out on deck to see what the trouble was.” 
“Every one was hurrying, but there was no disorder. I heard some talk about lifeboats, and then I hurried back to the children. I tied life preservers on the boys and then looked around for one for myself. There was none in sight.” 

“I rushed out on deck with the children following me.” 

“Just when I had given up hope of finding my way a seaman came along and said “Hurry now; all women and children to the lifeboats.” 

“He took us to the side of the ship but I wanted a life preserver. Just then an American gentleman who had heard me asking for a life preserver stepped up to me. He raised his hat, and then slowly removed the life preserver he had strapped to himself.” 

“Take my life preserver, madam,” he said. Then he reached over and put his hand on the children’s heads. “If I go down, please pray for me.” He said. 

“There were other brave men on board the Titanic, for I saw them helping women into the lifeboats as our boat pulled away. After kissing those they helped into the boats the men stepped back and did everything they could to load the boats quickly.” 

“I was in the first boat that was picked up by the Carpathia. There were seventeen in our boat. It was frightfully cold, but neither I nor the children suffered as much as the others, because we were fully dressed.” 

“When we got on board the Carpathia every one did everything possible for us. There was no discrimination, the poorest women receiving as much attention as the wealthiest.”

That story may have come "from the lips" of Winnie Coutts, but the next came "from the pen" of the same woman. It's in the form of a letter written by Mrs. Coutts to a friend in England. The letter is dated April 26, 1912.

The entire letter was reprinted in George M. Behe's terrific book of first-hand accounts 'On Board RMS Titanic' (P. 254). You can hear the sections of the letter relevant to this article read by Winnie Coutts'
granddaughter at

Here is a story about that letter containing those parts read by the granddaughter:

(All emphasis mine)

Mon April 23, 2012

ENC (East North Carolina) ties to the Titanic / Public Radio East

New Bern, NC – Sunday was the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking, a British passenger liner that met a watery grave after it struck an iceberg. The vessel was on her maiden voyage across the Atlantic to New York City. This week, we set out to discover any ties the Titanic had with eastern North Carolina. In New Bern, we found a woman whose family survived that disaster. Fay Coutts Blettner reads from a letter written by her grandmother, Minnie Coutts written to a friend in England after the incident. 
"the crash was so slight that I thought little of it. I lay awake fully 15 minutes. Presently, I could hear people opening their cabin doors and inquiring what was the matter. Some of the stewardesses assured them that there was no danger."

Many people during this time believed the Titanic was an unsinkable ship.

"However, I got up just to find out all about it. I was surprised to see foreigners carrying all their belongings---rugs, blankets and even small trunks up on deck. Children were crying." 

Around 11:40 pm on that April 14th night, the Titanic ran into an iceberg, ripping a large hole in the starboard side of the ship. Blettner says her grandmother became concerned when an order for life preservers was issued. Alarmed, she awoke her two sons, Willie and Neville, who were ages 9 and 3 at the time. Blettner continues her letter:

"I pulled Neville out of bed, put on his knickers and coat over his sleeping suit and put on his boots, no time to lace them up. There were only two life preservers in my cabin and I put one on Willy, and the other on Neville. I mentioned to an officer that I had not gotten one, and he said he was afraid that there were not anymore."

The Titanic didn't have enough life jackets or lifeboats on board for the two thousand two hundred and twenty three people. 

"we were just going, when I saw the same officer. I said to him again that I had not gotten one of the preservers. He told me to follow him. He took us through quite a number of corridors and passages right into the first class saloon, to his own quarters. There, he got his own lifebelt and tied it on me saying at the same time, 'There my child, if the boat goes down, you'll remember me.'" 

The "American gentleman" has become one of the Titanic's officers.

The story of how he "removed the life preserver he had strapped to himself” is now a story of being led through "quite a number of corridors and passages" to the officer's "own quarters" where "he got his own lifebelt and tied it on me."

The Good Samaritan's last words were either "If I go down, please pray for me.” or "if the boat goes down, you'll remember me.'"


Which story to believe? Both come across as credible. But they can't both be true?

Here's where a Titanic researcher earns his stripes.  To refuse to pick one story over another is a cop-out and is not an option.  What tips the balance?

One story was in the public sphere; the other was private. You always lean toward a story told in private to a friend or relative.  Witnesses will be more open and revealing with confidantes. But that's not enough. You still need to examine the competing story to try to identify its defects.

In the Coutts case, the answer lies in the mechanics of news gathering.

The story is dated April 20, 1912. The rescue ship Carpathia arrived in New York the evening of April 18, 1912. Steerage passengers, including Mrs. Coutts, were the last to be released from the ship after it docked.  One newspaper story says all were off the Carpathia within an hour after the first passenger left at 9:35 p.m.  Mrs. Coutts was undoubtedly met by her husband, William Coutts, and rushed to their home at 143 Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn.

The reunion between a fearful husband and his wife and children would have been as irresistable a story then as now.  Yet the Washington Post story doesn't mention her husband. This suggests to me that a reporter spoke to Mrs. Coutts at the pier April 18, and not at her home the following day.

New York was a madhouse for reporters the night the Carpathia arrived and even the day after.  Reporters acted as legmen who would  buttonhole any survivor they could find, collect a few anecdotes, then phone them in to a rewrite man who would blend their work into a single story.

Some reporters teamed up, each getting what he could with each of  them eventually sharing their stories with the other. With 700 survivors scattered to the winds, even that wasn't easy.

The goal initially was quantity, not quality. There are many ways to snag stories in such a chaotic environment. You can stop a witness and ask as many questions as possible before he or she walks away.
You can be part of a mob of reporters lobbing questions at a witness while you copy down the answers. You can eavesdrop on witnesses talking to family members. You can eavesdrop on other reporters phoning in to their rewrite men.

If we accept that Mrs. Coutts' letter details the true version of events, simply because there's no middleman who can misconstrue or misquote her, then we can see that the Washington Post tale was a product of a flawed reporting process.

It's possible another woman's account of getting a lifebelt from an American man was spliced onto Mrs. Coutt's account by a rewrite man. Or something she said was misinterpreted. Or even that a reporter invented a detail or two to spice up the story.  We'll never know.

But determining which tale is true is not the an end in itself.  Who was the officer who gave his lifebelt to Mrs. Coutts?

From her description of events, it was someone who led her from the back of the ship, to the first class saloon (which was on D Deck, unless Mrs. Coutts was actually referring to the first class lounge on A Deck), to his quarters at the front of the ship. He wasn't wearing his lifebelt; he retrieved it from his room.

Only one officer fits the bill---Sixth Officer James Moody.

Chief Officer Henry Wilde and Second Officer Charles Lightoller had lifebelts. Lightoller wrote in  The Christian Science Journal ,Vol. XXX, 10/1912, No. 7, that while in his room handing out guns to the senior officers he heard Wilde say he was going for his lifebelt, prompting him, Lightoller, to grab his own.

Third Officer Herbert Pitman was off the ship in Lifeboat No.5. Fifth Officer Harold Lowe left in Lifeboat No. 14. Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall was sending off rockets before being ordered to Lifeboat No. 2; he was never at the stern of the ship.

First Officer William Murdoch loaded the aft starboard lifeboats, then went forward and wound up briefly at No.2, in which Mrs. Coutts and her sons escaped. But a reconstruction of the timing of events shows his priority was on getting passengers into six still-unloaded lifeboats, not on helping one mother find a lifebelt.

That leaves James Moody. As I demonstrated in the above article, Moody's role during the sinking of the Titanic has been underestimated. His role in lowering the aft port lifeboats has been completely overlooked.  He was ordered by Lightoller to get the aft boats ready for loading, so he left the area of the officers' quarters before the order for lifebelts was given by the Captain.

After lowering Boat No. 12, it's possible he met up with Murdoch at No. 10 and was tasked with going below decks to find more women, something he had done for Murdoch at the aft starboard boats.  This would explain how he met up with Mrs. Coutts.

Thus, unravelling the true story of Mrs. Coutts and her sons has led to the discovery of an unknown heroic act by James Moody, Titanic's most junior officer.

It also explains how she, a third-cabin passenger, wound up in Lifeboat No. 2, a boat in the first-class section of the ship.  The other occupants were three groupings of first cabin passengers (Mrs. Appleton and Mrs. Cornell, Mrs. Douglas and her maid, and Mrs. Robert, her daughter, her niece and her maid) as well as steerage passengers Mr. and Mrs. Kink and their daughter.  The Kinks were among the first to abandon their steerage quarters and get to the boat deck, and had been waiting for a lifeboat almost from the beginning, explaining how they were present. (Mr. Kink dove into No. 2 at the last moment as it was being lowered to the sea.)

That's how Titanic's Secrets Unfold.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"She is absolutely unsinkable"

The Lewsiston Daily Sun
April 15, 1912   Page One

                                                     Franklin Not Worrying

New York, April 15---P.A.S. Franklin, vice-president of the International Mercantile Marine, stated early today that it was difficult to credit the report that the Titanic had met with an accident in view of the fact that the White Star Line had received no wireless message from her.
"We received a wireless from the Titanic early yesterday, giving her position," said Mr.Franklin, "and I am sure if she had met with an accident since, we would have heard from her. We are absolutely satisfied that if she has been in collision with an iceberg she is in no danger. With her various water-tight compartments, she is absolutely unsinkable and it makes no difference what she hit. The report should not cause any serious anxiety.,5067134

United States Senate Inquiry
Day 3

Testimony of Philip Franklin
(Mr. Franklin was sworn by the chairman.)

Senator SMITH.
What is your full name?

Philip A. S. Franklin.

Senator SMITH.
And where do you reside?

I reside in New York.

Senator SMITH.
What is your business?

I am the vice president in the United States of the International Mercantile Marine Co.

Senator SMITH.
How old are you?

Forty-one years of age.

Senator SMITH.
What composes the International Mercantile Marine Co.?
In a general way, the International Mercantile Marine Co., through its various ramifications, owns the White Star Line, the American Line, the Red Star Line, the Atlantic Transport Line, and the National Line, and the majority of the stock of the Leyland Line