In Part IV, AKA the final installment in our Titanic Miniseries, we tackle:
- Titanic survivors wait for help to arrive
- Boarding the Carpathia
- Entering New York
- The American and British Inquiries
- Expeditions to find the RMS Titanic
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Waiting for Help to Arrive
There was nothing for the passengers to do but wait and hope someone was on their way to help.
Only three people knew the Carpathia was coming: Captain Smith, Jack Phillips, and Harold Bride. Unfortunately, Smith and Phillips went down with the ship. That left Bride with the responsibility of letting Second Officer Lightoller know help was on the way.
Fifth Officer Lowe, in command of Lifeboat 14, tied Lifeboats 4, 10, 12, and D together and dispersed the passengers in his boat between those three.
By the time he finished, waited for the passengers in the water to thin out to avoid people swamping the boats, and rowed back with a select few to the site of the sinking, he was only able to pull nine people out of the water.
Fourth Officer Boxhall in Lifeboat 2 started firing green flares to catch the attention of any ship nearby, as he didn’t know for sure if there was someone coming to their rescue. This effort paid off.
The Carpathia, steaming at full speed through the dangerous icefield, saw the flares in the distance.
For a moment, they thought the Titanic was still afloat; however, when they reached the Titanic’s coordinates, there was nothing there — no debris, bodies, or lifeboats.
Rostron gave the order to head towards the flares. As a result, Lifeboat 2 was the first picked up and 12, the lifeboat that picked up Lightoller and the other other passengers standing on Collapsible B, was the last. Lightoller was the last survivor to step foot on the Carpathia, and he was also the most senior officer to survive the sinking.
It took about four hours to rescue everyone from the lifeboats. No one was injured or lost during the rescue.
Aboard the Carpathia
The survivors recieved medical attention once on board. The Carpathia passengers were absolutely wonderful, giving up their accommodations or doubling up with someone else to let the survivors have somewhere quiet and comfortable to sleep and grieve. In fact, Captain Rostron was the first to give up his living quarters.
It was heartbreaking as many survivors searched for their loved ones. Many times, it wasn’t good news.
Husbands were lost, children, entire families. All the while, women kept asking Rostron if he was sure all the lifeboats were accounted for.
With the Mount Temple and Californian looking for bodies, the Carpathia turned towards New York as they wouldn’t make it to Italy with their provisions, which was her intended destination.
The journey took three days. In the meantime Harold Cottam, the Carpathia’s Wireless Operator, and Harold Bride, after receiving treatment for his severely frostbitten feet, were working all day long to send the list of survivors to the White Star offices.
They sent the names of the First and Second Class passengers the first day, intending to send the names of the third class passengers and crew the next day.
Extra, Extra Read All About the Uninformed News!
The media was absolutely outraged. How dare the Carpathia not cable them the entire story?
They wanted to know what happened. Since there was literally radio silence on that, they started making up their own stories.
They reported the Titanic hit an iceberg, but no lives were lost and the ship was being towed to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The press badgered family members once the list of survivors came out. They didn’t bother to wait for all the facts and instead printed whatever they assumed had happened.
Arrival in New York
The bloodhounds — er we mean, the press was waiting for the Carpathia to arrive in New York.
One reporter was even able to make it aboard, but Rostron had him detained on the bridge and kept away from his passengers, which included the Titanic survivors.
The Carpathia steamed past her own dock and made her way to the White Star piers, where they unloaded the Titanic’s lifeboats — they were only able to bring back a few of them. With that done, she sailed back to Pier 54 and docked.
The Carpathia’s passengers were let off first so they weren’t waiting forever to disembark.
Rostron knew it was going to be a mad house when it came to the Titanic survivors getting off.
The first survivor stepped off the Carpathia at 9:30 p.m.; some were taken to the hospital, others were taken home or to hotels, and some were even taken to shelters, such as the third class passengers who didn’t have anywhere else to go.
Senator Alden Smith was waiting at the pier with a subpoena for the Titanic’s surviving officers and crew, and for Captain Rostron as well. He was the head of a committee formed to discover how such a disaster could have happened.
The Californian docked on April 19 in Boston Harbor, and stories were already spreading that the Californian had watched the Titanic sink. Lord was able to bully most of his crew into silence about the matter, but two men weren’t having it.
James McGregor, who was the ship’s carpenter, told his cousin that officers on the Californian saw the distress rockets. The officers had watched several rockets being fired and when they told Captain Lord, he didn’t do anything.
The other man who spoke out was Ernest Gill, an assistant engineer who wanted to set the record straight. He went to a notary office with 4 other engineers and swore in front of a reporter that he saw the distress rockets about 10 miles away on April 15, a little after midnight, and that he knew the Captain had been told about them.
Both stories were printed on April 23. Gill’s affidavit was printed by the Boston American and a copy was sent to Senator Smith. McGregor’s story was printed in the Clinton Daily Item.
On April 22, Senator Smith had learned of a ship in the distance who was close enough to watch the sinking and he wanted to find her. Now he might have done just that.
The American Inquiry
Smith announced his findings on May 18, 1912. Legally, no one was at fault.
He found Captain Smith was innocent as he hadn’t done anything necessarily wrong. He captained the ship as he had many others. However, Captain Smith should have taken more precautions, but that was an issue that required a change in protocol, which Smith couldn’t do anything about.
The way things had been done was no longer the way they should be done. There needed to be a change and the Titanic was the unmistakable evidence.
When heading into dangerous water, extra precautions needed to be taken – slow down, extra lookouts, getting all messages to the bridge.
But since the U.S. had no authority to make any of the changes they proposed, they instead used the information they gathered to create suggestions for future regulation changes that would ensure passenger safety and require shipbuilders and liners to own up to their failures.
Smith also wasn’t able to do anything in terms of Captain Lord, but he had gathered the information and hoped that British Inquiry would do something about him and his lack of action.
In the meantime, he ripped Lord a new one, letting the public know that Lord failed as a Captain when he chose not to help the Titanic.
On the other side of that, Smith was blown away by Captain Rostron. The captain was a hero, and he wanted everyone to know it. Eventually, Rostron was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
The British Inquiry
The investigation decided the reason the Titanic hit an iceberg was because she was going too fast, even though several officers and Ismay himself testified she never reached top speed.
That aside, they found issue with the lookouts not being on super high alert even though they were knowingly sailing into an icefield.
Captain Smith, like with the American investigation, was found innocent since he followed regulations and captained his ship like any other captain would — and how he had many times before during his long career.
The Californian was once against ripped a new one because they might have minimized the loss of life if they’d actually done something.
Unfortunately, White Star was not held responsible for any part of what happened to the Titanic, even though it was their liner; however, the committee did admit that there was an issue with design so they made a change to the bulkhead height requirements to ensure watertight compartments actually meant watertight.
Those Magic Changes
Because of the US inquiry, laws were able to be changed to make traveling the seas a much safer prospect. Ships had to slow their speed when entering areas of ice and extra lookouts were a must at these time.
Due to the American inquiry, some of these laws and changes became international – a big one being the requirement for enough lifeboats on board to seat every single passenger, with enough lifebelts for each.
Another change that was made was in regards to the rockets. Red rockets from then on equalled a ship in distress. There was no room to think about it or weasel out of it. Red meant a ship was in danger.
But, the U.S. didn’t wait until 1914. The Radio Act of 1912 was passed. Any ships out at sea were to constantly keep an ear out for any distress signals.
Ships were no longer allowed to shut down their wireless for the night. Twenty-four hour operation was the order of the day, with an operator on duty at all times.
In 1914, the International Ice Patrol was instituted, which meant that two ships would be out and about on the most used shipping lanes so they could send out warnings about dangerous icefields or icebergs.
The IIP still exists today and, as a result, loss of life due to collision with an iceberg hasn’t happened since the Titanic.
Finding the Wreck
Ever since the Titanic went down, there have been countless ideas about how to raise the wreck out of the water, some even included ping pong balls and encasing the entire ship in ice. It wasn’t until 1985 that scientists truly got close to locating the Titanic.
In 1985, in a dual U.S.-French exploration alliance, Robert Ballard and Jean-Louis Michel, a French engineer, went out onto the water to give it their best shot. Due to awful weather, they had to turn back the first time they went out; however, they returned a few weeks later to try again.
On September 1, in the very early morning — 1:40 a.m. —, their submersible spotted one of the Titanic’s boilers. When they went back down later in the day, they found the bow. They’d done it. They’d found the Titanic. The exploration ended on September 5.
Ballard and his team returned the following year sans the French. On July 13, 1986, Ballard and two of his team went down in a submersible named Alvin. Ballard was the first person to see the Titanic with his own eyes since April 15, 1912, the night she sank.
On July 15, they located stern. It was located about 2,000 ft from the bow. Due to how hard the stern crashed into the ocean floor, all the decks collapsed onto one another.
On July 22, Ballard went looking for the damage caused by the iceberg. This is how we know the damage wasn’t a long gash, but a series of punctures instead.
Ballard wanted the wreck to be left alone because he had so much respect for the Titanic and her victims. It was a grave and he wanted others to respect that.
Unfortunately, people wouldn’t. Since finding the Titanic, many people have gone down and brought artifacts up, which includes the French who brought up a piece of the hull, known as the “Big Piece”.
The Outlandish Historians Recommend:
- Titanic, A Very Peculiar History by Jim Pipe
- Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic’s First-Class Passengers and Their World by Hugh Brewster
- The Complete Titanic Chronicles: A Night to Remember and The Night Lives On by Walter Lord
- Farewell, Titanic: Her Final Legacy by Charles Pellegrino
- The Other Side of the Night: the Carpathia, the Californian, and the Night the Titanic Was Lost by Daniel Allen Butler
- The Titanic: The History and Legacy of the World’s Most Famous Ship from 1907 to Today by Charles River Editors
*Photos: Marshall Everett and Algot E Strand’s “Berättelsen om Titanic och dess förfärliga undergång (The story of the Titanic and its horrible downfall).” Published in 1912 by P. A. Lindburg & co and archived by The Library of Congress.
*Music: Initial classical piece that’s a part of the intro is Concerto for 2 Oboes in F Major Op9 no3, 3 Allegro by Advent Chamber Orchestra under the Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.*