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Monday, December 30, 2013

Loraine Allison: Titanic Survivor or Victim?

If you have studied the Titanic for a good length of time, you have probably heard the story of the tragedy of the Allison family.  The Allisons were 1st class passengers from Canada that consisted of a father, Hudson, a mother, Bess, and two children named Loraine (2 years and 10 years old) and Trevor (11 months old).  They also traveled with their household staff including the new nanny, Alice Cleaver.  On the night the Titanic sank, the Allisons were heading for the lifeboats when Alice Cleaver who was holding Trevor got separated from the rest of the family in the crowds and got into a lifeboat.  Hudson, Bess, and Loraine died in the disaster and only Hudson’s body was recovered.  Loraine Allison has since been known as the only child in 1st class that died in the sinking and many have read their story with their hearts breaking for little Loraine whose life was cut short so early. 

Fast forward to September of 1940.  Trevor Allison had been dead for ten years after being lovingly raised by his uncle and aunt, Alice Cleaver had disappeared into obscurity, and Hudson’s money and estate were now owned by his brother and sister-in-law.  This is when a woman named Helen Loraine Kramer came into the story and overturned what seemed to be a final and sad resolution to the story by saying that she was in fact Helen Loraine Allison, the child that supposedly died on the Titanic.  When she was asked about how she survived, she told everyone that a man named Mr. James Hyde who was really the ship’s chief designer, Thomas Andrews, had survived and was paid off by J. Bruce Ismay, the president of the White Star Line, to abandon his family and live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere so that he wouldn’t talk about design flaws in the Titanic.  According to Loraine, Ismay would visit them from time to time and when she got older, Mr. Hyde told her the story of her true identity by a letter.  In 1922, she had her first son.  In 1929, Loraine married Beecher Ferguson and they had two children.  In November 10, 1934, she married Lawrence Kramer and had two more children.  After Kramer came out with these claims, she dropped back into obscurity but not without doing damage.  She not only began a lie which some still believe, she also reopened the wound caused by the tragic and unexpected deaths of Hudson, Bess, and Loraine on the Titanic.  Kramer may have genuinely believed that she really was Loraine Allison and told her daughter and granddaughter the “truth,” but it is more likely that she was just trying to cash in on the fame and get Hudson Allison’s fortune.   She died in 1992.  In the 1990s with the advent of the internet and forums, some of her descendants came and went with the same claims Kramer made. 

In April 2012, things got heated and turned the heads of many Titaniacs.  Debrina Woods, the granddaughter of Kramer, came forward on many online forums with her claims that her grandmother was telling the truth and that she had (conveniently) found a suitcase on the weekend of the 100th anniversary of the sinking with mountains of evidence to support her.  According to her sister Deanne, the suitcase has been in the family for 50 years.  Debrina also included that these papers provide this “evidence” she speaks of which would indicate foul play involving Trevor Allison’s death of food poisoning.  When people would question her about DNA evidence (something all the paperwork in the world wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans against), she would give a date when the DNA tests would be completed.  The date given came and went and we waited patiently for the results.  Finally, we began to post and ask about the tests.  She would then talk about how little money she had and how it was pushed to another date.  We patiently would wait again and still no results.  Any attempts to question the validity of her claims were shot down by her, often in a rude manner.  She also began promising a book and screenplay (supposedly with the promise of Julian Fellowes to make the movie).  By January of 2013, most people were fed up with her claims and promises unfulfilled.  She supposedly had a museum look at the documents in May with the promise of updating people on what they said.  Such a thing has never happened. 

Let’s look at the evidence, putting aside the DNA question for now.  First, we must question her story.  When you consider the possibility of her story, how was Thomas Andrews, the ship’s designer and one of the more popular figures on the ship, able to escape the Titanic, stay on the Carpathia for about a week, and get off into huge crowds undetected with Loraine whose family was waiting in that crowd?  Also, how was he able to live without at least one person recognizing him from his photo which was plastered all over the newspapers following the disaster?  That seems highly unlikely.  Furthermore, it is an insult to his name and character to suggest that he should leave his wife and young daughter along with the company his uncle owned and in which he worked since his boyhood out of greed and the wish to please one man.  It is also an insult to the name and character of Ismay (who doesn’t have a good reputation to begin with but in reality was a genuinely nice fellow and more of a hero of the Titanic disaster) that he would suggest such a thing to Andrews. 
Next, we need to look at the story of Loraine Kramer.  There is a birth certificate that says she had a child in 1922, a time when she was 13 years old if she was the real Loraine!  Of course, it is possible to have a child that young, but it very rarely happens.  Especially in 1922!  That same year, she called herself Irene Evangeline Schultz in the census records and said she was 20 years old and born in Russia. Why did she wait until 10 years after Trevor’s death to release her claims and why did she disappear back into obscurity again when things got heated and not talk about it publically for the rest of her life?  She was approached by the Titanic historian Don Lynch while she was still living and she refused to talk about it.  Only to her descendants did she make mention of it. 

It must also be pointed out that there is no evidence of foul play in regards to Trevor Allison’s death.  According to Kramer, the Allisons had Trevor killed to get his money which he was going to inherit 3 years later.  There is absolutely no evidence to support this.  Hudson’s brother (who inherited the fortune after Trevor’s death) was actually wealthier than Hudson and never used his fortune.  Also, the coroner’s suspicions were never raised.  By all accounts, he refused medical help when he got sick and stubbornly continued to refuse medical help when he got worse.  Another thing to point out is why would the Allisons spend money to raise Trevor and not kill him as quickly as possible in a non-suspicious manner if that was their plan?  I’m afraid this accusation doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
Now let’s get to the DNA.  Tracy Oost who volunteered to put to rest whether or not the DNA revealed any link between Kramer and the Allisons started the Allison Identification Project.  On December 9, 2013, Tracy released the results after comparing DNA between the Daniels (Bess Daniels Allison’s) family and samples from Debrina’s sister, Deanne.  They came back negative, proving once and for all that Helen Loraine Kramer was not in fact Helen Loraine Allison.  Debrina’s response was that she had “closer relatives.”  But the fact is that DNA doesn’t lie and it doesn’t matter.  While Debrina might have “closer relatives” to test, the relations they did use was close enough and the matter has been officially settled.  We are 100% positive that Helen Loraine Allison died in the early hours of April 15, 1912 in the cold, icy waters of the North Atlantic in the Titanic disaster.  

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Technical World Magazine 1911

In March of 1911, the Technical World Magazine released an article about the Olympic and what she had to offer along with her twin sister Titanic.  I decided to share with you what it said since it describes how people (particularly Americans) viewed the Olympic Class Liners (which Titanic was one of) at that time.  It is interesting and a little chilling to also read about how little they prioritized the amount of people the lifeboats could hold.  Please keep in mind that some (but not all) of the figure and things advertised are wrong or exaggerated. Pretty much all that they advertised about the Olympic, they also advertised for the Titanic at the time.  I have attempted to keep the spelling, punctuation, etc. intact.




Some day next July a skyscraper will come floating up Ambrose Channel, the Narrows and the North River to her berth at the new Chelsea docks in New York.  For they are building sea-going skyscrapers these days and they are doing pretty well at it, considering.  This particular skyscraper, the Olympic, the new White Star Liner, is only eleven stories, to be sure, but measured from the bottom of her keel to the top of her funnels, she lacks only twenty-five feet of coming up to the new proposed building height limit in Chicago.  Since the Olympic's foundation is salt water which is more unstable, if possible, than the quicksands which vex the builders in the Lake Michigan metropolis this must be conceded to be a pretty fair height.  Nor are those funnels to lightly considered in computing the height.  They are very much more important than the ornamental lantern sometimes included in reckoning the height of a building.  Though they do not look very big, so exquisitely is the new liner proportioned, they would make a good many suites and offices if they were arranged for that purpose, for there are four of them, each oval in shape, 24 feet 6 inches in diameter the long way and 19 feet wide.  Placed end to end they would make a tunnel 640 feet long with ample room for two standard gauge railroad trains to stand side by side.  
Everything else about this latest prodigy of marine architecture is on the same stupendous scale.  Unfortunately, descriptive writers of former days exhausted the entire stock of adjectives in describing "leviathans of the deep" that sometimes reached the enormous size of five or six thousand tons, so that now when they are really needed to convey an idea of a craft of forty-five thousand tons there isn't isn't a superlative left that is fit to be seen in print.  The only thing



that can be done is to fall back on comparative statistics, and let it go at that.  As a starter it may be said that the length of the Olympic, 882 feet 6 inches, is 182 feet greater than the height of the Metropolitan tower in New York, the tallest structure on the continent, and four times the height of the Bunker Hill monument; and yet any one who has toiled up the steps to the top of Boston's proudest landmark will feelingly agree that it is not to be sneezed at.  Also, the length of the Olympic and sister ship, the Titanic, launched in February, 1911, is twice the height of St. Peter's in Rome and equals the total drop of the famous Bridal Veil falls in Yosemite Valley.  Placed end to end beside the Brooklyn Bridge these two ships would span the East River and extend over the shore one hundred feet on each side.  In short the Olympic is 97 feet 6 inches longer than the Mauretania and Lusitania, is 92 feet six inches wide over the boat deck.  From the boat deck to the bottom of the keel is 97 feet; from the top of the Captain's house to the bottom of the keel is 105 feet 6 inches, and from the top of the funnels to
the bottom of the keel, 175 feet.  There are eleven steel decks and fifteen watertight bulkheads.
The launching of the Olympic alone cost more than enough to build a fine steamship.  More than six hundred steers died to make her path into the water smooth, for twenty-two tons of tallow were used to grease the ways.  Many a Belfast waterman made a modest little fortune (judged by a Belfast waterman's standard) picking up the floating tallow after the launch.  The tallow, however, was too trivial an item for serious consideration when compared to the rest of the bill.
It cost the Belfast Harbor Board, which draws no share of the Olympic's earnings, $292,000 to get ready for the launching.  Of this sum $146,000 went to deepen the channel to 32 feet.  Opposite the berth a pit of fifty feet deep had to be dredged in the bottom of the harbor to make room for the plunge of the stern before the bow left the ways.  Then Harland and Wolff, the builders, had to spend $48,670 to strengthen Victoria wharf opposite the berth lest the terrific commotion kicked up when the monster struck the water should cause the wharf to collapse.  Still, that was but a beginning.  Three of the largest slips they had were converted into two for the Olympic and Titanic.  Over the berth a double gantry had to be erected 840 feet long, 105 feet wide and 220 feet high and equipped with travelers and cranes capable of lifting from 5 to forty tons.  Besides this there was a floating crane to be provided at great cost to transfer the boilers to the ships after they were afloat.  Part of the works had to be entirely reconstructed, other parts were altered and special equipment provided, making the outlay for the plant for building these biggest ships more than two million dollars.
From the time the keel was laid, December 15, 1908, to October 20, 1910, the date of the launching, a fair sized army was steadily employed on the Olympic.  For weeks before before the launching two thousand five hundred men toiled night and day making preparations 



for the great event.  As the weight at the launching was 27 thousand tons, much the largest mass of steel ever put in the water at once, a great deal of careful planning and expert preparation were required to make ready for the sixty-two seconds occupied by the Olympic in making the plunge.  From the time the hydraulic triggers holding the vessel holding the vessel on the ways were released until she was stationary in the water less than two minutes elapsed.  
Since the Olympic represents an investment of $7,500,000 it was necessary that in addition that in addition to being the largest ship the world has ever seen, a distinction she will only retain until the Titanic is placed in service late this fall, when she will be one of the largest two, she should also be the heaviest and strongest.  Five hundred thousand rivets, weighing 270 tons, were used in the construction of the double bottom alone.  The largest rivet was 1/4 inches in diameter.  This double bottom is 5 feet 3 inches deep.  The largest shell plates are 36 feet long and weigh 4 1/2 tons.  The largest beams are 92 feet long.  The after boss arm, a sort of three pronged bracket that tags along to hold up the outer ends of the propellers, weighs 72 1/2 tons.  The rudder, a dainty creation in steel, is 15 feet 3 inches wide with a stock 23 1/2 inches in diameter and weighs a hundred tons, as much as a good sized locomotive.
But speaking of riveting, 3,000,000 rivets weighing in twelve hundred tons, are required to hold the Olympic together.  All the shell plating up to the turn of the bilge and much of the other work was done by power riveters, which in Belfast are very different things from the little hand tool sprouting from the end of a rubber hose, the blood-curdling, nerve destroying r-r-r-r-r-r-r-at-at-at-at-tat of which is so distressingly familiar to American ears.  The Irish riveter is a ponderous affair weighing seven tons which has to be manipulated by means of a traveling crane.  But it does its work so easily and so silently that it was considered quite the thing to invite ladies who visited the works during the building of the Olympic to step up and drive a rivet.
In point, of power the Olympic, though much larger than the Lusitania and Mauretania, drops far behind the swift Cunarders.  For each knot about twenty per hour added to the speed of a steamship the coal consumption increases in an ever-growing ratio that is out of all proportion to the advantage gained.  The luxury of a speed of 25.5 knots an hour comes so high that all other steamship companies have enthusiastically agreed to let the Cunard Company monopolize it.  So it happens that while the Olympic is a third greater in tonnage than the Mauretania her engines will have only fifty thousand horse power, as compared with the Cunarder's seventy thousand horse power, which is only enough to enable her to jog along at twenty-one knots an hour.  Still, a plant of fifty thousand horse power has by no means as yet become what might be called commonplace.
The arrangement of two wing propellers driven by reciprocating engines combined with a center propeller driven by a turbine has been tried out on the White Star Liner Laurentic, plying between Liverpool and Montreal, with such


gratifying results in economy and in eliminating vibration, that it has been adopted for the Olympic.  It has been alleged by the press agent that this absence of vibration abolishes that terror of the seas, mal de mer; but don't you believe it.  There is but one infallible rule for prevention of sea-sickness, and that is to stick to dry land.  It i much cheaper than crossing the Atlantic, any way.  
But to return to the wing propellers, they are each 23 feet 6 inches in diameter, weigh 38 tons each and are affixed to crank shafts weighing 118 tons each.  These ponderous masses of metal are driven at a speed of 75 revolutions per minute by triple expansion engines with four cylinders, the high pressure cylinder being 54 inches in diameter, the intermediate 84 and the two low pressure 97 inches in diameter, which all have a stroke of 6 feet 3 inches.  Each engine bedplate weighs 195 tons.  
The center propeller, which is only 16 feet 6 inches in diameter, has to run at more than double the speed of the wing propellers, or 165 revolutions per minute.  It is driven by the latest type of Parsons turbine, the rotor of which is 12 feet in diameter and 13 feet 8 inches long.  From the company's standpoint the most attractive feature of this arrangement is not that it abolished sea sickness, as alleged, but that it keeps the coal bill down.  Steam, generated in 20 double ended and 5 single ended Scotch boilers, all 15 feet 9 inches in diameter, the double enders 20 feet and the 11 feet 9 inches long, is delivered to the reciprocating engines at 215 pounds pressure.  The high pressure cylinder get all they can out of the steam, which is then passed on to intermediate cylinders, which go after the elasticity in that steam like a Paris hotel keeper after a tourist’s cash, then dole it out to the low pressure cylinders.  Not

The boilers are 15 feet, 9 inches in diameter and 20 feet in length.

One of the gigantic parts of the Olympic.  Weight 72 1/2 tons.

until every ounce of pressure that a reciprocating engine can get out of it has been extracted from that steam is it allowed to escape to the turbine.  Although by this time the steam is so weak it can hardly struggle on, the turbine has become so wonderfully efficient that it contrives to develop a great deal of power out of this exhaust steam.  When the turbine gets through with it the steam, which by this time isn’t much more effective than hot water goes to the condenser, and from there back to the boilers to begin the weary round all over again.
Still bearing in mind the outlay of $7,500,000, rather than from an inordinate solicitude for prospective passengers, the company has equipped the Olympic with the most elaborate safety appliances that the ingenuity of man has devised.  In this respect the steamship companies are exactly like the railroads.  Every so-called safety appliance has on a railroad today has been adopted for its economic value, the safety secured and thereby being incidental-a sort of by-product, so to speak.  However, when a passenger by sea or land is zealously guarded from harm it is no part of his business to analyze the motives that insure his safety.  If some blundering steamer should run full tilt into the Olympic as the Florida did into the Republic it is safe to predict that the new giant will not only stay afloat long enough to transfer all her passengers, but that her bulk-


 heads will be found strong enough to withstand the strain of towing to port.  There are the usual doors between watertight compartments all closed at once by a touch on electric button on the bridge, the submarine signaling apparatus that can pick up the tones of a warning bell seventeen miles distant and also tell the direction from which the warning comes, the wireless telegraph that will keep the ship in constant touch with the shore and with other ships and the elaborate fire protection system to be found on all modern liners.  In addition to all these the Olympic has a new wrinkle in the arrangement of the small boats.
To quote from page 156, volume 16 of the Transactions of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, “It is compulsory to provide a full complement of life boats and other life saving appliances together with davits which can be relied upon to lower the boats in a heavy sea without the least chance of mishap . . . Provided a vessel is not afire and can float, even with a big hole in her side she is about the most comfortable and the safest place available in mid-Atlantic.”
The laws of England and the United States do not require a vessel like the Olympic to carry small boats enough to accommodate all the passengers and crew, but even the number she does carry takes up a great deal of room the passengers would rather have devoted to promenades.  By using sixteen sets of Welin double acting quadrant davits, which will swing a boat away from the ship’s side and stay put at any angle in any kind of sea, the Olympic is enabled to stow 32 boats and have most of the deck room too, for each set of davits which has been approved by the conservative British Board of Trade, not only reduces the cost, saves weight and also makes it possible to carry more life boats and still have them readily accessible in case of need.
Since there seems to be no limit to the sums otherwise sane Americans are willing to pay to be ferried across the Atlantic, every facility will be afforded the passenger on the Olympic for getting rid of his money.  On any of the big modern liners one may pay from $112.50 for a single berth in an inside room down in the basement or two thousand dollars for an imperial suite on an upper deck where the passengers who like to stay up all night can congregate under the windows to gabble.  Not many pay the minimum rate in the “high season,” though:  the steamship companies see to that.  One of the big new German steamships quotes a minimum rate of $112.50 per berth but inquiry reveals the fact that



there are just three two berth rooms on the ship at that rate.  The rest of the five hundred and twenty first class passengers pay two hundred to six hundred dollars a head.  The distance across the Atlantic is about three times the distance from New York to Chicago.  The total cost of a trip between these two cities, including berth an meals on the fastest and costliest trains is $38.  Three times the distance would amount to $114.  But the average rate on the new liners is about three times that amount.  The rates on the Olympic have not yet been announced, but there is no reason to doubt that they will be ample. 
In return for his money the first class passenger can eat his meals, provided he isn’t too sick to think of victuals, in a main dining room seating six hundred persons, the biggest and most elaborate dining room afloat, or in a smaller dining room.  Between meals he can loiter in sumptuous drawing rooms, the lounge, or smoking rooms, or library, or he can work up an appetite in the gymnasium, or take a plunge in the swimming pool.  If all these attractions pall he may seek relaxation in the ball room, the theater or the skating rink, all of which combined in a single vast area of glass-enclosed deck.
Should there be any danger of his money burning holes in his pockets before he can get to Europe with it, the passenger on the Olympic can find prompt relief at the verandah cafĂ©, where he can mingle sea-breezes with his liquor; or, if more heroic measures seem called for, he can get rid of his cash in larger wads at the tailor shop or dressmakers’ parlors on board, or he can spend it still faster at the jewelry store.  In fact there is nothing to prevent the passenger from achieving bankruptcy on the outward bound voyage so that he may return on the first homeward bound vessel.  This will save time and simplify the annual hegira.
The Olympic will have accommodations for 2,500 passengers in all.  To run the ship and wait upon this great throng will require a crew of 860 which will be commanded by Captain E.J. Smith, now of the Adriatic.  The new liner will not lack business.  Although sailing dates and rates have not been announced applications for berths have been coming in ever since last fall at a rate which indicates that some intending passengers may have to travel on other ships or submit to the perfectly dreadful and scarcely-to-be-thought of alternative of staying at home.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Top 10 Titanic Books 2013

It's the Christmas season now and I'm sure some of you are looking to expand your Titanic libraries this season.  Others might be looking at doing this some other time.  At any rate, here are the top 10 must-haves for all Titaniacs.  If you wish to purchase any of the recommended books, I would like to request that you go through my Amazon store which you can access on the right side of the top of the blog.  :-)

10.  The Story of the Titanic
This book is a compilation some of the most famous Titanic accounts by Jack Wincour from her survivors which include the books by passengers Lawrence Beesley and Archibald Gracie, the section about the Titanic in 2nd Officer Lightoller's autobiography, and the newspaper interview given by Junior Wireless Operator Harold Bride on the Carpathia.  They are all excellent reads for anyone interested in reading survivirs' accounts and would make a good companion book with George Behe's "On Board the RMS Titanic."

9.  Titanic In Photographs
This is a wonderful book!  Some of you have probably noticed how photographs of the Olympic, Titanic's older and longer living sister, are scattered throughout Titanic books and have been for many years.  This book is different in that it tells the Titanic's story through actual photographs of the Titanic.  There are a few photographs of Olympic's interiors, but they make it clear if they are and are only in there because none exist of some particular spaces on the Titanic like her Grand Staircase.  Other than that, all you see is Titanic and some are wonderful conversation starters.

8.  The Night Lives On
This was basically Walter Lord's updated version of A Night To Remember.  With the success of ANTR, more information and account came to light which enabled Walter Lord to tell the fascinating Titanic story with greater detail and new information.  Don't let that discourage you from reading ANTR, though.  Both of Walter Lord's books are wonderful must-reads.

7.  A Night To Remember
This one book has had more influence on the Titanic community than any other Titanic book in history. Walter Lord in writing the book pioneered the way we look at the Titanic today and plowed through the ice in uncovering more facts about the Titanic.  On top of writing an informative book about what happened, he also wrote it so well that it has you on the edge of your seat as Walter Lord tells the Titanic story in an electrifying way.

6.  Titanic: An Illustrated History
This one book led to the Titanic craze of today because it inspired the 1997 movie.  The book is written by Don Lynch who uses his memories of what the survivors told him and what he knows based on his extensive research.  Beautifully illustrated by the always amazing paintings by Ken Marschall, this book will delight Titaniacs young and old as they are transported back to the "ship of dreams."

5.  Exploring The Deep
This book came out this year and is a wonderful read.  Written by James Cameron, Don Lynch, Ken Marschall, and Parks Stephenson, this book recounts each of Cameron's dives in journal-like fashion.  It also contains wonderful images of the wreck which haven't been published before.  It is an awesome book and I think young Titaniacs might even enjoy it too because of the pictures.

4.  The Loss of the SS Titanic:  Centennial Reappraisal
In reaction to the Titanic disaster, the British and American authorities set up inquiries to find out what went wrong to prevent another disaster like that from happening again.  After the British Inquiries, they released a pamphlet entitled, "The Loss of the SS Titanic" which described the Titanic's physical details and safety features and gave a report on what happened and what went wrong.  Fast forward to almost 100 years after that horrible event took place.  All the survivors have died and through the accounts they left behind, we now know more than they did when they wrote the report.  Leading Titanic expert Samuel Halpern lead a team of some of the most knowledgeable people in the world about the Titanic to retell Titanic's story based on the evidence we have today.  All the major events and mistakes are explained in detail and is guaranteed to change the way you view the Titanic disaster.

3.  On Board The RMS Titanic:  Memories of a Maiden Voyage
Have you ever wanted to learn more without people telling you the same heart-wrenching stories over and over?  Have you ever wanted to learn about what happened from the survivors themselves?  This is the book for you.  This masterpiece by George Behe is a collection of letters written on the Titanic and afterwards on the Carpathia by people who were actually on the Titanic.  You'll find yourself reading these letters for hours as each person tells his/her story with the events still fresh in his/her mind, some with vivid detail.

2.  The Ship Magnificent
I do not own this two volume set yet, but those that do tell me that it is THE Titanic book to own especially if you're interested in her technical aspect.  It tells you everything from the size of her Grand Staircase tiles to the size of each porthole and window.  It is basically a manual for if you ever want to rebuild the Titanic.

1.  On A Sea Of Glass
This book was a collaborative effort by Bill Wormstedt, Tad Fitch, J. Kent Leyton, and George Behe.  It is simply a masterpiece and worth every penny.  It tells the Titanic story in a wonderful way that is clear to understand and if you wish to delve deeper and explore different issues such as the Officer's suicide, what the band's last song was, where was Thomas Andrews in his final moments, etc. there is an amazing appendix that you will find yourself coming back to often.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Titanic Historical Society 50th Anniversary Convention: Day 5

Today was a bittersweet day.  I was sad to leave my friends and this atmosphere and go back home, but I also missed my own bed.  I went over to the remembrance service early in the morning.  Being a Reformed Baptist, I'm not used to that kind of service but it was still interesting to experience.  We sang "O God, our help in Ages Past," "Eternal Father Strong to Save," and "Nearer My God To Thee."  Rev. Demass led the prayers and sermon.  Rev. Statler also offered some reflections and did a good job singing Mary Fahl's "Going Home."  I especially enjoyed his song because it was written for one of my favorite films, "Gods and Generals."  Then we went over to the museum where we had a group photo in front of the museum.  I wish we went inside.  I would have liked to walk up the Grand Staircase one last time.  But we didn't have time as we said our good byes to some and the rest of us went over to the Applewood Farm restaurant for our final meal together.  We had a wonderful southern meal together and we were able to sit at the same table as Phil Gowan, the Trowers, Mike Herbold, and another couple.  We had wonderful conversations and then the master of ceremonies, Paul Burns, stood up and led us in singing happy birthday to Karen Kamuda who has one coming up.  After that, they presented certificates thanking everybody who played an instrumental part in the event.  Then came a touching moment with Ed Kamuda presented his wife, Karen, with a plaque thanking her for her dedication to the THS.  I don't think there was a dry eye in the room.  Both of the Kamudas deserved all the thanks they got and more.  Their tireless efforts to make the THS, Commutator, and conventions possible are noteworthy.  Then came the hard part.  We said good bye, saying that we'll see each other next year at the next convention.  I certainly hope so.  They're a lovely group of people and I certainly will make an effort to make it to the next convention.

Titanic Historical Society 50th Anniversary: Day 4

Today was awesome!  This trip has been the best $300 I've spent in my life.  This afternoon, there was a coach tour of Pigeon Forge scheduled for the group but my Mother and I decided to take advantage of the free admission as attendees of the THS convention and go to the Titanic Pigeon Forge exhibit again.  I can never get over all those artifacts and actually walking up the Grand Staircase.  The people there are so friendly and nice as well.  We returned to the hotel for a little break before getting into our 1st class attire and going back to the museum where we would have the special privilege of having our dinner on the 3rd floor of the museum.  When we got there, we were given our cards we were assigned a table.  Each table was named after a survivor.  As we were waiting for them to take us up, Ken Marschall in the flesh came up with his partner.  We rode the elevator together and we had a brief conversation about the elevators.  Then we came up to the third level where it was held in a very large and beautiful room with well done murals.  We found our seat at the Washington Dodge Jr. table where we had the great privilege of sitting with Bill Wormstedt and his wife, George Behe, Phil Gowan, Mike Herbold, and there was an empty seat which was supposed to belong to Douglas Willingham.  The table next to us had Ken Marschall, Don Lynch, Darrell Rooney, and several others.  When the event began, Mrs. Joselyn got up and spoke eloquently about the museum and their exhibits.  Then we had a delicious meal.  We started out with at tartlet trio with flavors of spinach, brie and raspberry, and goat cheese and stuffed mushrooms filled with Italian sausage and Parmesan cheese.  The next course was a delicious salad.  Then they served a very good plate of Grilled Alaskan Salmon with Mustard Dill on top, filet minion, baby carrots, and white cheddar mashed potatoes.  Between this course and the next, Ken Marschall was introduced.  He gave a wonderful speech about the making of the movie and showed us pictures that hadn't been published before of the making of the film.  It was so fascinating, looking at the making of the movie and how they did certain shots.  During his speech, they served cake, ice cream, and coffee.  Afterwards, they were so kind and gracious to us.  I say that because I brought a lithograph and 5 books for him to sign.  When most of the people at left, we began talking to Ken's partner, Verne.  We laughed at his jokes and he is a very nice man.  Eventually, it was just me, my Mother, Ken Marschall, and Verne.  We had a wonderful time talking with them about the Titanic for almost half an hour.  We left trying to take in everything that had happened and it will probably take a few days to process and file away all the information I've heard.  Tomorrow is the last day and while it will be good to get back home, I have loved this trip so much and I will never forget it.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Titanic Historical Society 50th Anniversary: Day 3

Today was an amazing day!  It began with a speech by Phil Gowan in which he shared a snippet of his immense knowledge of the good, bad, and ugly passengers and crew.  It was interesting to see an honest look at the passengers and crew that are revered or in which their faults are overlooked.  The next speech was by Paul Loudon-Brown about the RMS Arabic.  Being a Titaniac, I'd heard about the Arabic maybe twice as one of the prominent ships in the White Star Lind fleet.  But I had never looked into it in depth.  Loudon-Brown dove into the Arabic story and what a fascinating and interesting ship she is.  He also talked about the attempt to recover the gold off the Arabic which was sunk during WWI.  Afterwards, Joseph Brown got up and spoke about the Marconi set and the role of the wireless on board the Titanic.  Before the next speech, I went over to the hotel next door with Douglas Willingham and another friend where Douglas Willingham showed me his scrapbook about his cousin, 1st class passenger Archie Butt.  It was a wonderful time, talking with them and getting to know them along with learning some very interesting facts about Archie.  When we returned, we got in to see the final 30 minutes of Darrell Rooney's documentary about the Titanic Heritage Tours.  It looked awesome based on what little I saw.  Next, we went out to Alamo Steakhouse for dinner with Douglas Willingham, George Behe, the Trowers, Phil Gowan, Darrell Rooney, Don Lynch, and several others.  We had a great time and got back to hear Don Lynch give a fascinating speech about his experiences making the movie.  It was real eye opening.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Titanic Historical Society 50th Anniversary: Day 2

Today was an awesome day!  We arrived at the museum early at 9:30 AM at the same time as several others at the THS Convention.  It was very kind of the owners of the Titanic museum here in Pigeon Forge to grant free access to the museum for the duration of the convention.  There was so much there, I am overwhelmed trying to remember everything I saw.  It was a real treat to see the pennies Thomas Millar gave his boys just before he left on the Titanic to his death.  It was also neat to see all these copies of Father Browne's photographs and things from the 3rd class passengers including a Bible which one of the passengers clutched as she left the ship.  There was also a number of things from 2nd class passenger Rev. John Harper who is one of my favorite Titanic heroes.  It was neat to see things from the 1997 film like clothes and hats.  The coolest parts were standing on the Bridge at the wheel and walking up and down the Grand Staircase.  To only see black and white photographs of the Grand Staircase and imagine what it was like to be on there is one thing.  To physically walk up those steps is quite another experience and it is amazing.  On top of seeing all these neat artifacts and more, what made the experience truly special was to tour it with George Behe and Tim Trower and hear their immense knowledge of the ship as they discussed various issues throughout the exhibit.  That was something I'll never forget.

In the evening, we went up to Buckberry Lodge in the Smokey Mountains.  The view was stunning and gorgeous and the food was just wonderful.  It was a real treat!  The people there were lovely and we got the great privilege of sitting at the same table as the Kamudas (who founded the THS) and Joselyns (who founded the Titanic museums in Branson and Pigeon Forge).  Just before dinner, we met Douglas Willingham who is a distant cousin of 1st class passenger Maj. Archie Butt.  The dinner was a 3 course meal which began with a salad, then a chicken breast with rice and green beans, and New York Cheesecake.  After the dinner and some wonderful discussions about Titanic and Classical Music with others nearby, everybody gathered in the big room where current and former officers of the THS spoke about interesting experiences.  Paul Loudon-Brown, George Behe, Don Lynch, and Karen Kamuda all spoke.  Then Ed Kamuda got up and read letters from absent officers of the past.  Afterwards, I got some copies of my books signed by Bill Wormstedt, Don Lynch, and George Behe!  I feel so blessed to have not only wonderful books such as On A Sea Of Glass, A Death on the Titanic, The Loss of the SS Titanic:  Centennial Reappraisal, and Exploring the Deep all signed by 1-2 of their authors.  This day definitely ranks high among the best days in my life.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Titanic Historical Society 50th Anniversary Day 1

Today was the kickoff for the convention.  We had an exciting day and I got to meet some of my Titanic heroes such as Ed and Karen Kamuda, Don Lynch, and George Behe.  More are expected tomorrow.  We got to the Springhill Suites hotel which is very nice in Pigeon Forge, TN and my Mother and I immediately got dressed.  We planned it out to where we would go as 3rd class passengers to the first dinner, 2nd class passengers to the 2nd dinner, and 1st class passengers at the 3rd dinner.

We got there and sat down at the same table as a Titanic friend of mine that I've known for several years over the internet but just today got to meet in person, Tim Trower.  We had a wonderful time and the food was excellent.  We had a good southern style meal with barbecue ribs, coleslaw, potato salad, corn on the cob, biscuits, peach cobbler, and ice ceream.  After eating, we listened to Ed and Karen Kamuda talk about the founding of the Titanic Historical Society and what it's done in later years.  I had no idea how much the THS has been involved in so many projects and basically planted the seeds that led to the discovery of the Titanic and her sister ship, Britannic.  It was interesting to see a man who as a boy had an interest in the Titanic and how that led to the leading Titanic community.  I can't wait to learn more as the convention continues!  Just tonight has allowed me to hear a wealth of information.

For those who want pictures, they will be posted after I get home.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

101 Years Ago Today: April 14

On this day, Titanic was steaming ahead.  She had church services in her respective classes and then a lovely afternoon.  At dinner, in 1st class, the Wideners held a party in the A La Carte Restaurant in honor of Captain Smith with the creme of the crop there.  At 11:40 P.M., Fred Fleet spotted the iceberg.  The crew of the Titanic tried to miss the berg, but it was too close.  She hit and damaged more watertight than she could handle.  Titanic from that point on was doomed.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

101 Years Ago Today: April 12

101 years ago today, Titanic arrived at her final port, Queenstown.  She took on mostly Steerage passengers including Daniel Buckley.  It is rumored that when some salesmen came on board to sell their goods, John Jacob Astor spent a good deal on some goods.  Some people disembarked here like Father Browne with his camera and some of the only known photographs of the Titanic interiors.  Like Cherbourg, the docks in Queenstown were too small for the Titanic and so a tender had to bring the passengers, cargo, and mail on board.  At the appointed time, Titanic left Queenstown.  It was the last time that Titanic and 1,496 people on board would see land again.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

101 Years Ago Today, April 10

101 years ago today, Titanic set sail from Southampton on her maiden and final voyage. Thomas Andrews and J. Bruce Ismay were the first passengers on board. Among those also boarding at were the Strauses and Archibald Gracie in 1st class, Annie Funk and Kate Bussin 2nd class, and the Deans and Goodwins in 3rd class. It was a cloudy day, but that didn't hamper the excitement much as the largest and most luxurious ship ever built set sail, bringing pride to the hearts of the British and Irishmen. As the Titanic was leaving, the suction from the enormous liner caused the SS New York's cables to snap and her stern to be drawn towards the Titanic. The collision was avoided by the will of providence and Captain Smith's quick thinking. For the rest of the voyage, the near collision was the subject of many conversations.  Afterwards, Titanic stopped at Cherbourg, France. None of the docks in that port would fit the Titanic. The passengers, mail, and cargo therefore had to be ferried on smaller boats. Among those that boarded were John Jacob Astor and his pregnant wife Madeline, Benjamin Guggenheim and his party, the Laroche family, and Margaret Brown who would later be known as the "Unsinkable Molly Brown".

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Review-On Board R.M.S. Titanic: Memories of the Maiden Voyage

In late 2012, another fantastic book by Titanic historian George Behe was published called "On Board R.M.S. Titanic:  Memories of the Maiden Voyage."  The book is a collection of letters and postcards by passengers and crew written before and after the sinking of the Titanic, describing their experiences and feelings.  The letters have been preserved as best as he could, even with the spelling and grammatical errors. At the end, we can see photographs of some of the people that wrote the letters in the book and photographs of the ship itself.  Many of the photographs are from George Behe's own collection.

I cannot praise this book enough.  It is a fabulous and in fact one of the best ways to know exactly what it was like to be on board the Titanic and then see her sink.  You get to read as the passengers go on and on about their experiences and their wonder at this fantastic new ship.  Then, you get to read letters afterwards as they give their chilling accounts about Titanic's last moments.  The many of the letters are for the rare and some had never been published before.  Some were even written in other languages and then translated.  One thing I love about it is that because all the letters were copied exactly, you get truth and inaccuracies mixed in and George leaves it up to you to decide what's true and what's not.  The spirit is virtually the same though, as they recall their wonder and horror as they experience the great liner's maiden voyage and death.  It is definitely a treasure and deserves to be a staple in any Titaniac's collection.

If you wish to purchase the book, you may get it from the following links:





Thursday, March 28, 2013

Did The Band Play On?

In books, plays, films, and stories about the Titanic, one story is told in nearly every one of them and that is the story of the Titanic's band, bravely and nobly played "Nearer My God To Thee" as water is coming up and everyone else is struggling for survival all around them.  Did they really do this?  Did they play "Nearer My God To Thee" as many believe?  Or was it "Autumn", as some others believe.  In this post, I hope to examine and determine what happened that night to the best of my abilities.

There are some things we do know about the band.  They were actually two separate bands which played in different parts of the ship at different times.  They likely combined into one band during the sinking.  Wallace Hartley was the bandleader.  We know that they played during the sinking.  No survivor has discounted that story.  We also know that at some point, they played in the Lounge at first (Jack Thayer's account) and then moved on the Boat Deck level of the Grand Staircase where there was a Steinway piano.   Eventually, they did move outside to the Boat Deck.  Beyond that, survivor's accounts vary.  Since none of the members of the band survived, we will never know what exactly happened.  However, I will do my best to answer the questions that have been debated using eyewitness testimonies and a little speculation on my part.

The first question is, did the band play on until the bitter end?

Two detractors that I know of are 1st class passengers Archibald Gracie and A.H. Barkworth.  Gracie said in one of his speeches that he saw the band lay down their instruments.  Barkworth said in a newspaper account, "The next time I passed where the band had been stationed, the members of it had thrown down their instruments and were not to be seen. But I shall never forget the fierce jarring notes of that waltz they played.”

The supporters of the claim were Harold Bride, Helen Churchill Candee, Frank Prentice, Thomas Ranger, and Edward Brown.

Harold Bride gave an interview while he was on the Carpathia and said, "...the band was still playing. I guess all of the band went down. They were playing Autumn then. I swam with all my might. I suppose I was 150 feet away when the Titanic on her nose, with her after-quartet sticking straight up in the air, began to settle - slowly.... the way the band kept playing was a noble thing..... and the last I saw of the band, when I was floating out in the sea with my lifebelt on, it was still on deck playing Autumn. How they ever did it I cannot imagine. That, and the way Phillips (the senior wireless operator) kept sending after the Captain told him his life was his own, and to look out for himself, are two things that stand out in my mind over all the rest..." 

1st class steward Edward Brown talked about the band during the British Inquiry and said:

“There is one other matter I want you to tell us about as you were on the ship to the end. Do you know what the Band were doing at the last?”
“I do not remember hearing the band stop playing. They were playing for a long time, but I do not remember hearing them stop.”

“Where would the band be gathered; where would they play, do you know?”
“Right on the forward companion on the very top - on the boat deck forward companion.”

“Were they playing at the time when you were dealing with this collapsible boat from the top of the Officers' quarters?”

“Up to as late as that your memory serves you?”
“Yes, they were playing then.”

The next question I would like to address is, what was the last song played?

Junior Wireless Operator Harold Bride said, "From the aft came the tunes of the band. It was a ragtime tune, I don't know what. Then there was 'Autumn'. Phillips ran aft and that was the last time I ever saw him." 

Barkworth said, "The next time I passed where the band had been stationed, the members of it had thrown down their instruments and were not to be seen. But I shall never forget the fierce jarring notes of that waltz they played.”

Gracie mentioned that he only heard light waltzes and ragtime. 

There are many more that said that the last song was NMGTT including Frank Prentice, Eva Hart, Esther Hart, Helen Churchill Candee, Edwina Troutt, Edward Brown, and Jacob Gibbons.

The final question I would like to address is, if it was "Nearer My God To Thee", what version did they play?

There were three versions:

"Bethany" was written in 1856 by Lowell Mason and was used in James Cameron's 1997 film.  It has been the most used version of the hymn.

"Horbury" was written in 1861 by John Dykes and was used in "A Night To Remember".

"Propior Deo" was written in 1872 by Andrew Sullivan and has never been used in any film.  It was used mainly by British Methodists and was likely sung by Wallace Hartley, the bandleader and a Methodist, while he was growing up. 


The band played on.  The fact that Harold Bride was in close proximity (about 50 feet away) and he heard them when he came out at 2:17 A.M. pretty much proves that point.  Then factor in that the passengers and crew also heard them.  Titanic historian George Behe suggests that when Gracie and Barkworth saw the band put down their instruments, they may have been going down to their cabins and getting their lifebelts since it was noted by one passenger early on that they had no lifebelt and later it was noted by another passenger that they did.  They played until about 2:18 A.M. when the ship began her final plunge and water came up to where they were.  At about that point, it is likely that went their separate ways to their fates.  It wasn't as late as Bride said because they were swept away about at the same time as Bride landed in the water.  Bride may have either just not remembered or thought he heard them which really would have been the tune going on in his head.  That water was pretty cold so, who knows what Bride was thinking.  It would have diminished his senses greatly.

The question of what song they played has been the subject of much debate.  It has been suggested that since Harold Bride was in such close proximity as opposed to the others who were either watching and listening from the safety of the lifeboats or much further aft towards the stern, he must be right.  I am not so sure.  In the area where Bride was, there was much shouting and screaming as water was flooding the Promenade Deck one deck below and there were also sounds of the creaking and moaning of the ship.  It would have been pandemonium and chaos.  Bride likely heard a few notes that the band was playing clearly.  Ever since Walter Lord speculated that the Bride was really playing the ragtime "Songe d'Automne" in "The Night Lives On", many people have accepted that that is what Bride meant.  I respectfully disagree.  "Autumn" was also a popular hymn during that time.  Pretty much everyone went to church at that time and Bride would have almost certainly heard it during some of the services.  When you listen to it, the tune sounds very similar to "Nearer My God To Thee".  Since so many said that it was "Nearer My God To Thee" (even though some of them may have said that that was the last song because others said so), I believe that Bride barely heard it over the confusion and noise, would not have concentrated, and assumed that it was "Autumn".  Those in the boats, however, would have been able to concentrate on what they were hearing and seeing.  The water was pretty calm, almost like a lake.  That would have allowed the sound to carry further.  To add to the evidence of my belief that it was NMGTT, Hartley was asked shortly before he went on the Titanic if he was ever on a sinking ship, what would he play.  Hartley replied that he would play either "O God Our Help in Ages Past" or "Nearer My God To Thee" (which was one of his favorites).  It has been said that NMGTT would have caused panic, but Hartley once said, “ I know he often said that music was a bigger weapon for stopping disorder than anything on Earth."  NMGTT would have brought people to their knees as they prepared for eternity and since nearly everyone was in some way religious, would have brought comfort in knowing that they were about to meet their Savior.

The version has been confusing to me.  Honestly, I would like a scene where he played as his final song the version he heard growing up, but it wasn't a popular version.  I doubt that the other bandmembers would have known it and not as many would have recognized it.  Therefore, I believe that it was "Bethany".  It was recognized by so many people and it was such a popular version that the other bandmembers would have very likely known it. 

You may or may not agree with me, but one thing is certain.  The band played to keep the spirits of the passengers and crew up as the ship went down and the lifeboats were loaded and lowered right in front of them.  They never made an effort to enter a lifeboat and had the well being of the passengers at the forefront of their minds, even if it cost them their lives.  All of them were true heroes and deserve the honor they have gotten.

If you want to research and draw your own conclusions, I recommend the following websites:






Monday, March 18, 2013

Ismay: Hero or Coward

The actions of Joseph Bruce Ismay have fallen under much scrutiny in regards to the Titanic and he has been a favorite person to be made the villain ever since the sinking by newspapers, films, and books. It is my hope in this post to uncover the truth regarding what happened and why he is hated so much. J. Bruce Ismay was the son of Thomas Ismay, one of the founders of the White Star Line (WSL) which was a ship company. The WSL was bought by J.P. Morgan who was the owner of the International Mercantile Marine which had almost a complete monopoly on all companies that were using the North Atlantic run. J. Bruce Ismay followed in his father's footsteps and eventually became the Managing Director of the WSL. The Titanic was actually Ismay's vision from the beginning. He and Lord Pirrie who owned Harland & Wolff, the ship building company that built nearly all of the WSL's ships, were talking after dinner and the two came up with a plan to construct three new ships that were bigger and more luxurious than any ship that had ever been built. Soon after that, they began making plans and Ismay ordered the three new ships. The Olympic was first built and it was very popular. Ismay went on board as the representative of the WSL for the maiden voyage as he often did and I would think was impressed with her. The Titanic came next. One thing that is not generally realized about Ismay is that he was a very shy man. He was in reality a kind and caring gentleman when you got to know him, but with WSL, he was devoted to the success of his father's company which has caused some to view him as arrogant or difficult to deal with. He may very well have been arrogant, but he pretty much had a right to be. His company was building such wonderful ships. Contrary to popular belief that the Titanic disaster forced him to retire, he put in his notice that he would resign around the time the third ship, Britannic, would launched in January of 1912, 4 months before the Titanic set sail. It is true that he had 20 lifeboats put on board rather than 64. However, you need to put yourself in his shoes. He was a man who was trying to sell passage on his ships rather than anyone else's and you had these "unsinkable" ships which even if they did sink, would have sunk so slowly that there would have been enough time to ferry people between the ships and shore or another ship. In looking back, it was a stupid move. But back then, it seemed like a good decision. When the Titanic set sail on April 10, 1912, Ismay was one of the first passengers on board, having stayed at a hotel near by and boarded at about 9:30 A.M. During the voyage, he would socialize with the 1st class passengers. Because he had sailed with many of them on previous vessels, he was one of the most well known passengers on board. He stayed in one of the best suites on board which encompassed B-52, B-54, and B-56. It was nicknamed the "Millionaire's Suite" because it included 2 bedrooms, a sitting room, and a private 50 foot long promenade deck.  It would cost $50,000 to stay in that room. It was originally supposed to be occupied by J.P. Morgan, one of the richest men in the world and the owner of the White Star Line, but he canceled at the last minute which allowed Ismay to occupy it instead. Passengers claimed that Ismay urged Captain Smith to increase the speed, which is against WSL policy. All WSL officers are required to sign a contract that they won't interfere with the way the ship is run and leave that to the captain. With this being reportedly Smith's last voyage, however, he didn't have much to lose. 1st class passenger Elizabeth Lines said that Ismay and Captain Smith were talking about it in the Reception Room. Ismay was talking loudly and Captain Smith just nodded. Ismay was reportedly urging Smith to increase the speed to get to New York early and make the headlines, adding in that he was just a passenger and that it was up to him. Such claims, I believe, are exaggerated. He admitted to asking about the possibility of increasing speed of Captain Smith and Chief Engineer Joseph Bell, but due to the policy, I think that he pushed Captain Smith to increase the speed. During lunch on April 14th, Captain Smith handed Ismay an ice warning. Ismay apparently showed it to other passengers because he was waving it in front of Mrs. Thayer and Mrs. Ryerson on the Boat Deck, explaining that they were nearing ice. Captain Smith eventually retrieved the message from Ismay. Looking back, we can easily say that it was idiocy to speed through ice. However, at that time, it was natural to try and get out of an area that had ice as fast as you could. Furthermore, you had the best and more experienced crew of the WSL. He showed it to 1st class passengers Marian Thayer and Emily Ryerson on the Promenade Deck and may have shown it to other passengers before Captain Smith asked for it back. Ismay generally ate his dinners at a table in one of the alcoves of the 1st class Dining Saloon except for the 12th in which he ate at Captain Smith's table and the 14th when he ate in one of the alcoves of the A La Carte Restaurant during a party held by the Wideners in honor of Captain Smith. He sat at the table on the Aft Starboard side. Afterwards, it is likely that he went with the rest of the gentlemen to the 1st class Smoking Room a couple of decks above for a smoke and maybe a card game. Afterwards, he retired at about 10:00 P.M. At 11:40 P.M., the Titanic struck an iceberg. The collision caused the ship caused a slight shudder of the ship, but not too bad. It was enough to wake Ismay, though. He went out and inquired about what had happened. He went to the Bridge for the first time during the voyage and saw Captain Smith. Ismay asked, "Do you think that this ship is seriously damaged?" "I'm afraid she is", was the reply. That was enough for him. The order was given to rouse the passengers and lower the lifeboats. Ismay never bothered to into something warmer. I think that as the Managing Director of the White Star Line and one of the guys that came up with the idea, he felt some responsibility. He stayed on deck, helping women and children into the lifeboats and lowering away. He got so passionate in fact, that 5th Officer Lowe, not realizing who he was, harshly rebuked him and told him to stand back. Ismay continued following the officers, often Murdoch, and helping with the loading and lowering throughout the sinking. Now we've come to the point which is most controversial, Ismay's escape. It was 1:40 A.M. and Collapsible C, the last lifeboat on the Starboard side began its descent. The details, unfortunately, are not clear. Some said that the deck was clear and that there were no other passengers. Others said that there was a lot of people and that there was panic. I have always found it hard to believe that with all these stories of panic and with so many left on board, that the deck would be empty with the lowering of the second to last boat on that side with water 1-2 decks below. Jack Thayer mentioned a mass of people around the boat and so did Hugh Woolner. I think that they are right, despite other claims including those of Ismay. There may have been no other passengers (or women or children) in sight, but I find it difficult to believe that there were NO people around the boat. They began to lower the boat and as they lowered it, Ismay and another 1st class passenger, William Carter, got in. Carter from the get go said that they were asked to get in. Ismay on the other hand didn't say so at the inquiries but did admit privately that he was asked. Rowe said he didn't see them talking with any of the officers, but with all the confusion and voices it would be difficult to hear someone at that distance unless they yelled. Lightoller said that on the Carpathia (the rescue ship), Ismay told him, "Women and children went down, I should have gone down too." With this in mind, I think we can picture the scenario. Ismay was standing there, watching the boat go with Carter right beside him. Suddenly, a voice behind them says, "There are no more women on board this ship." Carter said that Wilde told them, "You can get in if you help row." Lightoller described Chief Officer Wilde as a big, powerful chap and the type of man that didn't argue long. Ismay and Carter, believing that the men could justifiably get into the lifeboat and following Wilde's orders, got in as Collapsible C was being lowered. Ismay rowed throughout the night. He looked back once at the Titanic, but then turned away and didn't look back again. He later said at the inquiry that he didn't care to see her go down. On board the Carpathia, Ismay, who already was a sort of reclusive type person, was so shaken up by the tragedy that he was given a room and hated when anyone bothered him. He left all the decisions up to Captain Rostron. He did, however, arrange via the wireless telegraph for a ship to be ready to take the crew back to England. When he got to America, however, he was issued a subpoena and ordered to remain in America for the duration of the Inquiry. Ismay was called to testify and did on days 1 and 11 in the American Inquiry. He was in fact the first one to testify. He later testified at the British Inquiries on days 16 and 17. In America, one man ruined his reputation forever. His name was Randolph Hearst and he was the newspaper magnate. He was a man who hated Englishmen and with such a sensational story as the Titanic tragedy, Hearst couldn't help targeting the one man he could blame and not be lamblasted due to accusing a man who died a hero (like Smith or Andrews) of being at fault. That one man he could blame was J. Bruce Ismay and he did so without mercy. He even nicknamed him, "J. Brute Ismay". He was portrayed as a coward that snuck into a lifeboat like a rat. He sold many newspapers and profited off Ismay's reputation's demise. The British Inquiry and people, on the other hand, was more lenient. The British Inquiry in speaking about Ismay said that if he had died, he would have been just another name on the list of the dead. That is true, considering that he took no woman or child's place. If I may add to that, he also provided some valuable and interesting facts that we likely wouldn't have if he had died that night. Ismay, after he retired, almost never spoke of the Titanic. He did write to Marian Thayer who was also on the Titanic, but his wife prohibited the mention of the Titanic in his presence. Apparently, the tragedy had affected him so much it was better to forget it than relive it. He donated his own money to help the victims of the Titanic disaster and still led a public life afterwards, serving on various boards, but was more withdrawn. It is a mistake to assume that he became a recluse because of the Titanic disaster. He was always that way. He was forced because of his job to be more public and social. The Titanic disaster probably did probably make him more anti-social, though. My conclusion is that he was a hero. He did make a bit of a nuisance of himself during the voyage and sinking of the Titanic. However, his intentions were good. He was simply the victim of circumstance. The portrayal of him in the numerous Titanic films have all been wrong and have made him out to be a cowardly fiend and scoundrel. The Ismay I see historically was a bit of an anti-social man who hid it from public view and was genuinely a kind-hearted man when you got to know him. Because of Hollywood, I don't think Ismay's career will ever recover. However, I hope that one day more people will realize his honorable and dutiful actions during the sinking and justifiable rescue.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Movements and Death of Captain Smith During the Sinking of the Titanic

The death of Captain Smith has been questioned and unknown since the night the Titanic sank.  There have been many accounts which differ on what happened to him.  Like the question of the officer's suicide which I posted about earlier, we will never.  However, we can come up with a conclusion of what likely happened based on what happened that night and by common ground among most of the survivors' testimonies.

What we do know is that Captain Smith was an experienced, able captain that had been in charge of the White Star Line's biggest and best ships for a while.  If the White Star Line had the rank of "Commodore", Captain Smith, would have that rank.  He had been at sea for 39 years without one ship from sinking from under him and only a few accidents.  He was a popular favorite with many millionaires who preferred to sail under him which earned him the nickname, "Millionaire's Captain".  2nd Officer Charles Lightoller described him as a man with a commanding presence but had an unexpectedly quiet voice.  As the Titanic was passing the docks of Southampton, the stern of the S.S. New York was drawn to the Titanic by her suction and Captain Smith gave orders that prevented a collision.  It has been suggested that this was going to be his last voyage.

On the 13th of April, Elizabeth Lines said that she overheard a conversation between Captain Smith and J. Bruce Ismay (the managing director of the White Star Line).  According to Lines, Ismay pressed Ismay to speed up the ship and Captain Smith said nothing.  He merely nodded.

He usually had his dinners at a small table in the 1st class Dining Saloon but on Titanic's last night, he dined in the A La Carte Restaurant where the Wideners were having a party in his honor.  He sat in at a table towards the Starboard side of the ship in an alcove at the same table as the Wideners, Thayers, and Carters.

It is not clear where Captain Smith exactly was when the Titanic struck the iceberg.  He came onto the Bridge rather quickly asking what they had struck.  It is possible that he was in his sitting room and when the iceberg struck and when he felt the collision and rushed immediately to the Bridge.  "What have we struck?" he asked.  "An iceberg, sir," Murdoch replied.  Murdoch then gave him the brief rundown of what had just happened.  Smith rushed to the Starboard wing of the Bridge where he hoped to see the iceberg but saw nothing.  He then turned to 4th Officer Boxhall and ordered him to inspect the ship.  He also turned to Quartermaster Alfred Olliver who was on the Bridge at that time and ordered him to tell the carpenter to sound the ship.  While they were gone, Chief Officer Wilde who had been inspecting the bow came up to Captain Smith and told him what two crew members told him, that air was escaping in the Forepeak Tank (which meant that water was flooding the Tank Top).  The carpenter was already in the process of sounding the ship when Olliver got to where he was and returned to the Bridge.  As soon as he got there, Captain Smith ordered him to give Chief Engineer Joseph Bell a message which was written down on paper.  When it was delivered, Bell said that it would be done as soon as possible.  We may never know what was in that message, although I suspect that it may have been an order to put out the fires in the boilers to prevent a thermal explosion.  Olliver returned to the Bridge and delivered Bell's reply to Captain Smith and Chief Officer Wilde immediately after that ordered him to help the other crew members with the lifeboats.  Boxhall, while Olliver was delivering the message to Bell, returned to the Bridge.  Possibly feeling that the inspection was too quick, Captain Smith ordered him back down to ask the ship's carpenter to sound the ship (perhaps to make sure that the carpenter was doing his job or get another one to do the same thing).  On his way down, Boxhall ran into one of the carpenters who said that the ship was making water.  The carpenter continued his ascent to the Bridge where he reported what was happening to Captain Smith.  Boxhall continued down where he ran into one of the mail clerks (John Smith) who said that the mail hold was full and asked where the captain was.  Boxhall told him, "On the Bridge".  Boxhall then said, "Well, you go and report it to the captain and I will go down and see."  Boxhall proceeded and found the mail hold filling and the mail clerks hard at work to save the mail.  Boxhall went back up to the Bridge and reported what he found to Captain Smith.  

While he was waiting for the Boxhall and Olliver to return, J. Bruce Ismay, the managing director of the White Star Line, showed up, having been awakened by the impact of the collision.  He asked Captain Smith what they had struck and he told him.  "Do you think the ship is seriously damaged?" Ismay asked.  "I'm afraid so," said Smith.

When Captain Smith learned that water was coming in, he called for Thomas Andrews, the ship's designer, to inspect the ship.  While he was waiting for Andrews (whose cabin was just of the Aft Grand Staircase towards the stern) to get there, Captain Smith went into the Wireless Room which was down the hall from the Bridge near the Officer's Quarters and told the Marconi Operators that they had struck an iceberg and that they had better get ready to send out the call for help.  At that time, Jack Phillips was at the key and Harold Bride who had just woken up was begging Phillips to go to bed.  Andrews got to the Bridge and the two of them along with several officers went down below decks and inspected the ship.  Both of them inspected the ship for about 3 compartments and then Captain Smith went up to the Bridge while Andrews continued the inspection.  Andrews ran up the Grand Staircase upon learning the terrible fate of the ship and informed Captain Smith on the Bridge that the damage was too much for the ship to handle and that she was going down.

In and interview before the Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage, someone asked the Captain Smith if the courage and bravery of seamen in the face of death like the stories of old.  Captain Smith answered, "If a disaster like that to the Birkenhead happened, they would as those men go down."  What he said then was being put to the test now.

From that time on, Captain Smith was unusually indecisive and cautious, yet still active.  It is safe to say that he was in shock that this was happening.  He put so much confidence in these ships and was so sure of himself.  Only a few years before, he said, "I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern ship building has gone beyond that."  He was on what was said to be his last voyage before retiring.  He never had a ship sink from under him during his whole career.  Why should this voyage of all the ships and voyages he's commanded go wrong like this?
Captain Smith seems to have gone from one side to the other, initially supervising the preperation and launching of the lifeboats.

After they were done readying the lifeboats on the Port side, Captain Smith and 2nd Officer Lightoller were standing near one boat and either Smith or Lightoller made the comment that the sails and masts would have to be removed from the boats (I think this was to make more room for people).  The person speaking then turned to 1st class passenger Maj. Arthur Peuchen and said, "You might give us a hand".  Peuchen did just that.

While they were lowering Boat No. 6, Quartermaster Hichens who was in charge of the lifeboat had Lightoller who was directing everything to stop lowering the boat which at that point was almost level with C Deck.  He complained about not being able to manage the lifeboat with one sailor (Lookout Fleet).  Lightoller asked for volunteers and Peuchen stepped forward saying,  "Can I be of any assistance? I am a yachtsman, and can handle a boat with an average man."  Lightoller agreed to let him in.  At this point, Captain Smith who was with Lightoller advised Peuchen saying, "You had better go down below and break a window and get in through a window, into the boat."  Peuchen didn't think that that was feasible and so he instead swung himself down on a rope.  This advise from Smith was surprisingly bad.  It would indicate that he was in shock and not thinking clearly.

Boxhall after helping with the boats a little went and got distress rockets.  Both he and Quartermaster Rowe fired rockets, hoping to attract the attention of a ship whose lights were seen in the distance.  Boxhall pointed out the ship in the distance to Captain Smith and he remained with them throughout most of the time that they were signalling.  The steamer seemed to be coming towards them and when it looked like it came close enough, they also got out the Morse lamp and Captain Smith said to him, "Tell him to come at once, we are sinking".  All efforts to contact the ship proved fruitless, unfortunately.  When they had sent off the last rocket they would send that night, Captain Smith told Rowe to get into Collapsible C which was being loaded at that time.  He was put in charge of it.  Boxhall went over to the Port side and assisted with loading and lowering of more boats.  We next find Captain Smith standing in the entrance of the wheelhouse, apparently supervising the loading and lowering of the boats.  Boxhall went up to him and Captain Smith, referring to Boat No. 2, said, "You must get into that boat and get away."  Boxhall did as he was commanded and escaped the sinking liner.

Captain Smith seems to have gone around the ship for the last half hour to release the crew from their duties and save themselves.  He must have started with the Marconi Room.  Bride said that Captain Smith came in and told them, "Men, you have done your full duty.  You can do no more.  Abandon your cabin.  Now it's every man for himself."  

After he went out of the Marconi Room, he crossed through his quarters for the final time and came out to the Starboard side on the Bridge. On his way out, he stopped and had a final brief word with Thomas Andrews.  Mess Steward Cecil Fitzpatrick mentioned that they conversed on the Bridge while he was going help those on Collapsible A.  

He went out to where they were working on getting Collapsible A down from the roof of the Officer's Quarters.  According to Steward Edward Brown, Captain Smith told them, "Well boys, do your best for the women and children, and look out for yourselves."  

He walked across the Bridge to  the other side where he relayed the same message to the crew on the Port side where they had just gotten Collapsible B down.  Fireman James McGann said,  “I was helping to get off a collapsible boat. The last one launched when the water began to break over the bridge on which Captain Smith stood.  When the water reached Captain Smith's knees and the last boast was at least 20 feet away from the ship, I was standing beside him.  He gave one look all around, his face firm and his lips hard set. He looked as if he was trying to keep back the tears, as he thought of the doomed ship. I felt mightily like crying as I looked at him.  Suddenly he shouted: 'Well boys, you've done your duty and done it well. I ask no more of you. I release you. You know the rule of the sea.  It's every man for himself now, and God bless you'.''  2nd class passenger W.J. Mellors said, Captain Smith jumped from the Bridge and said to the officers and crew, "You have done your duty, boys.  Now every man for himself."  There are several accounts which vary on the exact last words that Captain Smith said, but they are basically the same which gives credibility to these stories and makes it almost certain that he spent his final moments on board there.

Edward Brown in his account mentioned that Captain Smith had a megaphone in his hand. It is possible that he used it on the Port side which would be why he was heard by so many there but he didn't use it on the Starboard side which would be why not as many people heard him (and the fact that they were trying to launch the a two ton boat on that possible as soon as possible).

Being so recognizable with his white beard and so famous, it is not surprising that so many people mentioned him in the last moments.  Unfortunately, we don't know exactly what happened to him.  After he released his the people on board, nearly all of the survivors' accounts say that he stayed on the Port side near the Bridge.  What happened after that is a mystery.  2nd Officer Lightoller said mentioned in the American Inquiry that he briefly saw Captain Smith cross the Bridge headed for the Port side.  Harold Bride said, "I now assisted in pushing off a collapsible lifeboat (Collapsible B), which was on the port side of the forward funnel, onto the boat deck. Just as the boat fell I noticed Captain Smith dive from the bridge into the sea."  James McGann said, "He held the child under one arm as he jumped into the sea and endeavored to reach the nearest lifeboat with the child.  I took the other child in my arms as I was swept from the bridge deck.  When I was compelled to release my hold on the child, and I am satisfied that the same thing happened to Captain Smith.  I had gone down to the bridge deck to assist in lowering a collapsible boat.  The water was then coming over the bridge, and we were unable to launch the boat properly.  It was overturned and was used as a life raft, for some thirty of us, mostly firemen, clinging to it.  Captain Smith looked as though he was trying to keep back tears as he thought of the doom of the ship."  1st class passenger Robert Daniel said, "I saw Captain Smith on the bridge. My eyes seemingly clung to him. The deck from which I had leapt was immersed. The water had risen slowly, and was now to the floor of the bridge. Then it was to Captain Smith’s waist. I saw him no more. He died a hero."

I suspect that because he was seen near the Bridge when water was coming up,  that he went down at the wheel as so many captains of sinking ships are heroically portrayed.  I don't believe that Captain Smith went down in the Bridge.  Many people that were in the area said that he leaped into the sea.  Archibald Gracie, 2nd Officer Lightoller, and Jack Thayer seem to be the main witnesses on what happened next but they didn't see Captain Smith after that.  However, Gracie's account mentions that there were men on Collapsible B that said that they saw Captain Smith in the water.  There is a story that came out afterwards that said that Captain Smith gave a baby to those on the Collapsible B and when he was offered a place, he refused and swam away.  I doubt that this story is true because it seems that the baby would have died within seconds if not a couple of minutes after being in the water because it was so cold and the baby's body would not have adjusted well to the temperatures.  Many other stories also came out.  Some even said that he committed suicide (with the good Captain being so recognizable, if he had shot himself, there would be many credible witnesses saying that he killed himself if he did).

It appears that Cameron's film got the portrayal of Captain Smith wrong (even though Bernard Hill's acting was excellent).  He was in shock, but not incompetent.  He supervised the launching and lowering of the boats and did what he could to reach another ship.  He didn't stand around and do nothing like in Cameron's film.

My conclusion is that he died like a sailor.  During the sinking, he probably was in shock that such a thing as the Titanic's sinking could happen.  When water came up, I suspect that he didn't jump as some said, but instead intended to go down with the ship but was carried up by the water washing him off which might have given him the appearance of jumping off (Bride was after all about 40-60 feet away in the midst of chaos and very little light).  I also believe that with several survivors mentioning that Captain Smith was in the water, it is possible that he was seen by survivors either on their way to Collapsible B or while they were clinging to Collapsible B.  With it being so dark and so much going on, it is understandable why not many would see him.  Either way, he died like a man and sailor.  He did his duty and attempted to save as many lives as possible that were under his charge.  For that, he deserves a lot of respect and honor.