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Sunday, September 21, 2014

How To Study The Titanic

Something I have noticed on social media is that there are many people who say they are Titanic experts or historians.  But after saying that, they will go around repeating the same "facts" that have been said for years which are popular, but false.  I'm not trying to put people down.  I'm just saying that many people haven't done proper research and many of them don't know how.  I certainly did the same thing when I was younger because I wasn't told how to do good, proper research and so I also went around, repeating the same "facts".  In response to this, I've decided to give y'all some advice.

1.  The first advice I will give you is to clear your mind of what you think you know.  So much false information has come out about the Titanic, you need to clear your mind of all the false information so that you can replace it with true facts.

2.  Rely on primary source documents.  There is nothing like learning from those who were there about what happened.  A lot of survivors gave detailed accounts of the sinking.  Many accounts have been available to the public for years.  Others have recently come to light.  Still others have yet to be discovered.  The word of a witness trumps the word of an armchair historian who sits around, speculating about what might have happened.  Now, there are several things you need to keep in the back of your mind as you go through the survivors' accounts.

a.  Some survivors lied.  For example, 2nd Officer Lightoller lied about some of the things in his testimony that might look bad for the White Star Line.  Others lied to protect their own reputations.

b.  Compare what survivors said about certain events.  Some will contradict each other and it is important to keep those contradictions in mind.

c.  As time went on, the survivors' memories got mixed up and replaced things they forgot with things that didn't happen.  This happened with several including Eva Hart.  Be especially cautious about the later accounts.  Compare them with the accounts given right after the disaster by the same people if you can.

d.  With secondary sources, don't discredit all of them but be careful.  Newspapers tended to add details to make the accounts more harrowing and sell more newspapers.

3.  Look at the common practices and policies of that time before you condemn the actions of those in history.  There were some practices and policies that would horrify us today who are more safety conscious.  For instance, many ships didn't have enough lifeboats.  Not just the Titanic.  Another example is that it was common at that time for captains to speed up when icebergs were nearby.

4.  Don't trust other professing Titanic historians at face value.  Do the research and check the facts when you read what "researchers and historians" are saying.  Even Walter Lord, the ultimate Titanic historian, made mistakes in A Night To Remember, though his information was correct for the time.

5.  Whenever you read a book, check out the sources of information in the back.  If there aren't any, be even more suspicious about what you read in the book.  

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Boat No. 3

Photo source:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1254788/Why-women-children-saved-Titanic-Lusitania.html

Boat No. 3 was a regular sized lifeboat located towards the forward end of the Boat Deck.  It was located just behind Boat No. 1 (hanging over the side).  In the photo from the 1997 movie set, you can see Boat No. 3 being launched.  In reality, the lowering happened earlier in the sinking.  

After launching Boat No. 7 and Boat No. 5, 1st Officer Muroch began loading Boat No. 3.  George Moore got in as ordered by Murdoch and helped the women into the boat.  Henry Sleeper Harper put his wife in the boat and stepped back.  Then the Speddens came up and Margaretta (or Daisy as she was known by her friends) and her son Douglas along with their maid, Alice Wilson, and nanny, Margaret Burns, stepped in.  Frederick Spedden, the head of the household, was told to wait.  Then Edith and Margaret Graham were escorted to the boat by Howard Case and Washington Roebling. Thorton Davidson and Charles Hays stepped forward with their wives.  Mr. Hays told his wife that he and Mr. Davidson would wait for a rescue ship that would come in the morning.  Then he made sure she was wrapped tight and both gentlemen escorted their wives into the lifeboat.  After the women and children had gotten in, the men assumed that they could get in and got in without being ordered by Murdoch.  Adolfe Saafeld noticed a general reluctance to get into the boat.  It seemed so tiny and cold compared to the large, warm, solid ship they were standing on 60 feet above the water with only a slight list.  He got in anyway.  Harper was among the last to get in with his Penkingese Spaniel "Sun Yat Sen" in his hands.  Seeing some room in the boat and with no one objecting, he boarded with the dog.  Murdoch gave a final call for more women.  

When none stepped forward, he gave the order to lower away at around 12:55 A.M.  Edith Graham looked back and watched Howard Case calmly light a cigarette and wave while Washington Roebling calmly stood nearby.  Both Mr. Hays and Mr. Davidson waved to their wives.  To make his wife feel more reassured, Charles Hays called to Mrs. Hays that the ship would assuredly good for ten hours more and by that time, help would arrive.  The journey down to the sea was described as rough by Daisy Spedden and Henry Sleeper Harper.  Elizabeth Shute said that as the boat was being lowered, the ropes on one side stopped while the other continued which made everyone afraid that they would capsize.  They rectified the problem on the Boat Deck and then they continued down.  Little did they realize that only 32 out of a possible 60 were on board.  

When they reached the sea, they were delayed a couple of minutes because the crew had a hard time getting the boat free of the ropes.  When they were finally free, Henry Sleeper Harper said they had a hard time getting away from the ship because Moore who was at the tiller couldn't steer the boat properly.  Finally, Harper told Moore to angle the tiller the opposite of the way he wanted to go and they finally started going away from the ship.  At some point, two oars were lost.  The reason given was that the men's hands were too cold.  They stopped for a moment and let them beat their hands and do things to get their blood circulating before continuing on with only four oars.  Along with the crew, 1st class passengers Dr. Max Staehelin-Maeglin and Alfons Simonius-Blumer also helped row. 

They were told by the crew to look for a lantern, but found neither lantern, nor food, nor water in the boat.  As they passed other boats, Mrs. Hays and Mrs. Davidson called out their husbands' names and ask if they were there.  They were only met with a "no" from each one.  Mrs. Hays later said that she was naturally agitated and anxious for her husband, but didn't believe he was in imminent danger.  Elizabeth Shute who was sitting next to them was invited to sit nearer to them to help keep them warm.  

When the Titanic sank, they heard cries from those in the water.  According to Walter Hawksford, they lifted their hats and bowed their heads.  Then one of the men said, "She's gone, lads; row like hell or we'll get the devil of a swell."  Daisy wanted to go back, but complained in her journal several times about how Moore only listened to the sailors who were afraid of getting swamped.  They wouldn't have reached them It didn't help that Moore caused fears by saying earlier that there would be a big wave when she went down.  After the sinking and they were in darkness, one sailor asked another sailor if he'd put in both plugs on the bottom of the boat.  The latter said he thought so but wasn't sure.  Both groped around on the bottom of the boat until they found that both plugs were in.  Elizabeth Shute talked later about how two men in the back of the boat were smoking cigars and kept lighting them with matches.  She asked them to stop using the matches because they might need them later, but they didn't listen to her.  

According to Daisy Spedden, they thought several shooting stars might be ships on the horizon.  According to Mrs. Hays and Mrs. Davidson, they also spotted lanterns from other boats which they would mistake for other ships.  Then they spotted the green starboard light from the Californian.  They rowed towards the Californian, burning pieces of paper to attract other boats until they spotted Boxhall's green flare in Boat No. 2.  They changed course and rowed towards that until day broke. Daisy Spedden said, “It was just about dawn there and the sight which greeted our eyes was a never to be forgotten one. The moon was setting on the pink horizon, and the morning glow on the icebergs, which surrounded us, was superb. Douglas looked up and exclaimed, "Oh, Muddie, look at the beautiful North Pole with no Santa Claus on it," which made everyone smile! The tragedy of the situation sank deep into our hearts, as we saw the Carpathia standing amidst the few bits of wreckage on the spot where the Titanic went down, with the pitifully small number of lifeboats coming up to her from different directions.”  To attract the Carpathia, they lit Mrs. Davidson's straw hat (because they figured it would burn longer), a newspaper, and other flammable things.  They rowed alongside the Carpathia at around 7:30 A.M.  The survivors in this boat seem to have been brought up on a chair.  As the third person  who is described by Harper as being of "substantial weight" (Charlotte Cardeza?) stepped forward to get in the chair, a woman who was wearing nothing but a night gown and kimono (Vera Dick?) sat up who Harper thought had been in the bottom of the boat the entire time and said, "Look at that horrible woman!  She stepped on my stomach!  Horrible creature!"  The unhappy woman went up next.  As they put young Douglas Spedden in the swing, he said, "My, aren't I'm a fuss!"  

Boat No. 2 was brought aboard the Carpathia and dropped off when she reached New York.  What happened afterwards is unknown.  





Harper's Weekly April 27, 1912 in "Titanic The Story of the Disaster in the Newspapers of the Day."

Report Into The Loss Of The SS Titanic: A Centennial Reappraisal

"On Board the RMS Titanic: Memories of a Maiden Voyage" by George Behe

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Response To David Brown's Theory of Barrett Sinking The Titanic

An article that has been going around in the Titanic circles has caused some controversy.   If you wish to read it, here's the link:


According to the article, Frederick Barrett opened up a valve which caused water to gush in, allowing that bulkhead to flood and allowed that one extra compartment to flood that doomed the Titanic.  According to Brown, he opened it and when he saw the water flooding the room, Barrett ran out of the door.  Brown also said that Barrett was afraid of the stigma from being known as the man that sank the Titanic.

My response is that this is a completely unproven theory.  It shouldn't even be given the label theory.  Hypothesis is a better word.

Barrett said at the United States Inquiry when Senator Smith interviewed him in a boiler room of the R.M.S. Olympic (Titanic's twin sister) that,  "I was standing talking to the second engineer. The bell rang, the red light showed. We sang out shut the doors (indicating the ash doors to the furnaces) and there was a crash just as we sung out. The water came through the ship's side. The engineer and I jumped to the next section. The next section to the forward section is No. 5."

Barrett later included the exact location as 2 feet above the floor plates.  Barrett has not given contradictory evidence in his descriptions of the disaster and I see no reason to disbelieve him.  Therefore, I must encourage my readers to disbelieve this hypothesis as something without .  Fred Barrett did his duty and was a big help in the early sinking.

Mr. Brown said, "The myth is infinitely easier on the brain.  People like to take the path of least resistance."  I personally feel that Brown tried a little too hard on this one.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Boat No. 2

The photos above which were taken at the Titanic museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee show a replica of Boat No. 2.  It's the forward boat hanging off the side.  

Boat No. 2 was one of two boats called "emergency boats".  It was held in suspension over the side of the ship on the port side for emergency purposes such as man overboard.  It had a capacity of 40 people.  

After the Titanic struck the iceberg, Captain Smith ordered the boats to be swung out.  The crew did so and put provisions in the boats.  During this time, 4th Officer Boxhall noticed a man carrying green flares.  He ordered the man to put them in Boat No. 2 for whoever was in the boat to use.  Chief Officer Wilde was in charge of loading and launching the lifeboat.  A number of men also got in.  At some point, Captain Smith came up and said, "How many crew are in that boat?  Get out of there, every man of you!"  Mrs. Douglas recalled that a "solid line of men from bow to stern" got out to make room for the ladies.  1st class passengers Mr. Walter and Mrs. Mahala Douglas originally hoped to get into a lifeboat together.  They approached Boat No. 2 when they saw it being loaded.  Mrs. Douglas stepped forward to get in and asked Mr. Douglas to follow.  Mr. Douglas replied, "No, I must be a gentleman" and turned away.  Mrs. Douglas said, "Try and get off with Mr. Moore and Maj. Butt.  They will surely make it."  Mrs. Douglas mentioned that Clarence Moore, Archie Butt, Mr. Meyer, and Mr. Ryerson were nearby.  Mrs. Douglas got in and sat at the bottom of the boat at first next to the tiller.  4th Officer Boxhall had finished helping with launching the rockets in an attempt to attract the attention of a nearby ship whose lights could be seen.  

After their efforts had seemingly failed, he went to Captain Smith who was standing next to the door of the wheelhouse on the Bridge, presumably supervising the loading and launching of Boat No. 2.  Captain Smith told Boxhall to get into the boat and row away.  When he got in, only one other crewmember, Osman, was on it at the time.  Anton Kink put his wife and child into the boat and was touched on the shoulder and told to step back.  He did so and his wife and child cried for him to be let on.  The order was given to start lowering.  As the boat was lowered, Steward James Johnson called for a knife to cut the ropes when they reached the water.  Anton Kink later talked about jumping into the boat as it was being lowered while Boxhall denied such a thing happening at the inquiries.  It seems to me that when they gave him a blade, this might have provided sufficient distraction for Anton to sneak in.  

When the boat was lowered, Boxhall tried to count the number of people in the boat, but didn't get further than ten due to some of the passengers not being able to speak English.  Boxhall later said they could have taken about 3 more, but probably gave such a low number compared to the truth of how many more they could take to avoid controversy.  They rowed alongside the ship and near the propellers, trying to get alongside the ship to take on more people.  When Boxhall realized that this wouldn't work, he gave the order to row away.  Boxhall and an unidentified woman rowed with one of the four oars they used.  There was some compaining afterwards about how only Boxhall and Osman could row.  Everyone else managed as well as they could and some of the ladies such as Mrs. Appleton helped with the rowing too.  Mahala Douglas was put in charge of the tiller.  Boxhall lit an old lantern that was in the boat and put it on a pole.  They stopped and rested their oars about (in Boxhall's estimation) 100 yards away from the ship.  They watched as the lights went out and then the Titanic's black shape rose out of the water and sank.  They rowed away after the sinking, mostly ignoring the cries of the dying presumably for fear of being swamped if they went back.  They stopped several times during the night to listen for water lapping against icebergs to avoid a fate similar to the Titanic.  Boxhall remembered the green flares he ordered the crewman to put in the boat a couple of hours before.  He got out the case and the flares were lit, giving off a green light.  At about 10-20 minutes before 4:00 AM, Boxhall spotted the lights of the Carpathia which had heard the Titanic's distress call over the Wireless Telegraph.  Boxhall ordered them to pull for the Carpathia.  

At about 4:00, day broke and they were able to make out icebergs surrounding them.  As the Carpathia came alongside Boat No. 2 sometime between 4:10 and 4:15 AM, Boxhall called up, “Shut down your engines and takes aboard.  I only have one sailor.”  Then Mahala Douglas called up, “The Titanic has gone down with everyone on board!”  Boxhall told her to shut up.  Boxhall made sure everyone else made it safely onto the Carpathia before he himself boarded.  Out of the 40 people Boat No. 2 could have taken, only 17 people occupied it.    

Boat No. 2 was taken on board the Carpathia and taken to New York where it and a lot of the other boats were lowered in Pier 59, the Titanic's port.  What happened to it afterwards is unknown.  





The Loss of the SS Titanic: Centennial Reappraisal

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Titanic Survivors: PTSD

When the Titanic went down, her 712 survivors were affected.  Some were affected more than others, but all were affected.  Here is a list of ways in which survivors showed signs of possible PTSD.

Young 3rd class passenger Frank Goldsmith lost his father the night the Titanic sank.  But he and his mother continued on to Detroit, Michigan in the hopes of fulfilling his father's dreams.  They lived near a baseball stadium and Frank said that whenever the crowds cheered, it reminded him of the screams coming from those poor people drowning and freezing to death in the water.

Stewardess Annie Robinson was noticeably affected by the Titanic disaster.  She later returned to sea and jumped overboard on a foggy night several years afterwards.  Her body was never found.

1st class passenger Emma Bucknell never went to sea ever again.

2nd Officer Herbert Lightoller enjoyed cool baths.  One day, he decided to take a cold bath to cool off after a game of tennis.  The family later found him in a trance and afterwards learned that it was a result of his being in the icy water that night.

1st class passenger Jack Thayer never fully recovered from the Titanic disaster in which he lost his father.  After his mother's death on an anniversary of the Titanic's sinking, his son's death in the Pacific Theatre of WWII, and several nervous breakdowns, he committed suicide.

Quartermaster Robert Hichens was at the wheel when the Titanic struck an iceberg and he was made more famous that night by his "conversation" with Margaret Brown.  He was affected by the Titanic disaster which basically ruined his career.  He had a bad married life, was a heavy drinker, attempted suicide twice, and went to prison for attempted murder.

1st class passenger and White Star Line chairman J. Bruce Ismay never fully recovered from the disaster.  He was already a shy man in his private life, but the disaster made him more withdrawn.  His wife wouldn't even allow the Titanic to mentioned in his presence in later years.

1st class passenger Irene Harris lost her faith in God after the Titanic disappeared and she listened to the cries of the masses of dying people in the water because she was sure her husband was among them.  Her faith returned in later life.

2nd class passenger Ruth Becker told her story to reporters in 1912 and 1913.  After that, she wouldn't speak of it.  She told her students, but never spoke publicly about it until later years at the Titanic Historical Society conventions.  Near the end of her life, she took a cruise, making it the first time she went to sea after the Titanic disaster.  Ruth's mother, Nellie, couldn't even talk about it when the reporters swarmed her for her story.  She told them, "Ask Ruth!" and left Ruth to tell their story.

2nd class passenger Selma Asplund never spoke of the Titanic disaster.  Her daughter, Lillian didn't like to talk about the disaster either.

3rd class passenger Georgette Dean didn't tell her daughter, Millvina, about what happened to them until she was 8 years old.

Saloon Steward Alexander Littlejohn experienced survivor's guilt for being a male that survived.  The affect of such guilt aged him greatly as seen in the photographs below, the one on the left taken just before the Titanic and the one on the right taken a mere 6 months later.  Photo credit:  http://hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk/hastings-life/hastings-people/lucky-lifeboat-13

Lookout Reginald Lee was one of the men in the crow's nest when the iceberg was spotted.  He ended up being one of the first crew members to die after the disaster.  He passed away due to pneumonia, but he reportedly drank very heavily after the disaster and was very likely suffering from PTSD.

5th Officer Lowe took charge of 4 lifeboats which were put together into a flotilla during the sinking.  He later for the most part emptied one of the boats and went back to pull people from the water.  By the time he got there, most had died of hypothermia or drowning.  Of the people he found alive in the water, about half died from exposure.  Throughout the rest of his life, he never spoke of the disaster.  It was something he never discussed with any of his family members and his grandson speculates it was due to PTSD.

1st class passenger Lucile Carter almost never talked about the Titanic disaster even to her family and hated getting in water.

3rd class passenger Anna Turja was haunted by the screams and cries of those in the water until her dying day.  She also never talked about the disaster except every year on April 15th to her children.

3rd class passenger Bridget McDermott rarely spoke of the Titanic afterwards and her family was forbidden from mentioning it to her.

1st class passenger Edith Graham said in an interview that she often had nightmares about the disaster.

1st class passenger Paul Chevre never recovered from the shock of the disaster and is considered to be one of the contributions to his death in 1914.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Great Loss: Ed Kamuda

These are the Kamudas in a screenshot from the 1997 film. 

Myself and Mr. Kamuda

Ed and Karen Kamuda

It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of one of the greatest Titaniacs ever, Mr. Edward Kamuda.  Mr. Kamuda got interested in the Titanic film after seeing the 1953 film with Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb.  After that, he started collecting Titanic memorabilia and writing to survivors.  He later got together with a few other people with the same interest in the Titanic and founded the Titanic Enthusiast Society.  He also published his first quarterly called the Marconigram.  Eventually, one of the survivors asked what there was about the Titanic to be enthusiastic about, so they changed the name to the Titanic Historical Society.  The Marconigram was changed to the Commutator due to the fact the Marconi company was still in business.  In the process, he collected many rare and valuable artifacts and opened up a museum in Indian Orchard, Massachusetts.  He's hosted numerous conventions of Titaniacs all over the United States and in England and France and inspired many young people to get interested in the Titanic.  He was instrumental in saving a piece of what got him started when he in the early 80s helped save, transport, and restore the large model used in the 1953 film.  In 1997, he and his wife were brought on as an extra on the set of the Cameron film. In September of 2013, I was blessed to go to the THS Convention in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee where I met Ed and his wife, Karen.  Ed was a kind, gentle soul that was someone that you couldn't help liking.  He would joke and laugh with everyone and was very approachable.  On April 13, 2014, midway during the Titanic anniversary week, he passed away.   His legacy is several generations of Titaniacs and more information than we would have without him.  The Titanic community owes him a greater debt than we can ever pay.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Calling the Boats Back

One thing I've investigated recently is the details of Captain Smith calling back the boats.  We have a deleted scene from Cameron’s 1997 film which showed Thomas Andrews and Chief Officer Wilde getting Captain Smith to call the boats and in particular, Boat No. 6 back through his megaphone and a similar scene made it into Cameron’s 2001 documentary, “Ghosts of the Abyss.”  With that in mind, I looked into the matter to see what the facts were. 

First, what or who prompted Captain Smith to call the boats back?  We don’t know the answer exactly, but I suspect it was 1st Officer Murdoch.  He told the crew in Boat No. 1 to row a little distance from the ship and then come back when called upon.  It is possible that he intended to fill the boats the rest of the way at the beginning from the gangways just like 2nd officer Lightoller did. 
When he called the boats back is unclear.  Lightoller said he heard Captain Smith call the boats back 2-3 times as he was lowering the port side boats. 

Eugene Daly said that Capt. Smith rushed to the rail and called out, “Bring those boats back, they are only half filled!"

Mrs. Lucien P. Smith (Boat 6) said, “In the meantime Capt. Smith was standing with a megaphone on deck. I approached him and told him I was alone, and asked if my husband might be allowed to go in the boat with me. He ignored me personally, but shouted again through his megaphone, "Women and children first." My husband said, "Never mind, captain, about that; I will see that she gets in the boat."

Major Arthur Peuchen testified about hearing the Capt. Smith's calls to come back at the American Inquiries.

No, it was dark. At daylight I was rowing very hard - in the morning - and I did not notice. As we rowed, pulled away from the Titanic, there was an officer's call of some kind. We stopped rowing.

Senator SMITH.
A whistle?

A sort of a whistle. Anyway, the quartermaster told us to stop rowing so he could hear it, and this was a call to come back to the boat. So we all thought we ought to go back to the boat. It was a call. But the quartermaster said, "No, we are not going back to the boat." He said, "It is our lives now, not theirs," and he insisted upon our rowing farther away.

Lightoller said he heard Captain Smith trying to call back the boats 2-3 times through  his megaphone while he was lowering the boats on the port side.  While he couldn't remember specific times, 
Lightoller thought he was trying to get them back to load them through the gangway doors.  Apparently since Murdoch also tried to load the boats through the gangway doors, he could have put Captain Smith up to it or Wilde as shown.  I don't know about Andrews since his whereabouts are unknown at that time.  Boxhall's lifeboat was lowered at about 1:45 and then made its way around to the starboard side in the hopes of getting a few more people through the gangway doors.  It appears that he used his megaphone in several minute intervals around the time Lightoller was loading and launching Boat No. 4 and possibly for the last time a little after that.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Titanic: The Edith Brown Story Review

Last week, I read Titanic: The Edith Brown Story by David Haisman, her son.  It's a short book, but it's packed with a son's love for his mother and a very powerful yet not often told tale.  In the process of writing his book, he and his siblings combined their recollections of what Edith said and what they remember about her.

In addition, David Haisman who was a sailor and lookout on some of the great liners back in the day lent his knowledge and expertise about how ships are run and ought to be run to the story.  We all know the story and different images like the Strauses refusing to leave each other, the band playing on, Benjamin Guggenheim and his valet going down like gentlemen, etc. get told so much that it dulls our senses to how incredible their stories were and how these things actually did happen.  This book made the Titanic and her passengers come to life to me.  We get to view the Titanic from the perspective of a 2nd class passenger.  Something which doesn't happen very often since that class is often ignored or only given minimal mention in books and films.

David writes it well enough to where you get a sense of what it was like during the voyage and sinking.  You also get to see who they actually were as people in their private lives instead of the romanticized stories in many other books and films.  It is also interesting to read about something rarely touched on and that is how the survivors coped after losing their breadwinners and the anchors of their homes and families.  You can really feel for Edith and her mother Elizabeth as they faced this new world without Edith's father Thomas and sympathize with them as they tried to make sense of the world without him.
The book also gives you a rare look at how the survivors did years after the disaster and will hold your attention as David gives you the stories about how they endured and suffered through WWII and the Luftwaffe bombings of Southampton along with sailing through U-Boat infested waters and through personal tragedies throughout her life.  It's a wonderful tribute from a son to his mother and it is an excellent book for anyone who wants to learn more about what it was like to be a survivor.  If anyone is looking for a woman in history that you can follow as a good example of how to live your life and meet new challenges, Edith Brown Haisman is a very good one.

Here are some places where you can buy Titanic: The Edith Brown Story:



Monday, March 3, 2014

John Harper's Last Convert

For many years, a story has been floating around the Titanic and Christian communities.  Supposedly, an unidentified man got up at a church or survivors' reunion 4 years after the sinking of the Titanic and Rev. Harper's death and said that he was a Titanic survivor and John Harper's last convert.  He then went on to talk about how he was swimming in the water when he came near Rev. Harper who was also in the water.  Rev. Harper called out, "Are thou saved?!"  The man replied, "No."  Rev. Harper replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!"  Then the current brought them apart.  Soon afterwards, the man came near Rev. Harper and Harper called out, "Are you saved?!"  The man said, "Truly I can say I am not."  Rev. Harper said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!"  Then they drifted away from each other again.  The man added that Rev. Harper was witnessing to others in the water as well.  After that last conversation, the man never saw Rev. Harper again.  The man said that he soon afterwards converted to Christianity.

Ever since I read this story a few years ago, I have wondered about the identity of this man and whether or not the story is true.  Is it possible to identify him?  There were many people that came out later claiming to be Titanic survivors for the publicity and fame.  But this man was different.  He never gave his identity which lead me to be inclined to believe his story since these weren't seeming publicity stunts.  But I won't dismiss the possibility that it was a publicity stunt.

We know of two appearances by this man.  The first one was in Ontario, Canada at a survivors' reunion/church service which I mentioned earlier.  The next was in 1955 in New York in which he basically gave the same story to a church.

According to the account of his first appearance, he was a Scotsman.  I was willing to waver on this qualification, however, because this is obviously a observer's assumption.  The man possibly lived in Canada or the Midwest or Northeastern US.  He spent some time in the water which may mean he was one of the people picked by Boat No. 4 or Boat No. 14.  He likely gave few or no interviews since he doesn't give this story anywhere else and if he had, the press would undoubtedly told the story and mentioned it with the other acts of heroism.  Another thing which narrows down the possibilities considerably is that he would have been alive in 1955.

The fact is, not many of the men that survived the water and were alive in 1955 were in America or Canada when this man gave both of these accounts.  Those that were gave such detailed accounts, that we can rule them out.  The story is told romantically and many Christians have claimed it as an inspiring story of Christian light being shown in the dark, freezing North Atlantic.  Rev. Harper was still a godly man.  His life is still one filled with good examples.  I would not be surprised after reading about his life in Moody Adams' excellent book "Titanic's Last Hero" if Rev. Harper did witness to people in the water.  But I'm afraid we cannot verify the story of Rev. Harper's last convert and it must be treated as a mere legend by those who want to tell the truth.


"Titanic's Last Hero" by Moody Adams


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Boat No. 1

This is the first of a series I hope to do in which I describe what went on in each lifeboat during the sinking and after she went down. The subject is fascinating, yet has not been touched on much.

Boat No. 1 is one of the most controversial boats due to many reasons and in doing so, has become infamous in the Titanic story.  To this day, people wonder why a boat that could take 40 people was lowered with 12 occupants.  Maybe even more controversial was why Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon ended up paying the crew in the boat money.

Boat No. 1 was one of 2 boats called "emergency boats."  It had a capacity for 40 and was ready at all times.  It was swinging over the gunwale on the foremost davits and was on the starboard side.

Putting together what exactly happened that night is difficult.  It became clear to me as I read the testimonies of the passengers and crew in the British and American Inquiries that several occupants were scared, saying they were the heroes in trying to convince the others to go pick up those in the water while the others were practically the villains in an effort to save their own reputations from the press who were hungry for villains and scapegoats.  The Duff-Gordons did what they could to salvage their reputations and it appears they tried to convince the others in the boat to testify favorably towards them.  I've tried my best and hopefully what I say will be satisfactory to the evidence and close to what happened that night.

Technical Description:
Boat No. 1 was an Emergency Cutter lifeboat meaning that it was smaller than most of the other lifeboats.  It was 25 feet and 2 inches long, 7 feet and 2 inches wide, and 3 feet deep.  It had a capacity for 40 people and had 4 thwarts.  It was one of two lifeboats hanging in suspension over the water, always ready to be lowered in case of an emergency (man overboard, damage to the ship, etc.).

This famous photograph taken by Father Browne of the Titanic and Captain Smith shows Boat No. 1 hanging in suspension over the side where it was for most of the voyage.  
Source: http://titanicphotographs.com/

At 11:40 P.M., the Titanic struck the iceberg and began sinking.  At 12:15 A.M., Captain E.J. Smith gave the order to prepare the boats for lowering.  1st Officer Murdoch took charge of the Starboard side and began uncovering the boats.  Among those that uncovered and readied Boat No. 1 were Samuel Collins, George Symons, and Charles Hendrickson.   

Boat No. 1 was the third boat launched on the starboard side.  Murdoch and his crew after they launched Boats 7, 5, and 3, went over to Boat No. 1 and began loading it.  Murdoch turned to his crew and asked, "Who is assigned to this boat?"  Lookout George Symons remembered seeing his name on the list of crew assigned to this boat on the Bridge and said, "I am."  Murdoch asked, "Are you a sailor?"  Symons replied, "Yes."  Murdoch told him, "Jump in and see the plug is in."  Symons was the first person to get into the boat and plugged the drainage hole on the bottom of the boat.  Murdoch then asked, "Are there any more sailors?"  Seaman Albert Horswill also remembered seeing his name on the list and said, "I am assigned to this boat."  Murdoch told him, "Jump in."  Then 1st class passengers Sir Cosmo, Lady Duff-Gordon, and their secretary, Laura Francatelli, came up.  Sir Cosmo asked, "May we get in the boat?"  Murdoch replied, "Yes; get in."  After that, 1st class passenger Charles Stengel came up after putting his wife into another lifeboat and asked if he could get in.  Murdoch gave his permission.  Stengel was unsure of getting into the lifeboat and scared he might make the boat tip over or that he might slip.  He rolled into the boat, thinking that it was the safest way to get in.  Murdoch watched Stengel get in and said, "That's the funniest thing I've seen all night!" laughing.  Immediately after Stengel got in, 1st class passenger Abraham Salamon asked to get in and was granted permission.  Then Murdoch asked, "How many sailors are in this boat?"  Symons replied, "Two."  Murdoch turned around and saw that the rest of the crew were uncovering Collapsible C nearby and getting it ready to be launched by the same davits Boat No. 1 was attached to.  Murdoch asked for six more sailors.  Five answered the call and got in.  

They waited for 3-5 minutes in the hopes others would come.  "The Loss Of The SS Titanic: Centennial Reappraisal" points out that people might have avoided that area since 4th Officer Boxhall was nearby firing rockets.  No one came nearby from what they could see and so 1st Officer Murdoch gave the order to lower away.  A rocket was fired just as they began to lower the boat.  As the boat started to go down, Murdoch asked, "Who is in charge of this boat?"  George Symons who was at the rudder, thus making him in charge said, "Symons, the look-out."  Murdoch replied, "Symons, take charge of this boat; make all the people in the boat obey you; make them do what you tell them."  Symons replied, "All right."  As they were on their way down, they got caught in something and began to tip over.  The crew on the Boat Deck stopped lowering and someone was sent down to get the boat loose.  It caused a delay, but eventually the boat was lowered.  When the boat reached the water or almost was to that point, Murdoch called down and gave orders.  Each of the survivors varied in recalling what he said, but the jist of his orders were to row away, but stay nearby and come back if called upon.  Symons said that when the lifeboat was lowered, the water was up to the second row of portholes under the Forecastle Deck.  

Before we continue, it's interesting to note that the survivors in Boat 1 specified where they were sitting.  So, I decided to show you where they were sitting when the boat was lowered in the hopes it will help you to visualize what went on.  Sadly, even this is hard to reconstruct because of inconsistencies.  But I've done my best.  Please forgive the crudity of the drawing.

They rowed away about 100-150 yards and stopped and rested on their oars.  At about 1:20 A.M., Captain Smith used his megaphone and called for the boats to come back.  None of the occupants of Boat No. 1 stated that they heard anything like that, which leads me to believe that they likely didn't hear him as some of the closer boats did.  As the Titanic got lower in the water and those in the boat realized the terrible truth that the Titanic was actually sinking, Symons ordered the rowers to row further away out of fear that they might potentially be sucked down with the ship.  They stopped at about 200-250 yards away and watched the Titanic go down.  One of the people in the boat said that it was broadside to the ship.  Laura Francatelli said that she saw 1st Officer Murdoch shoot himself, though she was too far away and it was too dark for her to be able to see that.  She may have thought the shot-like sounds from the breakup was the officer's suicide the survivors talked about later on the Carpathia.  They heard the explosion-like sounds which were caused by the ship splitting in and steel hull ripping apart and saw her sink.  As the Titanic disappeared, Lady Duff-Gordon leaned over in between her vomiting over the side due to seasickness and told Laura Francatelli, "There's your beautiful nightdress, gone."  Then Robert Pusey said, "Nevermind about your night dress madam, as long as you have your life."  

Following the sinking, the screams and cries of the people left in the freezing water were heard from the distance.  What happened next is not known for sure in Boat No. 1.

According to Charles Hendrickson, he said even yelled, "It is up to us to go back and pick up anyone in the boat."  But the women objected with their fears that the boat might be swamped and Sir Cosmo backed them up by saying, "It is too dangerous to go back.  We might get swamped."

According to George Symons, no one said anything.  They just continued to row.

According to Collins, nothing was said aside from Symons' order to keep rowing.  Eventually, he turned the boat towards the screams.

According to Sir Cosmo, he was too absorbed with his wife's well being and telling her things to comfort her that it never crossed his mind to go back.

According to James Taylor, a man in front of him suggested that they go back.  But Lady Duff-Gordon objected due to the danger of being swamped.  The two gentlemen backed her up by saying, "We shall be swamped if we go back.  It would be too dangerous to go."

According to Albert Horswill, nothing was said about whether or not they would go back.

Charles Stengel never really talked about any conversation aside from mentioning that they couldn't go back because the people were too far away for them to get back in time.

It seems to me based on reading these accounts that there was some covering up, with people attempting to protect their reputations and defend their actions and particularly the Duff-Gordons.  What I find very interesting is that both James Taylor and Charles Hendrickson's accounts match up almost perfectly, including the quote from Sir Cosmo about it being to dangerous to go back due to the fear they may get swamped.  It is my personal belief that Hendrickson and Taylor's versions is what happened, though I leave it up to your judgment since there is no way of confirming exactly what happened and what was said.

According so several people, they were rowing towards the Californian.  Dr. Paul Lee gives an excellent analysis of where the Californian was located in comparison to the Titanic at this link:  http://www.paullee.com/titanic/TitanCalif2.html.

According to the survivors, they rowed away from the Titanic and then once the cries died down, several claimed that they headed for the "lights" (S.S. Californian).  Changing direction and heading towards the Californian could possibly explain why some said they turned around after the cries died down and headed towards those in the water.  While I don't discount the possibility that they were lying to salvage their reputations, their turning around and going in sort of the general direction of the cries towards the Californian could have given them that impression especially since it was so dark and there was no general sense of direction.

They rowed in darkness.  Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon said that Charles Stengel would shout, "Go here!"  "Go there!" and when a splash was heard, he would yell, "Boat ahoy!"  At first, it seems that the passengers and crew tolerated it.  It was possibly because they were too cold, numb, and shocked to do much else.  Finally, Sir Cosmo lost his patience and turned around and asked Stengel to be quiet. At some point during the night, James Taylor who was sitting next to Sir Cosmo got tired of rowing and so he switched places with Charles Hendrickson.  Those that could lit their cigarettes.  Hendrickson mentioned he borrowed a cigarette from Sir Cosmo.

At some point (probably about 3 a.m.), they came alongside Boat No. 13.  Someone in Boat No. 13 asked the people in Boat No. 1, "Are you all right?"  Symons replied, "Yes."  Someone in the other boat said, "All right."  After that, 2 other boats came around.  Symons called out, "Keep as close together as we possibly can!"  Someone in another boat asked, "Is there an officer in your boat?"  Symons replied, "No."  Then the person asked, "Are you all right?"  Symons replied, "Yes."

They continued rowing for the Californian until they saw a green flare (which was lit by 4th Officer Boxhall in Boat No. 2) which indicated another boat.  Dr. Paul Lee talks about the green flare here:  http://www.paullee.com/titanic/mysteryship.html.  George Symons changed course started to head for the boat with the green flare.  They never reached Boxhall because while they were rowing, the rockets from the R.M.S. Carpathia appeared in the night sky.  Symons changed the course again, and they arrived alongside the Carpathia at about 4:45 A.M.

By then, it was broad daylight.  They came alongside the Carpathia's hull and climbed up a rope ladder.  Samuel Collins said he carried a coat of an unidentified man up to the Carpathia from the lifeboat.  I believe it was Abraham Salamon's coat because a later photograph (below) showed him wearing one on the Carpathia.  Eventually, Charles Hendrickson and Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon were the last two on the boat.  Sir Cosmo turned to Hendrickson and said, "Are you the man who was sitting next to me?"  Hendrickson replied, "Yes."  Sir Cosmo said, "If you will get the men's names I will see that they get some money in a few days or give them a cheque shortly."  They left the boat and Hendrickson put the names of the occupants of the boat down on paper and gave the list to Sir Cosmo that day.  The crew of the Carpathia got Boat No. 1 up onto the Boat Deck of the Carpathia where it was stored until it was unloaded in New York.  It was later taken back to Southampton along with many of the other boats from the Titanic and what happened afterwards to them is unknown.  Sir Cosmo paid the crew with coutts, true to his word, and later regretted it.  They were accused of bribing the crew to not go back and ostracized by society for the rest of their lives.  In addition, Sir Cosmo had a photograph taken of the people from Boat 1.  I've taken the liberty to identify each person.

Boat No. 1 seems to be the most controversial lifeboat out of all the lifeboats.  The fact a boat with the capacity of 40 was lowered with 12 people has caused sadness, thinking of the lives that could have been saved.  The fact they made no attempt to save lives even though they couldn't have if they tried because they were too far away has caused people to wonder and ask why.  The fact so many were attempting to cover their tracks and salvage their reputations during the inquiries makes it nearly impossible to accurately recreate what happened.  But what's clear to me is that these were people living their everyday lives, placed in a situation that nobody expected, and made their decisions based on what little they knew.  It's easy for arm-chair historians and the rest of us to look back and condemn them, but I suspect it would be a whole other issue for us if we like them were in a cold, dark lifeboat alone in the middle of the North Atlantic.  




2012 Time Magazine (Laura Francatelli's account)

On A Sea Of Glass 

The Loss Of The SS Titanic:  Centennial Reappraisal 

A Night To Remember



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Was Archie Butt Gay?

It has come to my attention that 1st class passenger and Titanic victim Maj. Archibald Butt has been described as gay and more specifically, it's been said that he and Frank Millet were partners.  I can only attribute it to our current fascination with sexuality, something that was not discussed at that time since it was considered improper to do so along with a search to find a gay people in history of influence.  With me having a particular interest in Archie, I took it upon myself to confirm or deny the rumors in an unbiased fashion.

It has been noted that Archie never made any indication that he was gay because he was a self conscious person who would never have put something like that on paper.  While there is some truth to that, I find it interesting that Archie never really included Frank Millet in his personal scrapbooks which he made for his eyes only that included things from the most important people in his life.  One would think his "one true love" would at least be mentioned in some ways.

While this has not been mentioned by proponents of Archie's homosexuality, people are claiming Abraham Lincoln was gay because he slept in the same bed with men.  Archie did sleep with a man for a long time when he was a young journalist.  But it was not uncommon for men to sleep with other men to save money which it was noted by one of them was the reason for their doing so.  It has also been noted that Archie shared his house in Washington D.C. with several men, but again, it was not uncommon for men to live together.

There seems to be no recurring man in Archie's letters which would indicate any interest.  On the flip side, Archie in the letters he wrote almost every day to his mother and then to his sister-in-law show a clear interest in 2-3 women, but most emphatically with Mathilde Townsend, and his letters show that when he fell in love with someone, she would show up over and over in his letters.

Before leaving for Europe on the Berlin in 1912, Archie was asked if he would get married.  Archie replied that he hoped so because his life was miserable.

Francis D. Millet was a homosexual in his younger days.  He lived with a man named Charles Stoddard and letters from Millet to Stoddard reveal that they did have a homosexual relationship which ended with Stoddard leaving Millet.  Eventually, Millet married a woman and had children.  But Millet's profession as an artist meant that he was gone a lot, taking on many projects of national and international significance.  It's possible he had relationships with men while he was away from his wife, but such things are not recorded to my knowledge.

Conclusion:  We don't know and likely will never know if Archie Butt was gay.  He certainly bore certain stereotypical characteristics such as closeness to his mother and some flamboyance, but that does not prove anything.  It is my opinion that he was not gay, just because we don't have any evidence of his well recorded life that would suggest that he was gay.  Unless such evidence arises, he will remain in my view a straight man that was simply unlucky in his relationships with women.  I must point out that he was an amazing man either way.  He rendered invaluable service to two presidents and saved lives by helping women and children into the boats.  A person's sexuality should not change how we view who he was.