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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