Mrs Henry Buell and daughter, Miss Margaret Buell reached Newark Friday evening after spending a year in Germany and brought back with her the first lucid details following the sinking of the Titanic and scenes prevailing after the disaster. Mrs Buell’s experience was most terrifying and at the same time most interesting, owing to the fact that their steamer the Rhein of the North German Lloyd line was the next boat following the Titanic and pursued exactly the same course as the ill fated ship.
The Rhein was the first vessel to arrive at the scene of the disaster following the rescue ship Carpathia, and to see the acres of water filled with bodies and debris of the monster ship. Their wireless apparatus was the first to inform the Mackay-Bennett the exact longitude and latitude where the bodies might be found and to warn them.
Mrs Buell was seen by an Advocate representative at the home of her father, Mr W.N. Fulton in North Fifth Street on Saturday morning and kindly consented to tell of her experiences.
She said the Rhein sailed from Bremen, Germany one day after the Steamer Titanic left Liverpool [sic]. Both had exactly the same sailing orders and both were to pursue the northern course. The Rhein was the next steamer following the Titanic, however the latter vessel was sailing 24 miles an hour while the former was making 15 miles. This brought the German boat about four days behind the Titanic.
Mrs Buell then continued: “We were about three days out when the word was received that the Titanic had gone to the bottom and had carried with her 1800 souls and that 800 had been saved. The immediate effect on our boat was terrible. The crew and officers were plunged into the greatest gloom and neither the passengers nor crew ever expected to reach shore.
“There was nothing to do however but to continue on our course. When we came near the vicinity of the disaster three officers were placed on the bridge during the entire night and every person on the ship was fully dressed. The life boats were manned and drills were held.
A note of interest.” Mrs Buell inserted, “was that the Titanic was of 45,000 tons and had but 20 life boats, while the Rhein was of 11,000 tons and had 16 life boats. Four days after the Titanic had gone down we crossed the exact spot. Every member of the crew was on the lookout for the bergs and we crossed their path on a dark night. The fires were banked and the boat proceeded at a rate of six miles and hour for 12 hours. Each berg has its own fog following it and we knew we were in that zone when the water dropped from 18 degrees at 6 o’clock in the evening to zero by 10 o’clock. Captain Maden, in charge of the Rhein, who has been on the sea for 65 years and retires next year, says it was the most terrible passage he had ever made.
When the fog lifted in the morning three mammoth bergs were but two miles from us, while 20 were in the distance. The largest berg, of which a picture was taken, looked like a mammoth castle in the distance and the captain in measuring it said it was about 150 feet high and 300 feet broad. The rule is that but one-eighth is above the water while seven –eighths are submerged.
When we reached the spot where the wreckage of the Titanic was sighted, debris was scattered about for acres. Chairs, tables, doors, and various parts of the ship were floating about, and about 70 bodies were seen. The bodies partly submerged and each had a life preserver, which was probably the reason they floated. One was a woman about 60 years of age and another was a young man clothed only in his pyjamas. The condition of the clothing made it hard to distinguish the sex but a great number of the crew was seen. We were the first to warn the Mackay-Bennett and to inform them as to the latitude and longitude where the bodies might be found.
The sight proved appalling, and the terrible scenes served but to increase the anxiety that at moment we might encounter one of the large bergs and meet the same fate. It will never be known how many were passed during the night nor how near we came to hitting them.
“It was one of the most terrifying of experiences,” said Mrs Buell, “and I am still unstrung as the result of the terrible nervous strain.”
The Rhein reached Baltimore Thursday morning. The boat was besieged with reporters from the large papers of the country. Mrs Buell and her daughter and Dr and Mrs Kinney of Oregon were the only English speaking people on the Rhein and they were interviewed a number of times, as world –wide interest was centred in the arrival of the German vessel.
Mrs Buell returned to Newark Friday evening and is now at the home of her father. She has spent the past year in Dresden Germany, studying the German language and her daughter has been in a German school. Mrs Buell brought back with her a picture of the icebergs, taken with a camera from their boat. The berg is off about a distance of two miles and shows plainly in the picture. She also has a map showing the course of the vessels and marked with the spot of the disaster. Both will be treasured relics of a wonderful trip, which consumed fourteen days.
The Rhein is the last vessel to go by the northern course and all vessels will cross by the southern course for the next three months. This vessel had 530 passengers and left Bremen on April 11.