Encyclopedia Titanica

An account of the Titanic disaster by a survivor

Able Seaman Joseph Scarrott's Story of the Titanic Sinking

The Sphere

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Joseph Scarrott
Joseph Scarrott

"The night of April 14, 1912, will never be forgotten. It was a beautiful starlight night, no wind, and the sea was as calm as a lake, but the air was very cold." "Everybody was in good spirits and everything throughout the ship was going smoothly. All of a sudden she crashed into an iceberg, which shook the giant liner from stem to stern. The shock of the collision as not so great as one would expect considering the size of the iceberg and the speed the ship was going, which was about 22 knots an hour." "I was underneath the forecastle enjoying a smoke at the time. It happened about twenty minutes to twelve o'clock. The shaking of the ship seemed as though the engines had suddenly been reversed to full speed astern. Those of the crew who were asleep in their bunks turned out, and we all rushed on deck to see what was the matter."

When Realisation Came

"We found the ship had struck an iceberg as there was a large quantity of ice and Snow on the starboard side of the fore deck. We did not think it very serious so went below again cursing the iceberg for disturbing us. We had no sooner got below when the boatswain called all hands on deck to uncover and turn all the boats out ready for lowering. We did not think then there was anything serious. The general idea of the crew was that we were going to get the boats ready in case of emergency, and the sooner we got the job done the quicker we should get below again." "The port side boats were got ready first and then the starboard ones. As the work proceeded passengers were coming on deck with lifebelts on. Then we realised the situation. Every man went to his station. There was no panic, everybody was cool, and when the boats were ready the usual order was given, 'Women and children first.' That order was carried out without any class distinction whatever. In some cases we had to force women into the boat as they would not leave their husbands."

The Origin of the Revolver Shots

"The men stood back to allow the women to pass, except in one or two cases where men tried to rush, but they were very soon stopped. This occurred at the boat I was in charge of No. 14. About half-a-dozen foreigners tried to jump in before I had my complement of women and children, but I drove them back with the boat's tiller. Shortly afterwards the fifth officer, Mr. Lowe, came and took charge of the boat. I told him what had happened. He drew his revolver and fired two shots between the boat and ship's side into the water as a warning to any further attempts of that sort. When our boat was lowered we had fifty-four women, four children, one sailor, one window-cleaner, two firemen, three stewards, and one officer; total, sixty-six souls." "When the boat was in the water we rowed clear of the ship. We then saw four other boats well clear and fairly well filled with women and children. We went to them and found none of them had an officer in charge. So the fifth officer took charge of the lot, ordering them to keep with him."

How the Stern Sank

"The ship sank shortly afterwards, I should say about 2.20 a.m. on the 15th, which would be two hours and forty minutes after she struck. The sight of that grand ship going down will never be forgotten. She slowly went down bow first with a slight list to starboard until the water reached the bridge, then she went quicker. When the third funnel had nearly disappeared I heard four explosions, which I took to be the bursting of the boilers. The ship was right up on end then. Suddenly she broke in two between the third and fourth funnel. The after part of the ship came down on the water in its normal position and seemed as if it was going to remain afloat, but it only remained a minute or two and then sank. The lights were burning right up till she broke in two. The cries from the poor souls struggling in the water sounded terrible in the stillness of the night. It seemed to go through you like a knife. Our officer then ordered all the boats under his charge to row towards where the ship went down to see if we could pick up anybody. Some of our boats picked up a few. I cannot say how many. After that we tied all our boats together so as to form a large object on the water which would be seen quicker than a single boat by a passing vessel. We divided the passengers of our boat amongst the other four, and then taking one man from each boat so as to make a crew we rowed away amongst the wreckage as we heard cries for help coming from that direction. When we got to it the sight we saw was awful. We were amongst hundreds of dead bodies floating in lifebelts. We could only see four alive. The first one we picked up was a male passenger. He died shortly after we got him in the boat. After a hard struggle we managed to get the other three."

Giving Way to Tears

"One of these we saw kneeling as if in prayer upon what appeared to be a part of a staircase. He was only about twenty yards away from us but it took us half-an-hour to push our boat through the wreckage and bodies to get to him; even then we could not get very close so we put out an oar for him to get hold of and so pulled him to the boat." "All the bodies we saw seemed as if they had perished with the cold as their limbs were all cramped up. As we left that awful scene we gave way to tears. It was enough to break the stoutest heart. Just then we sighted the lights of a steamer, which proved to be the steamship Carpathia of the Cunard line. What a relief that was." "We then made sail and went back to our other boats. By this time day was just beginning to dawn. We then saw we were surrounded with icebergs and field ice. Some of the fields of ice were from sixteen to twenty miles long. On our way back we saw one of our collapsible boats waterlogged; there were about eighteen persons on it, so we went and took them off. We left two dead bodies on it, and we were told two others had died and had fallen off."

A Joyful Arrival

"All our boats then proceeded towards the Carpathia . She had stopped right over where our ship had gone down. She had got our wireless message for assistance. When we got alongside we were got aboard as soon as possible. We found some survivors had already been picked up. Everything was in readiness for us dry clothes, blankets, beds, hot coffee, spirits, etc; everything to comfort us. The last of the survivors were got aboard about 8.30 a.m. The dead bodies that were in some of the boats were taken aboard and after identification were given a proper burial. They were two male passengers, one fireman, and one able seaman. We steamed about in the vicinity for a few hours in the hope of finding some more survivors, but did not find any. During that time wives were inquiring for husbands, sisters for brothers, and children for their parents, but many a sad face told the result."

A Tribute to America

"The Carpathia was bound from New York to Gibraltar, but the captain decided to return to New York with us. We arrived there about nine p.m. on Thursday, the 18th. We had good weather during the trip, but it was a sad journey. A list of the survivors was taken as soon as we had left the scene of the disaster. On arrival at New York everything possible was ready for our immediate assistance -clothing, money, medical aid, and good accommodation, in fact, I think it would have been impossible for the people of America to have treated us better. Before closing this narrative I must say that the passengers when they were in the boats, especially the women, were brave and assisted the handling of the boats a great deal. Thank God the weather was fine or I do not think there would have been one soul left to tell the tale."

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Joseph George Scarrott

Comment and discuss

  1. Sophie Rebecca Adeilade Grace said:

    Im proud of Joseph, he is related to me but I cant remember what he is to me- I think a great uncle of mine (my granddad's uncle). As I am doing a report on titanic for school, I am going to use his story, thank you for uploading it :)

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2011) An account of the Titanic disaster by a survivor (The Sphere, , ref: #12677, published 17 May 2011, generated 20th October 2021 12:57:26 AM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/an-account-of-the-titanic-disaster-by-a-survivor.html