50 years ago Saturday, April 14, 1912, an Olympia woman, Mrs Anna Kincaid, celebrated her 18th birthday – aboard the luxury liner Titanic.
That same night, at approximately 11:40 o'clock the New York-bound ship, making its maiden voyage, sliced into an iceberg. Two hours later, the supposedly unsinkable liner disappeared in the fridge at Atlantic waters with the loss of some 1500 likes.
Mrs Kincaid, who lives at 1220 S. Jefferson Street, is mentioned several times in Walter Lord’s account of the Titanic disaster, A Night to Remember. She was glancing at her well-thumbed copy when the adjacent Sunday Olympian photograph was taken.
"I was on the Titanic through a quirk of fate," Mrs Kincaid, then Anna Sjoblom, explains. "I was en route from my home in Munsala, Finland, to join my father and brother, both employed in Olympia by Simpson timber company. I had a ticket on a Scandinavian ship but when I reached Southampton, England, I found a coal strike had tied up the liner.
I had to pay $8 more to get the passage on the Titanic."
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Mrs Kincaid, unable to speak a word of English, was making the voyage with two Finnish youths she had known in school. The three were accompanied by a man whose family, left behind, planned to join him later.
All were travelling third class, with their quarters located on the giant liner's bottom deck.
"I was lying on my bunk, fully clothed, when we hit the iceberg." Mrs Kincaid said, "I didn't know what had happened, though I was nearly thrown from the bank. I realised the ship had stopped, I wasn't unhappy about that, as I had been seasick the whole trip. When the engines quit, I felt 100% better."
Mrs Kincaid said she remained in the steerage section for quite awhile until another girl talked her into climbing to the upper decks where the lifeboats were located.
"We had to push people apart to find a place to walk," she remembers.
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On the second deck, the Olympian recalls looking through a window at a fully set table in a deserted dining hall. “It was very beautiful to me. The other girl wanted to kick out the window and go in, but I told her they might make us pay for the broken window."
Mrs Kincaid said there was much confusion throughout the ship, with some persons running around, others crying, some swearing and a great many praying. When she and her companion reached the upper deck, a crew member motioned them to a partially filled lifeboat. It was lowered into the water about 1.30 o'clock, not long before the Titanic nosed under.
"It was scary being lowered down the side of the ship," she said. "We had to keep very still because one of the boats had rocked on the way down, dumping the occupants out. When we were almost down, somebody jumped from above, landing partly on me and partly on those in the bottom of the boat. It stunned me."
Fortunately, the sea was calm at the time, but the screams of those who jumped into the water after the last lifeboats were filled were terrifying. Of the 1500 or more persons who perished, a great many froze to death in the 31° water. Only about 700 persons mostly women and children, well rescued. Mrs Kincaid’s three Finnish friends were among the missing.
Mrs Kincaid said she and some 60 other persons in the lifeboat were picked up about 7.30 o'clock in the morning by the ship Carpathia. One woman aboard the lifeboat had died of a heart attack before help arrived. The body was dropped overboard to lessen the load.
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“Although I wasn't frightened at the time, I still have nightmares about the Titanic experience," Mrs Kincaid said. "I dream of being trapped on the ship with no means of escape. But I always wake up before the boat sinks."
The Olympian, who moved here from Tacoma six years ago, said April 14 is a date with a triple significance for her. In addition to being the date of her birthday and the anniversary of the Titanic disaster, it's the birthday of her son, Harold, also an Olympia resident. The first and last events she celebrates; the other she would rather forget.
"I haven't been on a ship since I stepped off the Carpathia," she said, "I don't want to fly, either."
Unless someone invents another way to get there, Mrs Kincaid doesn't plan a return trip to Finland.