Reviewed by Mike Poirier
One hundred years after the Titanic sank, there have only been a few books about the rescue ship, Carpathia. First was the Gillespie's, The Titanic Man, then Tyne to Titanic, and also a large article by Craig Stringer in the Atlantic Daily Bulletin. However, in Titanic books, the Carpathia usually gets a chapter and that is it. Finally, there is a generous volume of over 350 pages, Carpathia and the Titanic: Rescue at Sea by George Behe.
What was it like aboard the Cunarder when it received the distress call from the largest ship in the world? The author has compiled many first hand accounts of the Carpathia's passengers and crew to tell the story. Almost everything is new to this reader. This is material that you will not find in any other books, which is a testament to the research skills of the author.
Many people aboard were friends, relatives and acquaintances of Titanic's people. John Badenoch, who know Isidor and Ida Straus, asked any survivor coming aboard of news of the couple. He sent a marconigram to their son Percy Straus that his parents were not aboard and follows up with a letter of his talks with survivors relating to Isidor and Ida.
Wallace Bradford tells of the strange noises that woke him up and when he looks out of his porthole, the first thing he sees is an iceberg!
Statements by Mrs. Hardgrove reveal the sadness felt by all. "Yesterday we found Mrs. Minahan on board, but the doctor is missing... One little baby is saved with the nurse, the rest of the family gone."
Carlos Hurd and his wife, were known as the reporters who got the first full account out to the newspapers. Interesting details with clues to who they are talking about adds to the story of certain survivors. "one woman with whom I talked in the library that morning was the newly made widow of a popular novelist. Near her was the widow of the Broadway show producer. Two others, who had no personal bereavement to mourn, were the original poster girl of one the popular artists of the time, and her mother." It's clear he's talking about Lily Futrelle, Rene Harris, Dorothy Gibson and her mother.
Charles Hutchison and his wife doubled up with fellow Carpathia passengers and gave their room to Mary Eloise Smith. They also helped other passengers move their belongings to free up a cabin for the bereaved Fortune family.
Dr. Lengyl's account talks about the preparation made for the arrival of the survivors. He is one of the few that talk about banker Robert Daniel's delirium aboard the rescue ship. "A young banker called Daniels ina torn, red night shirt kept insisting he was a doctor. I didn't want a colleague to be left without clothes so I gave him mine." As the reader will see, no request by a survivor was unheeded by Carpathia's compliment.
"There was almost no wreckage," said, Eleanor Danforth. "A chair, perhaps, or a wooden rack, but nothing to give a hint as to the size or the magnificence of the vessel lying two miles beneath our keel." Later one she remarks about their "strained faces and their haunted eyes is one that I shall always remember."
Also included in this book are reports from other vessels such as the Athinai, the Birma, The Californian, etc. Documents from the Mackay-Bennett give interesting details such as, "the body thought to be that of George B. Widener of Philadelphia is badly disfigured. The skull is crushed. Arms and legs of many were broken." A Dr. French from the Oceanic reveals what he saw when he rowed from the ship to collapsible A which was adrift for about a month with the bodies of a few victims, including Thomson Beattie.
The book closes with touching letters from friends and relatives of Titanic's passengers and crew. Those looking for a new angle to the Titanic disaster, and to learn more about Carpathia's role in it, will appreciate all the original research that went into this book. It is only available through Lulu.com at this time, but will definitely be a favorite on any bookshelf.