Smith aboard the Carpathia

Scott Holiday

Jul 29, 2010
Here is an interesting question:

Had Captain Smith somehow survived (clung to Coll. B, made it to a lifeboat, etc), how would he have been received aboard Carpathia? Do you think the passengers would shriek at him and call him a murderer, reckless lunatic, and insulting things like that? I mean, it wouldn't be easy for him to hide out in his room like Ismay did, since he would be expected to help out with keeping watch, etc as a mariner himself. Also his "Old Salt" appearance didn't lend itself to anonymity.

No doubt he'd have to swallow a ton of heat from all those widows & orphans, plus the officers would likely throw him under the bus to try & salvage their own careers since Smith was "finished" anyway as captain of even a bathub toy. Also, people have a habit of getting very nasty when their spouses's death is perceived as your fault, so some of them might see him as an "omen of death" and all that. It would've no doubt been really hard on an old timer like him who'd never dealt with adversity or approbation his entire career.

I suppose Smith could've thrown Ismay under the bus big-time, since obviously his "employment" at WSL ended at 2:20 am that morning. That would be the politically expedient thing to do. Esp. if Smith had pulled a Lightoller and survived only by grabbing flotsam post-sinking, he'd have the upper hand over the corporate coward Ismay, since folks always hate Wall St CEO types anyway, even in 1912. Esp. those who hop in a boat while women and children drown all around you. Remember too, Smith might have even been thinking about jail time (manslaughter charges) given the madness of the US political system in those days. As an attorney myself, I could easily see a political zealot like Teddy Roosevelt calling for his (Smith's) neck in a noose. It don't take much to whip American's into a "witch-hunt" type frenzy (Wilson proved this in the lead up to WWI, and Joe McCarthy did the same thing in the ealry 50s).

Also, do you think Carpathia still would've gone to NY if Smith was aboard? Seems like he'd have known what was coming and decided England would be more hospitable. Or maybe just told Rostron to go to Spain since he was headed that direction anyway? Once in Spain they (Titanic's officers) could all just "lay low" for a few months until things cooled off and then maybe limp back to England and start over in new jobs. It wasn't like Spain had a horse in the race- they wouldn't have held any inquiry of their own, and besides they wouldn't even speak English, which is another "bonus" from Smith/WSL perspective.

I assume Rostron would've gone wherever Smith asked him to, since Smith was the senior man and also a Navy Reserve officer and something of a celebrity in his own right. Plus Rostron would no doubt feel sorry for him.

Going toward Spain would also get them all well outta wireless range of Cape Race with the Carpathia's little toy of a set. By the time the US Senators/general public learned what REALLY happened, Smith & Co. would be far outta there jurisdiction.
Mar 12, 2011
Keep in mind that I'm not as much of an expert as most of the posters on this web site, and I may very well be totally wrong, but here's my opinion, at any rate.
It's always been my impression that most of the Titanic survivors were in a state of total shock after being rescued. I personally believe any anger and recriminations would have come some days after rescue, once the survivors had time to process what they'd been through. There's no doubt in my mind that the situation would have been stressful for him, had he survived, but keep in mind that just because he had never been in any kind of major wreck, doesn't mean he'd never known any kind of adversity. Life at sea was rough even if you were lucky enough to never lose a ship out from under you! (I'm willing to bet it still is, as a matter of fact)

As for Carpathia returning to New York or sailing on, I don't think there was any question of her turning back. I think the debate was where she would return to in order to drop off the survivors. She would not have had the provisions to support almost double the amount of passengers she left New York with all the way to Liverpool (or even Gibraltar, which was to be Carpathia's next stop). Senior or not, Smith would have had no authority to request a certain destination. Rostron was master of the Carpathia no matter what.

Adam Went

Apr 28, 2003
I agree with Michael. In the immediate aftermath of the sinking, most of the passengers were in no state to think about the consequences or who was to blame or anything else like that - all of that came later.

If he was on board the Carpathia, he probably would have hidden himself as much as possible, and even if he didn't or he was spotted, a lot of passengers probably would have seen him without even registering in their minds that it was him.....

To understand the reaction you must put yourself in the shoes of those Titanic survivors at the time.


Senan Molony

Jun 28, 1998
>>As for Carpathia returning to New York or sailing on, I don't think there was any question of her turning back. I think the debate was where she would return to in order to drop off the survivors.<<

Not true. She considered going to the Azores.

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