SS Bremen's passengers view Titanic disaster


Dec 12, 1999
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I read in one book that the S.S. Bremen steamed by the Titanic disaster site, shortly after the sinking, and its passengers viewed a macabre sight of bodies clinging to each other, to desk chairs, a woman hugging a dog, and a mother holding a baby. I understand that for many weeks after the disaster, bodies were spotting floating across shipping lanes. I would like to know if there is any record available, or book, which describes any such sightings.
 
Dec 4, 1998
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The woman hugging the dog was Miss Ann Elizabeth Isham, one of four First Class women to, unfortunately, lose her life in the sinking. Thank you for letting note who had seen the horrible site.
 

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Jeffrey!

I'm afraid that's something we'll never know. Although Marty Crisp has written a novel in which Miss Isham is claimed to have owned such a dog, that part of the novel is strictly speculation and has no hard evidence to back it up.

All my best,

George
 
Dec 4, 1998
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Thanks for that! I had only been told before that that was probably the most logical speculation, but then again, it could have been someone entirely different hugging, perhaps, Miss Isham's dog? You are quite correct: we may never know. Thank you!
 

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Jeffrey!

I'm afraid there's no hard evidence to support the theory that Miss Isham even *had* a dog with her on the Titanic.

All my best,

George
 
Dec 12, 1999
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On April 15, 1912, when the Carpathia rescued the Titanic's passengers in lifeboats, only one body was seen floating around - - even though both the Carpathia and California steamed around the area looking for more, and purportedly saw nothing. In "Sinking of the Titanic" - Quartermaster Hichens is alleged to have said (while in the lifeboat) that Carpathia would first pick up the bodies, before the people in the lifeboats. Nonetheless, in a few short hours the remaining floating bodies and debris had completely disappeared. When McKay-Bennett finally approached the scene, the floating debris was spread out almost as far as one could see on the horizon. Thus, I find the representation that the Carpathia saw nothing, except for one body, quite remarkable. Certainly, Captain Rostron cannot be accountable for all the bodies, on top of the passengers he rescued. Nonetheless, is it possible that there's some type of cover up going on here, i.e., that Carpathia indeed saw the debris and bodies but left it behind for others to deal with - - and didn't want anyone to know that it saw them?
 
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Tracey McIntire

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If it was part of a cover-up, I would think that Captain Lord of the Californian would have had to be a part of it as the Californian was there also. I think it is highly doubtful. In fact, if Lord had sighted bodies, he most certainly would have picked them up. This would have at least partly redeemed him from his lack of action in picking up survivors.
 
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Daniel Rosenshine (Danielr)

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Hi!

I doubt that there was any cover up at all. Captain Rostron would hardly be able to cover it up. Had Carpathia passed a large amount of bodies and wreckage, this would have been seen by Carpathia's original passengers and Titanic survivors (who lined the decks of Carpathia in their hundreds to search for possible other survivors).

If any cover up was intended Captain Rostron would have had to bribe or somehow keep all of his passengers quiet and the over 700 of the Titanic survivors quiet too.

The whereabout of the bodies and wreckage at that time would obviously have been elsewhere. The water currents undoubtably by then moved it elsewhere and totally out of site by the time Carpathia arrived. They were moved in all directions and scattered over vast areas of sea.

The reason no bodies or wreckage were found was because Californian and Carpathia both searched in the area where Titanic reported it's distress location. Besides the location being minorly incorrect and the Titanic itself was moved by the currents in it's 2hours and 40 minutes of sinking, the few hours that followed moved the wreckage yet again. The boats rowed away in a different direction.

I hope this is of some help.

Daniel.
 
Dec 12, 1999
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Daniel and Tracey, thanks for the feedback. I agree that a cover up is a long shot. But, keep in mind that for many years unpleasant facts about the disaster were covered up. For example, the panic, the fact some men were shot and killed, the stories of all the men who were rescued but who later claimed that they "swam" to a lifeboat and were then "plucked" from the sea. Also, the Catholic priest (whose name escapes me but who disembarked in Queenstown), and who distributed pictures of the Titanic after the disaster, was severely admonished by the White Star Line. In one letter, in so many words, he was told to keep his mouth shut, or else. For many years, I think, no one really knew what killed the swimmers. People weren't aware that the exposure to the cold sea was deadly, and that many didn't drown. J. P. Morgan missed the ship, supposedly because he was sick (in fact, he went to visit his mistress in Paris, instead). So, to sum it up, we have to look behind the facts whenever we can, because somebody back in 1912, and for years thereafter, really sanitized all this stuff before any of it went public. They do it today, they did it then.
 
Dec 12, 1999
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A couple of more points to follow up on in relation to this conversation. There is an April 25, 1912, article from the Chicago Daily Tribune on this site where the S.S. Bremen's Captain Wilhelm describes the scene Bremen encountered in the North Atlantic, near the site of the disaster, approximately five to six days afterward. When asked, he explains that he didn't pick up any bodies because "It was absolutely useless . . . we had no means for caring for them." Further, according to his description, the scene was overwhelming. He estimated that he saw between 150 to 200 bodies of men, women and children floating around - - all wearing lifebelts. He said the ship "ploughed through fields of bodies . . . they were everywhere." Given this description, I'm still a bit skeptical that Rostron's crew (at least with their field glasses), or Californian's, too, saw nothing. They may have, like Captain Wilhelm, simply left them for someone else because they had "no means for caring for them."
 
Mar 20, 1997
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If I recall, I've read that right when the Carpathia was searching the sinking site Captain Rostron organized the memorial service for the survivors to attend. Might this have been to ensure that the survivors weren't looking over the side when the Carpathia was scanning the area.

They may have seen quite a few bodies but since the passengers were none the wiser, they didn't say so. I would think some of the survivors and Carpathia passengers would have reported seeing the carnage if they had.
 
Dec 12, 1999
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You're right, Arthur. In "Titanic, An Illustrated History," it says two services were held inside for Titanic's passengers and that "While many of the passengers were thus distracted, Captain Rostron looked for any last survivors. The remnants of the Titanic had apparently drifted away, for he found very little . . . mostly loose cork . . . He saw one body." Further, it's worth nothing that the McKay-Bennett left Halifax to pick up the bodies, on Thursday, April 17, 1912. As such, it must have received its instruction at least one or two days in advance of disembarking - - because the ship's captain had to gather a crew, get embalming fluid, coffins, and related supplies for what proved to be a long voyage. Thus, I figure that White Star probably hired McKay-Bennett the day after the disaster. This is well before Bremen spotted the bodies (on April 20, 1912). If no one on the Carpathia or Californian spotted any bodies, and believed they disappeared, then why did White Star send the McKay-Bennet out so quickly to pick them up? The immediacy of their reaction, less than one day after the disaster, and before the Carpathia docked or Bremen reported sightings, suggests that White Star independently knew the bodies weren't actually gone. Perhaps, it was tipped off.
 
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Mike Herbold

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I remember seeing that the reason Carpathia didn't start picking up bodies was that they figured the survivors on board had been through enough already and didn't need to watch that gruesome task. They took the survivors and left all the bodies to the other ships.
 
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Tracey McIntire

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Those are all good points to keep in mind. I still think that had Capt. Lord sighted any bodies, he would have picked them up--if not all, then at least a few. I think he would have been anxious to participate in some sort of rescue--even if it was of dead people.
 
Dec 12, 1999
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On the matter of Capt. Lord, I'm not sure that on the morning of April 15, 1912, he would have been aware of the extent of the controversy he was to become embroiled in. Thus, I'm not sure he would have been so conscientious about picking up bodies. If one adopts the view of Lord's critics, doing nothing about the bodies would have been consistent with what else went on. Nonetheless, if there was evidence that Lord left bodies behind, it seems that Lord Mersey and his group would have excoriated Lord about it at the Board of Trade hearings. Some of Lord's own crew testified adversely to him. But, I don't see where this matter of picking up bodies was ever brought up. So, maybe your point about Lord has merit.
 
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Tracey McIntire

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Hi Joe! Good comments! I am currently reading the Senate hearings and I don't see any questions regarding the lack of bodies found by the Carpathia and the Californian (of course maybe I haven't reached that part of the testimony yet). How much questioning on this was done at the British Inquiry? I have never seen a full transcript of this, but from what you said about Lord Mersey, I gather not much was said. Did they just take Rostron's and Lord's word when they said they did not see any bodies? This seems strange, especially in the case of the Senate hearings, where Senator Smith was so tenacious in trying to get all the facts.
 
Dec 12, 1999
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Tracey-
In the British Inquiry, Captain Lord was questioned about what he saw of the wreckage at the Titanic site:

7029. Did you see any wreckage anywhere? - I did.

7030. Where? - Near the "Carpathia."

7031. What did you see? - I saw several boats, deck chairs, cushions, planks.

7032. Collapsible boats? - I saw two collapsible boats.

7033. Did you see any bodies? - No.

7034. Any lifebelts floating? - No.

7035. Any wreckage? - Yes.

7036. Much? - Not a great deal.

7037. Did you cruise round and search? - I did.

7038. To see if you could find any bodies or any living persons? - I did. I did not
see anything at all.

Again, Tracey, I find this testimony remarkable. Lord saw the wreckage, but only describes some deck chairs, boat cushions and planks. Yet we know from McKay-Bennett and S.S. Bremen that there were "fields of bodies" floating around. If the current had pushed the wreckage away somewhere that would be one thing, but Lord says he passed the wreckage, and then searched around some more, and then confirms he saw no bodies or lifebelts, only some deck chairs. Further, Captain Rostron admits that he saw one body floating around. But, Lord doesn't. So I find all this strange.
 
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Tracey McIntire

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It is strange. I wonder why they would not mention bodies if there had been some. What about the crew members on both the Californian and the Carpathia? What about the passengers on the Carpathia? Why didn't any of these people mention bodies? Very unusual.
 
Dec 12, 1999
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Here's my take on the episode with the bodies. At the time of the disaster there was extreme competition between British and German steamship lines, for the North Atlantic passenger traffic.

When the disaster occurred, the British engaged in damage control. They hushed up the horrifying fact of passengers from one of their ships, Titanic, floating around the North Atlantic: seamen were told to keep quiet; Carpathia's passengers were shooed into a memorial service; Captains Lord and Rostron acted very discrete about what they saw. Meanwhile, ships such as McKay-Bennett were quietly rushed to the site to get the bodies.

The Germans, however, saw an opporunity to get the truth out, and embarass the competition. Bremen, from one of the competing German steamship lines, steered right into "fields of bodies," and its passengers later described the macabre scenes, including a women holding a dog, another women with a baby, dead kids, etc., to the American press.

I believe the bodies were there, or near where Carpathia and California were on April 15, 1912. The current could not have moved them a lot because Captain Moore, of the Mount Temple, estimated the current at only 1/2 knot per hour.

Additionally, aside from the German competition, the British companies may have wanted to keep the location of the bodies secret so that the location of the sinking wouldn't be so evident. Senator Smith asked in several instances about where bodies were, and even stated that he was interested in ascertaining exactly where the Titanic sank from where bodies were found. The location may have had some implication for the Californian and Captain Lord, which had been nearby, between six and nineteen miles, or it may have been relevant for determining the extent to which Smith failed to heed ice warnings, etc. So that's it, Tracey!
 
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Tracey McIntire

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Thanks, Joe! That actually makes the most sense of anything I have heard.
 

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