Brooklyn Man, Saved With Wife on Honeymoon, Tells of Over Confidence
TRYING FOR RECORD
First Lifeboats Left Ship Half Filled, but Others Were Crowded.
CAPTAIN NOT A SUICIDE
Colonel Astor a Hero to the Last.
Praise for Ismay, Who Is Nervous Wreck
No more unconcerned couple stepped off the Carpathia last night than George A. Harder and his wife, just returning from a three months’ honeymoon abroad.
They had gone through the ordeal of shipwreck without receiving as much as a scratch or a cold. The young husband told a clear story about the happenings on board the ship after she struck and until he and his wife were landed on the rescuing vessel.
The fact that there were not enough lifeboats, that the stewards misled the passengers as to the actual danger existing, knowingly or not, and that the Titanic was going at top speed in spite of the presence of icebergs were the striking parts of a story told last night by the Brooklyn man.
He and his wife were rescued in the second boat, saw much of the subsequent happenings from afar and denied that there was any wholesale shooting by officers of the boat, by Major Butt or that Captain Smith committed suicide.
Mr. Harder maintains that he owes his life, in all probability, to the fact that he was dressed at the time of the collision, took his wife to the deck and found practically and empty lifeboat and decided to get in with her.
Karl Behr, another Brooklynite, and the famous tennis player, was on deck at the time, and he also dropped into the boat, which pulled away with thirty-six people, whereas the boat is supposed to be able to carry sixty.
The very next boat was loaded to the gunwales and no men were permitted to get into her, for by this time the extent of the damage became known and strict discipline was maintained by officers who held revolvers in their hands.
Survivors on Carpathia Kept in Ignorance of Fate of Relatives,
Mr. Harder declared that the survivors aboard the Carpathia were kept in just as much ignorance as were the people so anxiously waiting at home. Not until the boat landed in New York were the women allowed to know that their husbands had perished. The officials were afraid of wholesale suicides. These women were made to believe that the Californian had picked up the men.
Mr. Harder’s running story was as follows:
“We had been sailing along at a fine clip, beating the record of the Olympic from the very first day. We all knew by the atmosphere that there were icebergs around us and most of us realized that we had been warned about them. Yet such was the confidence in the “unsinkable” theory that we were not at all surprised at the speed. My wife and I were about to retire, about 11:40, when there was a thud.”
Many Slept On, Unaware of Collision
“It was not so heavy as to even wake up a great many passengers, and I might say right there that many of them never knew of the collision, and I believe sank while asleep.” Some women have said that they were not even called by the stewards. Others, and these constitute the great majority, were told that there was no danger, not to hurry and not to be even the least bit perturbed. I went on deck, however, as I did not like the scraping sound that followed the thud, and when I reached there, they told me I had better get my life belt and I returned with my wife, both of us with belts on.
“When I went to our berth and told people that I had been told to put on our life belts they laughed at me and said it was a joke. There was no more actual realization of conditions or danger than if we had hit a small rowboat. The steamer was actually progressing at the time. Once on deck I found that one boat had already put off and then my wife and I go into the second with about thirty others, including Karl Behr.
Ismay Helped People Into Lifeboats, Colonel Astor a Hero.
“Mr. Ismay helped us get into the boat and he acted splendidly. In our boat was a big box and a keg of water. Unlike the other boats, we had no lights at all, and we pulled away from the boat some distance, later taking turns at the oars. I was on the starboard side, the boat having listed that way. I am told the lowering of boats on the other side was a much more difficult proposition.
“I met Colonel Astor and his wife on the stairs and he was very calm, maintaining that there was no danger and that the boat could keep afloat for a long time. Later on deck, he started to help a little boy to get into one of the lifeboats, but the boy was pushed back with the statement that only women were being shipped then.
“Colonel Astor then went and picked up a woman’s hat somewhere, put it on the boy’s head and said: “Now you’re a woman, get in there.” And the boy is safe today as a result. Colonel Astor, his wife, and everyone else thoroughly believed that all would be saved. I found out afterwards that the ship’s carpenter had been sent below to determine the extent of the damage and the depth of the water shipped but he never returned.
Saw No Panic, Shooting or Disorder.
“The boats were lowered very quickly, and from where we were located, there was apparent absolutely no panic, shooting or disorder. Men helped the women into the boats and I personally believe that there were only three Italians shot who insisted on getting into a boat. I do not know who shot them.
“We pulled away from the immediate vicinity of the Titanic as she was starting to list considerably and her bow was slowly tilting – but all the time the lights were burning brightly and the band was playing the “Star Spangled Banner”. I did not hear any pistol shots, and although we were gradually pulling away from the boat I think we should have heard them.
“The boat sank within two hours after she struck. Five minutes before she dropped out of sight the lights went out. Then the bow dug deeper into the water until she was inundated right to midships, when she suddenly dove straight down, and thus made less suction that would have occurred had she sunk in the ordinary way. Just before she sank an awful screaming, ghastly and piercing, rent the air, and it was caused by a handful of steerage passengers, women, who had huddled into the aft end of the boat, just as an ostrich digs his head into the sand.
Many Climbed to Rigging as Ship Dove to Bottom
“A great many men kept climbing the rigging and several of these were actually saved. Colonel Archibald Gracie, the eminent Washington lawyer, told me afterwards that he climbed the funnel and held onto a brass rail, and as the boat went down was thrown clear of the wreckage by the explosion that followed when the boilers hit the water. He clung to an overturned lifeboat, which I believe was upset after it had been boarded. Why this happened I do not know, for the sea was never calmer and it was smoother than the East River ordinarily is.
Says Captain Smith Did Not Commit Suicide
“The rumor that Captain Smith committed suicide is not true. I believe the first officer did, but Captain Smith was plainly seen swimming in the water when the boat went down. Naturally many went down before aid could reach them, and of those saved there are many whose legs are frozen so badly that I would not be surprised if they never were able to use them.
“I do not concur in the general denunciation of Mr. Ismay, who acted admirably as far as I saw. He is a very sick man and was so low on the Carpathia that his life was despaired of. I think every one of the men who lost their lives did so because of the lack of boats and rafts and I was one of those who signed the statement on the Carpathia calling for stricter laws in this respect and for regulations concerning the speed in dangerous waters.
“I know the stories of wholesale deaths on the Carpathia are untrue and I doubt whether there were ten all told. We never stopped to bury them and knew nothing of it. They were very close with their news on board for some reason, although my own wireless to my folks was sent within three or four hours after I had written it, immediately on our arrival on the Carpathia. The treatment accorded aboard was fine and the Cunard line cannot get too much praise. Everybody helped those who needed clothing and bedding. After we had been picked up, just before dawn, there was nothing visible of the grand boat, on which I had lost myself many times. We saw floating down the stream the next day some wreckage such as parts of cabins, bedding and that was all that was left. Of course, I am happy that our honeymoon ended so fortunately. We are all right but never again for me.”
When asked whether there had been any celebrations aboard because of the maiden trip, Mr. Harder said he believed there was no more than is usual, although such a report had been current after the wreck. He also said that, aside from the mental anguish, he believed that the greatest harm done was in the sustaining of frozen feet and limbs as it was bitter cold. Mr. Harder smiled in a sad way when asked if there was any chance that other survivors might have been picked up. No icebergs were near enough he said, even if the cold could have been withstood. He also declared that those compartments that were not actually smashed in the collision, to a great extent, must have been thrown out of gear, as they were not worked from the bridge or did not close automatically.
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