Men Behaved Like Heroes and Death Plunge Was Horrifying to Lifeboat Occupants.
Mrs. Fred Joel Swift, of No. 134 Arlington avenue, Brooklyn, returning on board the Titanic from a tour of the Continent, told a thrilling story of her adventures a few moments after she had disembarked from the Carpathia.
“At exactly a quarter to one,” said Mrs. Swift last night at the home of her sister, Mrs. H. S. Ford at No, 3 East Sixty-first street, “as Dr Alice Lieder, my travelling companion, and myself were preparing to retire there came an indescribable wrenching, followed by a fearful recoil. Going out into the corridor I found that, although many passengers had arisen from their berths, comparative quiet prevailed.
Several men went to one of the starboard portholes and gathered handfuls of shaven ice and showed them to us without the slightest feeling of alarm. Due to the assurances that we had all received that the Titanic was unsinkable, we felt safe, and after a few moments of inquiry most of those who had gotten up, retired again, with absolutely no thought of the huge vessel sinking.
Twenty minutes later, when Dr. Lieder and I were safely tucked away in bed, a steward knocked at our door and informed us that it was the Captain’s orders that we prepare for a possible shipwreck by adjusting life preservers and going to the upper deck so as to be within reach of the lifeboats.
This was the first intimation that any one aboard that doomed ship had received that there was a possibility of her going to the bottom, and even then nearly all of us took up the matter lightly enough, many of the women insisting that they would remain on board rather than venture out in the flimsy lifeboats.
My companion and myself held back until the first lifeboat had been let down into the water. At that time absolute quiet prevailed. Indeed, at no time did I observe any traces of panic among the passengers. The men kindly helped the women into the lifeboats, many of them laughing and chatting, and few of them dreaming that there was any immediate danger.
When the second boat was being filled Captain Smith insisted that we get into it, and as the sailors pulled away from the ship I heard him say, “Row for that light,” and I saw him point to a dim glimmer that must have been three miles distant, probably that of a fishing smack.
In the boat with us were three stewards, a seaman and about twelve or fourteen women. The night was crystal clear, and there was not a sign of a cloud or fog. In the dim distance we could make out the towering iceberg that had caused the disaster, looking very much like a death sentinel as it floated further and further from the Titanic.
When we were about a mile from the ship I saw her bow settle, and in two minutes she began to sink fast. Until within ten minutes before she went to the bottom her lights continued to be outlined against the dark horizon as deck by deck the huge leviathan sunk lower into the water.
I shall never forget the horrifying cries from the doomed vessel when the passengers aboard her realised that they were lost. With great difficulty I could make out forms running terror stricken about the boat deck. I shut my eyes for a few moments, and then opened them to behold the giant craft as she plunged with scarcely a tremor into the deep.
It was after midnight when we disembarked from the Titanic and we rowed without ceasing until seven o’clock that next morning. We never reached the fishing smack that Captain Smith had directed us to, but about half-past seven, when we were all but exhausted from the cold and the exertion of pulling the oars, the seaman called attention to something which he believed to be another iceberg, but which later proved to be the mast of the Carpathia.
At that time we could make out a half dozen lifeboats like our own filled with survivors, and with the approach of the Carpathia our hearts beat high. When that vessel reached us an improvised bo’sun’s chair was let down over the side of her and we were rescued in that way.”
Mrs. Swift said that the accident made 150 widows. She produced a note book in which she had recorded in pencil the number of survivors.
“There were 710 rescued,” she said; “the number from the first class list was 220, from the second class 120 and the third class and steerage, 160.”
In describing the sinking of the Titanic she said that they were all surprised that hardly any suction was noticeable.
“We heard the explosion and saw the lights on the big steamship go out, one after another. Then the heartrending shrieks from those who were left on board.”
Mrs. Swift said the men on board the Titanic behaved like heroes. She praised the officers and crew of the Carpathia.