Col. Gracie Carried Over as Giant Wave Swept Deck.
CLUNG TO WRECKAGE
Stood Hours on Raft Knee Deep in Water and Afraid to Move.
Col. Archibald Gracie, U.S.A., the last man saved, went down with the vessel but was picked up. He was met last night by his daughter, who had arrived from Washington, and his son-in-law, Paul H. Fabricius. Colonel Gracie told a remarkable story of personal hardship and denied emphatically the reports that there had been any panic on board. He praised in the highest terms the behaviour of both the passengers and crew and paid a high tribute to the heroism of the women passengers.
“Mrs. Isador Strauss,” he said, “went to her death because she would not desert her husband. Although he pleaded with her to take her place in the boat, she steadfastly refused and when the ship settled at the head, the two were engulfed in the wave that swept her.
Colonel Gracie told of how he was driven to the topmost deck when the ship settled and was the sole survivor after the wave that swept her just before her final plunge had sunk.
Jumped With Wave That Swept Over Titanic
“I jumped with the wave,” said he “just as I have often jumped with the breakers at the seashore. By great good fortune I managed to grasp the brass railing on the deck above and I hung in by might and main. When the ship plunged down I was forced to let go and I was swirled around and around for what seemed an interminable time. Eventually I came to the surface, to find the sea a mess of tangled wreckage.
“Luckily I was unhurt and casting about managed to seize a wooden grating floating near. When I had recovered my breath, I discovered a larger canvas and cork life raft which had floated up. A man, whose name I did not learn, was struggling toward it from some wreckage to which he had clung. I cast off and helped him to get on to the raft and we then began the work of rescuing those who had jumped into the sea and were floundering in the water.
Thirty Stood on Raft, Knee-Deep in Icy Waters
“When dawn broke there were thirty of us on the raft, standing knee-depp in the icy water and afraid to move lest the cranky craft be overturned. Several unfortunates, benumbed and half dead, besought us to save them and one or two made an effort to reach us but we had to warn them away. Had we made any effort to save them we all might have perished.
“The hours that elapsed before we were picked up by the Carpathia were the longest and most terrible that I ever spent. Practically without any sensation of feeling because of the icy water, we were almost dropping from fatigue. We were afraid to turn around to look to see whether we were seen by passing craft and when someone who was facing astern passed the word that something that looked like a steamer was coming up one of the men became hysterical under the strain. The rest of us too were nearing the breaking point.
Colonel Gracie denied with emphasis that any men were fired upon and declared that only once was a revolver discharged.
“This was for the purpose of intimidating some of the steerage passengers,” he said, “who had tumbled into a boat before it was prepared for launching. This shot was fired in the air and when the foreigners were told that the next would be directed at them they promptly returned to the deck. There was no confusion and no panic.”
No Jarring Impact When Liner Hit Berg.
Contrary to the general expectation, there was no jarring impact when the liner struck, according to the army officer. He was in his berth when the vessel smashed into the submerged portion of the berg and was aroused by the jar. He looked at his watch, he said, and found it was just midnight. The ship sank with him at 2:22 a.m. for his watch stopped at that hour.
“Before I retired,” said Colonel Gracie, “I had a long chat with Charles M Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Railroad. One of the last things Mr. Hays said was this: ‘The White Star, the Cunard and the Hamburg-American lines are devoting their attention and ingenuity in vieing with the other to attain the supremacy in luxurious ships and in making speed records. The time will soon come when this will be checked by some appalling disaster.’ Poor fellow, a few hours later he was dead.”
Colonel Gracie Describes How Ship Was Ripped Asunder.
“The Titanic was struck by the berg on her port side,” Colonel Gracie said. “She was ripped from near the middle of the boat to the bow, after the fashion of a can-opener opening a box of sardines. The buttons were pressed immediately and the compartments closed as far as possible under the circumstances.
“The interval between the collision and the sinking of the ship was two hours and twenty-two minutes, timed by my watch, which lay open on the dresser. The watch stopped at 2:22 a.m., when I jumped into the water. I was awakened in my cabin at midnight.
“After sinking with the ship, it appeared to me as if I were propelled by some great force through the water. This might have been occasioned by explosions under the water. I recall that I was most fearful of being boiled to death. The second officer, who was on the top deck, told me that he had a similar experience.
“Innumerable thoughts of a personal nature, relating to mental telepathy, flashed through my brain. I thought of those at home, as if my spirit might go to them and say goodbye forever, for a similar experience in days gone by had occurred in the history of my wife’s family, and she was even awake that night, tortured with presentiments.
Prayed For Deliverance While Battling With Waves
“Again and again I prayed for deliverance, although I felt sure that the end had come. My greatest difficulty was in holding my breath until I came to the surface for I know that once I had inhaled water I would have suffocated. Under the water I struck out with all my strength for the surface.
“Hold on to what you have, old boy,” we shouted to each man who tried to get aboard. “One more of you aboard would sink us all.” And many whom we refused answered, as they went to their death: “Good luck and God bless you.”
All the time we were buoyed and sustained by hope for rescue. We saw lights in all directions, particularly in front, where green lights shone and rockets were fired in the air. We learned later that the lights and rockets came from one of the Titanic’s lifeboats. And so we passed the night, with the waves washing over us and the raft buried deep in the water under our feet.
“Did we pray? Through all that wild night there was not a moment that our prayers did not rise above the waves. Men who seemed to have forgotten long ago how to address their Creator recalled the prayers of their childhood and murmured them over and over again. We said the Lord’s Prayer again and again together.
Men Back to Back Balance Themselves on Raft.
“long before light we stood in columns two deep, back to back, balancing ourselves, fearful to move lest the delicate balance should be disturbed and all of us thrown again into the water. We were standing and were content to stand and pray, knowing in that alone lay our hope for rescue. The hand of God seemed to have soothed the sea and it was calm.
“An age seemed to have passed when we first saw the twinkling lights of the Carpathia on the horizon. We knew her and recognised her as our rescuer. The Marconi operator – one of the thirty-five on the raft – confirmed our hopes by saying that he too knew that it was, indeed, the Carpathia. While we looked someone whispered that there was also a ship behind us. We dared not turn about to look so fearful were we that we would disturb the balance.
“The second officer finally ordered one man to look behind while the others stayed still. The slipping of one man would have meant the death, probably, of all of us. The man who looked passed the word that there was no ship behind.
“When the day broke, four of the Titanic’s lifeboats were seen on our port side. The second officer blew his whistle to call attention to our precarious condition, and the head lifeboat, towing another, came to our help.
“The transfer, fraught with peril, followed. The second officer was the last man off the raft. Just before he left it, he lifted into the boat the body of a sailor who had died of cold and exposure as we prayed. I, with my soggy overcoat, heavy with water, pitched head foremost into the boat, trying my utmost not to disturb the equilibrium of the raft. In this boat I saw several of my companions on the raft. Others had gotten into the other boat.
“Our boat, however, had more that its complement – sixty-five persons. Fortunately the Carpathia was close. Otherwise, so officers of the Carpathia afterward told me, all in the boat would have perished in the moderate blow that came up an hour later.
“We all suffered from cold, especially those of us who had no hats. It seemed an age before we reached the Carpathia, where all was ready for us with medical aid and food and drink to restore us. Nothing can exceed the kindness of the ministering angels who tenderly provided for our needs aboard the Carpathia.
Colonel Gracie said that his most serious loss was that of the manuscript on the War of 1812, which he had spent a long time in preparing. He said that he would return to England to duplicate the data which he lost when the Titanic went down.
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(1912) Saved as ship plunged down Brooklyn Daily Eagle (ref: #19618, accessed 28th May 2017 04:48:15 AM) URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/saved-as-ship-plunged-down.html
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Added to Encyclopedia Titanica Sunday 27th October 2013, last updated Sunday 2nd April 2017.