Testimonies from the Field

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It is difficult to tell from the experience which follows, but thestudent of the Christian Science will readily see in it that acceptanceof the truth made the overcoming of fear possible, even as in the caseif disease, and that divine Principle is to be relied upon at all times.

While the Titanic was sinking, and during the whole time I wasworking at the boats, I held to the truth, thereby eliminating allfear. I do not pretend that any man can go down on a ship at midnight,in mid-Atlantic, and succeed in eliminating fear, without hard work. Itwas hard work, and yet the very conditions which existed on the portside were in themselves a demonstration of the workings of Truth, fornot the slightest hitch occurred, and all the boats were got away, thelast one, which was a flat-bottomed collapsible, floating off the deck.Now it is proverbial that the last thing a sailor will think of is alife-belt; certainly no thought had entered my head of my ownlife-belt, and I was far too busy at the boats to leave them, even hadI thought of it. And this is how I came to obtain my belt.

Murdoch had been appointed chief, I was first and Blair was second officer; in that rank we had joined the Titanic in Belfast. Shortly before we sailed from Southampton, Wilde, who was formerly chief of the Olympic,and who was to have been given command of another of the White Starsteamers, which, owing to the coal strike and other reasons was laidup, was sent for the time being to the Titanic as chief,Murdoch ranking back to first, myself to second, and Blair standing outfor the voyage. Now it will be seen why it was that Wilde, on wantingsome articles which were received by the first officer in Belfast, cameto me. I took him into the first officer's room and showed him wherethey were, and was on my way back on deck again when I heard Wilde say,

'I am going to put on my life-belt.' At that precise moment I waspassing my own room door, facing which is a wardrobe, and on the top ofthis was my own life-belt. On hearing Wilde's remark, I instinctivelylooked into the room, reached for the belt, and put it on.

I now resumed my work at the boats, finally calling for men to followme up to the top of the officers' quarters to cut adrift the last boat,which was stowed there. This boat we had not time even to open up, sojust hove her down to the deck from which we had launched the others.As I saw her slide over the edge of the quarters I turned and ranacross the deck to the other side of the ship to see if anythingfurther could be done. Looking down I could see that all material workwas finished, so from where I was on top of the quarters and above thebridge, I faced forward and walked into the water. The sudden immersionin this penetratingly cold water for a few seconds overcame allthought, and I struck out blindly for the crow's-nest which is on theforemast and was at that time just above the water. In a couple ofseconds I realised that the cow's-nest and all other material help wasof the same value, and almost immediately I found myself drawn withgreat force against the grating covering the mouth of the forwardblower, a huge ventilator leading down to the forward stokehold. Inthis position I went below the surface with the ship.

I want to emphasise strongly this point, that as soon as I collected mythoughts after taking to the water, I remember saying to myself, 'Now,I'll see how much I have learned from Christian Science.' A doubt neverentered my mind as to the possibility of my surviving; in other words,of the ability of the divine power to save me. I think I canconscientiously say that with this thought all fear left me, and Icommenced again to realise the truth of being. It was at this momentthat I was drawn into the water, still realising the truth, and while Iwas below the surface these words from the 91st Psalm came to me sodistinctly that I seemed to realise their full import: 'He shall givehis angels charge over thee.' Immediately, I think, I was thrown awayfrom the blower, and came up to find a piece of wood in my hand whichseemed to be attached to the top of the funnel by a wire.

I remained still, while the water rushed past me carrying the peoplewith it away from me. A second time I went down, still holding fast tothe truth, and again came to the surface.

My piece of wood was gone, but alongside me was the flat-bottomedcollapsible boat which I had thrown down on the other side of the ship.This I laid hold of, but made no attempt to board it.

I want it to be understood that during this time in the water the factcame calmly and clearly that there was a divine power which could beutilised in a practical manner, and also it seemed perfectly natural torely on this power with the spiritual understanding which is so oftenspoke of in the Bible, and which is explained in 'Science and Healthwith Key to the Scriptures' by Mrs. Eddy. Now, the sinking of a greatship like the Titanic, there was also the fear of suction toovercome, and at this time the forward funnel fell, throwing the boat,myself, and other survivors about twenty feet clear of the ship, sothat of suction we felt nothing.

About thirty of us floated the remainder of the night on the upturnedboat, and I could not overcome the intense cold experienced, yet when aman handed me a bottle of something that smelt somewhat like essence ofpeppermint, the thought of material means was nothing short ofrepulsive, and needless to say, it was not taken. At daybreak we foundtwo lifeboats floating near by, into which we were taken. I was thelast member of the Titanic to board the Carpathia, andafter interviewing her Captain, discarded my wet clothes in favour of abunk, in which remained for about half an hour, and was not in bunk orbed again till we arrived in New York. Reaction or effects from theimmersion - which I was confidently assured would take place - therewere none; and though surprise had been expressed by very many, it onlygoes to prove that 'with God all things are possible.'

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Charles Herbert Lightoller

Acknowledgements

Reprinted with permission from The Christian Science Publishing Society, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA.

Comment and discuss

  1. David Nutter Summerfield said:

    I read this testimony while a student at Principia College in the 1960's. I could never forget it, and have used Lightoller's experiences many times while climbing mountains all over the world. I have tried finding this testimony many times, but it always eluded me. On a hunch today, I tried again, and the new computer technology came through!!! I am so grateful!!

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Citation

Encyclopedia Titanica (2005) Testimonies from the Field (Christian Science Sentinel, , ref: #4392, published 30 January 2005, generated 18th September 2021 11:59:46 AM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/testimonies-from-field.html