Up until 1985, when Bob Ballard discovered the wreck of the Titanic on the ocean floor, it was generally believed the Titanic sank intact, in one piece. Second Officer Lightoller, at the American and British Inquiries, and the books published by First-class passenger Colonel Gracie and Second-class passenger Lawrence Beesley, made statements to this effect immediately after the disaster, and this is what was accepted by the public for decades.
Even now, 18 years after the discovery of the wreck, the 'general perception' is still that only a very few survivors claimed to see the ship split apart before she sank. But what are 'the facts'? What did the survivors really see, and how many *did* claim to see the ship break up? An examination of the texts of both the 1912 American and British Inquiries gives us a very good idea. (Many newspapers also printed accounts of what was seen, however attempting to find and bring together these very many articles is beyond the scope of this article.
Also, a newspaper account may have been altered or exaggerated by a reporter, and it becomes hard to tell the exaggeration from what the witness actually saw and said.)
All survivors interviewed by the Inquries will be examined below, with their own comments as to what they saw. Survivor accounts are in the same order they testified at the Inquiries. Accounts are edited only in respect of leaving out comments not related to the Titanic sinking itself. American Inquiry accounts are references by page number, British Inquiry accounts by question number.