A survivor of the sinking of the Titanic recalled yesterday how youthful curiosity saved his life in the disaster exactly 43 years ago.
Alfred Nourney, 61, and on of three living German survivors, described on a television program the last hours of the luxury liner after it rammed an iceberg in the North Atlantic April 14, 1912.
“I owe it primarily to my curiosity that I am still alive,” Nourney said. “The private stairway used by the captain, which led to the upper decks, was my means of escape. Practically none of the other passengers knew about it. I had discovered it while walking about the ship.”
Nourney was 18 years old at the time and a passenger on the $7,500,000 White Star liner which was making her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. Of the 2,207 passengers and crew, 1,517 perished.
“On the night the Titanic sank,” Nourney recalled, “I was playing bridge in the smoking salon. The passengers were dancing and having fun. The sea was calm, like a lake. I said to my bridge partner “I wonder when there will be some waves.” At that moment, the ship was shaken slightly. We continued to play but something, perhaps instinct, caused me to go to the upper deck by the captain’s staircase. There were huge chunks on the hatches.
"I raced down to the tennis hall. The water was already three feet high there. Still nobody would believe the Titanic was in any danger. Someone said to me “It doesn’t matter because the Titanic cannot sink.” The music was still playing and couples continued to dance without knowing what happened.”
Nourney said he returned to his cabin, packed a little food and a bottle of whisky and went back to an upper deck using the captain’s private stairway.
By that time, Nourney said, passengers were jamming all the stairs in “panic and fear” and trying to get to the lifeboats.
He said he got in a lifeboat with 35 other passengers and was picked up hours later by the steamer Carpathia which reached New York four days later.