by Frank Blackmarr
The story of the most awful shipwreck of modern times may not be a pleasant subject for either the relator or the hearers but there is an interest in the details of the loss of the Titanic which warrents me in telling the story. And having been on the boat which rescued the survivors, I may be able to give a more vivid description of the incidents of the rescue then have been conveyed in the manner published in the public press.
When, on the fifth day of April, I sailed from New York on the Carpathia, I had little thought that before the voyage ended I would act a part in the tragedy of the sea, the like of which the world had never before known. It is not for ones best interests to think of this disaster any longer then necessary. It is necessary, however, to keep this matter constantly before us. Only until you and I and the nations of the world shall see to it that proper precautions are taken in the constructions of vessels, the supplying of safety devices, the proper control and watchful care of those who hold human lives in the palm of their hands, so make a repetetion of such a castrophe an impossibility.
Speed and greed have cost thousands of human lives in the past year. Our fast train systems are the result of demand ingrained by the public, our luxurious express steamers running on scheduled time; stopping for naught, fogs or storm are the result of the publics demand. The day of restful recreation and moderate business endeavour is passing.
Increased activities in pleasures and business have associated therewith a teriffic increase in the proportion of danger. At the speed of our trains and ships are increased, it is not alone coal, fuel and oil that are consumed, but the responsibilities upon those in charge of them is increased to the sapping point of their nervous energies. What I have said already gives the key to my innermost conviction concerning these matters.
The Titanic was, until now, the largest and most beautiful ship ever constructed. 883 feet long, 91 and one half feet broad, 104 feet high from her heel to the bridge. Figure out in your minds how many times you can place this building which you are now on top of itself to reach the length of the Titanic, and you could almost gain an idea what a terriffic mass of steel, iron and concrete went to the bottom of the sea ast April. She was built in Belfast of the worlds best materials, by the worlds best builders, magnificantly equipped, with engines, furnaces and all the mechanisms that science could evolve to make her comfortable and seaworthy. Her passenger equipment, as you know, was all that you could find on land: magnificant suites, gynmansium, swiming tanks, squash-tennis court, a la-carte restaurant, magnificant salons for both men and women, summer gardens, etc.
I returned on the Olympic with the purpose of studying Titanics sister ship.
So much for comfort and luxury. On the other side of the ledger we find but 16 30 foot lifeboats to balance the account. [Handwritten note here: "and several hundred dead bodies"]
The Titanic sailed from Southhampton on Wednesday, April 10 with 2,208 passengers and crew. Sunday night at 11:50 she struck a submerged spur of an enormous iceberg. Two hours and one half later, at 2:20 AM she plunged bow on to a depth of over 2 miles into her eternal berth. 688 of her crew and 615 passengers sank in the icy water.
Sunday night I strolled the Carpathias deck with my heavy overcoat on, gazing at the wonderful glittering stars in their black background. The ships lights did not seem to be as bright at the deck and were it not for those lights, I doubt if I could have seen my hands before my face. Looking over the side of the ship, one could feel that they were gazing into abysmal depths. With the memory of what transpired a few hours later, I never want to see another night uncanny and cold. This night I associate in memory with a night shortly before we arrived in New York. When returning with the survivors when it seemed with the mist, fog, rain and awful lightening as though God and nature were displeased.
I retired shortly after 12:00 O:Clock and had just gotten into my berth when I was aroused by a knock. The wireless operator, in going from his quarters to the bridge to deliver the Titanics CQD message had knocked. This young man, Mr. Harold Cottam, had been very kind. His interest in high tension apparatus and theropeutics had made our aquantence mutually interesting and resulted in my becoming familiar with his apparatus.
The wireless equipment of this ship was decidely antiquated, and consisted of two coils, one of them punctured, a tuning device, a detector, receiver, sending key and old condensers.
Immediately after reception of the messages, the ships crew was in action and everything was quickly arranged and surely arranged, and very few of the passengers knew what was going on. Our Captain, Captain Rostron, a most remarkable military man and Officer of His Majestys Naval Reserves managed the details of the preparation for the subsequent care and nursing of the survivors without fuss or friction. Large bales of old blankets materialized.
Stimulants, hot foods, etc. seemed to come to the surface as if by magic.
The ship had been put about to the rescue.
I have often wished to know what (the) sensations were that passed over and over through the mind of this brave man. (During) Captain Rostrons testimony before a Court of Inquiry, he was asked about the dangers encountered by his own ship in this awful trip to the rescue. He said "I took the risk of full speed in my desire to save life, and probably some people may blame me for taking such a risk" The Senate committee assured him they would not. He also stated in his evidence that between 2:45 and 4:00 am they had passed over 20 large icebergs from 100 to 200 feet high and a great many smaller ones. It was a matter of constant manovering to go around them and between them.
Our deck was covered with lookouts and you can imagine with the atnospheric condtions I have briefly described how busy the Captain and crew must have been in avoiding these ghostly monsters.
When we were in the field, located as described in the Titanics message of distress, rockets were sent up to show the survivors our position. At 4:00 AM we stopped with an enormous iceburg directly in front of us and as the dawn lifted, we saw just beyond the iceburg one of the lifeboats. The crew had provided a cradle, swings and ladders for both sides of the ship to hasten the matter of rescue. The women were seated in the swings and raised with nooses under their shoulders. The men climbed the ladders. There were some who tried to climb but were so badly frozen that it make our hearts ache. The babies and small children were put in bags and raised to the deck. While these poor people are being raised to the deck I went from side to side of our vessel and looked down into their faces.
Many stories have been written and published describing these people and their behaviour at the moment of their arrival; that they were hysterical and some were too dazed to realize what they were passing through. But I want to tell you that there was only evidence of one thing written on their faces--and that was gratitude, thankfulness that they were to be saved. There was absolutely no hysteria; only one woman had hysteria and that was when she was brought into the cabin of the ship and was undoubtedly due first to the joy of her being saved and the awful strain under which she had been laboring because she was one of the women who had pulled an oar of a lifeboat.
Mr. Duff-Gordon made the statement that the only hysterical individual who was in evidence that night of the disaster was a man.
The setting of this disaster, the picture that remains with me of the silvery sheen of the dawn with those magnificant great white birds coming toward us out of the dawn. Boats filled mostly with women who wore white life preservers such as I show you. Back beyond this picture in the background later showed beautiful mountains and stretches of glittering ice. Mr. Cooper, a well known artist, made drawings of this setting and with my photographs which I now show you will help you imagine the picture that I am trying to make indelible to you.
The work of raising the survivors progressed very rapidly, the boats coming up on either side of our vessel. until the sea began to come up. We were worried for some time because several of the lifeboats that were coming in from great distances were loaded down almost to the tops of the boats and the poor women who rowed them had difficulty in keeping out of the troughs of the waves.
After all but one of the boats had been emptied, I began to take notice of the wreckage. For acres and acres about our ship there seemed to be a yellow scum on the surface of the water which appeared to be like ground cork. At the right of us, we stood still, one of the lifeboats lay bottom up, steamer chairs, fine woods, clothing, what seemed to be the front of a piano, one trunk.
I counted six soft sofa pillows. In fact anything almost can be found on the surface of the water here which you can find on land. Concerning the cork or what seemed to be cork, the following letter will give you an idea about some of the recent agitation that is taking place now.
LETTER DATED APRIL 20, 1912
Dear Dr. Blackmarr,
I am enclosing a letter from the Paris Harold which explains itself. As I remember, you took one of the Titanic lifebelts to show with you and if you still have it, it would be most interesting to make a test of it. The belts I cut up on board the Carpathia contained a poor quality of cork, some of which I still have. Could you not make a test by floating it, with say, 160 Lbs of weight and see how long it will remain afloat. It would of course make some difference if the water was not salt, but that difference would be slight. I am hoping you can make this test and let me know the results.
With best regards, I am faithfully yours,
Lewis M. Ogden
In the Paris Harold of August 11th Mr. Ogden said :
"On reading the report of the Titanic conditions I noticed the question of efficiency of lifebelts is not touched upon. When the Carpathia arrived at the scene of the disaster it was most naturally expected that numerous bodies supported by lifebelts would be found, but such was not the case. What was the reason for this? And why was such a grave question ignored by the commission? The evidence shows the following facts; first that each person on the Titanic was supplied with a lifebelt, second, that many testified to hearing cries for an hour after the vessel sank; third, that the Carpathia found practically no bodies afloat on her arrival; fourth, the bodies that were picked up a week later were found floating with belts properly adjusted. In these circumstances is it not fair to assume that the belts were constructed with improper materials which, becoming water- logged, allowed the bearers to sink only to arise later owing to natural causes?
At 4:10 am, an hour and fifty minutes after the Titanic sank, the first boat was along side and shortly after daybreak the Carpathia was in the wreckage.
The immense quantites of small squares of cork, presumably from belts, covered the sea. Also, the overturned lifeboat, a few chairs etc. etc. but to our enormous surprise there were no bodies. We are still awaiting the explanation.
The commission has answered the question "should searchlighs have been provided and used in the negative. Nevertheless, had these three ships been equipped with searchlights, the Carpathia might have greatly aided in her dash through the bergs, the Californian might have reached the scene seven hours earlier then she actually did (which was at 8:00 AM) and lastly the Titanic might have picked up the great icefield and landed all of her people in safety.
Why not searchlights for such emergencies?
Signed: Lewis Mansfield Ogden of London, England
I bring this question of the cork in life preservers home to you because such a matter needs critical consideration by every individual of our country who travels our lakes and rivers. It should be a criminal offense to neglect any detail of safety of a steamer, whether she be of small or large tonnage.
Back again to the deck of the Carpathia, we had taken the passengers all on board, raised such of the lifeboats as the Captain considered seaworthy, set adrift several that were not, and I call your attention at this point to a story that appeared in the press concerning the lifeboat found a month or so after the accident, adrift with three dead men lying on the bottom with cork in their mouths. These men were put back into this boat while alive, but died before they reached the Carpathia. I saw the ships surgeon examine these bodies before the boat was set adrift. The newspaper story went on to say this boat had not been discovered and that the men had died from privation and had eaten the cork out of the structure of the boat. If there was cork in their mouths, you can readly see how it came there because the surface of the water was covered with cork where the Titanic went down.
The moment of mental agony that caused the passengers and crew of the Carpathia to make an effort to control their feelings was when the Carpathia started to move away from amongst the wreckage. These poor survivors, scantily clothed, with tears running down their cheeks, without an audible cry of any kind, their arms outstretched, looked into the far way to see if they could not dicover just one more boat that might contain their loved ones. You and I have faced death and grief in the sick room, but imagine and words would fail to convey to you the feelings that surged through me at that time.
Captain Rostron turned his ship about for New York. It is my pleasure to show you some of the photographs of the ice which have never been published. Many pictures have appeared in the papers that were taken weeks after the disaster.
These which I show you make up the setting of the tragedy. Had it not been for the terrific extent of the ice, Captain Rostron would have undoubtedly have sailed for Halifax as it was the nearest point of distance. We were late in the afternoon before we passed the mass of ice, having run nearly 75 miles to get around.
We steamed within 2 or 3 hundred yards of part of this ice floe and at dusk we could see in the distance only a few struggling icebergs. In the testamony of the officers of different steamships, some of them have testified that they had never seen a field ice and some testified that they had never seen any icebergs at this season of the year. These photographs I show you were taken every half hour of the field ice and the burgs. According to the visability at sea tables, one can see from the height of our deck to the horizon some six and two/tenths of a mile and the objects on the horizon that are visable would range from 90 to 95 feet high, so you will bear this in mind, you can gain a fairly accurate idea of the magnatude and height of this mass of field ice and also of the bergs.
During the day, first an accounting was made of the survivors, and the lost and a memorial service was held and eight dead bodies were buried. Four of these had died on the ship from exposure and the other four had been taken out of the boats. The Carpathia passengers and crew busied themselves in providing clothing and comfort for the passengers. The majority of the survivors were obliged to sleep on straw matresses that came from somewhere, no one knew where, placed on the floors of the smoking room, the ladies writing room and the dining salon. Some of the poor fellows slept out on the open deck, wrapped up in blankets. The young man that was with me joined the straw mattress throng and we gave our stateroom to four ladies who could hardly understand each other. The pathetic and ridiculous were evidenced in the selection of those whom we thought needed those beds in our room the most.
Two people we had picked out, and they had retired immediately. I went to the ladies writing room where the ladies were lying on the floor, packed in like sardines and looked about for others who needed the unfilled cots.
In the middle of the room I saw an old grey haired woman at least sixty years old. I woke her up and asked her to come and get in one of the beds. She sat up, looked all about her, and said " I want to thank you oh so much but please take someone else. There are so many that need it worse then I"
Next to this old lady laid a very large woman. Sitting by her side, leaning up against a post was one who proved to be what she called her governess. This governess grabbed hold of my arm and demanded that I take her mistress to the bed that I was trying to give to the old lady. It took an unusually long time for this governness to unharness the large lady and finally I was called in to try and assist her in trying to get her into the two upper ones, being the vacant ones. In the absense of steps, I attempted to boost her into the berth and just about the time when she should have ducked her head, she stretched her neck with the result that i was obliged to let her down. Three times I tried this to the accompaniment of a beautiful flow of "french" and violent punctuations. In spite of the fact that the two ladies in the lower berths had lost everything, they began to show a slight degree of mirth and one of them asked, under her breath, "why I didnt put her up?" Remembering my football days, I made a low tackle and this lady landed in the upper corner with a groan.
The Carpathia returned to New York in every kind of climatic condition imaginable; ice, sleet, rain, fog, thunder and lighting and such a chilled damp air that clothing seemed to be of no avail in keeping one warm. We had no serious illnesses on the Carpathia on this return trip which means much in evidence for the efforts and unselfish attention administered by the stewardesses. To my mind, these women were entitled to the most of the money and gratuaties that were given out by the different organizations.
Bear in mind that we had a great many woman passengers and the addition of the large number of women survivors such small quarters made their care an arduous one.
Upon my return to Chicago, I was asked if there was not a great deal of physical suffering on the Carpathia. I answered no, there was plenty of good food, plenty of blankets and many hands to help, but of course there was , worst of all, suspense and mental agony. So much I have given you in this brief analysis.
I will now read you (four) stories, each written for me by the survivors themselves and as yet unpublished.
1) Mr. C. E. Henry Stiegel, of Newark, New Jersey 2) Mr. Washington Dodge, of San Francisco, Califoria 3) Mr. Alernon Barkworth, of Yorkshire, England 4) The Steerage Story - Eugene Daly of Athlone, Ireland
Statement by Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon, signed by himself:
" The only thing that I can say was that I was amazed at the perfect calmness of everyone concerned and the great care displayed by the officers and crew in lowering the boats. Signed: Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon
Awarded regarded the bulletins that were posted by the Captain and the different committees on the Carpathia. The first one I shall read to you is posted by Captain Rostron:
NOTICE TO PASSENGERS
I hearby declare that no press messages at all have been marconied from this ship with the exception of a short one of about twenty words to the associated Press, sent immediately after the passengers had been picked up and that passenger messages have been dispatched with all possible speed. The reason for this statement is that it has come to my attention that several passengers are under the impression that the delay in dispatching their private messages is due to the insturments being used for the press.
Signed: A. H. Rostron, Commander
When I sent the message concerning the disaster to the Chicago Tribune , I had not read this notice and was not aware at that moment that I was offering any offense to our Captain. I was in the wireless operators room when a reporter who was on vacation with his wife came in and requested Mr. Cottam, the operator, to send a message for him immediately, and that he did not wish anyone to send any messages to the press. After he had gone out, I suceeded in persuading him that my Chicago friends were entitled to know that the Chicago people on board the Carpathia were in good condition and safe. This message I learned afterwards was the second message sent off the ship.
Committee to Assist Destitute Passengers Mrs. J. J. Brown Mrs. William Bucknell Mrs. George Stein Important..The Committee has received assurance from Mr. Bruce Ismay, Managing Director of the White Star Line passengers of the Titanic requiring assistance will be sent to their destinations and will be supplied with necessary clothing. In order to faclitate the collection and handling of subscriptions, it is requested that all funds be sent to J.P. Morgan and Company of New York, or to Mr. C. J. Frankenthal on this Boat. Signed Committee for the Survivors of the Titanic
To the Captain, to the Officers and Passengers of the RMS Carpathia. On behalf of the survivors of the Titanic we desire to express to each and all our heartfelt thanks for the kindness of treatment and full hearted welcome accorded us on board your ship. It will be our sincere endeavour to express our thanks at an appropriate and fitting manner at the earliest possible moment. Signed Survivors of the SS Titanic, by the Committee. S.H. Goldberg F.D. Piedden W.E. Carter Frederick K. Stewart I. J. Branventhal Carl C.H. Burr Margaret H. Brown Bornsen Steffensen A. H. Barkworth
Resuming the return from the scene of the Disaster to New York, I wish to remind you again of the climatic conditions through which we passed. Chicago is noted for fickle and absurd climatic conditions, but take the worst weather and rapid changes you have ever experienced in Chicago and add to it the limit of your powers of imagination and make it as bad as the worst, and you cant begin to equal the nightmare of that trip.
The last of the survivors was lifted to our deck at 8:30. We circled around through the wreckage, and then Captain Rostran assigned the responsibility of finding any others of the survivors to the California and the Birma, a Russian tramp ship. With what you have read, Captain Rostran showed excellent judgement in returning immediately to New York and I know that you will agree that it was the best thing to be done. The field of ice was nearly 80 miles long and 12 miles wide. There is little to say now in answer to the questions "why did not the Birma come to the rescue when she was but 12 miles away?" and "Why did not the California come to the rescue?" In answer to the first question, there was 12 miles of solid ice between the Birma and the Titanic and it took hours for that ship to go around that massive ice to get to the point in question.
On board the Olympic when I returned, was a gentleman who had attended the inquiry in London. As I understood, he was a representative of the Allan Line. I asked why he thought the Californian did not go to the rescue and he replied " I do not know". I invited him into my stateroom and showed him the pictures I am showing you tonight. I asked him "Do you not think that the Captain of the Californian was afraid to move in that terrible blackness of night while he was hemmed in by such enormous masses of ice?" His reply was "it is possible."
I neglected to tell you a little incident concerning Dr. Washington Dodges son. The picture that you see of the Third Officer holding the boy in his arms is of interest. The boy was saved, as other children were, with very little clothing on.
The ladies took the old blankets and made clothing for them. In this case, this boys pants resembled the baggy trousers of a Holland youth. Crossing the suspenders made out of a blanket front to back as you see them in the picture.
Mr. Pittman, the Third Officer, at first refused to have his picture taken but finally consented when I told him I wanted to give (him? ) the picture of the boy in his foreign suit of clothes. You will notice that Mr. Pittman turned his brass buttons inside so he would not be criticized.
All of the stories of our landing in New York have an edge of truth which you have byhis time discerned. In brief, the lessons of this disaster are few. In England, there are several books published that take up a lot of time and space in recommending remedies to prevent catastrophies at sea. Some would cover the boat deck with lifeboats, liferafts etc.
But let me ask you a question. These wrecks seldom if ever occur when the sea is smooth. And how long do you think lifeboats filled with survivors would live in the trough of the sea?
If you have ever been in a storm, you can answer the question. If not, ask one of the Titanic survivors who might have been in one of the boats that was taken aboard when a light sea had risen. Also take into consideration the difficulty and hazzard in lowering these boats in rough weather. The oceans whitecaps and mountains of spray would swamp any lifeboat filled with inexperienced men and women. Too many lifeboats would make it difficult for men to work in, and there would be loss of efficiency.
Some recommended floating sections in a ship. This is a limited error of good judgement. A mountainous sea would capsize such an unweldy mass such as they describe. To my mind, the lesson taught is along the line that I suggested at the beginning of my paper under the caps " SPEED and GREED". The installation on every ship afloat of powerful wireless apparatus with relays of operators so that every machine can be brought into activity at any moment of danger. Increase the number of lifeboats to hold at least two thirds of the crewed capacity of the ship and that these lifeboats shall be under government inspection in every port and on every trip made by that particular vessel. The installation of search lights to be operated over the sides of vessels to facilitate the lowering and control of boats in the water. The United States Governments suggestion of a sea patrol at certain seasons of the year is to to my mind a remedy for disasters of this kind. Another feature I have obmitted is the construction of the keel of a ship. You have noticed perhaps that the White Star Line has taken the Olympic, the sister ship of the Titanic out of the water and are putting a new skin on the bottom.
So, as to why the Ruler of the Universe allows the human intelligence to so miscaculate the forces of nature to the extent that 1500 beings are suddenly taken from time into eternity. The only answer is "who can tell." Was Captain Smith to blame? The answer is no. Was Mr. Ismay or the White Star Line to blame? The answer is no. If there is an answer, if only in part, what can that answer be?
SPEED AND GREED
DR. FRANK BLACKMARR, Chicago, Illinois
1. The wireless message written by Dr Blackmarr and sent by Harold Cottam on 17th April read:
Chicago Tribune Chicago Illinois Carpathia pickd up seven hundred Titanics mostly women Over Two thousand lost iceberg Continuous mass twenty five mile Chicagoans this ship well Dr F. h. Blackmarr
Dr. Frank Blackmarr (1912) The Titanic. Transcribed by James T. Harper
John Booth & Sean Coughlan (1993) Titanic Signals of Disaster. White Star Publicatons, Westbury, Wiltshire. ISBN 0 9518190 1 1