Encyclopedia Titanica

Thomas Whiteley's Titanic Lecture

A transcript of Thomas Whiteley's lecture in Lowell Massachusetts

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I was just about to go to bed and had my pajamas on when I heard a grating noise and the vessel came to a stop. I slipped on a pair of trousers and rushed on deck. I saw a lot of ice on the forward deck, the well deck, about twenty tons of it, but still thought everything was alright and went back to bed. I didn't sleep, however, and after about a half hour an order came around for us to muster on the deck with lifebelts.

Thomas WhiteleyI went up and got on deck just as they were lowering the second boat away and helped to fill and lower all the boats. There was no panic at first, as no one seemed to realize the seriousness of the situation. Among the foreigners there was some panic, as they didn't speak English and couldn't understand. I was assistant to Mr. Lightoller, second officer, and we had four collapsible boats to lower, also known as accident or emergency boats. Three boats got away well. By that time the Titanic was listing. By that time her head broke and the water came rushing on to her boat deck where I was. When I felt the water on my feet I rushed to get into a boat. The officer cut its davits one end but could not cut the other. The rope got around my leg and pulled me on to the deck again, and a big wave came on deck and washed me into the sea about ten yards.

When I got the rope on my leg off I came to the top, made for some wreckage which I hung on to, just in time to see the Titanic blow her sides away. She broke in the middle, her forward end went down. The aft end righted itself, went right up into the air and disappeared. So, she must have been full of water, as there was no air in her. There was no suction or I would not have been here.

I held on to the wreckage and when I saw a larger piece than I had I got it and held on. I got hold of a first cabin wardrobe and hung on to this. I kept the circulation in my body by beating my hands and my feet in a steady motion. All the time I was constantly in the water, and a life belt kept the weight of my body up. Four other men caught on the wardrobe with me but they dropped off one by one and I was left alone.

Daybreak came, and I could see a few boats, but they were too far away. I saw the Carpathia, although at that time I didn't know it, as it was too distant. I also saw icebergs, some large and small, floating around.

About six o'clock in the morning I saw a collapsible boat; it was upside down with about thirty men standing on it. I was drifting towards this. I measured my distance and thought I could swim about one-quarter to one-half of a mile to this collapsible boat, so I let go of what I held and swam to it.

I arrived at the boat, but they refused to take me on board. I asked if I might hold on to the side. They tried to beat me off with oars, but I succeeded in holding on. Finally, after about a half hour, someone died, so they threw the body overboard and took me on.

We were standing on this boat about two hours before we got picked up by one of the Titanic's lifeboats. We left three dead on it. then we rowed to the Carpathia. We reached her and were the last to board her, at 9 a.m.

I got on the Carpathia and was unconscious for two days. I came to Wednesday morning. The doctor told me I was suffering from lacerated feet and a fracture of the ankle and also from cold and exposure.

I was the first taken from the Carpathia, and was carried off in my pajamas, as I gave my clothes to someone who had none. I was taken to St. Vincent's Hospital, New York, by the ambulance. I was there two weeks. The doctors wanted to amputate my leg but I refused.

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2010) Thomas Whiteley's Titanic Lecture ( ref: #11801, published 15 December 2010, generated 29th May 2023 05:50:26 PM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/thomas-whiteleys-titanic-lecture.html