Thursday, May 31, 2018

Who fired the first rocket on the Titanic

Who fired the first rocket on the Titanic?
There have always been only two contenders.
Fourth office Joseph Boxhall told the British Inquiry that he fired a rocket just before he got a phone call to the bridge asking if he was aware there was a lifeboat in the water.
Quartermaster George Rowe, who said he was the one who phoned, told writer Walter Lord (A Night to Remember) that the person who answered his call ordered him to bring detonators for rockets to the bridge and that when he got there the Captain order him (Rowe) to start firing distress signals.
Between the two accounts I always found Rowe's more believable, simply because there was no way, that I could see, how he could have missed seeing a rocket's display if one had been fired before he phoned the bridge.
But it was some detailed research into Boxhall's activities on the sinking ship that answered the question once and for all.
(Fair warning---casual readers might find this hugely boring. Titanic wonks only.)
At the Titanic inquiries, Boxhall had an interesting habit of often telling his story backward; he would say he did something, only to explain that this was after he did something else. For the purpose of this study  I've taken his evidence at the two inquiries and from a 1962 radio interview with the BBC and rearranged his accounts into chronological order.
It's important to the story to note that Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall showed commendable initiative during the sinking of the Titanic, while at the same time following protocol and touching base with the Captain regularly. This will be relevant later.

The story picks up when Boxhall returned to the bridge from his own inspection of the damage to the Titanic. 

British Inquiry:
15586. And then you came up and reported to the Commander?
- Yes.
15587. What did he say?
- He walked away and left me. He went off the bridge, as far as I remember.
15588. He did not say anything to you that was fixed in your memory?
- No
15378. We have been told that at some time you called the other Officers; both Mr. Lightoller and Mr. Pitman said you called them?
- I did. That was after I reported to the Captain about the mail room
15379. Could you form any opinion as to how long that was after the impact?
No, but as near as I could judge; I have tried to place the time for it, and the nearest I can get to it is approximately 20 minutes to half-an-hour.
His timing was wrong.
Unfortunately a well-meaning legion of revisionist Titanic researchers has adopted his erroneous conjecture and propagated his error as truth. So when did he rouse the off-duty officers?
Some determined digging narrowed down the time.
Boxhall actually called out three men--Second Officer Charles Lightoller, Third Officer Herbert Pitman and Fifth Officer Herbert Lowe. Their rooms were side-by-side along the port side of the bridge. If Boxhall went from the front of the ship backward he would have knocked on Pitman's door first, then Lightoller's, then Lowe's. If he went from back to front, he would have roused Lowe first, then Lightoller, then Pitman.
Lowe was so tired that after speaking with Boxhall, he actually fell back asleep and later didn't remember Boxhall's visit..
Boxhall, as shown above, was asked if he knew how long it was after the collision with the iceberg that he called out the other officers, and he answered "No..."  He then speculated 20 minutes to half an hour.
Lightoller was asked the same question and was similarly vague.
13781. (The Solicitor-General.) How long were you in your room after that before you did turn out?
- It is very difficult to say. I should say roughly about half-an-hour perhaps; it might have been longer, it might have been less.
13784. (The Solicitor-General.) Time is very difficult to calculate, especially when you are trying to go to sleep, but seriously do you think it was half-an-hour?
13785. - Well I did not think it was half-an-hour, but we have been talking this matter over a very great deal, and I judge it is half-an-hour, because it was Mr. Boxhall who came to inform me afterwards we had struck ice, and previous to him coming to inform me, as you will find out in his evidence, he had been a considerable way round the ship on various duties which must have taken him a good while. It might be less, it might be a quarter-of-an-hour. You will be able to form your judgment.
Pitman was firmer in his conjecture.
14949. How long do you think had elapsed between the time you were aroused and Mr. Boxhall coming and telling you this?
- I should think it must be 20 minutes.
Lightoller and Pitman agreed on what Boxhall told them---that the ship had hit an iceberg and the mail room was flooding.  There was no mention of an order to clear the lifeboats.  That's because the order hadn't been given yet, as Boxhall told the British Inquiry:
15380. I think those are the times which are given by Mr. Pitman and Mr. Lightoller. After calling those Officers did you go on to the bridge again?
- Yes, I think I went towards the bridge, I am not sure whether it was then that I heard the order given to clear the boats or unlace the covers. I might have been on the bridge for a few minutes and then heard this order given.
When Boxhall said "a few minutes" was he trying to be accurate or was he speaking colloquially? The time in question is actually so small that it hardly matters.  When, then, was the order given to clear the boats?  Knowing that would help in determining the time Boxhall spoke with the off-duty officers.
The question was explored, and answered, in evidence from a number of crewmen at both Inquiries:
Quartermaster John Poingdestre, British Board of Trade Inquiry, Day 4
2809. And then?- I saw the carpenter.
2819. Will you tell me what was said by the carpenter to you?- The carpenter told me, and said the ship was making water; "Get up to your boats."

2825. Now when the carpenter gave you that information how long do you think that was after the ship had struck the iceberg?- I think about 10 minutes.
2826. What did you do after the carpenter had told you that?- Stayed where I was.
2827. For about how long?- A matter of a couple of minutes.
2828. And at the end of a couple of minutes what did you do?- The boatswain piped.
2829. What did the boatswain pipe?- "All hands up and get the lifeboats ready."

 George Moore, Able seaman, U.S. Senate Inquiry.
- "About 10 minutes to 12 the boatswain came and piped all hands on the boat deck and started to get out boats."
What did that mean, that the entire crew was to go up on the boat deck?
- All the able seamen.
Seaman William Lucas, British Inquiry, Day 3
- The first orders I got was up under the bridge, that would be the boatswain’s mate, followed by the boatswain, "All hands up about the boats."
How long was that after the collision do you suppose?
- I suppose about a quarter of an hour.

Seaman Edward Buley, U.S. Senate Inquiry, Day 7, April 26, 1912
- "The next order from the chief officer, Murdoch, was to tell the seamen to get together and uncover the boats and turn them out as quietly as though nothing had happened."

"When did you first see that boat on the bow?"
- "When we started turning the boats out. That was about 10 minutes after she struck."

Seaman Ernest Archer, Senate Inquiry, Day 7, April 26, 1912
- "…the boatswain ordered us on deck."
"How long after that (the collision) did that occur?"
- About 10 minutes sir.
The collective evidence of these crewmen is that the boatswain piped "all hands on deck" at about ten minutes after the collision, and five minutes later the gathered deck crew got the order to clear the lifeboats.  The order to clear the boats was therefore given at roughly 11:55 p.m.
By Boxhall's account, this was "a few minutes" after he called the off-duty officers, which would mean he knocked on their doors somewhere near 11:52 p.m. Given the short time he would take to speak with all three men means he was given the order to get them up about the same time that the boatswain was piping the men on deck.  That only makes sense; the bosun was ordered to get the men up, and Boxhall was ordered to get the officers up to supervise the work of the men.
A final piece of evidence, overlooked by everyone up to now, comes from Second Officer Lightoller.
When he was questioned at the British Inquiry as to what time Boxhall called him, he was asked to clarify something he told inquiry staff before his public appearance:
13789. It was Mr. Boxhall who came to your room and gave you the information?
- Yes.
13790. What was it he told you?
- He just came in and quietly remarked "You know we have struck an iceberg." I said "I know we have struck something." He then said "The water is up to F Deck in the mail room."

13792. (The Solicitor-General.) "The water is up to F deck in the mail room." It is quite fair of you to have told us why you thought it was longer, but I want to see we get it right from your point of view. I see when you gave your statement about this matter at that time your impression was it was a shorter time than half-an-hour?
- Did I?
13793. Yes, I have got down here six minutes?
- Oh, there must be some mistake, I think, in that
So the very first time that Lightoller was asked when Boxhall spoke to him, Lightoller said six minutes after the collision.  Though he denied it at the inquiry proper, it is a true indication that he felt it was sooner rather than later, adding support to a time of 11:50 or thereabouts.
It seems an inordinately short time, but it certainly shows he felt Boxhall came to his room very soon after the collision, and not a half hour later. Nobody would confuse a half hour with six minutes.
Back, then, to the Boxhall narrative:
15384. When the order was given to clear the boats what did you do; did you go to any particular boat?
- No, I went right along the line of boats and I saw the men starting, the watch on deck, our watch.
15385. Which side of the ship?
- The port side, I went along the port side, and afterwards I was down the starboard side as well but for how long I cannot remember. I was unlacing covers on the port side myself and I saw a lot of men come along - the watch I presume.
15610. Did you hear the Captain say anything to anybody about the ship being doomed?
- The Captain did remark something to me in the earlier part of the evening after the order had been given to clear the boats.  I encountered him when reporting something to him, or something, and he was inquiring about the men going on with the work, and I said, "Yes, they are carrying on all right." I said, "Is it really serious?" He said, "Mr. Andrews tells me he gives her from an hour to an hour and a half." That must have been some little time afterwards. Evidently Mr. Andrews had been down.   12:00
The night of Sept. 29, 1912, Sen. Theodore E. Burton. a member of the Senate Inquiry, had a private meeting with Boxhall.  The A.P. story about that meeting, carried across the country the next day, reported that "He (Boxhall) said Capt. Smith had told him about 20 minutes after the collision that the Titanic was doomed and that J.W.Andrews, representing the builders, had given him the information. Andrews had gone over the ship immediately after the crash and discovered that her hull had been ripped open. He told the Captain that the ship could not be saved."
"Senator Burton planned to have Boxhall recalled to the stand before leaving for England to be questioned further about this incident."  But Boxhall wasn't called back to testify in America. However this information prompted the question at the British Inquiry, and we can see the meeting between Boxhall and the Captain took place about midnight.
Boxhall provided even more relevant information in a 1962 BBC interview.
"And I got back to the Boat Deck and saw the Captain, and I told him and I said, “The Mail Room is filling, sir. Should I send a distress signal?” And the Captain said, “I've already sent a distress signal.” “What, what position did you send it from?” He said, “From the eight o'clock DR.” “Well,” I said, “that was about, she was about twenty miles ahead of that sir. If you like I will run the position up from the star position up to the time of the contact with the ice berg.” And because, I said, she was about twenty miles ahead of our position, amended this position and took it down to the wireless room,-"

5391. You took it to the marconi office in order that it might be sent by the wireless operator?
- I submitted the position to the Captain first, and he told me to take it to the marconi room.

The details in Boxhall's interview buttress the timing of this encounter with the Captain and the dire news from Andrews.  The first CQD from the Titanic was heard at 10:25 p.m. New York Time, which translates to 11:58 p.m. Titanic time.  Remember, that's when it was received and recorded, not necessarily when the CQD was first sent. When the Captain said at about midnight in 1912 "I've already sent a distress signal" he had no idea his statement would be confirmed decades later.

Boxhall also fills in the timeline when he says he took the new position of the Titanic to the wireless operators with orders to send it out immediately. The wireless station at Cape Race heard the Titanic give a "corrected position" at 10:35 p.m. New York Time, 12:08 a.m. Titanic time.

 There's a short gap in Boxhall's activities which allows for some intriguing conjecture.

He had testified that he started clearing lifeboats on the port side "and afterwards I was down the starboard side as well but for how long I cannot remember." Was this the point in time when he crossed over to starboard? 

15381. Had you a boat station of your own; did you know what it was?
- I did not know what it was.

15382. We have been told it is customary for the third and Fourth Officers to be assigned to the emergency boats?
- Yes, it is for emergency purposes.

15383. The third Officer was assigned to No. 1. Were you assigned to No. 2?
- For emergency purposes I was assigned to No. 1 as a matter of fact, the starboard boat.

Was it going to "his" boat that prompted what he did next?

15436. - There is always a lamp in the emergency boats.

15437. Lamps are always kept there?
- They are lighted every night at 6 o'clock.

15438. Do you mean they are not kept in the other boats usually?
- They were not kept in the other boats, no.

15439. Did you see any put in the other boats?
- Yes.

15440. Was that by your orders?
- Well, it was through my speaking to the Chief Officer about it. I mentioned to him that there were no lamps. That was earlier on, when they started to clear the boats. I mentioned to him the fact that there were no lamps in any of the boats, or compasses, and he told me to get hold of the lamp trimmer.

15446. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) Did you have the lamps taken up?
- Yes. The Chief Officer told me to find the lamp trimmer. I did find him after a little trouble. I really forget where I found him. He was on the boat deck working amongst the men. I told him to take a couple of men down with him and fetch the lamps, and he was afterwards seen to bring the lamps along the deck and put them in the boats.

Lamp trimmer Hemming survived the sinking and helped pinpoint the timing of that order for lamps.  He said Lightoller took him and another sailor to help with lifeboat No.4 . "We lowered the boat in line with the A deck, when I had an order come from the Captain to see that the boats were properly provided with lights."

Lightoller provided the last piece of the puzzle:

- Well, it would take us from 15 minutes to 20 minutes to uncover No. 4; then to coil the falls down, then to swing out and lower it down to A deck would take another six or seven minutes at least.

In summation, if he started clearing No.4 about 11:55 p.m. as evidenced above, the lifeboat would have been lowered to A deck about 16 or 17 minutes later---12:16 a.m.  That would be roughly the time Hemming got the order from Boxhall to get lamps for the boats.

And then?

"...they started to screw some out on the afterpart of the port side; I was just going along there and seeing all the men were well established with their work, well under way with it, and I heard someone report a light, a light ahead. I went on the bridge and had a look to see what the light was."

How did Boxhall know what was happening on the afterpart of the port side?  Did someone tell him?
Was that someone Pitman, who testified he crossed from the aft port boats to the forward well deck to see the ice left behind by the collision with the iceberg?
Why he started aft is less important than what he did when he heard about the light on the horizon. He wrote about it to Walter Lord:
"And I worked on the boat covers, taking off the boat covers, on the Boat Deck, when I heard the Crow's Nest report a light on the Starboard Bow. Well I went on the bridge right away, and I found this light with my own glasses but I wanted the telescope to define what it was..."

Boxhall first used his own binoculars to identify the source of the light, then went on the bridge to use the Titanic's telescope when...

15593. ..Somebody telephoned to say that one of the starboard boats had left the ship, and I was rather surprised.
The person at the other end of the phone was Quartermaster George Rowe, who described the phone call to the Senate Inquiry:
I felt a slight jar and looked at my watch. It was a fine night, and it was then 20 minutes to 12. I looked toward the starboard side of the ship and saw a mass of ice. I then remained on the after bridge to await orders through the telephone. No orders came down, and I remained until 25 minutes after 12, when I saw a boat on the starboard beam.
Senator BURTON.
What was the number of the boat?
You could not tell the number. I telephoned to the fore bridge to know if they knew there was a boat lowered. They replied, asking me if I was the third officer. I replied, "No; I am the quartermaster." They told me to bring over detonators, which are used in firing distress signals.

Boxhall's accounts of this incident can be confusing. He said he hadn't heard an order to send off lifeboats and so was surprised to hear of a lifeboat in the water. He reported it to the Captain, he said. 
15594. At their doing it so quickly?
- No; I was rather surprised. I did not know the order had been given even to fill the boats. I reported it to the Commander.
And after he had a better look at the far-off light ("it was two masthead lights of a steamer"), he reported to the Captain.  What he doesn't say is that he told the Captain both things at the same encounter. 
15394 Could you see how far she was?
No, I could not see but I had sent in the meantime for some rockets, and told the Captain I had sent for some rockets, and told him I would send them off, and told him when I saw this light. He said, "Yes, carry on with it."
BBC 1962
"and I realized then it was two masthead lights of a steamer below the horizon and the lights were very close and I went back and told the Captain, “There is a steamer in sight very nearly ahead but slightly on the Starboard Bow and if she continues on her course she'll pass close to us down the Port Side.” Well I asked the Captain, “Shall I send up some distress rockets, sir?"
The confusion that's roiled through the years has stemmed from Boxhall's comment about getting that phone call to the bridge
15593. “I knew one of the boats had gone away, because I happened to be putting the firing lanyard inside the wheel house after sending off a rocket, and the telephone bell rang. Somebody telephoned to say that one of the starboard boats had left the ship, and I was rather surprised.”

It's obvious now that this never happened.  The evidence, including Boxhall's own recollection, shows that he never fired a rocket before Rowe phone the bridge. Why he made this confounding statement will never be known. 
Note what I said at the beginning---Boxhall followed protocol. Count how often to reported to the Captain.  There's simply no way he would fire off a rocket without getting the Captain's okay. In fact, the way he remembers it in 1962, that's exactly what he did---ask permission to send up distress rockets.
Crewmen on the Californian, a ship stopped miles away by the icepack, saw the first rocket sent off from the Titanic and noted the time, a conversion of which from their time to Titanic time shows that first signal was sent at 12:28 a.m.
That's only three minutes from when Rowe phoned the bridge.  That makes it impossible for that rocket to have been fired by Quartermaster Rowe. 
So Fourth Officer Boxhall did, indeed, fire the first rocket---but only after getting the order officially from Captain Smith.
Which still leaves open the question of why Rowe never saw---or never mentioned seeing---that rocket.
The answer lay for years in a letter Rowe wrote to Walter Lord in 1955
"...after I saw a boat being lowered on the starboard side and I went up on to the after bridge and phoned the fore bridge if they knew about it. I could not recognise the voice but he asked me who I was I told him the after Quarter-master he asked me if I knew where the distress rockets were stowed I told him I did he told me to bring as many as I could on to the fore bridge, I went below one deck to a locker and got a tin box with I think 12 rockets in it (they were fairly heavy), I carried them along the boat deck where there was a bit of confusion clearing away and turning out boats... On reaching the bridge Capt Smith asked if I had the rockets I told him yes and [he] said fire one and fire one every five or six minutes.""
Rowe didn't see the first rocket because he wasn't on the top deck when it was fired!  He was one deck below getting the detonators he had been ordered to bring to the bridge.
There's one other mystery solved by this examination.
Quartermaster George Thomas Rowe:
17683. Did you take any part in firing distress rockets? -Yes.
17684. How long do you think it was from the time you commenced firing the rockets till you finished firing the rockets? -From about a quarter to one to about 1.25.  

Rowe 's account is that he fired rockets for 40 minutes starting at 12:45 a.m. If the first rocket was fired 17 minutes earlier than Rowe arrived with his box of detonators,  it's very possible that Boxhall fired a second one prior to Rowe's first.  Boxhall, then,  may have fired off two rockets, and Rowe the other six as seen by the Californian.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

WHO WAS the boy with an injured arm put into Lifeboat No.6 by the Captain?

Who was the boy with an injured arm put into Lifeboat No.6 by the Captain?
I set out to nail down his identity, only to discover:
a) everyone already knew who he was
b) everybody was wrong
c) the surprising reason everybody was wrong, and
d) the Canadian connection to the prime suspect.
It all started with a brief account in Titanic survivor Archibald Gracie's 1913 book 'The Truth About the Titanic'.   He had spoken with fellow survivor Helen Churchill Candee about her experiences on the sinking ship (She left in Lifeboat No. 6).  He wrote:
"Just before her boat was lowered away a man's voice said: "Captain, we have no seaman." Captain Smith then seized a boy by the arm and said: "Here's one." The boy went into the boat as ordered by the captain, but afterwards he was found to be disabled..."
Gracie wrote that the boy tried to help row the lifeboat, but "(when) he tried to do so, it was futile, because of an injury to his arm or wrist."
The story appeared to be corroborated by Titanic quartermaster Robert Hichens and lookout Frederick Fleet who were the only two crewmen in the lifeboat and who testified before the American Inquiry that a stowaway who popped up in the boat proved useless in helping row because of an injured arm or wrist. He was, they said, "an Italian."
Even Major Arthur Peuchen, who climbed down a rope to help row the boat, remembered the stowaway and his injured arm.
To top it off, a survivor named Philip Zanni, described by a newspaper (*) as "an exceptionally well-spoken Assyrian", told a reporter he managed to sneak into a lifeboat where he "was placed at one of the oars." He provided a clue (a woman in the boat with a dog) which confirmed he was saved in No. 6.
* Niles Daily News (Ohio), 25 April 1912, Survivor from Titanic Arrives in Niles
Well, that seemed to be that. Mystery solved, right?
But something about the incident kept nagging me. After a few days, I went back to the evidence to determine what it was. It didn't take long.
Zanni said he snuck into the boat. He never mentioned the Captain. Candee said the boy was placed in the boat by the Captain. Being ordered into a lifeboat by the Captain to help row would have made him a more heroic figure, and yet all his life Zanni never said that it happened that way.
Hichens and Fleet said the stowaway was an "Italian". Zanni was middle-eastern, which would make him "Italian" in the eyes of the British crewmen. But Candee told Gracie that she didn't think the boy she saw was "Italian."
Peuchen said the stowaway climbed out from under the womens' skirts a half hour after the lifeboat was afloat on the ocean. Candee said she saw the boy put into the boat "just before the boat was lowered."
I couldn't deny the obvious. They were talking about different people!
But if the boy with the injured arm wasn't the stowaway with an injured arm, who was he?
Major Peuchen provided the determining clue. He told the American Inquiry that the occupants of No. 6 were counted after he got in the boat and apart from him "there were exactly 20 women, 1 quartermaster, 1 sailor and 1 stowaway..."
If all the men and boys in the boat were thereby accounted for, that could only mean that the person put into the boat by the Captain WAS A GIRL!
In fact, it made more sense.
While Mrs. Candee said she heard a man, presumably Hichens, request a seaman, it doesn't make sense that the Captain would pick a  boy at random off the deck without a clue as to whether he could row or not.
But, if he was responding to the call "Any more women?", which survivors said was repeated endlessly at every lifeboat, then "Here's one" would be an appropriate answer.
But which girl?
A Google search for anyone with an injured arm in Lifeboat No. 6 serendipitously turned up an interview with one woman in which she said the shock of the collision pushed her into the wall of her cabin, injuring her shoulder. She had an injured arm, I squeaked!

The Day
April 19, 1912 Page 3
                                                         Some Male Cowards
                                            Who Had to Be Tossed Out of Boats
                                                         Meant for Women

New York, April 19---Mrs. Fannie Douglass, of Montreal, said that when it was realized the collision was serious on the Titanic that there was a scramble for the lifeboats. Mrs. Douglass said: "I am only hoping that my reason will hold out. What I have gone through is enough to undermine one's reason. I was in bed at the time, but so powerful was the shock that I was thrown across my stateroom and my arm was injured..."

This contemporary news photo (below) shows Mrs. F.C. Douglas (proper spelling), of Montreal, a young woman with a short, boyish haircut being escorted away from the rescue ship Carpathia.  

Though 27, you can see how she could be mistaken for a younger boy at a quick glance.  Blow the picture up. Compare with Amelia Earhart's looks.
Suzette Douglas told a reporter for the Montreal Standard that she had spoken with the Captain briefly before she got into the lifeboat.
She "claimed Captain Smith was nearby as they got into the boat, and that he asked her whether her mother was comfortable," wrote author Alan Hustak in "Titanic, The Canadian Story" (Vehicule Press, 1998).
By coincidence, Helen Candee actually sat beside Mrs. Douglas's distraught mother in boat No.6.
And, by even greater coincidence, Senator Alden Smith at the American Inquiry asked both Hichens and Fleet about a "Mrs. Douglas."

Senator SMITH.
You are quite sure that a lady in that boat, a woman, did not have the tiller?
I am sure of it; positive.
Senator SMITH. A Mrs. Douglas?
Nobody. Just the quartermaster who was there all of the time.


Senator Smith
Do you recollect whether Mrs. Douglass, of Minneapolis, was in that boat?
     I do not know her at all, sir.
    Senator SMITH.
    Have you had any talk with her about it?
    Never have spoken to her or seen her, to my knowledge.

Mrs. Mahala Douglas, of Minneapolis, left the Titanic in lifeboat No. 2. Mrs. F.C. (Frederick Charles) Douglas, of Montreal, left in No. 6. Did Senator Smith ask about the wrong Mrs. Douglas? And why was he asking at all?
Those questions will probably never be answered after all the time that has passed.
And unless a new, more detailed interview with Suzette turns up, we will never know if she was a victim of legendary mistaken identity.  Still, Mrs. Candee appears to have heard one thing, saw another,  and learned of something different. She then added two and two --- and got five.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The order Titanic's lifeboats reached the Carpathia. Maybe.

In what order did Titanic's lifeboats reach the rescue ship Carpathia?  And at what times?

Those question have bedeviled Titanic researchers since the wreckage of the mighty ship was discovered on the ocean floor thirty years ago.

Not that anything turns on the answers.  But it's just the kind of loose end that history buffs like to tie off.

Veteran Titanic researchers have taken a shot at unravelling the lifeboats-at-the-Carpathia conundrum, notably Senan Moloney ("A chronology of rescue", Voyage 75, The Official Journal of the Titanic International Society, Inc., Spring 2011) and George Behe ("The Recovery of Titanic's Lifeboats"; Report Into The Loss Of The SS Titanic, A Centennial Reappraisal; The History Press, 2011, reprinted 2012).

But it was a close reading of the address delivered by Washington Dodge before the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on May 11, 1912, that's provided the key to at least part of the enduring mystery.

That answer in due time.  Let's begin at the beginning...

The first of Titanic's lifeboats to reach the Carpathia, by all accounts, was No. 2. Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall was in charge. No. 2 was the only boat with a working lamp and Boxhall fired flares to attract the Carpathia's attention.

The next boat was No. 1.  It reached the Carpathia about a half hour after No. 2, according to Boxhall.  The length of time separating these first boats led some to believe that No.1 was actually the first to be rescued.

Senator SMITH.
About how long was it after you arrived before the other boats arrived?
The first boat did not arrive until at least half an hour after I arrived there.

"... I thought we were the first boat aboard, but I found that the boat that had the green lights burning was ahead of us. We were the second boat aboard."  Charles Stengel, American Inquiry.

Next came three boats in short order--- No. 5, No. 7 and No. 13.

No. 5
"I was on the second boat picked up." Passenger Anna Warren, Portland Oregonian, April 27, 1912

How long after your boat was reached by the Carpathia was it before No. 7 was reached?
It may have been 20 minutes. I did not assist in unloading No. 7.

Dr. Washington Dodge was in No. 13.

"We reached this Steamer after about ¾ of an hour and found her taking aboard the occupants of 3 boats that had reached her ahead of us - On boarding her I found my wife & son, who were in the second boat to load received -" he wrote aboard the Carpathia in an unpublished account.

Lifeboats Nos. 1, 5, and 7 were the three boats ahead of his.  His wife and son got off the sinking Titanic in No. 5, but changed boats in mid-Ocean to No. 7.  The game-changing information provided by Dr. Dodge came in his speech to the Commonwealth Club:

"When our boat reached the ship's side we passed in front of her bow, to reach the port side, where we would have the shelter from the wind, and a smoother sea to disembark. An officer of the "Carpathia" called to us to come up on the starboard side. The vessel was then unloading lifeboats on each side Those of us who were rowing endeavored for five minutes to pull back across the bow of the ship, but so ineffective were our efforts, that we were unable against the wind to make any progress. We finally had to disembark on the port side."

"As the "Carpathia" had taken aboard the occupants of four or five lifeboats before ours arrived, I was naturally consumed with anxiety to ascertain whether my wife and child were aboard. After short search I found them in the dining Loon, where the women and children were being tenderly cared for, and being revived by the administration of warm drinks and the application of warm wraps."

The two points that will prove crucial to determining which boats arrived when are the fact that the sheltered side of the Carpathia was the port side, and that the Carpathia "was then unloading lifeboats on each side."

If four boats--- not counting the earliest, No. 2--- were unloading on the port side, which boats were unloading on starboard?

There was certainly No.9.

"Our boat was the first taken up on our side of the ship," said Second Class passenger Sidney Collett (Syracuse Post Standard, April 24, 1912).

"It was 45 minutes before we reached the Carpathia and while they were picking up boats on one side we went around on the other side." ( COLLETT TELLS HIS STORY,  The Auburn (New York) Citizen, Tuesday 23rd April 1912)

And Titanic Boat No. 3 is a prime candidate for arriving shortly after No. 9.

First, its one of the Titanic's forward boats starboard,  like Boats 1,5 and 7.

While there are no clues in the accounts of survivors in No. 3 that would help to place the lifeboat in order of arrival, and  time references are unreliable  (they can range as much as an  hour-and-a-half apart in some cases) one measure of placement may do the trick.  Ordinal position.

Steward William Ward told the U.S. Senate Inquiry he believed his boat, No. 9, was "About the fourth or fifth boat to be picked up."

Mrs. Margaretta Spedden, saved in No. 3,  wrote in her diary "We were about the fifth to reach her, and it didn't take long to get us on board."

That estimate by passenger and crewman jibes well with the actual placements of both lifeboats, without their knowing it.  Mrs. Spedden's estimate of being in the fifth boat to reach the Carpathia also shows that the lifeboat was one of the earlier ones to arrive, reinforcing its position after No. 9---or possibly simultaneously.

But is there any evidence that No. 3 unloaded on the Carpathia's starboard side? No. Its only the estimate by occupants of both boats (3 and 9) that they were in the fifth lifeboat to arrive that implies they might have been on the same side of the Carpathia.

The next boats came in clusters.  There were No. 14 towing Collapsible D on the port side, and Collapsible C just ahead of No. 11.

It appears Boat 14 and D arrived before C and 11.

Thanks to Dr. Dodge, we know 14 and D were unloaded on the port side of the Carpathia.

Passenger Hugh Woolner was in Collapsible D:

"...eventually we came alongside the Carpathia on her way with a crowd of tourists on their way to Gibralter. Getting under the lee side, we made fast..."
(New York Sun, April 19, 1912)

On the starboard side there was some jockeying for position.

"Getting alongside, 5 empty boats were drifting about. We were the sixth to arrive. They threw us ropes to steady our boat. Just then the collapsible raft, in which Mr. Bruce Ismay sat, came along and almost collided with our boat." said Edith Russell, who was in No. 11, in a 1934 account.

It seems C took precedence.

Stewardess Annie Martin, also in No. 11, was quoted in the Guernsey Press (May 2, 1912):
"We saw him taken onboard the Carpathia. We recall him sitting on his haunches on the stern of the boat that was cleared by the Carpathia just before ours. He just sat there like a statue, blue with cold, and neither said a word nor looked at us. He was nearly dead when taken onboard, for he was wearing only nightclothes and an overcoat."

While its tempting to say that the two pairs of boats were rescued on opposite sides of the Carpathia, there's no real evidence to support that position.

An officer on the Carpathia was quoted in the newspapers saying "Mr. Ismay reached the Carpathia in about the tenth life-boat."

If you assume Boats 14 and D preceeded Collapsible C,  you actually get Collapsible C as the tenth (2,1,5,7, 13, 9, 3, 14, D, C) to arrive.
Lifeboat No. 11 would then, coincidentally, be the 11th of Titanic's boats to reach the rescue ship.
That would leave seven more boats.

Steward Charles Mackay testified before the British Inquiry:

10858. Can you tell us in what order your boat reached the "Carpathia" the following morning? Were you the first or the last?
- Now you have got me guessing. I should say we were the last but three or four in.

If he was right, that would mean the remaining boats were almost evenly distributed between Carpathia's port and starboard sides.

There's pathetically little evidence to place No. 15 in the list of lifeboats reaching the Carpathia.  But being the only starboard boat still unplaced, and the remaining lifeboats all port boats, its more than likely that No. 15 arrived after No. 11, and before the port boats showed up.

The rest of Titanic's boats are easy to locate.

They can be divided into two groups.  Nos. 6,8, and 16 in one; Nos. 4, 10, and 12 in the other.
No. 6 and No. 8 were both port boats on the Titanic and were sent off one after the other.  At some point No. 6 tied up to No. 16 and took a stoker from No. 16 to help row. So its no surprise that these three boats would arrive closely bunched together.

Boats 4, 10, and 12 were among the five tied together on Fifth Officer Lowe's orders. Having them show up at the Carpathia's side together also makes sense.

The first grouping was unloaded on Carpathia's starboard side.

The Countess of Rothes (Lucy Noël Martha Dyer-Edwards) was in lifeboat No. 8. A letter she wrote in 1955 to Sir Walter Lord, author of A Night To Remember, provides this enlightening snippet:

I looked & thought I saw dim lights & in a little while we were certain - & told the others - but we were a long way from the Carpathia took us another hour to reach her & then we were dashed against her side as we were too exhausted to get round to her lee side - but one of her sailors jumped into our boat with a rope & we were hauled on board at last 

Her maid Roberta Maioni offered a bit more detail in her remembrance:

"We soon reached the Carpathia and were taken up her great side one more time in a kind of a cradle- just a piece of board, strong hands and a willing hands at the top. 
This was no easy operation, for the lifeboat was being dashed along the Carpathia's side and while waiting to be taken up we were jerked backwards and forwards by the fury of the waves."

First Class passenger Arthur Peuchen was in Lifeboat No.6. An answer of his at the American Inquiry suggests No. 6 arrived before No. 8.

Did you observe in what manner these boats reached the Carpathia? What position was your boat in, for instance, among the first or the last?
I think there were about two or three after us. We were almost the last. We were about the last, with the exception of two or three.

As for No. 16, the evidence, palty as it is, supports the idea that it, too, landed ahead of No. 8.

Remember, although Nos. 6 and 8 were launched one after the other, No. 6 found itself so undermanned that it needed to tie up to No. 16 to take a rower to help.  That might put No. 6 and No. 16 closer together at rescue time.

And the only clue provided regarding lifeboat No. 16 comes from steward Charles Andrews at the American Inquiry:

On the way to the Carpathia we saw some of our boats also proceeding. When we arrived there, there were one or two boats set adrift.
Senator BOURNE.
Who set them adrift, and why?
That I do not know sir. I think they were damaged boats, sir.

As it happens, Boat 6 was set adrift after its passengers were taken aboard the Carpathia.

As for the remaining lifeboats...

Steward William Burke was in No. 10. He told the American Inquiry:
"At one time we were tied up with three boats together, until I gave the order myself in that boat to cut us adrift that we might go to a collapsible boat that was in distress. When they cut our boat adrift I found an officer in another boat had come to the aid of this collapsible boat, so we remained there for some hours, drifting about. At daybreak, we made fast to another officer's boat, and we arrived alongside of the Carpathia with these two boats tied together."

Fifth Officer Harold Lowe in No. 14 went to the aid of Collapsible D. The other officer that Burke talks about was Second Officer Charles Lightoller who was rescued himself from overturned Collapsible B in Boat 12.

And that leaves No. 4, which, by elimination, arrived at the Carpathia before No. 10.

To sum up, the order that Titanic's lifeboats reached the Carpathia appears to be:'

( July 15, 2016.  The placement of Lifeboat 2 has been changed to starboard. Reader "Jay" pointed out that Carpathia Captain Rostron said in his memoir 'Home from the Sea' that he picked up the first of Titanic's boats on his starboard side. This clarifies (for the landlubber) his statement at the Senate hearing:
"Previous to getting the first boat alongside, however, I saw an iceberg close to me, right ahead, and I had to starboard to get out of the way. And I picked him up on the weather side of the ship. I had to clear this ice.")

                      Port                   Undetermined             Starboard
                           4                                                       8
                           10                                                     16
But, to complicate matters a little more, it's a little known fact that the Carpathia put at least two of her own lifeboats in the water.

Assistant cook John Collins gave this evidence at the American Inquiry:
"Then the Carpathia blew her horn, and we all seen the Carpathia. She stopped in the one place. We were at this time within a mile of her, and she did not make any sign of coming over near to us. She stopped in the one place, and, I think, lowered two or three of her own boats, and her own boats were kept in the water when one of our boats, the sailboat, went up alongside of her."

Robert Vaughan was a 17-year-old "water and mess boy" on the Carpathia. The Ottawa Citizen (Aug. 26, 1959) carried an interview with him about the rescue of Titanic's passengers. He said:

"When the survivors saw us they cheered. There was no sign of the Titanic herself. We started picking up survivors immediately and only launched two of our own boats."

How the presence of an additional two lifeboats around the Carpathia affected the perceptions of survivors can never be known.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"You men get out of that boat or I'll kill you." FOUND: Daniel Buckley's long-lost deposition.

As a former newspaper reporter, I've always been interested in how the newspapers of 1912 covered the Titanic disaster.

I recently began paying special attention to coverage of the Senate Titanic hearings, to compare the formal transcript with newspaper stories on the testimony of witnesses.

I was reading of steerage passenger Daniel Buckley's appearance at the Senate inquiry ---in the Connecticut newspaper, The Day, of May 4, 1912---when I was struck with the feeling that something seemed odd about the story.,392126

Odd how? While the gist of the story was what I remembered, there were details that sounded new. So I checked the transcript, and, sure enough, the newspaper story was radically different.  It was way beyond the normal disparity between what appears in the press and the formal transcription of the (alleged) words spoken at the hearing.

Was it a case of bad reporting? Or something more?

After weighing all the options, only one answer made sense.  The reporter wasn't reporting Buckley's testimony!  

What was printed in The Day as the purported account of Buckley's questioning before the Senate Titanic Inquiry was actually a long-lost deposition given by Buckley to Senate investigators before the Inquiry was in session!

Of course.  No wonder the opening sentence ("I, with three companions from County Cork, Ireland, took a steerage passage on the Titanic.") read more like a sworn legal document than the words of a Irish immigrant barely out of his teens.

Titanic researcher Senan Molony has called the missing depositions 'the holy grail' of Titanic  research.

"Raising to the light of day the missing depositions – if, indeed, they still exist - ought to be a prime goal of Titanic research. Two have recently seen the light of day, and are enough to encourage a certain hope. They also inspire the possibility that this material may be the Holy Grail… with inherent power to rewrite history."

Molony was writing specifically of the depositions taken for the British Inquiry from 212 crew members who returned to England following the disaster. The Buckley deposition, if that is what it is, was taken for the earlier Senate Inquiry and would be the earliest on record.

But how and why did it appear in the middle of an obscure story in an east coast state and nowhere else?

As a former newspaper court reporter, I can hazard a guess.

Buckley gave his official evidence on May 3, 1912.  According to the Senate Report on the sinking of the Titanic,  on that day Senator William Alden Smith, Inquiry chairman, took testimony from six witnesses. He questioned them separately---that is, alone, without the rest of the committee present.

The reporter for The Day accurately names five of the six.

"Among the witnesses yesterday were Daniel Buckley, a steerage passenger; Melville E. Stone, of the Associated Press; Jack Binns, wireless operator on the steamer Republic, when she went down ... and George Harder, of Brooklyn, a first cabin passenger."

Elsewhere in the story he mentions "Olaus Abelse, who was in the Titanic steerage".  This is obviously Olaus Abelseth, the second steerage passenger to testify that day.

There is no mention of Norman Chambers, another first cabin survivor.

The snippets of testimony from four of the five men that he names in his story can reasonably be found in the transcript of the session.  Only Buckley's account stands out.

The best explanation I can give is that the reporter wasn't there for Buckley's questioning.  He approached Senator Smith afterward for help in recreating what Buckley said.  Instead, Smith gave him the depostion, which covered the same ground, and the reporter ran with it.

For a comparison with how Buckley's testimony was covered in other newspapers, see this story in The Telegraph, May 4, 1912.,5421140

As an added curiousity, the same story in The Day reported on the testimony of "Thomas Watkins, another steerage passenger."  Here, in its entirely, is what the newspaper said:

"Thomas Watkins, a professional swimmer, testified."

"I swam about 14 miles, the night the Titanic went down, before I was rescued. I take these accidents as a matter of business. I have been in similar accidents before, but I lost $2,200 this time."

There was nobody named Thomas Watkins on the Titanic passenger list. Nor was Thomas Watkins mentioned in the official Senate Inquiry Report.   Was Senator Smith duped by a phony survivor to the point of taking his sworn testimony?

I initially thought that Thomas "Watkins" was actually Thomas McCormack, another Irish survivor, who, like Buckley, travelled in steerage.  In his accounts, he said he swam for hours before being rescued. I considered the possibility that he said in his deposition that he swam "about 14 miles."

But, although you can find many first, second and third-hand accounts of McCormack's experience on the Titanic, there is never a mention of his being a professional swimmer, having swum 14 miles, or losing $2,200.  So, who was the Thomas Watkins who testified at the Senate Inquiry?  We'll probably never know.

Here, then, is what I believe to be the deposition taken from Daniel Buckley, as reported in The Day, May 4, 1912:

I, with three companions from County Cork, Ireland, took a steerage passage on the Titanic. The night of the tragedy I was awakened by a grating noise. That was when our ship hit the iceberg. My friends and I dressed hastily and started for the boat deck.
We found that officers of the ship had locked a gate to prevent steerage passengers from going up on the first cabin deck. The water was rising fast. We broke the gate and rushed up on deck.
One of the first class passengers said to me: 'here buckle this preserver on; you will need it.' I helped to lower lifeboat No. 6. There being no women around men started to fight their way into it. An officer fired several shots over their heads.
Just as we lowered the boat and stood ready to shove off we saw a group of women on deck. The officer ordered 'you men get out of that boat or I'll kill you.'
Almost all the men except myself got out. I was crying when I jumped into the boat and fell face forward on the floor.
Mrs. John Jacob Astor took pity on me. 'Stop crying,' she told me 'and take this shawl and wrap it over you.'  Officers saw me wrapped in Mrs. Astor's shawl. They thought  I was a woman and let me be. Then they loaded a lot of other women in the boat.
 We had rowed about 200 yards away when the Titanic went down, with a noise like thunder.
I would be dead today if it were not for the mercy of Mrs. Astor, and her goodness," said Buckley.
The witness, 21 years old, told his story without shame and apparently with no realization of the light in which he was placing himself.
"Was any preference shown as regards first cabin and steerage women," asked Senator Smith.
"Not that I could see, " replied Buckley. "The women were loaded into the lifeboats as fast as they came on deck. It made no difference who they were just so they were women."
"What sort of people were with you?" inquired Senator Smith.
"There were 20 or 30 passengers, all classes, I should say, and some firemen and stewards."
"Were there any women left on deck?"
Yes, there were some.The officers ordered us out and when we didn't go one of them shot his revolver over us six times. Then they threw us out,  until there were only six men left,  and the women began to climb in, mostly steerage passengers."
"A fireman in my boat said that she hadn't been sunk by ice at all. He said that they had been trying to make a record with her and her boilers burst."

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Snoopy reporters paid to solve a Titanic puzzle

Toledo News-Bee
April 24, 1912
                                                    It Costs the Newspapermen
                                                    $100 To Learn They're Stung

The joke is on those wise New York newspapermen, and it cost them just $100 to find it out. One of the enterprising journals of the metropolis dispatched a tug to meet the liner Carpathia as it neared New York with survivors of the wrecked Titanic.
On its way the press boat caught this wireless code message directed at Carpathia:
"If any rurhuman alegroness pessimabe herkeluaur buauing nbonrd claiming have alforjin from me ospiinylle false overgordel to orbing with all compnrsero consistent with procedidng nestilvitas minde sinturnus ipsuillees modify entedrntess and eninbindo procedure and ditifico egogue enerveinis or enerveront.
Scenting mystery, the newspaper promptly printed the dispatch and offered $100 reward for a correct translation. Manager Sumner of the Cunard Line, which owns the Carpathia, telephoned the paper to send a representative and $100 to him.
"I think I can translate the cipher,"he said,"as I wrote it myself."
Then he informed the paper that the message merely warned the Carpathia not to let any newspaper boats send reporters aboard, and ordered the Captain to rush to New York.
The joke was all the funnier when it came out that the press boat in question relayed the code message to the Carpathia, thus killing its own chances to board the rescue ship and interview survivors.