Friday, February 14, 2014

Titanic Whale Spotting.

Not every Titanic mystery is a big one.
Take whales, for example. They're big, but whether Titanic survivors saw whales or not is neither here nor there.
Still, in the interests of historical truth, let's look at the evidence.
On the night the rescue ship Carpathia reached New York City, survivors Lord and Lady Cosmo Duff Gordon booked into the Ritz-Carlton hotel and had supper with a group of friends.
"Six ladies," said Lady Duff Gordon, at the British Inquiry into the sinking.  And Abraham Merritt, the assistant editor of the American Weekly, "a great friend of ours."
Lady Duff Gordon, of course, regaled her friends with the story of her trip and her safe escape.  After supper,  publisher William Randolph Hearst phoned Merritt to get the lowdown, and after hearing what Merritt heard gave him an earful,  reminding him that the Duff Gordon's story wasn't just gossip, it was NEWS.
" - After he had left us about half-an-hour he telephoned to me, and he said, "Mr. Hearst has just rung me up, and must have your story of the 'Titanic' wreck for tomorrow morning's newspaper." He said, "May I tell your story as I have heard it?" testified Lady Duff Gordon.
She said "Yes."  And the next day the story appeared in the daily New York American newspaper, under her byline as if she wrote it, and with a reproduction of her signature to certify its authenticity.
But remember, Merritt heard the story at a social gathering; he didn't take notes and wasn't expecting to write a formal story. He would have just repeated to a rewrite man what he remembered and let the other man craft the story.
What about the whales?  Getting there...
Lady Duff Gordon was aghast.  Although she wrote a weekly fashion column for the newspaper, she wasn't about to sink to so low as to be a common reporter. At the Inquiry she denied much of what appeared under her name.
One reference in the story went unmentioned:

Saw a School of Whales.
At last –– morning. On one side of us were the ice flows. On the other we were horrified to see a school of tremendous whales. As the mist lifted we caught sight of the Carpathia looming up in the distance. We were too numbed by cold and shock to cheer, or even utter a sound.

An even more florid version of her story ran in the London Daily Mail,
"A graphic account of the terrible disaster to the Titanic has been supplied to the New York correspondent of the London "'Daily Mail" by Lady Duff-Gordon who, with her husband, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, was among the survivors picked up by the Carpathia."

It included this passage:
"At last morning broke on a desolate scene. On one side of us were numerous icefloes and on the other, big threatening bergs. We were also horrified to see a school of tremendous whales in the vicinity of our boat. Then, as it became lighter, we were cheered by the sight of the Carpathia, which had been advised by wireless of the disaster, looming up in the distance and heading straight for us. We were all too numb with the cold and the horror of the awful disaster to utter a sound."

A recent article on Lady Duff Gordon's Titanic experience contained this footnote:

http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/documents/i-was-saved-from-the-titanic-lady-duff-gordon.pdf

 7. There are no other known accounts of a school of whales surfacing near the wreck site.

Really?

LOCAL SURVIVOR DEFENDS ISMAY
Atlantic City Daily Press
Sunday, 5th May 1912

City Clerk Donnelly’s Cousin Sends Sympathetic Note to Official 
---------- 
NOT A COWARD, BUT BRAVE AND GALLANT 
---------- 

“Ismay was unjustly critcised and abused for his actions regarding the Titanic 
wreck,” stated E. C. [sic] Taylor, one of the survivors of the steamship, 
yesterday, and who is spending a few days at the residence of his cousin, City 
Clerk E. R. Donnelly. Mr. Taylor, who with his wife, were [sic] saved in one 
of the small boats, is a big stockholder in a paper cup concern. He and his 
wife were on the deck of the Titanic a few moments after she struck the iceberg. 
...
“While we were on the Carpathia we passed through a school of about a dozen 
whales and later on we passed a seal that was floating on a cake of ice. A 
little farther on we passed a big floe of ice on which there was a big white 
polar bear prowling around. 
************************************
Sidney Collette in the Auburn Daily Advertiser, April 23, 1912 

COLLETTS OWN STORY 
Port Byron survivor of Titanic wreck 
First Boats carried men. 
Several boats had been lowered full of men, among them President Ismay. The officers were just lowering boat no. 9, the third from the last to be put off. The ladies stepped in , then the officer with drawn revolver said to me: 
"Well, what of you, where are you going?" I replied that I have these young ladies in my chargeand felt it my duty to take care of them. "Get in", said the officer and a moment later the boat was lowered. 

Fright for those in small boats. 

After we had floated for an hour or more there came our first real scare for our own safety, All about us we could see the backs of monster fish, their shiny skins or scales glimmering grew in the moonlight. They were terrible looking monsters and we feared that they would swim under our boats and upset them, but they did not. It was a time when we were close to our Maker. I prayed constantly from the time our boat struck the iceberg intil I reached Neew York. Never was there a wireless message that went so quickly and straight as my prayers to the throne of God. Never will I forget those horrible hours after the sinking of the ship, It wass maddening. Minutes seemed like hours and hours like days. 

*************************************
The Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters
 By Logan Marshall
1. The Sinking of the Titanic - Page 132 

A passenger on the Carpathia said there was no wonder that none of the wireless telegrams addressed to Mr. Ismay were answered until the one that he sent yesterday afternoon to his line, the White Star. 
"Mr. Ismay was beside himself," said this woman passenger, "and on most of the voyage after we had picked him up he was being quieted with opiates on orders of the ship's doctor. 
"It was not until noon on Monday that we cleared the last of the ice, and Monday night a dense fog came up and con- tinued until the following morning, then a strong wind, a heavy sea, a thunderstorm and a dense fog Tuesday night, caused some uneasiness among the more unnerved, the fog continuing all of Tuesday. 
"A number of whales were sighted as the Carpathia was clearing the last of the ice, one large one being close by, and all were spouting like geysers." 
*********************************
And there's even this recollection by a woman who crossed the Atlantic 115 days after the Titanic sank, along the same route.

Beaver County Times  (Pennsylvania)
April 12, 1982

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2002&dat=19820412&id=sVkuAAAAIBAJ&sjid=_NkFAAAAIBAJ&pg=1628,2604598

                                            A Story of Two Ships
                         Woman's Voyage Almost Has Titanic Outcome
                                        by Terri Gallagher, Times Staff

Seventy years ago this Wednesday, the world was stunned by perhaps the greatest sea disaster in the history of man. The Titanic, the world's largest and most luxurious ocean liner, sunk to an ice grave in the Atlantic after hitting an iceberg on its maiden voyage.
... snip
Fifteen day after the sinking of the Titanic, another ship, though not so luxurious nor large, narrowly escaped what could have been a similar fate in the same waters.
Beaver Falls resident Mary Carr, then a frightened 9-year-old from a small village in Austria, was aboard that ship. 
She explained, "My mother, sisters, brother and I were coming over from Austria. My father had been here for nine years."
"The ship was called 'The Fatherland' and it was an old ship. It was supposed to be its last trip," the silver-haired woman said.
Mrs. Carr, then Mary Fleisher, and her family boarded "The Fatherland" bound for Ellis Island at the port of Antwerp, Belgium. The trip would last two weeks...
Mrs. Carr reminisced: "We saw three whales, I remember. That really scared me. We saw the sun draw water up from the ocean." Exciting events for a nine-year-old, Mrs. Carr explained...
snip
It was the middle of the night when The Fatherland trekked the route south of Newfoundland that had recently ended in treachery for the Titanic.
"We were sleeping. Then we were told we were going to hit an iceberg. Everyone got up," she said.
snip
 "They steered the ship around and everything was OK."
snip
Mrs. Carr said her family never talked of the incident after arriving in New York and coming to Beaver Falls to live.
                           
                                                        ***********
Abraham Merritt went on to become a well-known writer, including the famous book Seven Footprints to Satan.

                                                         **************
Compare the two versions of Lady Duff Gordon's account:

New York American
April 19, 1912
LADY DUFF GORDON TELLS OF LAST AWFUL SOUNDS WHEN SHIP SANK, PISTOL SHOTS AND PIERCING CRIES
______
Declares That When She and Her Husband
Entered Lifeboat Other Passengers Twitted Them About Catching
Cold - "Ship Can't Sink." They Said.
______
Lady Gordon Is Positive That Two Mighty Explosions Preceded the Final Plunge of the
Titanic - After That for an Hour the Moans
and Cries of Drowning Men Were Heard.
______
By LADY DUFF GORDON.
The night was perfectly clear. We had watched for some time the fields of ice. I noticed a number of large bergs. There was one which an officer pointed out; he said it must be 100 feet high and seemed miles long.
I was asleep, awakened by a long grinding sort of shock. It was not a tremendous crash but more as though someone had drawn a giant finger along the side of the ship. I awakened my husband Sir Cosmo and told him I thought we had struck something. He went up on deck and told me we had hit a big iceberg, but that there seemed to be no danger.
Her Husband Bade Her Dress.
We were not assured of this, however, and Cosmo went upstairs again. He came back and said, "You had better put your clothes on because I heard the order given to strip the lifeboats."
We each put on a life preserver and over mine I threw some heavy furs. I took a few trinkets and we went up on deck. There was no excitement at that time. The ship had listed slightly to port and was down a little at the head. As we stood there one of the officers came rushing up and said, "The women and children are to go in the boats." No one apparently thought there was any danger. We watched a number of women and children and some men going into the lifeboats. At last an officer came to me and said, "Lady Gordon (sic), you had better go in one of the boats."
I said to my husband: "Well, we might as well take the boat; it will be only a pleasure cruise until morning.” The boat was the twelfth or thirteenth to be launched. It was the Captain's special boat. Five stokers got in and two American passengers –– A.L. Salomon, of New York, and L. Stengel (sic), of Newark. Besides these there were two of the crew, Sir Cosmo, myself, and a Miss Frank (sic).
Men said “Ship Can’t Sink.”
There were a number of other passengers, mostly men, standing nearby and they joked with us because we were going out on the ocean. "The ship can't sink," said one of them. "You will get your death of cold out there in the ice."
We were slung off and the stokers began to row us away. Cosmo had glanced at his watch as we cut loose. It was exactly 12:15 A.M (sic), fifteen minutes after the collision with the berg.  It did not seem to be very cold. Suddenly I clutched the side of the lifeboat. I had seen the Titanic give a curious shiver. We were probably a mile away.
Heard Pistol Shots and Screams.
Almost immediately we heard several pistol shots and a great screaming arose from the decks. There were no lights on the ship now except for a few lanterns that had been lit by those who remained aboard. Then the boat’s stern lifted in the air and there was a tremendous explosion. After this the Titanic dropped back again. The awful screaming continued. Two minutes after this there was another great explosion. The whole forward part of the great liner dropped under the waves. The stern rose a hundred feet, almost perpendicularly. The boat stood up like an enormous black finger against the sky. Little figures hung and dropped into the water. The screaming was agonizing. I never heard such a chorus of utter despair and agony.
The great prow of the Titanic sank under the waves. As it went, the screaming of the poor souls on board grew louder. It took the Titanic perhaps two minutes to sink after the last explosion. It went down without a ripple.
We had heard of the danger of suction. But there was no such thing about the sinking of the Titanic. The amazing part of it all to me as I sat looking at this monster being destroyed was that it could be accomplished so gently. Then began our personal miseries of the night. Up to that time no one in our boat, and I imagine no one in the other boats, had really thought the Titanic was going to sink. For a moment a silence seemed to hang over all and then from the water where the ship had been there arose a bedlam of shrieks and cries. There were men and women clinging to bits of wreckage in the icy water.
Says Cries Lasted an Hour.
It was at least an hour before the last shrieks faded. I remember the last cry was that of a man calling "My God! My God!" He cried monotonously in a dull, hopeless way. For an entire hour there had been an awful chorus of shrieks until this last cry. Then all was silent. When the terrible quiet came we waited gloomily in the boat through the rest of the night.
Saw a School of Whales.
At last –– morning. On one side of us were the ice flows. On the other we were horrified to see a school of tremendous whales. As the mist lifted we caught sight of the Carpathia looming up in the distance. We were too numbed by cold and shock to cheer, or even utter a sound.
Our boat was among the first picked up by the Carpathia. After I had been helped aboard I stood by the rail and watched the other boats draw alongside and the women and children being assisted out.
Those in the other boats seemed to have suffered greater than we had. In one boat there was a woman whose clothing was frozen to her body. Men on the Carpathia had to chop it off before she was taken below to a warm bed. Several sailors had frozen to death and they lay stiff in the bottom of the boats.
Says Captain was Seen Swimming.
The rumor that Captain Smith committed suicide is untrue. I did not see him after I was away in the boat but others have told me the captain was seen swimming. He picked up a baby floating in the wreckage and swam with it to one of the boats, lifting it aboard only to be told it was dead. The women in this boat, according to the story told me, wanted the captain to get into the boat with them but he refused. Nothing more was seen of Captain Smith.
There was absolute calm on the Carpathia There were hundreds of women who had lost their husbands. No one cared to talk. The gloom was terrible. I buried myself in my cabin and did not come on deck again.
Signed
LUCY DUFF GORDON
                              *********************************
THE DREADFUL PLUNGE.
HOW THE TITANIC WENT DOWN.
LADY DUFF-GORDON'S GRAPHIC STORY
WAS THE CAPTAIN RECKLESS?
WARNING BY LOOK-OUT MEN IGNORED.
MR. ISMAY DEFENDED IN THE SENATE.
LONDON, April 21.
A graphic account of the terrible disaster to the Titanic has been supplied to the New York correspondent of the Lon- don "'Daily Mail" by Lady Duff-Gordon who, with her husband, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, was among the survivors picked up by the Carpathia.
"I was asleep when the crash came,'said Lady Duff-Gordon, "but previously and while I was on deck watching the icefield the officers pointed to one immense ice berg, apparently 100 ft. high and several miles long. I was awakened by a long grinding crash. I aroused my husband, who ran out to investigate, and returning he said, 'We have hit a big berg. We then immediately adjusted the life preservers round our bodies and went on deck. There was then no excitement among the passengers or crew. The big vessel had listed slightly, but nobody at that time dreamed it would sink, and there was little alarm even when the officers came running along announcing that the women and children must go in the boats. We thought then that this was merely an ordinary precaution. Our boat was the twelfth or thirteenth launched and it contained five stokers, two Americans named Solomon and Stengel, two sailors, Sir Cosmo and myself, and Miss Frank, an English girl. Numbers of men standing near as our boat was launched were joking at our expense because we were going out in the ocean. Some of them, said to us, 'You'll catch your death of cold out there amid the ice.'
Pistol Shots and Screaming.
"We cruised round for about two hours in the vicinity of the ship and suddenly as we looked we saw the Titanic give a curions shiver. There were then no lights on the ship, with the exception of a few lanterns. Then we heard several pistol shots and great screaming from the deck. of the doomed vessel.
The Boilers Explode.
"Suddenly the stern of the ship was lifted in the air by a tremendous explo- sion. This was followed by another explosion among the boilers, and the forward part of the ship went under, while the stern rose a hundred feet or so in the air, like an enormous black finger silhouetted against the sky, and with little figures of human beings hanging to the point of the finger. These people dropped off into the water, uttering meanwhile most agonising screams. I have never heard such a continued chorus of utter agony.
Last of the Titanic.
"A minute or two later the Titanic's uplifted stern slowly disappeared, though a great hand were pushing it gently under the waves. As the steamer sank, the screaming of the poor souls on board seemed to become louder and louder. We were then about 200 yards away, watching her go down slowly and almost peacefully.
Bedlam of Shrieks and Cries.
"For a moment after the vessel had disappeared there was an awful silence. Then from the water where the Titanic had been there arose a bedlam of shrieks and cries from women and men, who had risen to the surface and were clinging to the wreckage in the icy-cold water. These cries lasted for an hour. Gradually the chorus of shrieks became moans of despair and finally ceased.
"The very last sound we heard from the water was a man's voice crying, 'My God! My God!' in a monotonously dull, hopeless manner.
A School of Whales.
"There was one iceberg. possibly the one the Titanic struck, that seemed to pursue us through the night, despite the rowers' frantic efforts to get past it. At last morning broke on a desolate scene. On one side of us were innumerable icefloes and on the other, big threatening bergs. We were also horrified to see a school of tremendous whales in the vicinity of our boat. Then, as it became lighter, we were cheered by the sight of the Carpathia, which had been advised by wireless of the disaster, looming up in the distance and heading straight for us. We were all too numb with the cold and the horror of the awful disaster to utter a sound.
Fifty Widows on the Carpathia.
"On board the Carpathia there were more than 50 women who had lost their husbands and included in these were 15 brides. The gloom on the Carpathia caused by the distress of the bereaved Titanic passengers was so ghastly that I buried my- self in my cabin and did not come on deck again till we reached New York.''

                                                 -30-

1 comment:

  1. In Scotland, there is this whale watching argyll. It's truly a beautiful attraction to watch for everyone going for a vacation in Scotland.

    ReplyDelete