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I am in receipt of your letter of June 12th by which I can see you have the major details but I hope the following will be to your satisfaction.
I was on watch on the poop in the First Watch (8 PM till midnight) on the night of April 14 - 1912. The night was pitch black, very calm and starry around about 11 PM I noticed the weather was becoming colder and what we call Whiskers round the light were noticeable, that is very minute splinters of ice like myriads of coloured lights. I had to call the Middle Watch (Midnight till 4 A.M.) at 11.45 but about 11.40 P.M. I was struck by a curious movement of the ship it was similar to going alongside a dock wall rather heavy. I looked forward and saw what I thought was a Windjammer (sailing ship) but as we passed by I saw it was an iceberg. Now as our boat davits were 80 feet [sic] from waterline I estimate the height of the berg about 100 feet. The engines were going astern by this time so I pulled in the log-line, and by my last reading at 10 P.M. I made out we had been doing about 21 knots. I did not think the collision was serious. In a short time the ship was hove to, when shortly 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. As I passed over the saloon I heard the band playing but I could not distinguish the tune. On reaching the bridge Capt Smith asked it I had the rockets I told him yes and [he] said fire one and fire one every five or six minutes. After I fired about 3 Capt Smith asked me if I could Morse I replied I could a little, he said call that ship up and when she answers, tell her that we are the Titanic sinking please have all your boats ready I kept calling her up in between the rocket firing but we never got a reply though we could see his white light quite plain. After a while I said to Capt Smith there is a light on the starboard quarter he looked through the glasses and told me he thought it must be a planet then he lent me his glasses to see for myself then [he] said the Carpathia is not so far away during this time they were turning out the Std Englehart raft under the direction of Chief Off Wilde and when it was full he was shouting out to know who was in charge then Capt Smith turned to me and told me to go and take charge that was the last I heard Capt Smith say. We had great difficulty in lowering as the ship was well down by the head and she took a list to port it was then that I saw Mr Ismay and another gentleman (I think he was a Mr Carter) in the boat. The chief officer shouted to me and told me when you get clear go to the others and tell them to come back, that was the last of Mr Wilde. When we were clear of the ship I said whats the best thing to do Mr Ismay [.] he replied you're in charge we could see nothing only this white light so I told them to pull away. Mr Ismay on one oar Mr Carter on another and the 4 of the crew one each and one I steered with 7 oars We had been pulling for ten minutes when we heard a noise like an immense heap of gravel being tipped from a hopper then she disappeared. We pulled on but seemed to make no headway gradually dawn came and soon we could make out some boats and more ice. It must have been between 7 and 8 A.M. when we saw a ship which was the Carpathia there were several boats between us and the ship we were picked up about 9 AM.
I saw no more of Mr Ismay or Mr Carter after they got out of the boat or did either of them speak I did ask one of the ships officers how Mr Ismay was he said he was indisposed and would not leave his cabin.
And now Mr Lord I hope you will forgive my wretched writing and spelling my hand's not so steady as it was, and I hope and trust you have every success with your book if you think there is anything I have overlooked or if there is any thing you wish to know do not hesitate to write as I shall only be too pleased to help Believe me.
PS Another mystery of the sea After all our boats were emptied all the lifeboats were hoisted on board the Carpathia with the exception of the two Englehart rafts (but they were cleared of everything) they were cast adrift yet 4 weeks later to the day the "Oceanic" sailing nearly over the same course sighted an object, a boat was lowered and it was found to be one of our Englehart rafts with 3 bodies, 1 passenger and 2 firemen on it.
1. The letter is not dated, although Walter Lord's initial letter was dated June 12th, and Lord's acknowledgement is from June 30th 1955.
2. Walter Lord wrote a follow-up letter to Mr.Rowe enquiring, amongst other things about the "whiskers round the light." Rowe's reply to this letter, if one was written, is not in the file. Lord's reply mentions the recovery of Collapsible A, recovered by the SS Oceanic in mid May 1912. Rowe's recollections regarding the bodies in the boat are not quite accurate. Boats A and B had already been abandoned when their living occupants were taken aboard other lifeboats; for boat A, 5th Officer Lowe placed lifejackets over the faces of the deceased. 5 other lifeboats were set adrift when they reached the Carpathia and their passengers and crew safely disembarked. 13 boats were carried on to New York.
3. Spelling and punctuation have been preserved, where possible.
4. Rowe's story seems to have remained highly consistent over time, although the lack of mention of Ismay's method of escape, him being relieved by Quartermaster Bright, and of seeing distress rockets before he telephone the bridge is suspicious, though consistent with his 1912 testimony.
5. Rowe's description of the sound the Titanic made as she sank is reminiscent of the testimony of Bedroom Steward Henry S. Etches in the US: "she went down with an awful grating, like a small boat running off a shingley beach."
6. In other documentation, Rowe describes how he walked along the port side of the boat deck to reach the bridge. As he passed the "saloon" (presumably, the first class lounge), he could hear, but not see the orchestra. Obviously a few minutes after the first boat was launched, the band were either still indoors, or were on the starboard side or on another deck altogether. The customary external location of the band is just aft of the 1st class entrance on the port side of the boat deck, between the first and second funnels, an area that Rowe would have to pass to reach the bridge. But George Behe notes the following: "[Titanic passenger] Pierre Marechal declared that the musicians received an order to play all the time without stopping, so as to avoid a panic. They were placed on the deck, that is to say, between the decks [on A deck] ... Pierre Marechal took a seat in the very first lifeboat to leave the Titanic..." So, Rowe's description of hearing the band at this point, but not seeing them is entirely in line with other information.
3. Some more of Rowe's recollections can be found here and a discussion is here.