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Titanic: A Desperate Dialogue

Shortly after 12.00am on April 15th, 1912, the officers on the RMS Titanic faced a horrifying truth. Their ship was going to founder. The White Star Line's adherence to outdated lifeboat regulations decreed that half of the people on the ship were going to perish. Now, their only source of salvation lay in rescue by a nearby ship.

The Marconi Wireless Telegraph installed on the ship was one of the most powerful of the day, capable of transmitting messages over a range of hundreds of miles. It seemed providential to use it to summon help. Now, with the location of the doomed ship calculated, Captain Smith approached the Marconi cabin where operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride were waiting, bewildered.


Most of the frantic messages are well-known, thanks to Lord Mersey's report, which has been transcribed here. But Mersey's report was based entirely on those stations that played an active part in the rescue efforts. There are still Marconi Wireless logs (Process Verbal - or PV) in existence which include scraps of information not found in the official inquiry records. While none of the 'unpublished' information merits a rewriting of the official story of the disaster, they do add a little to our knowledge of the tragedy. Where such records exist - and are legible (!) - they are included in the complete transcription below.

The Titanic's local clocks had been adjusted the previous midnight so that their noontime position corresponded with their local, calculated longitude. This is strongly believed by many to be 1 hour and 50 minutes ahead of New York Time (convincing logic suggests a more probable 2 hours and 2 minutes difference), but many ships recorded a fixed, shore-based time in their Proces-Verbaux for convenience. These were mostly recorded in New York Time, or 5 hours ahead in Greenwich Mean Time ("Zulu" in today's parlance). One ship, the SS Birma recorded its PV in local time, resulting in a confusion when placing its messages in a timeline.

The map of ships and their relation to the Titanic's (incorrect) distress location is displayed below (note that because of the large range of latitudes and longitudes and the large extent of the map, the scale is only 100% accurate close to the wrecksite):

There are a number of vessels not included or mentioned in Lord Mersey's report on the Titanic wreck; most of these are for obvious reasons, mainly that they played no part in the rescue effort.

For instance, the Leyland Line vessel "Asian"; at 7.09am New York Time on April 14th, she stopped to tow German Tank Steamer "Deutschland", which was short of coal, to Halifax. The rendezvous was at 40 42 N, 55 11 W. Marconi operator Howard dutifully sent this news to nearby shipping, including the Titanic, via the Baltic.
The tow rope between the vessels parted at 8.41am, but the two vessels were underway at 11.00am, arriving in Halifax at 7am on April 18th 1912 at an average speed of 4.9 knots.
According to Howard's report to the Marconi International Marine Corporation, "At 10.30pm ... the Titanic again called Cape Race but to my knowledge there was no response as I did not hear the Titanic again till he called me at 11.12pm ... at 11.12pm ... the Titanic called me and flashed the following 'Want immediate assistance position 41 46 N 50 14 W' ... I received the latitude as 51.46 owing to the faint signals. The captain was instantly informed and told me to get the latitude repeated. I got the Titanic's correct position at 11.17pm and promptly informed the captain. The captain thought it not advisable to turn back to the Titanic. The principle reasons that influenced the captain in coming to this decision were in the first place, the Asian's distance, namely 300 miles which would take the Asian about thirty hours to steam and would also necessitate casting of the vessel she had in tow. Secondly, after finding out that the Olympic was acquainted with the Titanic's distress and also after obtaining the Olympic's position the captain at once saw that the Olympic would reach the Titanic's position some hours before the Asian. Thirdly the captain's knowledge of there being several ships in the neighbourhood including the following:-
Carpathia (Cunard Line) Virginian (Allan Line) Baltic (White Star Line) Antillian (Leyland Line) Iroquois (Standard Oil Co) La Bretagne (Cie Gen-Transatlantique) Hellig Olav (Scandanavian-American Line) Marengo (Wilson Line) and Frankfurt (Norddeutscher-Lloyd Line).
The captain was also influenced by the fact that the Olympic carried a more powerful wireless apparatus which would enable her to spread the news in the direction of the Titanic's position much quicker than the Asian could. The captain also knew that the Titanic was in communication with Cape Race at 9.33pm April 14th 1912."
The Asian heard the Titanic faintly on a few occasions and last her at 11.58pm calling CQD and SOS. Howard endeavoured to spread the news of the Titanic by calling the Olympic and Sable Island but got no reply; he eventually contacted these stations at 5.32 am and 7.20 am respectively.
Regarding the ships mentioned in Howard's report, most of them are well known with the exception of Iroquois and Marengo. The Iroquois was in contact with the Asian on Monday April 15th at 6.55am (New York Time) informing the Parisian that the Deutschland had been picked up. The Hellig Olav had already left the area and arrived in New York on April 17th (for a while she was thought to be the mystery ship seen by the passengers and crew of the Titanic); and from the Shipping Gazette and Lloyd's List, we learn that the Antillian was reported to be 70 miles west of Brow Head, Ireland at 3.24pm on April 21st. At 7pm ships time on the 14th, she gave her position as 40.56 N, 50.22 W; just over five hours later when the distress calls were starting to be emitted, she would have been an extra 60+ miles to the east, putting her in the area of the Carpathia.

Other wireless telegraphists were asleep and missed the distress calls; Cyril Evans on the Californian for instance; and also the Mesaba, who had already sent an ice warning to the Titanic earlier on the 14th (though her PV says this was at 7.50pm, the message was timed at 11.00am) and at 10.05pm, the operator writes in his log, "No response to CQ call so turn in."
Other ships that missed the distress call but whose PVs are preserved by Oxford University include:
The SS Minnewaska had left port at 10.00am on April 14th; her PV gives no mention as to which port, but by 12.00pm the next day, she was 215 miles south east of Cape Cod. At 11.45, the operator writes that he signalled MSC but go no reply, and that there were "few X's" (atmospheric distortions). Fortunately, Lloyd's tells us that the port of departure was New York.

The SS Minnewaska had left port at 10.00am on April 14th; her PV gives no mention as to which port, but by 12.00pm the next day, she was 215 miles south east of Cape Cod. "Lloyd's Weekly Shipping Index" reveals that she had travelled to New York and then to Boston, where she set sail again, away from American ports. Obviously, having just left port, there is no way she could be in the vicinity of the Titanic in time for the sinking.

The Minnehaha reports that at 11.50pm, he called CQ but there was no response; 45 minutes later he tried calling MVU but couldn't raise him on "Tune B." This was the last until 9.25am. Similarly, at 10.15pm, the Athenai's turned in.

Addendum - The Winter 1962 issue of "Steamboat Bill" ,the magazine of the Steamship Historical Society of America reports that the "Minnehaha" was approaching London from New York on April 14th 1912, and Lloyds confirms her arrival in London on April 17th.

One ship that did hear the urgent exchange of traffic was the Megantic. She left Portland dock at 9.05am on 14th April, and her PV reports: "11.20p[m] MKC working MGY - jmg [jamming] bad (both freaky) ... 1.20a[m] MGY + MHI [MHJ?] calling MKC - sigs [signals] weak ... 2.45am All quiet ... 3.55am All quiet." The operator seems to have heard of the disaster at 9.35 from MSD (Sable Island) and he "informed Capt re Titanic.").

The above extract shows that that night, the atmospherics certainly were "freaky"; the Baltic could hear the Olympic (whose signals were indeed strong and freaky) but it appears that contact with the Titanic was highly intermittent and for the most part, the Baltic had to use other ships to receive and transmit calls to/from the stricken liner (suggestions that reduced power from the Titanic had hindered communications does not seem to be likely - incidentally the Baltic's PV confirms the difficulty in communications but this is not obvious from the testimony of Gilbert Balfour, the Marconi inspector on that ship); intriguingly, the Baltic did not hear the Mount Temple at all, and she was one of the closest ships to the wrecksite, but did hear the much further away Virginian; also the Amerika (extrapolating from her rough noon position on the 14th) was possibly about the same distance away as the Mount Temple, and yet the Baltic did get in contact with her! Regarding other ships, the Caronia was some 700 miles to the East and could hear the Titanic initially, and was even relaying messages. The "La Provence" said that it could not receive the Titanic's call due to their limited power at 700 miles but did hear the Olympic's "lighting up all boilers" from an estimate range of nearly 1200 miles ("La provence" also says that the Frankfurt was closer but the Titanic did not reply to her, wishing "to keep in communication only with the ships of her company" specifically the Olympic and seemed to refuse every call from the other ships : an utterly absurb notion). Another example of abnormal propagation of radio messages is the Birma; at 3.20am her log reports that she was in contact with a ship called the British Sun - which was docked in Antwerp at the time! The most famous case of a signal being relayed vast distances was the story of Arthur "Artie" Moore, who reportedly picked up the CQD from his home in south-eastern Wales. Another similar story exists, that of George Leadbetter of Ledbury in England. Of course, these stories could be hoaxes.

In addition, the PV of Virginian for April 15, 1912 reads, "10-0p Bi [standing by] for CC [Cape Cod]. 10/30 press finished first received greater part of it X's [atmospheric disturbance] strong." On the night of the collision, the Olympic herself recorded:
7.35 Trying to work MSB [Cape Sable] X's [atmospherics] coming on bad and SD [signal detection?] weak.
9.30 Calling MSD [Sable Island] with message, unable read him thro X's [through atmospherics].

One further point needs to be raised; we have talked about the Asian above, but did every ship assist in the rescue operation?

The Cincinatti's single PV entry (for 11.10pm), written in German, is reproduced below.


It says, in English: "MGY (Titanic) sends distress signal. I respond: 41.46N 50.14W position of MGY. Support by DDC not necessary since MKC reacts to CQD after a short time."

Like the Asian, the Cincinatti did not turn around to respond to the Titanic's pleas for help, but this was due to the great distance she would have had to traverse; at any rate, the Olympic had responded to the call.


Details extracted from the various PVs are displayed in the table below. Where possible, I have included extra details in square brackets, for instance [LT] - meaning "local time." The Message column's first entry (in "[..]") is the source of the text, unless it originated from Lord Mersey's report, in which case the brackets have encased question marks. Many ships communicated in an abbreviated language, similar to the verbiage employed when sending text messages via a mobile/cell phone today. The advantage that this brevity offers is a simple saving of time. For instance;

The prefix "M.S.G" stands for "Master's Service Gram," denoting that a compulsory reply to a message is expected. This was not always followed up and was sometimes rejected!
Ships and land stations were given a designated call sign, comprising a combination of three letters, the first one denoting "M" for Marconi, "D" for the rival DeForest telegraph system etc. For example:

A few entries are written up in German, such as "DDC ruft MGY & gibt position 37 36 N 54 44 W" - "Cincinnati calls the Titanic and gives position as 37 36 N 54 44 W"; "MGY sagt CQD ... (Position ca 15-20 mal.)" - "Titanic calls distress (Position repeated 15-20 times") etc. etc.


The Complete RMS Titanic Wireless record.

New York Time (if known)

Titanic Time (approx)

Message

Notes

10.25pm

12.27am

[Mount Temple] Titanic sending C.Q.D. Answer him, but he replies: "Can not read you, old man, but here my position, 41.46 N., 50.14 W. Come at once. Have struck berg." Informed captain.

Although the Mount temple PV had 41.44N,50.14W written for 10.25 NYT, Capt. Moore testified that 41.44N 50.24W was the first set of coordinates in his evidence. This agrees with what was picked up by Cape Race and Ypiranga. Moore also said he turned his ship around after receiving the corrected position of 41.46N 50.14W. The Mount Temple's PV says at 10.25: "Titanic sending CQD. Requires assistance. Gives position - cannot hear me. Advise standby Captain - his position 41.46N 50.14W. Nobody else answers.

10.25pm

12.27am

[La Provence] receives Titanic's distress call

Lord Mersey's report; The "Salt Lake Tribune" of April 26th says that La Provence heard CQD and "Position 41.46 N, 50.14 W. Require Assistance" at 3am Greenwich Time, or 10pm New York Time. La Provence called immediately to inform her that her call had been received but the limited power on La Provence's equipment prevented them from establishing contact as they were 700 miles distant. At 3.30am [10.30pm New York], the Titanic said "C.Q.D. We require assistance. Have struck an iceberg."

10.25pm

12.27am

[Cape Race] J.C.R. Goodwin on watch hears Titanic calling C.Q.D. giving position 41.44 N 50.24 W about 380 miles SSE of Cape Race.


10.28pm

12.30am

[Ypiranga] hore CQD von SS Titanic “MGY gibt CQD here Position 41 44 N 50 24 W require assistance (ca 10 mal)”


10.34pm

12.36am

[Ypiranga] MGY with MKL

MKL is the “Asian”
The Asian's Marconi Operator (Mr.Howard) says in his report, "At 11.12pm April 14th 1912 the Titanic called me and flashed the following. "Want immediate assistance position 41 46 N 50 14 W. I received the latitude as 51 46 N owing to the faint signals. The captain was immediately informed and told me to get the latitude repeated. I got the Titanic's correct position at 11.17pm and promptly informed the captain."

10.35pm

12.37am

[Mount Temple] Carpathia answers M.G.Y. M.G.Y. says: "Struck iceberg; come to our assistance at once." Sends position.

The Mount Temple's PV doesn't mention that the Carpathia sent her position.

10.35pm

12.37am

[Cape Race] Titanic gives corrected position as 41.46N 50.14W. A matter of 5 or six miles difference. He says "have struck iceberg".

Birma hears at 11.50pm [local time]: “11.50 Receiving Press, interrupted by distress calls from MGY. Answering. Positions exchanged and going to aid. Reports sinking fast. Lat 41 46 N, Long 50.14 W”

10.35pm

12.37am

[Carpathia] C.Q.D. call received from "Titanic" by "Carpathia." "Titanic" said "Come at once. We have struck a berg. It's a C.Q.D. O.M. Position 41.46 N. 50.14 W."

Lord Mersey's report

10.36pm

12.38am

[Ypiranga] MGY sagt CQD here corrected position 41 46 N 50 14 W require immediate assistance, we have collision with iceberg sinking. Can nothing hear for noise of steam. (Position ca 15-20 mal.)


10.37pm

12.39am

[?] "Titanic" sends following: "I require assistance immediately. Struck by iceberg in 41.46 N., 50.14 W."

Lord Mersey's report

10.40pm

12.42am

[Mount Temple] M.G.Y. still calling C.Q.D. Our captain reverses ship and steams for M.G.Y. We are about 50 miles off.


10.40pm

12.42am

[Cape Race] Titanic calls Carpathia and says "We require immediate assistance". [Walter] Gray on duty.


10.40pm

12.42am

[Frankfurt] Titanic gives his position and says: Please tell ur [your] capt. to come to our help. We are on the ice.


10.40pm

12.42am

[Caronia] sent C.Q. message to M.B.C. ("Baltic") and C.Q.D.: "M.G.Y. ("Titanic") struck iceberg, require immediate assistance."

Lord Mersey's report

10.43pm

12.45am

[Cape Race] Titanic gives same information to Californian [?], giving Titanic's position.


10.44pm ?

12.46am

[Ypiranga] MGY gibt CQD & position


10.45pm

12.47am

[Cape Race] Caronia circulates same information broadcast to Baltic and all ships who can hear him RH [Robert Hunston] on duty.

The Birmingham Daily Post (and other papers) of April 18th noted that the Caronia was at 43 45 N, 42 20 W, or 700 miles east, and she sent messages to ships nearer to the wrecksite than she was.


10.45pm

12.47am

[Baltic] Calling Titanic; no response.


10.48pm

12.50am

[Mount Temple] Frankfurt answers M.G.Y. M.G.Y. gives him his position and asks "Are you coming to our assistance?" D.F.T. asks: "What is the matter with you?" M.G.Y. replies: "We have struck iceberg and sinking; please tell captain to come." "O.K.; will tell the bridge right away." "O.K.; yes; quick."

Ypiranga reports this at 10.46 [?] : “DFT ruft MGY und gibt position at 12 am 39.47N 50.10W. MGY sagt are u coming to our? DFT sagt what is the matter with u? MGY sagt we have collision with iceberg, sinking psde [please] tell captain to come. DFT sagt "OK will tell"
Lord Mersey's mention in his report that this position came from The Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm is an error. Commander Hattorf of the Frankfurt said that he was at 39.47 N, 52.21 W when the distress call came through, so the Ypiranga's position must be in error. The Mount Temple's PV notes "Frankfurt gives MGY his position (39.47 52.20 W)" at 10.48

10.50 p.m.

12.52am

[Olympic] Hear Titanic signaling to some ship about striking an iceberg. Am not sure it is the Titanic who has struck an iceberg. Am interfered by atmospherics and many stations working.


10.52pm

12.54am

[Ypiranga] MKC to MGN [Y?]


10.55pm

12.57am

[Mount Temple] M.G.Y. calling S.O.S.


10.55pm

12.57am

[Cape Race] Titanic tells German steamer "Have struck iceberg and sinking".


10.55pm

12.57am

[??] "Titanic" calls "Olympic" S.O.S.

Lord Mersey's report

10.55pm [3.55am]

12.57am

[Celtic] Hear Titanic say "I require immediate assistance - position 41 46 N, 50 14 W". MRA confirms this - reported to commander immediately (798 miles)


10.57pm

12.59am

[Mount Temple] M.G.Y. calling M.K.C.


10.59pm

1.01am

[Mount Temple] M.G.Y. working M.P.A


11.00pm

1.02am

La Provence hears the Frankfurt send her position to the Titanic, 39.47 N, 52.10W

Newspapers, such as "The Salt Lake Tribune" (26/4/1912) says that this message was received at 3.55am Greenwich time, or 10.55pm in New York.

11.00 p.m.

1.02am

[Olympic] Hear Titanic sending out signals of distress, and I answered his calls immediately.


11.00pm

1.02am

[Virginian] MCC's sigs scarcely audible. Unable to read a single word. (Press on hand [?])


11.00pm

1.02am

[Cape Race] Titanic continues calling for assistance and giving position.


11.00pm

1.02am

[Celtic] "Titanic" calls C.Q.D. and says, "I require immediate assistance. Position 41.46 N., 50.14 W."

Lord mersey's report

11.00pm

1.02am

[Mount Temple] M.G.Y. calling M.G.N. and C.Q.D.

[Virginian, The London “Times” newspaper 22/4/12]: “At 12.40 a.m. (ship's time) [11.10 NYT] on the 15th inst. I received the following message by wireless from Cape Race:- 'Titanic struck iceberg, wants immediate assistance, her position 41.46 N. and 50.14 W.” My position then was 42.27 N., 53.37 W., and the Titanic bore from me S. 55 ½ E; true distance 178 miles. I at once altered my course to go to her assistance, and advised Cape Race and Messrs. H and A. Allan, [The Virginian's owners] Montreal to that effect. Olympic making all speed towards Titanic, but much further off than Virginian, her position lat. 40.32 N., long 61.18 W.'

11.02pm

1.04am

[Ypiranga] MGY gibt SOS-CQD & position


11.03pm

1.05am

[??] Caronia" to M.B.C. ("Baltic") and S.O.S., "M.G.Y. ("Titanic") C.Q.D. in 41.46 N., 50.14 W. Wants immediate assistance."

Lord Mersey's report

11.05pm

1.07am

[Frankfurt] MGY is calling CQD and SOS. MKC and DDC answer.


11.05pm

1.07am

[Ypiranga] DDC ruft MGY & gibt position 37 36 N 54 44 W

DDC is the Cincinnati. Her entry into the unfolding drama is at the top of this page, timed at 11.10pm

11.08pm [4.8]

1.10am

[Celtic] Recd CQD msg from Titanic via MRA


11.10 p.m.

1.12am

[Olympic] Titanic replies and gives me his position, 41.46 N., 50.14 W., and says, "We have struck an iceberg." Reported this information to bridge immediately. Our distance from the Titanic 505 miles.


11.10pm

1.12am

M.G.Y. gives distress signal. D.D.C. replies. M.G.Y.'s position 41.46 N., 50.14 W. Assistance from D.D.C. not necessary as M.K.C. shortly afterwards answers distress call.

Lord Mersey's report

11.10pm

1.12am

[Baltic] Urgent message sent to bridge, "Titanic struck berg - position 41.46 N. 50.14. Wants immediate assistance."

Baltic further notes “Jamming bad, but hear Titanic very faint, calling Olympic - latter strong; freaky. Hear Caronia calling. He tells me Titanic requires immediate assistance, gives position. 41.46 N, 50.14 W. - I advise bridge and call Titanic but unable to gain his attention. He appears to be tuned to Olympic and cuts me out. “

11.10pm

1.12am

[Mount Temple] M.G.Y. calling C.Q.D.

The Frankfurt at 11.10pm says “MGY is still calling CQD and SOS”

11.10pm

1.12am

[Virginian] Hear MGY calling CQ and giving his position as 41.46 N 50.14 W


11.10pm ??

[1.00am]

1.12am

[Birma] Assistanced from ships in rear of us that MGY is Titanic. Motor generator working well under strain.

Sam Halpern suggests that "Assistanced" should be "Ascertained"

11.12pm

1.14am

[Asian] (sigs [signals] faint) Titanic CQ and sent pos want immediate assistance OK answered him promptly rec the post lat 51 [sic] 46 long 50 14 informed captain instructs me to get it repeated. Sigs fainter than ????


11.12pm

1.14am

[??] "Virginian" calls "Titanic" but gets no response. Cape Race tells "Virginian" to report to his Captain the "Titanic" has struck iceberg and requires immediate assistance.

Lord Mersey's report

11.14pm

1.16am

[Ypiranga] MKC ruft MGY


11.15pm

1.17am

[Asian] Sable island CQ Olympic no ans


11.15pm [4.15]

1.17am

[Caronia] MGY to MKC - Capt. says get your boats ready what is your position?


11.15pm

1.17am

[Frankfurt] Signals with MGY. I tell him that we want to take his course.

Ypiranga hears DFT ruft MGY at 11.15; At 11.26 Ypiranga hears “DFT arbeitet DFT sagt our captain will go for ur course MGY sagt OK tks [thanks] tks”

11.17pm

1.19am

[Asian] Received MGY pos lat 41 46 long 50 14 (corrected) informed captain


11.18pm

1.20am

[Ypiranga] MKC arbeitet MGY


11.20 p.m

1.22am

[Olympic] Signals with the Titanic. He says, "Tell captain get your boats ready and what is your position?"

Lord Mersey's report also says this at 11.20pm: “"Titanic" to M.K.C. ("Olympic"), "We are in collision with berg. Sinking Head down. 41.46 N., 50.14 W. Come soon as possible." ”

11.20pm [4.20]

1.22am

[Caronia] MBC MRA pse [please] tell MGY we are making towards her


11.20pm

1.22am

[Baltic] 2nd officer in cabin re my message to Commander


11.20pm

1.22am

[Mount Temple] M.G.Y. gets M.K.C. and says "Captain says get your boats ready. Going down fast at the head."

Baltic receives this at 11.20pm: “Sent to bridge. "Capt. Smith saying 'Get all your boats ready, sinking.'" (Received direct from Titanic) ”

11.24pm [4.24]

1.26am

[Caronia] - MBC MGY We are making for you keep in touch with us


11.25pm

1.27am

[Mount Temple] D.F.T. says "Our captain will go for you."


11.25pm

1.27am

[Cape Race] Establish communication with Virginian here and give him all information re: Titanic, telling him to inform captain immediately. OK.

Virginian records this at 11.12pm: “Call MGY but get no response. MCE then calls and asked me to report to capt. that Titanic struck iceberg and require immediate assistance.”

11.25pm

1.27am

[??] "Baltic" to "Caronia," "Please tell 'Titanic' we are making towards her."

Lord Mersey's report

11.27pm

1.29am

[Mount Temple] M.G.Y. calling C.Q.D. and M.B.C [?]


11.28pm

1.30am

[Ypiranga] DFT ruft MBC


11.29pm

1.31am

[Asian] Olympic CQ Titanic. Heard Titanic faintly


11.30pm

1.32am

[Mount Temple] M.G.Y. calling C.Q.D.


11.30pm

1.32am

[Virginian] 1 to MCE (MSG) inform MGY that we are going to his assistance. Our position 170 miles north of MGY.


11.30pm

1.32am

[Asian] Sable Island CQ Olympic. No ans.


11.30pm

1.32am

[Ypiranga] MKC ruft MGY


11.32pm [4.32]

1.34am

[Celtic] MRA tells MGY "MKG [or MKC ?] is heading towards you"


11.35 p.m.

1.37am

[Olympic] Sent message to Titanic: "Commander, Titanic, 4.24 a. m. G.M.T. 40.52 N., 61.18 W. Are you steering southerly to meet us? Haddock."

Cape Race records this at 11.36am: “Olympic asks Titanic which way latter steering. Titanic replies "We are putting women off in boats". ” Asian hears “Olympic send MSG to Titanic” at 11.35pm . At 11.35, Frankfurt notes “MGY and MKC are working together” Ypiranga notes this at 11.34pm: “MKC arbeitet MGY. MGC gibt position 4.24am GMT 40 32 N 61 18 W”

11.35pm [4.35]

1.37am

[Caronia] MGY's sigs now inaudible Several stns [stations] coming in

Lord Mersey's report says this at 11.35pm "Caronia" tells "Titanic," "'Baltic' coming to your assistance."

11.40 p.m.

1.42am

[Olympic] Titanic says, "Tell captain we are putting the passengers off in small boats."

Mount Temple read this message at 11.35pm: “M.K.C. sends M.S.G. to M.G.Y. M.G.Y. replies "We are putting the women off in the boats." “Baltic reads this at 11.35pm: “Titanic sends C.Q.: "We are getting the women off in small boats." ” She further notes,”Tells Titanic, "Baltic coming to assistance." Caronia, I don't appear to reach him. ”
Ypiranga notes at 11.37 “MGY sagt we are putting the women off in the boats” At 11.40 Ypiranga also says “MGY sagt We are putting passengers off in small boats”
Virginian hears this at 11.35: “MKC de [from] MGY ------ sinking we are putting passengers and ------- off in small boats ----- weather clear. MGY"” [amalgamation of messages]. Birma reports [local time]: “At 1.30am MGY states passengers being put in boats. Calling MGY at intervals. No reply after 2.00am”

11.38pm

1.40am

[Ypiranga] Rufe MGY und gebe position 38N 50W


11.40pm

1.42am

[Asian] Called Olympic no ans


11.40pm [4.40]

1.42am

[Caronia] - Still nothing from MGY


11.41pm

1.43am

[Mount Temple] M.G.Y. says C.Q.D. engine room flooded.

Baltic reads this at 11.45pm: “Titanic sends C.Q.: "Engine room getting flooded." ” Message from bridge gives our position 243 miles east of Titanic.” Ypiranga says at 11.50pm: “MGY sagt was von "flooded"!” The Carpathia heard "Engine room full up to boilers." This is obviously not a literally accurate message as there were no boilers in the engine room(s); this author suspects that it is simply a way for the Marconi operators to relay just how dire the situation was.

11.42pm

1.44am

[Ypiranga] MGY to MKC; sagt ihm gleiches


11.43pm

1.45am

[Asian] Called Sable Island no ans


11.45 p.m.

1.47am

[Olympic] Asked Titanic what weather he had had. He says, "clear and calm."

Mount Temple reads this message at 11.43: “M.G.Y. tells M.K.C. sea calm. ”
Cape Race records this at 11.55pm “
Virginian says he is now going to assistance Titanic. Titanic meanwhile continues circulating position calling for help. He says weather is calm and clear.”

11.45pm

1.47am

[Mount Temple] D. K. F. asks: "Are there any boats around you already?" No reply.


11.45pm [4.45]

1.47am

[Caronia] Hear MGY tho sigs unreadable


11.45pm

1.47am

[Frankfurt] Signals with DYA


11.47pm

1.49am

[???] "Baltic" tells "Titanic," "We are rushing to you."

Lord Mersey's report

11.49pm

1.51am

[Ypiranga] DFT ruft MGY


11.50 p.m.

1.52am

[Olympic] Message to Titanic: "Commander, Titanic. Am lighting up all possible boilers as fast as can, [Captain] Haddock."

Mount Temple reads this at 11.47pm: “M.K.C. sends M.S.G. to M.G.Y. M.G.Y. acknowledges it and sends Rd. ”

11.50pm

1.52am

[Baltic] From Baltic to Titanic: "Capt. Smith, Titanic - Baltic coming; we are 243 miles east."

Ypiranga records this at 11.44pm: “MBC ruft MGY” and at 11.47pm: “MBC sagt We are rushing to u”

11.52pm [4.52]

1.54am

[Caronia] Hear MGY tho sigs unreadable Still


11.55 p.m.

1.57am

[Olympic] Sable Island calling me with traffic. Told him to stand by for a while, as having urgent communication with Titanic.


11.55pm

1.57am

[??] Last signals heard from "Titanic" by "Carpathia," "Engine-room full up to boilers."

Lord Mersey's report

11.55pm

1.57am

[Mount Temple] D.F.T. and S.B.A. (Russian liner Birma) calling M.G.Y. No reply.


11.55pm [4.55]

1.57am

[Caronia] Hear the DFT wkg [working] to MGY - DFT according to position 172 miles from MGY at time first SOS sent out by the latter


11.57pm

1.59am

[??] "Caronia" hears M.G.Y. ("Titanic") though signals unreadable still

Lord Mersey's report

11.58pm

2.00am

[Asian] Titanic CQD SOS no one ans


11.58pm

2.00am

[Ypiranga] DFT ruft MGY


12.00am [5.00]

2.02am

[Caronia] MCE to some ship. You are much nearer to him than Olympic. He is already putting women off in boats and he says weather is clear and calm. MKC position 40 32 N 51 18 West & putting on all speed towards Titanic

Virginian records this at 11.50pm: “Cape Race says "MGN please tell yr Capn this:- The MKC is making all speed for MGY but his position is 40.32 N 61.18 W You are much nearer to him. He is already putting women off in boats and he says weather is clear and calm. MKC is the only one we have heard says is going to his assistance. The others must be a long way from MGY"” Lord Mersey's report say this at 12.00pm: “"Caronia" hears "Frankfurt" working to "Titanic." "Frankfurt" according to position 172 miles from M.G.Y. ("Titanic") at time first S.O.S. sent out. ”

12

2.02am

[Ypiranga] Es wird: stdbi [stand by] - stdbi - stdbi gegeben.


12.03

2.05am

[Asian] Called Titanic no ans


12.05

2.07am

[Virginian] Cape Race says "We have not heard MGY for about half an hour. His power may be gone"


12.10am

2.12am

[Mount Temple] M.K.C., D. F. T and M.B.C. calling M.G.Y. No reply.


12.10am

2.12am

[Virginian] Hear MGY calling very faintly. His power greatly reduced.


12.10am

2.12am

[Frankfurt] Communication with steamship Birma bound east. (SBA)

The message from the Birma was as follows: "Pse [please] who is MGY what is your position and speed?" The Frankfurt replied, "Position 49.47N, lon 40 10W [sic]. MGY is the new White Star Liner Titanic OM [Old Man]".

12.10am

2.12am

[Baltic] Signals Amerika and Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm

Presumably no reply from either ship.

12.10am [5.10]

2.12am

[Caronia] M[unreadable] de MSP. CQD MGY from Titanic via CQ. Position 41 46 N 50 14 W we require assistance struck iceberg Titanic MS[P?] de MSC [unreadable] Yesterday April 13th we passed several icebergs in Lat 41.20N fm 49 to 50 W.


12.10am ??

[02.00]

2.12am

[Birma] Standing by taking turns with Mr.Ward operator of Estonia who is on board Birma. No further signals from MGY


12.11am [5.11]

2.13am

[Caronia] MSP de MSC OK rd [received].


12.16am

[5.16]

2.18am

[Caronia] MBC calling MKC


12.20am

[Virginian] Hear two 'V's' signalled faintly in spark similar to MGY. Probably adjusting spark.

See below for a discussion on the timing of this message.

12.25am

[Mount Temple] S.B.A. tells D.F.T. he is 70 miles from M.G.Y.

2.30am LT Birma: Several ships calling MGY, no reply. Fear it is serious. Spoke MGY, going full speed. Spoke DFT port of reg Bremen for confirmation of Titanic. DFT states it is Titanic.

12.27am

[Virginian] MGY calls CQ. Unable to make out his signal. Ended very abruptly as if power suddenly switched off. His spark rather blurred or ragged. (Called MGY suggested switching to emergency set but no response)

Virginian, Times newspaper, 22/4/12: “At 1.57 a.m. (ship's time), 5.27 (Greenwich time) [12.27am], the Titanic's signals ceased abruptly, as if the power had suddenly been cut off. ”. See below for a discussion on the timing of this message.

12.30 a.m.


[Olympic] Signals with the S. S. Helig Olav. His signals strong. Asked if he knows anything of Titanic. He says, "No." Keeping strict watch, but hear nothing more from Titanic. Calling Sable Island at intervals. No reply from him.


12.30am


[Asian] Cld Sable Is no ans


12.34am [5.34]


[Caronia] MBC calling CQ


12.36am


[Asian] Cld Sable Is no ans


12.39am [5.39]


[Caronia] From MGN "Here is confirmation for what we have already said. MSG Cape Race to Capt. Gambell. Titanic struck iceberg require immediate assistance her position 41 46 N 50 14 W (sigs becoming faint) --- sinking and ---


12.45am [5.45]


[Caronia] MBC calling MKC


12.47am


[Asian] Olympic calls Sable Is no ans


12.49am [5.49]


[Caronia] From DFR - 38 12 49 57 [message is in unreadable German] to Capt DFT MSG 1 16 Ypiranga position [2?] am 38 12 49 57 [rest of message in unreadable German]

DFR would seem to be the Ypiranga: her position was 38 12 N, 49 37 (or 57 W).

12.50am


[Mount Temple] All quiet now. M.G.Y. hasn't spoken since 11.47 p.m.


12.50am


[Asian] cld Olympic no ans


12.50am


[Cape Race] Virginian says last he heard of Titanic was at 12:27 am when latters signals were blurred and ended abruptly. From now on boats working amongst themselves relative to Titanic disaster. Nothing more heard from Titanic.

Virginian records this at 12.45am: “1 from MCE (MSG)”

1.05am


[Baltic] Virginian now calling Titanic and Olympic.


1.05am [6.5]


[Caronia] MBC calling MGN. MGN de MBC 240 east at 11pm when did she strike


1.10am


[Baltic] sigs Virginian

Virginian records this as “1.15am Exchange sigs Baltic. he tries send us MSG for MGY but his sigs died utterly away.”

1.25am


[Mount Temple] M.P.A. sends: "If you are there, we are firing rockets."

Caronia receives this at 1.16am [6.16 Greenwich time in original log] “firing rockets - there - "we are firing rockets" from unknown station " … here lookout for rockets".”

1.30am? [3.20 LT]


[Birma] MGT calls SBA requires to know if any further news of Titanic. Nil.


1.35am


[??] "Baltic" sent 1 M.S.G. to "Virginian" for "Titanic."

Lord Mersey's report

1.37am [6.37]


[Caronia] DK[F?] calling


1.40am


[Mount Temple] M.P.A. calling M.G.Y.


1.5[3?]2 [6.32]


[Caronia] MSG de S with Titanic from Captain Baltic via MGN Baltic coming we are 234 miles east. Commander send that via MKC or to MGY soon as possible.




[Birma] Called MGY. No reply

This was called twice by the Birma, at 3.35 and 4.00am local time.

1.58am


[Mount Temple] S.B.A. thinks he hears M.G.Y., so sends "Steaming full speed to you; shall arrive you 6 in the morning. Hope you are safe. We are only 50 miles now."


2.00am


[Mount Temple] M.P.A. calls M.G.Y.

1.55am ? [3.45 LT] Called MGY. No reply

2.00am [7.0]


[Caronia] stations working in distance but unreadable


2.00am


[Ypiranga] Habe MGY seit 11.50 pm nicht mehr gehort.


2.10am


[Baltic] Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm calls C.Q. I tell him standby on phones and not call.


2.10am ? [4.00am LT]


[Birma] DFT calls SBA, asks if we can hear MGY. Cannot hear any signals. Expect to reach MGY about 7.00


2.10am [7.10]


[Caronia] CQ from DKF


2.11am [7.11]


[Caronia] M[S?]P calls DKF. MS[P?] de MLC nil MS[P?] do MLC "At this - I have heard the MDC sending this mge [message] to MGN [Y?]– To Captain Smith Titanic. Baltic coming. We are 234 miles east - Nobody has heard MGY since about two hours. OK trs [transmitted] MLC OK DKF is about 250 miles astern of us now. He was calling CQ CQ few minutes ago but I could not get him. Is possible he has not received the CQD message. If you can get him please retransmit it on. MSP OK Trs will try and get DDK MS[C?] OK last night I heard MCE calling you with S - S - MSP. OK will look out. MSC


2.15am


[Baltic] trs Frankfurt


2.15am


[Virginian] Sigs Russian American liner 'Birma' says he is 55 miles from Titanic but cannot hear anything of him

Virginian: Times newspaper reports on 22/4/12 “At 3.45 a.m [2.15 NYT]. I was in touch by wireless with the Russian steamer Birma, and gave her the Titanic's position, she was then 55 miles from the Titanic, and going to her assistance.”

2.20am [7.20]


[Caronia] MSC calling DKF


2.23am [7.23am]


[Celtic] ML[P?] says "Nobody has heard MGY for about two hours. ML[P?] asks me to send MSG to DKF & also says MCE has "S" for me - unable get DKF.

Lord Mersey's report puts this at 2.28am. ML[P?] is probably La Provence; the Celtic's PV is unclear.

2.52am [7.52]


[Caronia] MSP de MLC. MSC de MSPK. MSC asks MLC if he can get MSG to Titanic. MSP replies no refers MSC to DKF and MRA


3.00am


[Mount Temple] All quiet; we're stopped amongst pack ice.


3.05am


[Mount Temple] S.B.A. and D.F.T. working.


3.05am


[Baltic] Eastport. Me. (station on Bay of Fundy) asks Frankfurt re C.Q.D. calls (he was jambing me at 11.05 p.m.).


3.10am ?

[5.00 LT]


[Birma] MGN spoke SBA. Exchanged positions and inquiries for MGY.


3.20am


[Mount Temple] S.B.A. and D.F.T. working. We back out of ice and cruise around. Large bergs about.


3.24am


[Ypiranga] 3.24 SBA (Birma) sagt "We are 30 miles off MGY"


3.24am


S.B.A. ("Birma") says we are 30 miles S.W. off "Titanic."

Lord Mersey's report

3.25am


[Mount Temple] M.W.L. calls C.Q. I answer him and advise him of M.G.Y. and send him M.G.Y.'s position.


3.30am [8.30]


[Celtic] Send MSG to MPA for MGY


3.35am


[??] "Celtic" sends message to "Caronia" for the "Titanic." "Caronia" after trying for two hours to get through to the "Titanic" tells the "Celtic" impossible to clear his message to "Titanic." "Celtic" then cancels message.

Lord Mersey's report

3.40am


[Mount Temple] M.W.L. working D.F.T.; D.F.T. sends him the same.


3.45am


"Californian" exchanges signals with M.L.Q. ("Mount Temple"). He gave position of "Titanic."

Lord Mersey's report

4.00am


[Mount Temple] M.W.L. working M.G.N.

Virginian, Times 22/4/12: At 5.45 a.m [4.15]. I was in communication with the Leyland liner Californian. She was 17 miles north of the Titanic, and had not heard anything official of the disaster. I sent a Marconigram to her as follows :- 'Titanic struck iceberg, wants assistance urgently, ship sinking, passengers in boats, her position lat. 41.46, long. 50.14' Shortly after this I was in communication with the Carpathia, the Frankfurt, and the Baltic, all making for the Titanic.” “At 6.10am [4.40am] I sent a Marconigram to the Californian :- 'Kindly let me know condition of affairs when you get to Titanic.' She at once replied :- 'Can now see Carpathia taking passengers on board from small boats. Titanic foundered about 2 a.m.' “
Lord Mersey's report says, at 4.10am: “"Californian" receives M.S.G. from M.G.N ("Virginian"). ”

4.15-5.20am


[Olympic] tfc [traffic] with MSD. Now daylight. Ask MCE via MSD what news MGY


4.25am


[Mount Temple] M.W.L. working S.B.A.

4.10am ? 6.00am LT [Birma] MWL calls, proceeding from Boston, informs she is only 15 miles away from position given by Titanic. Birma 22 miles.

5.05am


[Baltic] Signals Carpathia, Unable to work owing to persistent jamming by Californian, who is talking all the time.


5.10am


[Asian] cld [called] CQ no ans. Cld Sable Is no ans


5.19am


[Asian] La Bretagne calls Sable Is.


5.20am


[Mount Temple] Sigs. M.W.L.; wants my position; send it. We're very close.


5.25am


[Asian] Sigs La Bretagne OK


5.25am [10.25]


[Celtic] MRA says cannot get message through to MGY by any means. Told him to cancel it.


5.26am


[Asian] Olympic La Bretagne


5.28am


[Asian] La Bretagne wkg Olympic


5.30am


[Baltic] Californian persists in talking to steamship Birma such remarks as "Do you see a four-master salmon, pink smoke-stack, steamer around," etc. Impossible for us to work.

5.40am ? [6.30 LT] [Birma] “MWL calls CQ. SBA answers inquiring for Titanic. No news.” The Californian was also in touch with the Frankfurt at about this time; the latter ship said "we are 30 or 40 miles off. We are steaming as fast as we can". The Californian replied "We are steaming full speed now."

5.30am


[Olympic] TR La Bretagne sends ice MLB [?] report same as the "G.Washington"


5.30am? [7.20am LT]


[Birma] Sight icebergs. Warn ships aft of us. Titanic believed to be in sight (prove to [be] icebergs instead)

Sam Halpern suggests that this was timed at 7.15am on the Birma, based on a reading of the almost illegible original PV.

5.32am


[Asian] wkg [working with] Olympic OK

Olympic says at 5.40am, “TR Asian with German old tanker MKL (?) in tow for Halifax. Asked what news of MGY? Sends service later saying "heard MGY v.faint wkg C.Race up to 10pm local time. Finished callg. SOS midnight"

5.45am


[Baltic] Antillian calls C.Q. Told to stand by.


5.50am


[Asian] La Bretagne clg Sable Is no ans


6.00am


[Mount Temple] Much jamming. M.P.A.+ M.W.L. in sight

Judging by the difference in the sharpness of the pencilled entry compared to other contemporaneous entries, “M.P.A.+ M.W.L. in sight” was added sometime after 7.15am

6.05am


[??] "Parisian" exchanges TRs "Virginian" O.K. nil. Informed Captain Haines what I heard passing between ships regard steaming "Titanic," and he decided not to return as M.P.A. ("Carpathia") was there, and
"Californian" was 50 miles astern of us but requested me to stand by in case required.

Lord Mersey's report

6.10am


[Asian] cls [?] La Bretagne OK


6.10am? [8.00 LT]


[Birma] all CQ. MWL answers, says MPA has picked up 20 boat loads.

The Carpathia had picked up all 20 boats by 8.20-8.30am local time.

6.12am


[Asian] La Bretagne cls Sable Is no ans


6.19am


[Asian] La Bretagne Sable Is wkg OK


6.45am


[Mount Temple] M.P.A. reports rescued 20 boatloads.

Marconi Inspector Gilbert Balfour testified at the Senate Inquiry that he received the following message at about 6.30am: "The Titanic has gone down with all hands, as far as we know, with the exception of 20 boatloads, which we have picked up. Number not accurately fixed yet. We can not see any more boats about at all." In reply, Captain Ranson asks, "Can I be of any assistance to you as regards taking some of the passengers from you? Will be in the position about 4.30. Let me know if you alter your position."

6.55am


[Baltic] Signals Carpathia but can do nothing for jambing [jamming] by Californian and Birma, who are carrying on long, irrelevant conversations.


6.55am


[Asian] 1 to Sable Is OK


7.01


[Asian] 1 to Sable Is OK


7.10am


[Baltic] In communication with Carpathia exchange traffic re passengers and get instructions to proceed Liverpool. We turn round at 7.15 a. m. We have come west 134 miles.

7.07 a.m.

From Baltic to captain, Carpathia. Can I be of any assistance to you as regards taking some of the passengers from you. Will be at the position about 4.30. Let me know if you alter your position."

COMMANDER. "BALTIC."

7.10 a.m.

From captain Carpathia to captain Baltic: "Am proceeding for Halifax or New York full speed. You had better proceed to Liverpool. Have about 800 passengers aboard."

GILBERT W. BALFOUR, care Marconi.


7.15am


[Mount Temple] More jamming


7.20am


[Asian] 1 to Sable Is OK


7.30am


[Mount Temple] M.B.C. sends S.G. to M.W.L.: "Stand by immediately. You have been instructed to do so frequently. Balfour. inspector."


7.35am


[Asian] Sigs Olympic OK


7.40am


[Mount Temple] M.P.A. calls C.Q. and says: "No need to stand by him; nothing more can be done." Advise my captain, who has been cruising around the ice field with no result. Ship reversed. Standing by rest of day. M.P.A. and M.K.C. very busy.


7.45am


[??] "Olympic" sent M.S.G. to Owners, New York via Sable Island, saying, "Have not communicated with 'Titanic' since midnight."

Lord Mersey's report

7.55am


[??] "Carpathia" replies to "Baltic," "Am proceeding to Halifax or New York full speed. You had better proceed to Liverpool. Have about 800 passengers on board."

Lord Mersey's report

8.10am


[Frankfurt] We arrived at the unlucky place but MGY had already sunk. 20 boats were picked up by MPA. I am searching for the rest of the boats [sic].


8.30am


[Virginian] Standing bi (both operators) all night during which we exchanged sigs and compared positions with Californian - Frankfurt, Parisian and Carpathia all going to assistance of MGY.
At 8am Carpathia said: "Tell your skipper we are leaving here with all on board - about 800 passengers. Everything OK. Please return to your northern course"

Virginian, Times 22/4/12: At 10 a.m [8.30]. I received the following message from the Carpathia:- 'Turn back, everything OK, we have 800 on board, return to your northern track.' At the same time the Carpathia sent the following message to the Baltic :- 'Am leaving here with all on board, about 800, chiefly third-class, and a lot of stewards, proceed on your voyage to Liverpool, we are proceeding to Halifax or New York under full steam.' I then altered my course to the eastward and proceeded on my voyage.””



Titanic's final wireless message.

The Titanic's final message, picked up by the Virginian at 2.17am Titanic time was a CQD call. Given that the Titanic is generally assumed to have sunk just three minutes later, is this "2.17am" timing right? This author seemed sceptical. Had the Virginian picked up another station's CQ call and mistaken it for the Titanic's? This seems unlikely. The wireless installation on the Titanic resulted in a very distinctive musical note when received by external stations. Were the Titanic's and Virginian's on board clocks in perfect unison. This is unknown. The Titanic had two clocks in the wireless office, one for New York Time and one for local, on-board, ship's time. There may have been a minute or two's difference between these ship's clocks. The Virginian's timing of 2.17am may really be 2.15am on the Titanic...or maybe 2.19am?

Sam Halpern has argued - very persuasively - that the time difference between the Titanic and New York was 2 hours and 2 minutes. This is based on the noon longitude of the ship on April 14th. This puts the Virginian's message as being timed at 2.19am on the Titanic. This would be too late, unless the identification of the "CQ" message on the Virginian was a mistake.

1 hour and 50 minutes would be a longitude of 47.5 degrees west; 2 hours and 2 minutes would be 44.5 degrees west. The first of these longitudes would only be achieved after 5.50pm on April 14th, when the Titanic changed course from south west to nearly due west.

If the 1 hour and 50 minute time difference between NYT and the Titanic is correct (as Lord Mersey used in his report), does the three minute gap between the 'last' message and the foundering seem feasible? Let us analyse what people were said to have done in these three minutes.

Let us commence by analysing what Titanic's Junior Marconi operator Harold Bride had to say. His first statements upon arrival in New York were printed in The New York Times on April 19th 1912. The relevant section says:

"I saw a collapsible boat near a funnel and went over to it. Twelve men were trying to boost it down to the boat deck. They were having an awful time. It was the last boat left. I looked at it longingly a few minutes. Then I gave them a hand, and over she went. They all started to scramble in on the boat deck, and I walked back to Phillips. I said the last raft had gone. Then came the Captain's voice: "Men, you have done your full duty. You can do no more. Abandon your cabin. Now it's every man for himself. You look out for yourselves. I release you. That's the way of it at this kind of a time. Every man for himself."
I looked out. The boat deck was awash. Phillips clung on sending and sending. He clung on for about ten minutes or maybe fifteen minutes after the Captain had released him. The water was then conning into our cabin. While he worked something happened I hate to tell about. I was back in my room getting Phillips's money for him, and as I looked out the door 1 saw a stoker, or somebody from below decks, leaning over Phillips from behind. He was too busy to notice what the man was doing. The man was slipping the life belt off Phillips's back.
He was a big man, too. As you can see, I am very small. I don't know what it was I got hold of. I remembered in a flash the way Phillips had clung on -- how I had to fix that life belt in place because he was too busy to do It.
I knew that man from below decks had his own life belt and should have known where to get it. I suddenly felt a passion not to let that man die a decent sailor's death. I wished he might have stretched rope or walked a plank. I did my duty. I hope I finished him. I don't know. We left him on the cabin floor of the wireless room and he was not moving.
From aft came the tunes of the band. It was a rag-time tune, I don't know what, Then there was "Autumn." Phillips ran aft and that was the last I ever saw of him alive.
I went to the place I had seen the collapsible boat on the boat deck, and to my surprise I saw the boat and the men still trying to push it off. I guess there wasn't a sailor in the crowd. They couldn't do it. I went up to them and was just lending a hand when a large wave came awash of the deck.
The big wave carried the boat off. I had hold of an oarlock and I went off with It. The next I knew I was in the boat.
But that was not all. I was in the boat and the boat was upside down and I was under it. And I remember realizing I was wet through, and that whatever happened I must not breathe, for I was under water.
I knew I had to fight for it and I did. How l got out front under the boat I do not know, but I felt a breath of air at last. There were men all around me -- hundreds of them. The sea was dotted with them, all depending on their life belts. I felt I simply had to get away from the ship. She was a beautiful sight then. Smoke and sparks were rushing out of her funnel. There must have been an explosion, but we had heard none. We only saw the big stream of sparks. The ship was gradually turning on her nose --just like a duck does that goes down for a dive. I had only one thing on my mind -- to get away from the suction. The band was still playing. I guess all of the band went down.
They were playing "Autumn" then. I swam with all my might. I suppose I was 150 feet away when the Titanic, on her nose, with her after-quarter sticking straight up in the air, began to settle slowly."

This section can be dissected mercilessly.

To start, comparing this account with his later testimony at the US and British Inquiries, Bride's account in the New York Times describes how to helped to pitch the boat onto the deck, then he walks back to tell his senior that the last boat had gone. But his later testimonies reveal that he never let the boat out of his sight, and he never went back to his cabin after the raft had been hurled to the deck below.

Then, Bride says that "he looked out" to see the deck was awash. Unless Bride went outside again, this was not possible. The Marconi cabin was an interior room, with no window, just a sky-light. And if Bride had gone outside, he would have seen that the afore referenced boat was still on the deck.

Phillips is last seen running aft, but Bride recounted later how Phillips was with him until the boat was on the boat deck. Then there is the mention of water coming into the cabin. This is impossible. The following diagram is instrumental.


(Detailed deck plans can be purchased here)

The boat was initially on top of the officers quarters, as denoted on the diagram; it would have fallen down practically vertically onto the boat deck, abreast of the first funnel. For water to have reached the door of the Marconi cabin, it means that the waterlevel would have had to have been at the same level as the door, or higher. And, thanks to Sam Halpern's excellent research, we know that the Titanic had a 10o list to port at this time. The two waterlines are depicted on the diagram. If this were truly the case, not only would Bride and Phillips have not been able to get to the boat deck using their "normal route" (via the port side door to the officer's quarters) but the boat would have floated off by the now and whole deck in that area would be underwater. The green line indicates alternate escape routes from the officer quarters but there is nothing in any of the testimony that states that these paths were taken.
The remainder of the account reproduced above follows fairly well that Bride told his interrogators in the US and Britain. Whether the discrepancies in the New York Times account is due to Bride, the reporter or the editor will probably never be known. The above analysis shows that elements of it are fantasy, devoid of reality.

The table below reconciles the stories of four survivors, who each told of a wave of water that swamped those on the decks. Because of the large list to port, we can assemble the accounts chronologically, with Lightoller the first to enter the sea, then Bride on the portside at the boat he had helped to throw onto the deck. Then, Gracie is inundated and then finally Collins. With the wave rushing along the deck, it is now possible to use this as stopwatch when comparing events.

Lightoller reported in the US that the Bridge was just about level with the crows nest when the former dipped under the water. From this source we have Sam Halpern's excellent diagram:

According to this picture, on an even keel, Gracie would have entered the water at roughly the same time as Lightoller did.

The chronology starts just slightly before the "final" transmission at 2.17am.

Charles Lightoller

Harold Bride

Colonel Gracie

John Collins


Phillips and Bride are released by Captain Smith; Phillips gave another call of C.Q.D and had an answer. Bride is unclear if he had an answer [US; in Britain, he says, “but I could read what he was sending, and I judged that the "Carpathia" and the "Frankfurt" had both called up together, and the "Frankfurt" had persisted in calling and was interfering with Mr. Phillips in reading the "Carpathia's" message.” The Frankfurt's message is angrily dismissed, and the Carpathia is told that they were abandoning ship. Phillips then called once or twice more, but there were no replies as the power was failing]
A scuffle ensued in the Marconi cabin when a stoker attempted to steal John Phillips lifejacket. Bride and Phillips leave the cabin and go on to the port side of the Titanic.[In the US, Bride says that the motor and alternator were working ten minutes before the ship went down when they left the cabin, although the spark was impaired. Bride's report to the Marconi Office in New York says, “now we could hear the water washing over the boat deck, and Mr. Phillips said, "Come, let's clear out."” They then left the cabin.]

Meanwhile the crew were trying to launch a boat [on the starboard side], a collapsible canvas boat.. This was let down from the bridge deck, and we tried to slide it along those oars that they put in there for that purpose. There was no other boat at that time being lowered from the deck davits. Finally this boat came down on the deck. I do not know whether it was injured or not by the fall, but we were afraid that it had been injured. One of the men on the deck, when loosening this boat from the hurricane deck, called out, "Is there any passenger who has a knife?" I said I had my penknife, if that would do, and I passed that up.[In his book, Gracie mentions that there was a call for seamen on the starboard side, and "quite a few left"] [Presumably they left to help lower the portside boat down? - Paul]

Then the word came around from the starboard side there was a collapsible boat getting launched on the starboard side and that all women and children were to make for it. So me and another steward and the two children and the woman came around on that side, the starboard side, and when we got around there we saw then that it was forward. We saw the collapsible boat taken off of the saloon deck, and then the sailors and the firemen that were forward seen the ship's bow in the water and seen that she was intending to sink her bow, and they shouted out for all they were worth we were to go aft, and word came there was a boat getting launched, so we were told to go aft...”

Finished on the port side [when Boat B fell to the boat deck?], Lightoller goes to the starboard side while still on top of the officer's quarters to see if he could assist; he sees Murdoch on the boat deck, working on the falls...."there was nothing more to be done. From on top, [he] was practically midships; a little to the starboard side..immediately at the fore part of the forward funnel... The ship then took a dive, and I turned face forward and also took a dive.” At about this time, “the crow's nest was level with the water when the bridge went under water.” In London, he says, “I was swimming out towards the head of the ship, the crow's-nest. I could see the crow's-nest. The water was intensely cold, and one's natural instinct was to try to get out of the water. I do not know whether I swam to the foremast with that idea, but of course I soon realised it was rather foolish, so I turned to swim across clear of the ship to starboard. The next thing I knew I was up against that blower on the fore part of the funnel. There is a grating.”

They see a collapsible boat on the roof above them and climb up to help with its lowering. Phillips is last seen walking aft. [in Britain, Bride says that the last he saw of his colleague, “he was standing on the deck-house”] The boat falls onto the deck. Bride clambers back to the boat deck.[Bride's Marconi report says, “I now assisted in pushing off a collapsible lifeboat, which was on the port side of the forward funnel, onto the boat deck. Just as the boat fell I noticed Capt. Smith dive from the bridge into the sea. Then followed a general scramble down on the boat deck, but no sooner had we got there than the sea washed over. I managed to catch hold of the boat we had previously fixed up and was swept overboard with her.” - the Bridge cannot have been inundated at this time for Smith to have dived from it.]

Soon after that the water came up on the boat deck. We saw it and heard it. [In his book Gracie says that, about 15 minutes after launch of last lifeboat on the port side he heard gurgling of water striking the bridge and going up the hatchway (staircase?) forward.]I had not noticed in the meantime that we were gradually sinking. I was engaged all the time in working, as I say, at those davits, trying to work on the falls to let this boat down. Mr. [Clinch] Smith and myself thought then that there was no more chance for us there, there were so many people at that particular point, so we decided to go toward the stern, and as we were going toward [there], to our surprise and consternation, up came from the decks below a mass of humanity, men and women - and we had thought that all the women were already loaded into the boats. The water was then right by us, and we tried to jump, Mr. Smith and myself did. We were in a sort of cul-de-sac which was formed by the cabin and the bridge, the structure that is right on the boat deck.”


Lightoller is immediately “driven [underwater and] back against a blower - which faces forward to the wind and which then goes down to the stokehole. But there is a grating there, and it was against this grating that I was sucked by the water and held there...And then this explosion, or whatever it was, took place. There was a terrific blast of air and water, and I was blown out clear. [It] barely threw me away at all [Lightoller also says in the US that he was “blown a considerable distance” from the blower], because I went down again against these fiddley gratings immediately abreast of the funnel over the stokehole.”Ligtholler presumes he was blown away from the Fiddley.

He is washed overboard by a wave. [In the US he says he grabbed hold of the boat and that this was 3-5 minutes before the Titanic sank.]





Mr. Smith jumped to try to reach the deck [above]. I jumped also. We were unsuccessful. Then the wave came and struck us … and then I rose as I would rise in bathing in the surf, and I gave a jump with the water, which took me right on the hurricane deck, and around that was an iron railing, and I grabbed that iron railing and held tight to it; and I looked around, and the same wave which saved me engulfed everybody around me. [In his book, Gracie says that this was near the base of the 2nd funnel].I turned to the right and to the left and looked. Mr. Smith was not there, and I could not see any of this vast mass of humanity. They had all disappeared.



He is now under the boat but swims from underneath it. [In the US, Bride says that he was under the boat for “three-quarters of an hour, or a half” - this must be a mistake! In Britain, he says 2 or 3 seconds.]


I was taken down with the ship, and hanging on to that railing, but I soon let go. I felt myself whirled around, swam under water, fearful that the hot water that came up from the boilers might boil me up [and I] swam it seemed to me with unusual strength, and succeeded finally in reaching the surface and in getting a good distance away from the ship.

...we were just turning around and making for the stern end when the wave washed us off the deck - washed us clear of it - and the child was washed out of my arms; and the wreckage and the people that was around me, they kept me down for at least two or three minutes under the water.”

Lightoller comes to the surface and emerges near the overturned boat B, now on the starboard side of the Titanic. He swims for it; there is no-one else on it. He holds on to a rope (?) attached to the boat. [In the US, he estimates this was 10 or 15 minutes before the Titanic sank]. The forward funnel falls, striking the swimmers in the water trying to get on to the boat. The falling funnel pushes everyone a considerable distance from the Titanic. When he gets to the boat there were people now on it. In London, Lightoller says, “It fell within 3 or 4 inches of the boat. It lifted the boat bodily and threw her about 20 feet clear of the ship as near as I could judge.”





He swims away from the Titanic and is 150 feet away when she sinks.


When I came to the surface I saw this boat that had been taken off [the starboard boat was “A”, Collins is referred to “B”. I saw a man on it. They had been working on it taking it off of the saloon deck, and when the waves washed it off the deck they clung to that; then I made for it when I came to the surface and saw it, and I swam over to it ...[I was] only about 4 or 5 yards off of it, and I swam over to it and I got on to it. There were more than 15 or 16 on it.” [When] I came to the surface, I happened to look around [at the Titanic] and I just saw the lights and nothing more.

[Lightoller seemed confused in London whether he could see any funnels: “The third if not the second funnel was still visible, certainly the third funnel was still visible. The stern was then clear of the water.” He then says, “some part of the [3rd] funnel [was visible]. As a matter of fact, I am rather under the impression that the whole of the third funnel was visible.” Lightoller said that he thought he was about level with the top of the 2nd funnel. Why was he not sure? The reason may be found in the next statements at the inquiry: Lightoller did not recall any lights on the ship at that point, so the funnels would be difficult to see except as silhouettes against the sky.Lightoller also did not see the stern settle against the water, or the third or fourth funnel fall. The first of these must have fallen at about this time as this part of the wreck is now disintegrated, and the fourth was seen to fall aft by crewman Dillon. In this author's opinion, the Titanic had already broken up and Lightoller just saw the final break-up of the amidships sections (accounting for the noises he heard) and its final plunge. Victor Sunderland, also on boat B, recounted later how Lightoller urged others to swim for the stern as it looked like it would float. Would he do that if he thought that the ship was going to sink imminently and both both and stern were still connected?


After he got into the boat he saw no lights on the Titanic.She exploded in the water... and her stern end was up out of the water; and with the explosion out of the water it blew her stern up. I am sure [the stern of the Titanic] floated for at least a minute.[Presumably Collins was underwater when the forward funnel fell; surely he would have mentioned it!]



I could not say [how long I was under water], because I could not see the ship. When I came up to the surface there was no ship there. The ship would then have been behind me, and all around me was wreckage. There was a sort of gulp, as if something had occurred, behind me, and I suppose that was where the water was closing up, where the ship had gone down; but the surface of the water was perfectly still, and there were, I say, this wreckage, and these bodies, and there were the horrible sounds of drowning people and people gasping for breath. While collecting the wreckage [to float on] together I got on a big wooden crate, or wood of that sort. I saw an upturned boat, and I struck out for that boat, and there I saw what I supposed were members of the crew on this upset boat. I grabbed the arm of one of them and pulled myself up on this boat. I saw what seemed to be bodies all around. I was among the first [to get onto the overturned boat]. I suppose the boat was then about half full...I suppose there must have been between 15 and 20.




Lightoller was on, or near the junction between the roof of the wheelhouse and the officers quarters. These areas are indicated on the picture below.

Being sucked down twice, and being in very close proximity to a funnel that was going to fall imminently, Lightoller was lucky to escape. As was Gracie; he was sucked down too, and like the 2nd Officer was close to a "blower" and fiddleys. He was also near to the glass dome of the forward first class staircase. When this imploded due to the weight of the water pressing on it, the suction would have been immense.

So, we now have the accounts of four people, three of whom were pulled underwater, and one of whom didn't see the ship sink at all. How long can a person hold their breath? This author tried an experiment; in a state of preparedness, and in a relaxed state, this author, a 38 year old non-smoker, managed to hold his breath for nearly 2 minutes before involuntary spasms ensued. Now imagine how long you could hold your breath if you were unprepared, and then were to struggle, expending precious oxygen as the water pressure increased...And Gracie was a diabetic, and the effect this would have on anyone's lungs, especially an older man like the colonel, are well understood by 21st century medicine.

Another unknown is how long it would take the "wave" to cascade along the decks. We have no data but from Gracie's account it seems to have moved rapidly. I would therefore posit that Lightoller, Bride, Gracie and then Collins entered the water within an extremely short space of time. It is possible that Gracie, being above Collins on the deck house near the 2nd funnel, was sucked down after him. Gracie therefore was under the water the greatest amount of time.
Given the scuffle with the stoker, and the time needed to hoist boat B from the roof of the officer's quarters, if the Virginian's last timed message is true, then Bride entered the water at about 2.18am. A strong swimmer (according to WikiAnswers) can swim 2 to 3 km an hour. If his 150 feet estimate of the distance was correct, then this adds about an extra minute to his timing. From this location in the water, he saw the Titanic sink. As he told his story in America, "The time was long enough to give me a chance of getting away from the Titanic itself.". If so, Bride was indeed fortunate. If the struggle with the stoker had not occurred, then he and Phillips may have continued to attempt to send more calls for assistance - and probably gone down with the ship.

My own reconstruction of events is as follows:


I have placed the "funnel collapses" twice in the chronology as I cannot determine when this should have occurred. If the above is correct, then not only does the Titanic sink extremely rapidly after the wave inundates the people on the boat deck (about 2 minutes), but it means that the estimates of people in the lifeboats for the amount of time it took for the severed stern to sink was incorrect (Lawrence Beesley, for instance, says "I think as much as five minutes, but it may have been less") - understandable given the effect that such tragic events have on our perception of time.

There is also some confusions about the Gracie account. Although he states that he did not see the ship sink, having resurfaced too late, he told the Bangor Daily Commercial (April 19th, 1912) that, "The second officer and J.B.Thayer, Jr. who were swimming near, told me that just before my head appeared above the water, one of the Titanic's funnels separated and fell apart near me, scattering bodies in the water." The Titanic did not sank at the same time as the fall of the funnel, so, if this account is true, perhaps we can say that Gracie, with waterlogged eyes and lungs screaming for air, was far more concerned in survival than absorbing the horrifying vista.

The only conclusion is that the Virginian's identification of the 2.17am message was in error. But we must also bear in mind how long a person can hold their breath. If the Titanic went down at 2.20am (Gracie's watch said 2.22am) and the maximum amount of time that a person could stop themselves from expending energy and oxygen underwater is 2 minutes, this would mean that Gracie, for one, went under water at about 2.20am (by his watch). The last message sent from the Titanic was at 12.10am New York Time, heard again by the Virginian but this is in question as no other vessel listening patiently heard the Titanic. In a 2 hour 2 minute time gap, this would be 2.12am, plausible for the Titanic's sinking, giving an extra 8 minutes before the foundering. But we must question this basic tenet too. When was the last undiputable message actually received from the Titanic? Harold Bride's testimony is unfortunately vague, but it may have been about 11.55pm, when the Carpathia heard about the "engine room full up to the boilers [sic]"; five minutes later the Frankfurt was in touch with the Titanic. Nearly every station soon before this and afterwards reported having lost contact with her. 12.00 midnight equates to 2.02am on the Titanic; more than enough time for the scuffle with the stoker, then to help with the boat on the roof and then for Bride to be washed overboard and witness the end of the Titanic. The Virginian's "final" message, at 2.17am by the tradition story, leaves no time for any of this.

Additionally, consider the proximity of the Virginian. She only ever heard directly from the Titanic once, at 11.10pm and thereafter was forced to receive messages relayed from other stations. Is it likely that in the last few minutes, the Virginian was finally able to hear the final exchanges, which were unheard by any other ship? Harold Cottam of the Carpathia was asked about this and he denied hearing the messages. This is not to call the Virginian's wireless operator a liar; as we shall see below, his assumption about the origin of the transmissions may have been in error.

A few other points need to be raised: the Virginian states that when she heard the final message, it was 12.27am New York Time. For 2 hours and 2 minutes time difference, this is 2.29am on the Titanic; obviously far too late. Then there is the notion of what was heard; the Virginian says he heard two "V's" faintly signalling. This is " ...- ...-" In 1914, Marconi General Orders for Wireless Operators gave instructions that a receiving station was to transmit "dot dot dot dash dot" twenty times during which time the requester adjusts his set, to fine-tune it for reception. This is very similar to what the Virginian heard. Did she pick up a fragment of a ground station tuning up, and soon thereafter hear a "CQ" from it, as a newly operated station would do, and mistake these transmissions for those from the Titanic? I have been unable to ascertain if this directive from 1914 was also in operation two years previously, but this hypothesis is plausible.Given the lack of corroboration from any other vessel, the Virginian's claims must be considered unreliable.

Titanic's first wireless message.

With some conclusions governing the timing of the final wireless message, let us look at when the first was sent out. Relative to New York, this was at 10.25pm, or 12.27am on the Titanic, or over 3/4s of an hour after the collision. This seems extremely late. Is there any reason for this large delay?

If we combine Bride's testimony in America and England, we get the basic story:
Bride was in bed at the time of the collision and slept right through it. Waking of his own accord, he arose at either 11.45 or 11.55pm. Wearing only his pyjamas, Bride walked out of the quiet and met his superior. Enquiring how Phillips was getting on, Bride was told that had just finished sending a big batch of telegrams to Cape Race, and that he thought that the ship had become damaged in some way, perhaps necessitating a trip back to Harland and Wolff's shipyard. After a brief return to his cabin to get dressed, Bride took over the watch from Phillips, who entered the cabin to retire.
The Captain then entered the Marconi cabin and told the two Marconi operators that they had better get assistance, using the distress call (CQD). Providing the two men with the ship's position, the Captain then left them. Phillips went to the transmission key, and immediately sent the distress call.
Tapping out CQD and MGY about half a dozen times each, and "immediately" a reply was received, from the Frankfurt. The next reply was from the Carpathia. The Olympic and the Baltic were the next to respond to the stricken giant.
"Somewhere in the vicinity of" ten minutes had elapsed between him rousing and the first call for help, Bride said in America, and there was "about 2 hours difference" between New York and local time. Bride was relaying these messages to the Captain, who was assisting in the loading and lowering of the lifeboats. Also, according to Bride, "the noise of escaping steam directly over our cabin caused a deal of trouble to Mr. Phillips in reading the replies to our distress call, and this I also reported to Capt. Smith, who by some means managed to get it abated."

There is something terribly awry in Bride's account. The first ship to answer the distress call was the Mount Temple at 10.25pm (12.27), then the Asian 9 minutes later. At 10.35pm (12.37) came the Carpathia. The Frankfurt would finally chime in 5 minutes later. The Olympic would be in touch at 11.00pm (1.02am). It is sometimes hard to determine from the PV collection above who simply heard the CQD call, who replied and who simply relayed messages on. But a few general points can be made (a) Bride's memory of receiving stations is faulty and (b) his recollection of the timing must be inaccurate. If the first message was sent out shortly after 12.00pm on the Titanic, and received by the Carpathia at 10.35pm, this means a time difference between the Titanic and New York of just over 1 hour 30 minutes. Even though there is some little evidence of a 1 hour 33 minute difference, it is not very convincing.

What can be said about Bride's claim that the Frankfurt was the first ship to respond, a statement not borne out by the wireless logs of the other ships? The Frankfurt was actually the 8th station to get the C.Q.D. and the 4th to reply that she was coming, and this was after the Carpathia and others, only some of which Bride mentioned in evidence. It should be noted that the first pre-C.Q.D. contact between the Titanic and the Frankfurt was at about 10.25pm, when the former ship asked his counterpart on the Frankfurt to "get his position." This was done, and 15 minutes later (a reasonable time considering that the bridge crew would have to compute the location), the Titanic replied with her own position and asked the Frankfurt to come to her assistance. There is nothing in the wireless log of the Frankfurt to indicate any urgency in the 10.25pm message; if the operator has missed the actual C.Q.D. calls, he may have thought the request to get his position was a routine call. Phillips may have thought that the Frankfurt had heard the distress calls; if this hypothesis is right, the Frankfurt would indeed be one of the very first to respond, corroborating Bride. But Bride is seriously incorrect when he says the Frankfurt never provided his own ship's position; as can be seen above, the Mount Temple, the Ypiranga and the La Provence all heard it at various times that night, proving that it had been sent twice. We can only presume that Bride was not able to listen to what his senior was receiving.

When Bride was queried about this gap between the Titanic and Carpathia timings in America, he put it down to the difference in the two ship's clocks. In London, he changed his story:
Q. I do not know whether you can help us at all with regard to the time a little more than you have. You have told us you came up at 12 o'clock, and that then you heard this conversation between the Captain and Mr. Phillips. Could you give us any idea of the time - how long had elapsed after your coming up at 12 o'clock, or coming into the room with Mr. Phillips?
A. Not with any accuracy.
Q. Give us the best estimate you can?
A. I do not think I could.

...and judging by the questions, there was some suspicion on the part of the British interrogators about the accuracy of Bride's story. But Bride did provide one small piece of confirmation: when asked, "do you agree that 5.20 New York time would mean on your ship something like half-past 7?" Bride agreed.

Now, compare the above story with Bride's account in the New York Times:

I remembered how tired he was and I got out of bed without my clothes on to relieve him. I didn't even feel the shock. I hardly, knew it had happened after the Captain had come to us. There was no jolt whatever.
I was standing by Phillips telling him to go to bed when the Captain put his head in the cabin.
"We've struck an ice berg," the Captain said, "and I'm having an inspection made to tell what it has done for us. You better get ready to send out a call for assistance. But don't send it until I tell you."
The Captain went away and in 10 minutes, I should estimate the time he came back. - We could hear a terrible confusion outside, but there was not the least thing to indicate that there was any trouble. The wireless was working perfectly.
"Send the call for assistance." ordered the Captain, barely putting his head in the door.
"What call should I send?" Phillips asked.
"The regulation international call for help. Just that."
Then the Captain was gone. Phillips began to send "C.Q.D." He flashed away at it and we joked while he did so. All of us made light of the disaster. We joked that way while he flashed signals for about five minutes. Then the Captain came back.
"What are you sending? " he asked.
"C. Q. D.," Phillips replied.
The humour of the situation appealed to me. I cut in with a little remark that made us all laugh, including the Captain.
"Send ' S. O. S." I said. "it's the new call, and it may be your last chance to send it."
Phillips with a laugh changed the signal to "S. O.S.' The Captain told us we had been struck amidships, or just back of amidships. It was ten minutes, Phillips told me, after he had noticed the ' Iceberg, that the slight jolt that was the collision's only signal to us occurred. We thought we were a good distance away.
We said lots of funny things to each other in the next few minutes. We picked up first the 'steamship Frankfurd [sic]. We gave her our position and said we had struck an iceberg and needed assistance. The Frunkfurd operator went away to tell his Captain. He came back and we told him we were sinking by the head. By that time we could observe a distinct list forward.
The Carpathia answered our signal. We told her our position ,and said we were sinking by the head. The operator went to tell the Captain, and in five minutes returned and told us that the Captain of the Carpathia was putting about and heading for us.

Now, we have the Captain visiting the Marconi cabin twice, on the first occasion telling his operators that an inspection was underway. Then, later, the Captain makes his own visit to the cabin, whereas Bride always talked of him relaying the messages from Phillips to Smith. Finally, the Captain is reported to have said that the damage was amidships. He would surely have known that the iceberg damage was limited to the front 1/3rd of his ship. Of interest is the fact if this conversation did occur as reported, it must have been at 12.57am on the Titanic, and more than "five minutes" had elapsed between the first transmission of CQD and the start of the usage of SOS.

In short, there are elements of Bride's stories that raise suspicions; indeed, at the British Inquiry, a sarcastic comment was made by Sir Rufus Isaacs, the Attorney-General, "that one likes to be satisfied we have got hold of the same gentleman who gave evidence in America," such was the disdain over discrepancies between his British and American evidence.

When did the Captain visit the wireless cabin?

Quatermaster Alfred Olliver's Story
Olliver arrived on the bridge from his duty amidships in time to see the top of the iceberg gliding past the boat deck. Captain Smith enquired what had happened, and ordered 1st Officer Murdoch to close the watertight doors; Murdoch had already performed this operation. The ship was almost stopped when Captain Smith telegraphed half speed ahead.
The Captain ordered Olliver to find the carpenter and take a draft of the water in the ship. Olliver found him in the forward part of the "working alleyway" on E deck, who told him that he was already doing it.


E deck (amidships) on the Titanic

Reporting back to the Captain, Olliver was given another message to take to the chief engineer. Upon being told by the engineer that he would "do it [what? we don't know] as soon as possible", Olliver returned to the bridge and was ordered by the Chief Officer to assist in preparing the lifeboats.

Could Smith have gone to the wireless office while Olliver was away? It seems unlikely during the first trip below decks. Smith did not know how badly the ship was damaged, hence the need for a report from the carpenter, so it is unlikely he would order a call for assistance. As for the second journey, to the engine room, it is possible.

How long was Olliver below looking for the carpenter? 5 minutes? And how long did the carpenter spend sounding the ship? These are pertinent questions when considering the next in our list of witnesses.

4th Officer Joseph Boxhall's Story

Arriving on the bridge shortly before Olliver, Boxhall was just in time to see Murdoch close the watertight doors. Boxhall, Murdoch and the Captain walked to the starboard wing on the bridge to look for the iceberg, which was now astern.
Seemingly of his own volition, Boxhall went down to the forward portion of the ship on F deck and above, looking for any indication that the ship was damaged. He found none but noticed that the manually operated watertight doors on F were still open, as was the door to the starboard 1st class area on E deck (this would be closed when he went down again).
Reporting back to the Captain, he was then ordered, like Olliver, to find the carpenter and get a sounding of the ship. But before Boxhall could do so, he encountered the carpenter on the staircase between the bridge and A deck, and who told him that the ship was making water, and then went to tell the Captain. Boxhall continued below he met a mail clerk who asked where the captain was. Boxhall said, "He is on the bridge," and was told that the mail hold was inundated. Boxhall told him to report this news to the captain and he went down again.
Proceeding to the sorting room, he found the mail clerks taking letters out of racks. Looking down into the mail hold below him, the water seemed to be then within 2 feet of the top of the deck and he saw bags of mail floating.
With this serious news, Boxhall clambered up to the bridge and told his commanding officer. The order then came through to prepare the lifeboats. Boxhall went and called on officers Lightoller and Pitman, who were still in their cabins

At the British Inquiry, Boxhall estimated that his first foray below decks took between 5 and 10 minutes, and, considering that he examined the companionways on F deck and above, this author would place the total time closer to ten minutes. Boxhall's return to the bridge, with the happy news that he could locate no damage, was met by Smith who asked for a report from the carpenter. Evidently impatient that Olliver's earlier task had not met any reply, here Smith was now repeating his order. If we allow another five or ten minutes for Boxhall then to inspect the mail rooms and return, we have agreement with Lightoller's testimony that the 4th Officer did not come to his room until about half an hour had elapsed after the impact.

Also, from Lightoller, he saw the Captain and Murdoch on the bridge about "2 or 3 minutes" after the collision. He did not notice Boxhall, who had probably already gone below. It seems unlikely that Smith went to the wireless room in this short space of time. And why should he? Apart from a list to starboard that was indicated on his bridge instruments, there seemed to be nothing amiss. He was now gathering information on how badly his command had been injured. Would it not make more sense to send a wireless distress call once an assessment had been made and the ship's position calculated? After all, the order to uncover the boats could be a precaution. If the damage was overstated, the boats could be hauled in, laced back up and the Titanic continued on her way. But once a radio message had been sent out, it would be difficult to save face once a hasty, and inaccurate SOS/CQD message had been transmitted. How to explain to the White Star Line that a distress call had been sent out, only to have it retracted, especially to a ship that was world renowned as "unsinkable"? Simple: have the boats uncovered, but not send out a call until it was absolutely certain that the ship would founder...and an inspection made.

The Captain's Inspection

There are reports of the Captain undertaking an inspection of the damage below decks. We shall discuss these below:

Annie Robinson was a stewardess on the Titanic. In London, she recounted her story as follows:
About half an hour after the collision, Robinson, who was stationed on E deck, "the mail man passed along first and he returned with Mr. McElroy [NB: she was asked about Thomas Andrews, the ships designer in her question, perhaps an error in transcription? McElroy was the chief purser] and the Captain and they went in the direction of the mail room ... [after they had come back, she] saw two mail-bags and a man's Gladstone bag, and on looking down the staircase I saw water within six steps of coming on to E deck."
Note that when Boxhall went down for his inspection, he said that the water was within 2 feet of reaching G deck, where he was standing. Therefore, the Captain's inspection must have taken place well after Boxhall's. James Johnson, Saloon Steward, was another witness to this midnight tour by the Captain. He had been allocated the post of nightwatchman in the 1st class dining saloon/pantry/reception area, starting at 11pm.


D deck (amidships) on the Titanic

Johnson: "I went down and walked along the saloon and saw Mr. Andrews come down and go down to the engine room, and then I saw the Captain directly following him, and then I followed Mr. Andrews after he came up from the engine room ... Andrews came three or four minutes before the Captain. I waited a minute and followed Mr. Andrews...I went down to E deck and saw Mr. Andrews go down by the baggage room or mail room. When I looked there was water there then [in the baggage room] ... on F deck, underneath E. I went down to call the second steward, Mr. Dodd. I took plenty of time and it must have been a good twenty-five minutes after I met Mr. Wheat coming up [from his quarters on F deck, astern of the mail room], and he said "What is it?" I said "I think it is a bit serious."
It is unclear which staircase Johnson is talking about. He was asked,
Q. [Did Andrews come] through the saloon you were in?
A. He had to come down through the stairs to get down to the engine room to get on to E deck; he had to go down through those stairs.
Q. And then he gets into the alleyway and got to the engine room?
A. Just turn to the left and he is in it.
It sounds as if Andrews used two different staircases, the first one to get to (presumably) the engine room, and the next to go to the area of the mail room. Why bother? He could very easily have remained on E deck without having to go back up to D deck.

And fortunately we have the testimony of Joseph Wheat, the Assistant Second Steward. He said that after meeting Johnson, he went forward to view the damage for himself: "I went down to the Post Office room, which is down on G. You will find a stairway leading from E down to the Post Office and baggage room." Looking down into the postal room, he saw mail men dragging bags of mail up: the water was already on that deck [G deck]." When he left, the water was covering G deck. Wheat estimated that this was 10-15 minutes after the collision, his timing puts it after Boxhall, but before Robinson. There is an obvious contradiction between Johnson's and Wheat's timings, and the location of the water; Johnson may have been mistaken. There is no mail room on F deck. If Boxhall saw 'his' water at 11.50-55pm, then it had risen 24 feet above the keel in that time. Taking the witnesses who saw the water on F, G and lower deck, and then Robinson's mention of it being close to E deck, implies that Smith took two trips below decks; the first to consult with Bell (as seen by Johnson) and the second to inspect the filling mail area himself (as seen by Robinson). Given how slowly the ship was filling, implying a reasonable amount of time between Johnson and Robinson, it seems implausible that Smith remained below during this time. Indeed, there are sightings of him on the boat deck and bridge at this time, so he must have made a second trip below decks.

Another witness, but which does not help in this chronology is Bath Steward Charles Mackay. The first order he heard was about 15 minutes after the impact, and it was to close the manually operated watertight doors on F deck (note that Boxhall noted that some of the doors were still open on E and F deck during his first tour). 20 minutes after this, according to MacKay, he saw the Captain come down the working staircase and go along, he presumes, to the Chief Engineer's room. About 10 minutes after that he saw him come back and go back up the same staircase.

Taking all these into account, we have an inspection that must have taken place after Boxhall's second return to the bridge, approximately 12-12.15am. With the evidence of the damage seen by his own eyes, this would be an ideal time to call for help with the Marconi assistance. The first wireless call would be a little over 10 minutes later...

Whatever the time, the Captain had already consulted Thomas Andrews when the boats were being prepared. And Andrews was already aware in the first twenty minutes that the ship was doomed, though his estimate of her longevity as being half an hour is awry in light of later evidence because as Boxhall said later, "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."

The Revised SOS position and the Venting of Steam

Bride claimed that the Captain - only - visited the Marconi cabin with the ship's position. Boxhall claimed that he submitted the distress location. How do we reconcile this, assuming that Bride's story can be believed?

Having reported Bride's story, let us now recount Boxhall's:
After helping to clear the boats for lowering and seeing all the other officers engaged in their duties, the 4th Officer went to the chart room to work out the ship's position. Submitting his computations to the Captain, he was told to take it to the Marconi room. He found the two operators in the cabin, but there being too much on account of the steam being vented from the funnels following the cessation of movement, Boxhall wrote the position down on a slip of paper and left it for Bride and Phillips. The note was seen; it was the famous position of 41 46 N 50 14 W.

Did Bride not notice Boxhall? Why did the Captain not tell Boxhall that he had - apparently - already worked out the ship's location? Did Boxhall truly work on his accord? It seems that the notion of sending a distress call had slipped his mind until the boats were being prepared!

At 10.35pm New York Time (12.37am on the Titanic), the Titanic's radioed position changed from 41 44 N 50 24 W to 41 46 N 50 14 W. This must have been shortly after Boxhall left the note for Phillips. At 10.36am/12.38pm, the Ypiranga noted in her Proces Verbal that "MGY says CQD here corrected position 41 46 N 50 14 W require immediate assistance, we have collision with iceberg sinking. Can nothing hear for noise of steam. (Position sent 15-20 times)." This correlates very well with Boxhall's story of the deafening blare of noise from the steam discharge.

A mysterious stranger now enters the story; the unresponsive ship seen off the Titanic's port bow. Regardless of whether it was the Californian or not, we can use it to help our construction of a timeline.

Boxhall, after returning from the wireless office, saw the lights of the strange ship, and began firing off rockets. At about this time, the first lifeboat was launched prompting a perturbed call from QM George Rowe at the stern. Rowe was ordered to report to the foreward bridge with more detonators.

Shortly after this, communications between the Titanic and potential rescuers improved; the dying giant could now hear as well as transmit messages. What had happened? The answer is clear; the steam being vented from the funnels right above their heads had stopped. Do we have any proof that this happened at about this time?

We have a few indicators. In his book, 2nd class passenger Lawrence Beesley took the effort to note the extreme discomfort caused by the venting of the boilers and says that this was while the boats were being prepared, at about 12.20am. He does not mention the steam again, and we should treat his timings with suspicion, as he was 45 minutes "out" in his estimate of when his boat, number 13, left the ship. But, he does offer an emotive description of when the first rocket was sent aloft:

But if there were any one who had not by now realized that the ship was in danger, all doubt on this point was to be set at rest in a dramatic manner. Suddenly a rush of light from the forward deck, a hissing roar that made us all turn from watching the boats, and a rocket leapt upwards to where the stars blinked and twinkled above us. Up it went, higher and higher, with a sea of faces upturned to watch it, and then an explosion that seemed to split the silent night in two, and a shower of stars sank slowly down and went out one by one. And with a gasping sigh one word escaped the lips of the crowd: "Rockets!"

He heard the ignition, exhaust and the cry from the crowd above the 'deafening' din of the steam? Unlikely. Another source is Rowe, who wrote that the steam had finished when the first rocket went up. To be fair, Rowe's various accounts suffer from a variety of contradictions, such as his comments that the rockets were sent up only AFTER he had taken them to the bridge which contradicts Boxhall that at least one had already gone aloft. In another account, Rowe says that he heard - but could not see - the band as he walked along the portside of the boat deck to deliver the rockets to the bridge. He could not do that if the steam was still billowing.

In his memoirs, Lightoller recounts how the discharge ended just as the first boat on the forward port side was lowered level with the deck. Able Bodied Seaman Thomas Jones related how he could not hear anything that could be heard from passengers as boat 8 was being prepared for loading, which contradicts Lightoller, but he was written more than two decades after the event. In London, Lightoller did mention that the steam was still blowing off while the canvas covers were being stripped off the lifeboats.

Combining all this, we have the following timeline:

In conclusion, the correlation of various witnesses supports the notion that the first CQD call was made sometime after 12.15am on April 15th. In retrospect, it does seem bizarre that 3/4s of an hour elapsed before the vital Marconi tool was utilised for its most famous role. It makes little difference; even if the call had been made sooner, neither of the closest ships (the Mount Temple and the Carpathia) would have arrived in time to save any of those struggling in the water for survival.


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