April 10, 1912
On April 10, 1912, the Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City. The Titanic was the grandest ship afloat of that time with the most extravagant accommodations, including veranda cafes, a smoking room, restaurant, dining saloon, and a reading and writing room. However, these areas were primarily limited to the wealthy first-class passengers on board. At the opposite end, packed into the lower decks of the Titanic, were third-class passengers and immigrants. Onboard were some 2,200 people, approximately 1,300 of whom were traveling to America.
The Titanic was also regarded as the safest ship ever built, and with only 20 lifeboats equipped, there was barely enough to provide safety for only half her passengers and crew. This discrepancy rested on the belief that since the ship's construction made her "unsinkable," her lifeboats were necessary only to rescue survivors of other sinking ships. Unfortunately, fate took a different turn.
The Final Hour
On April 14, the Titanic began to approach an ice field known to be dangerous. Several warnings had been dispatched from nearby ships but were never received with much caution, and although two lookouts were stationed in the crow’s nest of the Titanic, their task was made difficult by the fact that the ocean was unusually calm that night: with little water breaking at its base an iceberg would be unnoticeable. At around 11:40 PM, an iceberg was sighted. First Officer William Murdoch ordered the ship to reverse its engines, but the Titanic was too close to avoid a collision, and the ship’s starboard side scraped along the iceberg. At least five of its supposedly watertight compartments were ruptured, and after examining forward compartments filled with water, its bow would sink further into the ocean, thereby sealing the ship’s fate. Distress signals were sent but to no avail Around 2:18 AM, the lights on the Titanic went out. It, then, broke in two, with the bow plunging underwater. Roughly 1,500 people died in the tragedy.
Elizabeth Shutes served as a family governess on board Titanic and was 40 years old at the time. She later described the chaotic scene on the lifeboat, shortly before they were rescued by Carpathia: "Our men knew nothing about the position of the stars, hardly how to pull together. Two oars were soon overboard. The men’s hands were too cold to hold on…Then across the water swept that awful wail, the cry of those drowning people. In my ears I heard: ‘She’s gone, lads; row like hell or we’ll get the devil of a swell."
Hart was seven years old at the time of the disaster. A second-class passenger with her parents, Eva lost her father in the tragedy. She went on to live a joyful life and often spoke about the sinking of the Titanic and her approach to life. "People I meet always seem surprised that I do not hesitate to travel by train, car, airplane or ship when necessary. It is almost as if they expect me to be permanently quivering in my shoes at the thought of a journey. If I acted like that I would have died of fright many years ago—life has to be lived irrespective of the possible dangers and tragedies lurking round the corner."
Passengers rescued by Carpathia arrived in New York City days later and frantically searched for their loved ones in hopes they too had been saved. Collyer, a second-class passenger who was 31 years old, described her panicked search for her husband: "There was scarcely anyone who had not been separated from husband, child or friend. Was the last one among the handful saved? … I had a husband to search for, a husband whom in the greatness of my faith, I had believed would be found in one of the boats. He was not there."
Gilmore, Kim. “Titanic’s 100th Anniversary: 6 Survivor Stories.” Biography, 23 Feb. 2016, www.biography.com/news/titanics-100th-anniversary-6-survivor-stories-20799733.
Tikkanen, Amy. “Titanic | History, Sinking, Rescue, Survivors, & Facts.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 26 Oct. 2018, www.britannica.com/topic/Titanic.