Saturday, April 15, 2023

Remembering the TItanic

I had to take a break on my Victorian magician posts so I can talk about something near and dear to my heart, the sinking of the Titanic, which happened 111 years ago today. Almost everyone knows the story of the Titanic, the largest streamliner of its time, carried almost 2,225 passengers and sinking in the North Atlantic, leaving nearly 1,500 dead. I wonder what it would have been like to be on that fatal cruise. Most of us would ask for a quick death, or at least a painless one, but the Angel of Mercy was nowhere to be found. Crew and passengers struggling to decide who will leave the sinking ship in the lifeboats, shortly after the iceberg struck the ship (approximately 11:40 ship’s time on April 14th) and the eventual sinking about 2:20 am. Three hours. Three hours to decide who will live and who will die. 

When John Jacob Astor IV was travelling with his wife, and seeing the mayhem that was surrounding him, he quietly helped his wife, her nurse and maid into a lifeboat. When he was told by a Titanic crew member that he should join them because she was in a “delicate condition” he declined, saying that no man will leave the boat until all the women and children are off first. He later was said to have asked the lifeboat number so that he could find them later. There would be no later. John Jacob Astor IV was found floating dead in the water days later and was taken aboard the Mackay-Bennet on April the 22nd. 

In this small article I have noted only one of the countless heroic acts that happened in the early morning hours on April 15, 1912. I have in my possession an interesting artifact, an original copy of the Wreck Commissioners report of the bodies of the crew and passengers that were recovered by the Mackay-Bennet. This is the listing for Astor:


CLOTHING – Blue serge suit; blue handkerchief with "A.V."; belt with gold buckle; brown boots with red rubber soles; brown flannel shirt; "J.J.A." on back of collar.

EFFECTS – Gold watch; cuff links, gold with diamond; diamond ring with three stones; £225 in English notes; $2440 in notes; £5 in gold; 7s. in silver; 5 ten-franc pieces; gold pencil; pocketbook.


When we read about those who passed with during the Titanic sinking, we usually call them victims, but so many of them they are heroes. They died so many others may live. 

You want to know what is most heartbreaking about this disaster…the lifeboats were only 60% full.