Bullets, Bottles, and Gardenias

Author: Lawrence Beesley  | Date: April 20, 1912

Show Summary
London Times April 20, 1912

"Unsinkable" Titanic Strikes an Iceberg


IV. The End of the Titanic

(By a British Schoolmaster)

[The London Times,April 20, 1912]

It was now one o’clock in the morning. The starlit night was beautiful. The sea was as cairn as a pond. There was just a gentle heave as the boat dipped up and down in the swell. It was an ideal night, except for the bitter cold.

In the distance the Titanic looked enormous. Her length and great bulk were outlined in black against the starry sky. Every porthole and saloon was blazing with light. It was impossible to think that anything could be wrong with such a leviathan were it not for the ominous tilt downward in the bows, where the water was by now up to the lowest row of portholes.

At about two o’clock we observed her settling very rapidly with the bows and the bridge completely under water. She slowly tilted on end with the stern vertically upwards; as she did so the lights in the cabins and the saloons which had not flickered for a moment since we left, died out, flashed once more, and then went out altogether.

At the same time the machinery roared down through the vessel in a groaning rattle that could be heard for miles. It was the weirdest sound surely that could have been heard in the middle of the ocean. It was not yet quite the end. To our amazement she remained in the upright position for a time which I estimate as five minutes.

It was certainly for some minutes that we watched at least 150 feet of the Titanic towering up above the level of the sea looming black against the sky. Then with a quiet slanty dive, she disappeared beneath the waters. Our eyes looked for the last time on the gigantic vessel in which we set out from Southampton.

Then there fell on our ears the most appalling noise that human being ever heard—the cries of hundreds of our fellow beings struggling in the icy water, crying for help with a cry that we knew could not be answered. We longed to return to pick up some of those who were swimming, but this would have meant the swamping of our lifeboat and the loss of all of us.

Public reaction to the Titanic disaster was so strong that a special committee of the United States Senate under Senator Smith was appointed to investigate the sinking. The committee found that the Titanic, though warned by wireless of the existence of an icefield in the vicinity, had dashed ahead at full speed; that the ship did not have sufficient lifeboats or lifebelts; that the crew was small and badly trained; that the wireless service was inadequate; and that the lookouts lacked proper glasses. Later in London a special commission presided over by Lord Mersey issued a complete report on the disaster. As a result of these two inquiries, laws regarding proper facilities for ocean liners were revised in both England and the United States as a means of forestalling further major disasters of this kind.


Related Resources

Modern Eyewitness Accounts

Download Options

Title: Bullets, Bottles, and Gardenias

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: Bullets, Bottles, and Gardenias

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: Lawrence Beesley, "Unsinkable Titanic Strikes An Iceberg—IV. The End of the Titanic," Bullets, Bottles, and Gardenias in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1951), Original Sources, accessed July 23, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1MPAWTYLRQFPJ6P.

MLA: Beesley, Lawrence. ""Unsinkable" Titanic Strikes An Iceberg—IV. The End of the Titanic." Bullets, Bottles, and Gardenias, in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, edited by Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris, Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Co., 1951, Original Sources. 23 Jul. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1MPAWTYLRQFPJ6P.

Harvard: Beesley, L, '"Unsinkable" Titanic Strikes An Iceberg—IV. The End of the Titanic' in Bullets, Bottles, and Gardenias. cited in 1951, History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. , Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa.. Original Sources, retrieved 23 July 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1MPAWTYLRQFPJ6P.