Bullets, Bottles, and Gardenias

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Author: Noel Leslie  | Date: April 22, 1912

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The New York Globe April 22, 1912

"Unsinkable" Titanic Strikes an Iceberg

[1912]

III In the Lifeboats (By Lady Rothes)

[New York Globe,April 22, 1912]

Capt. Smith stood shoulder to shoulder with me as I got into the lifeboat, and his last words were to the lone seaman—Tom Jones—"Row straight for those lights over there; leave your passengers on board of her and return as soon as you can." Capt. Smith’s whole attitude was one of great calmness and courage, and I am sure he thought that the ship—whose lights we could plainly see—would pick us up and that our lifeboats would be able to do double duty in ferrying passengers to the help that gleamed so near.

There were two stewards with us and thirty-one women. The name of the steward was Crawford. We were lowered quietly to the water, and when we had pushed off from the Titanic’s side I asked the seaman if he would care to have me take the tiller, as I knew something about boats. He said. "Certainly, lady." I climbed aft into the stem and asked my cousin to help me.

The first impression f had as we left the ship was that above all things we must not lose our serf-control. We had no officer to take command of our boat, and the little seaman had to assume all the responsibility. He did it nobly, alternately cheering us with words of encouragement, then rowing doggedly.

Then Signora de Satode Penasco began to scream for her husband. It was too horrible. I left the tiller to my cousin and slipped down beside her to be of what comfort I could. Poor woman! Her sobs tore our hearts and her moans were unspeakable in their sadness.

For three hours we pulled steadily for the two masthead lights that showed brilliantly in the darkness. For a few minutes we saw the ship’s port light, then it vanished, and the masthead lights got dimmer on the horizon until they, too, disappeared.

When the awful end came, I tried my best to keep the Spanish woman from hearing the agonizing sounds of distress. They seemed to continue forever, although it could not have been more than ten minutes until the silence of the lonely sea dropped down. The indescribable loneliness, the ghastliness of our feeling, never can be told.

We tried to keep in touch with the other boats by shouting and succeeded fairly well. Our boat was farthest away because we had chased the phantom lights for three hours.

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.

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Chicago: Noel Leslie, "Unsinkable Titanic Strikes an Iceberg," 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 18, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=N2XMC7UA1BHX336.

MLA: Leslie, Noel. ""Unsinkable" Titanic Strikes an Iceberg." 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. 18 Jul. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=N2XMC7UA1BHX336.

Harvard: Leslie, N, '"Unsinkable" Titanic Strikes an Iceberg' 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 18 July 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=N2XMC7UA1BHX336.