“PASSENGERS SAFELY MOVED AND STEAMER TITANIC TAKEN IN TOW” (Christian Science Monitor, April 15, 1912)
“ALL SAVED FROM TITANIC AFTER COLLISION” (New York Evening Sun, Monday April 15, 1912).
“2,000 LIVES ARE SAVED OFF WRECKED TITANIC BY WIRELESS: VESSEL IS REPORTED SINKING.” (Denver Times, Monday evening April 15, 1912).
These are just three newspaper headlines from Monday, April 15, 1912. In a world full of instant communication, it is hard to believe that for several days the true fate of the Titanic and all those onboard were not known by the public. Many confusing headlines, such as these, illustrate the lack of communication to the press from the rescue ship Carpathia and White Star Line. In fact, it was not until 6:16pm on Monday April 15 that the Olympic, the sister ship of the Titanic, confirmed that it was sunk. Captain Rostron of the Carpathia waited until all the survivors were safely aboard before broadcasting any messages. It wasn’t until 8:20pm on Monday April 15th when the Carpathia announced that the survivors were being brought to New York.
Confusion reined for days. Newspapers were being cautious with their casualty estimates. It was hard to believe that such a disaster on the “unsinkable” Titanic could occur. Families of the crew flocked the White Star Lines offices in New York, London, and Southampton. It was Wednesday before a list of saved crew members appeared at the offices. In the haste and confusion, names were misspelled and 699 out of the 899 names were posted, when in reality only 24% of the crew lived. This painfully brought hope to the families. Corrected sheets slowly began to appear and confirmed the worst.
Once on the safety of the Carpathia, Margaret Brown went to the wireless room and wrote a message for her daughter Helen to let her know that she survived. She then went back several times delivering messages for friends and second and third class passengers that did not have the means to pay for them. Ultimately, none of Margaret’s messages were sent since the operator was so busy transmitting the names of the survivors. Both Harold Cottam, Carpathia’s only wireless operator and Titanic wireless operator Harold Bride worked furiously until the ship came to New York’s harbor.
When the Carpathia reached the New York harbor on April 18, 1912, reporters were plugging the harbor in tugs, ferries, and yachts. They were offering money for the survivor’s accounts on the Titanic. Over 30,000 people flooded the pier, not just reporters, but families and onlookers: all desperate to see the survivors of the Titanic. The tragedy of the Titanic captured the world’s attention, and even 100 years later, it has never let go.