Sinking of the Titanic by unidentified artist (after 1912). Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Incredibly plenty has been written about the sinking of the Titanic on 15th April 1912. So, rather than repeating the facts that most of the world already knows, I am sharing the following quotes from some of the people who were directly involved. One hundred and eleven years after the disaster, the words still reverberate.
I will say that I cannot imagine any condition which could cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.
— Captain Edward Smith, quoted in “DISASTER AT LAST BEFALLS CAPT. SMITH; Veteran Commander of Titanic Went Forty Years Without Accident of Any Kind”, The New York Times, 16th April 1912
The pleasure and comfort which all of us enjoyed upon this floating palace, with its extraordinary provisions for such purposes, seemed an ominous feature to many of us, including myself, who felt it almost too good to last without some terrible retribution inflicted by the hand of an angry omnipotence.
— Colonel Archiblad Gracie surviving passenger, ‘The Truth About the Titanic’ by Colonel Archiblad Gracie, 1913
It is best described as a jar and a grinding sound. There was a slight jar followed by this grinding sound. It struck me we had struck something and then thinking it over it was a feeling as if she may have hit something with her propellers, and on second thoughts I thought perhaps she had struck some obstruction with her propeller and stripped the blades off. There was a slight jar followed by the grinding – a slight bumping.
— Charles Herbert Lightoller, second officer on the Titanic, testimony at British Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry, 20th May 1912
The wreckage and bodies seemed to be all hanging in one cluster. When we got up to it we got one man, and we got him in the stern of the boat – a passenger it was, and he died shortly after we got him into the boat. One of the stewards that was in the boat tried means to restore life to the man; he loosed him and worked his limbs about and rubbed him; but it was of no avail at all, because the man never recovered after we got him into the boat.
— Joseph Scarrott, able seaman on the Titanic, testimony at British Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry, 3rd May 1912
The self-abnegation of Mr. and Mrs. Isidor Straus here shone forth heroically when she promptly and emphatically exclaimed: “No! I will not be separated from my husband; as we have lived, so will we die together;” and when he, too, declined the assistance proffered on my earnest solicitation that, because of his age and helplessness, exception should be made and he be allowed to accompany his wife in the boat. “‘No!” he said, “I do not wish any distinction in my favor which is not granted to others.” As near as I can recall them these were the words which they addressed to me. They expressed themselves as fully prepared to die, and calmly sat down in steamer chairs on the glass-enclosed Deck A, prepared to meet their fate.
— Colonel Archiblad Gracie, surviving passenger, ‘The Truth About the Titanic’ by Colonel Archiblad Gracie, 1913
Except for the boats beside the ship and the icebergs, the sea was strangely empty. Hardly a bit of wreckage floated—just a deck-chair or two, a few lifebelts, a good deal of cork; no more flotsam than one can often see on a seashore drifted in by the tide. The ship had plunged at the last, taking everything with her. I saw only one body in the water; the intense cold made it hopeless for anyone to live long in it.
— Arthur Rostron, captain of the ocean liner RMS Carpathia that rescued hundreds of Titanic passengers, ‘Home from the Sea‘ by Sir Arthur H. Rostron, 1931