A Chilling Must-Read Account
Jack Thayer was a 17-year-old first class passenger on the RMS Titanic, traveling with his parents on that fateful night of April 15, 1912. He miraculously survived after an epic struggle in the frigid waters. His mother was able to board one of the lifeboats but sadly, his father John Thayer perished. Jack went on to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania four years later. In 1940, he described his harrowing experiences on the famed ship in a self-published book, of which 500 copies were printed for family and friends. Oceanographer Robert Ballard used it to determine the location of the Titanic and proved that the ship had split in half as it sank, contrary to popular belief.
During World War II, both of Jack’s sons enlisted in the armed services. Edward, the oldest, was killed in 1943 in the Pacific War. When the news reached Thayer, he became extremely depressed and committed suicide on September 20, 1945 at the age of 50-the same age as his father when he died on the RMS Titanic.
Thayer’s dramatic first-hand account on the RMS Titanic had been forgotten for decades until recently, after one of the original copies was found by the editor of the Paris Review and a distant relative of the Thayers.
A Survivor’s Tale, which stands out for its raw power and gut-wrenching authenticity, will be published in May 2012 by Thornwillow Press to mark the centennial of the sinking of the famed ship.
The NY Post published on April 8, 2012 an excerpt from Thayer’s unimaginable story:
The RMS Titanic of the White Star Line, largest ship the world had ever known, sailed from Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York, on April 10, 1912. She was built by Messrs. Harland and Wolff, at Belfast. She was a fabricated steel vessel of gigantic dimensions, registered at Liverpool, her gross tonnage was 46,328 tons, her length overall being 882 feet, with a breadth of 92 feet and a depth of 65 feet. The distance from the keel to the top of the funnels was 175 feet.
She had a double bottom extending the full length of the ship, with a space five to six feet between the inner and outer plates, and was divided into 16 water-tight compartments, with access to each compartment through water-tight doors. The rudder alone weighed 100 tons. She was driven by three enormous screws, the center one weighing 22 tons, the other two 38 tons each, and was capable of making 23 knots. The last word in luxury, she was thought unsinkable.
Captain EJ Smith, her commander, commodore of the White Star Line fleet, was on his last round-trip from Southampton, before having to retire on age. In his 38 years of service he had never met with a serious accident. On this trip he had under him a splendid complement of officers and men.
The Titanic had a passenger certificate to carry 3,547 passengers and crew. She carried 16 lifeboats and four Engelhart collapsible boats, all of which had a total carrying capacity of 1,167 persons, or approximately 60 to 65 in each boat. She carried 3,560 life belts or their equivalent.
On this maiden voyage the ship carried a total of 2,208 persons, of whom 1,316 were passengers and 892 crew. There were 332 first-class passengers, 277 second-class passengers and 709 third class passengers. I have in my safe deposit box an original first-class passenger list. It was carried off the ship in the pocket of the overcoat worn by my mother.
My father, John B. Thayer, second vice-president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, my mother, Mirian Longstreth Morris Thayer, my mother’s maid, Margaret Fleming, and I were all in one party that sailed first-class from Southampton.
We had no more than started down the narrow channel, and were commencing to make headway under our own power, when we passed the American Liner USS St. Paul, tied up to the RMS Oceanic which was lying alongside the dock. The suction created by our port propeller, as we made a turn in the narrow channel, broke the strong cables mooring her to the Oceanic causing her stern to swing toward us at a rapid rate. It looked as though there would surely be a collision. Her stern could not have been more than a yard or two from our side. It almost hit us. Luckily, the combined effort of several tugs, which had quickly made fast to her, pulled her stern back.
This narrowly averted collision was considered an ill-omen by all those accustomed to the sea.
We called at Cherbourg, and from there proceeded to Queenstown. We left Queenstown at 1:30 in the afternoon of Thursday, April 11. The weather was fair and clear, the ship palatial, the food delicious. Almost everyone was counting the days till we would see the Statue of Liberty.
I occupied a stateroom adjoining that of my father and mother on the port side of “C” deck; and, needless to say, being 17 years old, I was all over the ship.
Sunday, April 14th, dawned bright and clear. It looked as if we were in for another very pleasant day. I spent most of that day walking around the decks with my mother and father. We had short chats with many of the other promenaders, among whom I particularly remember J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the board and managing director of the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, Limited, owners of the White Star Line; Thomas Andrews, one of the ship’s designers and Charles M. Hays, who was President of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada; with all of whom we spent quite a lot of time.
It became noticeably colder as the afternoon wore on. I remember Mr. Ismay showing us a wire regarding the presence of ice and remarking that we would not reach that position until around 9 pm. We went to our staterooms about 6:30 to dress for dinner. My father and mother were invited out to dinner that night, so I dined alone at our regular table.
After dinner I was enjoying a cup of coffee, when a man about 28 or 30 years of age drew up, and introduced himself as Milton C. Long, son of Judge Charles M. Long, of Springfield, Massachusetts. He was travelling alone. We talked together for an hour or so. Afterwards I put on an overcoat and took a few turns around the deck.
It had become very much colder. It was a brilliant, starry night. There was no moon and I have never seen the stars shine brighter; they appeared to stand right out of the sky, sparkling like cut diamonds. A very light haze, hardly noticeable, hung low over the water. I have spent much time on the ocean, yet I have never seen the sea smoother than it was that night; it was like a mill pond, and just as innocent looking, as the great ship quietly rippled through it.
I went onto the boat deck — it was deserted and lonely. The wind whistled through the stays, and blackish smoke poured out of the three forward funnels; the fourth funnel was a dummy for ventilation purposes. It was the kind of a night that made one feel glad to be alive.
About 11 I went below to my stateroom. After a short conversation with my father and mother, and saying good night to them, I stepped into my room to put on pajamas expecting to have another delightful night’s rest like the four preceding.
The ship was so large and extensive that all I can tell about the tragedy is only a small part of all that actually occurred. I will try to recount all that I actually saw or heard, or heard from others and afterwards verified.
We were steaming along a 22 or 23 knots, not reducing speed at all, in spite of the many warnings of the presence of ice, which had come in from other ships during the afternoon and evening.
We were out for a record run.
I had called “Good night” to my father and mother in the next room. In order to get plenty of air, I had half opened the port, and the breeze was coming through with a quiet humming whistle.
There was the steady rhythmic pulsation of the engines and screws, the feel and heaving of which becomes second nature to one, after a few hours at sea. It was a fine night for sleeping, and with the day’s air and exercise, I was sleepy.
I wound my watch — it was 11:45 pm — and was just about to step into bed when I seemed to sway slightly. I immediately realized that the ship had veered to port as though she had been gently pushed. If I had had brimful glass of water in my hand, not a drop would have been spilled, the shock was so slight.
Almost instantaneously the engines stopped.
The sudden quiet was startling and disturbing. Like the subdued quiet in a sleeping car, at a stop, after a continuous run. Not a sound except the breeze whistling through the half-open port. Then there was the distant noise of running feet and muffled voices, as several people hurried through the passageway. Very shortly the engines started up again — slowly — not with the bright vibration to which we were accustomed, but as though they were tired. After very few revolutions they again stopped.
I hurried into my heavy overcoat and drew on my slippers. All excited, but not thinking anything serious had occurred, I called in to my father and mother that “I was going up on deck to see the fun.” Father said he would put on his clothes and come right up and join me. It was bitterly cold.
I walked around the deck looking over the side from time to time. As far as I could see, there was nothing to be seen, except something scattered on the well deck forward, which I afterwards learned was ice. There was no sign of any large iceberg.
Only two or three people were on deck when I arrived, but many rapidly gathered. My father joined me very soon. He and I moved around the deck trying to discover what had happened and finally found one of the crew who told us we had hit an iceberg, which he tried to point out to us, as possibly our eyes were not accustomed to the dark after coming out of the lighted ship.
The ship took on a very slight list to starboard. We did not know it at the moment, but we learned afterward that the iceberg had ripped open probably four of her larger forward compartments on the starboard side; and also that if we had only hit the ice head on, instead of making too late an attempt to avoid it, the ship would in all probability have survived the collision.
About 15 minutes after the collision, she developed a list to port and was distinctly down by the head.
Here we were 800 miles out from New York, off the Grand Banks, our position latitude 41 degrees, 46 minutes north, longitude 50 degrees, 14 minutes west. No one yet thought of any serious trouble. The ship was unsinkable.
It was now shortly after midnight. My father and I came in from the cold deck to the hallway or lounge. There were quite a few people standing around questioning each other in a dazed kind of way. No one seemed to know what next to do.
We saw, as they passed, Mr. Ismay, Mr. Andrews and some of the ship’s officers. Mr. Andrews told us he did not give the ship much over an hour to live. We could hardly believe it, and yet if he said so, it must be true. No one was better qualified to know.
I was still just dressed in pajamas and overcoat. At about 12:15 am. the stewards passed the word around for every one to get fully clothed and put on life preservers, which were in each stateroom. We went below right away and found my mother and her maid fully dressed. I hurried into my clothes — a warm greenish tweed suit and vest with another mohair vest underneath my coat. We all tied on life preservers, which were really large, thick cork vests. On top of these we put our overcoats.
We then hurried up to the lounge on “A” deck, which was now crowded with people, some standing, some hurrying, some pushing out onto the deck. My friend Milton Long came by at the time and asked if he could stay with us. There was a great deal of noise. The band was playing lively tunes without apparently receiving much attention from the worried moving audience.
We all went out onto “A” deck, trying to find where we were supposed to go. They were then uncovering the boats and making preparations to swing them out. Everything was fairly orderly, and the crew at least seemed to know what they were doing.
It was now about 12:45 am. The noise was terrific. The deep vibrating roar of the exhaust steam blowing off through the safety valves was deafening, in addition to which they had commenced to send up rockets. There was more and more action. After standing there for some minutes, talking above the din, trying to determine what we should do next, we finally decided to go back into the crowded hallway where it was warm.
Shortly we heard the stewards passing the word around “all women to the port side.” We then said good-bye to my mother at the head of the stairs on “A” deck and she and the maid went out onto the port side of that deck, supposedly to get into a lifeboat. Father and I went out on the starboard side, watching what was going on about us. It seemed we were always waiting for orders and no orders ever came. No one knew his boat position, as no lifeboat drill had been held. The men had not yet commenced to lower any of the forward starboard lifeboats, of which there were four. The noise kept up. The deck seemed to be well lighted.
People like ourselves were just standing around, out of the way. The stokers, dining-room stewards, and some others of the crew were lined up, waiting for orders. The second- and third-class passengers were pouring up onto the deck from the stern, augmenting the already large crowd.
Finally we thought we had better inquire whether or not mother had been able to get a boat. We went into the hall and happened to meet the chief dining-room steward. He told us that he had just seen my mother, and that she had not yet been put into a boat. We found her, and were told that they were loading the forward boats on the port side from the deck below. The ship had a substantial list to port, which made quite a space between the side of the ship and the life boats, swinging out over the water, so the crew stretched folded steamer chairs across the space, over which the people were helped into the boats. We proceeded to the deck below. Father, mother and the maid went ahead of Long and myself.
The lounge on “B” deck was filled with a milling crowd, and as we went through the doorway out onto the deck, people pushed between my father and mother and Long and me. Long and I could not catch up and were entirely separated from them. I never saw my Father again.
We looked for them, following along to where the port boats were being loaded, but could see nothing of either father or mother. Fully believing that they had both been successful in getting into a boat, Long and I went back through the lounge to the starboard side, thinking of what we should do, and not looking further for my father at all.
It must now have been about 1:25 am. The ship was way down by the head with water entirely covering her bow. She gradually came out of her list to port, and if anything, had a slight list to starboard. The crew had commenced to load and lower the forward starboard boats. These could hold over 60 people, but the officers were afraid to load them to capacity, while suspended by falls, bow and stern, 60 feet over the water. They might have buckled or broken from the falls.
The stern lifeboats, four on the port and four on the starboard side, had already left the ship. One of the first boats to leave carried only 12 people, Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff Gordon, and 10 others. Most of the boats were loaded with about 40 to 45, with the exception of the last few to go, which were loaded to full capacity.
One could see the boats that had already left the ship, standing off about five or six hundred yards.
Apparently there was only one light, about which most of them congregated. They were plainly visible and looked very safe on that calm sea.
On deck, the exhaust steam was still roaring. The lights were still strong. The band, with life preservers on, was still playing. The crowd was fairly orderly. Our own situation was too pressing, the scene too kaleidoscopic for me to retain any detailed picture of individual behavior.
I did see one man come through the door out onto the deck with a full bottle of Gordon’s gin. He put it to his mouth and practically drained it. If ever I get out of this alive, I thought, there is one man I will never see again.
He apparently fought his way into one of the last two boats, for he was one of the first men I recognized upon reaching the deck of the RMS Carpathia. Someone told me afterwards that he was a state senator or congressman from Virginia or West Virginia.
There was some disturbance in loading the last two forward starboard boats. A large crowd of men was pressing to get into them. No women were around as far as I could see. I saw Ismay, who had been assisting in the loading of the last boat, push his way into it. It was really every man for himself.
Many of the crew and men from the stokehold were lined up, with apparently not a thought of attempting to get into a boat without orders. Purser H.W. McElroy, as brave and as fine a man as ever lived, was standing up in the next to last boat, loading it. Two men, I think they were dining-room stewards, dropped into the boat from the deck above. As they jumped, he fired twice into the air. I do not believe they were hit, but they were quickly thrown out. McElroy did not take a boat and was not saved. I should say that all this took place on “A” deck, just under the boat deck.
Long and I debated whether or not we should fight our way into one of the last two boats. We could almost see the ship slowly going down by the head. There was so much confusion, we did not think they would reach the water right side up and decided not to attempt it. I do not know what I thought could happen, but we had not given up hope.
We leaned over the side to watch the next to last boat being lowered. It was terrible. Apparently, for some seconds, there was no one above directing the lowering of the bow and stern falls so that she might be held level. The bow was lowered so fast that the people were almost dumped out into the water. I think, if Long and I, and others, had not yelled up — “Hold the bow,” they all would have been spilled out. Finally, in a few minutes, she reached the water safely.
It must now have been about 1:50 am., and, as far as we knew, the last boat had gone. We were not aware of the fact that Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller and some of the crew were working desperately on top of one of the deck houses to free and launch one of the four Engelhart collapsible lifeboats. These boats had strong wooden bottoms with sides which could be raised, and all around the hull ran a canvas-covered cork fender with a curved surface.
I argued with Long about our chances. I wanted to jump out and catch the empty lifeboat falls, which were swinging free all the way to the water’s edge, with the idea of sliding down and swimming out to the partially filled boats lying off in the distance, for I could swim well. In this way we would be away from the crowd, and away from the suction of the ship when she finally went down.
We were still 50 or 60 feet above the water. We could not just jump, for we might hit wreckage or a steamer chair and be knocked unconscious. He argued against it and dissuaded me from doing so. Thank heaven he did. The temperature of the water was 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Four degrees below freezing.
We then went up a sheltered stairway onto the starboard side of the boat deck. There were crowds of people up there. They all seemed to keep as far as possible from the ship’s rail. We stood there talking from about 2 am on. We sent messages through each other to our families. At times we were just thoughtful and quiet, but the noise around us did not stop.
So many thoughts passed so quickly through my mind! I thought of all the good times I had had, and of all the future pleasures I would never enjoy; of my father and mother; of my sisters and brother. I looked at myself as though from some far-off place. I sincerely pitied myself. It seemed so unnecessary, but we still had a chance, if only we could keep away from the crowd and the suction of the sinking ship.
I only wish I had kept on looking for my father. I should have realized that he would not have taken a boat, leaving me behind. I afterwards heard from my friend, Richard Norris Williams, the tennis player, that his father and mine were standing in a group consisting of Mr. George D. Widener and his son Harry, together with some others. They were close in under the second funnel, which was very near to where Long and I were.
It was now about 2:15 am. We could see the water creeping up the deck, as the ship was going down by the head at a pretty fast rate. The water was right up to the bridge. There must have been over 60 feet of it on top of the bow. As the water gained headway along the deck, the crowd gradually moved with it, always pushing toward the floating stern and keeping in from the rail of the ship as far as they could.
We were a mass of hopeless, dazed humanity, attempting, as the Almighty and Nature made us, to keep our final breath until the last possible moment. The roaring of the exhaust steam suddenly stopped, making a great quietness, in spite of many mixed noises of hurrying human effort and anguish. As I recall it, the lights were still on, even then. There seemed to be quite a ruddy glare, but it was a murky light, with distant people and objects vaguely outlined.
The stars were brilliant and the water oily. Occasionally there had been a muffled thud or deadened explosion within the ship. Now, without warning, she seemed to start forward, moving forward and into the water at an angle of about 15 degrees. This movement, with the water rushing up toward us was accompanied by a rumbling roar, mixed with more muffled explosions.
It was like standing under a steel railway bridge while an express train passes overhead, mingled with the noise of a pressed steel factory and wholesale breakage of china.
Long and I had been standing by the starboard rail, about abreast of the second funnel. Our main thought was to keep away from the crowd and the suction. At the rail we were entirely free of the crowd. We had previously decided to jump into the water before she actually went down, so that we might swim some distance away, and avoid what we thought would be terrific suction. Still we did not wish to jump before the place where we were standing would be only a few yards over the water, for we might be injured and not be able to swim.
We had no time to think now, only to act. We shook hands, wished each other luck. I said, “Go ahead, I’ll be right with you.” I threw my overcoat off as he climbed over the rail, sliding down facing the ship. Ten seconds later I sat on the rail. I faced out, and with a push of my arms and hands, jumped into the water as far out from the ship as I could. When we jumped we were only 12 or 15 feet above the water.
I never saw Long again. His body was later recovered. I am afraid that the few seconds elapsing between our going, meant the difference between being sucked into the deck below, as I believe he was, or pushed out by the backwash. I was pushed out and then sucked down.
The cold was terrific. The shock of the water took the breath out of my lungs. Down and down I went, spinning in all directions. Swimming as hard as I could in the direction which I thought to be away from the ship, I finally came up with my lungs bursting, but not having taken any water. The ship was in front of me, 40 yards away. How long I had been swimming under water, I don’t know. Perhaps a minute or less. Incidentally, my watch stopped at 2:22 am.
The ship seemed to be surrounded with a glare and stood out of the night as though she were on fire. I watched her. I don’t know why I didn’t keep swimming away. Fascinated, I seemed tied to the spot. Already I was tired out with the cold and struggling, although the life preserver held my head and shoulders above the water.
She continued to make the same forward progress as when I left her. The water was over the base of the first funnel. The mass of people on board were surging back, always back toward the floating stern. The rumble and roar continued, with even louder distinct wrenchings and tearings of boilers and engines from their beds.
Suddenly the whole superstructure of the ship appeared to split, well forward to midship, and blow or buckle upwards. The second funnel, large enough for two automobiles to pass through abreast, seemed to be lifted off, emitting a cloud of sparks. It looked as if it would fall on top of me. It missed me by only 20 or 30 feet. The suction of it drew me down and down, struggling and swimming, practically spent.
As I finally came to the surface I put my hand over my head, in order to push away any obstruction. My hand came against something smooth and firm with rounded shape. I looked up and realized that it was the cork fender of one of the collapsible lifeboats, which was floating in the water bottom-side up. About four or five men were clinging to her bottom. I pulled myself up as far as I could, almost exhausted, but could not get my legs up. I asked them to give me a hand up, which they readily did.
Sitting on my haunches and holding on for dear life, I was again facing the Titanic.
It seemed as though hours had passed since I left the ship; yet it was probably not more than four minutes, if that long. There was the gigantic mass, about 50 or 60 yards away. The forward motion had stopped. She was pivoting on a point just abaft of midship. Her stern was gradually rising into the air, seemingly in no hurry, just slowly and deliberately. The last funnel was about on the surface of the water. It was the dummy funnel, and I do not believe it fell.
Her deck was turned slightly toward us. We could see groups of the almost 1,500 people still aboard, clinging in clusters or bunches, like swarming bees; only to fall in masses, pairs or singly, as the great after part of the ship, 250 feet of it, rose into the sky, till it reached a 65- or 70-degree angle.
Here it seemed to pause, and just hung, for what felt like minutes. Gradually she turned her deck away from us, as though to hide from our sight the awful spectacle.
We had an oar on our overturned boat. In spite of several men working it, amid our cries and prayers, we were being gradually sucked in toward the great pivoting mass. I looked upwards — we were right underneath the three enormous propellers.
For an instant, I thought they were sure to come right down on top of us. Then, with the deadened noise of the bursting of her last few gallant bulkheads, she slid quietly away from us into the sea.
There was no final apparent suction, and practically no wreckage that we could see.
I don’t remember all the wild talk and calls that were going on on our boat, but there was one concerted sigh or sob as she went from view.
Probably a minute passed with almost dead silence and quiet. Then an individual call for help, from here, from there; gradually swelling into a composite volume of one long continuous wailing chant, from the 1,500 in the water all around us. It sounded like locusts on a midsummer night, in the woods in Pennsylvania.
This terrible continuing cry lasted for 20 or 30 minutes, gradually dying away, as one after another could no longer withstand the cold and exposure. Practically no one was drowned, as no water was found in the lungs of those later recovered. Everyone had on a life preserver.
The partially filled lifeboats standing by, only a few hundred yards away, never came back. Why on earth they did not come back is a mystery.
How could any human being fail to heed those cries? They were afraid the boats would be swamped by people in the water.
The most heartrending part of the whole tragedy was the failure, right after the Titanic sank, of those boats which were only partially loaded, to pick up the poor souls in the water. There they were, only four or five hundred yards away, listening to the cries, and still they did not come back. If they had turned back, several hundred more would have been saved. No one can explain it. It was not satisfactorily explained in any investigation. It was just one of the many “Acts of God” running through the whole disaster.
During this time, more and more were trying to get aboard the bottom of our overturned boat. We helped them on until we were packed like sardines. Then out of self-preservation, we had to turn some away. There were finally twenty-eight of us altogether on board. We were very low in the water. The water had roughened up slightly and was occasionally washing over us. The stars still shone brilliantly.
We were standing, sitting, kneeling, lying, in all conceivable positions, in order to get a small hold on the half-inch overlap of the boat’s planking, which was the only means of keeping ourselves from sliding off the slippery surface into that icy water.
I was kneeling. A man was kneeling on my legs with his hands on my shoulders, and in turn somebody was on him. Once we obtained our original position we could not move. The assistant wireless man, Harold Bride, was lying across in front of me, with his legs in the water and his feet jammed against the cork fender, which was about two feet under water.
We prayed and sang hymns. A great many of the men seemed to know each other intimately. Questions and answers were called around — who was on board, and who was lost, or what they had been seen doing? One call that came around was, “Is the chief aboard? ” Whether they meant Mr. Wilde, the chief officer, or the chief engineer, or Capt. Smith, I do not know. I do know that one of the circular life rings from the bridge was there when we got off in the morning. It may be that Capt. Smith was on board with us for a while. Nobody knew where the “Chief ” was.
About 20 of our whole group were stokers. How they ever withstood the icy temperature after the heat they were accustomed to, is extraordinary, but there was no case of illness resulting.
They surely were a grimy, wiry, dishevelled, hard-looking lot. Under the surface they were brave human beings, with generous and charitable hearts.
Second Officer Lightoller, I discovered in the morning, was on board. He and some of the crew were trying to launch this boat before the Titanic sank. They were unsuccessful, but she floated off the deck covered with people, all of whom were shortly after washed off. Lightoller himself was washed off and sucked up against one of the ventilator grills. He had a terrific struggle but finally again was able to reach the boat.
In August 1914, just as war declared, I sailed on the RMS Oceanic, from New York, to play cricket in and around London, on a Merion Cricket Club team. Lightoller was either chief officer or first officer of the Oceanic, I am not certain which. We again went over our experiences and checked our ideas of just what had happened. We agreed on almost everything, with the exception of the splitting or bending of the ship. He did not think it broke at all.
Only four of us were passengers: Col. Archibald Gracie, Washington, DC; A.H. Barkworth, East Riding, Yorkshire, England; W.J. Mellers, Chelsea, London, England; and myself.
Harold Bride helped greatly to keep our hopes up. He told us repeatedly which ships had answered his “CQD” (at that time the Morse Code for help), and just how soon we might expect to sight them. He said time and time again, in answer to despairing doubters, “The Carpathia is coming up as fast as she can. I gave her our position. There is no mistake. We should see her lights at about 4 or a little after.”
During all this time nobody dared to move, for we did not know at what moment our perilous support might over-turn, throwing us all into the sea. The buoyant air was gradually leaking from under the boat, lowering us further and further into the water.
Sure enough, shortly before 4 o’clock we saw the mast head light of the Carpathia come over the horizon and creep toward us. We gave a thankful cheer. She came up slowly, oh so slowly. Indeed she seemed to wait without getting any nearer. We thought hours and hours dragged by as she stood off in the distance. We had been trying all night to hail our other lifeboats. They did not hear us or would not answer. We knew they had plenty of room to take us aboard, if we could only make them realize our predicament.
The Carpathia, waiting for a little more light, was slowly coming up on the boats and was picking them up. With the dawn breaking, we could see them being hoisted from the water. For us, afraid we might overturn any minute, the suspense was terrible.
The long hoped-for dawn actually broke, and with it a breeze came up, making our raft rock more and more. The air under us escaped at a more rapid rate, lowering us still further into the water. We had visions of sinking before the help so near at hand could reach us.
With daylight we could see what we were doing and took courage to move, stretch and untangle ourselves.
One by one, those on top of the freezing group stood up, until all of us who could stand were on our feet, with the exception of poor Bride, who could not bear his weight on his, but could only pull his feet and legs slightly out of the water. The waves washed over the upturned bottom more and more, as we sank lower and the water became rougher. To keep our buoyancy, we tried to offset the roll by leaning all together first to one side and then to the other.
About 6:30, after continued and desperate calling, we attracted the attention of the other lifeboats. Two of them finally realized the position we were in and drew toward us. Lightoller had found his whistle, and more because of it than our hoarse shouts, their attention was attracted.
It took them ages to cover the three or four hundred yards between us. As they approached, we could see that so few men were in them that some of the oars were being pulled by women. In neither of them was much room for extra passengers, for they were two of the very few boats to be loaded to near capacity. The first took off half of us.
My Mother was in this boat, having rowed most of the night. She says she thought she recognized me. I did not see her. The other boat took aboard the rest of us. We had to lift Harold Bride. He was in a bad way and, I think, would have slipped off the bottom of our overturned boat, if several of us had not held onto him for the last half-hour.
It was just about this time that the edge of the sun came above the horizon. Then, to feel its glowing warmth, which we had never expected to see again, was something never to be forgotten.
Even through my numbness I began to realize that I was saved — that I would live.