Friday, April 20, 2012

Roebling Waves Off Graham Party, and a Look at the Lifeboat Loading Sequence

Trenton Evening News, April 20, 1912-

"Calm Heroism of Roebling, About to Die, Related by Women He Helped to Save: Mother and Daughter Tell How Young Trentonian and London Friend Excelled in Gallantry and Cheerfulness in the TIme That Tried the Souls of All Aboard the Sinking Liner" [1]

Yesterday's post related an interview by Caroline Bonnell regarding what are some of the last known moments of Washington Roebling aboard Titanic.  A similar story is recounted in the April 20, 1912, Trenton Evening News by Mrs. William T. (Edith) Graham.  Graham states that shortly after the collision with the iceberg, Roebling knocked on their stateroom door, advising the party to be prepared for an emergency.  She relates that once on deck, her party (including daughter Margaret Graham and governess Elizabeth Shutes) was undecided as to whether the safer choice was to remain on Titanic or join the lifeboats leaving the ship.  Another passenger, Howard Case, advised the Graham party to get into a boat.  Shortly after, Roebling arrived on scene and assisted getting the three into lifeboat number three.  Edith Graham remembers,

"The boat was fairly crowded when we three were pushed into it.  A few men jumped in at the last moment, but Mr, Roebling and Mr. Case made no attempt to get into the boat.
'They shouted good-bye to us, and what do you think Mr. Case did then? He just calmly lighted a cigarette and waved us good-bye with his hand.  Mr. Roebling stood there too-- I can see him now.  I am sure that he knew the ship would go to the bottom. But both just stood there."  [2]

As noted, the Graham party descended in lifeboat 3 which launched from the starboard side of Titanic about 1:00am (according to the British Inquiry Launch Times [3]).  Caroline Bonnell and her party were aboard lifeboat 8, launched from the port side about 10 minutes after number 3.  According to the timeline set forth in from the British Inquiry and the analysis by Wormstedt, Fitch and Behe, the launching of lifeboat 3 left the controversial lifeboat 1 and collapsible C on the forward starboard side.  [4]

I'm trying to figure out what might have motivated Roebling to go to the port side of Titanic at this point, which we know he did given Bonnell's statement that he waved their party off as well.  While the forward port side had not yet launched boats 2, 4, 8, or collapsible D, I'm not sure Roebling had any way of knowing that given the position of lifeboat 3 where he waved off the Grahams, judging from Wormstedt et al's lifeboat/boat deck diagram

Wormstedt's analysis also calls into question whether lifeboat 6 or 8 was the first launched from the forward port side .  If, in fact, as Wormstedt asserts, lifeboat 8 was the first launched on the forward port side, that only shortens the time between when Roebling would have been waving off the Grahams in 3 on the starboard side, and Bonnell in 8 on the port side.  Though the anaylsis does state that the timeline is not exact, given conflicting evidence.  And I suppose it is quite possible Roebling did not actually wait until boat three was lowered before heading to the other side of the ship.  Butler asserts, perhaps quite simply, that gentlemen like Roebling and Case were offering their services to "unprotected ladies" - those travelling without men in their party such as the Grahams. [5]  And perhaps after he saw the Grahams safely to boat 8, he went in search of acquaintance Caroline Bonnell, whom he found on the port side.

[1] [2]  "Calm Heroism of Roebling, About to Die, Related by Women He Helped to Save: Mother and Daughter Tell How Young Trentonian and London Friend Excelled in Gallantry and Cheerfulness in the Time That Tried the Souls of All Aboard the Sinking Liner," Trenton Evening Times, 20 Apr 1912.  Online.  GenealogyBank :  Accessed 20 Apr 2012.

[3] [4]  Wormstedt, Bill, Tad Fitch and George Behe.  Titanic: The Lifeboat Launching Sequence Re-Examined.  2012.  Online. Accessed 20 Apr 2012.

[5]  Butler, Daniel Allen.  Unsinkable: The Full Story of the RMS Titanic.  Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1998.  p. 101.  Online.  Google Books : Accessed 20 Apr 2012.

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