The RMS Carpathia was 58 Nautical Miles from RMS Titanic when the CQD was recieved by First Wireless Operator Harold Cottom. He took the wire to the bridge to First Officer William Dean. Dean refused to believe that the Titanic was sinking and so Cottom took the message to Captain Arthur H. Rostron. Rostron immediately turned the ship around and headed for the Titanic. In three and a half hours they had reached the sight of the Titanic's sinking and prepared to take on survivors. From the time he was told he was needed, Rostron had turned the Carpathia into a floating emergency centre.
Rostron was born in 1869 and went to sea at the young age of 13. When Rostron was 23 he joined the Cunard Line and slowly worked his way up the ladder. At the age of 42 when the Titanic sank, he was an experienced captain and had gained much respect within the Cunard Line as a no nonsense leader. We was known for making quick decisions in some of the most difficult of situations and it won him the nickname of "The Electric Spark." During the Boxer Rebellion (1900) Rostron had helped transport civillians out of shanghai and Peeking, and for this he recieved the Reserve Decoration, and the Transport Medal.
Rostron was a spiritual man and turned to prayer in times of crisis. He lived a clean life and neither smoked or drank. He seldom used profanity and when he did, one could here Rostron asking for forgiveness for his slip of the tongue. Most people that knew Rostron spoke of a kind and decisive man. He would listen thoughtfully and then act upon his best judgment.
In January of 1912 he became Captain of the 13,564-ton Carpathia. She was a third of the size of the Titanic, but this was his most important command to date. On April 14th the Carpathia was three days out of New York on it's way to the Mediterranean. Up to the night of the fourteenth it had been an uneventful trip with little need for prayer or quick decisions.
This ended when wireless operator, Harold Cottam, burst into Captain Rostron's quarters to tell him the unbelievable news that the Titanic was sinking and was sending a C.Q.D. Rostron asked Cottam if he was sure it was the Titanic that he had received the C.Q.D. from. Cottam answered affirmatively, Rostron spent no time in ordering the boat turned around while he chartered a new course.
The Titanic was some 58 miles to the northwest of the Carpathia; their maximum speed was 14 knots-meaning she could reach the site in about four hours. Rostron then took charge and fired off a long list of orders he called upon the ships doctors to make ready in the various dining saloons make shift hospitals for the sick and injured. All rooms on the ship would be utilized for the survivors along with his room and the crew's rooms. Hot coffee, soups and tea should be made, along with all blankets and other warm clothing. Stewards were to be stationed in hallways to keep passengers of the Carpathia from getting underfoot while the preparations were being made. Scores of additional orders were brought forth all to make the rescue of the survivors as efficient as possible.
However, there was one problem that even Captain Rostron could not plan for-ice. Rostron was going full speed ahead and as they speed closer and closer to the last position given by the Titanic, the danger of the Carpathia striking an iceberg became more real. Slowing down was not the answer. Every minute counted. Rostron decided to post more men as lookouts. Seven men in all were positioned either in the crow's nest, the bow of the ship and on each wing of the bridge. Rostron stood on the bridge and was seen moving his lips in silent prayer. For the moment, that was all he could do.
Finally, around 4 A.M. they reached the Titanic's position and Rostron cut the engines. It took only 3 ½ hours for them to reach the site. Out in the distance he saw a green light and assumed it was the Titanic. However it was a lifeboat No. 2 with Fourth Officer Boxhall in charge. The retrieval of the survivors began.
During the next four hours, each of the Titanic's lifeboats were emptied and their passengers were brought aboard the Carpathia. By 8:30 A.M. the last boat had been gathered in. The Leyland Liner California had finally arrived and Rostron asked them to search for any survivors. They found none.
Rostron now had another decision on his hands. How would he get the survivors to New York. One thought was to transfer them to the White Star Liner Olympic, but that seemed like it would be too grotesque of an idea. The Olympic was the sister ship of the Titanic and Rostron feared that being on a similar looking ship would distress the survivors too much.
With that in mind, Rostron turned the Carpathia around and headed for New York. However, before leaving the site of the Titanic Rostron called for a brief service in the First Class dining saloon for those who were lost and in thanksgiving for the 705 survivors now present in the Carpathia's dining saloon. The trip to New York would be a long one. Not so much in time, but in the waiting for those at home.
Even before their arrival Captain Rostron was an instant hero. His self-assurance, his strong faith and his modest demeanor made him the ready-made hero in this tragedy. After the arrival in New York, Rostron testified at the U.S. and British investigations, attended numerous testimonial dinners, a loving cup from the survivors presented to him by Molly Brown, a special medal from the U.S. Congress struck in his honour and a continuation of an excellent career at sea. Rostron was eventually made a Knight of the British Empire (KBE) and named Commodore of the entire Cunard fleet.
The continued success of the Carpathia, did not go as well. On July 17,1918, she was torpedoed twice by the German submarine U-55, 120 miles west of Fastnet, Ireland. The first torpedo struck just forward of the engine room, the second hit the engine room itself. Carpathia sank at 9:15 A.M. Five of her engineering staff were killed; some 215 passengersand crew survived.
Below: After taking the RMS Titanic's survivors to New York, RMS Carpathia, resumes her voyage to the Mediterranean.
Return To Homepage: