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When Hurricane Sandy Pounded USA, I Was in Ellicott City, Maryland!


Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

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When Hurricane Sandy, unofficially known as the “Superstorm Sandy“, devastated the United States in October 2012, I was in Ellicott City in Maryland.

Hurricane Sandy was the second-costliest hurricane in the history of the United States. It was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. It all began on October 22, 2012.

A Timeline of Hurricane Sandy’s Path of Destruction
Monday, October 22, 2012

Developing in the southern Caribbean Sea off the coast of Nicaragua as a tropical easterly wave causing areas of cloudiness and thunderstorms, The depression strengthened and six hours later becomes Tropical Storm Sandy, with maximum winds of about 40 mph. It moved slowly northward toward the Greater Antilles and gradually intensified.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On October 24, Sandy became a  Category 1 hurricane, moved northward across the Caribbean and made landfall near Kingston, Jamaica with winds of 80 mph.

Although Hurricane Sandy’s eye does not cross the Dominican Republic and Haiti to its east, the storm dumped more than 20 inches of rain on Hispaniola. More than 50 people died in flooding and mudslides in Haiti.

A few hours later, it re-emerged into the Caribbean Sea and strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane. Off the coast of the Northeastern United States, the storm became the largest Atlantic hurricane on record as measured by diameter, with winds spanning 1,100 miles (1,800 km).

Thursday, October 25, 2012
Detailed map compiled by NOAA on October 25, 2012, that shows the track of Hurricane Sandy (Source: gowally.com)
Detailed map compiled by NOAA on October 25, 2012, that shows the track of Hurricane Sandy (Source: gowally.com)

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Sandy strengthened as it moved from Jamaica to Cuba and made landfall in the historic city of Santiago de Cuba with winds of about 110 mph as a Category 3 hurricane.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sandy caused more devastation as it crossed the Bahamas and made a slight turn to the north-northwest.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sandy moved away from the Bahamas and made a turn to the northeast off the coast of Florida. Sandy weakened for a brief period to a tropical depression and then restrengthened to a Category 1 hurricane.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sandy continued moving northeast on a track parallel to the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. As it approached latitude 35 degrees north off the coast of North Carolina, the hurricane’s eye stayed well offshore. Even then, the storm still a Category 1 hurricane with peak winds of about 80 mph sent powerful tsunami-like waves onto North Carolina’s Outer Banks washing out some places in NC Highway 12.

Due to an unusual configuration of converging weather factors, meteorologists warned that the storm as it churns northward would likely morph into a powerful, hybrid super-storm.

A high-pressure cold front to Sandy’s north forced the storm to turn to the north-west toward major cities such as Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia and New York. And the meteorologists expected that in conjunctions with the effects of the full moon Sandy’s storm to surge up to 11 to 12 feet in some places and a little higher as it made landfall.

Sandy expanded into a huge storm covering about 1,000 miles with strong winds.

Monday, October 29, 2012
This satellite image from NOAA shows Sandy on the morning of October 29, 2012 as it was about to begin its approach to the coast of New Jersey (Source: voices.nationalgeographic.com)
This satellite image from NOAA shows Sandy on the morning of October 29, 2012 as it was about to begin its approach to the coast of New Jersey (Source: voices.nationalgeographic.com)

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At 12:30 pm, Sandy made its expected sharp turn. It curved west-northwest (the “left turn” or “left hook”) and then moved ashore near Brigantine, New Jersey, just to the northeast of Atlantic City, as a post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds. The storm also has started interacting with other weather systems, gaining energy in the process. The storm dumped heavy snow in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.

During the afternoon, Sandy brought high winds and drenching rains from Washington, D.C. northward, toppling trees and power lines and cutting off electrical power for millions of people. The storm eventually affected more than 50 million people on the Eastern Seaboard.

At 8 pm, Sandy’s centre came ashore near Atlantic City, New Jersey. The storm was no longer considered a hurricane but classified as a post-tropical Nor’easter. But the storm’s unusual path from the south-east made its storm surge much worse in New Jersey and New York.

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The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel is flooded after a tidal surge caused by Hurricane Sandy, on October 30, 2012 in Manhattan, New York. The storm has claimed at least 39 lives in the United States, and has caused massive flooding across much of the Atlantic seaboard. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images)
The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel iflooded after a tidal surge caused by Hurricane Sandy, on October 30, 2012, in Manhattan, New York. The storm has claimed at least 39 lives in the United States and has caused massive flooding across much of the Atlantic seaboard. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images)

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A high storm surge, a coastal flood or tsunami-like phenomenon of rising water occurred in New York City with a high tide of 14 ft (4.2 m),  a new record for a storm surge in the harbor, flooding streets, tunnels and subway lines and cutting power in and around the city. The surge tops the sea wall at The Battery Park in Lower Manhattan and floods parts of the city’s subway system. The surge also floods the Hugh Carey Tunnel, which links Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.

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Spooky gray NYC skyline
Spooky gray NYC skyline

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The wind, rain and flooding from the huge storm pounded New Jersey and New York throughout the night and through three cycles of high tides and low tides.

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Tanker John B Caddell beached on Front Street, Staten Island (Photo: Jim Henderson)
Tanker John B Caddell beached on Front Street, Staten Island (Photo: Jim Henderson)

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Staten Island also was hit very hard by the storm. The Seattle Times later reported that towns such as Oakwood Beach, Midland Beach, South Beach and Tottenville — which lost many residents who were police and firefighters during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 — were among the hardest-hit communities.

When I look back, I remember posting several times on Facebook on 29th and 30th October 2012 about Hurricane Sandy to benefit my friends and readers in the United States and to assure my kith and Kin in India that my family was safe:

7:00 am EDT:
From the Carolinas to Maine, Hurricane Sandy will affect 50 million people.

Hurricane Sandy is churning off the East Coast and is expected to join up with two other weather systems to create a huge and problematic storm affecting 50 million people. Here’s a snapshot of what is happening or expected, state by state.
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 CAROLINAS
The storm lashed barrier islands off North Carolina and rendered several homes and businesses nearly inaccessible. About 90 miles off the coast, a tall ship carrying 17 people was in distress; the Coast Guard was monitoring.
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CONNECTICUT
The number of power outages increased quickly in a state where utilities’ response to past weather-related failures has become a political issue. Connecticut Light & Power says hundreds of customers are without power. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy asked a task force to make sure fuel suppliers are fully stocked. Many residents along Long Island Sound heeded warnings and evacuated.

DELAWARE
Hundreds of people fled to shelters as the rough surf pounded the coast. Water covered some roads.

KENTUCKY
Snow is expected in mountainous areas.

MAINE
Officials predict coastal flooding and beach erosion, and utility crews have been brought in from Canada to handle anticipated power failures.

MARYLAND
Baltimore is opening six shelters; several city intersections are closed because of flooding threats. Early voting, which began Saturday and was to run through Thursday, was canceled for Monday.

MASSACHUSETTS
Utilities brought in crews from as far away as Texas and the Midwest to cope with anticipated power failures. Most schools and colleges have canceled classes. The Boston transit authority said it would continue to operate as long it was safe.

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Gov. John Lynch put 100 National Guard soldiers on active duty to help with preparations. Two shelters are being set up, and some schools have closed.

NEW JERSEY
Sandy’s center is expected to make landfall in New Jersey late Monday. By daybreak, more than 5,000 homes and businesses were without electricity. Thousands of people evacuated low-lying areas, and many inland towns hit by flooding from storm Irene last year issued evacuation orders.

NEW YORK
Many residents left low-lying flood evacuation zones, and the subway system shut down Sunday night. A storm surge of 11 feet is possible, the highest of all coastal areas being hit by Sandy. The New York Stock Exchange and other U.S. financial markets shut down for at least the day. Thousands of flights were canceled at the city’s major airports.

OHIO
Residents of low-lying areas and along Lake Erie were told to watch for flooding; utilities are anticipating high winds that could blow down trees and poles. Snow is forecast in some areas.

PENNSYLVANIA
Many schools closed. Philadelphia shut down its mass transit system, and hundreds of flights were canceled at the city’s airport. Dozens of people took shelter at evacuation centers. Thousands of members of the National Guard have been told to be ready for deployment.

RHODE ISLAND
Several communities have ordered mandatory evacuations and many schools closed for the day. Big waves are expected to cause flooding along Narragansett Bay, which bisects the state. Authorities told people to be prepared for long periods without power.

TENNESSEE
Snow is expected in higher elevations, where a freeze warning has been issued. High winds are expected in many areas.

VIRGINIA
About 2,000 customers lacked power, and a utility said as many as 1 million could ultimately lose electricity. Many residents of Chincoteague Island, popular with tourists, shrugged off the idea of evacuation.

VERMONT
Gov. Peter Shumlin declared a state of emergency to provide access to National Guard troops in a state still recovering from the devastating effects of the remnants of Hurricane Irene. Culverts and storm drainage basins in some spots have been cleared of debris.

WASHINGTON, D.C.
The capital area’s transit system shut down rail service for the first time since 2003, and the Smithsonian Institution closed for the day.

WEST VIRGINIA
As much as 2 to 3 feet of snow were forecast in mountainous areas, and flooding was possible in some areas. Several shelters were put on standby, and power crews were mobilized to handle potential failures.

3:30 pm EDT:
Here in Ellicott City, Maryland, the wind speed is 41 mph NW. Not menacing at the moment.

3:40 pm EDT:
Landfall for Sandy within 3 hours time near Atlantic City, New Jersey shore with a wind speed of 90 mph in the center. The system moves at 18 mph.

8:40 pm EDT:
In Ellicott City, Maryland, the wind speed has risen to 49 mph WNW.
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8:54 pm EDT:
Sandy landfall in Cape May, New Jersey around 8 pm.
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9:00 pm EDT:
Battery Park in New York City is now inundated with 11.87 feet high. Water might enter NYC subway. Trains and buses won’t run on Tuesday (tomorrow).
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9:30 pm EDT:
Waters from Hudson river has breached the Manhattan Broadwalk. Battery Park in New York City is now inundated with 13.7 feet high. MTA confirms that the subways are flooded.

1.5 million homes experience power outages in many states. In Maryland, 195,000 homes are without electric power. We have still not been hit by a power cut.

9:45 pm EDT:
Power surges, outages and flashes being experienced in the New York City area. Everything is dark over there. Manhattan is in darkness as well as the Statue of Liberty.

10:47 pm EDT:
All bridges were closed for traffic. Chesapeake Bay Bridge that connects Baltimore-DC area with the northern parts of Maryland such as Kent Island too was closed for traffic around 4 pm.

10:55 pmEDT:
Sandy is still on its way towards us playing havoc with everything in its path.

Sandy had its landfall in Cape May, New Jersey around 8 pm. Ellicott City, MD is about 210 miles from the landfall area. The system is moving around 20 to 25 mph and I expect it to come here on Tuesday (tomorrow) morning around 6 am EDT.

Tuesday , October 30, 2012

2:10 am EDT:
Hurricane Sandy plays havoc: Widespread Power outages have occurred in all the north-eastern and eastern states. In Maryland, 391,005 homes are experiencing power cut.

2:15 am EDT:
Sandy is 10 miles southwest of Philadephia, PA.

10:50 am EDT:
Sandy has passed us. We did not incur any damages. We did not lose any power.

I thank you all for praying for us.

However, my heart bleeds for those who have suffered and are undergoing hardships due to the havoc created by this “Frankenstorm” called SANDY.

11:00 am EDT:
Sandy: The loss to properties has been assessed between 10 and 20 billion dollars.

11:30 am EDT:
Sandy slammed New Jersey last night and early morning today. At least 16 deaths reported. Massive flooding, high winds, and widespread power outages hit the East Coast as Sandy moves inland.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy dissipated over western Pennsylvania, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued its final advisory on the storm: “multiple centers of circulation in association with the remnants of Sandy can be found across the lower Great Lakes.”

Aftermath

Click on this line or the photo below to see photos of the effects of Hurricane Sandy. 

People scavenging for food in a dumpster where a Key Food supermarket has discarded spoiled food, due to power outages after Hurricane Sandy hit New York (Photo: Mr. Choppers)
People scavenging for food in a dumpster where a Key Food supermarket has discarded spoiled food, due to power outages after Hurricane Sandy hit New York (Photo: Mr. Choppers)

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July 14, the Feast of Kateri Tekakwitha – the First North American Indian Saint


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
Statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington D.C. (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

In the United States, July 14, is the feast day of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. In Canada, the feast is celebrated on April 17.

Kateri Tekakwitha is the first Native North American saint and the fourth Native American to be venerated in the Roman Catholic Church after Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin – canonized on July 31, 2002, at the Basilica of Guadalupe, Mexico City by Pope John Paul II, and two other Oaxacan Indians. She is known as the “Lily of the Mohawks” and the “Genevieve of New France“. Like St. Francis of Assisi she is also the patroness of the environment and ecology.

Tekakwitha was a Mohawk-Algonquin virgin and laywoman belonging to the Turtle Clan of the Mohawk tribe of the Iroquois nation. She was born in Auriesville, now part of New York in  As a child she lost her parents to a smallpox epidemic. She survived the catastrophe with damaged eyesight and pockmarks on her face. Her paternal uncle, a village chief, a great foe of the Roman Catholic missionaries from France in the area, adopted the orphaned girl.

Shunned by her tribe for her religious conversion to Catholicism, Tekakwitha settled for the last years of her life in the Jesuit mission village of Kahnawake, south of Montreal in New France, now Canada.

She was baptized as Kateri Tekakwitha at the age of 20. The name “Kateri” is derived from the French “Catherine”. She professed the evangelical vow of chastity and corporal mortification of the flesh.

Kateri Tekakwitha  died on April 17, 1680, aged 24, at Caughnawaga, Canada. Her last words were “Jesos Konoronkwa” (“Jesus, I love you”).

It is alleged that after her death, the scars on her face cleared. Various miracles and supernatural effects are assigned to her intercession.

In 1943, Kateri Tekakwitha was declared venerable by the Catholic Church, and was beatified in 1980 by Pope John Paul II. However, the Church needed a further confirmed true miracle to canonize her.

The miracle the Church wanted happened in 2006, when a five-year-old Seattle boy named Jake Finkbonner while playing basketball fell and cut his lip. Jake was in intensive care fighting a deadly flesh-eating bacterium that was cankering the skin on his face. Though the doctors tried various medications and surgeries, the infection on the little boy’s face continued to spread.

A local priest, Fr. Tim Sauer, knowing Jake was half Lummi Indian, asked his parishioners to pray to Kateri Tekakwitha to intercede for his recovery.

After three weeks, the infection stopped spreading and Jake recovered.

“I certainly believe in miracles,” said Dr. Hooper, one of the doctors who treated little Jake, while talking to CBC News, “It’s a different meaning for everyone. I’m just really happy when things work out well.”

Jake’s recovery was the proof that the Vatican needed.

On October 21, 2012, Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI at Saint Peter’s Basilica.

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The Story of Kateri Tekakwitha – the First North American Indian Saint: Part 4


 

Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington D.C. (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)
Statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington D.C. (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

Last moments of Kateri Tekakwitha

At the end of 1679, Kateri fell ill. Her afflictions increased day by day. Whenever she was able to leave her cabin, she would go to the chapel and rest on the benches and pray, and when she could support herself she would kneel before the altar.

During the Holy Week of 1680, Tekakwitha’s health was failing overcome by migraine headaches, fever and severe stomach pains accompanied with frequent vomiting.

On Tuesday, April 16, 1680, her friends knew she had, but a few hours left to live. They and the villagers gathered at the longhouse. Kateri was too weak to be moved to the chapel. Father Chauchetière and Cholenec hurried to the longhouse. Father Cholenec gave her Holy Viaticum. Until then, carrying the Blessed Sacrament to a longhouse was unheard of in the village for it was the custom for the sick to be carried on a board of bark to the chapel.

In the morning of Holy Wednesday, April 17, 1680, Kateri’s illness became worse and Father Cholenec administered the last rites – Extreme Unction.

Kateri Tekakwitha died around 3 pm in the arms of her friend Marie-Therèse. Father Chauchetière reports her final words were: “Jesos Konoronkwa” (“Jesus, I love you”).

Death of Kateri Tekakwitha (Source: Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha by Anne E. Neuberger)
Death of Kateri Tekakwitha (Source: Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha by Anne E. Neuberger)

After her death, the people noticed a physical change in her. Father Cholenec later wrote:

Then she had a slight spasm at the right side of her mouth. She died as if she was falling into a light sleep and we were for along time not certain of her death. Sometime before 4 o’clock, her face had suddenly changed and became in a moment so beautiful, smiling and white. Her face had an appearance of a rosy colour, which she never had and her features were not the same. I saw this immediately, because I was praying beside her and cried out for my astonishment. Her face was so scarred with smallpox from the age of four years old, and with her infirmities and mortification contributed to ruin her even more. And before her death she had taken a darken complexion. Her face appeared more beautiful than when she had been living. I will admit openly of the first thought, which came to me that Kateri might have entered into Heaven at this moment. After reflecting back in her chaste body a small ray of glory she had gone to possess.

The day Kateri died, the villagers passed it with an extraordinary devotion. Kateri’s simple compatriots kissed her hands and passed the evening and stayed the rest of the night near her to admire her face that exuded devotion even though her soul was separated from her.

They placed her body in the coffin with a cross in her hands. They did not cover her face until she was buried because of the pleasure people had looking at her.

Appearances after death

In the weeks after her death Kateri Tekakwitha has been said to have appeared before three persons: Kanahstatsi Tekonwatsenhonko (her mentor), Wari Teres Tegaiaguenta (her spiritual companion) and Father Claude Chauchetière.

Kanahstatsi said that, while crying over the death of her daughter, she looked up to see Catherine “kneeling at the foot” of her mattress, “holding a wooden cross that shone like the sun“.

Wari Teres reported that she was awakened at night by a knocking on her wall, and a voice asked if she were awake, adding, “I’ve come to say goodbye; I’m on my way to heaven.” Immediately, she went outside, but saw no one; then, she heard a voice murmur, “Adieu, Adieu, go tell the father that I’m going to heaven.

Chauchetière reported seeing Catherine at her grave; he said she appeared in “baroque splendour; for two hours he gazed upon her” and “her face lifted toward heaven as if in ecstasy.

Tomb of Kateri Tekakwitha (Source: kateritekakwitha.org)
Tomb of Kateri Tekakwitha (Source: kateritekakwitha.org)

Chauchetière had a chapel built near the site of her grave.

The settlers of New France spoke in whispers that a saint had been living among them. The Jesuits ground her bones to dust and placed it in the newly rebuilt mission chapel to symbolize her presence on earth. By 1684, pilgrims started coming to Kahnawake to honour Kateri Tekakwitha. Miracles were attributed to her intercession.

Kateri’s physical remains such as the crucifix she wore, the utensils she ate with, and even dirt from her grave, were all known to affect cures and were used as holy relics for healing.

Father Chauchetière was convinced that he had been in the presence of holiness. He told settlers in La Prairie to pray to Catherine for intercession with illnesses. He wrote the first of his many biographies of Kateri Tekakwitha in 1695. He was followed in 1696 by the equally prolific Father Pierre Cholenec. Through their writing, the legend of Kateri Tekakwitha, the Miracle Worker of the New World, reached across the sea to France and from there to the Vatican. Even the Jesuits in China and their converts, came to know about Kateri’s fame through Father Chauchetière’s writings. At least 300 books have been published in more than 20 languages on the life of Kateri Tekakwitha based on the accounts written by the two Jesuit priests who knew her.

The Jesuits ground her bones to dust and placed it in the newly rebuilt mission chapel to symbolize her presence on earth. Her physical remains were sometimes used as holy relics for healing.

Because of her singular life of chastity, she is often associated with the lily flower, a traditional symbol of purity among Roman Catholics and one often used for the Virgin Mary. Religious images of Tekakwitha are often decorated with a lily and the cross, with feathers or turtle as cultural accessories. Colloquial terms for Tekakwitha are The Lily of the Mohawks, the Mohawk Maiden, the Pure and Tender Lily, the Flower among True Men, the Lily of Purity and The New Star of the New World.

Kateri Tekakwitha’s tribal neighbors praised Kateri Tekakwitha as “the fairest flower that ever bloomed among the red men.” Now, reverence of Kateri Tekakwitha transcends tribal differences. Indigenous North American Catholics have taken her to heart and identify themselves with her by portraying her in their art, and in their own traditional clothing.

Many consider her virtues as an ecumenical bridge between Mohawk and European cultures.

The Canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha

After her death, Tekakwitha became an honorary yet unofficial patroness of Montreal, Canada, and Indigenous peoples of the Americas.

The process for Tekakwitha’s canonization was initiated by the United States Catholics at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884. It was followed by the Canadian Catholics.

On January 3, 1943, Pope Pius XII declared her venerable.

She was beatified as Catherine Tekakwitha on June 22, 1980, by Pope John Paul II.

On December 19, 2011, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints certified a second miracle through her intercession, signed by Pope Benedict XVI, that paved the way for her canonization.

On February 18, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI decreed the canonization of that Tekakwitha. Speaking in Latin, he used the form “Catharina Tekakwitha” while the official booklet of the ceremony referred to her in English and Italian, as “Kateri Tekakwitha”.

Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized on October 21, 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. In the official canonization rite booklet, “Catherine” is used in the English and French biographies and “Kateri” in the translation of the rite itself.

Kateri Tekakwitha is the first Native North American saint and the fourth Native American to be venerated in the Roman Catholic Church after Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin – canonized on July 31, 2002, at the Basilica of Guadalupe, Mexico City by Pope John Paul II, and two other Oaxacan Indians.

 

← Previous – The Story of Kateri Tekakwitha: Part 3

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The Story of Kateri Tekakwitha – the First North American Indian Saint: Part 3


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Statue of Kateri Tekakwitha in front of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis in Santa Fe, New Mexico (Source: thehundreds.com)
Statue of Kateri Tekakwitha in front of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis in Santa Fe, New Mexico (Source: thehundreds.com)

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The Jesuit mission of Saint-François-Xavier du Sault-Saint-Louis

Father de Lamberville advised Kateri Tekakwitha to go to the Jesuit settlement of Saint-François-Xavier du Sault-Saint- Louis located along the St. Lawrence river in Quebec, Canada, opposite Lachine (later Montréal).

The historic mission was first established in 1667 when the Kanienkeha’ka (Mohawk) community located to the northern part of the Territory at Kentake, now known as Laprairie, Quebec. The community moved four more times due to economic, agricultural as well as political changes.

A typical Mohawk Longhouse
A typical Mohawk Longhouse

The Jesuits had founded the mission for the religious conversion of the natives. When it began, the natives built longhouses for residences. They also built a longhouse to be used as a chapel by the Jesuits. As a missionary settlement, it attracted other Iroquois, but it was predominantly Mohawk.

In 1677, Kateri was spirited away from the Mohawk the village of Caughnawaga by her brother-in-law and a Huron of Lorette with the assistance of Father de Lamberville. Kateri and her rescuers proceeded on foot to Lac du Saint-Sacrement (Lake George). After a long and harrowing journey , of about two weeks on the Lake George, Lake Champlain, and Richelieu River corridors, they completed their 200-mile journey and reached the mission. In all it took almost three months for the whole journey.

On arrival after the long and harrowing journey, Kateri was lodged in the longhouse where her mother’s close friend, Kanahstatsi Tekonwatsenhonko, was the clan matron. Her sister (the daughter of her adoptive parents) and her brother-in-law, and many other people who had migrated from Caughnawaga lodged in the same longhouse.

In the village, she found many Iroquoian-speaking Mohawk converts and the Jesuits whom she had met in 1666.

Kanahstatsi and other Mohawk women introduced Kateri to the regular practices of Christianity. She spent hours in prayer in the chapel.

Kateri Tekakwitha. An oil painting by an unknown artist in the Main Chapel, St. Peter's Mission, Fonda NY.
Kateri Tekakwitha. An oil painting by an unknown artist in the Main Chapel, St. Peter’s Mission, Fonda NY.

Kateri made her first communion on Christmas Day 1677. She spent hours in prayer in the chapel. During the winter hunting season she continued her pious exercises while taking part in the work of the community, and she created a place of worship near a cross carved on a tree beside a brook.

Corporal mortification

According to the historian Allan Greer, most of these early native converts to Christianity were women. They followed a way they thought was integral to Christianity by devoting their bodies and souls to God and participated in mortification of the flesh in groups. There were similar practices of mortification of the flesh traditionally carried out by Mohawk warriors. Piercing the body to draw blood was a traditional practice of the Mohawk and other Iroquois nations.

Though the women in the village usually followed the directions of the Jesuits, at times, they eluded their control. The Jesuits opposed the practice of mortification of the flesh, but the women claimed it was needed to relieve them of their past sins.

Kateri learned more about Christianity under her mentor Anastasia, who taught her about the practice of repenting for one’s sins. Kateri put thorns on her sleeping mat and lay on them while praying for the conversion and forgiveness for her kinsmen.

Two French Jesuit missionaries, Claude Chauchetière and Pierre Cholenec, played important roles in Kateri Tekakwitha’s life.

Father Pierre Cholenec arrived in New France in 1672, before Father Claude Chauchetière.

Father Claude Chauchetière and Tekakwitha arrived at the village in the same year, in 1677. Jesuits generally thought that the natives needed their guidance in Christianity to be set on the right path. However, Chauchetière’s close contact with and deeper knowledge of the natives in the village changed some of his set notions about the people and the differences among human cultures.

Father Chauchetière was the first to write a biography of Kateri Tekakwitha’s life in 1695, followed by Father Pierre Cholenec in 1696.

Father Chauchetière wrote that he was very impressed by Kateri, as he had not expected a native to be so pious. He believed that Catherine Tekakwitha was a saint. In his biography of her, he stressed her “charity, industry, purity, and fortitude.”

Father Chauchetière recounted the steps Kateri and some of her peers took in the name of their faith. Their mortifications were extreme, and Chauchetière says:

They covered themselves with blood by disciplinary stripes with iron, with rods, with thorns, with nettles; they fasted rigorously, passing the entire day without eating. These fasting women toiled strenuously all day – in summer, working in the fields; in winter, cutting wood. (…) they put glowing coals between their tows, where the fire burned a hole in their flesh; they went bare-legged to make a long procession in the snows; they all disfigured themselves by cutting off their hair, in order not to be sought in marriage…

Kateri Tekakwitha took a vow of chastity on the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25, 1679. The Roman Catholic Church considers that on this day her conversion was truly completed and she became the “first virgin” among the Mohawk.

Father Cholenec introduced the traditional items of Catholic mortification – whips, hair shirts and iron girdles – to the converts at the village so they would adopt these items, rather than use Mohawk practices.

Statue of Kateri Tekakwitha at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, New York.
Statue of Kateri Tekakwitha at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, New York.

Father Cholenec quotes Kateri Tekakwitha as saying:

I have deliberated enough. For a long time my decision on what I will do has been made. I have consecrated myself entirely to Jesus, son of Mary, I have chosen Him for husband and He alone will take me for a wife”.

In the spring of 1678, Kateri met Wari Teres Tegaiaguenta, a young Oneida widow, for the first time. They became inseparable friends. Aspiring to devotion, they practiced mutual flagellation in secret.

Father Cholenec wrote that Catherine could flog herself between one thousand and twelve hundred blows in one session.

Tekakwitha’s dedication to the ritual mortification became more intense and consuming over the rest of her life; she included prolonged fasting, flogging, cutting, sleeping on a bed of thorns, and burning herself with hot coals.

Her spiritual directors became concerned because of her practice of self-mortifications were impacting her health and advised her to lighten the rigorous devotion. Father Cholenec suggested that she retire to the wilderness with her relations who were then engaged in the winter hunt to restore her strength, with proper diet and the fresh air in the forest.

But she replied:

It is true, my Father, that my body is served most luxuriously in the forest, but the soul languishes there, and is not able to satisfy its hunger. On the contrary, in the village the body suffers; I am contented that it should be so, but the soul finds its delight in being near to Jesus Christ. Well then, I will willingly abandon this miserable body to hunger and suffering, provided that my soul may have its ordinary nourishment.”

When Kateri and Wari Teres learned of nuns and convents for women, they asked the Jesuits for permission to form a group of native disciples, but they were told they were too “young in the faith” to form such a group. So, they created their own informal association of devout women. Wari Teres eventually left the group, supposedly due to personal issues. Kateri tried to reintegrate her into the group until her death.

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Next  The Story of Kateri Tekakwitha: Part 4

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The Story of Kateri Tekakwitha – the First North American Indian Saint: Part 2


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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The oldest portrait of Kateri Tekakwitha is an oil painting on canvas 41 x 37" painted by Father Chauchetière between 1682-1693. Kateri appeared to him during that time. The original painting hangs in the sacristy of St. Francis Xavier Church on the Kanawaké Mohawk Reservation on the south bank of the St. Lawrence River, near Montréal, Québec.
The oldest portrait of Kateri Tekakwitha is an oil painting on canvas 41 x 37″ painted by Father Chauchetière between 1682-1693. Kateri appeared to him during that time. The original painting hangs in the sacristy of St. Francis Xavier Church on the Kanawaké Mohawk Reservation on the south bank of the St. Lawrence River, near Montréal, Québec.

Invasions by the French

In the mid 15th century, the Mohawk interacted with both Dutch and French colonists. Originally, the Dutch, who had settled in Albany and Schenectady traded fur with the Mohawk while the French traded with the Huron.

In 1666, when Tekakwitha was around ten years old, the French trying to make inroads into Iroquois territory in present-day central New York, attacked the Mohawk, and after driving the people from their the longhouses and wigwams they burned all three Mohawk villages and their corn and squash fields.

During the skirmish, the Mohawks took refuge in the forest. Little Tekakwitha spent the cold winter in the forest along with her aunt’s family.

After the defeat by the French forces, the Mohawk was forced to accept a peace treaty that required them to accept Jesuit missionaries, whom they called “Black Robes,” in their villages for converting them to Christianity. The Jesuits established the mission of Saint-Pierre de Gandaouagué on the north shore of the Mohawk River and quickly studied Mohawk and other native languages to reach the people and taught them Christianity using terms the natives could easily identify.

Tekakwitha went with her people to the mission of Saint-Pierre de Gandaouagué. She was impressed by the courteous manners and the piety of the Jesuit missionaries she met for the first time.

The Mohawk crossed the Mohawk River to rebuild Caughnawaga on the north bank

In 1667, Tekakwitha met the Jesuits Jacques Frémin, Jacques Bruyas, and Jean Pierron, who had come to the village. But, her uncle opposed any contact with them because he did not want her to convert to Christianity since one of his daughters had already left Caughnawaga to go to the Iroquois Catholic mission village near Montreal in Quebec, Canada.

The records of Jesuits who knew Tekakwitha describe her as a modest, shy girl who avoided social gatherings, and wore a blanket over her head to cover the pockmarks on her face. She learned the traditional way of making clothing and belts from animal skins; weaving mats, baskets and boxes of reeds and grasses; preparing food from the game, crops and gathered produce. She took part in the women’s seasonal planting and intermittent weeding.

Although small-pox had marked her face and seriously impaired her eyesight, her aunts started pressurizing her to marry, even at the young age of 13. As she grew older, she shrank from marriage with great aversion.

In the summer of 1669, a band of several hundred Mohican warriors, advancing from the east attacked the village of Caughnawaga. The Mohawks fought off the invaders who kept the village under siege for three days. Tekakwitha along with other girls of the village carried food and water to the defending warriors on the palisades. They also helped the Jesuit priest Jean Pierron who tended to the wounded, and buried the dead.

When reinforcements arrived from other Mohawk villages the Mohican warriors retreated. The Mohawk villagers led by chief Ganeagowa, pursued the Mohicans in the forest, killing over 80 and capturing several others. When the Mohawks returned to Caughnawaga amidst widespread celebration, they tortured the captive Mohicans – thirteen men and four women – for two days and had planned to kill them on the third. Father Jean Pierron who was tending to the captives also, implored the Mohawk to stop the torture, but they ignored his plea. He then instructed the captives in Catholic doctrine as best he could and baptized them before they died under torture.

The Iroquois Feast of the Dead

In late 1669, the Iroquois Feast of the Dead, held every ten years, was convened at Caughnawaga. It was the Mohawk custom to carefully exhume the cadavers of those who had died in the previous decade, so that their souls could be released to wander to the spirit land.

A few Oneidas and Onondagas came to attend the feast led by sachem Garakontié.

Father Pierron who was present in the village boldly censured the beliefs and logic of the Feast of the Dead. The assembled Iroquois, upset over his remarks, ordered him to be silent. But Father Pierron continued, exhorting the Iroquois to give up their “superstitious” rites. Under duress, Father Pierron left the gathering, but returned along with Garakontié, the Onondaga sachem. Under Garakontié’s protection Pierron finished his speech. He demanded that, to secure a continued friendship with the French, the Iroquois should give up their Feast of the Dead, their faith in dreams as a guide to action, and the worship of their war-god. Eventually, the assembled Iroquois relented. Exchanging gifts with Father Pierron, they promised to give up the customs and rituals he had denounced.

Sachem Garakontié himself later became a Christian.

Family urges Tekakwitha to marry

Around 1674, when Tekakwitha turned 17, her adoptive parents, and other relatives became concerned over her lack of interest in young men as romantic partners or potential husbands. They urged Tekakwitha to marry a young Mohawk warrior. When she refused to marry the man chosen for her, she incurred the family’s displeasure, ridicule, threats, and harsh workloads. But Tekakwitha stayed firm in her resolution of resisting marriage, while submitting to their work demands.

Conversion and Baptism

In the spring of 1675, when she was about 18, Tekakwitha met the Jesuit priest Jacques de Lamberville. He taught her catechism.

A log beam across the ceiling of the church at the National Shrine of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha,  Fonda, New York (Source: tenkidsandadog.blogspot.in)
A log beam across the ceiling of the church at the National Shrine of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Fonda, New York (Source: tenkidsandadog.blogspot.in)

Convinced that Tekakwitha was ready for true conversion, Father de Lamberville baptized her on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1676, and gave her the name “Catherine” after St. Catherine of Sienna. The Victorian author Ellen Hardin Walworth conceived the alternate name “Kateri” which was first used in 1891.

Tekakwitha’s family opposed her conversion to Catholicism and continued to persecute her. They deprived her of food because she did not want to work on Sundays. People threw stones at her when she went to the chapel to pray. Some Mohawks accused her of sorcery and sexual promiscuity.

 Previous – The Story of Kateri Tekakwitha – Part 1 

Next  The Story of Kateri Tekakwitha: Part 3

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The Story of Kateri Tekakwitha – the First North American Indian Saint: Part 1


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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I am a flower of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.
Like a lily among thorns, so is my friend among women.
Song of Songs 2:1-2

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Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
Statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington D.C. (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

Preface

July 14, is the feast day of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the first North American declared a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church, and the fourth Native American to be declared a saint after St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin and two other Oaxacan Indians. She is known as the “Lily of the Mohawks” and the “Genevieve of New France“. Like St. Francis of Assisi she is also the patroness of the environment and ecology.

Tekakwitha was a Mohawk-Algonquin virgin and laywoman belonging to the Turtle Clan of the Mohawk tribe of the Iroquois nation. She was born in Auriesville, now part of New York in  As a child she lost her parents to a smallpox epidemic. She survived the catastrophe with damaged eyesight and pockmarks on her face. Her paternal uncle, a village chief, a great foe of the Roman Catholic missionaries from France in the area, adopted the orphaned girl.

Shunned by her tribe for her religious conversion to Catholicism, Tekakwitha settled for the last years of her life in the Jesuit mission village, south of Montreal in New France, now Canada.

Kateri Tekakwitha died on April 17, 1680, aged 24, at Caughnawaga, Canada. It is alleged that after her death, the scars on her face cleared. Various miracles and supernatural effects are assigned to her intercession.

Kateri Tekakwitha’s extraordinary life and reputation for piety have made her an icon to the native Roman Catholics of North America.

In 1943,  the Catholic Church declared Kateri Tekakwitha as venerable. In 1980, Pope John Paul II beatified her, and on October 21, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI canonized her at Saint Peter’s Basilica.

According to one of her biographers, no other native American’s life has been more fully documented that of Kateri Tekakwitha. At least three hundred books have been published in more than twenty languages based on the writings of French Jesuit missionaries, such as Claude Chauchetière, Pierre Cholenec, and others who knew her personally.

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha - The Lily of the Mohawks
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha – The Lily of the Mohawks

Because of her singular life of chastity, she is often associated with the lily flower, a traditional symbol of purity among Roman Catholics and one often used for the Virgin Mary.

The fleur-de-lys is a heraldic symbol of the French monarchy. Four lilies are depicted in the flag of Quebec. The French associated Kateri with the lily.

It was Father Claude Chauchetière who first evoked the lily metaphor when he wrote,

I have up to the present written of Katharine as a lily among thorns, but now I shall relate how God transplanted this beautiful lily and placed it in a garden full of flowers, that is to say, in the Mission of the Sault, where there have been, are, and always will be holy people renowned for virtue. 

Religious images of Tekakwitha are often  adorned with a lily and the cross. Feathers and turtle are incorporated as cultural accessories.

Colloquial terms for Tekakwitha are The Lily of the Mohawks, the Mohawk Maiden, the Pure and Tender Lily, the Flower among True Men, the Lily of Purity and The New Star of the New World.

Kateri Tekakwitha’s tribal neighbors praised Kateri Tekakwitha as “the fairest flower that ever bloomed among the red men.” Now, reverence of Kateri Tekakwitha transcends tribal differences. Indigenous North American Catholics identify themselves with her by portraying her in their art, and in their own traditional clothing.

Many consider her virtues as an ecumenical bridge between Mohawk and European cultures.

In Canada, the feast of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha is celebrated on April 17.

The Story of Saint  Kateri Tekakwitha 

Portrait of Kateri Tekakwitha, painted by Kevin Gordon
Portrait of Kateri Tekakwitha, painted by Kevin Gordon

Weskarini, an Algonquin tribe, known as Petite Nation des Algonquins (Little Nation of the Algonquin), lived on the north side of the Ottawa River below Allumettes Island (Morrison’s Island), Québec, New France. They had close associations with the Jesuit missionaries.

In March 1643, Jeanne Mance, a French nurse at the Hôtel-Dieu in Montréal took care of Pachirini Sachem Carolus, a wounded young Algonquin warrior. Sachem baptized on April 2, 1643, in Montréal by Father Imbert Duperon. He was given the Christian name of Charles. He lived in Montréal for some time with the two Jesuits of the post. Most of the Weskarini Algonquin became Catholics, being baptized between 1643 and 1650 by the Jesuits in Montréal and the rest later at Trois-Rivières. They settled in Trois-Rivières, setting up their village near the Fort there. While his fellow tribesmen left for Trois-Rivières, Charles Pachirini led the Jesuits to explore the shore that was later to become Laprairie (a Jesuit mission).

Prior to 1648, Charles Pachirini rejoined his people at Trois-Rivières and became the captain of the Christian Algonquins, even during the lifetime of his discredited predecessor Paul Tessouhat II, the chief of the Kichesipirini, or Algonquins of Allumette Island. He was given a Fiefdom in Trois-Rivières.

This was a time when the Iroquois were at war with the Algonquin.

Earlier, on October 18, 1646, near the village named Ossernenon also known as Gandaouge, Gandawaga and Caughnawaga in the Iroquois Confederacy in New France (present-day Auriesville, New York) the Iroquoi Mohawks killed Saint Isaac Jogues, a Jesuit missionary and threw his body in the St. Lawrence River.

Around 1652-1653, Mohawks of Ossernenon raided the town of Trois-Rivières and the Algonquin village of Sachem Charles Pachirini.

When the Mohawks attacked the area, the women and children sought shelter in the Fort while the braves joined the soldiers in repelling the attack. The raiding party killed many braves and soldiers defending the fort and the Indian village of the Weskarini. They also abducted French and Algonquin children and women. It became the norm to take the women and children of the defeated with them as prisoners and subsume them into their fold.

One of the abducted women Kahontáke (Meadow) or Kahenta also known as Tagaskouita, was an Algonquin, a member of the Weskarini Band of Sachem Carolus Pachirini. She had been baptized and educated among the French in Trois-Rivières. She married Kenneronkwa, an Iroquoi Mohawk warrior. Around 1656, Kahontáke gave birth to a girl at the Turtle Castle of Ossernenon, in the village of Ossernenonon on the banks of the Mohawk River. According to some authorities the child was born in the village of Gandaouge.

Catherine Tekakwitha, so renowned today in New France for the extraordinary marvels that God has bestowed and continues to bestow through her intercession, was born an Iroquois in 1656 in a Mohawk village called Gahnaougé. Her mother, an Algonquin, had been baptized and educated among the French in Trois-Rivières. She was seized there by the Iroquois with whom we were at war at that time, and taken as a slave to their homeland. She lived there and after a little while was married to a native of the place, and had two children: a son, and a daughter, Catherine.” From Catherine Tekakwitha, Fr. Pierre Cholenec, S.J., Her Spiritual Advisor.  (Translated by William Lonc, S.J., 2002)

During the years 1661 and 1662, the Mohawk suffered from a smallpox epidemic, the disease brought to the Americas by the Europeans. The disease devastated the village of Ossernenon, causing the death of most of the villagers. Kenneronkwa, his wife, and baby son succumbed to the disease. However, his daughter survived the catastrophe with damaged eyesight and pockmarks on her face. She was adopted by her father’s sister and her husband, a chief of the Turtle Clan, and raised as one of his daughters. The chief was a great foe of the Roman Catholic missionaries from France in the area.

Shortly afterwards, the survivors of the smallpox epidemic of the village of Ossernenon built a new village at the top of a hill, a mile or two west up the Mohawk River along its southern bank and called it Caughnawaga (“at the wild water”).

Because of her weakened eyes, the girl had trouble seeing in front of her, especially in the sunshine. Her uncle and aunts named her “Tekakwitha” meaning “she who feels her way ahead.”

Next  The Story of Kateri Tekakwitha: Part 2

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Violet Jessop, the 20th Century Lady Jonah: Part 7 – Sinking of the HMHS Britannic


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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HMHS Britannic - Coloured by Cyril Codus (Source: httptitanic-model.com)
HMHS Britannic – Coloured by Cyril Codus (Source: httptitanic-model.com)

On November 21, 1916,  Violet Jessop, after attending an early service by Rev. John A. Fleming, one of the ship’s chaplains, was having breakfast along with others in the dining room. In the dining room was John Priest, a fireman or stoker who was on board along with Violet Jessop on the RMS Olympic when she collided with the HMS Hawke, and was also aboard the RMS Titanic when she sank on April 15, 1912.

At 8:12 am, a loud explosion reverberated around the ship. HMHS Britannic apparently struck a submerged sea mine. Violet Jessop later wrote:

Suddenly, there was a dull deafening roar. Britannic gave a shiver, a long drawn out shudder from stem to stern, shaking the crockery on the tables, breaking things till it subsided as she slowly continued on her way. We all knew she had been struck...”

Later on, Reverend Fleming described the blast as “if a score of plate glass windows had been smashed together.”

In his official report Captain Charles Alfred Barlett said:

a tremendous but muffled explosion occurred, the ship trembling and vibrating most violently fore and aft, continuing for some time; the ship fell off about 3 points from her course.

Some aboard the ship thought the ship had hit a small boat. Even so, the doctors and nurses left the dining room immediately for their posts. Many others outside the dining room felt a forceful bump that swept them off their feet. Captain Barlett said:

Water was seen to be thrown up to E or D deck forward at the time of the explosion, and a cloud of black smoke was seen, the fumes for some time being suffocating.

The first reports brought to Captain Bartlett and Chief Officer Hume on the bridge were alarming; HMHS Britannic had apparently struck a submerged sea mine. The explosion had taken place low on the starboard side between holds 2 and 3. The watertight bulkhead between hold 1 and the forepeak was damaged.

Britannic's flooding limit. Green:Firemens tunnel. Purple: Watertight bulkheads. Digital elaboration by Michail Michailakis. (Source: hmhsbritannic.weebly.com)
Britannic’s flooding limit. Green:Firemens tunnel. Purple: Watertight bulkheads. Digital elaboration by Michail Michailakis. (Source: hmhsbritannic.weebly.com)

The first four watertight compartments started filling with water. The watertight door of the firemen’s tunnel connecting the firemen’s quarters in the bow with boiler room 6 was severely damaged and water started flowing into that boiler room. The watertight door between boiler rooms 6 and 5 also failed to close properly.

Captain Barlett later said:

The damage was most extensive, probably the whole of the fore part of the ship’s bottom being destroyed and in my opinion penetrating to No.6 boiler room.

To aggravate matters, as the ship’s list increased, water reached the level of the portholes that had been opened previously by the nurses to ventilate the wards.

Captain Bartlett sent a distress signal and ordered the crew to get ready to launch the lifeboats.

At 8:35 am, Captain Bartlett gave the order to abandon ship and the crew members started the drill to lower the lifeboats for evacuation.

Death of the Britannic.a(Artist - Ken Marschall)
Death of the Britannic.a(Artist – Ken Marschall)

At 8:35 am, Captain Bartlett gave the order to abandon ship and the crew members started the drill to lower the lifeboats for evacuation.

An officer ordered two lifeboats to be lowered. A group of panic-stricken stewards and some sailors rushed immediately and occupied the two lifeboats. The officer decided not to remove the frightened stewards from the lifeboats as he did not want them later to obstruct the evacuation of the people on board. He ordered all the sailors to get out except one on each lifeboat to take charge of it as it left the sinking ship.

The officer then ordered the lifeboats to be lowered, but stopped lowering them when they were about six feet above the churning water as he realized the engines were still running. He waited for further orders from the bridge. Shortly after, the order came from the bridge not to launch any lifeboats as the Captain Bartlett had decided to beach the Britannic.

Captain Bartlett made a dire try to beach the ship on the shores of Kea, about three miles out to his right. Unfortunately, the steering gear did not respond due to the list and she slowly started to turn.

The nurses were loaded onto the lifeboats for evacuation after being counted and grouped by Matron E. A Dowse.

A group of firemen/stokers furtively took a lifeboat from the poop deck without being authorized. Seeing the lifeboat was not filled to its maximum capacity, Assistant Commander Harry William Dyke ordered the firemen to pick up some men who had already jumped into the water. In the next 50 minutes, the crew managed to lower 35 of 58 lifeboats.

Of the lifeboats assigned to Third Officer David Laws three were lowered without his knowledge. Using automatic release gear they dropped six feet and hit the water violently. The gigantic propellers that were still running were almost out of the water and the two of the three unauthorized lifeboats started drifting towards the giant rotating blades of the portside propeller.

Archie Jewell, the lookout, was in one of the lifeboats which was being sucked into the ship’s still turning propellers. However, he survived. In a letter to his sisters Archie described his escape:

“… most of us jumped in the waterbut it was no good we was pulled right in under the bladesI shut my eyes and said good bye to this world, but I was struck with a big piece of the boat and got pushed right under the blades and I was goin around like a topI came up under some of the wreckage everything was goin black to me when some one on top was strugling and pushed the wreckage away so I came up just in time I was nearly done for there was one poor fellow drowning and he caught hold of me but I had to shake him off so the poor fellow went under.

Violet Jessop was in one the other lifeboat, No. 4. In her memoirs she wrote:

“... the lifeboat started gliding down rapidly, scraping the ship’s side, splintering the glass in our faces from the boxes, which formed, when lighted, the green lighted band around a hospital ship’s middle, and making a terrible impact as we landed on the water...”

… eyes were looking with unexpected horror at the debris and the red streaks all over the water. The falls of the lowered lifeboat, left hanging, could now be seen with human beings clinging to them, like flies on flypaper, holding on for dear life, with a growing fear of the certain death that awaited them if they let go…”

Moments after touching the water, her lifeboat clustered with the other lifeboats already in the water, struggling to get free from the ship’s side, but it was rapidly drifting into the propellers.

… every man jack in the group of surrounding boats took a flying leap into the sea. They came thudding from behind and all around me, taking to the water like a vast army of rats I turned around to see the reason for this exodus and, to my horror, saw Britannic’s huge propellers churning and mincing up everything near them-men, boats and everything were just one ghastly whirl“.

To avoid being sucked into the Britannic’s propellers that chopped to shreds the lifeboats, one after another, Violet overcame her fear and jumped out of the lifeboat even though she could not swim. She struck her head on the ship’s keel. An arm grabbed her, but Violet shirked it off fearing the arm was that of another person drowning like herself. She surfaced because of the life-belt she was wearing and her clothes almost torn off her.

… The first thing my smarting eyes beheld was a head near me, a head split open, like a sheep’s head served by the butcher, the poor brains trickling over on to the khaki shoulders. All around were heart-breaking scenes of agony, poor limbs wrenched out as if some giant had torn them in his rage. The dead floated by so peacefully now, men coming up only to go down again for the last time, a look of frightful horror on their faces…“.

At this exact moment, a third lifeboat was about to be shred to pieces by the propellers. Violet Jessop closed her eyes to stop watching the impending massacre. Unaware of the bloodbath generated by the monstrous propeller blades, Captain Bartlett gave orders to stop the engines. The propellers stopped turning, and the occupants of this boat pushed against the blades and escaped with their lives.

Violet Jessop was rescued once again by a lifeboat.

Around 8:50 am noticing the rate of the flooding had decreased, Captain Bartlett gave orders to restart the engines in a second attempt to beach the ship. But he immediately aborted the attempt as water was reported on Deck D.

At 9:00 am, when the water reached the bridge, Captain Bartlett sounded one last blow on the whistle alerting the ship’s engineers, who had remained at their posts until the last possible moment, to evacuate the ship.

Captain Bartlett swam from the bridge to a collapsible lifeboat. From there he coordinated the rescue operations.

The ship rolled over her starboard side. The funnels collapsed. The machinery on the deck fell into the sea.

Location where HMHS Britannic sank.
Location where HMHS Britannic sank.

At 9:07 am, 55 minutes after the explosion, HMHS Britannic, built to be an ocean cruiser, envisaged to be the last word in luxury travel, but never served as a transatlantic passenger liner, sank and vanished into the depths at 37°42’05.0″N 24°17’02.0″E, on its sixth voyage as a hospital ship transporting sick and wounded soldiers.

Reverend John Fleming who left the sinking ship in the second-last boat, described the sinking:

Gradually the waters licked up and up the decks — the furnaces belching forth volumes of smoke, as if the great engines were in their last death agony; one by one the monster funnels melted away as wax before a flame, and crashed upon the decks, till the waters rushed down; then report after report rang over the sea, telling of the explosions of the boilers. The waters moved over the deck still, the bows of the ship dipping deeper and deeper into the sea, until the rudder stood straight up from the surface of the water, and, poised thus for a few moments, dived perpendicularly into the depths, leaving hardly a ripple behind. A sense of the desert overwhelmed my soul.

 

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Violet Jessop, the 20th Century Lady Jonah: Part 6 – Aboard the HMHS Britannic


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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HMHS Britannic (Author: Allan Green, 1878 - 1954)
HMHS Britannic (Author: Allan Green, 1878 – 1954)

The HMHS  Britannic was the third and largest Olympic-class ocean liner of the White Star Line larger than the RMS Titanic.

Some sources claim the ship was to be named “Gigantic“. At least one set of documentations exists, in which Noah Hingley & Sons Ltd., in Netherton, near Dudley, United Kingdom, discuss the order for the ship’s anchors; this documentation states that the name of the ship is Gigantic. It appears more probable that the name Gigantic must have been used informally in correspondence with Harland & Wolff before being dropped quietly. However, Tom McCluskie affirmed that in his capacity as Archive Manager and Historian at Harland & Wolff, he “never saw any official reference to the name ‘Gigantic’ being used or proposed for the third of the Olympic class vessels.

The keel for Britannic was laid on November 30, 1911, at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, 13 months after the launch of the RMS Olympic. Her watertight bulkhead was extended, higher than Titanic’s had been. Britannic was designed to carry 48 open lifeboats. Of these, 46 were to be 34 feet long, the largest lifeboats ever carried until then and two of the 46 were to be motor propelled equipped with wireless sets for communications. The other two were to be 26-foot cutters placed on either side of the bridge.

Though Britannic was intended to enter service as a transatlantic passenger liner, she never crossed the Atlantic carrying the rich and the poor to the New World.

After improvements were introduced as a consequence of the Titanic disaster, Britannic was launched at 11:10 am on February 26, 1914. Around 20 tonnes of tallow, train oil and soft soap were used to move the gigantic ship down the slipway. In 81 seconds she stood afloat in the water.  Later, she was towed to the Abercon Basin for fitting by five tugs.

The British press hailed her as “a twentieth century ship in every sense of the word” and “the highest achievement of her day in the practise of shipbuilding and marine engineering.” However, after launching, she was laid up at her builders in Belfast for many months.

In August 1914, when the first World War broke out, the shipyards in Britain focused on converting many liners for Transport of Troops. Some were converted to Hospital ships. Britannic‘s maiden voyage scheduled for April 1915 was cancelled.

On November 13, 1915, after being docked for 15 months, the British Admiralty requisitioned Britannic, which was just an empty hull, to use it as a hospital ship. She was readied in just six weeks before being put to use as a hospital ship and was given ship number 9618.

The public rooms on the upper decks were converted into wards for the wounded soldiers. The large first class dining rooms and the reception rooms were converted into operating theatres and main wards. Deck B was furnished to house the medical officers. The lower decks were fitted out for medical orderlies, other staff and the less wounded patients. In all, the ship was fitted to carry 3,309 people.

Digital plans of the Britannic in hospital ship colours by Cyril Codus. (Source: hmhsbritannic.weebly.com)
Digital plans of the Britannic in hospital ship colours by Cyril Codus. (Source: hmhsbritannic.weebly.com)

The ship’s hull was repainted in the internationally recognized colours of a hospital ship; a green band was painted along each side of the ship broken by three large red crosses, to provide her safe passage at sea. For protection at night, two large red crosses were painted on both sides of the boat deck and were highlighted at night with a band of green electric bulbs.

Renamed HMHS (His Majesty’s Hospital Ship) Britannic, she entered service on December 23, 1915 under the command of Commodore Charles Alfred Bartlett.

On December 23, 1915, she entered service as His Majesty’s Hospital Ship – HMHS Britannic.

23-year-old Violet Jessop in her Voluntary Aid Detachment uniform while assigned to HMHS Britannic
23-year-old Violet Jessop in her Voluntary Aid Detachment uniform while assigned to HMHS Britannic

After her traumatic experience on the RMS Titanic, Violet Jessop secured a position with the British Red Cross as a stewardess. She was posted on HMHS Britannic.

Along with Violet on board was 27-year-old Arthur John Priest, a fireman / stoker, who, like her, had survived the collision of the RMS Olympic with the HMS Hawke, and escaped from the RMS Titanic when she sank on April 15, 1912.

Also, on board was 23-year-old Archie Jewel, one of the six lookout men on the deck of the ill-fated Titanic. On the night of April 14, 1912, he had worked the 8 pm to 10 pm shift and was in his berth when the ship hit the iceberg at 11:40 pm. He was one of the first to leave the ship on the starboard side at 12:45 pm in lifeboat 7, with just 28 people on it while the full capacity was for 65. After the Titanic, Archie was on board the SS Donegal which was sunk by enemy action in April 1917.

On December 23, 1915, HMHS Britannic left Liverpool on her maiden voyage to Moudros, on the island of Lemnos, North Aegean, Greece under the command of Commodore Charles Alfred Bartlett. She reached Moudros eight days later on December 31, 1915 and returned to Southampton on January 9, 1916.

After completing two more voyages to Naples, she was laid up on April 12, 1916.

On August 28, 1916, HMHS Britannic was recalled to active service and was given a new Transport Identification Number, G618. She made two more voyages to Moudros returning with the sick and wounded.

The HMHS Britannic left Southampton at 2:23 pm on November 12, 1916 with Captain Charles Bartlett in command on her 6th outbound voyage to Moudros. On arriving at Naples on November 17, 1916, she took on board more coal and water.

The ship was secured for two days at Naples due to a storm. On Sunday, November 19, 1916, finding a brief shift in the weather, Captain Bartlett decided to sail away from Naples. A total of 1,066 people – sick and wounded soldiers, the ship’s crew, and the medical staff – were on board.

As HMHS Britannic left the port, a storm set in and the sea rose again. The following morning, the storm passed and the sea became calm and the ship passed the Strait of Messina without any further problems. In the early hours of Tuesday, November 21, 1916, the ship rounded Cape Matapan.

At 8:00 am, Captain Bartlett changed course for the Kea Channel, in the Aegean Sea, lying between the islands of Makronisi (to her port side) and Kea (to her starboard side), just off Cape Sounion on the mainland of Greece. Chief Officer Robert Hume and Fourth Officer D. McTowis were on the Bridge along with him.

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 Previous: Part 5 – After the Titanic Disaster

To be continued

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Violet Jessop, the 20th Century Lady Jonah: Part 5 – After the Titanic Disaster


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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R.M.S. Carpathia by Scottvisnjic
R.M.S. Carpathia by Scottvisnjic

At full speed it took four hours for the RMS Carpathia, working her way through dangerous ice fields in the dark, to reach the RMS Titanic. When Carpathia arrived at the scene at 4 am on the morning of April 15, 1912, Titanic had already sunk. Carpathia took on around 700 survivors of the disaster from Titanic‘s lifeboats. It rescued the last of the survivors in the lifeboats by 9:15 am.

Members of a rescue crew in a whaling boat attempt to retrieve the floating body of a Titanic victim. Photograph by Joseph H. Bailey. (Source: channel.nationalgeographic.com)
Members of a rescue crew in a whaling boat attempt to retrieve the floating body of a Titanic victim. Photograph by Joseph H. Bailey. (Source: channel.nationalgeographic.com)

Out of the 2,224 people aboard RMS Titanic, 710 were saved, leaving 1,517 dead.

The figures below are from the British Board of Trade report on the disaster.

Passenger category Number aboard Number saved Number lost Percentage saved Percentage lost
Children, First Class 6 5 1 83.4% 16.6%
Children, Second Class 24 24 0 100% 0%
Children, Third Class 79 27 52 34% 66%
Women, First Class 144 140 4 97% 3%
Women, Second Class 93 80 13 86% 14%
Women, Third Class 165 76 89 46% 54%
Women, Crew 23 20 3 87% 13%
Men, First Class 175 57 118 33% 67%
Men, Second Class 168 14 154 8% 92%
Men, Third Class 462 75 387 16% 84%
Men, Crew 885 192 693 22% 78%
Total 2224 710 1514 32% 68%

Captain Edward Smith,  Chief Officer Henry Wilde, First Officer William Murdoch, Thomas Andrews, the naval architect of RMS Titanic, Jack Phillips, the senior Marconi radio operator, were among those lost with the sinking ship.

In this 1912 photo made available by the Library of Congress, Harold Bride, surviving wireless operator of the Titanic, with feet bandaged, is carried up the ramp of RMS Carpathia
In this 1912 photo made available by the Library of Congress, Harold Bride, surviving wireless operator of the Titanic, with feet bandaged, is carried up the ramp of RMS Carpathia

Harold Bride after being picked up by the RMS Carpathia assisted Harold Cottam in dealing with a constant exchange of messages in the following hours.

Lifeboat 12 reached the RMS Carpathia at 8:30 am where Jack was reunited with his mother. A kind passenger on the Carpathia gave Jack his pajamas and a bunk to sleep. Later, Jack Thayer reflected that the brandy he had drunk on that day was his first shot of hard liquor.

After being picked up by the RMS Carpathia, Bruce Ismay was taken to the ship’s doctor, Frank Mcgee’s cabin. Ismay gave Captain Rostron a message to send to White Star Line’s New York office:

Deeply regret advise you Titanic sank this morning after collision with iceberg, resulting in serious loss of life. Full particulars later.

During the entire journey to New York on board RMS Carpathia, Ismay never left Dr. Mcgee’s cabin. He did not eat any solid food and had to be kept under the influence of opiates.

After visiting Ismay, Jack Thayer said:

“[Ismay] was staring straight ahead, shaking like a leaf. Even when I spoke to him, he paid absolutely no attention. I have never seen a man so completely wrecked.”

The RMS Carpathia finally reached New York on April 18, 1912. Guglielmo Marconi, visited his exhausted radio operators on board. He himself had plans to  to cross the Atlantic on the ill-fated RMS Titanic, but had changed his plans. He arrived In New York on the RMS Lusitania.

After their arrival in New York, Jack Thayer, his mother and Miss Fleming took the Thayer’s private train carriage from Jersey City, NJ, back home to Haverford.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Jack Thayer took on banking. A few years later he was appointed Financial Vice-President and Treasurer of the University. He served as an artillery officer in the US Army during World War I. He married Lois Cassatt and they had two sons. Edward C. Thayer and John B. Thayer IV.

In 1940, conceivably, as an attempt to purge some of the memories that still haunted him, Jack Thayer produced a pamphlet relating his experiences with the Titanic’s sinking in vivid detail in a self-published pamphlet. Just 500 copies were printed exclusively for family and friends. Oceanographer Robert Ballard used the details of Jack Thayer to determine the location of the Titanic and proved that the ship had split in half as it sank, contrary to popular belief, as was finally confirmed when the wreck of the Titanic was discovered.

During World War II, both his sons enlisted in the armed services. In 1943, Edward Thayer was a bomber pilot in the Pacific theatre. After his plane was shot down, he was listed as missing and presumed dead. His body was never recovered.  When the news of Edward’s death reached him, Jack Thayer, became extremely depressed.

On the 32nd remembrance day of the RMS Titanic‘s collision with the iceberg, Jack Thayer’s mother Marian died. The loss of his mother depressed him further.

On September 20, 1945, Jack Thayer committed suicide by cutting his throat and wrists in an automobile at 48th Street and Parkside Avenue in West Philadelphia.

He is buried at the Church of the Redeemer Cemetery, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

In New York, Bruce Ismay was hosted by Philip Franklin, vice-president of the company. Ismay also received a summons to appear before a Senate committee headed by Republican Senator William Alden Smith the following day and a few weeks later he appeared before the British Board of Trade chaired by Lord Mersey.

Bruce Ismay testified that as the ship was in her final moments, he was working at an oar, his back to the ship so as to avoid watching his creation sink beneath the waters of the North Atlantic. During the United States Inquiry he assured that all the vessels of the International Mercantile Marine Company would be equipped with lifeboats in sufficient numbers for all passengers.

After the inquiry, Ismay and the surviving officers of the RMS Titanic returned to England aboard RMS Adriatic. Ismay’s reputation was irreparably damaged and he maintained a low public profile after the disaster. London society ostracized Ismay for life and labelled him one of the biggest cowards in history.

The American and the British press the American and the British press Bruce Ismay for deserting the ship while women and children were still on board. Some newspapers, even conjectured that Ismay jumped into the boat, despite there being women still near the lifeboat. Some papers called him the “Coward of the Titanic” and others named him as “J. Brute Ismay” and suggested that the White Star flag be changed to a yellow liver.

Ben Hecht, then a young journalist in Chicago, wrote a scathing poem titled “Master and Man” for the Chicago Journal contrasting the actions of Captain Edward Smith, the master of RMS Titanic who had just gone to an icy grave with his ship along with a majority of its passengers, and J. Bruce Ismay, chairman and managing director of the White Star Line of steamship safe on the rescue ship RMS Carpathia.

Master and Man
by Ben Hecht

The Captain stood where a
Captain should
For the Law of the Sea is grim;
The Owner romped while the ship was swamped
And no law bothered him.
The Captain stood where the Captain should
When a Captain’s ship goes down
But the Owner led when the women fled,
For an Owner must not drown.
The Captain sank as a man of Rank,
While his Owner turned away;
The Captain’s grave was his bridge and brave,
He earned his seaman’s pay.
To hold your place in the ghastly face of Death on the Sea at Night
Is a Seaman’s job, but to flee with the mob
Is an Owner’s Noble Right.

However, some newspapers claimed Ismay’s escape was justified since he was a passenger just like any other passenger on board the RMS Titanic. Some journalists maintained that Ismay bound by the dictum, “Women and children first” assisted many women and children himself. At the inquiry Bruce Ismay and first-class passenger William Carter said they boarded Collapsible C lifeboat only after there were no more women and children near that lifeboat.

On June 30, 1913, Ismay resigned as president of International Mercantile Marine and chairman of the White Star Line, to be succeeded by Harold Sanderson.

The Times Despatch - 2The above news “J. Bruce Ismay Tells in Whispers How He Escaped Death By Leaving Sinking Titanic in Lifeboat With Women” in The Times Dispatch reminds me of an apocryphal account of how Violet Jessop got into the lifeboat:

Violet watched patiently as the crew members loaded the passengers on to lifeboat Later, they called out “Are there any more women before this boat goes out?”

Bruce Ismay, who had already got into the boat loaded with women saw Violet and said: “Come along; jump in.

Violet replied: “I am only a stewardess.

Ismay said: “Never mind – you are a woman; take your place.

Just as the boat was being lowered, an officer of the Titanic gave her a baby to look after.

According to this unsubstantiated account Violet Jessop would have got into lifeboat C along with Bruce Ismay.

Violet Jessop, said later that while on board the RMS Carpathia, a woman without saying a word grabbed the baby Violet was holding and ran off with it; and many years after her retirement on a stormy night Violet received a telephone call from a woman who asked her if she saved a baby on the night the Titanic sank. When Violet replied “Yes,” the caller said, “I was that baby.”

When she told this to John Maxtone-Graham, her friend, and biographer, the latter said it would have been most likely some prankster. Violet replied, “No, John, I had never told that story to anyone before I told you now.”

The above account is a bit enigmatic. Some sources say that Violet Jessop escaped from the sinking Titanic on lifeboat 16. According to available records, the only baby in lifeboat 16 was 5-month-old Master Assad Alexander Thomas/Tannous who was handed over to 27-year-old Miss Edwina Celia Troutt. The infant was later reunited with his mother on the RMS Carpathia. Also, according to available records there were only two stewardesses on that lifeboat: 28-year-old Miss Evelyn Marsden and 41-year-old Mrs. Mary Kezia Roberts.

Many survivors lost all their possessions and became destitute. Many families, those of crew members from Southampton in particular, lost their principal breadwinners and were helped by charitable donations.

Empty holes where rivets gave way (Source: history.com)
Empty holes where rivets gave way (Source: history.com)

Videos taken at the wreck site of the Titanic by recent expeditions, show empty holes where the rivets gave way. Recent investigations by forensic experts reveal the rivets holding the steel plates are the real culprits leading to the Titanic catastrophe. Tests show flaws in the rivets used in the construction of Titanic. Inferior grade iron was used to manufacture the three million odd rivets that were used to hold the steel plates together.

After the demise of RMS Titanic, the SS Majestic was pressed back into service once again, filling the hole in the transatlantic schedule of White Star Line.

Even after the horrendous experience on RMS Titanic Violet Jessop continued to work as a stewardess on ocean-liners. Her next posting as a stewardess was on HMHS Britannica.

Titanic at 100
Click image to view video “Titanic At 100 Mystery Solved 720p HD (full movie)”

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 Previous: Part 4 – Sinking of the RMS Titanic

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Violet Jessop, the 20th Century Lady Jonah: Part 4 – Sinking of the RMS Titanic


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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Maiden voyage of RMS Titanic. (Author: T.V. Antony Raj)
Maiden voyage of RMS Titanic. (Author: T.V. Antony Raj)

On Sunday, April 14, 1912, at 11:40 pm ship’s time, about 2,000 miles (3,200 km) from Queenstown and 375 miles (600 km) south of Newfoundland at 41°43’42″N 49°46’49″W, lookout Frederick Fleet spotted an iceberg directly ahead of the RMS Titanic and alerted the bridge. At that time, the ship was travelling near her maximum speed.

The iceberg suspected of having sunk the RMS Titanic. This iceberg was photographed by the chief steward of the liner Prinz Adalbert on the morning of April 15, 1912, just a few miles south of where the “Titanic” went down. The steward hadn't yet heard about the Titanic. What caught his attention was the smear of red paint along the base of the berg, indication that it had collided with a ship sometime in the previous twelve hours. This photo and information was taken from "UNSINKABLE" The Full Story of RMS Titanic written by Daniel Allen Butler, Stackpole Books 1998. Other accounts indicated that there were several icebergs in the vicinity where the TITANIC collided.
The iceberg suspected of having sunk the RMS Titanic. This iceberg was photographed by the chief steward of the liner Prinz Adalbert on the morning of April 15, 1912, just a few miles south of where the “Titanic” went down. The steward hadn’t yet heard about the Titanic. What caught his attention was the smear of red paint along the base of the berg, indication that it had collided with a ship sometime in the previous twelve hours. This photo and information was taken from “UNSINKABLE” The Full Story of RMS Titanic written by Daniel Allen Butler, Stackpole Books 1998. Other accounts indicated that there were several icebergs in the vicinity where the TITANIC collided.

First Officer William McMaster Murdoch ordered the ship’s engines to be put in reverse to reduce speed and maneuver the vessel around the obstructing iceberg; but it was too late. The starboard side of the ship grazed the immense iceberg, creating a series of gashes below the waterline. The ship began to founder.

At 12:11 am on April 15, 1912, the radio operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride sent out the first distress signal: “CQD CQD CQD CQD CQD CQD DE MGY MGY MGY MGY MGY MGY” from position 41°44’N 50°24’W, and continued sending the distress signal by wireless.

‘CQD’ transmitted in Morse code as – · – · – – · – – · · is one of the first distress signals adopted for radio use. It is understood by wireless operators to mean, “All stations: distress.” “DE” from French “for” and ‘MGY’ the call sign of Marconi’s wireless telegraph station aboard RMS Titanic.

The crew sent distress signals using rockets and Morse code lamp.

Unfortunately, the ships that responded to her distress call were not near enough to reach her in time.

On the night of Sunday, April 14, 1912, the RMS Carpathia (call sign MPA), a Cunard Line transatlantic passenger steamship commanded by Captain Arthur Henry Rostron, was sailing from New York City to Fiume, Austria-Hungary (now Rijeka, Croatia). Carpathia’s only wireless operator, Harold Cottam, received messages from Cape Race, Newfoundland, stating they had private traffic for the RMS Titanic’s Marconi Room. At 12:11 am on April 15, 1912, he sent a message to RMS Titanic stating that Cape Race had traffic for them. In reply he received the Titanic’s distress signal.

Cottam informed Captain Rostron who immediately set a course at maximum speed of 17 knots (20 mph; 31 km/h) to the Titanic’s last known position – approximately 58 miles (93 km) away. To make as much steam as possible available for the engines, the Captain ordered the cutoff of the ship’s heating and hot water. As RMS Carpathia raced from the southeast, it fired rockets to let RMS Titanic know that help was on the way.

The RMS Titanic was provided with innovative safety features such as watertight compartments and remotely activated watertight doors.

At the outset, to accommodate the luxury features in RMS Titanic, Bruce Ismay ordered the number of lifeboats reduced from 48 to 16, the latter being the minimum allowed by the Board of Trade, based on the Titanic’s projected tonnage. However, during the maiden voyage she carried a total of 20 lifeboats: 14 standard wooden Harland & Wolff lifeboats with a capacity of 65 people each and four Englehardt “collapsible” (wooden bottom, collapsible canvas sides) lifeboats (identified as A to D) with a capacity of 47 people each. In addition, she had two emergency cutters with a capacity of 40 people each. So, there were not enough lifeboats to accommodate all on board. Though there were 2,224 people, including the 908 crew members aboard the ship, there were lifeboats enough only for 1,758 people. The RMS Titanic was less than 75% full during her maiden voyage and had room for 1,000 more people.

Lifeboat No. 5

Violet Jessop wrote in her memoirs that she was “comfortably drowsy” in her bunk, but not quite asleep when the collision occurred.

The second boat lowered on the starboard side was lifeboat 5. Third Officer Pitman was sent in charge of the boat, having five other crew with him as well as two stewardesses – most probably Violet Jessop and her roommate Elizabeth Mary Leather. Passengers were still a bit reluctant to enter the boats at this time.

Violet Jessop wrote in her memoirs:

“I was ordered up on deck. Calmly, passengers strolled about. I stood at the bulkhead with the other stewardesses, watching the women cling to their husbands before being put into the boats with their children. Some time after, a ship’s officer ordered us into the boat first to show some women it was safe. As the boat was being lowered the officer called: ‘Here, Miss Jessop. Look after this baby.’ And a bundle was dropped onto my lap.”

There were probably 35 or 36 people in the boat when lowered. Lifeboat No. 5 was one of the first boats to reach the Carpathia.

The collapsible lifeboat C

Bruce Ismay was active on the starboard side all night, urging and assisting passengers into the lifeboats., more or less urging them to get away. Lifeboat No. 1, had left 20-30 minutes earlier. The collapsible lifeboat C had been fitted into a pair of empty davits, a system that is used to lower an emergency lifeboat to the embarkation level to be boarded. The davits had falls of manilla rope to lower the lifeboat into the water.

Ismay was standing close to the collapsible lifeboat C. Those near the boat were third class passengers – many from the Middle East.

Emily Alice Brown Goldsmith and her young son, Frank John William Goldsmith got into the boat with a few younger lady friends from England. After about 25 to 28 women and children had been assisted into the boat, five crew members were ordered in as well as Quartermaster George Rowe, who had been trying to contact ships in the vicinity by assisting with the Morse lamp and with firing rockets.

When there were few seats still free, Ismay and a first class passenger, William Ernest Carter, who had sent his family in lifeboat 4, got on to the lifeboat C as it was about to be lowered. Lifeboat C was probably lowered about 20 minutes before the RMS Titanic sank. It was the ninth and the last boat lowered on the starboard side.

While rowing away from the ship four Chinese third class passengers were discovered in the bottom of the boat and were taken into the lifeboat.

Lifeboat C had the capacity to hold 49 people. Mrs. Goldsmith thought there were 30 women, five crew members and four Chinese and her son in the boat while QM Rowe thought there were 39, and Bruce Ismay estimated between 40 and 45 in the boat. In all likelihood, there were just under 40 people in the boat. They did not pick up any more people from the cold sea and possibly reached the RMS Carpathia as the tenth or twelfth lifeboat.

The Thayers

Two weeks before boarding the RMS Titanic at Cherbourg as first class passengers on April 10, 1912, Second Vice-President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, 49-year-old John Borland Thayer from Haverford, Pennsylvania, his wife 39-year-old Marian Longstreth Thayer (née Morris) and their 17-year-old son John Borland (“Jack”) Thayer Jrhad been in Berlin as guests of the American Consul General and Mrs. Thackara.

At night on April 14, 1912, while preparing for bed in his cabin C-70 Jack Thayer noticed the breeze through his half-open porthole stop. Pulling an overcoat over his pajamas he called to his parents cabin C-68 that he was ‘going out to see the fun.’ Jack ran up on A deck on the port side, but could see nothing amiss. He went towards the bow where, as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could make out the ice on the forward well deck.

Jack Thayer returned to get his parents. They together went to the starboard side of A deck where the father thought he saw small pieces of ice floating around. As they crossed to the port side, they noticed that the ship had developed a list to port. They then returned to their room and dressed. Jack put on a tweed suit and vest with another mohair vest underneath in order to keep warm. Having put on life-belts, with overcoats on top, they went to the deck along with 48-year-old Miss Margaret Fleming, the personal maid of Marian Thayer.

When the order was given to women and children to board the boats, John and Jack said goodbye to Marian at the top of the grand staircase on A-Deck. While Marian and her maid went to the port side, John and Jack went to the starboard side.

A while after, the two men were surprised to learn from Chief Second Steward George Dodd that Marian and her maid were still on board. Reunited, John, Marion and Margaret went on ahead to find a boat. Jack lagged behind and finally lost them, perhaps he was talking to his friend Milton Clyde Long whom Jack had met for the first time, over coffee that evening; or perhaps he just got caught up in the crowd.

Jack searched for his parents for a while, but then, presuming they had probably got into a boat he went forward on the starboard side accompanied by Milton Long.

The boats were leaving rapidly and the crowds were large. The two young men stood by the empty davits of a lifeboat that had left. Here, close to the bridge they watched a star through the falls of the davit to measure the rate at which the ship was going down.

As the ship began to sink more rapidly and deeper, Jack, a strong swimmer, wanted to jump into the sea as others were doing towards the stern. However, Long persuaded Jack against it. Eventually, as they could not wait anymore, saying goodbye to each other, they jumped up on the rail.

Long put his legs over and inquired,, “You are coming, boy, aren’t you?”

Jack replied “Go ahead, I’ll be with you in a minute.”

Long then slid down the side of the ship. Jack never saw him again.

Jack then jumped out, feet first. He surfaced well clear of the ship, he felt he was pushed away from the ship by some force.

Later on, Jack Thayer reminisced about the terrifying plunge:

“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.”

Sinking of RMS Titanic
Sinking of RMS Titanic (Artist: Ken Marschall)

At 2:20 am, two hours and forty minutes after the Titanic smashed into the iceberg and drifting to the south at a rate of one knot per hour equating to a 2.66 mile drift, sea water gushed in through open hatches and grates; her forward deck dipped under water and she started sinking rapidly. After In two hours time after, the ship broke in two and sank. All remaining passengers and crew were plunged into lethally cold water around 28°F (−2°C). Even young and fit people would not last longer than 15 minutes in such a temperature. Almost all of those in the water died from hypothermia within 15–30 minutes.

Jack Thayer  reminisced about the sinking:

“The ship seemed to be surrounded with a glare, and stood out of the night as though she were on fire…. 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 bow 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 twenty or thirty feet. The Suction of it drew me down and down struggling and swimming, practically spent…

“This time I was sucked down, and as I came up I was pushed out again and twisted around by a large wave, coming up in the midst of a great deal of small wreckage. As I pushed my hand from my head it touched the cork fender of an overturned lifeboat. I looked up and saw some men on the top and asked them to give me a hand. One of them, who was a stoker, helped me up. In a short time the bottom was covered with about twenty-five or thirty men. When I got on this I was facing the ship.”

As Jack Thayer and the other survivors balanced precariously on the upturned Collapsible lifeboat B, the cries of those swimming in the water came to them. It sounded to Jack just like the high-pitched hum of locusts back home in Pennsylvania.

“Her deck was turned slightly toward us. We could see groups of the almost fifteen hundred people aboard, clinging in clusters or bunches, like swarming bees; only to fall in masses, pairs or singly, as the greater part of the ship, two hundred and fifty feet of it, rose into the sky, till it reached a sixty-five or seventy 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.

“I looked upwards – we were right under the three enormous propellers. For an instant, I thought they were sure to come 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.”

Of the last moments, Violet Jessop wrote:

one awful moment of empty, misty darknessthen an unforgettable, agonizing cry went up from 1500 despairing throats, a long wail and then silence…

Violet and the rest of the survivors remained in the boats all night.

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 Previous: Part 3 – Ice Warnings for the The RMS Titanic

Next → Part 5 – After the Titanic Disaster 

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