When the World Heard the News
On this day in 1912, those aboard the Titanic had only one more night to sleep on the ship, one more morning to greet the day from their cabins. That day, no one could know what was to come as the beautiful ship sped across the Atlantic. Yet, April 14 would be the last full day on Earth for almost 1500 men, women, and children onboard.On Sunday, April 14, at 11:40 pm, as most of the passengers had retired for the night, the ship struck an iceberg. By 2:20 am on April 15th, the RMS Titanic went to her grave, taking 1500 souls with her. During those 2 ½ hours, the ship’s wireless operators sent repeated messages to any nearby ships asking for help. They used the letters CQD, indicating an emergency, then the new code, SOS. Their calls were picked up by other ships, some too far away to reach Titanic in time.
The new Marconi wireless system passed on the signals to receiving stations as far away as New York, but some of the messages were garbled with other ships’ messages using the same system. It was like a party line, loaded with codes of dots and dashes rather than voices.
A replica of Titanic‘s wireless room
In New York, the messages were received in the Associated Press newsroom, where editors and reporters immediately scrambled to obtain more information about what happened to the Titanic. Soon, the New York Times received this wire dispatch:
”CAPE RACE, Newfoundland, Sunday Night, April 14 (AP) At 10:25 o’clock tonight the White Star Line steamship Titanic called ‘CQD’ to the Marconi station here, and reported having struck an iceberg. The steamer said that immediate assistance was required.”
Although the fate of the ship and its passengers and crew wouldn’t be confirmed for many hours, the Times and other papers hurried to print early editions. With the lack of all the facts and the varied messages coming in over the wireless receiving stations, many newspaper headlines played it safe, while others guessed at what may have occurred.
Not until the Carpathia rescued the survivors and began transmitting their names via the ship’s wireless did anyone know for certain who had survived. Yet it would still be several days before the fate of every passenger and crew member was known on both sides of the Atlantic.
I hope you’ll join me in two weeks when we’ll revisit the day the Carpathia arrived in New York.
Photo credits: Americanheadlines.com, Titanicpigeonforge.com, Titanicuniverse.com, Todayinhistory.com