The Real Titanic McCoys: Triumph and Tragedy

Siblings Agnes (29), Alice (26), and Bernard McCoy (24) huddled together on the deck of the Titanic shivering in the cold. It was about 1:15 am on April 15, 1912. They were on the port side of the doomed ship, which now was decidedly tilted toward the bow, causing everyone to lean toward the stern. Looking forward, Bernard could see that the entire bow was now underwater and the waterline was slowly creeping in their direction. There was no question in anyone’s mind anymore that the ship was sinking, as they looked out onto the dark, icy, foreboding waters of the Atlantic, contemplating whether they might soon be in it. 

Like most of the 3rd Class passengers, the McCoys had gotten a late start coming up onto the lifeboat deck, being told for some time after the collision with the iceberg that there was no reason for concern. Unlike most of those steerage passengers, the McCoys had at first disregarded those assurances and had dressed and come up on deck. There, however, they were once again reassured by an officer, and seeing no panic there, they started back down to steerage.

Once there, the situation had obviously changed. Now stewards were ordering everyone to get dressed, put on their lifebelts, and go up to the deck. The McCoys quickly got their lifebelts and reversed their course back up the stairs. They soon found the second trip would not be so easy, with over 700 of their panicking fellow 3rd Class passengers trying to go the same way this time. The delay in getting steerage passengers to the deck is reflected in the casualty statistics. While 97 percent women and 86 percent of children from the 1st Class area survived, only 49 percent of women and 31 percent of children from 3rd Class survived.

(Below: Bernard McCoy)

The McCoys, encountering none of the locked gates or other obstacles some other steerage passengers later described, emerged into the chaos of the boat deck to see that most of the lifeboats had already launched. Clutching each other’s hands to avoid being separated in the screaming mass of people, they headed toward Lifeboat #16, on the port side of the ship. (Various sources claim they may have boarded #2, #14, or #15.) They saw Sixth Officer Paul Moody directing people into the boat. Women and children from steerage, who were just now crowding the deck, finally had a chance to be saved.

The McCoy sisters were about to board it when Bernard was told he would not be allowed on with them. Beg as they might, they could not convince Moody to allow him to board. Both sisters were refusing to go without him but after some cajoling by Bernard, and the application of some physical force by crew members, they were put on the boat. Agnes later said, “We were literally thrown into the lifeboat and while we fought and cried, it was lowered over the side.”

Before the boat was lowered, Moody handed off an infant to stewardess Violet Jessop, who was born in Argentina but was the daughter of Irish immigrants, William and Katherine Jessop. What became of the infant is unknown, but the baby was in luck to be handed to such a “survivor.” The fortunate Jessop would go on to survive the sinking of the Titanic’s Olympic-class sister ship, the Britannic when it struck a mine in 1916. The sisters wept uncontrollably as they were lowered down, looking up at Bernard standing by the rail. They were sure it was the last time they would see him alive.

(Below: Agnes and Alice with their parents, John and Bridget.)

The McCoys were three of the 13 (two of which died as infants) children of John McCoy and Bridget Cole They were from the small village of Ballinamuck in County Longford, Ireland, famous for being the site of the climatic defeat of “The Year of the French” in 1798, when French General Jean Humbert was defeated by Lord Cornwallis.

By 1912, eight of the McCoy children were living in the New York area in the United States. This “chain migration,” whereby the first member of a family to emigrate to America sent money home to finance the emigration of other members of their family, was a well-established tradition by 1912. It was populating the United States with young Irishmen and women who were willing and eager to work hard to take advantage of the seemingly unlimited opportunities of the new world. But it was a cause of much loneliness and sorrow for the parents like John and Bridget, who expected to never see their children again once they sailed for America.

In 1912, however, they had the joy of once again seeing daughters Catherine, now going by her middle name of Agnes, and Alice. The meeting was bittersweet, however, as the sisters had not come home to stay but to escort yet another of the children, Bernard, back to America. This would leave the parents with just 21-year-old John and 14-year-old Luke at home -- one perhaps to inherit the modest family farm, and the other likely to be the last link in the “chain” to America.

How excited Bernard must have been on April 10th, as he and his sisters loaded the wagon that would take them to the railway station in Longford to begin a great adventure. From there it would be on to Queenstown, now Cobh, in County Cork, where they were to board one of the newest wonders of the world, the ocean liner RMS Titanic. Bernard had likely never traveled far from Ballinamuck. But Bernard’s excitement at the beginning of this trek must have been matched by his mother and father’s sorrow.

(Below: Thomas McCormack)

As the McCoys boarded the train for Cobh, they were joined by several friends from the local area. There was Thomas McCormack (19) from Glenmore, Ellen Corr (17) from Corglass, the Murphy sisters, Margaret (24) and Kate (17), and the Kiernan brothers, John (25) and Philip (22), from Fostra, Jim Farrell (25) from Clonee, and Kate Gilnagh (17)and Kate Mullen (21) from Killoe. Going to America on the most famous ocean liner in the world would have been a grand escapade for the McCoys on their own, but now it was a celebration of life by a group of teenagers and young adults. Though they were from more widespread parts of their county, they were similar to the ill-fated group that was leaving from the village of Lahardane, County Mayo around the same time.

How they must have talked and laughed and probably sang songs as they watched the beautiful Irish landscape flowing past the windows on that long train trip to Cobh. No doubt there was some remorse at the thought of leaving this beautiful landscape behind and perhaps never seeing Ireland again, but the future must have seemed so bright and full of hope for the opportunities of “the land of the free” for these happy, healthy young people.

The bustling, confusing crowds around the White Star Line on the quay at Cobh must have been bewildering for most of the country bumpkins from rural County Longford. Agnes and Alice McCoy, however, and also young Tom McCormack, who was going back to America after visiting his family, were making their 3rd cross-Atlantic trip and would have been a great help to others in their group in navigating the process. The quay near the offices of the White Star Line was full of people, conversing and laughing happily. But for some, there were hugs and kisses for loved ones they might never see again and tears. One hundred and twenty three passengers boarded the luxury liner at Cobh, all but 10 had 3rd Class tickets.

They then boarded the postal ship America, which was ferrying the 3rd Class passengers out to the massive ocean liner. As the tender moved out into the harbor, they were suddenly startled by the sound of a musical instrument they knew well. It was 29-year-old Westmeath man, Eugene Daly, who began to play familiar tunes on his uilleann pipes as the view of Cobh grew smaller and smaller behind them. Daly was said to have played "A Nation Once Again,” "Boolavogue,” and a few other nationalist songs. The tune most seemed to remember him playing was "Erin's Lament” as they approached the Titanic. There must have been many a damp eye and aching heart on the America and on the Titanic and perhaps even back in Cobh as the sound of that air wafted across the water of Cobh harbor to relatives left behind.

(Left: Eugene Daly)

As they came round Spike Island, they saw the Titanic for the first time, anchored just outside of the harbor near Roche’s Point. What a sight it must have been for those young Irishmen and women as their small ship approached this wonder of the modern world. There were small ships from Cobh that carried local merchants out to the liner buzzing around her like bees around the hive as the Longford travelers climbed onboard.

(Below, Erin's Lament also known as "a Spailpin a Run.)

Around 1:30 p.m. April 11th, the giant ocean liner weighed anchor and set sail on the most famous passenger liner trip in history. They had only been at anchor for about 2 hours. On the deck, as the ship pulled away from Ireland, Daly began to play again. Now that their homeland was fading into the distance, they must have all wondered if they would ever see it again. Most would not, and many would never see dry land again at all.

(Below: A replica of a 3rd Class berth on the Titanic.)

The Longford group went below deck to find their berths; the women in the stern and the men near the bow. Surely, Bernard McCoy and most of the rest of the Longford group must have been amazed. These were far better living conditions than Bernard had ever known at the McCoy’s overcrowded farmhouse. And even his sisters, who has sailed before and spent time already in America, must have been impressed by the accommodations, which were far better than those in most 3rd Class berths of the time.

Their first trip to the 3rd Class dining salon would have held even more delights. The menu must have seemed too good to be true for most of them. They got meat with breakfast and dinner every day, something unknown at the tables of most poor Irish families. There was fresh fruit, some of which, like oranges, many of them had probably never tasted or even seen before. It may have been the first time in their lives that most of them could eat until they were full at every meal.

For three days the McCoys lived as if they were in some marvelous dream. They had comfortable, warm sleeping quarters, all the food they could want. And every night in the 3rd Class General Room the young people in steerage would gather for a “hooley,” with many playing various instruments and people singing and dancing. Perhaps the revelries even attracted a visit from the big, genial Chief Purser, Hugh McElroy, getting in touch with his Irish roots.

(Left: The 3rd Class menu.)

Many survivors recalled that final “hooley” and remembered that the same piper they had heard playing in Cobh Harbor, and on the ship since then, was once again entertaining them. James Cameron would have his young lovers, Jack and Rose (who were fictitious) attend that final night “hooley” in his 1997 movie.

This fantasy world that the McCoys and their friends were enjoying would come to a jolting end at 11:40 the night of April 14th, when the Titanic’s hull scraped along that iceberg. Her starboard side was ripped open -- damaging six of her 16 compartments. The dream was over. They were about to enter Dante’s Inferno on the high seas. The mighty craic would give way to a desperate fight for survival that two-thirds of the people onboard would lose.

As Bernard McCoy watched his sister’s lifeboat disappear along the side of the ship, he must have been as sure as they were that he would never see them again. And though it is seldom talked about, it must have been extremely frustrating to the young men, with so much of life ahead of them, to be denied a place in a lifeboat that launched with the capacity to hold over 20 more people, as was the case with Lifeboat #16, which was commanded by Master-at-Arms Joseph Henry Bailey. One of the crewmen who worked tirelessly saving passengers on that deck and then was lost himself was McElroy.

Rather amazingly, most of the County Longford group would survive, some of them because of the actions of their friend James Farrell. He was together with a Longford group that included Kate Gilnagh, Kate Murphy, and Kate Mullen, and perhaps others when they encountered a locked barrier with a member of the crew guarding it. James intervened, shouting "For God's sake man, let the girls get past to the boats, at least!" Farrell was said to be a burly young man, with a booming voice, and apparently, he intimidated the crewmen into opening the barrier.

The three Kates would all board Lifeboat #16 and survive. Farrell’s last act was to give his friend Kate Gilnagh his hat to help keep her warm, telling her, “Goodbye, forever.” Farrell’s body was later found and identified. He had a set of rosary bead clutched in his stiff hand.

(Right: Kate Gilnagh)

As he watched his weeping sister's lifeboat lowered to the ice-cold North Atlantic, Bernard McCoy’s odds of sharing Farrell’s fate were very high. Only 9 percent of the male steerage passengers who boarded in Cobh survived. The launched boats were all moving away from the ship, and only two were known to have later come back looking for survivors.

Bernard did not wait for the ship to sink. With his lifebelt on, he jumped over the side into the icy ocean. This was a wise decision on his part. The clock was ticking on your life once you were in the water, which was about 28 degrees. Many factors can determine how long a certain individual could live in that water, age, health, how many layers of clothes you have on, etc, but it was estimated that the average person would die of hypothermia in about 30 minutes. Everyone on the ship would be in the water eventually, but later all the lifeboats would be far removed from the ship.

Men weren’t being allowed to board before launching, but would they be refused entry into a launched boat with open seats if they swam to one? Bernard would now test that. As he swam toward Lifeboat #16, his sisters recognized him. Agnes later related what happened next:

“When the form came up, I recognized it as Bernard. I cited to my sister, who was nearer to him than I, to help him. The poor boy took hold of the side of the boat and I staggered to his rescue. Several persons pushed me back and I saw a seaman strike Bernard's hands with an oar. Then he tried to beat him off by striking him on the head and shoulders. It was more than I could stand, and calling for Alice, I made for the seaman. With more strength than I thought I ever possessed, I threw the man to the bottom of the boat and held him there fast. Yes, maybe I did hit him once or twice, but I think I was justified under the circumstances. In the meantime, Alice helped the poor boy over the side and lifted him to safety. I think everyone on board the lifeboat was highly elated and perfectly satisfied that our brother was safe with us. We need him here with us as any two sisters do."

The McCoy sisters huddled together around Bernard warming their nearly frozen brother. The danger was not past, several men who were pulled from the water alive died shortly after that. Bernard, however, would survive.

(Below: Lifeboat #16 unloading passengers to the Carpathia.)

Some might say he found a way to circumvent the “women and children” directive by immediately jumping over the side and boarding a lifeboat that just launched, but how was anyone helped by the numerous empty spots in the launched boats? How does one really blame a young man for looking down at empty seats in a lifeboat and thinking someone should jump off the ship and fill the seats if they are capable of doing it? No woman or child was going to take that place in the lifeboat once it was launched. Refusing to jump into the ocean and swim to a boat at that point would not make you any kind of dead “hero,” it would simply mean you were dead.

And so, against all odds, given that only 25 percent of 3rd Class passengers lived, all three McCoys made it to the rescue ship, Carpathia, alive. The Longford friends over all fared much better than the famous Lahardane group, as nine of the 12 in the Longford group, 75 percent, survived. The Kiernan brothers and Farrell were the three who were lost. Piper Eugene Daly was one of the men who survived, by swimming to overturned Collapsible Boat B and clinging to the top of it for hours before being taken onto other lifeboats.

(Below: Eugene Daly)

The hour or so after the Titanic broke in two and sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic were excruciating for those in the water, as they slowly died of hypothermia, and for the survivors in the lifeboats. as they listened to the mournful pleading of the struggling in the frigid water. The crew in the lifeboats had immediately rowed as quickly as they could away from the ship. Then they were afraid that if they rowed back to attempt to save those in the water, their boats might be swamped. Only lifeboats 4 and 14 attempted to save anyone in the water. And so the survivors sat shivering in the lifeboats, listening to the cries for help slowly get weaker and weaker, as more and more fell unconscious and then passed away. It must have been similar to the cries of the wounded and dying soldiers on a battlefield.

Fate has shined on the McCoy family on that “night to remember” but would not be so kind to them in the years to come. Things went well for Agnes at first. She found work as a domestic for some prominent New Yorkers, including working for the actor Douglas Fairbanks for a time.

(Below: Agnes McCoy)

Agnes became the matriarch of the many McCoy siblings all living in the New York / New Jersey area, but she never married. When they brought over young brother John, things began to go wrong. John simply disappeared and was never seen again. Another brother, Patrick, was tragically killed in a chemical plant accident in 1929.

After this, Agnes became more withdrawn and the family began to drift apart. Now retired and living isolated from the family that had been her life, she was found dead in her apartment on January 14, 1957. Though the cause of death was called “heart attack” by the coroner, she had bruises around her neck and the family believed she was murdered by a burglar.

Things went very well for Alice in the years immediately after the Titanic, as well, finding good jobs as a cook for several wealthy New York families. But she was unlucky in love, divorcing twice. Her first marriage produced a beloved daughter, Colaine. After the 2nd failed marriage, she moved to Connecticut and became estranged from the rest of the family. When her beloved daughter committed suicide in 1959, it was more than she could bear. She was committed to an asylum in Fairfield, Connecticut, and died a lonely death there just four months later.

(Below: Bernard McCoy)

The shortest, and most tragic of their post-Titanic lives was that of Bernard. He developed a stutter after the sinking that never went away. He worked on the trolley system in New York City for a time, until he was drafted and served in the U.S. Army in World War 1. He was a victim of mustard gas in France during the war and suffered health problems from that for the rest of his life. His last job was working in a laundry.

Bernard never married, and family members said his stuttering caused him to be socially isolated. He developed spinal cancer in his '50s and died in the Veterans Administration hospital in the Bronx on July 19, 1945.

The McCoys had been extremely lucky during the sinking of the Titanic, as only 35 percent of the Irish passengers on the ship survived. But as many soldiers who made it home alive from war have learned, not all injuries from traumatic events are physical. Bernard was the only one of the three siblings who showed a physical manifestation of this trauma with his stuttering problem. Still, all of them seemed to suffer in their relationships through the rest of their lives. Was it perhaps a form of post-traumatic stress? That question will never be answered.


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Tags: Disasters, Liners, Seafaring, Ships, Traditional Music

Comment by Joe Gannon on April 8, 2021 at 3:14pm

When we visited the "Titanic Experience" at the old offices of the White Star Line in Cobh we were given a replica ticket of someone who actually boarded the Titanic there. I got the ticket of Bernard McCoy. Click on the picture for a larger view.

Comment by Joe Gannon on April 8, 2021 at 5:23pm

You can find markers like this in many big and small towns around Ireland. Usually, they put them on the building that sold tickets for the Titanic. We noticed this one in Cahir, Co. Tipperary. 

Comment by Joe Gannon on April 8, 2021 at 5:24pm

This one is in Ballydehob, Co. Cork. 

It is on the building to the left here. 

Comment by Joe Gannon on April 9, 2021 at 7:50pm

In this newspaper story from after the disaster, Kate Murphy told of their last night at home before leaving for Cobh. The hosts of the party, the Kiernan's lost their sons, John (25) and Philip (22) on the Titanic. 

Comment by Joe Gannon on April 9, 2021 at 7:55pm

A Chronology of the last day of the Titanic

  • April 14, 1912
    • Morning
      Capt. Edward J. Smith cancels a scheduled lifeboat drill.
    • 5:50 PM
      After receiving iceberg warnings throughout the day, Captain Smith changes the Titanic's course, heading slightly south. However, the ship's speed is not lowered.
    • 9:40 PM
      The Mesaba sends a warning to the Titanic about an ice field that includes “heavy pack ice and [a] great number [of] large icebergs.” Wireless operator Jack Phillips—who works for the Marconi Company—is handling passengers' messages and never passes the warning on to the Titanic's bridge.
    • 10:00 PM
      The shift changes on the bridge, with First Officer William Murdoch relieving Second Officer Charles Lightoller as the officer of the watch.
      Lookouts Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee begin their watch in the Titanic's crow's nest. The night is unusually calm, making icebergs more difficult to see—because there are no waves breaking at the icebergs. Adding to the difficulties is the fact that the crow’s nest's binoculars have been misplaced.
    • 10:55 PM
      The nearby Californian radios the Titanic: “Say, old man, we are stopped and surrounded by ice.” An annoyed Phillips responds: “Shut up! Shut up! I am busy. I am working Cape Race.” (A wireless station is located at Cape Race, Newfoundland, Canada.)
    • 11:00 PM
      Most of the Titanic's passengers have retired to their rooms for the evening.
    • 11:35 PM
      The wireless operator on the Californian turns off his radio.
      Fleet sees an iceberg in the Titanic's path and rings the bell three times to indicate that something is ahead. He then calls the bridge. Murdoch orders the Titanic “hard-a-starboard” (to the left) and the engines reversed. He also closes the doors to the supposedly watertight compartments.
    • 11:40 PM
      The starboard side of the Titanic scrapes along the iceberg.
      Captain Smith arrives on deck and is told that the ship has struck an iceberg. Shortly thereafter he is informed that the mail room is filling with water. Other reports soon come in of water in at least five of the ship's compartments.
      Designer Thomas Andrews surveys the damage. The Titanic was built to remain afloat with only four compartments flooded. Andrews predicts that the ship has only about one to two hours before sinking.
  • April 15, 1912
    • 12:00 AM
      The lifeboats begin to be readied for launch. The 20 boats have space for only 1,178 of the more than 2,200 people on board. An order is later given for women and children to board first, with crewmen to row and guide the boats.
    • 12:15 AM
      Captain Smith orders Phillips and Harold Bride to send out a distress signal. Although SOS became the official distress signal several years earlier, many still use CQD. (CQ signifies a general call, and the D means distress.) Over the next several hours, Phillips will send out both.
      The Frankfurt is among the first to respond, but the liner is some 170 nautical miles (315 km) away, to the south. Other ships also offer assistance—including the Titanic's sister ship the Olympic—but are too far away.
    • 12:20 AM
      The Carpathia receives a distress signal from the Titanic: “Come at once. We have struck a berg. It's a CQD, old man.” The Cunard liner immediately changes course to aid the stricken ship some 58 nautical miles (107 km) away. It will take the Carpathia more than three hours to arrive.
      Fourth Officer Joseph G. Boxhall, tasked with determining the Titanic's position, revises the coordinates. The location is now given as 41°46’ N 50°14’ W in the distress signals.
      Passengers waiting to enter lifeboats are entertained by the Titanic's musicians, who initially play in the first-class lounge before eventually moving to the ship's deck. Sources will differ on how long they perform—until shortly before the ship sinks, according to some. Speculation will also surround the last song they perform—likely either “Autumn” or “Nearer My God to Thee.” None of the musicians will survive the sinking.
    • 12:45 PM
      Number 7 on the starboard side is the first lifeboat lowered. It carries some 27 people even though it has room for 65. Many of the first lifeboats will be launched well below capacity, partially because of the crewmen's worry that the davits would be unable to hold a fully loaded lifeboat. In addition, many passengers are initially afraid to leave the ship, believing that the Titanic is unsinkable.
      The Titanic fires the first of eight distress rockets. A ship has been sighted less than 10 nautical miles (18.5 km) away, but the crew is unable to contact it through telegraph or Morse lamp. The rockets also prove unsuccessful.
      Crewmen aboard the Californian see the rockets but fail to determine their source. Thought for some time to be the nearby ship seen by the Titanic, the Californian will later be believed to have been some 20 nautical miles (37 km) away. (The mystery ship will be thought to be a Norwegian fishing vessel that was illegally hunting seal.)
    • 12:55 AM
      Number 5 is the second lifeboat to leave the Titanic. As it is being lowered, two male passengers jump into the boat, injuring one of the female occupants.
      Number 6 is launched, containing passenger Molly Brown and lookout Fleet. The lifeboat is commanded by Quartermaster Robert Hichens, who was at the wheel when the Titanic struck the iceberg. His subsequent actions—notably his refusal to look for survivors because they will only find “stiffs”—draw the ire of other occupants, notably Brown, who threatens to throw him overboard.
    • 1:00 AM
      Number 3 is lowered. It carries approximately 39 people, 12 of whom are part of the ship's crew.
      Water is seen at the base (E deck) of the Grand Staircase.
      Number 1 is launched with only 12 people; it can hold 40. (An emergency cutter, it is smaller than a standard lifeboat and was designed for quick lowering, as in cases of a person overboard.) Among its occupants are first-class passengers Sir Cosmo Edmund Duff-Gordon and his wife, Lucy. Seven of the occupants are crewmen, and Duff-Gordon pays each of them £5, reportedly to replace lost clothing and gear but possibly—according to subsequent accusations—as a bribe to keep the crew from letting anyone else into the boat.
    • 1:10 AM
      Number 8 is among the first lifeboats lowered on the port side. It is launched with only 28 people, including first-class passenger Lucy Noël Martha, countess of Rothes, who will later man the tiller. Isidor and Ida Straus are offered seats in the boat. However, Isidor refuses to disobey the order of “women and children first.” Ida, in turn, will not leave her husband's side, reportedly saying, “Where you go, I go.” Neither will survive.
    • 1:20 AM
      Number 10 is launched. Among the occupants is nine-week-old Millvina Dean, who will become the last living survivor of the disaster; she will die in 2009 at the age of 97.
      Number 9 on the stern starboard side is lowered. With some 56 people on board, it is nearly full. One of the occupants is American businessman Benjamin Guggenheim's alleged mistress. Guggenheim and his valet later change into formal attire, and he reportedly says, “We've dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.” His body will never be recovered.
    • 1:25 AM
      Possibly not understanding the direness of the situation, the Olympic radios: “Are you steering southerly to meet us?” The Titanic responds: “We are putting the women off in the boats.” While still hours away, the Olympic will be informed by the Carpathia of the Titanic's sinking.
      Number 12 is lowered with about half of its seats empty. However, it will eventually carry more than 70 people.
    • 1:30 AM
      Amid the growing panic, several male passengers try to board number 14, causing Fifth Officer Harold Lowe to fire his gun three times. He is later placed in command of the boat. After the sinking of the Titanic, Lowe will transfer people into lifeboats 4, 10, 12, and collapsible D so he can return to look for survivors in the water. He will pull several men to safety and rescue those in the partially flooded collapsible lifeboat A. (The collapsible lifeboats have canvas sides that can be folded for easy storage. Their capacity is 47.)
      Phillips continues to send out distress calls with growing desperation: “Women and children in boats. Cannot last much longer.”
      Number 13 is launched and is soon followed by number 15, which holds many third-class passengers. As it is being lowered, number 15 nearly lands on number 13, which has drifted under it. However, the crewmen in number 13 are able to cut the launch ropes and row to safety.
    • 1:35 AM
      Number 16 is launched.
    • 1:40 AM
      Collapsible C is lowered. Among its occupants is White Star chairman J. Bruce Ismay. Although he will later claim that no women or children were in the area when he boarded the lifeboat, others will refute that assertion. His decision not to go down with the ship will result in many branding him a coward.
    • 1:45 AM
      Number 2, an emergency cutter, is launched under the command of Fourth Officer Boxhall. Aboard are some 20 people.
      Number 11 is lowered with some 50 people aboard.
      Number 4 is readied for launch. Madeleine Astor, some five months pregnant, is helped onto the boat by her husband, John Jacob Astor. When Astor asks if he may join her, Second Officer Lightoller—who has strictly followed the order of women and children first—refuses. Astor does not press the issue and steps away. His body will later be recovered.
    • 2:00 AM
      The only lifeboats that remain on the Titanic are three of the collapsible boats.
      The Titanic's bow has sunk low enough that the stern's propellers are now clearly visible above the water.
      Crewmen lower collapsible lifeboat D from the roof of the officers' quarters. More than 20 people are in the boat.
      As the Titanic's bow goes under, collapsible A is washed from the deck. Some 20 people manage to get into the boat, which is partly filled with water. By the time Lowe in number 14 comes to their aid, only 12 are alive. Three bodies are left in the boat, which will be discovered a month later by the Oceanic.
      As crewmen try to release collapsible B, it falls, and, before it can be righted, it is swept off the Titanic. Some 30 men find safety on the still-overturned lifeboat, including wireless operator Bride and Second Officer Lightoller. The men will later be taken aboard numbers 4 and 12.
      Captain Smith releases the crew, saying that “it's every man for himself.” Smith is reportedly last seen on the bridge. His body will never be recovered.
    • 2:17 AM
      Phillips sends a final distress signal. He reportedly makes it to the overturned collapsible lifeboat B but succumbs to exposure. His body will not be found.
    • 2:18 AM
      The lights on the Titanic go out, plunging the ship into darkness.
      As the Titanic's bow continues to sink, the stern rises higher out of the water, placing great strain on the midsection, and the ship breaks in two between the third and fourth funnels. Reports would later speculate that it took some six minutes for the bow section, likely traveling at approximately 30 miles (48 km) per hour, to reach the ocean bottom.
      The stern momentarily settles back in the water before rising again, eventually becoming vertical. It briefly remains in that position before beginning its final plunge.
    • 2:20 AM
      The stern disappears into the ocean, and the Titanic is gone.
      Water pressure allegedly causes the stern, which still has air inside, to implode as it sinks. The stern lands some 2,000 feet (610 meters) from the bow.
      Hundreds of people are in the freezing water. Although there is room in most of the lifeboats, crewmen are fearful that the boats will be swamped. Several boats eventually return, but too late. A few people are pulled to safety, but most die of exposure.
      Over the next several hours, numerous ships try in vain to contact the Titanic. At one point, the Birma's wireless operator, believing that he has heard the liner, sends a message: “Steaming full speed to you; shall arrive you 6 in morning. Hope you are safe.”
    • 3:30 AM
      The Carpathia arrives in the area, firing rockets.
    • 4:10 AM
      Number 2 is the first lifeboat to reach the Carpathia. It will take several hours for the ship to pick up all the survivors.
      Ismay writes a message to be sent to the White Star Line's offices: “Deeply regret advise you Titanic sank this morning fifteenth after collision iceberg, resulting serious loss life; further particulars later.”
    • 8:30 AM
      The Californian—which at approximately 5:30 AM learned of the Titanic's sinking—arrives. It searches the area for several hours but fails to find any survivors.
    • 8:50 AM
      The Carpathia, carrying the 705 Titanic survivors, heads to New York City, where it will arrive to massive crowds on April 18.



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