“After a smoke and a hand of cards, Butt, Millet, and Moore probably called it a night. It had been a long day, after all. As they walked to their cabins, there was barely a movement as the ship made its steady course along the Channel's southern reaches. Up in the crow's nest on the foremast, lookouts Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee could see the lights of the French coast in the distance and the mast lights of other ships. For a closer look, binoculars would have helped, but the pair they had used in the crow's nest on the trip from Belfast to Southhampton had gone missing. This had been reported to Second Officer Charles Lightroller, but he had said there wasn't a replacement set available. No one seemed bothered about it, so the lookouts weren't worried either. Binoculars were not standard equipment in the crow's nest on many ships. And these things just seemed to happen on a maiden voyage.”
Unfortunately, the maiden voyage in this case was that of the Titanic, and the binoculars could have been vital as the ill-fated ship entered the ice fields of the North Atlantic. Hugh Brewster's latest work, Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage, tells again the story of that loss, in wonderful detail, with many personal narratives. Subtitled 'The Titanic's First-Class Passengers and Their World', it's a vivid look at the lives of the Edwardian rich and famous, and how so many of those lives intersected on what would be the first and last voyage of the great liner. In the section headed 'Collision and After', Brewster writes:
“A blue-white cliff face suddenly loomed out of the darkness. The liner raced on, its prow aimed directly toward it. Fred Fleet braced for a crash. Then slowly, slowly, the ship began to turn. Would they miss it? He saw the tip of the bow slide past. But then came a shuddering jar on the starboard side. Large chunks of ice thudded into the well deck. Fleet heard a grating noise from deep below as the berg scarped along the starboard hull. Less than a minute had passed since he first sighted it.”
In just over two hours after that collision, the Titanic broke apart and sank; of the 2224 passengers and crew members who had boarded the ship, only 712 survived. Gilded Lives tells the stories of many, both survivors and victims. Be sure to read all about them.
Copyright © 2012, S. Halversen.
All Rights Reserved.