Little Bits of History

RMS Carpathia

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 17, 2014
RMS Carpathia remains

RMS Carpathia remains

July 17, 1918: RMS Carpathia sinks. The steamship was owned and operated by the Cunard line and traversed the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and the US. She was built by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson and laid down on September 10, 1901. She was launched on August 6, 1902 and had her maiden voyage on May 5, 1903. The impressive ship was 558 feet in length with a beam width of 34.5 feet. Her top speed was 17.5 knots or 20.1 mph. Her normal cruising speed was 14 knots (16 mph). When first built, she could carry 1,705 passengers and after a refit in 1905, that number increased to 2,550. Of those berths available, 100 were first class, 200 were second class and the remainder was third class.

What Carpathia was best known for was not her own sailing adventures. She was sailing from New York City to Fiume, Austria-Hungary (now Rijeka, Croatia) on the night of Sunday, April 14, 1912. There were some famous passengers aboard on the trip and Charles Marshall was among them. Three of his nieces were also sailing from England to the US. Harold Cottam was the wireless operator and he had been on the bridge for part of the evening. A message from land trying to contact another ship at sea was unable to get through and so Carpathia sent on the message only to hear the distress signal of the other ship, the RMS Titanic. Cottam awakened the captain who made full speed to the site of the disaster. They arrived at 4 AM and worked their way through the dangerous icebergs to collect 705 survivors of the notorious sinking perhaps including Marshall’s nieces.

During World War I, Carpathia was used as a troop transport and brought both Canadian and American troops to the battlefields of Europe. She sometimes traveled in convoys but not always. She brought Frank Buckles to the war – Frank was the last surviving American veteran of the war. On July 15, 1918, RMS Carpathia left Liverpool in a convoy with the destination as Boston.  On this beautiful summer day, she was in the Celtic Sea. Imperial German Navy submarine U-55 was also in the area. At 9:15 AM, the first torpedo struck the ship and impacted on the port side. The next, nearly immediately fired torpedo hit the engine room and killed two firemen and three trimmers.

The ship settled and listed to port. Captain William Prothero gave the order to abandon ship and all 57 passengers and 218 surviving crew were able to get to lifeboats as Carpathia was sinking. The submarine surfaced and fired a third torpedo at the dying ship and then approached the lifeboats. HMS Snowdrop, an Azalea-class sloop, arrived on the scene and drove the sub away with gunfire. She then picked up the survives. Carpathia fell under the waves at 11:00 AM about 120 miles west of Fastnet. The wreckage has been found and is currently owned by Premier Exhibitions Inc which plans to recover objects from the wreck.

I’d much rather be a woman than a man. Women can cry, they can wear cute clothes, and they’re the first to be rescued off sinking ships. – Gilda Radner

It sounds mercenary and it smacks of rats leaving the sinking ship. But get real, when everyone is bailing out, you don’t want to be the last man standing. – Robbie Fowler

His style has the desperate jauntiness of an orchestra fiddling away for dear life on a sinking ship. – Edmund Wilson

Often undecided whether to desert a sinking ship for one that might not float, he would make up his mind to sit on the wharf for a day. – Lord Beaverbrook

Also on this day: Whoops! – In 1939, Douglas Corrigan takes off in the wrong direction.
M-I-C-K-E-Y – In 1955, Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California.
Five and Dime – In 1997, Woolworth closed.
Martyrs of Compiegne – In 1794, sixteen women were killed as the Reign of Terror was winding down.

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