Immediately, the officer on the bridge ordered the wheel turned as far as it would go. The engine room was told to reverse the engines, while a button was pushed to close the doors to the watertight compartments at the bottom of the ship.
The lookouts in the crow's nest braced themselves for a collision. Slowly, the ship started to turn. It looked hopeful for a while. But it was too late. They had avoided a head-on crash, but the iceberg had struck a glancing blow along the Titanic's starboard bow. Several tons of ice fell on the ship's decks as the iceberg brushed along the side of the ship and passed into the night. A few minutes later, the Titanic came to a stop.
Many of the passengers did not know that the ship had hit anything. Due to the cold weather, almost everyone was inside and most people were already asleep. Ruth Becker and her mother were awakened by the dead silence. They could no longer hear the soothing hum of the vibrating engines from below. Jack Thayer was about to step into bed when he felt himself sway ever so slightly. The engines stopped. He was startled by the sudden quiet.
Sensing trouble, Ruth's mother looked out of the door of their second-class cabim and inquired a steward what had happened. He told her that nothing was the matter, so Mrs Becker went back to bed. But as she lay there, she couldn't help feeling that something was very wrong. Jack heard running feet and voices in the hallway outside his first-class cabin. Wondering what had happened, he went up to investigate.
On deck, Jack watched some third-class passengers playing with the ice that had landed on the forward deck as the iceberg had brushed by. Some people were throwing chunks at each other, while a few skidded about playing football with pieces of ice.
Down in the very bottom of the ship, things were very different. When the iceberg had struck, there had been a noise like a big gun going off in one of the boiler rooms A couple of stokers had been immediately hit by a jet of icy water. The noise and the shock of cold water had sent then running for safety.
Twenty minutes after the crash, things looked very bad. Captain Smith and the ship's builder, Thomas Andrews, had made a rapid tour below decks to inspect the damage. The mail room was filling up with water and sacks of mail were floating about. Water was also pouring into some of the forward holds and two of the boiler rooms.
Captain Smith knew that the Titanic's hull was divided into a number of watertight compartments. She had been designed so that she could still float if only the first four compartments were flooded, but not anymore than that. But water was pouring into the first five compartmants. And when the water filled them, it would spill over into the next compartment. One by one, all the remaining compartments would flood and the ship would eventually sink. Andrews told the Captain that the ship could last an hour, an hour and a half at the most.
Harold Bride had just awakened when Captain Smith stuck his head in the door. "Send for assistance," he ordered. "What call should i send?" Phillips asked. "The regulation international call for help. Just that." Then the Captain left. Phillips began to send the Morse code "CQD" distress call, flashing away and joking as he did it. After all, they knew the ship was unsinkable.
Five minutes later, the Captain was back. "What are you sending?" he asked. "CQD," Phillips answered. Then Bride cut in and suggested that they try the new SOS signal that was just coming into use. They began to send out the new international call for help - it was one of the first SOS calls ever sent out from a ship in distress.
Just after midnight, Captain Smith ordered the lifeboats uncovered. The ship's squash court, which was thirty-two feet over the keel was now completely flooded. Jack Thayer and his father came to the first-class lounge to try to find out what had happened. When Thomas Andrews passed by, Mr Thayer asked him what was going on. He replied in a low voice that the ship had not much more than an hour to live. Jack and his father couldn't believe their ears.
From the Titanic's bridge, not far away, a ship's lights were observed, probably the Californian's. Captain Smith then ordered white distress rockets fired to get the attention of the nearby ship. They burst high into the air with a loud boom and a shower of stars. But the rockets made no difference. The mystery ship in the distance never answered.
In the radio room, Bride and Philips now knew how serious the accident was, and were feverishly sending out calls for help. Anumber of ships heard and responded to their calls, but most were too far away to come to the rescue in time. The closest ship they had been able to reach was the Carparthia, about fifty-eight miles away. Immediately, the Carparthia reported that she was racing full steam to the rescue. But could she get there in time?
Not far away, the radio operator of the Californian had gone to bed for the night and turned off his radio. Several officers and crewmen on the Californian's deck saw rockets in the distance and reported them to their captain. The captain told them to try to contact the ship with a Morse lamp. But they received no answer to their flashed calls. No one thought to wake up the radio operator.
On board the Titanic, almost an hour after the crash, most of the passengers still did not realize the seriousness of the situation. But Captain Smith was a very worried man. He knew that the Titanic only carried lifeboats for barely half the estimated 2,200 people on board. He would have to make sure his officers kept order to avoid any panic among the passengers. At 12:30 a.m., Captain Smith gave the orders to start loading the lifeboats - women and children first. Even though the Titanic was by now quite noticeably down at the bow and listing slightly to one side, many passengers still did not want to leave the huge, brightly lit ship. Furthermore, the ship's band added a kind of party feeling as the musicians played lively tunes.
At about 12:45 a.m., the first lifeboat was lowered. it could carry sixty-five people, but left with only twenty-eight aboard. Many of the first few boats to leave were half empty. There was no panic among the crowds of passengers milling about on the decks. "Everything was calm, everybody was orderly." But the night air was now biting cold.
Below in the third-class decks of the ship, there was much more confusion and alarm. Most of these passengers had not yet been able to get above decks. Some of those who did finally make it out had to break down the barriers between third and first class.
By 1:30 a.m., the bow was well down and people were beginning to notice the slant in the decks. In the radio room, Bride and Phillips were still desperately sending out calls for help: "We are sinking fast...women and children in boats. We cannot last much longer." The radio signals gradually got weaker and weaker as the ship's power faded out. Out on the decks, most passengers now began to move towards the stern area, which was slowly lifting out of the water.
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