After the Titanic vanished into the Atlantic, its survivors made their harrowing journey back to civilization — where the world began to reckon with this cataclysmic tragedy.
Shortly after midnight on April 15, 1912, the radio operator on the RMS Carpathia, Harold Cottam, started to prepare for the end of his shift. The 21-year-old had already worked almost 30 minutes past his quitting time, and was wrapping up a few stray tasks when he received some messages meant for the RMS Titanic.
Cottam jotted the messages down and sent them to the Titanic‘s operators. “I say old man,” Cottam messaged the Titanic. “Do you know there is a lot of traffic for you at Cape Cod?”
He was, of course, completely unaware that, just 58 miles away, the Titanic was rapidly sinking into the frigid waters of the North Atlantic.
In fact, the Titanic had sent several frantic messages to the Carpathia after hitting the iceberg, but Cottam happened to be on the bridge at the time and never saw them come in. So he was shocked when, after relaying those messages to the Titanic, the ship’s radio operator replied not with a thank you, but with a desperate plea for help. The heart-stopping message he received back read simply, “We have struck ice, come at once.”
Cottam promptly alerted the crew, and, before long, the ship was heading toward the Titanic at dangerously high speeds. But by the time the Carpathia reached the Titanic three and a half hours later, it was almost too late. The “unsinkable” ship had sunk, and hundreds of desperate survivors were huddled in lifeboats in the pitch-black, ice-cold dead of night.
The crew aboard the Carpathia was able to fish 700 people out of the water, administer medical aid and warm drinks to the shocked survivors, and ferry them to safety in New York City. But some 1,500 other people had tragically perished during the sinking.
Soon after the Carpathia‘s dramatic rescue of the survivors, the world began to hear about the Titanic for the first time. Thousands of people awaited the ship’s arrival in New York, hoping for good news about their loved ones, and millions around the world listened with shock as stories poured in out about both the heroism and tragedy in the ship’s final moments.
From the rescue to the media frenzy to the contentious inquest, the events that unfolded after the Titanic sank are some of the doomed ship’s most dramatic and poignant.
Next, go back and listen to The Titanic, Part 4: Heroism And Despair In The Ship’s Final Moments or keep going with The Titanic, Part 6: The Legacy Of The Doomed Ship. Then, see some of the most astonishing artifacts from the Titanic.