Titanic Stories

History Uncovered Episode 68:
The Titanic, Part 4: Heroism And Despair In The Ship’s Final Moments

Published June 26, 2023

As the Titanic sank beneath the waves in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, some of the doomed ship's greatest heroes sprang into action.

The Titanic was infamously touted as the “unsinkable” ship, a title that unfortunately proved to be bitterly ironic. In the wake of its sinking, however, that title instead came to be associated not with the ship itself, but with one of its most famous passengers: The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

Brown, an American socialite from Colorado, was not even supposed to be on the Titanic. She’d booked a ticket on the doomed ship after hearing that her grandson in the United States had fallen ill. To tend to him, Brown cut her European vacation short and boarded the opulent vessel.

On the night of the sinking, Brown was so absorbed in her book that when the ship first hit the iceberg, she thought little of the commotion steadily growing outside. But that commotion only grew louder, and when Brown finally left her cabin, she was met with a chaotic scene.

Chunks of ice had fallen onto the ship’s decks, and she later recalled seeing a man, “whose face was blanched, his eyes protruding, wearing the look of a haunted creature.” Gasping, he warned her to grab her life vest.

Molly Brown

Wikimedia CommonsMargaret Brown, a.k.a. “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” is one of the most famous Titanic survivors.

When Brown made it to the lifeboats, however, she refused to board. Instead, she chose to remain behind and help other passengers get to safety, prioritizing their well-being above her own.

She later said: “As I went on the deck [when] the boats were being lowered, I found many opportunities to be useful and I was glad to be. The less you think of yourself as such times, the better off you are.”

In fact, the only reason she eventually found herself on Lifeboat 6 was that a crewmember forced her onto it — dropping her into the vessel as it began to lower off the side of the ship. But even then, Brown was determined to help. Her most storied moments were yet to come.

And Molly Brown was just one of the passengers on the Titanic who became a hero – a designation she shares with people like second officer Charles Lightoller, first-class passenger Noël Leslie, head chef Charles Joughin, first-class passenger Colonel Archibald Gracie IV, head engineer Joseph Bell, telegraphist Jack Phillips, first-class passenger Lucille Carter, and even the members of the Titanic‘s band, who famously played on till the bitter end.

These are the stories of unfathomable bravery that unfolded in the ship’s final, harrowing hours.

Next, go back and listen to The Titanic, Part 3: Sinking Into The North Atlantic or keep going with The Titanic, Part 5: The Aftermath Of History’s Most Infamous Sinking. Then, learn about more stories of people who survived the Titanic.

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