Shadow of the Titanic: The Extraordinary Stories of Those Who Survived

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9781451671575: Shadow of the Titanic: The Extraordinary Stories of Those Who Survived

From an acclaimed literary biographer, a riveting and groundbreaking account of what happened to the survivors of the Titanic.

We think we know the story of the Titanic—the once majestic and supposedly unsinkable ship that struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Britain to America—but very little has been written about the vessel’s 705 survivors. How did the events of that horrific night in the icy waters of the North Atlantic affect the lives of those who lived to tell the tale?

Drawing on a wealth of previously unpublished letters, memoirs, diaries, and interviews with their family members, award-winning journalist Andrew

Wilson brings to life the survivors’ colorful voices, from the famous, like heiress Madeleine Astor, to the lesser known second-and third-class passengers, such as the Navratil brothers, who were traveling under assumed names because they were being abducted by their father.

More than one hundred years after that fateful voyage, Shadow of the Titanic adds an important new dimension to this enduringly captivating story.

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About the Author:

Andrew Wilson is an award-winning journalist and author. His work has appeared in a wide variety of publications including the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Sunday Times, and the Smithsonian Magazine. He is the author of four acclaimed biographies, a book about the survivors of the Titanic, and the novels, The Lying Tongue, A Talent for Murder, and A Different Kind of Evil.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

One

A FANCY-DRESS BALL IN
DANTE’s HELL

Sunday, April 14, 1912, dawned bright and clear. There was a feeling of optimism in the air, a sense that anything was possible. The ship seemed to glide over a sea of glass. For first-class passenger Colonel Archibald Gracie, the RMS Titanic was a “floating palace,”1 a high-class hotel that cut through the waters of the Atlantic with a majesty and power he had never experienced before. As he stood on the first-class deck, he noticed that the sea was so level he could barely make out a ripple.

Since Wednesday, when the ship had departed Southampton on its maiden voyage to New York, Gracie had taken advantage of every luxury. After all, this was a liner that had cost $7.5 million to build, a ship that carried 800 bundles of asparagus; one and a quarter tons of fresh green peas; 36,000 oranges and 16,000 lemons; 75,000 pounds of fresh meat; 11,000 pounds of fresh fish; 4,000 pounds of bacon and ham; 7,500 pounds of game and poultry; 1,000 sweetbreads; 40,000 sausages; 40,000 fresh eggs; 6,000 pounds of fresh butter; not to mention the 1,500 bottles of wine, the 20,000 bottles of beer and stout, or the 850 bottles of spirits. For the gentlemen on board there were 8,000 cigars, which they could enjoy while discussing the news of the day.

It’s not surprising then that on that Sunday morning, after a few days of self-indulgence, Colonel Gracie felt he should take a spot of exercise. He rose early, before breakfast, and played a half-hour game of squash with Fred Wright, the professional racket instructor, followed by a swim in the heated saltwater swimming pool. The exercise refreshed his body and his spirit, erasing, for a few moments at least, a slight uneasiness that hung over him. “The pleasure and comfort which all of us enjoyed ... seemed an ominous feature to many of us, including myself,” he said, “who felt it almost too good to last without some terrible retribution inflicted by the hand of an angry omnipotence.”2

Lady Duff Gordon—the London-based couturier known as “Lucile”—remembers how extraordinary it was to see and taste strawberries in April in mid-ocean, while another first-class passenger, Marjorie Newell Robb, was still able to recall in 1981, at the age of ninety-two, the feel of “carpets that you could sink in up to your knees,” the “fine furniture that you could barely move,” and the “very fine panelling and carving.”3 Many second-class passengers spent their time riding between floors in the elevator, which was described as “a great new attraction on the boat.”4 The tang of novelty hung in the air—in fact, one could even smell it. In a letter second-class passenger Marion Wright wrote to her father from the ship on April 11, she said, “It is lovely on the water, except for the smell of new paint, everything is very comfortable on board.”5

For thirteen-year-old Madeleine Mellenger (later Mann) the ship was nothing short of a floating miracle. She was traveling with her mother, Elizabeth Anne, in second class to make a new life for themselves in America. Her father, Claude Alexander Mellenger, a London journalist, had brought the family to the point of ruin through years of what she later described as “his extravagance and high living.” After Mellenger finally deserted them, Elizabeth was forced to take a position as a lady’s maid and traveling companion with the wealthy Colgate family of America. For Madeleine, the Titanic became a symbol of promise, a sign of new beginnings. “I could write forever about Titanic and how it changed my life,” she wrote in a letter nearly sixty years later. “A little while ago I started a ‘Story of my Life’ kind of thing and I had to stop as it was running into dozens of papers and I wondered if I could finish it.”6 That Sunday morning she remembers Charles Jones, the Colgates’ superintendent who did not survive the disaster, knocking on the door of their cabin on E deck and showing them a series of beautiful photographs of the family’s grand estate in Bennington, Vermont. At eleven o’clock the mother and daughter attended the Divine Service, which was held in the first-class dining room.

Captain Edward J. Smith—a distinguished, bearded man whose plan it was to retire after the Titanic’s maiden voyage, following fifty years at sea—led the passengers through the service, which included the “Prayer for Those at Sea” and the hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.” After the service, Madeleine Mellenger remembers going back to her cabin with her mother in order to get ready for lunch and, as she walked along the wide corridor that ran the length of the ship, seeing a door open. “I saw Captain Smith and his officers coming toward us in full regalia, lots of gold braid, and I knew him, as he looked so much like Edward VII, beard and all,” she said. “I asked, what they were doing and was told they were inspecting the airtight compartments and doors. That was his last inspection.”7

As was customary, Captain Smith and his men would meet at noon each day to take a series of sun measurements. With the use of sextants the officers were able to work out the precise position of the ship and, as a result, chart the distance they had traveled in the course of twenty-four hours. Those passengers who had bet on the ship’s sweepstakes would then meet in the first-class lounge to hear the results—the one who had picked the figure closest to that day’s passage (which came in at 546 miles) could collect a tidy sum.

The sweepstakes was just one of many diversions offered to discerning passengers on what was considered the world’s most sophisticated ship. On board there were Turkish baths, a fully equipped gymnasium, a lending library, a smoking room, a reading and writing room, and a wide range of restaurants. The first-class dining saloon—a magnificent room one hundred and fourteen feet long and ninety-two feet wide—was decorated in a style inspired by English Jacobean houses such as Haddon Hall and Hatfield, “but instead of the somber oak, which the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century builders would have adopted, the walls and ceiling have been painted white.”8 The room had a series of “recession bays,” which in effect formed “a number of separate private dining rooms, where families or friends can dine together practically alone, retired from the busy hum of surrounding conversation.”9

Many first-class passengers also commented on the grandeur of the main staircase, which measured sixty feet high and sixteen feet wide. The walls were covered with oak paneling, which, although simple in character, was “enriched in a few places by exquisite work reminiscent of the days when Grinling Gibbons collaborated with his great contemporary, Wren.” On the top landing stood a clock, flanked by two female figures, “the whole symbolizing Honour and Glory crowning Time.”10

Not only was it the last word in luxury, but the Titanic was also a massive 46,000-ton signifier of technological mastery. With its revolutionary design—the liner possessed a series of watertight doors, which its designers assumed would protect it from virtually every calamity—a writer in Shipbuilder magazine of 1911 proclaimed it “practically unsinkable.”11 By the time passengers boarded the liner, less than a year later, the word “practically” had been erased from the collective consciousness. Sylvia Caldwell, who was traveling in second class with her husband, Albert, and ten-month-old son, Alden, remembers asking a deckhand who was carrying luggage on board whether the vessel really was unsinkable. The man turned to her and said, “God himself could not sink this ship.”12 Captain Smith, in an interview five years before his final voyage aboard the Titanic, stated, “I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening. ... Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.”13

The ship was enveloped by a sense of safety and security. In fact, the vessel was seen by many passengers to be a symbol of social order. The liner’s passengers were stratified by class—the third class at the bottom of the ship, the second in the middle, the first at the top—and, for the most part, did not mix with one another. Each person was content with his or her place: those in third class knew better than to aspire upward, those in first would not dream of looking down below. These were days when, for the majority, God was still in his heaven and everything was right with the world.

As seventeen-year-old Jack Thayer, an American who had been visiting Europe with his parents, wrote in a privately printed memoir in 1940, “Upon rising in the morning, we looked forward to a normal day of customary business progress. The conservative morning paper seldom had headlines larger than half an inch. Upon reaching the breakfast table, our perusal of the morning paper was slow and deliberate. We did not nervously clutch for it, and rapidly scan the glaring headlines, as we are inclined to do today. Nothing was revealed in the morning, the trend of which was not known the night before. ... There was peace, and the world had an even tenor...

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Descripción Atria Books, United States, 2013. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. From an acclaimed literary biographer, a riveting and groundbreaking account of what happened to the survivors of the Titanic. We think we know the story of the Titanic--the once majestic and supposedly unsinkable ship that struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Britain to America--but very little has been written about the vessel s 705 survivors. How did the events of that horrific night in the icy waters of the North Atlantic affect the lives of those who lived to tell the tale? Drawing on a wealth of previously unpublished letters, memoirs, diaries, and interviews with their family members, award-winning journalist Andrew Wilson brings to life the survivors colorful voices, from the famous, like heiress Madeleine Astor, to the lesser known second-and third-class passengers, such as the Navratil brothers, who were traveling under assumed names because they were being abducted by their father. More than one hundred years after that fateful voyage, Shadow of the Titanic adds an important new dimension to this enduringly captivating story. Nº de ref. de la librería BZV9781451671575

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Descripción Atria Books, United States, 2013. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. From an acclaimed literary biographer, a riveting and groundbreaking account of what happened to the survivors of the Titanic. We think we know the story of the Titanic--the once majestic and supposedly unsinkable ship that struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Britain to America--but very little has been written about the vessel s 705 survivors. How did the events of that horrific night in the icy waters of the North Atlantic affect the lives of those who lived to tell the tale? Drawing on a wealth of previously unpublished letters, memoirs, diaries, and interviews with their family members, award-winning journalist Andrew Wilson brings to life the survivors colorful voices, from the famous, like heiress Madeleine Astor, to the lesser known second-and third-class passengers, such as the Navratil brothers, who were traveling under assumed names because they were being abducted by their father. More than one hundred years after that fateful voyage, Shadow of the Titanic adds an important new dimension to this enduringly captivating story. Nº de ref. de la librería AAC9781451671575

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