Many of the women and children were taken off in Titanic’s lifeboats in an atmosphere of confusion and panic. After the disaster there was controversy about who had been allowed or disallowed access to the lifeboats. When the last boats had gone, some of them less than half full, it was “every man for himself”. There were daring or lucky escapes by some of the passengers who were left to fend for themselves. Saving your own life required bravery, initiative and the strength to dive and swim in freezing water.
Silence at Sea- The Aftermath of the Sinking of the Titanic
But hundreds of passengers and crew were adrift in open water with only their lifebelts to hold them up. Passengers who had got a lifeboat place could hear their heart-rending cries growing weaker until there was only silence on this calm, starlit night. From the lifeboats, the fortunate had watched Titanic struggle to stay afloat, her lights still blazing, the band still playing until close to the end. The wireless operators had also stayed at their post until the last minute, transmitting their distress messages to ships near and far. Although it was later alleged that the Leyland steamer Californian, stopped for the night amidst ice, was a visible distance from the stricken Titanic, it was the Cunard ship, Carpathia which steamed to the rescue. It arrived too late to save those on board Titanic once the lifeboats left.
Arrival of the Carpathia
When Carpathia’s Captain Arthur Rostron arrived at the co-ordinates where Titanic had been, he found “only a sea covered with wreckage and debris”
. But he also found the lifeboats and took on board their exhausted passengers who later remembered their grateful delight at seeing the distant searchlight of Carpathia appearing above the horizon. The rescue ship arrived in New York with 705 survivors. 1500 people had been left behind in the water.
Among those who met Carpathia at New York was Henry Arthur Jones, the popular English playwright who wrote a memorable description of the often dazed but composed, occasionally hysterical, survivors who came down the gangplank to dry land.