TITANIC-TITANIC.com | Aftermath Of Titanic's Sinking
As Carpathia headed back towards New York on Monday 15th April after vainly spending the morning searching the area of the sinking for more survivors, it had become obvious through communications with other vessels that the 700 or so people rescued from the lifeboats were the only survivors of the Titanic disaster. Survivor lists had been completed by Carpathia's officers, and it was now up to her radio operator, Harold Cottam, to begin to broadcast the lists in order to establish beyond any doubt to those on land, who had been lost in the tragedy, and who had survived.
As Cottam, now assisted by Harold Sydney Bride, the surviving radio operator from Titanic, began to transmit the names of the survivors, David Sarnoff, a 21 year-old radio operator from Philadelphia was one of the people with a receiver powerful enough to pick up the signals broadcast by Carpathia. Sarnoff was a Russian immigrant and began his career in the United States as a Marconi radio operator. Sarnoff sat for hours jotting the names down in his land station atop Wanamaker's Department Store, which were then dispatched to the world's press. (Sarnoff would eventually go on to create the first ever national radio network - NBC!)
By April 18th, 1912, three days after the sinking, Carpathia was approaching the familiar landmarks of the Statue of Liberty, and the skyscrapers of New York. During the voyage the weather had been horrible, with thick fog and dramatic thunderstorms adding an air of surrealism to the already sombre mood aboard the ship. As she approached the harbour, a small flotilla of boats surrounded Carpathia, some containing relatives, anxious to see their loved ones, but most containing members of the press, desperate to be the first to get that exclusive article for their respective newspapers. Amidst the clamour of the reporters shouting to the survivors, and the still rumbling thunder, bright flashes of photographers' flashes, together with the lightning lit up the dark outline of the ship.
This was only a temporary distraction however, and Carpathia left them all behind as she steamed towards the Cunard Pier, No.54. But she surprised everybody by turning towards the White Star Line Piers, Nos. 59 & 60. The reason soon became obvious as Titanic's lifeboats were lowered, for the second time in five days, but this time from Carpathia's davits, pictured above left. They were being returned to their rightful owners, the White Star Line, and they can be seen pictured here on the bottom left in the harbour, complete with some men aboard them trying to deter souvenir hunters from stealing their contents. They were not too successful though, and over time the lifeboats eventually became devoid of life jackets, name-plates, number-plates, oars and blankets.
With the lifeboats safely under tow from the Merritt & Chapman tug Champion, Carpathia finally turned and made her way the last couple of hundred yards back to Pier 54, where she was tied up by 9.30pm, ready to unload the extra passengers she had picked up only three days before. Once again, the mass of photographers illuminated the black night as the first of Titanic's survivors made their weary way across the gangway, and into the pier buildings. Some would be taken directly to hospital, to be treated for frostbite, shock, or broken bones. Some people made their way to hotels, and others, back in their home town, would be welcomed by tearful family members, to be taken home. But for many passengers, especially the 174 survivors from third class, who wouldn't make their way off the ship until 11.30pm, there was nothing. Many people had walked onto Titanic with their life's possessions in a suitcase. Now, homeless and broke, they were in a strange new city without a penny to their name, although the White Star Line, together with some city charities, would provide some short-term relief.
In Southampton, as word began to quickly spread about the terrible disaster throughout the close-knit working class areas where most of the crew lived, rumour was rife, although because of the communications problems of the era, the news didn't actually seem particularly bad at first. Early newspaper reports had actually suggested that Titanic was under tow, and making for Halifax. Other reports told how all of the people on board had been saved and taken aboard other vessels.
But before long, more reliable reports started to come through, confirming that Titanic had indeed sunk, and that there was also a large loss of life, and people began to gather at White Star Line offices around Southampton, London (pictured here on the left), New York and so on, desperate for news of relatives, friends and loved ones.