The following account courtesy of John Feeney:
From "The Evening Bulletin" -- Philadelphia, Thursday, April 14, 1932
THAYER DESCRIBES SINKING OF TITANIC
Philadelphia Survivor Tells of Seeing 1,500
Struggling in Water After Liner Struck Iceberg
SANK 20 YEARS AGO TODAY
Philadelphians Who Missed Death in Sinking of Liner Titanic
The Philadelphians who were saved when the Titanic sank include:
Mrs. George D. Widener, Elkins Park, now Mrs. Alexander H. Rice.
William E. Carter, Bryn Mawr; his wife, who is now Mrs. George Brooke, and their two children, Lucile Carter, now Mrs. Samuel J. Reeves, and William T. Carter, 2d.
Mrs. John B. Thayer, Haverford, and her son, John B. Thayer, Jr.
Mrs. Arthur Ryerson, of Haverford, now Mrs. Forythe [sic?] Sherfesse, and her three children, Miss Susan and Miss Emily Ryerson and John Ryerson.
Mrs. Thomas Potter, Jr., Mt. Airy.
Richard Norris Williams, former national tennis champion.
Mrs. J. W. M. Cardeza, Germantown, and her son, Thomas D. M. Cardeza.
Mrs. Walter B. Stephenson, Haverford.
Robert Daniel, a banker.
BY JOHN B. THAYER, JR.
(One of the survivors of the liner Titanic which struck an iceberg and sank off Cape Race 20 years ago today.)
The spectacle of nearly 1,500 people struggling in the ice-cold waters of the Atlantic, and the steady roar of their voices, which kept up for 15 or 20 minutes, is a memory that does not become dim, even after 20 years.
That was one of the scenes enacted off the Grand Banks after the S. S. Titanic, then the largest passenger ship in the world, struck a partly submerged iceberg and went down.
I was one of those who had managed to climb on an overturned lifeboat. I saw the masses of people who had backed steadily toward the stern of the big ship as her nose slowly sank, fall into the ocean as the vessel went up on end and disappeared beneath the water.
Held up perfectly by their life preservers, they were all around us, their massed cries and shouts intermingling with the few distinguishable words and entreaties from those who were nearest to us, and the crashing, as boilers let go and engine parts broke loose while the liner slowly sank.
The life boats, only a quarter of a mile away, were afraid to come in for fear the people in the water would swamp them.
The Titanic, 46,328 tons, sailed from Southampton April 10, 1912, and on April 14, off
the Grand Banks, ice was reported, but speed was not reduced. She struck a ledge on
an iceberg at 11:45 that night and sank at 2:20 on the morning of April 15. The
weather was clear, the sky studded with stars, but without a moon. The ocean was as
calm as the Delaware River.
Ran Out to "See the Fun"
I was 17, traveling first class with my father and mother. When the ship struck, if one had a brim-full glass of water in hand the shock was so slight not a drop would have been spilled. As soon as I felt the shock and the engines stop, I immediately threw an overcoat on over my pajamas and ran on deck saying "that I was going out to see the fun."
My father joined me in a few minutes. Walking all around the ship on "A" deck, nothing could be seen in the way of any ice or other obstructions and it was some minutes before anyone was able to advise us what the trouble was.
We were joined shortly by J. Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star Line and some engineers who had designed and constructed the ship. They immediately went on a tour of the ship, taking some 25 minutes. I visited the swimming pool and postoffice [sic] department. Water was coming in very rapidly.
We were then ordered to go back to our cabins and dress fully and put on life preservers. Dressed, we went on deck, my mother, my father and myself, and stood around talking with other passengers for some time. Mr. Ismay and the engineers from Harlan & Wolf [sic], the firm which built the ship, advised us they didn't give the ship more than an hour.
All women were then ordered to the port side. My father and I said good-bye to mother and went back through the lounge to the starboard side. After some time had elapsed we went to the port side to see if mother had gotten off in a boat. She had not as yet, so we went back into the lounge again, where we met Second Officer Lightoller. He directed us again to go to the port side to one of the forward boats.
In going out the doorway to get to the deck, the crowd pushed between mother and
father, who were walking ahead of myself and a friend, Milton C. Long, of New York, who
were following, and I never saw my father again. Thinking they had both gone off in
a boat, I was not looking for him and stood with Long watching the loading of boats on the
Boats Only Partly Filled
The boats were being only partly filled, their capacity being about 65 and they were being loaded with about 30 or 40 people. I stood by the rail with Long and watched some of the boats lowered. In one or two instances I thought the boats were not going to reach the water right side up.
There was no disturbance to speak of. The crowd was orderly. All the stokers and all second class and steerage passengers had come to the upper deck. Around the third starboard boat, from the bow, several shots were fired by Purser McElroy who was superintending loading, as one or two of the stewards jumped into the boat as it was being loaded. It was the only disturbance during the whole disaster.
All the boats had been lowered by about 1:40 A. M. and pulled away a quarter mile. Two collapsible boats which were unable to be launched until just as the ship sank, remained.
All the women and children had gone off into the boats. Any man was entitled to go into one of the last two or three boats as it was everyone for himself. Long and myself did not press our way into either of the last boats as it did not look as if they would reach the water right side up and we preferred to take our chances with the ship.
Long and I stood on the starboard side trying to avoid the crowds. Several times
I thought of attempting to jump out to the empty davits, sliding down the ropes into the
water and swimming to the unfilled lifeboats I could see a quarter mile away, but Long
persuaded me from doing this. I did not realize the temperature of the water was 26
[sic?] degrees Fahrenheit.
Waited as Water Rose
The water by this time was up to the crow's nest and the ship was down at the head substantially. Occasionally we heard the noise of a bulkhead breaking. The lights were on and there was a roar of escaping steam. Long and I stood by the rail away from the crowd, about midship, and talked over many things, the ship all this while sinking faster and faster, seeming to move forward in the water as it went down by the head.
Long said good-bye to me and slid down the side of the ship. I never saw him again. Shortly afterwards I sat on the rail, pushing myself as far down as I could, and jumped into the water. The suction took me down until I could have stood it very little longer. I came up, swimming desperately. My life preserver sustained me excellently.
I was trying to get away from the ship. I looked back and the second funnel fell and missed me by about ten yards. This funnel, large enough for two automobiles to go through abreast, made a tremendous additional wash and suction. I was drawn down again.
As I rose, my hand struck the cork fender of one of the overturned collapsible
lifeboats which had been unsuccessfully launched from the ship. There were about
three or four men on that boat whom I afterwards found out were a wireless operator,
Second Officer Lightoller and I believe either [the] Chief Engineer or Captain Smith.
Climbed up onto Boat
I pulled myself up onto the boat aided by the other men. In all we helped 28 onto the boat, which we were on the remainder of the night. The Titanic in the meanwhile seemed to hang and with the roar of boilers and engines breaking loose in the hold slipping to the forward part of the ship the stern bulkheads held and the ship, pivoting and moving in an almost perpendicular position, was sticking up in the air almost 300 feet.
The ship then corkscrewed around so that the propeller, rudder and all seemed to go right over the heads of us on the upturned boat. Of course the lights now were all out. The ship seemed to hang in this position for minutes. Then with a dive and final plunge, the Titanic went under the water with very little apparent suction or noise.
After two minutes in water of 26 [sic?] degrees Fahrenheit, no one had strength for anything. On the bottom of our overturned boat there were only three passengers besides myself. The rest were men from the stokehold who had just come up from terrifically high temperatures to this low temperature. Praying and cursing and cries of entreaty and words of command came from those of us packed like sardines on the hull of this boat.
The wireless man told us the Carpathia was due about 4 A. M. Our hopes were very
much held up by this, although our situation seemed hopeless. The water was washing
over us up to the waists of those who were sitting, and up to the ankles of those [who]
Sight Lights of Carpathia
As we sighted the lights of the Carpathia, standing towards us, we gave a wild shout, but then our hopes fell again as the sea became rougher and the air from under our boat was gradually escaping as she rolled from side to side, which dropped us lower and lower into the water.
At about 6:30, two boats came and took us in. One life boat took off with the first half of us. My mother was in that boat, but did not see me and I did not see her. The other boat took off the remainder, including myself. We got on the Carpathia about 7 or 7:30 that morning. My mother was one of the first people I saw.
It was wonderful to see that mass of men from the stokehold and members of the crew from other departments standing calmly by with no attempt to get into the boats until all women and children had gone.
On board there was a double quota of engineers, both the engineers from the
shipbuilding company and the engineers in the engine room keeping the lights burning as
long as possible which helped prevent a panic.
Men Went Down at Posts
Every one of those nearly 300 men went down with the ship, not one from the engine room being saved. Of over 2,200 people on the ship only slightly over 700 were saved. Of the approximately 1,500 who went down with the ship only about 42 were saved, 28 being on the bottom of the overturned boat which I was on and 14 others being on a partly submerged collapsible boat that floated after the ship went down.
As soon as we got on the Carpathia, Captain Rostron and his officers and the passengers took excellent care of us and gave us clothing and berths. The Carpathia stood around the scene of the disaster for some hours and then turned towards New York. That day we passed a tremendous ice field and many isolated bergs. When one saw conditions by daylight it was just a miracle that Captain Rostron and the Carpathia came through successfully during the night before.