Surrounded by his wife and members of his family, James McGough, of Philadelphia, a buyer for the Gimbel Brothers, whose fate had been in doubt, recalled the most thrilling and graphic picture of the disaster. As the Carpathia docked, Mrs McGough, a brother and several friends of the buyer, met him and after a rather toughing reunion, they all headed to Philadelphia. Vivid in detail, Mr Gough’s story essentially paints a different picture from what one would have imagined. He declared that the boat was driving at a high rate of speed at the time of the accident and seemed impressed by the calmness and apathy displayed by survivors as they tossed on the frozen seas in the little lifeboats until the Carpathia picked them up. the Titanic didn’t plunge into the water suddenly, he said, but settled slowly into the deep with its hundreds of passengers.
It All Started With a Thud
The collision occurred at 12.20 am. I was sleeping in my cabin when I felt a wrench which was not severe nor terrifying.
It seemed to me to be nothing more serious than the racing of the screw, which often occurs when a ship plunges her bow deep into a heavy swell, raising the stern out of the water. We dressed hurriedly and ran to the upper deck. There was little noise or tumult at the time.
The promenade decks, being higher from the base of the ship and thus more insecure, strained and creaked; so we went to the lower decks. By this time the engines had been reversed and I could feel the ship backing off. Officers and stewards ran through the corridors shouting for all to be calm and claiming that there was no danger. We were warned, however, to dress and put life preservers on. I had on what clothing I could find and I stuffed some money into my pockets.
Astor and His Bride
As I passed the gymnasium I saw Colonel Astor and his young bride together. She was clinging to him, piteously pleading that he go into the lifeboat with her. He refused almost gruffly and was attempting to calm her by saying that all of her fears were groundless and that the accident she feared would prove a farce. It proved different, however.
None, I believe, knew that the ship was about to sink. I did not realize it! When I reached the upper deck and saw the tons of ice piled upon the crushed bow the full realization hit me.
Officers stood with drawn guns, ordering the women into the boats. All feared to leave the comparative safety of a broad and firm deck for the precarious smaller boats. Women clung to their husbands, crying that they would never leave them, and had to be torn away.
On one point all the women were firm. They would not enter a lifeboat until men were in it first. They feared to trust themselves to the seas. It required courage to step into the frail crafts as they swung from the creaking davits. Few men were willing to take a chance. An officer rushed behind me and shouted :
“You’re big enough to pull an oar. Jump into this boat or we’ll never be able to get the women in.” I was forced to do so, though I admit that the ship looked a great deal safer to me than any small boat.
Our boat was second off. Forty or more people were crowded into it, and with myself and members of the crew at the oars, were pulling slowly away. Huge icebergs, larger than the Pennsylvania depot at New York, surrounded us. As we pulled away we could see boat after boat filled and lowered to the waves. Despite the fact that they were new and supposedly in excellent working order, the blocks jammed in many instances, tilting the boats, loaded with people, at varying angles before they reached the water.
Survival in Lifeboats
As the lifeboats pulled away the officers ordered the bands to play, and their music did much to quell the panic. It was a heartbreaking sight, tossing in an eggshell three-fourths of a mile away, to see the great ship go down. First, she listed to the starboard, on which side the collision had occurred, then she settled slowly but steadily, without any hope of remaining afloat.
The Titanic was all aglow with lights on, as if for a function. First we saw the lights of the lower deck snuff out. A while later and the second deck illumination was extinguished in a similar manner. Then the third and upper decks were darkened and without plunging or rocking the great ship disappeared slowly from the surface of the sea.
People were crowded on the deck as it lowered into the water, hoping in vain that help would come in time. Some of the lifeboats, caught in the merciless suction, were swallowed up with her.
The sea was calm. But it was freezing cold. None had dressed heavily and therefore all suffered intensely. The women did not shriek or grow hysterical while we waited through the awful night for help. We men stood at the oars; stood because there was no room for us to sit and kept the boat headed into the swell to prevent her capsizing. Another boat was at our side, but all the others were scattered around the water.
Help To The Rescue
Finally, shortly before 6 o’clock, we saw the lights of the Carpathia approaching. Gradually she picked up the survivors in the other boats before she approached us. When we lifted to the deck the women fell helpless and distraught. They weer carried to whatever quarters offered to them, while the men were assigned to the smoking room.
Of the misery and suffering which was witnessed on the rescue ship, I know nothing. With the other men survivors, I tried my best to forget the awful ordeal and was happy to remain in the smoking-room until we reached New York.
To us aboard the Carpathia came rumors of miss statements which were being made to the public. the details of the wreck were woefully misunderstood.
Let me emphasize that the night was not foggy nor cloudy. There was just the beginning of the new moon, but every star in the sky was shining brightly unmarred by clouds. The lifeboats were lowered from both sides of the Titanic in time to escape, but there simply was not enough for all of the passengers and crew.