Titanic Sinking

Found July 1912, off Block Island, Rhode Island.

In a bottle, on a wireless blank bearing the Titanic imprint:

April 16 — Mid ocean — help — on a raft — Titanic sinking — no water or food — Major Butt.

The sailors who found this message initially regarded it as a “ghastly joke”, but the fact that it was written on RMS Titanic stationery brought them to believe it was authentic. Archibald Butt was a well-known US Army officer, and a military aide to US president William Taft. He had boarded the White Star liner in Southampton, and was returning home after six weeks in Europe. The Titanic was sunk after colliding with an iceberg just before midnight on 14 April 1912. There are various accounts describing Butt’s bravery in organising the lifeboats as the ship went down. Butt was one of the 1,521 passengers and crew who lost their lives. His body was never recovered. The date on his message suggests he had been adrift on a raft for more than a day.

In October 1912, a bottle was found in a fjord on the west coast of Iceland containing the message: “I am one of them that were wrecked on the Titanic. — Harry Wilson.” There was no Harry Wilson on the Titanic’s passenger or crew lists, although there was an Algernon Henry Wilson Barkworth, and also a Helen Wilson — both of whom survived.

A third message purporting to be from the Titanic was allegedly found in the summer of 1913, at Dunkettle, near Cork in Ireland. The message read: “From Titanic. Good Bye all. Burke of Glanmire.” 19-year-old Jeremiah Burke died on the Titanic, along with his cousin, Nora. His mother had given him a small bottle of holy water to take with him. The message washed up in that bottle just a mile from his home village of Glanmire. It was speculated that Jeremiah could have thrown the bottle overboard while still in the Irish Sea, intending it to be a simple farewell to Ireland, with no knowledge of the disaster to come.

[Chicago Day Book, 31 July 1912 and The Scotsman, 12 October 1912, BBC News website, 26 October 2011]

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