The Unsinkable Titanic

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912, we dug into our archives for this remarkable account of the disaster and its aftermath. Plus: Titanic video clips of the survivors, the wreckage, and more.

Also in Reader's Digest Magazine April 2012

A Ripping Sound

At the very bottom of the ship, fireman Frederick Barrett had been hard at work stoking the furnaces in No. 6 boiler room. Foaming green seawater suddenly exploded through the Titanic’s side, about half a meter above the floor plates, shearing the starboard wall for the entire length of No. 6 and slightly into the coal bunker in No. 5. The alarm bell was jangling above the watertight door, which had just begun to descend. Barrett managed to leap through the doorway and into No. 5 boiler room as the door shut.

Meanwhile, in the first-class dining saloon far above Barrett, four members of the ship’s crew heard a faint grinding jolt that seemed to come from somewhere deep inside the ship. It was not much, but enough to rattle the silverware that was set for breakfast the next morning.

Passengers in their cabins felt the jar too. Maj. Arthur G. Peuchen, starting to undress for the night, thought it was like a heavy wave striking the ship. To Lady Duff Gordon, waking up from the jolt, it seemed “as though somebody had drawn a giant finger along the side of the ship.” Hearing that grinding jar in the first-class smoking room, Spencer V. Silverthorne rushed out onto the deck. With a few other passengers, he was in time to see the iceberg scraping along the starboard side, a little higher than the boat (topmost) deck. As it slid by, they watched chunks of ice breaking and tumbling off into the water. In another moment, it faded into the darkness astern.

The excitement soon disappeared. The Titanic seemed as solid as ever, and it was too cold to stay outside any longer. Slowly, every-one filed back inside.

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