Whatever Happened to Carpathia, the Ship That Saved Titanic's Survivors?
Carpathia was thrust into history as the ship that rescued the survivors the RMS Titanic the day after that legendary ship sank on the morning of April 15, 1912. The tiny vessel entered New York as the world waited anxiously for news. After that day, she all but disappeared from the spotlight, cast aside as the tragedy unfolded into an International Maritime Disaster. She never again reclaimed the spotlight and to this day remains a forgotten supporting cast member in the epic tragedy.
Royal Mail Steamer Carpathia was launched in 1902 by the Sawn Hunter & Wigham Richardson Company. A tiny vessel by 1912, 541 feet long and 64 feet wide with a service speed of 15 knots. Her early days saw transatlantic service, transporting immigrants from Hungry and other countries to the United States and Canada. In 1905, Carpathia was refitted as a cruise ship and included 1st and 2nd Class passengers accommodations. Between 1909 and 1911 she saw service in Mediterranean Trade.
In January 1912, Carpathia was placed under the command of Captain Arthur H. Rostron, who regularly made transatlantic crossings, bringing immigrants to America and the wealthy to the Mediterranean for pleasure cruises. On April 11, 1912, the ship embarked on a cruise voyage with approximately 700 people on board.
The Titanic Disaster
Captain Rostron was awaken in his cabin by his wireless operator and told him about the Titanic's S.O.S. and C.Q.D. calls. Rostron immediately ordered the ship to assist the sinking liner, over sixty miles away.
As the ship charged full steam through the ice field. Rostron issued a series of orders to prep the ship for rescue operations.
- Lifeboats swung out.
- All gangway doors open.
- Passengers are to remain separate from survivors.
- Blankets, soup and drinks prepared.
- Extra rooms, officer's quarters and common rooms prepared to receive survivors.
- Hospitals prepared in dining rooms.
- Cut all heat, hot water and steam to passenger cabins to increase vessel's top speed.
- Additional lookouts posted to look for bergs and survivors.
His efforts increased the vessel's top speed from 14.5 knots to 17 knots, shaving an entire hour off the journey. The Carpathia passed six icebergs on the way to the Titanic.
At 4:00AM the Carpathia arrived at the site of the sinking and began picking up survivors, a task that lasted 4 hours.
At 8:15AM Carpathia had finished rescuing the survivors and now dangerously overcapacity, set sail back to New York when she was greeted by thousands of people at the Pier on April 18, 1912.
After disembarking the 705 survivors, Carpathia's exit from the world stage occurred when she lowered Titanic's lifeboats into the White Star Berth, all that remained of the World's Largest Liner.
At 8:00AM Carpathia was joined briefly by the SS Californian, a ship that would descend into the depths of controversy as it was only five miles from Titanic during the sinking and had failed to respond to the disaster until the following day.
Carpathia never again saw prestige. Two years after the sinking of the Titanic, World War I broke out across Europe. The Canadian government pressed Carpathia into service as a troopship where she transported Canadian and American troops to Europe throughout the war.
On July 15, 1918, Carpathia departed Liverpool as part of a convoy, it would be her last voyage. On the morning of July 17, 1918, she was struck by a torpedo in the Celtic Sea from German U-Boat U-55. The ship began to sink slowly. Captain William Prothero gave the order to abandon ship. All passengers and crew boarded its lifeboats as the ship went down.
U-55 serviced and fired a final torpedo into Carpathia, sending it to the bottom. U-55 was about to machine gun the survivors when the HMS Snowdrop fired back at the U-Boat forcing it away.
In 2000, the wreck was discovered in 500 feet of water, sitting upright on the ocean floor. It's current owner is Premier Exhibitions (formerly RMS TItanic, Inc.), the same company that owns salvor-in-possession rights of the Titanic.