CONTENTS
COLLISION COURSE.

In the first watch of the night
Without a signal's sound,
Out of the sea, mysteriously,
The fleet of Death rose all around.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  Sir Humphrey Gilbert.


unday, 14 April, dawned fine and clear off the port beam.  It found Titanic making a steady 22 knots towards the southwest, where the 'corner' lay.  The wind blew from the west and southwest at around 15 knots, as it had for most of the voyage, raising harmless waves about three feet high.®   Whitecaps danced in the bright sunlight and Titanic condescended to pitch a little on the long underlying Atlantic swell.    The scene had the perfection of a picture postcard, or an advertisement for the joys of cruising.

Colonel Gracie was an early riser.  Somewhat ashamed of his earlier indolence, he left his cabin before breakfast for a game of squash with Fred Wright.  Having made a reservation for the next morning, he moved to the swimming pool for a brisk workout.  He enjoyed this immensely and the water temperature seemed perfect.  He took a freshwater shower, then ate a hearty breakfast with a clear conscience.  Later he retrieved the copy of The Truth About Chickamauga that he had inflicted upon Isador Straus.  Straus's profession of 'intense interest' in the book may have been genuine, for he had involved himself in the 'late unpleasantness' by organising blockade-runners for the Confederacy.®

Gradually Titanic came to life, though not all on board were as energetic as the colonel.  It was usual to conduct a lifeboat drill on Sunday morning, at least to the extent of assembling the crew at boat stations, but on this occasion '...no drill or station practice or helpful discipline disturbed the tranquillity.'®   One can only speculate on the reason for this.  Some put it down to the weather, but a cool breeze seems an unlikely excuse.®   Was Captain Smith reluctant to advertise the shortage of lifeboats, or was he merely complacent?  Was it because the station list for the black gang was not completed and displayed until well into the day?®   Some of the stewards thought the master did not want to hinder their preparations for luncheon.®   Perhaps it was because a boat drill was planned for New York, now less than three days away.

During the morning, religious observances took place throughout the ship.  In the first class saloon, Captain Smith conducted a service from the White Star Line's own prayer book.  Many captains enjoyed this duty and would insist on presiding, even if a clergyman were available, for the ship was effectively the captain's parish.  Passengers often attended services at sea, even if they did not normally do so on land.  There is nothing quite like being in mid-ocean to create a sense of one's mortality.  The service ended with a favourite hymn.

O God our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast
And our eternal home.®

Purser McElroy held a similar service in the second class saloon,® while the needs of the numerous Catholics on board were met by Father Thomas Byles, from England, assisted by Father Joseph Peruschitz, a multilingual Benedictine from Bavaria.

In the radio room, Jack Phillips again wore his headphones, though still weary from the night's breakdown.  At about 10-15am, the letters MSG alerted him to an important incoming message for Captain Smith and he carefully copied it down.  'WEST BOUND STEAMERS REPORT BERGS GROWLERS AND FIELD ICE IN 42N FROM 49 TO 51 W APRIL 12TH.'  It was from the Cunard liner, Caronia, under Captain Barr.  The message was promptly taken to the bridge and Captain Smith swiftly wrote a courteous reply.   'THANKS FOR MESSAGE AND INFORMATION HAVE HAD VARIABLE WEATHER THROUGHOUT SMITH.'®    Phillips immediately sent this answer.  In due course, Fourth Officer Boxhall wrote the ice warning on a small piece of paper and placed it in the chartroom for the benefit of his fellow officers.®

Captain Smith had reason to heed this message.  Previous messages, notably one from the French liner, La Touraine, had mentioned icebergs, fog and a floating derelict, but these hazards were well off Titanic's course.®  Caronia's warning placed ice only a few miles north of her intended track and Smith knew that the ice might drift to the south.  Perhaps Titanic would pass north of the ice.  We can only speculate on his thoughts.  Possibly, as the information was two days old, he simply dismissed the position given as out of date.  At least one of his officers, namely Joseph Boxhall, thought it possible that the ice would reach the northern edge of the Gulf Stream and be carried ENE, enabling Titanic to pass south of it.®

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