Historical Views of the Rockaways
As I climbed aboard lifeboat number six, the noise of the people who were crowding around almost diminished what I began to hear from closeby. And that was the tireless wireless operator beating out in Morse code: S.O.S./S.O.S./RMS Titanic/struck iceberg/sinking fast…. followed by latitude and longitude.
I felt the chill of the air passing the back of my neck as the bulky lifejacket provided a canyon to do so. As I sat on the top of the narrow seat, the top of the gunwale pressed into the small of my back affording a little support. My feet were off the deck and the heels of my shoes were banging into the copper floatation tanks, which made this lifeboat – unsinkable!
I couldn’t help but to keep my eyes on the mast and sail in front of me, which ran the length of the boat almost touching the rubber control arm aft. I wanted to remember every detail of this boat, which was only a speck of its counterpart.
Quickly I scanned the food and fresh water storage compartments under the encircling seating arrangements, but the legs of the human cargo quickly blotted out my view. When I again looked up, the boat seemed overcrowded, and I now could feel the craft moving despite its strong supports!
Attendants were holding back a sea of confused humanity who were afraid there would not be room left for them. Assurances were shouted by officials.
The length of the oars now caught my eye and I began wondering if the people in the boat could handle them. The man in charge of boat number six introduced himself and explained to all of us as to our duties and behavior until rescued. I couldn’t see him very well. He was at the back the boat sitting down, with his arm over the rubber handle, and many bodies around him. Sitting down, with his arm over the rubber handle, and many bodies around him.
I listened intently until my wife, who was seated beside me, rested her head on my shoulder and said, “After this, let’s get something to eat, I’m starving!” This broke my concentration on that day in April of 1912 (the 14th) when the ill fated and unsinkable ocean liner R.M.S. Titanic struck an iceberg and sank in the frigid North Atlantic, with a great loss of life.
This was April of 1992, and I was sitting in the last surviving lifeboat from the Titanic, which was on sale for $40,000 at an antique and collectable show held in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The sinking of the Titanic left its mark on the Rockaways / Five towns area. Mr. Henry S. Harris and Mr. Henry S. Harper of Lawrence were passengers. Harper survived, but Harris gave his seat to a child, and was never heard from again. Miss Edith Rosenbaum of Far Rockaway was aboard and survived, as did Dr. and Mrs. Henry W. Fraunthal, summer residents of Far Rockaway. The Fraunthals were related to the Heinschiemer family of Bayswater.
Since the tragedy of the Titanic in 1912, ship construction and passenger safety has improved, and many films, documentaries, and investigations have taken place. The sunken remains have been found, photographed, mapped, and recorded in many ways….. And the cause of the sinking debated by experts and the public at large. What say you?