At 11:40 pm on 14 April 1912, the RMS Titanic, which had been transporting 2,208 people from Southampton to New York, hit an iceberg while crossing the North Atlantic ocean.
Over the course of the next few days the British press was littered with conflicting news and information, with statements claiming that all passengers were safe and the ‘unsinkable’ ship had started making its way to Halifax.
The Western Times had quite a job keeping up with the latest reports. A lengthy article published on 16 April makes for fascinating reading as the story changes in nearly every paragraph as new information is received.
One report apparently stated that the Titanic was still afloat at half-past eight, and her engines were working. She is crawling slowly in the direction of Halifax, and towards the ‘Virginian… the women and children aboard are in the lifeboats, which are ready to be lowered at a moment’s notice, but this will not be done until it is certain that the vessel is actually sinking’.
The Vice-President of the International Mercantile Marine issued a statement which read, ‘We have nothing direct from the ‘Titanic’, but are perfectly satisfied that the vessel is unsinkable. The fact that the Marconi messages have ceased means nothing; it may be due to atmospherical conditions, the coming up of the ships, or something of that sort. We are not worried over the possible loss of the ship, as she will not go down, but we are sorry for the inconvenience caused to the travelling public’.
At one point, it was printed that ‘It is reported that all the passengers are saved’, though where this report came from is unclear.
The serious nature of the collision soon becomes all too clear though, and the headlines turn to the worst.
Officials from White Star Line, the British shipping company which owned the RMS Titanic, issued one last statement ensuring the safety of all on board, however this was soon superseded by a second statement admitting that ‘lives have been lost’.
By 2:20 am on 15 April, the ship had completely submerged, causing the death of over 1,500 people.