Wreck and Sinking of the Titanic – Eyewitness Report- Lawrence Beesley

Lb2The RMS Titanic sank in 1912, and there were only 705 survivors out of the 2208 that were on board. Once the survivors got back to America, they were questions that needed answering, the two inquiries who tried very hard to find out the truth about that horrible night that robbed over 1500 people of their lives. The shock of the disaster made it difficult for some witnesses to remember exactly what they saw. After all, the crossing was for pleasure, the fact the greatest ship in the world was sinking, was so unbelievable that people literally could not handle it. However, there was one person that was quite observant about everything that happened  was Lawrence Beesley, and his observations were in the book The Wreck and Sinking of the Titanic, but also a book Beesley wrote himself.  Beesley’s account in the Wreck and Sinking  book were quite fresh because the book came out a few months after the Titanic sank.

Beesley Describes the Voyage and Disaster

Lawrence Beesley gave  a nine page account of the disaster to the Wreck and Sinking book. At first, he describes things like what the weather was like, and how things were quiet, peaceful, and calm, for those first few days at sea. However, by Sunday, April 14th, Beesley talked about how the weather suddenly changed. Beesley described how it had gotten so cold that he was not able to go outside to explore the upper deck of the ship. He was not the only one that noticed the cold, Beesley stated that many passengers stayed indoors on that day, and chose to hang around in the library like he had done for the entire voyage. The temperature only continued to drop as the day wore on, and by sunset, the upper deck of the Titanic was pretty much abandoned.

At 11:30 pm on Sunday night, Lawrence Beesley had barely gone to bed. He had only been in his room about 10 minutes, when at 11:40, he noticed something that seemed to ripple through the ship.  According to the Wreck and Sinking Book, “I had been in my berth for about ten minutes when at about 11:40 p.m. I felt a slight jar and then soon after a second one but not sufficiently large to cause any anxiety to anyone however nervous they may have been. The engines stopped immediately afterward and my first thought was–‘she lost a propeller.’  I went up on the top deck in a dressing gown, and found only a few people there, who had come up similarly to inquire why we had stopped, but there was no sort of anxiety in the minds of anyone.”

Once up on deck, Beesley found that everyone was acting normal, and he even peeked in the windows of the smoking lounge watching people play cards.  From how everyone was acting, Beesley thought that everything was fine and he went back to his room to read. However, Beesley could not concentrate on his book because there were people he could hear rushing around outside his door.  Beesley went up on deck a second time, and that’s when he saw that the lifeboats were being prepared, and he went back to his room to put on warmer clothing.

Beesley Describes the Sinking Ship

Lb1While standing on the deck, Lawrence Beesley was an astute witness to everything that was happening around him. Everything seemed to be okay up on deck, but below the surface, things were quite chaotic as people were trying to get up on deck, and there were also crew members that were trying to stop the flooding. However up on the boat deck, Lawrence Beesley observed, “the ship was absolutely still and except for a gentle tilt downward, which I do not think one person in ten would have noticed at that time, no signs of the approaching disaster were visible. She lay just  as if she were waiting the other order to go on again when some trifling matter had been adjusted. ”

At this point in the disaster, the lifeboats were all being prepared to be lowered right in front of Lawrence Beesley, and others, who were up on deck.  That was when people began to realize that the Titanic was stopped, and she would never move again. According to Lawrence Beesley, “we then began to realize it was more serious than had been supposed, and my first thought was to go down and get more clothing and some money, but seeing people pouring up the stairs decided it was better to cause no confusion to people coming up by doing so. ”

Lawrence Beesley Describes Titanic’s Final Plunge

“In the distance, it looked an enormous length, its great bulk outlined in black against the starry sky, every porthole and salon blazing with light. Presently at 2 a.m., as near as I cab remember, we observed it settling very rapidly, with the bow and bridge completely under water, and concluded it was now only a question of minutes before it went; and so it proved. It slowly tilted straight on end, with the stern vertically upward, and as it did, the lights in the cabins and saloons,  which had not flickered for a moment since we left, died out, come on again for a single flash, and the finally went altogether. To our amazement the Titanic remained in the upright position, bow down, for a time which I estimate as five minutes, while we watched at least 150 feet of the Titanic towering above the level of the sea and looming black against the sky. Then the ship dived beneath the waters.”

Lawrence Beesley’s chilling words create quite an image, and it puts everyone who reads these words right in the middle of everything. Beesley sat in a lifeboat watching the Titanic as she slid beneath the waters, and what he saw stuck with him for the rest of his life, and also to anyone that reads his words.  Beesley was only one of very few witnesses that was very detailed about he saw, and his skill as a science teacher came in handy under the most tragic of circumstances.