In its time, the Titanic was the largest ship on Earth. On April 10th, 1912, it set out from Southampton, the UK on its maiden voyage to New York. Titanic never arrived there. Instead, the so-called unsinkable ship ended its journey on the seabed off the coast of Newfoundland. Approximately 2202 crew and passengers were on board the doomed vessel. Only 700 or so survived. Each of their stories is an incredible testament to human endurance. But some, in particular, stand out. Here are just 10 of those Titanic tales.
Frank Prentice was the last of the surviving Titanic crew members to die, passing away peacefully on May 19th, 1982 at the age of 93. Seventy years earlier, he was one of the last people to escape the doomed liner alive. Twenty-three-year-old Prentice was an assistant storekeeper on Titanic. At the time of the collision, he was in the cabin he shared with five others, talking to one of his roommates. Prentice noticed Titanic had stopped. The only other strange thing that marked the moment was the smell of ice.
Prentice and his friends made for the deck and began to help load passengers into lifeboats. Finally, there were none left, and the small group faced the prospect of sinking with the ship. But they did not give up hope. As the stern rose upwards, in preparation for Titanic’s final descent beneath the waves, Prentice and his workmates sought sanctuary at the highest point on the poop deck. More and more people joined them as the stern became ever more vertical. So Prentice and his friends decided to take a chance and jump into the icy sea.
The group fell 100 feet into the water, surrounded by the dead, the dying and those, like them who were struggling to stay alive. “I was lucky when I hit the water that I did not hit anything,” Prentice later recalled. His friend, Cyril Ricks, was not so fortunate. Unlike Prentice, he hit some of the wreckage and fell unconscious. Prentice stayed with him until he died. As he waited in the water, Prentice recalled hearing the band playing right up until the moment Titanic disappeared under the waves. Once Cyril too had gone, Prentice swam away.
After four hours in the water, the occupants of Lifeboat 4 pulled Prentice into the boat, half-frozen but still alive. He later put his survival down to his strong swimming skills and the fact he was physically fit. One month after his rescue, Prentice returned to the site of the sinking, this time on the Oceanic. He continued his maritime career on this ship right into the First World War. But when Prentice was assigned a place on the Olympic, the sister ship of Titanic, he decided it was time to join the army instead.