The RMS Carpathia, a Cunard Line transatlantic passenger steamship, arrives in New York City on April 18, 1912, with 705 survivors from the RMS Titanic, which sank in the North Atlantic three days earlier.
As she is making her way from New York to Fiume, Austria-Hungary (now Rijeka, Croatia), RMS Carpathia receives a distress call from the “unsinkable” RMS Titanic. RMS Carpathia’s captain, Arthur Rostron, later testifies that the distance to RMS Titanic was 58 nautical miles (67 miles) and was expected to take three and a half hours to reach the doomed liner as its top speed, which was about 14.5 knots.
However, braving dangerous ice fields of its own, Rostron orders extra stokers to feed coal and cut off heating and hot water elsewhere in order to supply the ship’s engines with as much steam as possible. These decisions help accelerate the ship to more than 17 knots and the RMS Carpathia arrives on the scene approximately one hour and 40 minutes after RMS Titanic went down. For the next four and a half hours, the ship rescues 705 survivors from RMS Titanic‘s lifeboats.
Slowed by storms and fog since early Tuesday, April 16, RMS Carpathia arrives in New York City on the cold and rainy evening of Thursday, April 18, escorted by the scout cruiser USS Chester. RMS Carpathia first bypasses Pier 54, its Cunard Line pier, and sails up the Hudson River to Pier 59, the berth for White Star Line and where RMS Titanic was supposed to have arrived. Having dropped off the empty lifeboats, RMS Carpathia then sails back toward Pier 54.
A tugboat filled with photographers follows the ship to the pier, and the flashlight of cameras lights up the ship in the night sky to reveal that the decks are crammed with passengers.
Tens of thousands of people gather around Pier 54 to meet them and receive the first physical confirmation of the maritime disaster. On the orders of Rostron, RMS Carpathia‘s passengers disembark first, believing the scene will become tumultuous as soon as RMS Titanic survivors first appear. That moment comes when a teary-eyed woman with makeshift clothes descends a gangway and stumbles away from the boat into the arms of an officer.
The RMS Carpathia is initially a transatlantic passenger ship that makes its maiden voyage in 1903. During World War I, she is used to transfer Canadian and American Expeditionary Forces to Europe.
On July 15, 1918, under the command of Captain William Prothero, RMS Carpathia is a part of a large convoy that is making its way from Liverpool to Boston. Two days later, carrying 57 passengers and 166 crew, she is torpedoed on the port side by a German U-boat off the southwest coast of Ireland.
A second strike follows, which penetrates the engine room, killing three firemen and two trimmers. Prothero gives the order to abandon ship and all passengers and the surviving crew members board the lifeboats.
A third torpedo strike hits the gunner’s rooms, resulting in a large explosion that dooms the ship. The U-boat starts approaching the lifeboats when the HMS Snowdrop arrives on the scene and drives away the submarine with gunfire before picking up survivors.
The wreck of the RMS Carpathia is only discovered in 2000 after an 80 year-long search for the missing ship.
(From: “On This Day: Carpathia arrives in New York with Titanic survivors” by Michael Dorgan, IrishCentral, http://www.irishcentral.com, April 15, 2022)