It is a night of a thousand stars. The date, Sunday April 14, 1912. The time, 11:20 p.m.
The place, off Cape Race – that Cemetery of the sea.
Suddenly a silence comes – the engines have stopped – the great iron heart of the ship has ceased to beat.
Such a silence is always ominous to those who go down to the sea in ships. “The engines have stopped!”
Eyes peer; ears listen; startled minds wait!
A half-minute goes by ∞ ∞
Then the great ship groans, as her keel grates and grinds. She reels, rocks, struggles as if to free herself from a titanic grasp, and as she rights herself, people standing lose their center of gravity ∞ ∞
Not a shock – only about the same sensation that one feels when the ferryboat slides into her landing-slip, with a somewhat hasty hand at the wheel.
On board the ferry we know what has happened – here we do not.
“An iceberg!” some one cries. The word is passed along.
“Only an iceberg! Barely grated it – side-swiped it – that is all! Ah, Ha!”
The few on deck and some of those in cabins peering out of portholes, see a great white mass go gliding by.
A shower of broken ice has covered the decks. Passengers pick up specimens “for souvenirs to carry home,” they laughingly say.
Five minutes pass – the engines start again – but only for an instant.
Again the steam is shut off ∞ Then the siren-whistles cleave and saw the frosty air ∞ ∞
Silence and the sirens! Alarm, but no tumult – but why blow the whistles when there is no fog! ∞ ∞
The cold is piercing. Some who have come up on deck return to their cabins for wraps and overcoats ∞ ∞
The men laugh – and a few nervously smoke ∞ ∞
It is a cold, clear night of the stars. There is no moon. The sea is smooth as a Summer pond. The great towering iceberg that loomed above the topmost mast has done its work, gone on, disappeared, piloted by its partners, the darkness and the night ∞ ∞
“There was no iceberg – you only imagined it,” a man declares.
“Go back to bed – there is no danger – this ship can not sink anyway!” says the Managing Director of the Company ∞ ∞
In a lull of the screaming siren, a hoarse voice is heard calling through a megaphone from the bridge – “Man the lifeboats! Women and children first!!”