107 #58: Carpathia was the first ship to pick up Titanic’s distress signal

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FALSE. The passenger steamer Mount Temple and the Marconi shore station at Cape Race were the first to receive Titanic’s distress signal, 41° 46’ N, 50° 24’ W, at about 10.25 p.m. New York time. But about 10 minutes later Titanic sent out a revised distress position, 41° 44’ N, 50° 14’ W.

We now know that both these positions were incorrect by several miles, but we also know that it was only this second position which Harold Cottam first picked up on the Carpathia, after he happened to call Titanic just before he went to bed to let her know that there were messages waiting for her at Cape Race. Cottam had in fact been out of his wireless room, reporting the day’s communications to the officers on Carpathia’s bridge, when Titanic sent out her first distress signals:

17102: ‘I wrote out the chit of the previous communications during the day and reported them to the bridge. After reporting them I returned to the cabin, and I sat down, and I asked the Titanic if he was aware there was a batch of messages coming through from Cape Cod for him, and his only answer was, “Struck a berg; come at once.”’

17103: ‘Now tell us, as nearly as you can, it is only a recollection, I understand—what it was which the Titanic said to you?’

‘She said, “Come at once; we have struck a berg,” and sent his position, and then he sent C.Q.D.’

Harold Cottam on the Carpathia was thus alerted to the tragedy unfolding on Titanic. It is interesting to note that, had Cottam not taken it upon himself to call the Titanic about this general piece of business before he went to bed (which he only did casually as he was untying his boots, before turning off his wireless for the night), it would have been the Californian which rescued all Titanic’s survivors from her lifeboats, at 8.30am, and not the Carpathia, four hours earlier.

If you’d like to read the full book of101 Things You Thought You Knew About The Titanic…But Didn’t!, or any of my other books on Titanic, please visit my Author Page on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/tim-maltin/e/B005LNHYEQ/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_1

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