I Took a Voyage on the R.M.S Titanic
She is 92 years old now only slightly hampered by her years, endlessly gallant and feisty about life and frankly hesitant to recall the events that irrevocably altered that life. Even now, almost 70 years later, a feeling of intense melancholy comes over the former Marjorie Newell as she recalls the last days in the short life of the ship they called unsinkable.
“The Titanic was a massive affair in every way: four enormous smokestacks, carpets that you could sink in up to your knees, fine furniture that you could barely move, and very fine paneling and carving. Everything on the ship was of the finest quality.
“We were, I think, five days out of Cherbourg; I do know that it was Sunday night. We had finished a lavish dinner in the corner of the magnificent dining room and had gone up to one of the foyers. We just sat there for a while, feeling very refreshed and invigorated after this lovely trip. My father smiled and said, ‘Do you think you can last till morning?’ You see, we had rather large appetites, and he was kidding us about whether we’d need more food. While we sat there in the foyer, I distinctly remember that John Jacob Astor and his wife walked by, looking very affable and distinguished.
“Well, as the evening wore on, my sister and I decided to retire, so we went to our rooms.
“I don’t honestly remember how long we’d been down in our rooms, but we suddenly felt and heard a great vibration; its size was just staggering.”
It was 11:40 P.M. on April 14, 1912, latitude 41°46′ N, longitude 50°14′ W. The grinding, tearing sound that had awakened Marjorie Newell and her sister was made by an iceberg shearing a 300-foot gash in the Titanic‘s bow, helped along by the ship’s rapid 22.5-knot speed and the fact that a half-dozen warnings about drifting ice had been more or less ignored.
Marjorie Newell sat up in bed, wondering what had happened. Far below, in the ship’s boiler room, what seemed like the entire starboard side of the ship collapsed, the sea flooding in over the watertight bulkheads.
On the upper decks, little seemed to be wrong at first. The Titanic lay dead in the water, three of her four funnels blowing out steam with a large, thundering noise. Yet somehow Marjorie Newell’s father knew something was terribly wrong.
“Very soon after the noise, there was a knock at the door. It was Father. ‘Put on warm clothing and come quickly to the upper deck,’ he said. We obeyed. We always obeyed Father.”
Several minutes later, the Newell sisters arrived on the top deck. There was no moon that night, but through the thickish fog that surrounded the ship, it could be seen that the sky was full of stars, and she remembers that the water was perfectly clear, perfectly smooth.