Review: I Survived the Titanic by Lawrence Beesley

I’ve been fascinated with the Titanic quite a while and have many books on the subject, but this one is the most enjoyable I’ve ever read. Lawrence Beesley was a second-class passenger on the Titanic and survived the sinking.

In I Survived the Titanic, he gives readers a play-by-play of the crash, from impact to rescue in a way only a true account can. A few of my favorite parts are:

1. When the iceberg first hits and no one is really worried about it. After all, it was an unsinkable ship, right? He walked through the smoking room where gentlemen were playing cards. One of the gentlemen jokes about his glass of whiskey and says,

“Just run along the deck and see if any ice has come aboard: I would like some for this.”

To which all in the room laughed. It’s amazing to me that the ice would be joked about when not two hours later, the ship was under the deep dark sea, probably accompanied by the joking gentlemen himself.

2. One of the biggest things this account speaks of are the misconceptions we hold about the crew, passengers, and the mood of that bitterly cold night. He mentions several times that they never thought the ship would sink. There was no panic. No rush. No indication of anything being wrong.

“…after we had embarked in the lifeboats and rowed away from the Titanic, it would not have surprised us to hear that all passengers would be saved: the cries of drowning people after the Titanic gave the final plunge were a thunderbolt to us.”

3. His mention of details I had not heard yet. Like there was a stoker on his boat so cold because he wore only pants and shirt because below decks was so hot working with the coal. Or the woman with so many furs she started handing them out to those who were shivering on the lifeboat. Or the Chinese passengers who saved themselves by hiding under the seats in rowboats, only discovered when they started unloading at the Carpathia.

For anyone interested in the Titanic this is a must-read.

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