Out of 2,223 passengers and crew aboard the Titanic, only 706 survived. Here are three survivor stories. Lucy Dyer-Edwards of London had married the nineteenth Earl of Rothes in 1900 and became the Countess of Rothes. Bound for Vancouver, BC, to meet her husband, she boarded the Titanic at age 33, accompanied by her cousin and her maid.
The Countess had some prior sailing experience, and manned the tiller for most of the night in Lifeboat 8, while her cousin helped row. Able seaman Thomas Jones, the crewman in charge, admired her courage and gave her the number plate from the boat afterward. They corresponded for several years.
The Countess of Rothes
Esther Hart of England, her husband Benjamin and seven-year-old daughter Eva were on their way to a new life in Winnipeg, Canada. Their tickets were changed from another ship to the Titanic at the last minute. Certain that something dreadful was going to happen to the Titanic, Esther slept during the day and stayed awake every night, fully dressed. She enjoyed the voyage enough, however, to write a letter to a friend back home, saying what a wonderful journey it had been so far. The letter was kept in Benjamin’s coat pocket until they reached New York.
Esther felt the collision with the iceberg and immediately rushed her family out from their second class cabin. Benjamin gave her his coat as she and Eva boarded Lifeboat 14. Benjamin went down with the ship.
With her husband gone, Esther chose to take Eva back to England and live with her parents. The letter was saved by family members, and was sold this past April for 119,000 British pounds.
Benjamin, Eva, and Esther Hart
Olaus Abelseth, born and raised in Norway, had left his homeland in 1902 at the age of sixteen to seek his fortune in America. He managed to start a farm in South Dakota, and went back to Norway to visit family. With him on the Titanic were five other Norwegians, all traveling in steerage. Olaus was 26.
Following the sinking, he was one of the few available third class passengers who could speak English, so he testified at the American inquiry. He described the confusion amid the third class decks after the collision, how the lifeboats were all taken by the time he reached them, and how he waited to jump into the freezing water. With his life vest on and surrounded by men trying to hang on to him, he swam toward one of the collapsible rafts. No one helped him aboard because of the fear it would capsize. He gradually pulled himself aboard and endured waist-deep ice cold water until rescued by the Carpathia eight hours later.
Olaus returned to farming in the United States, married and had four children.