Officials on the Californian claim their ship was as close as five nautical miles ahead of Titanic that night, and when it attempted to warn Titanic at approximately 11:10 p.m., the latter's wireless operator told it to "shut up," because he was busy with a backlog of personal messages.
On board luxury liners such as Titanic, passengers paid a pretty penny to send personal messages to shore or to friends traveling on other ships.
Soon after, the Californian's "telegraphist" closed up shop for the night. Titanic's distress calls went unheard.
Had the Californian operator and others earlier that day followed the protocol of sending out an "MSG" prefix with the iceberg warnings, Mr. Emory said, disaster might have been averted. "MSG in the prefix in that message means 'This message is for the captain of the ship.' It would have been taken to him immediately."
If the Cunard Line's Carpathia, which rescued Titanic's survivors from the frigid sea, had details on the situation, its chief wireless operator, Harold Cottam, wasn't going to waste his time sending it to news outlets. Even in more relaxing times, the use of wireless to transmit news to the papers was not a priority for operators.
Requests for survivor lists from U.S. naval ships such as the Chester were rebuffed.
Titanic's Bride, who hung onto a collapsible raft and was picked up by the Carpathia, quickly joined in to help that ship's wireless officer. He later defended the Carpathia's lack of communication about the rescue and Titanic survivors.
"I positively refused to send Press dispatches, because the bulk of the personal messages, with touching words of grief, was so large."
This climate of dedication to private messages over hard news might explain the giant news snafu of Monday evening, April 15. Many major English-language newspapers in the world relied on the United Press wireless bulletin stating that Titanic had struck an iceberg, but everything was fine.
"TAKING PASSENGERS FROM TITANIC," read that day's Pittsburg Press, with a similar story in the city's Sun. The Press subhead read: "Latest Wireless Dispatch Tells of Transferring Passengers to Other Vessels."
The ship would be towed to shore, according to information supplied by the White Star offices.
Across the Atlantic, reliable reports were even harder to come by. In his book, "Titanic: One Newspaper, Seven Days and the Truth That Shocked the World," author Stephen W. Hines examines a day-by-day look at the coverage from London's Daily Telegraph, then the world's largest English-print newspaper.
An initial report out of New York states simply: "The Titanic sank at 2:20 this morning. No lives were lost."
Charles M. Hutchison, a Wilkinsburg architect heading to Europe with his new bride on the Carpathia, mailed a report to the Pittsburg Press that ran on the front page of the Sunday, April 21 edition.
He included a graphic map of the ice fields and accounts from passengers. In the first minutes after Titanic ran into the iceberg, Hutchison said, some on deck playfully threw snowballs.
Hutchison described his own observations of the rescue, which he said took place between 4 and 7 a.m. Men climbed up rope ladders, women were placed on narrow wooden seats attached to ropes, and children and babies were "hauled up after being placed in a canvas sack."
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