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More Survior Stories

Ruth Becker

Miss Ruth Elizabeth Becker, 12, boarded the Titanic at Southampton. She was travelling with her mother Nellie, brother Richard and sister Marion from India to Benton Harbour, Michigan (ticket no.230136, £39). Ruth later recalled that after the collision a steward initially told her mother "... We've had a little accident. They're going to fix it, and then we'll be on our way ...". While the boats were loaded a steward placed Richard and Marion in one of the boats (#11), and then said "Well that's all for this boat!", at which Nellie pleaded to be allowed in as well, saying "Please let me in this boat! Those are my children!" She was allowed in but Ruth was left on the Titanic, at which point Nellie screamed "Ruth! Get in another boat!!". She eventually got into Lifeboat 13. After the sinking, gave her blanket to one of the stokers, who had on only a sleeveless shirt, and shorts, for working down in the coal bunkers, and was now shivering in the night air. After the Carpathia arrived in New York, Nellie Becker told the reporters at Pier 54 "Don't ask me anything. Ask Ruth, she'll tell you everything." After the disaster Ruth attended high school and college in Ohio, after which she taught high school in Kansas. She married a former classmate, Daniel Blanchard, and after her divorce twenty years later, she resumed her teaching career. In the years after the disaster she refused to talk about the Titanic, and her own children, when young, did not know that she had been on board. However, after her retirement, when she was living in Santa Barbara, California she began speaking about it, granting interviews and attending conventions of the Titanic Historical Society. In March of 1990, she made her first sea voyage since 1912, a cruise to Mexico. She died later that year at the age of ninety. Her ashes were scattered over the spot where the Titanic lies.

Victor Francis Sunderland

A resident of London he was travelling to Cleveland, Ohio to stay with his uncle, J. P. Foley. He boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a third class passenger (ticket number SOTON/OQ 392089 £8 1s). On the night of the collision, Sunderland was in his bunk in Section G (his cabin was three decks below the main deck and close to the bow). He and two cabin mates were smoking. Victor had on his trousers, his vest and coat were hanging on a rack. A little before midnight he felt a slight jar and heard a noise "similar to that (of) a basket of coal would make if dropped on an iron plate." Sunderland and six others went up the companion way to the main deck where a steward told them to go back. They could see ice on the deck, however the steward told them nothing was wrong so they went back to their cabin. They lay down on their bunks again and smoked for a quarter of an hour more. Suddenly, water started pouring in under the door. They instantly something was very wrong, and three of them then ran back up to the main deck. The other men remained in bed. Sunderland thought they might have drowned. Sunderland was told to return to his cabin to get his life preserver. They went back, but found their room was already under water. They ran aft between the decks and up to the main deck. There they found a Catholic priest praying and a crowd of men and women kneeling. Others were running about, beginning to panic. Sunderland separated from his two companions, they went aft to the taffrail. Sunderland went to the mid-promenade deck and then up to the boat deck. He found the boat deck crowded along the starboard side. The crew was filling boats with women and children and lowering them away. Sunderland claimed that standing nearby him were the Straus's. An officer was trying to convince them to get into a boat, but Mrs Straus said, "Let me have my husband." When told that only she could get into the boat she replied, “Then I will die with him." Whether Sunderland actually saw this is uncertain, he also claimed to have seen an officer firing a revolver in the air once or twice and then shooting a man who had refused to get out of a boat. Sunderland began to search for a lifebelt. He saw a steward in a lifeboat with three belts and asked him for one, but he refused. Sunderland asked a crew member if he knew where he could find one, and the crewmember didn't know. The ship was beginning to list to port and the boats along the starboard were almost all gone. The passengers were moving to the port side, but were kept back by crewmembers. Sunderland stayed close to the front of the boat deck, where Second Officer Lightoller and several fireman were trying to launch Collapsible B. Water was gushing toward him. The front of the boat began to rapidly sink. The firemen began jumping overboard. Sunderland followed. He swam away and found Boat B floating next to the sinking Titanic, washed overboard. He grabbed onto it as it floated near the forward funnel, moments later the funnel fell down. Sunderland thought the ship broke in two at that time. Sunderland and about 27 or 28 other men climbed onto Boat B. Many others were pushed away, trying to keep the boat from being overloaded. He was waist deep in the water. Someone asked how many Catholics were onboard. This person began to say the Lord's Prayer and then the Hail Mary, with the others following. In the early morning, they spotted the Carpathia and Lightoller signalled boat 12 to take them off. Sunderland was the fifth person to climb off of boat B. On the Carpathia, he recalled being given cold coffee. After arriving in New York, he was taken to the Salvation Army home and fed and clothed. He was then briefly hospitalized at St. Vincent's Hospital, where he remained until 20 April. From the 20th until the 24th, Sunderland went to the White Star offices and tried to recover money he had lost in the wreck. He also "saw the sights." He travelled by train to Cleveland and showed up at his uncle's house unexpectedly on 26 April. He was later married to May Annie McNaughton and worked as a plumber until his retirement in 1939. He settled in Toronto, Canada in the 1920s and died there on 21 August 1973.

Olaus Jørgensen Abelseth

In April 1912 Olaus began the return journey, his stated destination was Johan B. Abelseth 1112 Lincoln St. Minneapolis. Travelling with him were five other Norwegians: Adolf Humblen, Anna Salkjelsvik, Peter Søholt (a cousin), Sigurd Hansen Moen (married to Olaus' sister Inge) and Karen Marie Abelseth. Karen Abelseth was not a relative (? a cousin) but was the daughter of one of Olaus' neighbours when he lived in Norway. They new each other well, so, since Karen was only 16, her father asked Olaus if he could look after her on the trip to America. The party set sail from Ålesund to Newcastle via Bergen and boarded the Titanic at Southampton. Olaus and Humblen shared a cabin toward the bow on F-Deck (G-63) from where, on the night of the disaster, he made his way aft along the working alleyway 'Scotland Road' on E deck to meet Karen. He finally found her near the main third class staircase towards the stern and then she, Olaus and the rest of their group made their way to the aft well deck. They waited on the poop deck for instructions. At about 1:30 third class women were finally allowed onto the Boat Deck, followed by the men at 2:00. While many decided to remain on the poop Olaus and his relatives made for the Boat Deck. Olous together with Moen and Søholt placed Karen Abelseth into a boat. With the last boat pulling away they heard a call for sailors, some of the crew were trying to free a collapsible and Olaus who had six years of sailing experience as a fisherman was tempted to assist but his cousin and brother in law urged him to stay with them. "I was standing there, and I asked my brother-in-law if he could swim and he said no. I asked my cousin if he could swim and he said no. So we could see the water coming up, the bow of the ship was going down, and there was kind of an explosion. We could hear the popping and cracking, and the deck raised up and got so steep that the people could not stand on their feet on the deck. So they fell down and slid on the deck into the water right on the ship." When all the boats had gone Olaus and his relatives found themselves near the fourth funnel, as the Titanic sank deeper they clung to the falls of a lifeboat davit. His brother in law urged him to jump for it but Olaus waited. When the water was only five feet away they plunged in. As he surfaced Olaus became entangled in a line but somehow managed to break free, when he looked around him his brother in law and cousin were nowhere to be seen, they had been washed away. Olaus swam for twenty minutes in the icy water before finally reaching collapsible A. surrounded by dead and dying he tried to pull himself into the waterlogged boat but someone inside shouted 'don't capsize the boat', so Olaus clung to the side for a while before eventually dragging himself aboard. As they rowed through the night the survivors in Collapsible A prayed, and, although nearly waist deep in water Olaus tried to revive a fellow passenger who lay freezing in the bottom of the boat, he lifted him up and discovered that it was a man from New Jersey with whom Olaus had shared a carriage on the boat train to Southampton 1. When the Carpathia was sighted he urged the man to look up, but as dawn broke the man slipped away. Another man put his arms around Abelseth to relieve cramps caused by the cold but eventually he too died and Olaus had to prise the man's arm off him. When he finally reached the deck of the Carpathia at 7:00 am he was given a warm blanket he then headed for the dining room for some brandy and a hot coffee. With cabin space at a premium Olaus found he had to sleep on deck and lay down to sleep in the same clothes that he had worn all night in the flooded boat. In New York he stayed a few days at St. Vincent Hospital. He also testified before the US senate Inquiry before moving on to Minneapolis. During 1912 and 1913 he travelled in Canada, Indianapolis and Montana before returning to his farm in South Dakota. In July 1915 he married Anna Grinde in South Dakota. Anna was Ole's first wife, he her second husband. Anna had been born in Grinde Norway 6 October 1877. Her father had died at sea in Norwegian waters near Sognefjorden on 19 June 1886. The death occurred only nine day after Olaus was born, Anna was eight. Olaus worked his farm for a further 30 years and he and Anna had four children; their second son died at the age of 3½, the other children were: George, Helen and Mae. He retired in 1946 to Reeder, North Dakota. In 1948 they moved to Tacoma Washington and in 1960 to Whetting, North Dakota before settling in Hettinger, Adams Co., North Dakota. Anna celebrated her 100th birthday in 1977; she died in August 1978. Olaus died on 4 December 1980. His daughter Mae (Mrs Jim Omodt) lives in Sandpoint, Idaho and his son George in Prairie City, South Dakota.