On the Edge of Daylight: Separating Fact from Fiction

Like many films, novels and fictional works about the RMS Titanic in popular culture, On the Edge of Daylight attempts to weave as much history as possible into its narrative. While it's not the most historically accurate Titanic novel by any means (e.g., especially when you introduce the concept of female seafarers and officer love affairs), the dialogue, events, and exchanges that are based on fact include:

On the Edge of Daylight A Novel of the Titanic by Giselle Beaumont

(Possible Spoilers Below)

The conversation between Lightoller and Captain Smith on the bridge.

‘At five minutes to nine, when the commander came on the bridge, he remarked that it was cold,’ testified Lightoller:

‘As far as I remember, I said, ‘Yes, it is very cold, Sir. In fact it is only one degree above freezing.’ We then commenced to speak about the weather, He said ‘There is not much wind.’ I said ‘No, it is a flat calm as a matter of fact.’ He repeated it; he said: ‘A flat calm.’ I said ‘Yes, quite flat, there is no wind.’ I said something about it was rather a pity the breeze had not kept up whilst we were going through the ice region. Of course, my reason was obvious; he knew I meant the water ripples breaking on the base of the berg.

— Titanic: Victims and Villains.

The conversation between Murdoch and Captain Smith after the collision.

At the last minute, the bow swung a few degrees to the left, and above the waterline the hull scraped by the iceberg, dislodging about two tons of ice that fell onto the Titanic’s forward decks. Far below, Murdoch could hear a grinding sound that lasted about ten seconds. When it ceased, he ordered Quartermaster Alfred Olliver to note the time of the collision and told Moody to enter it in the ship’s log. Captain Smith, who had been in his cabin adjacent to the bridge, immediately appeared and asked, ‘What have we struck?’

An iceberg, sir,’ Murdoch replied. ‘I hard-a starboarded and reversed the engines, and I was going to hard-a-port around it, but she was too close. I could not do anymore.’

— Titanic 100th Anniversary Edition: A Night Remembered

To the U.S. Senate inquiry, Fourth Officer Boxhall said he heard First Officer Murdoch tell Captain Smith, “I put her hard astarboard and run the engines full astern, but it was too close; she hit it before I could do any more. I intended to port around it.”

— Encyclopedia Titanica

Captain Smith: Are the watertight doors closed?
Murdoch: The watertight doors are closed, sir.

— The Life and Mystery of First Officer William Murdoch

Senator Smith. What did the captain say?
Mr. Boxhall. He said, “Go down and find the carpenter and get him to sound the ship.”

— U.S. Inquiry of the Titanic Disaster

Thomas Andrews informing the captain Titanic will sink.

After the impact, Captain Edward Smith summoned Thomas Andrews, the lead shipbuilder, to assess the damage. Around 12:10am, Andrews told the Captain that since five compartments had been breached, the ship must certainly sink in “an hour, or an hour and a half at most.” They also discussed the fact that there were only lifeboats for 1200 of the 2200 souls aboard.

Andrews determined that the first five of the ship's watertight compartments were rapidly flooding. Andrews knew that if more than four of the ship's compartments flooded, it would inevitably sink. He relayed this information to Captain Smith, stating that it was a 'mathematical certainty', and adding that in his opinion, the vessel had only about an hour before it completely sank.

Officer Lowe carried his own revolver with him during the sinking.

[Lowe] then grabbed his revolver, a Browning automatic, and began to assist people into the starboard lifeboat 5 - First Officer Murdoch was overseeing this section at the time.

— Encyclopedia Titanica

Officer Lowe lost his temper at Chairman Bruce Ismay during the evacuation.

“[Ismay] hung on the davit from which No. 5 was suspended, and he shouted excitedly, “Lower away! Lower away! Lower away!” It was too much for Fifth Officer Harold Lowe, who was down on the deck, trying to work the ropes. Lowe shouted as Ismay, “You want me to lower away quickly? You’ll have me drown the whole lot of them! If you will get the hell out of the way, I’ll be able to do something!”

— The Titanic Story

Officer Moody refused to board a lifeboat.

Moody was responsible for the loading of Lifeboats 12, 14 and 16. While loading Lifeboat 14, Fifth Officer Lowe told Moody he should man the lifeboat. While it would be traditional for Moody to man the lifeboat due to his lower rank, he deferred the task to Lowe.

— 30 James Street

A man disguised as a woman was shoved into a boat by Lowe.

“During the length transfer from boat to boat, Harold Godfrey Lowe noticed a ‘woman’ with a shawl over her head, and was immediately suspicious of her agility in stepping across the boats. He tore away her shawl to reveal another young man, and Harold Godfrey Lowe pushed him into the bottom of one of the lifeboats in a manner which left the lad no doubts as to Harold Godfrey Lowe’s opinion of him.”

— Titanic-Titanic


Armed with an electric torch and his officer’s whistle, Lowe stood in the prow of his lifeboat, shrilly tweeting the whistle and shining the torch around to cast light on the faces - intermittently shouting out: “Is there anyone alive out there?!”

Lowe almost refused rescuing survivor Fang Lang from the wreckage.

"What's the use?" said Mr Lowe. He's dead, likely, and if he isn't there's others better worth saving than a Jap!"
He had actually turned our boat around; but he changed his mind and went back. The Japanese was hauled on board, and one of the women rubbed his chest, while others chafed his hands and feet...One of the sailors near to him was so tired that he could hardly pull his oar. The Japanese bustled over, pushed him from his seat, took the oar and worked like a hero until we were finally picked up. I saw Mr Lowe watching him in open-mouthed surprise.
"By Jove!" muttered the officer. "I'm ashamed of what I said about the little blighter. I'd save the likes o' him six times over, if I got the chance."

— Encyclopedia Titanica

Murdoch allowed men to board the lifeboats in the absence of women/children.

“For various reasons, partly because Murdoch was slightly less strict about the interpretation of the women and children first order and partly because of difficulties caused by the fact that the ship was listing slightly to starboard, the boats on this side [starboard] were generally got away more quickly.”

“In the absence of sufficient numbers of women and children in the vicinity, Murdoch permitted men aboard (approximately 10) while other men gallantly refused.”

— The Life and Mystery of First Officer William Murdoch

Murdoch refused to allow a French commander board Titanic in Cherbourg.

Commander Leloup, French Navy military, wanted to take the Nomadic to paid a visit on the Titanic. Having missed the departure, he embarked aboard the Traffic and wanted to cross the gangplank. Murdock refused, and Leloupe asked: "Is the Captain of the Traffic on board?" We sent for Gaillard who introduced himself: "At your orders, sir!" Leloup: " I want to know why a French naval officer is denied boarding of a foreign merchant ship in the harbor of Cherbourg?" Indeed, Lieutenant Murdock disobeyed a major maritime regulation by prohibiting a French officer access to the ship. Captain Smith was called and came himself to fetch Commander Leloup at the gangplank.

— The Life and Mystery of First Officer William Murdoch

Lifeboat No. 15 was nearly lowered overtop of Lifeboat No. 13.

“Lifeboat 13, with 54 of her 64 occupants women, was lowered at 1.25 am. Less than a minute later, the adjacent boat 15 was lowered. Boat 13 reached the water, but before her falls could be severed, she was washed beneath the descending boat 15. Disaster seemed imminent, but the falls were cut and boat 13 drifted clear just in time.”

— Titanic: Destination Disaster: the Legends and the Reality

A larger passenger fell into a lifeboat during the evacuation.

Richard Edkins adds that Stengel stumbled and rolled into the boat because “he was rather fat.” Walter Lord described the scene in this way: “Stengel had trouble climbing over the rail, finally getting on top of it and rolled into the boat. Murdoch, an agile terrier of a man, laughed pleasantly, ‘That’s the funniest thing I’ve seen tonight.’ ”

— The Life and Mystery of First Officer William Murdoch/A Night to Remember

Bruce Ismay boarded a lifeboat in front of Officer Murdoch.

“When no one responds to the call “Anymore women and children?” Ismay steps in as the boat is lowered. Richard Edkins writes that this occurred “in the presence of Murdoch, who stood and said nothing. He then gestured to the seamen and they continued to lower the boat. It is said that Ismay’s act cost him any sympathy and respect that he might have gained from assisting at the lifeboats. Whether Murdoch would have dared pull Ismay back on board is another matter; as Ismay was more than ‘just another passenger,’ Murdoch had little authority over Bruce Ismay.”

— Murdoch on the Titanic

Officer Lightoller was pinned beneath a fiddley grate and nearly drowned as the ship sank.

“On the boat deck, above our quarters, on the fore part of the forward funnel, was a huge rectangular air shaft and ventilator, with an opening about twenty by fifteen feet...I suddenly found myself drawn, by the sudden rush of the surface water now pouring down this shaft, and held flat and firmly up against this wire netting...The pressure of the water just glued me there whilst the ship sank slowly below the surface...I was drowning, and a matter of another couple of minutes would have seen me through. I was still struggling and fighting when suddenly a terrific blast of hot air came up the shaft, and blew me right away from the air shaft and up to the surface.”

— Charles Lightoller

Officer Lightoller went over his superior officer's orders during the sinking.

"When the task was done, Lightoller went to Chief Officer Wilde and asked whether he should swing the boats out. “Wait” said Wilde. At that moment, Captain Smith came by. Shouting through cupped hands, Lightoller asked if he should swing the boats out. “Yes, swing them out, “said E.J. As soon as this was done, Lightoller once again asked Wilde if he should begin to load the women and children. Once again Wilde said “Wait” and once again, Lightoller asked the captain, “Shall I get the women and children away, sir?” Captain Smith nodded, and Lightoller began to load the portside boats."

— Encyclopedia Titanica

As the officers tried to cut the falls of Collapsible A, a wave washed the decks.

“Collapsible A was brought down from its storage point on the officers' quarters. Murdoch was seen by Lightoller trying to disentangle or cut the forward falls (ropes, halliards) of lifeboat No. 1's davits, to use them to launch Collapsible A. Jack Thayer claimed that he was trying to cut the aft falls of the lifeboat at this time. The sudden sinking of the forward section made the sea surge and sweep many people from the deck. A.B's. French and McGough later stated that Murdoch, then straightening the forward falls, waved to those about him to get further back up the tilting deck. The sea then engulfed them, and Collapsible A was left floating at the davits until it broke loose.

— Murdoch on the Titanic

Father Francis Browne took some of the last few photographs of Titanic.

“Father Browne and his camera left a treasure to us all: photographs of the maiden voyage of the Titanic from Southampton to Queenstown. He captured the near accident with the New York, he photographed Robert D. Spedden, T.W. Mc Cawley, Jacques Futrelle, Harold Bride and the last picture ever taken of Captain E.J. Smith.”

— Encyclopedia Titanica

Titanic nearly collided with the SS New York when she left port.

At noon, when Titanic was scheduled to depart Southampton on her maiden voyage, tugboats towed the massive liner into the River Test. When Captain Smith ordered the acceleration of Titanic's engines, putting the larger ship under her own power, the suction created by the propellers at the stern of the ship caused the steel hawsers securing New York to snap, loosing her from her moorings with a sound likened to gunshots and causing her to drift toward Titanic's stern.

Before setting sail, Murdoch and Lightoller were bumped down in rank.

At the last moment, Captain Smith reshuffled the senior crew's positions to accommodate Henry Tingle Wilde as Chief Officer (as he had been aboard Olympic). This meant that Murdoch was bumped down to the position of First Officer, and Charles Herbert Lightoller to Second Officer, while David Blair was left out entirely, the other officers remaining the same.

— The Life and Mystery of First Officer William Murdoch/A Night to Remember

Wilde felt uneasy about the Titanic.

“Written aboard the ship, just days before it sank, Mr Wilde posted a letter to his sister at Queenstown telling her he did not like the Titanic. "I still don't like this ship... I have a queer feeling about it," he wrote.”

— The Telegraph

The exchange between Wilde and Lightoller when they fetched their weapons.

“At one point Chief Officer Wilde interrupted Lightoller’s work to ask where the firearms were stored. These had been Lightoller’s responsibility prior to the reshuffle at Southampton, where had had acted as first officer. Lightoller led Wilde, Murdoch and Smith to the locker in Murdoch’s cabin where the guns were kept. As the second officer turned to leave, Wilde shoved a revolver and some ammunition into his hand, saying ‘Here you are. You may need it.’ Lightoller slipped the gun into a pocket and hurried back to the boats.”

— Illustrated History

The Atlantic water was so cold, it felt like 'a thousand knives.'

In his memoir, Charles Lightoller said that, “striking the water was like a thousand knives being driven into one’s body.” In 1997, James Cameron would later have Jack Dawson say a similar description: "like a thousand knives stabbing you all over your body."

— History in an Hour

'Eternal Father, Strong to Save' was sung at Titanic's Sunday service.

The hymn verse some may know by its lyrics ("O hear us when we cry to thee, for those in peril on the sea...") was one of those sung at the hymn service lead by Revd. Ernest Courtenay Carter.

— Encyclopedia Titanic

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on May 27, 2018 19:53 Tags: on-the-edge-of-daylight, rms-titanic, titanic, titanic-novel
No comments have been added yet.