As part of the public events programme to accompany the incredibly popular Titanic and Liverpool: The untold story exhibition at the Maritime Museum. Over the past few months, I have developed a performance called Titanic – A Race to the Rescue, in which I tell the dramatic story from the perspective of Carpathia passenger Hope Brown Chapin
I wanted to find a point of view about the story that we hadn’t really explored before so was very excited when I hit upon the idea of looking more closely into the experiences of passengers aboard the rescue vessel, Carpathia.
She was another ship with very close ties to Liverpool belonging to the city’s Cunard Line and beginning her working life sailing out of the river Mersey to Boston in the United States.
On the night of 14 April 1912, a distress signal from Titanic was picked up by Carpathia’s radio operator, Harold Cottam, and from then began a frantic dash to the scene of the disaster. Unfortunately, they did not manage to arrive before the mighty liner had sunk below the waves. My performance focuses on the experience of real life passenger, Hope Brown Chapin, who was traveling first class to Europe on honeymoon with her husband, Howard. It must have been baffling at first for the Carpathia’s passengers to suddenly find their ship turning around and accelerating to incredibly high speeds in the opposite direction!
What did strike me while researching this story was the amazingly clear head kept by Carpathia’s captain, Arthur Rostron. Even though he had never had to perform a rescue such as this in all his years at sea, it was as though he instinctively knew the best way to go about things. As a result of his actions he received medals, commendations and, in 1926, was even knighted! However, all of Carpathia’s passengers also did everything they could to make Titanic’s 705 survivors as comfortable as possible on the journey to New York.
In my performance I enjoy being able to show people a glimpse into the experiences of those first on the scene at the most famous shipping disaster in the world. I think most people naturally concentrate on the effects on Titanic’s surviving passengers, but I believe it’s just as important to consider the emotions felt by those aboard the Carpathia that night.
Check the What's on page to find out when you can next see this performance at the Maritime Museum.