Trusty device that saved 700 Titanic lives
The nautical navigation aide which saved hundreds of lives by helping the first rescue ship reach the Titanic could fetch as much as £70,000 when it goes to auction in Wiltshire this week.
The sextant was used by Sir Arthur Rostron, the captain of the RMS Carpathia, to help navigate his way across almost 60 miles of sea to reach the spot where the stricken liner had sent its last distress signal 100 years ago. He made the trip in four hours, after ordering that the ship’s hot water and heating be turned off to generate more power for the engines.
The Carpathia, a Cunard Line transatlantic passenger steamship, arrived two hours after the Titanic had gone down, but managed to pick up 705 survivors. For their rescue work, the crew of Carpathia were awarded medals by the survivors. Crew members were awarded bronze medals, officers silver and Captain Rostron a silver cup and a gold medal. Rostron was later knighted by King George V, was a guest of President Taft at the White House and was presented with a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honour the United States Congress could confer upon him.
Now the sextant used in that desperate rescue mission is being offered for sale by the Rostron family.
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His great granddaughter Janet said: “The sextant has never been on public display before and has been kept within the Rostron family, passed down from father to son for the last 100 years.
“The sextant would have been used by him throughout his career and would certainly have been the instrument he used to navigate through the ice flows. Once Sir Arthur retired the sextant was passed onto his son Harry and then onto my father,” she added.
Sir Arthur was described by his grandson David as “a quiet, kind and dignified man.”
“The sextant is without doubt a truly unique part of the Titanic story and is estimated to sell for over £70,000,” explained Andrew Aldridge, from H Aldridge & Sons auctioneers in Devizes, Wiltshire. “It represents a unique opportunity for either a museum or collector and is a true once in a lifetime opportunity.” The sale is on Saturday. November 24.
Newspaper report, New York, April 19, Mrs C F Crane of Fort Sheridan, Illinois, a passenger on the Carpathia, said news of the disaster had become known to the passengers and that scores of men and women were lined along the deck watching for the first sight of the crippled Titanic.
“With the aid of powerful glasses,” Mrs Crane continued, “we soon sighted the lifeboats. The first to come into view was manned by women. Passengers and seamen on the Carpathia were stunned. ‘She has sunk,’ said an officer of the ship who stood near me.
“As the Carpathia slowed up, the women at the oars of the first boat did not seem to be the least bit excited. They were taken on board the Carpathia and their calmness was remarkable. When all the boats had been picked up and there were no others in sight, the first outburst of grief was heard.”
Cunard’s RMS Carpathia was the product of the Swan & Hunter shipyard in Newcastle. Launched on August 6, 1902, she made her maiden voyage, Liverpool to Boston, on May 4,1903. Carpathia was sunk in the Atlantic on July 17, 1918 after being torpedoed by a German Navy U-boat.