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A Survivor's Account of the Dreadful Night When the Titanic Sank Will Send Chills Down Your Spine

Titanic survivor recounted the fateful day in his interview in 1979 and shared how the memories continued to haunt him.
PUBLISHED MAY 27, 2024
Image Source: The SS 'Titanic', leaving Belfast to start her trials, pulled by tugs, shortly before her disastrous maiden voyage of April 1912. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
Image Source: The SS 'Titanic', leaving Belfast to start her trials, pulled by tugs, shortly before her disastrous maiden voyage of April 1912. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

The Titanic was one of the many attempts to show that human innovation can surpass the might of nature, and many even explained how it was "practically unsinkable." But all of them were proven wrong when a single blow from an iceberg sunk the ship and thousands perished, while those who survived lived in the disaster's shadow for years. One of them is Frank Prentice, who had nightmares about his experience on the ship decades after escaping it. As reported by BBC, Prentice was an assistant purser on the cruise and survived the drowning because of his luck. The man, like many others on board jumped into the ice-cold water after the ship broke into two. Many perished in the water, but he came across a lifeboat, which carried him to safety.

Image Source: Kino. S.O.S. Titanic, 1970er, 1970s, Film, Ocean liner, S.O.S. Titanic, scene, sinking of the Titanic, S.O.S. Titanic, 1970er, 1970s, Film, Ocean liner, S.O.S. Titanic, scene, sinking of the Titanic, Szene Als die Titanic einen Eisberg rammt, sinkt sie innerhalb von drei Stunden. 1503 Menschen kommen ums Leben., 1979. (Photo by FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images)
Image Source: Kino. S.O.S. Titanic, 1970er, 1970s, Film, Ocean liner, S.O.S. Titanic, scene, sinking of the Titanic, S.O.S. Titanic, 1970er, 1970s, Film, Ocean liner, S.O.S. Titanic, scene, sinking of the Titanic, Szene Als die Titanic einen Eisberg rammt, sinkt sie innerhalb von drei Stunden. 1503 Menschen kommen ums Leben., 1979. (Photo by FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images)

Prentice shared his experience in the 1979 BBC documentary series The Great Liners. He recalled the fateful day when the supposedly unsinkable ship making its glorious voyage, was struck by an iceberg. Describing how initially nothing seemed out of the ordinary, Prentice said, "There was no impact as such. It was just like jamming your brakes on the car and that was that – she stopped. We had a porthole open and I looked out and the sky was clear, stars were shining, the sea was dead calm and I thought, I couldn't understand it." There was no visible damage to the ship and everything looked good, but in reality, the collision had hampered with the whole system to such an extent, that even keeping the structure together was going to become a task.



 

The ship had embarked on the voyage with just 20 lifeboats, enough to carry only one-third of the passengers. Many ignored the order for women and children to get on lifeboats as it didn't seem possible that a ship built with so much innovation would sink. People were so confused that ultimately, only 500 could be saved when the capacity in the lifeboats was almost 800. Prentice was ordered by his superiors to get as many biscuits as he could from the cruise's storeroom. By the time he made his return to the deck, it was an absolute scramble from all sides. The ship was breaking into two. "All of a sudden, she lifted up quickly and you could hear everything crashing through her," he said.

Image Source: (Original Caption) Photo shows the ill-fated luxury liner, the Titanic, sailing the ocean.. (Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)
Image Source: (Original Caption) Photo shows the ill-fated luxury liner, the Titanic, sailing the ocean.. (Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)

Prentice at that moment plunged into the water, he said, "I had a lifebelt on and I hit the water with a terrific crack." He described the horrors with bodies floating around in the water and added, "I was gradually getting frozen up, and by the grace of God I came across a lifeboat and they pulled me in." In the lifeboat, he came across Virginia Estelle Clark, who he had helped with her lifejackets. He had also convinced Clark, to leave her husband and get into the lifeboat, on the assurance that her husband would follow later, but he never made it back. Prentice was freezing and Clark wrapped a cloak around him, a gesture that saved his life.

Image Source: (Original Caption) The arrival of the Carpathia with rescued passengers of the Titanic. (Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)
Image Source: (Original Caption) The arrival of the Carpathia with rescued passengers of the Titanic. (Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)

Even as he survived, the nightmares did not stop even after six decades. "You'd think I'm too old for that, but you'd be amazed. You lie in bed at night and the whole thing comes round again," he stated. The watch he wore which stopped at 02:20 was still with him and remained till his death at the age of 93. "It was frozen up like I was – I think it lasted for about 20 minutes in the water," he said.

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