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NOLAN'S QUEST

Part I From "Nolan's Quest" (Titanic Scene)
Copyright
Carl E. Ireton


Not To Be Copied or Redistributed Without Author's Permission!


"An iceberg? Did he say an iceberg?" Bride asked in amazement.

"That's what the captain said. And get ready to call for assistance? Has he gone mad? This ship is too big to be damaged by an iceberg. If anything, it is the iceberg that more likely needs assistance," Phillips said. Bride laughed at the joke. They talked awhile longer, and ten minutes later, Captain Smith reappeared. "Send the call for assistance."

"What call should I send?" Phillips asked as the captain turned to leave.

"The regular international call for assistance. Just that!"

Phillips turned a knob and the transmitter came to life. He started tapping out CQD six times along with the Titanic's call sign, MGY, and her approximate position, hoping to get the attention of a nearby liner. He tapped out CQD, CQD, Have struck an iceberg. We are badly damaged, Titanic. Unfortunately, the Californian, just ten miles away, had stopped her engines and her radio for the night. But her call was answered by a number of ships and Cape Race. Captain Smith returned and asked, "What are you sending?"

"CQD," replied Phillips.

"Send SOS," Bride suggested. "It's the new call and it may be your last chance to send it."

After Captain Smith left the Wireless Room, Phillips began to send out the SOS. Their problem was that all the ships responding seemed too far away to help, although some had reported turned around and headed in their direction. Phillips continued on into the night sending out CQD's along with the SOS's. The Titanic's sister ship, the Olympic, which was five hundred miles away, picked up her distress signals. But she couldn't grasp the seriousness of the situation, asking if the Titanic was steering southerly to meet them. After awhile a Cunard liner, the Carpathia, which had been steaming to the Mediterranean with a shipload of passengers, chimed in and said that they were fifty-eight miles away but were turning to come to their assistance. "Go tell the captain that we've got the Carpathia coming to our assistance and is still on the radio." Bride left the Wireless Room to do Phillips bidding.

There was a sudden knock on the door. "Just a moment," Gennifer said as they both hurriedly dressed. Another series of knocks. Nolan lay down on the floor beside the bed. She finished buttoning her shirt and opened the door. Ryan looked nervously about him. "Have you seen Nolan?"

Nolan rose from the floor. "I can't exactly say your timing was planned well."

Ryan looked amused. "I'm sorry, but I thought I would find you here. There's something strange going on. The engines have stopped and there's talk that we've struck an iceberg."

There was another knock on the door. As Gennifer opened it a steward said, "All passengers are to report to the Boat Deck with their lifebelts on, madam."

"What's the problem?" she asked.

"There's talk of an iceberg." Then he turned for the next stateroom. Gennifer looked worried. Nolan said to Gennifer, "I wouldn't worry too much. This is a big ship. I don't think anything could sink her. I'm sure that in a couple of hours we'll be on our way again. Here, I'll help you with your life jacket." Inside the closet were six life jackets.

"Nolan, I'm scared. It's so cold out there."

"I know, but we have to."

"Please don't leave me. Please stay with me when we get up there."

"I promise."

"There's probably enough activity out in the hallway right now that we won't have to worry about being found here in a single lady's cabin this late at night," Ryan said.

"You're probably right. Well, I suppose we'd better go. It's awfully cold outside, Gennifer, you'd better put your coat on."

As they left her stateroom she turned to see if she should take anything. She thought of the money safely put away in the purser's safe. No, we'll be back in a few hours. It will be okay.

"What's the matter?" Nolan asked her as she hesitated.

"Just wondering if I should take anything with me."

"We'll be back inside in an hour or two, sweetheart," he said, taking her arm in his.

"You're probably right, love."

On deck Nolan was beginning to feel really uneasy as the ship had a definite tilt forward. It didn't seem natural. He looked at Gennifer. "It's so cold, Nolan, I don't want to go out in the middle of the ocean in those little boats. Let's go back to the cabin."

"Gennifer, things don't look good. I don't want to take any chances with you. I lost you once fifteen years ago. I'm not going to take the chance of losing you again!" he told her firmly.

"But what are you going to do?" she asked with a scared look in her eyes.

"I will look out for him, Gennifer," Ryan said. She still didn't look satisfied.

"Madam, will you please get in the boat," said the officer in charge of loading the boat.

"No!" she said defiantly.

"Gennifer, you must!" Nolan pleaded, "Please, for me."

"I'm not leaving you!" she insisted. Nolan and Ryan took hold of her, and with the assistance of the officer, they lifted her into the boat. What an awesome and scary sight, looking so far down at the ocean below them. Other women felt just as reluctant as Gennifer to get in. Nolan and Ryan helped persuade them.

"I love you, Nolan!" Gennifer shouted as she sat down with the others in the boat.

"I love you, too!" He smiled at her and leaned against a railing and blew her a kiss. He felt sure in a couple of hours, she'd be back on board and in his arms again.

The falls creaked as the boat was lowered to the water. It was an eerie sight to see portholes lit up beneath the water as they touched the surface and began to row away. They emitted an eerie, greenish, glow.

Nolan looked at Ryan. He seemed calm and unperturbed as usual. Suddenly they heard music above the din of escaping steam from the funnels coming from the after part of the ship. The band, under Bandmaster Wallace Hartley, had assembled and began playing ragtime music to calm the passengers. Then something hit him from out of the blue. The nightmare! He hadn't had one for over a year now . . . until last night. He and Gennifer were in a boat, which had begun to sink. Nolan felt as if he was drowning. A hand came up out of the gloom and grabbed his leg, trying to drag him down into the black depths. Why did he have the nightmare last night? Were he and Gennifer in any kind of peril? He shuddered, but then reassured himself this was the largest ship in the world and touted as the safest anywhere afloat. Gennifer was safe in the lifeboat.

Down in Boiler room no.5 the fires were drawn in the boilers. Lead Fireman Barrett sent most of his stokers up to their boat stations while he and a few others stayed behind to assist Engineers Harvey and Shepherd with the pumps which were designed to pump incoming water outside the ship.

"Lift the manhole cover off, Barrett, so I can get to those valves," Harvey ordered. Barrett immediately complied. It was getting difficult to see in there as the steam was building up from the water that was used to wet down the furnaces. The men worked on, vague shadows in the murky steam. Shepherd hurried across the room and fell into a manhole. His cry of pain sent Barrett, Harvey, and a fireman rushing to his side.

"Are you all right?" Harvey asked as they pulled him out.

"I . . . . I think I've broken my leg," he grimaced through clenched teeth.

"Let's get him in the pump room," Harvey ordered. They tried to make him comfortable before returning to the pump valves. An officer appeared above on a catwalk above and told them to report to their boat stations. As the firemen trooped up Harvey and Barrett stayed behind to work the valves.

Fifteen minutes later they were still working with the valves. The room was still dry and the pumps seemed to be working well. All of a sudden the sea came roaring out of nowhere between the boilers at the forward end of the room. The whole bulkhead separating Boiler room no. 5 from Boiler room no. 6 collapsed.

"Get out of here!" Harvey shouted to Barrett as they scrambled out of the manholes. They rushed to the escape ladder. As Barrett climbed up he looked back to see if Harvey was following him. Harvey had turned towards the pump room where Shepherd was at. The water surged around his knees, then up to his waist as he went on, then up around his chest. He disappeared under the raging water as it rose and began filling the room.

"Harvey! . . . . . . Harvey!" Barrett shouted as the water began lapping at his heels. With his chest pounding, he took one final look where Harvey had disappeared, then climbed the rest of the way up the escape ladder.

Standing next to the bridge overlooking the Well deck, Nolan and Ryan looked towards the bow at the massive anchor chains. The bow was noticeably lower in the water by now and by all appearances would be dipping beneath the ocean soon. Both men were quiet, lost in their thoughts.

"I'm sorry I got you into this, Ryan," Nolan said.

"I don't regret one minute of it. It's just one more adventure to go through in our many years of friendship."

"I think we are in a pretty tight spot right now, Ryan, tighter than any spot we've ever been in. If we live through it, we'll live through it together. If we die . . . . . then I'll die at your side."

"There is something I've wanted to say for a long time, Nolan. We've been friends for a long time now. If we don't make it through this night I just want you to know how much I love and appreciate you. Traveling down life's road with you has been an adventure. And I'm proud to call you my friend."

Nolan's heart swelled and a tear fell down his cheek. He knew how hard it was for Ryan to express himself like that. It was hard for both men to speak their feelings.

"The feeling is likewise," Nolan said quietly. They gave each other a quick hug. "We're going to make it through this tonight!" Nolan said with determination. "Death never will take us easily."

The bow dipped lower, as water began pouring onto the Well deck below, swirling around where moments ago, third class passengers had been tossing ice around at each other.

Nolan and Ryan wandered inside the ship to the Grand Staircase. As they began to descend, a group of passengers came up the landing from below. They stopped. Ryan's eyes widened.

"What is it?" Nolan asked.

"Look!" Ryan said, pointing down below the banister of the railing to the bottom of the Grand Staircase. "Down below!" Far below, past the lower staircases, on E-deck, green sea water sloshed around the white floor, as wicker chairs floated around in a circle. Nolan looked in amazement. "This ship can't possibly stay afloat if the water has gotten this far," he said to Ryan as the group of passengers, with their lifebelts on, passed by them.

As Second Officer Lightoller was loading a boat, the idea occurred to him that he could probably get more people in the boat if he opened the lower deck gangway doors. He looked around him for any seamen milling about. He ordered six men to go below and open the gangway door. The six turned and headed into the first class restaurant and down the stairway to the lower gangway. They tried to open it. It wouldn't move. "It's jammed!" one of them said. "Maybe we can go down to the Boiler room and get a pricker bar and get it open," one of them suggested.

"Yeah, let's go, but we'd better hurry, they're wait'n on us up on deck." They hurried down a passageway, down the sloping deck, towards the bow. Down the stairs, they descended into the lower bowels of the ship, until they reached some stairs. As they descended the stairs to the Boiler Room doors, they heard something that sounded like a rushing river. Half-way down the stairs, the water, which had been obstructed and re-routed above them, came crashing down on top of them. Three of them were washed off their feet and thrown against the double doors. The other three grasped desperately to the railings on the wall and attempted to climb up the stairs but the volume of water pouring down was too great, that all they could do is hang on. The water quickly began rising against the door leading to the Boiler Room, which was already under water. It was like a tremendous waterfall pouring down from the top of the stairs. The three men clinging to the railings were forced to let go and were swept up by the rushing torrent and slammed against the doors in the swirling water. The first two had already disappeared beneath the surface and were struggling underwater. They knew they were trapped as the water rose up to their necks and above their chins. Soon the water was up to the ceiling, and their fight for life was almost at an end. Their struggles soon ceased and their limbs became limp as the sweet relief of death overcame their agonies.

Above, the Boat deck was crowded with nervous passengers, as the ship's officers tried to convince the women to get in. Suddenly there was a bright flash and the deck lit up, as a rocket soared into the night sky, and exploded into a thousand trailing pieces. Ryan saw lights on the distant horizon and pointed it out to Nolan. "That must be a ship out there," he said. "That must be why they are shooting off rockets. They're trying to signal that ship out there."

The din from the escaping steam pouring from the funnels as the boilers shut down was deafening. All of a sudden it stopped, much to the relief of the passengers. The tilt of the deck was much more noticeable now as the bow sank lower and lower into the ocean.

Down below decks towards the bow stewards were busy trying to lead the third class passengers up to the Boat deck. Although a lot of them were Irish, there were some immigrants who couldn't speak English, and it was hard to communicate. They were led up through the passageways and through the First Class restaurant where a member of the ship's crew attempted to stop them. "You can't come through here!" he said. "This is for First Class only."

"I'm taking them to the Boat deck," the steward replied.

"You'll have to turn around and go back the other way," he was told.

"I'll be damned if we will!" he shot back at the crewman. "We are coming through! If you try to stop us we'll go right through you, even if it means somebody gets hurt." The crewman paused for a moment. "All right, but if you damage anything, I'll report it to the captain in the morning."

As the rockets exploded into the night, it was apparent to those in the lifeboats that the Titanic was now in grave danger. No longer did they believe that in a short couple of hours they'd be returning to the warmth of their cabins and resuming their voyage. The dip of the bow in the ocean brought on the dread feeling that those still aboard the ship were in grave trouble. There were subdued sobs coming from the women in Gennifer's boat. Gennifer was in a state of disbelief. An hour ago, they had finally consummated their love together, after fifteen years. They faced a new life in the States together, a life full of promise and happiness. And now it all hung by a thread, a thread hanging between life or death, Gennifer thought to herself. She looked at the ship, all ablaze in lights from stem to stern. It somehow reminded her of a birthday cake ablaze with candles with the lights turned off in the room. Gennifer had a feeling of dread, as she thought of Nolan and Ryan still aboard the ship.

Nolan knew the ship was sinking, and he was alarmed at how complacent everybody seemed to be as the officers and crew struggled to load the lifeboats.

Inside the Smoking Room, those same gentlemen who had been there earlier, were still playing cards. Not far away from them Thomas Andrews, the Titanic's builder, stood in front of a painting on the wall with an absolute stunned look on his face. His arms were folded as he gazed with unseeing eyes. The name of the painting was The Approach of the New World. A steward passing by noticed him and asked, "Aren't you going to have a try for it, Mr. Andrews?" Andrews never spoke or responded in any way. It was as if he had retreated into his own world. The shock he felt was that his own creation, the ship that he had built, the most luxurious and beautiful creation man could make, was sinking into the deep, dark abyss of the North Atlantic and there was nothing he could do about it. It felt as bad as delivering a child, and being told that your newborn infant had only a few hours to live.

Most of the boats were being lowered to the ocean about half full. The crew was afraid that if they were filled to capacity, they would either cave in at the middle, or the rope falls would break and collapse, sending passengers falling into the frigid sea below.

Towards the bridge on the roof of the officers quarters were two Englehardt collapsible lifeboats, so-called because they had a wooden bottom and canvas sides, which could be put up in case of an emergency. Collapsible, they could be easily stowed away that way without taking up much space. Nolan and Ryan decided to assist Second Officer Lightoller and his crew, who were having difficulty with Collapsible B. As they climbed to the roof, Lamp trimmer Hemmings struggled with the block and tackle and finally got the lines working. He passed the block up to Sixth Officer Moody, who had been on the bridge at the time of the collision. As Nolan and Ryan pushed with the other men, the boat fell from the roof and landed upside down. Captain Smith approached with his megaphone and shouted, "Well, boys, do your best for the women and children, and look out for yourselves."

There was a sudden gurgling noise, and the water began pouring over the forward railings onto the bridge and up through the hatchways behind the bridge wings which led to A-deck. The Titanic took a sudden plunge forward, which created a wave which washed aft. Captain Smith, standing nearby, realized his final command was sinking fast. He took one final look around him and dove into the ocean.

Nolan, Ryan, and a few others standing near Collapsible B clamored over it as it was washed from the deck and into the ocean. Ryan was swept away. The water numbed him to the bone. Suddenly he was grabbed by a man thrashing about in the water. He wasn't wearing a life jacket and in his desperation to stay afloat, he was dragging Ryan under. Ryan tried to fight him off. His head went under into the hellishly cold, black, void. He managed to surface only to be dragged down by the desperate swimmer. As he struggled to surface, he broke free of the man's grip and rose again. When his head popped above the surface, the man who had dragged him under had taken hold of a floating deck chair. In his struggle, Ryan had lost sight of Nolan.

All of a sudden there came a terrific noise in the direction of the ship. Ryan turned to see the forward funnel behind the bridge begin to break away at the base. The angle of the ship in the water was just too much strain. With a terrific tearing noise, the funnel broke away and fell towards those swimming on the starboard side. Ryan shielded his face as the huge funnel crashed down on them. It hit the water just yards from him, killing hundreds of swimmers and creating a wave which swept him and other fortunate swimmers, away from the ship. As the funnel sank beneath the surface, it sucked some of its lifeless and injured victims down to the bottom with it. Ryan bumped into a corpse. It was that of a man whose unseeing eyes were wide open and his mouth opened as if to utter a cry for help. In the distance, he saw an overturned lifeboat with men clamoring to get on top of it. Ryan's numbed arms attempted to paddle towards it but his arms were tired. He wanted to surrender to the sweet voice that told him to stop and rest awhile, maybe close his eyes to sleep. He shook those feelings away as he knew if he did he would never wake up. The icy water cut through him like a knife. With a forced feeling of determination Ryan swam in the direction of the overturned boat. When he reached alongside it there were already a crowd of men clinging to it and some on top of it. He recognized one man as Second Officer Lightoller, who had been trying to launch it.

Lightoller had a very close call. Seeing the crow's nest ahead of him just about level with the water he began swimming towards it. At about that time, the sea began pouring down a ventilator at the base of the first funnel. He was sucked up against the wire netting as the ship sank beneath the surface. He struggled for his very life as he went under. The pressure of the water pouring against the ventilator glued him against it. Just when he thought all was lost and his lungs would explode, there was an explosion somewhere deep in the bowels of the ship which blew him to the surface. He gasped desperately for air and was once again sucked under against some gratings. The pressure decreased and he managed to return to the surface, luckily right alongside Collapsible B which was overturned. He grabbed onto a piece of rope hanging from the boat and held on. When the forward funnel crashed into the sea it barely missed him and pushed the overturned boat fifty yards away from the sinking liner, Lightoller and several others still clinging to it. He and several others managed to climb on top of it.

On board the Titanic, people were gathered in little clusters, the steerage class mingling with the First and Second class passengers. Some were being led in prayers and hymns by clergymen, while Bandmaster Wallace Hartley and his orchestra continued to play ragtime music to calm the passengers. The ship dipped farther down into the ocean. There wasn't much time left, and it became more urgent to get the lifeboats loaded. People recognized the danger now, and began cooperating with the officers in getting the boats loaded. Most boats were still leaving the ship not even half full. A group of male passengers, seeing a lifeboat with only a few women in it, jumped from the Boat Deck and landed into it as it was being lowered. Elsewhere, some of the officers were allowing men into the boats.


TO PART II

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