March 24, 2012
By Alison Bullock Kagamaster, freelance journalist & granddaughter of W. Fred Bullock, former Daily Mail and Times correspondent and director under Lord Northcliffe and founder & former president of FPANY
There was some confusion as to what really happened when Titanic hit that iceberg a hundred years ago. Though initially news outlets claimed no loss of life, it was a founder and former president of FPANY who showed concern over meager facts he cited as unconfirmed.
New York Correspondent for London’s Daily Mail and The Times, W. Fred Bullock cabled his bosses: The greater part of the news now available consists chiefly of Press reports heard on various sources of information, and in the absence of direct official advices these must be accepted with some reserve.
According to the New York Times, Bullock was uncomfortable with his initial report and probed further until he learned the contents of a revealing private cable from White Star Line’s New York office. Estimated number of passengers rescued: 675. When the local office refused any substantial information, he contacted the Line’s London office for an approximate passenger list with crew: 2, 200. Bullock not only did the math, he considered the Atlantic Ocean’s fields of ice bergs common in spring, number of lifeboats, and unstable conditions on the crowded vessel and cabled a story indicating large fatalities, which alerted New York officials to confirm his story.
Once the rescue boat Carpathia docked, the surviving headcount of some 775 accounted for 80 percent of the maximum capacity of lifesaving appliances.
Throughout the month, Bullock covered human interest stories survivors shared with him for Daily Mail readers. With each revelation, it was clear RMS Titanic was not equipped for worst-case scenario.
As Titanic resurfaces for worldwide 100-year commemorations, its unsinkable stories yet resonate as a warning against complacency and blind security in progress versus common sense. Simply put, had there been more lifeboats, there might’ve been more survivors.