Digging History

Titanic artifacts reveal gruesome discovery of tragic ship's last lifeboat

The Titanic lifeboat recovered by crewmembers from RMS Oceanic (Henry Aldridge & Son).

The Titanic lifeboat recovered by crewmembers from RMS Oceanic (Henry Aldridge & Son).

Photos and a handwritten note detailing the grisly discovery of Titanic’s last lifeboat will be auctioned in the U.K. later this week.

The three photos were taken on May 13, 1912, almost a month after Titanic’s sinking, and show crewmembers from RMS Oceanic attempting to recover one of the doomed liner’s lifeboats. Inside the lifeboat, thought to be the last to leave the sinking ship, were the decomposing bodies of three Titanic passengers.

One photo shows a boat from Oceanic being lowered, another shows the boat approaching the drifting lifeboat. A third picture shows Oceanic crewmembers on the Titanic lifeboat.

Related: First letter written onboard the Titanic up for sale

Titanic struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. ship's time on April 14 1912 and sank just over two hours later with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.

A handwritten account of the lifeboat recovery by an unidentified Oceanic passenger describes the gruesome discovery of three corpses. One corpse was wearing a dinner jacket and the bodies of two Titanic firemen were wedged under the lifeboat’s seats, it explained, adding that one corpse’s arms came off in the hands of the Oceanic’s boarding officer. A woman’s ring was also found on the lifeboat, according to the note.

“It’s an incredibly graphic account of the recovery,” Henry Aldridge & Son auctioneer Andrew Aldridge told FoxNews.com. “Titanic was ‘the ship of dreams’ but this is the ship of nightmares – it’s the horrific elements of what happens in a disaster.”

Related: Molly Brown's Titanic cup sold at auction for $200,000

A number of Titanic passengers made it to the lifeboat, known as ‘Collapsible A’ when it washed off the ship’s deck, partly submerged, but not all survived. The bodies found by Oceanic were left on the lifeboat when Collapsible A’s survivors were picked by another lifeboat.

The corpse in the dinner jacket was identified as Titanic first class passenger Thomson Beattie. The wedding ring belonged to Swedish passenger Elin Gerda Lindell, who briefly reached Collapsible A, but later drowned, according to Encyclopedia Titanica. Her husband Edvard Bengtsson Lindell held Elin’s ring before he died on Collapsible A. His body was never recovered.

The photos and handwritten note are among a host of Titanic artifacts that will be sold at auction in Devizes, U.K. on April 23. The lot containing the photos, note and an Oceanic log abstract has a pre-sale estimate of between $2,879 and $4,318.

Related: Sextant used in rescue of Titanic survivors up
for sale

Other Titanic memorabilia up for auction include a rare ticket stub from the liner’s launch in Belfast 1911 and a photo of the drawing office where the ship was designed, showing a model of the ship. Both lots have pre-sale estimates of $8,636 to $14,393. The first letter written onboard the Titanic, penned just hours before the ship embarked on its doomed maiden voyage, will also be sold.

Last year a cup presented by Titanic survivor Molly Brown to the captain of rescue ship Carpathia sold for $200,000 in a major auction of Titanic memorabilia held by Henry Aldridge & Son. A photo purportedly showing the iceberg that sank the Titanic also sold for $32,000 in the auction.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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