Cunard’s Carpathia was originally designed for the emigrant trade sailing between Fiume and New York. Her first voyage departed Liverpool bound for New York on 5 May, 1903.
Cunard installed excellent accommodation aboard Carpathia, with the third class accommodation being far higher than what was offered on rival liners. The ship boasted many public rooms for third class passengers, while meals were included in the fare.
The ship’s primary route was changed to a mediterranean service following an internal reconfiguration. During this refit, the accommodation was modified to carry 100 first class, 200 second class and an enormous 2,250 third class (more than the capacity of QE2!).
The Titanic Disaster
Carpathia became famous when she made a rescue dash to pick up the survivors of the ill-fated Titanic. Titanic had struck an iceberg on 14 April 1912 at 11:40pm, causing the ship to sink early the next morning.
Realising the ship was domed, Captain Smith – Titanic’s master – ordered the international distress signal C.Q.D to be sent on the wireless radio. With few responses from nearby ships, the Titanic’s radio operators opted to send the S.O.S message which wasn’t widely used at the time.
Carpathia’s wireless operator heard Titanic’s distress signal while listening to messages being sent to Titanic from Cape Cod. Carpathia’s operator decided to try and rouse Titanic and alert them of these messages.
He send Titanic a message of “I say old man do you know there is a lot of traffic for you at Cape Cod”. Titanic’s response was, “We are sinking, come at once, this is CQD, old man”.
With Captain Rostron of the Carpathia alerted to the Titanic’s plight, he immediately set a course to Titanic’s last known position, over 60 miles away, traveling at full speed.
At 4.00am the Carpathia arrived at the scene after negotiating surrounding ice fields. Here they collected the 705 survivors. Over 1,500 people had died when the doomed ship went down, due to the fact there were not enough lifeboats carried aboard the liner.
Carpathia sailed to New York where Titanic’s passengers were disembarked. Captain Rostron and his crew were heralded as heroes for their actions that night.
The now famous Carpathia continued to sail on her regular schedule until the start of World War I. On 17 July, 1918 the Carpathia was traveling in convoy when she was hit by two torpedoes near Fastnet. A third torpedo hit the ship as the lifeboats were being manned, killing several crew members. The survivors were rescued by the Royal Navy and Carpathia sunk.
Image source: Simplon Post Cards