It was 14 April, 1912: Charles Joughin had finally fallen asleep after a hard day’s work in the ship’s kitchens.
|That sinking feeling: the Titanic|
Suddenly, he was woken by an almighty jolt. He felt the vessel shudder violently beneath him; then, after a momentary pause, it continued moving forwards.
Joughin was puzzled but not unduly alarmed. He knew that icebergs had been sighted in the water; he also knew that Captain Smith had ordered a change of course, steering the Titanic onto a more southerly course in order to avoid potential disaster.
Assuming that the danger had passed, Joughin tried to return to sleep. But at about 11.35pm - just a few minutes after the jolt - he was summoned to the bridge. Here, he was given some most unwelcome news.
|Charles Joughin: liked a tipple.|
Captain Smith had sent an inspection team below decks; the men had returned with the terrible news that the ship had struck an iceberg and that the force of the blow had seriously buckled the hull. Rivets had been forced out over a length of some 90m and seawater was now gushing into the ship at a tremendous rate.
Even this news did not cause the panic that might have been expected. Everyone believed the Titanic to be unsinkable. She had watertight compartments that could be closed in the event of disaster. This meant that even the most serious damage to the ship’s hull could be contained.
But now - in this moment of crisis - these watertight compartments were revealed to have a design flaw. As they filled with water, so they weighed down the ship’s bow, allowing water to pour into other areas of the stricken vessel. A fourth, fifth and then a sixth compartment had already filled with water: it became obvious to Captain Smith that the Titanic was going to sink.
|The Titanic: last one off, please turn out the lights.|
Joughin, the Titanic’s chief baker, now swung into action. He aroused his fellow chefs from their beds and began to gather all the loaves of bread they could find. They then rushed back on deck and put four loaves into each lifeboat.
They quickly saw that there were not enough boats for all the passengers. The Titanic had 2,223 people on board: yet there were only enough lifeboats for 1,178 people.
Joughin realized that he - as a member of crew - would not be given a place in a lifeboat. As the ship began listing at an alarming angle, he descended into his cabin and drunk a huge quantity of whisky (according to one account he drunk two bottles). He then returned to the deck and, with drunken energy, began pushing women into the lifeboats.
|Titanic lifeboat: no room for Joughin|
Once this was done, he clambered his way along the now heavily listing promenade deck, aware that the ship was doomed. He threw overboard some 50 deck chairs, along with other seats and cushions, in the hope that people in the water would be able to use them as rafts.
‘I got onto the starboard side of the poop,’ he later recalled, ‘and found myself in the water. I do not believe my head went under the water at all. I thought I saw some wreckage.’
He swam towards this, not feeling the cold on account of all the whisky he had drunk, ‘and found collapsible boat B with Lightoller and about twenty-five men on it.’
There was no room for Joughin. ‘ I tried to get on,’ he said, ‘but was pushed off, but I hung around. I got around to the opposite side and cook Maynard, who recognized me, helped me and held on to me.’
|Two bottles every four hours|
By this time, it was a miracle Joughin was still alive. The water temperature was two degrees below freezing; most passengers and crew who had jumped into the water had died of hypothermia within 15 minutes.
Yet Joughin was to remain in the water for four long hours until he was finally pulled aboard a lifeboat that came alongside collapsible boat B.
He, along with the other survivors, was eventually rescued by the RMS Carpathia, which arrived at the wreck site at 4.10am.
Joughin’s extraordinary survival was due to the vast quantity of whisky he had drunk. 1,517 of his fellow crew and passengers were not so fortunate.
The Titanic catastrophe was not Joughin’s last shipwreck. He was also on board the SS Oregon when she sank in Boston Harbor.
He survived this disaster as well, although it is not known if he had once again fortified himself with a bottle or two of whisky.
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