I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912, page 1part #1 of I Survived Series
THE SINKING OF
THE TITANIC, 1912
by Lauren Tarshis
illustrated by Scott Dawson
My Titanic Story
Facts About the Titanic
About the Author
MONDAY, APRIL 15, 1912
ON THE DECK OF RMS TITANIC
The Titanic was sinking. The gigantic ship had hit an iceberg. Land was far, far away.
Ten-year-old George Calder stood on the deck. He shivered because the night was freezing cold.
And because he was scared. More scared than he’d ever been before.
More scared than when Papa swore he’d send George to the army school, far from everything and everyone.
More scared, even, than the time the black panther chased him through the woods back home in Millerstown, New York.
The deck of the Titanic was packed with people. Some were running and shouting.
“Take my baby!”
Some just plain screamed. Children cried. A gunshot exploded across the deck. But George didn’t move.
Just hold on, he told himself, gripping the rail. Like maybe he could hold up the ship.
He couldn’t look down at that black water. He kept his eyes on the sky. He had never seen so many stars. Papa said that Mama watched over him from heaven.
Could Mama see him now?
The ship lurched.
“We’re going down!” a man shouted. George closed his eyes, praying this was all a dream.
Even more terrible sounds filled the air. Glass shattering. Furniture crashing. More screams and cries. A bellowing sound, like a giant beast was dying a terrible death. George tried to hold the rail. But he lost his grip. He tumbled, smashing his head on the deck.
And then George couldn’t see anything.
Even the stars above him seemed to go black.
19 HOURS EARLIER …
SUNDAY, APRIL 14, 1912
FIRST CLASS SUITE, B DECK, RMS TITANIC
George woke up early that morning, half expecting to hear Papa calling him for chores.
But then he remembered: the Titanic!
He was on the greatest ship in the world.
It was their fifth day at sea. George and his eight-year-old sister, Phoebe, had spent two months in England with their aunt Daisy. What a time they had! As a surprise for George’s tenth birthday, Aunt Daisy took them to see the Tower of London, where they used to chop off your head if the king didn’t like you.
Now they were heading back to America.
Back to Papa and their little farm in upstate New York.
George got out of bed and knelt by the small, round window that looked out on the ocean.
“Morning,” said Phoebe, peering through the silk curtains of her bed and fumbling for her spectacles. Her curly brown hair was practically standing straight up. “What were you looking for?”
George had to smile. Phoebe always had a question, even at the crack of dawn.
Maybe that’s why she was the smartest little sister in the world.
“I thought I saw a giant squid,” George said. “And it’s coming to get us!”
George rushed over and grabbed Phoebe with wiggly squid arms. She curled up into a ball and laughed.
She was still laughing when Aunt Daisy came in. Even in her robe and slippers, Aunt Daisy was the prettiest lady on the whole ship. Sometimes George couldn’t believe she was so old: twenty-two!
“What’s this?” Aunt Daisy said. “You know the rule: No having fun without me!”
Phoebe sat up and put her arms around George. “Georgie said he saw a giant squid.”
Aunt Daisy laughed. “I wouldn’t doubt it. Everyone wants to get a look at the Titanic. Even sea monsters.”
George halfway believed it. He’d never imagined anything like the Titanic.
Aunt Daisy called the ship a floating palace. But it was way better than the cold and dusty castles they’d seen in England. They had three whole rooms — one for Phoebe and George, one for Aunt Daisy, and one for sitting around and doing nothing. They even had a man, a steward named Henry. He had bright red hair and an Irish accent that made everything he said sound like a jolly song.
“Some fresh towels for your bath?” he would say. “Some cocoa before bed?”
And just before they turned out the lights for the night, Henry would knock on their door and peep his head in.
“Is there anything else you might need?” he’d ask.
George kept trying to think of something he needed.
But what could you ever need on the Titanic?
The ship had everything, even a swimming pool with ocean water heated up like a bath, even gold silk curtains for your bed so you could pretend you were sleeping in a pirate’s den, even three dining rooms where you could eat anything you wanted. Last night George had eaten two plates of roast beef, veal and ham pie, carrots sweet as candy, and a mysterious dessert called meringue pudding. It tasted like sugary clouds.
Actually, there was one thing missing from the Titanic: the New York Giants baseball team. George wondered what Henry would say if George said, “I need shortstop Artie Fletcher right away!”
Probably Henry would say, “Coming right up, sir!”
George grinned just thinking about it.
But Aunt Daisy wasn’t smiling at him. She looked very serious.
“We have to make the most of our last three days at sea,” Aunt Daisy said in a low voice. “I want you to promise me, George. No more trouble!”
Was she really still mad at him for last night?
He’d slid down the banister of the grand staircase in the first class lobby. How could he resist? The wood was so shiny and polished, curving around like a ride at the fair.
“That lady could have moved out of the way,” George said.
“How could she?” Phoebe said. “She was wearing a hundred pounds of diamonds!”
Aunt Daisy almost smiled. George could tell.
No, she could never stay mad at George for long.
Aunt Daisy put her face very close to George’s. She had freckles on her nose, just like George and Phoebe.
“No more trouble,” she repeated, tapping his chest. “I don’t want to have to send a telegram to your father.”
George’s stomach tightened into a baseball.
“Don’t tell Papa!” Phoebe said. “He’ll send George away to that army school!”
“I’ll be good,” George promised. “I will, really.”
“You better be,” Aunt Daisy said.
George didn’t mean to get into trouble.
It’s just that he got these great ideas.
Like on their first day at sea, when he had climbed up the huge ladder into the crow’s nest.
“Aunt Daisy!” he’d yelled, waving his
She had looked up. And she’d almost fainted.
And yesterday George had explored the entire ship. Aunt Daisy kept warning him that he’d get lost. She said the ship was like a maze. But George could always find his way. Even in the huge forest that stretched out behind their farm. Mama used to say that George had a map of the world behind his eyes.
He saw the engine rooms and the boiler rooms, and wound up on the third-class recreation deck. He was watching some boys play marbles when he noticed that he wasn’t alone. A little boy was staring up at him with huge eyes the color of amber glass.
“See,” the boy said. “See.”
And he held out a postcard of the Statue of Liberty. He looked so proud, like he’d carved that big lady himself. George felt like he had to show something in return, so he took out his good-luck charm, the bowie knife Papa had given him for his ninth birthday. He let the little boy run his fingers across the handle, which was carved from an elk’s antler.
“Enzo,” the little boy said, puffing out his chest and pointing to himself.
“George,” said George.
“Giorgio!” the little boy cried with a smile.
A man sitting near them laughed. He was reading an Italian-English dictionary and had the same huge eyes as the boy. George guessed right that he was Enzo’s father.
“Marco,” he said, shaking George’s hand. “You are our first American friend.”
Marco must have been studying that dictionary pretty hard, because George understood everything he said. George learned that Enzo was four years old. He’d lost his mama too. He and Marco came from a little town in Italy, and now they were moving to New York City. George told Marco about their farm and their trip and explained that any decent person living in New York had to be a Giants fan. For some reason, Marco thought that was funny.
When it was time for George to leave, Enzo got upset. Very upset.
“Giorgio!” he howled, loud enough for the entire ship to hear.
People stared and put their hands over their ears. Marco promised that they’d see George again, but Enzo wouldn’t quit howling. George had never heard anything so loud.
By the time Enzo let go of George’s leg and George ran back up to the suite, Aunt Daisy was practically howling too.
“I thought you fell overboard!” she cried.
But even then she wasn’t really mad.
She didn’t get really mad until last night.
How that lady screamed when George came sliding down the banister — like he really was a giant squid.
George didn’t mind getting yelled at. He was used to it. Not a day at school went by without Mr. Landers shouting “George! Settle down!” And Papa, well, he always seemed to be mad at George.
But not Aunt Daisy. And being on this trip was supposed to make her happy, happy for the first time since her husband died last year. It had been Uncle Cliff’s dream to be on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. He’d struck it rich selling automobiles and had plenty of money to pay for one of the biggest suites on the ship.
When Uncle Cliff had his accident, George was sure Aunt Daisy would cancel the trip. Instead she’d invited George and Phoebe to go with her.
And to George’s shock, Papa said they could.
“Your aunt’s going on this trip to find a little peace,” he’d said to George. “I expect you to be a perfect gentleman.”
And if he wasn’t, George knew he’d be shipped off to that army school for sure. Papa had been talking about that place ever since George had brought the two-foot rat snake to school to show Mr. Landers — because they were studying reptiles!
George had been perfect the whole time in England. He’d let Aunt Daisy drag him to a fancy clothes store for a new pair of boots. He even learned to drink tea without spitting it back into the cup.
But, well, the Titanic.
The ship gave him so many great ideas!
But now he’d really be perfect.
No more ideas for the rest of the voyage.
Phoebe wasn’t taking any chances with George.
“I’m not letting you out of my sight,” she announced after they’d finished breakfast. “I’m your guardian angel.”
“I didn’t know angels wore spectacles,” he said, tugging on one of Phoebe’s curls.
“The smart ones do,” Phoebe said, grabbing George’s arm. She offered him a lemon drop from the little silver tin she’d been carrying around since London.
George made a face. He hated those old-lady candies.
George wanted to go find Marco and Enzo and hear more about Italy. He wanted to ride the elevators up and down. Hardly any other ship in the world had elevators! Better yet, he wanted to find Mr. Andrews, the ship’s designer.
When Mr. Andrews had stopped by their table at dinner the first night, George thought he was just another boring millionaire coming over to kiss Aunt Daisy’s hand.
But Mr. Andrews was different.
“You built the Titanic?” said George.
Mr. Andrews smiled. “Not by myself. It took thousands of men to build her. But I did design her, that’s true.”
He invited George and Phoebe to come with him to the first class writing room. He unrolled the ship’s blueprints across a long, polished table.
It was like looking at the skeleton of a giant beast.
“She’s the biggest moving object ever built,” Mr. Andrews explained. “Fourteen stories tall. Forty-five thousand tons of steel. And longer than four city blocks.”
“Our aunt says nothing bad can happen to this ship,” Phoebe said. “People say it’s unsinkable.”
“No ship is safer,” Mr. Andrews said. “That is certainly true.”
“What if the Titanic was hit by a meteor?” said Phoebe, whose latest obsession was outer space. She was determined to see a shooting star before they docked in New York.
Mr. Andrews didn’t laugh or roll his eyes like Mr. Landers did when Phoebe asked her questions.
“I hadn’t planned on any meteors hitting the ship,” Mr. Andrews said thoughtfully. “But I’d like to think she could take almost anything and still float.”
Phoebe seemed satisfied.
“Are there any secret passages?” said George.
Mr. Andrews studied his blueprints, and then pointed to the boiler rooms.
“There are escape ladders,” he said. “They run up the starboard side of the ship, up two decks, through the stokers’ quarters, and into their dining hall. I hear the crew likes using them instead of the stairs.”
George could have stayed there all night. He asked a million questions and Mr. Andrews answered every single one.
“I was like you when I was a boy,” Mr. Andrews said just before Aunt Daisy came to haul George off to bed. “One day I predict you’ll build a ship of your own.”
George knew that would never happen. He could barely get through a day at school. But he liked that Mr. Andrews said it. And he sure wanted to find those secret ladders.
But Phoebe had different ideas.
First she dragged George to the first class library so she could check out a book on Halley’s comet. Then she took him on a walk on the boat deck. He felt like a dog.
“Strange,” Phoebe said, looking at the lifeboats that hung just off the deck. “There are only sixteen boats. That’s not nearly enough for everyone.”
“The ship’s unsinkable,” George said. “So do we really need lifeboats at all?”
Phoebe stared at the boats and shrugged. “I guess you’re right,” she said. And then she announced that it was time to see how many ladies were wearing hats with blue feathers.
This would be the most boring day of his life. But at least nobody was yelling at him.
At dinner that night, Aunt Daisy raised her glass. “To George! No trouble for one entire day!”
They clinked their glasses together just as an old man stop
“Mrs. Key,” the man said to Aunt Daisy. “I’ve been meaning to say hello.”
“Mr. Stead!” Aunt Daisy said. “What a pleasure. This is George, my nephew, and Phoebe, my niece.”
Mr. Stead nodded hello.
“So,” Aunt Daisy said. “What brings you onto this magnificent ship?”
“Oh, I couldn’t miss it,” he said. “I think all of society is on this ship. I hear there’s even an Egyptian princess on board.”
“Really!” Aunt Daisy said. “I haven’t met her!”
“Well, none of us have. She’s traveling in the first class baggage room.”
“Excuse me?” Aunt Daisy said.
“The princess is more than twenty-five hundred years old,” Mr. Stead said.
George’s ears perked up.
“I’m not sure I understand,” Aunt Daisy said.
“She’s a mummy,” Mr. Stead said.
“A mummy!” Phoebe gasped.
“That’s right,” Mr. Stead said. “From a tomb near Thebes. I understand she belongs to a man named Mr. Burrows. People are saying he sold the coffin to the British Museum. Then he packed the princess herself in a wooden crate. Apparently he’s bringing her back for his collection. Some say it’s bad luck to take a mummy from its tomb.”
“I’m glad I’m not the superstitious type!” Aunt Daisy said.
Mr. Stead chuckled. “In any case, nothing can harm this ship. Not even the curse of a mummy!”
Mr. Stead tipped his hat and said good-bye.
“Mr. Stead is a very famous writer in England,” Aunt Daisy said. “You never know who you’ll meet on the Titanic!”
And then it hit George, the best idea ever.
That mummy! He had to see it.
Maybe this day wasn’t so boring after all.
George didn’t tell Phoebe or Aunt Daisy about his plan.
He figured he’d head down to the first class baggage room after they went to sleep. He’d find Mr. Burrows’s crate, pry it open, and take a quick peek at the mummy. He’d be back in bed and snoring away before anyone knew he was gone.
LAUREN TARSHIS SERIES:
Other author's books:
- I Survived the Battle of D-Day, 1944 (I Survived #18)I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake, 1906I Survived the Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79I Survived #4: I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941I Survived #1: I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005I Survived #5: I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake, 1906
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