On the fateful night RMS Titanic sank, the first ship to respond to her distress call was the Cunard Line’s RMS Carpathia.  It would take her approximately three and a half hours to arrive at the position of Titanic’s final distress call, a time which was only managed by Captain Arthur Rostron’s valiant efforts to speed up his nine year old ship.  The ship managed 17 knots, which far surpassed her quoted top speed.  While making their way to the last know coordinates of Titanic, Rostron’s crew were kept busy making preparations to receive the surviving passengers, in order to ensure the rescue could be both as successful and swift as possible.  First aid stations were set up, hot beverages were prepared, and life boats were fixed to be deployed.

Carpathia arrives at spot of Titanic disaster

To the dismay of Captain Rostron and his crew, there was no sign of Titanic when they arrived at the radioed position at around 3:30 am.  Half an hour later, Rostron ordered the engines of his ship be shut off and his crew began to search desperately for some sign of survival.  Miraculously, a flare from one of the lifeboats caught the attention of one of Carpathia’s crew.  After this initial sighting, more of the lifeboats were spotted, and eventually 705 individuals were saved from the icy waters; the rescue efforts were completed by 8:30 am. 

Captain Rostron then chartered a course to head to New York, where they arrived on the evening of April 18, welcomed by thousands of spectators.  Medals were awarded to those served on Carpathia through the voyage.  Margaret T. Brown, who began to raise relief and reward funds while still aboard RMS Carpathia, presented bronze medals to the crew, silver medals to the officers, and a silver commemorative cup to Captain Rostron. 

For his leadership and bravery in such a daring rescue, Captain Rostron received many high honors. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by the United States Congress, and was an invited guest in the White House with President Howard Taft.  Rostron would go on to testify in both the United States and British inquiries into the sinking of Titanic. He would continue to command sea-faring vessels for almost two decades after his heroic rescue of Titanic survivors, and was knighted by King George V in 1926 for his service.