The Cunard liner Carpathia outward bound from Liverpool in the moonlight signed 'Frank H. Mason' (lower right) pen, ink and watercolour heightened with white 35.8 x 19.6cm (14 1/8 x 7 11/16in).
PROVENANCE: Presented to the Master Mariner's Club, Southampton by C.E. Cotterrell Esq., manager, Cunard S.S. Co. Ltd., Southampton (Cotterrell was manager of the Cunard offices in Southampton for nearly the entire inter-War period, 1919-1939) Private collection, U.K.
Named for an ancient province on the Danube, the Cunard steamer Carpathia was built by Swan, Hunter on the Tyne, at Newcastle, and launched on 6th August 1902. Registered at 13,603 tons gross (8,660 met) and measuring 540 feet in length with a 64 foot beam, she had accommodation for 204 Second and 1,500 Third Class passengers and a modest top speed of 17 knots. Lacking the refinements and luxury of the larger thoroughbreds on the prestigious North Atlantic ferry, Carpathia had been designed for a different purpose however, namely economy class passages (Liverpool New York Liverpool) in summer and a New York to Trieste service during the winter months. After four seasons, her somewhat basic accommodation was upgraded to incorporate First in place of Second Class passengers and, the refit completed, she resumed her former schedule of the two different seasonal routes.
On the night of 14th/15th April 1912, Carpathia was four days out of New York, bound for Gibraltar, Genoa, Naples and Trieste, under the command of Captain Arthur Rostron. Her 150 First Class passengers were mostly elderly Americans in search of some spring sunshine whilst the 575 persons in steerage were mainly Italians or Slavs returning to their homelands. Shortly after midnight, Carpathia's radio operator Harold Cottam picked up a distress call from the White Star liner Titanic which, on her maiden voyage, had struck an iceberg and was mortally damaged. Cottam woke Captain Rostron and his instant decisive action has since become the stuff of legend; he calculated Titanic's position as 58 miles away so put Carpathia about, ordered top speed and raced through the night in an effort to reach the stricken liner before she foundered. In the event, Titanic sank at 2.20am. (on 15th April) and took over 1,500 souls down with her before Carpathia, despite herculean efforts by her engineers and stokers, arrived on the scene nearly two hours later. Rostron spotted the first of Titanic's lifeboats just after 4.00am. and made fast the last of them at 8.30am. Twenty minutes later, at 8.50am., Rostron, who by then had satisfied himself that there was no-one else to pick up, rang up 'full speed' and turned back to New York where Carpathia docked on the evening of Thursday, 18th April. By then, the "gallant little Carpathia" was, briefly, the most famous ship in the world and Captain Rostron the hero of the hour. It was an extraordinary episode in social as well as maritime history which continues to resonate today, a century later, as clearly as it did in 1912.
Captain Rostron's conduct on that fateful night attracted admiration from every quarter and he ended his long career with a knighthood and the coveted accolade of Commodore of the Cunard Line. Carpathia herself was less fortunate, being torpedoed west of Bishop's Rock lighthouse by the German submarine U-55 on 17th July 1918 with the loss of five lives.