United States Senate Inquiry

Day 16

Affidavit of Emily Ryerson

The affidavit referred to is as follows:

STATE OF NEW YORK, County of Otsego, as:

Emily Borie Ryerson, being duly sworn, deposes and says, I reside in the city of Chicago, Ill. I was a passenger on the steamship Titanic on April 14, 1912. At the time of collision I was awake and heard the engines stop, but felt no jar. My husband was asleep, so I rang and asked the steward, Bishop, what was the matter. He said, "There is talk of an iceberg, ma'am, and they have stopped, not to run into it." I told him to keep me informed if there were any orders. It was bitterly cold, so I put on a warm wrapper and looked out the window (we were in the large cabins on the B deck, very far aft) and saw the stars shining and a calm sea, but heard no noise. It was 12 o'clock. After about 10 minutes I went out in the corridor, and saw far off people hurrying on deck. A passenger ran by and called out, "Put on your lifebelts and come up on the boat deck."

I said, "Where did you get those orders?" He said, "From the captain." I went back then and told Miss Bowen and my daughter, who were in the next room, to dress immediately, roused my husband and the two younger children, who were in a room on the other side, and then remembered my maid, who had a room near us. Her door was locked and I had some difficulty in waking her. By this time my husband was fully dressed, and we could hear the noise of feet tramping on the deck overhead. He was quite calm and cheerful and helped me put the lifebelts on the children and on my maid. I was paralyzed with fear of not all getting on deck together in time, as there were seven of us. I would not let my younger daughter dress, but she only put on a fur coat, as I did over her nightgown. My husband cautioned us all to keep together, and we went up to A deck, where we found quite a group of people we knew. Everyone had on a lifebelt, and they all were very quiet and self-possessed.

We stood about there for quite a long time - fully half an hour, I should say. I know my maid ran down to the cabin and got some of my clothes. Then we were ordered to the boat deck. I only remember the second steward at the head of the stairs, who told us where to go. My chief thought and that of everyone else was, I know, not to make a fuss and to do as we were told. My husband joked with some of the women he knew, and I heard him say, "Don't you hear the band playing?" I begged him to let me stay with him, but he said, "You must obey orders. When they say, 'Women and children to the boats' you must go when your turn comes. I'll stay with John Thayer. We will be all right. You take a boat going to New York." This referred to the belief that there was a circle of ships around waiting. The Olympic, the Baltic, were some of the names I heard. All this time we could hear the rockets going up - signals of distress. Again, we were ordered down to A deck, which was partly enclosed. We saw people getting into boats, but waited our turn. There was a rough sort of steps constructed to get up to the window. My boy, Jack, was with me. An officer at the window said, "That boy can't go." My husband stepped forward and said, "Of course, that boy goes with his mother; he is only 13." So they let him pass. They also said, "No more boys." I turned and kissed my husband, and as we left he and the other men I knew - Mr. Thayer, Mr. Widener, and others - were all standing there together very quietly. The decks were lighted, and as you went through the window it was as if you stepped out into the dark. We were flung into the boats. There were two men - an officer inside and a sailor outside - to help us. I fell on top of the women who were already in the boat, and scrambled to the bow with my eldest daughter. Miss Bowen and my boy were in the stern and my second daughter was in the middle of the boat with my maid. Mrs. Thayer, Mrs Widener, Mrs. Astor, and Miss Eustis were the only others I knew in our boat.

Presently an officer called out from the upper deck, "How many women are there in that boat? Someone answered, "Twenty-four." "That's enough; lower away."

The ropes seemed to stick at one end and the boat tipped, some one called for a knife, but it was not needed until we got into the water, as it was but a short distance, and I then realized for the first time how far the ship had sunk. The deck we left was only about 20 feet from the sea. I could see all the portholes open and water washing in, and the decks still lighted. Then they called out, "How many seamen have you," and they answered one. "That is not enough," said the officer, "I will send you another," and he sent a sailor down the rope. In a few minutes after several other men not sailors came down the ropes over the davits and dropped into our boat. The order was given to pull away, then they rowed off - the sailors, the women, anyone - but made little progress; there was a confusion of orders; we rowed toward the stern, some one shouted something about a gangway, and no one seemed to know what to do. Barrels and chairs were being thrown overboard. Then suddenly, when we still seemed very near, we saw the ship was sinking rapidly. I was in the bow of the boat with my daughter and turned to see the great ship take a plunge toward the bow, the two forward funnels seemed to lean and then she seemed to break in half as if cut with a knife, and as the bow went under the lights went out; the stern stood up for several minutes, black against the stars, and then that, too, plunged down, and there was no sound for what seemed like hours, and then began the cries for help of people drowning all around us, which seemed to go on forever. Some one called out, "Pull for your lives, or you'll be sucked under," and everyone that could rowed like mad. I could see my younger daughter and Mrs. Thayer and Mrs. Astor rowing, but there seemed to be no suction. Then we turned to pick up some of those in the water. Some of the women protested, but others persisted, and we dragged in six or seven men; the men we rescued were principally stokers, stewards, sailors, etc., and were so chilled and frozen already they could hardly move. Two of them died in the stern later and many were raving and moaning and delirious most of the time. We had no lights or compass. There were several babies in the boat, but there was no milk or water. (I believe these were all stowed away somewhere, but no one knew where, and as the bottom of the boat was full of water and the boat full of people it was very difficult to find anything.)

After the Titanic sank we saw no lights, and no one seemed to know what direction to take. Lowe, the officer in charge of the boat, had called out earlier for all to tie together, so we now heard his whistle, and as soon as we could make out the other boats in the dark, five of us were tied together, and we drifted about without rowing, as the sea was calm, waiting for the dawn. It was very cold, and soon a breeze sprang up, and it was hard to keep our heavy boat bow on; but as the cries died down we could see dimly what seemed to be a raft with about 20 men standing on it, back to back. It was the overturned boat; and as the sailors on our boat said we could still carry 8 or 10 more people, we called for another boat to volunteer and go to rescue them. So we two cut loose our painters and between us got all the men off. They were nearly gone and could not have held out much longer. Then, when the sun rose we saw the Carpathia standing up about 5 miles away, and for the first time saw the icebergs all around us. The Carpathia steamed toward us until it was full daylight; then she stopped and began picking up boats, and we got on board about 8 o'clock. Very soon after we got on board they took a complete list of the names of all survivors. The kindness and the efficiency of all the arrangements on the Carpathia for our comfort can never be too highly praised.

The foregoing affidavit is made at the request of William Alden Smith, chairman of the Senate investigating committee, in relation of the Titanic disaster.


Subscribed and sworn to before me this 9th day of May, 1912.

Notary Public.

STATE OF NEW YORK, Otsego County clerk's office, ss:

I, Robert O. Marshall, clerk of the county of Otsego, and also clerk of the supreme and county courts of said county, the same being courts of record, do hereby certify that Bessie L. Wiles, whose name is subscribed to the jurat of the annexed affidavit, was, on the day of the date thereof, a notary public in and for the county of Otsego, dwelling in said county, duly authorized to administer oaths for general purposes; and that I am well acquainted with the handwriting of said notary public, and verily believe that the signature to said jurat is genuine.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto subscribed my name and affixed the seal of the said county and courts at Cooperstown, this 9th day of May, 1912.