United States Senate Inquiry

Day 18

Testimony of Imanita Shelley

P.O. Box 597,
Deer Lodge, Mont., May 15, 1912.

Chairman Titanic Investigation Committee, Washington, D. C.

DEAR SIR: Inclosed herewith find sworn statement of Imanita Shelley (Mrs. William Shelley) in regard to the Titanic disaster. If there are any other points you would like more light upon please send us list of questions and Mrs. Shelley will answer them before a notary and to the best of her ability.

In the inclosed statement no mention was made of the fact that Mrs. Shelley was charged £1 English money for a wireless message to her husband at Deer Lodge, Mont., which aerogram was never delivered. In New York City Mrs. Shelley was informed that several other passengers had also paid for aerograms which had failed to reach their destination.

As that subject was caused by the wireless operator on board the Carpathia, it was not included in her statement of facts concerning the Titanic's administration.

Yours, very truly,



STATE OF MONTANA, County of Powell, ss.

Mrs. Imanita Shelley, of lawful age, being first duly sworn as regards the Titanic disaster, on her oath deposes and says:

That her mother, Mrs. Lutie Davis Parrish, of Woodford County, Ky., and herself embarked on the White Star steamship Titanic at Southampton, England, upon the 10th day of April, 1912, having purchased the best second class accommodation sold by said company.

That instead of being assigned to the accommodation purchased, were taken to a small cabin many decks down in the ship, which was so small that it could only be called a cell. It was impossible to open a regulation steamer trunk in said cabin. It was impossible for a third person to enter said cabin unless both occupants first of all crawled into their bunks.

That the stewardess was sent to the chief purser demanding transfer to accommodation purchased. That he replied he could do nothing until the boat had left Queenstown, Ireland, when he would check up all tickets and find out if there was any mistake.

That after leaving Queenstown Mrs. L. D. Parrish made 11 trips herself to the purser asking for transfer, only to be put off with promises. That at 9 o'clock p. m., no one having come to make them to better quarters, Mrs. Shelley wrote a note to the purser to the effect that she had paid for the best second class accommodation on the ship and had the receipts to prove it; that she was very ill and, owing to that freezing cold of the cabin, was in great danger; that if he, the purser, refused to act she, Mrs. Shelley, would appeal to the captain; that if neither would act she realized she would have to wait until reaching America for redress, but most assuredly would claim damages if she lived to reach her native land.

That the result of this letter was the arrival of four stewards to carry her to the room paid for, who offered apology after apology.

That the stewardess, on being asked what the purser had said on reading the note, replied: "He asked first if you were really so very sick, to which I answered there was no doubt about that. Then the purser asked me if there was such a cabin on board the Titanic, where a cabin trunk could not be opened; to which I replied in the affirmative. I also told him that the cabin was entirely too small for two women, and that two men could not hardly fit in; that it was impossible for myself or the steward to enter the cabin and to wait upon the occupants unless both of them first climbed into their berths. The purser then told me that he would have to act at once, or the company would get into trouble."

That after being transferred to this new cabin the second class physician, Dr. Simpson, called from three to four times a day; that he feared the attack of tonsillitis brought on by the chill would become diphtheretic and ordered Mrs. Shelley to remain in her cabin.

That this cabin, though large and roomy, was not furnished in the comfortable manner as the same accommodation procured on the Cunard and other lines; that it looked in a half-finished condition; that this room was just as cold as the cell from which we had just been removed, and on asking the steward to have the heat turned on, he answered that it was impossible, as the heating system for the second class cabins refused to work. That of all the second class cabins, only three - the three first cabins to be reached by the heat - had any heat at all, and that the heat was so intense there that the occupants had complained to the purser, who had ordered the heat shut off entirely; consequently the rooms were like ice houses all of the voyage, and Mrs. L. D. Parrish, when not waiting on her sick daughter, was obliged to go to bed to keep warm.

That afterwards, when on board the Carpathia, Mrs. Shelley took pains to inquire of steerage passengers as to whether or not they had heat in the steerage of the Titanic and received the answer that there was the same trouble with their heating plant, too.

That although the servants on board were most willing, they had a hard time to do their work; that the stewardess could not even get a tray to serve Mrs. Shelley's meals and had to bring the plates and dishes one at a time in her hands, making the service very slow and annoying. The food, though good and plentiful, was ruined by this trouble in serving. That although both steward and stewardess appealed time and time again to the heads of their departments, no relief was obtained: there seemed to be no organization at all. That in the ladies toilet room only part of the fixtures had been installed, some of the said fixtures being still in crates.

That in the early evening of the night of the accident the temperature had fallen considerably, so that all on board realized we were in the ice belt. There were rumors of wireless messages from other ships warning of icebergs close at hand. It was also reported that certain first class passengers had asked if the ship was to show down whilst going through the ice belts and had been told by the captain that, on the contrary, the ship would be speeded through.

That at the moment of the collision we were awakened out of sleep by the shock, and especially by the stopping of the engines. That excited voices were heard outside in the passage, saying that an iceberg had been run into. That after continued ringing of the steward bell a steward, but not the regular one, came and insisted that all was well and for all passengers to go back to bed. Afterwards, on board the Carpathia, a first-cabin passenger a Mme. Baxter, of Montreal, Canada, told Mrs. Shelley that she had sent her son to the captain at the time of the collision to find out what to do. That her son had found the captain in a card game, and he had laughingly assured him that there was no danger and to advise his mother to go back to bed.

That about three-quarters of an hour after returning to their berths a steward came running down the passage bursting open the cabin doors and calling "All on deck with lifebelts on." That this steward brought Mrs. Parrish and Mrs. Shelley each a lifebelt and showed them how to tie them on. That they were told to go up to the top deck, the boat deck. That as Mrs. Shelley was very weak, it took several minutes to reach the upper deck. That Mr. and Mrs. Isidor Straus, who had known of Mrs. Shelley being so ill, met them on the way and helped them to the upper deck, where they found a chair for her and made her sit down.

That owing to the great number of persons on the deck Mrs. Shelley was not able to see anything of the handling of boats except the one she herself was placed in. There was practically no excitement on the part of anyone during this time, the majority seeming to think that the big boat could not sink altogether, and that it was better to stay on the steamer than trust to the lifeboats. After sitting on the chair for about five minutes one of the sailors ran to Mrs. Shelley and implored her to get in the lifeboat that was then being launched. He informed Mrs. Shelley that it was the last boat on the ship, and that unless she got into that one she would have to take her chances on the steamer, and that as she had been so sick she ought to take to the boat and make sure. Mrs. Straus advised taking to the boats, and, pushing her mother toward the sailor, Mrs. Shelley made for the davits where the boat hung. It was found impossible to swing the davits in, which left a space of between 4 and 5 feet between the edge of the deck and the suspended boat. The sailor picked up Mrs. Parrish and threw her bodily into the boat. Mrs. Shelley jumped and landed safely. That two men of the ship's crew manned this boat at the time of launching, one of whom said he was a stoker and the other a ship's baker.

That at the time of launching these were the only men in the boat. That at the time of lowering the boat it seemed to be as full of passengers as the seating capacity called for, but owing to the excitement no thought of numbers entered Mrs. Shelley's head. The boat appeared to be filled with as many as could get in without over crowding, all of them women and children, with the exception of the two mentioned above.

That on trying to lower the boat the tackle refused to work and it took considerable time, about 5 minutes, it is believed, to reach the water. That on reaching the water the casting off apparatus would not work and the ropes had to be cut.

That just as they reached the water a crazed Italian jumped from the deck into the lifeboat, landing on Mrs. Parrish, severely bruising her right side and leg. This gave them one extra man.

After coming loose from the ship the orders were to pull out toward the other boats and get as far away from the probable suction which would ensue if the steamer should sink. Orders were also given to keep in sight of the green light of the ship's boat which had been sent out ahead to look for help. That on reaching a distance of bout 100 yards from the Titanic a loud explosion or noise was heard, followed closely by another, and the sinking of the big vessel began.

Throughout the entire period from the striking of the icebergs and taking to the boats the ship's crew behaved in an ideal manner. Not a man tried to get into a boat unless ordered to, and many were seen to strip off their clothing and wrap around the women and children who came up half clad from their beds. Mrs. Shelley feels confident that she speaks the truth when she says that with the exception of those few men ordered to man the boats all other sailors saved had gone down with the ship and were miraculously saved afterwards. Mrs. Shelley says that no crew could have behaved in a more perfect manner and that they proved themselves men in every sense of the word. That after the sinking of the ship the boat they were in picked up several struggling in the water and were fortunate enough to rescue 30 sailors who had gone down with the ship, but who had been miraculously blown out of the water after one of the explosions and been thrown near a derelict collapsible boat to which they had managed to cling. That after taking all those men on board the boat was so full that many feared they would sink, and it was suggested that some of the other boats should take some of these rescued ones on board; but they refused, for fear of sinking.

Mrs. Shelley states that she does not know what the official number of her lifeboat was, nor the official numbers of the boats finally rescued by the Carpathia: that on conversing with members of the crew and other survivors on board the Carpathia it was told Mrs. Shelley that 13 boats had been picked up; that the first boat to be picked up by the Carpathia was what was called the signal boat - the one with the green light - which all followed as a guide and which had been picked up about 3 or half-past 3 in the morning; that the boat Mrs. Shelley was in was picked up shortly after 8 o'clock in the morning.

That as to equipment of the lifeboats there was none in her boat except four oars and a mast, which latter was useless; there was no water nor any food; that there was neither compass nor binnacle light nor any kind of lantern; that on questioning occupants of other lifeboats they told her the same story - lack of food, water, compass, and lights, and that several boats had no oars or only two or three.

That one of that Titanic's crew who was saved told that no positions had been assigned to any of the crew in regard to lifeboat service, as is the rule, and that that was one of the reasons of the confusion in assigning men to manage the lifeboats when the accident did occur.

That right after the Titanic began to sink a steamer was sighted about 2 miles away, and all were cheered up; as it was figured that they would all be picked up inside an hour or so; that, however, their hopes were blighted when the steamer's lights suddenly disappeared. Further deponent saith not.


County of Powell, ss.
Subscribed and sworn to before me, the undersigned, a notary public in and for said county and state, this 15th day of May, A. D. 1912.


Notary Public for the State of Montana.
(Residing at Deer Lodge, Powell County, Mont.)

My commission expires December 3, 1912.