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Virginia Utermohlen on: Perils Binns Faced After the Crash
Virginia Utermohlen Q: Tell me about the perils facing Binns after the crash?

VU: Well, the first peril, of course, after the crash was the fact that he was in the cold, in the rain, because his cabin was half of one and it was bitter cold and he just -- you know he started really shaking and his teeth chattering. And when he first went to go see Captain Sealby, Captain Sealby in fact, told him not to be afraid and he said, "Oh sir, I'm, I'm not afraid it's just that it's so cold my teeth are chattering and I'm, I'm shivering but I'm not really afraid." And indeed I don't think he really was. Yet, he was perfectly aware of the dangers that were surrounding him. He was on a ship that had now no power, no electricity, could not be seen in the dark, in the fog. So any other ship that might have been in the vicinity could, may well have crashed into them. And the ship was sinking. The boiler room was already flooded and fortunately the boiler room men had managed to let off the steam before the ship actually exploded, so at least that danger had been passed through the real courage of the men in the boiler room. The next problem was that you had to watch out that the passengers weren't panicking because they were scared, no question about it. And, in fact, the prospect of being rode across the swells to the "Florida" was not an easy one to face. The third thing that came to mind was, how long should he stay on this ship? What should he do next? How should he bring about the possibility of bringing other ships to their rescue? He realized that he was the lifeline. And one of the most extraordinary things you have to realize is that people had no idea where you exactly were in the sea at that time. And when the Marconi men could have an idea of how far a ship was away, but you have to remember it was at a distance in the circumference of a circle. In other words, you could tell that somebody was 21 miles away but was it 21 miles to the north or to the south or to the east or the west, you had no idea. And so the biggest task was to figure out where the rescue ships might be, who might they be able to bring in and then to figure out where their position was with respect to the rescue ship. It would be horrendous to have a rescue ship come plowing in and make the third ship in the accident. Both the "Florida" and the "Republic" were completely dark-- couldn't be seen. So he devised a plan whereby he could in fact figure out where the rescue ship was coming from, and this he coordinated with the wireless men on the "Baltic" to have three booms sets off, big loud flare sounds set off at definite times. And they checked their chronometers again through the wireless, got themselves coordinated, and then Binnsy set the people out who were left on the "Republic," he set them out in a circle facing outwards and they were to report when they heard the booms. The first boom went off. Nothing. Nobody heard anything. The second boom went off, nobody heard a thing. Finally, the third boom went off and Binnsy heard it, he thinks it was because he was so good at hearing faint signals from the wireless. And one person standing next to him thought he heard it too. And so they were able to decide which direction, in fact, the "Baltic" was coming in. That was their last chance to know. And so, he was able to tell the wireless operator on the "Baltic" what direction to come in and where to expect them and when those lights came on the "Baltic", and the ship came close, and the lights were shining, it was a huge cheer and indeed if it hadn't been for the wireless, those three ships may well have collided and made a much worse accident of it all.

Q: How do you think Binns felt when Sealby finally ordered him off the ship?

VU: Well, the ship was sinking and it was very clear that even though they had thought they might be able to tow it to somewhere where, they could actually beach it, it was clear that the ship was probably not going to make it. So Sealby ordered Binnsy off the ship. And Binnsy, who was one to take orders, but, nevertheless, did it with great regret because he felt he should be there to the very end and be part of it. He also felt he was unmarried, he had no children, he had no obligations and he felt that he should be one of the ones to stay on rather than somebody who had a wife and family.

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