The Mackay-Bennett & the Titanic Disaster
It was on April 14, 1912, that the Titanic sank almost due south of Saint John's, Newfoundland, after striking an iceberg. The suvivors had been rescued by the Carpathia and were on their way to New York when the White Star Line commisioned several vessels to recover those who had not survived. On Thursday, April 17, the first of these vessels, the Cable Ship Mackay-Bennett, steamed to the site of the Titanic's sinking to search for bodies. The first corpses were brought aboard on April 21. They were found floating upright appearing as if asleep. For the following four days, the crew continued its grisly task, retrieving 306 bodies in all. Those corpses that were identifiable and in good enough condition to be embalmed were prepared for burial by a team of morticians on board the ship; the remaining 116 bodies were "returned to the sea" with the service conducted by the Reverend K.C.Hind, an Anglican minister who had been taken aboard for that purpose.
On Friday, April 25, the Mackay-Bennett was relieved by the steamer Minia. She steamed for Halifax with her cargo of 190 bodies on deck and below. Lillian Livingston Capstick recalls her father, W.D. Livingston, navigating officer on the Mackay-Bennett at the time, recounting the eeriness of that voyage: the wind and the motion of the ship caused the tarpaulins covering the bodies on deck to rise and fall, producing the momentary illusion that the victims were alive. On the dock in Halifax, at the Commercial Cable Company berth at Purdy's Wharf, the undertakers' carriages were lined up to remove the remains from the ship.