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Of the 2,200 people on board, 1,500 perished, including Smith, Andrews, Murdoch, and a number of prominent first-class passengers. Multi-millionaire John Jacob Astor may have been among the first to die, crushed by a toppling funnel. His mangled, soot-covered body was later retrieved from the water; the $4,000 in his pocket helped to identify him. Third-class (steerage) passengers suffered the worst of the three classes: about 530 died. However, the greatest loss of life occurred among the Titanic's crew: approximately 670 went to their doom.
Among the 700 who lived through it all were Beesley, Boxhall, Ismay, Rowe, Lee, Fleet, and Lightoller. After an ordeal that seems almost to have been written for a Hollywood script, Lightoller swam to an overturned lifeboat and scrambled on top, where he and 30 other shivering men spent a harrowing night leaning this way and that, trying to stave off swamping, as their upturned boat gradually lost the air trapped underneath in the increasingly choppy sea. Some of the men with him froze to death.
With the Titanic gone, the survivors in the lifeboats grimly waited for rescue. Beesley noted: "All night long we had watched the horizon with eager eyes for signs of a steamer's lights . . . but what a night to see that first light on the horizon! We saw it many times as the earth revolved, and some stars rose on the clear horizon and others sank down to it: there were 'lights' on every quarter. Some we watched and followed until we saw the deception and grew wiser. . . ." He further recorded that "the captain of one of the ships near us that night said the stars were so extraordinarily bright near
the horizon that he was deceived into thinking they were ships' lights: he did not remember seeing such a night before. Those who were afloat will all agree with that statement. . . ."
More than just starry confusion reigned in Boat 6. Robert Hitchens, the crew member in charge, seemed "cowardly and almost crazed with fear all the time," said Helen Candee, passenger and author of several books. "Hitchens reminded us frequently that we were hundreds of miles from land. . . . He said we did not even know the direction in which we were rowing." Candee helpfully pointed out the North Star hanging over the bow. After sharp exchanges with a passenger named Maggie Brown (who threatened to push him overboard) Hitchens subsided, and the Unsinkable Molly Brown, as she has come to be known, took effective command. She organized the women, and they rowed for several hours toward a light that never seemed to get any closer.
Toward 3 a.m. Beesley saw a faint glow to starboard and hoped it was the coming dawn. But the glow faded and increased again. Beesley realized it was an aurora. He watched it arc like a fan across the northern sky and send faint streamers near Polaris.
Dawn finally came, and "the stars died, slowly -- save one which remained long after the others just above the horizon; and nearby, with the crescent turned to the north, and the lower horn just touching the horizon, the thinnest, palest of moons," Beesley remembered. The star was undoubtedly Venus, which rose together with the Moon around 5 a.m.
The seaman in command of the boat saw the crescent and shouted, "A new Moon! Turn your money over, boys! That is, if you have any!" Beesley recalled, "We (continued on page 5)
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