Titanic Survivor's Revealing Letter Sparks Interest on Reddit

We’ve had compelling Titanic survivor accounts from the likes of Molly Brown and Elizabeth Shutes and, of course, Kate Winslet’s fictional (though adored) onscreen character. Now comes one from French passenger Rose Amélie Icard, whose letter containing eyewitness details of the disaster has emerged on Reddit, causing a stir among history lovers.

More on Shine: Lee Harvey Oswald's Wife Auctions Off His Wedding Band

“I’ve always been fascinated by the Titanic, ever since my dad took me to an exhibit on it when I was 13 years old. It really struck a chord with me,” Mike Delgado, the owner of Icard’s letter, which is penned in French, tells Yahoo Shine. He posted images of the pages on Reddit on March 20 with the request, “I would love to have it translated so I could have them framed.” The post generated more than 44,000 views, hundreds of comments, and a page-by-page translation written out by multiple users.

Delgado, a 29-year-old U.S. Marine based in Florida who also owns Icard’s passport, purchased the letters at a 2012 Titanic online auction. The $6,300 sale was confirmed for Yahoo Shine on Wednesday by RR Auction house spokesperson Bobby Livingston, who says the letters were sold fully translated. However, Delgado explains, when he recently took the pages out of their packaging to finally get them framed and hung, he saw that the auction house neglected to include the English version. “I could have easily called the auction house,” he admits. “But I was on Reddit and decided to just try it that way. I thought other people would appreciate it and enjoy it.”

More on Yahoo: Auction House: We Found Titanic Violin

He was right. His request has touched off a thread of spirited discussion on topics from concepts of chivalry to how it must feel to die. “Thank you so much for translating. I'm crying; it is a beautiful story even in translation,” wrote one reader. Another wrote, “Also crying. This is powerful stuff. We don't realize today what a terrible tragedy it was, since it happened so long ago. This makes it feel so real!”

Icard, who traveled on the Titanic as the personal maid to wealthy widow Martha Evelyn Stone, was rescued with her employer in a lifeboat. In 1955, at the age of 83 and nine years before her death in 1964, she wrote a nine-page account from memor. The translation reads, in part:

“By miracle Mrs. Stone and I found each other in the same boat, where we were about 30 people. The officer told us ‘Row hard, you only have twenty-five minutes to save your life.’ I took the oars and rowed with so much energy that I had bloody hands and paralyzed wrists because we had to be quick to escape the immense abyss that the Titanic was going to open while sinking. It is at that time that I noticed that someone was crouched under me. I did not have the strength to reveal his presence. I have never known who [were] the men who saved his life that way. While we were moving away on the nearly calm sea, only slightly lit by the lantern that the officer was holding, I did not keep my eyes off the [Titanic’s] blazing lights. Suddenly complete and impenetrable obscurity, horrible screams, shouting broke in the midst of creaks from the ship, then it was all. I sometimes still dream about it.”

Other haunting memories revolve around officers and sailors helping women and children into lifeboats, many of them not wanting to leave without the men. "Next to me were two handsome elderly [people], Mr. and Mrs. Straus, owners of Macys Department Stores in New York. She refused to get in the boat after having let her maid get in it," Icard wrote. "She hung on her husband's neck while telling him, ‘We have been married for 50 years, we never were apart, I want to die with you.’" She also recalled "sublime gestures," such as when, "after having helped rescue women and children, billionaire Benjamin Guggenheim put on formal clothes, a rose on the lapel, to die."

Included with the auctioned sale of the letter was a lengthy 1951 French newspaper article focused on Icard, which Delgado also asked to have translated on Reddit. It revealed many more details, including that Icard was living in a tiny apartment on retirement pay and a meager sewing income and that she had shared her rescue boat with two notorious criminals known for thefts aboard ocean liners. 

Delgado says he likes knowing that he owns “something tangible” from the historic tragedy. “I’m just fascinated with history in general, and I think that to fully appreciate the future we need to understand the past,” he says. “So many people die nowadays without their stories being told.”

Another sale of Titanic items by RR Auction is scheduled for April 17. Livingston notes that it will contain other correspondence including a letter that was postmarked the day before the crash, written by a Turkish bath attendant and sent out via a Royal Mail service. “The boat’s rocking about,” his postscript innocently notes. But interest in Icard’s poignant letter, Livingston says, “seems to have taken on a life of its own.”

'Titanic' Trivia: 17 Surprising Facts About the Making of the Movie
The Titanic: Your Next Vacation Destination?