Newport, R.I. – It may be the one Titanic story you’ve never heard, revealed this week at an auction of maritime memorabilia.
An unusual cane, with a small, battery-powered light at the top– manufactured long before the invention of the flashlight– saved the lives of more than two dozen people.
According to court documents and family records, Ella White, a middle-aged passenger on the doomed ship, carried the cane because she had injured her ankle before the Titanic set sail.
On the night of the disaster, April 14, 1912, White was in her cabin when she felt what she later described as the sensation that the Titanic had rolled over “a thousand marbles.” She didn’t know that the ship had hit an iceberg until she decided to walk to the top deck, where she described a scene of nonchalance among other passengers and crew.
Nevertheless, White said she held up her cane with its glowing light, leading 25 other passengers and crew into one of the lifeboats, and after they were lowered into the water, she used the cane to try to signal a distant rescue ship.
At Guernsey’s Auction House, White’s descendants put the cane up for auction, and it sold on Sunday (July 21) for $62,500 — well below Guernsey’s expected bids of between $300,000 and $500,000.
Still, the lives saved– like the cane itself– are priceless.