The fate of Captain Smith remains a mystery. Within days of the disaster, though, rumors would spring up claiming that he shot himself in the moments before the Titanic went under, but there has never been anything like proof offered to support the canard. What is known about what were likely Smith’s last moments are this: at around 2:10 a.m. Steward Edward Brown saw the captain walk onto the bridge, still clutching his megaphone, but just minutes later Trimmer Samuel Hemming found the bridge empty. There is a distinct possibility that Captain Smith was washed overboard when the forward superstructure went under, for Fireman Harry Senior claimed to have seen the captain in the water, holding a child in his arms, just moments before the Titanic began her final plunge. Still later, a swimmer approached Collapsible B, encouraging the men struggling atop the overturned lifeboat. “Good boys! Good lads!” he called out over and over again, in a voice tinged with authority, never once asking to be taken aboard. Greaser Walter Hurst tried, holding out an oar for the man to grasp onto, but the rapidly rising swell carried the man away before Hurst could reach him. To his dying day Hurst believed the man was Captain Smith.
The most likely scenario, however, is that Captain Smith remained on the Titanic‘s bridge when the forward superstructure went under, and died there. Incidentally, this is how Smith’s demise is portrayed in the motion picture version of “A Night to Remember;” in the 1997 film “Titanic,” director James Cameron went one step further, as he had Captain Smith shut himself up in the wheelhouse, stoically awaiting his end as the ship began her final plunge. Despite the myriad historical inaccuracies of Cameron’s production, it may well be that the director got this one right: if Smith did indeed go to the bridge around 2:10 a.m. as Steward Brown said, and took refuge inside the wheelhouse, that would explain why Trimmer Hemming did not see him when he went onto the bridge a few minutes later. Earlier, at nightfall, the shutters on the Titanic‘s wheelhouse windows would have been raised, to keep the lights of the wheelhouse from interfering with the bridge officers’ night vision: Trimmer Hemming would have been unable to see Captain Smith had the captain indeed been inside the wheelhouse, awaiting his end.