It has been 102 years since it was written aboard the Titanic, describing a pleasant Sunday spent on the cruise ship headed for disaster. The letter fetched 119,000 pounds (about $200,000) at auction in England Saturday, surpassing expectations by $30,000.
"Well, the sailors say we have had a wonderful passage up to now," the letter from a passenger to her mother reads. "There has been no tempest, but God knows what it must be when there is one."
The unique artifact is believed to be the the only surviving letter written aboard the doomed ship on April 14, the day the Titanic hit an iceberg. More than 1,500 people lost their lives when the ship sank.
From London, Larry Miller reports for NPR's Newscast unit:
"The letter, on Titanic stationary, was written by survivors Esther Hart and her 7-year-old daughter, Eva, eight hours before the Titanic hit a North Atlantic iceberg and sank.
"Addressed to Hart's mother in England, she wrote they were enjoying the wonderful journey, that she was over her sea sickness, that she had gone to church service that Sunday morning and enjoyed the hymns.
"She wrote the ship was moving so fast, they'd be arriving in New York early. The letter survived because it was in the pocket of her husband's coat, which he gave her to keep warm before the Titanic sank. While mother and daughter made it to a lifeboat, Hart's husband went down with the ship.
"Also at the auction: a Titanic second-class menu and a metal plate from a lifeboat."
The menu, dated April 11, 1912, listed offerings that ranged from Yarmouth bloaters, grilled ox kidneys and bacon to "American dry hash au gratin" and soda scones.
As the AP reports, "Esther Hart died in 1928. Eva Hart, who died in 1996, became a prominent Titanic survivor, critical of attempts to salvage the ship, which she considered a mass grave. She described the voyage, and her mother's letter, in an autobiography, Shadow of the Titanic."
The auction house notes that in her biography, Eva Hart said that upon arriving safely in New York, her mother's first action was "to send a cable to her parents in England confirming that we had been rescued and that we had arrived safely in the U.S.A."
"The letter she had written that Sunday afternoon on the Titanic was never posted. She found it in the pocket of my father's sheepskin lined coat after we had been rescued and for her it was to remain a constant reminder of that tragic journey and of the loss of her husband."