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Titanic Tales 


Titanic Tales 

Abelseth, Miss Karen Marie

Passenger: 3rd Class


13 Sept 1895

Örskog, Nilsgård, Romsdal County, Norway


26 Jul 1969

Inglewood, California, USA




Karen, or Kalle, was born on 14 September in Örskog, Nilsgård, Romsdal County, Norway. The fourth of nine children. Her parents were Iver Kristian Martinus and Nikolinr Petrine Asmundsdatter Nilsen.  Her elder sisters had emmigrated to America before Karen and the stories of the wamrth of California were enticing. The young Karen originally planned to trvavel in the summer of 1912 after completing her studies but Laus Abelseth,  (a family friend, but no relation, She was reigstered under the name Nilsen and Abelseth is the place where they lived) a former neighbour came to Orskog on a visit. Karen was eager to emmigrate and her father thought the opportunity to send his daughter in the hands of someone he could trust was too good an opportunity to pass up so Karen travelled with Laus and a party consisting of Olaus Abelseh,  Anna Salkjelsvik, Peter Søholt, Sigurd Hansen Moen and Adolf Humblen

The group departed Ålesund for Newcastle via Bergen before boarding Titanic at Southampton, for third class passage to New York.  Karen was bound for Inglewood, Los Angeles, to join her sister Anna. She shared a cabin with Anna Salkjelsvik and some other Swedish girls. 

On the night of the disaster she slept through the impact and was woken by Adolf Humblen. She recalled seeing people dragging their trunks in the passageway and became scared. Sigurd Moen held her tight as she was shaking with fear. Once on deck she was escorted by Olaus, Moen and Søholt to a lifeboat, probably number 16. Moen told her to be strong and that all would be well in the end and the boat was lowered. 

On May 28, 1912, Karen recounted the events to her father in a letter:

“Well, now I must try to write some words to you, so  that you can hear that I’m alive. Oh, it has been a terrible time, the  experience that I have had since I left you. If I had only known, I  would never have traveled. Suppose I must tell you something about what  has happened.

Sunday evening we went to bed at about 10. At 12 o’clock they came down to wake us up. I didn’t know what it meant when Adolf Humblen stood in front of my bed and said that I must hurry up because we had  hit an iceberg. When we had come out in the corridor, many people had  already got up and were dragging their suitcases along. Dear you at  home, had you only known how terrible it was. I hardly managed to stand.  Sigurd had to stand and hold me. Oh, Sigurd! He isn’t any more, he who was so  kind to me. I have almost cried to pieces, but it doesn’t help at all.

When  we came upstairs and went over to the railing, the ship was tilting  heavily. After a while, people began to enter the lifeboats. Olaus,  Sigurd and Peter followed me up to the lifeboat. Just think how hard it was when I was  to enter the boat and they had to stay behind. I didn’t want to get in,  but Sigurd said ‘Just be strong. It will all end well.’ That was the  last he said to me. I was the last who went in that lifeboat, and there was only one lifeboat left. If I had waited any longer, you would never  have heard from me anymore. Then we were lowered. The others had to stay  behind. I wish that I was there, and that somebody else could be saved.

When  we had come a short distance away from the ship, we saw how it started  to sink. At the end we heard a terrible noise, and Titanic went under  with over 2000 people. As soon as it sank there was a terrible scream.  Oh, if only you could have heard it. I will never in my life forget it. I  thought I was going to lose my mind, the way they cried. Imagine when  so many people start to call for help, and no one can give them any  assistance.

First Titanic sank, then she resurfaced close  to where we were, and overturned twice. We heard the cries for many  hours. Those were the worst hours I have ever experienced, and I hope I  will never experience such a thing again. Imagine, those cries, those  cries.

At 6 o’clock we saw a ship far away, and then we  were very glad, as you can imagine. We came alongside the ship at 7  o’clock. There we got blankets around us. But it didn’t matter, I  thought, because I didn’t see any of my company, except Anna, the girl  who joined us in Aalesund. After a while we went through a corridor.  There was Olaus. You can imagine there was joy. I wouldn’t have had an  ----- if he was not saved. But Sigurd and Peter were not there. I have  hardly tasted any food since I was on board the Titanic.

Now  there was a nice young lady here and she took me on her lap and was so  kind to me. We are at a hospital. Here everything is so sad. They are  only speaking English, every one. Anna is sitting and writing, and Olaus  is ill. It was so hard for him that Sigurd was not to be saved. ‘Oh,  had it only been me who died in his place,’ he says. You should have  seen how much he is crying sometimes. Just imagine what would have  happened to me and Anna, if he had drowned as well. Anna also lost her  companion. That was Adolf Humblen, brother of our schoolteacher. He was  so kind, so kind. Everybody was kind.

One  day we were ill, so we could not go downstairs to eat. They then first  came with food, and then with all kinds of fruit, and we had such a nice  time. Then the dreadful thing was going to happen. Many tears have  fallen down on this paper. It isn’t easy making sense of what I’m  writing today, because I have got a terrible headache, I have  difficulties writing to the others, but will make up for it when I  arrive.”

Karen spent some time recovering in St. Vincent Hopsital before heading to Minneapolis and then to California. She married Harry Sylvester Little on April 3 1916 and the couple had two sons, Norman and Francis, and three daughters - Phyllis, Wanda and Iris. Karen worked for the Ideal Undergarment Company in Los Angeles during the 1930s. She died in July 1969 in Inglewood, California after suffering from Parkinson's Disease. Harry lived on until June 27 1973. 








Los Angeles, California, USA

Primary source : Encyclopaedia Titanica 

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