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