Titanic 100th anniversary
Titanic Memorial Cruise passenger Jane Allen spoke about the sinking of the Titanic on April 14, 1912. How many people died?Have you ever experienced something that appeared trivial at the time and of no consequence, but later became a major incident in your life? Some of life’s twists and turns are favorable, while others aren’t so hot. “What if” can be a haunting mantra.
Take the Titanic for instance. A few little things, which seemed inconsequential at the time, could have changed history and saved more than a thousand lives. What if the shipbuilders had included more lifeboats instead of installing the most palatial passenger accommodations on any liner of its day? What if the captain of the Californian, a freighter out of Liverpool that had stopped for the night nearby, had heeded his lookout’s report of sighting “rockets in the sky?” What if the Californian’s signalman hadn’t turned off the wireless and gone to bed for the night?
The mighty Titanic, named for the powerful Titan gods of Greek mythology, “grazed” an iceberg and sank in less than three hours. When it left Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912 the 882-foot-long White Star liner was deemed “unsinkable.” The 2,228 passengers and crew felt safe aboard a vessel with 15 watertight bulkheads and automatic watertight doors that could be closed from the bridge. Six separate watertight compartments housed the vessel’s 29 boilers that drove her reciprocating steam engines. Over three million rivets held high caliber steel plates to a stout steel frame using a new technology called “hydraulic riveting.”Then what went wrong? How could this new state of the art “jewel of the White Star Line”—an eight million dollar creation—possibly culminate its maiden voyage 13,120 feet down in the North Atlantic? Some critics tried to blame the disaster on a fire that broke out in a coal storage bunker before the ship set sail. But the chief engineer reported that the smoldering fuel had been extinguished by the third day at sea, one day before the sinking. There was no major damage, only some warping on the wall between two boiler rooms. Still others blamed Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line, for urging the captain and chief engineer to “speed up” the six day liner. White Star vessels crossed the Atlantic in six days, while Cunard liners made it in five. Ismay was eager to beat the Cunard record or at least match it.
Avoiding the term “collision,” critics further claimed the ship’s superstructure gave in from a simple “graze” or “a slight bump” on its starboard side. Yet one glacial expert rebuked, “Icebergs are hideously dangerous. They’re like ice cubes in a glass. Most of their mass is below the surface. You may think you’ve grazed one, but in reality it has shredded the hull like a rip saw.”
It was determined that an underwater sliver of ice cut a 300-foot-long gash in the Titanic’s superstructure, damaging the ship’s watertight compartments. One less damaged compartment and the ship might have remained afloat. Water poured through the collapsed bulkhead and made its way through open portholes and gangways. The ship’s fate was sealed. She split in half and sank in less than three hours, taking 1,523 passengers and crew with her.
That’s not the end of the story by any means. Typical of today’s world, the blame game continues. Critics cite the technology of the times, saying the vessel’s rivets popped prematurely, the steel wasn’t strong enough and that many other things were structurally deficient. But metallurgists have confirmed that no ship today could have withstood the damage inflicted by the iceberg and still remain afloat. The Titanic was a product of the times…a testimonial to man’s magnificent ingenuity and creativity. But it also was a reminder of his flawed decisions. Humans failed the Titanic.
Blind faith in technology would have worked had it not been for overconfidence, obsession for success and disregard for safety precautions. The unhappy ending will always be weighed in terms of technological advancement, creativity and heedless attitudes. Simply put, man failed mankind.The Titanic met her destiny in a gripping story that remains one of the most debatable disasters of all time. Is her mystique simply shrouded in the irony of life? Unfortunately, tragedy is ironic only when it happens to someone else. Many poor souls rest two and a half miles down, near the edge of the continental shelf, 400 miles southeast of Newfoundland. Time will never bring down the curtain on them.
Update: The Titanic 100th Anniversary Coin has been released. You really ought to check out this piece of Titanic history. It’s elegant design is comprised of actual coal recovered from the Titanic!
The date Tuesday, April 10, 2012 marks the day, 100 years past, that the RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton in England on her maiden voyage, headed for the cosmopolitan city of New York. As the world knows, the Titanic never arrived.
Instead the ship became arguably the biggest maritime disaster, certainly the most studied and talked-about, in the history of humankind. After striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic some 375 miles off of the coast of the (now) Canadian province of Newfoundland, the 46,328 gross registered ton ship took about 2-and-a-half hours to sink, going down at 2:20 a.m. on April 15.Numbers vary slightly in various accounts, but of the 2,224 passengers and crew onboard, 1514 died. After getting into lifeboats the other 710 were rescued by the RMS Carpathia, the first ship to reach the disaster, hours after the Titanic sunk. Along with the captain, Edward Smith, notable political leaders and leaders of industry went down with the ship but J. Bruce Ismay, the chairman of White Star Lines, who built and owned the Titanic, survived.
The ship did not have enough lifeboats for all aboard - though it did have more than the law then required - and in the aftermath of the disaster, new laws were enacted which required ships to carry enough lifeboats for all passengers and crew. Most of the survivors were women and children from the ship's first class.As part of the world marking the centenary of the disaster, there are Titanic collectibles to buy, including calendars, stamp collections, commemorative coins, books and films. Events are taking place in Northern Ireland, in Ireland, England, Canada and the U.S..
In Belfast at the docks where the Titanic and her sister ship, the Olympia were constructed there has recently opened a massive new Titanic Museum with a building that replicates the ship, all part of what's called 'Belfast's Titanic Signature Project'. That display includes photos taken by Robert Ballard, who lead an expedition back to the ship in 2011 to supply the new pictures. In New York a memorial cruise to the site of the sinking launches on the 10th.
The 1997 film Titanic, directed by Canadian James Cameron, has been re-worked and re-released in 3-D for the occasion and is now in movie theaters. The film, the second-highest grossing movie of all-time, stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet and Billy Zane.