A Gentleman and a Rogue

Sunday, April 29, 2012


The Titanic's story is one of the most romantic and tragic in modern history. April 14th, 2012 was the 100 Anniversary of the Titanic sinking. How many of you broke down and went to see the 1997 in the theatres in IMAX 3D? I confess I did. And it was just as good if not better this time around.

So what was it about the Titanic that has held us captive throughout the years? I thought I'd explore the history of the Titanic.

RMS (Royal Mail Ship) Titanic was built between 1909-1911 by the Harland and Wolff shipyards in Belfast, Ireland. Harland and Wolff were "the" shipbuilders of the day. At the time the ship was constructed, it could hold over 3,000 people. What made the ship special? It had an onboard gymnasium, swimming pool, library, opulent cabins and high class restaurants. The telegraph was one of the most high powered ones of the day.

The Titanic was constructed with a series of watertight containers. These containers were originally designed to go to the "B" desk, but were cut back to the "E" deck. There were 11 decks total on the ship.



The Titanic had 3 engines. It used 600 tons of coal a day. It had an electrical plant and brass propellers. The ship was capable of delivering heated water using pumps to all parts. It could even distil seawater if it had to. With a ship as "high tech" as this (for 1912) no one really thought it would sink.

Of course, with all places, there's a human story behind the events and Titanic is no different. The White Star Line's chairman, J. Bruce Ismay, conceived the Olympic class liners including Titanic. He worked with naval architect Thomas Andrews and many others to design and then build the ship. Ismay wanted to compete on size, not speed. Unfortunately, Ismay made poor design decisions when it came to the ship.

#1 – He ordered the watertight containers lowered to the "E" deck from the "B" deck.

#2 – He substituted #3 Iron rivets instead of steel rivets or #4 iron rivets. #3 iron rivets are of poorer quality and break easily.

#3 – He cut back on the number of lifeboats because the full compliment of lifeboats made the desk look too cluttered.

None of these decisions directly pertain to an iceberg, but they made the Titanic less sturdy and less capable of handling a hit from an iceberg.



Another key event which occurred prior to the Titanic sailing would have major repercussions. Prior to sailing, Titanic was assigned a new captain – Edward J. Smith of the Olympic. He was the most senior captain of the White Star Line. Smith brought Henry Wilde over to be his chief mate. This bumped down the officers assigned to Titanic, Murdoch and Lightoller. Titanic's original 2nd Officer, David Blair was dropped from the maiden voyage.

When David Blair left, he accidently took the keys to the binoculars storage box in the crow's nest.

That's important.

Two lookouts were in the crow's nest on the forward mast and could only their eyes to see icebergs. If they had access to the binoculars they probably could have spotted the iceberg sooner. On a moonless night with little wind, they didn't stand a chance of spotting the iceberg in time to avoid it.



Several prominent people of the time were onboard including John Jacob Aster IV and millionaire Molly Brown, played to perfection by Kathy Bates in the 1997 movie. Also sailing on the boat: J. Bruce Ismay and Thomas Andrews. They were to assess the ship's performance and trouble shoot any problems it might have.

As the Titanic sank, J. Bruce Ismay dressed a woman to secure a place in one of the lifeboats. For the rest of his life he was known as a coward.

The USS Californian was less than two hours away from the Titanic. The ship had been warning Titanic all day of the icebergs. Titanic's wireless operators took the messages, but these warnings didn't pay the bills. To earn money, they had to send out the wireless messages from the people on board.

At approx. 7pm a USS Californian wireless operator overrode Titanic's operator, Jack Phillips. Phillips was sending a personal message. The Californian's message warned Titanic of more icebergs in the area. The override forced a lot of noise into Phillip's ear. Phillips, mad, sent the California's operator a scathing message.

The Californian's message further advised it was stopping for the night because of the icebergs. After this message from the Californian at 7 pm, their radio operator went to bed.

When Titanic hit the iceberg, the Californian crew was ill prepared to help. They saw Titanic's lights flicker and tried to signal Titanic using morse light signals between 1130 pm and 1 am. They weren't answered. Several crew members saw Titanic launch rockets/flares and told the Californian captain, but since the flares were white and didn't identify the company of the ship, he didn't respond.

The Carpathia, a ship from Austria-Hungary responded but arrived at 4 am, 2 hours after the boat sank.

The Titanic's wreck wasn't found until 1985, partially because the wreck wasn't at the last known coordinates. It was located over 13.2 miles away at a depth of 12,000 feet.

In the US, a permanent exhibit at the Luxur, Las Vegas is dedicated to the Titanic. There are also museums in Belfast, Liverpool, and Branson, Missouri. In Halifax, Nova Scotia, many of the bodies from the ship were buried.

22 comments:

  1. It just one long history of incompetence, isn't it? I've never seen the film. It didn't appeal to me. But I'm fascinated by your research. Thanks, Steph

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    1. Jenny, yes, the small little things added up to the perfect storm. Amazing if you ask me. The research was fascinating. Thanks for popping in.

      Smiles
      Steph

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  2. I didn't go see the 3D version, but my 16-year-old daughter did, and she brought a friend who'd never seen it. She was mildly obsessed with the whole thing for a while. There are so many facets to the event!

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    1. I agree that there are many facets to the event and that's makes the story interesting to me.

      Thanks for stopping by.
      Smiles
      Steph

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  3. Steph, this is a great report on the Titanic. Of course I saw the movie, but I didn't know the details you reported here.

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    1. Mona, I don't think most of us do, I learned a lot doing my research for this post and I found it completely fascinating.

      Smiles
      Steph

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  4. I've always been drawn to anything written about the Titanic. I couldn't wait to see the movie and was so overwhelmed at those opening scenes. Beautifully done. Your accounting is great and filled in a lot of pieces I didn't know before. Appreciate your great post.

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    1. Paisley, thanks for popping in. There are so many interesting specials. If you have National Geographic, they ran a bunch of specials. You might be able to see them on On Demand. I downloaded a show or two onto my Kindle Fire.

      The movie's visuals are gorgeous. Sucked me right again.
      Smiles
      Steph

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  5. Ahh, it holds such mystic, doesn't it? I love everything I read, hear, or see about the Titanic, and obviously I'm not the only one.
    It's well known the errors that were made--quite a few, of course...and I find it interesting the ship, compared to today's cruise ships, was quite a bit smaller.
    Thanks for the memories!

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    1. Celia, I think even today, when I hear Titanic I think it's a ship that can compete with modern cruise ships and you're right, it was much smaller than modern ships. Amazing how far we've come in 100 years, isn't it?

      Smiles
      Steph

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  6. Very well done post Steph. I've always been amazed at the series of snafus and incompetence on this voyage.

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    1. Jillian, there were a ton, too! Did you see the movie? What did you think?

      Smiles
      Steph

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  7. Excellent account, Steph. I've seen the dry dock in Belfast where the Titanic was built - and it is HUGE! On a personal note, my great-grandfather's brother married a cousin of Wallace Hartley, the Titanic bandmaster, and my grandfather was one of the thouands lining the streets of Colne for Hartley's funeral there.

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    1. Paula, thanks so much for sharing your story! Amazing. Wallace Hartley showed true courage that night. Did your grandfather share any memories with you of what the funeral was like. What made an impression with him?

      Smiles
      Steph

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  8. Excellent overall view of the Titanic, Steph! Interesting, well-researched and I love all the details you provided.

    Interesting sidenote re: first class passengers aboard: Benjamin Guggenheim and his valet didn't survive--

    --but his French mistress and her maid did.

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    1. Jina, - that tidbit makes me chuckle. Thanks for sharing.
      Smiles
      Steph

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  9. I did save the Nation Geographic on the Titanic from our supply of magazines. Very awesome opening at the movies. It sort of takes your breath away, doesn't it!

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    1. Paisley, I'd keep those National Geographics, too. They do a wonderful job with their pictures.

      smiles
      Steph

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  10. Returned the hardcover book Unsinkable: The Full Story of Titanic to our public library two weeks ago.

    Fascinating book.!!!

    Have been fascinated by the Titanic saga ever since seeing the Barbara Stanwick movie (of course, I'm ONLY 29)(yeah, right.!!)

    Very good blog - loved it.

    Ruth C.

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  11. Ruth, I'm going to be looking for that book. I bet it was fascinating. Any tidbits you gleaned from it that you would like to share? hehe

    Did you know the Nazi's did a movie on the Titanic as well? I haven't seen it, but the History Channel is running a special on it right now.

    Smiles
    Steph

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  12. Interesting history - thanks for sharing!! Jo Anne

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    1. You're welcome. Researching the Titanic was fun!
      Smiles
      Steph

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