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.
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.