In the Bookcase

4.24.2012

The Titanic's aftermath and legacy.

Today marks the end of my "expedition" to Titanic. It has been thrilling for me to blog about such a fascinating subject. I hope my writings will be informational both now and in the future to anyone who wishes to read my posts. I just have a few last words on the subject....

After the Titanic sunk, thorough investigations began on both sides of the "pond". The tragedy affected America and several countries in the Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom. It was a dreadful loss for the entire world.

One of my favorite direct quotes from the interrogative proceedings of the court sessions, is the following:

Senator Smith: "Did you leave the ship?"

Second Officer Lightoller: "No, sir."

Senator Smith: "Did it leave you?"

Second Officer Lightoller: "Yes, sir."


Lightoller never did leave the Titanic, yet he survived. He was one of the men who stayed on through the entire sinking, until he was finally swept overboard as the ship sank beneath the waves. One of the lifeboats picked him up and he was able to live through that frigid night on April 14, 1912.

Both the King of England & the President of the United States made efforts towards the tragedy. President Taft made a heartfelt exertion by sending out a fast scout cruiser to meet the Carpathia, when the survivors were still on their way to New York.
King George V was reigning in England at the time. He sent the following message to the White Star Line:

"The Queen and I are horrified at the appalling disaster which has happened to the Titanic, and at the terrible loss of life. We deeply sympathise with the bereaved relations, and feel for them in their great sorrow with all our hearts."


The fantastic R.M.S. Titanic

The Titanic stands as one of the largest maritime disasters. For 1,517 people it was a voyage to eternity. For the 705 who survived, it was the most horrific experience of the century, which will follow after them and their families forever.

To quote from one of the newspapers in 1912:

It is a question of navigation, and, unfortunately, navigation must to some extent be a question of luck. It is the worst possible luck that the Titanic should have made her debut during a month in which ice dangers have been far in excess, so far as the Atlantic is concerned, of the Aprils of some former years. It is worse still that this magnificent ship should have been the first to come to grief this ice season.


Finally, to conclude my thoughts on such a huge subject, I found some parting words written by historian, Stephen Hines:

"...some mysteries concerning the events of that 'night to remember' will always remain mysteries, not because the real truth can't be told, but because the real truth can't be known."
('Titanic: One Newspaper, Seven Days, and the Truth That Shocked the World')


The Year of the Titanic! A series of posts at www.inthebookcase.blogspot.com


4.23.2012

Discovering the Titanic's wreck---73 years later.

For 73 years, the Titanic sat at the bottom of the ocean. Decaying, rusting, home to all sorts of ocean life, unseen by humans.

Numerous attempts had been tried throughout the passing decades to find the Titanic---all failures. Scientists, men with highest knowledge of shipwrecks, could not find the lost ship. It had to be somewhere at the bottom of the ocean in the area of the Titanic's last known location, and it was bound to be located one day. That day was September 1, 1984.

Dr. Robert Ballard had been given 2 weeks to use special equipment that he would need to find the Titanic's location. It was an impossible task, comparing how other people had gone to sea for months at a time, looking for the Titanic, and always came back without her. Only the warmest parts of the year could be used for searching the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean, so it was a once-a-year effort for anyone who wanted to attempt at it. Expeditions had been led several different years. But September 1, 1985 was the day that the Titanic was meant to be found.

Finding the Titanic's wreck.

The once-elite ship now rests 2.5 miles below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. With her are the graves of over 1,500 people.

Exploring the Titanic's bow section.

The bow & stern sections of the ship (front & back) are separated from each other, with half a mile of seabed laying in between them. The ship is in two halves, and everything that was inside is now laying in the muddy ocean bottom. Since 1985, there have been dozens of expeditions to the Titanic, now that the world knows where she sits. Some people are spectators, only wanting to see the condition of the splendorous ship, now that she has been there for 100 years. Other people have taken objects from the wreckage to sell them---a highly disapproved of trade. Regardless, it has brought several items up to the surface, so that we can see those objects which have been buried all this time. Some of these artifacts are so well preserved, to have been in seawater for decades! Most of the items are now in public exhibitions or museums.

China dishes salvaged from the Titanic.

A lady's purse from the Titanic's wreck.

There are still so many random objects strewn across the ocean floor. The entire wreckage spans 15 square miles!

Dollar bills salvaged from the Titanic's wreck.

Of the various pocketwatches and clocks that have been located on the Titanic's wreck, there is to be found something of great importance. These timepieces were not waterproof, of course, so the very instant that the water engulfed an object like a clock, its hands stopped moving. The hour hand and the minute hand were then permanately fixated on that exact time. 2:20am. For different watches and clocks, the time is perhaps a few minutes off, depending on when the water arrived at the ascending decks of the ship. It's an odd fact to think that time literally stopped while the Titanic was sinking, as the people aboard were dying.

A pocketwatch from the Titanic---stopped at 2:28am.

The Titanic is quite literally a time capsule of the Edwardian era, buried at the bottom of the ocean.


4.21.2012

Arthur Conan Doyle vs. George Bernard Shaw

Does the name Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ring a bell with you? And what associates him with the Titanic? Ah! When I discovered this hidden piece of history, I couldn't imagine the wonderfulness I had stumbled upon!

At the time of the Titanic's wreck, Doyle was 52 years old. He was already well into his writing career (Sherlock Holmes) at the time and quite popular in the United Kingdom through his success. No, Doyle was not on the Titanic---thankfully he didn't have to live through that experience, but he was well-read on the subject through the newspapers. So, when one of his own fellow friends (also an author) wrote an argumentive letter to the editor of a popular newspaper, Doyle responded.

George Bernard Shaw was the friend spoken of, who started this debate in the newspaper exactly 1 month after the Titanic's sinking, in May 1912. His piece began by stating:

"Why is it that the effect of a sensational catastrophe on a modern nation is to cast it into transports, not of weeping, not of prayer, not of sympathy with the bereaved nor congratulation of the rescued, not of poetic expression of the soul purified by pity and terror, but of a wild defiance of inexorable Fate and undeniable Fact by an explosion of outrageous romantic lying?"

He believed that frivolous, poetic-sounding lying had been used, and true British morals hadn't been observed, by illustrating how in one of the lifeboats in particular, there was "One woman for every five men", which contradicted the "women and children first" rule. George Bernard Shaw went into how Captain Smith "paid the penalty" for steaming through the icefields at high speeds, with his life. He had other thoughts on certain other people who were aboard the Titanic, and dealt with them roughly. He ended this letter by saying:

"I ask, what is the use of all this ghastly, blasphemous, inhuman, braggartly lying?"

Here is where our favored Arthur Conan Doyle enters the scene! It was 4 days later, when he published a reply in the newspaper to Shaw's arguement.

"How a man could write with such looseness and levity of such an event at such a time passes all comprehension."

From the start, Doyle knows what he is writing about. He points out that although Shaw mentioned a lifeboat which contained 2 women and 10 men, the very next lifeboat contained 65 women out of 70 occupants. Doyle then counters Shaw's belittling talk of Captain Smith. He builds up the officers and the men of the orchestra which George Bernard Shaw had attacked. Arthur Conan Doyle's ended his letter by writing:

"But surely it is a pitiful sight to see a man of undoubted genius using his gifts in order to misrepresent and decry his own people, regardless of the fact that his words must add to the grief of those who have already had more than enough to bear."

The letters went on for anothor round, each man penning another reply and publishing it publicly in the newspaper. Reading the entire set of letters is quite fulfilling. You can read the complete letters online.

I don't know about you, but after finding these letters, and seeing where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stood on such a subject, I am very much more enthralled with his valor and opinions than before.

What do you think about this particular episode that is tucked away in history?



{Note: My last 2 posts on the Titanic are coming on Monday & Tuesday. Check back on each of those days!}


4.20.2012

3 Notable Women on the Titanic

My thoughts about the Titanic are coming to an end soon. After finding out so much about this grand ship, I'm glad to have a place to jot down key points that I have come across, share the main facts about the sinking, and enjoy reading your comments about it.

Today I wanted to share about 3 women who were on the Titanic, whose stories I find to be rather fascinating.

Photograph of Violet Jessop, nurse and stewardess. Violet Jessop worked on several ocean liners during her lifetime as a stewardess and nurse. The thrilling fact was that she served on all 3 of White Star Line's Olympic-class ships... and more specifically, she was on each one when it wrecked. She survived each incident! Violet Jessop was on the Olympic, the first of the 3 sister ships, on September 20, 1911, when it collided with a cruiser called the HMS Hawke. I should also mention that Captain Smith was commanding this ocean liner at the time. The Olympic did not sink due to the wreck, but was badly damaged. The ship was able to return to England to be repaired. Violet Jessop was on the Titanic when it struck the iceberg on April 14, 1912. She survived the Titanic, only to continue on with her service with White Star Line's next big vessel. Violet Jessop was on the Britannic when it wrecked and sunk on November 21, 1916. Again, she survived. She didn't die until 1971, when she was 83 years old. I found her story to be immensely interesting!

Photograph of Titanic's Unsinkable Molly Brown. Margaret Brown, a wealthy socialite and activist, was famously known after her death as The Unsinkable Molly Brown. At the time of the Titanic's sinking, she was 45 years old. She was one of the brave women who took charge in the lifeboats. It is said that she rowed for 7 1/2 hours. She organized the chaos in Lifeboat 6 and requested that they turn the boat around to find any survivors who might have still been alive in the icy waters. Once on the rescue ship, Carpathia, she raised $10,000 before they even arrived in New York, and Margaret Brown also became the president of the Titanic Survivors' Committee. When reporters asked Margaret Brown how she survived the Titanic, she replied with: "Typical Brown luck. We're unsinkable." Thus, the nickname was born.

Photograph of Titanic's last surviving passenger, Millvina Dean. Millvina Dean is another noteworthy passenger---she was the last remaining Titanic survivor. She died not long ago in 2009. After her death, there was no one left in the world who had been on the Titanic. She was born in February 1912---2 months before the once-in-a-lifetime voyage. Her family was embarking on the Titanic as 3rd Class Passengers, with plans to go to Wichita, Kansas. Being a young baby, Millvina Dean never had a remembrance of the great ship, of the tragedies and sorrows. Yet, she was there and survived it, unknowingly. Because of the knowledge of her being there, she later became quite interested in the Titanic. At the age of 97, the last person who had seen the Titanic and experienced it, died in May 2009.

Check back tomorrow for another unbelievable story I have come across. Can't wait to share it with you!


4.18.2012

Titanic Booklist (#2)

To continue on with the first Titanic booklist I posted a few days ago, here are a few more titles which I have immensely been enjoying...

Have you read any Titanic books this April?


'882 1/2 Amazing Answers to Your Questions About the Titanic' by Hugh Brewster 882 1/2 Amazing Answers to Your Questions About the Titanic by Hugh Brewster.
Just like the title says, this book is filled with amazing answers about the Titanic! I've enjoyed reading several non-fiction books on the Titanic lately and found this simple, childlike book to be equally informational. Almost any question you have about the Titanic is answered in this book. Adults & kids alike will take pleasure in reading through all the Q&A... all 882 1/2 of them.
(Non-fiction)


'No Moon' by Irene N. WattsNo Moon by Irene N. Watts.
Louisa is a young London girl who acquires a job as a nursery maid for a rich family, the Miltons. Although its a dream, it comes with its hard challenges. The worst is that Lady Milton has requested Louisa to join the family on the Titanic's maiden voyage. But Louisa has a fear of water---after a fatal childhood experience. Other intrigue is stirred up as the story takes course, and soon you are entangled in a highly interesting plot. I found both the fictional & historical accounts quite enjoyable.
(Young Adult Fiction)


'Sherlock Holmes and the Titanic Tragedy' by William Seil Sherlock Holmes and the Titanic Tragedy by William Seil.
Holmes and Watson are sailing on the Titanic.... Do I really need to say anything else? When I happened across this book, which combined 2 of my favorite interests, I had to read it immediately! Overall, it was an interesting book, although parts of the storyline did seem a bit far-fetched. It didn't feel authentically like Holmes, but that is to be expected from another author. And as for some of the passengers aboard the ship, the feeling I got from Captain Smith and others like Lightoller were okay, but I don't think those men would have been how this story portrays them. Regardless, I still enjoyed the book!
(Fiction)


'Titanic: One Newspaper, Seven Days, and the Truth That Shocked the World' by Stephen HinesTitanic: One Newspaper, Seven Days, and the Truth That Shocked the World by Stephen Hines.
I whole-heartedly recommend this one to historical Titanic buffs. It leads you through the prominent newspapers during the days following the Titanic's wreck. The headlines and stories varied from each other, contradicting each other when no truth was yet known. Stephen Hines has craftily pieced togher the running theme of the newspapers that week in April 1912. I especially enjoyed seeing what reporters in New York were saying in contrast with London. I learned so much in this book!
(Non-fiction)






P.S. I'm a part of the Titanic 2012 reading challenge which I am joining in as a First Class Passenger! Anyone else who is reading some Titanic books may want to join in!!

~*~I'm also linking up to Book Review Wednesdays at Cym Lowell's blog!


The Carpathia's arrival in New York.



R.M.S. Titanic's voyage route on map

This map above shows the Titanic's complete journey, starting in Southampton, England, plus her stops in France and Ireland. You can see that the Titanic was more than halfway across the Atlantic Ocean before the iceberg struck. The ship had wrecked on the night of April 14, 1912, and within 3 hours had sunk to bottom of the ocean. On the early morning of April 15th, the Carpathia found the passengers in the lifeboats floating around Titanic's last known location.


Titanic passengers rescued by Carpathia

This photo shows a small group of the women who were rescued from Titanic, and were now safely aboard the Carpathia. This one-funnel steamer was headed to New York to deliver the 705 Titanic survivors it held.

It was 3 and a half days after the wreck when the Carpathia finally pulled into the docks in New York. By this time, the newspapers had reported every imagineable story that they could think of about the Titanic. If it sounded like an interesting story, they published it for the attention, regardless of the authenticity of the facts. Every day that week had passed with false rumors being written about the Titanic---nobody on land knew the true story yet.

At 9:00pm on the night of the 18th, when the Carpathia came in, at least 40,000 people New Yorkers were waiting for it. Some were family members and friends, hoping against hope that they would be reunited with the people they knew. Others were the reporters, hungry for any detail they would be able to get from the passengers as they disembarked.

Deadline-driven reporters were panicked by the thought that they might miss the scoop of their lives and left no survivor uninterrupted in his or her grief. The sinking of the Titanic was the greatest story of the new century, and it would be a crime not to make one's mark by getting the best stories possible at the scene of the docking. It was a time of the very creative storytelling by reporters overwhelmed by the dramatic possibilities of this once-in-a-lifetime moment.
('Titanic: One Newspaper, Seven Days, and the Truth That Shocked the World')


There is another ship which I have not mentioned yet that is involved in the Titanic's tragedy. It plays an extremely large part in the disaster, and the story is somewhat like this: Many of the Titanic's passengers could visibly see the lights of this other ship nearby. It was the Californian, which was supposedly about 7-20 miles away. As people climbed into lifeboats, the light of this ship was shining. On the open sea, with nothing being blocked from view on such a wide horizon, lights from a ship would clearly stand out in the blackness of night. Captain Lord was in charge of that mysterious ship. He and his men could see the Titanic too, although they didn't know it was the Titanic. The men on the Californian saw all 8 of the distress rockets that were fired. Among themselves, they conversed about this ship firing rockets in the middle of the ocean. As the Titanic reached her final moments and was sinking, these men on the Californian could see her lights disappearing, but apparently only thought that the ship was moving away and growing smaller from view. Not once did Captain Lord and the men on board with him venture towards the Titanic, nor did they make radio contact... but they were there, watching, as the Titanic sunk.

If only this ship which was much closer than the Carpathia could have tried to see what was wrong with the Titanic, many more lives could have been saved in time. Many historians have never quite been able to put together the puzzle of why the crew of the Californian, who could actually see the Titanic, did nothing in reaction to the distress rockets. I guess it will just be one of the several mysteries that the Titanic left behind that night of her first, and only, voyage.

The aftermath of the Titanic's wake continues in tomorrow's post.


4.17.2012

More thoughts about a fatal night.

I've so enjoyed sharing with you facts and the important dates from the Titanic's small lifespan. She was a wonderful ship, built to last for years, and it's only a horrible shame that the ship had to founder on her first voyage, by random coincidences.

Titanic newspaper headline in The Evening Sun After the Carpathia picked up the 700+ survivors of the Titanic, and steamed on to New York, the wireless operators on board were kept busy by sending on all the names of the passengers they had saved. This created so much work to do that Harold Bride, the Titanic's junior wireless officer, who did survive the sinking, was called upon to help send the messages to New York. His feet were frostbitten, and he was in pain, but he was helped into the wireless room and took over sending on the survivor lists and personal messages, so that the Carpathia's wireless operator could rest. Once received in New York, the lists were made public so that people on the street could look at them and try to find their loved ones' names. However, these lists were not always correct, so some people walked away from these lists thinking that their family members had died, only to find out later that they were still alive, and vice versa.

Titanic newspaper headline in The Times Dispatch The newspapers in New York were going crazy with the story. The Carpathia wouldn't give out any other information on the Titanic's sinking, other than the survivor messages, so reporters were left to fabricate their own version of the story. Most got it all wrong, by claiming that 1800 had died (300 more deaths than the truth), or the other extreme of saying that all were saved. Waking up in the morning to this news was unbearable for people in America and people all over Europe. However, the newspapers did get at least one thing right---based on the names of the survivors, they figured out that more women and children had been saved, put first before the lives of the men. A newspaper in London published this article:

Following the shock of horror.... came the realisation of the devoted heroism of the crew of the vessel, shown in the facts that so many women and children were got away in the lifeboats and subsequently rescued. That eloquent detail, standing out among the few meagre facts which we have been able to learn as yet of this appalling catastrophe, means that officers and men unflinchingly maintained the noblest tradition of the British mercantile service.

The rule that directs the saving of "the women and children first" has cost the lives of unnumerable gallant seamen in the past. It has been reserved for our time to provide the most splendid proof yet shown of this dauntless spirit of self-sacrifice in the cause of the weak. It is believed that from 500 to 600 of the crew have perished with the ship, from which they aided nearly 700 passengers, mostly women and children, to escape.
('The Daily Telegraph' newspaper)



Although women and children only were supposed to board the lifeboats, some of the men were occasionally allowed too. Many of the men decidedly and heroically stayed on the ship though, even if they knew they would drown. They simply wanted the women and children to escape. However, some women balked at the idea of leaving their husbands behind. For one example, Ida Straus was the wife of Isador Straus, owner of Macy's. Ida is best remembered for saying to her husband: "We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go." (The Strauses stayed aboard the ship and soon became two more victims in the ocean's grasp.) Later on, in New York, 40,000 people attended their memorial service.

Another heroic and notable feat performed that night of the shipwreck was done by the orchestra, which played music to the very end. The 8 men played their instruments at various locations on the ship, moving from place to place. They played light and cheerful tunes to calm the passengers. With the music playing, and the electric lights on, nothing really seemed to be amiss on the giant ocean liner. Nearer My God to Thee is a hymn that some of the survivors recall hearing during those last moments. For the passengers that were still left standing on the Titanic after the lifeboats had been depleted, perhaps the orchestra gave them a sense of calm in their last moments of life. With that being said, those 8 men performed their service well, and went under as the ship foundered.

The Guarantee Group was another set of courageous men, willing to go down, instead of of fighting for a spot in the last lifeboats. In total, there were 9 in this group, but only 8 were making the voyage. All of them knew the Titanic thoroughly. Indeed, they had built the Titanic from her infancy, and they are known for going down with her in great pride of their acheivement, regardless.

Aside from all this, the man that became most popular and cherished by the public was The Millionaire's Captain. Everyone admired Captain E.J. Smith's bravery as he took a true sailor's death, even though this was his last professional voyage before retiring. I'm sure he had plans of what he intended to do in life after returning to Southampton for his retirement. But he gave that up in a pivotal, life-altering moment in order to save all the lives he could and die with the Titanic. And for that, he was always England's best-loved sea captain. As the author Stephen Hines says:

Captain E.J. Smith was exonerated of any wrongdoing: he had gone down with his ship in a blaze of Anglo-Saxon glory so important to the spirit of the age.

('Titanic: One Newspaper, Seven Days, and the Truth That Shocked the World')

In contrast to Smith's legacy, another man, J. Bruce Ismay was deeply cut and criticized for surviving the tragedy. Many other men survived, so why did people feel angry at his actions? Bruce Ismay was the managing director of the White Star Line's steamships. Because he was an important high-ranking man in the company, practically owning the ship himself, the public believed that Ismay should have had the grace to go down with the ship as the captain did. For the rest of his life, Ismay had to defend himself. He had only jumped in a lifeboat because no other women or children appeared to be getting in at the time. From then on, his life turned downhill, losing his position within the company, and becoming a recluse to keep out of the public eye, away from the ridicule.

Who would have known that an iceberg, a simple, but majestic, piece of nature could ruin so many lives in just a few seconds? That iceberg in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean promptly ended several people's lives. For others who may have survived the night, that iceberg was a landmark in their lives, which slowly drained away everything that they knew, so that they never again had what they once did before. To decide which scenario is the worse fate is indeed a tough choice.


4.16.2012

The sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic (Part 3)

April 15, 1912 (continued)

This post will explain about the Titanic's final moments. If you haven't already, you may want to read about the events leading up to this moment, for April 14th and April 15th. This post continues through the early morning hours of the 15th.


Painting of the R.M.S. Titanic sinking.
To explain how the R.M.S. Titanic finally sunk, I will have to take a few paragraphs straight from one of my favorite factual books on the subject, 'A Night to Remember'. It explains the scenario in the most vivid & straightforward way that I can imagine. For the sake of keeping this shorter though, I have omitted a few sections here and there, though I wholly recommend reading the entire episode from the book, as it truly depicts the scene clearly from where the survivors watched in the small boats. The bow (the front of the ship) was leaning more into the ocean as every minute passed.

The slant of the deck grew so steep that people could no longer stand. So they fell, and Abelseth watched them slide down into the water right on the deck.

The lights went out, flashed on again, went out for good. A single kerosene lantern still flickered high in the after mast. The muffled thuds and tinkle of breaking glass grew louder. A steady roar thundered across the water as everything movable broke loose.

There has never been a mixture like it---29 boilers... huge anchor chains (each link weighed 175 pounds)... tons of coal... dozens of potted palms... 5 grand pianos... And still it grew---tumbling trellises, ivy pots and wicker chairs in the Cafe Parisien... shuffleboard sticks... the 50-phone switchboard, the remarkable ice-making machine on G Deck...

As the tilt grew steeper, the forward funnel toppled over. It struck the water on the starboard side with a shower of sparks and a crash heard above the general uproar.

The Titanic was now absolutely perpendicular. From the third funnel aft, she stuck straight up in the air, her three dripping propellers glistening even in the darkness. To Lady Duff Gordon she seemed a black finger pointing to the sky. To Harold Bride she looked like a duck that goes for a dive.

Out in the boats, they could hardly believe their eyes. For over two hours they had watched, hoping against hope, as the Titanic sank lower and lower. When the water reached her red and green running lights, they knew the end was near... but nobody dreamed it would be like this---the unearthly din, the black hull hanging at 90 degrees, the Christmas card backdrop of brilliant stars. Some didn't watch. In Boat 1, C.E. Henry Stengel turned his back: "I cannot look any longer."

Two minutes passed, the noise finally stopped, and the Titanic settled back slightly at the stern. Then slowly she began sliding under, moving at a steep slant. As she glided down, she seemed to pick up speed. When the sea closed over the flagstaff on her stern, she was moving fast enough to cause a slight gulp.

"She's gone; that's the last of her," someone sighed to Lookout Lee in Boat 13. "It's gone," Mrs. Ada Clark vaguely heard somebody say in No. 4. But she was so cold she didn't pay much attention. Most of the other women were the same---they just sat, dazed, dumbfounded, without showing any emotion. In No. 5, Third Officer Pitman looked at his watch and announced, "It is 2:20."

('A Night to Remember' by Walter Lord, selections from pages 99-103)


The ship had severed itself into two pieces, breaking off from each other as the Titanic went below into the depths of the sea. Both the bow and stern sections hurdled down to the murky bottom of the ocean, going at a rate of approximately 30 miles per hour, hitting bottom only 2.5 miles below.

Over the Titanic's grave hung a thin, smoky vapor, soiling the clear night. The glassy sea was littered with crates, deck chairs, planking, pilasters, and corklike rubbish that kept bobbing to the surface from somewhere now far below. Hundreds of swimmers thrashed the water, clinging to the wreckage and each other.

The temperature of the water was 28 degrees---well below freezing. To Second Officer Lightoller it felt like "a thousand knives" driven into his body. In water like this, lifebelts did no good.

('A Night to Remember' by Walter Lord, page 115)


Photograph of Titanic's survivors in a lifeboat. Cries and screams pierced through the air that night. Some were from people in the water, drowning. The heart-rending noises also came women and men safely on the lifeboats, calling out for their family members, hoping to find them either in the water or in another lifeboat. A small handful of the 1500 people that were floating in the water had enough stamina to make it to the boats, but the water was so cold, most could barely move. The minutes ticked by, and the cries were quieting down. Hypothermia was settling in, and within just 20 minutes, several of the people who were immersed in the freezing water had died. By the time 40 minutes passed after the Titanic disappeared, all was quiet.

Now, as the passengers sat in the lifeboats, they could do nothing except wait, pray, and console each other. They passed around any extra blankets, handkerchiefs, or napkins that could cover someone's ears or hands. So, they waited, hoping to expect a ship to rescue them, but they couldn't be sure if one would come.

The minutes ticked by, but each minute was like an eternity. A little over an hour after the Titanic's sinking at 2:20am, some of the people saw a light streak across the sky, and a few of them realized it was a rocket fired from a nearby ship. It was coming to their rescue! But still they had to wait another half hour for the Carpathia, to arrive in the vicinity of the lifeboats at 4:00am. The people aboard the lifeboats had been rowing towards the new ship when they first sighted it approaching, but still the lifeboats were spread out over a range of 4 miles. The Carpathia had only 1 smokestack, which tells you how its size compared to that of the Titanic's, which had 4 smokestacks. Regardless, there was still plenty of room to take on the 700 survivors scattered across the sea. Some of the Carpathia's own passengers were even kind enough to give up their rooms to create a more comfortable place for the freezing people who were coming aboard. Hot drinks and foods were served to the survivors, names were collected, and families were reunited. Wives waited at the rails, hoping their husbands would be on the next lifeboat that would be pulled in next. Many of these men never appeared.

Captain Rostron (of the Carpathia) searched the waters for more remaining survivors, but found none. Before the ship left the area of the Titanic's grave, with the 1500 souls that had been lost there, he held a memorial service in honor of them. Finally, when nothing else could be done in the middle of the ocean, the Carpathia was directed back to New York.

This ends my 3-part post about that night between April 14-15, 1912. Overall, this sinking itself took place in 2 hours & 40 minutes, from first impact with the iceberg, to becoming a wreck at the bottom of the sea. More hours were added to the tragedy as the people in the lifeboats waited for their rescue, and even after they did get on the Carpathia, the story doesn't end there. More is still to be told about the Titanic. Details coming tomorrow on my blog.

Soon, the entire world would hear the news that The Floating Palace was no longer afloat.


4.15.2012

The sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic (Part 2)

April 15, 1912
It was midnight; or in other words, the earliest morning hours of April 15th.

20 minutes prior to midnight, the R.M.S. Titanic had struck an iceberg. The night that lasted between April 14th and 15th were some of the longest hours that the people aboard the vessel had ever endured.

A single fact glowered at them all:
The unsinkable ship was now sinking.


R.M.S. Titanic launching distress rockets.

12:05am - The lifeboats were being uncovered. Women and children were called to leave the Titanic and get on the lifeboats. At first, this was only for those in First Class. These passengers felt no urgency. Not everyone had been told yet that the Titanic was sinking, and what is more, the few who knew couldn't really believe it. They didn't care to leave the warm & cozy ship to go down 60 feet below into the dark, icy waters inside of a small lifeboat.

12:10am - At this point (30 minutes after the impact), the first wireless distress message from the Titanic was sent out. From this point on, the radio-transmitted signals continued in Morse code, trying to contact other ships. The only way to gain rescue is if another ship would come take on the passengers. CQD and SOS were the main distress signals sent out.

The commotion on the Titanic's deck. 12:45am - The first lifeboat was finally lowered down into the water below. However, only 19 passengers had been encouraged to get in it, leaving 46 empty seats. About this same time, the first distress rocket was sent into the sky, exploding like a firework. For some passengers, this was the first instance of alarm.

1:30am - 11 of the 20 lifeboats had been lowered into the water with passengers by this time. Altogether, the available capacity of these launched boats would have equaled 690---however, only 421 people had been persuaded to get in these boats. Currently, this leaves about 1,802 people still on the Titanic, and half the lifeboats are gone.

2:00am - The Titanic has been in telegraphic contact with other ships, and the general alarm is out there on the radio waves. The steamer Carpathia has heard the distress calls. This is the ship that comes to the rescue, but the only problem is that she is 58 miles away. It will take 4 hours for the Carpathia to arrive, and the Titanic will not last that long.

2:05am - 18 of the 20 lifeboats had been launched. They are not filled to capacity, but rather, while a few hundred drift away in the small boats, more than 1500 still stand on the Titanic, with nowhere to escape from the fate that has now been sealed. The 2 lifeboats that remain on the deck have run into problems and cannot be loaded with passengers right away. These boats never get launched until the last frantic seconds before the ship would completely be overtaken by water.


In only a quarter of an hour the ship would be sinking. For now, this is the end of my post, but the tragic night hasn't ended yet, for the disaster has yet to reach its climax. The rest of the night's story continues tomorrow in part 3 of the sinking. Remember that April 15th is the morning it all happened on, but I felt like I should split it up for easier reading.

As one New York reporter wrote later that week of April 1912:

"It is a story which can hardly be told in a single chapter, but must be painfully unfolded page by page in all its dramatic and piteous detail and agony, in order to be fully understood and adequately pictured."


4.14.2012

The sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic (Part 1)

April 14, 1912

The date of April 14th is the single most important and most memorable of all for the R.M.S. Titanic. This date in history is one that has made historians discuss and speculate about it for the entire past century! Are you ready?

This was the fifth day of the Titanic's journey and it was no different than the previous days. Passengers were enjoying sitting on the deck, feeling the cool breeze on their faces, lounging about inside the giant ship, passing time away. It was late at night when the catastrophe began---if the Titanic had reached this exact spot in the daylight, instead of in the black of night, I'm sure the catastrophe would have been avoided completely! As it was, hundreds of people were already in bed for the night, but other hundreds were still up and awake, partying in the grand dining rooms and lounges.

I have found 4 particularly interesting facts about this day of the 14th.

A lifeboat drill was scheduled, for this very day, April 14th... yet was cancelled! All passengers, deckhands, and officers were to participate in this drill, but for some reason, the Captain cancelled it. This is almost an unbelievable fact that it happened on the same day that the Titanic would need the lifeboats!

7 telegrams were received that day, which warned of icebergs that other ships had encoutered in the same area that the Titanic was passing through. If the Captain would have pieced together the latitude and longitude markings together from each message, he would have realized that they were driving straight through a packed ice field. However, this fatal mistake was not his own---the men in the wireless room failed to send these telegrams to him.

April 14th was a Sunday that year in 1912. Somehow, I think this adds character to the story of the Titanic. To quote from Stephen Hines' book on the subject, he said: "many religious commentators of the day came to the conclusion that the loss of the Titanic was ordained of God to punish the pride of Modern Man in his overconfidence in technology and the Mighty Machine." This is course, just an opinion from what certain people felt.

Captain E.J. Smith presided over an Anglican service that Sunday, in the First Class dining area. All of the classes, even steerage passengers held their own church services on this fateful day. This was the last church service many of the passengers would ever attend.


On the night of the 14th, the ship glided through cold, still water. The ocean remained silent; no waves. The Titanic was traveling through an giant ice field at full speed. Because there were no waves of water breaking on the base of any surrounding icebergs, the quiet maze of floating ice was harder to see.

R.M.S. Titanic gliding through iceberg waters.

At 11:40pm, there was a thump that resounded throughout the rooms and hallways of the giant vessel. The unexpected movement and sound was over in a moment, and went unnoticed by many. It would hardly seem that such a little thing could stop an unsinkable ship, so the people who did notice the slight interruption, simply went back to whatever they were doing. The silence that followed is actually what rendered more of a response from the people aboard. After so many days at sea, and hearing the engines constantly rumbling beneath their feet, sudden silence now engulfed the ship; the quietness in itself was more emphatic. Only 37 seconds before, the two men who were in the ship's crow's-nest had seen a giant iceberg approaching. Only 37 seconds were given to save thousands of peoples' lives! In this small increment of time, one of the lookouts named Frederick Fleet phoned down to the bridge (the commanding room) and the following conversation took place:

"What did you see?" asked a calm voice at the other end.
"Iceberg right ahead," replied Fleet.
"Thank you," acknowledged the voice with curiously detached courtesy. Nothing more was said.

('A Night to Remember' by Walter Lord, page 14)

There was quick thinking involved for the men in the bridge. They couldn't just stop the Titanic, because if you remember from her sea trials, a ship so enourmous in size took about 3 minutes to stop. The only things that could have been done was to either hit the iceberg straight on, or attempt to swerve away. The seconds ticked by while the two lookouts in the crow's-nest waited for the ship to turn, but it took time. Finally, the front end of the Titanic seemed to be turning to the left, away from the menacing block of ice that stood even 100 feet above the Titanic's deck. As the ship kept moving, continually turning to the left, the iceberg sat on the right, scraping all along the side of the ship. In fact, the portion of the iceberg on top of the water didn't even hit the Titanic---it was the other 90% of the iceberg underneath the surface which was scraping the Titanic's hull. Each of the first 5 watertight compartments were punctured from underneath the water. It wasn't a continual gash, but rather a line of smaller gashes that let the ocean water flood into each of the 5 compartments. The jagged ice scraped the steel hull as the Titanic kept turning left, away from the impact.

Just like that, the Titanic was doomed. The ship's own designer, Thomas Andrews, was on board for the first voyage. He knew the Titanic better than anyone, and his own estimate was that between an hour or two was all that the Titanic had left. The 16 watertight compartments that made the ship 'unsinkable' were filling up much too quickly with ocean water.

When this realization came upon the men in charge, they knew they should start making preparations for the sinking.
There were 3 things to attempt:
Fill the lifeboats with passengers to get them away from the ship.
Get in contact with other ships via telegrams, requesting rescue.
Launch distress rockets into the sky, to grab the attention of nearby ships.

These are the very 3 things that Captain Smith and the officers aboard the Titanic were doing, once they discovered that there was no possible way to save their ship. At first, I'm sure the realization came over them slowly, because in their minds, they were traveling on the largest ship in the world, built with some of the best safety features, and the ship was brand new, on her very first voyage. By the time midnight arrived, and the clock turned over to April 15th, the lifeboats were being loaded. "Women and children first!" was called out over the decks. Thomas Andrews, Captain Smith, and the other men in charge now not only faced the destruction of the grandest ship ever built, but also the dread of knowing that there was nowhere near enough lifeboats for the capacity of passengers on board.

The rest of the night's story continues tomorrow in part 2 of the sinking.

How would you have felt, being stuck way out in the ocean like that? On a dark night, in the coldest temperatures of water?


4.13.2012

A closer look at Captain Edward J. Smith

I'm anticipating the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking this weekend. If you want to know what is happening right now on the Titanic, if we were living in 1912, we would simply be passengers aboard the most glamorous ship that had been built to that point in history. However, within a day's time, things are going to take a fatal turn. This will be my last post before the sinking happens, and I thought I would cover a bit more information on the Titanic's captain.
Titanic Captain Edward J. Smith
The one man who was in complete control of the R.M.S. Titanic was Captain Edward J. Smith. Of all the hundreds of crewsmen doing their jobs around the ship, he had the final command on important decisions once the ship left the harbor. He was born in 1850 and by the time of 1912, he had spent more than 4 decades of his life with the White Star Line.

"When anyone asks me how I can best describe my experiences of nearly 40 years at sea, I merely say "uneventful". I have never been in an accident of any sort worth speaking about. I never saw a wreck and have never been wrecked, nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort."
— Captain E.J. Smith (1907)


Little did he know that he was about to experience the wreck of a century. In fact, the very worst in all of history. His own decisions at sea would contribute to the coming disaster.

At the age of 62, Captain Edward Smith was retiring. In fact, the White Star Line had been polite to offer him the honor of taking the Titanic on her first voyage, and it would be the last time he would captain a ship. The return trip from America would be the final leg to end his entire sea-faring career. Then he would comfortably live at home in England with his wife and daughter, knowing his duty was complete.

Edward Smith was popular in England, and was a favorite choice among the upper class. They called him the Millionaire's Captain, because many of the wealthy people would request him specifically. Naturally, when the newest, greatest, biggest ship (the Titanic) was in need a captain, Smith was the first choice. He had quite a following of people, and many said that they could never cross the ocean unless they were doing it with Captain Smith. Perhaps it was his firm-but-soft attitude that made everyone feel welcome. Perhaps it was his knowledge of the seas, after spending so many years out there on the water. Some people weren't buying tickets to get on the Titanic, just because it was the most wonderful ship---they wanted to make sure they were on the same vessel as their favorite captain. In other words, Edward Smith was a trustworthy seaman.

In 1912, he was very confident of the Titanic's stability and sturdiness. He believed she was unsinkable. A few years prior to this, he had said something interesting concerning another ship, the Adriatic, which he was captain of at the time. Although this particular quote references to a ship different than the Titanic, this was still his own thinking:

"I cannot imagine any ship which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that."
— Captain E.J. Smith (1906)


Last known photo of Captain Edward J. Smith The photograph to the right is said to be the last known photo of Captain Smith, which was taken on April 11, 1912. He's the man looking down out of the above-deck window. The photo was shot by the only passenger on the ship that didn't have to experience the sinking! This particular Irish passenger, Edward Browne, had tickets to go from Southampton to Cherbourg to Queenstown. He enjoyed the pleasures of the giant ship on the sea for more than a whole day, but then stepped off onto land, thusly escaping.

Some say that it was Captain Smith who sunk the Titanic---that he was steaming ahead towards New York, faster than should be done in an area so filled with icebergs. They say he was trying to set a record, or at least get there faster than before the estimated time. However, this isn't necessarily true.

As of April 13th, the passengers were happily content, milling around the different decks of the Titanic. They were dining, conversing, playing games, enjoying themselves, and in general, passing the time away, because they were fully satisfied the Captain had everything under control and they were confident that in only 3 more days, they would be arriving in America as scheduled. The passengers were oblivious to the incoming telegrams had been received in the Titanic's wireless room. These messages were from other ships, full of warnings about icebergs and surrounding ice fields, giving the coordinating latitude and longitude. Some of these telegram warnings came in from the following ships: Avala, Corsican, La Tourine, President Lincoln, Lackawanna Montrose, East Point, Manitou, St. Laurent, and Empress of Britain. The R.M.S. Titanic's death was approaching.


The fourth day of the Titanic's journey to America had now passed. It is right here, right now that the fun part ends. I've enjoyed sharing with you all the fantastic features of the Titanic, the most interesting facts, her history, and every important incident that has led up to this moment. The next day on this ship will spring the element of surprise on everyone aboard, casuing the horrible cries in the night, the hundreds of deaths, and the worst maritime catastrophe of the century. Be here tomorrow for all the details, from the very first second as it begins, to the last.

Remember, I have a Titanic necklace giveaway currently running on my other blog! (It ends on Sunday night.) Be sure to enter yourself in the contest and tell your family & friends who may be interested in it!


4.12.2012

A few fun facts about the Titanic

Since we have a couple more days before the main scene takes place on the Titanic, I have some other interesting notes to share with you! For one thing... Did you know that in the cargo hold, where all the extra passenger luggage was stored down below, there was an automobile? Imagine this! A First Class passenger man named William Carter had purchased a French car while in Europe. Now he was going home to Pennsylvania, with his wife and 2 children, bringing home a brand new car on the Titanic. Granted, this automobile was not simply sitting amid a pile of boxes in the cargo hold, but the car itself was packed in a box, unassembled. Also interesting about the Carter family is that they had 2 dogs on the Titanic, which they had taken with them on their European trip.

John Jacob Astor's dog There were in fact a handful of dogs on board---some historians say 9 or 10, and some think there were 11 or 12. With no exact list, it's hard to tell. Colonel John Jacob Astor was the richest man on the Titanic (he had roughly $100 million dollars!). He was one of the pet owners on the Titanic. He and his wife are pictured to the right, with their dog called Kitty. A First Class kennel had been built on the Titanic, and this is where some of the dogs were kept. The photographs below show some of the other dogs that were lucky enough to be riding with their owners on such a fine ship. Of the dogs that are known, there were 2 Airedales, a Pekinese, French Bulldog, Pomeranian, Chow Chow, and St. Bernard. At least 2 or 3 of the dogs on the Titanic were saved from the sinking, which is utterly astounding, when hundred of other people died.

Speaking of pets aboard the Titanic, it is also noted that no cats were on the ship. Cats were a natural thing to see on ships to control the rodents. The ship's cat, Jenny, had been taken from Titanic's sister ship, the Olympic in Belfast. However, at some point after arriving in Southampton, Jenny was seen carrying her new baby kittens off the Titanic. Thus she never made the trip across the ocean.


Dogs on the R.M.S. Titanic Dogs on the R.M.S. Titanic


I've found that other animals were on board too, like prized roosters, hens, and a canary. I just love the eccentricity of all the passengers' belongings! In all, the net worth of the passenger's cargo was $420,000. From walnuts to grandfather clocks, cheese, ostrich feathers, a marmalade machine and sheep skins... there was everything! One man was carrying 30 cases of golf clubs and tennis rackets in the cargo hold. Of the most expensive items on board was a book called The Rubaiyat, a Persian book of poetry. It was covered in 1500 precious stones (rubies, garnets, amethysts, topazes, olivines and turquoises) that were set in gold, and the book was worth thousands of dollars. It now rests somewhere at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Another random tidbit: The Titanic even had its own newspaper, called The Atlantic Daily Bulletin. It was printed every day on board, and it contained news, advertisements, stock prices, horse-racing results, society gossip, and the day's menu.

Thank you for joining me in today's post about the Titanic.
The disastrous sinking is now only 2 days away.
Be sure to enter in the contest to win a vintage postcard Titanic necklace.


4.11.2012

The majestic interior of the R.M.S. Titanic

April 11, 1912
As of this date, the Titanic had officially set off on her voyage, but she did have one more stop to make: Queenstown, Ireland. She arrived at the dock before noon to pick up Second Class and Third Class/Steerage passengers. However, even in steerage, the Titanic was the most elite, clean, and inviting ocean liner out there, making even the poorest people feel like they were royalty. Docked on the coast of Ireland, while the new passengers were boarding, reporters also came on the Titanic to get the last story before the ship left land behind---forever. Also climbing onto the Titanic were several Irish merchants, selling their finest items on the First Class Promenade Deck, attracting the attention of the richest passengers. The reporters and merchants would only be on board for a little while before they had to get off.

At 1:30pm the R.M.S. Titanic left the dock of Ireland and set out finally for the long stretch across the Atlantic Ocean towards America. This moment had varied meanings for each individual family on board. For some in First Class, it was just another ride across the sea, going home to America from a vacation in Europe, perhaps. Most of the steerage passengers were travelling to immigrate away from whichever country they came from... this could be Sweden, Ireland, Germany, Italy, etc. America was their dream home and it had taken a lot of planning and earning money to actually have tickets on this ship. So many dreams were about to be dashed.

A peek inside the Titanic April 11th was the first full day that the Southampton passengers were onboard, and some had already explored the giant labryinth extensively. Others sat back, relaxed, and asked the stewards for directions anytime they wanted to go up to the deck or to the dining areas. With the Titanic being as long as 4 city blocks, and being 10 decks tall, there would be many places to get lost in! So, I think it is now time for you to see the interior of the Titanic, as how the passengers were seeing it for the first time. The illustration to the right shows a cut-away peek into the many levels of the ship, from the top to the boiler rooms at the bottom. You may also be interested in taking a look at more of this Titanic artwork on the National Geographic website.


The 2 most intricate---certainly expensive!---and delightfully breath-taking focal points on the inside of the great ship were the tall, grand staircase and the massive glass dome overhead. It's only a shame that these spectacles can only be viewed in black and white photos, because I imagine that the rich colors added so much more to the overall sight.

The Titanic's grand staircase

The Titanic's giant glass dome RMS Titanic's staircase with dome overhead.


Some of the rooms inside the Titanic almost seemed to whisk a person away into the highest quality of fine things available. Below are old photograghs of some of the Titanic's interior rooms.

The Gymnasium
Photo of the Titanic's gymnasium Photo of the Titanic's gymnasium

Library / Reading Rooms
Photo of the Titanic's library Photo of the Titanic's library

Passenger Lift
Titanic elevator

First Class Stateroom
First Class cabin on the Titanic

Second Class Cabin
Second Class cabin on the Titanic

Third Class Cabin
Third Class cabin on the Titanic


From the First Class staterooms to the more confined steerage cabins, everything on the Titanic was outdone. To live in one of the finely detailed First Class rooms for almost a week, and have everything attended without lifting a finger, paying more than $150 was worth it---depending on how much they wanted, some ended up paying $4,350. The passengers in the lowest class only had to pay $40, and they probably thought they were living high because of the wonderful conditions they could sleep in---the linens were clean and there were no rats, like on most other ships.


As the R.M.S. Titanic makes her way across the Atlantic, no one is fretting about anything. The ship feels so quiet under your feet that you can barely detect that you're actually gliding through the water. The hugest waves nor the biggest gusts of wind can make the vessel sway in even the least bit. It feels just like you're walking on land. Everyone is completely enjoying being on the very first trip of the Titanic.
What could go wrong?


Thank you for joining me in today's post about the Titanic. We're getting closer to the actual sinking now! If you haven't done it yet, be sure to enter in the contest to win a vintage postcard Titanic necklace.