In the Bookcase


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!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4/13/2012

    In complete agreement about Smith! Lightoller stated in his biography that the engine were still being 'broken in' and so could not be pushed. I haven't placed the blame wit h anyone and doubt I ever will. I guess you could say its not my place, since I wasn't there and we just don't have enough evidence. Enjoying the posts and look forward to the next one.