Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ship History 12 TITANIC

                                                     RMS TITANIC
                                         The April Night that Still Lives On


                                                   Kevin Scott Bolinger

April 10, 1912 - April 15, 1912

    Welcome aboard everyone, and thank you for joining me on another voyage through history. Today, I bring you the most famous shipwreck of all time. Here, on the 100th anniversary of her tragic sinking, I shall guide you through the events that created her and destroyed her. Too keep things in order, I will present chapters dealing with different aspects of the story. From her construction, to her sinking, to the discovery of her wreck, join me now as we board the RMS Titanic. Bundle up, the nights get chilly on the North Atlantic.

.                                                 Chapter 1 Construction

    As was previously documented in my article on the RMS Olympic, the great ship began life during a dinner party held at the home of Lord Pirrie, the head of the Harland and Wolff shipyard of Belfast. J Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star Line was there, and the two men talked about how they would compete with their chief rival, the Cunard Line, and their new ocean greyhounds, the Lusitania and Mauretania.  What followed was a two year rebuilding of the shipyard, followed by the laying of the keel for yard number 400, the Olympic, in December of 1908. On March 31st, 1909, the keel for her sister, yard number 401, was laid in the adjacent slip, her name, Titanic
Titanic in the stocks, 1911

    The two ships grew side by side, with Olympic being readied first. A new type of hydraulic riveting was used to help create a stronger bond between hull plates on both ships. No expense was spared in their construction, and only the finest materials for the time were used. After Olympic was launched, men were moved to concentrate on finishing her sister. By May 31st, 1911, her hull was ready for launching. The day happened to coincide with the Olympic being officially handed over to the White Star Line, so, it ended up being a double celebration, with the Titanic being launched and a luncheon held aboard Olympic for the dignitaries, before she was to sail for Liverpool and opened for public inspection.

May 31st, 1911 , afloat at last.

    The morning of May 31st was filled with electricity at the shipyard. Men were busy making the final preparations for the launch. The great black hull of Titanic stood proudly on the ways, which were being greased with thousands of tons of tallow and soft soap, to help ease the passage of the massive hull. Crowds of people lined every shore of the shipyard, to watch the proceedings. As the allotted time approached, men began to knock out the timbers keeping the ship in place, only the hydraulic rams now kept her from sliding back. At a signal, the rams would be released, and the ship would enter her natural element.  There would be no smashing of a champagne bottle, like other lines did, White Star had a more reserved tradition. Signal flags spelled out success upon her stern, and just before the triggers were let go, a signal flare lit the sky. The hull moved swiftly backwards and entered the water. A total of 62 seconds elapsed from the time she first moved, to the time the drag chains slowed her to a stop. A group of tugs swiftly moved in to wrangle her to the fitting out basin. 
Fitting out.

    A army of workers and skilled craftsmen would soon descend upon the empty hull to transform it into the world most luxurious liner to date, though, in reality, she only had a few extra niceties that the Olympic would lack. Slowly but surely, engine components, boilers, and piping would all be put into place. After that, work would begin on the passenger spaces. Men would bring in carved oak paneling, grand carpeting, stained glass windows, paintings, beautiful linoleum tiles, and all manner of luxury items. Craftsmen would construct what has been regarded as one of the most lovely structures every put aboard a ship, the first class forward grand staircase. Built from oak, with bronze cherubs at certain landings, and ornate candelabras at others. In the center near the top, a carved facade with a clock, depicting Honor and Glory crowning time, would greet passengers as they reached the top deck. Above all this, a magnificent glass dome, with wonderful wrought iron supports. 
The scale of Olympic's propellers compared with some men.

    Her exterior dimensions would be identical to the Olympic. At 882 3/4ft  in length, and a maximum breadth of 94ft, she was a giant at the time. She shared the same enormous reciprocating engines as her sister, and a single Parson’s steam turbine driving the central propeller, with the engine combination providing 66,000 SHP. From her keel to the tops of her mighty funnels, she would tower some 150ft. Everything about these ships was done on a massive scale, with even a single link in their anchor chains coming in at a weight of 250lbs. Numerous changes to her first class appointments would have her end up with the higher gross tonnage, Titanic having a tonnage of 46,328, compared to the 45,324 that Olympic had on her maiden voyage the year before, though after her 1913 refit, she would emerge with a tonnage of 46,358. With a draft of 34ft, there were few ports that could support the two vessels, and even in New York, the channel had to be dredged to accommodate them.
The watertight compartment arrangements.

    Her hull, like her sisters, was divided into sixteen watertight compartments, each separated by a watertight bulkhead. This arrangement meant that she could float with two compartments breached. It also meant that if the first four compartments were opened to the sea, she would still float. These compartments also helped to divide the machinery spaces on the ship. The first four were used for cargo and storage, followed by six separate boiler rooms, the last one, boiler room one, containing the only single ended boilers the ship carried, which were only used when extra speed would be required, or when the ship was docked in a port. Beyond those came the engine rooms, the forward one containing the massive, four story reciprocating engines, and the latter housing the turbine. Beyond that was the electrical rooms and other machinery necessary to keep the giant ship moving.
Olympic's Grand Staircase, identical to her sisters.

    Soon, her mighty funnels would be shipped, numbering four in total, although the fourth was a dummy and only used for ventilation. They were wide enough to drive two locomotive engines through side by side. They would tower over the ship, giving her a profile only shared with her sister. Teak decking was being laid in place, as men began putting the finishing touches upon all the first class amenities on the boat deck. Lifeboats would soon be placed aboard, and though she had been designed to carry 64 total boats, she would leave port with just 16 regular and 4 collapsible boats. This was due, not to arrogance for the ships touted invincibility, which the White Star Line never claimed, but due to simply bureaucracy. The British Board of Trade was behind the times, and the requirements for lifeboats had been set when the maximum sized ship had been around 10,000 tons. Ships had quickly grown, with Olympic and Titanic each being greater than 45,000 tons. The Board of Trade needed to make changes, but were slow on the move.

    During late 1911, the Olympic had to be returned to the shipyard following her collision with the HMS Hawke. Titanic had to be removed from the Thompson Dry Dock, the only dry dock large enough for the two ships, so that Olympic could be repaired. This caused a slight delay to her completion, but her maiden voyage was still being shown as the end of March, 1912. At this time in her construction, Titanic was nearly identical to the Olympic. There were a few small differences, such as the bridge wings on Olympic were flush with the boat deck, whereas Titanic’s would overhang by some 4 feet, as well as the bridge front on Olympic being straight, while Titanic‘s curved outward. At this point, Titanic’s upper promenade had not bee glassed in, so that too was the same on both ships, however, her B deck promenade area had the glassed in section extended. Also, on this deck, two millionaires suites were built, with private promenades, a feature Olympic lacked. Many of these changes would be added to the Olympic when she went in for her major refit of 1913, with the exception of the enclosed A deck promenade, a feature the Olympic would never have.
Olympic and Titanic, early 1912.

    With Olympic back in service, work on Titanic continued at a fevered pitch. They still wanted to have her ready for her March maiden voyage. Fate would intervene once again, with Olympic losing a propeller blade in the Atlantic, and having to yet again return to Belfast for dry docking. It would mark the last time the two ships would ever be in port together at the same time. This was enough to push back Titanic’s maiden voyage to April 10th, 1912. The new date was soon published, as the final work began on the ship. It was around this time that the upper promenade was glassed in, forever distinguishing the Titanic from the Olympic. Thomas Andrews, the managing director for Harland and Wolff, and nephew of Lord Pirrie, began to select men for his guarantee group. These men, along with Andrews, would be on the ship for her first trip, to help alleviate any teething problems she might have. As April approached, plans for her sea trials were made.

Sea trials, April 2, 1912.
    The date for her trials was set as April 1st, 1912, yet fate would have this April Fool’s Day be far too windy for the tugs to handle such a large hull in the narrow waterways of Belfast. It was decided to postpone the trials for one day, in hopes of better weather. Indeed, the next day did come bright and clear, and soon the great ship was being brought to sea for the first time. Once let go from the tugs, her mighty engines, four stories in height, were brought online, and for the next few hours, she would steam up and down the coast, with various speed tests, turning tests, and even an emergency crash stop test were conducted. Final adjustments were made to her compass platform, between the second and third funnels, and a member of the Board of Trade happily handed over her passenger certificate. Given the prep time needed to get the ship ready for her maiden voyage the following week, it was decided to forgo bringing her to Liverpool for public inspection. Instead, she headed towards Southampton, where she would be warped into her pier at the Ocean dock with her bow facing out towards the main channel.
April 5th, 1912, Good Friday.
    On April 5th, Good Friday, the ship was dressed in flags, the only time in her short life that she was accorded such an honor. Coaling would begin and would last a few days, as she needed thousands of tons for the trip to New York. All manner of provisions were brought aboard, from thousands of tons of meat and fish, to thousands of pieces of fine china, tons and tons of linen, and everything else that would be needed for the passengers comfort. As the day approached, men were busy touching up her paint work, scrubbing the decks, polishing the brass, and putting the final touches to all the luxurious amenities the ship possessed. The crew were being signed on, and Captain Edward J. Smith signed on as her captain for what would be his final voyage before retirement. He brought his own Chief Officer with him, Henry Wilde, which caused a shuffle in the bridge crew. William Murdoch was temporarily bumped to First Officer, Charles Lightoller was bumped to Second Officer, and David Blair, the original Second, was removed from the ship entirely. He would send his sister a letter stating how disappointed he was to miss the maiden voyage. Before he left the ship, he locked the binoculars for the crows nest in the safe in his former quarters. The rest of the bridge crew were unaffected by the changes, and everything was soon set for the boarding of passengers on April 10th.

Titanic's officers, with Captain Smith.

                                            Chapter 2 The Maiden Voyage

    All preparations had been made, and soon, on the morning of April 10th, 1912, the passengers began to arrive, many by boat train from London. Famous names such as Astor, Guggenheim, Strauss, famous millionaires one and all, began to board the great ship, though the Astor‘s would board later that night in Cherbourg. Also boarding were hundreds of immigrants, hoping to make a fresh start in America. The ship kept its three classes segregated, mainly by use of gated passageways, this way the rich and famous did not have to mingle with the common folk. As noon was fast approaching, work on the dock moved at a fevered pitch, with last minute cargo being loaded aboard and stored in the forward holds. Thousands of sacks of mail were also loaded, for she was, after all, a mail ship. 
Docked in Southampton, awaiting maiden voyage.

    There were several ships laid up in Southampton that day, due to a recent coal strike. Some former famous vessels, such as the Oceanic, or the New York, tied up together at one pier, sat bobbing in the swell of the tide. The gangways were being pulled away, and lines were being cast off of the great ship. Her mighty whistles on her forward stack sounded her imminent departure. Local tugs began to pull her away from the dock and into the main channel. Once turned, she started her own engines and began to slowly make headway. One thing that was learned the year before with the Olympic, was that the large hulls of this class of ship would cause a great deal of suction as they passed. It was this suction which caused the HMS Hawke to be drawn into the Olympic’s stern, causing the collision. As Titanic began to move past the moored Oceanic and New York, the distinct sound of snapping hawsers was heard. The stern of the New York was being drawn into the channel, and was heading for Titanic. The tug Vulcan quickly moved to intercept the errant ship, and an extra pulse from Titanic’s port screw helped avoid an embarrassing collision. Titanic was delayed while the New York was moved and made secure.
April 10th, 1912, sailing day.

    Once clear of Southampton waters, the ship steered a course for Cherbourg, France, there to pick up more passengers and mails. Due to the delay with the New York incident, the ship arrived just as the sun was setting, and passengers  being brought out by tender were able to see the magnificent sight of the Titanic fully lit from stem to stern. One famous person boarding at Cherbourg was Margret Tobin Brown, though, in the future she would become known at the Unsinkable Molly Brown. She was a wealthy socialite from Colorado, returning to America after her time abroad. She had met John Jacob Astor and his new bride Madeline while on her travels, and was soon reunited with the pair when she boarded. As the tenders cleared the ship, Captain Smith turned her back into the English Channel. Her next stop would be Queenstown, Ireland, now known as Cobh. 
Pulling away from the dock, just after noon.

    The ship traveled all through the night, her engines being worked in slowly. She arrived the next morning, where two more tenders brought out the remaining mail and passengers. A few passengers disembarked at this time, one of whom had been spending his time on the ship snapping photographs. The man taking the photographs was a priest  named Father Browne. As he boarded the tender to go to shore, he looked above him. There high overhead, leaning out from the starboard bridge wing, was Captain Smith. Wasting no time, Father Brown quickly snapped a picture. He did not know at the time, but he had just taken the very last photograph of the famous White Star captain.

Disaster narrowly avoided, New York just misses Titanic.

    Speaking of Captain Smith, he had a very long and distinguished career with the White Star Line. At that time, White Star did not have a Commodore, though Smith was considered such in that it was his job to command every new vessel that entered the fleet. He was a favorite amongst many of the first class traveling elite, and many would book passage on a ship solely on the grounds that he was that vessels commander. In 1907, when he was preparing to take the newest flagship of the fleet out, the Adriatic, he was interviewed. What follows are a few notable quotes from that interview:

Captain Edward John Smith.

“When any one asks me how I can best describe my experiences of nearly forty years at sea I merely say uneventful. Of course, there have been Winter gales and storms and fog and the like, but in all my experience I have never been in an accident of any sort worth speaking about. I have seen but one vessel in distress in all my years at sea, a brig, the crew of which was taken off in a small boat in charge of my third officer. 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.” He would further go on to say about the Adriatic, "I will go a bit further," he said. "I will say that I cannot imagine any condition which could cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that."

    At some point during either her time in Southampton or her trip across the channel, a small fire broke out in one of the coal bunkers forward. Men were ordered to empty the bunker to try and help extinguish it. It would take them till early Sunday, the 14th to complete this task. The bunker itself appeared to only suffer minor damage from the fire, and it could easily be fixed the next time the ship made port.

Titanic passing the Oceanic  and  New York, you can see the stern of the New York still angled towards Titanic.
    Once finished with her duties in Queenstown, the ship was finally aimed towards the North Atlantic. The weather was bright and clear, and the engines were brought up to full power. The knife edge of her bow sliced through the water, the ship leaving a huge wake behind her as she powered up to 21 knots. Thomas Andrews and the men from his guarantee group busied themselves in making small changes, or taking suggestions from passengers. One of those passengers was the managing director of White Star, J. Bruce Ismay. At times, he considered himself just a passenger, but many would see him having discussions with Captain Smith over Titanic’s performance, speed, and other matters. How much influence he truly had over the captain may never be known.
Joseph Bruce Ismay.

    Wireless was a fairly new invention of the day, and the Titanic and her sister had the most powerful wireless equipment on the North Atlantic run. The ship had two operators, senior operator John Phillips, and his junior partner, Harold Bride. The two men took turns dealing with the incoming and outgoing radio messages, all sent by Morse Code. To keep things easier for operators, each ship was assigned a three letter call sign, Titanic’s being MGY. As the day wore on, the operators began receiving messages from ships that had either passed through, or were stopped by ice. Each message was logged, and brought to the bridge, when one of the two men had the time. Since the warnings indicated the ice was still a few days away, it was simply acknowledged as something they may have to deal with.

Captain Smith looking down from the bridge wing, the last photo taken of him.

    The passengers were busy enjoying the numerous activities the ship provided, whether it was the swimming pool on F deck, or the squash court. Some were in the gymnasium, located on the boat deck, trying out the new electric horses, or the electric camel. Still others were lounging in the splendid Turkish baths, a feature she shared only with her sister. Near the aft portion of the B deck promenade, the Café Parisian was located, a rather unique feature to the ship, replicating a French sidewalk café in great detail. It would prove to be very popular and one would later be added to the Olympic during a refit.  Many would spend the day strolling along the boat deck, with its huge open space, due to there being so few lifeboats. The ship was very steady, and she was very smooth, with hardly any vibration from her mighty engines. This just added to the comfort the passengers enjoyed whilst aboard. 
Passengers strolling the boat deck.

    As evening approached, dinner was being served in all three of the classes dining rooms. Some ships would go for multi-tiered dinning rooms, yet Titanic and her sister were a bit more conservative. They opted for more open space, rather than stacking passengers on top of each other. For those in first class, the evening meal was an event unto itself, with the men dressed in tuxedos and the women in gowns. Many would sit around  discussing their vast fortunes, and comparing notes on their success.  Down below, many of the immigrants in third class were being given food they had never imagined. Some had never eaten so well, which caused a few to over do it. It was said that the amenities in Titanic’s third class, could rival the first class appointments of some older ships. Her second class was equally impressive, and it to was considered better than some of her competitions first class areas.

Young Douglas Spedden plays with a top while his father watches.

    As Titanic sailed onward into her first night at sea, deep in the bowels of the great ship, men labored hard, feeding coal into the maws of the boilers.  It was their job to ensure that a steady flow of steam was fed to the engines, keeping the ship moving forward at a brisk pace. It was hard, backbreaking work, but the men relished the chance at even having a job such as this on so grand a vessel. Working in shifts, the Black Gang as they were known, due to the amounts of coal dust that would accumulate on them,  toiled at their tasks, stoking the fires that were the life force of the ship. Lead stoker Frederick Barrett had his work cut out for him, keeping the men working at a steady pace. He would be one of the lucky few who would go on to survive the disaster that was approaching.
Taken in Southampton, a lonely figure walks the promenade.

    As the next day dawned, the ship began to receive more ice warnings. The winter had been mild, and that caused more ice than normal to break off from Greenland’s glaciers. Normally at this time of year, ice would never make it so far south as the shipping lanes, yet this was an exceptional year.  On the bridge, the coordinates from each warning were marked on the charts. As the days went on, it was clear that up ahead lay a rather large field of ice, yet the practice at the time was to drive the ship full ahead until the lookouts spotted something in the ships path. By noon of the 14th, Titanic had received nearly twenty warnings. The ship was approaching an area of the North Atlantic known as the corner, where ships would change course to a more direct route  towards New York, taking a more westerly heading. Perhaps due to the warnings, Captain Smith decided to postpone the turn by some thirty minutes. This would put Titanic further south in the shipping lanes, almost as if the captain was attempting to avoid the ice altogether.

    Earlier that morning, the church services for all classes had been held in the various dinning rooms. Captain Smith lead the first class service, and numerous hymns were sung. The final hymn sung that morning, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” would have a bit of an ironic twist with the events that were to come that evening. The final line of that hymn was “Oh hear us when we cry to thee, For those in peril on the sea.” In hindsight, it would be the perfect hymn to end that particular service on.
John Phillips.

    Also occurring on the 14th , the ships wireless came within range of the Cape Race station, and the sudden flood of messages to and from passengers began to overwhelm Phillips and Bride. The day before, the wireless had a minor breakdown, and although it had been fixed, there was now a backlog of messages. While Bride was off shift, another warning was received by Phillips, yet he was so busy, he could not run it to the bridge, so, he instead spiked it, to be delivered later. Around 10 pm, the Leyland Liner, Californian, who was only about 20 miles ahead, broke in with such power that it hurt Phillips’ ears. He quickly shot back to them “Shut up! Keep out! I am working Cape Race.”  The operator on the Californian decided to leave well enough alone, as he was only trying to let them know that their ship was stopped and surrounded by ice. I will get more into the Californian in a separate chapter. One thing I will point out, the message that Phillips spiked, pointed out a rather large number of icebergs, the location of which was almost exactly where Titanic would meet her fate.
Frederick Fleet.

    Up in the crows nest, the men were ordered to keep a sharp look out for ice. The sea had become very flat and calm, almost like glass. The night was very clear, however, it was a new moon, so the only light available was starlight. These two conditions would make spotting the icebergs very difficult, one, due to the calm water, there would be no wave breaking at the base of the bergs, and without the moon to reflect off them, the bergs would be black shapes against a black backdrop. To make matters worse, the binoculars that are usually given to the men in the crows nest had gone missing. On all ships in that day, it was the responsibility of the Second Officer to give the men the binoculars when they requested them, yet Lightoller, who was to have been First Officer, did not know where they were. When David Blair departed the ship, he mistakenly forgot to mention to Lightoller that he had put them in the safe in what would be Lightoller’s quarters for this voyage. As the shift change came, the lookouts in the crows nest were replaced by Fredrick Fleet and Reginald Lee. Lee jokingly told Fleet that he could smell ice when it was near.

    On the bridge, First officer Murdoch and Sixth Officer Moody began their shift, with Lightoller going out to do his rounds. Murdoch decided to stand away from the bridge, near the starboard bridge wing, to give himself a clearer view of what was ahead of the ship. Despite all the warnings, and the conditions, the ship still plowed ahead at nearly 22 knots. Captain Smith was in his quarters, and had left orders to be called if things became “doubtful.”  High in the crows nest, Fleet and Lee kept a diligent watch ahead. Slowly, a shape began to resolve itself. The ships time was 11:40 pm, on Sunday, the 14th of April. Within seconds, Fleet recognized it, and he grabbed the halyard to the ships bell, giving it three sharp tugs, the warning for something ahead. He then grabbed the phone that had a direct connection to the bridge. Moody answered it..

     “Yes, what did you see?” he asked calmly.
    Fleet replied a little more forcefully. “Iceberg! Right ahead!”
    Moody simply replied with a polite “Thank you.” and moved to inform Murdoch.

"Iceberg right ahead!"

    From his vantage point on the bridge wing, Murdoch had spotted the berg at almost the same time Fleet did. Even as Moody was hanging up the phone, Murdoch was running to the bridge, ordering “Hard a Starboard!” to Quartermaster Hitchens at the wheel, while grabbing the engine room telegraphs and ordering full astern. He was attempting to swing the ship clear of the berg, yet he may have inadvertently caused her destruction. What he did not know was that when the ship was thrown into reverse, it cut out the turbine engine, which could only move forward. This would limit the flow of water moving past the rudder, limiting its effectiveness. To further complicate matters, the two outer propellers now going in reverse caused a cavitation, which further diminished the force the rudder could bring to turn the ship. The men watched as the ship slowly began to swing her bow to port, and for a moment it looked as if she would clear the berg, yet her starboard side began to scrape along the underside of the iceberg, popping rivets, and bending the seams of the hull plates. Some chunks of ice broke off and landed in the forward well deck. A grinding noise was heard as the ship moved past the berg, and a vibration that some described as an extra heave of the engines, and yet to others it seemed as if the ship had passed over a bunch of marbles. 
Artist's rendition of the striking of the iceberg.

    Murdoch ordered the watertight doors closed in the ships bowels, as Captain Smith ran up to the bridge. Murdoch informed him of the berg and how he had tried to port around it, but that the berg was too close and the ship had hit it. In all, a total of thirty-seven seconds had elapsed from the time the iceberg was spotted to the time the ship hit it, not really a lot of time to move a ship the size of three football fields. Smith ordered all stop, then sent for the ships carpenter to sound the ship, to gauge how much water she was taking on. The indicator on the bridge already let him know that the ship had a slight list to starboard. At this point, no one knew the extent of the damage, or the fate of the ship. Captain Smith sent for the one man on board who might help him discover these facts, Thomas Andrews.

                                              Chapter 3 The Sinking

    Captain Smith had gone with the carpenter to inspect the ship again. The mail hold was flooded, and soon the squash court on F deck was filling. The passengers were being awakened by their bedroom stewards, and the orders were to go up on deck with their lifebelts on. The ship had finally been stopped after briefly running forward again, and the excess steam was escaping from the vent pipes on her mighty funnels. The noise on the boat deck was deafening. At first, most passengers refused to even go out on the boat deck, due to the cold temperatures, and the noise from the escaping excess steam.
Thomas Andrews.

    When the captain returned to the bridge, he was met by both Andrews and Mr. Ismay. Andrews had spread out the ships plans, and was busy making some calculations. The prognosis was not good. Titanic had been designed to survive with her first four watertight compartments opened to the sea. The accident had opened up the first five, and even a small opening into the sixth compartment, boiler room 5. The inflow of water in that boiler room was being kept in check with the massive pumps available to the ship, but they could do little for the other five compartments. With her bulkheads not going high enough, as water filled a compartment, it would flow over E deck, and into the next dry compartment, causing the bow to be dragged further and further under the sea.  As Andrews finished his calculations, he let the Captain Smith know that the ship would sink in about two hours.

    Fourth officer Boxhall quickly worked out their approximate position, 41°46' N, 50° 14' W. The captain took this information down to the wireless shack, and ordered the distress call sent. Phillips immediately began sending the standard distress call at the time, CQD. Bride jokingly suggested he try the new signal, SOS, since both men felt it would be their last chance to use it. In the morning, that thought would sadly be correct for one of them. Those on the bridge swore they saw a ship nearby, maybe 7 to 10 miles away. Smith ordered the Morse lamp used to try and communicate with the ship, since she was clearly not picking up the wireless distress call now screaming into the clear night air. There was sadly no response, and I will go more into detail on this at a later chapter. Smith also ordered distress rockets fired every few minutes to also try and get the other ships attention. The exact number of rockets fired and the times will forever be in debate, but the general consensus is that eight were fired in total, with the first at about 12:45 am, and the last around 1:45 am. 
Firing of rockets.

    The bow of the ship was noticeably down, and water was beginning to lap at the ships name. The list had moved from slightly to starboard to slightly to port. Second officer Lightoller was in charge of overseeing the lowering of the boats on the port side of the ship, while First officer Murdoch covered the starboard side. I will not get into the lowering order of the boats and the times, such facts are best found in history books. The officers were unsure of the new davits and lifeboats, so many of the first few boats were being lowered half empty. Thomas Andrews confronted them about this, and soon, later boats were being filled to maximum capacity. Sadly, this would leave far more on the ship with no means of escape once the boats were gone. It was hoped that a ship would get to the scene before the end came. Further down the port side of the ship, Fifth officer Lowe was loading boats, when Mr. Ismay approached and began barking orders, causing Lowe to confront him and berate him for his actions. He did not care who Ismay was, in his eyes, he was just another passenger, his job be damned!.

    The captain asked the band to play some cheerful music to help keep the passengers calm. They began playing a few popular ragtime tunes, and though it did keep the men and women calm, it also lead them to believe that nothing was seriously wrong with the ship. Some refused to get in a boat, for the ship was brighter and warmer. She seemed so steady under their feet, despite the downward angle her hull was now taking. There were very few third class passengers on the boat deck. In some instances, the gates baring them access were still locked, in others, the language barrier came into play. We do not know if there were orders to keep them below till the other classes were off the ship, or that some had taken it upon themselves to neglect them. I will not speculate either way, and will show some evidence in a later chapter.  By 1 am, half the boats were gone from the ship, and it was very clear she was sinking. Her forecastle was under water, and her stern was slowly rising out. In time, her great propellers would be clear of the sea, but there was still some time before that would happen. 

    Deep in the boiler rooms, some of the black gang still kept the boilers in the dry rooms lit. They were trying to keep enough steam pressure to keep the electricity going, not only for the wireless, but for the passengers. Many of them would never see the light of day again, but the would sacrifice their lives for the good of the passengers. The engineers and electricians also stayed at their posts, fighting to try and keep the ship alive for as long as they could. Many would be the unsung heroes  of this unfolding tragedy.

    The order of the day was women and children first, yet it was interpreted differently by Lightoller and Murdoch. To Lightoller, it meant that only women and children were allowed in the boats, and very few men escaped the ship on the port side. Murdoch, on the other hand, would allow men in if there were no women or children present. As the night wore on, and the ship dipped lower, Captain Smith became distant, as if in a trance. He knew that if help did not arrive soon, more than half of those under his charge would die. He did however pull himself together to help issue orders through his megaphone. Panic was slowly setting in, and there was a rush on boat number 14 on the port side, forcing Fifth officer Lowe to pull out his revolver and fire into the water as a warning. As the boat was filling, Lightoller ordered him to man it.
Nearing the end, the last few boats leaving the ship.

    Throughout all classes of passengers on board, there were numerous stories of chivalrous acts, and also a few of those acting far less civil. One of the more famous was that of millionaire Benjamin Guggenheim, who, along with his manservant, returned to their cabins, and put on their tuxedos. As Guggenheim would say to a surviving steward, “We are dressed in our best, and prepared to go down as gentlemen. Please tell my wife that I played it straight to the end, and that no woman was refused a space in a lifeboat because of Ben Guggenheim!” The second part of that message is a bit ironic, considering he had been on holiday with his mistress, and not his wife. The richest man on board, J.J. .Astor did ask to accompany his pregnant wife Madeline in a lifeboat, but when he was refused, he simply nodded and went to meet his fate. His body would be found a few days later, badly crushed and covered with soot, presumably he had been one of the victims crushed by the falling forward funnel. When his body was recovered, there was over $1000 dollars in his jacket pocket. Perhaps the greatest testament to true love took place between the Straus’s , Isador and Ida, who had been married for 40 years. Isador was one of the founding owners of Macy’s department store, named after his daughter. He tried to persuade Ida to board a boat, but she refused, stating that they had been together for so long, where he went, she went. The pair wee last seen sitting in a deck chair as the Titanic made her plunge forward into the sea. On the flip side to this were those who would attempt to rush a few of the final boats, those who would push aside the weaker and slower, to make their way to the perceived safety of the rising stern. The ship was truly a microcosm for the society of that time period.

    It was approaching 2 am, and the only boats left were the four collapsible emergency boats, two of which were stored upside down on the roof of the officers quarters, abaft of the bridge. Boats C and  D were loaded into the davits, on port and starboard respectively. Both were loaded and lowered away while men tried to free the other two from the roof, both meeting with little success, leading to them both being damaged, with boat B left upside down. One event that brings up a lot of debates amongst scholars of the disaster was how J Bruce Ismay left the ship. He was on the starboard side, trying to get as many passengers into boat D, and at the last second, climbed in himself, forever coming under scrutiny and ridicule for his actions, whether deserved or not. As for the ships designer, Thomas Andrews, he was last seen by a steward, standing in the smoking room. The steward asked him if he was even going to make a try for survival, and Andrews ignored him, simply making sure the clock on the mantle was set to the correct time.
2:17 am, the ship breaks apart.

    With collapsible boats C and D away from the ship, B upside down, and A damaged, yet functional, the men tried to hook A into the davits. The bridge was already under water, the band had stopped playing, and the stern had risen to an angle of almost 9°. Suddenly, the ship took a fast lunge forward, and what was described as a wave began to wash aft along the boat deck. The surge caused the forward expansion joint to open, which in turn caused the number one funnel to snap its lines and tumble into the water, killing many of those who were swimming, trying to escape the ship. The glass dome of the forward grand staircase was broken in , and tons of water began to flood the area. The last two lifeboats, collapsibles A and B were washed clear of the ship as the funnel fell. For those left onboard, the only shelter they could seek was the rising stern.  Hundreds clung to railings and anywhere else they could find purchase. The lights had been dimming as the ship sank lower, since the boilers were being put out by the icy Atlantic. Suddenly, they went out completely, and everything went black as pitch. A horrible sound of rending metal and the cacophony  of hundreds of falling and shifting objects inside the hull filled the air. It was 2:17 am, and the stern of the ship seemed to fall back into the water. Briefly, it was felt that the stern would float free from the rest of the ship, and act as a lifeboat of its own. Sadly, this would not be the case, as the keel of the ship, her backbone, was still keeping the two halves tethered together. The stern was wrenched upwards at an almost 90° angle, throwing many into the cold waters below. The stern turned briefly and then began to take a quick plunge, and soon the icy North Atlantic closed over her flagstaff, and she was gone, it was 2:20 am, 2 hours and 40 minutes after striking the berg.

    Those in the boats rowed away from the ship as she began her final plunge. The sea was filled with the crying and wailing of hundreds as they froze to death. The water that night was a chilly 28°, and the human body lasts only moments in such conditions. Most of those that perished in the disaster succumbed to exposure, not drowning. Fifth officer Lowe had spent the time since his departure from the ship organizing a small flotilla of a few boats. As the cries and wails got louder, he quickly transferred as many as he could out of boat 14 and into the others. His intention was to go back and try to pull as many as he could from the sea, he only managed to rescue four, one of whom would not make it till the dawn.

    So it was that the greatest ship of her time was cast asunder on her very first trip across the Atlantic. In all, 705 would survive, with 1,523 perishing. Though at the time this was the highest loss of life ever accorded to a single disaster at sea, there would be others that would surpass that. Still, there is something about this one ship that will drag you in and fascinate you with all the various tales that would go on to become legend over time. Was it because it was her maiden voyage? Perhaps it was all the claims of invincibility, none of which were ever made by either White Star or Harland and Wolff. Whatever it is, the events of the evening of April 14 and 15, 1912 still resonate now, 100 years later.

This iceberg may have been the one, photographed the morning of the 15th, it had a red steak of paint near its base.

                                             Chapter 4 The Carpathia

    About 60 miles away to the southeast of where Titanic was sailing on April 14th, the small Cunard liner Carpathia was on her way out of New York and heading towards the Mediterranean. Compared with the Titanic, she was a small slow liner, at only 541ft, with a tonnage of 13,555. She had been launched in 1902, and her maiden voyage was in 1903. The tiny single funneled ship was fairly popular for her trips to the Mediterranean Sea, yet it was a long voyage with her top speed of only 14 knots. On this particular trip, she was captained by Arthur Rostron. He was a practical captain, never pushing his ship harder than he had to, never taking chances he deemed unnecessary.
RMS Carpathia.

     The Carpathia had only one wireless operator, Harold Cottam, who was growing weary as the night wore on. He had put down his headset and was beginning to undo his shoes, when he made out the call letters MGY. He put his headset back on, and tapped a quick message to Titanic, letting them know he had a message for them from Cape Race. The response he got from Phillips on Titanic would change the course of history.  He listened to the entire distress message he had received, writing down their position, and bolted straight for the captains sleeping quarters.

    Captain Rostron usually demanded the strictest protocol for those under his command, and he usually expected someone to knock before entering his bedchamber, especially while he was sleeping. Cottam wasted no time with pleasantries, and burst into the captain’s bedroom without knocking, and told him Titanic was sinking and needed immediate help, letting him know the position. Without batting an eye, Rostron ordered the ship turned on a course that would take them towards Titanic, with all best speed. In most cases, a ships captain would ask the operator to verify the information before taking action. Rostron took action, then verified that it was truly the Titanic in distress, showing the true qualities he had as the ships master. Those few seconds would make a world of difference.
Captain Arthur Rostron

     Rostron quickly made it to his bridge, and began giving out orders to his officers. He worked out the best course and their distance, telling Cottam to tell Titanic they were on their way, but were 4 hours from them. He ordered extra lookouts to the bow to keep a watch for ice, so that Carpathia would not suffer the same fate as Titanic. He ordered all steam to the engines, even taking it from the passengers heaters. He had men prepare all areas of the ship to receive survivors. Once all his orders were being carried out, he looked toward the sky, slightly tilted his head, and whispered a prayer.

Lifeboats, all that is left of the Titanic, pier 59, New York.

    The old ship was being worked harder than she had been designed. The men were told to ignore the warnings on the boiler pressure gauges. Her engines were pumping faster and faster, and soon she was speeding along at a brisk 17 and a half knots. As the ship got closer to the coordinates provided, she began to encounter ice. The captain would take the ships wheel himself for this mad dash. Rostron later would say that some other hand than his was on the wheel that night, for without slowing down, he managed to swerve and avoid every berg that crossed his ships path.
A collapsible lifeboat approaching  Carpathia.

    As dawn was approaching, Rostron could see the gauntlet he had just ran his ship through. He slowed down and began firing rockets, to let Titanic know they were near. Sadly, by this time, Titanic was resting 2 and a half miles below. A short distance ahead, a green flare rose barely above the horizon. Rostron headed for that flare, and soon lifeboats were coming along side her hull. Over the next few hours, as the boats rowed towards Carpathia, the survivors of one of the worst disasters to date were taken aboard, given brandy and blankets, and brought to various parts of the ship to eat and warm up. Fourth officer Boxhall was the first of Titanic’s surviving officers to reach Carpathia’s side. He let Rostron know that Titanic had foundered at 2:20 am. Despite her best speed, it had still taken the old girl 3 and a half hours to reach the area. The last surviving officer to arrive was Lightoller, the story of his ordeal after the ship sank will be covered a bit later.

Rescue under way.

    As she was beginning to head out of the area with the 705 she had rescued, and a number of Titanic’s lifeboats now stored on her decks, Carpathia was joined by the Californian. Rostron suggested to Captain Stanley Lord that his ship search for further survivors, then, he turned Carpathia towards New York. Harold Cottam got to work trying to contact New York, to let them know the details and the list of survivors, but Carpathia’s wireless equipment was not very powerful. In a slightly ironic twist, Titanic’s own sister, Olympic had come into wireless range, and she began relaying the information to New York. Harold Bride, Titanic’s junior wireless operator, though suffering from frost bitten feet, volunteered to help Cottam in the monumental task.  
Storing the boats.

    The Carpathia reached New York late on April 18th. It was raining, and it seemed to fit the mood of those on board. Her first stop was to pier 59, where all of the remaining lifeboats from Titanic were lowered, showing the full extent of the tragedy. She then made her way to her normal pier, number 54, where a mob had gathered, mainly reporters, to greet the survivors. Harold Bride had to be carried off the ship when it docked, due mainly to his frostbitten feet, but also he was fully exhausted, not having a moments rest since the Titanic sank. It was a media circus, one of the first ever recorded. Once her sad task had been completed, the Carpathia would be made ready to resume her voyage to her original destination. A few months later, an engraved silver cup was presented to Captain Rostron on behalf of the survivors. The Unsinkable Molly Brown, who had stood up to one of the crew in a lifeboat, in an attempt to get the boat to return to save those in the water, presented the cup personally to Carpathia’s captain. The cup still exists, and is currently housed aboard the RMS Queen Mary 2.

Rostron receiving silver cup from Margret Brown.

    The Carpathia herself would go on to have a career that was met with modest success. Her captain would be transferred to the Mauretania, and would become Commodore of the line and eventually Knighted. When World War I broke out, the Carpathia would be called up for active duty. On July 17, 1918, she was spotted by the German U-boat  U-55, who fired three torpedoes at her. One penetrated near her bow, while another struck her engine room, killing two firemen and three trimmers. Luckily they would be the only casualties. The U-55 fired one last torpedo before being chased off by the HMS Snowdrop, who would rescue all the survivors. Carpathia settled into the water and sank, nearly 120 miles off Fastnet, Ireland. Her wreck would be located in 1998 by author Clive Cussler, and his NUMA group. Cussler is well known for writing novels set in maritime locations, including, ironically, the 1976 novel, Raise the TITANIC.

                                      Chapter 5 Inquiries and Aftermath

    News of the disaster was soon flooding the major news agencies of New York, though only The New York Times was reporting the ship sunk with a great loss of life. The White Star offices in the city were mobbed with people looking for word on their friends and loved ones. As the list of names of the survivors was slowly received, lists outside the office were updated. The sinking quickly became a world wide event, one of the first covered by most of the major news services world wide. Of course, all this exposure led to questions, and one senator from Michigan was determined to get the answers, his name, William Alden Smith.
Senator William Alden Smith.

    One of his first acts when the Carpathia landed on the 18th, was to board her and subpoena J. Bruce Ismay, forcing the White Star managing director to stay in the city for the proceedings. Ismay had tried to be cleaver, by sending a wireless message to Philip S Franklin, head of White Star’s New York office, to have him prepare the Cedric for the immediate return of himself and the surviving crew. He tried to have the message signed incognito, with Yamsi put as the name of the sender. Numerous survivors, from officers and crew, to passengers, were also requested to participate. Experts were called in, and even a few ship captains, such as Stanley Lord of the Californian, and Arthur Rostron of Carpathia. The hearings would commence on the day after Carpathia arrived, April 19th, at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, which was owned, ironically, by John Jacob Astor, who perished in the sinking.

    One by one, witnesses were called to the stand, and testimony was given. Ismay thought he could get away with just a short blanket statement about the disaster, acting as if he had no clue what had gone on. He pretty much said that the ship had hit an iceberg at 11:40pm and was told she had sunk around 2:20am. Senator Smith was not falling for it, and he kept on asking questions, wearing Ismay down. Ismay would take the stand several times during the hearings. Captain Lord was another man whom the Senator was determined to get answers out of, but more on that in the next chapter.
The headlines on April 15th.

    Many of the passengers had little to offer, but a few gave some tidbits of how Ismay interacted with Captain Smith during the voyage. One even claimed that Smith had an iceberg warning, and had given it to Ismay. Ismay later would deny this, but there is good evidence to suggest that he had some influence over the ships speed. It was planned that on Monday the 15th, that Titanic would be run at maximum speed, to see how fast she could truly go with all her boilers lit and hooked to the engines. Considering that the Olympic was capable of reaching speeds of over 24 knots, and had in fact reached that on the night of the 14th/15th as she tried to dash to her sisters side, it was entirely possible for Titanic to reach those same speeds. 

    The hearings continued up till May 28th, when Senator Smith was taken aboard the Olympic to witness the working and lowering of her lifeboats. Thousands of pages of testimony were taken from hundreds of experts and witnesses. The conclusions reached would help lead to passengers ships having enough lifeboats for all on board. Despite some of his tactics in the hearings,, Ismay was pretty much off the hook. Stanley Lord did not fare as well, but as I said, more on that later. Recommendations for making travel safer were made, and the International Ice Patrol was established, which still exists today, and every April 15th, they drop a wreath at the coordinates of the wreck. The shipping lanes were also moved further south to help prevent ships form encountering icebergs.

    Once the hearings in America were concluded, there would be an inquiry in London, held by Lord Mersey. Not as intense as Senator Smith’s proceedings in New York, and some felt there was a bit of a white wash to the conclusions, yet still, the Mersey inquiry did force the British Board of Trade to change its lifeboat rules and regulations. All in all, both hearings provided most of the facts we now know about the events of that night, and also a lot of the myths.

    The main effect of the sinking was a shaken belief in the modern technology of the day. The innocence of the time had somehow been lost, and the class boundaries were shown for their ugliness. There were a few immediate repercussions,, such as a mutiny on board the Olympic as she set out from Southampton a few days after the disaster, the men of the black gang refusing to sail on a ship with unsafe lifeboats. Olympic had quickly been equipped with many more lifeboats, mostly taken from laid up ships, a few of which were not in the best of condition.

     Though the sinking affected individuals all over the globe, the town that was perhaps hardest hit was the town from which Titanic had departed on April 10th, Southampton, England. The reason why this town was hit hardest was the simple fact that the majority of her crew hailed from Southampton. The ship had a crew of 940 men and women, and when she went down she took 730 of them with her. A scant 210 of the 705 rescued were crew members. There were hundreds of widows and orphans made almost overnight in the town of Southampton. Yet it does not stop there. Some of the families of the crewmen that perished were sent bills after the disaster, demanding payment for the uniform the crewperson was lost with. Perhaps the saddest thing of all was the fact that the ships band were not even regarded as crew, but as second class passengers, so their loss was not even covered, and their widows were left penniless. Across the globe, disaster relief funds were set up, mainly to help those in third class, but also to help the widows of the crew that went to the bottom with their ship.
A body being recovered at sea.

    One thing that did have to be taken care of was the number of bodies floating in the vicinity of the sinking. The Mackay-Bennett was dispatched from Halifax, Nova Scotia to retrieve them. She recovered 306,  116 of which were buried at sea. The remaining 190 were returned to Halifax for identification and for some, burial. The Minia was the next ship sent out to recover victims, though she was plagued with bad weather, and only 17 were found. She too was replaced by the Montmagny, but her recovery efforts were even less successful, only bringing back a handful. The rest were lost to the mists of time. Many of those recovered by these ships would not be claimed, and would go on to be interred in a few of the Halifax cemeteries, most of which are located in the Fairview Cemetery, some with just a number and the date April 15th 1912, as they would remain unidentified, even to this day.
Embalming aboard the Mackay-Bennet.

    Memorials were held all over the world as those lost were mourned. Eventually, numerous major cities would have permanent memorials built, many of which still stand today. Some ranged the gambit of a statue of Captain Smith, to one for the engineers, another for band leader Wallace Hartley, the list goes on. Even now, 100 years later, more are still being planned The city of Belfast is quickly turning the old Harland and Wolff shipyard into the Titanic Quarter, the centerpiece is a planned full scale replica of the ship. They are currently refurbishing the old Thompson dry dock, once the largest in the world, reconfiguring it to allow tourists to walk down into the dock itself, to get a sense of scale of the massive vessels it once held.

    Eventually the disaster would leave the public's conscience, as other events would take precedence, mainly the First World War. Films would be made, almost immediately, including a silent film produced just a month after the sinking and staring one of the survivors! Still, her memory would slowly fade, though never truly be forgotten. Her tale would first become known to a new generation in the early 1950’s when the late Walter Lord would publish his now famous account of the disaster, A Night to Remember. The book would be followed by a film, and amazingly, the former Titanic officer, Joseph Boxhall, was one of the technical advisors on the film.
Charles Lightoller.

    When speaking of the surviving officers from the Titanic, it must be noted that, due to their involvement, not one of them was ever given a command of their own. Promotions also stalled for them, with Charles Lightoller being the only one to rise to First Officer status. It seemed the company wanted to distance themselves from the disaster as much as possible, even punishing those who were only doing their jobs. Lightoller would find himself in another historical situation, and the bravery he had shown on the night of April14/15 would shine through again. In May of 1940, as the Germans were over running France, thousands of Allied troops were being evacuated at Dunkirk. A flotilla of “little ships” mainly fishing vessels and private craft, were used to help with the evacuation. Lightoller piloted his personal yacht, the Sundowner, to the beaches of France to help rescue some of the troops.

                                          Chapter 6 The Californian

    On the night of April 14th, several ships were stopped by the huge field of ice that was blocking the major shipping lanes. One of those ships was the SS Californian. Under the command of Captain Stanley Lord, she was a small freighter from the Leyland Line, though she also had a passenger accommodation of 47, however, on this trip, she had no passengers. Launched in 1901, and with a length of 447ft, and a tonnage just over 6,000, she was small compared to the ocean going giants that had arisen in the first decade of her life. With a top speed of only 12 knots, she was hardly a greyhound like the ocean liners of the day. With a crew of only 55, she was hardly a desirable ship to work on , but she still had a respectable career.

The SS Californian.
    Being a smaller vessel, she only carried one wireless operator. In those days, there were no regulations for 24 hour wireless monitoring. Cyril Evans was her operator for this trip, and earlier in the day he had contacted Titanic to pass along a few more ice warnings, which were received by Harold Bride, and delivered to Titanic’s bridge. Shortly before 10:30pm, local time, the Californian had to make a sharp turn and come to a stop , for she had found herself surrounded by ice, mostly pack ice, with a few bergs and growlers thrown in. Captain Lord decided to shut his ship down for the night and await the morning to navigate through the danger zone. He then headed down to the wireless shack, but was met along the way by Evans. He asked what ships Evans had in the vicinity, only to be told that the Titanic was the only ship nearby. Lord told Evans to radio her and let them know that his ship was stopped nearby, surrounded by ice. Evens did as ordered but was famously rebuffed by John Phillips, who was overworked on the giant liner by this time. Shortly after, Evens shut down his wireless and turned in for the night.

    On the bridge of the Californian, Third Officer Groves was watching a ship coming up from the south, a few miles off to starboard. When Lord returned to the bridge, he pointed the lights out to his Captain. To Groves, he figured it must be the Titanic, as no other large passenger ships were in the area. Captain Lord disagreed, believing the ship to be a small tramp steamer like they were. He told Groves to try and raise the ship by Morse lamp, and then decided to turn in. It was close to 11:30, local time.

    Groves knew the approximate heading of the ship he saw, for he could clearly make out her red warning light on her port side. While he was watching, it seemed to him that the ship made a sudden sharp turn, so sharp in fact that he could now see her green starboard light. As Second Officer Stone took command for his watch, Groves showed him the ship, told him what he had seen, then he too went below. Stone watched the ship move briefly, then saw it come to a complete stop. With Stone on the bridge was his apprentice, crewman James Gibson. At about 25 minutes after midnight, the two men saw a white flash light up the sky near the other ship. The two discussed it for a few moments, deciding a ship would not fire rockets for no reason, and Stone went to inform Captain Lord, who was sleeping in the chart room. Lord asked the color of the rockets, and wondered if it was just a company signal flare, and told Stone to keep trying to contact by Morse lamp. At no time did he order Evans awakened , or the wireless turned back on. His final order was that if anything changed with the other ship, to send Gibson down to tell him.

    Stone returned to the bridge, and he and Gibson watched the strange vessel some more. They could tell that something was not quite right, as it seemed the vessel was riding low in the water. Here is a snippet of their conversation:

   Stone spoke first, "Look at her now; she looks very queer out of the water; her lights look queer."
    Gibson observed, "She looks rather to have a big side out of the water" and he agreed that "everything was not all right with her;" that it was "a case of some kind of distress."

    As the night wore on, it almost seemed to them that the ship was sailing away. At about 2:15 am, they could no longer see her. Titanic sank at 2:20. All in all, the two men said they counted eight rockets fired in all from the other ship. Though the exact number is not known, that is the approximate number fired by Boxhall from the Titanic. Around 3:45 am, there was another rocket sighted, this time coming up from the south. What they did not know was that it was the Carpathia, trying to reassure the Titanic that they were on the way.
Captain Stanley Lord.

    As the sun rose, Lord finally woke up, and ordered Evans to turn on his wireless, that there had been a ship firing rockets in the night, and to see what had happened. Evens found out quickly from Cottam on the Carpathia that the Titanic had sunk, very near to where the Californian had found herself. Lord ordered all steam up, and headed towards the area. When his ship arrived, he was too late to help with rescuing the survivors, and Captain Rostron on Carpathia suggested that he stay behind and search for more survivors, if any. After the Carpathia left the area, Lord only stayed for another two hours before resuming his course to Boston.

   This chapter is the most difficult to write in this article. What I presented to you are the known facts from that night. All that was said was that those on the bridge of the Californian had spotted another vessel coming from the east, and heading west. That  they had observed the ship make a sharp turn to port, that rockets had been fired, and that the ship in question had appeared to be sitting in the water at an odd angle. I pointed out that at no time was the wireless set turned on, to attempt to figure out the reason for the rockets, nor were any attempts made by the ships captain to move his ship towards the source of the rockets. I also pointed out that Captain Lord was under the opinion that the ship in question was not a giant passenger ship, but a small freighter, much like his own ship.

    Now, here are a few more facts from that night. The only ship in that exact location to make a sudden sharp turn to port at 11:40pm local time, was the Titanic. The only ship to fire rockets of any kind that night in that area, was the Titanic. The only ship known to sink in the area that night was the Titanic. What that suggests is that the men on the bridge of the Californian stood by and watched the most famous of ship disasters unfold. It is hard to stay objective in this, given that if I was on a ship at night, and that I saw the lights of another ship a few miles away, and my ship was in distress, firing rockets, that the other ship would at least attempt to reach me. No attempt other than Morse Lamp, was made that night by the captain and officers of the Californian.

    Fredrick Fleet, still in Titanic’s crows nest after the ship had hit the iceberg, had easily spotted the ship just to the south of his. Granted he was at one of the highest points on the massive liner, yet still, the average distance one could see from there was around 15 miles to the horizon. With that in mind, the men on Californian could also see Titanic, and being much lower on the water, her maximum distance of vision was closer to 10 miles to the horizon. They were close enough to make out the red port and green starboard lights of the Titanic, which, given the amount of lighting the huge liner had, speaks volumes for how close they really were. If you factor in the visible distance of the rockets fired, you can safely estimate that the Titanic and Californian were separated by no more than 7 - 8 miles that night. If the ship had gotten up steam at the firing of the first rocket, even at her low speed, she could have reached the stricken liner in time to at least offer assistance, and maybe could have saved a huge amount of the over 1,500 that went down with the Titanic.

    There have been many reports of a mysterious third ship, the Sampson, an illegal sealing vessel, being in the area. These however, were debunked back in the 1960’s, yet many still consider it a fact, in an attempt to remove some of the blame off of Captain Lord and his crew. The problem is, the Sampson was a sailing vessel, had no wireless, and very few lights. Also, according to her log, she was nowhere near the area that night, and, given when she next made port, coupled with the fact she relied on the winds and tides, she would have had to suddenly develop the ability to sail at nearly 40 knots to get to that area, be there when Titanic sank, and leave the area, to fit the timeframe of her next arrival in port. The facts of the night speak almost for themselves. The Californian was the closest vessel that night, and her crew did nothing to even ascertain the reason for the rockets. It would have taken seconds to wake up Evans, turn on his wireless, and realize that the Titanic was sinking. The distress call, being as the ships were so close, would have almost deafened Evans as soon as he turned on the set.

    When the first hearing started in New York, no one really knew that the Californian had even been close. One of her own crew reported what had happened, and as soon as Senator Smith found out, Captain Lord and his officers were subpoenaed. During the hearing, Lord was very defiant. He refused to share the exact position the Californian was located that night, claiming they were state secrets. He denied ever being told of a ship firing rockets, and he even denied that another ship was even seen by his men. Officers Groves and Stone, as well as crewman Gibson, all told a much different story. It is from them that we know of the events as they saw them from their bridge. In the end, both the hearing in New York and the Inquiry in London, both came down hard on Captain Lord for failing to even find out the nature of the rockets, and for failing to offer assistance, despite being so close. Lord maintained his innocence until the day he died, and for the last 40 years or so, a lawyer has been fighting hard to clear his name.

    In 1994, the case was reopened, and, using the Sampson as evidence, it was concluded that the Californian had been too far away to even see the Titanic or the rockets she fired. As I already said, the position of the Sampson was debunked in the 1960’s, so to use it as evidence in a hearing in the 90’s flies in the face of common sense. Captain Lord was simply guilty of doing nothing. Is there enough evidence to make a claim that if he had moved his ship to assist that many more would have been saved? No, there is not. Could it have happened, we will never know, because he just stood by and did not even make an attempt. In this instance, doing nothing was far worse than attempting and failing. Lord would lose his command shortly thereafter, and spend the rest of his life being despised and vilified, simply for doing nothing. As for the Californian herself, she would become a casualty of the First World War, being sunk by a German U-boat a few hundred miles off the coast of England.

                                 Chapter 7 Discovery and Exploration of the Wreck

    Almost from the moment the Titanic had sunk, plans were being made to locate and raise her hull. Some were simply ridiculous and insane, others were just not practical for the time. Numerous attempts were made to locate the ship, as technology advanced. Sonar could provide a rough image of the bottom, and it was hoped it could help in locating the wreck. One of the more famous attempts made, were the three expeditions  funded by Jack Grimm, a wealthy oilman who dreamed of finding the wreck to make a name for himself. He hired scientists from the Scripps Oceanographic Institute, to help him locate the wreck. Going off of Fourth Officer Boxhall’s position  as a starting point, they used sonar to map the bottom. All three attempts came up empty, though a claim was made that they found a propeller from the famous ship, but that turned out to be a simple rock formation.
Dr. Robert Ballard.

    Doctor Robert D. Ballard had dreamed of finding the ship almost his entire life. He was a former Navy man who had worked hard to get his doctorate in oceanography. He was among the first scientists to see the fabled black smokers in some of the deepest parts of the sea, volcanic vents where life forms that developed to thrive on the chemicals spewed by the vents. He secured a position at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, and began to formulate a plan to search for the ship. His biggest obstacle would be funding. He had many friends around the world, including fellow scientist Jean Jarry and Jean-Louise Michel, both from the French Oceanographic Institute, known as IFREMER. Using the position of the first lifeboat when the Carpathia arrived on the scene as a starting point, it was the French ship Le Suroit’s job to use a new form of side scanning sonar, dubbed SAR, to locate the wreck. The plan was then for Ballard and his team to explore the wreck in detail with his two towed robotic sleds ARGO and Angus. These would be deployed from the research vessel Knorr.

    While the French were doing their part, Ballard and his team were on a secret mission for the Navy, a stipulation for them to receive the funding the requested. Before they could search for the Titanic, they had to thoroughly document the wreck of the Navy’s lost submarine, Scorpion. This became a fortuitous chain of events, for Ballard realized something while exploring the Scorpion. When a large ship sinks in deep water, it leaves very large trail behind it. Due to ocean currents, the lighter debris gets moved further from the ship. If you search for this debris trail, in theory, as you get into heavier debris, you are taken almost directly to the wreck in question. With this new found knowledge, Ballard headed towards the search area. The French, unfortunately, despite covering a huge section of the area, came up empty.
A boiler, one of the first identifiable pieces from the ship.

     When the Knorr arrived on scene, Ballard deployed ARGO, a remote video sled that was capable of taking real time color video of the ocean floor. For the next few days, the ship moved back and forth along the seafloor, in a process known as mowing the lawn. The evening of September 5th, 1985, started out like all the others, with an endless picture of featureless mud flowing by the screens. Ballard decided to turn in for the night, and read a biography on Chuck Yeager. In the control van, Jean-Louise took over, and the night shift settled in for another boring evening. Suddenly, tiny man made objects began to cross the screen, one or two at first, then a few more. Someone suggested they get Bob, but no one would move. Finally, near 1am, the very distinct image of a boiler, the exact design and size used on the Titanic, was spotted. Ballard was by this time in the van, and ships cook having been sent to fetch him, and Ballard almost knocking the man down as he ran from his cabin. 
The brief celebration of discovery.

    With the boiler found, it was clear that they had entered the debris field from the Titanic. There where woops and congratulations thrown around. Wine was passed out, since they had no champagne. They did not know it at the time, but they were approaching the stern of the wreck, which is the most dangerous area. Ballard ordered ARGO raised to just over 150ft off the bottom, in case the ship still had her funnels after all this time. At this height, all ARGO could do was take stills timed to flashes of a very powerful strobe light. Someone looked up at the clock and noticed it was 2am, and that the Titanic had sunk as 2:20am. The mood in the van dropped, and Ballard quietly announced that in 20 minutes, he was going to the fantail of the Knorr, and that all were welcome to join him. As he stood there, he claimed he could almost see those in the water, struggling to survive. He took out a Harland and Wolff shipyard flag, and attached it to the flagpole. After a few moments of silence, he offered a few words about the now found souls of those who perished that cold April night. The wreck itself, it turned out, was some fourteen miles from the position Fourth officer Boxhall had provided.
RV Knorr.

    The next few days became a frantic mess. ARGO became temperamental and had to be raised, so Angus, which was basically a bunch of still cameras on a towed sled, dubbed the "dope on a rope” by the crew, was deployed instead. The exact location of the wreck, despite all the advanced technology on boards, was finally pinpointed with a run of the mill fathometer, essentially, a fish finder, of sorts. Angus was used to take many pictures of the bow section of the wreck, and it was through these that the world first learned that the great ship had split in two as she sank. During the recovery of one of the sleds, it was noticed that a small piece of wire that had once helped to keep the massive funnels in place, had been brought up accidentally. Ballard ordered it thrown back overboard, to be returned to the wreck. When their time was up, the Knorr headed back to Woods Hole, and a media frenzy is what greeted them. A press conference was held, and Ballard became famous almost overnight.
RV Atlantis II .

    The following summer, Ballard wanted to return to the wreck for a more detailed exploration. Sadly, due to issues that arose from the sharing of information the previous year, the French refused to join them. Using the Navy’s research vessel, Atlantis II, and the submarine Alvin, famous for locating the black smokers and a lost H-bomb, Ballard planned to dive down to the wreck, located 2 and a half miles beneath the surface. He also wanted to test a small robotic camera named Jason Junior, or JJ for short. Attaching JJ to Alvin, it was hoped to explore some of the hard to reach areas of the ship safely. There were a few bugs to work out of JJ, and even on the very first dive, Alvin experienced problems. However, despite all the trial and error, the dives were very successful, and hundreds of hours of footage were collected. One thing Ballard insisted, was that no artifacts be recovered from the wreck. His desire was to protect it as the grave site it was.

    The following year, 1987, the French decided to bring their own expedition to the wreck. They did not have the same qualms about artifacts as Ballard did, and returned with numerous items, including the bell from the crows nest, whose recovery destroyed the crows nest itself, and a safe, that was opened on live television, in a tasteless attempt to secure ratings. This early salvage would eventually bring about laws protecting the wreck, some spearheaded by Ballard himself.
JJ looking back at Alvin near Titanic's bow.

    As time went on, more and more companies tried to dive the wreck. What was needed was a single company to claim ownership of the wreck. According to Maritime Law, Ballard technically owned the wreck, but because he never salvaged the wreck, and in fact had thrown back a small piece that was brought up by mistake, his claim was not upheld. RMS TITANIC INC. became the salvor’s in possession, meaning that they ended up with the sole rights to retrieve items from the wreck. Many expeditions funded by this company have brought up thousands of items, ranging from  tea cups, the ships whistles, which still function to this day and were tested back in the mid 90’s, to even a huge section of the ships hull, dubbed, “The Big Piece.” The problem is, they were essentially robbing a known grave for over 1,500 men, women, and children. The argument was made that no evidence of human remains was ever found, so therefore, there is no grave. That argument is wrong, the evidence was there from the day Ballard found the wreck. The pressure at that great depth is over 2 tons per square inch. At that pressure, the human body becomes almost gelatinous, and will dissolve into the surrounding water, leaving no traces behind. Something curious was noticed during Ballard’s 1986 expedition, however. Shoes made during the Titanic’s era had a lot of tannic acid in them, to tan them and preserve the leather. This would protect the shoe from any of the organisms at that depth, and also keep them from rotting. All throughout the debris field, you will find pairs of matched shoes, which indicate the exact spot a human body had once lain. The shoes are the grave markers for those whose names have been lost in time. RMS TITANIC Inc. has gotten themselves into the business of selling coal from the wreck. Some feel this is harmless, but I disagree. They are simply finding a way to profit off the suffering and loss of those affected by the tragedy. The selling of any item from a grave site, whether it is an Egyptian tomb, a historical battlefield, or a shipwreck, no matter how famous, it is still an act I consider to be morally reprehensible.
Painting of the wrecks bow section.

    In the 1990’s, Canadian filmmaker James Cameron began work on what would become the most famous film ever made about the disaster. Simply known as, it would bring the viewer through the events of the sinking, but through the eyes of two fictional characters, lending an emotional tie that was usually missing from most re-tellings of the tale. Before he began filming, however, he went on his own expedition to the wreck, mainly to film for some of the scenes, but also to get a real feel for the sense of tragedy, to bring it all in. It helped give a realism to his film, and despite numerous historical inaccuracies, his is still the closest to what actually happened that cold night. After his film became the highest grossing film of all time, earning more than a billion at the box office, and winning numerous Oscars, Cameron returned to the wreck, for a more science based exploration. He brought with him two of the smallest remote controlled robots to ever be used on the wreck. With their help, his crew were able to penetrate further into her hull than anyone else. What he learned was that the deeper into the ship, the more preserved it is. The Turkish baths look almost as good as the day she sailed. Much of the wood is still intact that far down. He also discovered a locked gate in the third class area, almost proving that at least some of the gates were locked, making it difficult for those below to get to the boats.

The main whistles, the center one is 5 ft tall.

Bell from the crows nest.

    In recent years, the Russians have begun taking tourists down to see the wreck. The high cost make it very prohibitive to the average person, but they still make a decent profit. Sadly, all this tourism is having an adverse effect on the wreck itself. Her hull is being eaten away at an astounding rate. Iron eating bacteria are weakening the metal, leaving behind what Ballard dubbed “rusticle,” due to their appearance being close to icicles. When the wreck was first located, the forward mast was seen to have collapsed over the bridge, but it was still mainly intact, along with the attached crows nest. Also, the officers quarters were intact and the ship was very stable when Alvin would land on her. In recent years, the ship has begun shaking when a submersible lands on her deck, the roof over the officers quarters has collapsed, the walls of Captain Smith’s quarters have fallen away, and the foremast has sagged and broken in a few places, on top of the crows nest being destroyed in 1987. What needs to happen is that the ship needs to be left alone. We have learned all that we could of the sinking, we now know that her hull split into three sections, and that the keel had held the ship together, dragging the stern down with the bow. Special sonar has penetrated the mud to see the exact nature of the damage done by the berg. It is time for us to let Titanic rest in peace. 
The "Big piece" salvaged in the late 90's.
    The ship itself will begin to collapse in as little as 20 years. Some parts will survive longer than others, and her mighty propellers will last forever. Eventually, the hull will be reduced to a rust stain on the oceans floor, though that will take hundreds of years. Eventually, due to the movement of the tectonic plates, she will reach New York, though her journey will take thousands and thousands of years as opposed to the original 6 days. I personally have no desire to see the wreck with my own two eyes. I also have no desire to see the artifacts salvaged from her wreck. I am from the group that agrees with Ballard that she needs to be lefts alone..

    Speaking of Ballard, he would go on to make a name for himself for finding lost ships. His team would go on to find the lost German battleship Bismarck, and the USS Yorktown, sunk in the Pacific. He would explore many famous wrecks, such as Britannic, Lusitania, Empress of Ireland, and many more. He would write many books on the ships he explored, though his “Discovery of the Titanic” is still his best selling. He would leave Woods Hole, and open his own learning center in Mystic Connecticut, with a goal of educating youngsters on the importance of Earth’s oceans. If there is one man in this world I would like to meet and shake hands with, it is Dr. Robert D. Ballard. He has done more for the field of Oceanography, and also for Maritime History, than anyone else in recent years. He deserves to be applauded.

Ghostly image of the bow railing.

                                        Chapter 8 Mistakes and Theories

    The sinking of the Titanic was a long string of errors that culminated with the ship hitting the iceberg. One of the most glaring errors was a practice shared by all captains of the day followed. Mainly, they would run a ship at full speed until danger presented itself. As ships got faster and larger, it meant that it took more time to turn them, and at full speed, there was less reaction time. As I said, from the sighting of the iceberg to the actual initial impact took just thirty-seven seconds. For the first four days of the voyage, the ship received numerous warnings of ice in the shipping lanes, yet the ship was not slowed, in fact, it was sped up slightly, in an attempt to get through the ice faster. Given the conditions on the night in question, no moon, no wind, and a flat clam ocean, though being ideal for a voyage to New York, if was some of the hardest conditions to spot icebergs at night. So, the error there was relying on old traditions with a new modern vessel.

    The lifeboat situation can be tracked back to the British Board of Trade, and their lack to modernize the rules for passenger ships. The current regulations relied upon a square footage equation based on a tonnage of 10,000 for the amount of boats required by law. That meant that the 46,000 ton Titanic, by law, was only required to carry 14 boats. She in fact exceeded the regulation, carrying 16 regular boats, and four collapsible boats with canvas sides. No one seemed to notice that, if the ship was fully loaded to her maximum capacity, that would only leave enough seats for one third of those on board. They were lucky her maiden voyage was not fully booked, and she was carrying almost 1,000 less passengers and crew than she could hold.  After the sinking, the rules became much simpler, lifeboats for all on board.

    One of the greatest tragedies of that night was not the fact that so many had died, it was the fact that so many more could have been saved. The officers and crew were not familiar with much of the ships equipment, nor were they sure of how much weight the lifeboats could take. Many were sent away from the ship only half filled, with one boat designed to hold 40 being launched with only 12 aboard. Boats tested to hold the weight of 70 men at the shipyard were being dropped down the ships side with as little as 28 persons on board. This severe mishandling of the lifeboats meant that an extra 3-500 could have been saved that night. Sadly, only 705 out of 2,223 that had sailed on the ship, would be saved.

    Another small error, though one that is debatable in how much of an effect it had on the disaster, was the complications brought about by the reshuffling of officers before the trip began. With David Blair departing the ship, and not letting Lightoller know where the binoculars were stored, the lookouts had to rely on their own eyesight to spot the bergs. Given the lack of light that evening, it is doubtful the binoculars would have given them an advantage of time.

William Murdoch.
    The majority of errors that resulted in the sinking took place on the bridge that evening. With First Officer Murdoch in charge, a man who had spent most of the last year on board the near identical Olympic, and should have been familiar with the turning and capabilities of the class, one questions his actions. When the berg was spotted, his first order was Hard a Starboard, a layover command from the days of sail, where you would move the tiller to starboard to make a turn to port. The order was carried out correctly, but it was his further actions that doomed the liner. If he had stopped there, with the simple turn order, there is a fairly good chance that the ship would have either missed the berg completely, or, would not have taken as much damage as she did.

    Many ships of the era were either single screw, twin screw, or quadruple screw. These arrangements allowed for clean water to pass over a ships rudder, making it turn easier. Few ships were triple screwed, yet the Olympic class was one of those rare types. With a triple screwed vessel, two of the propellers are spinning the same direction, either clockwise or counter clockwise, and the third screw is spinning the opposite direction.  Under normal conditions, this is fine, as there is still clean water passing over the rudder. In the Olympic class, the steam turbine controlled the center screw, the one with the most direct impact on the rudder. When Murdoch threw the engines in reverse, it cut out the turbine, meaning there was little effect from the rudder. Add to this that the wing propellers were now churning up the water trying to go in reverse, and it meant that the Titanic was not able to turn as fast as she was designed. If she had been left at full ahead, she could have turned a bit faster, which was proven in World War 1 when the Olympic made a sudden sharp turn to run down a U-boat that was attempting to fire a torpedo at her. Murdoch should have known that if he threw the ships engines into reverse, that he would effectively kill any chance the rudder had of moving the ship.

    So, what should Murdoch have done? He was presented with an iceberg, many times the size of his ship, he had a short time to react, and he did what he thought was right. What he should have done was nothing at all. If Titanic had not been turned, and had instead struck the iceberg head on, she would not have sunk. Ships are constructed with collision bulkheads in their bow, in case they strike another ship or some other hazard. If Titanic had hit the berg directly, the first 100 feet of the ship would have been crushed, killing some passengers and crew, however, only three of her watertight compartments would have been exposed to the sea. Instead, she was turned, and the berg scraped along her hull for over 300 ft, more than a third of her length, opening five compartments fully, and slightly damaging a sixth. It is unthinkable to some to suggest that the ship be ran on purpose into a berg, yet, given the circumstances, it was the best option for the survival of most of those on board. The decision Murdoch made in those brief thirty-seven seconds lead to over 1,500 deaths that night, where as, if he had done nothing, the death toll could have been as little as 100.

    When the hearing in New York was being held, the amount of damage was brought up. An expert on the subject, Edward Wilding, who was a naval architect employed by Harland and Wolff, and therefore an expert on the Olympic class, calculated that the entire amount of damage that sunk the ship was a mere 12 square feet. That is about the surface area of a modern refrigerator. Other experts in the field rejected his calculations, stating that the ship had a gigantic hole ripped into her side, for given her prescribed unsinkability, that was the only thing that could have sunk her. The reality is, if the hole had been as large as they had suggested, the ship would have sunk in as little as ten minutes. Not very long ago, one of the expeditions to the wreck, as I noted above, used a special kind of sonar to peer through the mud to see the damage. It was not a gigantic gash, but a small number of separations in the plates, with very few punctures. The total amount of the damage seen by the sonar was calculated at 12 square feet…score one for the late Edward Wilding.

    There have been a few theories proposed over the years, most of which have either been disproved, or modified to fit the known evidence. One suggestion, brought up in the 1912 hearings, was that if the watertight doors had been opened, the ship might have sunk slower, on a more even keel. In recent years, a computer simulation, as well as testing with models, have run this theory, and the result was that the ship would have capsized and sunk far sooner that she did. One other complication that would have arose from this is that all the ships boilers would have been extinguished far sooner, and the ship would have been plunged into darkness.

    I mentioned above, in the section on the maiden voyage, the fire that had broken out in one of the forward coal bunkers. There is a chance, though this can only be proven if an ROV can be made to actually inspect the bunkers, that the fire weakened the watertight bulkhead between boiler rooms 5 and 6. If it did, it would go a long way to explaining the sudden surge forward the ship took, the one that wrenched open the forward expansion joint and caused funnel number 1 to topple. If the bulkhead had given way due to the thousands of tons of water pressing against it, the sudden flow of water aft would cause the bow to take a quick dip forward. Given that the fire burned for at least four days, the likelihood of it weakening the bulkhead is fairly good. In the grand scheme of the sinking, it may have only been the difference of a few minutes for the time at which she sank.
Titanic's stern, a tangled mess.

    Conspiracy theorists have suggested almost since the sinking that the ship that sank was actually the Olympic, that the White Star Line had switched names on the ships, and had purposely set it up that the ship would sink. Why? Insurance, they feel that this was to recover the costs of the repairs to the Olympic after he collision with the HMS Hawke. This of course is complete and total nonsense. There is no way that the line would endanger passengers under their care, for any reason. Also, with the wreck’s discovery, and the evidence of the yard number 401 stamped on the exposed propeller blade at the stern section, the theories about this seem extremely false. However, the conspiracy nuts still like to drag this one out every now and then.
Jack Thayer

    When the ship first sank, it was an established fact for most that she had gone down in one piece. There was one survivor, young Jack Thayer, another of those rescued from Collapsible B, more on that later, who, when he boarded the Carpathia, had one of her passengers draw his account of the sinking. Curiously, he stated that the ship had broken at the surface, and that the front of the bow briefly rose, before the stern was pulled vertical, finally sinking. His report was dismissed as being inaccurate, yet, recent evidence from the wreck suggests that he might have seen exactly that. It is now known that the ship broke near the surface, that the break began from the bottom of the ship and worked its way up, but that the keel was still holding the ship together, causing the center to sag, and the bow to move slightly up towards the surface, before pulling the still attached stern vertical. The final piece holding the ship together did not break until well below the surface, some 100 feet or more. This section, know as the missing third piece, was partially located a few years ago. It is a 90ft section of the double bottom of the hull, resting upside down, yet cleanly broken from the hull. If the ship had snapped in two from the top down, as was shown in James Cameron’s TITANIC, this missing section would have been badly mangled and crushed at each end.
Jack Thayer's rendition of how the ship sank.

    I have a personally theory from that night, one I would love to see tested either with a model or a computer simulation. When the ship began to break up, her bow was completely filled with water, yet the stern was still dry, and full of air. This is known by examining the stern section of the wreck. When compared to the relatively pristine condition of the bow, the stern looks as if it was hit with an atomic bomb. The hull plating is blown outward, decks are peeled away from the ship, overhanging the poop deck. All this was caused by the keel still holding the ship together, and the stern, full of air, being dragged under by the much heavier, water filled bow. At about 100ft down, the stern suffered from explosive decompression, as the trapped air, mainly in the large refrigerators and engine spaces, escaped and blew the hull apart. The force of this escaping air was felt by those now swimming in the water, slowly freezing to death. A few that had been pulled from there and survived spoke of the massive upwelling of the water, followed by tons of cork insulation that then blanketed the sea. My theory is, given her hull design, if the ships keel had not been so strong, and the bow section had broken off completely, it was entirely possible for the stern to float on her own. The watertight bulkhead separating the main engine room from the turbine room would have held at least long enough for the Carpathia to arrive, if not longer. I will point to my article on the SS Suevic for evidence that it is entirely possible for a ship with these type of watertight compartments to indeed survive a full separation. As I said, I would like to see a simulation done on this theory, sort of a what if scenario.
Titanic' band, Hartley in the center.

     One cannot discuss the events and rumors from the sinking without mentioning the band. Lead by Wallace Hartley, they were asked by Captain Smith to play cheery music to help avoid panic. As the deck got to an angle that was too steep for them to stand, they gave up playing. It has always been debated as to what their final tune was. Popular contemporary sources, such as movies and books, all point to “Nearer My God to Thee” , yet many are not aware that there are several arrangements for this hymn. The one mostly depicted in film was not the preferred version of Hartley, and so it was unlikely to be the version heard that night. There is much more evidence that suggests the final song was not “Nearer My God to Thee” but was in fact “Song D’Automne.”   There are far more eyewitness testimonies pointing to this tune rather than the hymn. The myth of the hymn seems to stem from one witness statement at the American hearing in New York. The press grabbed onto this and it became such a popular and noble notion that many accept it as fact.  The reality was, during the confusion of the final moments of the sinking, many were probably not even paying attention to what the band was playing. As for “Nearer My God to Thee,” this hymn was actually sung during another maritime disaster. In 1906, the SS Valencia struck some rocks and sank near Canada, and as the ship went down, those on board sang that hymn. Now, I must point out that band leader Hartley, who once served aboard the Cunard liner Mauretania, had been known to have said that if he was ever involved in a shipwreck, he would play “Nearer My God to Thee” as his final tune. Perhaps, in the madness of the final plunge, Hartley had taken his violin, found a spot to be by himself, and to play his final tune. Sadly, we will never know for sure.

    Another event that was rumored to occur that evening, though has little supporting evidence, is that near the end, First Officer Murdoch took his revolver and shot himself in the head. This was based on a few survivors who claimed to witness this, yet, when investigated, many of the witnesses were in fact in lifeboats drifting far from the sinking liner. It has also been suggested that it was not Murdoch who committed suicide, but that it was in fact Chief Officer Wilde. Yet again, there is very little evidence to suggest that an event such as this even took place. The only shots fired, on record, were those of Fifth Officer Lowe, when there was a rush on boat 14, and he fired into the sea, as I mentioned earlier.

    One thing that needs to be pointed out is the novel by Morgan Robertson , Futility, first published in 1898. The book is eerily similar to the events of April 1912. It is about a ship named the Titan, the largest of her day, who on a cold April night, strikes an iceberg, with a very heavy loss of life. I have read this book, and while not everything is exactly like the Titanic disaster, the basic premise is so close as to almost seem clairvoyant. There are many other examples of the disaster being foretold, and there is even a book out that deals just with that subject. I will be listing a number of books on the subject of the Titanic at the end of this article, so it shall be listed there. Of course Robertson did not write the only cautionary tale of a giant liner sinking and claiming many lives. William T. Stead, a world famous British journalist, wrote a small sketch in 1886 about that very subject. Stead was a big believer in clairvoyance, and in his case, his tale should have been heeded by not just the public, but by himself. Stead was a passenger on the Titanic, heading to the United Stated after being invited by President Taft, whose own Military aide, Major Archibald Butt, was also on board. Stead would go on to help load the lifeboats, then retire to the smoking room to read a book whilst he awaited his fate. Major Butt would also go down with the ship. 

                Chapter 9 The Long Night of Charles Lightoller, and Collapsible B

    The story of the men who survived on collapsible B is probably one of the most fascinating of the entire disaster. It all began when boat B was freed from the roof of the officers quarters, and crashed upside down onto the boat deck. Before she could be set right and fitted to a davit, the ship took her great plunge forward, and the surge of water flowing aft moved B off the deck, upside down, to float in the ocean. The collapse of the forward funnel pushed the boat away from the sinking vessel.

    With all the boats gone, Charles Lightoller had little choice but to make a swim for it. He was in the water as the ship made its lunge forward, and he was sucked down to be trapped against the main vents at the front of the forward funnel. Just as he was about to give up his vain struggle for life, a blast of warm air from deep within the ship, presumably from the boiler rooms now being extinguished, blew him clear of the ship. He came to the surface, just narrowly avoiding being crushed by the falling stack. What awaited him was the upside down collapsible B. He managed to find purchase, and climbed onto her upturned hull, standing to help keep balance.

Collapsible B after the men were rescued.
    As the ship went down, more men made it to boat B, and they too managed to climb onto her upturned hull, with Lightoller at the bow, using his hands to guide them all with keeping her balanced. Two of those to join him there were wireless operators Phillips and Bride. Bride was able to stay on the upside down hull all night, but sadly, Phillips would succumb to the cold, and slip into the icy waters, never to be seen again.

    Lightoller did not have an easy job. Many more tried to climb onto the hull, but the boat could not take the weight. So many had to be refused, left to swim off to meet their fate. It was rumored that one of these individuals was none other that Captain Smith, yet there is very little evidence to support this. The last place anyone ever saw the captain that night, was walking into the wheelhouse, shortly before it was covered by the sea. A few of the other survivors on the upturned boat would tell tales of beating back other trying to get up on the boat with an oar. One of those men was First class Steward Thomas Whiteley, who had broken his leg when it got caught in the ropes of a lowering lifeboat. Despite being beaten back with an oar, he still managed to get onto the boat.
Harold Bride, survived on Collapsible B.

    There was a very limited air bubble under the upturned boats hull. As more and more men tried to climb on, the boat sank lower and lower into the freezing water. Small amounts of air would escape if the balance was not kept just right, and it became an all night juggling contest. Eventually, the boat would sink so low that the men standing on her would have water up to their knees.

Colonel Gracie.
    So it was that as the night wore one, some would give in to the cold and would slip off, while others kept warm struggling to help maintain the balance. It was many hours later that those on board were saved by one of the other lifeboats. Some notables rescued from boat B were Lightoller, Jack Thayer, Harold Bride, and Colonel Archibald Gracie. For a time, Sixth Officer Moody was aboard, but he too had succumbed to exposure. All in all, 28 men survived the night, thanks mainly to Lightoller organizing them to keep the balance, and maintaining the air bubble that was keeping them buoyant. It truly is a great tale of survival in the most adverse of conditions.

                                               Chapter 10 Final Thoughts

    When I was 8 years old, I first heard about the Titanic. Ironically, it was from my very religious Uncle, who had a fondness for handing out religious tracks to those he deemed were sinners. So, his house always contained a large number of these small booklets, one of which was a cautionary tale of putting more faith in technology over faith in God. This tale, the sinking of the Titanic. In this small booklet, I learned about the ship, about how many said that God himself could not sink the ship, and that the ship was sunk on her very first voyage upon the sea. The religious lesson was lost upon me, as by my personal nature, I am not a religious man. However, the thought of a ship, so large, that was sunk just four days into its maiden voyage, captured my young mind.

    As time went on, I would get real books on the subject, my favorite being Walter Lord’s fantastic A Night to Remember. Through that book, I learned of the true events of that night, as well as some of the more popular myths. I learned about the Californian, and how close she was to the sinking Titanic. I learned of the ships band, playing tunes to keep the panic of the passengers at bay, only to perish themselves to a man. I also would see films like Raise the Titanic, which would lead me to make the incorrect assumption that the ship herself would never be found.  I was proven wrong a few months before my 12th birthday, when Dr. Ballard and his team located the wreck.
Sonar image of the bow section.

    With the wreck’s discovery, new found interest in the subject of the Titanic became the norm. More books became available for reading up on the subject, yet I was slowly being turned away from just the Titanic, and more towards ocean liners in general. It would be more than a decade, however, before I would have an opportunity to study up on the subject I was most interested in.

    I really have to thank James Cameron and his blockbuster film about the sinking. It opened the floodgates for the publishing and re-releasing of published material on the subject of ocean liners. I was able to quickly secure a number of these fantastic books, and would devour them in a few days, learning more and more about the subject I adored. At the end of this article, I shall give a list of some of my most highly recommended books on the subject of maritime history and ocean liners in general, as well as wonderful books about the Titanic herself.

    The internet age has made learning about ships a lot easier. Whether it be tracking down a rare book on the subject, or simply to look up facts and figures on different ships, it truly is a tool that makes research easy. Without it, I would have never been able to finish this article, even though most of the facts have been burned into my head since childhood. The reality, however, is that I am merely an amateur when it comes to the subject of ships and shipwrecks. Though many do come to me with questions, I have no credentials to back up my knowledge. I hope that with these article, I have passed along a bit of my knowledge, and that it is appreciated for what it is.
Painting of the bow from 1986.

    Now, when it comes to films about the sinking, I really do find Cameron’s to be the best, simply for his attention to detail. That being said, I usually do catch myself nitpicking it for the few historical inaccuracies it possesses. Still, I enjoy watching it, and still find the ending very moving. Other films I have enjoyed about the sinking was the 1950’s Barbara Stanwyck film, also titled simply TITANIC. A Night To Remember is a very well done look at the sinking, with Kenneth Moore as Lightoller, though the film makes him out to be the hero of the entire piece. There was a miniseries in the late 70’s, titled S.O.S. Titanic, shot mainly aboard the Queen Mary, that focused not just on first class passengers, but gave a general overview of the tragedy from all the classes aboard.

    The events of April 14/15, 1912 resonate even now, 100 years after the ship was claimed by the North Atlantic. Though her hull lies broken and battered 12,500 feet below the surface, her majesty still enchants us. Her bow still sits upright, pointed towards New York, and the port she would never reach. Her stern lies about 1,000 feet away, pointed in the opposite direction, towards her home shore which she would never again return to. All of the survivors have passed on now, with Millvina Dean being the last, as she was only a few weeks old when the ship sank. There are none left to give us that physical connection to the tragedy, yet their memory will live on.

    My one wish, as time goes by, is that there would be no more dives to her wreck. She has been found, documented , and all evidence that could be collected has been. We cannot learn much more from her than we already know. Some of the research has been invaluable, however. It had been suggested that the steel in her hull was not of a high quality. Metallurgical analysis has shown, however, that this was not so. Refining techniques for the day were not up to the standards we are used to, but the very best possible steel the company could buy, was put into the ship. Her rivets were said to be flawed, and this is true, yet they were plenty strong enough for the application of shipbuilding. They simply could not withstand the pressure of many thousands of tons of ice pushing against them, and even modern welding would not be able to withstand such an impact.

    The rusticle, as Dr Ballard so lovingly dubbed them, have been studied, and new forms of bacteria were discovered. These tiny organisms are slowly eating the ship from the outside in. They are pulling the iron right out of the hull, ingesting it, and weakening the overall structure of the hull. If left alone, the ship will last a bit longer than with the constant disturbances caused by submersibles. When the wreck was first explored in 1986, the hull was very strong and stable, yet in recent years, it shakes some when a submarine lands upon her, and eventually, one will land, and go right through the decking, becoming entrapped in the hull, and the Titanic will claim new victims. She needs to be left in peace, needs to have the quiet dignity returned to her.

    So why is it that this one tragedy still captures our imagination? In the long history of mankind, this is but one event, no more or less significant than any other. Certainly there were shipwrecks before this one, and there have been many others after. If there is one thing recent events with the Costa Concordia have shown us, it is that a ship, no matter how modern or safe, can still be sunk by pure human error. I have pointed out that clearly there was  an abundance of human error the night Titanic met her iceberg. Yet, why does she still hold a place in our thoughts, 100 years after sinking? It has to do with the era in which she came into being. It was the Edwardian era, where the poor were shunned, the rich were celebrities, and ships were more famous and necessary then they are today. The era had an unwavering conceit that every problem known to man could be solved with technology. The industrial revolution was in full swing, transforming our world from one run off of candles and muscle, to one run on electricity and oil. When this ship, the most magnificent and largest moving object yet created by man at that time, sank after just four days at sea, it shattered that trust in technology. It would only be a little over two years after her sinking that the world would be plunged into a great war the likes of which had never been seen. Many historians mark the end of the Edwardian era with the sinking of the RMS Titanic.

     I did not go into all the details of the sinking, but tried to provide an overview. If I had gone into every aspect of that night, this would have been a few hundred pages long and I would be seeking a publisher to bring it to the public. As nice as that sounds, I am just an amateur, as I said, and without the weight of a degree behind me, the chances of such a publication are slim. I could have gone more into the people on board, or more of the facts and figures, yet I felt just doing it in the format I chose would pique your interest in the subject, and seek out further information on your own. I feel the best teacher is yourself, because only you can judge what subjects you would easily absorb. If you have questions, feel free to ask, and I will answer to the best of my ability. Despite studying the subject for the past thirty years, I am still far from what most consider an expert, but I do my best. My only hope is that you have enjoyed the article as I have written it, and maybe even have walked away with at least one or two pieces of knowledge you did not have before.

    In closing, I just want to say that the sinking of the Titanic marks an event that for the first time in human history, had become a global sensation. Nearly every aspect of humanity was present on board her when she sank. Nations as far away as China and Japan suffered losses when she went down. With wireless technology, the story was spread worldwide almost as soon as it happened. For the first time, the world truly felt like a small place, and all because an ocean liner hit an iceberg on a cold April night, 100 years ago. I will leave you now with a list of books that I recommend reading to learn more about this and other subjects. Until we meet again on the great wide oceans of the world, may the wind be at your backs. Bon Voyage!

                                           Recommended Reading

1. A Night to Remember, and The Night Lives On, both by Walter Lord

2. The Discovery of the Titanic by Dr. Robert D. Ballard and Rick Archbold

3. Titanic: Destination Disaster by John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas

4. Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy by John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas

5. Falling Star: The Misadventures of the White Star Line by John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas (This one is good for learning of all the mishaps that befell White Star Line ships during its 70 year lifespan.)

6.  Unsinkable: The Full Story of the RMS Titanic by Daniel Allen Butler

7. Titanic: An Illustrated History by Donald Lynch and Ken Marschall

8. Building the Titanic: The Creation of History’s Most Famous Ocean Liner by Rod Green

9. Titanic: Legacy of the World’s Greatest Ocean Liner by Susan Wels

10. The Titanic Disaster Hearings by The United States Senate Committee on Commerce

11. Titanic Survivor by Violet Jessop ( Interesting side note, Violet Jessop was a stewardess on board the Olympic when she was rammed by HMS Hawke, then on Titanic when she sank, then would later find herself as a nurse on board the Britannic when she struck a mine and sank.)

12. Return to Titanic by Dr. Robert D. Ballard and Michael S. Sweeney

13. Ghosts of the Titanic by Charles R. Pellegrino with James Cameron

14. Her Name, Titanic: The Real Story of the Sinking and Finding of the Unsinkable Ship by Charles R. Pellegrino

15. Titanic: A Night Remembered by  Stephanie L. Braczewski

16. Anatomy of the Titanic by Tom McCluskie

17. The Olympic Class Ships: Olympic, Titanic, Britannic by Mark Chirnside

The following are books dealing more with maritime history as a whole, or the birth of the modern ocean liner. Do give them a read of you wish to learn more about the importance of the ocean liner in its heyday.

1. The Only To Cross: The Golden Era of the Great Atlantic Express Liners -From the Mauretania to the France and the Queen Elizabeth 2 by John Maxtone-Graham

2. Transatlantic: Samuel Cunard, Isambard Brunel, and the Great Atlantic Steamships by Stephen R. Fox

3. The Liner: Retrospective and Renaissance by Phillip S. Dawson

4. Age of Cunard by Daniel Allen Butler

5. Lost Liners by Dr. Robert D. Ballard and Rick Archbold

6. Perils of the Atlantic: Steamship Disasters, 1850 to Present by William H. Flayhart

Many of these books can be found in the transportation section of a local bookstore, or, they can be found on

Last known photo of the Titanic as she steamed away from Queenstown and into history.

1 comment:

  1. This is the most thorough account of the Titanic and its legacy that I've ever seen. Very impressive! I haven't looked up the Wikipedia entry, but you might be able to contribute greatly. I think that you have found your calling here, so try for that degree that will lend credence to your work!

    I have to admit that I've been to several museum exhibits to see artifacts brought up from the wreck, and much of what I know of the Titanic (aside from Cameron's movie) comes from these exhibits. I understand that you don't like this practice, but do see one of these if you can. They're thoughtful and inspiring.