The Titanic disaster of 1912 was still making waves when on 29 May 1914, the RMS Empress of Ireland collided with the Norwegian coal freighter Storstad in the Saint Louis River at Pointe-au-Père, Quebec. It occurred around 0200 in the morning. Storstad hit the starboard side, causing severe damage. Empress began to list and quickly fill with water. Portholes had not been secured before leaving port so many were open (many passengers complained of poor ventilation) so that allowed a lot of water to enter. Many in the lower decks drowned from water coming in from the open portholes.
Also failure to close the watertight doors led to the quick sinking. Three lifeboats were launched quickly with passengers and crew that were in the upper deck cabins able to get away but as the ship listed further starboard, the other lifeboats could not be used. Ten minutes after the collision, Empress lurched violently on the starboard side allowing 700 passengers and crew to crawl out of portholes and decks on her side. Then 15 minutes later, after it briefly looked like she might have run aground, the hull sank dumping all the people left on her into the icy water. When the final tally was done, 1,012 people lost there lives. 465 survived. Many on the starboard side where asleep and likely drowned in their cabins.
The official enquiry, which began on 16 June 1914, was headed by Lord Mersey who had previously headed the British Titanic enquiry (he would also lead up the enquiry into Lusitania later). Two very different accounts emerged of the collision from the Storstad and Empress. At the end of the day, the commission determined that when Storstad changed course, it caused the collision. The Norwegians did not accept the verdict and held their own enquiry which exonerated the captain and crew of the Storstad. Canadian Pacific, which owned the now sunk Empress of Ireland, pursued a legal claim and won. The Norwegian owners countersued but in the end the liabilities forced them to sell Storstad to put money in the trust funds.
What happened to Empress, though not receiving the same attention as Titanic, was to change ship design. The reverse slanting bow was dangerous in ship-to-ship collisions resulting in below the waterline damage. Bows were redesigned so the energy of the collision would be minimized below the surface. Longitudinal bulkheads were discontinued as they trapped water beneath them causing the ship to list and capsizing. Needless to say portholes were to be secured from that point on (in fact nearly all cruise ships use decoratives that can never be opened). The wreck today has been salvaged many times and is now the only underwater historic site in Canada. The wreck is in shallow water (130 feet) but is notably dangerous dive due to the cold waters, currents, and often impaired visibility.
Today is Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember those who gave all to serve this country. At national cemeteries and smaller ones around the country, flags and flowers have been placed to remember them. We also remind ourselves that freedom is not easily granted, often requires great sacrifice. President Lincoln made note of this in his famous 1863 Gettysburg Address:
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
God of power and mercy,
you destroy war and put down earthly pride.
Banish violence from our midst and wipe away our tears,
that we may all deserve to be called your sons
Keep in your mercy those men and women
who have died in the cause of freedom
and bring them safely
into your kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
(Memorial Day Prayer, USCCB)
On 27 May 1905, the Russian Baltic fleet engaged the Japanese navy at Tsushima Strait, which lies between Korea and Japan. The battle was a decisive win for the Japanese with the Russians losing 34 ships. It shifted the balance of power in Asia for years to come.
The Russia-Japan War of 1904-1905 was the first major war of the 20th century. Russia was large territorially but due to harsh winters needed a warm water port for its navy to operate. They expanded into both China and Korea to acquire resources and establish a naval base at Port Arthur ( Lüshunkou District today) in Liaodong Peninsula in China. Japan was not happy with Russia expanding into these areas and that it had supported the Chinese during the 1894 conflict. Japan tried to work out a deal to allow Russia access to Korea under Japanese control. The Russians did not agree, and Japan decided to attack Russia. Since international law at the time did not require a declaration of war prior to an attack, they delivered notice on the very day of the attack to the Russians.
Japan had quickly modernized and westernized once it opened for trade. The arrival of Commodore Perry in 1853 put pressure on Japan to open to the world. It was still ruled by Tokugawa shogunate (military rule) which had begun in the 1600’s. Foreigners were not allowed though a Dutch trading post was allowed owing to special connection created by William Adams. He was an English navigator for Dutch fleet that sailed to Japan. Williams became an advisor to the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and stayed in Japan for the remainder of his life. He was the basis for the fictional John Blackthorne in the novel Shogun. He did become samurai, a rare honor for a foreigner and Hatamoto.
By the mid-19th century though the shogunate was showing its age. While it controlled contact with foreigners, many had been exposed to Western technology and ideas. Internally things were starting to come apart. A series of famines led to unrest and the belief the shogunate was unable to cope. Also, the fact they were bullied by other nations (particularly the United States) to open their borders for trade led to the fall of the shogunate in 1867. This led to a period called the Meji Restoration where power was restored to the throne. It brought about an end to the feudal system and a cabinet style of government. Trade with the west ramped up along with the desire to create a military that would not only defend them but make them a power as well.
The surprise attack on 8 February 1904 shocked the world. The Russian military did not believe Japan would attack, and if it did would be easily repelled. Under the command of Admiral Togo Heihachiro, the Japanese fleet sank ships and bombarded the city. While Russian ships further in the bay were protected, the Japanese bombarded the city and attempted to blockade (this proved difficult). However, the Japanese did not give up and ultimately kept pounding the city for months preventing any military aid (from land or sea) to aid the Russians. The city would surrender formally in January 1905 when General Anatoly Stessel surrendered to the Japanese seeing it was no longer worth defending (it surprised his superiors in St. Petersburg). His surrender was controversial as he still had large stores of ammunition available to him. He would be court martialed later for cowardice and sentenced to death (later changed to 10 years imprisonment). He would be pardoned later by Czar Nicholas II.
Believing the Russian navy could still defeat the Japanese, the Czar created the Third Pacific Fleet and joining with the Second Fleet would become the Baltic Fleet that would sail 18,000 miles from Kronstadt (St. Petersburg) to meet the Japanese at Tsushima Strait. Admiral Togo had plenty of time to prepare to meet the Baltic fleet. Togo had already wiped out the Russian fleet at Port Arthur. A naval squadron from Vladivostok had proven its effectiveness by sinking Japanese transports. However, in August 1904 a confrontation with Japanese forces resulted in the sinking of one heavy armored cruiser. The other two ships had been severely damaged and had to return to port unable to fight again for a long while. During the interim, Togo sent many of his ships back to their home ports for repairs. And he spent time training the crews for the upcoming battle.
This meant the Russians were facing well rested and trained crews, along with ships that had been repaired and ready for battle. Togo’s plan was to trap the Baltic fleet in the Tsushima Strait and to engage them in several operations. On the Russian side, Admiral Rojestvensky and his staff argued on the best course to attack the Japanese. Ultimately, he decided on Tsushima on May 17 and ordered the fleet to proceed. Togo had built watchtowers all over the area and manned to watch for the Russian arrival. Over 70 ships, many converted commercials vessels, were sent out to watch and report of any Russian movement. Early on the morning of 27 May, confirmation was finally made of the Russian fleet and that it was headed for Tsushima Strait.
The battle would last for two days and was decisive. Of the 38 Russian ships that were in battle, 34 were sunk or captured (some were interned in neutral ports). One transport and two destroyers managed to get to Vladivostok; one cruiser managed to get all the way back to Kronstadt. Togo lost three torpedo boats, but the Russian Pacific fleet had been destroyed. It is considered one of the greatest naval victories in modern history.
The destruction of the Russian Baltic Fleet astonished and shocked Europe and America. Japan now was a major force in Asia to be reckoned with. President Theodore Roosevelt of the United States negotiated a peace treaty between the two in August 1905 (Treaty of Portsmouth). The balance of power in Asia was a central issue since the war involved (directly and indirectly) China, Korea, Europe, and the United States. Russia would give up its claims in Korea and China and recognize Japan as the dominant power in Korea. The colonial powers in Asia were now on notice. Japan was now in the game, and you ignore it at your peril.
Anti-Japanese sentiments would grow because of the war. In California, the Alien Land Act was passed in 1913. This law prohibited the ownership or leasing of land by those banned from citizenship under federal law. Many Japanese immigrants had bought agricultural land to raise crops, so the law was to target them (it also effected Chinese and others as well). To get around it, many Japanese put their American born male children as owners. Such laws were common in many Western states. And legislatures enacted restrictions on that later as well. The U.S. Supreme Court declared such laws constitutional and would remain in force until the 1950’s. Then they were either rescinded or made invalid when the Supreme Court ruled that they were unconstitutional (Oyama v, California (1948) and Fuji Sei v. State of California (1952). During the time they were in place, many Japanese Americans were forced to give up their farms and relocate elsewhere.
Russian prestige was hit hard by the disastrous military defeat. Other powers (Britain, France, Germany and to a lesser extent the United States), no longer viewed Russia as a strong military power. Russia was already considered a backward country where much of its population was agrarian with a thin industrial strata of industrial workers. They had serfdom-where landless peasants were forced to serve nobility who owned lands-until 1861. The large cities by 1900 had become overcrowded with industrial workers who were not paid very much. A combination of costly wars starting in the last century, periods of famine, and general resentment against the monarchy all contributed to the Russian Revolution of 1905. While the Czar did implement reforms to placate the populace, the entry of Russia into World War I in 1914 resulted in even more unrest due to food shortages, ruined economy, and military defeats. The Communists would ultimately topple the regime in 1918.
A program founded over 100 years ago, spawned by the sinking of one the most famous vessels in history — the RMS Titanic — is quietly winding down. Over the next couple of years, staffed flight missions of the International Ice Patrol will become a thing of the past as satellites and drones become more advanced. “I think we’re towards the end of the era of the aviation mission and soon the satellites will be doing all of the work,” tactical commander Lt. Alex Hamel told CBC News during a recent flight.
Titanic researcher Parks Stephenson told The Mirror: “I’ve got a growing amount of evidence that Titanic didn’t hit the iceberg along its side, as is shown in all the movies.,” he said. “She may actually have grounded on the submerged shelf of the ice. That was the first scenario put out by a London magazine in 1912. Maybe we haven’t heard the real story of Titanic yet,” he added.
When the Titanic hit an iceberg while crossing the Atlantic in 1912, its telegraphers desperately sent out distress calls hoping somebody, somewhere might hear them. But among the first to respond was an amateur radio operator some 3,000 miles (4,800km) away in south Wales. Self-taught Arthur Moore received the signal at his homemade station in Blackwood, Caerphilly county. He rushed to the local police station, but was met with incredulity. And while the radio enthusiast could do nothing to help those on board the Titanic, he went on to pioneer an early form of sonar technology which helped discover its resting place decades later.
They are the everyday objects that reveal the extent of the human tragedy when the Titanic sank in 1912 with the loss of 1,500 lives.The body of violinist Wallace Hartley, who continued to perform with his fellow band members as the ship slipped beneath the waves of the North Atlantic after hitting an iceberg, was found days after the tragedy with his violin strapped to his chest.
More than a century after it sank, the first ever full-sized scans of the Titanic show the historic shipwreck in astonishing detail. Experts have taken thousands of digital images to create an incredible 3D reconstruction of the wreck, which now lies 350 nautical miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. The images, published by the BBC, reveal the wreckage in greater detail than ever before, including stalactites of rust on the ship’s bow, the serial number on a propeller, and a hole over where the grand staircase once stood. They present Titanic almost as if it’s been retrieved from the water, although this will likely never happen as the wreck is so fragile that it would disintegrate under any movement. Experts hope studies of the scans could reveal more about the mysteries surrounding what happened on the fateful night in April 1912, such as the exact mechanics of how it struck the seafloor.
Two west Belfast primary schools from separate communities have completed a Titanic shared education project. The film about the doomed liner, made by pupils from St Joseph’s Primary School, Slate Street, and Blackmountain Primary, is to be shown at Belfast City Hall on Wednesday. The film called Who Sank the Titanic? looks at why the ship perished on its maiden voyage in April 1912. Rare footage of the shipwreck filmed in 1986 has recently been released.
It was a game to be remembered. The Boston Braves had only won 8 and had lost 19 games as they faced the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field in Pennsylvania on 25 May 1935. Babe Ruth, who had been with the New York Yankees for most of his best years, had been released by them in February but was picked up by the Boston Braves. Now at 40, his career was coming to an end. Although given other responsibilities by the Braves, those were mostly promotional and disappointed Ruth he would never manage a team. This game though would set a record that would not be broken for 40 years.
By the seventh inning of the game, Ruth had hit two homeruns, but the Pirates still led 7-5. Ruth came to bat. Fans were excited at seeing him play and he did not disappoint. His 714-career homerun came with the ball clearing Forbes Field right field roof. There was no doubt when he hit the ball that it was a homer. Fans could hit that familiar smack that Ruth was so well known for. He rounded the bases and saluted the fans with his cap. He was old and fat, but he had come through. The fans roared in delight. The Braves tied the score 7-7 later in the inning, but the Pirates came back scoring three runs later in that inning and scoring again in the eight for final score of 11-7.
Although he would play five more games with the Braves, this homerun was his last and was a league record for 40 years. He would retire from baseball on June 1, 1935. He would die of throat cancer on 16 August 1948. On 8 April 1974, Hank Aaron would hit his 715-homerun ending Ruth’s record.
One of the greatest movies in cinema history is Ben-Hur. Made during the period where Sword and Sandal movies were popular, this epic telling of the book by Lew Wallace (Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ) showed Hollywood at its finest. The epic movie told a great story and had fans riveted to their seats for 212 minutes (that is over three hours including overture) and had many epic scenes (such as the famous chariot scene) that today are still talked about. It won all the categories of its day in the 1960 Academy Awards. A feat that was not toppled until Titanic and later the Lord of the Rings movies. And it saved MGM from bankruptcy as well.
One of the more riveting aspects is when Judah Ben-Hur is sentenced to be a galley slave on the trumped-up charge by his boyhood Roman friend Messala (played by Stephen Boyd) of trying to kill the new governor. A loose tile had fallen off the roof of his home when he passed by spooking his horse and throwing him off. His family is tossed out their home to boot as well. Before he leaves, Judah tells his old friend Messala that he will return, which stuns Messala since it was not likely. When he reaches his ship, he is taken below and becomes one of the slaves rowing the ship. He loses his name and becomes a number. And like all the galley slaves, chained to prevent escape. It is a hopeless existence where you row constantly on the orders of the commander and many die of exhaustion when pushed to the full limit of rowing at high speeds.
While the ships depicted in the movie more or less look like ships used during the period (but probably sturdier), the aspect of Romans using slaves for rowing warships is inaccurate. Instead, nearly everyone who did this task signed up for it and nor were they chained (they were not slaves). In other words, they signed up and were paid to be the engines of the warship. Since they had no artillery or guns, they used catapults to fling fiery objects (or heavy rocks sometimes) or had archers sending flaming arrows to the enemy ships. The standard tactic was to get close enough to board or ram. The front piece of the ship had a heavily constructed bow plate the was designed to break the hull of the other vessel when rammed. Sea battles were not always that easy though as enemy ships tried to maneuver to avoid that. So, you would end up in extended battles as a result. Having a large number of ships though had the effect of causing some enemies to just flee or surrender. At the famous Battle of Actium in 31 BC, when Antony jumped off his ship and swam for a ship departing with Cleopatra’s, the rest of his ships decided to surrender after that knowing the large Roman fleet outnumbered them. On land, Antony’s troops were likewise discouraged from moving east and marching towards Egypt. They sent a message offering to switch sides to Octavian (later Augustus) which was accepted.
Since Romans didn’t use slaves on their ships, where did this idea come from? It turns out it is a bit of post-historical revisionism. Long after the Roman Empire fell, some nations in the 16th, 17th and even into the 18th centuries used slaves in their ships to man the rowers. While they had sails, having rowers gave you an advantage when winds were calm, and your ship had cargo to deliver (or needed speed in battle). However, as time went on and ships built for speed the need for rowers was gone. Older Spanish galleons were likely the only ones that had them into the 19th century in Europe, but the need for slave rowers and slaves in general decreased dramatically as slavery itself came under considerable dislike. Slavery existed in one form or another during the Roman Empire and prior to it by the other powers (Greece, Egypt, Persia, and others). Where the slaves came from made the difference as to what they did as slaves. Most came from wars of conquest or lands Rome occupied. Unskilled slaves (0r those sentenced to slavery for crimes) worked on farms, mines, and mills according to most sources. More educated slaves might end up working in households or if they had some special skills (like mathematics, medicine or other in demand skills), they might be put into places where they skills would be used. Women slaves might end up in prostitution or in households. Romans did not trust slaves to serve in the military except perhaps in support capacities (delivering food etc).
Many people of course know about Spartacus who led the famous revolt between 73-71 BC. He was not, as the movie of the same name, born into slavery. As a Thracian, her served as soldier for Rome but later deserted. When he was captured, he was made into a slave and then eventually helped lead the group of 70 that escaped the gladiator school in Capua. They formed a larger unit of escaped slaves which alarmed citizens (since they seized weapons and food from Romans) and made the Romans look unable to stop them. But they did in 71 BC and ended the revolt. To make it clear they would not tolerate such a revolt again, they crucified every one of the escaped slaves (Spartacus body was never found but believed to have died in battle). Bounties were put into place to be paid when escaped slaves were captured. Far from contributing to the end of the Roman Empire as the movie Spartacus claims, slavery remained in place until its fall. And there were no other slave revolts after this.
On 22 May 1939, Germany and Italy signed the Pact of Friendship and Alliance that became known later as the Pact of Steel. This began the formal military and political alliance between the two countries. Initially Japan was to be part of the agreement but there was disagreement on the focus of the pact. Germany and Italy wanted it aimed at the British Empire and France, while Japan wanted the Soviet Union to be the focus. The agreement was signed without Japan but would later join in September 1940.
The agreement brought together two countries that opposed each other in World War I. It also required each country to come to the aid of the other if it were in armed conflict with another nation. Neither party could make peace without the agreement of the other. One of the assumptions of the agreement was that war would start in three years at the latest. Italy needed the time to get its war production into high gear. The agreement was for ten years but there was some concern within the Italian government the agreement would suppress Italian autonomy. The agreement was still signed despite these objections, which also came from Mussolini’s son-in-law, Galeazzo Ciano, who was the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Hitler, however, would soon declare his intentions of invading Poland. Mussolini was not happy he was not consulted on this, nor about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Agreement. Italian forces did not commit fully to war until June 1940 when German forces had defeated British and French forces with lightning speed. Italy seized Nice as its prize. Other countries it tried to invade proved more difficult. Greek partisans brought the Italian force to a halt. Germany would intervene to help there and in Yugoslavia where Italian troops also pushed back by partisans. A disastrous attack on British Egypt from Italian Libya required German assistance as well. The economic consequences of the war were bad for most Italians generating widespread resentment that would lead one day to Mussolini’s fall from power in 1943.
On 20 May 1932, five years after Charles Lindbergh made his famous solo nonstop flight from the U.S. to France, Amelia Earhart set out to be the first female aviator to accomplish the same feat. Unlike Lindbergh, Earhart was already well known before this flight. She gained fame in 1928 as part of a three person crew to be the first woman to cross the Atlantic in an airplane. On that trip, she kept the plane’s log.
Early on 20 May 1932, her Lockheed Vega 5B took off from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. She intended to replicate Lindbergh’s flight but encountered strong northerly winds, mechanical problems, and icy conditions. Instead of landing in France, she landed in a pasture at Culmore(north of Derry)in Northern Ireland. When asked by a farmhand how far she had flown, she famously said “From America.” Her feat received international acclaim. She received the Distinguished Flying Cross in the U.S., Cross of Honor of the Legion of Honor from France, and the Gold Medal from the National Geographic Society. Her fame allowed her develop friendships with many important and influential people such as First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Earhart would continue to make solo flights and set records. Sadly her next most famous mission would forever be shrouded in mystery. In 1937 she attempted–along with copilot Frederick Noonan–to fly around the world. On 2 Jul 1937, her plane disappeared near Howland Island in the South Pacific. Despite extensive searching by the U.S.Navy and Coast Guard, no trace of the plane or its pilots were ever found. The search was called off on 19 July. Earhart was declared legally dead on 5 Jul 1939 so that her estate could pay bills. Since then numerous theories as to what happened have been put forth. Many believe her plane either crashed and sank or that they landed on an island and perished awaiting rescue. Some intriquing evidence recovered in 2012 off Nikumaroro might be from their plane which supports the crash and sank hypothesis. More speculative theories have her being a spy for FDR or being captured and executed (along with Noonan)by the Japanese on Saipan (the area checked for the pilots bodies revealed nothing). A 1970 book claiming she had survived, moved to New Jersey, and changed her name to Irene Craigmile Bolam. There really was an Irene Bolam who had been a banker in New York in the 1940’s. She sued the publisher and obtained an out-of-court settlement. The book was taken off the market. National Geographic throughly debunked it in 2006 on Undiscovered History.
[I was distracted and did not post a lot of news stories for a while. I truly apologize for this and now post the list of news articles for people to check out. I did not include any stories about James Cameron’s Titanic as that has been covered ad nauseam.]
[I think Tik Tok has become the National Enquirer of the internet. For those who are outside the US, it publishes all kinds of sensational stories about celebrities and everything else. Commonly found near check out in grocery stores, its motto is anything sensational, even untrue, is worth printing. Probably its equivalent (and probably inspired by it) was the UK News of the World tabloid that did more or less the same thing. It was shuttered in 2011 after allegations of phone hacking surfaced which resulted in several arrests. Advertisers pulled away and it folded as a result. The Sunday edition of The Sun now has replaced it.]
[There are a few caveats to the argument in the article. Assuming someone were to go out and actually pull up artifacts and try to sell them, there are some treaties that might get in the way of anyone trying to do this. The wreck is now preserved as a historical site, so anyone doing this would violate a UN declaration. Britain, Canada, France, and the US have a treaty protecting the wreck as well, so you would have a problem selling artifacts outside of the US in those countries. Even if you did try, RMST would sue in that nation’s admiralty court to have such a sale stopped. In short, lots of litigation and fees to lawyers.]
[Note this carafe was not aboard Titanic but given to White Star employees in 1912 after the sinking. However, the company that provided this carafe, did supply the same carafe to the ship. The picture of it shows how exquisite such carafes were for formal dining on Titanic.]
Under President Jefferson, the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory in 1803 for a price of 3 cents per acre for some 828,000 square miles of land. It is considered one of the best land deals ever. Jefferson commissioned the expedition of Lewis and Clarke to explore this territory from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. On 14 May 1804 this “Corps of Discovery” as it was called, left St. Louis with 45 men (only 33 would make the full journey) for the newly purchased American interior.
Traveling up the Missouri River in six canoes and two longboats they would winter in Dakota before crossing into Montana where they saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time. They would meet the Shoshone Indians on the other side of the Continental Divide, who would sell them horses. The journeyed through the Bitterroot Mountains, down the rapids of the Clearwater and Snake rivers, until they reached the Columbia River and to the sea. They arrived at the Pacific Ocean on 8 November 1805 and were the first European explorers to do this overland from the east. The paused for the winter and then made their journey back to St. Louis in the spring.
The journals that were kept noted longitude and latitude with detailed notes on soil, climate, animals, plants, and native peoples. They identified new plants and animals (the grizzly bear for one). They also named geographic locations after themselves, loved ones, friends and even their dog. They experienced a variety of diseases and injuries during their journey but only one person perished. Their expedition is considered one of the most consequential and remarkable in U.S. history. Their travels in Oregon would lead the U.S. to able claim territorial rights later.