It is amazing what the new images of Titanic are showing. Once of them is a of a gold chain that featured the tooth of a Megalodon, a pre-historic shark. According to the Daily Mirror, this is one of the finds made possible with the technology used to examine the shipwreck giving us such deep details as this. Despite it being found, there is little chance it will ever be brought up. Its original owner is long dead and likely got a settlement from White State over its loss. No doubt it was stunning to wear.
Brittle Steel Contributed to Titanic’s Demise
For most, there is little doubt what sank Titanic but what contributed to is sinking. The Daily Mirror reports that a new book by Jennifer Hooper McCarty and Timothy Foecke that provides more detail on their theory about how brittle steel contributed to making it easier for the ship to sink. McCarty made this claim in the National Geographic special Titanic: How It Really Sank. This was backed up when Timothy Foecke’s own study with the National Institute of Standards and Technology(NIST) which confirmed her findings. Examining steel and rivet samples from the Titanic debris field showed it had three times the amount of slag normally in iron. This allowed it to become brittle at cold temperatures and made it easier for the iceberg to pierce the hull. Sonar images and other things have been used to substantiate the claim.
Needless to say, this is controversial in the Titanic community. Harland & Wolff deny the claim and many Titanic researchers do as well. Nevertheless, this is not as outlandish as theory. Many ships built for the Great Lakes in the early part of the 20th century had too much sulphur or phosphorus in the steel. This made them highly susceptible to being damaged in powerful storms and contributed to ships breaking apart. So it is recognized that it can happen. The allegation in the documentary is that Harland & Wolff, in order to save costs, decided to go for less expensive rivets at the very front (a common practice). Now whether they knew this would make the ship more susceptible to damage and becoming brittle at cold temperatures is unknown.
Treasures of Titanic & Liability Law
It goes without saying that Titanic, thanks to all the wealthy people aboard, had lots of valuables that ended up at the bottom of the sea. The Daily Mail has a list of them for you to gaze at. When you consider the value of what was lost, it is amazing how White Star Line managed to use the then very limited liability laws to keep from shelling out millions of British pounds. In the U.S. and most maritime countries, liability is limited to the value of the ship. And the U.S. law that the owner of the vessel cannot be held financially responsible for loss of life since the ship has no value once it sank.
A terrible boat fire in 2019 aboard the dive boat Conception brought the issue to a head. 34 died in that fire but when it became known that the boat owners not only had no liability but sued under that law to limit liability, it sparked outage. So the old 1851 law was amended in 2022 and signed by President Joe Biden in 2023.. The new law allows that owner of a boat to be held legally responsible for their actions and allows claimants up to two years to file claims. No longer is the value of the ship or boat a factor. The owner of the Conception had been found at fault by the National Traffic Safety Board (it also found fault with the Coast Guard as well) with numerous safety violations and inadequate fire watch on the boat while anchored. The old law precluded much in the way of damages owing to limitations. That has now changed and other laws to add more safety laws to small vessels are being done.
Today we cannot imagine or fathom the resources and manpower needed for this highly complex operation. It took years of planning, putting together needed resources, and training the men needed. Even then things went wrong right away, but despite the terrible odds and the high casualty rate, the Allied forces prevailed. With many junior officers wounded or killed right away, it was the ordinary soldier that won the day.
The world of 6 June 1944 was this: Nazi Germany held total control over Western Europe except for Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland who remained neutral. However, its invasion of Russia had collapsed at this point with the German army now forced to retreat. It had already been forced out of North Africa and Allied troops had landed in Sicily in 1943 and by 1944 were in Italy. Mussolini had been deposed in 1943, rescued by German paratroopers, and put in charge of a German supported puppet state in Northern Italy. The Germans knew the allies were planning a major invasion along the coast of France.
Crossing the English Channel was going to be an enormous challenge. Despite what some want to believe, it was easier in concept that actual implementation. While cries of a second front had been going on for years, it required a vast amount of resources to pull off. You not only needed the men, but they all had to be trained, fed, and properly outfitted. Not just the foot soldiers but also the special units. Then you needed ships not only to bring them over to England, but camps to house them and continue their training. The Army Air Corp needed runways and facilities. The list goes on and on. Imagine a list of needed items that stretches, when laid out flat, from San Francisco to Los Angeles and you get an idea of how enormous an operation this was going to be. And that is just on the planning and supply side.
Then the problem of getting men over to France was a major hurdle. Landing craft at the start of the war were not very good and unreliable. New ones would have to be devised (they were, the Higgins boats) that would allow troops to be dropped off as close to shore as possible. Then you needed accurate intelligence to tell you what the troops were going to face. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel had put up every possible fortification on the beaches and the area around. From mines in the water to barbed wire to turrets filled with guns and German troops. Hitler wanted an Atlantic wall and Rommel was pretty darn close in getting it done.
That is why D-Day is important. This was a massive operation unlike anything in history. A full fledged invasion of Europe on a tricky North Atlantic where weather was hardly ever your friend. It did not go to plan, some parts went hideously wrong (landing at wrong places etc). Yet the Allied forces prevailed because of the determination of the soldiers, mostly noncoms and enlisted, to get it done. It came at great cost in lives yet when it was over began the march to push Germany out of many conquered lands. Today some talk down this military success out of some desire to lessen having to celebrate in any way war or military accomplishment. Yet had this invasion not happened or been unsuccessful, the Third Reich likely would have lasted a lot longer or worse perhaps not fallen at all.
Further Information & Suggested Reading
Ambrose, Stephen (1994) . D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Gilbert, Martin (1989). The Second World War: A Complete History. New York: H. Holt.
Keegan, John (1994). Six Armies in Normandy: From D-Day to the Liberation of Paris. New York: Penguin Books.
Ryan, Cornelius (1959). The Longest Day. New York: Simon & Schuster.
In June 1942 the Empire of Japan had become the dominant power in Asia and ruled a sizable empire. It acquired Formosa (Taiwan) in 1895, Korea in 1905, and Manchuria (renamed Manchukuo) in 1931. It invaded China in 1937 seizing control of key cities such as Shanghai, Nanking and Peking (Beijing). French Indochina (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand) were invaded after the fall of France in 1940 to prevent it from being used by the Chinese to funnel arms. A treaty with German backed Vichy France made French Indochina neutral but within the Japanese sphere of power. British Hong Kong fell to the Japanese after 18 days of heavy fighting on Christmas Day in 1941. Fortress Singapore, so-called because it seemed impregnable to attack, would fall to the Japanese on 15 Feb 1942. The Japanese avoided a frontal assault by coming through the less protected jungle at its rear. The Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) was conquered by March 1942 and The Philippines would fall in May. Burma would also be taken over as well. To protect their position in Dutch West Indies they began attacking northern Australia to prevent it from being used as a staging area. With the old imperial powers gone and Japan firmly in charge, nothing seemed to be in the way of Japan. The Battle of Midway changed that.
Although the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 Dec 1941 was considered a success in Japan, the United States was still in the game. The unexpected bombing of Tokyo on 18 April 1942(The Doolittle Raid) and its ability to fight as shown at the Battle of the Coral Sea (4-8 May 1942) convinced Japanese leaders they needed to so demolish American morale they would not want to fight any further. They choose a small virtually unknown atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean called Midway to draw out the American fleet to be destroyed. Midway is aptly named and 1300 miles northwest of Pearl Harbor and nearly halfway between Japan and the West Coast of the United States. Its strategic importance meant it was valuable for both sides. A military base was already there and seizing it from the United States would draw out their remaining carriers along with support craft to be destroyed. The plan was to send four carriers and support craft for the initial attack. Then a larger task force comprised of destroyers, support craft and troops commanded by Admiral Yamamoto would follow up to destroy the American ships than came to liberate Midway. A feint of attacking American outposts in the Aleutian Islands was used to distract the U.S. while it attacked Midway.
The Japanese, however, did not know that its code had been broken. A special naval intelligence unit called HYPO had broken it in March resulting in much of the plan becoming known to the U.S. A task force was assembled of three carriers (Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown) seven heavy cruisers, 1 light cruiser, 15 destroyers, and 16 submarines would go out to meet the Japanese fleet. The Yorktown, already in badly need of repair, was patched up and its depleted aircraft and pilots scrounged up from whatever was available. In overall command was to have been Vice Admiral William Halsey but fell sick prior to the mission. Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance, who headed up the escorts under Halsey, would command Enterprise and Hornet. Rear Admiral Frank Fletcher was in command of Yorktown.
On 4 June 1942, Admiral Nagumo aboard the carrier Akagi launched the initial air attack on Midway comprised of dive and torpedo bombers escorted by Zeroes. PBY’s launched that morning from Midway would sight two Japanese carriers and radar picked up incoming Japanese fighters. Midway sent up unescorted bombers to delay the attack while the fighters remained behind to defend Midway. Midway came under heavy attack and its air interceptors took a heavy beating fighting the Japanese. Anti-aircraft fire from ground personnel proved to be more precise. Midway took a beating but was still functional and could launch planes.
Meanwhile scouting reports flying ahead of the American carriers placed the Japanese carriers at the extreme range for air attack. Making matters more difficult was the fact that Japanese scout planes had sighted the American fleet. Despite the extreme range, Spruance ordered the planes to be launched and increased the speed of the task force to close the distance. The torpedo squadrons left first but due to mechanical problems in launching the dive-bombers, had to fly unescorted. They would reach the Japanese and be quickly shot out of the sky by Japanese Zeroes and anti-aircraft fire. Not one torpedo launched did any serious damage.
Admiral Nagumo had a problem. His planes returned from Midway and were being re-armed for the next bombing run. But he had just gotten a report that the American navy was in the area. Its exact composition was unknown. So he ordered a change in the ordnance for the attack planes. Instead of attacking land-based targets they would arm to destroy ships. The result was there was a lot of ordnance out on the deck on the carriers where this was being done. With the Japanese combat air patrol out of position having dealt with the torpedo squadrons they were not able to intercept the next wave of attack. American dive-bomber squadrons from Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown would seemingly arrive nearly at the same time. It was one of the greatest coincidences in military history. Three Japanese carriers–Akagi,Kaga, and Soryu–would be sunk that day. The surviving carrier Hiryu counter-attacked by sending our air squadrons to attack any American carrier they could find. They found Yorktown and dropped three bombs heavily damaging the ship but not sinking it. Admiral Fletcher moved over to cruiser Astoria while it was being repaired. A second air attack an hour later would further damage Yorktown. She would later sink when being towed on 6 June by a torpedo fired by a Japanese submarine, which also sank the destroyer Hamman.
The Japanese believed they had turned the tide and would be able to go on with the Midway plan. They knew a huge fleet of destroyers and support craft was on the way. However the Hiryu was found late in the afternoon. An air attack by Enterprise and Yorktown bombers resulted in four or possibly five bombs seriously crippling her. The fires prevented any planes taking off or landing. The crew would evacuate and later Hiryu would sink. Spruance, not wanting to risk exposure to Japanese forces and wanting to protect Midway would retire to the west. Admiral Yamamoto still wanted to invade Midway and proceeded on course. Had Spruance not changed course, the remaining two carriers of the American fleet would have been exposed to Yamamoto’s destroyers. Spruance would go after the stragglers. Yamamoto ultimately ordered the fleet back to Japan not knowing the full composition of the American forces that might be pursuing.
The U.S. Navy lost 1 carrier, 1 destroyer, 150 aircraft and 307 killed. Many of those killed were from the torpedo squadrons that lost 80% or more of their pilots. The Japanese lost 4 carriers, 1 heavy cruiser, 248 aircraft and 3,057 killed. It was a major victory for the U.S. but most Japanese would never learn the full details until after the war was over. The survivors of the sunken carriers and those aboard the ships that survived would be quarantined or sent on duty assignments far away from home. None of the senior officers would face any serious repercussions. Only those at the very top were informed as to what really happened. Only the Emperor and the top naval officers knew the full details. The public was told it was a great victory and the Imperial Japanese Army believed the navy was in good condition. However Admiral Yamamoto and the other senior leaders of the Japanese Navy knew the truth. The United States would soon come out stronger than it had been before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
For the United States it would prove the value of intelligence gathering and code-breaking. It would continue to be an important part of the war effort and would yield even more useful information down the road with dire consequences for Admiral Yamamoto. The code breaking led directly to his plane being shot down in 1943 as payback for Pearl Harbor.
(Please note this is a very condensed description of the Battle of Midway and had a lot more stages in it than reflected in this writing).
1. Lord, Walter (1967). Incredible Victory. New York: Harper and Row.
2. Prange, Gordon W.; Goldstein, DonaldM.; Dillon, Katherine V. (1982). Miracle at Midway. New York: McGraw-Hill
June is the sixth month on the Gregorian calendar. It is named for the Roman god Juno. Juno was the equivalent of the Greek god Hera, though with a few differences. Like Hera, Juno was the wife and sister of Jupiter (the Roman version of Zeus, king of the gods). Juno was the protector of the nation and watched over women. On the old Roman calendar, June was usually the fourth month as their new year started in March. June has 30 days.
June is also the month that has the most sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere. The summer solstice (winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere) takes place during the month. It is a month of celebrations and weddings are very popular during this month. During Roman times getting married during the month of June was considered lucky and has become traditional since then as the month for preferred weddings.
The June symbols are pearl, alexandrite and moonstone for the birthstones, with the rose and honeysuckle for the flowers. Although officially summer does not begin until the solstice, for commercial and agricultural purposes summer begins when the month begins.
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.