Initial reporting in American newspapers was a mixture of wishful thinking, press statements from White Star, and jumbled messages that conveyed the disaster was not that bad. Headlines blared the following:
ALL TITANIC PASSENGERS ARE SAFE (Baltimore Evening Sun, 15 April)
ALL SAVED FROM TITANIC AFTER COLLISION (New York Evening Sun 15 April)
And news reports indicated Titanic was being either towed to Halifax or to New York. It turns out though that another ship in distress, an oil tanker being towed to port, got mixed in with reports about Titanic. Wireless messages were constantly being bounced about, were often short, and since Morse code was used easy to mix up things before sending the message forward. And that is what essentially happened. The New York Times was the first to report it correctly. After three days of listening to messages and doing research, managing editor Carl Van Anda realized that no messages had been transmitted by Titanic since its distress calls. Their late edition would read:NEW LINER TITANIC HITS AN ICEBERG;SINKING BY THE BOW AT MIDNIGHT. Other newspapers would be forced to report it as well.
1. Titanic struck the iceberg at 11:40 pm ship time on 14 April 1912. The night was moonless and the sea calm with temperatures at or below freezing. Titanic was moving quickly but did not see the iceberg until it was nearly upon them. An attempt to steer around it resulted in a collision on Titanic’s starboard side. The iceberg would puncture Titanic enough so that the first five compartments would flood. Since the compartments were not totally sealed all the way up, water would go from one compartment to the other making her sink at the bow.
2. Titanic would transmit signals by wireless telegraph, Morse lamp, and rockets. The ship nearest by most accounts was SS Californian. Her telegraph operator turned off his equipment at 11:30 pm and never heard the distress calls. Questions linger to this day whether or not they saw Titanic or her rockets being fired. The RMS Carpathia received the SOS and its captain, Arthur Rostron, immediately ordered to proceed directly to the last known coordinates to locate survivors despite having to navigate a dangerous ice field on a moonless night.
3. Titanic would sink on 15 April 1912 at 2:20 am. Although Titanic met the British Board of Trade regulations and exceeded it for the number of lifeboats required, it did not have enough for the full complement of passengers and crew. As a result over 1,500 men, women, and children would had no means of escape from the sinking ship.
4. Carpathia arrives at 4:10 am to rescue survivors who were in lifeboats or able to reach them. 710 survived the initial sinking but the final tally would be 705 due death from freezing cold. SS California would arrive later but would find no survivors. At 12 noon Carpathia sounded her horns and began heading back to New York.* It was the moment that many wives knew for certain their husbands had perished.
*SS Carpathia was on her way to Fiume then part of Austria-Hungary in the Adriatic Sea. Today the city is Rijeka and major city in Croatia owning to its deep port and cultural significance.
Eaton, John P.; Haas, Charles A. (1994). Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy. Wellingborough, UK: Patrick Stephens
Lord, Walter (2005) . A Night to Remember. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin
Lord, Walter (1987). The Night Lives On. London: Penguin Books
Lynch, Donald (1998). Titanic: An Illustrated History. New York: Hyperion
In April 1912 the unthinkable happened: Titanic sank taking over 1500 lives to the cold North Atlantic. People were stunned. With the headline Titanic Sunk blazing across newspapers around the globe, it made people wonder what had happened to a ship that defined an age of progress. For those with family, either passengers or crew, it was even more dire. Did my husband live? What happened to that family down the road that decided to go to America for a new life?
In the aftermath two investigations would seek to answer the question of what happened. A short concise statement is that Titanic collided with an iceberg that punctured the hull in many places causing water to enter the forward compartments causing her to founder and sink. Yet the investigations showed all kinds of things that were not right: out of date government regulations about lifeboats, the lack of manning wireless communications during all ship watches, the inattention given to numerous ice warnings, the lack of binoculars for the lookouts and much more. Captain Rostron of Carpathia would be labeled a hero for racing to the scene and retrieving the survivors. Captain Lord of California would come under criticism for his indifference to rockets being seen and failing to investigate.
The world of 1912 was a world on a precipice. Ominous clouds were already gathering over Europe. Titanic represented perhaps the pinnacle of the dying Edwardian age. It had everything that a person of means wanted: a comfortable way to cross the Atlantic in style. Down below was the other side, immigrants desperate to leave home and find a new life in the United States. And sadly many of those third class (or steerage as they were called)would perish. Titanic sinking left a mark on many that something was wrong and would be confirmed when war broke out in 1914. And that war would cut a wide swath in the upper classes that would have lasting effects.
The lessons of Titanic are many. The most important of all is to never become complacent nor think you are so clever as to be divine. It is a lesson that is sometimes forgotten resulting in tragedies like the Challenger explosion. Sometimes Greek mythology delivers warnings about complacency. Icarus forgot his wings were made of wax when he flew up to the sun resulting in his death. And saying Titanic was practically unsinkable comes pretty darn close as well.
Sorry folks not posting for a while. I have been quite busy on several projects. So lets get down to it.
1. Harland & Wolff never christened the ships they built but they did offer selected VIP’s the opportunity to watch the launch. Which is how Charlotte Irwin, a secretary for Harland & Wolff, got one to see Titanic’s launch. It was recently auctioned off by Henry Aldridge and Son (who ought to trademark the title “official auctioneer for Titanic memorabilia” considering how much they have auctioned off over the years)for £15,000 ($21,860). That figure exceeded the estimate of between £6,000-£10,000. A sextant owned by RMS Carpathia captain Arthur Rostron also was also auctioned off fetching £66,000 ($96,200).
Sources NI Secretary’s Souvenir Of Titanic Launch Day Sells For £15k At Auction(26 April 2016,Belfast Telegraph)
http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/ni-secretarys-souvenir-of-titanic-launch-day-sells-for-15k-at-auction-34655751.html Sextant Used In Titanic Rescue Sells For £66,000 At Auction(24 April 2016,BBC News)
2. A new book by Robert P Thompson delves into the Nazi propaganda Titanic movie. The movie was an attempt to take the story and show how a corrupt and decadent British government allowed the tragedy too happen. It was of course meant to show the superiority of the Nazi ideology over that of the British. The movie cost was extravagant and the resources it tied up caused problems as well. Add to it a director who insulted a war hero, arrested, and then was hung in his prison cell. The movie was a disaster and not shown in Germany during the war (although it was shown in occupied countries).
3. Wallace Hartley and all the musicians aboard Titanic were not employees of White Star Line. Although they were required to submit to Captain Smith’s authority,the worked for CW & FN, a music agency. According to a recently unearthed letter, Hartley complained that he and his fellow musicians were not given time off between voyages. After disembarking the Mauretania on 8 April 1912, the agency ordered that he and his fellow musicians would go to Titanic. Hartley notes in the letter to his parents that the agency had “rather vindictive spirit.” The letter is set to be auctioned off for £25,000.
Source:Titanic Band Leader Kept On Ship By ‘Vindictive’ Bosses(22 April 2016,Herald.ie)
(Note: Due to National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) policy to license hyperlinks outside of personal use, no hyperlink is provided.)
4. Recovery of Titanic victims was a grim affair by all accounts. Bodies were found were found weeks and even several months after the sinking. One such event was on 13 May 1912 when the RMS Oceanic found a collapsible boat containing three bodies. It was later identified as Collapsible Boat A, which was washed over the side as Titanic sank. 30 people climbed aboard though many passed away from the cold before being transferred to another lifeboat. Two of the bodies appeared to be fireman from the engine room. The third body was well dressed in a dinner jacket and identified as first class passenger Thomson Beattie. All three bodies were buried at sea and Beattie’s family was notified. At the family plot in Fergus, Ontario his name is engraved on a tombstone.
1. Gruesome Truth Behind The Tragic Victims Found On Titanic’s Last Lifeboat(19 April 2016,Daily Mirror)
2. Thomson Beattie Encyclopedia Titanica
23:40 (11:40 p.m.) Lookouts Fleet and Lee sight iceberg. Bell rung and call to bridge. Murdoch orders helm hard a-starboard and engines reversed. Starboard side scraped by iceberg for 300 feet puncturing hull in various places. Water fills forward compartments.
1200 (12:00 a.m.) Thomas Andrews tells Captain Smith ship is sinking estimating ship can stay afloat estimating no more than 2 hours. Lifeboats are lowered by hand, evacuation of passengers begins. Wireless is used to alert nearby ships. RMS Carpathia responds and begins moving towards Titanic.
02:20 (2:20 a.m.) Titanic sinks at 2:20 a.m.with over 1,500 lives lost.
0400 (4:00 a.m.) RMS Carpathia arrives and rescues approximately 710 from lifeboats. Captain Rostron of Carpathia said the area was an ice field with at least 20 large bergs measuring up to 200 feet in height and numerous smaller bergs.
18 April 1912 0930 (9:30 a.m.) RMS Carpathia docks at New York Pier 54. Prior to that it offloaded the only remaining piece of Titanic afloat, the lifeboats. Due to confusing communications, the initial reports were more promising about the the severity of the tragedy. The confusion was caused by mixed up bits of wireless communication resulting in erroneous reports of Titanic being towed to New York and less lives lost. By the time Carpathia arrived in New York, everyone knew that over 1,500 had died in the tragedy.
I got a note asking what happened to RMS Carpathia, the Titanic rescue ship, after 1912.
RMS Carpathia was a Cunard line transoceanic passenger liner and primarily made runs between New York, Gibraltar, Genoa, Naples, Trieste, and Fiume. During World War I she retained doing commercial runs but did carry both Canadian and American troops to Europe.
On 17 Jul 1918, she was sunk by a German U-Boat in the Celtic Sea. Three torpedoes were fired and one hit the port side and the other the engine room killing two firemen and three trimmers. A third torpedo hit as they were lowering lifeboats. All 57 passengers and 218 surviving crew members got off in lifeboats. The German submarine did surface and threatened the lifeboats. Fortunately the HMS Snowdrop arrived on scene and drove it away and rescued the survivors.
The wreck was thought located in 1999 by team headed up by Graham Jessop on an expedition sponsored by National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA). However that proved to be the liner Isis that sank in 1936. Noted author Clive Cussler announced in 2000 that his organization (NUMA-the fictional agency in many of his books that Dirk Pitt works for) had found the wreck at a depth of 500 feet and upright on the seabed. The wreck is now owned by Premier Exhibitions, the same group that also owns RMS Titanic, Inc which obtained salvage rights to Titanic. The company has recovered artifacts from the wreck for display in the Rescue Gallery in its Titanic:The Artifact Exhibition.