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Screen Rant on Titanic: Complicated Reasons For Sinking

The Famous What If

Sketch of J. Bruce Ismay giving testimony before U.S. Senate Titanic inquiry.
Public Domain (via Wikipedia)

Adrienne Tyler over at ScreenRant recently wrote about why Titanic sank and who is to blame. She examined the various pieces of the puzzle and realized that it is hard to pin just on one thing alone or one person does not work.

The tragedy of the Titanic was the result of a combination of circumstances and bad decisions, and one reason and one person to blame might never be specified.

Walter Lord, noted Titanic author, opined on the various What Ifs that could have changed the outcome of the tragedy. What if there were enough lifeboats for all? What if they looked at the ice warnings they got and realized they were sailing into an ice field? What if they had binoculars on the crow’s nest and saw the iceberg sooner? What if they had instead crashed into the iceberg head on and not tried to pivot around it?  All these questions are indicative of the story that is Titanic.

And quite a story it is since we are still talking about it over 110 years later. The ship was advertised as practically unsinkable due to its watertight compartments. With doors to slam down in an emergency to seal off the compartments, it would greatly reduce flooding and the vessel sinking. People marveled at its refinements, and it attracted the major people in society to sail aboard on her maiden voyage. She also carried a lot of new immigrants to the new world hoping to start a new life in America. Titanic was a ship the reflected the society of her day in a way that no one else ever did. Its dramatic ending has sealed it forever in history with lingering questions as to what happened and who was to blame.

Titanic leaving Belfast with two guiding tugs, 2 April 1912
Robert John Welch (1859-1936), official photographer for Harland & Wolff
Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Nor can the tragedy be entirely blamed on one person. Captain Edward J. Smith, had he survived, would have likely said he was following the conventional wisdom of his day. Iceberg collisions were rare though not unheard of.  The fact that he did not chart out them out would call him into question.  J. Bruce Ismay, though head of the line that owned the ship, was not at fault for what happened either. His sin was getting off the ship alive while so many died. He did nix the idea of more lifeboats though to save space. Even then it met and exceeded the requirements of the Board of Trade. Some argue (and with data to support it), that the quality of the steel was compromised with slag making it more brittle at freezing temperatures resulting in rivets and plates being damaged by the iceberg.

There were many bad decisions from the lifeboats to running the ship through an ice field at nearly top speed. The main culprit was complacency. No one thought a disaster like Titanic could or would occur. There was an arrogance implied as well that man had mastered nature. And it was a large piece of frozen water that made many realize the exact opposite was true.


Titanic: Why Did The Ship Sink & Who Was Really To Blame?
ScreenRant, 8 Jan 2022