The tragic sinking of the Titanic in 1912 is undoubtedly the most famous maritime disaster to date. However, there are plenty of other instances that either rival or even dwarf the Titanic in terms of destruction or human loss. Here are seven maritime disasters more tragic than the titanic.
The Titanic might seem the worst passenger ship accident. However, many historic cruise ships met the same fate, though they were not as famous as the RMS Titanic. The earliest cruise ships were constructed in the 1850s but gained prominence after the World Wars ended when vacationing on the seas seemed attractive. Cruise ships were also constructed before that and targeted the affluent section of society. Also, cruise voyages in the 19th and 20th centuries were fraught with many dangers compared to present-day journeys, which have become relatively safer, thanks to advancements in maritime technologies.
On 17 October 1931, Alphonse Gabriel Capone (commonly known as Al Capone or Scarface), an American gangster who had achieved notoriety as the boss of the Chicago Outfit, was convicted of tax evasion. It ended the reign of one of the most notorious criminals of the 1920s and 1930s.
The son of Italian immigrants and originally from Brooklyn, New York he went to Chicago in 1920 where he was helping crime boss Johnny Torrio run his illegal enterprises. The 18th Amendment, commonly called Prohibition, had come into effect in January 1920. Under this law (called the Volstead Act), the manufacture, transportation, and transportation of alcohol was banned. Passed as means to end the terrible effects of alcohol intoxication and addiction, it instead allowed the rise of criminal enterprises that dominated the 1920’s. From illegal production or importation of alcohol to operating places to drink (speakeasies), it poured millions into criminal enterprises.
While other criminal activity still went on (smuggling, gambling and prostitution), alcohol was the biggest income producer for gangs such as Torrio ran. When Torrio retired in 1925, Capone took over control. Capone had to deal also with rival gangs such as Bugs Moran. Violence between gangs was often in public and bloody culminating in the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929. Bugs Moran would have been there but saw a police car and left thinking it was a raid. In fact, it is believed that the men, dressed as policemen and associated with the Capone gang, shot the seven men associated with the Moran gang. It officially remains unsolved, but most believe Capone responsible for the murders.
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre became national news and with Capone’s alleged association to it, his notoriety increased. Capone had relied on bribing city officials, intimidation and various hideouts to avoid arrest. He did spend 10 months in Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia for carrying a concealed handgun but ran his operation from jail. The effect though of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was to bring the federal government into the situation. From corrupt city officials, police, and magistrates, the case was made the city was under the control of gangsters like Capone. President Hoover directed federal agencies concentrate on Capone and his allies.
Using a multi-agency approach, the Treasury and Justice Departments came up with plans on that attacked from two sides. First was to attack the gangsters for income tax evasion and then second to use small elite squads of Prohibition Bureau agents (this included the famous Eliot Ness) to be used against the bootleggers. William A. Strong, publisher of the Chicago Daily News (and who had urged Hoover to act), used his newspapers resources to gather intelligence to aid the investigations. The famous Untouchables in Chicago led by Eliot Ness were responsible for trying to inflict economic damage on his organization. Unlike what was shown in the movie The Untouchables, it was a large unit and the income tax angle was done elsewhere.
As the treasury bore down on him, Capone tried get his tax records into shape to prevent going to jail. He offered to pay for certain years in hopes of a reduced sentence and fine. A letter from his lawyer conceding large taxable income was a great gift to the prosecution. With a ledger and his accountant, the government position was to imply his control. Capone’s spending was presented to paint a vivid picture of someone who lived quite large having access to large sums of money to spend. It worked. He was convicted of evading $215,000 in taxes with an income of $1,038,654 during a five-year period. Judge Wilkerson gave him the maximum penalty for the five counts: 11 years. He was also fined $50,000, $7,692 in court costs, and interest on the $215,000 that had not been paid.
His career as head of the Chicago Outfit would be at an end. He was sent to the Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary in May 1932. However, Judge Wilkerson became concerned when he got reports of special treatment. Capone was suffering from both syphilis and gonorrhea. He had taken cocaine and suffered withdrawal symptoms as well. He was transferred to Alcatraz in August 1934. Due to neurosyphilis that eroded his mental faculties, he would spend most of his time in the hospital section. After completing his term in January 1939, he was sent to another facility to serve out his contempt of court sentence. He would be paroled in November 1939 and received treatment at Union Memorial Hospital.
After treatments, he would go to Palm Island Florida where he remained for the rest of his life. He got treatments with the newest mass-produced drug called penicillin. It could not reverse his disease but helped him lived longer. He would die from heart failure on 25 January 1947. He was originally buried at the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago. His remains were later removed (along with his family’s) to Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillsdale, Illinois.
With the repeal of the 18th Amendment with the adoption of the 21st Amendment in December 1933, Prohibition had come to an end. Only a few states choose to remain dry (that would change much later) ending the income for illicit alcohol that had given rise to gangs like the Chicago Outfit. Organizations like Chicago Outfit would take a quieter approach and avoid public violence to avoid either local or federal police investigations. These organizations focused on prostitution, union racketeering, and gambling after the Capone years. In later years, much to the chagrin of J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI, it would be found these criminal organizations had become very powerful and worked together.
After the German invasion of France in 1940, the Vichy state was created with Henri Pétain in charge and Pierre Laval as head of state. Laval had originally begun his political life as a pacifist but during the 1930’s shifted more towards supporting Fascism. In 1935 he sought France to align with Italy rather than make a deal with the Soviet Union (he had become anti-communist by then). By 1939 he was against war with Germany and encouraged the antiwar faction to keep the government from using troops against Germany when it invaded Poland in September 1939. After the German invasion in 1940, he helped push for an armistice and got himself into the new Vichy government.
Pétain did not care much for him and dismissed him in 1940 after he found he was negotiating with Germany on his own. He had developed a friendship with Hitler and thus by 1942 had become the real ruler of Vichy while Pétain remained as a figurehead. During the time he ran the regime, he actively collaborated with Germany in carrying out their deportation of Jews and enforcing oppressive laws on French citizens. Laval had to flee to Germany when France was liberated in August 1944. He escaped to Spain when Germany was defeated in 1945, but Franco had him expelled. He tried hiding out in Austria but ultimately surrendered to American forces. He was then sent back to France to stand trial for his actions during the German occupation. The trial was quite sensational and revealed his complicity in working with the Germans. He was convicted of treason and sentenced to death. He tried taking his own life, but he was nursed back to health so he could be executed by firing squad on 15 October 1945. Petain, revered for his leadership in World War I, was tried and found guilty of treason. He was also to be executed but French president Charles de Gaulle changed it to life imprisonment. He was sent to the island of Yeu and died there in 1951.
Hermann Goering (15 October 1946)
Hermann Goering once was not only the head of the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) but at one time Hitler’s designated successor. As Reichsmarschall, he held the highest military rank and answered only to Hitler. He had other titles as well (president of the Reichstag, prime minister of Prussia, chief liquidator of sequestered estates and much more). He established concentration camps to imprison enemies and was instrumental in many anti-Jewish policies such as Kristallnacht and confiscation of Jewish money and property. Known for his flamboyant outfits that showed off his decorations and his displays of stolen artwork, his only threat was from Heinrich Himmler head of the SS.
His stature began to fall when the Luftwaffe failed to deliver in the Battle of Britain, and failing to deter Allied bombings of Germany. Other German officers had a low opinion of his military strategies leading him to become depressed and more addicted to painkillers. By the end of the war, Hitler had turned away from his old comrade and dismissed him when he learned he was negotiating with the Allies. He was captured at the end of the war and was tried in Nuremburg for various crimes against humanity.
He was convicted and sentenced to be hanged. Before that could be carried out, he took a potassium cyanide capsule and died. Speculation on how he obtained the capsule is either he had managed to hide it successfully when he was initially captured, or it had been secretly delivered to him. Cyanide capsules were found on his person when he was captured. Some speculate that US Army lieutenant Jack G. Wheelis had retrieved a capsule after Goering gave him some personal effects, but it has never been substantiated. Former US Army private Herbert Lee Stivers claimed in 1945 that it was likely hidden in a fountain pen a German woman asked him to smuggle into the prison. Goering’s body was later cremated, and ashes thrown into the Isar River.
One of the finest ghost stories ever written was Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. It was made into a 1963 movie The Haunting regarded as one of the best supernatural movies in cinema history. The movie was modestly received when it first came out and scared many viewers. Using cleverly designed sets and distorted angles, the film stands out as a first-rate psychological horror movie that is unmatched. A remake in 1999 starring Liam Neeson, Lilli Taylor and Catherine Zeta Jones did not capture the original film’s essence and failed at the box office. Although the 1973 movie The Legend of Hell House incorporates themes of the Hill book, it was based on Richard Matheson’s book, and he wrote the screenplay. Jackson’s book inspired Stephen King for his book The Shining and later for a made-for-television story Rose Red.
What makes both the book, and the original movie effective is that the terror relies on what the people experience as the entity makes itself known. We never see actually see the entity but certainly its effects as it makes noises, wanders around at night, or writes words on a wall. The group that assembles in Hill House are led by Dr. John Montague who wants to find proof of the supernatural. He is later joined by his wife and friend to also discover the supernatural in the house. The house itself (its location is never revealed in the book, but one can surmise somewhere in New England) has a tragic history of loss and death. The locals stay away from the home and only the married caretakers visit during the day and leave before dark.
Almost everyone there (except for Montague, his wife, and her friend) has some experience with the supernatural. Not long after they arrive at the house, they each begin experiencing supernatural activity of one kind or another. As more of the story unfolds, Eleanor becomes a target for the entity, and she see things or experiences things the others do not. This leads in the book (and more so in the movie) that she is suffering mentally and losing touch with reality. Both her and Theodora see a ghostly picnic at one point, but Theodora sees something bad when she looks back causing her to get Eleanor out of there. What Theodora saw is never revealed, but it must have been terrifying enough. Again, another example of using the people to show the terror but not the entity itself.
By this time Eleanor is beginning to say she is home in that house, so Montague decides it best to get her out. As in both the book and original movie, it ends up in a car crash as the story ends. It is unclear in the book her fate, while the movie is more definite. The chilling ending though in both cases cones from the final statement. In the movie it is done as a voiceover by the actress Julie Harris who played Eleanor in the movie.
Hill House has stood for 90 years and might stand for 90 more. Within, walls continue upright, bricks meet, floors are firm, and doors are sensibly shut. Silence lies steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House. And we who walk here… walk alone.
The entity seems to be the former owner of the house or perhaps a demon that has taken it over. It is never made clear on that point. Other ghosts are suggested but never figure prominently so they could be there or not. It is that uncertainty that makes this such a great story of terror and psychological drama. Well worth reading during the Halloween season or anytime you want a spooky novel, as is the original 1963 movie. Sad to say the 1999 remake is a dud. It totally changes the story, Eleanor, and we actually see the entity (who is very wicked indeed for killing and trapping the souls of children). There is gore in this movie, though not a splatter fest. Liam Neeson’s character is more devious and disturbing in this movie as the person leading up this team.. Only fans who want to see Catherine Zeta Jones prance about in the movie (and unlike the book puts her sexuality on full display) may want to watch it.
Advisory to parents: The 1963 movie is pretty scary. Not recommended for young children (as is the book as well).
Well this is interesting. Apparently these guys from Saturday Night Live bought a decommissioned ferry and decided to rename it Titanic II. What could go wrong?
“Saturday Night Live” star Colin Jost revealed this weekend that the decommissioned Staten Island Ferry he purchased with fellow Staten Islander Pete Davidson will be named “Titanic 2.” “This is why idiots should not be allowed to do things,” Jost said on Late Night with Seth Meyers Friday night.
Unfortunately they have run into problems getting their ferry insured. Seems insurers are not keen on its name.
Prentice recalled the moment the ship struck the iceberg and said that there was “no impact as such” but it just felt like “jamming your brakes on a car.” He continued, “We had a porthole open and I looked out and the sky was clear, stars were shining, the sea was dead calm and I couldn’t understand it. So I came out of the cabin and I thought I’d go forward.” Prentice went to the “well deck on the starboard side” where he could see ice, but there was “no sign of damage above waterline.” However, he soon realised that the ship had “slipped over the iceberg.”
Internet users were recently left shocked after a video showing a bouncy house in the shape of the ill-fated Titanic ship surfaced on social media. The clip was shared on Instagram by user Tara Cox. It showed the tragic ship replica tilted to look like it was sinking, and the bouncy house also had inflatable icebergs attached to it for the full effect. “Omg is it just me or is this morbidly wrong. (But it does look hella fun!)” Ms Cox captioned the post.
We begin our Halloween season with a classic. Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven really caught the attention of the public back when it was published in 1845. The narrative poem is known for its musicality, use of stylized language, and its supernatural aspects. A talking raven, a distraught lover, and fallen into madness are the themes of the poem. After its initial publication, it would be reprinted elsewhere bringing him popularity (though he made little money off the poem itself it seems). It remains one of the most famous poems ever written. And made Poe famous.
Sit back and put on some spooky music (a suggested musical accompaniment is below from You Tube) while you read this poem.
The Raven (Edgar Allen Poe, 1845)
Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word,
Lenore?, This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word,
“Lenore!” Merely this, and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping, something louder than before,
“Surely,” said I, “surely, that is something at my window lattice.
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore.
Let my heart be still a moment, and this mystery explore.
” ‘Tis the wind, and nothing more.”
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven, of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door.
Perched upon a bust of Pallas, just above my chamber door,
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly, grim, and ancient raven, wandering from the nightly shore.
Tell me what the lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore.”
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning, little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door,
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”
But the raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered; not a feather then he fluttered;
Till I scarcely more than muttered, “Other friends have flown before;
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said, “Nevermore.”
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master, whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster, till his songs one burden bore,—
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore —
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”
Thus I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl, whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o’er
She shall press, ah, nevermore!
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee — by these angels he hath
Sent thee respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, O quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore!”
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!–prophet still, if bird or devil!
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate, yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted–
On this home by horror haunted–tell me truly, I implore:
Is there–is there balm in Gilead?–tell me–tell me I implore!”
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”
“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting–
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! — quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”
And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming.
And the lamplight o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!
Today is Columbus Day in the United States. Celebrating Columbus began in 1792 in New York City and became an annual tradition. As a result of 11 Italian immigrants being murdered by a mob in New Orleans in 1892, President Benjamin Harrison declared Columbus Day as a one-time national celebration. This was also part of a wider effort to ease tensions and to placate Italian Americans and Italy, which had expressed official dismay at the murders. Italian Americans began using Columbus Day to not only celebrate Columbus but their heritage as well. Serious lobbying was undertaken to enshrine the holiday in states and ultimately the federal government.
Colorado proclaimed it a holiday in 1905 and made it an official holiday in 1907. In 1934 after lobbying from the Knights of Columbus and New York City Italian leader Generoso Pope, Congress passed a statute requiring the president to proclaim October 12 as Columbus Day each year and asked Americans to observe it with “appropriated ceremonies” in schools, churches, and other places. However, it was a not yet a federal holiday. The effort to make it a federal holiday began in 1966 when the National Columbus Day Committee lobbied to make it a federal holiday. This was achieved in 1968 and has been a federal holiday since then. Like most federal holidays, it is often celebrated on a Monday of the week the date it falls on. The exception being if falls on a Saturday, it would be celebrated on Friday.
Columbus is recognized for his discovery of the New World. He, like many, were eager to discover the riches of Cathay, India, and Japan. Since the Ottoman Empire closed off using Egypt and the Red Sea to Europeans (land routes were closed as well), European explorers were eager to find a sea route. Columbus (and he was not the only one) held the belief that by sailing west they would be able to get to the Indies. While many educated Europeans (like Columbus) believed the Earth was round, they had no concept of how it big it really was. Thus, they thought East Asia was closer than it was. After securing financing from the Spanish monarchy, Columbus set sail on 3 August 1492 with three ships-Santa Maria, the Pinta and the Nina–from Palos, Spain.
On 12 October 1492 land was sighted. They would find Cuba later and Columbus thought it was Japan. They landed on Hispaniola in December and left a small colony behind. Returning to Spain in 1493, he was received with high honors by the Spanish court. Columbus would lead four expeditions to the New World exploring the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and South and Central American mainland. His original goal of finding a western ocean route to Asia was never accomplished. And he likely never truly understood the full scope of what he had accomplished. The New World–North America, the Caribbean, Central and South America–would open new opportunities for exploration and wealth.
Spain would become one of the wealthiest and powerful nations on Earth as a result. Sea travel of great distances in the 15th century was quite a challenge, fraught with all kinds of uncertainty and dangers. They had to depend on the wind, current and favorable weather, and the stars. The sextant had not been invented yet, so they used a procedure called Dead Reckoning. This required the use of simple arithmetic and process to determine their location. A long rope was used, a piece of wood, an hourglass, and a compass. The navigator would record in a log book the daily speed and direction. The rope was knotted every four to six feet along its length. Arithmetic tells us that distance traveled in a single direction can be measured by multiplying the speed with the time. You might have done some of this in grade school. A car traveling at 30 miles per hour for two hours would travel 60 miles (speed x 2).
A navigator would log the speed, direction, and time in the log. In this way they could measure the distance traveled to and from where they departed from. Changes in wind speed and other things would be recorded as well. Columbus used his own version, gained from experience sailing, of determining the speed and direction to enter in his log. He could feel the keel moving through the water and with his sense of the wind, knew what the speed of his ship was. It was a remarkable and historic undertaking. Long sea voyages were often avoided because you were away for years at a time and dependent a great deal on nature to survive.
And there was the terrible specter of scurvy. Many would die on long sea voyages from this scourge, which came from the lack of vitamin c in the diet. Fresh water in kegs often wet bad after a month, so beer and spirits (often rum), was where you got water from. Fruits and vegetables would only last so long, and meat had to be cured for long term use. So food was rationed carefully. Later when it was realized that having citrus would alleviate this condition, sailors would get lime or lemon juice as part of their daily food ration. It became so common on British Royal Navy ships the sailors were called Limeys. Italians and Spanish are rightly proud of his accomplishment.
Others had touched upon America (the Vikings for one) prior to Columbus but none had opened the door as he did to a new part of the world that had been undiscovered. Like all our accomplished heroes of the past, he had his faults. In fact, not one hero you can point to doesn’t have faults. The ancient Greeks knew this and what defined a hero was someone who rose above them to do something extraordinary. The Greek hero Heracles (Hercules in Latin) had all kinds of faults but did things that rose above them. Columbus should be remembered for the courage, bravery, and fortitude to sail over the horizon to see what lay beyond. It would change the world and end the Venetian and Ottoman control of trade to the East forever. Columbus died on 20 May 1506. Gout was considered the cause of his death, but doctors today believe it was reactive arthritis.
On 8 October 1871, what became known as the Great Chicago Fire began and would last till 10 October. The fire began around 9 pm on October 6 possibly at a barn owned by the O’leary family or in the nearby area southwest of city center. It consumed a shed on that farm and then spread outward. Due to a period of hot, dry, and windy conditions, the fire would spread rapidly. With homes and buildings built mostly of wood, it also provided fuel for the fire as well.
The fire leapt the south branch of the Chicago River destroying central Chicago. It leapt across the main river branch and consumed the north side as well. 300 people were killed, and a large swath of the city (about 3.3 square miles) was destroyed. 100,000 people were left homeless because of the fire. After the fire help poured in from all over the country and internationally as well. Money from Great Britain helped build the Chicago Public Library that would be free to everyone.
The aftermath brought reconsideration of many things particularly in the area of building construction. Fire prevention became a big topic and construction of brick rather than wood buildings would result. With the right infrastructure in place, it would prevent such a catastrophe from happening again. Rebuilding began right away with higher standards and sometimes with buildings that were considered better than the ones that burned down. https://youtu.be/fp0YeVAfwNQ
Once they had reached the shore of New York on the 18th of April, the six Chinese men were pulled apart from the other survivors and detained based on the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This act was implemented back in the late 19th century due to the United States wanting to maintain white “racial purity” despite Chinese people within America making up only 0.002% of the whole American population at the time.
As far as maritime disasters go, the Titanic stands alone—at least in our minds, but not in the history books, at least as far as victims go. In a piece for the New York Times, Elian Peltier revisits the Joola, the passenger ferry that departed on a 17-hour journey along Senegal’s coast toward the capital of Dakar on Sept. 26, 2002. It wouldn’t make it. Passengers streamed below deck as rain started that evening. Then the ferry listed toward the left and capsized. There were just 64 survivors among the 1,900 aboard; every baby and toddler perished. (Roughly 1,500 people died on the Titanic.)