A Night to Remember

100 years ago this week the Titanic struck an iceberg and slipped beneath the frigid waters of the north Atlantic. She carried 1,514 people with her to a watery grave. There have been many shipwrecks, Titanic was not the first and it certainly was not the last nor was her death toll the greatest of watery tragedies. The Titanic was a new ship on her maiden voyage across the Atlantic. A ship that was proclaimed unsinkable, even God himself could not sink her. She was the largest, most modern, safest, and luxurious vessel to have ever been built. She left Southhampton England on April 10th but never arrived at her destination, New York City. 4 days into her crossing, at 11:40 pm she struck an iceberg. It was a glancing blow but by 2:25 AM she broke apart and was not seen again till Sept 1 1985.

In 1912 the Titanic represented the pinnacle of human technology and luxury. At 882 feet 9 inches long, 104 feet high and 92 feet 6 inches wide at her greatest girth is small for the cruising palaces of today but at the time she was the biggest man made vessel in existence, she wore her name Titanic with pride. The ship carried the most powerful engines and the latest in safety features. The Titanic had 16 watertight compartments in her hull. Engineers claimed that she could float with 4 compartment flooded. The idea that ice posed little danger to any large ship much less a ship with Titanic’s safety features was an understood truth at the time. She was a product of human hubris; she was born when humans had convinced themselves that they had conquered all of nature and God’s creations. The Titanic was one of many tragedies that shook humanity between 1900 and World War I.

How does the biggest ship in 1912 compare to today’s luxury cruise ships?

On April 11th, the Titanic left Queenstown and headed west. She carried 1,316 passengers and 913 crew. Among the first class passengers were some of the richest and most powerful people John Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim, and macy’s owner Isidor Straus. The mentioned people paid a price of 4,350 dollars for a first class parlor suite. In today’s money it would cost around 100,000 dollars to book the same passage. 3rd class tickets ranged from 170 to 650 in today’s currency. Even 3rd class tickets represented months of work.

The night of April 14th was clear, cold, calm and moonless no one understood the dangers of the combination. Warnings of nearby ice were noted and promptly ignored. In typical conditions waves break along the base of icebergs and can be seen. The unusual mirror like calm of the ocean combined with the lack of moon enshrouded the ship in a frigid blackout. By the time the lookout spotted the berg it was too late. First Officer William Murdoch ordered the ship to steer around the obstacle but the Titanic was moving too fast and the iceberg was too close. She struck the iceberg on the starboard side creating many punctures below the waterline. 5 watertight compartments were now exposed to the Atlantic. Titanic did not stand a chance; she could float with 4 compartments breached but not 5. The newest, grandest, safest, most modern ship would never reach New York City.

Distress signals were sent by wireless, signal rockets flared into the sky. The closest ship, the Californian saw the flares but did not render aid. As modern and safe as the Titanic was there were only enough lifeboats for half of the people aboard. The combination of untrained officers who were afraid to fill the boats to capacity and passengers who were convinced that the ship could never sink resulted in lifeboats that were half or even less full. First and second class passengers were given the option to board the boats, many refused at first. Third class passengers were mostly left to fend for themselves. By the time many passengers realized that the great ship was going to sink it was far too late. Most of the life boats were gone. 2 hours and 40 minutes after striking the iceberg the forward deck went underwater and the sea poured into the Titanic. A short time later she broke in two and sank. The people remaining on the ship were plunged into the 28 degree Atlantic water. Most of them died within minutes. 13 people were pulled from the water and into the lifeboats.

The Carpathia arrived on the scene around 4 am; nearly 2 hours after Titanic disappeared.

Surprisingly there are no hard numbers as to how many were on the Titanic or even how many were saved. Were 710 people saved or 713? The exact number is not as important as the fact that far more people lost their lives than survived. The numbers become more chilling because there were enough lifeboats to save 1,178 people yet only about 700 people were placed on the boats with a dozen or so being pulled from the water after the sinking. That is bad but the true horror becomes apparent when the numbers are further broken down into passengers, crew, men, woman and finally class.

 

1st class on board

1st class survived

2nd class on board

2nd class survived

3rd class on board

3rd class survived

Crew on board

Crew survived

men

175

57

168

14

462

75

 

192

women

144

140

93

80

165

76

 

23

children

6

5

24

24

79

27

   

total

325

202

285

118

706

178

913

215

 

In 1912 the more money someone had the better their chances of survival were. Unfortunately it still seems to ring true today although finding such a graphic modern example is difficult. Or maybe not, when Katrina hit New Orleans the people who suffered were not the rich but the poor. The city government also left a large parking lot full of lifeboats…err busses that could have been used to transport people out of danger sitting empty. Warnings were given and not heeded. The population relied on technology, levies and pumping systems, when faced with a great force of nature.

 

The last survivor of the disaster Millvina Dean died at age 97 in May of 2009. She was only 9 weeks old at the time of the sinking. But in a sense we are all survivors the tragedy in some ways belongs to all of us. The lessons provided on that calm frosty April night still need to be assessed and understood by all of us. I think we understand the technical lessons. In the wake of Titanic all vessels are required to have enough lifeboat capacity to hold all passengers and crew. The crews of ocean liners are now required to hold lifeboat drills in preparation for any incident. Wireless and other communication stations must be manned 24 hours a day to receive and respond to distress calls. The false feeling of human superiority against and over nature is proving to be a harder lesson for society to absorb. As we push faster, higher, farther the opportunities for stunning tragedy increase. This is not to say that we stop progressing but that we be cautious and understand that the unthinkable can and does happen. Unsinkable ships do sink. And when tragedy strikes we cannot let those who are poor and underprivileged suffer the brunt of the disasters.

 

 

Latest high resolution images of the wreck as it appears today.

 

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About ikcewicasa

Ikcewicasa means common man in Lakota. I guess that describes me. I am turning 40 next year. I have a college degree and I have a professional job. The blog is just random stuff. I try and keep most of my posts humorous in nature sprinkled with a bit of American Indian items, soundtracks (which I love), food (something I also love) and movies (when I have the money and time to go see them. so basically ramblings that rattle around in my mind. Hope you enjoy. Like what you read? comment and re post. don't like what you read, let me know as well. ALL STORIES ON THIS SITE ARE ABSOLUTELY TRUE... EXCEPT THE PARTS I MAKE UP!
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