The Sinking Of The “Unsinkable”: The Tragedy

I don’t know about you but I feel like this was done in poor taste. Shame on you Lego!

Welcome back readers from part one of this sad tale. Thanks for tuning in again. I don’t have an introduction for this part so let’s just get this show on the road! But before we start, I just wanted to let know that Jack still could’ve fit on that door.

The Titanic’s maiden voyage began on Wednesday, April 10, 1912. Passengers started arriving at 9:30 am. The large number of 3rd class passenger meant they were allowed to board first. 1st and 2nd class passengers followed an hour before departure. 1st class passengers were greeted by Captain Smith before being ushered to their rooms by Stewards, 2nd class passengers were ushered to their room by Stewards, and 3rd class passengers were inspected for ailments and physical impairments that might end up leading to their refused entry into the United States. In total, 920 passengers boarded the Titanic is Southampton. Other passengers were to be picked up Cherbourg and Queenstown.

Dishes from the Titanic discovered on the ocean floor during an expedition

The Titanic departed at noon, as scheduled. An accident was narrowly averted only a few minutes after the launch when the ship passed the SS City of New York and the Oceanic. Her displacement made both of the smaller ship be lifted by a bulge of water and drop into the trough. The SS City of New York’s mooring cables could not handle the sudden pressure and snapped, making her swing stern first towards the Titanic. Luckily, Vulcan, a nearby tug boat came to the rescue and a disaster was avoided. A collision was avoided by the Titanic’s journey was delayed for an hour while the SS New York was brought under control. I would have gotten off the ship right there. No thank you, that was a horrible sign of things to come. So, I would have grabbed my shit and left. The Titanic finally left Southhampton and headed out into the English Channel towards the French port of Cherbourg. Although the weather was windy, cold, and overcast; the trip went well. Once there, she picked up another 247 passengers and 24 passengers disembarked. They were the lucky ones. At 8:00 pm the Titanic left the port of Cherbourg and headed towards Queenstown.

At 11:30 am on Thursday, April 11, 1912, the Titanic arrived at Cork Harbor on the south coast of Ireland. It was a partly cloudy, warm day with a brisk wind. In total 123 passengers boarded the Titanic at Queenstown and 7 disembarked. Among the 7 was Father Francis Browne, who was an avid photographer, and took many pictures aboard the Titanic, including the last known photograph of the ship John Coffey a crew member and Queenstown native snuck off the ship by hiding under mail bags being transported to shore. The Titanic weighed anchor for the last time at 1:30 pm and made her way westward across the Atlantic. The ship would never make it to the next port in New York.

The Titanic planned to arrive at New York Pier 59 on the morning of April 17th. After departing from Queenstown, the Titanic followed the Irish coast up to Fastnet Rock. From there she traveled along a “Great Circle” route to journey across the North Atlantic. The weather was mild with cloudy skies and a headwind that didn’t give the ship much trouble, the winds died down gradually and the calm weather carried on until April 13th. These first three days of the voyage went smoothly and Captain Smith was confident the ship would dock in New York as scheduled. The weather on Sunday, April 14, 1912, had been clear, quiet, and very cold. The trip continued on calm waters under a clear moonless night sky. On that day the Titanic received several warnings from other ships of drifting ice in the area of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, but Captain Smithy chose to ignore them. Like a motherf idiot! He ordered the ship to continue at full speed. The ship wasn’t trying to break a speed record or anything like that but timekeeping was a top priority, and under maritime practices those days, most ships normally operated at close to full speed. Ice warnings were the responsibility of the lookouts and officers keeping watch on the bridge. At that time, it was a common belief that ice posed little danger to larger vessels. Oh, well the Titanic is gonna learn today! You gonna learn today, Captain Smith! Close calls with ice happened often and even head-on collisions had been catastrophic. In 1907 a German liner had rammed an iceberg and was still able to complete her voyage. Captain Smith himself had stated (in 1907) that he; “could not imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.” Who put this man in charge of driving the Titanic? Who made this grave mistake?

The iceberg believed to have collided with the RMS Titanic

At approximately 11:40 pm on April 14th, lookout Frederick Fleet spotted an iceberg immediately ahead of the Titanic and quickly alerted the bridge. First Officer William Murdoch ordered the ship to be steered around the monstrosity and the engines to be reversed, but that was done in vain as it was too late. In Murdoch’s defense, he probably had pissy little binoculars that couldn’t see very far off in the distance and it was pitch black outside. What they needed was someone with severe anxiety and always expecting the worst to keep watch. I would have been like; “HEY I SEE AN ICEBERG! HELLO! THERE’S AN ICEBERG LIKE DEAD AHEAD! BITCHES DO YOU NOT SEE THIS HUGE CHUNK OF ICE? DO Y’ALL NEED LASIK OR SOMETHING? WELL NOW LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE! YOU HIT THE DAMN THING!”. The starboard side of the Titanic struck the iceberg and as huge chunks of ice fell on the deck, below the waterline sharp shards on the iceberg poked holes and ripped through the Titanic, creating a 300-foot gash in the ship. Sensing no collision, the lookouts were relieved and Captain Smith took his sweet time going to assess the damage along with Thomas Andrews.

The damage done to the ship caused the hull’s seams to buckle and separate, allowing the water to seep in and by the time Smith and Andrews toured the damaged area 5 of the Titanic’s 15 watertight compartments had already started filling with water. Doesn’t sound very watertight to me. But hey, I’m not an engineer. It soon became apparent to crew members that the Titanic was doomed since she could not survive more than 4 of the compartments filling with water. Those aboard the ship were ill-prepared for such an emergency since the ship was deemed “unsinkable” and were not adequately trained in carrying out an evacuation. A little over an hour after the Titanic got up close and personal with the iceberg a disorganized and frantic evacuation started. By the time the process started the ship began sinking bow-first with water just spilling from compartment to compartment as her angle became steeper. The Titanic only had enough lifeboats to carry about half of the passengers and crew on board. The officers were unaware of how many people could be safely loaded into a lifeboat and launched multiple of them only half full. 3rd class passengers were mainly left to fend for themselves, causing many of them to get trapped below deck as the icy waters of the North Atlantic spilled into the ship. Since the common “women and children first” protocol was followed most of the male passengers and crew were left on board. There is no way in hell I could sit in a lifeboat seeing Nick stuck on the ship and knowing he would die. NO WAY IN HELL!

Distress signals were sent by wireless communication, flares, and lights but none of the ships that responded were close enough to reach the Titanic in time. A radio operator on board the SS Birma, estimated that it would be close to 6:00 am before the liner would arrive at the scene of the disaster. The SS Californian, the ship that was last in contact with the Titanic before the collision was close enough to see the ship’s flares but failed to assist. Around 4:00 am the RMS Carpathia arrived on the scene in response to the Titanic’s earlier distress calls.

Between 2:10 and 2:15 am, approximately 2 hours after the Titanic struck the iceberg, her rate of sinking suddenly sped up as the boat deck began to dip underwater. The sea started pouring in through open hatches and grates. The unsupported stern started rising out of the water exposing the ship’s propellers and the Titanic broke in half between the second and third funnels due to the immense pressure placed on the keel. With the bow underwater and air trapped in the stern, it remained afloat and buoyant for a few minutes longer. The stern rose to an almost vertical angle with passengers and crew members clinging onto it for dear life. The Titanic completely sank to the ocean floor at 2:20 am on April 15, 1912. The ship that had been deemed unsinkable had sunk. The people who had been clinging onto the ship were immersed in frigid water with a lethal temperature of 28°F. Being tossed suddenly in freezing cold water can typically cause death within minutes, either from cardiac arrest, drowning, or hypothermia. Almost all of the passengers and crew members in the water would die of cardiac arrest or other bodily reactions to freezing water, within 15 to 30 minutes. Well, no shit, that’s not exciting news, that makes a lot of sense and is very predictable. How boring. Only 5 people were helped into lifeboats even though they had room for almost 500 more people. I would’ve forced myself onto a lifeboat. Hey, if it capsized, it capsized. They should have picked me up when they passed by.

Approximately 710 people survived the disaster and were taken by the Carpathia to New York as was originally supposed to be done by the TApproximately 710 people survived the disaster and were taken by the Carpathia to New York as was originally supposed to be done by the Titanic. Approximately 1,500 people lost their lives in the horrific tragedy, including Captain Edward John Smith who nobly went down with his ship. Can I just say that that’s the stupidest damn thing I’ve ever heard? That the right thing to go is for the captain to go down with his/her ship. That would jive with me if I was a captain. Did I design the ship? No. Did I build the ship? No. Did I finance the ship? No. Therefore, it is not my ship! I just get paid to steer the damn thing and you better make room in the lifeboat for my fat ass. Who even started that? Like, how did it become a thing? The trip took 3 days but while at sea the Carpathia was able to send the news to the outside world about what had happened via wireless communications. The initial reports on April 15th were confusing and the media released that the Titanic was being towed to shore by the SS Virginian and not that the ship had sunk. However, later in the day papers accurately reported that the Titanic had sunk and that most passengers and crew members had died. The news attracted crowds of people to the White Star Line’s offices in London, New York, Montreal, Southampton, Liverpool, and Belfast. It hit hardest in Southampton; this area suffered the greatest losses from the sinking. 4 out of every 5 crewmembers were from the town. Remember, during this time there were no cell phones, no social media, no internet, no nothing. So, people either had to wait and see if their loved ones got off the Carpathia when it docked or even worse, had to wait until bodies started to be identified. There was no instant gratification of knowing what had happened. 

The Carpathia docked at 9:30 pm on April 18th at New York’s Pier 54 and was greeted by about 40,000 people waiting at the quayside. The ship’s arrival in New York also led to a frenzy of press interest. Newspapers competed to be the first to share the survivor’s stories. Several reporters bribed their way aboard the pilot boat New York, which help guide the Carpathia into the harbor. One reported managed to get onto the Carpathia before she docked. Swarms of people gathered outside newspaper offices to see the latest reports being posted in the windows or on billboards. It would take another 4 days for a complete list of causalities to be complied and released. This only added to the agony of friends and relatives waiting to hear news of loved ones who had been aboard the Titanic.

The New York Times Report of the tragedy on April 15, 1912. The number of survivors and lives lost varied from newspaper to newspaper

The Carpathia’s captain, Arthur Rostron described the scene as an ice field that included 20 large icebergs measuring almost 200 feet tall. As well as many smaller ice bergs, ice floes, and debris from the Titanic. Passengers described being in the middle of a vast white plain of ice, filled with icebergs. This area is now known as Iceberg Alley. Clothing and transportation to shelters was provided by the Women’s Relief Committee, the Travelers Aid Society of New York, and the Council of Jewish women, among other organizations. Many of the survivors decided not to stay in New York and quickly dispersed to relatives’ homes elsewhere. Some of the wealthier survivors paid for private trains to take them home. The Pennsylvania Railroad offered a special train free of charge to take survivors to Philadelphia. The Titanic’s 214 surviving crew members were taken to the Red Star Line’s SS Lapland, where they were set up in passenger cabins. The Carpathia was quickly restocked with food and provisions before resuming her original journey to Fiume, Austria-Hungary. Her crew received a bonus of a month’s salary as a reward for their actions and some of the Titanic’s survivors joined together to give them an additional bonus of nearly £900 (£90,000 in today’s money). This was divided amongst the crew members.  

In January 1912, the hulls and equipment of the Titanic had been insured through Lloyd’s of London and London Marine Insurance. The coverage was for £1,00,000 (£102,000,000 in today’s money). Lloyd’s paid White Star Line the full sum owed to them within 30 days of the tragedy. Charities were set up to help the victims and their families, many of whom lost their sole breadwinner or in most 3rd class survivors, everything they owned. In New York, the American Red Cross and Charity Organization Society agreed to work together to disburse financial aid to survivors and dependents of those who died. On April 29, 912, famous opera singers Enrico Caruso and Mary Garden along with members of the Metropolitan Opera raised $12,000 ($30,000 in today’s money) for the victims of the disaster by giving special concerts. In Britain relief funds were set up for the families of the Titanic’s lost crew members, raising almost £450,000 (£45,000,000 in 2014). One of the funds operated until the late 1960s. In the United States and Britain, more than 60 survivors came together and sued the White Star Line for damages connected to the loss of life and baggage. Loss of baggage? Maybe it’s because I don’t carry a lot of fancy shit with me but I personally would be very happy to lose my baggage instead of my life. The claims totaled $16,804,112 ($419 million in 2018). Because a bulk of the people suing were in America the White Star Line petitioned the United States Supreme Court in 1914, which ruled in its favor that is qualified as an LLC and found that the causes of the ship’s sinking were unforeseeable, and not due to negligence on the crew’s part. This reduced White Star settled for $664,000 ($16.56 million in 2018) which was only about 27% of the original claim filed by the survivors. In December 1915, 44 claimants agreed to a settlement that paid out $500,000 for American passengers and $50,000 for British passengers. $114,000 went towards interest and legal expenses.

Investigations into the crash and what went wrong started even before the survivors made it to New York. Investigators also wanted to find out what could be done to prevent another disaster like this one from happening again. Inquiries took place in both the United States and the United Kingdom. The first inquiry was more critical of traditions, practices, and looking into the failures involved. The second one focused more on technicalities and expertise. The US Senate’s inquiry into the disaster started on April 19, 1912, one day after the Carpathia docked in New York. The chairman, Senator William Alden Smith, wanted to gather accounts from survivors while everything was still fresh in their minds. Oh, I’m pretty sure the events stayed fresh in their minds until the day they died. I don’t think you forget the details of a night like that. No, sir. Smith also had to subpoena all surviving British passengers and crew while they were still in America, preventing them from returning home to the UK before the inquiry was complete on May 25th. The Senator also wanted to investigate by Titanic’s owner, J.P Morgan.

The British Board of Trade’s inquiry into the disaster took place between May 2 and July 3, 1912. It was headed by Lord Mersey and was run by the Board of Trade, who had previously approved the ship. Each investigation heard testimony from the Titanic’s passengers and crew members, The Carpathia’s captain Arthur Rostron, and other experts. The American inquiry concluded that those involved in the disaster had followed standard practice and that the tragedy was an act of God and the British inquiry that Captain smith had followed a long-standing practice that had never been unsafe in the past, mentioning that some British ships alone had carried 3.5 million passengers in the last ten years with the loss of only 10 lives. That’s a life a year but whatever. The only thing Lord Mersey found fault with was the high speed that was maintained even after receiving the ice warnings. Neither report listed any negligence had been carried out by the White Star Line. Strong suggestions were made for major changes in the current maritime regulations and the implementation of new safety measures such as; ensuring that more lifeboats are available on ships, that lifeboat drills were properly carried out, and that wireless communication was manned around the clock. The International Ice Patrol was set up to monitor the presence of icebergs in the North Atlantic, and safety regulations were synced internationally through the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. All of these new precautions are still in place today.

Once the massive loss of life became known, White Star Line took cable ship the CS Mackay-Bennett from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada to retrieve the bodies. Three other Canadian ships followed to assist with the search. Each ship had embalming supplies, undertakers, and clearly aboard. Oh, talk about dark and morbid…. good, because that’s right up my alley. A total of 33 bodies were recovered on that mission. The CS Mackay-Bennet was the first to reach the crash site and ended up discovering so many bodies that the ship ran out of embalming supplies. Health regulations required that only embalmed bodies were allowed to be brought back to port. CS Mackay-Bennett’s captain, Frederick Larnder, decided to preserve only the bodies of 1st class passengers. They justified their decision by the need to visually identify wealthy men to resolve any disputes over large estates. I’m sorry but that is f****** up. Like f***** all the way up. They just threw bodies of 2nd and 3rd class passengers back in the ocean? Don’t they deserve a proper burial? Well it’s like the old saying goes, money talks. Don’t their families deserve to know what happened to them instead of thinking they were lost at sea? Captain Larnder identified many of the crew members by their clothing, they too were left in the ocean with Larnder telling people that as a mariner, he himself would be content with a burial at sea. Okay, but those people aren’t you and maybe that’s not what they wanted you jerk.

Bodies that were recovered and preserved were transported to Halifax, the closest city to the sinking with direct rail and steamship connections. The Halifax coroner, John Henry Barnstead, developed a system to identify bodies and protect personal possessions. Relatives from across North America came to identify and claim their loved one’s bodies. A temporary morgue was set up in the rink of the Mayflower Curling Club and undertakers from all across eastern Canada were called in to help. Some of the bodies were shipped back to their hometowns to be buried. About two-thirds of the bodies were identified. Unidentified victims were buried with a simple number on their headstones based on the order in which they were discovered. 150 of the unidentified victims were buried, were buried in three Halifax cemeteries. In May 1912, the RMS Oceanic recovered three over 200 miles from the site of the sinking. After being picked up by the Oceanic the bodies were buried at sea. I guess that’s better than just throwing them back all willy nilly. On May 22, 1912, the last body from the Titanic wreckage was recovered by steward, James McGrady, while aboard the Newfoundland sealing vessel the Alergine. Out of 1,500 victims, only 333 would ultimately be recovered. In June, one of the last search ships reported that life jackets supporting the bodies were coming apart allowing some of the bodies to sink.

The Titanic was long thought to have sunk in one full piece and for numerous years many plots were hatched in trying to get the ship off the ocean floor. The difficulty was trying to find and reach the wreck since it was over 12,000 feet below the surface. On September 1, 1985 (before my time) a Frano-American expedition led by Jean-Louis Michel and Robert Ballard was the first to succeed in finding the wreckage. The team discovered that the Titanic had actually split in half, probably near or at the surface before being submerged. The separated bow and stern were found roughly 3 miles apart off the coast of Newfoundland. The wreck is approximately 13.2 miles from the inaccurate coordinates given by the Titanic’s radio operators on the night of the sinking. Both sections hit the sea bed with considerable force, causing the bow to crumple and the stern to collapse entirely. The bow is far more intact with shockingly intact interiors. The stern is completely destroyed; the decks having flattened down on top of one another. Much of the hull plating was ripped off and is scattered across the ocean floor. The two areas are surrounded by a debris field measuring roughly 5 by 3 miles. It contains items such as; pieces of the ship, furniture, dinnerware, and personal items. The debris field is also the last resting place of numerous victims from the Titanic. Most of the bodies and their clothing have since been consumed by sea creatures and bacteria, leaving behind only a few pairs of shoes and boots. I guess those are inedible. They are the only sign that bodies were once there.

A bath tub found near the Titanic wreckage

Since its discovery, the wreck site has been revisited by numerous explorers, scientists, filmmakers, tourists, and salvagers, who have recovered thousands of items from the debris field for conservation and public display. Over the years what’s left of the ship has deteriorated from exposure to the elements and exposer to things like iron-eating bacteria. In 2006, it was estimated that in another 50 years the hull and structure of the Titanic would collapse entirely, leaving only the more durable interior fitting mixed with a pile of rust on the ocean floor. A way to lift the two pieces of the Titanic out of the ocean without causing further damage still hasn’t been discovered, but it’s not for lack of trying. Many people want to see that day come sooner rather than later so a piece of history doesn’t get destroyed completely. I think it would be cool to see that baby brought out from its grave. That would be awesome. But for now, I will be patient and see what human beings and technology can come up with.

A lot of conspiracy theories, controversies, and mysteries have surrounded the sinking of the Titanic but I want to wrap this up with something that I think is particularly eerie and creepy. In 1898 author Morgan Robertson published his now very popular novel Futility which was later revised to The Wreck of the Titan. The novel features a fictional ocean liner named the Titan. The Titan eventually sinks in the North Atlantic Ocean after hitting an iceberg. Remember, this story was written in 1898 before the Titanic was even built, hell before it was even a thought. The book became incredibly popular after the sinking of the RMS Titanic due to its similarities with the real-life tragedy. Ready for shit to get really crazy? The Titan sank in APRIL. And THERE WEREN’T ENOUGH LIFEBOATS ON BOARD TO ACCOMMODATE ALL THE PASSENGERS ON THE SHIP! There are also similarities between the two ships such as size, speed, and lifesaving equipment. Did this guy have the ability to see into the future? Was this wreck done intentionally as part of some sort of conspiracy theory? Or was it just some insane coincidence between real life and a thought-up fictional world? I guess we’ll never know…

Sources:

“Titanic” – Wikipedia

“Remembering The Titanic” – National Geographic

“The Titanic: Sinking and Facts” – History

“The Titanic” – Smithsonian Institution

“Titanic: Conspiracy of Failure” – Science Channel

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