Titanic Essay, Research Paper
Night of TerrorOn April 14,1912 a great ship called the Titanic sankon its maiden voyage. That night there were many warnings oficebergs from other ships. There seems to be a conflict onwhether or not the warnings reached the bridge. We may neverknow the answer to this question. The greatest tragedy ofall may be that there were not enough lifeboats for everyoneon board. According to Walter Lord, author of The Night Lives On,the Titanic could have been saved in the very beginning ofthe crisis when the iceberg was first reported to thebridge. If First Officer Murdoch had steamed right at theiceberg instead of trying to avoid it, he might have savedthe ship. The author feels there would have been a loudcrash and anyone within the first one hundred feet wouldhave been killed, but the ship would have remainedafloat(82). This view was entirely speculation and we willnever really know if this would have happened. In contrast, Geoffrey Marcus, author of The MaidenVoyage, suggests that the bridge did not receive warning ofthe ice from the very beginning. One of the messagesreceived was from the Masaba warning the Titanic of a massof ice lying straight ahead. According to Marcus, themessage never reached the bridge, but instead was shovedunder a paper-weight (126). At 10:30 p.m. that evening, a ship going the oppositedirection of the Titanic was sighted. This ship, theRappahannock, had emerged from an ice field and hadsustained damage to its rudder. The vessel signaled theTitanic about the ice and the Titanic replied that themessage was received (Marcus 127). At 11 p.m. another ice report was received. This onewas from the Californian. This liner had passed through thesame ice field that the Rappahannock had reported to theTitanic. Like all the other warnings, this warning neverreached the bridge though it was known to both of theTitanic’s wireless operators (Marcus 128). By the time the bridge realized the ship was about tohit an iceberg, it was too late. Quartermaster Hitchenstried to turn the wheel hard to the starboard. Twentyseconds later, he had an order for full speed astern but theiceberg was too close. The starboard side hit the iceberg,bringing a block of ice onto the deck (Pellegrino 21). After the collision occurred, there was only one thingopen for Captain Smith to do. It was almost midnight and hegave the order to take to the lifeboats (Lord, Lives On82). This decision brought Captain Smith face-to-face withthe fact that there were 2,201 people on board and enough lifeboats for only 1,178 people (Lord, Lives On 83). TheCaptain was going to have to make a choice as to who wouldbe the first allowed on the lifeboats. Around 12:30 a.m. thebridge informed the crew that only women and children wouldbe loaded on the lifeboats (Eaton,Haas,152). By 1:30 a.m., there was panic among some of thepassengers. One example was on the port side of the boat. Agroup of passengers threatened to jump into a boat full ofpassengers. To scare them, one of the officers fired threeshots on the ship’s side. The warning proved to besuccessful. Nobody was injured and the passengers calmeddown (Eaton and Haas 154). At the last moments with only forty seven availablespaces on the last lifeboat, the crew instructed everyone toform a circle around the boat. Women and children were theonly people permitted to pass through the circle. A littlewhile after the last lifeboat left, the stern lifted clearout of the water with more than 1500 people still on board(Eaton and Haas 157-161). The climatic moment came at 2:20 a.m. The Titanic stoodperpendicular to the water. As people in the lifeboatslooked on, they noticed the ship stayed perpendicular for aminute and then disappeared to the bottom of the ocean(Lord, Lives on 137). Captain Rostron of the ship Carpathia determined thedistance to the Titanic and quickly calculated the course toanswer the Titanic’s distress call (Eaton and Haas 177). Once the Carpathia reached the lifeboats, it did nottake long to load the passengers on board. It was 4:45 a.m.when the last lifeboat was loaded on board. The survivorspeered around the Promenade Deck, searching for familymembers lost (Lord, To Remember 152-53). Why wasn’t their enough lifeboats for everyone? TheTitanic came under a regulating board that made laws forvessels over 10,000 tons. In 1894 only twenty lifeboats wereneeded. This number was never changed when the size of shipsincreased, and because of this, over a thousand lives werelost (Lord, Lives On 84). Another problem with the lifeboats was that there wasno consistency in loading them. To Officer Lightoller, womenand children first meant no men were allowed to board. Inmany cases this meant many lifeboats were not filled to
maximum capacity. Officer Murdoch put men on the lifeboatswhen there were no women around. Therefore, a man’s life ordeath , depended on what side of the ship he was standing on(Lord, Lives on 116). On a luxury ship, lifeboats for everyone would meanless room for games and sports on the upper decks.Passengers would have had to give up play areas forlifeboats (Lord, Lives On 85). White Star line tragicallysacrificed safety for luxury. The question remains whether or not first and secondclass passengers received preference on the lifeboats. TheWhite Star line claims there was no distinction between thethree classes of passengers, however, only 25 percent ofthird class passengers were saved compared to 53 percent offirst and second class passengers. The White Star lineexplained that third class passengers were more reluctant toleave the ship and they did not want to part from theirbelongings. The surviving crew of the Titanic also claimedthat there was no discrimination. Yet at the British Inquiryof the accident, not a single third class passenger wascalled as a witness (Lord, Lives On 93-94). One aspect of the tragedy that the White Star line canbe proud of is the fact that the Titanic was spared a panic.The crew did not try to go on lifeboats ahead of thepassengers as they did when the French liner La Bourgognewent down in 1898. Most of the passenger remained calm andthe crew did their duty ( Lord, Lives On 127). One of the most intriguing mysteries of the tragedy wassurrounding the ship’s band. It is believed the band playedright to the end. Where or what they played remains a greatmystery, as eyewitness accounts vary greatly (Lord, Lives On 135). Five days after the Titanic sank, the Bremen was on itsway to New York. The passengers saw victims of the Titanicin the ocean.” We saw the body of one woman dressed only inher night dress, and clasping a baby to her breast,” onethe passengers recalled. Another passenger of the Bremenlater reported : Close by was the body of another woman with her arms tightly clasped around a shaggy dog… We saw the bodies of three men in a group, all clinging to a chair. Floating by just beyond them were the bodies of a dozen men, all wearing life belts and clinging desperately together as though in their last struggle for life. (Ward 180) The aftermath of the disaster changed the way peoplethought about the sea and ships. If one lesson was learned,it was that there needs to be enough lifeboats for everyoneon a ship. Luxuries should always come second to apassengers safety. Since the time of this disaster, everyship has enough lifeboats for everyone on board and alsoperforms mandatory lifeboat drills. Walter Lord, the author of A Night to Remember ,remarked that : The Titanic has come to stand for a world of tranquillity and civility that we have somehow lost… In 1912, people had confidence. Now nobody is sure of anything and the more uncertain we become , the more we long for a happier era when we felt we knew the answers. (170) In 1985, Dr. Robert Ballard of the Woods HoleOceanographic Institution in Massachusetts set out to find the Titanic. That summer, he went aboard the U.S. Navyresearch ship Knorr. The ship used its sonar equipment toexplore eighty percent of the ocean floor where the Titanicwas believed to be. On September 1, after studying the video screens, Dr.Ballard discovered where the Titanic was lying. On a second expedition made in July of 1986, Ballardbrought his small vessel called the Alvin to the site. Hisfindings were as follows: Contrary to a long-held belief, the Titanic had not been sliced open by the iceberg. Instead, the researchers found that the ship’s starboard bow plates had buckled under the impact of the collision, thereby opening up the ship to the sea. Another major discovery was that the stern of the Titanic had wrenched itself away from the rest of the ship in its descent to the bottom. (Ward 186) The last survivor of the Titanic recently died in herhome in Massachusetts. With her death, many of theunanswered questions of the Titanic may have also died.Hopefully, a tragedy like this will never have to happenagain. As stated before, ships are now expected to haveenough lifeboats for everyone on board. Ships also routetheir lanes farther to the south during iceberg season. Hopefully in some small way this will make a difference ifsuch an accident at sea should ever occur again. Work CitedEaton, John P., and Charles A. Haas. Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1986. PP 152-184. Pellegrino, Charles. Her Name Titanic. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1988. PP 20-21. Marcus, Geoffrey. The Maiden Voyage. New York: The Viking Press, 1969. PP 35-128. Lord, Walter. A Night To Remember. Mattituck: American House, 1955. PP 152-170. —. The Night Lives On. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1986. PP 82-137. Ward, Kaari, ed. Great Disasters. Pleasantville: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1989. PP 180-87.