The Rms Titanic Essay, Research Paper
Just 20 minutes short of midnight, April 14, 1912, the great new White Star Liner Titanic, making her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, had a rendezvous with ice in the calm, dark waters of the North Atlantic. She brushed the berg so gently that nearly all of the passengers slept through it (Tribute to the RMS Titanic). A look at the Titanic’s catastrophic disaster at sea some 85 years ago, the world has been captivated by the “unsinkable” ship’s history, from the birth of the idea to the aftermath of the crash and sinking.
By the turn of the nineteenth century, the race to build the largest and fastest steamship was in full swing. The two leading sea liner competitors in Britain during this era were the Cunard Lines and the White Star Lines. Both of these companies were striving to become the world leader in sea vessel manufacturing.
One summer night in 1907, the managing director of the White Star Line, J. Bruce Ismay, met at the home of Lord James Pirrie, a partner in the firm of Harland and Wolff, the giant Belfast shipbuilder that built all the White Star vessels. They met to discuss the plans for two very large ships, the Olympic and the Titanic. The two ships were almost identical in size, but the Titanic was some 1,000 gross tons larger, due to the more extensive and elaborate interior furnishings. (Gary’s Titanic Page) The hull of the Titanic was finished and launched on
May 31, 1911, but it would take another year to complete. With a total of nine decks, the Titanic was divided somewhat by social classes. Each class, first, second, and third, had two decks for themselves that were separated from the other classes. The first and second class passengers also shared an extra deck. Among them were John Jacob Astor, the richest man on the ship, Isador Strauss, founder of Macy’s department store, and Benjamin Guggenheim, whose family had made their fortunes in the mining and smelting industries (RMS Titanic). When the ship finally set sail for New York on April 11, 1912, the voyage was made even more pleasant for everyone on board by the splendid weather (Lynch 41). For three more days, the ship sailed on without a glitch. The weather had been perfect for crossing the Atlantic (Eaton 114), or so everyone thought. This would prove to be very fatal. On April 14, 1912, at approximately 11:30 P.M., lookout Frederick Fleet spotted something out in the distance. Unfortunately, when he reported it, it was too late. Ten minutes later, a three-hundred foot gash was ripped down the side of the Titanic. Immediately orders were sent to shut the watertight-doors, a safety precaution to prevent sinking, to close off the damaged area so water could not spread to other parts of the ship (Ballard, Exploring 22-23). What the ship’s captain and crew did not know was that there was too much damage to prevent flooding.
After the collision with the ice most of the passengers did not know that the Titanic was sinking. As the water steadily rose, word was sent out that the great, “unsinkable” ship was indeed going down. Before the majority of the passengers knew what was taking place, the crew had started to send distress signals. Messages were sent to the nearest ship, the Carpathia, that the Titanic was mortally wounded. As the tilt of the ship became more severe, all of the passengers began to realize they were in fact in tremendous danger. The lifeboats began to fill more quickly, but by that time, nearly all of them, including the new collapsible boats, had been launched and the Titanic’s entire bow was well submerged in sea water. In the confusion, many of the lifeboats had left half-full, wasting space that could have saved several lives (Lord 115). It became quite clear to those remaining that they were going to die if help did not arrive soon.
A normal size ship at that time was 10,000 tons, while the massive Titanic was weighed at 46,329 gross tons. It’s enormous size, and all of the new technologies misled the engineers to believe that the ship would take much longer to sink. The sixteen so-called “water-tight” compartments were not sealed on the top, so the water could spill from one tank to the next, until the ship sank. The ship builders only supplied enough lifeboats, sixteen, for the use of just over 1000 people, expecting the giant ship to sink within one to three days, if it sank at all. Each preserver was able to accommodate sixty-five people, but sadly, only a few left the liner at maximum capacity. So only when the Titanic started to plunge with surprising quickness did the shortage become a fatal error.
By early morning, the Carpathia, headed by Captain Arthur Rostron, had finally reached the lifeboats (Ballard, Exploring the Titanic 29). After patrolling the waters for hours and collecting the few people who remained, the Carpathia headed to New York. Ironically, it was a ship of the Cunard Lines, the competitor of the White Star Lines.
Senator William Alden Smith, a Republican from Michigan, took it upon himself and requested a formal investigation by the United States government about the activities of the Titanic (Lord 193). When challenged to present what authority America had over survivors, Smith pointed out that such tragedy called for any nation to intercede (Hoffman 115). The British hearings on the contrary seemed to be uncaring about the loss of lives, and instead, focused more on the shipbuilding, ship operations and existing points of law which may or may not have contributed to the deaths. Years passed, and the whereabouts of the monstrous boat remained a mystery.
The idea of finding the famous sunken ship, of photographing and even possibly salvaging her, could be traced back almost to the moment the Titanic first disappeared beneath the surface. The very same year of the sinking, the rich and elite Astor Grimm, a Texas oil millionaire, sailed from Port Everglades, Florida (Lynch 201). Unfortunately, due to stormy weather, the expedition turned up empty handed. Grimm returned for two additional search expeditions, but to no avail (Lynch 201). The Titanic was eventually found by an underwater geologist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts. This person was
Dr. Robert Ballard. Since the early 1970’s Ballard had dreamed of finding the ship (Ballard, The Discovery 31). He discovered pieces of metal, fragments of man-made wreckage that could only have come from the huge Titanic. At 1:05 A.M., September 1, 1985, the cameras picked up one of the gigantic boilers of the Titanic, at a depth of 12,460 feet (Ballard, Exploring 35). At the wreckage site Dr. Ballard discovered many interesting things about the Titanic. Most important was that the ship had indeed broken into two sections between the third and fourth funnel. The researchers concluded that this was due to a weak point. The stern hit the bottom hull first, landing with such force that the decks flattened in on top of one another. This then caused the sides to bulge outward and fall apart (Pellegrino 84-92). Contrary to many expectations, the deep sea did not fully prevent the exploration of the Titanic, only the United States’. Despite attempts by the United States Congress to prevent looting, a 1987 American and French expedition dove to the site and plucked hundreds of items from the debris field and the wreck. This offense created a universal outcry of protest. The few remaining survivors wanted to preserve the site as a grave for their loved ones who died. The tragedy made many people aware of the need for more efficient safety procedures and regulations. One specific regulation needed was the requirement of ships to provide enough lifeboats for all passengers. After that mistake was made, engineers wanted to make certain that it would not happen again.
Future generations must learn from the mistakes of the past and try to prevent another tragedy of the Titanic’s magnitude. If not, then all knowledge gained from the loss of the great ocean liner will have been in vain.
Ballard, Robert D. Exploring the Titanic. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1988.
Ballard, Robert D. The Discovery of the Titanic. New York: Warner Books Inc., 1987.
Eaton, John P. and Charles A. Haas. Titanic: triumph and tragedy. New York: W. W. Norton &
Company, Inc., 1986.
Gary’s Titanic Page. http://www.ilap.com/ garnold/titanic.htm
Tribute to the RMS Titanic. http://www.fireflyproductions.com/titanic/
RMS Titanic. http://www.powerup.com.au/ nicw/titanic.htm
Hoffman, William and Jack Grimm. Beyond Reach: the search for the Titanic. New York: Beaufort Books, Inc., 1981.
Lord, Walter. The Night Lives On. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1986.
Lynch, Don. Titanic: an illustrated history. Toronto: Madison Press Ltd., 1992.
Pellegrino, Charles. Her name, Titanic: the untold story of the sinking and finding of the unsinkable ship. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Co., 1988.