Sunday, April 15, 2012

100th Anniversary

The 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic is today.  At 2:20 this morning 100 years ago on April 15, 1912, the British ocean liner, which was the largest built ship of the time, became fully submerged in the Atlantic Ocean.  

It all started around 11:39pm on April 14, 1912, when the Titanic lookout Frederick Fleet, whose binoculars had been lost, spotted an iceberg.  Less than one minute later, the Titanic fatally hit the iceberg.  Sometimes only about 10% of an iceberg is visible above water.  Therefore once spotted, though it was ordered for the ship make a sharp turn, there was no way of avoiding the iceberg.  

Captain Smith ordered the ship to be inspected about a minute later, and Thomas Andrews, the ship's builder, did so.  At midnight, Andrews informed the captain that the ship had only an hour and a half to remain afloat.  

Imagine that.  Knowing you have an hour and a half left to your life.  The very thing considered "unsinkable" would bring you to your death of either drowning or hypothermia.  It was completely unexpected.  The idea was not even considered until the hit.  And for many people, their arrogance cost them their lives. 

Approximately 706 people were saved on the sixteen lifeboats and four collapsible lifeboats the ship had on board.  The lifeboats could have held from 65-40 people, though some departed with as few as twelve.  This left around 1,517 people to die in the disaster.  Between all the classes(including the crew), about 157 women and children survived, and about 374 died.  Of the men on board, around 332 survived and 1,360 died.  Whole families were killed, including the infants and elderly.

I've had a keen interest the Titanic for several years now.  I even started writing a book about it, which is currently in the back of my "creative writing closet" because I kind of over planned it, and need to take a break.  Why do I have an interest in it?  Well, it was not a result of seeing Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet's characters fall absurdly in love in the oh-so-famous film.  I think it all started after reading this fictional diary of a girl who was a passenger of the ship.  The whole subject fascinated me.  The sadness of the disaster, yet the beautiful memories that are left of the ship.  It was a floating work of art.  "Women and children first".  A major act of true chivalry from a huge group of people.  A rule that was mostly held during the sudden disaster.

Stories like that of millionaire passenger Benjamin Guggenheim, who once he realized that the last life boat had departed and that he had no chance of surviving, went to his cabin with his valet where they dressed in their evening suits, and then returned to the deck.  Guggenheim was reported to have said, "We are dressed in our best, and are prepared to go down like gentlemen."

The elderly Isidor Straus turned down an offer to board a lifeboat.  His wife Ida also turned down the chance with the words, "I will not be separated from my husband.  As we have lived, so we will die together."  And they did.

The band who played until the very end.  Supposedly the final piece they played was the hymn, "Nearer, My God, To Thee".  All the members of the band were lost.

The Unsinkable Molly Brown, who took charge in her lifeboat and rowed toward the rescue ship, the Carpathia

Captain Edward John Smith:  It was supposed to be his last voyage before retirement.  The captain was last seen on the bridge before he went down with the ship.

There are so many breathtaking stories that occurred during the Titanic's maiden voyage that ended so abruptly.  The event of the Titanic is an example showing us that even during that extreme time of panic and desperation, there were people who sought to find and give hope, even when they knew there was none.  It is a story of bravery, courage, and honor earned most respectfully.

My resource for this blog post was the book Eyewitness Titanic by Simon Davis (DK Publishing, Inc.). It's a wonderful book with lots of amazing pictures.  You should check it out.  :)     

1 comment:

  1. Just watched a programme on ITV (in UK) with actors reading from survivors' journals and's heart-rending. Makes you wonder what you'd have done if you'd been there? Would the chivalry they exhibited still be around today? So many questions... Great post Mary.