The Titanic Disaster. Who was to blame?

 In 1898, 14 years before the Titanic made her maiden voyage, Morgan Robertson published a fictitious book entitled, FUTILITY: The Wreck of the Titan. This was the story of an "unsinkable" massive ocean liner, which like the Titanic, was crossing the Atlantic Ocean (travelling from America to England) in that same month of April, with 3,000 people on board. Trying to cross the ocean in record time, it too struck an iceberg (near midnight) and sank. Not only were the ships’ names very similar, but most on board also perished simply because there was a lack of lifeboats (only 13 survived).

Paintoing of The Titanic sinking

Joseph Bruce Ismay, Managing Director of the White Star LineThe Titanic and her sister ship the Olympic were practically identical. Titanic had more luxurious accommodation which added to her total weight. Joseph Bruce Ismay (right) was the Managing Director and son of the founder of the White Star Line, the largest shipping organisation in the world.

Joseph had boasted his new liner was the finest of all ships and this heralded  the beginning of a new area in ships. Titanic was built by Harland& Wolf of Belfast and launched on the 31st of May 1911in front of 110,000  people. As the great liner slid down to the water the White Star flag flew over the bows the signal flag spelled success.

Her total length was 883 ft weighing 46,329 gross tonnage with a speed of 21knots and could carry 905 first class passengers. 546 second class and 1,134 in third class.

She was protected by a double bottom and sixteen watertight compartments formed by fifteen bulkheads. The bulkheads were not sealed at the top to make the ship completely watertight as any hole made in the ship would be at water level. Watertight doors were cut through the bulkheads to give access throughout the ship to staff and passengers and could be closed in an instant by an electric switch on the ships bridge.  Builders boastfully Harland& Wolf claimed she was practically unsinkable and led to further exaggerations of only God could sink her.    

The coveted Blue Ribbon for the fastest Atlantic crossing was now within reach for the White Star Line with the Titanic’s new powerful steam  turbine engines. Bizarrely, her rudder was a copy of the 18th century steel sailing ships and her extra length of 883 feet made an emergency turn challenging. 

Photograph of the liner TitanicThe Titanic sailed on the 10th April 1912 under the command of Captain E.J. Smith, he was well respected and considered a competent Mariner.

On this her maiden voyage he was 62 years of age and rumoured to be ready to retire. He was paid $6,250 per year with a $10,000 dollar bonus if none of the ships under his command were damaged within that year.

The Titanic sailed to Cherbourg and then to Queens Port in southern Ireland to pick up the many young Irish men and women travelling steerage to seek a new life in America. Emigrants often travelled in steerage accommodated under the third class to save money.      

The Titanic was to follow the same route across the Atlantic as the Olympic had the year before, but with the threat of icebergs she was ordered to sail further south. No attempt was to be made to break the crossing record. Some of the Titanic  boilers were not lit so it is unlikely she would have succeeded.

Her crossing the Atlantic to America would be timed have arrive to suit the hotels and train travel and to arrive early would have been disastrous. Managing Director Joseph Ismay was on board to see first hand the ships progress as it steamed steady westward. The weather was fine fair and the waters calm. Passenger settled down to ship life of meeting new friends and enjoying the voyage. Titanic was travelling at about 22 knots on Sunday the 14th April encountered still only fine weather smooth sea and a moderate wind.

On the 12th the first of many ice reports were received and by the 14th the were becoming numerous. The weather was again fine and the Titanic sailed at a steady speed just as planned.

That evening more warning of the ice flows were reported.

The Leyland ship the Californian had received the same warnings and had stopped outside stream of the ice flows. Seven messages were received that morning on the Titanic including one from the Californian none appeared to have reached the bridge.

At 11.40 pm two lookouts in the crow’s-nest spotted an iceberg directly ahead and immediately rang the warning bells. Officers on watch were informed. Titanic turned to port as fast as she could but was far too late. She struck the iceberg a glancing blow on the starboard side causing several tons of ice to fall on the deck. In a few minutes she was at a stand still after her engines had been put in reverse. Immediate reports were made of the first five watertight compartments breached. The wireless operator sent out the distress call "This is my position -- I'm having a navigation problem -- Please stand clear." . The message was transmitted with a spark transmitter and it included the new "SOS" signal, as well as the more conventional radio "CQD" signal. Often called the Come Quick, Dammit!"; signal.

Rockets were fired into the night and 12 other rockets were fired over an hour that were not distress rockets. Several ships picked up the distress messages including the Cunard liner the Carpathian which was only 58 miles away. She immediately sped to the damaged Titanic. The life boats of the Titanic were not lowered straight away and when they were they only partially filled. The passengers were naturally reluctant to leave the ship and go out into the cold dark starry night. They thought it improbable the Titanic would sink anyway. Unfortunately the number of life boats had been reduced to make the top deck look tidy and attractive. The days lifeboat drill had been cancelled to hold a church service.

Titanic began to slowly sink head first warning the most reluctant of passenger of the obvious danger. The remaining life boats were filled and set off. On board were over 1,500 passengers and crew. There were claims Joseph Ismay had dressed up as a woman to escape leaving women and children on the sinking ship. When in fact he had helped load and lower lifeboats behaving better than many. He got into a lifeboat later when it was being lowered and no other passengers were near. The barber of the Titanic said Ismay had been ordered into the boat. But later the powerful newspapers owner William Hearst sensationalised the story to sell then across the country calling Ismay a coward. The ship sank deeper into the gloomy Atlantic and by 02.05 her stern began to lift. Thomas Byles, a catholic priest, heard passengers confessions on the first deck while within earshot Wallace Hartley and his band played Nearer My God To Thee and Major Archie Butt and three of his friends continued to play cards in the first class saloon. 15 minutes later the Titanic was gone. Plunging to the ocean floor two and a half miles down.

The Carpathian built up a 17 knot speed and arrive two hours after the Titanic had sunk. She had manoeuvred around several icebergs in her dash. Without delay she began to round up the lifeboats and search for those in the water. Surprisingly, many of those in the water survived including a dog that swam in the cold water for over three hours.

Captain Stanley Lord of the Californian had been accused of ignoring the rockets fired from the Titanic only 10 miles away. The total range they would have been seen was approximately 30 miles. Any radio signals would not have been reported as the wireless operator of the Californian was sound asleep. The incident was never rerecorded in the ships log, Captain Lord refuted the accusation until his dying day. A foreman carpenter of the Californian told the story of ignoring the Titanic signals which served to make money for the author. When the mast lights of the Titanic were reported the Captain ordered the number of lookouts doubled, but only one person later came forward and swore he saw another ship heading east.

A Greek ship the Athinai reported the same iceberg the Titanic struck One of the crew of the Titanic stated he saw the iceberg over a thousand yards off, which in the dark would have been quite amazing. Marie Young told of how she'd seen the iceberg and hour before the collision.

An iceberg warning had reached Captain Smith while he was dining with Ismay in the promenade room. A junior officer handed him the warning, which was taken from his hand by Ismay who joked icebergs were inevitable. He flippantly handed the note to the near passengers who likely joined in the joke. Ismay on landing in America chatted freely with newspaper reporters and appeared in good spirit. They talked about the large amount the Titanic was insured for compared to the smaller sum in cost for each voyage. 

The total of passengers and crew of the Titanic was 2,206 of whom 1.503 were assumed lost. The number is not actually known.

Who was to blame? The British Government's Board of Trade allowed Titanic to sail with insufficient lifeboat accommodation.

Captain Smith ignored iceberg warnings and allowed the lifeboats to be lowered at the wrong time. He was also accused of being one of the first to leave the ship. Inevitable many stories were exaggerated to enhance insurance claims each one blaming the other. Many vital questions went unanswered during the enquiry. Company signals were different from distress signals complicating emergency matters. The first lifeboat to leave the Titanic had only 12 people in it when it could hold 70 grown men. Not enough life boats were available to accommodate the passengers and crew. The Californian Incident may have been true but never followed up. Excessive speed in the presence of ice flows was a contributing factor. Watertight compartments should meant exactly that. The number and responsibility of lookouts in an emergency situation should have been clear. The binoculars on board the Titanic were locked away. To any ships Captain their use should have been obvious. Conspiracy theories are  growing by the year as the unanswered questions remain.

Why did J.P Morgan the owner of the White Star Line cancel his passage hours before she sailed? The Curse of the Mummy of Princess of Amen-Ra whose coffin was on board? Did Ismay order the Captain to make full steam ahead knowing of the ice warnings? Was the change of course a plan to get rid of the ship and claim insurance?

Why no binoculars in use?

As the Titanic steamed past the Isle of Wight, people living along the coast stood by the shore and cheered. A Mrs Marshall screamed and grabbed her husband Jack's arm. "It's going to sink, that ship is going to sink. Save them! Save them!" But no one listened to the hysterical ravings of a woman who appeared to have gone mad. What Mrs Marshal did not know was that her mother had booked a passage on the Titanic.

This report was made over twelve hours after the Titanic sank
TITANIC BADLY DAMAGED BUT IS STILL AFLOAT”. “It is probable that all of the passengers of the Titanic are safe...the Titanic is reported to be making her way toward Halifax under her own steam...” “...the wireless telegraph. By this means of mystic communication the world was informed of the peril of over 2000 human souls, and its anxiety is somewhat lessened by the assurance that such other ships a-sea are rushing (to assist)”. “The interest in the accident that happened to Titanic last night was considerably increased this morning when it became known that among the passengers on the steamship were Philip Mock, and his sister Mrs. Paul Schabert (both of Derby)”.

-Front page headline and text from the local newspaper Evening Sentinel, April 15, 1912,
Captain Edward John SmithCaptain Edward John Smith (right) was born at Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, England on January 27th, 1850.He went to Liverpool to begin a seafaring career as an apprentice on a clipper ship - the 'Senator Weber' owned by Gibson & Co. - in 1869.

He joined the White Star Line in 1880 as Fourth Officer and gaining his first command in 1887. Among the ships he would command were the first 'Republic', 'Coptic', 'Majestic', 'Baltic', 'Adriatic' and 'Olympic'. In total he captained 17 White Star liners.

Captain Edward John Smith, on April 10th, 1912 was seen wearing a bowler hat and a long overcoat as he left a taxi at the docks. He came aboard the Titanic at 7.00 a.m. He went to his cabin to get the sailing report from Chief Officer Henry Wilde.

On the night of the sinking of the Titanic he was awakened at 11.39 p.m. by the force of the collision with the iceberg and immediately rushed to the bridge. He received the report of the accident from First Officer Murdoch and then ordered a quick inspection of the ship.

The report said the water had risen 14 feet in the front part of the ship and that the Titanic can only stay afloat for a couple of hours.

He ordered the preparation of the lifeboats but wavered when it came to giving the order to load and lower them. Second Officer Lightoller had to persuade him to give the order. No one knows how he died. Some survivors reported seeing him in the water with a life jacket, leaving the ship early. While others reported seeing him in the bridge wheelhouse as the bridge flooded. Others account for him saying "Good-Bye Boys, I'm going to follow the ship!" He went down with his ship along with hundreds of other, that much is certain.

A fairly recent examination of the Titanic rivets showed many to be substandard. Then, the force of the collision would have been predictable. Sadly Captain Smith had earlier remarked on another ship. "I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that...."

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