Titanic Commentary

Why does the legend of this great ship and the people that were on her interest so many people 98 plus years later?

In the opening lines of the National Geographic: Secrets of the Titanic,

"Titanic is a synonym for tragedy."

There have been other ships sunk that have had large loss of life such as the Cunard Liner Lusitania, torpedoed by a German U-boat off the southern coast of Ireland with 1195 lost which convinced the United States to get involved in World War I. The Empress of Ireland sank after being struck by another ship with 1014 lost. Still the Titanic has held the interested of the world for over 90 years. It is the human drama or heroism and cowardous that holds the interest of most people. Many indivdual accounts have been well documented. Some of these are described in my Titanic History section.

The Titanic was a preventable disaster if only the Captain and officers had not been so complacent with the ice warnings that were received. There were even some that did not make it to the bridge. Blindly steaming into known icebergs at 22 knots in the dark. On board were some of the most noteworthy and richest people in the world. Faith in technology, calling the Titanic "practically unsinkable." Only enough lifeboats for 1,178 people with 2,227 on board. The regulation by the British Board of Trade only required 16. White Star Line had gone beyond the regulation and added four additional, what were called collapsible boats. It was suggested that more boats should be added but White Star did not want to take up valuable deck space that could be used by the passengers for recreation. Also what is interesting about the Titanic is the heroism and cowardice displayed that night. Husbands saw their wives and children off in lifeboats and then stepping back into the crowd knowing they would not see their loved ones again. That they would die in the cold water of the North Atlantic as the Titanic sank. John Jacob Astor was refused a place in the boat with his wife and calmly stepped back. Ida Straus refused to leave her husband and they died together. Wallace Hartley and the Titanic band played until the very end and all perished. Captain E. J. Smith, even though the fault of the disaster can be blamed on him, went down with his ship. The firemen, stokers and engineers keeping the lights going until the very end knowing they would never get on deck to a boat. A great number of the Third Class Passengers that did not seem to have a chance due to not enough boats and rumors of being kept below until it was to late. Then you have J. Bruce Ismay, President of the White Star Line stepping into a boat and saving himself when he know there were hundreds of women and children left on board and is to ashamed to watch as the ship sinks. One man dressed as a women to save himself. The panic that could have taken place as more and more people realized the ship was sinking and there were not enough lifeboats. There were a couple isolated incidents where First Officer Murdock, Second Officer Lightoller and Fourth Officer Lowe had to fire shots to make the crowd back off. Mostly the crowd was calm.

Royal Mail Steamer Titanic, the largest ship in the world, sank on April 15, 1912 at 2:20 a.m. and with her 1,522 people perished. This and the reasons mentioned in the previous paragraph together make this a disaster that will never die.  It is the most documented and studied maritime disaster of all time..

Scott Harvey

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