The Titanic, a Story Unsinkable
a historical event
- Wednesday, July 29, 1908
In 1907 the Cunard Line had launched the Mauretania and the Lusitania.which were celebrated as the fastest passenger ships on the ocean. To compete, White Star Line's chairman, J. Bruce Ismay and J.P. Morgan who controlled the Line's parent company, International Mercantile Marine, challenged Cunard with plans to build a bigger, faster, more luxurious ship. Though Titanic was registered in Liverpool, her maiden voyage was out of Southampton. She never berthed at her home port. And the competitor Lusitania? She was sunk by a German U-boat in 1915, a harbinger to the US entering the first World War. J.P. Morgan? Died in 1913. J.B Ismay? Though he survived the Titanic sinking he bore the public shame of boarding a lifeboat while so many others were left behind to drown.
- Tuesday, April 2, 1912
The RMS Titanic was designed and built in Belfast, Ireland by Harland and Wolff shipbuilders. The Titanic was the second of three great passenger ships in this class being built for White Star Lines. The others were RMS Olympic and the Gigantic which was later named the HMHS Britannic. The designs of the 9 deck Titanic were presented in 1908 and construction started in 1909. RMS Titanic was launched in May 1911 and began sea trials out of Belfast in April 1912.
- Wednesday, April 10, 1912
Southampton, England (12:00 pm)The fateful sailing of RMS Titanic began at Southampton, England on April 10, 1912 to great fanfare. The rich and renown had booked to enjoy this extraordinary crossing. A thousand or so emigrants from Ireland, Britain and Scandinavia were in third class passage with high hopes for a new life once they came to New York.
Titanic began her journey with 2224 people, including crew. 1514 of those would die before they reached the New York destination. There are several memorials in the vicinity which honor the engineers and musicians who sacrificed their safety and continued to play during the panic of passengers as the inevitable tragedy unfolded.
Cherbourg, France (6:30 pm)First stop of the Titanic was in Cherbourg, just 77 nautical miles from its start to pick up about 274 more passengers. 24 people left the ship. The Titanic was too large for the Cherbourg docks so passengers had to be conveyed both ways by tenders.
- Thursday, April 11, 1912
Cobh, Co. Cork (Queenstown), Ireland (11:30 am)The Titanic's second stop was at Queenstown, in southern Ireland, now called Cobh or Cork. Again tenders met the ship to board 120 additional passengers. At Cobh seven passengers left the ship. One was Father Francis Brown whose photograph of the Titanic is the last made of the living ship. Learning of the disaster he must have said of his departure, that sure made my day. In the center of Cobh there is a memorial to the event, and a memorial garden is planned for April 2012 to honor local Titanic passengers who died.
- Sunday, April 14, 1912
The iceberg now known around the world met the RMS Titanic on the fourth day of her crossing, 375 miles from Newfoundland. It wasn't a crash, just a grazing, but it was enough to open five of the 16 water tight compartments and the ship filled with water, broke up and sank in just two and a half hours. There were not enough lifeboats and the loading of passengers was so haphazard that perhaps a thousand souls were still on board when the ship fell nearly two miles into the depths. While some were able to escape in lifeboats, the icy water was quick death for others. Many of the lifeboats had moved off from the ship and were only partially filled. Only 710 persons survived.
- Monday, April 15, 1912
The RMS Carpathia is remembered as the rescue ship which took 710 survivors aboard to their original destination, New York City. Information of the Titanic's sinking was sent by wireless from that ship. The SS Californian had been closer but had not responded to the Titanic's rocket signals. Subsequent investigations and interviews established that the Californian Captain Lord had failed his duty to respond. The Carpathia reached New York in three days. Several Canadian ships were chartered to search and recover bodies of victims.
Canadian ships were sent out from Halifax to recover bodies from the sea. The steamer MacKay-Bennett, taking 5 days, recovered 306 victims, burying 116 of them at sea when they ran out of ice and embalming materials. The Minia found 17, burying 2 at sea. The CGS Montmagny took on 4, but buried one at sea. The SS Algerine found only one. Of all these, just 59 bodies were shipped to family and others were interred in 3 Halifax cemeteries. One personalized gravestone is marked to The Unknown Child (later identified as an English child whose family died in the disaster). The largest number of graves are in the Fairview Lawn cemetery which for many years has been a well-tended tourist destination for persons interested in Titanic history. The grave of Jack Dawson, a member of the crew gets a lot of attention since the movie Titanic. Actually the movie hero named Jack Dawson (DeCaprio) is a fictional character, but what's in a name? Currently there is DNA testing being done, when possible, in an attempt to identify some remains.
- Thursday, April 18, 1912
Pier 54, New York, NY (9:00 pm)West Street and 13th Street, NY | (212) 229-1890When the Carpathia docked at Pier 54, near 13th street, on April 18th it's estimated that 40,000 people or more stood waiting its arrival. By then the event had become news headline material to such a degree that reporters pushed or paid their way to get survivor interviews. Many of the interviews contradicted what others remembered and have become the lore or the questions about the sinking and the rescue. Several local organizations provided clothing and food and transportation to shelters. The casualty list, which added to the anguish of relatives or friends waiting for news, took 4 days to be completed. Even then there were, and perhaps still are, discrepancies in the numbers.
The Jane Hotel, New York, NY113 Jane Street, New York, NY | (212) 924-6700Some survivors were taken to the American Seamen's Friend Society Sailors' Home and Institute which is now The Jane Hotel in West Greenwich Village. They were there until the end of the American Inquiry, then housed at the YMCA which was designed by William Boring who had designed the Ellis Island Immigration station. When I'm in New York I never go past the Jane Hotel without thinking of some details of the great disaster.
Now, 100 years later, there are endless articles, pictures, commemorations and exhibits adding new information to the Titanic story. In 1985 Dr. Robert Ballard, with a French/American team, was able to find and photograph the giant ship, split in two, with debris scattered over a 5 mile area. More recently a scientific team exploring the wreck in a Robotic Ocean Vehicle (ROV) have photographed and analyzed details of the wreck that could change some of the accepted theories on why and how the Titanic went down. In much the same way that airplane wreckage is gathered to determine cause of failures, they are able by photos and mysterious (to me) technology to re-tell this endless story.
Mystic Aquarium, Mystic, CT55 Coogan Boulevard, Mystic, CT | (860) 572-5955A spectacular Titanic exhibition opens April 12, 2012 in Mystic, Connecticut at the Ocean Exploration Center exhibit hall in the Mystic Aquarium, just off Route I-95. Dr. Robert Ballard, who discovered the remains of Titanic in 1985 , (president and founder of The Institute for Exploration) has worked with the Sea Research Foundation and the JASON Project and Immersion Learning groups to put together an interactive exhibit. Visitors can listen to soundscapes of music and excitement as the ship was built. They can see one of the affluent staterooms and the communications area of the ship. An iceberg is lighted which shows its huge scale and sounds of the chaos are heard. Visitors then can find themselves 12,450 feet below the ocean with the Titanic's ruin in sight. The drama lives; the wonder of underwater exploration comes to life. The creatures of the sea partake the fruits of man's ambition and hubris.
- total distance: 4,465 miles (7.186 km)