Opulent style shattered as superliner sinks
-: R. Muthu Kumar :-
Titanic was a British passenger liner operated by the White Star Line that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912, after striking an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City Pier 59 were it was supposed to berth on the morning of April 17. It hit that iceberg just before midnight more than 100 years ago on April 15. Of the estimated 2,224 passengers and crew aboard, more than 1,500 died, making the sinking at the time one of the deadliest of a single ship and the deadliest peacetime sinking of a super liner or cruise ship to date. With much public attention in the aftermath the disaster has since been the material of many artistic works and a founding material of the disaster film genre. Titanic is the second largest ocean liner wreck in the world, only being surpassed by her sister ship HMHS Britannic; however, she is the largest sunk while in service as a liner, as Britannic was in use as a hospital ship at the time of her sinking. The final survivor of the sinking, Millvina Dean, aged two months at the time, died in 2009 at the age of 97.
Built by Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland, of Great Britain, the RMS Titanic was the second of the three Olympic-class ocean liners – the first was the RMS Olympic and the third was the HMHS Britannic. All three of the Olympic-class ships operated by White Star Line had 10 decks (excluding the top of the officers’ quarters), eight of which were for passenger use. Thomas Andrews, chief naval architect of the shipyard at the time, died in the disaster. Titanic was under the command of Captain Edward Smith, who also went down with the ship. The ocean liner carried some of the wealthiest people in the world as well as hundreds of emigrants from Great Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia and elsewhere throughout Europe, who were seeking a new life in the United States. The first-class accommodation was designed to be the pinnacle of comfort and luxury with a gymnasium, swimming pool, libraries, high-class restaurants and opulent cabins. A high-powered radiotelegraph transmitter was available for sending passenger “marconigrams” and for the ship’s operational use.
The Titanic had advanced safety features such as watertight compartments and remotely activated watertight doors. The ship carried 16 lifeboat davits which could lower three lifeboats each, for a total of 48 boats. However, Titanic carried only a total of 20 lifeboats, four of which were collapsible and proved hard to launch during the sinking.
The lifeboats were enough for 1,178 people Harland and Wolff shipyard – about half the number on board, and one third of her total capacity – due to the maritime safety regulations of those days. At the time of the sinking, the lowered lifeboats were only about half-filled. A disproportionate number of men were left aboard because of a “women and children first” protocol for loading lifeboats. After leaving Southampton on April 10, 1912, Titanic called at Cherbourg in France and Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland, before heading west to New York. On April 14 , four days into the crossing and about 375 miles (600 km) south of Newfoundland, she hit an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. ship’s time. The collision caused the hull plates to buckle inwards along her starboard (right) side and opened five of her sixteen watertight compartments to the sea; she could only survive four floodings. Meanwhile, passengers and some crew members were evacuated in lifeboats, many of which were launched only partially loaded.
At 2:20 am, she broke apart and foundered with well over one thousand people still aboard. Just under two hours after Titanic sank, the Cunard liner RMS Carpathia arrived and brought aboard an estimated 705 survivors. The disaster was met with worldwide shock and outrage at the huge loss of life as well as the regulatory and operational failures that led to it. Public inquiries in Britain and the United States led to major improvements in maritime safety. One of their most important legacies was the establishment of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) in 1914, which still governs maritime safety. Several new wireless regulations were passed around the world in an effort to learn from the many missteps in wireless communications – which could have saved many more passengers.
Titanic lacked a searchlight in accordance with the ban on the use of searchlights in the merchant navy. It was for long generally believed the ship sank in one piece; but the discovery of the wreck many years later revealed that the ship had broken fully into two. All remaining passengers and crew were immersed in lethally cold water with a temperature of −2 °C (28 °F). And almost all of those in the water died of cardiac arrest or other bodily reactions to freezing water, within 15 to 30 minutes.
Only five of them were helped into the lifeboats, though the lifeboats had room for almost 500 more people. Distress signals were sent by wireless, rockets, and lamp but none of the ships that responded were near enough to reach Titanic before she sank. Wealthiest to die in this rare sea disaster includes American millionaire John Jacob Astor IV. Titanic‘s owner J.P. Morgan was scheduled to travel on the maiden voyage but cancelled at the last minute. Even more than a century later, the public’s fascination with Titanic remains, fuelled by books, a musical and more movies. It is the fantasy of every human to test the limits of technology and taste’s it’s abilities.
Fire before disaster
The first three days of the voyage from Queenstown had passed without apparent incident. A fire had begun in one of Titanic‘s coal bunkers approximately 10 days prior to the ship’s departure, and continued to burn for several days into its voyage but passengers were unaware of this situation. Fires occurred frequently on board steamships at the time due to spontaneous combustion of the coal.
RMS Titanic Inc had also installed in the ship Marconi wireless telegraph machine. It broadcast the sinking ocean liner’s distress calls and which actually saved about 700 lifes.Over the years, explorers have sent remotely operated vehicles into parts of the ship. During his 2001 expedition, film director James Cameron surveyed the area in a deckhouse that holds the telegraph equipment.