Archive for May, 2010

Titanic – Causes of the Disaster

May 21st, 2010

RMS Titanic Model

Construction of the Titanic Hull

The Titanic was originally thought to have sunk from the iceberg cutting a gash into Titanic’s hull. However, sonar technology has discovered from the buried impact point of the ship that the iceberg actually hit the hull causing it to buckle, and thus let water flow freely into Titanic. While the steel plating used for Titanic was arguably the best carbon ship plate available at the time, detailed analysis of small pieces of the steel plating from Titanic’s wreck hull discovered that the one to one and a half inch thick plates were composed of a metallurgy that loses elasticity in icy waters, thus becoming brittle and susceptible to cracks. The steel plating was determined to have a high content of phosphorous and sulfur. The high content of phosphorus is known to create fractures, while sulfur forms grains of iron sulfide that make cracking easier, and the lack of manganese makes the steel less ductile.


Many speculate that Titanic could have been spared had it hit the iceberg head on instead of attempting to maneuver around it. The resulting impact from a head on collision would have probably been absorbed by the naturally stronger bow, only killing a few of the passengers near the bow. Furthermore, a forward collision would have likely have resulted in only two – four compartments flooding, which the Titanic was designed to be able to handle.


Another cause of the disaster according to the British Inquiry read “that the loss of the said ship was due to collision with an iceberg, brought about by the excessive speed at which the ship was being navigated”. The Titanic was thought to be travelling at her normal cruising speed of 22 knots, less than her top speed of 24 knots. Maintaining normal speed was a common practice in iceberg prone areas, as it was thought that icebergs of a threatening stature could be seen in enough time to be avoided successfully. The sinking of the Titanic caused the British Board of Trade to begin regulating the speed of vessels traveling in iceberg waters. Popular culture speculates that J. Bruce Ismay instructed Captain Smith to increase speed in order to make an early landfall, and this can be seen in the blockbuster hit Titanic, that was released in 1997. However, little to no evidence suggests this being a possibility.

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Titanic – Salvaging the Remains

May 19th, 2010

Titanic Model Ships

Large debris comprised of ship pieces, furniture, dinnerware, and personal items were scattered over a square mile. It seems that all wood, carpet, and human remains were consumed by undersea organisms. Dr. Ballard and his team refused to bring up any artifacts from their Titanic expedition, as they deemed doing so to be grave robbing. However, international maritime law permits that artifacts must be recovered in order to establish salvage rights to a shipwreck. Since then, the Titanic has underwent a number of court cases revolving around ownership of artifacts, and the wreck site. RMS Titanic, Inc. was given rights to ownership of salvaged artifacts, and became criticized for taking items from the wreck. Approximately 6,000 artifacts were removed from the sunken Titanic, where many were put on display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England.

These attempts at salvaging artifacts from Titanic are allegedly causing her to decay at a faster rate than she would on her own. This is thought to be the case by scientists such as Robert Ballard, who believe that tourists landing on the deck of Titanic in submersibles are promoting a faster decay of the once unsinkable ship. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that between the extra visitors and the underwater microbes that have been eating away at Titanic’s steel since its sinking, “the hull and structure of the ship may collapse to the ocean floor within the next 50 years.” Ballard has written a book entitled Return to Titanic, published by the National Geographic Society, which includes photographs of the deteriorating promenade deck and the damage caused by submersibles landing on the ship. Titanic’s mast is nearly completely deteriorated, stripped totally of its bell and brass light, and a gash on the bow section runs through where block letters once spelled “Titanic“. Also, the brass telemotor that used to house the ship’s wooden wheel is dismantled to an almost unrecognizable point, and the crow’s nest is completely deteriorated.

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Titanic – Investigating the Disaster

May 17th, 2010

Model of the Titanic

Investigations into the Titanic disaster were planned before the survivors were even brought back to New York. The United States Senate brought an inquiry about on April 19, just one day after Carpathia brought the survivors to New York. The inquiry chairman in the Senate, Senator William Alden Smith, decided to round up passengers and crew for their accounts of what happened while the incident was still freshly imprinted in their minds. Smith also subpoenaed British citizens who were still on American soil, keeping them from returning to the United Kingdom until the inquiry was over on May 25.

A British inquiry helmed by Lord Mersey began on May 2nd, and lasted until July 3rd. During which, the testimony of the passengers and crew aboard Titanic, and crew members from Californian and Carpathia were taken into account. Investigations led to the assumption that safety rules were out of date, and new laws were needed in order to prevent a similar disaster from taking place. The improved safety laws included: improved hull and bulkhead design, access throughout the ship for more efficient passenger movement, better lifeboat requirements, improved life-vest designs, regular safety drills, improved passenger notification, and more advanced radio communication laws. Investigations also led the inquiry team to discover that while first-class passengers had plenty of lifeboat space, third-class passengers were not even aware of where the lifeboats where, or even easy access to get to them if they did.

The SS Californian and Captain Stanley Lord were found to have failed in properly assisting Titanic. It was discovered that while the Californian had observed the lights of Titanic at 10:10 pm, and had attempted to warn by radio the Titanic of the icebergs ahead, they were angrily dismissed by Jack Phillips, the wireless operator of Titanic. By 11:50 pm, officers aboard Californian had noticed Titanic’s sharp turn, giving them a port side view, and had attempted Morse light communication between 11:30 pm and 1:00 am. However, Californian’s Morse lamp reportedly had a distance of only four miles, making it invisible to Titanic officers. Captain Lord relieved his post at 11:30 pm, and Second Officer Herbert Stone notified the Captain at 1:15 am that Titanic had fired five rockets. The Captain gave instructions to continue attempting communication with Morse lamp, then went back to sleep. Three more rockets were seen at 1:50 am, and Stone noticed that Titanic appeared to be listing. At 2:15 am, Captain Lord was notified that the ship was no longer visible. To this, Lord asked if any of the rockets had colors in them, and he was informed that they were all white. The Californian eventually responded at 5:30 am, when Chief Officer George Stewart awakened the Wireless operator Cyril Evans to inform him of the rockets that had been seen during the night. They were then notified by Frankfurt that the Titanic had sunk, and the Californian then set out to help.

Inquires dictated that Californian was closer than 19.5 miles to Titanic, and that if Captain Lord had awakened the wireless operator after the first rockets were seen they would have been able to save many lives. In 1990, a re-opening of the Titanic inquiry found that Californian was farther away from what the British inquiry had found, and the while distress rockets could have been seen, the Titanic herself would not have been visible from Californian.

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Sinking of the Titanic – Burials and Memorials

May 14th, 2010

RMS Titanic Replica

The White Star Line commissioned the cable ship CS Mackay-Bennett from Halifax, Nova Scotia to fish the dead bodies of Titanic victims still afloat in the water. Three other ships helped the search, including Minia, Montmagny, and Algerine. Each ship contained embalming supplies, undertakers, and clergy members to assist in retrieval and handling of the dead. 333 victims were recovered, of which 328 were retrieved by Canadian ships, and the other five by North Atlantic steamships. Bodies of the deceased were given numbers, aside from the six buried at sea by Carpathia. In may, over 200 miles away from where the Titanic had sunk, the Oceanic discovered three bodies that were determined to be from Collapsible A lifeboat which became overcame with passengers attempting to board as the Titanic sunk. Three people died while on this lifeboat, and were left by Fifth Officer Harold Lowe when the other survivors aboard were rescued.

The mass amount of casualties in the water caused the CS Mackay-Bennett to run out of embalming supplies in very little time. Being that the health regulations only allowed for embalmed bodies to be brought back to port, Captain Larnder of the Mackay-Bennett and the undertakers made the decision to preserve only bodies of First Class passengers. This decision was reached in order to visually identify wealthy men in case financial disputes over large estates occurred. This resulted in the third class passengers and crew being buried at sea.

The recovered bodies were preserved and taken to Halifax, where coroner John Henry Barnstead developed a detailed system to identify bodies and protect any personal possessions found. The relatives from the deceases traveled from all across America to claim identified bodies, and a temporary morgue was established in a curling rink where undertakers were called from Eastern Canada to assist in. Some of the recovered bodies were shipped to be buried in their hometowns, while the unidentified were buried with designated numbers in order of which they were found. The majority of the bodies (150) were buried in three Halifax cemeteries, which were Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Mount Olivet, and Baron de Hirsch. Among the bodies recovered were floating wreckage from Titanic, that have since been preserved in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax.

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Sinking of the Titanic – The Survivors

May 12th, 2010

Titanic 1912 Model Ship

Out of the 2,223 people aboard Titanic, only 706 people survived the disaster. Most of the deaths were caused by hypothermia from floating around in the 28 degree water. With water at this temperature, the human body can usually withstand no more than fifteen minutes. The least likely to survive were the men of the 2nd and 3rd class, and 92 percent of male passengers in second class died. Overall, only 20 percent of men survived.  The men in first class survived at a rate four times higher than men in second class, and twice as high as men in third. As for the third-class, less than half survived.

The children and women on board Titanic survived in greater numbers, but they were not without their deaths. In the first class, six of the seven children survived, 100% of the children in second class survived, but less than half survived in third class. 96 percent of women survived in first class, 86% in second class, and less than half in third class. Out of the officers on board Titanic, four of the eight survived; twenty-one of the twenty-nine seamen survived; all of the seven quartermasters and 8 lookouts survived; three of the thirteen leading firemen survived, with forty-five other firemen surviving; twenty of seventy-three coal trimmers survived; four of thirty-three greasers survived; one of the six mess hall stewards survived; sixty of the three-hundred and twenty-two stewards survived; eighteen of the twenty-three stewardesses survived; three of the sixty-eight restaurant staff members survived; and all of the postal clerks, guarantee group, and eight-member orchestra died.

Furthermore, more British passengers died in relation to American passengers. The reason for this is unknown, but some speculate that it was due to the British being more polite than American’s who were thought to be selfish and brutish. According to witnesses, Captain Edward John Smith shouted out as the Titanic sunk to “be British, boys, be British!”.

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Sinking of the Titanic – The Carpathia and The Rescue (Final Minutes)

May 10th, 2010

Model Titanic

By 2:10 am, Titanic’s stern began rising from the water, exposing its propellers, and the waterline had reached the boat deck by 2:17 am. The last two lifeboats were taken off the deck with Collapsible B upside down, and Collapsible A half filled with water. Soon, the forward funnel collapsed, and smashed into the bridge and onto many people frantically floating around the water. Panicked, several passengers on the deck began jumping overboard in attempts to reach lifeboats, while others made way for the stern. As the stern began to rise ever higher into the air, unsecured objects began falling toward the dark ocean water below, striking passengers on their way. As the stern climbed into the air, the electrical system flickered in its final moments before giving out completely, leaving the remaining passengers in total darkness. The stress from the sinking Titanic caused the ship to break into two parts between the last two funnels as the bow became went underwater completely. The stern became adjusted, but then began another vertical fall into the ocean, and shortly after 2:20 am, the entire ship was beneath the ocean.

Of the eighteen lifeboats that made it off of Titanic, only two of them came back to rescue the people dying in the freezing Atlantic waters. Lifeboat 4 came back to rescue five people, two of which died eventually. And about an hour later, Lifeboat 14 came back to rescue four more people, one of which died. Others managed to make it onto the last two lifeboats that floated off of the deck. The sixteen other lifeboats that did not come back for other passengers cited reasons such as a fear of people swamping the boat and capsizing it, and worry of being pulled under by the suction of the sinking Titanic. RMS Carpathia arrived on the scene at 4:10 am and began rescuing survivors from their lifeboats. By 8:30 am, Carpathia had rescued the last of the survivors in the lifeboats and left for New York at 8:50 am.

Carpathia docked at Pier 54 on Little West 12th Street in New York, greeted with thousands of people who heard of the Titanic’s fate, and came to comfort the survivors. The news of the Titanic sinking brought great shock to people who were confused that so many people could die aboard a ship with such advanced technology. Newspapers began filling with stories of the Titanic, and charities popped up to help victims and their families cope with the disaster. Southampton was deeply affected by the Titanic’s sinking, and according to Hampshire Chronicleon nearly 1,000 local families were affected directly by the sinking of Titanic. More than 500 households lost a member on Titanic, and nearly every street in the Chapel district lost more than one resident.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-09

May 9th, 2010


Sinking of the Titanic – Lifeboats

May 7th, 2010

Model Ship Titanic

The Titanic prepared the launching of its lifeboats at around 12:40 am, with a total of 20 lifeboats capable of holding 1,178 people, not nearly enough for all passengers on board. At the time, lifeboats were determined by the ship’s gross register tonnage, rather than the human capacity. The first lifeboat lowered was Lifeboat 7 on the starboard side. However, even though the lifeboat could hold 65 people, only 28 people were on board the lifeboat. Ten minutes later Lifeboat 6 and 5 were lowered, and Lifeboat 1 lowered with only 12 people on board. In contrast, Lifeboat 11 was lowered with an overwhelming 70 people. The last lifeboat to launch was Collapsible D. The disorganized nature of lifeboat boarding cost more than a few passengers their lives.

Being that Titanic was designed for stability, so as not to capsize from unequal flooding, she showed no immediate signs of danger, making her passengers hesitant to board the small lifeboats. Even the electric power plant of Titanic was operated by ship engineers until its final moments. Furthermore, third class passengers found it difficult to navigate the maze like corridors and barriers of Titanic, and never even saw the secure glimpse of a lifeboat. William Denton Cox was able to lead many third class passengers to safety, however, but the time consuming journey led many lifeboats to be lowered practically empty. Women and children were to be the first to board the lifeboats, but some men were allowed on to act as oarsmen if they were needed. By 2:05 am, passengers became nervous of the danger as the entire bow became engulfed in water, and the lifeboats began launching fully loaded. By this time, however, there were only two lifeboats left.

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Sinking of the Titanic – Causes

May 5th, 2010

Titanic Model Ship

Sunday, April 14, 1912. Captain Smith reacted to warnings of icebergs he received over the radio on the days before, and took Titanic on a new course that detoured further south. However, at 1:45 pm, a message relayed from steam ship Amerika warned of large icebergs ahead of Titanic, but Jack Phillips and Harold Bride, wireless radio operators employed by Marconi, did not relay this message, as they only would relay messages to and from the passengers. Yet another report of several large icebergs came in from Mesaba, but this message was not relayed either.

At 11:40 pm, the Titanic sailed 400 miles south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, where lookouts Fredrick Fleet and Reginald Lee noticed a large iceberg lie directly in front of Titanic. The lookouts sounded the ship’s bells three times and informed the bridge of the “Iceberg, right ahead!”. To this, First Officer Murdoch ordered “hard-a-starboard”, and either ordered a “full reverse” or “stop” of the engines. Needless to say, the Titanic collided starboard side with the gigantic iceberg, causing the hull to buckle and the rivets to pop out below the waterline for nearly 300 feet. Frigid ocean water began to fill the compartments even as the water tight doors closed. With four flooded compartments Titanic would have been able to stay afloat, but five compartments filled with water, weighing the ship down and causing the forward watertight bulkheads to fall below the waterline and fill the ship with more water. Captain Smith then ordered that Titanic be halted for a full inspection, which led the ship’s officers and Thomas Andrews to ready lifeboats, and send out a distress signal.

While Titanic began its plunge into the ocean depths, the lights from a mysterious ship could be seen port side. However, this ship’s identity remains a mystery, with some speculating it to either be the SS Californian or the Sampson. This ship did not respond to wireless, nor did it respond to Fourth Officer Boxhall and Quartermaster Rowe’s attempt at signalling the ship with a Morse lamp, and distress rockets. The closest ship to Titanic was the California, which was stopped for the night due to the ice. However, the Californian’s wireless operator made a call to Titanic to inform them of the treacherous condition of the waters, but was dismissed by an angry Jack Phillips who replied “Shut up! Shut up! I am busy. I am working Cape Race”. After this important exchange of communications, the Californian shut off its radio and the operator went to bed for the night. The Californian had also previously attempted to signal the Titanic with their Morse lamp, but never received a response. After the iceberg was struck, Titanic wireless operators Jack Philips and Harold Bride began sending out CQD, but with the closest ship, Californian, having their wireless transmission cut off, there were no ships within close enough proximity to rescue all of Titanic’s passengers. The ships that did respond included: Mount Temple, Frankfurt, Olympic, and Carpathia. Carpathia was the closest ship at 58 miles away, but would not be able to reach Titanic for an estimated four hours.

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Titanic’s Maiden Voyage

May 3rd, 2010

Model Titanic 1912

The Titanic’s maiden voyage began in Southampton, England toward New York City on April 10, 1912. Captain Edward J. Smith commanded the Titanic for its maiden voyage. Foreshadowing the tragic destiny of Titanic was the near collision with SS New York when Titanic’s wake caused the New York to break free of her moorings and close within four feet of Titanic before being towed away. This incident delayed Titanic’s departure for about half an hour. During Titanic’s maiden voyage, she stopped at Cherbourg, France, for additional passengers to board, and yet again at what is now known as Cobh, Ireland (then known as Queenstown) for more passengers. However, the harbor facilities at Queenstown were unable to accomodate the the enormous size of Titanic, which forced her to anchor off shore, and passengers to board by way of small boats known as tenders. While in route to her New York destination, Titanic carried 2,240 people. One of the passengers, John Coffey, 23, left the Titanic by stowing away on one of the tenders, hidden with mailbags destined for Queenstown. He stated that he left because he was superstitious about sailing and specifically about Titanic.

White Star Line’s managing director and ship builder, J. Bruce Ismay and Thomas Andrews respectively, traveled on board to assist in any problems in performance of the immense ship. Furthermore, Titanic’s maiden voyage was comprised of very prominent passengers of the time, such as: millionaire John Jacob Astor IV and wife Madeleine Force Astor, Macy’s owner Isidor Straus and wife Ida, industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim, Denver millionairess Margaret “Molly” Brown, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and wife couturiere Lucy, George Dunton Widener, his wife Eleanor, and son Harry, journalist William Thomas Stead, cricketer and businessman John Borland Thayer, wife Marian, and seventeen-year old son Jack, the Countess of Rothes, author and socialite Helen Churchill Candee, United States presidential aide Archibald Butt, author Jacques Futrelle and wife May, silent film actress Dorothy Gibson, and producers Henry and Rene Harris. J.P. Morgan was to be among the doomed ocean liner, but had to cancel at the last minute.

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