The Titanic
On April 14,1912 a great ship called the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage. That night there were many warnings of icebergs from other ships. There seems to be a conflict on whether or not the warnings reached the bridge. We may never know the answer to this question. The greatest tragedy of all may be that there were not enough lifeboats for everyone on board. According to Walter Lord, author of The Night Lives On, the Titanic could have been saved in the very beginning of the crisis when the iceberg was first reported to the bridge. If First Officer Murdoch had steamed right at the iceberg instead of trying to avoid it, he might have saved the ship. The author feels there would have been a loud crash and anyone within the first one hundred feet would have been killed, but the ship would have remained afloat(82). This view was entirely speculation and we will never really know if this would have happened. In contrast, Geoffrey Marcus, author of The Maiden Voyage, suggests that the bridge did not receive warning of the ice from the very beginning. One of the messages received was from the Masaba warning the Titanic of a mass of ice lying straight ahead. According to Marcus, the message never reached the bridge, but instead was shoved under a paper-weight (126). At 10:30 p.m. that evening, a ship going the opposite direction of the Titanic was sighted. This ship, the Rappahannock, had emerged from an ice field and had sustained damage to its rudder. The vessel signaled the Titanic about the ice and the Titanic replied that the message was received (Marcus 127). At 11 p.m. another ice report was received. This one was from the Californian. This liner had passed through the same ice field that the Rappahannock had reported to the Titanic. Like all the other warnings, this warning never reached the bridge though it was known to both of the Titanic's wireless operators (Marcus 128). By the time the bridge realized the ship was about to hit an iceberg, it was too late. Quartermaster Hitchens tried to turn the wheel hard to the starboard. Twenty seconds later, he had an order for full speed astern but the iceberg was too close. The starboard side hit the iceberg, bringing a block of ice onto the deck (Pellegrino 21). After the collision occurred, there was only one thing open for Captain Smith to do. It was almost midnight and he gave the order to take to the lifeboats (Lord, Lives On 82). This decision brought Captain Smith face-to-face with the fact that there were 2,201 people on board and enough
lifeboats for only 1,178 people (Lord, Lives On 83). The Captain was going to have to make a choice as to who would be the first allowed on the lifeboats. Around 12:30 a.m. the bridge informed the crew that only women and children would be loaded on the lifeboats (Eaton,Haas,152). By 1:30 a.m., there was panic among some of the passengers. One example was on the port side of the boat. A group of passengers threatened to jump into a boat full of passengers. To scare them, one of the officers fired three shots on the ship's side. The warning proved to be successful. Nobody was injured and the passengers calmed down (Eaton and Haas 154). At the last moments with only forty seven available spaces on the last lifeboat, the crew instructed everyone to form a circle around the boat. Women and children were the only people permitted to pass through the circle. A little while after the last lifeboat left, the stern lifted clear out of the water with more than 1500 people still on board (Eaton and Haas 157-161). The climatic moment came at 2:20 a.m. The Titanic stood perpendicular to the water. As people in the lifeboats looked on, they noticed the ship stayed perpendicular for a minute and then disappeared to the bottom of the ocean (Lord, Lives on 137). Captain Rostron of the ship Carpathia determined the distance to the Titanic and quickly calculated the course to answer the Titanic's distress call (Eaton and Haas 177). Once the Carpathia reached the lifeboats, it did not take long to load