Remembering the sinking of the Titanic

READER’S VIEWS - The Freeman

Last April 15, 2024 was the 112th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. The Titanic, nearly 900 feet long, more than 46,000 tons, was the ultimate in turn-of-the-century ship design. When she sailed on her maiden voyage on April 14, 1912 from Southampton, England to New York City with stops in France and Ireland, her more than 2,000 passengers included the cream of industrial society, men such as John Jacob Astor, Isidor Straus who founded the famous American department store, Macy’s, and Thomas Andrews the ship’s own designer.

The largest ship ever built in those times, the Titanic was considered to be virtually unsinkable. She was built with compartments that could easily be sealed off. If the hull was punctured, only the punctured compartment would flood. With two or three compartments flooded, it would take the Titanic two to three days to sink, plenty of time for nearby ships to come to her rescue.

It was a moonless night when the Titanic sailed through the dark waters of the sea. Had there been a moon, the lookouts could have seen the ice floes already off to the sides. Had there been wind, foam from the waves breaking against the ice would have showed up misty-white in the starlight. But there was no moon, no wind in the moonless sky, The sea was dead flat.

Just before 11:00 PM, about 100 miles from the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, lookout Frederick Fleet peered into the night and noticed that on the horizon ahead the stars started to wink out. He discerned a shape: it was an iceberg! Fleet rang the crew’s nest bell and telephoned the bridge of the iceberg right ahead.

The officer-in-charge immediately signaled “full speed astern” to the engine room and directed the wheelman to “turn hard a starboard.” The lookouts braced for a collision but the ship began to turn slowly and slide by the iceberg.

When the Titanic designer Andrews assessed the damage he found its seriousness. Grimly, he and Captain Edward J. Smith conferred over the bad news; the iceberg had damaged the first six watertight compartments and water sloshing over the bulkheads. Smith agreed to evacuate the ship.

The first lifeboat had touched the sea at 12:25 AM, April 15, 1912. But the number of lifeboats combined could hardly accommodate little more than half of the people on board. Those unfortunate passengers who could not make it to the lifeboats had to suffer the cold and freezing sea before their bitter end.

The Titanic destined to sink in two to three days vanished from the surface of the sea in less than three hours, bringing down with her more than 1,500 people including Astor, Strauss, Andrews, and Captain Smith.

Those ill-fated passengers who went down with the Titanic never thought that their untimely end as mortals would come all of a sudden that awful night. Never in their wildest dreams did they ever dream that they would be having their last journey not to any tourist resort but to their final resting place where they would settle forever 12,612 feet in the bottom of the sea.

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