|TITANIC COLLIDES WITH
As the Titanic steamed west along the ordained North Atlantic route, not even the most apprehensive of her passengers could have foreseen a problem with ice. The sky was blue, the winds light, and the ocean calm perfect sailing weather. On the other hand, many ships observations indicated a vast ice field stretching from 460N to 3103N and from 46018W to 50040W. The Titanics course would take her to 420N, 470W right into the middle of the ice.
Oblivious to the deadly obstacles that lay in her path, the Titanic pressed on, forever westward. The ship was building up steam, 24 of her 29 boilers were in use. If the weather permitted, J. Bruce Ismay had planned a brief speed trial for Monday 15th when, for the first time, the Titanic might travel flat out at around 24 knots. Contrary to rumors among some passengers, there was to be no attempt at a record crossing the Mauretanias achieved 26-knot and put such a target well out of reach.
The Legacy Grows Closer
The area referred to in the wireless message laid just a few miles north of Titanics intended course. Sunday morning on White Star ships was supposed to include a boat drill where all hands, passengers and crew, would assemble in life jackets at their boat stations. Yet on this occasion, Captain Smith neglected to schedule a drill. Perhaps he deemed the titanic to be so secure that the exercise was unnecessary, or maybe he feared that the shortage of lifeboats would unduly alarm any nervous passengers.
At 1:42pm, the Titanic received another ice warning, this time from the Baltic. The massage read: "Captain Smith, Titanic Greek steamer Athinai reports passing icebergs and large quantities of field ice today in latitude 41052W." At that time the Titanic was at 42035N, 45050W, which was perilously close to the ice. The message was take instantly to the bridge, but instead of showing it to his officers, Captain Smith took it with him when he went to lunch. On the promenade deck he bumped into J. Bruce Ismay and handed him the message for information. Ismay promptly put it into his pocket, and apart from showing it to few select passengers, the piece of paper stayed there for the next five-and-a-half hours, and then it was posted on the bridge. Considering that safety was suppose to be paramount, the behavior of both men is baffling, to the point of negligence.
As darkness descended, navigation became more important than ever. An iceberg watch was ordered, although the necessary vigilance was not helped by the lack of a pair of binoculars in the crows nest. A pair had been at hand when the Titanic had left Belfast, but by the time the ship departed from Southampton, to the subsequent testimony of Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller, there were no fewer than five pairs scattered around the bridge but none where they were needed most. Only one-ninth of an iceberg is visible above the surface of the water and sometimes after a berg has capsized, the water in the upper area can make its new face dark, or blue, which makes early identification at night extremely difficult, especially without binoculars.
At around 9:00pm the temperature had dropped to 330F, barely above freezing point. Captain Smith arrived on the bridge shortly before 9:00pm, Lightoller, who had been at sea since the age of 13, briefed him on the prevailing conditions. Although Smith had deliberately left the party early because the Titanic was expected to encounter ice before midnight, neither man appeared unduly concerned. At around 9:30pm, Captain Smith retired to his cabin after telling Lightoller to keep him informed of any deterioration in visibility or weather conditions.
The Unheeded Warning
The Mesabas message was the sixth ice warning received by the titanic that day. If the locations given had been charted, it would have immediately become apparent that the Titanic was heading straight for a vast belt of ice, stretching some 78 miles across her path. <picture of ice field> Instead it seems that most of the warnings were casually dismissed on the bridge, where an air of complacency reigned.
In the wireless room, Jack Phillips was busy dealing with the Cape Race <definition: Cape Race - post cards to shore> traffic when, at 11:00pm, he was suddenly interrupted by a loud signal from the nearby California, announcing, "We are stopped and surrounded by ice." Angry at the intrusion, which must have almost deafened him, Phillips retorted, "Shut up, shut up. Youre jamming my signal. Im busy. Im working Cape Race." Before the California could give her position, some 20 miles north of the Titanic, she was unceremoniously cut off. The Californians wireless operator, Cyril Furmstone Evanse, listened patiently for another quarter of an hour or so before giving up.
Iceberg Dead Ahead
Sixth Officer James Moody answered. Fleets message was chillingly brief: "Iceberg right ahead."
"Thank you," replied Moody.
Out of the darkness, Fleet could see the iceberg moving nearer by the second. Witnesses described it as being of a similar shape to the Rock of Gibraltar. In the bridge, William Murdoch responded to message from the crows nest by giving the order, "Hard a-starboard." This meant that the ships bow would swing to port. At the same time, he gave an order to the engine room, "Stop. Full speed astern." Acting swiftly, he also pushed a bell-button for 10 seconds to warn those below that he intended to close all the watertight doors. He then pulled the switch that automatically closed them. It was too late, evidence suggested that Fleet had spotted the iceberg at a distance of less than 500 yards, and unfortunately, the Titanic took over 850 yards to stop at that speed.
Murdochs actions caused the Titanic to avoid a head-on collision, and nearly the entire iceberg; however, there was only enough time to turn the ship two points, which resulted in a devastating blow, which as it transpired, was the worst possible scenario. As it moved along the side of the ship, it scraped along the first 300 feet of the hull. As the iceberg passed amidships, Murdoch ordered the helm hard to port in order to clear the stern. The berg passed beyond the stern and drifted silently away into the distance.
Titanic Takes In Water
Within a minute of the collision, Captain Smith had raced up to the bridge. "What have we struck?" he asked Murdoch.
"An iceberg, sir," he replied. "I hard a-starboarded and reversed the engines and I was going to hard a-port around it, but she was too close. I could not do any more."
"Have you closed the watertight doors?"
"They are already closed, sir."
Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall also rushed to the bridge and Smith instructed him to go below forward deck on the starboard side to ascertain the extent of the damage and to report back to him as soon as possible. Fifteen minutes later Boxhall returned saying there was no sign of any damage above F deck but the lowest deck was flooded. Around midnight Captain Smith and Thomas Andrews went below to inspect the damage for themselves, they saw mailbags floating in four feet of water. Andrews immediately determined that the Titanic was a lost cause and he gave her no more than two hours. As soon as the damage was reported to Captain Smith he ordered Jack Phillips to send the international distress signal, CQD ("Come Quick, Danger") with the Titanics position.
Fifty-eight miles away, Harold Thomas, radio operator on the Carpathia, received the distress call and responded with "Shall I tell my captain? Do you require assistance?"
"Yes. Come quick." Replied Phillips.
Cottam rushed to Captain Rostons quarters and informed him of the message. Captain Roston quickly realized the full implications of the message and instantly mobilized the men and directed the Carpathia towards their position. The Carpathia proceeded at full speed through the ice infested waters to rescue the damaged Titanic.
Even though only 12 feet of the hull was gouged open by the collision, enough compartments were damaged to cause the Titanic to sink. The problem was traced back to the bulkheads; they were not fully extended to the top of the compartments. As the ship went down, the water would fill up and pour over the bulkhead into the next compartment.
As the news filtered throughout the ship, the passengers began to assemble in the forward first-class entrance. A few of the skeptical passengers began to fill the promenade and boat decks, ready for evacuation. A few minutes later, Captain Smith walked onto the boat decks and instructed the crew to evacuate the ship women and children first.
Many of the passengers did not believe that the ship was sinking, and refused to board the lifeboats. As a result many of the boats left half full, and some of the starboard boats were filled with men. To add to the confusion and disorganization, many of the passengers were getting cold from the chilly air, and went inside to relax. They did not recognize the actual severity of the accident until the first emergency flare was released. At that time many passengers began to panic, but it was too late half the boats were released and the other half was swarmed by firstclass women and children. Water began to flood the lower decks of the bow and the stern began to rise out of the water.
The passengers began to migrate to the high end of the stern half of the ship. Many of them felt that staying aboard the huge ocean liner was safer than taking their chances in the icy water. Over the next half hour the stern lifted up 40 feet out of the water. The people in the lifeboats became terrified at the shear size of the Titanic, and quickly rowed far away from the sinking ship. In boat number six, the legend of the :Unsinkable Molly Brown" was born. Mrs. Brown was evidently a women for a crisis, and crises did not come much bigger than this. She saw it as her job to rally the troops. Having ushered a few of her faint-hearted friends into the boat, she was off to see where she could be of assistance next when she was abruptly hurdled into lifeboat six.
The passengers reported seeing a mystery ship in the distance. The lights from the ships mast seemed to illuminate the darkness. Captain Smith ordered the escaping lifeboats to head towards the mysterious light. But once in the water, Hitchens refused to row, so Molly Brown took off her life jacket and began to row. Her efforts inspired other women to pick up an oar and help, and together they guided the boat out to sea. A while later, they met up with boat number 16 and took on board a stoker who was suffering badly from hypothermia. Molly Brown saved this mans life by giving him her fur coat.
A sudden rush of third class passengers emerged on the decks of the Titanic. The passage ways were obstructed and blocked to allow the first-class first access to the lifeboats. However, as more of the ship began to fill with water some of the sympathetic officers released the third-class passengers to flee for their lives.
Titanic Goes Under
Then at 2:20am, the Titanic snapped between the third and fourth funnels and the stern flopped down and hit the water as the bow plunged to the bottom of the sea. As the stern filled up with water it rose slightly into the air and began to spin. It then quickly plunged beneath the surface of the water and began its long decent two a half miles to the ocean floor.
The remaining lifeboats organized out in the distance and remained baffled by the incidents that recently unfolded. After nearly an hour of waiting, one lifeboat returned to the scene to help any remaining survivors. Unfortunately, only six passengers were found. The remaining 1,500 passengers, as with the Titanic, paid ultimate price, of their lives, in the deadly waters of the North Atlantic.