“The Titanic (XV) ("On the tenth day of April 1912") (Titanic #15)”


"On the tenth day of April 1912 her whistles they did sound, Her power of motion was released, her twin screws turned around." The ship gives little attention to the dangers of the sea. The ship sinks 400 miles from cape race


Roud, following the Leach web site, includes this with "The Titanic (I)" ("It Was Sad When That Great Ship Went Down") [Laws D24] (Titanic #1). Clearly, though, it is a separate song; it lacks the chorus of Laws D24, has no lyrics in common that I can see, and includes a lot of details I haven't seen elsewhere, most though not all of them accurate.

Because this is one of the less inaccurate _Titanic_ ballads, I'm going to use it as my basis for historical notes on the wreck.

I hesitated long before deciding to include a note on the _Titanic_ disaster; after all, there are many much fuller accounts elsewhere, which are the basis for this note (for the sources used in what follows, see the annotated bibliography at the end of this essay). I've included this relatively short history to document some of the features mentioned in the _Titanic_ songs.

In what follows, I have included references to the various _Titanic_ songs, in curly brackets for lack of a better notation. For example, the _Titanic_ was, according to "The Loss of the Titanic (Titanic #13)," "The beauty of the White Star Line." The goal in building the _Titanic_ was indeed to make a very ornate ship, so where I say White Star "would make their name on comfort," this is followed by the citation {#13}, meaning that this accords with "The Loss of the Titanic." Where the songs are wrong (as, e.g., in the claim that the band played "Nearer, My God to Thee"), the citation will be {contra #1, #2...}.

The story of the _Titanic_, in a way, begins in 1870, when the _Oceanic_ created the transatlantic passenger liner (Wade, p. 13) and made the White Star Line's reputation for luxury crossings (Brinnin, p. 241). You could argue for an even earlier date -- e.g. Brinnin, p. 4, begins his account with the _James Madison_ of 1818, which was the first packet to keep a regular schedule. But the _Madison_ was a sailing ship, and not very comfortable. Samuel Cunard had replaced the sailing ships with steamers in the following decades, but though Cunard ships were very safe in an era when wrecks were common on other lines (Brinnin, p. 245 notes that they never lost a passenger in the entire nineteenth century!), they weren't particularly enjoyable to be aboard, The idea was simply to get across the Atlantic.

The _Oceanic_ converted the trip "across the pond" from a burden to something to be enjoyed. Brinnin, p. 242, calls her "the eponymous instance of the modern ocean liner." Very long and narrow, she did not confine her passengers to the stern areas as so many earlier ships had done. Staterooms were made larger. There was steam heat. She was far from perfect; many changes had to be made after her first voyage (Brinnin, p. 243). But she had changed the whole nature of transatlantic travel.

It didn't take long for competition to become intense. Three British lines -- White Star, Inman (which was rapidly failing and would soon be taken over by American interests), and the more-established Cunard -- were joined by several German competitors and a few small fry from other countries. By the end of the nineteenth century, it was becoming almost impossible to make passenger traffic pay due to the cuthroat competition (Ramsay, p. 11). The various companies all formed alliances. The Germans had some government support. Cunard eventually turned to the government as well, offering to produce fast liners that the Royal Navy could take over as auxiliary cruisers as needed. Thus were born the _Lusitania_ and her sister the _Mauretania_ (Brinnin, p. 328fff., Ramsay, pp. 15-17; Paine, p. 330).

White Star had to respond, but answer was different. Rather than turn their independence over to the British government (a deal with the devil that would in fact eventually pose great difficulties for Cunard during World War I), they were in effect taken over by J. P. Morgan (Wade, pp. 14-15; Butler, p. 9), which already owned Inman and some smaller American lines and had a deal with the Germans (Brinnin, p. 325).

For all his deep pockets and his cartel-like control over several shipping firms, even Morgan had to field a competitive steamer line. The _Lusitania_ was a fine, fast ship (capable, in ideal conditions, of sustained speeds of 26 knots), but her design was radical in many ways -- long, narrow (which made the idea of using her as a warship rather silly; she would have been a lousy gun platform), and driven by the newfangled turbines.

White Star, a more conservative company, preferred not to be so daring in designing their answer. They didn't even rely on turbine-driven engine (Wade, pp. 270-271) {contra #15}. (Ironic, given that the Ismays, managers of White Star, had taken a ride on the world's first turbine-powered ship, _Turbinia_, on the day of her unveiling at Victoria's Diamond Jubilee; _Turbinia_ at the time was the world's fastest ship, by a large margin; Brinnin, pp. 307-308.). The center screw used a turbine, but the port and starboard screws used the old, less efficient reciprocating engines (Butler, p. 16).

Rather than compete on crossing time {contra #2, #15}, White Star's ships would make their name on comfort {#13; cf. #16, which describes her one voyage as a "pleasure trip"}. White Star's new liners -- to become the _Olympic_, _Titanic_, and _Britannic_ -- would be about three or four knots slower than Cunard's. That speed difference allowed a huge savings in engine weight; to get that three knot advantage, _Lusitania_ needed 68,000 horsepower engines (Ramsay, p. 21) despite a gross tonnage of only 32,000 tons; _Titanic_, at 46,300 tons, had according to the advertisement reprinted in Ballard, p. 169, engines developing a mere 50,000 horsepower (a figure also quoted by Paine, p. 520; Ballard, p. 220, lists her as 46,000 horsepower; Barczewski, p. 3, as 55,000. Lord-Night, p. 174, says she was registered as 50,000 hp, but could reach 55,000. It is probable that the exact figure was never known; _Titanic_ never once went up to full speed). Unlike the _Lusitania_ and _Mauretania_, which had four propellers, she had only three screws {contra #15, which lists her as having two}.

The weight saved on the engines would all go into more ship -- and more comforts for the passengers. _Olympic_ and _Titanic_ were, for instance, the first liners to include swimming pools (Barczewski, p. 7); they also had Turkish baths (Brinnin, p. 362). So large were the designs that builders Harland and Wolff of Belfast {#15} had to build new slips to hold the ships -- replacing three of their old slips with just two, one for _Olympic_ and one for _Titanic_ (Wade, p. 16).

First class was so fancy that it was simply expected that its occupants would bring their servants; there were separate facilities for first class passengers and the servants of those passengers (Butler, p. 54).

Over 3000 workers were involved in the construction of each ship (Barczewski, p. 214, who notes that the Belfast shipyard employed mostly Protestants, making _Olympic_ and _Titanic_ toys in the battle over Home Rule and the contest over relations between Ulster and the rest of Ireland. Little wonder that it was called "The Pride of Belfast" {#11}).

The potential degree of luxury available seems almost obscene today. Butler, pp. 36-37, lists the standard load of food and kitches equipment. This included, among other things, 1000 pounds of hothouse grapes (from England, in April 1912, remember; there were no hybrid fruits that could last long enough to be shipped from a southern climate) and 100 pairs of grape scissors.

The cost of the two ships was on the order of a million and a half pounds each (see that advertisement in Ballard, p. 169). And that's 1908 pounds (I somewhere saw an estimate that it would take a half a billion 1990s dollars to build a replica.). _Titanic_ was 882 feet long, her beam was 92 feet, and 60.5 feet from the waterline to the boat deck (she was eight decks tall), with the funnels rising another 115 feet (cf. Paine, p. 520, and the deck plans in Wade, pp. 174-183). Lord-Night, p. 174, puts this in down-to-earth terms: "11 stories high and four city blocks long." Ballard, p. 219, reveals that _Olympic_ and _Titanic_ each were roughly two years on the slips before launching, and needed another year after that to complete.

Perhaps never in history has a class of ships been so ill-fated. _Olympic_ was the lucky one; she stayed afloat until she was taken out of service in 1935 (though she had to be heavily rebuilt after the _Titanic_ wreck, so that she became much harder to sink; Wade, p. 328). But in her two dozen years of service she had had *four* collisions with other ships: with the tug _O. L. Hallenbeck_ and with the H.M.S. _Hawke_ in 1911 (Lord-Lives, pp. 29-31), with the _Fort St. George_ in 1924 (Paine, p. 376), and with the _Nantucket Lightship_ in 1934 (Paine, p. 349). When Cunard and White Star merged in 1934, Cunard promptly got rid of _Olympic_ (Paine, p. 376; Wade, p. 329).

The _Britannic_ never sailed as a liner; she was not finished at the start of World War I, and was converted to a hospital ship. In that capacity, she hit a mine in 1916 and sank in less than an hour (Paine, p. 81) -- another example of the inadequate internal subdivisions of the design.

As for the _Titanic_ -- well, we're getting to that.

The _Olympic_ was finished first, starting her maiden voyage to New York on May 31, 1911 (Wade, p. 17). The ship seemed to work well, but the designers learned a few things (mostly cosmetic) which caused the _Titanic_ to be slightly modified, primarily to add more passenger accommodations (Wade, pp. 18-19); in the process, her displacement increased by about a thousand tons. _Titanic_ could still be considered _Olympic's_ sister, but she was heavier -- the largest ship in the world at the time {#15} -- and somewhat more luxurious.

The _Titanic_ would set out on her maiden voyage on April 10, 1912 {#9, #15}. At noon, she left Southampton {#5, #9, #11, #15, contra #6, which says she sailed from Liverpool}, reached Cherbourg that evening, left France just a couple of hours later, arrived at Queenstown {#11, #12} around noon the next day, and set out for New York {#6} around 2:00 p.m. on April 11 (Lord-Night, p. 175).

It was not an auspicious start, really; there had been coal strike (Wade, p. 23; Barczewski, p. 263, notes that the strike ended April 6, but of course coal was only just starting to go back "into the pipeline"; it hadn't reached Southampton yet), causing White Star to requisition coal from other vessels, cancel their voyages, and transfer the passengers to _Titanic_. In the process, they started a small coal fire that never was entirely put out; the coal smoked the entire time of the voyage (Butler, p. 37). Meaning that, unknown to the passengers, there was always a slight danger of a coal dust explosion (which, we note, is the most likely explanation for why the _Lusitania_ sank three years later).

Borrowing coal and shifting passengers was not unreasonable. Sailing the largest ship in the world with a raw crew was more of a problem. _Titanic_ would be going on her maiden voyage with a crew that did not know the ship; at this time, crews were mostly hired on a by-the-voyage basis (Barczewski, p. 264; cf. Wade, p. 24) -- and, on a vessel her size, they wouldn't be able to learn their way around in a day or two! Even second officer Lightoller, a veteran seaman with much experience on White Star ships, said it took him two weeks to learn his way around (Barczewski, p. 5; Butler, p. 46). Many of the crew didn't have that much time, and though a lot of them had done at least one voyage on the _Olympic_ (Barczewski, p. 266), most didn't have his background to help them learn their way.

Even if you ignore their unfamiliarity with the ship, it turns out that only 83 of the crew were actual sailors, used to dealing with a ship at sea (Wade, p. 210). The rest were stewards and other specialists -- important for the passengers, but they couldn't really run the ship.

Nor had _Titanic_ completed anything like proper sea trials -- for instance, she had never once worked up to full speed, and done very little emergency maneuvering (Wade, p. 184). In a great irony, it is reported that, it was only as she arrived in the vicinity of the ice that she worked her way up to the fastest speed she had ever attained (Wade, p. 28). Apparently she never tested her turning radius at full speed (Lord-Lives, p. 56), and she only did one "emergency stop"; it took her three and a quarter minutes, and 3000 feet, to halt from a speed of 18 knots (Lord-Lives, p. 33) -- a speed she would exceed on her voyage across the Atlantic.

And there had never been a true boat drill conducted. There had been one partial demonstration, inadequate in every regard (Wade, p. 211). Normally drills were conducted on Sunday, but on _Titanic's_ maiden voyage, Captain Smith cancelled it to hold a religious service (Barczewski, p. 10). The passengers didn't know what to do should they need to get to the boats; worse, few of the crew knew how to lower them! (Lord-Lives, pp. 88). So, when the crisis came, the same few crewmen had to do all the work, meaning that the boats could not all be lowered at once (Lord-Lives, pp. 95-96; cf. {#9}, which says they lowered the lifeboats "one by one." It was actually one by one on each side, but close enough).

The handful of officers doing the lowering had to work so hard that, even on that cold night, they ended up sweating heavily; Officer Lightoller would take off his coat before the last boats were lowered, leaving him in dripping-wet pajamas (Lord-Night, p. 79).

Finally, the captain was not someone you'd be likely to pick to deal with an emergency situation. E. J. Smith had much experience, starting as a boy on a sailing passenger ship and quickly working his way up to mate and then captain (Barczewski, p. 162). Not satisfied with that, he transferred to the passenger liners and working his way up to command those as well. He had commanded over a dozen different liners (Lord-Lives, p. 28) when he was promoted to the pinnacle of the White Star line, the _Olympic_ (Barczewski, p. 163). He was so well-liked that White Star made it a policy for him to command new vessels (Barczewski, p. 165). On paper, he was the perfect captain for _Titanic_ {#15}; his time on _Olympic_ meant that he was one of the handful who had some real idea how her new sister ship worked.

But Smith's resume sounded better than it was. He was a good manager and diplomat -- but he had never had to deal with real problems. In an interview, he once declared, "When anyone asks how I can best describe my experience in nearly forty years at sea, I merely say, uneventful. Of course there have been winter gales, and storms and fogs and the like, but in all my experience I have never been in any accident of any sort worth speaking about" (quoted in Barczewski, p. 185; Butler, p. 48; Lord-Lives, p. 29; Wade, p. 38).

And he didn't have a mind set suited to surprises. In 1906, aboard the _Adriatic_ -- a ship no one ever claimed was unsinkable -- he said, "I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder" (Lord-Lives, p. 18; Tibballs, p 227, gives a _Boston Post_ story with the quote). Maybe he knew better, and was trying to encourage passengers -- but such statements surely encourage complacency.

Even before the _Titanic_ set sail, it was known that there were icebergs in the North Atlantic -- though {contra #11} she had not seen any herself. A warm year had caused many to break loose from the polar cap; another liner, the _Niagara_, in fact collided with one at about the time _Titanic_ set out (Wade, p. 31).

No one in authority aboard _Titanic_ seemed worried. Though several ships had been damaged by icebergs in recent years, all had survived (Wade, p. 32). And _Titanic_ was much stronger than most of those ships. She was divided into 16 sections, designed to be watertight, with a central control on the bridge that could, in theory, instantly isolate the sections. She was designed to stay afloat if any two of the sections flooded, or if the front four (which were of course narrower) were breached (Ballard, p. 22).

This was not really such good protection as was claimed. Lord-Lives, pp. 20-22, discusses how early liners (notably the _Great Eastern_ of 1858) had been designed to be unsinkable. _Great Eastern_ had a true double hull (_Titanic_ had a double bottom but not a full double hull; Barczewski, p. 4), a true set of partitions (15 bulkheads from front to back, as on _Titanic_, but with subdivisions within each cell, as on a battleship, so she was a true honeycomb), and her divisions reached all the way up to the upper deck. Water in one section simply could not work its way into another. But this had proved very inconvenient -- a steward or passenger in one section had to go all the way to the upper deck to move to another. Gradually, the partitions dividing port and starboard sides went out of ship designs, the bulkheads were lowered so that the upper decks were not partitioned, and doors were built into the bulkheads on the lower levels.

The diagram in Ballard (p. 22) purports to shows the bulkheads on _Titanic_. The six toward the stern reach two or three decks above the waterline -- an adequate distance, though higher would have been better. But those amidships and at the bow -- the ones most likely to suffer damage! -- are much lower; most reach only one deck above the waterline, and #6 and #7 are barely higher than the water (Lord-Lives, p. 22, says they rose only 10 feet above the waterline, though his description doesn't seem to match the diagram in Ballard). If the ship went down by the nose -- as _Titanic_ did -- the water could overtop the barriers, flooding at least eight to ten compartments. And the ship of course could not (and did not) survive *that*.

Finally, the _Titanic's_ watertight doors were theoretically controlled from the bridge, and also had floats so they could automatically close if they detected water. In fact, some had to be closed manually, so making the ship watertight was *not* an instantaneous process.

Lord-Lives, p. 23, comments acidly that _Titanic_ was treated as unsinkable {#1, #2} not because she was properly built but because she looked too big to sink. "The appearance of safety was mistaken for safety itself."

Lynch/Marschall, p. 194, makes the interesting point that _Titanic's_ near-sister _Britannic_ sank when she hit a mine. That means that the damage was confined to a small area of the hull -- yet she sank anyway, and much faster than the _Titanic_. There really does seem to have been a problem with the partitioning in the _Olympic_ class ships.

One personal observation, based on looking at very many photos of the _Titanic_ in the process of writing this article: It really doesn't appear to have been all it was cracked up to be. It was opulent, yes, in a heavy-handed Edwardian sort of way. But it didn't really appear all that well-built. There is a look to good construction, and it doesn't have it. _Titanic_ had neither the hand-crafted strength of pre-nineteenth century construction, nor the technological veneer of the second half of the twentieth century. In that context, an illustration in Lynch/Marschall (p. 21) is perhaps relevant. It shows one of the anchors of the most advanced ship in the world, forged by modern metallurgy -- being hauled to the ship by horses.

(My opinion about the construction of these ships seems to be borne out by the stories of the leading liners of the time. Very many of the new ships had design problems. The _Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse_ of 1897 had "lubberly propensities," according to Brinnin, p. 317, which caused her to be nicknamed "Rolling Billy." Cunard's flagship of the period, _Lusitania_, had had to be refitted due to excessive vibrations; see "The Lusitania." _Titanic's_ record as the largest ship in the world would not last long; 14 months later, Germany's Hamburg-Amerika line would bring out the _Imperator_; Barczewski, p. 65. She was roughly 6000 tons heavier than _Titanic_, but top-heavy enough that she needed her funnels shortened and some of her fixtures replaced, plus they had to add 2000 tons of extra ballast; she also lost her figurehead due to her extreme rolling on just her third voyage; Brinnin, p. 388. After the war, Cunard took her over as _Berengaria_, but overhauled her again in 1921, and she suffered a series of fires in the late Thirties; Paine, p. 60. Luxurious the monster liners were, but they were perhaps too big for the designers of a pre-computer age.)

Interestingly, _Titanic_ was nowhere near full on her maiden voyage. (Tibballs, p. xi, thinks this is because of the coal strike, which caused many people to postpone plans since they weren't sure the ship would sail, but most sources seem to think the real reason was that people didn't want to risk taking a new ship which han't had a shakedown voyage.)

According to Wade, pp. 25-26, _Titanic_ left Southampton on April 10, 1912 with only 46% of first class berth occupied, 40% of second class, and 70% of steerage space booked. (That's 337 first class passengers, 271 second class, and 712 in third class; cf. the table in Barczewski, p. 51, which gives capacity, number carried, and number lost. Considering that _Titanic_ was taking passengers from several liners, the totals are amazingly low.) She stopped at Queenstown the next day to take on a few more.

One song {#12} refers to 800 emigrants sailing from Ireland. This presumably refers to the total third class passengers; in all, only about 125 passengers boarded at Queenstown (now Cobh, or the Cove of Cork), of which number 113 (Barczewski, p. 9, 281) or 114 (Lord-Night, pp. 207-209) were third class, and hence presumably emigrants. (It will tell you something about the size of _Titanic_ that she could not even dock at Queenstown's pier; she had to anchor offshore and have passengers and cargo ferried aboard; Barczewski, p. 281).

The _Titanic_ did have a near-disaster at the very beginning of her life; as the _Olympic_ had sucked the _Hawke_ into a collision, _Titanic_ produced so much pull that she snapped the ropes of the _New York_. But, in this case, a collision was averted -- just barely (Lord-Lives, p. 26; Barczewski, p. 4; Tibballs, pp, 31-38).

For the first four days of the voyage, everything of course went well; the ship maintained a good speed, sailed smoothly, and everyone apparently had a fine time. Then came the "Night to Remember."

Complete details of what happened on the night of April 14-15 probably cannot be known. Captain Smith went down with his ship, as did his chief officer (second in command) Henry Wilde, who was almost invisible in the saga (except that Lightoller, who had reason to resent him, accused him of slowing the evacuation; Lynch/Marschall, p. 109. Ironically, Captain Smith had requested Wilde be transferred from the _Olympic_ so he could have a second who knew the ship; Butler, p. 44; Lynch/Marschall, p. 76. Fat lot of good it did; as Butler, p. 90, comments, he "demonstrat[ed] very little initiative of his own, seemingly content to pass on Captain Smith's [incomplete] instructions, but never expanding them or clarifying them... and rarely issuing any orders of his own"). Also lost was first officer William M. Murdoch, who was the officer in command on the bridge when the ship hit the iceberg and who also had charge of lowering the boats on one side (like Smith, he an officer brought over from the _Olympic_; Barczewski, p. 189. Sort of makes you wonder who was running the _Olympic_ after they took all her officers). Chief Engineer Joseph Bell and almost all of the engineering crew, who kept several boilers running to maintain electricity for the lights and pumps (Ballard, p. 25; Butler, p. 109), were lost as well.

Many witnesses pay well-deserved testimony to the bravery of the crew in the emergency which followed. (There were four officers senior enough to stand watches, Smith, Wilde, Murdoch, and second officer Charles H. Lightoller; Butler, p. 53. Of these, only Lightoller survived, and he did not go off in a boat; he was washed away from the wreck as she went down and was able to make his way to an overturned "collapsible" lifeboat); as {#13} says, the crew stayed with the ship and sent the passengers off. Their problem lay not in courage but in intelligence.

Instead of information from her senior officers about what went wrong, what we have is the testimony of several more junior officers (including second officer Lightoller, who however was in his cabin at the time of the collision, and fourth officer Joseph G. Boxhall, responsible for plotting of icebergs as the warnings came in and for fixing the ship's position when she hit the iceberg). We also have accounts from the junior wireless operator, of some of the lookouts, and of course numerous passengers, none of whom, however, had any part in the ship's decision-making. Plus we have the information derived from Ballard's exploration of the sunken hull (which was not very helpful, however, since the part of the starboard bow which was damaged seems to be almost entirely buried in the mud; Ballard, p. 196).

One thing is certain: the _Titanic_ did not go to its fate unwarned. One crucial safety feature she did have was a wireless, and two wireless operators, allowing one to be on duty at all times. (This wasn't just for safety; many of the first class passengers were sending messages all over the place. Barczewski, p. 11, notes that this was how the Marconi company earned its money; they didn't get paid for talk between ships.) Just on April 14, many ice warnings had come through -- one at 9:00 a.m. from the _Caronia_, one at 11:40 from the _Noordam_, two almost simultaneously around 1:45 from _Amerika_ and from White Star's own _Baltic_, one from the _Californian_ at 7:30, and one at 9:40 from _Mesaba_ -- this one for the very region in which the _Titanic_ was already sailing (Ballard, pp. 13-20; Lord-Lives, pp. 48-49). And, finally, one more from the _Californian_, which was almost next door and had been stopped by ice.

How many of these warnings were actually read by the senior officers is not clear. Ballard claims that some never reached the senior officers. It is worth remembering that wireless operators were not a proper part of the ship's crew. The shipping lines hired them from the Marconi company or one of its competitors. (This was common; many of the "staff" on the _Titanic_ were in fact employees of other companies. The restaurant staff, for example, worked for organizations such as Gatti which had bought concessions on the _Titanic_ -- Lord-Night, p. 68.)

When one of _Titanic's_ radiomen received an ice warning, he could do little except hand it to an officer, who might pay attention or might just slip it in his pocket. To add to the problems, the apparatus had broken down on April 14 -- it was unusually powerful for the time (1500 watts -- Butler, p. 62), but probably cantankerous as a result. Senior operator Jack Phillips had repaired it (radiomen at the time had intense training in electronics and such, and Phillips, though onlly 25, was one of the best; Butler, p. 61), but was far behind on commercial traffic and had at times brushed off messages from other ships in order to get it out (Wade, pp. 143-144, 254) -- the more so since that final and most important ice warning, from the _Californian_, had not been sent as a priority message (Wade, p. 255). Plus, as Lord-Lives, pp. 51-52, points out, the radiomen were not navigators; they really had no idea which messages were most important. And

So we don't know how much the crew knew about conditions. What is clear is that Captain Smith did not adjust her course significantly in response to the warnings, and the ship did not slow down.

Based on the reports from the _Californian_ on the day of April 14, and from the _Carpathia_ and the _Mount Temple_ the following day, it appears that there was an almost-solid ice barrier across the _Titanic's_ path. There would have been almost no way through without encountering ice (cf. Lord-Lives, p. 130; Lord-Night, p. 147, and the diagrams in Ballard, pp. 198-200). Under the circumstances, the decision to proceed full speed ahead was very dangerous.

Although the ship had no hope of setting a record {contra #7}, it is possible that Captain Smith was pressured to try to make the first crossing faster than the _Olympic_ had made hers the year before (Butler, p. 249; on p. 59, he speculates that Smith did this under pressure from White Star boss J. Bruce Ismay).

If there is a fault, it's Captain Smith's for treating the ice messages utterly cavalierly. (According to Barczewski, p. 190, junior officers did not even have authority to reduce the ship's speed, though she cites no authority for this statement.) The warnings needed to be studied; it was only when the messages were combined that they showed a wide band of ice all across the ship's path (Lord-Lives, p. 53). The officers did worry about the cooling of the air and sea -- but, apparently, their chief concern was that it might freeze the fresh water supply! (Ballard, p. 19; Butler, p. 63; Lynch/Marschall, p. 77).

Captain Smith, in fact, was asleep at the time of the collision {#3}; he was content to let junior officers take him through the ice zone, though he did tell them to call him in the event of doubtful conditions (Ballard, p. 19). He was, after all, a fairly old man by the standards of the time -- 59, and planning to retire after _Titanic_ made her maiden voyage (Lord-Lives, p. 32; Lord-Night, p. 27, says that he might not even have made this trip, except that he made a habit of captaining ships on their maiden voyages. It says something about how much the company respected him -- and about how fortunate he had been in avoiding accidents.).

The claim of {X} that "Captain Smith... must have been a-drinking" is, however, quite certainly wrong. White Star regulations forbid it (Lynch/Marschall, p. 77), and even if he were fool enough to risk his pension on his very last voyage (which he was not), he was with a party that would have spotted it had he touched liquor.

Conditions for spotting icebergs were horrible. (Lynch/Marschall, p. 79, has the interesting note that a lookout on an earlier shift had *smelled* ice -- not as strange as it sounds, since most icebergs calved off glaciers carrying soils and sometimes lichens; the wet earth would not smell like salt water. But though that lookout smelled ice, he never saw any.) It was, of course, dark, and there was no moon (Lord-Lives, p. 47) {#16}. And observers agree that the sea was very calm, with hardly any waves at all -- and one of the best ways to spot an iceberg was to see the waves lapping at it. To top it all off, the lookouts in the crow's nest did not have any binoculars (Wade, pp. 169-170; Butler, p. 44, explains how they came to be missing).

The British inquiry would conclude that binoculars are no help in spotting icebergs (Lord-Lives, pp. 59-60) -- which is sort of true, but only sort of. Yes, as any birdwatcher can tell you, it's almost always easier to spot things with bare eyes. But shifting between eyes and binoculars keeps you alert, and using the binoculars sometimes causes you to see things you wouldn't otherwise see.

It is now thought the solution to the Binoculars Problem is known: The key to the locker containing the optics was in the hands of an officer who was on the _Titanic_ from Belfast to Southampton, but was bumped in the latter city to make room for the completely ineffectual Chief Officer Wilde. The bumped officer accidentally took the key to the locker with him, so the binoculars were left locked up. The key was auctioned off in 2007.

(Lord-Lives, p. 129, makes the interesting note that, when the _Carpathia_ was steaming toward the _Titanic_, she dodged half a dozen bergs -- and all of them were spotted from the bridge, not the crow's nest. Apparently, on that dark and calm night, the lookouts aloft were at a severe handicap. It's not clear whether this is due to their angle or, perhaps, just the weather -- on a ship making 20+ knots, or even 17 as the _Carpathia_ was doing, looking straight ahead into the wind of the ship's passage would have been very painful on that cold night.)

Very little is known about the actual iceberg. No other ship saw it with certainty (Butler, in an illustration facing page 149, and Lynch/Marschall, pp. 92-93, have a photo of a berg taken by the _Prinz Adelbert_ that may have been it, but the only evidence was some red that might have been paint, which is hardly proof), and _Titanic_ saw it for only minutes. But the statement {#13} that it was a growler (small berg) seems to have been false, since it was big enough for chunks of ice to fall onto _Titanic's_ boat deck, more than sixty feet above the water. According to Ballard, p. 21, most witnesses stated that the berg reached only to about boat deck level. That's still pretty big.

The testimony of Frederick Fleet, who had been on lookout that night, was perhaps not as helpful as it might have been; when called before an investigating committee, he was nervous, his Cockney talk almost unintelligible, and at one point he actually said, "I ain't got no judgment" in response to a question about distances. (He would eventually commit suicide in 1965, though probably not over the _Titanic_; Tibballs, p. 516.) But he did say that he spotted the iceberg around 11:40 on the night of April 14 (Wade, pp. 166-167) {#5; contra #6, which gives the date as April 17, and Lomax's #3, which says April 13; #15 has the right date, but gives the time as an hour before the dawn}.

(Incidentally, Fleet wasn't the only person aboard to eventually kill himself; so did surviving passenger Jack Thayer, in 1945; Butler, p. 231. And wireless operator Harold Bride retired from his job in 1913 and literally vanished; Butler, p. 234, says that he assumed a new identity and no one knew where he went until decades after his death in 1956.)

Fleet called the bridge the moment he spotted the berg off the starboard bow. There was little time to react. What we know of the events comes mostly from helmsman Robert Hitchens -- not, perhaps, the most reliable witness; he ended up in command of Molly Brown's lifeboat, and his record in that job was of petty tyranny, lies, and panic; Lynch/Marschall, pp. 152-154, 161-163; in the end, White Star found him a job in South Africa, allegedly to silence him; Lynch/Marschall, p. 223)

According to Hitchens, First Officer Murdoch ordered the engines stopped and the ship turned to port. It was too late; moments later (Lord-Lives, p. 59, says 37 seconds later), the iceberg hit the _Titanic_ on the starboard side (Wade, pp. 171-172; Ballard, pp. 20-21). A post-mortem found that Murdoch's actions, while they seemed the natural thing to do, in fact were very unwise -- better a head-on collision, which would have destroyed the first few compartments but left the rest intact, than a glancing blow which opened many (Wade, pp. 182-183).

But many ships have hit icebergs and survived. Indeed, there hadn't been a major disaster on a passenger ship since the _Atlanic_ wreck of 1873 (Butler, p. 73; for background on that, see "The Loss of the Atlantic (I)"). Why did _Titanic_ go down?

It is widely stated that the iceberg opened her front five (or even six) compartments. This has not, to my knowledge, ever been proved; all took on water, but it's not clear that anyone saw the leaks in all the compartments. What is certain is that it opened the fourth and fifth compartment, and at least two compartments before that. As the water rose, it went over those low bulkheads, and finally overcame the ship's buoyancy (Lord-Lives, p. 64).

In a way, it was lucky the ship lasted as long as it did. The fifth compartment contained some of the boilers, which were of course running when water started coming in. Stokers had to work like mad in the rising waters to shut down the boilers and keep them from exploding (Lord-Night, pp. 19-21; Barczewski, p. 18).

Ballard's findings do much to confirm the theory that the ship sank because the bulkheads between the allegedly-watertight sections were overtopped. The most notable finding was that _Titanic_ snapped in two on her way down (see diagrams in Ballard, pp. 204-205). The stern, obviously, still had enough buoyancy to float when the bow wanted to sink, and the strain was too much for the ship's structure. The conclusion at the time, based on what testimony was available from belowdecks and the rate the ship filled, was that the iceberg had opened a gash about 250 feet long and less than an inch high on average (Lord-Lives, p. 64).

A modern guess is that the gash itself was not so big as was thought at the time, but that the impact caused the cold steel (which would be brittle) to pop rivets and start to weep water. It wasn't a hole; it was a slow leak -- but a very large slow leak, or rather, a very large number of them (Ballard, pp. 196-197). It is also possible that the collision damaged the watertight bulkheads, so that compartments which were still watertight with respect to the ocean were not tight relative to the interior of the ship and could take in water from the compartments next to them; there was evidence of this in boiler room four (Lord-Lives, p. 65).

She picked a bad place to get hit, too. {#6} says she was off Newfoundland, {#4} claims the ship was only 90 (so McNeil's version) or 98 miles from shore (Randolph's version), but the 500 mile estimate in {#10, #16} is much closer; _Titanic's_ broadcast distress call stated her position as 41 degrees 46 minutes north, 50 degrees 14 minutes west (Ballard, p. 22). This was Boxhall's dead reckoning fix (Lynch/Marschall, p. 108), based probably on assuming a higher speed than the ship actually managed (or, perhaps, ignoring the local current); Butler, p. 242, also observes that there may have been an error in her chronometer at the time of the impact because no one had reset it for distance covered. Ballard, p. 199, moves the ship some 13.5 miles east southeast of her reported position. But the error in the estimate hardly matters in reckoning her distance from land; in round numbers, she was 400 miles from the closest land at Cape Race {#13; #15 accurately puts her 400 miles from Cape Race but gives the wrong distance to Boston}, 450 miles from St. John's (the nearest significant port), 800 miles from Halifax (the closest port truly suitable for large ships), and 1200 from her destination in New York. She was actually off the continental shelf, even though the shelf (the Grand Banks) extends unusually far out to sea in this area.

It would be some time before it was determined that the ship was in danger. The impact felt slight. Frederick Fleet initially thought the ship had merely had a "narrow shave" (Wade, p. 173). (Hence, perhaps, the report in some versions of {#1} that the ship "began to reel and rock" at 1:00 on Monday, which would have been April 15. The impact was on Sunday, April 14, but evacuation began the next day. The April 15 date is also found in {#2}.)

There was no single source which reported the damage {contra #2, which credits "Bill" with reporting the problem}; Fourth Officer Boxhall was sent on an inspection tour (Butler, p. 70), which revealed some water coming in, and the carpenter Jim Hutchinson then reported significant water below (Barczewski, p. 16, though there is some uncertainty here, since Tibballs, p. 496, lists Hutchinson as a joiner, abd Tibballs, p. 51, says that the carpenter, unnamed, who was sent to sound the ship never reported. Butler, p. 70, and Lynch/Marschall, pp. 91-92, say that Hutchinson was sent to sound the ship, and came back reporting water below, with a postal clerk reporting the same at about the same time).

By this time, the instruments showed a significant list. Butler, p. 71, cites the testimony of Officer Boxhall, who reports that the commutator listed the ship as listing five degrees to the right and down two degrees at the head. This appears to have been what convinced Captain Smith that the ship was in trouble; Boxhall claims he muttered "Oh, my God" upon seeing that value.

The disaster might have been worse had not Thomas Andrews (1873-1912), the managing director of the shipyard that built _Titanic_, been aboard (he wanted to inspect her performance; Barczewski, p. 147). Captain Smith called on him to inspect the damage and estimate the situation (Butler, p. 71). Andrews -- who seems to have been both a good people person and a highly competent engineer -- quickly realized the ship was doomed (Barczewski, p. 148; Butler, pp. 71-72; Lord-Night, pp. 22-23, 26).

Smith, to his credit, accepted the estimate and started evacuation procedures, himself going to give instructions to the wireless crews (Lord-Night, p. 27). Andrews helped with the evacuation as best he could (Lynch/Marschall, p. 99), then reportedly went to the first class smoking room; he reportedly was not wearing a lifebelt, and apparently had no intention of trying to save himself; his body was never found (Barczewski, p. 149).

But it is clear that there had been absolutely no planning for an evacuation. Passengers apparently weren't even told to get their lifejackets and go on deck; many of them went to the purser to reclaim their valuables, as if they were threatened with a stock market drop rather than a sinking ship (Lynch/Marschall, p. 99).

According to Wade, p. 144, the first wireless distress call went out 35 minutes after the collision -- just a few minutes too late; the wireless operator on the _Californian_ had gone to bed. No one thought to send up rockets until a quartermaster at the stern of the ship noticed lifeboats leaving (he had not been told the ship was in danger!) and called the bridge. That aroused someone enough to order him to bring up the rockets (Lord-Night,p. 47). But, obviously, it took him some time to get them and bring them to the bridge of the great ship.

(We might incidentally note that the wireless distress call is said to have been the first "SOS" call at sea {#9, #11}; at first, the operators send "CQD" messages, which were the original distress code. But "SOS" had been sent recently adopted as the emergency call -- it's much easier to transmit in Morse -- and eventually the operators decided to send that; Lord-Night, p. 52. The distress call went out not long after midnight {contra #9, which says it was "about the break of day," probably confusing the beginning of the day with daybreak}.)

Adding to the controversy is the fact that survival rates for the different groups on board were very different. Because women and children were given priority {#3, #9, #11}, they of course had a higher survival rate than men -- but the first class men did almost as well as the third class women and children. Some initial news reports apparently claimed that no one in third class survived (Tibballs, p. 237).

In fact, there were even two dogs rescued from first class (Lynch/Marschall, pp. 100-101). This being the era of the Filthy Rich, was -- even more than today -- the era of the Completely Useless (and frequently disagreeable) Pet Dog. The _Titanic_ had kennels, and even had crew members whose task was to walk the animals. In the early stages of the evacuation, when the boats were going down half-empty, the two First Class Pooches were given spaces that could have gone to people.

Much of the difference in casualty rates was due to the layout of the ship. The passengers in first class were around the level of the boat deck, and were the first to reach the boats (the boats, absurdly, were at the very top of the ship, well above the main deck, which meant that there was less room for boats and that they were far above nearly every passenger on the ship).

As a result, 94% of first class women and children were saved (there is a table of casualty rates in Wade, p. 67, and a graph in Lord-Lives, p. 82). Ballard, p. 149, says that only one first-class child went down with the ship, and that because she would not leave her mother, who in turn would not leave her husband; cf. Lord-Lives, p. 83. (And, indeed, there was eventually a woman who turned up claiming to he a grown-up Loraine Allison, but she was pretty clearly trying to get her hands on the money the two-year-old would have inherited had she lived; Lynch/Marshall, p. 214). Lord-Night, p. 105, notes that only four first class women died, and three of them decided to stay with their husbands. 31% of first class men were saved. In all, 60% of first class passengers survived. Of second class passengers, 44% lived. In steerage, the figure was only 25% -- 47% of the women and 14% of the men. The survival rate for the crew was comparable to that for third class -- 24% (212 out of 890 crew members, according to Lord-Lives; note that {#15} says with fair accuracy there were 900 crew).

It should be remembered that the third class passengers were physically blocked off from the upper decks due to quarantine regulations (steerage passengers were subjected to a physical examination before they could even board; Butler, pp. 39-40), and in any case were many decks below the boats. (Hence the statement in {#1} that they "left the poor below.") And they had previously been strictly told to stay in their areas. There were, in fact, only seven doors connecting third class to areas with access to boats (Butler, p. 106), and of course the steerage passengers didn't know how to find those doors or get to anywhere useful if they did find them.

Based on testimony from the survivors, they were not blocked from going to the boat deck (with some exceptions -- and of course there could have been major exceptions which simply weren't reported; see Wade, pp. 276-277, Lord-Lives, pp. 84-88). But the crew -- which of course had to tell them what to do and guide them to the boats -- were mostly concentrated on the upper decks. By the time the third class passengers knew of the disaster and could reach the boat decks, the boats were mostly away (one witness told of a great flood of third class passengers swarming the boat deck at the very end).

Butler, p. 105, has perhaps the best summary: "[Steward John] Hart's efforts [which helped many female passengers escape the lower decks] underscored the fact that... there really was no deliberate policy of discrimination against Third Class. What there was, and what may have been all the more insidious by being purely unintentional, was that simply no policy or procedure for looking after the Third Class passengers existed.... Somewhere in the chain of command communications had broken down, and... when Captain Smith had given no specific instructions, Chief Officer Wilde seemed incapable of initiating any action himself. The other officers [who were lowering the boats] were already thoroughly occupied and had little time to spare for wondering about what or who the captain an chief officer might have overlooked."

This had an interesting side effect: although the rule was "women and children first," or where Second Officer Lightoller was in charge, "women and children only," because of the way passengers made their way to the boats -- or, rather, didn't -- the *number* of men to survive actually was larger than the number of women: 338 adult men, compared to 316 adult women, according to Lord-Lives, p. 82. The reason a higher percentage of women survived was because there were a lot more men than women aboard -- 1667 men, 425 women.

The male survivors even included J. Bruce Ismay, the man in charge of running White Star; he had crowded into a boat at the last minute. Widely blamed for causing the disaster -- after all, he had allowed the ship to go to sea without enough lifeboats or a trained crew -- he lived another 25 years, mostly as a recluse; Lord-Lives, pp. 180-181.

(Reading the histories, I don't think Ismay should be blamed for the disaster as such -- he didn't run the ship; Captain Smith did. Ismay did bear significant blame for the lack of boats, though, which at the very least demonstrates that he hadn't properly researched the ship's capabilities. Plus he was a busybody who did nothing but get in the way during the evacuation -- one of the officers had to force him away from the boats. And, on a more individual note, when the ship's musicians were subjected to a pay cut and harsher working conditions, he pretty well blew them off; Barczewski, p. 129. So my verdict is: Criminal, not guilty; Jerk, guilty.)

The _Titanic_ myth of men standing aside to let the women live did create some problems for adult male survivors, many of whom felt pressure to justify their continued existence. Biel, pp. 28-29, notes how Lawrence Beesley, a second class male survivor, later tried to get a part in a _Titanic_ movie so he could be seen going down with the ship this time. (He was denied the role of an extra because he wasn't a member of Actor's Equity.)

One final observation on casualties: All numbers are slightly imprecise, because the lists of those aboard are slightly imperfect. In round numbers, 1500 were lost {#9}. Lord-Night, p. 176, notes that the American inquiry put the figure at 1517, the British Board of Trade came up with 1503, and the British Enquiry 1490. Lord-Night inclines toward the middle figure. The figure of 1600 in {#1, #4, #5, #7, #16} is certainly too high, though not by much. One suspects the songs citing this figure were composed very soon after the wreck, before the enquiries had sorted things out. The other possibility is that it refers to the number of people actually on the ship when the last boats pulled away, estimated by Lord-Lives (p. 2) to be 1600. But a few of these survived, being hauled out of the water by the boats.

For the most part, the evacuation was orderly. Women and children were put in the boats, and men generally accepted it. Still, it appears that a few shots were fired. (The shots did not {contra #3} wake Captain Smith, who of course was awake to order the evacuation.) The officers had pistols, and fifth officer Lowe at one point fired a few rounds to prevent a rush on the boat (Lord-Night, p. 75; Lord-Lives, p. 99). This ended the rush, and no one was hurt in the incident. First officer Murdoch may also have used his pistol (Lord-Lives, p. 100; cf. Lord-Night, p. 76), but again, he fired in the air. So at most one passenger was killed by an officer to prevent chaos, and even this is relatively ill-documented (Lord-Lives, pp. 101-102).

The real tragedy of the _Titanic_, of course, is that everyone could have been saved had there been enough lifeboats. British Board of Trade regulations said merely that any ship over 15,000 tons had to have at least sixteen lifeboats. And the regulations were carefully enforced; Butler, p. 38, tells of the officers getting very upset with the Board of Trade inspector because he was so thorough. _Titanic_ in fact had twenty (counting the four collapsible lifeboats that were not on davits and so were much harder to lower; two in fact were on a roof near one of the funnels and almost inaccessible; Lord-Lives, p. 97) -- but she was 46,000 tons, or three times the size envisioned when the regulation was written.

Adding more lifeboats would not have been a great hardship. More boats would have added some weight, of course, but they did not need more space; her davits were designed to carry multiple boats. Had she been fitted with a suitable number of lifecraft, and had crew competent to lower them, there was time to get everyone off. But there were boats for only 1178 people (Lord-Lives, p. 72). It was fortunate, in a way, that the ship was only half full; had she carried her full complement of 3547, there would have been boat space for only a third of them.

Making the matter worse, the lifeboats that did go out weren't full. This was not callousness or over-excitement; the lifeboat officers were not certain that fully-loaded boats could survive the drop after being lowered the long distance from the _Titanic's_ decks (Wade, pp. 132-133), or that the crew were competent to lower full boats. Plus, with the ship going down, they were trying to get every boat down before she was swamped -- meaning they didn't wait to bring in as many people as possible.

So most of the boats that were sent off in the first hour or so were lowered half-empty -- and apparently no one ever considered using one or another boat as an elevator to send down more passengers. Toward the end, the officers were willing to put more people aboard, but with most of the passengers at the stern, there was no one around near the bow when the last boats at that end were lowered (Lord-Lives, pp. 94-95). As a result, about 400 seats in the boats that could have been filled instead were left empty.

That was not the end of the mishandling. Though the _Titanic_ did not have enough boats, she did have enough lifebelts to keep everyone afloat -- if they were rescued quickly enough from the chill waters. In fact, a few people who did not make it off the sinking ship were rescued by the boats, though many of the boats rowed away from the wreck as fast as they were able (Wade, pp. 233-235; Lynch/Marschall, p. 129, claims that Captain Smith tried to call some of the half-full boats back, but I have not seen this claim elsewhere, and in any case, none of them obeyed).

We note that many bodies would eventually be discovered, still afloat in their lifebelts {#4}, carried northward by the current; most seem to have died of the cold (Wade, pp. 273-274; according to Lynch/Marschall, p. 176, one of the rescue ships found 17 bodies in the sea, an only one had water in the lungs, i.e. had drowned. The rest all died of hypothermia). Had more of the boats come to their rescue, it is probable that at least a few hundred more people would have survived.

When the song calls it a "cold and icy sea" {#6}, it was only the truth; the waters were at 28 degrees F, and Second Officer Lightoller, who spent time in the water before reaching an overturned lifeboat (one of a number of men who survived by swimming to Collapsible A or Collapsible B, the lifeboats that the officers were still trying to get down when the ship sank), said that it felt like being stabbed with "a thousand knives" when he went into the sea (Barczewski, p. 29; Lord-Night, p. 114). In several cases, it took only a few minutes to kill; Barczewski, on the same page, relates the testimony of several people who pulled passengers into the lifeboats only to find them already dead, or to watch them die even after they were pulled from the water.

A recovery ship called the _MacKay-Bennett_ (chartered by White Star in one of their few recorded instances of voluntary compassion; Butler, p. 199) brought in over 306 bodies (Barczewski, p. 41), mostly unhurt except for sea and cold, and many more were seen by other ships (Wade, p. 274); 22 more bodies were brought in by other vessels (Barczewski, p. 42). Many went unidentified; Barczewski, p. 45, notes the case of a baby whose identity was not firmly established until DNA testing was used in 2002.

What would have spared most of the grief was another ship to arrive quickly. And there was another ship in the vicinity, the freighter _Californian_. The _Californian_ had been one of the ships sending ice warnings, and in fact she had halted for the night in the face of the ice barrier; her commander Stanley Lord was still fairly new, and had not faced ice before. And since he was carrying freight only (there was some passenger space on the ship, but it was not occupied), there was no real urgency about arriving at his destination. So he decided to sit tight (Butler, p. 159).

According to Ballard's calculations, she was not more than 21 miles from where _Titanic_ went down, and probably closer due to drift (Ballard, pp. 200-201, following the work of Jack Grimm; cf. Butler, p. 243). And there is also suspicion that her log was "cleaned up"; the official log has no record of seeing any rockets (when it is universally agreed that she did) -- and the "scrap log," which usually contains information to be cross-checked before being entered into the official log, is missing for that time period, even though it is usually preserved (Butler, pp. 243-244). Butler, p. 244, argues that the course she was on would have left her south of her official position when stopped -- i.e. closer to the _Titanic_.

Compounding the problem, the _Californian_ had only one wireless operator, who went off duty before the _Titanic_ started sending distress signals. but the officers of the _Californian_ certainly saw _Titanic's_ emergency rockets -- and ignored them until too late (Paine, p. 87). She didn't even have the excuse that she had to protect her passengers; since she was carrying only cargo (Lord-Lives, p. 134). Her inaction was at the instigation of her captain, whose only response to the rockets was to tell his officers to try to contact the other ship by searchlight.

It's not clear why there was no response to the lights -- Lord and his defenders claim there was a third ship between the two of them and the _Californian_ never saw the _Titanic_ -- but the likely explanation is that the officers of the _Titanic_ had other things on their minds than sending lamp signals. _Titanic's_ wireless operators could stay at their posts; they had no other duties -- but the ship's officers were busy evacuating. (Fourth officer Boxhall had tried signalling the mystery ship; according to Lynch/Marschall, p. 109, Captain Smith's words were "Tell him to come at once. We are sinking" -- the exact words quoted in {#9}, though they are there credited to the wireless officers.)

Captain Smith did order the boats to head for the ship on the horizon, which by every reckoning but Captain Lord's was the _Californian_ (Barczewski, p. 168), but she was too far away for the disorganized rowers to reach in any reasonable time. (Apparently none of the _Titanic's_ boats were powered. They did have sails, but only a couple of sailors on the _Titanic_ knew how to sail a boat, so that was no help.)

Had _Californian_ responded when the rockets went up, her speed of 13.5 knots would have allowed her to reach _Titanic_ at least half an hour before the ship went down (that based on her official position; it would have been sooner if, as suspected, the two ships were closer together than the _Californian's_ official position indicated), allowing for much more complete rescue efforts. Condemnation of _Californian's_ skipper Stanley Lord has not quite been universal -- Butler, p. 241, notes that some maritime unions have a strong interest in not having them condemned -- but it is widespread; if the _Californian_ was the mystery ship, there can be little doubt that Lord's behavior caused hundreds of avoidable deaths.

Of the books I have read, only Lynch/Marschall can be considered Lordite; on pp. 190-191, it argues, first, that the _Californian's_ reported position and the _Titanic's_ actual position were too far apart to allow easy visual contact; second, that it took the _Californian_ two hours to reach the _Titanic's_ death site, so she couldn't have gotten there quickly even had she responded to the pleas; third, that there may have been a third ship; fourth, that many on the _Californian_ did not think the ship was big enough to be the _Titanic_, fifth, that the witnesses on both ships thought the other ship was moving even though both were stopped.

The first objection is meaningless, since it is based on one actual and one estimated position; the second is also meaningless, because the _Californian_ headed for the reported position, not the actual position; the third is a self-justifing excuse; the fourth may have been an illusion of distance; and the fifth may also have been an illusion, or it may have been caused by the drift of the two vessels, which would have responded to ocean currents differently. And not one of these objections in any way overcomes the basic flaw in the Lordite position: That Captain Lord saw distress rockets and ignored them. We don't know if Lord could have helped the _Titanic_. We *do* know that he ignored an obvious cry for help. This is surely inexcusable.

The Lordite controversy is covered in detail in almost every book on the _Titanic_; see e.g. Barczewski, p. 35 and after; Lord-Lives, p. 135 and following; Butler, pp. 191-194, 241-245, who accuses Stanley Lord of terrorizing his officers until they couldn't act without his permision. Nonetheless, it seems not to have been mentioned much in the songs, perhaps because the _Californian_ did not show up in the news stories until some time after the disaster.

Not every ship and captain was so inert. Captain Arthur Roston of the _Carpathia_ heard the distress call, and at once turned ship {#9, #11}. His was by far the most decisive and effective action of the night. Unfortunately, his ship was roughly 60 miles from the _Titanic_, and the _Carpathia_, though only nine years old, had a normal top speed of just 14 knots (Paine, p. 96). Captain Roston and crew gave it everything they had, and supposedly got her going at 17 knots (Lord-Night, p. 141). It still took her some three and a half hours to reach the site of the _Titanic_, meaning that the larger liner had gone down about an hour before. _Carpathia_ rescued such survivors as she could find, taking in the last boat at 8:30 (or about six hours after _Titanic_ sank); by then of course the only survivors were those who had been in the boats. Indeed, some even of those pulled from the water by the boats had died; the cold and the shock (and, in a few cases, the effort of keeping a half-flooded boat afloat) proved too much.

After picking up every survivor, Captain Roston turned his ship about. She was supposed to be heading east for Europe, but he knew he had to get the survivors to land quickly. The only question was whether to head for New York (the passengers' intended destination) or Halifax (the nearest major port). After some consideration, he headed for New York {#11} (Lord-Night, pp. 160-161). It was to prove a difficult trip, both because of the crowding and because storms made some passengers fear that the _Carpathia_ too was in danger (Lynch/Marschall, p. 163).

Lord-Night, pp. 189-209, gives the official passenger list, with those lost and saved, though he notes in Lord-Lives (pp. 36-38) that there were some errors in the list. Tibballs, pp. 483-506, gives a list which includes the crew, though some are miscategorized. Most other sources content themselves with naming a handful of the "celebrity" passengers -- e.g. the very wealthy Isidor and Ida Strauss (just two of several millionaires {#6}), and American President Taft's advisor Archie Butt. (Several others big names booked passage but did not actually sail. J. P. Morgan, who ultimately owned the ship, was too ill to sail. Alfred W. Vanderbilt changed his mind so late that there wasn't even time to get his luggage off the ship; Ballard, p. 14.)

The Strausses are mentioned in the Cowboy Loye version of {#16}; they were an "elderly philanthropist" and his wife (Lord-Lives, p. 35) who owned the Macy's department store (Ballard, p. 14). They reached the deck early on, but Isador Strauss, being a man, was denied a place in the lifeboats (Butler, p. 109, in fact says that he refused to enter a boat when given a chance). His wife could have left, but she declared that she would share his fate ("We have been living together for many years; where you go, I go"), went back aboard the ship, and of course died in the wreck (Wade, p. 61).

But if Ida Strauss gets the award for Most Romantic Gesture, no passenger was given more publicity than John Jacob Astor (1864-1912) {#5; probably the "Jacob Nash" of Lomax's #3}. He was probably the richest man aboard, though he had inherited rather than earned most of the money. He kept 18 automobiles, and had raised a regiment for the Spanish-American War, allowing him to take the title of Colonel (Barczewski, p. 58), even though he had no military training (and probably less aptitude, except for the mercilessness that came from his financial background).

As the boats went off, Astor apparently asked if he could go aboard with his (much younger trophy) wife, who was pregnant. (No, they didn't have the phrase "trophy wife" in 1912, but they had the idea, and Astor was largely cast out of society; Barczewski, p. 58. Barczewski adds that the girl was visibly pregnant even though they had been married only four months. It is perhaps revealing that Madeleine Force Astor would remarry in 1918 even though it meant giving up about seven million dollars in money from a prenuptual agreement. The flip side is, at least Astor married her; other rich men pretended to be faithful and took mistresses. Benjamin Guggenheim, another of the ultra-rich passengers, had left his wife in New York to travel with his girlfriend; Butler, p. 28.)

Second officer Lightoller, who (as noted above) survived but only by swimming to a boat, flatly refused Astor's request to join her in the boat (Barczewski, p. 25).

Astor allowed her to go in the boat without him, but said that he would meet her in the morning (Barczewski, p. 60); either he expected the ship to survive (unlikely by then) or he expected to find another boat.

Quite a few legends arose about Astor immediately after the wreck, generally very positive {#5 says "all the women he tried to save"}; Biel, p. 41, reports an account in which he is credited with saying "Not a man until every woman and child is safe in the boats." Not one of these accounts is from from an actual beneficiary of his kindness, or even a reliable witness; all were reports of people who claimed they saw something he did (Barczewski, p. 63); we cannot in any instance prove that Astor was actually the man involved.

(This "men stepped aside" legend is found, e.g., in {#4};Biel, pp. 23-25, documents that this arose in the first hours after the sinking, before any of the survivors had told their tale; the stories weren't exactly false, but it was the ship's officers, not the passengers, who controlled access to the boats, an in the end, many men did survive.)

Astor's body was one of those found by the _MacKay-Bennett_; it was in very bad shape, but he could be identified by the monograms on his clothing (Barczewski, p. 40). Lord-Lives, p. 172, observes that the Astor family did not even file any claims for damages over his death -- something that obviously would not have happened in today's litigious society.

There were, to be sure, lawsuits filed -- a lot of them, totalling about $16 million. This led to interesting problems in dealing with British and American law (after all, it was a British ship owned by an American conglomerate.) In the end, White Star paid out $664,000 (Lord-Lives, pp. 172-177).

The fate of Captain Smith, mentioned in folklore, is in fact uncertain, except that he certainly did not survive. Wade, p. 58, and Barczewski, pp. 169-171 list several reports, from suicide to rescuing other passengers at the expense of his life. (Barczewski suggests that most of the more heroic stories stemmed from some deep British urge to make him look good, and reports on p. 172 that those responsible for building his memorial were mostly passengers who had enjoyed sailing with him on other vessels.)

Butler, pp. 251-252, examines his decisions in the ship's last hours, and (with the concurrence of a psychologist) suggests that the mental blow was so strong that he largely lost the power of decision -- we might informally say that he was in shock. (Lynch/Marschall, p. 137, says he "seemed almost in a daze, a strangely passive figure.") If so, he probably didn't do anything especially noteworthy in the last moments of the ship's life.

(Incidentally I can't help but note that Smith doesn't seem to have been the only one. There was little panic on the _Titanic_ -- but very little ingenuity once Andrews gave the bad news. Did the engineers try to rig more pumps to lengthen the ship's life? Seemingly not. Did the carpenter use the wood furnishings to try to make coracles or something to keep a few more people afloat? There is no evidence of it, though we do hear of a baker throwing deck chairs overboard in hopes people could cling to them; Lynch/Marschall, p. 134. Did anyone counterflood, to try to keep the water from overtopping the forward bulkheads? Certainly not. The sinking ship saw much heroism and very little intelligence.)

The likeliest scenario is that Smith went into the water with so many other passengers (so, e.g., explicitly Lynch/Marschall, p. 137), and -- like them -- died of exposure. It was probably an easier death than that suffered by the engineers and stokers in the lower parts of the ship, who stayed down there to keep the electricity going; they would have asphyxiated or drowned or both.

Smith somehow became a hero -- legend had it that one of his last orders was, "Be British!" In other words "Keep a stiff upper lip (even though you're about to die an agonizing death)"; it became a legendary command and inspired various poems and non-folk songs.

There is some irony in noting that the memorial to Smith cites his "great heart," "brave life," and "heroic death" (the last of which, as noted, cannot be proved) -- but does not include the name of the _Titanic_ (Barczewski, p. 180).

First officer Murdoch, the officer on watch when the ship hit the berg, also had various ends ascribed to him, including suicide (Barczewski, p. 193). Apparently Hollywood threw in some even worse charges (Barczewski, p. 199). But the best evidence is that he simply ended up in the water like everyone else, and the citizens of his home town eventually won an apology, including some cash, from the studio (Barczewski, p. 198, 202).

Surviving officers such as Lightoller, however, found their careers blighted. Wade seems to think that Lightoller was evasive before the investigating committees, but Lord considers him a decisive and capable officer, noting that he served in the Royal Navy in World War I and, as an old man, took his private boat to assist in the evacuation of Dunkirk. But he was never given a ship to command (Lord-Lives, pp. 192-193). The junior officers did no better, even though they surely could not be blamed for the outcome.

The survivor who earned the most publicity (other than Ismay) was probably "Unsinkable" Molly Brown: Margaret Tobin Brown, 1867-1932. Born poor, her husband, a mining supervisor, discovered gold in the Little Johnny Mine (Barczewski, p. 85). Molly, suddenly rich, then became active in a variety of social causes -- and became a world traveller after she and her husband drifted apart. She was in Europe when her grandson became ill, so she hurried back to the United States on the _Titanic_ (Barczewski, p. 86). When the ship hit the iceberg, she gathered some of her things (fortunately not all; no spartan, she abandoned 25 gowns, 14 hats, and 13 pairs of shoes purchased in Paris; Barczewski, p. 87).

Hustled into a lifeboat, she distributed some of the seven pairs of socks she was wearing to those who had come aboard less well-supplied (Barczewski, p. 89), and also tried to convince the quartermaster in charge of the boat to rescue those left behind. If the account in Barczewski, pp. 88-89, is even vaguely correct, his was one of the most despicable stories on that night; he refused to go back, and refused even to hand over the tiller, instead leaving it to the middle-aged Brown and one other woman to row.

Aboard the _Carpathia_, Brown tried to send out messages on behalf of poorer passengers who could not pay for wireless messages (Barczewski, p. 90). She also tried to comfort some of the grieving survivors (her skill in several languages helped), and set up a subscription to make up for their losses. It all added up to a legend -- which was confirmed in 1925, when she survived a hotel fire and helped others escape the building (Barczewski, p. 92). But Barczewski notes that the popular accounts which made her legendary were largely fictionalized.

Brown was active in relief causes in World War I, but after that fell into quarrels with her children and grandchildren, and her money dried up after her husband died in 1922 (Barczewski, p. 91)

There was one small consolation out of the _Titanic_ wreck: The British and Americans toughened regulations for liners. They had to have enough lifeboats, the crew had to know how to deal with them, they had to have full-time wireless officers, etc. (Wade, pp. 302-303). These would not prevent future disasters, as the _Lusitania_ would demonstrate just over three years later, but they made them less inherently deadly -- the loss of life on the _Lusitania_ was mostly because she sank in twenty minutes. Had she stayed afloat for more than two hours, as the _Titanic_ did, nearly everyone aboard would have survived.

Wade, p. 318, notes the additional irony that this disaster did not strike one much-oppressed community: There were apparently no Blacks aboard the ship as she sank (Biel, p. 112). Of course, this eliminates the whole plot of "Shine and the Titanic" {contra #14}.

That's just as well for Shine, given the report in the song that Captain Smith's daughter offered him her body if he would rescue her. Smith had only one child, a daughter, Helen Melville Smith -- and she was still just a girl, born in 1902 (Barczewski, p. 163); imagine what would have happened had he so much as touched a child that age! In any case, her name isn't in the passenger list in Lord-Night, and she was alive to dedicate a memorial to Smith in 1914 (Barczewski, p. 179).

"Shine and the Titanic" is also ruled out by the fact that Shine could not have swum to safety; the water, as noted, was just too cold.

Racism also tinged the stories about the people who tried to rush the boats; they were usually labelled Asian or Italian or otherwise less than Anglo-Saxon. There is absolutely no evidence for this, and much reason to think it false (Barczewski, pp. 55-56). There is one documented instance of a crewman trying to steal another crewman's life vest; since there were no Blacks aboard, he cannot have been Black, and in fact the surviving witness never said he was -- but one press report calls him a Negro (Biel, pp. 50-51).

The story of boxer Jack Johnson is more complicated; it appears that Leadbelly's song on the topic ({#8}: "Jack Johnson want to get on board, Captain said, "I ain't haulin' no coal") conflates two incidents. Lyle Lofgren tells me that Johnson was in Chicago at the time _Titanic_ sank, but according to Barczewski, p. 64, Johnson was refused passage on a liner due to his skin color on another occasion.

According to Lord-Lives, p. 8, no books on the _Titanic_ were published between 1913 to 1955. In the publishing business, _A Night to Remember_ started a _Titanic_ boom (Biel, p. 149, calls the 1955 publication of _A Night to Remember_ the biggest date in _Titanic_ history other than 1912 itself.). But the songs on the subject hardly stopped -- indeed, some time around 1970, they taught us a comic parody of {#1} ("Oh, they built another ship Called the S.S. 92... And they christened it with beer, and it sank right off the pier, Wasn't it sad when that great ship went down") in elementary school.

Ironically for the parody, the _Titanic_ was never formally christened (Lord-Lives, p. 11).

In the late twentieth century, of course, the movie "Titanic" was released. I have not seen it, but the reports I've read (e.g. in Barczewski) say that it contains many historical inaccuracies. Perhaps it will be starting a new round of _Titanic_ folklore.

Another irony is the effort which White Star went to to suppress the memory of the ship -- which obviously failed. After _Carpathia_ dropped off the lifeboats at White Star's dock in New York, White Star stripped off all identifying markings; we don't even know what became of the boats (Lynch/Marschall, pp. 166-168). They would probably be worth millions today.

Which brings us to one of the most vexed of all questions about the _Titanic_: What the band played on that last night.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the performance that night. For starters, the musicians were not a band as properly so understood -- they did not have a brass section. Their instruments were strings and piano.

In fact, the eight performers weren't even a group in the usual sense. They rarely if ever played together as an eight-piece ensemble (Lord-Lives, pp. 96-97). The musicians consisted of a string quartet with piano (the primary group, led by newly-engaged violinist Wallace Hartley, which played the main evening concerts and Sunday religious services), and a violin/'cello/piano trio which played mostly at receptions and in the cafes (Barczewski, pp. 130-131). They can't have been very loud (especially away from a piano), and in an emergency situation, with the ship listing and sheet music not usable, they would have to rely on things everyone knew -- and even for that, they might not have parts properly assigned.

I can't help but note the irony that two of them had been lured away from the _Carpathia_ to serve on the _Titanic_ (Lord-Night, p. 44). Though Butler, p. 122, reports that Hartley was once asked what he would do on a sinking ship, and he ha answered, "I would gather the band together and begin playing."

We don't even know how long they played (Lord-Lives, pp. 107-108). Going down with the ship was not really part of their job. Although musicians on German ships actually doubled as ship's stewards (Brinnin, p. 312; this had the ironic effect that German ships, unlike English, *did* play "Nearer My God to Thee" on Sundays), English ships employed specialist musicians who were not formally employees of White Star. (In fact, White Star's passenger list shows them as second class passengers.) Shortly before the _Titanic_ voyage, White Star had started contracting with an agent to supply musicians. The hiring agents booked most of the same musicians the liner companies had always employed -- but inflicted a large pay cut on them and used the difference to make their profits (Lord-Lives, pp. 114-116). White Star refused even to pay death benefits to the musicians (Lord-Lives, p. 117). However long they played, it was above and beyond the call of duty. In the end, all eight of them went down with the ship (Ballard, p. 24 -- a page which also shows a poster for the band).

Whether the musicians made attempts to save themselves cannot be known; some passengers stated that they quit playing about half an hour before the ship sank (Barczewski, p. 132) -- perhaps when the last boats left? But it is touching to quote the remark of Steward Edward Brown, who, when asked when they ceased playing, said "I do not remember hearing them stop" (Lord-Lives, p. 108). Hence, perhaps, the statement that the music "played as they went down" {#9}.

In a minor folkloric touch, Hartley's body was recovered; the face was almost beyond recognition, but he still was wearing his uniform, and his violin case was on his back, allowing identification (Barczewski , p. 139); he was buried in his home town of Colne (which he had left 17 years before) in a rosewood casket (Lord-Lives, p. 118).

Interestingly, though most reports say the musicians played either hymns or ragtime on that last night, neither was the Hartley quintet's specialty; their primary clientele was the first class passengers (worth, according to Barczewski, over $500 million in 1912 dollars!), who apparently preferred classical music -- on the night the boat went down, the evening concert included Wagner, Dvorak, and Puccini, according to Lord-Lives, pp. 43-44. Apparently some of the listeners felt the band not quite up to the task (Lord-Lives, p. 43) -- but imagine five musicians trying to play Wagner!

We might add that ship's bands of this period played largely for charity (Preston, p. 141) -- though it seems that few passengers were particularly generous.

When the ship hit the iceberg, Captain Smith apparently roused the musicians to play during the evacuation (Barczewski, p. 132). At first, they seem to have played in the first class lounge; later, they moved toward the boats (though the piano players would have been unable to play on the boat deck itself, and without the piano the group would have been quiet indeed. Perhaps -- personal speculation only -- one of the piano players took over conducting, to try to keep the group together without the piano playing rhythm?).

As for what they played, most reports agree that the band started out by playing ragtime tunes (or at least "Alexander's Ragtime Band," which had been a big hit the year before but which critics have indignantly charged isn't ragtime), mixed with other light pieces (Lord-Lives, p. 109). Butler, p. 91, mentions "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Great Big Beautiful Doll," "Can't You Hear Me Caroline," "A Little Love, A Little Kiss," and "Moonlight Bay," apparently based on the report of Lawrence Beesley.

According to Wade, pp. 61-62, it was a Mrs. Vera Dick who started one of the most enduring false stories. She was the one who reported that the band played "Nearer, My God, to Thee" as the ship went down {#1, #2, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #16}. Obviously, if she had been near enough to hear the band, she would have been sucked down with it; Lord-Lives, p. 109, says she was at least a quarter of a mile away. Of course, one newspaper account claimed that the sound of the hymn continued *after* the ship sank! (Barczewski, p. 137).

Lord also observes that "Nearer, My God, To Thee" has different tunes in Britain and America -- yet passengers from both sides of the ocean claim to have heard it played. Odds are that someone, probably Mrs. Dick, started the story ,and it sounded so appropriate that people thought they remembered it. Or maybe it was a transferred memory from the memorial services; "Nearer, My God, To Thee" *was* played at some of the funerals (Barczewski, p. 44), including Hartley's (Barczewski, p. 139).

The single most reliable account is that from junior wireless operator Harold Bride: "The water was then coming into our cabin. From aft came the tunes of the band. It was a ragtime tune. I don't know what. Then there was 'Autumn.' Phillips [the senior wireless operator] ran aft, and that was the last I ever saw of him alive" (Tibballs, p. 97; cf. Wade, p. 63).

This statement has frequently been taken to refer to the lively hymn "Autumn." "Autumn" was considered extremely appropriate, since it contains the line "Hold me up in mighty waters." But Lord-Lives, p. 110, offers very strong evidence against this suggestion; it is unlikely the band knew it or that passengers would recognize it. Lord-Lives, p. 112, suggests that Bride's reference was in fact to Archibald Joyce's "Songe d'Autumne," popular in 1912. We cannot possibly know; the evidence is too thin. But at least this piece is a reasonable suggestion, unlike "Nearer, My God, to Thee."

Still, there are authorities who stand by "Nearer, My God, to Thee" -- e.g. Butler, p. 131. I have to think this is wishful thinking; though he addresses the counter-claim for "Autumn," he does not acknowledge the various problems with the claim for "Nearer...."

(It is ironic to note that the sinking does seem to have inspired a publishing boomlet -- Lycnh/Marschall, p. 213, shows three editions of "Nearer, My God, to Thee" with the _Titanic_ on the cover.)

(I will add a minor speculation of my own here. Tibballs, p. 320, prints a report that a single violinist played "Nearer..." "[a]fter all his fellow musicians had been washed away." Speaking only for myself, if I were in a situation where I knew death was coming soon, I'd haul out one or another instrument and start playing -- it would be the best distraction and farewell I can think of. And Butler, p. 57, says that there were many musicians among the third class passengers, who staged their own dances along the way. We also have tales of hymn-sings and such; Lynch/Marschall, p. 77. Could it be that one of the passengers played "Nearer..."?)

That report Tibballs cites (from the _Western Daily Mercury_) was an extensive one, printed two weeks after the accident, and it seems to have contained nearly every inaccuracy contained in the _Titanic_ songs:

A. That Murdoch shot himself (pp. 320, 326, 333 in the Tibballs reprint).

B. "Explosions" (pp. 320, 325, 326, 328, 335; an exploding boiler is mentioned in Bessie Jones's version of {#3}, but in fact the _Titanic_ crew shut down the boilers early to prevent an explosion, and Ballard saw no evidence of any such thing; if there were explosions, they were simply of compressed air and probably occured far below the surface). To be charitable, the process of shutting down the boilers did involve venting steam, which was a noisy process (it even made it hard for the wireless operators to work; Lynch/Marschall, p. 108) which someone might have interpreted as an explosion. Or, perhaps, a passenger below-decks might have heard the launching of the distress rockets and thought that was an explosion (cf. the description of the sound in Butler, pp. 97-98; Lynch/Marschall, p. 99, calls it an unearthly roar which forced passengers to shout in order to be heard over the sound.).

C. An attempt to cross the ocean in "record time" (p. 324; cf. {#7}), when the _Titanic_ had no chance whatsoever to cross faster than the _Mauretania's_ record

D. Sundry claims to have been on "the last boat" (p. 324), when in fact the last boat was Lightoller's, which hadn't even been launched when the water rolled over it, and its passengers are well known

E. A claim that _Titanic's_ "plates were ripped open from a dozen feet in from the bow to the second funnel" (p. 327) or "from the forecastle to the bridge (p. 335), which of course would have sunk her much faster

F. Two "Italians" trying to rush the boats; one "Dago" (yes, that was the word used, which will tell you the quality of this particular report) had to be shot (pp. 329, 338)

G. Plus, of course, several stories of the "last musician" (pp. 320, 326).

Even if no one played "Nearer, My God, to Thee," there was at least one hymn directly associated with the sinking: Philip Paul Bliss's "Pull for the Shore." This was sung aboard one of the lifeboats as they rowed away from the scene of the wreck (Wade, p. 236). There was bitter logic in the words:

Pull for the shore, sailor, pull for the shore!

Heed not the rolling waves, but bend to the oar;

Safe in the life boat, sailor, cling to self no more!

Leave the poor old stranded wreck, and pull for the shore.

Harland & Wolff, which built the _Titanic_, continued to prosper into the Twenties, but the partition of Ireland and the decline of the shipping fleet cost it much business. From a peak in the tens of thousands of employees, it now has only a few hundred (one of the biggest factors in the decline of the Belfast economy), and is now Norwegian-owned; the land on which _Titanic_ was built was sold off in 2003 (Barczewski, p. 245).

Southampton, the _Titanic's_ home port, suffered more immediate losses; the larger part of the ship's crew came from there, meaning that hundreds of families lost a loved one. The _Daily Graphic_ printed a report headed "Stricken Southampton" (Tibballs, pp. 239-240). Barczewski, p. 248, notes that there was one school in the town where no fewer than 125 students had lost a close relative. On p. 264, she notes that the population in 1912 was around 120,000, meaning that more than one Southampton resident in 200 was aboard the _Titanic_ (p. 266 says that 699 of 898 crewmembers lived in the Southampton area, whilte, Butler, p. 172, says that 80% of the crew came from the city), and more than one in 250 died aboard the ship.

Many of the _Titanic_ songs of course stress the theme of hubris and how the ship had to be punished somehow. {#10 is the most extreme, but we also find this e.g. in versions of #1}. This bit of theology did not originate with the songwriters; Biel, pp. 59-63, and at other points in the chapter labelled "Mammon," shows how preachers of the time offered this argument (which is at best dubiously Biblical); he in fact cites {#10} as an example of how this doctrine became entrenched. Butler, pp. 222-223, also discusses the mass religious outpouring on the theme of "God did it to show that humans are incompetent worms." (To which I say, the very fact that they can come up with such notions proves that they're right: We *are* incompetent worms. But it was the complacent British Board of Trade, and the cheapskate managers like Ismay, not the engineers, who are to blame.)

There were a number of goofy ideas proposed over the years to, well, raise the _Titanic_ {#7}. Most are pre-Ballard -- the first was proposed in 1914 (Lord-Lives, p. 194) -- so they didn't realize the ship was in two pieces, and most were unworkable even with an intact ship; it seems unlikely that anything will ever come of this (though Arthur C. Clarke produced some ideas that might actually work). Nor did anyone really have any idea what to do with the ship once raised; the idea of a museum was proposed, but one wag calculated that it would be economically unviable just because of the amount of paint required for the ship (Lynch/Marschall, p. 201).

It is sad to report that scavengers *have* recovered some scrap metal -- and, reportedly, are turning it into wrist watches. Sadly, the Gods have not seen to strike these grave-robbers with the sort of punishment they deserve.


Ballard: Dr. Robert D. Ballard, _The Discovery of the Titanic_ (Warner, 1987). The standard work on the story of the _Titanic_ herself after the last survivors left her, with many photos both of the ship as she sailed and of her as was found on the bottom. But most of the material is modern and does not come into the _Titanic_ songs.

Barczewski: Stephanie Barczewski, _Titanic: A Night Remembered_ (Hambledon Continuum, 2004). One of the few books I've seen that is properly footnoted, though the author seems to have a fascination with people stories (it's perhaps revelatory that she dedicates the book to her dogs). And large sections seem to be taken almost verbatim from Lord-Lives. On the other hand, it's very useful as a counterweight to the "Titanic" movie.

Biel: Steven Biel, _Down with the Old Canoe: A Cultural History of the Titanic Disaster_ (1996; I use the 1997 Norton edition). Not really a history of the ship, but of people's reactions to the sinking. Of course, the reactions are what inspired the songs.... A caution about his accuracy, though: He calls Kirsty MacColl (Ewan's daughter, unless there are two of them) "Irish"!

Brinnin: John Malcolm Brinnin, _The Sway of the Grand Saloon: A Social History of the North Atlantic_ (1986; I use the 2000 Barnes & Noble edition). A history of transatlantic liners, regrettably lacking footnotes, but useful for background.

Butler: Daniel Allen Butler, _"Unsinkable": The Full Story_ (Stackpole, 1998). Properly footnoted, for once. Occasionally it's off the wall (e.g. it claims the band did in fact play "Nearer, My God, to Thee), but for the most part it is a clear and readable summary, and it has interesting insights into some of the key players in the tragedy.

Lord-Night: Walter Lord, _A Night to Remember_ (1955; I use the 1997 Bantam edition). The classic book, pre-Ballard; it is unfortunately not footnoted though widely regarded as reliable.

Lord-Lives: Walter Lord, _The Night Lives On_ (1987; I use the Avon paperback edition). Like Lord-Night, it is not footnoted. Whereas _A Night to Remember_ is about the sinking itself, _The Night Lives On_ gives much more detail about events before and after -- and, in some cases, corrects Lord's earlier book, based in part on research he himself helped inspire.

Lynch/Marschall: _Titanic: An Illustrated History_, text by Don Lynch, paintings by Ken Marschall, introduction by Robert D. Ballard, 1992; I use the 1998 Hyperion edition. A few too many illustrations, and an inconvenient format, but if a graphic can explain something, it probably has it.

Paine: Lincoln P. Paine, _Ships of the World_ (Houghton Mifflin, 1997). A general reference, used mostly to find data on the other ships (_Olympic_, _Carpathia_, etc.) involved in the _Titanic_ story.

Preston: Diana Preston, _Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy_ (Walker, 2002; I use the 2003 Berkley edition). Obviously another book about the _Lusitania_ rather than the _Titanic_, but it is properly footnoted and has useful background about the liners of the era.

Ramsay: David Ramsay, _The Lusitania: Saga and Myth_ (Norton, 2001). Used primarily for the information it gives on competition in the transatlantic trade in the early twentieth century.

Tibballs: Geoff Tibballs, editor, _The Mammoth Book of the Titanic_ (Carroll & Graf, 2002). A selection of statements by survivors and witnesses, plus press accounts. Unfortunately, it has no index, and a minimal table of contents, so it contains a lot of useful information I couldn't cite because I couldn't find it when I was writing the relevant portions of this essay.

Wade: Wyn Craig Wade, _The Titanic: End of a Dream_ (revised edition, Penguin, 1986). This calls itself a _Titanic_ book. It's more a book about William Alden Smith and an American post-mortem on the ship's sinking. Wade seems to think Smith was a great man. He really sounds more like a demagogue populist to me, though the legislation he introduced certainly made liners safer. Wade also views the sinking of the _Titanic_ as ending some sort of Great Romantic Era. Most would consider World War I more important in that regard.

I should probably also mention Arthur C. Clarke's fictional _The Ghost from the Grand Banks_ (1990), the last solo novel from the last of the great titans of Science Fiction, and the one who always gave the most attention to the science. It's not one of Clarke's great works, and the background comes almost entirely from Ballard and Lord (which made it rather pointless to cite it), but it is gives some genuine life to some of Ballard's more clinical descriptions of the dead hulk -- and also gives some actually useful ideas about how to raise the ship. - RBW

Historical references

  • April 14/15, 1912 - Shortly before midnight, ship's time, the Titanic strikes an iceberg and begins to sink. Only 711 survivors are found of 2224 people believed to have been aboard.


  • Mrs. John Powers, "The Titanic" (MacEdward Leach Collection, Songs of Atlantic Canada, Accession # 78-054 NFLD 1 Tape 2 Track 5)


  1. ST RcTita15 (Partial)
  2. Roud #774
  3. BI, RcTita15


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 2004 (Leach collection web site)
Keywords: sea ship wreck technology
Found in: Canada(Newf)