100 years ago today…

This post remembers and honors all those who lost their lives on the Titanic 100 years ago today. It gives me chills to imagine what those people felt as they waited for the boat to sink, and the unimaginable bravery of the band who carried on playing until the end …

The world hasn’t forgotten that 1,500 people drowned on an unsinkable ship.  According to an article by Andrew Wilson in the Smithsonian, the name “Titanic” is the third most widely recognized word in the world after “God”, and “Coca-Cola”

One of the Titanic lifeboats

Did you know that J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line (the company which built the Titanic), was on the ship when it sank?

Frances Wilson wrote in her book How to Survive the Titanic: The Sinking of J. Bruce Ismay (HarperCollins):

J. Bruce Ismay died on the night that his ship hit the iceberg, April 14, 1912. He died again in his bedroom 25 years later.

From the moment he jumped into a lifeboat along with the women and children, leaving 1,500 passengers behind to perish in the icy Atlantic, Ismay’s was a posthumous existence. His honor went down with the ship.

– – – –

Many Titanic survivors felt an overwhelming need to tell their tales, to turn the chaos into words, precisely because, as the second-class passenger Lawrence Beesley put it, the enormity of it all made “language … totally inadequate.”

Ismay, however, never willingly spoke of the Titanic again. He gave no account of the sinking in writing, either publicly or privately. When asked by the U.S. and British inquiries into the Titanic to describe the part he played in determining her excessive speed (it was understood that Ismay controlled the captain), her inadequate number of lifeboats (it had been Ismay’s decision to keep the number to a minimum so as not to clutter the decks), and the circumstances that led to his leaving behind him a leaking vessel teeming with panicked passengers, he responded less like a Captain of Industry than a figure in an absurdist drama.

“There were no passengers there to take on,” he explained when asked about those left on board when he jumped into the lifeboat.

“I did not look to see,” he said when to describe the final moments of his ship. **

“I really have not asked,” was his response to whether the wireless operators who had kept sending SOS messages until they were waist-high in water were now alive or dead.

Read the article here


** Dorothy Gibson the twenty-two-year-old silent movie star who watched the Titanic sink from a nearby lifeboat said, “No one can describe the frightful final sounds from the ship,” according to the article in the Smithsonian.

 

 

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40 Responses to 100 years ago today…

  1. shoreacres says:

    The tale of Ismay reminds me of the Captain of the Costa Concordia who claimed to have “fallen” into one of the lifeboats. Of course, the requirements for a Captain and a Chairman of a Line are quite different, legally, morally and traditionally. Still – the men seem to have shared a willingness to turn away from the consequences of their decisions.

    I’ve been fascinated by recent reports that a Fata Morgana, or arctic mirage, may have contributed to events that night. Weather records indicate that the Titanic may have been in the midst of an arctic high, which refracts light in such a way to create an artificial horizon. I’ve experiened a false horizon once in my life, on a road in west Texas, and it was a frightening and amazing experience. I’ll skip the science of it, but it convinced me that such a thing could have affected the fate of the Titanic.

    Just slightly off-topic – I used to work on a boat belonging to Phil Hardberger, an attorney who became Mayor of San Antonio. His wife, Linda, was a survivor of the sinking of the Andrea Doria. As I recall, she was about twelve at the time.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Linda,
      I didn’t hear that the captain of the Costa Concordia claimed he’d “fallen” into one of the lifeboats. Oh my…

      What I wondered when I read about the arctic mirage possibly causing the accident was why it wasn’t discovered before.

      Were you driving down a lonely stretch of road at night when you experienced the false horizon? My word Linda, you’ve had so many remarkable adventures. Enough to fill a book.

      I had to look up the Andrea Doria…
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Andrea_Doria
      Did you know that it was the last time two ocean liners collided? 1956
      What a traumatic experience for a twelve-year-old. I wonder whether surviving a sinking ship at that young age is seen as a fun adventure?

  2. Sybil says:

    shoreacres, took the words from my mouth. The first thing I thought of was the Costa Concordia, and the shameless behaviour of its captain.

    In Halifax (where I live), the Titanic is never far from our thoughts, as it is a part of our history too.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Sybil,
      So it seems that the Costa Concordia captain is going to become famous because he “fell” into the lifeboat, and not because his ship sank.

      I must admit that I hadn’t thought about your connection to the Titanic. There must’ve been people on the ship who were going to Canada and Halifax was the first stop for the luxury liner?

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Sybil,
      I understand your link to the Titanic. There was an article in today’s L.A. TImes which explained that ships from Halifax went out to pick up the bodies from the Titanic. That’s why so many Titanic victims are buried in “Fairview Lawn Cemetery”, and why your Maritime Museum has an exhibit on the Titanic.

  3. Hi Rosie, Yes, I’m up past my bedtime. But I wanted to say that it is indeed an important date to remember, the sinking of such an infamous ship, and I’m glad you took the time to post about it. Can’t I stay up late, to enjoy stories such as these? 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, but good gosh Melissa it’s after midnight your time! What are you doing up so late? I hope you’re able to sleep in a bit tomorrow.

  4. souldipper says:

    I listened to people who were relatives of some of the Titanic people talk about the feelings conjured as they sailed over the spot knowing the Titanic was below them.

    I was also listening to all the important stuff learned by this disaster – that is still applied today. One thing is the number of life boats – as mentioned. Also the number of life jackets – apparently there was not one for every person aboard. Another factor is having a sound system that assures messages getting through to everyone everywhere. Apparently the message to abandon ship was not relayed effectively or properly because folks did not believe it. They thought it was a hoax.

    Mind you, how would they have abandoned ship when there weren’t enough lifeboats?

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Amy,
      Interesting to think of the things that we take for granted like a proper sound system on a boat. How did they alert the passengers 100 years ago?

      I hadn’t heard that folks thought the abandon ship call was a hoax, but I’m not surprised, after all they were sailing on the so-called “unsinkable ship” and I guess the people who survived were the ones who believed the message and were first in the lifeboats.

  5. magsx2 says:

    HI,
    A great post in memory of those that died that terrible night aboard this ship. It was such a tragedy. It must of been terrifying for those on board, I just can’t imagine what it would of been like in the pitch black of night.

    I have a post ready to go in early tomorrow in Drafts, but thank goodness totally different, no doubt there will be a few posts about seeing as how it is the 100 year anniversary of the sinking.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Mags,
      Its interesting how many of us have written posts on the Titanic yet they’re all different. I can’t bear to even think of what it must’ve been like for those
      hundreds of people left on the ship.

      Your post was very moving.Where did you find the telegram about the two-year-old boy with “unable to identify” written on the bottom? I can’t imagine how awful it must’ve been to try to identify the bodies.

      • magsx2 says:

        There is a link on my blog to a lot of the original telegrams that were saved from the Titanic, as well as the original newspaper story’s.
        It is amazing the amount of information that has come out for this 100 year anniversary. Personally I have learned a lot more than what I originally knew about the Titanic.

      • dearrosie says:

        There’s been an enormous flood of information about the ship for the 100th anniversary
        There was an article in today’s L.A. TImes which explained that while the Carpathia picked up the survivors, several ships from Halifax (in Canada) went out to pick up the bodies which explains why 112 Titanic victims are buried in “Fairview Lawn Cemetery” in Halifax.

  6. sonali says:

    I watched the movie in 3D last sunday. It was a very disheartening situation, even now to watch the people drown into the ocean. So many dead bodies floating in the icy chilled waters. Perhaps, the situation was such that the captain just showed his reaction without much thoughts at that point of time. When it comes to life and death situation, everyone would naturally save their own lives first. But indeed, a great disaster to happen. hundred years back. I wonder the life of those women and children who survived and their men who were left behind. 😦 sad.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Sonali,
      Nice to welcome you here. I saw the Titanic movie when it came out but I can’t imagine seeing it again and in 3-D.
      None of us can know how we’d react in a life and death situation like this one. We can say of course we’d give up our place in the lifeboat for a child or stay on the ship and drown with our pets (which some people did) but we don’t know…

      Interesting to think about the life of the women and children who survived while their husband/father drowned. I’m sure there was a lot of survivor’s guilt.

  7. Kathy says:

    It was good to read another story reminding us of the Titanic, Rose. Was thinking this morning about how the band played and played up to the moment of their death, sharing their souls with everyone. Thank you for sharing your soul here.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Kathy,
      It’s a pleasure to see you here again after such a long time.

      When the band played on the music was heard by the people on the ship as well as in the lifeboats scattered about. There were no final cell phone calls or text messages one hundred years ago, the music connected their souls.

  8. Arindam says:

    Great post. To be honest I did not know the story of titanic to such depth. It was such a terrible event. For the first time I came across the story of Titanic during 1998, when this movie got release in India. During those days, print media was more powerful than electronic media in this part of world. So news papers& magazines were full of articles about the titanic & what happened after it got hit by a iceberg. It was a really sad story.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hello Arindam,
      It was a dreadful accident but most of those people drowned because there weren’t enough life boats. Too awful to contemplate.
      I wonder whether Indian citizens were on the ship?

  9. This is certainly a timely piece. And still you brought up information I was not aware of. It’s comforting that they have found the remains/wreckage after not knowing for decades her exact location. May we never forget and be mindful that the latest engineering/technology/design can be very fallible. So many rockets went up during the space program by the grace of God.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Georgette,
      It is good that we know where the wreckage lies. I heard on the radio that people on the memorial shipm which followed the exact course of the Titanic
      had a little service over the site of the wreckage and threw flower wreaths today. It must’ve been a very solemn occasion. I hope the souls of those who drowned are at peace.

  10. That’s an interesting fact about Titanic being the third most recognizable name! I have been so interested in many articles and documentaries circulating this month. It seems there has been more focus on the second and third class passengers than in previous years, and we watched an incredibly moving PBS documentary on the men in the boiler room and their valiant efforts to prevent loss of life. I think it’s a wonderful thing that we continue to remember the lost 100 years later. It was such a tragedy. Thanks for including the words from the Captain’s wife. Very moving indeed! Debra

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Debra,
      I didn’t catch the PBS documentary. I cant imagine the bravery of those men in the boiler room.

      I learned so much from your post on the TItanic. I’ve never gone to a Titanic exhibition or read any of the books on the disaster so I didn’t know that a first class ticket was so awfully expensive “$2,500” [or $57,000 today] or that there were only two bathtubs for the 700 passengers in third class,

  11. aFrankAngle says:

    Thanks for adding just another story abut the Titanic that I didn’t know.

  12. Despite the loss of life on the Titanic and talk of improved safety, some of the survivors of the Costa Concordia said they felt it was 1912 all over again. Some of life boats were UNABLE to be deployed because the ship was at too severe an angle for the mechanism to slide. Passengers had to tie sheets together and go down the side. Now, I ask you, how could that NOT be the number one thing makers of life boats consider???
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2087785/Costa-Concordia-Infrared-video-passengers-clambering-lifeboats-dark.html

    Traveling by cruise ship is NOT on my travel wish list.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hello EOS
      Good lord I hadn’t heard those details about the Costa Concordia. When I heard about the accident I was too upset to read all the details.

      Thanks for the link. Amazing to read about the crew members who put on their life jackets before the passengers were even told the ship was sinking, and ran screaming “I don’t want to die…” Talk about panic!

      You know when we sent a man to the moon, Paul Fisher, an American pen manufacturer, challenged himself to invent a pen that would write in space. His Fisher Space Pen can write in zero gravity, underwater, over wet and greasy paper, at any angle, and in very wide temperature range. We can send men to the moon and back, come up with a pen that writes in zero gravity, so coming up with a mechanism which enables lifeboats to be deployed no matter what kind of angle the ship happens to find itself, is not too much of a challenge.

      I too haven’t been on a cruise.

  13. Nandini says:

    My goodness 😦

    Thanks for sharing this information, Rosie. Titanic is really close to my heart.

  14. bronxboy55 says:

    I can’t read about the Titanic, or other cruise ships that have sunk, without feeling haunted by what must have been a terrifying experience. It’s easy to forget how powerful nature is, and how close to the edge we sometimes locate our comfort and luxury. Even now, a hundred years later, cruise ships still go down.

    “God” and “Coca-Cola.” I wish I could say I’m surprised.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Charles,
      I cannot imagine how terrifying and awful it must’ve been to drown on that poor ship. But the band played on!

      Some of the Titanic memorials included copies of State rooms on the ship. My word they were luxurious!

      I wonder whether there are any people left on the earth who don’t know what Coca-Cola means.

  15. I just watched the episode of Nova on PBS a couple of nights ago, “Why Ships Sink.” It was very informative and had many scientific explanations about the center of buoyancy in relation to the center of gravity on ships, all of it pretty much over my head but still riveting. When I was a teen I sailed across the ocean in a cruise ship with my parents and my sister and thankfully it was an uneventful passage. However, being in the middle of the ocean and not seeing land anywhere on the circle of the horizon for several days was very unnerving, especially at night. My heart goes out to all those who have been lost at sea over the ages, including many of my own sea-faring ancestors and the ones who perished on the Titanic. I can only imagine the terror…

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Barbara,
      I’m never disappointed with those Nova shows on PBS. I’m sorry I missed it.

      I’m sure I’d also feel nervous being on a boat in the middle of the ocean with no sign of land for days. Must’ve been a wonderful adventure for a young teen to be on a cruise ship!

      You have some interesting ancestors. I don’t believe I’ve heard about your sea-faring relatives who were lost at sea.

  16. Priya says:

    I avoided anything to do with Titanic for years after my brother’s death. We both secretly believed we were on it in our last birth, until one day, we both blabbered to each other about recurring nightmares (almost the same ones) we had as children about being on a sinking ship. Titanic reminds me of him. We watched Titanic the movie together and I am pretty sure we were the only two in the movie hall who weren’t thinking of Leonardo de Caprio or the direction or Kate Winslet. Or wondering how horrifying the experience must’ve been. We could, somehow, understand it. 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      Dear Priya,
      I thank you most sincerely for sharing your story with me. I can only imagine how hard it must’ve been to write it.

      How amazing that your recurring nightmare was almost the same as your late brother’s. Did your parents know that both their children had nightmares that they’d drowned on a sinking ship?

      We who watched the movie “Titanic” wondered about the horrifying experience of being on a sinking ship without realizing that perhaps there were people in the audience who knew.

      Did watching the movie help you get rid of your nightmare?

      • Priya says:

        It wasn’t difficult to write it, Rosie. It’s all become a part of a very distant memory — something I can completely live with.

        The funny bit is that even though our nightmares were the same, none of us knew that until my brother and I shared the nightmare. Our parents heard only about ‘fire’ and then ‘drowning’ from me. And ‘running’ and then ‘eaten by a shark’ from my brother. Our dreams stopped as soon as they’d started. I think much before we turned 10.

        My brother first got fascinated about the Titanic when he read about it in our grade 11/12 English comprehension book. (There was a chapter on it). Three years later, when I read the same book, it piqued my interest, too. And that’s when we talked. It was exciting more than anything else! Such a coincidence!

  17. Thanks for letting me camp out in your blog for a little while today. I had a great time and tried to leave my campsite as good as when I arrived. I’ll be back!

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Russel
      You’re always welcome to camp out in my blog. I’m delighted to meet a considerate camper who leaves the campsite as good as when he arrived.
      Look forward to seeing you back.

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