On April 14, 1912, RMS Titanic was making headway on its maiden voyage. It was a moonless night, accompanied by a cold, calm ocean ahead. Suddenly, the bridge crew were alerted to the presence of an iceberg ahead. The ship’s engines were reversed, and the ship turned away from the iceberg; however, it was too late. At 11:40 PM, Titanic, along with 1,523 passengers, were doomed to rest two miles below the surf.
At the turn of the 20th century, the innovations of man were not only turning towards practicality, but they were also heading towards the luxurious. The world was teetering on the edge of a new age of invention. Just as the last century had brought machinery to lend a helping hand, electricity to brighten our nights, and the telephone to connect the globe, new ideas boasted further changes to the status quo.
In 1907, plastic was invented. In 1808, the Model T and radio transmission were invented. In 1911, the RMS Titanic was launched from Belfast, Ireland. With Titanic, trans-atlantic travel was to be revolutionized: state of the art technology and design. While not in the running for the fastest cruise liner, Titanic boasted an extravagant and magnificent experience on the sea, all through-out her 92 foot breadth. The level of pomp Titanic exuded could be compared to the lavish lifestyle of the Jazz Age (1920s). If only it sailed to its prime.
Olympic, the sister ship, and Titanic became crystal jewels in the White Star Line’s repertoire, blowing up international news. More than 100,000 people from all over Ireland gathered to witness the 27,000 ton behemoth launch out of Belfast, Ireland. The premature title of the “practically unsinkable” ship came from Thomans Andrew’s remarks, one of the ship’s designers. With New York City, the epicenter of American immigration, selected as the destination of Titanic’s maiden voyage, the ship took on greater meaning for the downtrodden.
Titanic set sail from Southampton on April 10, 1912 and took stops at Cherbourg, France and Cobh, Ireland to pick up and drop off passengers. From Cobh, named “Queenstown” in 1912, Titanic was estimated to arrive in New York in 4-5 days; a longer travel time than rival ships. At the helm was Captain Edward John Smith, a decorated captain: 42 years of experience on the sea, 32 years with the White Star Line, 26 years of experience traversing the North Atlantic, and 18 years commanding White Star Line vessels. Nobody but the “millionaires captain” could have been chosen for this historic voyage.
Despite a veteran captain and the most modern engineering principles applied the craftsmanship, Titanic is famous for being the ship which sank. The disaster gripped the world for both the significant loss of life, 1,517 lives, and the irony of the situation: how could Titanic sink? Scientists and researchers have explored explanations to this question, and various theories have surfaced.
Could Titanic have survived a head on collision? Did the grand staircase doom the ship? Was a coal fire in the engine responsible for the 300 ft gash below the waterline caused by the iceberg? Was Captain Smith culpable? Was the absence of binoculars a detriment, or was a mirage responsible for the surprise iceberg? Could have the crisis been averted if iceberg warnings were received by Captain Smith? Even after the collision, could more lives have been saved?