The Tragic 'Titanic' - In Film and History
There can be very few people, who have not heard of the 'Royal Mail Ship (RMS) Titanic'.
'Titanic' was a huge ocean-going liner, built by Harland and Wolff, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 100 years ago, between 1909 and 1911.
It was launched at Southampton, by the White Star Line of Liverpool, on the tenth of April, 1912.
Thence to Cherbourg, France, and, finally, to its last port of call ~ Queenstown, in Southern Ireland (formerly Cove of Cork; now Cobh) ~ before setting sail for New York, in the United States of America.
She never arrived.
Her story has been told many times ~ in films and in books; fictionalised and memoir.
She is one of the most famous ships of all time.
Map of Titanic's Route
Books: Owners and Builders
Shipbuilders to the World
White Star Line
White Star Line and Harland + Wolff
The original White Star Line which, even then, concentrated on voyages from Liverpool to New York, went bankrupt and was bought out by Thomas Ismay, early in 1868.
Having set up offices at Albion House in Liverpool, Ismay received an offer of financial support from a successful local businessman, Gustav Christian Schwabe. This was on the understanding that White Stars ships would be built by his nephew's company, 'Harland and Wolff'. Thus a partnership began.
By the time the 'Titanic' set sail, Thomas Ismay's son, Joseph Bruce Ismay, was chairman and managing director of an American-owned White Star Line, his father having died in 1899. J Bruce Ismay was, in effect, the owner. He was also one of the passengers. He survived. Some claimed that he was a coward, who jumped into a lifeboat with no thought for anyone else. He denied this, alleging that he helped a lot of women and children before making his own escape.
'Harland and Wolff' were ~ and still are ~ a company of Belfast shipbulders, formed in 1861. Edward J Harland bought the shipyard where he had worked from his employers, with financial aid from merchant, Gustav Christian Schwabe. Harland then took on his one-time assistant, Gustav W Wolff, as his partner. Wolff also happened to be Schwabe's nephew.
Harland died in 1895, some time before 'Titanic' was constructed, but Wolff lived until 1913.
By this time ~ indeed since 1902 ~ 'White Star' belonged to the American 'International Mercantile Marine Co.'.
Apart from 'Titanic', Harland and Wolff also built her White Star sister ships, the 'Olympic' and the 'Britannic'. The 'Canberra' (a Cunard ship) was another well-known vessel, produced at their shipyard. And there were several others. Indeed, their own history, published in 1986, had the title 'Shipbuilders to the World'.
Harland + Wolff, Queens Road, Belfast. Early 1911. Note 'Titanic' in background.
Books - Scores of them are available
The Titanic, the world's then largest ship, was considered 'unsinkable' ~ or, at least, 'virtually unsinkable' ~ and, accordingly, a full set of life boats was deemed unnecessary ~ although it actually had more than the legal minimum!
When the ship set off, to New York, USA, many of those onboard must have been filled with excitement about being a part of this historic maiden voyage ~ and also about being on the cusp of a new life in the New World.
Many would have been feeling sad at leaving their old life behind. Many, too, must have felt uneasy at crossing an entire ocean, over a number of weeks. Luckily, they believed that their ship would not fail them: it could not go down.
Snopes.com is a site, which checks out urban legends. Is it true or false that a White Star Line employee claimed that "God himself could not sink this ship"? It's hard to know for sure, but the line did indicate that the ship was unsinkable. This is a quote from the site:
'The February 1993 issue of The Titanic Commutator unearthed a White Star promotional flyer for the Olympic and Titanic that claimed that "as far as it is possible to do, these two wonderful vessels are designed to be unsinkable".'
Diagram: Side Plan of Titanic
The Titanic, with her eleven decks, measured 104 feet from keel-base to bridge-top.
She was nearly 883 feet in length, by a maximum of 92 feet 6 inches.
Her gross register tonnage was 46,328
There were several miles of corridor.
For more detail / larger image, click on diagram.
Details of decks and facilities ~ and social segregation ~ can be found here:
Setting Sail from Southampton - F.G.O. Stuart
Books: The Passengers
Amazon price actually seems to be $17.12
In this pre-first-world-war age, life was still lived as it had been for generations.
Class was paramount. The rich lived in luxury and had servants; the poor went without and often became servants. Everyone knew their place.
Things were no different aboard the Titanic.
The wealthy and the aristocratic inhabited their opulent luxury of 'First Class', with its numerous high-quality facilities, while their social inferiors inhabited second and third class ~ according to their social status.
Luxury - Grand Staircase, Dining Room, Gymnasium
DVD - Fictionalised - Other Formats / Editions May Be Available
1958: Realistic docudrama
1997: James Cameron's $200 million disaster epic
'Titanic; One Voyage, A World Of Untold Stories' ~ Julian Fellowes
On 14th April, Titanic, the supposedly unsinkable ship was travelling through the freezing cold waters of the North Atlantic, when it hit an iceberg.
It was just a glancing blow, along a submerged shelf of ice, but the ice tore into the side of the vessel in several places.
The damage would prove fatal to many.
The watertight compartments and watertight doors, which had inspired so much confidence, were of no use once they were damaged by the collision.
On 15th April, the supposedly unsinkable sank.
* * *
The rest is history ~ and also the stuff of fiction, or, rather, 'faction'.
'Titanic Sinking' by Willy Stöwer
Books - Various Formats May Be Available
Icy water came aboard. Decks were flooded. Bolts and rivets froze and shattered. The unsinkable began to sink. The vessel groaned and split apart as it was swallowed by the ocean's depths.
This enormous human tragedy has remained in the memory of the peoples involved ~ the British and Irish; the Americans, Canadians and others, including many Scandinavians.
Well over 2000 people were on board at the time ~ from the very rich, to the relatively poor.
There were only enough life-boats for 1,178 people.
Only about 700 or so people survived. Reports vary regarding actual numbers of deaths.
Some boats were launched unfilled.
A 'women and children first' ideal, resulted in a huge number of men ~ the breadwinners for most families ~ losing their lives.
Drowning and hypothermia killed about 1500 souls. Some, who had found air-pockets within the ship, died when water pressure caused implosions.
* * *
RMS Carpathia picked up the shocked survivors and took them on to New York.
Cunard's RMS Carpathia
Titanic Orchestra - And the Band Played On ...
Book: 'And the Band Played On' - What happened on board?
Five of the six 'first class' children and all 24 of the 'second class' children survived, but only 27 of the 79 'third class' children on board could be saved.
Two interesting statistics concern the 'first class' females compared to the 'second class' males. Ninety-seven percent of the former ~ ie 140 women ~ survived; ninety-two percent of the latter ~ ie 154 men ~ died.
Altogether, those who survived the tragedy included 202 of the 325 'first class' passengers; 118 of the 285 'second class' passengers, 178 of the 706 'third class' passengers and 212 of the 908 crew members.
* * *
Among the crew who died were the band members, who, apparently, played on, heroically, until the very end.
Captain Edward John Smith also perished, as did the ship's designer, who was also on board.
[Information courtesy of Wikipedia]
Suffragettes and the Titanic
According to the discussion on a recent BBC Radio 4 programme, the amount of chivalry shown on the Titanic was unusual, with women and children genuinely being given first option of life-boats and men gallantly going down with the ship. There were not enough life-boats for all.
Apparently, as a result of this tragedy, the Suffragette movement coined a new demand ~ 'Votes for Women! Boats for Men!'
However, scientist, Professor Heinz Wolff, reminded listeners that, if a ship were to have enough life-boats to save everyone, then it would need seats for twice the number of people on board, for, when a ship is damaged, it tends to list, and the boats on one side become useless.
The Californian. April 2012.
DVD - Documentary - Other Formats / Editions May Be Available
'Death of a Dream'; 'The Legend Lives On'; Titanic's Achilles Heel'.
Curiosity: What Sank Titanic? - Dangerous Films Ltd., Titanic: Birth of a Legend - Granada Television for ITV, Titanic: Anatomy of a Disaster - Stardust Visual and llipse Programme with the cooperation of RMS Titanic, Inc.
"Perhaps the most important discovery in underwater exploration was Dr. Robert Ballard 1985 detection of the wreckage of the "unsinkable" S.S. Titanic on the Atlantic floor. "
The Controversial Californian
The Californian, captained by Stanley Lord, set sail from Liverpool for Boston, on 5th April, 1912.
On Sunday evening, 14th April, the Californian, like the Titanic, was heading into an ice field, south of Newfoundland's 'Grand Banks'.
Having received warnings that three sizeable icebergs had been sighted, Lord slowed the ship, doubled the look-out and had the warning passed on to Antillian, by his wireless operator, Cyril Evans.
The Titanic apparently heard this ice warning.
That evening, wireless operator Harold Bride conveyed the warning to the bridge.
When the extent of the ice and the seriousness of their predicament were noted by Captain Lord, he ordered that the Californian should stop moving until daybreak.
Captain Lord thought that he noticed a ship's light, not too far away.
Third Officer C.V. Groves described seeing a liner, with many decks lit up, and the Californian's firemen, Ernest Gill, also saw a ship steaming ahead.
Lord questioned Evans about other shipping in the area. “Only the Titanic”, replied Evans. Lord ordered him to contact the liner and inform the crew that California had stopped in ice.
Meanwhile, Titanic's wireless operator, Jack Phillips, seems to have been busy dealing with numerous personal messages, via Cape Race wireless station, so, in response to Evans' attempt at an ice warning, Phillips apparently responded; "Shut up, Shut up, I’m working Cape Race."
Groves suggested contacting the Titanic using Morse lamps, but their message was not acknowledged.
Second Officer Herbert Stone also tried, unsuccessfully, to signal Titanic with the Morse lamp.
When Titanic hit the iceberg, it was a glancing blow and the seriousness of the situation would not have been noted immediately.
A few minutes after the collision, Titanic's lookout, Frederick Fleet saw a ship close to their own.
By the time Titanic's first distress call went out, about 25 minutes later, it would appear that the Californian's radio had been turned off for the night, without the automatically operated detector having been set. They did not pick up any of Titanic's calls for help.
Rockets, indicating that Titanic was in danger, were set off, but were not interpreted as distress flares. Indeed, it seems that Californian's crew may have assumed that they were having a party on board.
Gill saw two rockets, but decided that it was 'not his business to notify the bridge or look-outs' and went back to bed.
At around 2am, on 15th April, crew aboard the California thought that they saw the lit-up liner leaving the area.
Titanic did, indeed, begin to move, again, after the collision, but stopped when it was noted that this movement was causing water to come on board ever faster.
By 2.20 Titanic had disappeared from sight. The Californian's crew assumed that it had steamed away.
However, at 2:20, the 'unsinkable' Titanic had sunk.
An hour or so later, Californian's Second Officer Stone and Crewman James Gibson saw more the rockets. The Carpathia was signalling its arrival, as it raced to the site of the Titanic's accident. Californian's crew were still ignorant of what had happened.
As Californian's captain and crew began planning their day, on Sunday 15th April, they heard the dreadful news that, just a few short miles away, the Titanic had sunk during the night.
They looked for survivors, but without success.
The Californian had no passengers on board and, if only things had gone differently, she could possibly have rescued many of Titanic's doomed souls that night.
Or, maybe, in an ice-field, in the middle of the night, she, too, may have hit an iceberg and perished.
RMS Titanic 1912
Books: Carpathia and Californian
Carpathia and Californian
From the Amazon Product Review for 'The Other Side of the Night:The Carpathia, the Californian, and the Night theTitanic Was Lost':
'... the most amazing drama of those fateful hours ... took place on the decks of two other ships, one fifty-eight miles distant ...the other barely ten miles away.
'The masters of the steamships Carpathia and Californian ... actions in the hours ... that followed would become the stuff of legend...'
White Star Line Poster
Titanic Captain Edward J. Smith
Step-Into-Reading, Step 4, for age 7+
Edward Smith, from Stoke, in the English North Midlands, first went to sea when he was 13, and he joined White Star in 1880.
He did well and was popular with his rich passengers ~ earning him the epithet "Millionaires' Captain". He also earned the 'Royal Naval Reserve's long service decoration'.
The best-paid sailor in the world, Smith was experienced and trusted and he was given command of all new ships on their maiden voyages ~ including the new very large liners that White Star were launching.
The ill-fated Titanic, the newest, largest White Star ocean liner, would be his last command. He went down with his ship.
There is a memorial statue to Captain Smith in the Midlands town of Lichfield, Staffordshire.
On the accompanying plaque, these words may be found:
"Commander Edward John Smith, RD, RNR.
Born January 27 1850, Died April 15 1912,
Bequeathing to his countrymen the memory and example of a great heart, a brave life and a heroic death.
Information from Wikipedia.
For more details see:
'Arrival of the "ship of sorrow" at New York'. 4th May 1912
Titanic Passenger List
The Titanic's passenger list was published in newspapers of the time, so it is available to study.
One can find, online, names of both victims and survivors; names of passengers from all classes on board; names of crew members.
In the News: New York Herald
Where is the Titanic now?
It still lies at the bottom of the ocean ~ a huge maritime coffin and memorial. to and for its many victims.
The broken wreck of the Titanic was rediscovered, in 1985, by Dr. Robert Ballard. It lay in the Atlantic, somewhere arounf 350 miles to the south-east of Newfoundland, but not exactly where expected, based on where it was reported to have gone down.
Having announced that Titanic lay in '13,000 feet of water', Ballard said:
"It is a quiet and peaceful and fitting place for the remains of this greatest of sea tragedies to rest. May it forever remain that way and may God bless these found souls."
Source of quote: http://www.titanic-titanic.com/titanic_wreck_location.shtml
Wreck of the Titanic
Aftermath: Exploring the Wreck
Underwater archaeologists and researchers have been investigating this world-famous wreck ever since it was re-discovered in 1985. It is a delicate project ~ in more ways than one.
Documentaries have been made.
Its story has achieved an almost mythical quality.
Catharsis has been sought by telling and re-telling the story of how the ship went down; how lives were lost in the freezing waters; how people tried desperately to find life-boats; how the lower class people in their lower-situated berths had a terrible time even getting on deck.
Catharsis may or may not have been achieved for some, but income has certainly been generated for others. References to the disaster were made in the drama series 'Upstairs Downstairs' and 'Downton Abbey'. and a number of emotional films have been produced.
In 1953, Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck starred in the oscar-winning film 'Titanic', directed by Jean Negulesco. It concerns a family falling apart.
As with the 1997 film of the same name, it tells a personal, fictional, story against the larger true story of the demise of the Titanic.
According to Amazon, this film 'still captures the emotional impact of Titanic's ultimate fate'.
'A Night to Remember'
A Night to Remember
Amazon: Lord's 'semisequel ... tackles ... remaining mysteries about the unnecessary calamity in a methodical, but quite readable, fashion.'
1958: 'A Night to Remember',
A truly memorable Titanic movie is the film, 'A Night to Remember', which tells the story of Titanic's tragic maiden voyage. It was released in 1958, starring Kenneth More.
It was based on a non-fiction book of the same name, written by John Walter Lord, Jr and published in 1955.
Lord based his account on the available facts and on the eyewitness accounts of over 60 survivors. (Lord's second book about this blighted ship was written over 30 years laters and titled 'The Night Lives On'.) The film is considered to be more of a 'docudrama' than a fictional rendition, and historians have congratulated it on its accuracy. A crew survivor, Fourth Officer Commander Joseph Groves Boxhall, was one of the technical advisors for the project.
'A Night To Remember'
1997: 'Titanic' - the Movie
In 1997, the epic film, 'Titanic' was released, starring Leonardo fi caprio and Kate Winslet. (Titanic the Movie)
Their characters' fictional love story plays out against the backdrop of the Titanic's genuine tragedy.
Models of the ship were constructed in order to ensure a very realistic effect. The film was a huge success.
The enormity and reality of this true story of death was brought home to viewers, who empathised with the fictional story of love and loss.
Various Titanic videos ~ mainly DVD ~ are available.
'Titanic' - 1997 Film
1997: Official Trailer
Titanic; One Voyage, A World Of Untold Stories' ~ by Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey)
2012: 'Titanic; One Voyage, A World Of Untold Stories'.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's first and only voyage, Julian Fellowes, creator of 'Downton Abbey', has written a series of televised stories, illustrating life on board the ship for its various passengers ~ 'Titanic; One Voyage, A World Of Untold Stories'.
Some have affectionalty described it as 'Downton at Sea'.
'A World of Untold Stories'
Southampton: Memorial to the Titanic's Engineers
Memorials and Museums
Liverpool has a monument to the men of the engine room ~ 224 'heros'. It is situated on the Pier head.
Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall has a memorial dedicated to the musicians who perished.
Liverpool was the home of the White Star Line, owners of The Titanic.
Belfast's monument to Titanic's dead ~ depicting mermaids handing over a victim of the wreck to a figure of Thane, goddess of death ~ was designed by Thomas Brock (1847 – 1922).
From the 10th to the 17th of April, 2012, a special Titanic exhibition will be open at Belfast City Hall, Belfast. One of the exhibits is a beautiful 1:42nd scale model of the liner, constructed by Peter Davies-Garner, using Harland & Wollf's original drawings.
'Titanic Belfast' is a large new 9-galleried, multi-dimensional 'visitor experience'. This 'vast project' was planned to 'rejuvenate the waterfront area 'on the very site' where the Titanic was built'.
Belfast, Northern Ireland, is where the ship was built for the White Star Line.
Southampton, England, has a memorial dedicated specifically to the Titanic's engineers. It was unveiled in April 1914. Appropriately, Sir Archibald Denny, president of the Institute of Marine Engineers, did the honours, saying: "They must have known that pumping could do no more than delay the final catastrophe, yet they stuck pluckily to their duty ... Driven back from boiler-room to boiler-room, fighting for every inch of draught to give time for the launching of the boats, not one of those brave officers was saved".
Southampton also has a memorial to the Titanic's musicians and to the ship's stewards.
Southampton was the port from which Titanic finally set sail from England.
Cobh's memorial commemorates 'her last port of call on her maiden and final voyage'. It is dedicated to all of the lost lives and particularly notes that it is 'in special memory of the Irish emigrants ....'
Cobh, in Cork, Eire, has a 'Titanic Trail' and the town's museum will have a special Titanic exhibition, running from March until October 2012.
Cobh ~ then known as Queenstown ~ was Titanic's last port of call.
New York, USA, has an unusual memorial, in the form of a lighthouse, as its tribute to Titanic's loss. Originally it was sited on the roof of the Seamans's Church Institute, but is now at the entrance to the Seaport Museum in the historic South Street Seaport area of the city.
New York was the city for which Titanic was bound ~ and where the survivors were taken.
Washington, D.C's Titanic Memorial, in the form of a male figure, is dedicated to 'the brave men who perished ... that women and children might be saved'.
A copy of just the head is in the Musée du Luxembourg, in Paris, France.
Britain's Royal Mint has released a centenery £5 coin in remembrance of Titanic's 1912 voyage. It shows an image of Thane, as in the Belfast memorial statue, watching over the stricken ship.
There is even a Titanic board game ~ or there was; it was available in Britain during 1998-99.
There is to be a series of 100th Anniversary 'Titanic Memorial Cruises', organised by Miles Morgan Travel, during 2012.
A musical centenery memorial is being presented at Birmingham Town Hall (UK) on 13th April. Gavin Bryars’ composition pays tribute to the musicians who reportedly played 'Autumn' as the ship went down and there are references to this piece within the new work.
According to thre website of the Town Hall and Symphony Hall: "Themes from the hymn are woven into a timeless soundscape that creates a beautiful sense of sound sinking through cavernous depths, of memory and loss, and of history submerged in time."
Smethwick's Soho Foundry, near Birmingham, UK, is hosting a centenery exhibition '1912: A TITANIC ODYSSEY - CENTENARY EXHIBITION'
William Edward Hipkins, Managing Director of W. & T. Avery Limited, Soho Foundry, was a victim of the Titanic disaster.
There are a number of memorials dedicated to individuals who perished.
Sisters: Olympic and Titanic. March 6, 1912
Memorials and Museums References and further details:
1898: 'Wreck of the Titan'
'The Wreck of the Titan' by Morgan Robertson
'The Wreck of the Titan' is a novel, published in 1898, by Morgan Robertson and it has nothing, whatsoever, to do with the 'Titanic'.
Or does it?
Many have heard of this old book and wondered ...
This work of fiction concerns a British ocean going liner, the 'Titan', so-named because it was the largest ship ever built. She was considered unsinkable, so carried fewer life-boats than was necessary ~ yet she did sink, after hitting an iceberg, in the North Atlantic, during the month of April, resulting in huge loss of life.
Coincidence? ~ Probably!
Prophecy? ~ Possibly!
Strange? ~ Definitely!
Titanic Tragedy - Kindle E-Book
A Rare Titanic Family: The Caldwells' Story
Some Kindle Titles available From Amazon:
There are numerous books available on this subject ~ hardcover, paperback, electronic, Here are some that are offered by Amazon for Kindle.
'A Rare Titanic Family: The Caldwells' Story of Survival' ~ Julie Hedgepeth Williams
'Women of the Titanic Disaster' ~ Sylvia Caldwell + Julie Hedgepeth Williams
'Titanic Passenger Stories' ~ Richard Clarke
'Titanic Tragedy: A New Look at the Lost Liner' ~ by John Maxtone-Graham
'Titanic - The Facts, History and Stories' ~ LTJ Publishing
Titanic at Southampton Docks
Some Sources + Further Information
- The Sinking of TITANIC
- Exhibit: Titanic Memorandum
- Harland and Wolff - 1
- Harland And Wolff - 2
- Harland and Wolff - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- White Star Line - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- J. Bruce Ismay - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- International Mercantile Marine Co. - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Albion House, Liverpool - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Wreck of the RMS Titanic - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- HMHS Britannic - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- RMS Olympic - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- RMS Carpathia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- SS Californian - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Joseph Boxhall - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- A Night to Remember (1958 film) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- A Night to Remember (1958) - IMDb
- Walter Lord - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Titanic (1997 film) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- James Cameron - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- File:Titanic breaks in half.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Titanic-Titanic.com - RMS Titanic Information, News, Research & More
- RMS Carpathia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
'A Night to Remember' - VHS
In The News
Eyewitness Accounts: Oral history
Hear eyewitness accounts from Titanic survivors, from the BBC:
Film of the Titanic and Interviews with survivors
Pictures from the Ship
April 2, 1912: Titanic Sea Trials
The Titanic at National Geographic
- Titanic: 100 Years -- National Geographic Channel
National Geographic Channel marks the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking with a new two-hour special lead by acclaimed director and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron.
Royal Mail Ship Titanic
Breathtaking Images of the Wreckage
Copyright and Acknowledgements
Thanks to Wikimedia Commons and to all those who make their photographs and other images available for the use of others.
Thanks to Wikipedia, a valuable free source of online information.
Thanks to all other online sources ~ named within the text.
Thanks to TV documentary 'Inside The Titanic' from Channel 5.
Quotes have been credited. Sources have been listed.
Please note that I retain the copyright to my own written words.