It has been 100 years since the Titanic that famously got the attention of media world-wide and dubbed as the “Unsinkable Ship”, “The ship even God can’t sink”, “God himself couldn’t sink this ship” etc., suffered a fatal collision with an ice-berg and sank within 4 days into sea on it’s maiden voyage.
It was 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912, a moonless, freezing Sunday night 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland. Most of the 2,224 passengers and crew were asleep, though a boisterous game of bridge was going in the First Class Smoking Room.
The jolt was so mild that many sleepers did not wake until the massive ship rumbled to a stop.
Even on the bridge, the captain and his officers didn’t yet realize that the brand new liner — her paint still fresh and her fittings still shiny — had been mortally wounded.
But she had only two hours and forty minutes to live. So did 1,522 of those aboard.
The Titanic’s maiden voyage came to an abrupt end that night. But in the public fascination, she steams ever on, a dazzling treasure ship of legends and stories that, in the end, has proven unsinkable.
“Only Jesus and the Civil War have been written about more,” says Harvard historian Steven Biel.
The 75-foot-tall iceberg scraped 300 feet of the Titanic’s starboard hull, popping rivets, buckling steel plates and opening her to the sea in six places.
The liner was built with 16 watertight compartments to keep her from sinking, but they had no tops. Like an ice cube tray, they filled with water and began spilling over into the next compartment. Titanic’s bow began to sink and her prow began to rise.
Captain Edward Smith, a beloved figure who was set to retire after this final trip,
summoned Thomas Andrews, the ship’s builder. Together they went below to find, to their horror, that the mailroom and squash court had already flooded.
Lifeboats were considered an eyesore, so the Titanic carried just 20 — enough to save only half of those aboard.
On a night so cold and still that survivors said they could see stars reflected in the glassy sea, Smith knew half the people on the liner were not going to be saved.
He told the wireless operators to start sending distress calls.
In an era when millionaires were the biggest celebrities of the day, the cream of New York and London society was on board: millionaire John Jacob Astor and his scandalously young child bride, industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim, Macy’s owner Isidor Straus and his wife, Ida, socialite Molly Brown, journalist William Thomas Stead and film actress Dorothy Gibson were among the 324 First Class passengers.
Wealthy fashion writer Edith Russell paid for two staterooms — one just for the clothes she was bringing home from Paris.
Below decks, immigrants from 28 countries — some who had never had indoor plumbing — enjoyed another version of luxury.
On deck, bewildered passengers had to be coaxed into the lifeboats. By the time the danger was apparent and panic set in, most boats had pulled away half-empty.
Chivalry dictated that women and children should take priority over men. In the confusion, one officer loading boats ordered “women and children first.” The other enforced “women and children only .”
This led to heartbreaking goodbyes as men put their wives and kids into the lifeboats, knowing they would not be reunited. Some men even stepped back onto the sinking ship from half-empty lifeboats so as not to appear ungallant.
Guggenheim went to his cabin and changed into his top hat and evening clothes. His valet did the same.
“We’ve dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen,” were the last words Guggenheim was heard to declare.
Some couples refused to be separated.
“Where you go, I go,” Ida Straus told her husband. The elderly couple was last seen in a pair of deck chairs, calmly awaiting the end.
While 61% of First Class survived, only 22% of Steerage did. Titanic became famous for “women and children first,” but it could more accurately be called “first class first.”
Rockets were fired to alert any nearby ships and the wireless operators sent out a new distress call — SOS — the first time it was ever used.
The RMS Carpathia, 58 miles away, was the closest ship to respond. It would take her four hours, going at top speed and risking her own hull in the ice field, to reach the Titanic.
Much nearer, close enough to save everyone, floated the SS Californian. Her radioman had turned off his wireless and gone to bed just 15 minutes before the Titanic began begging for help.
As the Titanic sank, Catholic priest Father Thomas Byles heard confessions at the stern and the ship’s band played sprightly airs to cheer those about to die.
Capt. Smith was last seen at the bridge, the quintessential captain who went down with his ship.
But White Star Line Chairman J. Bruce Ismay, the man responsible for the lack of lifeboats, escaped in one.
The Titanic slipped beneath the waves at 2:20 a.m. It broke in two under the surface and began its slow two-mile fall to the bottom.
Those who watched from the lifeboats said they were forever haunted by the unearthly sound that went up then: the cries of hundreds of people in the icy water begging for help.
Fifty-three were children.
The lifeboats, though mostly not full, did not go back to pick up the swimmers, fearing they would be swamped.
The cries did not last too long.
Chief Baker Charles Joughin famously made it through with unusual panache, largely due to his being completely pickled.
He strolled the decks, easily keeping his balance as everyone else fell over, and found himself standing on the outer rail of the ship as it sank. He rode Titanic down like an elevator, stepping off when he reached the sea and swimming away smoothly into the icy night.
“I do not believe my head went under the water at all,” he later told an official inquiry.
Full of whiskey and buoyed by his lifejacket, he paddled around for two and a half hours until he was pulled into a lifeboat. He lived another 44 years.
The Carpathia arrived at 4 a.m. and began pulling people out of lifeboats. A number had died overnight.
Carpathia Capt. Arthur Rostron set course for New York with the 706 human and three canine survivors, arriving at Pier 34 at Little West 12th St. on the evening of April 18.
Forty thousand New Yorkers stood on the waterfront — news of the sensational sinking had electrified the world.
Titanic has become part of history.
Credits : NyDailyNews.com