{01/04/2012}   RMS Titanic

At 11.40pm on 14th April 1912 on her maiden voyage to New York (having set sail from Southampton on 10th April, stopping at Cherbourg then Queenstown/Cobh in Ireland, from where her Atlantic crossing commenced on 11th April), RMS Titanic hit an iceberg, after six iceberg warnings had gone unheeded. Approximately two hours and forty minutes later, at c2.20am on 15th April, RMS Titanic disappeared under the sea, not to be discovered until 74 years later, in 1986.

Royal Mail Ship Titanic, as well as being a passenger ship, was also a designated post carrier, complete with onboard post office. Most of the c seven million items of mail were destined for the US, so if by some miracle any post is ever retrieved, the US Postal Service will still deliver the post.

The sea temperature at that time was -2c. There were 2,223 people on board (she could have taken a maximum of 3,547), of which 1,324 were passengers. A mere 31.6% of people survived (it could have been a 53.4% survival rate had the available lifeboats been used to full capacity), almost 1,600 people died. The first lifeboat that left the sinking ship could have taken 65 people to safety. There were only 28 people on that lifeboat. RMS Titanic was equipped to carry 64 lifeboats, but only 20 were on this ill-fated maiden voyage.

In total, only 328 bodies were ever found. Rescuers had hoped to identify all bodies so the rescue boat sent out from Nova Scotia was loaded with embalming supples, 40 embalmers, ice (strange, sad irony) and 100 coffins. Of the 306 bodies the Mackay-Bennett retrieved, 116 were too badly damaged so were buried at sea.

The most obvious tragedy surrounding RMS Titanic is that she sank and that hundreds of people were killed. The other tragedy is that there were a lot of missed/ignored opportunities to hugely reduce the number of lives lost: on the day she sank, a planned lifeboat drill didn’t take place. The closest ship to RMS Titanic was the Californian, 10 miles away, yet for various reasons she didn’t respond, and indeed didn’t even hear the distress signals because the wireless operator was in bed. Fortunately the Carpathia, 58 miles away, did go to her rescue, but with the freezing conditions, she couldn’t get to Titanic’s aid fast enough to save as many people as the Californian could have done, yet figures reveal she saved 703 lives. The list goes on, though the more I read about it to write it here, the more futile it seems to dwell on the catalogue of errors, and in some cases even individual names of people who failed to act appropriately.

A single first class ticket, in today’s economy, was approximately $50,000.

There are lots of lovely stories of bravery, loyalty, love and sacrifice, but the story I want to end on is that, as in the Titanic film, the band did play on as the ship sank, only stopping when it was impossible to carry on. Bandmaster Wallace Hartley and his seven band members all died.

A link for the kind of music the band played:

* NB based on all reading I have done, all these figures vary so I am not 100% confident of their accuracy.


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