The Titanic

The keel of the Titanic was laid on March 31, 1909, and it was launched on May 31, 1911. After nearly a year of being fitted with the finest in equipment and furnishings, it passed its trials before the Board of Trade officials on March 31, 1912, at Belfast, Ireland.

Arriving at Southampton, England, on April 4, it was hurriedly prepared for its first paying trip.

The following Wednesday, April 10, it embarked with 2,208 passengers and crew, on its maiden voyage to New York.

But the voyage was never completed.

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In an earlier book by the present writer (Origin of Life), it was noted that the first ship built by men larger than Noah's Ark was not constructed until about 1850. The Titanic was built after that, and, at the time it was constructed, was the largest ship ever made.

When completed, it was 882.5 feet long, 92 feet broad with a height from keel to bridge of 104 feet, and a gross tonnage of 46,328. It had 8 steel decks, a cellular double bottom, which was 5 feet thick through both one-inch skins, as they were called.

The ship also had two bilge keels projecting 2 feet for 300 feet of its length. They were designed to help prevent the ship from rolling from side to side in rough weather.

Its machinery was the result of the latest advances in Western Civilization. Special low-pressure turbine engines, working with reciprocating engines, provided the maximum head of steam power with the least amount of coal.

It was a triple-screw ship. To drive those propellers, this remarkable ship had 29 enormous boilers, each one over 25 feet tall and about 50 feet long! They were fed by 159 furnaces.

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The Titanic was fitted with 16 lifeboats, each 30 feet long. They were attached to a new type of hanger: the Welin double-acting davit. These davits were specially designed to let down, in turn, two or three sets of lifeboats. As one lifeboat was lowered into the water, another could be hauled into place by the crew, and it could be rapidly let down.

So the Titanic had enough davits 16 of them, to rather quickly let down 48 lifeboats into the water; that is, if the crew had been properly trained to use the Welin davits. In case of emergency, there should be enough lifeboats to save everyone on board the vessel.

But the owners of the White Star Line had only installed 16 lifeboats, and, in their hurried six-day preparation for the first voyage, the crew had not been trained how to use the new davits.

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An added, and much-advertised, safety feature of the giant ship, was its 16 giant compartments, which were divided by 15 transverse watertight bulkheads. These bulkheads reached from the double bottom to the upper deck in the forward end, and to the saloon deck in the after end; in both cases, well above waterline.

Communication between the engine rooms and the boiler rooms was through watertight doors, each of which could be closed instantly from the captains bridge. A single switch, controlling powerful electro-magnets, operated them. They could also be closed by hand with a lever, and, in case the floor below them was flooded by accident, a float underneath the flooring shut them automatically.

These watertight compartments were so designed that, if even the two largest were flooded with water a most unlikely possibility the ship would be quite safe.

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The machinery and equipment on the Titanic was the finest obtainable and represented the last word in marine construction. All her structures were of steel, of a weight, size, and thickness greater than that of any ship yet known. The girders, beams, bulkheads, and floors were all of exceptional strength.

To this had been added a variety of entertainment devices below deck: Turkish baths, gymnasiums, a tennis court, game rooms, banquet  rooms, gambling halls, and a sizeable swimming pool.

There were also places where more boats and rafts could have been stored on deck, without sacrificing any of the luxuries. The space was there, but the boats were not.

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Shortly after noon, on Wednesday, April 10, 1912, the Titanic slipped its moorings, and moved slowly out into the harbor at Southampton, England. Dropping down Spithead, past the shores of the Isle of Wight, the ship exchanged salutes with a White Star tug that was waiting for a incoming liner and then moved out into the ocean.

After briefly stopping at Cherbourg, the largest ship in the world headed across the Atlantic.

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As the Titanic journeyed, day after day it encountered excellent weather. Because it was early spring in the North Atlantic, the air was cold and, due to the fast pace of the ship, those on the outer decks faced a bitter wind. Actually, there was not even a breeze; the wind was generated by the speed of the fast liner.

By Sunday, April 14, the ship had been traveling for four days. The passengers thoroughly enjoyed this stately new ship, which, some of the passengers reported, provided a smoother ride than any other ocean liner.

Some of the three promenade decks were open to the sea, and some were enclosed by glass. The sky was clear with brilliant sunlight that seemed to augur a fine night and a clear day tomorrow. In just two days the ship would arrive in New York  harbor.

On Sunday evening, people were in high spirits, and a variety of entertainments were in full swing. Card games were active, and the saloons were full. Everyone enjoyed the luxury of the spacious rooms, with their mahogany furnishings, white columns, and expensive appointments.

But, as the skies darkened that evening, a Church of England minister, Mr. Carter, walked around, inviting people to one of the large rooms on the promenade deck, About a hundred gathered there after supper and he led out as they sang Christian hymns.

Remembrance of those hymns probably helped many people in the hours to come.

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A little after 10 o'clock, the hymn singing broke up, and many of the people gradually begin retiring to their rooms. But there was so much to see, so much to do, so many new people to meet among the thousands on board that a large number were still awake by 11. Card games were in full progress, as were also the exercise machines, the saloon, and the other gambling rooms. Some were still in the library, writing and posting letters, which would be mailed when the ship reached New York in two days.

Outside on deck, the strong wind caused by the ships flight through the darkness, was as strong as ever. Few there were among the passengers who braved the outer deck for even a few minutes.

But, at about 11:30 p.m., some of the passengers later recalled that the great ship increased in speed. No one would ever know why. But a noticeable increase in vibration from the giant engines in the ships bowels were churning harder than they had earlier in the voyage.

Yet it brought no thought of concern, for was this not the mightiest ship in the world, and was not the weather outside so unseasonably mild?

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On board that immense ship, the peacefulness of the evening was remarkable. Some were still reading in their rooms, late that evening.

Then, at 11:45 p.m., some of those who were still awake heard or thought they heard the slightest thump from somewhere below. As the bunks were fixed to the walls, those in them could have been flung out into the room, but there was hardly the slightest jar. The crisis had come, but none of the passengers realized it.

The explanation was simple enough: The Titanic had struck an iceberg with a force of impact of over a million foot-tons; but the plates on the ship (each of the skins of the double hull) were less than an inch thick. So, what had happened, was that the unbending ice had sheared through the plates the way a table knife would slice through butter. When you slice butter, it does not jar the table. When the ice tore through the Titanic, it was hardly noticed.

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There was no sudden cry, no alarm in the night, no hurried efforts to escape the approaching doom. Most were asleep, and the few passengers who were awake knew nothing of what had happened.

But the officer in command at that time knew. The captain of the ship was E.J. Smith; the first officer was W.M. Murdock. And the second officer was Mr. Lightoller.

Mr. Murdock had come on duty as commander of the ship at 10 p.m.

The ship had been moving rapidly through an inky, moonless darkness. Nothing could be seen anywhere.  As the liner hurtled forward, heedless of any possible danger, suddenly a gigantic iceberg, appeared, almost directly in front of the ship!

In an instant, Mr. Murdock tried to turn the ship, but there was no time to hardly move the wheel. Indeed, no one later reported noting any swerving at that moment. The massive berg towered over the ship, and an immense portion of the ice was underwater.

Part of the iceberg struck the bilge keels. Those immense ridges on the ship, which projected downward 2 feet for 300 feet of its length along the bottom center of the giant ship, were forced inward by the collision and made the work of smashing the two skins of the cellular double bottoms easier. At the same time, the iceberg ripped a 300-foot gash in the right side of the liner, which was later reported to be steaming at 22 knots, and ruptured five of its six watertight compartments. As mentioned earlier, the ship was designed to easily withstand a break in two of those giant compartments, and it could even survive a gash in four. But the ocean was now pouring into five.

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Captain Smith immediately came to the bridge, and Murdock told him what had happened. The captain and a few top officers knew immediately that the ship was doomed, but they were careful to tell no one. Keep everyone calm was the silent rule. They reasoned that, otherwise, there would be disorderly riots to get off the ship as soon as possible.

Deep in the ship, one of the stokers had been working in the engine room, when, suddenly, the whole side of the compartment came in, and water rushed him off his feet. Picking himself up, he sprang for the compartment doorway, and barely made it through when the watertight compartment door behind him dropped suddenly like a knife. It came close to crushing him. Up on the bridge, as soon as the slicing occurred, Murdock immediately reached over and pulled the switches which shut the compartment doors down in the lower hold of the giant vessel.

Because of the number of compartments which were flooded, he knew the ship was doomed.

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At 5 p.m. that afternoon, Captain Smith had received the first radiogram warning that there was an iceberg zone ahead. He sent out spotters and, at 7 p.m. posted the warning so all incoming officers would see it. Second Officer Lightoller was relieved at 10 p.m. by First Officer Murdock, to whom he handed the instructions and iceberg zone warning. It was clear that officers and crew were to keep a special lookout for ice. At about 9 p.m., the officers stood on the bridge and reviewed in their conversation how to identify an iceberg in the darkness of night. Then at 10, Murdock came on duty, and Captain Smith retired for the night. Why then, was the ship accelerated to a higher speed later in the evening?

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The massive ship had almost hit the massive iceberg dead center. But, instead, the bow of the ship only chipped off part of it, sending chunks of ice all over the forward top deck.

As the iceberg sped on the right (starboard) side of the ship, slicing below waterline as it went, a group of gamblers looked up from their poker game just in time to see the gigantic, towering mass rush by next to the window!

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As soon as the iceberg struck, everyone on board the ship, who was not sound asleep, knew something was different. What was it? Yes, that was it! The mighty engines, which had run incessantly for four days had slowed, and then stopped entirely! The ship was sitting in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, not going anywhere.

One passenger who arose, dressed and climbed the three flights from D deck to the lowest promenade. But in the hallways and up on deck, there was no sign of disturbance or uneasiness. Nothing seemed to be wrong. Stewards stood about as usual, waiting through the long night with nothing to do.

Stopping by, the gamblers over by the window looked up and, amid their liquor drinking and wagering, told him about the iceberg that rushed like a freight train by the window shortly before. They looked at it as it sped by, and then returned to their game. When asked the height of the iceberg, one of the men spoke up, and, saying he was an engineer and used to estimating distances,  replied, I would gauge it at between eighty or ninety feet higher than we are. They were all sitting seventy feet above the surface of the ocean as they spoke.

Then, laughing, one of the men added, I expect it took off some of Captain Smiths new paint, and he doesn't want to go on until it is repainted! All laughed, and another held up his whiskey glass and said, Run along the deck and see if any ice has fallen. I would like some for this!

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Returning downstairs, that same passenger was surprised to note that there was the slightest tilt of the ship toward the bow, the front end. But still no one around him was concerned. Yet, by this time, the ship had not been moving forward for about 15  minutes. Somebody laughed and said, Maybe its a grand party that's about to begin!

Uncertain what to do, he reentered his cabin and sat down again on his bunk. Just then, a loud shout was heard from the other end of the hallway, All passengers on deck with life belts on!

What could this be all about? Gradually the passengers made their way up from the passenger quarters decks below. Many were poorly clad. All wondered what was taking place.

As they watched, the crew tried to swing the lifeboats out, using the new-fangled Welin davits, which no one had ever operated before. They were having a difficult time doing it.

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As they stood there on deck, the passengers wondered why there could possibly be any concern. They were on the most-solidly constructed ship in the world. It was also the largest ship ever built. The Atlantic had icy-cold water, but it was far below them. They were standing on the deck of one of the greatest, man-made objects in the world. This ship they could trust, just as they could trust its officers and the men who had built and outfitted the fabulous vessel. Why worry?

In addition, the scene about them was totally peaceful. Everything was quiet, almost unnaturally quiet, here in the middle of the Atlantic on an ocean liner that was no longer moving forward. Not a cloud was to be seen in the sky, not even ocean mist. There was not the slightest breeze; it was totally still.

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Gradually, the boats began filling with a few of the passengers. As they were lowered, they floated away in the darkness. Some, fearing to get into the little boats when they were standing on such a secure ship, would not board them. Many boats were lowered half full. Keep in mind that, at no time, were the people told the danger. Instead, the ships officers and stewards told inquirers that the ship might not sink at all, and if it did so, probably would not do so for several days and by that time rescue ships would have arrived.

In the minds of many, it was just a matter of transferring from ship to ship. Some were going on lifeboats now; others would transfer directly from the Titanic to another ship. This is what people believed.

Besides, how could a ship a sixth of a mile long sink? It was laughably impossible. It was solid beneath their feet right then, even though there was a slight list to the bow.

When it was discovered, on the first-class deck, that the forward lower deck was covered with small chunks of ice, arrangements were made for a grand snowball fight the next morning! Some even went there and brought back pieces of ice, which were passed around.

Gradually the lifeboats were filled, lowered, and sent off. A few rafts were inflated and also sent down. The terrible truth was not to dawn upon many until later: First, there were not enough lifeboats for everyone. Second, the ship would be gone within two hours.

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In spite of the subterfuges of men, there are enough lifeboats for you and me! In submission to God and obedience to His Written Word, there is a safe haven for all of us! None need be lost. Not one who pleads with Christ for admittance, will be left outside when the storm of fury breaks. The promised shelter is for all who will enter it. But we must enter in Gods appointed way. The specifications are clearly outlined in books such as Steps to Christ and that includes the last part of the book, as well as the first part.

Beware of the assurances of men! Your only safety is to be found in submission to Jesus and obedience to His Written Word.

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By this time, it was about 12:30 a.m., Monday morning, April 15, 1912. If the passengers needed warning of what was to come, they had it in two events which occurred.

The first was the engines blowing off steam. This one could have been attributed to the wrong cause. Do not railroad train steam engines blow off steam as they stand in the station? But there was a different reason here: The captain knew the boilers would be less likely to thunderously explode when the ship sank, if the steam was earlier let out of the boilers. They were preparing for what they, but not the passengers, knew was coming.

Then, as if to warn the most sleepy of the passengers to awaken, a rush of light from the forward deck suddenly occurred, and with it a hissing roar which made everyone turn from watching the boats. A white rocket leapt upwards to where the stars blinked overhead. Rockets! men called out. This was a signal from the ship that the emergency was so great, that a  pleading message was being sent to any ships which might be in the area, to please come! Then another, and a third rocket were sent up.

What the passengers did not know, was that, very soon after the iceberg struck, Captain Smith walked over to the radio room and told the telegraphers to send repeated wireless calls for help.

Mr. Phillips was the chief wireless operator, and his assistant was Harold Bride. CDQ had for years been the distress call, but only a few months earlier a new one had been devised: SOS.  The captain told them the ship had been struck amidships, and to send the SOS call. They were among the very few who had been told.

They joked as they sent the message; surely the situation could not be that serious. They notified the Frankfurd and the Carpathia. It was agreed that the Carpathia, 58 miles away, would immediately come to their rescue. A little later, they wired the Carpathia that their engines were failing and soon they would be able to send no more messages. Of the two, only Harold Bride lived to tell what happened in the wireless room. Eight ships were within 300 miles of the Titanic. Nearly all heard the message except the nearest, the California, 18 miles away, whose wireless operator went off duty about 15 minutes before midnight, and a few minutes before Phillips and Bride began calling for help.

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Gradually more and more boats were lowered. Slowly, men worked the oars and pulled them away from the massive ship. A few crewmen were placed on each boat to man the oars. They knew what the passengers did not: that the giant vessel was going down, and, when it did, it would suck under anything close to it.

As those in the boats watched, they could see all about them the stars shining in utter clarity even down to the horizon! As for the sea, it was so smooth, one might have guessed it was oily. Not the slightest wind was blowing.

But all eyes were on the giant ship. It was fully lit up, with lights from nearly every porthole. As the people left their rooms, they frequently forgot to turn off the lights. Perhaps some thought they would return soon to their beds.

From the upper decks, the sound of music could be heard. Throughout the time that the boats were loading, the band continued playing! Why was a band playing at a time like that? It was a time of great emergency, yet the band was playing. What was it playing? Not Nearer My God to Thee, as sometimes suggested, but, according to eyewitnesses, that band was playing worldly, low-class ragtime!

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Gradually the fully lit Titanic listed more heavily toward the bow. As the entranced watchers sat in the lifeboats and rafts a distance from it, their gaze was fixed upon it. Little by little, the back end of the giant ship lifted farther out of the water, and slowly the front section sank deeper. Everything was quiet, except for the playing of the band.

There was no howling wind, no fierce waves, no storm. Just an eerie silence, and a ship gradually moving into position to destroy itself.

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The mere bulk alone of the ship, viewed from the sea below, was an awe-inspiring sight. Imagine a ship nearly a sixth of a mile long, 75 feet high to the top decks, with four enormous funnels above the decks, and masts high above the funnels. Along its side are hundreds of portholes. All its saloons and other rooms brilliant with light, plus many of the portholes. About it are little boats filled with those who, until a few hours before, had trod its decks, read in its libraries, made new friends, discussed plans, sang and ate together, and were now looking in amazement as the giant ship which had been their home was slowing getting ready to sink out of sight!

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By now it was 2 a.m. Gradually, those manning the oars rowed the boats farther away. All were hoping that the ship would not sink before help arrived.

All the while, as they watched, the Titanic sank lower and lower in the water, and the tilt kept increasing. Slowly, the stern porthole lights lifted and the bow lights sank. It was obvious that the ship, which so many had praised as wonderful, the epitome of human workmanship, was not going to stay afloat much longer.

But there was also fear of what might happen when the ship did go under. First, it could suck down any boat near it, and, second, a great wave might be produced which would swamp the small, overloaded boats.

But there was more: When the ship sank into the ocean, an immense explosion might occur as water poured in upon one or more of the boilers.

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It was now 2:15 a.m. Most of the little boats had been afloat for about an hour and a half.

By this time, the water had crept up almost to the sidelights and captains bridge of the mammoth ship. It seemed only a question of minutes before the ship would go under.

Everything was totally silent. The band, ever anxious to relax those still on board the fated ship had somehow finally decided to stop playing.

Those in the darkness wondered, Surely, those in charge have provided enough boats for everyone! Surely, my loved ones are safe!

What they did not know was that the company managers had only provided 1,178 boat spaces for the 2,224 persons on board the ship! But, in the darkness, those in the boats did not yet know that.

All eyes were now fixed on the huge craft, as it hung in space. Had everyone gotten off safely?

The lights still shone with the same brilliance, but there were not so many of them now.

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As the people in the little boats watched in awestruck wonder, the great ship slowly tilted up, until it was almost vertical. Then it stopped and just hung there for a time!

As it was making that final swing upward, all the lights suddenly went out; then back on for a moment, and then out forever. Another moment or two, and a gigantic crashing sound was heard.

You will recall our earlier mention of the gigantic engines and boilers in the hold of the ship. Those huge hulks, weighing tons apiece, suddenly tore loose from their moorings and plunged downward toward the bow, crashing through the sealed compartments as they went. It was a steady crashing sound, which went on for fifteen or twenty seconds.

This final, great crash came just before the end. Then, once again, all was silent. The Titanic was still upright like a Roman column standing against the horizon. Only about 150 feet of the stern remained above water. It appeared to be suspended there for about five minutes. And then the end came.

Sinking back slightly at the stern, like a tired warrior, the ship slowly slid forward through the water, and dived slantingly down. The sea closed about it.

And it was gone.

There was no giant wave, and no outward explosion had occurred. But a few heard something muffled from below the surface. (The Ballard expedition in the 1980s revealed that, after the ship went under, an explosion tore it in two.)

It was 2:20 a.m., Monday, April 15, 1912., at Lat. 41o 46 N. and Long. 50o 14 W., 1,600 miles northeast of New York City. Nothing marked the spot. All that was left was the silent sea, and little boats scattered here and there.

But now, suddenly, there were hundreds of people in the water, screaming and crying for help! What had happened? Where were the boats?

It was only then that the survivors realized that the company had not provided enough lifeboats. In the icy waters the sounds gradually weakened, and then died away.

At 4 a.m. the Cunard liner, Carpathia arrived, and began picking up those in the little boats. That work continued until 8:30 a.m. Of the 2,224 on board, the liner picked up only 705 survivors. As the sky lightened, the survivors saw icebergs all about them. Two of them towered high over the Carpathia and were gigantic. One of them had sunk the Titanic.

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