Titanic: Preventable Disaster


Elizabeth Enke

The Titanic was competitively designed to be the best, but failed--the sea winning the battle. "The sinking of the Titanic in the early hours of April 15, 1912, remains the quintessential disaster of this century. A total of 1,517 souls--men, women and children - lost their lives ( only 711 survived)" (Stone 8). The Titanic sunk because it was built to be the best, and thus caused people in charge to be full of pride, which caused the Marconi telegraph distress signals to be ignored.

 "White Star lines needed to construct new vessels to compete with the new vessels of the time. They needed to build ships better, faster, and bigger than those of the Cunard liners Mauretania and Luistania" (Noble 1). In attempt of doing this, the White Star lines got into trouble. The Titanic was built at Harland and Wolff shipbuilding, located in Belfast northern Ireland, in the year 1912 (Göransson 1). Their ship was huge, the largest ever. The ship weighed approximately 46,328 tons and which towered eleven stories high. To those getting on board it must have looked like they could have walked to America with its 882'9" length. It was the biggest and most expensive liner: over $7.5 million then (Noble 1). "The fact that the finest, largest, strongest ship in the world--called, in fact, the 'unsinkable' ship--should have been lost during its maiden voyage is so incredible that, had it not actually happened no author would have dared to contrive it" [sic] (Stone 8). The real-life drama of the disaster has spurred thousands of reenactments and web sites exploring every detail available of that Sunday evening disaster.

The catastrophe had social ramifications that went far beyond that night's events. For the first time since the beginning of the industrial revolution early in the 19th century, bigger, faster, and stronger did not prove automatically to be better. Suddenly the very essence of 'progress' had to be questioned: might the advancement of technology not always be progress (Stone 8)?

The two main aspects of the Titanic that made her unique probably added to her fall. These were the double hull and the sixteen supposedly "watertight" compartments. Neither were very beneficial. The watertight compartments were walls with room near the ceiling to overflow into the next compartment. These and a few other aspects deemed the Titanic supposedly unsinkable (Göransson 2). With Captain E.J. Smith at the helm, everyone was completely confident her maiden voyage would be the best ever.

This confidence and spirit of competition exhibited by crew and passengers alike was the greatest reason why so many of them died. This appears to be backwards thinking, but when viewed from the standpoint of the actions taken and their cause, this is the reason for so many faults. The first day they sailed 386 miles, the second 519, and the third 546. The reason they gained speed at such an alarming and unsafe rate was their spirit of competition for the world's record for the fastest maiden voyage (Göransson 1-2). If the Titanic had been going slower that Sunday, the crew would have been able to avert disaster by locating the iceberg field before they hit it. Equipped with the finest resources, "the ship even had a French restaurant Café Parisien with French waiters," the first swimming pool on an ocean liner, a gym, smoking room for men, Georgian reading and writing room for ladies, squash court, and an electric horse, camel and rowboat (Göransson 1).

The first class passengers felt extremely proud, lucky, and amazed about the top-notch quality of the Titanic. The voyage continued to please them very much until they heard their expensive trip was at an end. The first class ticket was $4,350 then (approximately $50,000 now) (Stone 43). The same attitude applied for all the classes. "An attitude was in the minds of all the people on board the ship: This ship will never sink" (Noble 1)!

The evening the Titanic sank was a clear night, no moon, and the water was absolutely still. Archibald Gracie, a passenger on Titanic, believes, along with many others, that various types of weather conditions would have prevented the fate of the Titanic. Had there been a moon and even a few clouds, the iceberg would have been visible much sooner. Secondly, if the sea had even been slightly rough, the water lapping against the ice field would have been heard from miles away (102-105). Yet another factor that led to the destruction of the Titanic concerns the Marconi telegraph, which utilized Morse cord to send messages by radio waves. "On April 11, 1912, there were 7 warning messages about icebergs on the Titanic's course. These messages were noted but were not taken into account" due to the pride and ignorance of both the telegraph operator and Captain E.J. Smith (Noble 1). The Titanic's Marconi telegraph operator demanded that the other operators to get off the air so he could send the many personal passenger messages to shore (Noble 1). Upset, the California's Marconi telegraph operator abandoned his post and went to bed, thus removing the California from receiving the radio distress signals sent out by Titanic (Noble 1).

The fate is now sealed deep in the Atlantic ocean where the 46,000 ton monster lay smashed and broken into two pieces. Before the Titanic was found there was a controversy over whether the ship broke in two before decent into its watery grave. Based on research done shortly after Titanic sunk, approximately half of the eye witnesses said it broke and the other fifty percent said it went down as solid as ever (Gracie 1-14). There are still many discrepancies over what happened and why. Still searching for the answer to why, the families of the lost loved ones became more anguished as they found out the easily preventable causes for failure of the ship. Families of the dead sought out the survivors to ask if they knew what their specific relatives were doing in their last days (Gracie 1-14).

As history books have recorded, the last day on the ship Titanic had just as smooth and perfect weather as the preceding part of the voyage. Therefore, preparation for such a disaster as an iceberg field was thought to be superfluous. Icebergs that time of year and in that area were simply unheard of. The pride of the captain and facade of the blue sky caused him to disregard the several iceberg warnings he received and increase the speed anyway. There was great pressure on the crew put upon by the millionaires to continue speeding away on their luxurious journey to America. In the early 1900's they were anxiously taking part in the freedoms of the rich in the gilded age. Early that tragic Sunday, the California, a nearby ship, had repeatedly warned the Titanic of the ice fields, but the Marconi telegraph operator of the Titanic was very rude and insulting to the other man.

Thus, it is clear to see why the over-rated capabilities of the ship, the pride of all on board, and the misuse of the Marconi telegraph were the main detrimental factors leading to the loss of the Titanic. Of all the ocean liners in the world, this was the best and the worst. The people on board were the cream of the crop and the dust on the floor, but all with the same curious feeling of immortality on board. The Marconi telegraph was the best means of communication, but its signals were ignored by a nearby ship because of the haughty behavior of the Titanic's radio operator. The Titanic's maiden voyage was the beginning and the end in one short scenario. All fought for survival; only 711 survived. The competition was great; the loss, fatal. White Star Lines' fight for the lead in technology had failed. The loss of the Titanic, in accordance with the redox reaction principle, spurred more strict safety requirements throughout the United States and Europe, saving an untold number of lives. (Noble 8)

Works Cited

 Göransson, Hannah. The Story of the Titanic. No Date. 1 October 1999


Gracie, Archibald. The Truth About the Titanic. 1913. 7 c's Press, Inc, 1973.

 Noble, Al. Titanic: The Building. Firefly Productions. 1997. 1 October 1999


 Stone, Peter. Titanic. A New Musical. CD:  Story and Book. BMG Music:  New York, NY. 1997.


Thesis Statement: The Titanic sank because it was built to be the best, and thus caused people in charge to be full of pride, which caused the Marconi telegraph distress signals to be ignored.



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