Mysteries of the Titanic — Prof. Terry Keefe — September 2016

It’s a hun­dred years ago that the Royal Mail Ship Titanic sank and there are still many mys­ter­ies sur­round­ing this event.  Since retir­ing as a pro­fessor of French, Terry has taken an interest in cruises and in par­tic­u­lar the White Star Line.

With American money three large liners were built around 1910 for the White Star Line for the trans-Atlantic route.  Emigration from Europe and the Middle East to the USA had risen to 2.5 mil­lion people per year.  The emphasis for these new ships was com­fort and eco­nomy rather than speed.  The first ship to be fitted out in 1911 was the Olympic and this in many ways was the flag ship.  The second was the Titanic in 1912 fol­lowed by the Britannic which was fitted out as a hos­pital ship and was sunk by a mine in 1916.

The Titanic’s maiden voyage set off for America in April 1912 after a mild early spring that had res­ul­ted in a larger than usual ice flow coming down off the coast of Newfoundland.  The vessel had 16 com­part­ments and a double bottom.  It was regarded by many to be unsink­able so there was no need to provide life­boats for every­body at once.  16 life­boats, 2 cut­ters and 4 col­lapsible boats were provided and this was more than the reg­u­la­tions deman­ded and had a capa­city of less than half the num­bers on board.  In case of dis­aster it was assumed that people would be fer­ried to safety by repeated trips.

We are talk­ing about the early days of wire­less when not all ships were equipped and the sets were not mon­itored all the time.  The wire­less oper­at­ors on the Titanic were employed by Marconi and were essen­tially there for the bene­fit of pas­sen­gers’ mes­sages.  During 14th April, the Titanic received a series of mes­sages warn­ing of ice but only a few of them reached the bridge and two new boil­ers were fired up and its speed was increased.

When the liner struck the ice, only about 12 square feet of rivets were popped but the com­part­ments were not com­pletely sealed at the top and they only reached about 11 feet above the water­line.  The ship could cope with 3 flooded com­part­ments but 5 or 6 even­tu­ally became flooded.  It was 35 minutes after the col­li­sion that the first dis­tress mes­sage was sent.  62% of the 324 first class, 41% of the 284 second class and 25.5% of the 709 third class pas­sen­gers sur­vived.

An inform­a­tion packed very well delivered talk.