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.