By Eli Stutzman
March 1, 2012
Few shipwrecks have held our attention as long as the story of the Titanic. On April 15, 2012, it will be 100 years ago since the tragedy of that fateful night occurred. Our ancestors came across the Atlantic Ocean on wooden sailing ships that were small and weak compared to the Titanic.
The Titanic was large and strongly built. Not the largest of the time, but the most luxurious. She had a top speed of 22 knots. (About 25 miles per hour) Power was provided by steam from 29 boilers using about 850 tons of coal per day. It took about 73 stokers to shovel the coal into the boilers. They were the first to fully realize the severity of the iceberg strike. Steam from the boilers provided the heat and electricity as well as propulsion. The hull was made of 1 inch steel plate all riveted to the structure. It took 3 million rivets to hold her together. She was 92 feet wide and 883 feet long.
The Titanic was equipped with a new Marconi radio. This was a piece of equipment that sent messages from ships in Morse code across the seas or to other ships. This was important as it meant that important messages such as iceberg warnings could be exchanged to warn ships of danger. Wealthy passengers could send messages back home, much like the telegraph on land.
The sea was calm on that Sunday morning of April 14 as the great ship made its way across the Atlantic. It was the fourth day at sea. At 10:30 AM, the passengers from all classes gathered in the first-class dining room for worship. Captain Edward Smith led the service reading from a prayer book supplied by White Star, the ship's owners. Usually these services were followed by a lifeboat drill for all on board. However, for unknown reasons Captain Smith decided to not do this at this time.
In the wireless room things were buzzing as incoming ice warnings interrupted outgoing messages from wealthy patrons. The Carolina signaled at 9 AM, "Bergs, Growlers and much ice." Shortly before noon, the Noordam, also nearby, told of much ice. At 7:30 the nearby California reported that she was completely blocked by ice. These intrusions annoyed the Marconi operator on the Titanic. He told the wireless operator on the California to "Shut up. Shut up, I am busy." At this the operator on the California shut off his radio and went to bed. Meanwhile, the Titanic went almost full speed ahead. Captain Smith did not receive the last warning from the Mesaba at 9:40 PM as he was a guest of honor at a dinner party.
It was twenty minutes before midnight. Suddenly officer Fleet jerked the warning bell three times as he spotted a large iceberg in the dim light straight ahead. He telephoned the bridge and frantically sputtered, "Iceberg, right ahead!" The ship's engines stopped, then reversed the propellers, and turned to the left very hard. This avoided a head on collision but caused the iceberg to scrape along the right side of the ship opening a gash about 300 feet long. The examination of the wreck in recent years shows that the rivets popped along the seam. Sea water then gushed into the first five watertight compartments. Captain Smith contacted the ship's designer, Thomas Andrews, who was on board. How long do we have?" he inquired. "About an hour and a half," he replied. The Titanic was able to stay afloat with four compartments flooded, but not five.
Not all on board were as convinced as Captain Smith and Andrews. People hesitated getting into lifeboats until later on when it was too late. Even though there were only about half enough lifeboats, the first ones were not filled due to no one wanting to board. The lifeboats were designed to hold an average of 68 passengers, but some were launched with only 28 on board. As a result, less than one third of the people were saved. Out of the 2,228 on board, only 705 survived.
More lives could have been saved had the crew and passengers been willing to heed warnings. The messages came all day to the crew but were not taken seriously. The Sunday morning message delivered by Captain Smith is not known. He could have warned them about the uncertainty of life from James 4: 13Go to now, ye that say, Today or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
What should the people aboard the Titanic have been told that they were not told? It seems they were over confident of the ability of crew and ship to get them safely to their destination. There are so many parallels to our journey through this earth. Will you arrive safely in heaven? The instructions are all there in the Bible.
2 Corinthians 6:2 For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
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