Background InformationThe year 2012 will mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Theship was owned by an American conglomerate but operated by British seamen. Itleft Southampton on April 10, 1912, with 1324 passengers, 130 of whom werebound for Canada via New York. It collided with an iceberg on April 14 and sankearly the following morning. The SOS message from the Titanic was relayed froma wireless station at Cape Race, Newfoundland, to Montreal and then to NewYork, providing the first news of the tragedy to the world.Halifax, Nova Scotia, was the closest major seaport with a rail connection to NewYork. Ships were sent from Halifax to gather the dead from the worst navaldisaster in history, and many of the bodies retrieved were buried there. Amongthe dead were 82 Canadians.The documents in this presentation came from the Begbie Canadian HistoryContest Society.
InstructionsUsing the following eleven documents, explain why the unthinkablehappened to what many considered to be an unsinkable vessel. Besure to indicate where you found the evidence to support your thesis(Documents 1, 2, 3 etc. – cite as D1, D2, D3 etc.)
Document 1“The first decade of the twentieth century was the culmination of a hundred years of the mostaccelerated rate of change in society and technology that mankind had ever known.Between 1812 and 1912, humanity had gone from transportation, communication, production,and manufacturing methods powered by human or animal muscle,augmented by wind and water, to a world of steam engines, steamships, and steam-poweredmachinery.”Daniel Allen Butler, Unsinkable: the full story of the RMS Titanic, 1998, p. 25
Document 2“The Titanic is divided by 15 watertight bulkheads [an upright partitionseparating compartments of a ship], and designed so that any twocompartments may be flooded without in any way involving the safety of theship...Each door [between the bulkheads]...can, by simply moving an electricswitch, instantly close the doors throughout, practicably making the vesselunsinkable.”“White Star Line Royal and United States Steamers Olympic & Titanic,45,000 Tons Each, The Largest Vessels in the World.” Publicity brochure,Liverpool, 1911, p.11[Most naval accidents occur when a ship slices into the side of anothervessel. This would flood at most two compartments.]
Document 3The wireless room of the Titanic, 1912.Wireless technology was relatively new in 1912. While most vessels carrried oneoperator, the Titanic carried two. Ships travelled in very busy shipping lanes andno vessel was more than two or three hours away from another vessel. In case ofan accident a ship could contact a nearby ship for help.
Document 4“When anyone asks how I [Captain Smith] can best describe myexperience of nearly forty years at sea, I merely say, uneventful. Ofcourse there have been winter gales, and storm and fog and the like, butin all my experience, I have never been in any accident of any sort worthspeaking about...I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening tothis vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.”Titanic Captain Edward Smith, interview in New York newspapers, 1907
Document 5Wireless messages reporting the location of icebergs received by Captain Smith on April 14, 1912:A. 9 a.m. “Captain, Titanic [from Caronia] –West-bound steamers report bergs, growlers and field ice...”B. 1:42 p.m. “Greek steamer Athenai reports passing icebergs and large quantities of field ice to-day...”C. 7:30 p.m. “To Captain, [from] Antillian...Three large bergs five miles to southward of us.”Wireless messages reporting the location of icebergs received by the Titanic but NOT forwarded to the bridge:D. 1:45 p.m. “America passed two large icebergs...”E. 9:40 p.m. “From Mesaba... Saw much heavy pack ice and great number large icebergs.”F. 10:55 p.m. From Californian [a ship ten miles from where the Titanic was to sink] “Say, old man, we arestopped and surrounded by ice.”[The Californian operator, the only one on his ship, had been working an 18-hour shift. He soon turned off hiswireless set and went to bed, so did not hear the Titanic’s SOS messages. The Carpathia heard the message butwas over four hours away.]
Document 6 North American Philadelphia 1912 The Helmsman
Document 7“Why did the Master persevere in his course and maintain his speed[40 kph]?... for a quarter of a century or more, the practice of linersusing this track when in the vicinity of ice at night had been in clearweather to keep the course, to maintain the speed and to trust to asharp lookout to enable them to avoid the danger. This practice hadbeen justified by experience, no casualities having resulted fromit...Its root is probably to be found in competition and in the desireof the public for quick passages rather than in the judgment ofnavigators.”Report on the loss of the Titanic, 1912
Document 8“Lookout Swears GlassesWould Have Allowed Himto Spot Berg.”Headline, New YorkWorld, April 24, 1912.[Mr. Fleet, the lookout inthe crowsnest of theTitanic, testified at aninquiry that he had askedfor but had not beengiven binoculars bySecond Officer Lightoller.The Titanic struck theiceberg at 11:40 pm.]
Document 9A blue iceberg with red and black paint on its side. Photographed on April 15, 1912, by apassenger on the Carpathia as the lifeboats were recovered.“9 p.m.[Second Officer Lightoller of the Titanic]: ‘This is the first time in my experience of theAtlantic in twenty-four years...of seeing an absolutely flat sea. The sky was perfectly clear butthere was no moon.’...Lightoller then remarked that it was a pity that the breeze had socompletely died, since the chop a breeze usually kicked up would make it easier to spot any iceahead as it washed up against the base of a berg. Captain Smith was sure that the visibilitywas good enough that even a ‘blue’ berg, that is, one that had recently overturned [and muchdarker in colour than a white iceberg], would be spotted before it could present a danger.”Report on the Loss of the S.S. Titanic, 1912
Document 10Profile of the Titanic, from Report on the Loss of the S.S. Titanic, 1912The letters below the diagram indicate the location of the sixteen bulkheads. Theheavy line on deck levels D and E indicates the top of the bulkheads. Thecrosshatched compartments are those opened to the sea by the collision.[It took 2 hours for water to fill the damaged compartments. The bow of theship sank slowly until water spilled over the top of the bulkheads and filled moreof the compartments. The ship sank at 2:20 a.m. The Carpathia, the nearestship to hear the SOS sent by the Titanic, did not reach the survivors until 4:30a.m.]
Cincinnati Post Apr 1912[The Titanic carried a total of 2223 passengers and crew, and enoughlifeboats to hold 1178.A total of 706 people were saved and 1507 were lost.]
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