To most in my generation, the story of the RMS Titanic is not so much associated with a book as with James Cameron’s blockbuster movie of 1997. However, even as kids we had read about the mighty Titanic and how she met her end in 1912 on her very first voyage. You will know, I am sure, that her end came when she crashed against an iceberg in the ice cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Over 1500 went down with her. Though this accident took place over 100 years ago, it still continues to fascinate those interested in such stories.
Yet one more, in the long list of books about this horrific accident is “Titanic: The Story of the Unsinkable Ship” (2016) in the Hourly History series of books. The Titanic was owned by The White Star Line, one of the premier shipping companies of those times and was built by Harland and Wolff, a very reputed firm of ship builders in Belfast, Ireland.
White Star’s main competitors, Cunard and Hamburg America were striving to capture the market with faster ships, such as the RMS Mauritania and the RMS Lusitania. White Star decided to compete on luxury. Over 7 million pounds, a huge amount even for those days, was spent on the building of the Titanic. The ship had over 800 staterooms and 11 decks designed to please the most fastidious when it came to style and comfort. Even the standards for the “lowly” third class was far superior when compared to competitors.
At about 11.40 p.m. on the night of April 14, the ship’s lookouts warned the First Officer on the bridge about an iceberg that they had sighted. First Officer Murdoch, an experienced mariner ordered the engines to be thrust into reverse to turn the ship and avoid the iceberg. However, it was too late by then. The ship scraped the jagged ice underneath the water. Holes were ripped into the ship and in no time her insides were flooded. At 12.05, the evacuation by life boats began . The RMS Carpathia answered Titanic’s SOS at 12.25 but by the time she reached the area of the accident, Titanic was well under water.
The book explains what actually transpired in an objective manner. It is easy with the benefit of hindsight to find faults but at that time, most people did what they thought was best under the circumstances. It has been established that there could have been more survivors had there been more life boats on board. Also that more passengers could have been allowed to be evacuated in each of the life boats. Another cause was that the ship’s compartments were not as water tight as the builders claimed and this led to more people drowning.
The magnitude of the accident is such that even more a hundred years later we still talk- and read – about the ill-fated Titanic. Was she praised too much too soon? Was it just an unfortunate accident? Could more than 700 have survived? It is worth reading this slim volume for all the answers.