In the opening statement on the index page I promised to give my feelings on this story and try to cut through the speculation and wild stories that have circulated about it. I felt that I had not fulfilled this, so I decided to write this page.
My connection with this ship is only by a long standing interest. This interest did not spring up from Robert Ballard's expedition when he found it, nor from a book I read or movie I watched. My interest goes back as long as I can remember when as a young boy at school in the early sixties a teacher mentioned the ship. I remember she was very emotional about it and I believe that it this was the first spark of what was to become an real interest in RMS Titanic, her sisters and other ships.
Many interested people can quote all the books written about it parrot fashion, this I believe is sad, as they have lost all their imagination about it. I try to use the books only as a reference and a comparison to my own and the beliefs of other people. Do you really believe that a running commentary of just about every spoken word between the crew that night really exists, or are these just speculation on what some people believe must have happened or was said. Likewise I have seen video footage of some survivors stating that they could see the 300 foot gash in its side from the lifeboats. Damage done to her starboard side was below the water line and the bow was well down by the time the boats were launched. It was dark, and they could not possibly have seen any damage to the ship. Others told that the ship slipped below the surface in one piece, and we all now know this is not the case.
My point is, do not believe everything you read or hear about the Titanic, try to recapture the days before Robert Ballard found her broken in two, and let your imagination once again walk down the grand staircase, or view the bow from the bridge. Haven't you ever done this? How many time did you "Raise the Titanic" in your mind? How many times have you done these things since she was found, destroying your image of a brand new, glowing and sparkling ship.
At the same time don't close your mind to the facts about this disaster, the worst
of its kind in that time, and still close to the worst in peace time since. I have
listened and watched folks argue and even come close to fighting over the question
about the Californian, and if Captain Lord was guilty or not. The argument starts
to take on ridiculous proportions with rockets, light, distance and mathematics.
The facts about this are really quite simple, but first the questions
Q1. Was he close enough to make a difference or was the ship sighted not the Californian.
Q2. If he had responded could he have made a difference to the loss of life.
These two question are the ones I have seen most people ask and the two that seem to cause the biggest arguments. The answers to both questions are, who knows for sure, we do not know and will most likely never know. The real answer to both is that it does not matter, he definitely did see some white rockets and never bothered to even try to find out any more information. For this he is guilty, but only for this, he is neither responsible for the loss of the Titanic nor its loss of life.
Captain Smith on the other hand was Master and therefore totally responsible for the tragedy and all its loss if life. All my life I have been annoyed at him portrayed as some sort of hero that went down with his ship, or the complete lie that he swam up to a lifeboat with a baby in his arms, saving its life and then slipped under the water. A statue was even erected in his honour. He sent the ship to the bottom with over 1500 souls and his own miserable life was tangled up in it. I have heard people say "He was only doing the accepted practise", or "It was standard practise to go full speed ahead and put the ice behind you", or "Had had never commanded such a huge vessel and did not know the performance or dangers". Fact is he did know, he commanded the Olympic and pranged it, and also nearly collided in a similar manner as the Titanic left port on her maiden voyage. I now do accept the belief that it was standard practise to steam at full speed ahead through large ice fields, mainly because of better manouverability at faster speed and having highly paid lookout posted to watch for ice, does seem to have been standard practise. Was this reckless, I no longer think so but maybe more debate is required. In previous interviews, he even made statements that reflected his belief that nothing could possibly happen.
Probably the most likely single factor that could have averted disaster was Murdoch's order for full astern. Every second that these two huge props slowed her forward motion, increased the distance needed to turn this huge ship. When Murdoch gave these orders he deprived the ship of the slipstream for the third propeller which, had it been reversible would have turned the ship more quickly. How many feet were needed to clear the iceberg enough to save breaching one less compartment or maybe two or three or.....
I have never understood why Smith did not counter flood the stern to keep the ship on an even keel, the ship would have survived much longer if this had been done, but since this time it has been suggested that this was not done in order to keep generators going to keep this lights on and so stop panic. I invite professional input in this regard.
How do I feel about the "desecration", "robbing", "exploration" to borrow some words from those how are totally opposed to the wreck being explored or salvaged. I have very mixed emotions about this. On one hand I think that the ship is only a vessel that carried the victims, their bodies are long gone with no trace, except for pairs of shoes scattered around, and so ,salvage it, and even grave sites sometimes have to be moved to preserve them and their memory.
On the other hand I feel for the folk who want it left alone and preserved as a memorial and museum. So where does this leave us. My conclusion is that nature herself is slowly stripping the wreck, covering the wreck with silt and slowly but surely dissolving the wreck. The wreck has already been salvaged and there is no way we can over undo what has been done, so lets make the best of it. Let us all turn our attention to making sure the 3600 or so items recovered do remain intact and kept together or shared out to various countries for all to see. Possibly even rotated from time to time so future generations can enjoy them all. This way the memory of the Titanic and her victims will not fade and disintegrate as the ship is doing, but be preserved and remembered for all time.
Every April 14th , My friend Bruce (a fellow Titanic enthusiast) and I sit quietly alone from 11:30 , with a drink, and around 2:20am on the 15th we tip our hats and then retire listening to the quiet of the early morning.
I have chosen a tune through the years that fully conveys my feelings, the emotions,
the tragedy and the re-discovery of this great ship and her passengers. The tune
is "Largo From 'New World Symphony', especially the version by Julian Lloyd
Weber and the London Symphony Orchestra. It is available on CD and my copy is by
Polydor and carries the number 827 352-2. Close your eyes and play it.
Play Largo From 'New World Symphony' by Antonin DVORAK (1841 - 1904)