Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Legends and myths regardingRMS Titanic

Contrary to popular mythology,
Titanic was never described as
"unsinkable", without
qualification, until after she sank.
[143][144] There are three trade
publications (one of which was
probably never published) that
describe Titanic as unsinkable,
prior to her sinking, but there is
no evidence that the notion of
Titanic's unsinkability had
entered public consciousness
until after the sinking.[143]
General arrangement of the 16
main compartments of Titanic.
The double bottom was 7 feet
high and divided into 44
watertight compartments. There
were additional 13 small
compartments above the tank
top, e.g. for the shaft tunnels.
The trade journal The
Shipbuilder and Marine Engine
Builder described in their June
1911 Special Number devoted to
Olympic and Titanic that "The
captain may, by simply moving
an electric switch, instantly close
the watertight doors throughout,
making the vessel virtually
unsinkable."[145] In fact the
vessel was designed to comply
with Grade 1 subdivision
proposed by the 1891 Bulkhead
Committee, meaning that it
could stay afloat with any two
adjoining out of its 16 main
compartments in free
communication with the sea. The
height of the bulkhead deck
above the water line in flooded
condition was well above the
requirements and the vessel
indeed would have been able to
float with three adjoining
compartments flooded in 11 out
of 14 possible combinations.[146]
The first unqualified assertion of
Titanic's unsinkability appears the
day after the tragedy (on 16
April 1912) in The New York
Times, which quotes Philip A. S.
Franklin, vice president of the
White Star Line as saying, when
informed of the incident,
I thought her unsinkable
and I based my opinion on
the best expert advice
available. I do not
understand it.[147]
This comment was seized upon
by the press and the idea that
the White Star Line had
previously declared Titanic to be
unsinkable (without qualification)
gained immediate and
widespread currency.[148]
David Sarnoff, wireless
reports and the use of SOS
An often-quoted story that has
been blurred between fact and
fiction states that the first person
to receive news of the sinking
was David Sarnoff, who would
later lead media giant RCA. In
modified versions of this legend,
Sarnoff was not the first to hear
the news (though Sarnoff
willingly promoted this notion),
but he and others did staff the
Marconi wireless station
(telegraph) atop the Wanamaker
Department Store in New York
City, and for three days, relayed
news of the disaster and names
of survivors to people waiting
outside. However, even this
version lacks support in
contemporary accounts. No
newspapers of the time, for
example, mention Sarnoff. Given
the absence of primary evidence,
the story of Sarnoff should be
properly regarded as a legend.
Despite popular belief, the
sinking of Titanic was not the first
time the internationally
recognised Morse code distress
signal "SOS" was used. The SOS
signal was first proposed at the
International Conference on
Wireless Communication at Sea
in Berlin in 1906. It was ratified
by the international community
in 1908 and had been in
widespread use since then. The
SOS signal was, however, rarely
used by British wireless
operators, who preferred the
older CQD code. First Wireless
Operator Jack Phillips began
transmitting CQD until Second
Wireless Operator Harold Bride
half jokingly suggested, "Send
SOS; it's the new call, and this
may be your last chance to send
it." Phillips then began to
intersperse SOS with the
traditional CQD call.[154]
Titanic's band
Members of Titanic's band.
One of the most famous stories
of Titanic is of the ship's band.
On 15 April the eight-member
band, led by Wallace Hartley,
had assembled in the first-class
lounge in an effort to keep
passengers calm and upbeat.
Later they moved on to the
forward half of the boat deck.
The band continued playing,
even when it became apparent
the ship was going to sink, and
all members perished.
There has been much
speculation about what their last
song was.[155] A first-class
Canadian passenger, Mrs. Vera
Dick, alleged that the final song
played was the hymn " Nearer,
My God, to Thee". Hartley
reportedly once said to a friend
if he were on a sinking ship,
"Nearer, My God, to Thee"
would be one of the songs he
would play.[156] But Walter
Lord's book A Night to
Remember popularised wireless
operator Harold Bride's 1912
account (New York Times) that
he heard the song "Autumn"
before the ship sank. It is
considered Bride either meant
the hymn called "Autumn" or
waltz "Songe d'Automne" but
neither were in the White Star
Line songbook for the band.
[156] Bride is the only witness
who was close enough to the
band, as he floated off the deck
before the ship went down, to
be considered reliable —Mrs.
Dick had left by lifeboat an hour
and 20 minutes earlier and could
not possibly have heard the
band's final moments. The
notion that the band played
"Nearer, My God, to Thee" as a
swan song is possibly a myth
originating from the wrecking of
SS Valencia, which had received
wide press coverage in Canada in
1906 and so may have
influenced Mrs. Dick's
recollection.[143] Also, there are
two, very different, musical
settings for "Nearer, My God, to
Thee": one is popular in Britain,
and the other is popular in the
U.S., and the British melody
might sound like the other hymn
("Autumn").[citation needed] The
film A Night to Remember (1958)
uses the British setting; while the
1953 film Titanic, with Clifton
Webb, uses the American setting.
[ citation needed]
The stories of W.T. Stead
Main article: William Thomas
Another often cited Titanic
legend concerns perished first
class passenger, William Thomas
Stead. According to this folklore,
Stead had, through precognitive
insight, foreseen his own death
on Titanic. This is apparently
suggested in two fictional sinking
stories, which he penned
decades earlier. The first, "How
the Mail Steamer Went Down in
Mid-Atlantic, by a
Survivor" (1886), tells of a mail
steamer's collision with another
ship, resulting in high loss of life
due to lack of lifeboats.[157] The
second, "From the Old World to
the New" (1892) features a White
Star Line vessel, Majestic, that
rescues survivors of another ship
that had collided with an
The Titanic curse
When Titanic sank, claims were
made that a curse existed on the
ship. The press quickly linked the
"Titanic curse" with the White
Star Line practice of not
christening their ships
(notwithstanding the opening
scene of the film A Night to
One of the most widely spread
legends linked directly into the
sectarianism of the city of Belfast,
where the ship was built. It was
suggested that the ship was given
the number 390904 which, when
reflected, resembles the letters
"NOPOPE", a sectarian slogan
attacking Roman Catholics,
widely used by extreme
Protestants in Northern Ireland,
where the ship was built. In the
extreme sectarianism of the
region, the ship's sinking was
alleged to be on account of anti-
Catholicism by her
manufacturers, the Harland and
Wolff company, which had an
almost exclusively Protestant
workforce and an alleged record
of hostility towards Catholics.
(Harland and Wolff did have a
record of hiring few Catholics;
whether that was through policy
or because the company's
shipyard in Belfast's bay was
located in almost exclusively
Protestant East Belfast —through
which few Catholics would travel
— or a mixture of both, is a
matter of dispute.)[159] In fact,
RMS Olympic and Titanic were
assigned the yard numbers 400
and 401 respectively.[160]
Alleged predictions of the
At the time the Titanic sank, the
1 May 1912 issue of The Popular
Magazine, an American pulp
magazine, was on the
newsstands. It contained the
short story "The White Ghost of
Disaster," which described the
collision of an ocean liner with
an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean,
the sinking of the vessel, and the
fate of the passengers. The story,
by Mayn Clew Garnett (the
pseudonym of sea-story author
T. Jenkins Hains), created a
minor sensation.[


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