A well-told story of the Titanic

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The Titanic was historically remained in memory for being the unsinkable steamer a hundred years ago, and the story of this majestic liner was told and retold in different languages and forms. But she did sink in the North Atlantic Ocean during her maiden voyage from Southampton en route to New York with 1514 passengers and crew members aboard in the early hours of 15 April, 1912. This is one of the deadliest maritime disasters in the modern history.

At the turn of the 20th century, a stiff competition among rival shipping companies brought the Royal Mail Ship Titanic (RMS Titanic), one of the three Olympic Class liners of White Star Line, a highly prominent British shipping company owned by an American tycoon. Before this, the company had reflected its great interest to attain the fabled Blue Riband that was totally relied on the luxury of high speed. The company dwelled upon an idea of gaining additional revenue by providing luxurious and reliable services by the means of competing with contemporary Atlantic record breakers: Cunard’s Mauretania; the fastest transatlantic crossing liner, and Lusitania with fabulous interiors. Bruce Ismay (Chairman, White Star Line) and Lord Pirie (chairman of Harland & Wolff shipbuilders) discussed this possibility and decided to run three luxurious liners from England to New York, especially for wealthy sea travellers. Out of three, the order for the first two (the Olympic and Titanic) was placed on 1 July, 1907.

Harland & Wolff Shipbuilders was assigned the Titanic’s manufacturing contract, and the chief designer was Thomas Andrews, the best engineer in the company. Safety and comfort as the main features of the liners were mostly prioritised. She was the first so colossal liner that alterations to accommodate her were made in a shipyard of Harland & Wolf Shipbuilders and over 17 thousand workers employed for her construction. By the end of March, 1909 the keel of her was laid down and the immense hull – at the time – made its way down the slipways. It was launched at the shipyard in Belfast, in front of a cheering crowd of 100,000 on 31 May, 1909. She cost $7.5million to build, equal to $40 million today.

The Titanic was often praised for its outstanding features and lavish interior. The giant vessel’s length, and width at the broadest point (882.9 feet and 92.5 feet respectively) was about as same as the Tower Bridge, located in London England. It featured 16 watertight bulkheads, each equipped with electric watertight doors which could be closed individually or simultaneously within 30 seconds from captain’s cabin. It is said that Titanic was able to stay afloat if any two compartments or the first four got flooded, thereby, was believed to be unsinkable. She had a tonnage of 46,328 and was fitted with 55000 horsepower three engines to cruise her at the highest speed of 23 knots with her maximum capacity of 3500 passengers.

Under the command of the most experienced captain, Edward Smith who was to retire after this, the Titanic set sail on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City in the afternoon of 10 April, 1912. It sailed to Cherbourg and then to Queenstown in by nightfall. More people added from these places and now a total of 2223 lives, including passengers and crew members were on board. Thereafter, the eleven storied steamer sailed for three days towards New York, and now was sailing in the proximity to the southern shores of Newfoundland in Canada.

The Shipping Navigation Department knew so did the captain, Edward Smith that the way ahead consisted of pack ice and iceberg breaking off glaciers drifting down in huge masses from north to the shipping lanes (south). In addition to this, a Pilot Guide Book (1909) supplied to the ship clearly stated that one of the chief dangers associated with crossing the Atlantic lies in the possibility of encountering ice chunks, especially during the period of April – August. But the captain raised the risk by taking a more southerly route. On the top of it, the ill-fated ship was moving towards these ice fields at its maximum speed. Six Cassandra-like warnings from other ships sailing nearby were also ignored by the ships officials, including Captain Smith and message operator Phillips. It is still questionable why they hadn’t considered the danger laid ahead in their path.

The ill-fated ship was sailing towards the jaws of death. When the giant flat iceberg was sighted by one of the lookouts positioned at the nest of the ship, the massive vessel floating at the maximum speed of 42 kilometres per hour was already close to it. Now the captain was told to change the course immediately, but it was not possible for the 268.73 meters long and about 65,000 tonnes heavy ship to be turned suddenly either to right or left. However, engines were reversed and the huge ship did turn to left slightly by hitting the killer ice berg from starboard side and five of her 16 watertight compartments opened to the sea. Soon, it started gulping water inside. Meanwhile, evacuation procedure was started, and 706 travellers were saved with the help lifeboats. It was about to 2 hours since it hit the iceberg. By 2:20 am, she broke apart and was sinking with over thousand people on board in the bitterly cold sea water.

There are conflicting accounts of her fate; one was a strong belief among the passengers and crew that she would not sink, for its design and strength were lauded by many magazines and newspapers. Shipbuilder Magazine was wrongly taken by her steel-made watertight bulkheads which added a lot to this disbelief. Secondly, an inadequate numbers of lifeboats, one of the most critical some safety lapse, though standards of British Board of Trade were followed, and delay in evacuation procedure had contributed to the loss of lives. Captain’s overconfidence and misjudgement of the danger collectively were held responsible for this impending disaster.

By Ashok Kumar

Copyright@www.ashoksir.com

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Showing 5 comments
  • ashoksir
    Reply

    IELTS READING PASSAGE

  • ankitpatel
    Reply

    Hello every! I have read the article. It’s great. But I have few diffcult words. Could you please help with them.

    historical
    iceberg
    collision

    • Harsh trivedi
      Reply

      Good morning!!! The article is just fabulous. In fact, I got to know things which were never know to me. For example, who had developed, between which two countries it was making its maiden voyage, who was the captain,ignorance of the captain and message officer !! Its written in such a way that one can easily go through and understand the whole idea of the article.. I just want to say in one word “mesmerising” article

    • ASHOKKUMAR JANGID
      Reply

      Hey Ankit,

      Thanks for visiting our website.
      The following are meanings
      historical= it is related to past events or history
      iceberg= are huge chunks of ice that float in the sea after breaking off
      collision= its an event of hitting against something

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