When you hear the name Titanic


When you hear the name Titanic, what comes to mind? A giant iceberg? A moonless night? An 882.5-foot luxury liner meeting a watery grave along with more than half of her passengers and crew?

The RMS Titanic was the second in a planned threesome and the largest ship to ever set sail for her time. Her frame was designed differently from her predecessors to take in account that if large waves were encountered and part of her wasn’t hugged by the ocean there could be support issues. Her design also tried to take factor in if she did encounter any trouble — for example, certain compartments could be closed off to prevent flooding in other compartments and thus turn the ship into a giant lifeboat. This was part of what earned her the nickname “almost unsinkable,” but journalists dropped the “almost” part to stir up more excitement.

What truly makes her memorable, though, is not her design or beauty, but the miracles and acts of heroism that happened between 11:40 p.m. on April 14 and 2:20 a.m. on April 15 — and beyond.

As men, women and children were fleeing to the lifeboats, in the boiler room, firemen kept the boilers going so the lights stayed on as long as possible. The hope: a passing ship would see and come to the rescue.

At first, the wireless operators tapped only “CQD” (come quick, danger) on their radios. But when no response came, the junior operator suggested they try the new signal “SOS” (save our ship.” This was the first time SOS was ever used despite having been put into effect as the official rescue signal in 1908. The wireless operators hoped switching between the codes would draw aid. 

It did. At 12:35 a.m., nearly an hour after the Titanic struck the iceberg, the RMS Carpathia picked up the signal. Two other ships, the Baltic and the Olympic, also picked up the signals, but the Carpathia was the one to alter route and head for the Titanic’s location. She arrived at 4 a.m. on April 15.

While the firemen shoveled coal and the operators tapped away on their radios, the orchestra played, trying to calm and bring hope in the midst of chaos. At the same time, Father Thomas Byles listened to confessions, led prayers and comforted people. The priest and most of the crew did not survive, but their actions, their stories, did.

Meanwhile, on Lifeboat 6, “the unsinkable Molly Brown” took up an oar and stirred up the others on board her lifeboat, first to try to convince the terrified crewman at the tiller to go back to pick up survivors — which he wouldn’t — and later to row themselves to the Carpathia.

Crew member Violet Jessop was about to board a lifeboat when someone handed her a baby. She cared for the child until it was swooped from her grasp aboard the Carpathia with only a brief thanks offered.

When one of the cooks learned the fate of the ship, he drank all he could before stepping into the icy waters. He survived thanks to the alcohol acting as a sort of antifreeze and someone pulling him on board an overturned lifeboat.

First class passenger Archibald Gracie nearly went down with the ship. He’d been caught in the suction of the sinking until a burst of air from a ventilation shaft shoved him back to the surface and he clambered aboard the overturned collapsible lifeboat B.

Now, when you hear the name RMS Titanic, what comes to mind?

Views expressed do not necessarily represent those of The SUN.