Titanic Essay

This essay has a total of 5173 words and 20 pages.


I have always been intrigued by the Titanic, but my interest boomed with the recent
development in how the side of the ship was damaged. I was amazed that instead of causing
a gaping wound, as was previously believed, the iceberg that Titanic hit merely caused a
series of small rips in the side of the ship. Sonar was used to determine that the side
of the ship had six small slits that were no bigger than a single hand
(http://www.titanic. cc/sonar.htm). This research amazed me because of the amount of
water that passed through the small slits in the hull. I was always interested in ships,
but the mystery that surrounded the Titanic sinking caused me to choose it for my senior
project. At our first meeting (May 29, 1997), Mrs. Ferguson mentioned that I should try
to incorporate my creative writing abilities into the project. Together, we came up with
writing fictional diary entries for real passengers. My intent was to bring the people of
the doomed liner to life through their thoughts throughout the trip. I chose which
passengers’ diaries I would write and then heavily researched each of these individuals.
The craze from the movie Titanic made getting information difficult but I was able to
gather the facts I needed from the Internet as well as books and documents from the
library. After researching the people, I adapted their personas and attempted to write a
close facsimile to what I believe their diaries would have resembled.

RMS Titanic was the last grand dream of the Gilded Age. It was designed to be the greatest
achievement of an era of prosperity, confidence, and propriety. The old presumptions about
class, morals, and gender-roles were about to be shattered. If the concept of Titanic was
the climax of the age, then perhaps its sinking was the curtain that marked the end of the
old drama and the start of a new one.

The intensely competitive transatlantic steamship business had seen recent major advances
in ship design, size and speed. White Star Line, one of the leaders, was determined to
focus on size and elegance rather than pure speed. In 1907, White Star Line's managing
director, J. Bruce Ismay, and Lord James Pirrie, a partner in Harland & Wolff, conceived
of a vision of three magnificent steam ships which would set a new standard for comfort,
elegance, and safety. The first two were to be named Olympic and Titanic, the latter name
chosen by Ismay to convey a sense of overwhelming size and strength.

It took one year to design the two ships. Construction of Olympic started in December,
1908, followed by Titanic in March, 1909. The Belfast shipyards of Harland & Wolff had to
be re-designed to accommodate the immense projects while White Star's pier in New York had
to be lengthened to enable the ships to dock. During the two years it took to complete
Titanic's hull, the press was loaded with publicity about the ship's magnificence, making
Titanic virtually a legend before her launch. The "launch" of the completed steel in May,
1911, was a heavily publicized spectacle. Tickets were sold to benefit a local children's

Titanic was then taken for "fitting out" which involved the construction of the ship's
many facilities and systems, her elaborate woodwork and fine decor. As the date of her
maiden voyage approached, the completed Olympic suffered a collision and required
extensive repairs, increasing the workload at Harland & Wolff, which was already
struggling to complete Titanic on schedule. Titanic's maiden voyage was delayed from March
20 to April 10.

Titanic was 883 feet long (1/6 of a mile), 92 feet wide, and weighed 46,328 tons. She was
104 feet tall from keel to bridge, almost 35 feet of which were below the waterline.
There were three real smoke-stacks; a fourth, “dummy” stack was added largely to increase
the impression of her gargantuan size and power and to vent smoke from her numerous
kitchens and galleys. She was the largest movable object ever made by man. She was
designed to be a marvel of modern safety technology. She had a double-hull of one-inch
thick steel plates and a heavily publicized system of sixteen water-tight compartments,
sealed by massive doors which could be instantly triggered by a single electric switch on
the bridge or even automatically triggered by electric water-sensors. The press branded
her "unsinkable" (Spignesi, Stephen).

Her accommodations were the most modern and luxurious on any ocean and included electric
light and heat in every room, electric elevators, a swimming pool, a squash court, a
Turkish Bath, a gymnasium with a mechanical horse and mechanical camel to keep riders fit,
and staterooms and first class facilities to rival the best hotels on the Continent
(Spignesi, Stephen). First class passengers would glide down a six-story, glass-domed
grand staircase to enjoy haute cuisine in the sumptuous first class dining saloon that
filled the width of the ship on D Deck. For those who desired a more intimate atmosphere,
Titanic also offered a stately à la carte restaurant, the chic Palm Court and Verandah
restaurant, and the festive Cafe Parisian. She offered two musical ensembles of the best
musicians on the Atlantic, many of them lured from rival liners. There were two libraries,
first- and second-class. Even the third class cabins were more luxurious than the first
class cabins on some lesser steamships and boasted amenities that some of Titanic's
immigrant passengers had not enjoyed in their own homes (Spignesi, Stephen).

The original design called for 32 lifeboats. However, White Star management felt that the
boat-deck would look cluttered, and reduced the number to 20, for a total life-boat
capacity of 1178. This actually exceeded the regulations of the time, even though Titanic
was capable of carrying over 3500 people (passengers and crew).

The maiden voyage lured the "very best people:” British nobility, American industrialists,
the very cream of New York and Philadelphia society. It also attracted many poor
immigrants, hoping to start a new life in America or Canada.

The journey began at Southampton on Wednesday, April 10, 1912, at noon. By sundown,
Titanic had stopped in Cherbourg, France to pick up additional passengers. That evening
she sailed for Queenstown, Ireland, and at 1:30 PM on Thursday, April 11, she headed out
into the Atlantic.

The weather was pleasant and clear, and the water temperature was about 55 degrees
Fahrenheit. The winter of 1912 had been unusually mild, and unprecedented amounts of ice
had broken loose from the arctic regions. Titanic was equipped with Marconi's new wireless
telegraph system and her two Marconi operators kept the wireless room running 24 hours a
day. On Sunday, April 14, the fifth day at sea, Titanic received five different
ice-warnings, but the captain was not overly concerned. The ship steamed ahead at 22
knots, and the line's Managing Director J. Bruce Ismay relished the idea of arriving in
New York a day ahead of schedule.

On the night of April 14, wireless operator Phillips was very busy sending chatty
passengers’ messages to Cape Race, Newfoundland. He received a sixth ice-warning that
night but did not realize how close Titanic was to the position of the warning, and he put
that message under a paperweight at his elbow. It never reached Captain Smith or the
officer on the bridge.

The sea was unusually calm and flat, "like glass" said many survivors. The lack of waves
made it even more difficult to spot icebergs, since there was no telltale white water
breaking at the edges of the bergs.

At 11:40, a lookout in the crow's nest spotted an iceberg dead ahead. He notified the
bridge and First Officer Murdoch ordered the ship turned hard to port. He signaled the
engine room to reverse direction, full astern. The ship turned slightly, but it was too
large, moving too fast, and the iceberg was too close. Thirty-seven seconds later, the
greatest maritime disaster in history began. During that night of heroism, terror and
tragedy, 705 lives were saved, 1502 lives were lost, and many legends were born (Spignesi,

Late on April 14, 1912, in the icy Atlantic, RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and sank,
resulting in the loss of more than one thousand five hundred lives. RMS Titanic had been
deemed unsinkable by the newspapers, and many said that God himself could not sink the
Titanic. As though she were doomed from the beginning, she was appropriately named
Titanic. The titans dared to challenge the gods, and for their arrogance, they were cast
down into hell. Much like the titans, Harland and Wolff, the builders, dared to challenge
Mother Nature. After the tragic loss of more than one thousand lives, all ships traveling
the seas were forced to carry enough lifeboats for all passengers and crew on board.
However, it was too late for the majority on the Titanic.

The steerage, also known as the third class, were the largest percentage of passengers and
were in the lower decks, furthest from the lifeboats. They were the bulk of those lost,
but every life aboard the RMS Titanic was permanently altered in the moment the majestic
ocean liner skidded past an iceberg. Most passengers did not live to tell what they
experienced in the days at sea preceding the collision, the atmosphere of panic that
surrounded the ship when it was realized that the Titanic would founder, or the feeling of
one thousand bodies hitting icy water at two a.m. Circumstances allowed Joseph Groves
Boxhall, Margaret “Molly” Tobin Brown, Lawrence Beesley, and Anna McGowan to survive the
sinking and the exposure to the cold (Hyslop et al.).

Joseph Groves Boxhall was born in Hull, Yorkshire in 1884 and had been at sea for thirteen
years prior to joining the Titanic, five of which had been with the White Star Line
(http://www.execpc.c om/reva/tioff.htm#Bo xhall). Boxhall was the fourth officer on the
Titanic, and one of his duties on board was to chart the ship’s position (Kuntz 129). He
was on duty at the time of the collision with the iceberg, and Captain Smith ordered him
to inspect the ship for damage. Boxhall went as low as possible in the passenger sections
and found no damage. However, when he found the carpenter, he was notified that the ship
was taking on water and that the mail room was flooding. After inspecting the rest of the
ship with Captain Smith, Mr. Andrews, the architect from Harland & Wolff, and Officer
Wilde, Boxhall recalculated the position of the ship. The position he calculated was
based on sights and estimated speed. The Titanic’s position was 41 degrees 46’ north, 50
degrees 14’ west. Boxhall then waited impatiently for Quartermaster Rowe to come with
rockets so they could begin shooting them off the bridge as a signal (Lynch). He and Rowe
began pulling out socket signals and the mortars from where they were fired. Just before
1 AM he sent the last distress signal 600 ft. into the air. He commented that “upon
reaching the top of its trajectory, it exploded and a dozen white stars drifted downward”
(Garrison 162). It was Boxhall who spotted the “mysterious ship in the distance,” also
known as the California. He saw a boat about five to ten miles away and tried to contact
it with Morse code but got no response. During the US Senate inquiries into the Titanic
tragedy, Boxhall testified that he did not see much reluctance to get in the lifeboats or
anxiety on the ship. He was put in charge of Lifeboat Two which was one of the last
lifeboats to leave the doomed ship. While still aboard the Titanic, Boxhall talked to
Bruce Ismay, who asked him why he was not getting people into the boats and leaving.
Boxhall responded that the boat’s crew was ready and could go into the water but that they
had to wait for the captain’s orders. Lifeboat Two was pretty full and because of their
late departure, they were only about half a mile away from Titanic when it sank. Boxhall
testified that there was a little suction but that he did not see the Titanic go under.
After the sinking, he pulled around to where the ship’s stern was because he thought he
could take three more people but was unable to find anyone in the water. During the hours
between the sinking and the arrival of the Carpithia it was Boxhall’s duty to continue
showing a green pyrothechic light so that the lifeboats could stay together and so that
the rescue ship would be able to find them (Kuntz). Once the Carpithia arrived, Lifeboat
Two was the first to be picked up. Once aboard the Carpithia, Boxhall was taken to the
bridge and, when asked if the ship had gone down, told Rostron, the captain of the

“’Yes....She went down about 2:30’ He quickly began detailing what happened until
Rostron interrupted, ‘Were many people left on aboard when she sank?’ ‘Hundreds and
hundreds! Perhaps a thousand! Perhaps more!’ Boxhall burst out emotionally. ‘My God,
sir, They’ve gone down with her. They couldn’t live in this icy cold water’” (Lynch

After arriving in New York, Boxhall joined the Royal Navy and retired from the sea in
1940. In 1958 he acted as a technical advisor on “A Night to Remember,” a movie
adaptation of Walter Lord’s book about the sinking of the Titanic. Boxhall died in 1967
whereupon his ashes were spread in the area Titanic sank (Lynch 222).

Margaret Tobin was born July 18, 1867, in Hannibal, Missouri. She was the daughter of a
poor Irish immigrant, John Tobin, who immigrated to America in 1823, finally settling in
Hannibal, Missouri. She met her future husband, JJ, in 1886, and, after a brief courtship,
they were married on September 1, 1886. Molly was nineteen, twelve years his junior. They
lived in Leadville in a small, two-room log cabin, and the following year Molly gave birth
to her first child Lawrence Palmer Brown. Two years after that birth Molly gave birth to
her second and last child, Catherine Ellen. A few years later, JJ Brown started mining to
search for more silver deposits. After a year of mining JJ made a great deal of money. In
1894 they moved to Denver and bought a $30,000 mansion in Denver's wealthy Capitol Hill
neighborhood. Brown was 27-years-old, and she found herself unsatisfied just being Mrs. JJ
Brown, mother of two. She wanted to be a society woman of stature. Molly wore the most
expensive clothes in Denver. Most were designed for her in Paris. Molly and JJ had their
own box at the opera, and when the Browns arrived at the theater, the entire audience
looked up toward their box. They were also noted for the lavish parties they gave at their
home and their lengthy trips to Europe. JJ grew tired of all this social climbing, but
Molly continued to climb the social ladder without him. This began their estrangement
which continued until JJ's death.

In 1912, Brown was on one of her many European tours when she received word that her
grandson was ill. She made immediate plans to return to America after receiving the bad
news. She booked passage on the first ship to America, which happened to be the Titanic
(http://www.mollybro wn.com/). She boarded in Cherbourg, France and considered herself
lucky and was put in a stateroom on B deck for $130. By Thursday evening Brown was well
aquatinted with Colonel Archibald Gracie, who would later throw her into a lifeboat
unwittingly. On the night of the collision, Brown had stayed up to finish reading a book
as she was an avid reader. When the Titanic struck the iceberg, she was thrown to the
ground and went to see what happened (Garrison 137, 141). Once she realized that
lifeboats were being loaded, she used her knowledge of other languages to try to get
passengers who did not speak English to the boats. At one point she persuaded a Belgian
woman to get into a lifeboat instead of going below for her valuables. As she was walking
away to see what was going on elsewhere, she was picked up and dropped four feet into
Lifeboat Six. However, there were not enough seamen in the boat so Major Arthur Peuchen
joined them. At 1:30 AM Lifeboat Six began to row away from the doomed Titanic with ten
empty seats (Lynch 110).

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