Cruise History: On April 14, 2009, the world will mark the 97th anniversary of the loss of RMS Titanic, the “unsinkable” White Star luxury liner that struck an iceberg 375 miles off the coast of Newfoundland and sank on its maiden voyage, taking over 1,500 people to their deaths. The Titanic – the myths, the facts and the band played on…
1912 RMS Titanic Newsreel.
It’s not too much of a stretch to say that the modern fascination with and dread of icebergs dates to that momentous event.
On that fateful night, only 11 years after Marconi received the first trans-Atlantic wireless signal in Newfoundland, one of his stations there was instrumental in passing on the distress signal from the ill-fated RMS Titanic.
Almost a century after Titanic’s sinking, icebergs maintain their dual persona. Canada and the United Stated maintain seasonal iceberg patrols to protect shipping, and these were instigated by Titanic’s loss.
AND THE BAND PLAYED ON…
The band is one of the Titanic’s most popular subjects. People hailed them as heroes, playing till the waves swallowed them up. I find it very unlikely they played to the very end. The ship assumed an almost perpendicular position as she sank and I tend to think it would be very hard to concentrate on a tune as the walls turned into floors and visa-versa. There is also much confusion on what their last song was. From the lifeboats, a number of different songs were heard. Among them is “Nearer, My God to Thee”. Both the American and British survivors recall hearing it. This hymn is ordinarily played to entirely different music on both sides of the Atlantic. Three different tunes in all! I find it very unlikely they played all three versions. Also in the running is the hymn “Autumn” and “Songe d’Automne”. It is important to note that there were two separate bands on the Titanic and they had two totally different playing styles. None of the band members survived.
The Band was supplied by the Black talent Agency of Liverpool. They signed on the ship for a shilling a month, but were listed as second class passengers. They were clearly under the Captain’s authority, but worked for and were paid by the Black Agency. After the ship floundered, nobody wanted to take responsibility for the lives of the Bandsmen. It seems they weren’t covered by anybody’s insurance policy. The White Star Line said that the Band worked for the Blacks and therefore covered by them, and the Blacks argued that the Band was listed as passengers and therefore covered as such. One family was even hounded by the Black’s for the dead bands man’s unpaid uniform bill which amounted to only $3.50 in American money.
SOME TITANIC FACTS…
White Star Line, was the owner of the Titanic which was a British company owned by J.P. Morgan’s Trust, International Mercantile Marine (IMM).
The Titanic was built at Harland & Wolff shipyards in Belfast, Ireland.
It took over 15,000 men to build the ship.
Two people died during the building of the Titanic.
The ship Titanic was 882½ feet (269m) long, 92½ feet (28m) wide, weighed over 53,000 tons (53,800t) and had 11 decks.
The ship had 3 anchors, one for each side of the ship and one center anchor for the bow.
The Titanic had four funnels which were approximately 63 feet (19m) high and 24½ feet (7m).
There were approximately 2,000 portholes and windows on the ship.
The designer of the Titanic was Thomas Andrews who was head of the design department at Harland & Wolff shipyards.
The hull was made of overlapping steel plates which were fastened by over 3 million rivets.
All the plating of the hulls was riveted by hydraulic power, driving seven-ton riveting machines, suspended from traveling cranes.
The Titanic was originally to have 64 lifeboats on board but they were reduced to 20.
The Titanic cost $7.5 million to build, well over $123 million today.
The Titanic’s top speed was 24 knots (which she never reached) which is equivalent to 28 miles per hour (45kph).
The Titanic was officially launched on the 31st of May, 1911.
The fourth funnel was actually used for ventilating the ship and was not connected to the engine room.
The registered tonnage of each vessel is estimated as 45,000, but officers of the White Star Line say that the Titanic measured 45,328 tons.
The Titanic was commanded by Captain E.J. Smith, the White Star admiral, who had previously been on the Olympic.
SOME TITANIC MYTHS…
It was rumored that the cursed Hope Diamond was on the Titanic when it sunk. False. The cursed stone was in the possession of Washington socialite Mrs Evelyn McLean who was not on the ship.
Along the same lines, a rumor circulated that a cursed Egyptian mummy on board was the reason the ship sunk. The cursed mummy went by the name of Princess of Amen-Ra (aka shipwrecker).False. No evidence of a mummy on board (well no Egyptian ones!).
One of the ship workers was accidentally sealed in the hull. False
One of the workers painted “we defy God to sink her ” on the stern. False
The reason the great ship sank was because the bottle of champagne used to christen the Titanic did not break on the first swing, which is believed to be very bad luck for a ship. False. Good try, but the Titanic was not christened on launching, White Star Line didn’t believe in the custom.
The band played on as the ship went down. Half True. The band played until 2am, 20 minutes before the ship sank. They had to stop playing as the deck began to tilt.
The Titanic sank in one piece. False. When the ship was discovered in 1985 it was apparent the ship had broken into two parts. The weight of the stern rising out of the water was simply too great. She broke apart between the 3rd and 4th funnels.
First Officer, Mr Murdoch shot himself on the bridge when he realised all hope was lost. False. Witnesses say Murdoch was in total charge of the vessel at the time of the accident and up until the end.
When the late Colonel John Jacob Astor’s will was read the newly widowed Madeliene was to inherit $5 million, under the proviso that she never remarried. True. Unfortunately the 19 year old could not keep the agreement, remarrying 5 years later and losing all claims to the Astor millions.
My favourite rumor is that the ship was sunk on purpose and whatsmore it was the Olympia (Titanic’s sister ship) and not the Titanic. All part of an elaborate insurance scam. The two ships were switched when they were dry-docked together. Reason; because the Olympia had received serious damage after a collison in 1911 and the White Star Line wanted to right it off and claim the insurance. Another nice try but rumor is False. Both ships were under insured relative to their value and besides prior to the scrapping of the Olympia the damage was still evident on its hull.
Another rumor to have circulated was that the Titanic’s hull number was 390904 , which, when seen in a mirror or written using mirror writing, looks like “NO POPE”. Go figure! But rumor is False. Yard numbers make up part of the hull number and the Titanic’s yard number was 401 and if you were thinking…the Olympia’s yard number was 400.
There was no room numbered 13 on the Titanic. True. Superstitiously 13 is an unlucky number so it was often avoided as room or floor numbers (So much for being careful!).
There were passengers travelling on the Titanic under false names. True. An unbelievable 15 of them! One man used a false name to get a room in first class (he only had a second class ticket) another man had kidnapped his children and was making a run for it.
It has been rumoured that a cat and her litter of kittens got off the titanic at Southampton which was seen by some of the crew members as a bad omen ! Can’t Verify. Though there was a cat and her litter reported on the ship duringher maiden voyage, there is no evidence to confirm the cat and her kittens did a runner.
It has long been rumored that Colonel John Jacob Astor, being such a great animal lover, ran to the dog kennels where his Airedale, Kitty, was being held and freed all of the animals before the ship sunk. Can’t Verify. It has also been claimed that Robert Daniel was the man in question.