Sunday, April 15, 2012

100 Years Ago Today: The Tragedy of the Titanic (Photos, Videos)

RMS Titanic as She Appeared in 1912 (Colorized by Stogie)
I have been hearing about the Titanic since I saw a movie about it (as a wee child) in 1953.  A great British ocean liner, on its maiden voyage from Southampton  to New York, touted to be "unsinkable," hit an iceberg near Newfoundland and sank two hours later.  There weren't enough lifeboats -- only enough for a third of the 2,223 people on board.  About 1,500 of those people went into the freezing water of the North Atlantic, where they quickly died of hypothermia.  That terrible event happened 100 years ago today, early in the morning of April 15, 1912.

The Titanic story is one of incredible arrogance, lack of foresight, bravery and cowardice, heroism and tragedy.  The Titanic was a beautiful ship, fitted out in luxury and the highest technology of its day.  It had luxury cafes, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, a library, and a wireless telegraph and remotely controlled watertight doors.  Some fool reportedly told the press before the voyage that "God himself couldn't sink this ship."  Apparently, God took that as some kind of challenge.

Titanic Today
Only 710 survivors made it into the lifeboats.  Many of the lifeboats were lowered into the sea half full, because the Titanic didn't seem to be sinking at first, and passengers preferred the warmth of their cabins to what seemed a false threat.  When the ship began to sink at the bow and the list became increasingly steep, pandemonium reigned as many tried to crowd into the remaining lifeboats.  Since it was "women and children first," some men survived only by accident -- by jumping into the water where they were picked up by the half-filled lifeboats.  Two men went over the rail together; one survived and the other did not.  A priest prayed with some passengers on the steeply listing deck; members of the ship's orchestra, led by band leader Wallace Hartley, played music to calm the crowd.  Some say their final song was "Nearer My God to Thee."  Others say it was "Autumn."

They were picked up hours later by the Carpathia, a freighter who sped towards the disaster site in a heroic attempt to save the lives of the Titanic's passengers.  Alas, it was too far away to save anyone but the lifeboat passengers.  The S.S. Californian, within easy reach of the Titanic, could have saved many.  Its crew was puzzled over the meaning of the flares being set off from the Titanic (they were a cry for help), but took no action.  They turned off their wireless and went to bed, totally oblivious to the unfolding disaster.

Today the wreck of the Titanic rests 12,415 feet down on the seabed, slowly rusting away.  Plans are underway to commemorate the tragedy and pray for its victims -- now 100 years after they disappeared into the cold waters of the North Atlantic, along with the luxury ship that will sail on in legend and imagination.

Here is a fairly short video showing scenes from the sunken Titanic, overlayed with images of Victorian era, ghost-like figures walking about the scene, which then clarifies into actual photos of the locations as they looked in 1912.  The film ends with a string ensemble playing "Nearer My God to Thee," very much as it must have sounded when Wallace Hartley's string ensemble played it as the Titanic sank into the sea.  Highly recommended.

Here is a film showing underwater views of the Titanic, with some unusual perspectives.


 From the Discovery Channel: Deep Inside the Sunken Titanic:   Part 1 of 2

 Deep Inside The Sunken Titanic, Part 2 of 2

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