One hundred years ago, the Titanic, an unsinkable floating hotel, the largest and most luxurious of liners in the world, struck an iceberg and sank, with the loss of more than 1,500 passengers and crew.
What went wrong?
Timothy Garton Ash wrote:
One of the most difficult - strictly speaking, impossible - things for historians to recapture is a sense of what people did NOT know at the time.
I think he sums up the tragedy of the sinking of the Titanic.
She was the largest, the safest, the most luxurious,the most admired, the most desirable of ships.
The people who boarded her were looking forward to the journey of a lifetime; they were envied by all who watched or read about them.
The papers and magazines were full of pictures of the furnishings and fittings, the engineers, designers and builders were filled with self-congratulation, the whole world applauded the latest example of the ingenuity and accomplishment of modern man.
What was it, then, that all these people did NOT know?
Everything, it seemed, had been put into place for the first sailing; no expense,it seemed, had been spared.
Excitement built,and hopes were high; the world was watching......
Much preparation and planning was needed to equip a luxury floating hotel like the Titanic.
Stores of food and drink were impressive:
75,000 pounds of fresh meat
11,000 pounds of fresh fish
8,000 head of poultry and game
6,000 pounds of bacon and ham
2,500 pounds of sausages
40 tons of potatoes
7,000 heads of lettuce
1.25 tons of peas
50 boxes of grapefruit
800 bundles of asparagus
180 boxes of apples
1,500 gallons of milk
2.75 tons of tomatoes
10,000 pounds of sugar
6,000 pounds of butter
1,000 pounds of grapes
1,750 quarts of ice cream
2,200 pounds of coffee
800 pounds of tea
15,000 bottles of beer and stout
I,500 bottles of wine
850 bottles of spirit
All these perishables were taken on board in the day or so before departure from Southampton.
The menus show that the passengers certainly ate well!
Other indispensable items,which did not need to be fresh or refrigerated, were loaded earlier in Belfast.
45,000 table napkins
15,000 bed sheets and pillow cases
7,500 bath towels
12,000 dinner plates
4,500 soup plates
3,000 tea cups
3,000 beef tea cups
1,500 coffee cups
1,000 cream jugs
8,000 dinner forks
1,500 fish forks
1,000 oyster forks
400 sugar tongs
400 asparagus tongs
100 grape scissors
There were 8,000 tumblers
2,000 wine glasses
1,500 champagne flutes
1,200 small liqueur glasses
300 claret jugs
What a pity they didnt plan for the right number of lifeboats!!!
If they had, there would have been no need for loss of life....
In 1931 Arthur Rostron, Captain of the Carpathia,wrote:
" It hardly bears thinking about that if there had been sufficient boats that night every soul aboard could have been saved, since it was two and a half hours after she struck that she tilted her massive stern into the heavens & sank by the head, taking with her all that were unprovided for."
Even if the lifeboats available had been properly filled,they could only have carried 1,178 people, 33% of the total number of passengers and crew.
The chief designer, Alexander Carlisle, originally planned for 48 lifeboats and not the possible number of 64.
However, in order to make the decks less cluttered, the ship eventually only carried 20.
There were 2 wooden cutters which would hold 40 each,
14 30-ft. wooden lifeboats which could take 65 each,
and 4 folding (collapsible)boats which had room for 47 each.
Strangely enough, this may have been within the law, because the calculations were based on gross tonnage, not passenger capacity.
The excited passengers, looking forward to a smooth and luxurious journey,did not know that the Titanic could sink.
Everybody knew that lifeboats were completely unnecessary.....