Wednesday 13 April 2016


On April 15th it  will be the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Years ago, I wrote three lengthy articles about the sinking of that great passenger liner. Thousands of my readers read those articles. I had an advantage in my research because in the years, 1947 and 1948, I was fortunate enough to have lived with the late Captain Radley Liversidge; the man who was offered the job to be the captain of the Titanic and he turned the offer down. I learned much from him as to why the ship sank.

Today, my first article that I will publish is titled; THE SINKING OF THE TITANIC: A DESCRIPTION OF THE SHIP AND LIFE ON BOARD

 On Friday, April 15th, my second article that I will publish is titled; THE SINKING OF THE TITANIC: WHO WAS TO BLAME?

On Monday, April 18th, the article I will publish is titled; THE SINKING OF THE TITANIC: FINAL MOMENTS OF THE TITANIC.

And now my dear readers, I am presenting to you my first article.

The Sinking of the Titanic: A description ofthe of the ship and life on board

The largest ship in the world at that time, R.M.S. Titanic sank on April 15, 1912. Probably no other ship in history has been written about more than the Titanic despite the fact that other ships sank with a greater loss of life than the Titanic.
For example, in the Philippines on the 20th of December 1987, the passenger ferry Doña Paz collided with the oil tanker Vector. The resulting fire and sinking left an estimated 4,341 dead.

In China on the 4th of December 1948, the Kiangya was a passenger steamship that blew up and sank in the mouth of the Huangpu River 50 mi (80 km) south of Shanghai. The suspected cause of the explosion was the Kiangya hitting a mine left behind by the Japanese Navy during World War II. The exact death toll is unknown, however, it is thought that between 2,750 and 3,920 died with 700-1,000 survivors being picked up by other vessels.

The greatest loss of life at sea took place on April 16th 1945 when the Goya which was a German transport ship sunk by a Soviet submarine in the Baltic Sea.  It was carrying wounded Wehrmacht troops and civilians who were fleeing the advance of Soviet forces. The sinking of the Goya was the largest maritime losses of life in history, in which only 183 passengers and crew survived while the remaining 6,817 passengers and crew died.

Measurements of the Titanic

The length of the Titanic was 882 feet, 9 inches (269.06 metres) The width of the ship was 92 feet, 6 inches (28.19 meters) The weight was 46,329 tons. It had 9 decks in which 7were passenger decks. The height from the keel to the top of the funnels was 175 feet (53.3 meters)

Engines and Boilers

The ship’s two reciprocating engines were the largest that had ever been built, standing 40 feet (12 m) high—as high as a three-story building and with cylinders 9 feet (2.7 m) in diameter, and she could generate more steam than any previous ship which required the burning of 600 long tons (610 tons) of coal per day. With three massive screws propelling her, (the three weighing in total 98 tons) they could push the Titanic through the water at speeds up to 25 knots which is equivalent to roughly 45 kilometres (22.8 miles) per hour. Its power was generated by 29 gigantic boilers in 6 boiler rooms which were driven by 162 coal furnaces in which coal was shoveled into them 24 hours a day by teams totaling 175 stokers.  Only three of the four 62 feet (19 metres) funnels were functional: the fourth, which served only as a vent, was added to make the ship look more impressive.

The Titanic’s main generating plant consisted of four 400 kilowatt, steam-powered generators which powered 150 electric motors and also serviced 10,000 incandescent lamps, 1,500 bells used to call stewards. 520 heaters, a telephone exchange of 50 lines, passengers signs, cranes, elevators, winches fans, navigational aids and workshop and kitchen utilities.

I should point out there was initially an uncontrollable fire in one of the Titanic’s coal bunkers when the ship headed out to sea and the fire weakened the hull where the fire was located but ship’s demise was not a direct result of the fire.

Building the ship took three years and involved 15,000 workmen in which thousands of them were building the fixtures and walls inside of the ship.  The gantry that was specifically built to raise various sections of the ship was twice the height of the Washington Monument which is 555 feet, 5 inches in height. The weight of the steel used in the building of the ship was 24,000 tons. To secure the plates of the hull and other parts of the ship, as many as 3 million rivets were used. Many of the workmen who constantly were banging the rivets into place became stone deaf.

Passengers and Crew

The full compliment of the ship was 1,310 passengers and 913 crew members including the captain and his officers. Those figures apparently have varied over the years so I don’t think anyone knows the right numbers. 

There were three classes of passengers. They were; First Class, Second Class and Third Class (also referred to as steerage)

First Class

The suites and cabins on the Titanic cost the passengers no small sum for the time. At approximately $100,000 a pop in today’s dollars, you can see why the world’s richest and most elite sailed on the Titanic because  only they could afford the parlor suites. First-class accommodations were located amidships, where the rocking of the ship was less keenly felt and passengers were less likely to get seasick. They were decorated opulently in different period styles: Queen Anne, Louis XVI, and Georgian. The parlor suites came with wardrobe rooms, private baths, and in some cases, private promenades. All first-class accommodations were equipped with telephones, heaters, special gimbal lamps that were designed not to tip over in choppy seas, table fans, and (of course) call bells for summoning the steward. If the parlor suite didn’t suffice, a wealthy family could purchase several first-class cabins adjacent to one another and open the interconnecting doors between the cabins to have a suite of their own.

Some of the most prominent people of the day booked a passage aboard the Titanic, travelling in First Class. Among them were the American millionaire John Jacob Astor IV and his wife Madeleine Force Astor, industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim, Macy's owner Isidor Straus and his wife Ida, Denver millionairess Margaret ‘Molly’ Brown, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and his wife, couturière Lucy (Lady Duff-Gordon), cricketer and businessman John Borland Thayer with his wife Marian together with their son Jack, the Countess of Rothes, author and socialite Helen Churchill Candee, journalist and social reformer William Thomas Stead, author Jacques Futrelle with his wife May, and silent film actress Dorothy Gibson, among others. Titanic's owner J. P. Morgan was scheduled to travel on the maiden voyage, but cancelled at the last minute. Also aboard the ship were the White Star Line's managing director J. Bruce Ismay and Titanic's designer Thomas Andrews, who was on board to observe any problems and assess the general performance of the new ship.

First class passengers enjoyed a number of amenities including a gymnasium, a squash court, a salt water swimming pool, electric and Turkish baths, a barbershop, kennels for first class dogs, elevators and both open and enclosed promenades. First class passengers also travelled accompanied by personal staff—valets, maids, nurses for the children, chauffeurs and cooks who probably slept in Second Class cabins.

For the 324 passengers in first class, nothing was too opulent for them. To give you some idea of the splendor they enjoyed on board that ship, consider the following dazzling things they would encounter. After they descended the grand staircase, guests would enter the first-class dining saloon through a reception area that had on one of its walls, a specially commissioned Aubusson tapestry (a medieval hunting scene) and a grand piano, accompanied by a small orchestra. The dining saloon itself was massive, which was said to be the largest room of any ship in that era that was afloat — 92 feet (28 metres) by 114 feet 34.7 metres).  The oak furniture, stained glass windows and tables added to the splendor.

The First Class passengers fared much better that the other two classes. Their meals were of a standard one would only find in the finest of restaurants.  For example they would have for their main meal; caviar, lobster, quail, eggs, grapes and peaches along with their tea or their wine. Another main meal comprised of chicken, grilled mutton chops, with mashed, chopped or un-pealed baked potatoes and for desert, apple meringue and pastry. They were also served Surrey capon, ox tongue, oysters and for their desert, pineapple royal.

Second Class

Second class passengers were primarily leisure tourists, academics, members of the clergy and middle class English and American families. Although employed as crew members, the ship's band of eight musicians also had second class accommodations. The average ticket price for an adult second class passenger was £13, the equivalent of £927 ($1,455.00 US) in 2010  and for many of these passengers, their travel experience on the Titanic was akin to travelling first class on smaller liners. Second class passengers had their own library and the men had access to a private smoking room. Second class children could read the children's books provided in the library or play deck quoits and shuffleboard on the Second Class promenade which was just above the bridge.

Titanic’s second class dining room was located on ‘D’ deck, could accommodate all 564 second class passengers at a single seating.  It was quite a large elegant room, with mahogany furniture upholstered in crimson. A piano in the centre of the room was provided entertainment for the diners. The long tables had white tablecloths covering them and mahogany swivel chairs which were bolted to the floors in case of bad weather at sea. The floor had linoleum tiles comprised of a  special design.

The dinner menu on the evening of 14th of April 1912, the night of the collision, for the second class passengers was a hearty three-course meal, with a consommé soup to start, then a choice of four main courses: baked haddock, chicken curry, spring lamb and roast turkey, followed by ice cream or jelly and coffee. Their meals weren’t as fine as those in First Class but they were better than those in Third Class.
In second class, passengers slept in berths built into the walls of the cabins. At two to four berths per cabin, privacy was hard to come by, although a passenger could close the curtain around his or her berth. Each cabin also had a chesterfield and a writing desk. Each cabin had a washbasin and a chamber pot to be used in case of seasickness. Second-class passengers had to use communal bathrooms for other purposes.

Third Class

For the immigrants who traveled in third class, the cost of a berth was no small sum. The immigrants were poor, and raising that kind of money (approximately $350 to $900 in today’s dollars) for passage to America was difficult in the early 1900s.
Third class passengers had their own dining facilities, with chairs instead of benches on other ships and their meals prepared by the third class kitchen staff. On other liners, the steerage passengers would have been expected to bring their own food. Their meals were also vastly different. For example, the first meal of the day for the third class passengers was around noon and it included rice soup, beef and cabbage, boiled potatoes, biscuits and bread followed by peaches and more bread. Their last meal of the day would be in the late afternoon and it comprised of bread, currant buns, a ragout of beef with potatoes and pickles and apricots and tea.

Rather than dormitory-style sleeping areas as in the other ships, third class passengers on the Titanic had their own cabins. The single men and women were separated, women in the stern in two to six narrow cabins, men in the bow in up to ten berth cabins in which they often shared with strangers. Each stateroom was fitted with wood paneling and bunk beds with mattresses, blankets, pillows, electric lights, heat and a washbasin with running water, except for the bow cabins which did not have a private washbasin. The crowded quarters had six passengers to each narrow cabin. Like second-class passengers, they shared bathrooms, but the number of people sharing a bathroom was much higher in third class: Only two bathtubs were available for all 710 third-class passengers, one for the men and one for the women and both bath tubs were at the stern of the ship which was a long walk for those sleeping at the bow of the ship. In those days, many of the poor believed that frequent bathing could cause respiratory disease; therefore, most third-class passengers likely didn’t complain about the lack of bathtubs or the distance some had to walk to get to them. The passengers in Third Class were unusually comfortable by contemporary standards and all those passengers were supplied with plenty of good food, which gave them better conditions than many of them ever had experienced at home.

Third class passengers gathered in the third class common room where they could play chess or cards, or walk along the top deck behind the last of the four funnels.  Third class children played in the common room or explored the ship.

The Crew

With respect to the crew, there were approximately was the captain and his senior officers such as his Chief officer, (second in command) and 11 deck officers along with the chief engineer and the 23 officers under his command. The greatest group of crew members were those working as cooks, stewards and those keeping the stores. The second largest group of crew members were those working in the engineering department. The firemen who stoked the furnaces were the third largest group.

There were 13 leading firemen (Stoker Foremen) and 163 firemen (Stokers) assigned to the Titanic. The ship had 29 boilers, each containing three furnaces for a total of 159 furnaces. Each fireman was assigned one boiler and three furnaces. Of the Titanic's six boiler rooms, each leading fireman was assigned to two of them with 10 to 15 firemen under him. Next to each boiler was a coal chute that deposited coal from the overhead coal bunkers, and a fireman with a shovel would constantly feed coal into the three furnaces. Shifts for all the firemen and their foremen were four hours on and eight hours off. The heat in the boiler rooms usually exceeded 120F degrees, so a four-hour shift was very demanding. Most of the firemen worked wearing only their undershirts and shorts.                                                                                                                            On Friday, I will tell you who was to blame for the sinking of the Titanic.                                                                                                                      

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