Tag: Sea Tragedies

Beware the Long Shadow of the Titanic

Beware the Long Shadow of the Titanic

Despite over a century passing, the Titanic still casts a long shadow. It’s a fascinatingly tragic story that keeps on giving. This week another notch was added to its sad toll of casualties. The Titan submersible with five rich adventurers sank irretrievably to the cold dark depths of the Atlantic beside the rusted wreck of the fated White Star liner of 1912 fame.

Deja Vu, the other ship called The Titan

Didn’t the CEO and founder of the submersible company, Ocean Gate know that the name Titan was that of the liner in Morgan Robertson’s eerily predictive 1898 novel, Futility? The liner featuring in this pre 1912 novel was so similar in dimensions, weight, number of funnels and load of glamorous passengers to the Titanic liner that would set sail on its maiden voyage some years later. Its fate was exactly the same. The Titan of the book hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic at similar co-ordinates to the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic. But it seems the owner of White Star Lines, Bruce Ismay did not read that book nor did Captain Smith or the builder, Thomas Andrews.

Ignoring the ice warnings, they sailed their beautiful ship full steam ahead in an attempt to break the Transatlantic Crossing record and arrive in a fete of glory one day early in New York. But instead, due to their vanity and disregard for other people’s lives, they did not arrive at all. The 2223 passengers would have preferred a late arrival than none at all. The women widowed that night would live in the shadow of the Titanic for the rest of their lives as mere ghosts of their former selves. For 1517 passengers, mostly male, that night was the last one of their life.

Staring Death in the Face

Imagine waiting on the cold sinking deck, knowing there was now no hope of rescue, watching your wives and children fading into the distance in rowboats on the icy calm sea. This surely was worse than the five Titan passengers who, just a week ago, voluntarily descended to the same icy depths over a century later. Though these five men, one just a teen, did have to contemplate the dangers of the Atlantic as they signed a declaration that they were aware they may not return to the bright light of the surface as planned. Staring death in the face is never easy. Would you sign this waver? “This is an experimental submersible vessel, that has not been approved or certified by any regulatory body, and could result in physical injury, disability, emotional trauma, or death.” Quote taken from The Titan Submersible Journey

A Bold Adventure for the rich?

In both cases, the trip was meant to be a bold adventure. The first in 1912 boasted a trip of a lifetime on the biggest ship afloat with everything of luxury you could ever want (except lifeboats and binoculars to spot icebergs). John Jacob Astor was onboard, the richest man alive. The others in first class were also fabulously rich. Likewise for the Titan sub trip, there was a billionaire, SEO Stockton Rush, onboard and indeed any of the other four were obscenely rich, paying 250,000 for the planned 8-hour adventure to the bottom of the Atlantic and back.

Build me a better boat!

In both cases, the hull of the vessel played a major role in the tragedies. The steel and pop rivets of the original liner were not strong enough to survive an iceberg scoring down its starboard side. A 300-foot gash opened the luxury liner to the ocean and compartment after compartment flooded, sealing the massive ship’s fate. For this recent tragedy, the carbon fiber and titanium hull would again prove the vessel’s downfall. There had been warnings but for the sake of innovation, the designer ignored these with disregard to his own and other passengers’ safety. The lights of the sub were reportedly off the shelf from a camper store and the steering operated by a game controller. Despite his fascination with the mysteries of the deep, was Mr Rush cutting corners or just in a rush for foolhardy adventures?

Withstanding pressure

AS any vessel or diver descends into the depths of the ocean, the pressure increases dramatically because of the water above. At the almost 4000 m depth of the Titanic wreck the pressure is almost 400 times that of the surface. this places a huge load on a submarine vessel and is incompatible for a human diver. It’s like having the New York, Empire State Building sitting on the hull. What sort of hulls can continually withstand this pressure? Not it seems carbon fiber ones. They may tolerate this stress a few times but not continually. Cracks could develop and then the vessel is history as are its passengers.

What a terrible fate for anyone, even those who ride the depths of their own free will. The young Pakistani youth did not want to go but was coerced by his adventurous and very wealthy father. Did young Sulemon have a premonition? Or was he just more sensible than the older men.

What is the takeaway from this tragedy?

Any tragedy at sea is a human tragedy. But each time, laws change in response to the bloodshed. After the Titanic, all boats and to have enough lifeboats for all onboard and keep their telegraph service on at all times. The sinking of the Andrea Doria made authorities rethink the ship channels between Europe and New York so no other head on collisions could occur in fog as they did in this late 1950’s crash between two liners.

What will be the takeaway for this recent maritime disaster? Leave the Titanic in peace? Beware the long shadow of the Titanic?

This article is sad enough! If you did enjoy it, I have written others on the Titanic, Women of the Titanic, Surviving the Shadow of the Titanic, and Women and Children First ?and include the disaster in my historical novel, Whispers Through Time.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with three published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.


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