The "unsinkable Titanic". This book is a fascinating account about everything Titanic from the passenger list to the food to the exercise room to the wondrous transformations offered wealthy men and women in the beauty parlors. Steerage did not swarm with "huddled masses yearning to be free," but with excited immigrants many of whom had spent their life savings ($350 to $900 at today's prices) to secure a bunk on the Titanic. Although class consciousness was alive and well on the Titanic nobody, even the lowliest passengers resented it. A first class stateroom ticket cost in today's money, $100,000. In the days before income tax the rich were rolling in money. And though the steerage passengers had to sweat to pay for their tickets,they were upbeat on the lower decks, their children no doubt joyous and upbeat as well. The great ship had an aura, an awesomeness that affected everybody and in that respect all the passengers were as one.
In 1912 you perhaps felt in a way- in a way- that building such a ship was challenging God. But few people likely thought God would win.The Titanic was simply too big, too luxurious, a leviathan of indestructibility. With her four deep yellow smoke stacks and gleaming decks, her luxurious, famous staircase, the Titanic was a monument to the very best, the epitome of ship building. (The well-known photograph of the beautiful mahogany staircase is actually of the staircase on Titanic's sister ship Olympia. However, the two staircases were identical).
When Titanic entered the treacherous water in a sea of icebergs, she clipped off ice chunks which careened onto the upper deck and playful passengers threw snowballs at each other.Titanic hit the iceberg at 11:40 pm, April 14, 1912. Although the ship was warned of a sea of treacherous icebergs she did not slow down from her 24 miles per hour until the iceberg was right in front of her and the ship was lurched violently to port then to starboard to evade the ice. The iceberg was up to 100 feet high and 400 feet long. When the wreak of the ship was examined on the ocean floor 80 years later, it was found that the actual gash from the collision was only about twelve feet long.
The human story of the Titanic haunts us today. People sitting in the successfully launched lifeboats described the screaming from the decks as the ship started to sink. Many of the passengers were afraid to get into the lifeboats being lowered 65 feet to the chilly black sea far below. Pandemonium resulted in many lifeboats being lowered half full, but there were only twenty lifeboats, half the number necessary to evacuate the passengers. It was inevitable that the severest toll in lives occurred among the people trapped on the lower decks.
The "Unsinkable Molly Brown" was an intrepid lady who managed to get into a lifeboat but insisted that the officer in her boat (Quartermaster Hichens), row back to the sinking ship to rescue people floating in the water. When he refused she said she'd throw him in the water. He complied and Molly became a legend. Her portrait is on page 41 .Captain Smith was reported to be in several places as the ship's bow sank. Some observers saw him in the water where he had rescued a baby. He handed the baby to a lifeboat, disappeared in the frigid water. Others saw him on deck issuing orders until the stern of the Titanic, almost upright, slid into the ocean along with 1500 people, leaving just ripples on the surface of the sea. As author Spignesi remarks Smith "was all over the place," that he could have rescued the baby then swam back to his ship to go down with her. First officer William Murdoch had been seen by some shooting a couple of men who had barged ahead of the women to grab a place in a lifeboat. He was also reported as then shooting himself.
I suppose the $ 64,000 question about the loss of the Titanic is why Smith proceeded into a mine field of icebergs at 24 miles an hour when he had been repeatedly warned by nearby ships of the danger. The author thinks it was just precedent, that nothing had happened to any ship in the same area previously, and that the lookouts up in the crows' nests could spot an iceberg right in front of the liner and give the alarm. The problem was that the night was clear with no wind .It was extremely hard to spot bergs since any wind would have ruffled the sea around the bergs making them more visible. As it turned out, Frederick Fleet spotted the iceberg when it was 500 yards away, rang his alarm bell, and although on hearing the bell First Officer Murdoch "hard-boarded " the ship's wheel and reversed the engines, the Titanic's bow crashed into the berg fatally gashing her starboard side.
The business of the 16 watertight compartments in the hull of the ship has been dissected at great length. Upon the collision the compartments were ordered closed. However, working with a model ship investigators have shown that if the model is gashed and the compartments closed the ship would sink in two hours, exactly like the real thing. If, however, the compartments were left open, water rushing into the ship would even out, flowing the entire length of the ship, not weighing down the ship's bow.
The Titanic for Dummies contains a great deal of information and even those readers with considerable knowledge of the world's most famous shipwreck, should still find new nuggets in this comprehensive book. There are several colored illustrations of the remains of the Titanic sitting on the ocean floor. Incredibly, scientists say that the iron ship is rapidly being "eaten" by iron-loving bacteria and that in a matter of years the wreak will have completely disappeared.