On that fateful night of April 14, 1912 there were 2,235 souls crowded aboard the R.M.S. Titanic. There was no wind to speak of. The frigid, dark sea was calm, like a plate glass mirror beneath the star-spangled heavens. It was an hour before midnight on a starry, moonless night. While the band played on beneath the decks in the first class lounge, and while the night watch paced the Bridge high above, the greatest maritime tragedy in the history of sailing, stealthily, silently awaited them in the ice-strewn midnight waters of the North Atlantic.
Survivors recalled a gentle shudder that briefly shook the 900 foot long vessel. It came and went so quickly that nobody gave it much of a second thought. Except for the occupants of the Bridge–who in the split seconds before that collision, saw the towering iceberg ahead, floating in their unlighted pathway. The helmsman swerved to miss the iceberg–but they would have been better off to have struck it head on. In narrowly avoiding a head-on collision, they suffered an even worse fate!
Three-fourths of the iceberg lay unseen beneath the calm ocean surface. When the Titanic swerved, it brushed the iceberg's underside on the starboard side of the bow, slitting a quarter of an inch wide opening more than 300 feet down the side of the vessel. Like a titanic can opener, the iceberg knifed open the side of the iron hull. The damage was just enough to cause the metal plates to buckle so that six watertight compartments began taking in sea water.
So scientifically had this great sailing ship been constructed, with 16 watertight compartments in a 1/6 mile long hull, that the captain had made a pre-voyage boast, "Not even God himself could sink her". The builders had calculated that even if four of the compartments should burst, the ship would still float! But on that starry night, six of them exploded and began to suck in the frigid water of the North Atlantic! Mathematically, the "unsinkable ship" was mortally wounded. And, in two hours she was gone. Commander Lightoller, one of the few crew members who survived the tragedy, described the moment it sank.
Moment of Sinking
Commander Lightoller's eyewitness description:
"When [floating in the dark] I recognized my surroundings, we were full fifty yards clear of the ship.... Lights on board the Titanic were still burning, and a wonderful spectacle she made, standing out black and massive against the starlit sky; myriad's of lights still gleaming through the portholes, from that part of the decks still above water.
"The fore part, and up to the second funnel was by this time completely submerged, and as we watched this terribly awe-inspiring sight, suddenly all the lights went out and the huge bulk was left in black darkness, but clearly silhouetted against the bright sky.... This unparalleled tragedy that was being enacted before our very eyes, now rapidly approached its finale, as the huge ship slowly but surely reared herself on end and brought rudder and propellers clear of the water, till, at last, she assumed an absolute perpendicular position. In this amazing attitude she remained for the space of half a minute. Then with impressive majesty and ever-increasing momentum, she silently took her last tragic dive to seek a final resting place in the unfathomable depths of the cold gray Atlantic.
Titanic 2012 new photos
Of the 2235 occupants, 1522 met their death in those dark waters including most of the men, most of the third class, most of the crew, and all of the band. Only 713 people were rescued.
And the world lined up for hours to relive their tragic story in the most watched movie ever in human history. Why?
Could it be that Titanic is more than a tale about love and death of heart throbs Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio? Could it be that there's a deep, subconscious sense the world over that this tragedy at the beginning of the 20th century was in fact a warning parable of an ominous unnamed tragedy that hangs like Damocles' sword over our planet, while we're partying to beat the band?