The story of the Titanic has been popularized though numerous books and films, but all too often they only focus on the actual sinking of the ship. As we draw close to the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic I’ve begun to wonder about the events leading up to the sinking, the coverage of the story, and what happened after. I’m a Librarian which means I love to do research, so I took a gander at our library’s catalog and databases to see what I could find.
If you are reading this from off-campus you’ll need to use the VPN in order to follow my links
In the News
In addition to loving research I also love, love, love primary resources, so I took a look in our Gale News Vault to see find some news articles from the time.
The Titanic was a big deal even before her first voyage; here are a few stories about the construction and launch of the ship:
“The Olympic And Titanic.” Times (London, England) 6 Jan. 1911
“The Largest Vessel Afloat” Times (London, England) 11 April 1912
We all know that late in the evening on April 14, 1912 the Titanic struck an iceberg. She sank about 2½ hours later, around 2:20 am on April 15th. At first, the details of the incident were very sketchy, with some newspapers reporting that the ship had not sunk, rather was damaged and being towed into port. A Canadian newspaper reported that she was slowly taking on water and would likely be beached. The truth of the disaster began to emerge only after the Carpathia had picked-up the survivors, and they began to tell relate the details through the wireless; their story transfixed much of the world.
This is the beginning of an article about the sinking printed in the London Times on April 16, 1912.
This is a map that was published on April 16 that estimated the location of the sinking
Almost immediately, the public began to call for an investigation into the sinking. On April 17, Michigan Senator William A. Smith called for the Committee on Commerce to investigate the disaster. He was especially disturbed by reports that Titanic passenger Bruce Ismay, Managing Director of the White Star line, was hoping to go directly back to England without talking to anyone in America about the accident. Subpoena were issued for him and the entire crew, and the American inquiry schedule to begin on April 18th, the day after the Carpathia arrived in port.
The inquiry lasted 18 days 86 witnesses testified. Bruce Ismay was the first called to testify; you can read a full transcript of his testimony and the entire hearing at the Titanic Inquiry Project webpage. The crew and passengers of the Titanic were questioned as well as Arthur Rosen, Captain of the Carpathia.
Another inquiry was sponsored by the British government; Charles Bigham (Lord Mersey) was appointed to lead the committee. This inquiry lasted almost 2 months (May 2-July 3), and most of the same witnesses from the American Inquiry were called to testify.
Both inquiries reached similar conclusions:
- the regulations on the number of lifeboats that ships had to carry were out of date and inadequate
- Captain Smith had failed to take proper heed of ice warnings
- the lifeboats had not been properly filled or crewed
- the collision was the direct result of steaming into a danger area at too high a speed.
As a result of the accident and inquiries several major changes were implemented to improve maritime safety. This treaty was known as the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) ACT, and was adopted internationally in 1914 in direct response to the titanic sinking. New provisions included:
- enough lifeboats must be provided for every person on the ship (crew and passengers)
- lifeboat drills are carried out on every voyage
- wireless equipment on passenger ships was manned around the clock
An International Ice Patrol was also established to monitor the presence of icebergs in the North Atlantic.
Interested in Learning More?
Here are some other resources available through the Kraemer Family Library…………
The Band that Played On: the Extraordinary Story of the 8 Musicians who went Down with the Titanic, by Steve Turner
The gallantry of the Titanic band is well-known:
“They kept it up to the very end. Only the engulfing ocean had power to drown them into silence. The band was playing ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee.’ I could hear it distinctly. The end was very close.” -Charlotte Collyer, Titanic Survivor
Read what brought the band members together and how their music served as the haunting soundtrack for one of modern history’s most tragic maritime disasters.
The Discovery of the Titanic, by Robert D. Ballard
In September 1985 Ballard and a Franco-American expedition discovered the wreck of the Titanic. Ballard used a specially designed remote imaging system to locate and photograph the wreck and then returned the following year to further survey and photograph the site in a three-person submarine. This pictorial record of his expedition is filled with good quality color and black-and-white pictures. Wherever possible he compares the modern-day pictures to original ones of the Titanic . After briefly discussing other attempts to find the Titanic , he gives a solid account of the sinking, then details the events that led to the ship’s discovery.
Down with the Old Canoe: a cultural history of the Titanic Disaster, by Steve Biel
The largest movable object ever constructed by man when it was launched, the supposedly unsinkable Titanic has inspired novels, songs, poetry, and movies. Steven Biel explores the social and cultural myths that the disaster gave rise to.
Have you heard of The Wreck of the Titan? It’s an 1898 novella written by Morgan Robertson about an ocean liner called the Titan, and it has some eerie similarities to the sinking of the Titanic.Similarities include:
- Both were the largest ships of their time and both were considered “unsinkable”
- Both had a shortage of life boats
- Both were moving too fast and struck an icebergs, causing them to sink
It’s a pretty good read. You can request a copy through Prospector.
Titanic’s Achilles Heel, by Kirk Wolfinger.
This online film from The History Channel explores fatal design flaws of the famous ship.
And, of course, we own the very popular film Titanic, staring Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio, and directed by James Cameron.