How the Titanic Became "Unsinkable"

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, all!

For what it's worth, last March I added several new pages to my website and also began preparing a replacement for the website's old "Page 2." (I deleted the old Page 2 and replaced it with a new article describing my findings and opinions about the Titanic's reputation for unsinkability.) Anyway, I've just uploaded my 'new' Page 2 and hope you'll find its subject matter worthwhile.

Please refer to the table of contents on the website's title page:

How the Titanic Became "Unsinkable"

Comments and criticisms are of course welcome.

In the meantime, I'll begin reviewing all the ET postings I've missed since last March (and might even offer a comment or two on past topics that pique my interest.) :)

I hope all my ET friends are happy and in good health -- it's good to be here with you again.

(By the way, is it true that the nurses at the retirement home no longer allow Geoff Whitfield and Pat Cook to post messages here? It was that rumor that prompted my return to ET -- I hope I haven't been the victim of a cruel hoax.) :)

All my best,

George
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi George!

Excellent to see you here again. I would like to offer my congratulations on an excellent piece of writing and research -- particularly interesting was the Olympic Officer's opinion as to her safety.

I'm hopeless at trying to review other people's work, but I found it very informative. I'm looking forward to your upcoming co-work (sic?!) which you mention on your website. For me personally what I find fascinating about the Titanic disaster is the sheer disbelief evident about what was unfolding that night; the thought that the ship was actually capable of sinking seemed alien to so many people.

We had one conversation about the topic a while back, here's the link. 'Smith's comments regarding the "unsinkable" ship.' (Collision/Sinking theories.)

https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/5664/24631.html?1022957205

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Pat Cook

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Apr 27, 2000
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Somebody wake up Whitfield, the prodical son has returned!!!

And about stinking time, too! You don't know what I've had to put up with, either. Geoff hogs all the oatmeal, steals my medication and, WORST of all, keeps telling the nurse that I'M the one making all those 1-900 phone calls!

Tickled to have you join the geezer set, O M!

Warmest regards, as always,
Cook
 
May 8, 2001
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Welcome back George! Most pleased to see your name on the board again! I see they let you out for good behavior.
wink.gif
.

Take care, my friend!
Colleen
 

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Mark and Mike!

Thanks very much for the nice things you said about my 'unsinkable article' -- I value your opinions very much and am gratified that you found my blatherings worthwhile. Mark, I hope you may have found a few tidbits in the article that will be useful in your book. (Speaking of your book, how is it progressing? I hope you're making good progress -- I'm really looking forward to seeing the results of all the fantastic Olympic research you've done. Again, if there's any way I can be of assistance to you in connection with your project, I hope you'll let me know.)

>I'm looking forward to your upcoming co-work >(sic?!) which you mention on your website.

I'm afraid Don has recently diverted all of his attention to writing his new Cameron book, so I'll be going it alone on our original book project from this point on. (Obtaining the necessary permissions to publish privately-owned material has proved to be a very slow process, but -- even so -- some terrific people have very kindly given me permission to use some wonderful items from their personal collections. I'm very excited about the project and hope enough permissions will be forthcoming to enable me to make the book as comprehensive as I want it to be. (Time will tell, I guess.)

Hello again, Pat! Nice to see you here, old chap. (I take it the nurses at the home are on their coffee break and have relaxed their vigilance?) :) I hope you and Rose Ann are happy and well and that things have been going smoothly for you both. (I trust you'll enjoy your upcoming trip, too, and that you'll have a wonderful time visiting a certain grumpy old man of our mutual acquaintance.) :)

Hi, Colleen!

It's really nice to see you here -- I hope you, Robert and the kids have been well and that things are going smoothly for you. I wish I could have accompanied you on your recent cemetery tour -- it would have been great to see you, Mike Herbold and Eric Sauder again (and what better place to do that than in a cemetery?) :)

Take care, my friends -- it's great to see you all again.

Sincerely,

George
 

Steve Santini

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Nov 29, 2000
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Hi George!
Just thought I would drop you a hearty "hello" as I have not heard from you for some time. I hope you and Pat are well. If there is anyway I can assist you with your book, please do not hesitate to ask. Regards, Steve Santini
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Steve!

It's great to hear from you again, old chap! I'm delighted to see that you've become a 'regular' here and have been giving everyone the benefit of your expertise concerning Titanic artifacts and collectibles. I've enjoyed your books tremendously and am looking forward to the completion of your next publishing project.

Thank you for your kind offer to assist me with my project -- I might very well take you up on your offer! (I'll contact you privately and we can talk further.) :) Of course, the reverse also holds true -- I'll be glad to assist you with your own book project in any way I can.

I hope you and Vera are well, old chap, and that Life has been treating you right.

Sincerely,

George
 
Dec 7, 2000
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George!!!!!!!

I'm so glad to see you're back and well, a big hearty welcome from me too! I sent you a welcome e-mail, I hope you get it!

Best Regards,

Daniel.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Ouch on the slow progress of your book George. I was hoping that you would be published soon. It would seem that next year is going to be a good one for Titanic bibliophiles. Not a lot of quantity, but a lot of quality.

I don't want to steal Mark's thunder, but the word is that his work has been accepted for publication. About bloody time too. There isn't as much out there on the Olympic and the Britannic as I wish there was. Both of these ships deserve far better then to be forgotten because the middle sister had an unfortunate encounter with an overgrown icecube. I'm keeping my eyes peeled for it.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi George!

Speaking of your book, how is it progressing? I hope you're making good progress -- I'm really looking forward to seeing the results of all the fantastic Olympic research you've done.

Mike hasn't stolen my thunder (thanks for your kind words), but my 'Olympic' class work is due for publication in 2003; my contract gives the publisher first look at any next work of a similar topic. I found this publisher at my third attempt, and fortunately one of the editors was a fellow 'Olympic' class enthusiast. I don't think I've done any fantastic research, but I have had some luck and hopefully it's up to scratch.

It's hard to be detailed or find new info. on each ship, especially Titanic, but I think that there is new information and that altogether as a class I have covered them reasonably well. No doubt someone will point out some major errors ('It was April 1912, *not* 1913!'
wink.gif
! LOL) But I hope that there is a big enough sprinkling of information to be of interest -- in Olympic's case for example, there are many new events in her life that have been overlooked.

Currently I am working on that new detailed biography which I started late 2001, hopefully to finish by late 2003 for early 2004.

Obtaining the necessary permissions to publish privately-owned material has proved to be a very slow process, but -- even so -- some terrific people have very kindly given me permission...

Ah! What does that remind me of? It is a struggle, but as you say there are many terrific people who have the kindness to help.

Best of luck with your book, I'll be getting a copy. That goes for Don's co- Ghost book as well -- I hear it's for early 2003.

Mike: 4,754 posts! Will you let me catch up!
wink.gif


Best regards,

Mark.
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Mark and Mike!

Thanks for letting me know about Mark's upcoming Olympic book. Outstanding! Congratulations, Mark! You can put me down for a copy right now -- I'm really looking forward to seeing it.

Hi, Daniel!

Nice to see you, old chap. Yes, I received your email (as well as "several" others) :) and -- as always -- was very pleased to hear from you. I hope all is well with you, and I'm looking forward to seeing your postings again here on ET.

All my best,

George
 
Dec 7, 2000
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George,

Thank you for your post! Well I'm still ploughing along with cabin allocations, as boring as it may be to some, for some reason it fascinates me. The most recent discussions I had with Craig Stringer, we figured out that the Astors were never even in C62/64 (so far as I know, these may well have been unoccupied)! New stuff pops up all the time!

Best of luck with your book George, I've been looking forward to it ever since I found out about it.

Mark that goes for your book as well! Can't wait to have that as well. So many nice books on the horizon!
happy.gif


Regards,

Daniel.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Mike: 4,754 posts! Will you let me catch up! <<

4,758 with this one and It took me two years and assorted months to get this far. Good to hear you're working on yet another book. Hopefully, the Olympic will get more of the attention she deserves.
 
Nov 5, 2015
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Greetings. I'm new to this board so please bare with me if I'm asking something too basic here now.

I'm thinking about the common thought that the Titanic - even before her sinking - would have been famous for being an "unsinkable ship". To me, this claim seems pretty unlikely. To begin with, most people would of course not have heard about her at all. If anything, they would have more likely heard of the Olympic - both because she was the promoted leading ship of her class and because of her having gotten some attention from being in service for almost a year.

Even those who did have knowledge of these new liners, would they think about them as being particularly unsinkable compared to any other new, major liner of the day? And very few people indeed would have read The Shipbuilder magazine were a single row of text described the Olympic class liners as virtually unsinkable due to their watertight subdivision. And even fewer would have read the watertight door supplier's promotional booklet "Unsinkable ships". Also, there does not seem to have been any highlights of the Olympic being promoted "unsinkable" which if they had existed would have been expected, again because of her being the lead ship. No newspaper article to my knowledge even mentioned the Olympic being "unsinkable" or anything similar at her pretty well covered maiden voyage. Titanic was identical to the Olympic (apart from B-deck layout alterations) so why would anyone consider her as being specifically "unsinkable" when her sister was not?

After the disaster, many people claimed that Titanic staff, including Captain Smith, had told them that the Titanic was unsinkable thereby underlining that the company had promoted her as such. These claims might quite possibly be true. However, such claims by sailors would most probably been frequent on many similar new, big ships of the day. Either due to simple bragging or to comfort weary passengers who might have been scared of an impending sea voyage in general. Only difference being that those other ships which was similarly described did not sink, and those claims were quickly forgotten.

My take on this is that the Titanic was NOT in any way known as "the unsinkable ship" prior to the disaster at all, nor was she promoted as such (other than as a side note, bundled together with all the other ships of the company). And no other specific ocean liner at the time was considered or promoted as unsinkable either. General public thought modern, big vessels as very safe in general and the few serious incidents that had occurred the preceding decade or so, had very low numbers in regards to loss of life. The public, however, did regard bigger vessels as safer than smaller ones. So the Titanic, the biggest of them all should have been the safest one by this line of thought.

I think that the general public idea of that the Titanic WAS claimed to be unsinkable by the company came solely from the White Star Line's American director Philip Franklin's statement in the early morning of April 15th. At that point, the world press was making inquiries to him to respond to the rumor that the Titanic had struck ice and was in severe danger. Franklin himself did not know about the sinking until later that day so he resorted to a denial, knee-jerk reaction. He took a wild shot and claimed that she could not have sunk; "she is unsinkable" he told the world press which of course shortly thereafter headlined the statement. "Titanic has sunk, company claims her being unsinkable" is a very good headline indeed. And it stuck. It's still stuck.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Apr 21, 2009
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As far as I know, there was no official or advertising mention that the Titanic was unsinkable. The closest before the sailing was in a nautical article, probably in the Shipbuilder magazine, in which the mechanical and technical aspects of the Olympic class of ships was being discussed and they were described once as "practically unsinkable". That phrase was meant to be taken as a figure of speech and not in the literal sense.

But somewhere over the years after the sinking, the belief that the Titanic was thought to be unsinkable was tagged on. In Walter Lord's book A Night To Remember, there are several oblique allusions to the Titanic's 'unsinkability' but these are mostly depicted as people's conjectures; the closest direct mention was supposedly by a deckhand to 2nd class passenger Sylvia Caldwell "Lady, God Himself could not sink this ship" or something like that. Even if that was true (which I doubt), would you accept a deckhand's opinion on something like that? (No disrespect meant)

In the film version of ANTR, it is mentioned twice - first on the Boat Train by an uppity man to Lightoller and his wife (neither of whom were actually on that train) and by the actor playing Captain Smith soon after the collision to the Thomas Andrews character. Things like that tend to build up over time and become almost factualised.
 
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Aaron_2016

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I think that the general public idea of that the Titanic WAS claimed to be unsinkable by the company came solely from the White Star Line's American director Philip Franklin's statement in the early morning of April 15th. At that point, the world press was making inquiries to him to respond to the rumor that the Titanic had struck ice and was in severe danger. Franklin himself did not know about the sinking until later that day so he resorted to a denial, knee-jerk reaction. He took a wild shot and claimed that she could not have sunk; "she is unsinkable" he told the world press which of course shortly thereafter headlined the statement. "Titanic has sunk, company claims her being unsinkable" is a very good headline indeed. And it stuck. It's still stuck.
A number of survivors attended the Titanic Inquiry soon after the disaster and they stated their belief that the Titanic was unsinkable e.g.



Mr. Moore - Able seaman

Q - Was it your view that the ship was an unsinkable ship?
A - That was the talk.
Q - Was that the general idea of the crew on the ship?
A - Yes, sir.
Q - They regarded the ship as unsinkable?
A - Yes, sir.


Mr. Jones - Able seaman

Q - When you got on the lifeboat did you think the ship was sinking?
A - No, sir; I would not believe it.
Q - You thought the ship was unsinkable, did you?
A - Yes, sir; I thought so.
Q - Was that the view of the crew, generally?
A - Yes, sir.
Q - Did you think at that time it would be as safe to stay on the ship as to go in the lifeboat?
A - I thought they were only sending us away for an hour or so, until they got squared up again.
Q - Until they got what?
A - Until they got her pumped out.


Mr. Hogg - Lookout

Q - There was a general feeling of confidence among the sailor men that she was perfectly secure?
A - Yes, sir.
Q - And unsinkable?
A - Yes, sir; that she was unsinkable.


Mr. Taylor - Boiler room fireman

Q - What was the feeling among the crew as to whether the ship would sink or not?
A - A majority of them did not realize that she would sink.
Q - Was that ship regarded by the crew as an unsinkable ship?
A - So they thought.
Q - That was the feeling among the seamen?
A - Yes, sir; that is so.
Q - Regarding these great iron ships, with water-tight compartments, that is the general feeling among the seamen, is it?
A - Yes, sir.
Q - They feel safe on them?
A - Yes.


Captain Rostron of the Carpathia

"Ships are built nowadays to be practically unsinkable, and each ship is supposed to be a lifeboat in itself. The boats are merely supposed to be put on as a standby. The ships are supposed to be built, and the naval architects say they are, unsinkable under certain conditions."


Key members of the public attended the Inquiry and they were asked if the Titanic was meant to be unsinkable.

Mr. Farrell - Newspaper editor
"The boat was unsinkable; and we believed that she was not going to go down."


Mr. Franklin - Vice President of the White Star Line / International Mercantile Marine

Telegram
"We had a wireless from her late Sunday giving her position, and are absolutely satisfied that if she had been in collision with an iceberg we should have heard from her at once. In any event, the ship is unsinkable, and there is absolutely no danger to passengers."

Telegram
"We can not state too strongly our belief that the ship is unsinkable and passengers perfectly safe. The ship is reported to have gone down several feet by the head. This may be due from water filling forward compartments, and the ship may go down many feet by the head and still keep afloat for an indefinite period."

Inquiry testimony
"I want to say this. That during the entire day we considered the ship unsinkable, and it never entered our minds that there had been anything like a serious loss of life."


2nd officer Lightoller gave a radio interview in the 1930's and said - "I'm afraid that my own confidence that she wouldn't or couldn't sink rather conveyed itself to others."


It was genuinely believed that ships like the Titanic and Olympic were unsinkable because they could not imagine that something like an iceberg could damage 6 compartments. A collision with another ship might damage 3, and crashing into a dock might damage 2, but they could not imagine a scenario that would cause 6 compartments to be damaged, so in a realistic manner with all kinds of probabilities taken into account there was a sense that she was absolutely an unsinkable ocean liner and I believe it would take a lot to convince them that the most safest ship in the world could sink on her maiden voyage.


.
 
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My point is that the same testimonies could have been made for any other major liner of the day. Since Franklin's statement got wings by the press, the only way to know what different ships "unsinkability reputation" was is to look for sources before the accident.
 

Mike Spooner

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Jan 31, 2018
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Captain Smith had made that rather over confident bold statement when command of RMS Adriatic ship on her maiden voyage five years previous.
I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happing to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that !
I believe it was the press media who dropped the word unsinkable were White Star took full advantage of the free advertising!
The hard cold facts it doesn't matter how many double skins and bulkheads you apply. If you put a large hole in any ship it will sink!
 
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