Upon reading and re reading this thread I have come up with something that I forgot. I have often placed the decision by Smith to not send out a formal abandon ship or alarm or what ever you want to call it on the fact that he did not want the boat deck to become over run.
While I still support this particualar way of thinking I also think that the fact he did it had nothing to do with aristocracy or arrogance. If the First Class had been on the bottom and Third on top the death toll would be reverse what it is. Mr. Brown was kind enough to point that out. I think that some of the officers particually Lightoller in the testimony get un due heat for this very thing. Lines of questioning ask why he let no men and women and children only. You could apply this very thing (Lightoller and letting only women and children)to Smiths decision to not order a formal abandon ship. Lightoller saw it his duty to follow the Captains orders and he most likely had done the math in his head and wanted all the women and children off. He did according to him instruct the boats to wait aft at the gangway door to load somemore but none did. Smith did not want mass confusion and deemed it necessary to abandon ship with as little fuss as possible. I write in my book that abandon ship policies now and then are very much different.
If Smith had sent the formal abandon ship over 1000 people would have run to the boat deck that could maybe hold a third of that. The officers would have been overrun and if they hadn't. When they filled the boats from the boat deck people would be jumping into the full boats from A Deck. Smith weighed the odds. He chose to save some instead of saving almost none. Perhaps. Just a thought.
Erik-- beware! I was thumped roundly when I suggested that Captain Smith deliberately did not order "abandon ship" simply to prevent panic. I still believe this was a courageous act that resulted in the maximum number of people being saved that night. Whatever Smith's shortcomings leading up to the accident, he did oversee a very successful evacuation of the ship.
I do not think that I would call it successful. I refer to it in my book as half hazardly. Really I base this on several things. There appeared to be some confusion as to if ONLY women and children should be allowed or if men could be allowed if no women and children were found. Plus windows were still locked on A Deck. The boats on the officers quarters were not readied. His officers were not given specific instructions as to what needed to be done. Someday I will have to show how detailed I get in my standing orders. Plus he did not use all of his assests. Before the bulkhead in boiler room five gave way why didn't he sound 5 short to get the attention of the nearby ship. Things of that nature.
I do get your message but I still think that Smith didn't order the adandon ship alarm in order to preserve order. But my own experience tells me that I would made have made sure that all was done even if that meant that I would in a small degree micro manage. Something that I do not do.
Why is it when a charitable cause brings in more money when it enlists a celebrity spokesperson? Why does anyone stay awake to watch late-night talk shows? What has been the difficulty in sentencing Rae Carruth or Robert Downey, Jr.? Why is there such a proliferation of award shows, and such a fascination with the attire of the attendees? Why is it that John Q. Public, generally speaking, knows more about the life of Pamela Anderson than that of his representative in the State Senate (or his neighbor, mailman, kids' teacher, etc.)? Why?.....ad infinitum.
The fascination with larger-than-life personalities did not end with Titanic. The plight of the third class was ignored during the Mersey Enquiry, the plight of the homeless is ignored today. No need for hand-wringing...class structuring is alive and well today, just as it has always been.
I have attempted so many times to state that the third class or the lower middle class of today and of that day is just not really spoken about. In history we here about the rich. We do hear about the poor but only when the revolt or murder or kill. It wasn't until WW2 that we here about the middle class in general. Even now we really don't here about them but we all know that they exist. There is still a class distication but it is much less obvious to the naked eye. You have look really really hard to find it but it is there.
When Titanic sank the ones who were of the lowest economic fate are the ones that died. Just because of were they were on the ship which represented where they were in life.
David, I rather think you held your own quite well in that particular arguement. At the risk of opening up an old can of worms, what else could Smith and Co. have done? Too many passangers+too few lifeboats to put them into=the musical chairs game from Hell. The winners get to keep their feet dry. The losers...well...tough luck and enjoy the swim. This doesn't exactly promote an atmousphere for calm and level headed thinking.
While we'll never know with 100% certainty, I'm inclined to agree with your theory.
Michael -- Thanks for the vote of confidence. I still believe that the one thing Captain Smith and his officers got "right" that night was the need to prevent panic for as long as possible. They accomplished that goal almost to the very end. And, they did save about 70% of the people who could have been carried by the lifeboats. Had the gunplay and panic around the collapsible boats started at 12:45...the number of survivors would likely have been far smaller.
But-- remember, you called it a "game of musical chairs from Hell"-- not me. (Although I find some verisimilitude in the description.)
There were some interesting comments above on the value system of this age, as reflected in the Titanic disaster, the Scott expedition, etc. I ran across this on another site --drawing an analogy with Scott and the Titanic in terming of "paying a price for arrogance"
The journal of Antarctic explorer Captain Robert Scott describe the final days of his failed expedition
The team had set out on its final push to the Pole the previous January. They knew they were in a race to be the first to reach their destination. Their competition was a Norwegian expedition lead by Roald Amundsen. The two expeditions employed entirely different strategies. Amundsen relied on dogs to haul his men and supplies over the frozen Antarctic wasteland. Scott’s English team distrusted the use of dogs preferring horses, once these died from the extreme conditions the sleds were man-hauled to the Pole and back. In fact, Scott deprecated the Norwegian’s reliance on dogs. Their use was somehow a less manly approach to the adventure and certainly not representative of the English tradition of “toughing it out” under extreme circumstances. Man could manage Nature. A similar spirit guided the building of the “unsinkable” Titanic and then supplied the ship with far too few lifeboats to hold its passengers if disaster did strike. Just as the passengers of the Titanic paid a price for this arrogance, so too did Captain Scott and his four companions.
How does everyone feel about Captain Scott, and the officers of the Titanic? Were the management and officers of the Titanic laboring under the false belief that they "controlled nature?"
They have all been made out to be great heroes. I'm not saying they weren't brave, but couldn't Scott, Smith and the others be considered foolhardy, and arrogant? Where does Bruce Ismay fit into the equation? Was he just arrogant, without being brave? Any thoughts are welcome.
Hmmmmmmm...foolhardy? Arrogant? Perhaps...but I have the sense that it was an all pervasive attitude of the age, and it wasn't just the English in general or the officers of the Titanic who were guilty of that particular vice. It was everywhere in the industrialized world.
"Technology has gone beyond that" they asserted, and not just on shipbuilding.
They were wrong, but I have to wonder, what has changed in attitudes since then? Overconfidence for whatever reason is evergreen. it never goes away.
Mike makes some very good points. I think that I would call the officers of Titanic more arrogant then anything. I mean if you think on it. They were the best of the best. They had a new ship and the biggest ship in the world at the time. It had (for the most part) all the safety features a ship could offer at that time plus some.
Mikes, comment about what has changed kind of hits home. Captains mostly but officers as well have to have this outward image that they control the sea. But they know very well that they do not in any way shape or form control what the mighty deep wants to do when she wants to do it. I think mariners in general have the belief that they can and will survive anything that the sea throws at them. But they also know that it just might be there turn. Sailors by nature are a very superstituous bunch. While getting my pilots license on the Great Lakes (It just happened to be November) captains on Lake Supieror hugged the coast line and kept a pretty good radio comms going. Because they knew that "the witch of novmenber was calling". They did not want a similar fate as the Fitzgerald.
Death at sea is a very punishing thing to a person. To loose one of your own. Whether it be your ship or not your nationality or not. Sailors are sailors no matter what. Cruise ships take precautions that are not all that public. There Captains in a sense are not unlike the dare devil Captains of the early 1900's. Todays' Captains just have different hurdles to fight. The Laws change depending on the country that you go too. Passengers no matter the age are of a different breed and panic a lot easier then in Titanics time. Time has been technolgyies friend but not the human memories friend.
Every time a ship sails and a lifeboat drill conducted the Titanic is discuss amoung the passengers. The Andria Doria or some other disaster afloat. When passengers hear a fire alarm, or any alarm they automatically attempt to jump ship. It used to be that you waited for direction and then did what you where told whether you liked it or not. As in Titanics case. No, you assume that the crew are morons and do what you want to do. It takes a different kind of dare devil Captain to command the ships of today. He has to make every Coast Guard of every country happy. Even though in most cases the laws are so different and a in a few cases the laws that are required in some countries it is against the laws in others. The pressure to keep a schedule is just as high now as it was then. Delays are dreaded and Captains loose money and jobs over circumstances that are not of there own doing. Todays Captains must be everybodies everything. So in some cases it isn't arrogance, it is the nature and the risks of the business
I just now posted on the "What will the future think of us" thread here in the Gilded Age discussion, but I was thinking also of a lot of the discussion I've seen here. In fact, maybe this would have been a more appropriate thread, but if you're interested you can check it out there.
A couple of questions:
Erik, what is the name of your book and where can purchase it? I tried doing a web search for it and couldn't seem to find it. Is it available through Amazon.com? Sorry to bug you, but I'm very interested.
Also, has anyone written about the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century, and its impact on the intellectual/conceptual framework of Titanic era passengers? I think it's interesting, for instance, that Henry Goddard's "The Kallikak Family" -- one of the most influential books of the eugenics movement -- was published in 1912 (and was a best seller) -- but that time also saw all sorts of other important developments in this regard. It seems to me that eugenics, with its strident conflation of success and morality with race and genetics, as well as its assumption that human behavior was ultimately and even easily understood via the mechanism of Mendelian genetics, might be a good example of the sort of arrogance folks here have been talking about. I've long been interested in the topic, and even thought of trying to write something about it for Titanica. So I wonder if anyone else has given this proposed link any serious thought.
Great discussion, by the way. I really look forward to hearing more.
>>I think that I would call the officers of Titanic more arrogant then anything<<
Talking 1912 era,i would agree.English back then did really think they own everything.
Is this true!
Harold bride called a German radio man a nasty word (i just can't remember the exact word for the life of me)I think it maybe moron.When Titanic ask for help during her foudering,the German radio man turn off his radio and never mentioned Titanic's cries for help,has any one know anything about this story?
Is that what you mean by Titanic Officers being arrogant?
Just to clearify something, niether Bride nor Phillips were ship's officers. They were Marconi radio operators and since they didn't work for White Star, would be thought of today as independant contractors or vendors.
Alyson, you may be thinking of the exchange between the Titanic and the Frankfurt (Which was a German vessel) or the Californian, which was British.
They had problems making themselves understoof with the Frankfurt and allegedly, said "You are a fool" to her operator, but they didn't shut down their wireless.
There was also that incident where the Californian's operator burst in and nearly blasted out Phillip's eardrums while he was trying to work Cape Race. However, this happened before the accident and since the Californian had only one operator, he simply turned off his set after his long work day and turned in for the night.
This at least had nothing to do with anybody's arrogance. No emergency existed at that point in time and when you're the only operator on the ship, you have to get some sleep eventually.
I doubt it. My own take was that they were having problems making themselves understood and the Frankfurt kept breaking in asking for clearifications at a time when the Titanic was trying to get the information out to anybody who was still operating. It's a bit tough to do that when dealing with constant interruptions.
Did the exchange with Frankfurt really take place? We only have Bride's word for it and he gave two different times for it. One was very late, after Captain Smith released the operators from duty. I trust Bride about as far as I could chuck him. Oddly enough, the tale isn't in his New York Times account. He just mentions telling Frankfurt about the situation.