Hi Sam, how are you? I hope that your trip is going well.
"Tad, you said: "Was the vessel safe? In hindsight that answer is a resounding no." How you define safe? I can argue that safe is a vessel that will keep its passengers free from harm under any and all situations imaginable. Vessels can always be built safer, but you need to define the situation that sets the standard to which they are built for. Colliding with an iceberg along the side that would open the first 5 compartments was not part of the design equations."
Very good point about defining safe. I guess my own definition would have to be similar, "safe" being the passengers being reasonably free from harm even in the event of a worst-case scenario. I was speaking more to modern criticisms (and bare in mind that I have not seen this special yet, and am not pre-judging any information presented in it, just so there's no misunderstanding) such as the brittle steel theory, the watertight bulkheads not extending far enough up, etc. that brand the ship as inadequate or even unseaworthy at the time of its maiden voyage, when in fact it met and surpassed requirements of the day.
Compared to modern ships and regulations, it's safety features may lack, but that wasn't the case by 1912 standards and laws. In hindsight, it is easy to say the vessel wasn't "safe" using our definition of the word, because the passengers were not kept from harm, but the accident was the result of a scenario never imagined, rather than from negligence on the part of the design engineers or inadequate construction. All in all, I guess my point was that people have to be careful about judging how seaworthy Titanic was by comparing against modern standards and finding weaknesses that way than by judging it by the contemporary standards and technological abilities that were in place and available when she was actually built and at sea.
I agree with your point about safe being defined as all passengers being safe in any possible scenario, which unfortunately, we all know is never 100% true. Vessels are safer then they ever have been, but accidents show their is always room for improvement, which is why requirements and laws have evolved in an attempt to make things safer. Unfortunately, it often takes a major incident before it is realized that there is a design flaw, such as the unlikely collision and spread of damage on Titanic, the wooden decks on world war two American aircraft carriers, hatch covers on ore carriers on the great lakes, etc.
Your post got me thinking about how a modern vessel would stand up compared to Titanic in a similar collision with the current hull construction and bulkheads, but that is a topic for another thread I suppose.
By the way, congrats on the excellent Commutator article!
All my best,