Encyclopedia Titanica

The Sad "Might Have Beens"

The Evening Post

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Out of the fragmentary and disjointed reports of the survivors of the Titanic tragedy loom the big facts that compel the action on which congress has promptly engaged not only for thorough investigation of the affair but for formulation of an international agreement on rules for interoceanic passenger steamship service. It is to the absence of these in any sufficient scope that is to be attributed to the death of practically every one of the 1595 that went down with the Titanic.

Wireless service such as ought to be enforced on every passenger vessel would have saved them. It turns out that the Parisian was only 45 miles away. But she had only one wireless operator and he had gone to bed less than half an hour before the disaster and soon after talking with the Titanic. No one operator can work night and day, of course, and he retired by the captain’s orders. If there had been another operator to replace him the Parisian would have got the message of the disaster and could have reached the scene in season to have got off safely in the four hours between the striking of the iceberg and the plunging of the Titanic to the sea’s bottom. The Carpathia and the Olympic were 200 and 280 miles away and the former arrived two hours too late. The lesson is the obvious one that a ship’s wireless service is worthless in proportion to the time that it has no man on the spot.

Again the whole of the lost steamer’s passengers and crew could have been saved by an adequate provision of life boats. She had little more than a third enough. It appears that in this respect she met the requirements of the British board of trade, though not the rather indefinite American statute. International regulation in this matter applying at every port from which a steamer gets clearances should now be the demand of all civilization.

It is asserted that the Titanic had davits enough for sufficient boats and even that there were more than the number of survivors would indicate. However all this may be, the fact is that there were not enough boats or room for them on a vessel whose space was so largely taken up with the appointments of luxury , not only in the way of gorgeous suites of rooms, but gymnasiums, tennis courts, dance halls, promenades and observation parlors, some of which occupied space needed for lifeboats. Such a catering to wealth and ostentation has progressively characterized, the architecture of the great liners in recent years and though natural enough as commercial matter cannot longer be permitted to cut off opportunity for bare life.

So far as appears yet none except 30 that reached one raft were saved by lifebelts which everybody was by the first order after the collision directed to put on. Were they of the fraudulent, worthless quality revealed by the Slocum horror? The unfortunates that went into the sea with them may have perished in the intensely cold water, but if the life preservers were of right quality it seems strange that more bodies were not found floating on the surface than indicated by such accounts as we have thus far.

The testimony is that the Titanic was driving through these waters known to be thickly strewn with bergs at a rate of 21 to 23 knots an hour- nearly if not quite her full speed in pursuance of the ambition of the steamship companies to “make a record” especially on the maiden trips of the vessels. It was a recklessness for which the responsibility ought to be located somewhere. The argument that has been made for this policy, that high speed is less dangerous than low, may have some merit as regards vessels of ordinary size, but does not apply to such a vast and heavy steel structure as the Titanic, whose fearful momentum from combined speed and weight meants [sic] the tearing out of practically her whole side when she struck alongsides the submerged shelf of a berg.

There has been “too much greed” as Admiral Dewey truly says in the conduct of steamship business. Capt. E.K.Boden in the November number of the Navy, writing about the “luxury or safety,” and with reference to the Titanic and Olympic pointed out the very dangers whose existence experience has so appallingly demonstrated.

But as against all these faults the qualities that dignify human nature appear in the sad story. Every woman that could be induced to leave, some even being forced into the lifeboats, was saved. These lost like the wife of Isador Strauss, were those that refused absolutely to part with their loved ones. No men were allowed on the boats until the women and children, of all classes alike of the passengers had been provided for. The officers and crew and male passengers generally appear to have abided manfully by the old rule of the “folkways” as Prof. W.G.Sumner called it and with few exceptions to have faced sure death in this duty like gallant gentlemen all, high or low in world’s station. Particulars are given of only one rush of the contrary kind from steerage and that was bravely overcome; though whether there was a shooting or killing to repress it, seems a matter of dispute.

It is the only part of the terrible story in which satisfaction can be taken and it was fittingly climaxed with the strains of  the ship’s band playing “Nearer My God to Thee,” as she went down.


Lesley Morgan


Encyclopedia Titanica (2005) The Sad "Might Have Beens" (The Evening Post, Friday 19th April 1912, ref: #4534, published 21 April 2005, generated 5th December 2021 12:41:51 AM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/the-sad-might-have-beens.html