Monday, September 26, 2011


On April 25, 1912, firemen from Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic, refused to work on the ship because of insufficient lifeboats and caused a strike. The company insisted that the collapsible boats they provided had been tested and were adequate, but the men picketed, saying those boats were old, formerly used on troopships. Furthermore some collapsibles refused to open and one man had put his hand through the canvas side. The firemen were accused of mutiny, but the magistrates refused to fine or imprison them. When faulty boats were replaced, the strikers returned and the ship sailed on May 15.

on learning of the Titanic’s sinking, a U. S. Senator from Michigan, William A. Smith (not to be confused with E. J. Smith, captain of the Titanic) called for an inquiry, the results of which were to be a reform of the laws governing ocean travel. In addition to requiring enough lifeboats for everyone on board, other safety measures were adopted. More ships were outfitted with double hulls, and watertight compartments had complete bulkheads. Crews were required to be proficient in the handling of lifeboats and passengers required to attend a boat drill where they would learn how to don a life jacket and which lifeboat to board. Cruise ship passengers still do that today.

North Atlantic shipping lanes were moved forty miles south during winter if there was any danger of ice, and ice patrols were formed to keep ships out of the path of icebergs. This became our present day Coast Guard.

One of the most important changes in England came about gradually, but the Titanic disaster is often cited as the beginning of the movement. That was the end of the belief that Steerage passengers--the lower class--were expendable. They resented being considered less worthy of living than wealthy passengers, and they began to insist on respect and the ability to rise above the station into which they’d been born. The lesson of the Titanic and, later, of World War I, taught them that leadership was not an exclusive possession of the rich. They changed their attitude and took more control of their lives.

Yes, the U.K. still has a queen, princes and princesses, Lords and Ladies. Yet immigrants continue to come here because of our Declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal...”

* * *
A little-known but interesting (to me) result of the sinking of Titanic was because it allowed a woman to be reunited with her children. A French couple with two small children was having marital problems and they separated for awhile, the wife taking their little boys to her mother’s home. The husband decided to kidnap the children and take them to America, so he pretended to want them only for the Easter weekend.

His wife agreed, but instead he went to Southhampton, used another name and boarded Titanic. When the ship was sinking, he couldn’t board a lifeboat and passed his two children over the heads of other passengers to give them to women already in Collapsible D. The husband perished, and the children, aged two and three, who knew no English, were called “Waifs of the Sea.” However, their picture appeared in many newspapers, their mother recognized them, and the White Star Line sent her to New York to get them and bring them home. It was a kind of happy ending. A recently-published book, DANGEROUS AFFAIRS, by Gardner Brooks, is basely loosely on that true story.

There will be one more Blog in this series and the subject will be a few films made about the Titanic tragedy. Please check it out next week.


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