The Titanic Chronicles: 100 Years Ago Today

TitanicThe story of RMS Titanic, immortalized by the 1997 James Cameron film of the same name, is a lasting one. Bringing the story to theaters in a blockbuster hit, enhanced and re-released this month, gave the story life long after so many had died at sea. Now, footage of recent maritime events, including the grounding of Costa Concordia and fires aboard other ships, brought home a realism no film could match. Still, the fate of Titanic still holds as the worst maritime disaster ever, one that occurred on this day, 100 years ago.

11:40 p.m. on April 15, 1912 was a Sunday and the maiden voyage of RMS Titanic was well underway. Earlier in the day, radio messages received warned of icebergs in the ship’s path but were ignored. That night, a lookout cried “Iceberg, right ahead!” but the ship could not avoid a collision. That iceberg ran down the right side of the ship causing fatal damage to what was believed to be an unsinkable vessel.

Just after Midnight, the ship’s captain ordered lifeboats into the water in what had to be his most difficult decision ever.

Still today, the Captain is referred to as the Master of the Vessel. Still today, he or she has a great many lives to be responsible for. In January, it was Captain Francisco Schettino who gave the abandon ship order for Costa Concordia.

In April of 1912, it was Captain Edward J. Smith as the master of Titanic who was fully aware of the iceberg warnings that had been received via radio days before the tragedy. To insure safety, even back then, Smith charted a new course, slightly south of the original plan, to avoid icebergs.But radio was a new thing then and the focus was on relaying messages sent to and from the ship by passengers or those on land. Earlier in the day of that fateful night in 1912 – 100 years ago today – Titanic had received a message from the steamer Amerika warning of icebergs directly in the path of the ship. Later, another message of iceberg danger was received too. Both went unheeded as radio operators worked to send and receive more important passenger messages.

Today’s cruise ship Captains regularly alter courses too, commonly in response to changing weather conditions. When a crime occurs involving passengers or the crew, the captain, as master of the vessel, is responsible for those people as well and works closely with the US Coast Guard, US Customs and Border Patrol and other agencies to insure a swift and just resolution.

Not long ago, evidence indicated that Captain Francisco Schettino altered the course of Costa Concordia, coming too close to shore and causing the tragedy that followed. The event caused cruise industry leaders to reaffirm their commitment to safety.

Officers and crew members from Royal Caribbean, along with sister-brands Celebrity and Azamara Cruises, now have the advantage of being a part of new simulator training center at Resolve Maritime Academy in Fort Lauderdale. Signaling a renewed focus on safety, staff of the $6.5 million facility cut the grand opening ribbon recently as part of an ongoing safety program but timing surely looked to address current concerns of the cruising public.

“This was not a knee-jerk reaction to recent events,” Captain William Wright, senior vice president of marine operations for Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises said of the two year process to get the facility to opening day.

Still, while simulations can take into account a variety of factors that can go wrong, staff members at the Resolve training facility quickly note that it is the human element that can often make the difference in avoiding disaster at sea.



Fiction: The Titanic being raised out of the Atlantic.

[Flickr photo by mecookie]

The Legacy of Titanic- The Master of the Vessel

the legacy of titanic

Today’s cruise industry exists and operates in many ways as a result of the Titanic tragedy. This week we take a look at the legacy left behind in ways that affect cruise passengers on every sailing of every ship.

11:40 PM on this day in 1912 was a Sunday and the maiden voyage of RMS Titanic was well underway. Earlier in the day, radio messages received warned of icebergs in the ship’s path but were ignored. That night, a lookout cried “Iceberg, right ahead” but the ship could not avoid a collision. That iceberg that ran down the right side of the ship causing fatal damage to what was believed to be an unsinkable vessel.

Just after Midnight, the ship’s captain ordered lifeboats into the water in what had to be his most difficult decision ever.

Still today, the Captain is referred to as the Master of the Vessel. Still today, he or she has a great many lives to be responsible for.

Captain Edward J. Smith was the master of Titanic and was fully aware of the iceberg warnings that had been received via radio days before the tragedy. To insure safety, even back then, Smith charted a new course, slightly south of the original plan, to avoid icebergs.

But radio was a new thing then and the focus was on relaying messages sent to and from the ship by passengers or those on land. Earlier in the day of that fateful night in 1912 99 years ago today, Titanic had received a message from the steamer Amerika warning of icebergs directly in the path of the ship. Later, another message of iceberg danger was received too. Both went unheeded as radio operators worked to send and receive more important passenger messages.

Today’s cruise ship Captains regularly alter courses too, commonly in response to changing weather conditions. When a crime occurs involving passengers or the crew of a cruise ship, the captain as master of the vessel, is responsible for those people as well and works closely with the US Coast Guard, US Customs and Border Patrol and other agencies to insure a swift and just resolution.

Today also begins the countdown begins to the 100-anniversary “centenary” observance of the Titanic sinking in 2012. A 3-day Titanic conference, dedicated voyages that retrace the first and last voyage of Titanic, a memorial design contest and concerts mark the event.

Tomorrow we continue our look at the legacy of Titanic, focusing on the post-Titanic world of today’s cruise industry.

Flickr photo by Joelk75

The Legacy of Titanic, what we learned in the last 99 years

The Legacy of Titanic
This week marks the 99th anniversary of the sinking of the passenger liner RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912. If you have seen the movie, you know the basic story. Four days into a transatlantic crossing, the ship hit an iceberg just before midnight then sank hours later. In one of the deadliest disasters in maritime history, over 1500 people died in the icy water south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Today’s cruise industry exists and operates in many ways as a result of the Titanic tragedy. This week we take a look at the legacy left behind that affects cruise passengers on every sailing of every ship.

Going down this road, safety at sea comes up as a primary topic when thinking of the Titanic.

In the world of travel agents from which I came, “Titanic” is a word avoided almost as much as “torpedoes” and “pirates”. I remember being told when I started “If you say the word “sink” you better be talking about a place to wash out your coffee cup and if you say the word “sunk” you better be talking about basketball.” When asked what he thought would happen to the cruise business if a cruise ship sank today, a cruise line sales manager told me over lunch one day “Oh, we don’t even talk about that.” The mood of that luncheon became somber from that point on.

Those keywords are not what we want to think about. It’s not the pretty picture of a serene cruise vacation that marketers want us to buy into. Cruise lines, sellers of travel and the like, want those images to be as far from our minds as possible. Ninety-nine years puts a lot of time between us and the sinking of the Titanic when 1517 passengers died.

Still, there are people charged to never forget Titanic and make it their job to take lessons learned back then, build upon them and move forward.

It can be as simple as the intensity that today’s cruise ship crew members have during the typical safety drill performed at the beginning of each cruise. This is not a time for joking around and having a frozen cocktail. That came before the safety drill and will resume after. As passengers follow directions during a safety drill, now is the time to practice what to do if faced with the worst possible event at sea.

It can be as complex as set-in-stone rules regarding documentation needed to board a passenger ship. The requirements are strict and systems on board keep track of every passenger coming on or going off a ship. Behind-the-scenes activities performed by everyone from travel agents to embarkation staff at the pier help insure a safe voyage.

It can be as commonplace as a change in the itinerary of a cruise ship due to weather, safety or mechanical concerns. That topic has come up a lot recently as ships from all major cruise lines canceled calls to trouble-spots around the globe. Each year during hurricane season, itineraries are commonly changed to avoid major storms. Not long ago, a major cruise ship lost power and had to be towed back to port.

Cruise liners today are much bigger and better equipped. At 46,328 gross registered tons, Titanic was the largest and most advanced ship of her day. Today’s largest and most advanced ship, Allure of the Seas, is more than four times larger and carries almost twice as many people. Big ships are not nearly as “remarkable” as they were in 1912. Shipyards seem to crank them out as fast as they are ordered. Cruise lines deploy ships all over the planet now without hesitation to move one if an itinerary does not produce the anticipated results. Are today’s cruise lines operating as safely as possible? Is it possible to ever have another Titanic-like event?

Join us tomorrow and the rest of this week as we answer those questions and remember some mistakes made at the time that might have avoided the tragedy altogether.

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Flickr photo by scmikeburton