The Legacy of Titanic- The Master of the Vessel

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