Here’s a trivia question for you to ask your friends and family. Who christened the Titanic? I’ll answer that question later.
April 15, 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. The steamship was 885 feet long, and it was more than ten stories tall. As of that time, it had been described as “the largest moving man-made object in the world” and a “floating palace.”
On its maiden voyage this huge steamship was going from Southampton, England to New York City when it collided with an iceberg about 400 miles from Newfoundland and sank within three hours. There were 2,207 people on board, and 1,500 perished.
Daniel Allen Butler wrote a book I highly recommend, entitled Unsinkable. In the Preface, he wrote, “No other disaster in history could have been more easily avoided or was more inevitable…a once-in-a-lifetime combination of weather and sea conditions came together to make the iceberg nearly invisible to the ship’s lookouts.”
The Greeks had their ancient plays where the flawed hero ended up in tragedy because of his hubris—his arrogance. And when you look at many of the facts surrounding the sinking of the Titanic, you find multiple examples of pride, in the worst sense of the word.The Titanic is indeed a reminder of that ancient principle from Solomon the Wise: Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. One error compounded on another….but each was predicated on the assumption that the ship was unsinkable.
Before the voyage, one woman, a Mrs. Albert Caldwell, watched “a group of deck hands carrying luggage aboard the Titanic. Impulsively, she stopped one of the men and asked him, ‘Is this ship really nonsinkable?’ ‘Yes, lady,’ he replied, ‘God Himself couldn’t sink this ship.'” (Butler, Unsinkable, p. 39).
Hindsight is always 20/20. But that wasn’t a very smart thing to say.
Author Doug Phillips writes this about the Titanic: “She was the floating embodiment of the new age of scientific optimism, and the international symbol of the century that would finally realize Utopia….Many perceived the ship to be a modern incarnation of the Tower of Babel. The sinking represented God’s unwillingness to allow man to build any edifice of invincibility or to seek salvation through technology.”
Doug Phillips is the president of the Christian Boys’ and Men’s Titanic Society, an organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the Titanic and the hundreds of heroic men who sacrificed their lives because of the chivalrous view ingrained in the culture (because of Judeo-Christian influence) of “Women and children first.”
I heard recently about a ferry that capsized in Indonesia, where men pushed women and children overboard to secure their own place in the lifeboats.
Meanwhile, the dust hasn’t settled yet from the shipwreck earlier this year of the Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy. But from initial reports, the care of women and children first was not necessarily the norm.
The captain of the Costa Concordia has been dubbed “the chicken of the sea.” (But, in fairness, as of this writing, he has not yet had his day in court). Meanwhile, Captain E. J. Smith of the Titanic nobly went down with the ship, after having made sure that the crew saved women and children first as much as possible.
Because of a ten second brush with a 5,000 year old iceberg, April 14-15, 1912 turned the luxury voyage into a night of horror.
I gleaned the following facts from Butler’s book. Because the Titanic was viewed as unsinkable….
∙The crew didn’t bother to make sure they had lookout glasses, i.e., binoculars, on-board. (They were actually there, it turns out, but locked up and stashed away, unknown to the present crew because of a last minute change in personnel.)
∙They should have gone through a practice drill in case of emergencies, but they didn’t.
∙They should have had far more lifeboats, one space for each passenger. Instead, as was the custom of the day (which was changed after the sinking of the Titanic), they used an elaborate mathematical formula to derive a much smaller number of lifeboats.
∙They were going at the fastest speed of the voyage at the time of the brush with the iceberg (22 1/2 knots). The captain was trying to make the trip in record time.
∙They would have heeded the six wireless messages from different ships warning them about the ice-fields. The last one, at 11 PM (about a half hour before the accident), came from the Californian ship: “Say, old man, we are surrounded by ice and stopped.” To that message, the Titanic’s radio operator responded, “Shut up! Shut up! I am busy…”
In retrospect, what made him so busy—compared to 1,500 human lives lost that night?
So who was it that christened the Titanic? No one. It was never christened. It didn’t need to be. After all, it was unsinkable.
The Bishop of Winchester said, “The Titanic, name and thing, will stand for a monument and warning to human presumption.” That message is still relevant, a hundred years later.