The destruction of the Titanic is one of the biggest and most famous disasters of the 20th century. She sank on her meteoric maiden voyage and more than 1,500 passengers and crew died in the freezing waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
The tragic history of the ship has been the subject of much research and investigation, and over more than a hundred years a number of myths and superstitions have accumulated about her.
Tim Maltin is the author of three books and a series of documentaries devoted to the destruction of the Titanic. He now dispels the greatest superstitions and myths that exist about the ship in the document Debunking the Myths of the Titanic for the History Hit platform (similar to the popular Netflix historical document network).
The irresponsible captain should have propelled the ship too fast
The Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, after two in the morning, crashing into the glacier about twenty minutes before midnight the day before. At the time of impact, the glacier was traveling at a speed (again determined by the captain) of about 21 knots (about 39 kilometers per hour), while its maximum speed was 23 knots (43 kilometers per hour).
The judge who led the British inquiry into the tragedy, John Charles Bigham, noted in his diary that the ship was sailing “too fast” and that in an environment full of glaciers and bushes, there was ” no reduction in speed”.
Captain Edward J. Smith (far right) liked to sail the ship quickly, but the crew under him liked to serve and were respected.
Photo: CSU Archives/Everett Collection, Profimedia.cz
It just led to suspicion and later the creation of the myth that Captain Edward J. Smith had the ship sailed irresponsibly. But as Maltin points out, all of the captains who testified at the inquest said they would behave the same way. “The night the Titanic sank was very clear and they had a good view on patrol,” Maltin said.
“They knew they were entering the ice field, but unfortunately they thought they could avoid the glaciers in time,” Maltin said. He came across a warning from the California liner, which warned the Titanic against bushes and glaciers around 11:30 p.m. Ten minutes later, a fatal collision occurs.
Maltin also mentioned superstitions that the captain was either drunk or a coward. However, these were refuted long before, and today the prevailing opinion is that the captain behaved in an exemplary manner during the sinking of his ship. His fate is not exactly known and the different versions are based on the different testimonies of the survivors.
It is certain that at the time of the accident he was on deck giving orders. Some testimonies speak of some confusion, but it is not true that he committed suicide. The report was published by some newspapers after the testimony of two passengers, but the surviving crew members vehemently refuted it.
The crew did not have binoculars, but that did not cause the crash
Before the Titanic left Southampton port, an exchange of officers took place on board the ship. Second Officer David Blair has left the ship. It is believed that he accidentally took the keys to the cabin where the binoculars were stored. The crew did not have access to it at a critical moment and could not see the glacier in time. Maltin admits it looks like the twins in the guard baskets really don’t have them available.
However, he adds in a breath that this did not affect the observation of the glacier. Especially at night, the eyes themselves are much better at detecting objects in the environment. “You have a much wider field of view, and that helps detect objects in the environment,” Maltin said, adding that binoculars are used to observe an already discovered object, not to discover it.
The wrecks of the Titanic sunk on the ship Carpathia
Maltin also speculates that telescopes, on the other hand, would slow down the whole reaction. Crew members exploring the glacier would want binoculars to make sure it was a really dangerous obstacle. This is how they rang the alarm bell three times. Yet the warning came too late. First Officer William McMaster Murdoch ordered an evasive maneuver, but the glaciers could no longer be avoided.
The Titanic crashed into a piece of ice on its side. It is sometimes said, Maltin recalls, that the Titanic had too small a rudder and therefore the ship could not be maneuvered properly. But according to the historian, the rudder was identical to the rudder of the sister ship Olympic. She remained in service until 1935 and her captains hailed her as one of the most maneuverable ships.
Well built boat
The White Star Line described the Titanic as an unsinkable ship, but in reality it was built with shoddy materials. Neither is true, says Maltin. None of the owners or builders considered the vessel to be unsinkable, but the fact is that so many people have seen her because of her exceptional construction.
“It was designed to stay afloat even when all four flood chambers were inundated,” says Maltin, who also refutes Richard Corfield’s 2012 claim that second-hand riveting was used in the construction of the Titanic and that the keel tore in a glacier accident. .
Titanic in drydock in Belfast (2011)
However, the designers had not anticipated a side collision occurring after an evasive maneuver attempt. Five flood chambers were then flooded, which was too much for the Titanic.
According to Maltin, the fact that the ship took two and a half hours to sink also testifies to the fact that it was well and truly built. The Briton recalls that the capsizing of the Costa Concordia in 2012 after the cliff ripped a hole in the hull took much less time.
The stern sank slowly and quietly
In a 1997 Hollywood feature film, the sinking Titanic breaks in two and the stern, tilted almost perpendicular to the water, crashes into the waves. Although most people today have fixed the famous ship’s final moments, in fact they also unfolded differently and less spectacularly, albeit just as tragically.
Through the hole on the starboard side, the ship was flooded with water and the bow began to sink. At that time, the stern, where the rest of the passengers and crew were at that time, was really raised. But then the bow tore off and, thanks to the good construction, the stern landed on the surface again. At this time, some were convinced that the stern would no longer sink.
One of Titanic’s turbines
But, of course, the bow didn’t come out clean and whole. Maltin describes the interaction between bow and stern as “pulled with a string”. The bow began to tear the stern to pieces. “The damage caused by the sinking bow was significantly greater than the damage caused by the glacier,” says Maltin.
Unlike the dramatic and impressive scene in the film, the stern sank very slowly and quietly. One of the survivors recalled sailing from the stern to the lifeboat without getting his head wet.
The Third Class Passenger Drama
The film also shows third class passengers who are locked below decks and left to fend for themselves. Although the bars were indeed on the Titanic by US immigration authorities (the authorities wanted to prevent the spread of the disease), the bars were opened immediately after the alarm sounded about 47 minutes after the crash, when it was clear that the ship would sink.
Walk on the upper deck of the Titanic. Third-class passengers thronged the lower decks.
“In fact, first-class stewards were immediately dispatched to third to explain to people where the lifeboats were,” Maltin said. Many more people died in the third grade, mostly because families didn’t want to give up their sons. The poorest went to America to start a new life, with all their possessions and their families.
However, the classic wives and children rule first applied to salvage (although there was controversy over whether it should be interpreted as wives and children only). At that time, thirteen-year-old boys were already considered adult men and families simply did not want to leave them.
The mythical catastrophe will still engulf
The tragedy, which killed more than 1,500 people, is shrouded in many myths. This is despite the fact that it is one of the best documented maritime disasters. Or maybe that’s why. Hundreds of testimonies from survivors who experienced unspeakable terror and lost loved ones contradict each other on a number of counts, and it is difficult to distinguish which are true and which are not.
The whole world was talking about the disaster.
Even after more than a hundred years, the fate of the technically perfect Titanic will still arouse curiosity and further questions. “The reason I’m so interested in this, like so many others, is that the Titanic is kind of a perfect tragedy,” Maltin said.
“In antiquity, they had authors of tragedies who always described the struggle of man against fate, against the gods. In the modern context, the Titanic shows us that the best we can do, the best ship, the best technology, will fall on its first voyage because of an ancient piece of ice,” continues Matlin.
“And I think it’s something that speaks to the very essence of humanity. You can try anything on nature, but suddenly it’s a universe that is all-powerful,” explained the Briton. , why his passion for the history of the Titanic engulfed him so much.