This Year In History: The Centennial of the Sinking of the RMS Titanic

Posted on May 7, 2012 by


By Joseph Nawn

One hundred years ago, Worcester State University was called the Worcester Normal School and in 1912 Principal Dr. Francis R. Lane would officially depart from the school and be replaced by its third and final principal Dr. William B. Aspinwall. However, on April 10 of that same year the infamous RMS Titanic would embark on its ill-fated maiden voyage to New York City.

Most people are aware of the facts surrounding the RMS Titanic because of James Cameron’s 1997 film “Titanic”. The center of the plot revolves around a love story played by two characters named Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) and Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) who, despite what some may think, never existed in real life.

However there are a number of people shown in the movie who are based on real people, such as the wealthy American philanthropist Margaret Brown (aka The Unsinkable Molly Brown), Titanic’s architect Thomas Andrews, Chairman of the White Star Line that built Titanic, J. Bruce Ismay, Titanic Captain Edward Smith, Titanic band leader Wallace Hartley, and Macy’s Department Store co-owner and his wife Isidor and Ida Strauss. Many might remember the Strauss’ from the film as the old couple who went down with the ship.

The RMS Titanic was originally built to compete with other ship building companies in England such as Cunard Line and also a number of German companies who at the time were building some of the fastest passenger liners in the world. The White Star Line Company had been purchased a number of years prior to the RMS Titanic’s construction by the American based International Mercantile Marine Company which was owned by American business man J.P. Morgan. The company decided that they would rather compete with size then speed with the construction of three new ships the RMS Olympic, the HMHS Britannic, and the RMS Titanic.

The size of these ships were unlike anything the world had seen up to this point in regards to passenger liners and the White Star Line wanted to decorate the ship in a new unorthodox manner. The interior for the most part is based off of the insides of some of the most prestigious hotels of the day to give off the feeling that the passenger was not so much on a boat but on a floating hotel. Many of the first class designs of the rooms were decorated in an Empire or Victorian style. First class as well as some second class rooms were equipped with their own bathrooms while third class had to share with the rest of the third class passengers.

I think almost all of us are familiar with the actual sinking of the ship itself. The calm air, clear skies, and cold night of April 14, 1912 and the spotting of the iceberg by crewman Frederick Fleet, who was the first to shout the infamous words, “Iceberg, right ahead.”

What many do not know however is that during the voyage the ship had been gaining more and more speed each day to make faster progress towards their destination in New York City. The RMS Titanic had received a number of messages pertaining to icebergs in their area but many were ignored because after all it was the unsinkable ship and they assumed they would see such dangers in time to save the ship.

Unfortunately they were not so lucky and the ship did not have enough time to slow down and steer the ship away from danger. The compartments of the ship were prepared for a leak and had a mechanism that would close any compartments with a steel door if a leak was detected.To their dismay this would only keep the ship afloat if it only had to deal with a maximum of four flooded compartments.

The ships hole pierced five and the RMS Titanic went down once and for all around 2:20 a.m. the next day; along with it about 1,514 of the estimated 2,224 people on board. The sad thing about the sinking is that of course there were not enough lifeboats, in addition to this sad fact is that the lifeboats were not being filled to their full capacity. There were approximately 20 lifeboats on the RMS Titanic which was enough to save about 1,178 people but due to some being released prematurely only about 710 people were saved and an additional 13 when they had comeback to look for survivors.

Another aspect of the sinking that could have saved countless lives was the fact that the ship, the SS Californian, was in the vicinity of the RMS Titanic when it sank; much closer than the ship that did save the RMS Titanic passengers, the RMS Carpathia. The ship decided to ignore the incoherent telegraphs they were receiving from the ship and ignored the flares that went up from the Titanic. It seems that even from its departure from Southampton where it almost collided with the SS City of New York that the ship was destined for tragedy.


On April 14 and 15, 2012 we remembered the 100th Year Anniversary of the Sinking of the RMS Titanic which has since become very much a part of great American folklore. Many people throughout the years have wanted to own a piece of the tragedy but there have been legal implications with owning such artifacts. Since the sinking is considered a tragedy, money is really not allowed to be made off of it.


However, as part of the centennial, the company RMS Titanic, Inc. who has the salvor-in-possession rights to the wreck and displays the salvaged wreck pieces around the world has released coins that have at the center of it a piece of coal salvaged from the actual RMS Titanic. They were able to legally work out a way for this to happen but supplies are numbered so get your piece of history while you still can and get ready for the next infamous centennial on June 28 of this year when we remember the shots fired at Sarajevo that led to the beginning of the First World War.

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