Titanic: An Editorial
04 Apr 2012
As with most devices, whether it is nautical or aerospace, or land-based such as motor vehicles and bicycles, misusage leads to disaster! A form of misuage is the agile "get it done" mentality. Such "seat-of-the-pants" actions lead to disaster. After a century had passed, has our society learned? Nope.
Provincial thinkers blamed the sinking of the RMS Titanic on the crew members who were on watch from the bridge and the crow's nest. They failed to spot the iceberg in time to divert the collision that ripped a gaping hole on the starboard side of the huge vessel. It's the classic blaming of the worker bees. In reality, managing officer Bruce Ismay of the White Star Line had ordered the engine room crew to run the ship at a blazing 22 knots in an ice field. Capt. Edward John Smith was rather complacent to Mr. Ismay's actions. Subsequently, over 1,500 perished in the chilled waters of the North Atlantic on 12 April 1912.
Mr. Ismay's quest was sheer ego: an aggression of beating Cunard Line's record crossing of the Atlantic. It was a clear cut case of where one could not draw a line between competition and abuse. The problems started at the beginning. White Star followed government regulations to the letter; subsequently, they outfitted the 46,000-ton ship with only the required number of lifeboats. It was annotated that North Atlantic's shipping lanes had enough traffic to rescue passengers should trouble strike. Just send an SOS across the wireless telegraph and help is on the way! At least, that was the case with previous accidents; however, in the case of the Titanic, the accident occurred at approximately 11:40 p.m. (23:40) and most wireless operators on other ships had closed down for the evening. Such a rescue would not be so evident. The Titanic was the largest ship built on paradigms of previous, small vessels. There were many unknowns such as the metallurgy of the steel plates that have been proven on smaller vessels, but not so on the mammoth Titanic. The plates simply failed to the pressures of the ice; it just simply broke and came apart allowing water to rush into the compartments. White Star was arrogant enough to believe that it would take longer than average for the so-called "unsinkable" Titanic to sink should an accident occur. The vessel on its maiden voyage went down in two hours.
Many of the wealthy who paid $80,000 for a 1st class state room perished right along with those who rode in 2nd and 3rd class cabins. As so stated by Ecclesiastes 9:11: "The race is not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all." Well known John Jacob Astor and other wealthy men were turned away from the lifeboats; the rule was "women and children first!" The bottom line is that when a rich person perishes, it's no different than anyone else.
The past performances where no fatal incidents occurred made the power brokers dangerously complacent such as the case of the Space Shuttle Challenger that exploded on its launch of 28 Jan 1986. NASA engineers cautioned management of the o-rings discrepancies; management chose to take chances and make it go for launch. Ice berg warnings were issued by other ship operators and handed to Mr. Ismay who chose to ignore it. The two men who stood in the crow's nest had no chance to spot the ice berg in time; they had no binoculars. It was dark as pitch.