My last love, Titanic

February 29, 2012
It is in the nature of all human beings to see that everything has an end. The waves, messengers of the sea, must eventually meet the shore. The fish, forever traversing the endless horizon, shall one day become acquainted with the winsome smile of the shark. Even ships, strong and gallant, can’t sail the seas forever. Every song shall play her closing notes, and every captain’s log must reach its final page. But in order to have an end, there must be a beginning.
A dream always seems to be mother of all great ideas, and that remains true for the start of this story. At a lovely dinner party in London, over a nice cup of coffee, two dear friends of mine thought up the most brilliant idea of constructing three enormous ocean liners that would, so to speak, blow all other ships out of the water. My colleagues, sir J, Bruce Ismay, president of the White Star liner ships, and Lord Peirre, certainly thought on a much grander scale. For once they were built, to accommodate their great size, new ship ports had to be constructed on both sides of the Atlantic for the three great ships.
The first to set sail, the Olympic, safely returned from her maiden voyage.
And on May thirty first, nineteen eleven, which is sure to be a historical moment, the second White Star liner, Titanic, was launched at Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast Ireland.
But Titanic, beauty as she is, was not quite ready to set sail. Oh no, decorations had to be placed, furniture set, and every detail on her body perfected.
Nearly ten months later, all though many say perfect is impossible, that point was ready to be argued. Titanic stood holding nine decks, measuring to the height of an eleven story building, and stretched a colossal eight hundred and eighty-two feet; nearly the length of four city blocks. Three anchors, together weighing about thirty-one tons decorated her deck, as did four very large funnels, each big enough to drive two trains through.
But now my friends, comes the time that I shall introduce myself to you. Captain Edward John Smith, thirty eight year crew member of the White Star Line. Forgive me for neglecting to present myself to you sooner, but I’m afraid my name has had no real importance to this story until now.
I must say, being chosen to captain the infamous ship Titanic on her maiden voyage to America, is nothing but the highest honor. And after all the trouble with the Red Hawk, let us not dwell on the past, but it is not but grand to end my sailing career with the new titan of the sea. Not that anything bad is to happen to her, for they claim she is unsinkable. But doesn’t every ship builder claim their vessel to be that way? So after thirty-eight years, I think it shall be ever so a happy sort of ending. After this historical ship has sailed, I shall retire and forever think and remember her as my last love.

For time does fly, as April tenth has finally arrived in the year of nineteen twelve. Passengers possessing tickets to the R.M.S Titanic are lined up ready to board. Little girls holding onto their mothers gaze up at this colossal vessel floating before them with big eyes. The little boys, who have dreamed about this moment for months eyes seem even bigger than the girls, if that is even possible. There is nothing but excitement in the air. A ship this luxurious can make anyone feel as if they are a millionaire no matter their wealth in reality.
As the guests begin to enter, they find themselves astounded by the lavish decorations. Titanic is one of the first ships ever to be equipped with an indoor swimming pool, also with a fully outfitted gymnasium. First class guests can freely walk through an elegant foyer following a grand staircase that is covered with a glass dome.
“Oh mummy, how beautiful! The dining room is marvelous! Everything, the linens all bright, silver polished so well it sparkles!”
Children are pulling their parents around the decks wanting to see every piece of the ship as though she were about to disappear.
“Father, did you try the beds in the room? They are ever so soft!”
Colonel John Jacob Astor, the richest man in the world, is escorting his young wife, Mrs. Madeline Astor around the deck, viewing the ship from every angle just as many other guests are doing.

Many of the passengers touring the ship were pointing and staring at Colonel Astor. For it isn’t everyday that you see the world’s richest man!

As captain, it is as always my duty to introduce myself to the people on my ship. I make my way over to Mr. Astor and his wife.

“Colonel Astor, it is such a pleasure to have you aboard the Titanic.” I say. Colonel is his formal title, so that is how I intend to address him.

“Dear Captain, the pleasure is all mine.” Astor says with a smile.

“I hope you have found your suite to your liking?” I ask. Even though all guests on board are important, the Astors shall be treated with the upmost respect.

“Nothing could have pleased me more.” He returns.

“That is most delightful for a captain to hear.” I say back to him.

“It is only the truth.” He responds.

We continue chatting for a few moments longer.
“You must have other duties to attend to Captain Smith, but I must say, it was an honor. We must meet for a drink sometime in the future. I would so enjoy learning more about your ship.”

“Of course Colonel.” I say. “That we must.”

“Very well sir, we shall not keep you to ourselves any longer.” The two of us shake hands.

“Good day Colonel.” I say bidding farewell.

The couple smiles, then John Jacob Astor leads his wife away.

I watched the two stroll away gracefully, young Mrs. Astor pointing and smiling at various things on the deck that she must find amusing.

I continue to converse with a few more families, all excited about the coming journey.

The founders of the large department store in New York, Macy’s, are also aboard, as is the millionaire, Benjamin Guggenheim, and my dear friend, J. Bruce Ismay who as you know is the president of the White Star Line.

As in the world today, the ship is divided into social classes. First we have the ships workers laboring away in the engine and boiler rooms, and then come the third class passengers who are making the journey to America for a fresh new start. Then there are the second class peoples, ordinary workers such as merchants, teachers, and modern professionals. And for the very top of the list, first class. The wealthiest have brought maids, valets, and voluminous mountains of luggage.

It often puzzles me how different people are depending on their social class. We have everything on this ship though. From First class royals with a different outfit for each hour, to families equipped with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

The time has come. Everyone is now on board, and now that noon has rolled around, Titanic is finally ready to set sail.
The whistles blew loud and strong, the greatest ever made. Titanic pulls out of the port, and we begin to glide down the River Test.
Suddenly, from near the ship, a series of large, sharp cracks ring out in the air. Another ship is moving toward Titanic! The New York, as she is called has broken free of her ropes, and is now swiftly gliding right for the ship.
I call out commands to the crew in attempt to avoid a collision between Titanic and the New York, but it seems almost unavoidable that they should miss.
Passengers are now begging to panic as the New York is getting dreadfully close. A crash like this would be devastating. Children are watching in horror as the other ship continues to come closer. Her stern is not but a few yards away now.
Could this really be the end of our journey? We have barely left the port!
But I have thought of an idea. I quickly make my way to the wheel and perform a quick bit of action while corresponding with the captain of a small tugboat nearby.
“Captain, if we are to make it, it shall be tight.” The young crew man next to me says. He has a grim look on his face.
“Do not fear. I have faced situations far more dreadful than these.” I say, though my own confidence in this outcome is hanging by a thread.
With all concentration set on the coming ship, I barely am able to maneuver Titanic away from the New York. Without an inch to spare, we are saved!
I hear a cry of relief echo from the crew, while on deck passengers begin to clap and cheer.
As far as I remember, this was not the preferred way to begin a journey across the Atlantic.

It is quite outstanding that four days have passed since we set sail on Titanic. But what is even more outstanding is how the crew is ever so concerned about the many iceberg warnings we have been receiving. The sea is calm, the sun is high; there couldn’t be a more beautiful day. I shan’t have any troubles in this sort of weather.
A young man approaches me while on duty in the bridge. I know him to be called Harold Bride. He has a sort of shy disposition with a short hair cut, and rather large ears.
“Captain Smith, it’s from the Caronia, sir. She’s reporting icebergs and pack ice ahead” says Bride handing me the message.
I read the message to myself again, and sure enough, it seems icebergs are afloat. But icebergs at this time of year are only expected. And I see no sense in worrying about something for which does not deserve thoughts like that.
“Thank you Mr. Bride.” I say to the boy.
“Yes captain.” He says back, and then turns away to return to the wireless room.
I proceed to go over to the bulletin board to post the warning, even though it deserves no further attention.
It is such a sight to see passengers enjoying themselves. Men and women stroll hand in hand along the deck, children playing with their little friends, some sit lounging on deck chairs, reading books, and writing letters to loved ones. As it is a Sunday, I had conducted a church service earlier this morning. Everything is as it should be.

Up in the bridge, Harold Bride presents me with another iceberg warning at now noon.

It is now mid afternoon, and I have heard no more from Harold Bride. The sea is calm; everything is as it should be.

After being held in warmth all day up in the bridge, it is quite a shock to me as I step outside how cold the night has grown. My breath is a cloud of frost before me, and I can feel the sting on my warm flesh.

A special dinner is being held for me tonight which I must attend, so I make my way down to the room in which my company and I shall dine. Attending shall be the Astors, of course; for whom I have began to know quite well, the Thayers, and many other well known names of today.
It is quite a delightful dinner. It is such an honor to be in the presence of so many marvelous people. But my being captain of Titanic, I must fit right in with them!
Mr. and Mrs. Thayer tell me of their son Jack who is also aboard the ship, but is not of the age to attend this dinner.
Colonel Astor and his wife both look as radiant as ever. The Colonel in a long coat with his mustache nicely trimmed. And Mrs. Astor adorned in a white lace dress that complemented her every inch.
“My dear friends, how happy I am that you could attend.” I greet the couple.
“The pleasure is ours captain. My dear, Madeline has been ever so exited since receiving your invitation. “Colonel Astor says.
“Well it is nothing but the highest honor to dine with the captain of the ship.” Mrs. Astor says politely.
As it is about nine o’clock into the night now, I find it an appropriate time to excuse myself for a check in on the bridge.
At once a few of my officers address me about the difficulty of spotting icebergs in calm waters such as these on the sea right now.
“Captain, the moon is hiding, and the waters calm. Do you realize how dangerous that is for a ship in a sea of icebergs?”
“Captain, we can’t see anything on the waters!”
“Captain, how was your dinner party?”

” SILENCE! I do realize the risk we are undertaking. But you men are smart and good sailors. We shall keep a sharp eye out, and persevere through this danger. Alert me if there are any problems; major problems. Now, good night.

The crew carries on while I make to my courters for a much needed sleep.

The sound of bells awakens me. I look around momentarily disorientated, then realize what the bells mean. If I am correctly counting, for I have just woken up, but three bells signals “dead ahead”. But what is dead ahead? I can only think of one answer; an iceberg.

Without thinking, I begin to pull on my captain’s uniform, but am suddenly off balanced, and thrown to the floor. The ship is turning.

As soon as I am dressed, I begin to rush to the bridge to find out what is happening. But before reaching my door, I feel a little sway as if the ship is rocking. Then suddenly the gentle hum of the engine silences, and the world becomes quiet.

All the passengers seem to be inside, for there is no indication that anything is wrong.

I continue to dash towards the bridge. The silence is eerie on board. All I can hear is the sound of my own frantic breathing.

I finally make it to the bridge. Everyone has rather fearful looks upon their faces. Thomas Andrews, the builder of this ship is here too.

“Captain, we should go inspect the damage.” Andrews said rather calmly considering the circumstances. But then again, he knew his ship to be unsinkable.

“Good idea, Mr. Andrews. We shall make it quick.”

And that is that. Andrews and I walk rather calmly down to the mail room to start our inspection. Guests are peeking their heads out of their rooms trying to obtain a solid answer about what is happening on the ship. Andrews and I haven’t the time to answer, so we just politely say “nothing to worry about”, but I’m sure many can see through this little lie. Or maybe it isn’t really a lie.

Or maybe it is. The mail room is now just a sea of soggy papers as it rapidly filling with water. There s definitely an problem now.

“There’s nothing we can do here, we must continue the inspection!” I shout at Andrews. His face is wildly bewildered. I can only imagine how it must be for the ship’s builder to see that his work is indeed in danger.

I grab for Andrews to observe the remaining compartments, but his eyes are transfixed on the flooding mail room.

“ Andrews!” I nearly yell at him. I make one last tug on his arm, and he snaps back into focus.

“Right, captain.” He says, and we exit through the door with the water right on our heels.

Andrews and I soon realize that the damage is far greater than we had imagined. Already, water has begun pouring into some of the foreword holds, and two of the boiler rooms.

“Wait, Mr. Andrews! The ship is equipped with many watertight compartments, is she not? All we must do is shut a few of them, and the ship shall stay afloat!”

I realize quite excitedly that all this worry was rather for nothing, we just must close the compartments quickly, and we shall be saved!

“Brilliant! Let us hurry to go inspect them!” Andrews continues down the hall to inspect the compartments.

Down a series of corridors, we reach the where the fifth compartment lies.

“Andrews, how many compartments did you say could be filled safely?” I already seem to know the answer.

“Um…I’m afraid she is only capable of holding four.” He says. His voice is shaking.

Four is dangerous enough as it is, but now five compartments are flooding with water.

“Oh dear.” My heart seems to fall through my chest down to the floor.

“How long does she have?” I ask trying desperately not to show any sign of fear. I must stay calm for the sake of my passengers.

“Maybe an hour. An hour and a half if we are lucky.” He says not meeting my eyes.

Andrews and I have returned to the bridge, but I must take orders down to the radio room. We must send out the call for help. That is something I never saw myself doing on the Titanic.
Phillips, one of the radio boys seems rather drowsy as I enter the room.

“Send the call for assistance.” I order.

“What call should I send?” he asks. There is not a wink of concern in his voice.

“The regulation international call for help. Just that.” I leave promptly, for there are other matters aboard that need attending to.
Upon arriving back at the bridge, I see everyone is in utter chaos.
Andrews is calmly trying to explain the current situation, and the crew is struggling with the choice to believe him or not. After all, they are only holding the knowledge that this ship is unsinkable.
I exert a few orders, trying ever so hard to keep my calm.
I decide to return to the radio room to check in on Phillips.
“What are you sending?” I ask him once in the room.
“CQD,” he answers.
Then Bride cuts in, “Captain, maybe we should try the new SOS signal. It is just coming into use and some ships may recognize it.”
“Yes, very well. Send it out.” I say. If it shall help, I see no reason not to try it.

I begin to hear commotion out on the decks and in the corridors.
“Tell passengers to report to the top deck immediately with their life vests.” I order the stewards.
Guests begin pouring out onto the deck still in their night things. Many have vests, but some do not.
It is now just after midnight. The sea is still calm and clear except for the sound of many confused voices ringing in the night air.
“Captain, there is a ship visible in the distance! We have reason to believe it is the Californian.” A young crew member says.
“Fire the white distress rockets. Maybe we can still get the attention of their ship.”
“Yes captain.” He says, and quickly moves away carry out the order.

I then realize another task that must take place.

“Lifeboats must be uncovered,” I tell the crew.

“Right away captain.” A few answer. This seems like a bit of a surprise to them.
A few look up. Not believing what they heard. Why should lifeboats be uncovered on an unsinkable ship? Well, the unsinkable ship is sinking. There is nothing more to it than that.

The white flares are sent up. I watch the passengers point up at the shower of stars, and wonder what may be going through their heads. I wonder if they even know what is taking place.
Californian disappears. I am informed that any ship close enough to receive are call, is too far away. The only ship within reason is the Carpathia, but she still fifty-eight miles away.
But to make matters worse, I uncover that there are only enough life boats for roughly half of the two thousand and two hundred people on board Titanic. Unless a miracle is to make itself present, not everyone shall make it off alive.
The officers must be kept in order, and the passengers must not be informed of this information.

“We must begin loading the lifeboats.” I say to my officers. “It is time.”

There is nothing more we can do for the great Titanic. The band begins to play some lively show tunes to attempt to change the mood on board. But most of the passengers seem relatively calm already.

“Women and children first.” The stewards begin calling.

I continue directing the crew to keep order, and to continue everything running smoothly.

Women are being helped into the lifeboats with their tiny infants, while their husbands stand on deck, waving and blowing kisses to their loved ones.

“I love you, father!”

“I love you, darling! Be safe! I love you!”

Cries of love, goodbyes, and sadness ring out amongst the deck as little boys and girls are ushered into the boats with their mothers.

The sailor in charge of the first boat dropped a little girl into the boat, then said;

“Okay, that’s all for this boat. Lower away!”

I watched as a woman began crying out to the sailor:

“Please, those are my children! Oh please let me go with them!”

The sailor beckoned her foreword and into the boat where her children sat, cold and scared.

It is heartbreaking to see a sight like this, and even more when there are so many taking place before one’s eyes.

It is now one thirty in the morning. We are beginning to notice the slant in the deck more and more. I ordered the radio boys Phillips and Bride to continue sending out distress calls to any ship nearby, but Titanic’s power is beginning to fade.

Two o clock has now rolled around. Over half of the peoples originally on board are still present. All the lifeboats have been cast away.

I see no reason for the radio room to be operated any longer, so I make my way down to tell Phillips and Bride it is over.

I walk through the door and see the two men still ferociously sending out the calls they know in their hearts will not be answered.

“Men, you have done your full duty. You can do no more. Abandon your cabin. Now it’s every man for himself.”

Bride turns around with a rather hollow look in his eyes. Phillips continues to work on the radio, hanging on as long as he can.

I turn and walk back up the stairs to the deck, hearing the gurgling of water entering the radio room behind me.

The band has put down their instruments. Everyone is now holding on to the ropes, the railings, and anything they can get a good grasp on.

I can see the people in the lifeboats in the distance staring up at the ship in horror.

Titanic slowly becoming more vertical, her propellers reaching up to the stars. Passengers began to lose their grip in the cold air, and plunge into the sea.

The ship continues upward, and at the same rate, the water is pulling her under.

It if funny how time flies. For only hours ago, I was at a dinner party, laughing with Mr. and Mrs. Astor, enjoying life without a care in the world. But times do change. For now I am here, clinging to my dear ship that I know now was much overestimated.

I guess it was not a lie when I told you previously that this is to be my last voyage. I never dreamed that this would be my end. My only hopes are that my ship shall not really die with this end, but that she will continue to live and sail in the minds of those who survive this tragedy. I have been thinking of how overused the word “end” is. With every end, a new beginning is born. Unlike her stern, and her decks, and her many guest rooms, her spirit shall be unsinkable. And forever in my heart, where ever I may be, she is my last love, Titanic.

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