The Titanic - Why Did People Believe Titanic Was Unsinkable?
It seems incredible to us today that anyone could believe that 70,000 tonnes of steel could be unsinkable, but that was exactly what people in 1912 believed. The information on this page will seek to look at some of the reasons why people at the time had that belief.
The shipbuilders Harland and Wolff insist that the Titanic was never advertised as an unsinkable ship. They claim that the 'unsinkable' myth was the result of people's interpretations of articles in the Irish News and the Shipbuilder magazine. They also claim that the myth grew after the disaster.
Yet, when the New York office of the White Star Line was informed that Titanic was in trouble, White Star Line Vice President P.A.S. Franklin announced " We place absolute confidence in the Titanic. We believe the boat is unsinkable." By the time Franklin spoke those words Titanic was at the bottom of the ocean. It would seem that the White Star Line President was also influenced by the 'myth'.
It is difficult to discover exactly where or when the term 'unsinkable' was first used. Listed below are some possibilities.
An extract from a White Star Line publicity brochure produced in 1910 for the twin ships Olympic and Titanic which states ??these two wonderful vessels are designed to be unsinkable. Some sources state that this wording was used on an advertising flyer while others point to an illustrated brochure. The White Star Line insist that the words used in the publicity brochure (shown above) only point to Titanic's being designed to be unsinkable, not that it was claimed to be unsinkable.
On June 1, 1911, the Irish News and Belfast Morning News contained a report on the launching of Titanic's hull. The article described the system of watertight compartments and electronic watertight doors and concluded that Titanic was practically unsinkable.
In 1911, Shipbuilder magazine published an article on the White Star Line's sister ships Titanic and Olympic. The article described the construction of the ship and concluded that Titanic was practically unsinkable.
"God himself could not sink this ship!" This quotation, made famous by Cameron's film, is reputed to have been the answer given by a deck hand when asked if Titanic was really unsinkable.
Whatever the origin of the belief, there is no doubt that people did believe Titanic to be unsinkable.
Passenger Margaret Devaney said "I took passage on the Titanic for I thought it would be a safe steamship and I had heard it could not sink."
Another passenger, Thomson Beattie, wrote home "We are changing ships and coming home in a new unsinkable boat."
It was the beginning of the twentieth century and people had absolute faith in new science and technology. They believed that science in the twentieth century could and would provide answers to solve all problems.
The sinking of the 'unsinkable' Titanic shattered much confidence in science and made people more sceptical about such fantastic claims.
From the 1st century A.D. to the late 19th century, one medical compound reigned supreme over all other remedies: theriac. First concocted by a Greek king worried about poisons, theriac went from being a general antidote to snake bites to an all around panacea, used to treat everything from asthma to warts, including the Black Plague. Famous doctors throughout this long history experimented with the drug and... Read More
If you think, as some do today, that many drugs used as medicines are potentially deadly, consider what people living in medieval times were prescribed as curative agents—from ground up corpses to toxic mercury to crocodile dung. The annals of medieval medical history are full of substances that make us cringe. Yet people believed in these cure-alls and willingly took them when prescribed by a doctor of the... Read More
The Neo-Assyrian Empire used earthen ramps, siege towers and battering rams in sieges; the Greeks and Alexander the Great created destructive new engines known as artillery to further their sieges, and the Romans used every technique to perfection. That is to say, the Romans were not inventors, but they were superb engineers and disciplined, tough soldiers who fought against great odds and won, repeatedly.... Read More
Demetrius I, King of Macedon, invented many siege engines including battering rams and siege towers. For the Siege of Rhodes, he created the Helepolis, the Taker of Cities, a huge armored siege tower containing many heavy catapults.
The island city of Rhodes maintained its neutrality among the warring nations of the time, although it remained friendly to Ptolemy I of Egypt, the enemy of Demetrius of... Read More
In the first part of this series, we noted the siege equipment of the Assyrians consisted of complex battering rams, earthen ramps and a dedicated corps of engineers and sappers. Alexander the Great and the Greeks would take the next steps in the evolution of siege warfare. The Greeks had invented the catapult circa 399 B.C. Alexander innovated by fastening catapults and ballistas on the decks of ships to breach... Read More