Tradition and superstition are important forces this time of year as we begin to close out the old year and come to bring in the next. But traditions are often overlooked, as in the case of the Titanic. And while there are many traditions which are claimed to have caused the massive disaster, at least one stands out as the ultimate travesty of a doomed ship in mariner circles.
When it sailed on its maiden voyage in 1912, the Titanic was to be a symbol of a future which could bear no descriptive term more fitting than “Titanic.” Just as the Hindenburg which would suffer a similar catastrophic accident on-board years later, the Titanic was a symbol of human ingenuity and the unflinching progress of society.
So when it was struck down on its maiden voyage, claiming some 1,500 souls along with it, the Titanic would become synonymous with another word – disaster. And what little wreckage of the ship which was recovered years later seems to have collected more than just legends and barnacles. It seems to have captured the very spirits of the crew members aboard.
On April 14, 1912 when the Titanic struck an iceberg, what had begun as an immense journey on a massive vessel would turn to tragedy. But this was not the first time these exact circumstances had captured the attention of the public. In 1898 a book by the author Morgan Robertson would tell the story of the largest ship ever built, named in the book the “Titan.”
The book, titled “Futility,” would tell the story of this vessel’s maiden voyage when it would strike an iceberg one night in April. In the book, the survivors of the vessel found themselves fighting against the intense cold of the ocean amid the icebergs. And both the fictional book and the real life Titanic were said to be unsinkable before the inevitable happened.
The maiden voyage, which would be Captain Smith’s last journey on the high seas before retirement did not have a bottle of champaign broken over its stern, nor did it have the cats ordinarily kept on ships of this size as a token of good luck.
Contrary to tradition, exactly thirteen couples were brought onto the ship. But perhaps the largest tradition broken on the Titanic was the removal of binoculars from the crow’s nest. Rather than simply a good luck charm, binoculars actually may have saved the Titanic if someone had spotted the massive iceberg slowly and inevitably approaching the ship’s hull. After all, the crew did spot the iceberg some thirty seconds before it struck.
Timing out a minute seems like quite a long time to react to something like an iceberg, but the ship was so large it took about half a mile to stop it entirely. Two and a half hours later, the Titanic had sunk completely, breaking into two pieces before being dragged down by its own immense weight. A mere fifteen minutes later it was resting on the ocean floor where it would remain to this day.