(Before I begin, may I offer my sincerest apologies for the severity of this piece, but what enters my mind and haunts me, is what comes out below.)
As I type, it’s approximately 9 pm, Titanic Time, the dinner hour, in the Main Dining Room, First Class…and in the lower rooms, 2nd and 3rd, of course…
Even the paper quality of the Menu Card in 3rd Class is of a level we don’t see in First Class dining now…
The chandeliers glinting…very, very slowly swaying with the roll of the sea, I suspect.
The tinkling of champagne, claret, water glasses…Limoges, I'm sure, or Waterford, better yet, from some fine crystal house in Ireland…but this post isn’t based on minutia fact, no, not this one…
Come with me, take my hand, it will be a journey you should have taken long ago…
Talkative patrons, women in their whale-bone corsets sitting almost too straight on the edge of their chairs, possibly their men, nodding and smiling at them, really rather more waiting for the Main Course to finish so as to have an excuse to take leave of the ladies for environs far more interesting - the Men’s First Class Smoking lounge - yes…all in a rich red motif, we know that now, the fireplace, the centrepiece of this room, the mantelpiece alone at the height of a grown man…
Yes, the men as they politely and patiently sit and wait, eating right now from the first of many courses…one being just plain Irish Barley soup, but I bet it was the best of the best of barley soup to be had…
This evening slowly unfolds as the three before it, into a sway of silk and smoke, brocade and banter, lights glinting, oh the bright lights of Titanic, as she sailed as if in glorious splendour, almost as if in divine sail…
The bump, several hours later, ever so slight, a vibration, really, to most in First Class, hardly even a reason to wake much less stay awake. How many of us have experienced “bumps” on ships or airplanes, hardly do we lift our heads from our smart phones or our laptops, right?
Time has started ticking before that bump, we know, of course…
Flat, lifeless, not basking in the glorious light that is this ship. Seen only one minute before the crash, the sea so still, no waves lapping at its edge.
Huge, mammoth, really, some 240 feet high at just water level, some 270 tonnes in weight, a 6th of the total weight of Titanic, and running almost perpendicular to T.
The ripping as if into a tin can and the flooding begins.
James Cameron and his group in the documentary entitled,
examine the forensics surrounding the hitting of the berg and the process of the flooding, from the moment of collision to the sinking and settling on the sea floor below, but as with so many researchers, the human element is nicely removed from that process, sanitized for our protection.
This was not a mere romance story of the sinking of a fine ship in a more than fine Edwardian Age. This was a living horror. A ship of Death. There actually IS more black and blood than brocade and banter to this floating palace than most want to admit.
I shall admit here, right now, to that Black and Blood, as they, the Sacrificed Ones, 100 years ago this very minute, sit down to their second course, the waiters filling nicely those empty claret glasses, as I type.
This then is MY Final Word on a list of questions for me which never have been fully addressed nor answered, for images inside my head of things I know not but that still haunt me as if they were.
This is MsBurb’s Final Word…
TITANIC: The Black and the Blood.
Coal bunker#10 fire had been burning for days, even prior to embarkation. No one knew if it had weakened the hull structure of T.
When Captain Smith examined this fire, if he did, what did he see? Was the bunker glowing red from the ferocity of the blaze? Was there a definite HUM and CRACKLE from this blaze and if there was, was it then drowned out by the deafening hum of the turbine engines as they were fired up in Belfast? Was Smith already uneasy and if he was, was that one of several reasons WHY he kept his course, straight and true (despite it being an even more southerly course than was the designated route for ice berg avoidance), to just get to port as swiftly as he could, very cautiously though NOT firing up all the turbine engines he had within his power to use?
When the sea water finally came into the engine rooms after the berg did it’s work on that hull, did those rooms soon smell foul and fetid? Was there panic on the faces of those Engine Room men? And the first to die aboard T were five men in the bowels of this ship when bulkhead#5 DID collapse…were they screaming, thrashing about in their last moments, were their faces terribly etched with horrific expressions? When dead, were their hands still balled into fists from the pain drowning causes? Were those now dead fists still holding tight wrenches, that minutes before were being frantically turned in an attempt to seal off the area from this watery assault? How come no one thinks of these first five men much? They were the first to die after all…not counting the eight Northern Irishmen who perished building her…
When Smith went down below to assess the berg damage, when Thomas Andrews did the same…what were their facial expressions? Was Smith dumbfounded and was Andrews resigned? The reflection in their eyeballs of emergency lights blinking, falling water and fire, maybe, could that be seen? Were their legs as heavy as boulders as they again went topside? How does your body feel , act, react when you know death may be upon you?
The Stewards and Stewardesses, their job to wake the passengers and get them topside to those lifeboats once the order was given…as they walked-scurried down the various monster and meandering corridors, were they knocking, rapping AND thinking of their own fate, that Crew is NEVER the first off, in any Chain of Command, were their eyeballs rather vacant and staring as they dutifully alerted the ones who were to be saved?
The men versus the women that night…did the men act more stoic, reality sinking in quicker? Were the women poo-pooing the whole idea of escape? No one wanted to get into those lifeboats at first, we know that. Did the men realize the enormity of this before the women and once the women did realize, was the panic more in their eyes than the men? Did some women flee the line-ups to the davit area for the decks below, realizing they had forgotten their jewels in their stateroom? Did husbands lose track their wives because of glittery bobbles?
How come so many of the First Class women had on their large Tea Hats, some of the men, their Bowlers? I get the fur coats, and the over-coats, heck, even the petticoats, because of the cold night, but the hats, I’m not getting…if you’re trying to save yourself, out in the middle of the frigid BELOW ZERO Atlantic Ocean, a heavy Tea Hat is the first thing you think to wear? See how our generation and theirs is just so foreign to one another…*sigh*…
When the realization hit that there were NOT enough lifeboats for everyone, did the eyes of those not having made the last lifeboat change, alter, contort? Did they look as if a deer in headlights, were people running very fast, to nowhere? Where do you run to when there is no destination on offer? And do some, in just that very awareness, stop running, walking, altogether?
Lost children, and you know there would be some, from First Class to Steerage, pulled from their parents arms, lost amid the throngs of all those panicking, they’re small in stature, they cannot be seen…where do they end up? I have two in mind – a boy and a girl – both about age five or so, walking, running, seeking but not finding, realizing, acting, not really, just lost in a child’s world of thought. First they start to pout, their lips start to quiver, then they start to cry, maybe, but their pleas are easily drowned out by the shouts and wails of the adults…
One little boy, his tiny hand gets wrenched away from his Father’s.
He finds his way back to one of the many lifts (elevators) that has just surfaced with people trying to get topside. He enters, pushes a button to Anywhere Deck, and down he goes, well below, as people run past him, in a hurried urge to get onto the elevator he had just come off. No one thinks to ask why he is alone and he thinks not to talk to strangers - he had been told that was a No-No - and now, beyond manners, even his fear of everything keeps him silent, confused. He walks the halls, endless halls for a little boy of five. Soon his legs kind of give out and he crouches at the end of one of these massive hallways, at a T intersection where one hall meets another, above him, a fire extinguisher behind glass, he notices that, but that’s all.
He begins to sob, cry, but no one is left on this floor to heed his pleas.
The little boy, up to now, hadn’t really caught on that the ship was tilting forward but soon, as the minutes tick by, he is faced with this fact as the water finally reaches this floor, and as he squats, shivering not from the cold but from shock, the water, more forward of him, turns the corner and slowly seeps into the carpeting along that long hallway. He sees it, very slow, at first, the water making a nice sponge out of the rug more than anything else, but then more, and more, a salty scent filling the hall now, this carpet no more capable of absorbing the flow, the snaking, sneaking water starts to approach him…lapping, licking, increasing, coming for him.
What does this little boy do? The water now over-taking his wee body…no longer the option to evade, run, for he had been mesmerized by the sight and plain didn’t know he should try to escape. As the depth is now just inches from his nose and mouth, what are his final thoughts? Does he realize, at his age, death comes with no breathing? He’s never been taught to swim, so he’s thrashing, but only slightly, as of yet, the water’s depth hasn’t got to the point where he can’t stand and keep erect. But he feels this ability will soon be gone…what do his eyes look like and is this a disaster only for him now as little boys can’t possibly see the Big Picture? Is this long lost forgotten son, in his fine woollen clothes, being pulled down, forced to an horrific end and does he manage a scream even when the water overtakes him? And what do little boy underwater screams sound like?
One little girl, topside, no one knows how she got lost.
Her hair, a lovely, long, wavy sandy blond, fine, all tied up nicely in a pink satin bow, her hands freezing now as she has lost her white fur muff, the one that goes with the her nice woollen over-coat with matching fur collar.
She spends quite a bit of time, more than an hour, I suspect, wandering the Promenade Deck, in search of her nanny and her parents. She can see no familiar faces and the faces she does come across come with oh so large adult bodies that bump so violently into her wee one. No one, she realizes, cares who she is or where she belongs. Tears start to well up in her eyes and her lips start to quiver and although she wants to cry, she doesn’t. Fear alone prevents an outburst from this wee gal.
For a time, because she has had no success, she decides to forget her circumstance and wanders into the Exercise Room. Those funny machines had caught her attention right from embarkation, I mean, what are they and what are they supposed to do, she pondered, and so, because there was nothing better to do, she decided to enter this room and have a look-see. She smiles, wide now, the tears abate for a time, as she gingerly climbs on top of the bicycle one, the only one she manages to be able to climb. Her wee bare legs don’t meet the pedals though so she just pretends she’s “pedaling”…away, away, away….
The angle of the ship now pulls her from her precarious perch, she falls, scraping her knee on the hard linoleum floor below, the tears well up again, more because she is upset now that the cuffs of her coat are getting all wet with this strange water filling the floor. The salt in that water starts to sting her scuffed knees, she is on all fours now, looking out towards the door, the windows, all closed of course, no one sees her plight, real crying starts for the very first time. “Aren’t big people supposed to CARE about me? How come no one is coming for me?”, she ponders. She gets no answers, of course, and the ship, she senses now, is tilting even more. It’s too much for her wee brain to accept. A closet, ANY closet, she has decided to hide in, is best, yes, at least until all these adults stop running about and the big boat acts normal again.
She finds some kind of very small utility closet just outside on the same deck, she gingerly tries the knob, it obeys and opens for her, she smiles now, tears quelled again, yes, her idea is a good one. She enters.
The wee girl drowns in there, all alone, in a very tight closet. The sea water holds fast against the outside of the door as she breaks her finger nails and scrapes off layers of skin, bleeding nobs they are now, scratching at the door in an incredible panic to escape. Her “idea”, now she knows, was not a good one.
What is the look on her wee face as the water kisses her neck and inches closer to her mouth? What was the sound and strength of her yells and screams as she so desperately scratched and clawed at the door? Did she have time to shudder from the frigid cold of the water or did her body, her mind now in shock, I’m sure, not even take that in? Did she try and jump to avoid swallowing, only having come down from a jump, she ends up swallowing more? Was the immense stabbing pain from water in the lungs felt before her wee body was spared unto death? Did her fur muff, the one that matched her coat, finally find its way and gently bounce against the outside of that door, as if in silent protest, to meet again its wee little Mistress as she scratched, screamed and then succumbed to her watery, closeted grave?
The passengers, who were determined, at all costs, to fight the inevitable, who maybe could NOT swim at all, who ran to the Stern in a last-ditch attempt to avoid their sea-soaked demise, did they fall from the rails they so desperately hung onto, hitting their bodies hard against all the metal and wooden objects forward of their positions when Titanic did reach its maximum angle of 23 degrees? And what is the gravity/load effect on a body hanging from a rail at 23 degrees anyways? And is it any more horrific to instead jump that rail for the hundreds of feet down to the ocean below, than to hang and ultimately crash one’s body into Titanic herself? And if you crash or fall, what gets you first, the enormous pain from your broken bones or do you just faint, go unconscious, from the hit? Do you die instantly? I hope so but I wonder.
The people now out in the lifeboats, do they have it any better than the soon-to-be-dead? For they, for the rest of their lives, have those haunting images of passengers falling and hitting, screaming and wailing, begging, some, to be let on board the less than full lifeboats, the crewmen hurriedly steering away from those in fear they will overturn the boat in their panic to mount. One survivor, then aged seven years, Miss Eva Miriam Hart, stated that for the rest of her 84 years, she could never attend sporting events in stadiums because the cheering of the crowd sounded too exact to the thousands of screams that filled her wee ears as the rest of Titanic’s unlucky went to their watery graves. Although Eva survived and had a full life, was her heart not shattered? Did it not drown with her Father, with the rest of that ship? Her facial expression was hardened to me and I do believe her childhood stopped at 2:20am, April 15th, 1912.
When the Stern ripped apart from the Bow, just after funnel number two, could passengers in that area be seen to be falling right at the edge of that rip? From all decks, topside and below? And if you were one who was unlucky enough to be standing right at the point of that tear, what was your expression as you saw below your feet the wicked waves of the ocean instead of the sure and secure teak wood and marble flooring that seconds ago had been holding your weight? How long does it take TO fall the height of Titanic and as they fell, what were they thinking as they gazed into that black Abyss? Can one think at that moment? Is that even possible?
And once the Bow and Stern slipped below the water’s edge, were there people encased in their state rooms, however for a time, fully encapsulated, where the water had not yet seeped into their realm, going down with the ship, yet still breathing air? And if so, for how long? And if long, what killed them first? The lack of air? Drowning when finally the sea water did fill their cabin? Or a possible implosion of that cabin, with them in it, from the water pressure alone, if where they were remained air tight? Pieces of bodies floating quietly inside collapsed, water-filled state rooms now, possibly bobbing nearer the ceiling in their fatty buoyancy, even when both sections of Titanic came to her final resting place?
And then the bodies, all the bodies, all those many, many bodies, of souls whose death rattle finally was spent, as they eventually made the long journey down to the sea floor below, how long did it take the dead to complete that journey and once those bodies finally, slowly, laid themselves down on the sandy bottom below, how many finally did litter the debris field, the field we know all too well, now devoid of those bodies? Do we end up seeing more dark-coated passenger bodies and fallen Tea Hats and Bowlers than pieces of china or bottles of uncorked champagne? Are there bodies covering the five sunken turbine engines, bodies we see not on them now? And was the box of unused flares, which we have since discovered on the sea floor, hidden from view from a large petticoat of a young teenage girl, her body draped ever so gracefully over that box, her long auburn hair slowly wafting in the cold incessant current below?
At the bottom, some 2.5 miles below, there is no natural light, but in that coffin darkness, were there still sounds after Titanic came to her resting place? If we had been down there, for the hours, days, weeks after April 15th, would we have heard the creaks and groans of escaping air, the settling of metal objects, the collapsing of wood, the shattering of glass, the popping of corks? Would this sandy bottom of Death be alive with ungodly sounds?
And finally, the creatures below, basically like us, who eat to survive, how long would it have taken such watery organisms to eat an entire body? And as on land, would certain areas be “eaten” first? Eyes, extremities, internal organs? Would all of those passengers, if we had seen them in the hours, days, weeks, months after April 15th, be laying there on that frigid sandy bottom, in their oh, so silent, black watery grave, in resplendent horror, defining most accurately what death really is, the romance and grace of their Edwardian beings all too lost in horrific decay?
And tonight, right now as I type these words, it’s 11pm Titanic time and the relatives, who have chosen to sail to the location of the wreck, on a still very black and unforgiving Atlantic, have just finished the exact same dinner as those of their Dearly Departed, did they have lumps in their throats, was that “Last Meal” swallowed well or swallowed hard and did tears of sadness for their long, lost loved ones water down the claret in their crystal glasses as they approached the witching hour of their 100th anniversary demise, I wonder?
For me, that iceberg, it was God floating.
270 tonnes reminding us that we are NOT at the Helm of this ship called Life. We are mere passengers and if we try and boast and brag of more, He will quietly come at us, at a very smooth and slow pace, at right angle to our very Being and in so doing, will smash into us a sense of modesty, shame and humility we have obviously misplaced in our inane arrogance to be thought of as Lord and Master of all we survey.