|The loss of the R.M.S. Titanic: Chapter 8.2|
|Posted on Mon 11 Oct 2004 (53703 reads)|
One more thing must be referred to--the prevalence of superstitious
beliefs concerning the Titanic. I suppose no ship ever left port with
so much miserable nonsense showered on her. In the first place, there
is no doubt many people refused to sail on her because it was her
maiden voyage, and this apparently is a common superstition: even the
clerk of the White Star Office where I purchased my ticket admitted it
was a reason that prevented people from sailing. A number of people
have written to the press to say they had thought of sailing on her,
or had decided to sail on her, but because of "omens" cancelled the
passage. Many referred to the sister ship, the Olympic, pointed to the
"ill luck" that they say has dogged her--her collision with the Hawke,
and a second mishap necessitating repairs and a wait in harbour, where
passengers deserted her; they prophesied even greater disaster for the
Titanic, saying they would not dream of travelling on the boat. Even
some aboard were very nervous, in an undefined way. One lady said she
had never wished to take this boat, but her friends had insisted and
bought her ticket and she had not had a happy moment since. A friend
told me of the voyage of the Olympic from Southampton after the wait
in harbour, and said there was a sense of gloom pervading the whole
ship: the stewards and stewardesses even going so far as to say it was
a "death-ship." This crew, by the way, was largely transferred to the
The incident with the New York at Southampton, the appearance of the
stoker at Queenstown in the funnel, combine with all this to make a
mass of nonsense in which apparently sensible people believe, or which
at any rate they discuss. Correspondence is published with an official
of the White Star Line from some one imploring them not to name the
new ship "Gigantic," because it seems like "tempting fate" when the
Titanic has been sunk. It would seem almost as if we were back in the
Middle Ages when witches were burned because they kept black cats.
There seems no more reason why a black stoker should be an ill omen
for the Titanic than a black cat should be for an old woman.
The only reason for referring to these foolish details is that a
surprisingly large number of people think there may be "something in
it." The effect is this: that if a ship's company and a number of
passengers get imbued with that undefined dread of the unknown--the
relics no doubt of the savage's fear of what he does not
understand--it has an unpleasant effect on the harmonious working of
the ship: the officers and crew feel the depressing influence, and it
may even spread so far as to prevent them being as alert and keen as
they otherwise would; may even result in some duty not being as well
done as usual. Just as the unconscious demand for speed and haste to
get across the Atlantic may have tempted captains to take a risk they
might otherwise not have done, so these gloomy forebodings may have
more effect sometimes than we imagine. Only a little thing is required
sometimes to weigh down the balance for and against a certain course
At the end of this chapter of mental impressions it must be recorded
that one impression remains constant with us all to-day--that of the
deepest gratitude that we came safely through the wreck of the
Titanic; and its corollary--that our legacy from the wreck, our debt
to those who were lost with her, is to see, as far as in us lies, that
such things are impossible ever again. Meanwhile we can say of them,
as Shelley, himself the victim of a similar disaster, says of his
friend Keats in "Adonais":--
"Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep--He hath awakened
from the dream of life--He lives, he wakes--'Tis Death is dead, not
he; Mourn not for Adonais."
[Illustration: FIG 4. TRANSVERSE VIEW OF THE DECKS THE TITANIC
S Sun deck
A Upper promenade deck
B Promenade deck, glass enclosed
C Upper deck
D Saloon deck
E Main deck
F Middle deck
G Lower deck: cargo, coal bunkers, boilers, engines
(a) Welin davits with lifeboats
(c) Double bottom]
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