Fruits of the Titanic Disaster - 1913
One Lesson The Titanic Taught -- The Double Hull. On the left, showing the construction of the Imperator's double hull, a feature also of her two sister ships. On the right, new inner skin put in the Olympic, sister ship to the Titanic, at a cost of over $1,000,000. The Literary Digest (26 April 1913) p. 937. GGA Image ID # 1088bb8198
THE TRAGIC MEMORIES invoked last week by the first anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic raise the question: To what extent, in these twelve months, have governments and steamboat companies applied the lessons driven home by that appalling disaster?
While some editors detect a tendency on the part of the public to forget those lessons and to relax the pressure of its demand for reforms, all agree that ocean travel is safer today because of that terrible sacrifice of 1,503 men, women, and children in the icy waters of the North Atlantic in the early morning of April 14, 1912.
"The comparative safety of those who now go upon the sea in the great liners is the service done for them by the 1,500 souls lost with the Titanic," says the Springfield Republican, and in the Brooklyn Eagle, we read:
"Some good comes out of every great calamity, and some good has come out of this. We have abandoned as a fallacy the theory of the unsinkable ship. The preaching of many marine architects in favor of the double hull would not in a dozen years have carried the conviction at once brought home to shipbuilders when the full story of the wreck became known.
The agitation of legislative "reformers' all over the world would not have forced owners to increase their equipment of lifeboats and life-rafts so promptly as they themselves increased it without compulsion when need for the increase was tragically Demonstrated.
Marconi himself could not have argued so forcefully for the perfection of wireless service at sea as did the want of a perfected system on ships that answered the Titanic's call for help. If the catastrophe of April 14, 1912, is recalled with grief for those who perished bravely and uncomplainingly, it will be remembered also that the dead died not in vain."
Perhaps the most important development in steamship building since the loss of the Titanic, says the New York Times, has been the double-skinned steamship, the ship within a ship, with transverse bulkheads extending between skins to the upper deck.
The new Hamburg-American liner Imperator, the largest vessel afloat, was designed and built on this principle, while the White Star liner Olympic, originally built with a single hull, has been reconstructed at a cost of a million and a quarter dollars, the principal change being the addition of an inner skin.
Another result of the Titanic disaster, says The Times, has been to check the speed mania that had taken possession of both the traveling public and the steamship companies.
Moreover, an ice patrol has been established on the North Atlantic steamship lanes, the life-saving equipment of the liners has been increased, and in some cases two or more captains have been allotted to each ship, in order that the safety of the passengers shall not depend upon the judgment and alertness of an overworked officer.
The Imperator, for example, carries a commodore and three staff captains, one of whom will be always on the bridge. In the New York World, Mr. George Uhler, Supervising Inspector-General of the United States Steamboat Inspection Service, bears witness as follows to the increased precautions against disaster at sea:
"Since the Titanic went down, I have inspected many transatlantic liners, and I know of my own personal knowledge that nearly every steamship landing at the port of New York now carries a sufficient number of lifeboats and rafts to care for every passenger on board in case these boats were called into use.
I also know that the officials of the big lines have cut down the number of passengers to be carried in order to fulfill promises made regarding a sufficient number of lifeboats for passengers and crew.
"It is likewise true that every large steamship now carries two wireless operators, one of whom shall be on duty constantly. As to the number of drills on the part of the crew, I also have knowledge that the companies are doing everything in their power to have the crews so trained that all lifeboats and rafts may be properly manned and operated in cases of emergency. Just how frequently these drills take place, I cannot state.
"Before the Titanic disaster, the question of boatage was regulated by the tonnage of the ship, without regard for the number of the passengers. That has been changed; the number of boats now depends solely on the number of persons carried. I may add that every American vessel engaged in overseas trade is equipped with boats and rafts to accommodate every person on board.
"In the lake, bay, and sound trade passenger vessels are required to have lifeboats and rafts for all passengers only between May 15 and September 15, the season when the passenger carrying trade is greatest. At other seasons they are required to have boats for but 60 percent of their passenger capacity. This is sufficient, for our coastwise passenger trade in the winter months is very light."
On July 23, 1912, the United States Congress passed a law forbidding any passenger ship, American or foreign, carrying fifty or more passengers, to leave any American harbor without a wireless apparatus capable of transmitting and receiving messages a distance of one hundred miles, with an auxiliary power-plant sufficient to operate it for four hours if the main machinery is disabled, and not less than two skilled men to send messages.
In July of this year, an International Maritime Conference is expected to assemble in London to bring about an international agreement "for a system of reporting and disseminating information relating to aids and perils to navigation, the establishment of lane routes to be followed by the transatlantic steamers," and other matters affecting the safety of ocean travelers. Says The Times:
"Within the year so many measures have been taken to guard against a repetition of this disaster that we may be sure that it will not be repeated. No ship in the plight of the Titanic will be lost again under similar conditions."
"Fruits of the 'Titanic' Disaster," in The Literary Digest, New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, Vol. XLVI, No. 17, Whole No. 1201, 25 April 1913, p. 937-938.