1912 Titanic

The Titanic is probably one of the most well-known Maritime disasters covered on this website. The Titanic, captained by Edward J. Smith, left Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912, to New York for its maiden voyage. The Titanic’s builders claimed that the ship would stay afloat even if four of its compartments took on water, causing many to claim and believe that the ship was unsinkable.

Despite changing course in response to warnings about icebergs, the Titanic struck an iceberg on its starboard side on April 14 at 11:40 pm, about 600 km south of Newfoundland. Within three hours, it had sunk. The Cunard Liner RMS Carpathia rushed to assist and managed to save over 700 people from the sinking ship. Unfortunately, 1,514 others perished. One of the problems was that there were not enough lifeboats to accommodate everyone onboard, and of those successfully launched, many were not filled to capacity. Over 1,000 people were still onboard when the ship finally sank. Once in the water, they quickly succumbed to hypothermia caused by the freezing Atlantic waters.

On April 17, White Star Line began sending out Canadian vessels to search the sea for bodies. The Mackay-Bennett recovered 306 bodies. Unfotunately, the number far exceeded the embalming supplies on board and, since health regulations stipulated that only embalmed bodies could be returned to port, many were buried at sea. The Minia joined the search later, and found only 17 bodies. The CGS Montmagny, a Canadian government vessel, was sent out in early May to recover more of the deceased passengers, as was the SS Algerine from St. John’s. The SS Florizel, another ship mentioned on this website, retrieved one body. All recovered bodies were taken to Halifax.

While many bodies were never recovered or buried at sea, others were buried in Halifax cemeteries, and only 59 were shipped to families of the deceased.

Of course, many are aware that the Titanic has become a subject of popular culture, receiving attention through books, songs, and other productions, as well as the well-known 1997 Titanic movie, written and directed by James Cameron. We have more songs about the Titanic than any other Atlantic Canadian disaster. The Titanic recently marked a milestone, as April 15, 2012 marked 100 years since the ship’s sinking.

 

Sources:

Nova Scotia Communities, Culture and Heritage. 2012. Titanic in Nova Scotia: 100 Years 1912-2012.

Encyclopedia Britannica (online). Titanic: The Unsinkable Ship.

 

Additional Resources:

Robert B. Waltz, editor of the free and excellent online Ballad Index, has an extensive article about the truths and myths in many Titanic songs, including citations and a bibliography.

Joe Scanlon (one of the original disastersongs.ca researchers), Allison Vandervalk, and Mattea Chadwick-Shubat published an article about Titanic songs in the Canadian Society for Traditional Music‘s magazine, Canadian Folk Music.

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