Wednesday, January 7, 2009
The Sinking of a Legend
It was 11:00 p.m. on a dark chilly night and an iceberg had just pierced the steel hull of an unsinkable ship. The officers on the bridge looked at each other in dismay as the floor beneath them vibrated. First Officer Murdock gave the command to stop all engines. He gripped the starboard wing railing as the iceberg shaved Titanic's black hull. Some third class passengers played with the ice that scattered upon the well deck. Following the collision, the ship is quiet again. Most first and second class passengers are still sleeping. Little did they realize that a trauma was unfolding in the bow of the ship. Crew members rushed forward to connect the pumps. They believed if they could keep the first four water tight compartments from flooding they could save the ship. They did not know that her builder has already pronounced her dead.
One deck above, just aft the Grand Staircase, the impact is much more obvious to other passengers. First class passengers relaxing in the lounge and smoking room begin to realize that the steady hum and vibration of the engines has ceased. Molly Brown strolled down the promenade deck enjoying the chilly breeze. She was looking down on the well deck with the third class passengers playing kick ball with the large chunks of ice. A nearby crew member walked toward her and asked her to go to her cabin and put on warm clothes and a life jacket. Without any question she turned toward the B deck foyer and Grand Staircase. As she entered into her state room, she noticed that the ship was slightly tilted. She opened up her closet and reached for her fur coat and life jacket. As she slipped on the two items, she realized that her room had just moved lower.
In Third Class, water gushed through open port holes and stairways. Panic stricken passengers searched for the nearest vertical exit. The panic in their hearts was indescribable. Many of them could not speak or read English. Therefore, the signs in the corridor made no sense and offered to help. Around every corner, the water was lapping at their heels. What horror awaited them, they did not know.
Second officer Lightoller was aroused a few minutes after the collision. Racing toward the bridge, he noticed that already the ship had sunk to a fifteen degree angle. When he reached the ship's bridge, Captain Smith gave the order to lower the lifeboats with women and children only. Before Mr. Lightholler could get off of the bridge, Thomas Andrews entered the scene. He took the Captain aside and told him the ship had an hour to live and that she had already gained twenty feet of water. Terrified, Mr. Lightholler turned to go to the boats. The once quiet deck was now swarmed with immigrants, tourist, and those merely wanting to return home to America. The women were curiously looking around, the children shivered in the cold, but for some reason the men seamed to know the ship was soon to founder.
By now, the Turkish baths were beginning to flood and Third Class was completely underwater. In the First Class Reception Room, Thomas Andrews went through for one last painful gaze before it sank underwater.
Captain Smith stared down from the bridge as the water poured over the well deck. A few hundred yards away, Molly Brown sat in her boat trying to comfort the crying women and children. She had not been paying attention to the slowly sinking ship until a small girl shouted. As she turned, she could hardly believe what she saw. The ocean was swallowing the deck of the ship in giant gulps. Suddenly, the forward smoke stack crashed toward the deck with a terrible moan. In the Grand Stair Case, the water slammed passengers up against the walls. They rushed up the stairs to escape the raging sea. Viciously, water began to burst through the upper doors and windows dragging people inside to a watery death. Above, the the beautiful glass dome gives way into a million glittering pieces.
Outside, passengers struggled to climb the steep decks which were now becoming more and more vertical decks. On the promenade decks furniture spilled out of windows from restaurants and lounges. In the life boats, women and children could hear their husband's and father's screams and moans as furniture slid toward the bow. Inside the ship, the engineers were doing their best to keep the lights on but the generator finally gave way to the oceans mighty waves. The lights went out. Dark fear covered the hearts of everyone.
Cries from the stern grew louder as the hull split in half and the stern section plummeted toward the oceans surface. As the bow sank lower, the stern became completely vertical. For what seemed like hours, the stern sat motionless but in reality it was only a few moments. Passengers lost their grips on the railings and fell screaming into the sea. As graceful as she had once sailed the sea, she now sank beneath it's surface with the same grace and beauty.
Titanic was no more.