One hundred years ago today, the mighty ocean liner Titanic sunk to the bottom of the North Atlantic, taking 1,514 people down with her. My only knowledge of the Titanic disaster has been through the viewing of James Cameron’s Oscar winning film Titanic fifteen years ago. They have re-released Titanic in theaters (this time in 3-D) and earlier this week I went to see the film. It is such a visually stunning movie and lovely to see at the theater (although it is heart-wrentching and the ending gets me crying like a baby every time). I would review the film here, but Carl has already done so, and quite well I must say! After watching it on the big screen, I decided I wanted to find out the true facts about the doomed ship and downloaded a copy of Voyagers of the Titanic: Passengers, Sailors, Shipbuilders, Aristocrats, and the Worlds They Came From by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Voyagers of the Titanic is a fascinating book about the people who booked passage on the Titanic’s maiden voyage. I’m only a few chapters into the book, which has so far introduced the builders and designers of the ship and has now delved into the lives of it’s first class passengers, including the richest man on board, John Jacob Astor (who’s body was found with four thousand dollars in cash in the pocket of his jacket). It’s estimated that the over three hundred first class passengers on the Titanic were worth over five hundred million dollars, which isn’t all that surprising when you read about Charlotte Cardeza:
She traveled with fourteen steamer trunks, four suitcases, three crates, and a medicine chest. These contained, with other items, seventy dresses, ten fur coats, ninety one pairs of gloves, and twenty two hatpins, with a total value of 36,567 pounds.
The author also talks about how even first class had it’s own hierarchy on-board, with many of the Jewish-American and German-American passengers looked down upon by their same-class shipmates.
I was also surprised to learn that it wasn’t only because of aesthetic reasons (as the film mentioned) but also because of outdated regulations that there was only enough lifeboat capacity for a third of the people on board. The author also points out that a month before Titanic sailed, another liner was lost in the English Channel due to a collision with a German steel barque. The two hundred forty one passengers and crew on that ship were rescued, but nine drowned after their lifeboat capsized. With that recent memory, the author points out that it may have contributed to the initial reluctance of the Titanic passengers to board the lifeboats.
I am looking forward to continue reading Voyagers of the Titanic and finding out more about the people on-board (and not only the rich first class passengers either – I am sure there must be many very interesting stories about the immigrants heading to America). I may even grab a copy of Kate Alcott’s fictitious novel The Dressmaker. Have you read any books about the Titanic disaster recently?