Halifax Nova Scotia
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Day Four:
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Our fourth day of the cruise brought us to Halifax, Nova Scotia.  I knew nothing about this place except that it was in Canada.  I soon discovered it is Canada's busiest eastern port. 

Halifax is located on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia, almost due west of England.  It possesses one of the largest natural harbors in the world. Surrounded by islands, the port is recessed into a bay with a narrow mouth.  It is very secure from storms as well as enemies. 

Adding to the safety of the harbor is Fort Halifax, a formidable bastion located on top of a massive hill overlooking the waters below.  This hill is known as Citadel Hill.  The picture does not begin to capture its immensity.  The hill completely towers over the city below. It is so high that it dwarfs the skyscraper seen lower in the picture.  Plus the hill is very steep.  It rises at a sharp 40 degree angle.  Talk about high ground!  Since there is not one tree for protection, I cannot imagine any army in the world that would attempt to take this fort on foot.  The word impregnable crossed my mind. 

Nor can I imagine any ship trying to enter the harbor without permission. It would soon be cut to ribbons by the huge cannon housed inside Fort Halifax.  This is a very safe harbor indeed.  Since modern times don't really require this sort of fortification any more, these days Fort Halifax has become a tourist attraction.

With its location and the security of its harbor, Halifax played a huge role in both World War I and World War II in transporting troops and supplies over to Europe.  Halifax is a very pretty town with lots of things to see, all within easy walking distance of our ship.

The first thing Marla wanted to do was go visit the Maritime Museum and learn more. Due to its history as a leader in shipping as well as the fishing industry, over the years Halifax has acquired a rich maritime legacy.   What a great decision!  Marla and I spent the day in total fascination.  I became deeply involved in two stories.

Later on I will share them with you, but first some pictures of Halifax.

The famous Peggy's Cove Lighthouse, a favorite tourist attraction

Picture of Halifax taken from ship

I took this picture from the base of the hill. You can see we are way higher than the harbor.  Fort Halifax is upwards to my right

Guards at Fort Halifax. 
Do they understand how silly they look in those outfits? 

Jess Carnes was nice to share his pictures with us, but he asked a favor... would I include pictures of him and his lovely wife?

Always anxious to please, I found a wonderful picture of Pat Carnes seen here visiting the exciting Titanic exhibit. 

A nice look at the harbor.

Here you can see how Halifax rises. That is the start of the "Hill"

They had the loveliest park adjacent to the giant hill where
Fort Halifax stood.
  I really liked this park.

As you can see, there was not even a hint of Fall color.
Marla and I were starting to get a bad feeling about this.

Duck Pond

Swan Lake

Marla and the Gazebo

Another look at the Duck Pond.

Lovely statues and fountains.

A cool little waterfall from Swan Lake

Here's Marla on the bridge.  Isn't she pretty?

Here I am with a cute lobster behind me. He wants to eat me.

Another picture of Peggy's Cove. Several members of the group
went to see it and said the whole world was there.

And yes, another picture of Pat Carnes. 
I can't decide who is lovelier, Pat or the Mermaid?


The Story of the 1917 Halifax Explosion

As I mentioned earlier, Marla and I spent most of the day at the Halifax Maritime Museum.  The museum was an immense two-story building full of one interesting story after another. 

We weren't the only ones from our group to visit the Museum. While we were there, we saw Jess and Pat Carnes as well as Gary Schweinle and Tracy Kirkland.  I am sure others dropped by as well.  

There were two stories in particular that caught my eye.  They are both very sad.  I would like to share them with you.

The 1917 Halifax Explosion
Story reprinted from Wikipedia, the free Internet encyclopedia


The Halifax Explosion was a disaster that occurred on Wednesday, December 6, 1917, at 9:04 a.m. AST in Nova Scotia's Halifax Harbour.

The waterfront areas of the City of Halifax and its neighbouring community of Richmond, along with the waterfront area of the cross-harbour town of Dartmouth were devastated when the French munitions ship Mont-Blanc collided in a narrow section of the harbour with the Norwegian ship Imo chartered to carry Belgian relief supplies.

The Mont-Blanc was inbound to the harbour that morning while the Imo was outbound. At the time, two-way passage by vessels through the narrow section of the harbour (called "The Narrows") connecting the Atlantic Ocean and outer harbour with the Bedford Basin was unrestricted, so long as vessels followed established collision regulations.

In the aftermath of the collision, Mont-Blanc caught fire and exploded, killing about 2,000 people and injuring thousands more. The explosion caused a tsunami, and a pressure wave of air that snapped trees, bent iron rails, demolished buildings, grounded vessels, and carried fragments of the Mont-Blanc for kilometres.

This was the largest artificial explosion until the first atomic bomb test explosion in 1945 and still ranks highly among the largest artificial non-nuclear explosions.


On December 1, 1917, the French naval ship Mont-Blanc, a 3,121-ton, a nearly 100 metre long freighter, departed New York City to join a war convoy assembling in the Bedford Basin (Halifax). The vessel did not fly warning flags for its cargo in order to avoid being targeted by WWI German naval forces, a situation that later contributed to the deaths of many people.  It carried on board 2,653 tons of explosives including benzol, nitrocellulose (guncotton), wet picric acid, dry picric acid (highly explosive, and extremely sensitive to shock, heat and friction), and TNT.

On December 5, Mont-Blanc arrived at the examination point off McNabs Island and was waiting to be let into the harbour, but it got there too late. Halifax harbour had two antisubmarine nets that were closed for the night at sundown. These nets prevented both submarines and surface ships from entering or exiting. These nets were in place because of the war and the fear of the Central Powers attacking Allied shipping and reinforcements being sent to Europe - the primary threat being the German Imperial Navy's U-boat fleet. The Mont-Blanc was forced to spend the night in a precarious position just outside the harbor.

At the same time the Imo was to sail for New York, but its coal supplier arrived late and they, too, missed the sunset cut-off time so they spent the night inside the harbor.

The next morning, December 6, the Imo attempted to depart through the right channel but another ship was blocking its way. As a result, Imo started out through the left channel.  Mont-Blanc was entering via the left channel at the same time, and both refused to yield.

Eventually, the captain ordered Mont-Blanc to pass Imo by heading into the center channel. However he made this move without realizing the Imo had done the exact same thing moments earlier.  Imo had made the identical move and was heading into the left channel. However when they saw the massive Mont-Blanc heading right at them, the Imo stopped and tried to turn back into the left channel. Unfortunately as the Imo turned, the backward action of the propellers brought the ship in a position perpendicular to the path of Mont-Blanc.  Now the two ships collided.

It was just a glancing blow.  Neither ship was damaged badly.

The Imo attempted to pull back away. However the metal of one ship grinding on the metal of the other ship generated sparks that quickly ignited the vapours from Mont-Blanc’s benzol cargo which was stowed on deck.  A huge fire quickly developed.

As the fire spread out of control, Mont-Blanc's crew were unable to reach fire-fighting equipment.  Knowing the dancer of their cargo, they quickly abandoned ship upon the captain's orders.  Fleeing in two rowboats, the crew reached safety on the Dartmouth shore as the burning ship continued to drift toward the Halifax shore.  Unfortunately, these men were the only people in the entire harbor who knew how dangerous their cargo was (don't forget, they carried no flags which might warn the Germans).

Immediately o
ther ships came to aid the burning Mont-Blanc.  Of course onlookers gathered on the shore as well to watch the spectacle.  Ignorant of the danger they were in, this would cost everyone their lives.

Eventually Mont-Blanc drifted into Pier 6 on the Richmond waterfront which allowed the fire to spread onto land.

Then it happened.  At 9:04 am the cargo of Mont-Blanc exploded. The ship was instantly vaporized in the giant fireball that rose over one mile into the air, forming a large mushroom cloud. The force of the blast triggered a tsunami that reached up to 18 meters above the high-water mark.

The Imo was lifted completely out of the water and up onto the Dartmouth shore by the tsunami.

2 square miles of Richmond, Halifax and Dartmouth was leveled and windows were shattered as far away as Truro, 50 miles north. The explosion was heard as far away as Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, 70 miles north, and the pressure wave reportedly knocked a soldier off his feet in Cape Breton Island 90 miles east. A portion of a large anchor from the Mont-Blanc was discovered a mile and a half from the epicentre.

The disaster resulted in approximately 2,000 deaths (as many as 1,000 died instantly), 9,000 injured (6,000 seriously) and roughly US $500 million in damages. A mile of urban/town area was destroyed, leaving 1,500 people homeless.

Many of the wounds were also permanently debilitating, with many people partially blinded by flying glass. This was due to the ship burning in the harbor for several minutes, attracting the attention of the town, and when it exploded (explosions are the sex) many of the people in the town had gathered at their windows to watch it burn, putting themselves directly in the path of flying glass. The large number of eye injuries led to great efforts on the parts of physicians, and a collaborative effort managed to greatly improve the treatment of damaged eyes. The leaps and bounds made in eye care because of this disaster is often compared to the huge increase in burn care knowledge after the Cocoanut Grove Fire in Boston. Halifax became known in subsequent years for its international reputation in care for the blind, accounting for the larger proportion of patients.

The death toll could have been worse if not for the self-sacrifice of an Intercolonial Railway dispatcher, Vince Coleman. Despite being aware of the impending explosion, he remained at his post to send out urgent telegraph messages to two incoming passenger trains of the danger. Although Coleman was killed in the disaster, the trains heeded the warning and stopped a safe distance from the blast. Furthermore, they also relayed the message further on to alert the authorities of the crisis to enable them to respond immediately.

I will leave you with one story in particular.  The crew members of the Mont-Blanc were the only people in the harbor who understood the gravity of the situation.  Once they saw it was hopeless to contain the fire, they knew an explosion was imminent. 

The crew members abandoned ship and rowed frantically to shore.  In their boats, they discovered they had no way to warn the people of Halifax.  Other ships were sailing towards the Mont-Blanc in an attempt to help.  In addition, a dozen firefighters were rushing to their aid.    The crewmen tried to scream a warning, but the commotion drowned them out.  The crew members shook their heads in sorrow.  There was nothing they could do but save themselves.

So they gave up shouting and concentrated harder on rowing for their lives.  Just as they hit the shore, a young woman carrying a baby came over to ask them what had happened.  The men screamed for her to run, but she just stood there in confusion.  One of the crewmen grabbed the baby out of her arms and continued running for a clump of trees nearby.  The woman screamed in rage and tore after the man who had stolen her child. 

The man stopped when he reached the trees. He turned to look back at his ship.  Just as the woman caught up to him, the man swung his free arm and brutally knocked her to the ground.  Suddenly the massive explosion ripped through the harbor.  The trees around them shook mightily, but were able to shield them from the dreadful shockwave that knocked down every building in sight. 

These men, the woman and the baby were one of the very few near the epicenter to survive the horrible explosion.

They were the lucky ones.  In a situation eerily reminiscent of 9/11, every one of the firemen died trying to help.  Many of the crew on the ships that came to help died as well.  All the spectators on shore died immediately.  The death rate was enormous

But there on the shore through the quick thinking of one of the sailors, a mother and her child lived to tell the story.

(Editor's Note:  I just realized I have written my story of the Halifax Fire on the 89th anniversary of this terrible event.... December 6.   What a strange coincidence.)


The Story of the 1912 Sinking of the Titanic

Our second story covers the enduring tragedy of the Titanic.  Marla and I discovered that Halifax was closely involved with this event.  Halifax was the closest port to where the Titanic went down.  Everyone in the city knew something was going on because the distress signals were relayed through the city. 

Halifax sent several boats to help.  As a result, most of the dead bodies were brought back to Halifax to be buried.  Because Halifax lost several citizens in the tragedy and because so many passengers on the Titanic now rest here, Halifax feels a keen connection with this terrible tragedy. 


The RMS Titanic
Story reprinted f
rom Wikipedia, the free Internet encyclopedia

On the night of April 14-15, 1912, Titanic struck an giant iceberg and sank.  This disaster ranks as one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters in history. It is by far the most famous.

Built in Belfast, Ireland, the Titanic was the largest passenger steamship in the world at the time of her sinking.  During Titanic's maiden voyage from England to New York, she struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on Sunday evening April 14, 1912.  Two hours and forty minutes later, the enormous ship split into two pieces and sunk at 2:20 a.m. Monday morning, April 15.

The irony behind this horrible accident was that the Titanic was considered to be a pinnacle of naval architecture and technological achievement.   In an article prior to its voyage, Shipbuilder Magazine labeled the Titanic "practically unsinkable."   Titanic's design used some of the most advanced technology available at the time.  Therefore it was a great shock that, despite the advanced technology and experienced crew, Titanic sank with a great loss of life.

She was divided into 16 compartments by doors, which could be closed by means of a switch on the bridge.  However, the ship had at least one weakness.  The watertight bulkheads did not reach the entire height of the decks, only going up as far as E-Deck. This meant the Titanic could stay afloat with any two of her compartments flooded, or with eleven of fourteen possible combinations of three compartments flooded, or with the first/last four compartments flooded: any more and the ship would sink. 

It was practically impossible to conceive of a scenario whereby this many compartments might be compromised. In fact, some say the ship might have survived if she had hit the iceberg head on because her design took this possibility into account.  By turning the ship in a last minute attempt to avoid it, the ship sailed right beside iceberg which allowed it to tear not a deep hole, but a long hole in practically the worst spot of all - right in the middle of the ship's side.

Besides its ‘unsinkable status’, another factor that added to the sensation of this tragic event is that the Titanic carried a veritable “Who’s Who” aboard its ill-fated first trip. Some of the most prominent people in America were on board in first class. These included millionaire John Jacob Astor IV and his pregnant wife Madeleine; industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim; Macy's department store owner Isidor Straus and his wife Ida; Denver millionaire Margaret "Molly" Brown and many others.  Also traveling in first class were White Star Line's managing director J. Bruce Ismay, who survived, and the ship's builder Thomas Andrews, who was on board to observe any problems and assess the general performance of the new ship.

It could have been even worse. Two of the country’s most famous businessmen, J.P. Morgan and Milton Hershey, had plans to travel on the Titanic but cancelled their reservations before the voyage.

There were many factors that have made the Titanic Tragedy persistently famous in the years since.  There was the media frenzy about Titanic's famous victims. There were the improbable odds against the ship sinking.  Factor in the legends about what happened on board the ship including the heroes and the selfish.  Then add in the huge numbers of people who died, a problem created by the insanity of the lifeboat situation plus the cruel negligence of a nearby ship which could have come to the rescue. Then finally there was the drama surrounding the eventual discovery of the wreck in 1985.

The sinking of the Titanic became the most famous maritime tragedy in history.

The Titanic carried 2,223 people on its maiden voyage.  In the accident, more than two-thirds of these people lost their life.  It makes you wonder why the Titanic was considered the world’s safest ship.

Timeline to Disaster

01:45 PM -11:40 PM -12:45 AM -2:00 AM -2:10 AM -2:20 AM -4:10 AM -

Amerika iceberg warning
"Iceberg, right ahead!"
First lifeboat lowered
Waterline reaches forward boat deck
Stern rises out of water
Titanic sinks
Carpathia picks up first lifeboat

1:45 PM - Amerika iceberg warning

On the night of Sunday, April 14, the temperature had dropped to near freezing and the ocean was completely calm. Surviving 2nd Officer Charles Lightoller later wrote, "the sea was like glass". There was no moon and the sky was clear. Captain Edward Smith, perhaps in response to iceberg warnings received by wireless over the previous few days, had altered Titanic's course around 10 miles (18 km) south of the normal shipping route. That Sunday at 1:45 p.m., a message from the steamer SS Amerika warned that large icebergs lay south of Titanic's path but the warning was addressed to the USN Hydrographic office and was never relayed to the bridge.

Iceberg warnings were received throughout the day and were quite normal for the time of year. Later that evening at 9:30 pm, another report of numerous, large icebergs in Titanic's path was received by Jack Phillips and Harold Bride in the radio room, this time from the Mesaba, but this report also did not reach the bridge.

Although there were warnings, there were no operational or safety reasons to slow down or alter course. The Titanic had three teams of two lookouts high up in the "Crow's nest" who were rotated every two hours.  On any other night it is almost certain they would have seen the iceberg in time.

However, a combination of factors worked against them: with no moon, no wind and the dark side of the berg facing the ship, the lookouts were powerless. Had they spotted the iceberg 10 seconds later or 10 seconds earlier, or even had the ship simply hit it straight on, it is likely that Titanic would not have foundered. 

But as Lightoller stated at the American inquiry, "Everything was against us that night."

11:40 PM - "Iceberg, right ahead!"

At 11:40 p.m. while sailing south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, lookouts Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee spotted a large iceberg directly ahead of the ship. Fleet sounded the ship's bell three times and telephoned the bridge.

Sixth Officer Moody answered, "Yes, what do you see?",

He heard Fleet exclaiming, "Iceberg, right ahead!"

Moody responded "Thank you". 

He then informed First Officer Murdoch of the call. Murdoch (who had now already seen the iceberg) ordered an abrupt turn to port (left) and full speed astern, which reversed the engines driving the outer propellers (the turbine driving the centre propeller was not reversible).

Thanks to the sharp turn, the ship's starboard (right) side clearly missed the visible part of the iceberg.  However beneath the water, the massive iceberg was much wider.  The underside of the Titanic brushed against the deadly edges of the iceberg.  This buckled the hull in several places and popped out rivets below the waterline. The glancing blow created a total of six leaks in the first five watertight compartments. Murdoch then ordered hard right rudder, which swung Titanic's stern away from the iceberg.

The fifth compartment was breached for only 10-15 feet, but that was the killer blow.  The watertight doors were shut as water started filling the five compartments - one more than Titanic could stay afloat with.

Captain Smith, alerted by the jolt of the impact, ordered "all-stop" once he arrived on the bridge. Following an inspection by the ship's senior officers, the ship's carpenter and Thomas Andrews, which included a survey of the half-flooded two-deck postal room, it was apparent that the Titanic would sink.

At 12:30 a.m., 45 minutes after the collision, Captain Smith ordered the lifeboats prepared for boarding; 15 minutes later, Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall fired the first white distress rocket.

12:45 AM - First lifeboat lowered

The Titanic carried 20 lifeboats with a total capacity of 1,178 persons.  There were 2,223 people on board.  Automatically, over a thousand people were immediately doomed to die.

What were they thinking?  Thirty-two lifeboats had been originally specified, but management decided the doubled-up boats spoiled the lines of the ship.  Their hubris about the invincibility of the Titanic prevented them from even conceiving of this kind of a disaster.

Sixteen lifeboats, indicated by number, were in the davits; and four canvas-sided collapsibles, indicated by letter, stowed on the roof of the officers' quarters or on the forward Boat Deck to be launched in empty davits.

With only enough space for a little more than half the passengers and crew, Titanic carried more boats than required by the British Board of Trade. At the time, the number of lifeboats required was determined by a ship's gross tonnage, rather than its human capacity. The regulations concerning lifeboat capacity had last been updated in 1894, when the largest ships afloat measured approximately 10,000 gross tons, compared to Titanic's 46,328 tons.

Once they realized the Titanic had no chance to stay afloat, there was a great deal of panic.  First and second-class passengers had easy access to the lifeboats with staircases that led right up to the boat deck, but third-class passengers found it much harder. Many found the corridors leading from the lower sections of the ship difficult to navigate and had trouble making their way up to the lifeboats. Some gates separating the third-class section of the ship from the other areas, like the one leading from the aft well deck to the second-class section, are known to have been locked.

While the majority of first and second-class women and children survived the sinking, more third-class women and children were lost than saved. The locked 3rd class gates were the result of miscommunication between the boat deck and F-G decks. Lifeboats were supposed to be lowered with women and children from the boat deck and then subsequently to pick up F-G deck women and children from open gangways. Unfortunately, with no boat drill or training for the seamen, the boats were simply lowered into the water without stopping.

Titanic reported its position.  Wireless operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride were busy sending out distress signals. The message was "SOS-MGY, sinking, need immediate assistance." Several ships responded, including Mount Temple, Frankfurt and Titanic's sister ship, Olympic, but none were close enough to make it in time. The Olympic was over 500 nautical miles away.

The closest ship to respond was Cunard Line's RMS Carpathia.  Unfortunately it was too far away to save the day completely.  At 58 nautical miles (107 km) away, it would arrive in about four hours, too late to get to Titanic in time to save the many passengers who stayed on the ship or those who died in the frozen waters.


Two land–based locations received the distress call from Titanic. One was the wireless station at Cape Race, Newfoundland, and the other was a Marconi telegraph station on top of the Wanamaker's department store in New York City. Shortly after the distress signal was sent, a radio drama ensued as the signals were transmitted from ship to ship, through Halifax to New York, throughout the country. People began to show up at White Star Line offices in New York almost immediately.

From the bridge, the lights of a ship could be seen off the starboard side approximately 10-15 miles away. Since it was not responding to wireless, nor to the distress rockets being launched every 15 minutes or so, Fourth Officer Boxhall and Quartermaster Rowe attempted signaling the ship with a Morse lamp, but the ship never appeared to respond.  This was the SS Californian, the ship whose negligence added to the immensity of the tragedy.

The Californian was nearby the Titanic. The ship had dropped anchor for the night because of ice. Its wireless was turned off because the wireless operator had gone to bed for the night. 

The Titanic's wireless set had broken down earlier that day. Jack Phillips and Harold Bride had spent most of the day fixing it. As a result, they were extremely backlogged in their sending of messages. Finally they got it working again.  Now with the set fixed and a strong signal available from the Halifax station, Phillips was getting some work done.

Just before he went to bed at around 11:00 p.m., Californian's radio operator Cyril Evans attempted to warn Titanic that there was a large field of ice ahead. But he was cut off by an exhausted Jack Phillips aboard the Titanic, who sent back, "Shut up, shut up!  I am busy, I am working Cape Race."

Minutes later, two officers on the Californian, 2nd Officer Stone and Apprentice Gibson, noticed a ship approaching at around 11:00 pm.  They noticed her stop and then about an hour later noticed her beginning to send up rockets. They informed Californian Captain Stanley Lord.

The rockets Titanic sent up had the color of distress rockets for White Star Line.  However, due to a lack of uniformity in Naval regulations at that time, Captain Lord was confused. He did not know they were distress rockets. Instead he said "Keep watching it" and then went back to sleep.  Even though there was much discussion about the mysterious ship, which the officers on duty thought to be moving away before disappearing, the crew of Californian did not wake its wireless operator until morning.

2:00 AM - Waterline reaches forward boat deck

The first lifeboat was lowered shortly after 12:45 a.m. on the starboard side.  There were only 28 people on board out of a maximum capacity of 65.

At first, passengers were reluctant to leave the warm, well-lit and ostensibly safe Titanic.  The ship initially showed no outward signs of being in imminent danger which made them reluctant to board small, unlit, open lifeboats. This was one of the reasons most of the boats were launched partially empty: they were pressed for time and it was hoped that many people would eventually jump into the water and swim to the boats later on. 

Obviously the flaw in this thinking is that the boats quickly moved to a safe distance from the Titanic in case of an explosion.

Also important was an uncertainty regarding the boats' structural integrity; it was feared that the boats might break if they were fully loaded before being set in the water. Captain Smith ordered the lifeboats be lowered half empty in the hope the boats would come back to save people in the water, and some boats were given orders to do just that.  One boat, boat number one, meant to hold 40 people, left Titanic with only 12 people on board. It was rumored that Lord and Lady Duff Gorden bribed 7 crew members to take them and their 3 companions off the ship. Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star Line, left on Collapsible Boat C and was later criticized by both the American and British Inquiries for not going down with the ship.

As the ship's tilt became more apparent, people started to become nervous. Now some of the lifeboats began leaving fully loaded. "Women and children first" remained the imperative for loading the boats. In reality, despite this slogan, a higher proportion of First-Class men survived than Third-class women and children, many of whom remained trapped below.

Shortly after 2:00 a.m. the waterline reached the bridge and forward boat deck.  All the lifeboats, save for the awkwardly located Collapsibles A and B, had been lowered. Collapsible D, with 44 of its 47 seats filled, was the last lifeboat to be lowered from the davits.

The total number of vacancies in the lifeboats was estimated at close to 475.

2:10 AM - The stern rises out of water

Around 2:10 a.m., the stern rose out of the water, exposing the propellers, and the forward boat deck was flooding.

Water had begun to pour into the ship, drowning many of the people still trapped on the lower decks.

The last two lifeboats floated right off the deck as the ocean reached them: collapsible lifeboat B upside down, and collapsible lifeboat A half-filled with water.

Shortly afterwards the first funnel fell forward, crushing part of the bridge and many of those struggling in the water.

On deck, people scrambled towards the stern or jumped overboard in hopes of reaching a lifeboat.


As the ship's stern continued to slowly rise into the air, everything not secured crashed towards the bow. The electrical system finally failed and the lights, which had until now burned brightly, went out.

Titanic's second funnel broke off and fell into the water, and Titanic herself tore apart.

2:20 AM - The Titanic sinks

Stress on the hull caused Titanic to break apart into two large pieces, between the third and fourth funnels, and the bow section went completely under. The stern section briefly righted itself on the water before rising back up vertically. After a few moments, the stern section also sank into the ocean about two hours and forty minutes after the collision with the iceberg.

White Star attempted to persuade surviving crewmen not to state that the hull broke in half. The company believed that this information would cast doubts upon the integrity of their vessels. In fact, the stresses inflicted on the hull when it was almost vertical (bow down and stern in the air) were well beyond the design limits of the structure and no legitimate engineer could have fairly criticized the work of the shipbuilders in that regard.

As the ship sank into the depths, the two sections ended their final plunges very differently. The streamlined bow planed off approximately 2,000 feet (600 m) below the surface and slowed somewhat, landing relatively gently. The stern fell fairly straight down towards the ocean floor, possibly rotating as it sank, with the air trapped inside causing implosions. It was already half-crushed when it hit bottom at high speed; the shock caused everything still loose to fall off. The bow section however, having been opened up by the iceberg and having sunk slowly, had little air left in it as it sank and therefore remained relatively intact during its descent.


4:10 AM - Carpathia picks up first lifeboat, but it’s too late to help most of the victims.

Two hours after Titanic sank, RMS Carpathia, commanded by Captain Arthur Henry Rostron, arrived on scene. It picked up the first lifeboat at 4:10 AM.

Even though the Californian was much closer, their wireless operator had gone to bed for the night. As a result the crew was largely (but not totally) ignorant of the tragedy unfolding just six miles away.

Over the next hours, the remainder of the survivors were rescued.  Among the survivors were several dogs brought aboard in the hands of the first class passengers.  They were found in the lifeboat sitting in the laps of their owners.

On board Carpathia, a short prayer service for the rescued and a memorial for the people who lost their lives was held, and at 8:50 a.m. Carpathia left for New York, arriving on April 18.

Once the loss of life was verified, White Star Line chartered the ship MacKay-Bennett to retrieve bodies.  The Mackay-Bennett sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia at 12:28 p.m. on Wednesday, 17 April 1912. 

Upon reaching the wreck site, it quickly became apparent that there were far more bodies floating in the ocean than anyone had ever expected.  It did not take long for White Star Line officials to conclude that a second vessel would be required and arrangements were made to charter the cable steamer Minia to assist the Mackay-Bennett.

A total of 328 bodies were eventually recovered. Many of the bodies were taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia where the majority of the unclaimed were buried in Fairview Cemetery.

Death for Many

Of a total of 2,223 people, only 706 survived; 1,517 perished.  If the lifeboats had been filled to capacity, 1,178 people could have been saved.

Of the First Class, 199 were saved (60%) and 130 died.
Of the Second Class, 119 (44%) were saved and 166 were lost.
Of the Third Class, 174 were saved (25%) and 536 perished.
Of the crew, 214 were saved (24%) and 685 perished.
1,347 men (80%) died, and 103 women (26%) died.
53 children (about 50%) also died.

Of particular note, the entire complement of the Engineering Department remained at their posts to keep the ship's electrical systems running.  They all drowned.

The entirety of the Ship's band were lost as well. Led by bandleader Wallace Hartley, they played music on the boat deck of the Titanic that night to calm the passengers. It is rumored that they played the hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee" as their finale.

The majority of deaths were caused by victims succumbing to hypothermia in the 28 °F (-2 °C) water.

The selfishness of the survivors didn’t help.  Only one lifeboat in 20 came back to the scene of the sinking to attempt to rescue survivors.  Lifeboat 4 was close by and picked up eight crewmen, two of whom later died.

Another boat helped as well.  Close to an hour later, after tying 3 or 4 lifeboats together on the open sea (a difficult task), Lifeboat 14 went back looking for survivors and rescued four people. Sadly, one of the 14 died afterwards from exposure to the cold water.

Collapsable B was upended all night.  It began with 30 people, but by the time the Carpathia arrived the next morning, only 13-14 remained. Included on this boat were the highest ranking officer to survive, Charles Lightolloer, wireless operator Harold Bride, and the chief baker, James Jougin.

There were some arguments in some of the other lifeboats about going back, but many survivors were afraid of being swamped by people trying to climb into the lifeboat or being pulled down by the anticipated suction from the sinking ship, though this turned out not to be severe.

Only 12 survivors were recovered from the water by the Carpathia.


Arrival of Carpathia in New York

The Carpathia docked at Pier 54 at Little West 12th Street in New York with the survivors. It arrived at night and was greeted by thousands of people. The Titanic had been headed for Pier 59 at 20th Street. The Carpathia dropped off the Titanic lifeboats at Pier 59 before unloading the survivors at Pier 54.

As news of the disaster spread, many people were shocked that Titanic could sink with such great loss of life despite all of her technological advances. Newspapers were filled with stories and descriptions of the disaster and were eager to get the latest information. Many charities were set up to help the victims and their families, many of whom lost their sole breadwinner, or, in the case of third-class survivors, lost everything they owned.

The town of Southampton, England, was hard hit.  This town was home to many of the crew members. According to the Hampshire Chronicle on April 20, 1912, almost 1,000 local families were directly affected. Almost every street in the Chapel district of the town lost more than one resident and over 500 households lost a member.


Before the survivors even arrived in New York, investigations were being planned to discover what had happened to Titanic, and what could be done to prevent a recurrence. The United States Senate initiated an inquiry into the Titanic disaster on April 19, a day after Carpathia arrived in New York.

Carpathia docked at Pier 54 in New York following the rescue. The chairman of the inquiry, Senator William Alden Smith, wanted to gather accounts from passengers and crew while the events were still fresh in their minds. Smith also needed to subpoena the British citizens while they were still on American soil. The American inquiry lasted until May 25.

Lord Mersey was appointed to head the British Board of Trade's inquiry into the disaster. The British inquiry took place between May 2 and July 3. Each inquiry took testimony from both passengers and crew of Titanic, crewmembers of Leyland Line's The Californian, Captain Arthur Rostron of the Carpathia and other experts.

The investigations found that many safety rules were simply out of date and new laws were recommended. Numerous safety improvements for ocean-going vessels were implemented, including improved hull and bulkhead design, access throughout the ship for egress of passengers, lifeboat requirements, life-vest design, safety drills, better passenger notification, radio communications laws, etc. The investigators also learned that the Titanic had sufficient lifeboat space for all First-Class passengers, but not for the lower classes. In fact, most Third-Class, or Steerage, passengers had no idea where the lifeboats were, much less any way of getting up to the higher decks where the lifeboats were kept. (According to the report published by Lloyd's, a higher proportion of First-Class men survived than of Third-Class women or children.

Titanic's rudder and turning ability

Although Titanic's rudder was not legally too small for a ship its size, the rudder's design was hardly state-of-the-art. According to researchers with the Titanic Historical Society: "Titanic's long, thin rudder was a copy of a 19th-century steel sailing ship. Compared with the rudder design of the Cunard's Mauretania or Lusitania, Titanic's was a fraction of the size. Apparently no account was made for advances in scale, and little thought given to how a ship 882˝ feet (269 m) in length might turn in an emergency, or avoid a collision with an iceberg. This was Titanic's Achilles' heel. 

Perhaps more fatal to the Titanic was her triple-screw engine configuration, which had reciprocating steam engines driving its wing propellers, and a steam turbine driving its center propeller. The reciprocating engines were reversible, while the turbine was not. When First Officer Murdoch gave the order to reverse engines to avoid the iceberg, he inadvertently handicapped the turning ability of the ship. Since the centre turbine could not reverse during the "full speed astern" maneuver, it simply stopped turning. Furthermore, the centre propeller was positioned forward of the ship's rudder, diminishing the turning effectiveness of the rudder.

Had Murdoch reversed the port engine, and reduced speed while maintaining the forward motion of the other two propellers (as recommended in the training procedures for this type of ship), experts theorize that the Titanic may have been able to navigate around the berg without a collision. However, given the closing distance between the ship and the berg at the time the bridge was notified, this may not have been possible.

Additionally, Titanic experts have hypothesized that if Titanic had not altered its course at all and had run head on into the iceberg, the damage would only have affected the first or, at most, the first two compartments. However, other experts have argued that this might also have doomed the ship, since a direct head-on collision with an iceberg would have stopped the ship as abruptly and as violently, possibly compromising its structural integrity and possibly causing the large, heavy boilers to dislodge and possibly crush through the ship's bottom hull.

Titanic's band

One of the most famous stories of Titanic is of the band. On 15 April, Titanic's eight-member band, led by Wallace Hartley, had assembled in the first-class lounge in an effort to keep passengers calm and upbeat. Later they would move on to the forward half of the boat deck. The band continued playing music even when it became apparent the ship was going to sink.

None of the band members survived the sinking, and there has been much speculation about what their last song was. Some witnesses said the final song played was the hymn "Nearer, my God, to Thee." However, there are three versions of this song in existence and no one really knows which version, if any, was played. Hartley reportedly said to a friend if he was on a sinking ship "Nearer, My God, to Thee" would be one of the songs he would play. Walter Lord's book A Night to Remember popularized wireless operator Harold Bride’s account that he heard the song "Autumn" before the ship sank. It is considered Bride either meant the hymn called "Autumn" or "Songe d'Automne," a popular ragtime song of the time. Others claimed they heard "Roll out the Barrel."

Hartley's body was one of those recovered and identified. Considered a hero, his funeral in England was attended by thousands.


No single aspect regarding the huge loss of life from the Titanic disaster has provoked more outrage than the fact that the ship did not carry enough lifeboats for all her passengers and crew. This is partially due to the fact that an outdated trade law required a minimum of 16 lifeboats for ships of the Titanic's size—meaning that the ship was legally required to carry only enough lifeboats for less than half of its capacity. Actually, White Star Line exceeded the regulations by including four more collapsible lifeboats—making room for slightly more than half the capacity.

It was anticipated during the design of the ship that the British Board of Trade might require an increase in the number of lifeboats at some future date. Therefore lifeboat davits capable of handling up to four boats per pair of davits were designed and installed, to give a total potential capacity of 64 boats. The additional boats were never fitted. It is often alleged that J. Bruce Ismay, the President of White Star, personally stopped the installation of these additional boats to maximize passenger promenade area on the boat deck.

In addition, at the time, the belief in the shipbuilding industry was that lifeboats would be used to ferry passengers to another ship and disembark them, returning to a stricken liner for more passengers.

The lack of lifeboats was not the only cause of the tragic loss of lives. After the collision with the iceberg, one hour was spent to evaluate the damages, recognize what was going to happen, inform first class passengers, and lower the first lifeboat. Afterward, the crew worked quite efficiently, taking a total of 80 minutes to lower all 16 lifeboats. Since the crew was divided in two teams, one on each side of the ship, an average of 10 minutes of work was necessary for a team to fill a lifeboat with passengers and lower it. Only 10 minutes after the last lifeboat was lowered, the stern rose out of water, suggesting that it would not have been possible to lower any more lifeboats, if any were remaining.

Yet another factor in the high death toll that related to the lifeboats was the reluctance of the passengers to board the lifeboats. They were, after all, on a ship deemed to be unsinkable. Because of this, some lifeboats were launched with far less than capacity, the most notable being Lifeboat 1, with a capacity of 40, launched with only twelve people aboard, with only two women and no children.

The Curious Story of Captain Lord

There is a very sad story from this night that is not well-known.  Almost everyone on the Titanic have been saved were it not for the appalling negligence of a certain Captain Lord.  He was the captain of a ship anchored just six miles away that did nothing to help the wounded ship despite an entire series of warning signals sent by the Titanic.

Inquiries into the disaster found that the Californian and its captain, Stanley Lord, failed to give proper assistance to Titanic.

Testimony before the inquiry revealed that at 10:10 pm, members of the Californian observed lights of a ship to the south.  It was later agreed between Captain Lord and the third officer (who had relieved Lord of duty at 10:10) that this was a passenger liner.

There was a tragic sequence that night.  At 11 pm the Californian's wireless operator warned the Titanic by radio of nearby pack ice, explaining this was the reason the Californian had stopped for the night.  However the Titanic's wireless operator, Jack Phillips, was distracted.  He had brushed the warning due to a backlog of wires he was trying to send out.  Moments later, the Californian's wireless operator went to bed.  He had no backup, so the Californian could no longer be reached in case of distress.  40 minutes later, the Titanic struck the iceberg.

At 11:50 pm, the officer had watched this ship's lights flash out, as if the ship had shut down or turned sharply, and that the port light was now observed.  Upon Lord's order, 5 Morse signals were sent to the Titanic between 11:30pm and 1:00am. None of them were acknowledged. (In testimony, it was stated that Californian's Morse lamp had a range of about four miles.)  Unfortunately it was later determined that the Titanic was six miles away, so the Morse signals did no good.

Captain Lord retired at 11:30 pm.  At 1:15 am, the second officer, now on duty, notified Lord that the mystery ship had fired a rocket, followed by four more.  Lord wanted to know if they were "company signals," that is, colored flares used for identification. The second officer said that he "didn't know," that the rockets were all white.

Captain Lord instructed the crew to continue to signal the other vessel with the Morse lamp, and went back to sleep. Three more rockets were observed at 1:50 and the second officer noted that the ship looked strange in the water, as if she were listing. At 2:15 am, Lord was notified that the ship could no longer be seen. Lord asked again if the lights had had any colors in them, and he was informed that they were all white.

It was not till three hours later that the Californian finally responded.  At 5:30 am, the first officer awakened the radio operator, informed him that rockets had been seen during the night, and asked that he try to communicate with any ships. The Frankfurt notified the operator of Titanic's loss, Captain Lord was notified, and the ship set out for assistance.

The inquiries found that Californian was much closer to Titanic than the 19˝ miles (36 km) that Captain Lord had believedIn fact, the Californian was likely to have been no further than six miles away.

It was the conclusion of the board that Lord was at fault.  At a minimum,
Lord should have awakened the wireless operator the moments the presence of the rockets were first reported to him and tried to make contact

Captain Lord could have acted sensibly to prevent a loss of life, but he did not.  He lost his job and spent the rest of his life trying to clear his name, an effort that proved to be futile.  He went down in history as the major scapegoat of the night.

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