The Sinking of the Titanic Could Have Been Avoided

At 2:20am on April 15th, 1912, 1,495 people died when the Titanic sank on its voyage to New York City (Molony Online). There were 712 survivors on Titanic; however, the question of who’s at fault for the “unsinkable” ship sinking has been under speculation for almost a century (Online). Many people could be to blame, but one stands out from the rest.  Captain Edward J. Smith is the person who caused the Titanic to sink, because he chose to focus on speed rather than safety, he arrogantly believed that the ship was “unsinkable”, and he made poor decisions after his ship hit the iceberg.

The Most Technological Ship of it's Era            

The Titanic was the most amazing ship of it’s time. In 1912, it was considered one of the biggest ships in the world. It took a staggering, 1,000 workers to build the 46,000 ton ship (History Channel Online). Titanic was approximately 882 feet long and 175 feet tall (Online). There were ten decks and one held the four huge funnels; three were working and one was for show (Online).   No ship could touch Titanic’s size. Looking at the statistics, it’s amazing that a person was able to captain such a large ship. Another fact of the ship, that made it exceptional, was its interior mechanics and structure. Titanic had four cylinder triple-expansion steam engines that were considered the largest of their kind; each measured forty feet high (Online). On a daily basis, a crew had to feed 600 tons of coal, into 162 furnaces, to heat 29 boilers (Online). Also, the hull was divided into sixteen, supposedly, water tight compartments that were believed to be able to keep the Titanic afloat if one, or more, was punctured; giving it the title of an “unsinkable” ship (Online).  It’s amazing to think that a ship, of record breaking size, went down from hitting an iceberg. The Captain’s job is to get his ship, crew, and passengers safely to their destinations. For the Titanic, it was New York.


Trying To Set a Record

Captain E. J. Smith wanted to make the voyage, to New York City, in six days; a record. One of the reasons, for his haste, was that he intended it to be his last voyage at sea. Titanic was his retirement trip, and he wanted to make it the most memorable (History of the Online).Captain Smith was searching for fame. With fame comes money. Earning a substantial chunk of money would ensure a comfortable and an easily enjoyed retirement.  Another point, that demonstrates his desire to finish the trip quickly, was his order to run the ship at full speed. The Titanic traveled at its full speed of 26 knots for the entire trip; even at night (Online). Captain Smith chose speed over safety. Traveling at top speed would make it harder to turn the ship away from trouble. Titanic was a big ship and if anything got in its way, like an iceberg, it would be impossible to avoid collision. The Captain’s decision to keep the boat at full speed, attempting to break records, was a huge factor of why the ship was lost.


Many people believed Bruce Ismay, Manager of the White Star Line, shared the blame for the sinking of the Titanic.  Competition was tight among White Star’s competitors, and Ismay had pushed the Captain to make the boat go faster; he wanted it to be the best, to be the ship that set records (Online). It’s hard to blame Ismay for doing his job of maximizing the value of the Titanic. It’s true that he pushed the Captain to go faster, but he didn’t control the ship. It was the Captains decision how fast the ship should go, because it was his ship. Blaming a man that was doing his job, for the sinking of the Titanic, can’t be justified as a valid argument.


The "Unsinkable" Myth

Similar to everyone else, the Captain thought the ship was “unsinkable.” The idea, of the Ship being “unsinkable”, came from Thomas Andrew. Thomas Andrew was the architect of Titanic and designed the sixteen water tight compartments (Online). Everyone, including the Captain, believed in Andrew’s design. The Captain even said, “I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to flounder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that” (Online).  No one knew if the design would work, however, it seemed reliable. The Captains belief that the ship being “unsinkable, was careless, and he ignored the seven warning signs of icebergs the crew had given to him; hours before the collision (Online). After the first warning, he should have reduced speed to improve the ships ability to react. No matter how reliable the design had been, avoiding collision should have been the Captain’s priority. Captain Smith’s over-reliance on the ship technology resulted to poor decision making.


Poor Decisions

After years of leading, Captain Edward Smith’s faulty decisions caused many people to die. An example of one poor, life altering, decision was his handling of the life boats. The each life boat was capable of holding 70 men, and during the sinking only fourteen to twenty-eight people were seated within them (Online). He didn’t take command of the situation. A crew member even said, “His legendary leadership seems to have left him, he was curiously indecisive and unusually cautious” (Molony Online).  History would show that his caution was too late. A Captain is supposed to have the answers and he, apparently, didn’t.  His indecisiveness caused many people to die. He should have been able to handle the situation with his years of experience. Another example, of his lack of leadership, was his allowing the discrimination of classes when the ship was sinking.  Second Class passengers were denied access the deck of the first class passengers; half of the life boats were on the first class deck (Henderson Online). It was even stated that there was a possible physical restraint used to hold back passengers from life boats; crew members and gates blocked third class passenger’s from leaving the interior of the ship (online). The Captain should have made sure everyone was evacuating. He was in charge of the crew and responsible for the passenger’s safety.  Not allowing people to save themselves, from a sinking ship, is a violation of human rights and could be considered murder.  The Captain’s lack of control caused many people to die.


Due to his focus on speed rather than safety, his ignorant belief that the ship was “unsinkable”, and the poor decisions he made after the ship hit the iceberg, Captain Edward J. Smith was at fault for the sinking of the Titanic. Had Captain Smith done everything right, the Titanic would likely have completed her voyage. His quest for fame and fortune cost him his ship, caused the deaths of many passenger’s and crew, and in the end, his own life.