Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters, The



SO great was the interest in the tragedy and so profound the grief at the tremendous loss of life that for a time the financial loss was not considered. It was, however, the biggest ever suffered by marine insurance brokers.

The value of the policy covering the vessel against all ordinary risks was $5,000,000, but the whole of this amount was not insured, because British and Continental markets were not big enough to swallow it. The actual amount of insurance was $3,700,000, of which the owners themselves held $750,000.

As to the cargo, it was insured by the shippers. The company has nothing to do with the insurance of the cargo, which, according to the company's manifest, was conservatively estimated at about $420,000. Cargo, however, was a secondary matter, so far as the Titanic was concerned. The ship was built for high-priced passengers, and what little cargo she carried was also of the kind that demanded quick transportation. The Titanic's freight was for the most part what is known as high-class package freight, consisting of such articles as fine laces, ostrich feathers, wines, liquors and fancy food commodities.


Prior to the sailing of the vessel the postal authorities of Southampton cabled the New York authorities that 3435 bags of mail matter were on board.

"In a load of 3500 bags," said Postmaster Morgan, of New York, "it is a safe estimate to say that 200 contained registered mail. The size of registered mail packages varies greatly, but 1000 packages for each mail bag should be a conservative guess. That would mean that 200,000 registered packages and letters went down with the Titanic.

"This does not mean, however, that Great Britain will be held financially responsible for all these losses. There were probably thousands of registered packages from the Continent, and in such cases the countries of origin will have to reimburse the senders. Moreover, in the case of money being sent in great quantities, it is usual to insure the registry over and above the limit of responsibility set by the country of origin.

"Probably if there were any shipping of securities mounting up to thousands of dollars, it will be the insurance companies which will bear the loss, and not the European post-offices at all."

In the case of money orders, the postmaster explained, there would be no loss, except of time, as duplicates promptly would be shipped without further expense.

The postmaster did not know the exact sum which the various European countries set as the limit of their guarantee in registered mail. In America it is $50.

Underwriters will probably have to meet heavy claims of passengers for luggage, including jewelry. Pearls of one American woman insured in London were valued at $240,000.


The Titanic and her valuable cargo can never be recovered, said the White Star Line officials.

"Sinking in mid-ocean, at the depth which prevails where the accident occurred," said Captain James Parton, manager of the company, "absolutely precludes any hopes of salvage."


In the life insurance offices there was much figuring over the lists of those thought to be lost aboard the Titanic. Nothing but rough estimates of the company's losses through the wreck were given out.


The loss to the Carpathia, too, was considerable. It is, of course, the habit of all good steamship lines to go out of their way and cheerfully submit to financial loss when it comes to succoring the distressed or the imperiled at sea. Therefore, the Cunard line in extending the courtesies of the sea to the survivors of the Titanic asked for nothing more than the mere acknowledgment of the little act of kindness. The return of the Carpathia cost the line close to $10,000.

She was delayed on her way to the Mediterranean at least ten days and was obliged to coal and provision again, as the extra 800 odd passengers she was carrying reduced her large allowance for her long voyage to the Mediterranean and the Adriatic very much.



THE tremendous loss of life necessarily aroused a discussion as to the cause of the disaster, and the prevailing opinion seemed to be that the present tendency in shipbuilding was to sacrifice safety to luxury.

Captain Roden, a well-known Swedish navigator, had written an article maintaining this theory in the Navy, a monthly service magazine, in November, 1910. With seeming prophetic insight he had mentioned the Titanic by name and portrayed some of the dangers to which shipbuilding for luxury is leading.

He pointed out that the new steamships, the Olympic and Titanic, would be the finest vessels afloat, no expense being spared to attain every conceivable comfort for which men or women of means could possibly ask—staterooms with private shower-baths, a swimming pool large enough for diving, a ballroom covering an entire upper deck, a gymnasium, elaborate cafes, a sun deck representing a flower garden, and other luxuries.

After forcibly pointing out the provisions that should be made for the protection of life, Captain Roden wrote in conclusion:

"If the men controlling passenger ships, from the ocean liner down to the excursion barge, were equally disposed to equip their vessels with the best safety appliances as they are to devise and adopt implements of comfort and luxury, the advantage to themselves as well as to their patrons would be plainly apparent."


Lewis Nixon, the eminent naval architect and designer of the battleship Oregon, contributed a very interesting comment. He said in part:

"Here was a vessel presumed, and I think rightly so, to be the perfection of the naval architect's art, yet sunk in a few hours by an accident common to North Atlantic navigation.


"An unsinkable ship is possible, but it would be of little use except for flotation. It may be said that vessels cannot be built to withstand such an accident.

"We might very greatly subdivide the forward compartments, where much space is lost at best, making the forward end, while amply strong for navigation purposes, of such construction that it would collapse and take up some of the energy of impact; then tie this to very much stronger sections farther aft. Many such plans will be proposed by those who do not realize the momentum of a great vessel which will snap great cables like ribbons, when the motion of the vessel is not perceptible to the eye.

"The proper plan is to avoid the accident, and if an accident is unavoidable to minimize the loss of life and property."


The Titanic disaster was discussed by Robert H. Kirk, who installed the compartment doors in the ships of the United States Navy. Mr. Kirk's opinion follows:

"The Titanic's disaster will cause endless speculation as to how similar disasters may be avoided in the future.


"The Titanic had bulkheads, plenty of them, for the rules of the British Board of Trade and of Lloyds are very specific and require enough compartments to insure floating of the ship though several may be flooded. She also had doors in the bulkheads, and probably plenty of them, for she was enormous and needed easy access from one compartment to another. It will probably never be known how FEW of these doors were closed when she struck the iceberg, but the probability is that many were open, for in the confusion attending such a crash the crews have a multitude of duties to perform, and closing a door with water rushing through it is more of a task than human muscle and bravery can accomplish.

"A Lloyds surveyor in testing one of these hand-operated doors started two men on the main deck to close it. They worked four hours before they had carried out his order. If all the doors on the ship had worked as badly as this one, what would have happened in event of accident?"


General Adolphus W. Greely, U. S. A., noted American traveler and Arctic explorer, vehemently denounced the sinking of the Titanic and the loss of over 1600 souls as a terrible sacrifice to the American mania for speed. He gave his opinion that the Titanic came to grief through an attempt on the part of the steamship management to establish a new record by the vessel on her maiden voyage.

The Titanic, General Greely declared, had absolutely no business above Cape Race and north of Sable Island on the trip on which she went to her doom. Choosing the northern route brought about the dire disaster, in his mind, and it was the saving of three hours for the sake of a new record that ended in the collision with the tragic victory for the ghostlike monster out of the far north.

It was the opinion of General Greely, capable of judging after his many trips in quest of the pole, that neither Captain Smith nor any of his officers saw the giant iceberg which encompassed their ruin until they were right upon it. Then, the ship was plunging ahead at such frightful velocity that the Titanic was too close to avert striking the barrier lined up across its path.



THE danger of collision with icebergs has always been one of the most deadly that confront the mariner. Indeed, so well recognized is this peril of the Newfoundland Banks, where the Labrador current in the early spring and summer months floats southward its ghostly argosy of icy pinnacles detached from the polar ice caps, that the government hydrographic offices and the maritime exchanges spare no pains to collate and disseminate the latest bulletins on the subject.


A most remarkable case of an iceberg collision is that of the Guion Liner, Arizona, in 1879. She was then the greyhound of the Atlantic, and the largest ship afloat—5750 tons except the Great Eastern. Leaving New York in November for Liverpool, with 509 souls aboard, she was coursing across the Banks, with fair weather but dark, when, near midnight, about 250 miles east of St. John's, she rammed a monster ice island at full speed eighteen knots. Terrific was the impact.

The welcome word was passed along that the ship, though sorely stricken, would still float until she could make harbor. The vast white terror had lain across her course,

{illust. caption = THE SHAPE OF AN ICEBERG

Showing the bulk and formation under water and the consequent danger to vessels even without actual contact with the visible part of the iceberg.}

stretching so far each way that, when described, it was too late to alter the helm. Its giant shape filled the foreground, towering high above the masts, grim and gaunt and ghastly, immovable as the adamantine buttresses of a frowning seaboard, while the liner lurched and staggered like a wounded thing in agony as her engines slowly drew her back from the rampart against which she had flung herself.

She was headed for St. John's at slow speed, so as not to strain the bulkhead too much, and arrived there thirty-six hours later. That little port—the crippled ship's hospital—has seen many a strange sight come in from the sea, but never a more astounding spectacle than that which the Arizona presented the Sunday forenoon she entered there.

"Begob, captain!" said the pilot, as he swung himself over the rail. "I've heard of carrying coals to Newcastle, but this is the first time I've seen a steamer bringing a load of ice into St. John's."

They are a grim race, these sailors, and, the danger over, the captain's reply was: "We were lucky, my man, that we didn't all go to the bottom in an ice box."


But to the one wounded ship that survives collision with a berg, a dozen perish. Presumably, when the shock comes, it loosens their bulkheads and they fill and founder, or the crash may injure the boilers or engines, which explode and tear out the sides, and the ship goes down like a plummet. As long ago as 1841, the steamer President, with 120 people aboard, crossing from New York to Liverpool in March, vanished from human ken. In 1854, in the same month, the City of Glasgow left Liverpool for Philadelphia with 480 souls, and was never again heard of. In February, 1856, the Pacific, from Liverpool for New York, carrying 185 persons, passed away down to a sunless sea. In May, 1870, the City of Boston, from that port for Liverpool, mustering 191 souls, met a similar fate. It has always been thought that these ships were sunk by collision with icebergs or floes. As shipping traffic has expanded, the losses have been more frequent. In February, 1892, the Naronic, from Liverpool for New York; in the same month in 1896, the State of Georgia, from Aberdeen for Boston; in February, 1899, the Alleghany, from New York for Dover; and once more in February, 1902, the Huronian, from Liverpool for St. John's—all disappeared without leaving a trace. Between February and May, the Grand Banks are most infested with ice, and collision therewith is' the most likely explanation of the loss of these steamers, all well manned and in splendid trim, and meeting only the storms which scores of other ships have braved without a scathe.


Among the important marine disasters recorded since 1866 are the following:

1866, Jan. 11.—Steamer London, on her way to Melbourne, foundered in the Bay of Biscay; 220 lives lost.

1866, Oct. 3.—Steamer Evening Star, from New York to New Orleans, foundered; about 250 lives lost.

1867, Oct. 29.—Royal Mail steamers Rhone and Wye and about fifty other vessels driven ashore and wrecked at St Thomas, West Indies, by a hurricane; about 1,000 lives lost.

1873, Jan. 22.—British steamer Northfleet sunk in collision off Dungeness; 300 lives lost

1873, Nov. 23.—White Star liner Atlantic wrecked off Nova Scotia; 547 lives lost.

1873, Nov. 23.—French line Ville du Havre, from New York to Havre, in collision with ship Locharn and sunk in sixteen minutes; 110 lives lost.

1874, Dec. 24.—Emigrant vessel Cospatrick took fire and sank off Auckland; 476 lives lost.

1875, May 7.—Hamburg Mail steamer Schiller wrecked in fog on Scilly Islands; 200 lives lost.

1875, Nov. 4.—American steamer Pacific in collision thirty miles southwest of Cape Flattery; 236 lives lost.

1878, March 24.—British training ship Eurydice, a frigate, foundered near the Isle of Wight; 300 lives lost.

1878, Sept. 3.—British iron steamer Princess Alice sunk in the Thames River; 700 lives lost.

1878, Dec. 18.—French steamer Byzantin sunk in collision in the Dardanelles with the British steamer Rinaldo; 210 lives lost.

1879, Dec. 2.—Steamer Borussia sank off the coast of Spain; 174 lives lost.

1880, Jan. 31.—British trading ship Atlanta left Bermuda with 290 men and was never heard from.

1881, Aug. 30.—Steamer Teuton wrecked off the Cape of Good Hope; 200 lives lost.

1883, July 3.—Steamer Daphne turned turtle in the Clyde; 124 lives lost.

1884, Jan. 18.—American steamer City of Columbus wrecked off Gay Head Light, Massachusetts; 99 lived lost.

1884, July 23.—Spanish steamer Gijon and British steamer Lux in collision off Finisterre; 150 lives lost.

1887, Jan. 29.—Steamer Kapunda in collision with bark Ada Melore off coast of Brazil; 300 lives lost.

1887, Nov. 15.—British steamer Wah Young caught fire between Canton and Hong Kong; 400 lives lost.

1888, Sept. 13.—Italian steamship Sud America and steamer La France in collision near the Canary Islands; 89 lives lost.

1889, March 16.—United States warships Trenton, Vandalia and Nipsic and German ships Adler and Eber wrecked on Samoan Islands; 147 lives lost.

1890, Jan. 2.—Steamer Persia wrecked on Corsica; 130 lives lost.

1890, Feb. 17.—British steamer Duburg wrecked in the China Sea; 400 lives lost.

1890, March 1.—British steamship Quetta foundered in Torres Straits; 124 lives lost.

1890, Dec. 27.—British steamer Shanghai burned in China Seas; 101 lives lost.

1891, March 17.—Anchor liner Utopia in collision with British steamer Anson off Gibraltar and sunk; 574 lives lost.

1892, Jan. 13.—Steamer Namehow wrecked in China Sea; 414 lives lost.

1892, Oct. 28.—Anchor liner Romania, wrecked off Portugal; 113 lives lost.

1893, Feb. 8.—Anchor liner Trinairia, wrecked off Spain; 115 lives lost.

1894, June 25.—Steamer Norge, wrecked on Rockall Reef, in the North Atlantic; nearly 600 lives lost.

1895, Jan. 30.—German steamer Elbe sunk in collision with British steamer Crathie in North Sea; 335 lives lost.

1898, July 4.—French line steamer La Bourgogne in collision with British sailing vessel Cromartyshire; 571 lives lost.

1898, Nov. 27.—American steamer Portland, wrecked off Cape Cod, Mass.; 157 lives lost.

1901, April 1.—Turkish transport Aslam wrecked in the Red Sea; over 180 lives lost.

1902, July 21.—Steamer Primus sunk in collision with the steamer Hansa on the Lower Elbe; 112 lives lost.

1903, June 7.—French steamer Libau sunk in collision with steamer Insulerre near Marseilles; 150 lives lost.

1904, June 15. General Slocum, excursion steamboat, took fire going through Hell Gate, East River; more than 1000 lives lost.

1906, Jan. 21.—Brazilian battleship Aquidaban sunk near Rio Janeiro by an explosion of the powder magazines; 212 lives lost.

1906, Jan. 22.—American steamer Valencia lost off Cloose, Pacific Coast; 140 lives lost.

1906, Aug. 4.—Italian emigrant ship Sirio struck a rock off Cape Palos; 350 lives lost.

1906, Oct. 21.—Russian steamer Variag, on leaving Vladivostock, struck by a torpedo and sunk; 140 lives lost.

1907, Feb. 12.—American steamer Larchmond sunk in collision off Rhode Island coast; 131 lives lost.

1907, July 20.—American steamers Columbia and San Pedro collided on the Californian coast; 100 lives lost.

1907, Nov. 26.—Turkish steamer Kaptain foundered in the North Sea; 110 lives lost.

1908, March 23.—Japanese steamer Mutsu Maru sunk in collision near Hakodate; 300 lives lost.

1908, April 30.—Japanese training cruiser Matsu Shima sunk off the Pescadores owing to an explosion; 200 lives lost.

1909, Jan. 24.—Collision between the Italian steamer Florida and the White Star liner Republic, about 170 miles east of New York during a fog; a large number of lives were saved by the arrival of the steamer Baltic, which received the "C. Q. D.," or distress signal sent up by wireless by the Republic January 22. The Republic sank while being towed; 6 lives lost.

1910, Feb. 9.—French line steamer General Chanzy off Minorca; 200 lives lost.

1911, Sept. 25.—French battleship Liberte sunk by explosion in Toulon harbor; 223 lives lost.

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