One Hundredth Anniversary Titanic Voyage

Two years ago, Bruce Caplan asked me to fill in for him on a special Royal Caribbean voyage out of Southampton, the very port from which the ill-fated RMS Titanic set sail on April 10, 1912. The Independence of the Seas cruise director had requested a Titanic author to provide a series of informative talks to mark the sailing of the famous luxury liner one hundred years to the day.  When my wife Donna and I flew to London, as we had just been there the six months earlier, we decided to time our arrival on the same day of the departure of the Independence of the Seas for its eleven day voyage to the Canary Islands and return.

The Queen Mary 2 at port in Southampton. This is where the Titanic left from on her maiden voyage.

The Queen Mary 2 at port in Southampton. This is where the Titanic left from on her maiden voyage.

The Maritime Museum in Lisbon Portugal may just be the finest in the world. This was one of our port days and really worth the time.

The Maritime Museum in Lisbon Portugal may just be the finest in the world. This was one of our port days and really worth the time.

By Ken Rossignol

Titanic Speakers Bureau

Ken on Independence of the Seas

Ken Rossignol on The Independence of The Seas

Being at sea with a series of talks about the history, the people, the heroes of the Titanic was not only an exceptional honor and challenge but a thrill to be asked to bring the story alive in a way consistent with history and at the same time, to be meaningful to a modern audience. The huge Independence of The Seas is in many ways, a modern Titanic, with the chief difference being that this ship made it past its maiden voyage, without being on fire or sinking.

Southampton is a bustling city and one of the chief ports in the UK and Europe just as it was in 1912.

Southampton is a bustling city and one of the chief ports in the UK and Europe just as it was in 1912.

The similarities for the passengers is truly in the imagination. Imagining the grand staircase down which Mrs. J.J. Brown, the newly minted millionaire, flowed with her Missourian dignity intact, brings to mind the equally grand appointments of the Independence of the Seas.  The three-story dining room with a grand piano to entertain during the evening meal harkens back to the plush dining room that seated hundreds on the Titanic.

Plenty of room, plenty of tables, plenty of food on the grand Independence of The Seas, one of Royal Caribbean's majestic ships.  The Chesapeake photos

Plenty of room, plenty of tables, plenty of food on the grand Independence of The Seas, one of Royal Caribbean’s majestic ships. The Chesapeake photos

The Independence of the Seas voyage had a majority of Brits traveling on their Easter season trip to warmth and sunshine in Spain and the Canaries. The voyage of the Titanic to New York two hundred years earlier certainly lacked any warm weather but it held the promise of reaching a land of opportunity and hope for so many who had sold their last belongings to get a fresh start in America and Canada.

Musicians entertain at dinner on the Independence of the Seas.

Musicians entertain at dinner on the Independence of the Seas.

As we traveled to ports in Portugal, Spain and the Canaries as well as Madeira, our sea days were the times in which my enrichment sessions on the Titanic were held. It is quite a challenge to go up against bingo and belly flop contests, which are often the chief entertainment on other ships, but this British crowd were a bit more intense as was the weather. Thus with as many as three hundred and fifty earnest listeners in attendance, I did the best I could to explain how the Titanic had been on fire from the time the ship left Southampton.

Barbara and Malcolm Lock of London serve the board of the National Maritime Museum and offered invaluable insights of the British experience of the Titanic. They joined us every day for breakfast in the grand dining room.

Barbara and Malcolm Lock of London serve the board of the National Maritime Museum and offered invaluable insights of the British experience of the Titanic. They joined us every day for breakfast in the grand dining room.

There had been a coal strike during the winter of 1911 and 1912 and coal was hoarded for this important maiden voyage. The final preparations of the ship had been delayed in order to provide repairs to the Olympic which had been damaged in a collision with the British cruiser Hawk. Therefore, an important protocol had not been followed, that of keeping the stored coal dampened. When the ship left port, deep down in the bowels of coal bunker number six, the coal self-ignited, as coal can do. Those who have BBQ grill charcoal at home should be cautious to keep their charcoal in a metal can with a lid on it or the same could happen to you. Many a shed fire has likely been blamed on electrical wiring when the truth might be that of spontaneous combustion of a bag of charcoal.
Ken Titanic graphic

In any event, we know this startling information due to the testimony of the surviving crewmen of the Titanic who told the American and British hearings about what caused the ship had to sink about the fire.

The arrival of the passengers of the Titanic in New York was very different from that of passengers of the sister ship Olympic for the year leading up to April of 1912. This was the scene of the wait for the survivors in New York City.

The arrival of the passengers of the Titanic in New York was very different from that of passengers of the sister ship Olympic for the year leading up to April of 1912. This was the scene of the wait for the survivors in New York City.

Mr. J. Dilley of the Titanic said at the United States Senate Commerce Committee hearing in New York City, as was reported in the New York World the following day, that a crew of 12 had fought the fire in four hour shifts, around the clock. “We had made no headway,” he said. “We thought when we arrived in New York and got the passengers off, that we would have to bring a fireboat alongside to get the fire out.”

Perhaps the sculptor who created this gem had read Bram Stoker's Dracula before he decorated this building in La Corona.

Perhaps the sculptor who created this gem had read Bram Stoker’s Dracula before he decorated this building in La Corona.

What is the significance of the fire?  The fire burned the coal bunker six sidewalls in the same exact place where the ship came into collision with the iceberg and we had a vivid lesson in what heat does to metal when the hijacked airliners flew into the World Trade Center in 2001. More of the fire is covered in Bruce Caplan’s book, The Sinking of the Titanic and in my book, Titanic 1912.

"Be British" - The last words of the Titanic's master, Capt. E. J. Smith

“Be British” – The last words of the Titanic’s master, Capt. E. J. Smith

 

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