Titantic: Voyage to Eternity

Voyage to Eternity:
The Sinking of the Titanic

by Larry D. Wright

“[God] give us help from trouble; for vain is the help of man”.
Psalm 60:11

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Proverbs 16:18

            On April 10, 1912, at 12:00 noon, the pride of the White Star Fleet, the wonder ship, Titanic, whose name means “the strongest of the gods”, left South Hampton, England, headed for New York. It was her maiden voyage and was scheduled to last six days. Leaving the dock the Titanic almost collided with another ship, New York, raising the ominous question, “Did this foreshadow her tragic destiny?” The first four days of the journey went as scheduled with the exception of some minor problems with the massive seven and a half million dollar creation, proudly hailed as “the unsinkable ship”. Actually, ship designer Thomas Andrews had once said that the Titanic was “practically unsinkable”. The press conveniently omitted the word “practically” and claimed that she was “unsinkable”.

            In command was Captain Edward J. Smith who had served thirty-eight years with the White Star Company. The highest paid captain afloat, Smith had logged two million miles abroad White Star ships. He was almost sixty years old and was scheduled to retire after this final prestigious trip aboard the ultimate in luxury travel. Little did he know that before the voyage ended he would deposit his body in the sea that he had crossed so many times. Ironically, in 1907 Captain Smith declared, “ I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder...Modern ship-building has gone beyond that.” He went on to say, “When anyone asks me how I can best describe my experience in nearly forty years at sea, I merely say, uneventful. Of course, there have been Winter gales, and storms and fog and the like. But in all my experience, I have never been in any accident...or any sort worth speaking about. I have seen but one vessel in distress in all my years at sea. I never saw a wreck and never have been wrecked nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort.” [1] Obviously, that record came to an abrupt end on that April night.

            To fully comprehend the disaster, one must understand the attitude that existed at the turn of the century since the Titanic event did not occur in a vacuum but in a cultural moment in time. Optimism was the code word of the day as experts boasted of the tremendous strides being made by the sciences. In fact, they openly claimed that the new scientific discoveries would save their world. Built at the height of the Industrial Age, a time when technology ruled as a “god”, the Titanic was an icon representing the thinking of the day, that man was the master of his fate and the captain of his soul. The fictional character Rose DeWitt Bukater in the 1997 movie Titanic sums up the arrogance of the first class passengers on board, “They [the men] will retreat in a cloud of smoke and congratulate each other on being masters of the universe.” [2] This “floating city” represented all the power, wealth, luxury and arrogance of its age. She was a pleasure palace, “a monstrous floating Babylon filled with delights” [3] and the product of early 20th century industrial vigor, a tangible sign of western progress which supported a naive confidence in the boundless limits of technology in man’s conquest over nature. Many, myself included, interpret the disaster as a metaphor for the failure of industrial civilization to build for itself an unsinkable tomorrow without God. Walter Lord, author of the 1955 bestseller A Night To Remember, observed, “The Titanic more than any other single event, marks the end of the old days and the beginning of a new, uneasy era.” [4] This disaster symbolized a loss of innocence as a time of certainty was replaced with a degree of doubt.

            The poem by William Earnest Henley entitled Invictus, published in 1875,expresses the mood of the day when the Titanic captured world attention: 

Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul. It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll I am the master of my fate I am the captain of my soul.

            The Titanic was the epitome of all the “new age” thinking that existed on both sides of the ocean, in Edwardian England and the Progressive Era in America. What could possibly stop the engines of progress with the captains of the universe in control? In a sense, she was a floating tower of Babel, the creation of man’s hands and an object worthy of worship. She was unsinkable, invincible. She was proof that man was on his way to conquering the universe and in the process he had shoved God to the back corner of his life. Several passengers wrote in their diaries that they overheard one deck hand proclaim to a nervous second-class passenger, “Even God himself can not sink this ship.” James Cameron, Director of the current popular movie Titanic, comments: “It is for this reason [the mood of 1912] that the Titanic will endure as one of the most potent symbols of the twentieth century, more so, perhaps, that either World War or the atomic bomb. For the ship was not destroyed by an iceberg alone...it was also destroyed by a state of mind.” [5]

            It was a bright spring afternoon as the “Queen of the Seas” gently crossed the English Channel, arriving at her first port-of-call in Cherbourg, France. Here she took aboard mail and 274 new passengers, 142 first-class arrivals, 30 second-class passengers and more than a hundred steerage passengers. In a strange twist of fate for some, twenty-two passengers disembarked the Titanic in France, having only crossed the English Channel aboard the world’s “largest, safest, steadiest ship afloat.” [6] This magnificent floating city on the sea gracefully departed the Cherbough Harbor and sailed for her second and final port before heading across the Atlantic to America. Queenstown was located on the rugged Irish coast where the Titanic took on 7 additional second-class passengers, 113 third-class passengers and 194 sacks of mail. A few other travelers departed the ship at Queenstown. Among them was a twenty-four year old fireman, John Coffey, who smuggled himself ashore under a pile of empty mail bags. [7]

            At 1:30 on the afternoon of April 11, with 1,321 passengers and 908 crew members abroad, the ship’s massive whistles intoned three times, and the leviathan steamed out for the open sea. As the ship left port, science teacher Beesley wrote, “the sun rose behind us in a sky of circular clouds...It was a beautiful sight to one who had not crossed the ocean before...”. [8] Despite several ice alerts, the ship raced across the calm Atlantic gradually increasing her speed so as to reach New York on Wednesday, April 17, or perhaps even a day ahead of schedule. On Friday she covered 386 miles, on Saturday 519 miles and 546 miles on that fateful Sunday. A great part of the mystery surrounding the Titanic, a mystic that has held people captive for years, is that we have a ship on her maiden voyage who never reached her destination! The incompleteness of that mission will always leave the final chapter of the Titanic disaster unwritten.

            As the Titanic’s twin, four-story tall reciprocating engines churned at their maximum output of 30,000 hp, they forced the Titanic through the icy waters of the Atlantic. No one would have dared predict the catastrophic events that would take place at 11:40 PM on that calm, moonless Sunday night. The shock was felt around the world...the New York Times headlines read, “NEW LINER TITANIC HITS AN ICEBERG; SINKING BY THE BOW AT MIDNIGHT; WOMEN PUT IN LIFEBOATS; LAST WIRELESS AT 12:27 A.M. BLURRED.”

            It was unbelievably true. The unsinkable Titanic had sideswiped an iceberg 800 miles off the coast of New Foundland and 1,600 miles from her destination. She was hit on the starboard side opening a series of six thin slits, some only as wide as a human finger, located some twenty feet below the waterline. Modern Sonar imaging has allowed scientists to “see through the mud” by acoustic technology. Their discovery reveals that the actual damage totaled no more that 12 square feet, approximately the size of an average refrigerator! Most likely the slits were a result of as the rivets popping causing separation to occur between the hull plates. [9] However, the damage was spread unevenly in six compartments, each suffering its own individual damage. With high-pressure impact, the water rushed into her hull at a powerful rate of 7 tons per second. In the span of ten minutes after impact, most of the six damaged compartments were already flooded to the top. As a result, the combination of high water pressure and 12 square feet of damage resulted in the sinking of the largest, safest liner in the world!

            The encounter lasted only ten seconds and was described by Frederick Fleet, one of the two watchouts in the crows nest, in the following way: “I thought it was a narrow shave.” Passenger Lady Duff Gordon heard a noise that sounded “as though someone had drawn a giant finger all along the side of the boat.” [10] Contrary to widespread belief, the Titanic did not have a head-on collision with an iceberg, a scenario that that would have been far better. Unfortunately, since three quarters of the iceberg was underwater, the ship brushed the iceberg’s underside side creating the mortal wounds. 

            Even after the collision few passengers were aware of the extent of the danger and no one believed there was enough damage to cause the ship to sink. After all, she was invincible, and she had taken a hard lick and withstood the test. However, today she lies beneath 2½ miles of salty sea water as a testimony that man’s ingenuity and intelligence is no substitute for God after all. I’m not sure the world of 1912 or today comprehends that message. A prophet among Southern Baptist, Vance Havner once said, “I’m not sure that the world has ever gotten over the sinking of the Titanic.” At the time, I did not understand that statement. Now I do and, I agree.

            “What emerges”, says John Eaeton and Charles Haas, “is the paradox that the Titanic was concurrently one of the darkest moment’s in maritime history and one of the brightest. Though soon displaced by the Great War’s terror, the Titanic’s loss changed forever the way humans considered themselves, their environment, and their relation to Nature”. [11] The real tragedy was not simply in the loss of the “millionaires special”, another nick-name given to this floating luxury liner. There were 2,229 [12] passengers and employees on board. 1,523 of those souls lost their lives in the 28 degree water of the Atlantic. Few drowned. Most died of exposure to the elements. 

            This ship represented a deceptive lie, the lie that man is sufficient without God ruling his life. Survivor Frances Fisher said, “It was a disaster that didn’t need to happen. It was all about thinking with the ego instead of with the heart. And above all it was all about arrogance. God is greater than all of us, and if you are so arrogant as to say something is unsinkable, you will get slapped in the face.” [13] That fateful night a death blow was delivered to this humanistic philosophy. The question still remains, “Has man ever gotten the message... man without God is sinkable after all!”


            The Titanic had received immediate worldwide publicity as the first unsinkable ship. She was a masterpiece of man’s creative genius and a picture of extreme extravagance. She was not only the largest moving object ever made, she was also the most opulent and well-equipped. They spared no expense in making the Titanic, “the last word in luxury.” Mrs. Charlotte Drake Cardeza, her son, her husbands valet and her maid boarded the ship along with 14 trunks, 4 suitcases and 3 crates of baggage, later valued at $177,352.75. She reserved suite B51, three rooms with its own promenade, for a cost of $4,350 which would compare to approximately $50,000 today! She was saved abroad lifeboat #3.

            The ship herself was 882 feet and nine inches long (four city blocks) and 92½ feet wide. She weighed 46,328 tons and her nine decks made her as high as an eleven story building. She was the largest moving object ever built by man. Her three anchors weighed 15½ tons each. One link in the anchor chain weighed 175 pounds. Her 12 foot thick double hull was ingeniously designed into 16 watertight compartments. She could stay afloat with any two compartments flooded. Although there were four funnels, each one large enough to drive two trains through, only the front three three were used. The Titanic’s stern funnel was fake and only used as a ventilator. It made the ship look bigger and it was a common belief in that day that the more funnels a ship had, the faster it was.

            She sported tennis and squash courts, and was the first oceanliner to have a swimming pool and a gym. In addition, there was a Turkish bath, a French restaurant with French waiters, a hospital equipped with an operating room, beauty salons, barber shops, a crane for loading automobiles, and four elevators, three in First Class and one in Second Class. All of these were indeed luxurious, for at the turn of the century, indoor plumbing and electric push buttons were novelties.

            She proudly supported nine steel decks. The uppermost deck was for the elite first class passengers, all 337 of them who were worth an estimated 500 million dollars. The middle three decks accommodated the second class passengers. There were 712 of them, mostly immigrants from Ireland, Italy, France, and the Middle East.

Her Hulls Was Filled With Precious Cargo...

            In her bays she carried cargo worth $420,000 including 30 cases of golf clubs and tennis rackets for A.G. Spalding; a case of china for Tiffany’s; one 35 hp Renault automobile for a passenger, William E. Carter [14]. In addition, on board were 900 tons of baggage; 3,435 bags of mail, 12,000 dinner plates engraved with the White Star emblem and 40,000 towels. There was enough food on board to feed a town for several days including: 75,000 pounds of fresh meat, 40,000 eggs, 40 tons of potatoes, 1,750 pounds of ice cream, 2,200 pounds of coffee, 1,000 bottles of wine.

            The Titanic provided kennels for the many first class passengers who brought their dogs on board. The canines ranged from Mr. Harry Anderson’s Chow, valued at fifty dollars to Robert W. Daniel’s champion French bulldog, Gamon de Pycombe, valued at an astronomical seven hundred fifty dollars! Of all the dogs on board, only two survived, escaping on early lifeboats carrying so few people that no one objected. A crew member reported releasing all the dogs from their kennels, sparing them from being trapped as the ship went down. Several survivors testified that they saw dogs swimming along with passengers in the freezing water. [15]

            The ship transported some of the most important and wealthy people in the world. John Jacob Astor, worth 150 million dollars and age 47 was the wealthiest passenger on board, was returning from Egypt with his new 18 year old bride, Madeleine, who was five months pregnant. She survived the sinking but he did not. When his body (#124) was recovered, he had more than $2,000 in his pockets. Major Archibald Butt, a military aid to President Taft, was returning from a meeting with the pope when he met his death. Benjamin Dugahim, the owner of the American Smelting and Refining Company, who was worth 50 million dollars was on board. J. Bruce Ismay, the managing director of the White Star Line was aboard. He was worth 40 million dollars. He survived the disaster and was heavily criticized for not going down with the ship he managed. The American press condemned Ismay as an opportunistic coward until the time of his death in 1937 at the age of 74. His wife often said, “The Titanic disaster almost ruined our lives.” Isidor and Ida Strauss, owner of the famous Macy’s Department store and a former member of congress, were returning home to New York after spending a winter holiday on the French Riviera. Worth an estimated 95 million dollars, both perished, arm in arm. The countess of Rothes, Noel Lucy Martha Dyer-Edwards, was aboard the liner that night. She was a passenger on lifeboat #8. William T. Stead, the crusading English journalist, was on his way to speak to a peace conference in Carnegie Hall at the invitation of President William Taft. He was last seen quietly reading in the first class smoking room.

            The list is lengthy of the rich and famous passengers aboard the unsinkable Titanic. Many of them could have bought the Titanic but their riches meant nothing in the face of death. They died right beside the Irish immigrants who were coming to America to homestead the land for, indeed, death is no respecter of persons. Following the tragedy, a Chicago minister eulogized, “They sleep tonight together, peasant and millionaire. What a democratic grave is this where its inmates are never to awake or weep!” [16]

            In a sermon after the sinking of the Titanic, Dr. Charles H. Parkhurst, Pastor of the Madison Square Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, said of the disaster: “The picture that presents itself before my eyes is that of the glassy, glaring eyes of the victims, staring meaninglessly at the gilded furnishings of this sunken palace of the sea; dead helplessness wrapped in priceless luxury; jewels valued in seven figures becoming the strange playthings of the queer creatures that sport in the dark depths. Everything for existence, nothing for life. Grand men, charming women, beautiful babies, all becoming horrible in the midst of the glittering splendor of a $10,000,000 casket.” [17]

            Don’t miss the point. These self-made millionaires, coononed in incomparable luxury and comfort, walked calmly and cockily on board that ship secure in their own human resources, never realizing death was so very close. They falsely thought of themselves as being as unsinkable as the ship upon which they trusted their lives. All of their wealth, success, prestige, pointed to the fact that they were invincible, unsinkable. Their lifestyle promoted a false sense of security and made them feel that they were in control of their fate when, in reality, nothing could have been further from the truth. The fact is, so stated one preacher following the disaster, “There is no spot upon the face of the earth, nor upon the sea, where man is safe; there is no inch of surface of either land or water where he need not be prepared for death; there is no second time throughout the seasons when he can say, ‘I shall not die.’” [18]

A Tragedy of Errors...

            As the drama unfolds, the tragedy of errors on that fateful night can not be blamed on one single event or individual. A series of human blunders and oversights caused the ship to sink. Details in design and construction were flawed from the beginning. When the Titanic was found, small pieces of the hull were brought up for examination and testing. The results of the extensive metallurgical analysis revealed the levels of sulfur in the steel were dangerously high. The sulfur weakened the strength of the steel and basically turned it into a brittle, weak shell. Consequently, the Titanic appears to have been a sailing disaster from the get-go and not the unsinkable vessel her reputation claimed. 

            When you add to all that has been stated previously (i.e., the arrogance of the hour and the unhealthy dependence on technology) these additional oversights: outdated lifeboat regulations, unheeded warnings and speed, you have the necessary ingredients for the receipt that all contributed to the tragedy of the Titanic and the loss of life that accompanied it. Since 1912 the question has been raised, “Could the Titanic’s tragic outcome have been prevented?” Modern day experts sitting before computer monitors are able to simulate several hypothetical scenarios to help answer that haunting question. They conclude, if the boat had struck the iceberg head on instead of grazing it, the ship might have actually survived. In this scenario, the first 100 feet of the bow would have crumpled like an accordion, killing a number of passengers and crew, but would have most likely stayed afloat. What if the watertight doors had been left open so that the flooding would have been evenly distributed? That decision, they concluded, would have proved totally disastrous for the ship would have sank even faster resulting in greater loss of life. Aside from hitting the iceberg head on, there is only one other action that could have saved the ship...slowing down! If she had been traveling at half as fast as the 22.5 knot speed, according to naval architect Bill Garzke, she would have suffered far less damage, and fewer compartments would have been flooded. [19] The leviathan could have limped into New York harbor with a bruised pride but at least afloat. 

            There are so many uncanny truths concerning the sinking of the Titanic that parallel the plight of people of every age who refuse God His rightful place in their life and instead demand to navigate by the dim light of pride. There are many lessons that can be learned if we will examine the facts and have an open heart to learn.

Theory vs. Fact

            First, there existed the deceptive lie that man can navigate his life safely on theory.

            Not long after the Titanic disaster occurred, a media cartoonist hit the nail on the head with his pungent pen. He sketched a huge iceberg and labeled it Fact. He sketched a sinking ship and labeled it Theory.

            Theory says that 66,000 tons of ship with a 12 foot thick double lined hull traveling at 20 knots would cut through anything. Fact says when a ship of that enormity hits an iceberg, the impact will be equal to 1,173,200 foot tons of energy or enough energy to lift fourteen structures the size of the Washington Monument in one second. Even today, pictures of the Titanic’s wreckage verify the conclusion of marine engineers in 1912. There was absolutely no hope of the Titanic staying afloat after the collision. Fact will defeat theory every time!

            And yet there are millions of modern people who continue to place their hope for happiness and eternity on some humanistic theory rather than the fact of what God has stated in His Word. The examples are limitless. Solomon, the wisest man in the world sought to find happiness through wealth, power, wisdom, pleasure, even abandoning himself in his work. In the final analysis he declared, “So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All is meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiates 2:17). Then at last he abandoned his selfish pursuits and concluded, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiates 12:13). Solomon discovered the vanity of basing his life on worldly theories to find happiness for he only found emptiness instead. However, when he stood on the fact of God’s clear truth, he found the purpose of life for which he sought. Again, many seek after happiness by chasing some popular theory. That ignore the clear teachings of Jesus who said, “...everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. ...But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand” (Matthew 7:24-27). Two men. Two different scenarios. One survived while the other perished because he made a bad choice.

            You can rest assured that when theory collides with fact...fact will win every time! The truth revealed in Jesus Christ is a fact and He alone can safely navigate your life through the oceans of uncertainty.      

Failure to Heed Warnings Is Always Fatal

            Secondly, there was a reckless, carefree failure to heed all warnings.

            On Sunday, April 14, 1912 the huge Titanic sliced through the icy Atlantic at full speed, 23 knots. The owners of the ship had complete faith that in spite of her size, the Titanic would be able to break the trans-Atlantic speed record, or at least come close. She sped ahead in defiance of at least six warnings from nearby vessels. The warnings began early that morning at 9:40 AM from the ship Caronia who warned that icebergs and growers had been spotted. Following that initial warning, others followed: 1:00 PM (Baltic); 3:00 PM (American); 7:30 PM (Californian); the 9:40 PM message from the Mesaba warned of “heavy ice field and a great number of large icebergs.” The Titanic was presently within that designated ice field. Yet she sped forward. Captain Smith went to bed at 9:40 PM leaving the following orders: “...full speed ahead. Post double watch. Wake me if anything doubtful arises.” When the Frankfurt’s operator tried to interrupt an exchange between the Titanic and the Olympic, the Titanic’s operator tapped out, “You fool, stand by and keep out.” [20] At 11:00 PM the Californian informed the Titanic that she was stopped, being completely surrounded by ice. The wireless operator ignored the message, being too busy arranging New York hotel reservations, business appointments, etc. for his exclusive passengers. Little did he know that the Californian message came from less than twenty miles away and in less than forty minutes the unsinkable hull would be lacerated by an invincible iceberg.

            The two lookouts in the crows nest sent three warnings over a span of fifteen minutes to the bridge below that an iceberg had been spotted. There was no answer. At 11:40 p.m., they rang again. This time there was an answer. The message was short and simple: “Iceberg right ahead.” First officer Murdoch ordered the ship “hard a’ starboard”, and then reversed the engines, but this caused the collision to be more certain because the ship began moving toward port. Thirty-seven seconds later, the starboard hull sideswiped the iceberg, opening six of the sixteen watertight compartments and the unsinkable Titanic started drawing water that would eventually engulf her.

            Even after the ship had struck the iceberg and over a ton of ice lay scattered on the deck, a group of gamblers were warned that the ship was sinking. They went out on deck, looked around, laughed and went back to their poker game. Many ladies refused to wear the life preservers because they didn’t want to soil their expensive gowns and furs. One man, Ben Guggenheim, exchanged his life belt for formal attire. He said if he were to perish, he wanted to die like a gentleman. Most of the first class passengers refused to leave their suites because of the cold. Many actually laughed at the warning that the ship was sinking.

            Likewise, people today are safely embedded in their individual comfort zones. Anesthetized by their surroundings, they fail to heed any warnings and steam forward at full speed. Occasionally God will interrupt their lives with a rebuke only to be rejected by a heart filled with pride. Any person who refuses to heed a warning issued by God is acting as foolishly as the crew of the Titanic who raced full speed into the night in a sea strewn full of icebergs. We are foolish when we fail to recognize that there are icebergs ahead in all of our lives. Therefore, we must proceed with caution. In a line of dialogue that Cameron cut from the Titanic script before shooting, old Rose admonished her captive audience aboard the Keldysh, “There’s another iceberg out there...I don’t know what it is...but I do know the force driving us toward it.” [21] I do too...it is pride!

We have plenty of time!

            There existed the foolish attitude, “We have plenty of time.”

            One of the saddest chapters to the disaster was the fact that the Titanic carried only sixteen wooden 65 passenger lifeboats and four collapsible boats on her spacious deck. Although the ship had lifesaving capacity for 1,178 people, less than half the 3,547 passengers and crew she was designed to carry, she surpassed the lifeboat requirements of her day by over 17 percent. This tragedy is compounded by the fact that only one boat left close to full capacity. At 12:45 A.M., the first lifeboat, No. 7, with a capacity of 65 was lowered into the water with just 28 people on board! Again, at 12:55 AM., lifeboat No. 6 left with less than 28 people; No. 5 lowered with 41 and No. 3 lowered with 32, all had a capacity for 65. At 1:10 A.M. boat No. 1 left with 12 people but had a capacity of 40! Two of the four Englehardt collapsible rafts left with absolutely no one aboard.

            After the impact, Captain Smith conferred with ship designer Thomas Andrews who had personally inspected the ship for damage. He informed the Captain that the ship would founder and had no more than an hour and a half to stay afloat. The commander scribbled a note for the wireless operator. It included their position and the Marconi call for assistance, CQD, followed by the Titanic’s call letters MGY. Actually, it took the massive structure two hours and forty minutes to sink below the water’s surface. People aboard thought they had plenty of time and so gamblers returned to their tables, drinkers to the bar. In the smoking room, one of the card players pointed to his whiskey glass and jokingly suggested that someone run out on the deck for ice to chill his drink. Seaman Joseph Scarrett had been enjoying a smoke when the ship started shaking. He reported, “Those of the crew who were asleep in their bunks turned out, and we all rushed on deck to see what was the matter. We found that the ship had struck an iceberg as there was a large quantity of ice...on the starboard side of the foredeck. We did not think it very serious so went below again, cursing the iceberg for disturbing us.” [22] Passenger Henry Harper recalled, “Everyone seemed confident that the ship was all right.” In fact, the stewards reassured the passengers that the ship would merely be delayed a couple of hours and that they were to go back to bed. Some passengers rode the stationary bicycles in the gymnasium to pass the time as the ship foundered, falsely thinking it would be morning before she sank and help would be there by then. Others were on the deck chipping pieces of frost off the fragments of ice and soon became engaged in a snowball battle.

            At first, there was no immediate reason to be alarmed for few had any idea that the ship was in peril. There was no cry in the night, no alarm given, no reason to be afraid. In brief, there existed a real sense of false security because, after all, they were on board the Titanic. Many on board could have been saved if they had acted immediately instead of waiting until it was too late. 

            It is extremely difficult to convince people of the perilous and precarious condition of life. Everyone is only one heart beat from eternity. Life is so fragile and filled with uncertainty. It must be taken seriously. Every moment we procrastinate doing what is right, we are closer to the icy waters of death. When you realize that the philosophy you have based your life on is sinking, it will be too late and there will be nothing you can do to stop the passing of time. The stakes are too high for anyone to waste life and, please understand...you don’t have plenty of time!

Almost Is Not Close Enough!

            Of the many sad chapters in the Titanic story, few are more pathetic than this one. The ship California, who had informed the Titanic that she was stopped being completely surrounded by ice, issued a warning at 11:00 PM,  just forty minutes before the Titanic struck the iceberg. She was less than ten miles away and had the capacity to hold all of the passengers aboard the Titanic, but operators had turned the radio off. Crew members abroad the California actually saw the distress rockets fired from the Titanic but concluded that they were intended to identify the location and not a distress signal.

            As the Titanic emptied her most precious cargo, over 1,500 human lives into the sea, and plunged into the blackness of the night, the coldness they felt was so intense that it was indistinguishable from fire. Twenty minutes passed. Ten minutes passed. The wail of the masses slowly faded to a few individual cries for help. Their voices were the voices of the damned. In life, almost is fatal! A person who is almost saved is lost altogether. Coming close doesn’t count in life or eternity.

Scenes of Bravery and Cowardice

            Of the events that followed the Titanic’s fatal encounter with an iceberg on the night of April 14-15, 1912, much has been written and pondered. Deeds of heroism and acts of dastardly cowardice, episodes of terror and tragedy, inspiring moments of unselfish sacrifice, all have been chronicled, all have been considered and interpreted. When the reality that they would sink came in like a flood, there were many examples of both heroism and cowardice from the first-class section to the steerage passengers on board. As the forward section filled with water and sank beneath the sea, a series of explosions sent passengers scampering for the few remaining lifeboats. Survivors out in the dark reported hearing gunshots. No one has ever been certain why the shots were fired. One survivor reported seeing Captain Smith take his own life with a revolver. Actually, no one knows what happened to Captain Smith, except that he did not survive. There are many theories. Some survivors, almost to be a fact, said they saw him swim to the overturned collapsible lifeboat B to give the people on top of it a baby. They said he then swam for a short distance before disappearing. That theory can not be proven but suffice it to say that Captain Smith went down with his ship. He knew his fate was sealed when he first heard the damage report from ship designer Thomas Andrews. Statistics prove that the crew of the ship were noble in their service, many died at their post. Of 908 crew members, 696 (75%) did not survive. 

            Ida Straus was offered a seat in lifeboat 8 but since her husband refused to board until all women and children were safely taken off the boat, she declined to leave her husband’s side stating, “We have been living together for many years, and where you go I go.” After giving her fur coat to her maid, who descended in a boat, she and her husband watched calmly as the lifeboats filled. Benjamin Guggenhim gave his life jacket to another and changed into elegant evening attire determined to die dressed like a gentleman. He told a steward, “I won’t die here like a beast. Tell my wife...I played the game straight to the end. No woman shall be left on board this ship because Ben Guggenheim is a coward.” In the third class dining saloon, a crowd of passengers realizing the fate about to befall them, gathered in solemn assembly for prayer. In steerage, hundreds were in a circle with a preacher in the middle, praying, crying.

            The parting was horrible as children were snatched from the arms of their parents. One baby was literally thrown like a football to passengers in a descending lifeboat. Bob Garner, senior producer for Focus on the Family Films, interviewed survivor Eva Hart. Just seven years old at the time of the voyage, she and her mother were put on a lifeboat while her father stayed behind. She recalled hearing the screams echoing across the freezing black water as the ship rose up and went down. “It was absolutely dreadful”, she reflected as tears welled up in her eyes. [23]

            One twelve year old boy would not leave his father. Both died in the icy Atlantic.
Most of the men and teenage boys heeded the command on deck, “women and children first”, and helped load the lifeboats. They stood bravely and sang hymns as the ships band played to the very end. A 1912 illustrative drawing of the sinking was entitled “Meet Me In New York”. It depicted a husband kissing his wife and children good-bye as their lifeboat was lowered from the ship. The pain of families being separated was unimaginable. Indeed, there were many acts of heroism that night.

            Unfortunately, there were others who displayed a sinister type of character. They slyly made their way back to the rooms and donned women’s clothing in order to get a place in a lifeboat and save themselves. They jumped from the decks onto the lifeboats being lowered to the waters beneath. As lifeboat 5 descended, loaded to capacity, four men brazenly jumped into it. One, weighing 250 pounds, fell on top of a woman, knocking her unconscious and fracturing two of her ribs. As the forward section of Titanic listed ever deeper in the Atlantic, fear and panic reigned causing passengers to rush lifeboat 14 which already had sixty aboard. Fifth Officer Lowe fired his revolver three times as a warning.  

            True character is always revealed in a crises for you don’t have time to construct a life in a horrible moment in time. You react a certain way because that is who you are, regardless of the class where culture places you. The Titanic reflected her times, her first class section clearly divided from the third class passengers in steerage. It revealed the social order of that day. Following the event, an Atlanta minister pointed out that it is character, not class, that distinguishes one at death. “A multi-millionaire and a man from steerage stand side by side. Each has an equal place and chance, and yet they are not equal. Cowards and heroes are there. The issue of the hour reveals them. The trappings of life are swept away--men are equal, character abides, men are unequal. Thus they meet God.” [24] Perhaps one of the alluring mysteries of the Titanic tragedy is that it causes each of us to ask ourselves, “How would I have reacted? Would I have demonstrated bravery or cowardice in the face of such a horrendous event?”


            And so, sometime between midnight and dawn, the unsinkable Titanic came to rest on the bottom of the Atlantic. Until 1985 its location remained a mystery. 1,523 men, women and children perished when the great ship Titanic went down into the depths of the sea. To those individuals, the Titanic’s maiden and final outing was A Voyage Into Eternity. Regardless of their social class, each of those souls are in heaven or hell this very moment. As you read these words, the hull of the RMS Titanic lies rusting of the sea floor. Soon, in a generation, possibly two, corrosion and bacterial activity shall take their toll. The wreck shall no longer exist. However, the spiritual message of the Titanic will continue to challenge each of us long after her physical remains have given way to the creatures of the sea. The voice of this graceful liner will have enduring significance as she speaks from the ocean depths.

            At the congressional hearing following the tragedy, witness after witness testified to the horrible events of that fateful night. Third Officer Herbert John Pitnon was testifying when one senator asked him about the screams as the ship went down. He buried his face in his hands and sobbed. Then he spoke, “The best answer I can give to your question, sir, it was like one long continuous moan.” Officer Jack Thayer heard the horrible cries of those drowning at sea and described them as “one continuous wailing chant...like locusts on a summer night.” [25]

            I thought...what a horrible sound that must have been to those survivors floating in the safety of a lifeboat on the vastness of a sea strewn with debris and frozen people. I am sure they were haunted to their grave with the echoes of those sounds, the cries of the dammed. Suppose for a moment we were able to hear the sounds of the eternally damned. After listening for one minute to those sounds, I feel confident we would be more bold in asking any traveler to abandon his sinking ship and find his rescue in Christ.

            Would you please believe me when I say: No one is safe who attempts to navigate their life on the false light of pride. You are sinkable. You need to put all of your trust in One who is not sinkable. His name is Jesus Christ.


Works Cited


Ballard, Robert D. Exploring the TITANIC. New York: Madison Press Books, 1988.

Ballard, Robert D. “How We Found The Titanic.” National Geographic December 1985:         696-718.

Biel, Steven. Down With The Old Canoe (A Cultural History of the Titanic Disaster). New       York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1996

Davis, Chris. “Titanic Lost And Found.” Popular Mechanics  January 1986:75-78, 110.

Garner, Bob. “Lessons Learned From the Titanic.” Focus on the Family April 1997:2-3.

Hind, Phillip, designer. Titanic: Her Passengers and Crew. Internet:http://www.rmplc.co.        uk/eduweb/sites/phind (NOTE: I highly recommend this Internet site. It is one of         the best and here you can find multiple links.)

Lynch, Don. TITANIC An Illustrated History. New York: Madison Press Books, 1992.

Marsh, Ed W. James Cameron’s TITANIC. New York: Harper Perennial Publishers, 1997.

Noble, Al. “A Tribute to the R.M.S. Titanic.” (January 1997) Internet: http://www.firefly


Sadur, Jim. “Jim’s Titanic Site.” (1996) Internet: http://www. intercal.net/~jsadur/titanic

Tarpy, Cliff. “A Long Last Look At The Titanic.” National Geographic December 1986:           698-727.

Wade, Wynn Craig. Titanic, End of a Dream. New York: Rawson, Wade Publishers,             1979.

Wels, Susan. TITANIC: Legacy of the World’s Greatest Ocean Liner. Time Life Books,       1997.


[1] Wels, Susan. Titanic: Legacy of the World’s Greatest Ocean Liner, Time Life Books, p.44

[2] Marsh, Ed. James Cameron’s TITANIC, Harper Perennial Publishers, p.80

[3] Wels, Susan. Op. Cit, p. 73

[4] Biel, Steven. Down With The Old Canoe, W.W. Norton & Company, p.7