For those of you who are wondering why Titanic, the movie came out in 3-D, it’s because April 15th marked the 100th anniversary of the historic sinking of the ship.
Inarguably, the most ironic thing about the Titanic was that the ship was supposed to be unsinkable, and yet, it couldn’t even complete its maiden voyage. The ship itself had state of the art pumps, a compartment system to limit water decimation, and a 24-hour radio service in the case of an emergency. All of those were not enough to keep her up.
The hull was breached to such a degree that the pumps were rendered useless. As the water began occupying a larger volume of the ship, the coal burners were drowned in water; as the water slowly advanced, the power to fuel the pumps was extinguished, leading to a faster water accumulation.
The compartments didn’t help at all because of the list in the ship, which allowed water to move over compartment walls and spread to the other compartments, destroying any chance of survival.
The 24-hour radio was the by far the most useful asset, not to the Titanic, but to any other ships that might be sinking. Unfortunately, other ships in the area were unable to maintain a 24 hour radio. In fact, one ship, the Californian, was a mere ten miles away from the Titanic, but, the radio of the ship had been turned off for the night, and the news of the sinking reached the captain long after the Titanic had gone under. When the Titanic launched flares into the air to signal for help, the Californian thought that the ship was celebrating its maiden voyage, even though every single flare was red, and there were no fancy firework-like patterns in the air.
It was the Carpathia, a ship 58 miles away, that was able to save the people on the lifeboats of the ship. The lifeboats, severely lacking in number, were unable to support even half of the ship’s passengers and crew, but managed to get the few survivors to the rescue ship.
So what did we learn from this whole incident? Well first of all, the most important thing was to have enough lifeboat space for everyone. That is one of the biggest pieces of international legislation that has been enacted in memory of the sunken British vessel.
Next we decided to require 24 hour radio coverage on the seas. If this was active when the ship hit the iceberg, the catastrophe would have been limited to a few people, not the fifteen hundred that perished, because of the proximity of the Californian to the ailing vessel.
Simplification of the Morse Code message for “help” was also completed, though it was already in progress when the Titanic went under. Rather than the “CQD” signal, which stood for “Come Quick, Disaster”, the “SOS” signal was adopted because of its simplicity, yet unmistakability in the morse code, with three dots and three dashes followed by three dots. This is also seen later when the voice response for assistance, including the all famous “Mayday” for extreme disasters and “Pan”, for moderate disasters, were standardized.
We learned quite a bit from the Titanic. People deplore the loss of so many people in one of the most famous maritime disasters in human history, but it is important to understand that all those who did die on that fateful day died not in vain. It’s terrible that only after the deaths of those fifteen hundred people did the international community wake up to the perils of sea travel, but what happened 100 years ago undoubtably had a lasting, positive impact on ocean and air transport and will continue to as long as we continue to explore and travel.
Now the only question remains, what is “MGY”? Well, I’ll leave that for you folks to figure out. And no, in this context it doesn’t stand for “million gallons per year”, though that might be a decent guess.