No one would remember the Carpathia, the ship that brought survivors back to New York or the Californian which did not heed the calls for help but these two ships are well-known even today and probably will continue to be for centuries to come. The sinking was a major shock for people and governments on both sides of the Atlantic and initiated multiple maritime reforms. The many personal stories of its passengers add to the mystery and myths perpetuated about the Titanic and though nearly a century of well-documented scrutiny that has examined every possible aspect of the sinking, questions remain regarding who is ultimately to blame. This discussion will examine this question in addition to the role that social standing played in the disproportionate number of first-class passengers that were rescued and how the seas were made safer due to political actions that were taken following the accident.
The first question that must be asked about the sinking of the Titanic is how could this have happened? The most prestigious ship in the world and thought to be ‘unsinkable,’ sank after ramming a huge iceberg on a clear night. The idea still boggles the mind. The Captain of the Titanic, E.J. Smith, can certainly be held at least partly culpable. First, the look-outs in the ship’s crows-nest did not have binoculars, a crucial piece of equipment that was not on board. Smith also ignored warnings of icebergs in the area and refused to slow the ship’s speed. The White Star Line’s Managing Director, Bruce Ismay, was on board and likely pressured Smith to make the crossing in a record six days which would have been a publicity windfall for the company. Slowing down would have delayed the trip by a day. Ismay did get his wish, the publicity surrounding the Titanic remains beyond compare. The shipbuilder also shares part of the blame.