Saturday, 7 April 2012

April 2012-Titanic 100 years on.

A model of the RMS TITANIC

Perhaps you may be aware of the fact that it is 100 years ago this month that the Titanic set out on her fateful maiden voyage and terrible as this event was it made me think about a similar disaster at sea which happened only 8 years prior to the Titanic going down and it involved as a proportion just as large a loss of life with even more women and children involved.

The ship was called the NORGE and she was on her way around the North of Scotland with a full cargo of poor immigrants looking for a new life in the new world of North America. (The Edinburgh Evening News recently done a story on her as well)

Image is from the website. The NORGE

Click through the link where you can find out more about this sinking.

The ship was a converted livestock carrier carrying mostly Scandinavian’s but no famous or wealthy people on this vessel. She was built by Alexander Stephen & Sons of Glasgow in 1891.

She foundered on the Isle of Rockall and it was entirely the Captains fault as he did not believe there were any rocks in the area. The sinking was not even reported for a few days and made the newspapers for a small time, there was as I have said a very large loss of life and in particular many women and children. Almost 600 passengers and 45 crew perished.

But the bit that really got to me about this story was the fact that after the disaster and lose of life the chairman (J.B.Ismay) of the White Star Line (Titanic owners) was to send to the owners of the Norge a telegraph to commiserate them on the loss of the ship one ship owner to another with no mention at all made of the huge loss of life. This was from the same chairman who 8 years later would be on the fateful Titanic and who would end up pushing women and children out of the way to get onto one of the few lifeboats on the Titanic.
So perhaps it is time we took off the rose tinted classes when we look back on this terrible event and be glad that some good did come out of it, such as making watertight bulkheads run right up to the underside of the main decks, and providing many more lifeboats for passengers along with the wireless act which required every ship to carry two wireless operators so that one would always be listening for distress calls..

It is an interesting topic with the sudden spate of “Cruise Line passenger ships” involved in sinking or collisions and makes one wonder what it is going to take before the owners and designers realise that some of those huge floating hotels are an accident waiting to happen which may make the Titanic disaster pail.

Picture above of the recent Costa Concordia sinking in which there was also loss of life

(Picture from the guardian newspaper)

I happen to think that the owners should be looking at double skinning the ships hulls at least to a height of around 2m above the water line.

I am sure the owners and designers would whinge about cost and loss of internal area etc, (make the area usable for water ballast, pipes and systems with the area also filled with a foam plastic to aid buoyancy etc) and stability questions etc, but this could be done and help to make the floating glass and steel boxes a little bit safer to take to the sea in. Sure it would make the build a bit more expensive but would create more work for shipyard workers and I also happen to think that while great strides have been taken in the design of Lifeboats more needs to be done into how the Lifeboats get into the water from a heavily listing ship.

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