Titanic: Ocean mistress conquered by sea (1912)

Mistress of ocean was conquered by master of the sea

Beneath words “Titanic sank” is the tale of a tragedy that gave birth to heroism and cowardice

Greatest of leviathans went to oblivion in 100 minutes

by Gordon MacKay

Adorned in the finery fitting to become a bride of Neptune, and dressed in all the conventional frippery that custom requires when a mistress of the ocean sails forth to be welcomed by the master of the sea, the White Star liner Titanic swung out of the harbor of Southampton on Thursday, April 11.

It was her maiden trip. The Titanic lost none of the usual honors such as sisters of the deep pay to their latest queen. Whistles tooted a godspeed, the minor craft in the harbor mingled their staccato shrieks, and the Titanic’s whistles boomed their thunderous acknowledgment as the maiden trip began.

>> The Titanic leaves on her maiden voyage

Twenty-three hundred persons, representing every shade of social condition, touching the depths of poverty and mounting the heights of mllllonairedom, were aboard the splendid leviathan as she swung proudly and sure-footed out of the narrows and on her way across the deep.

One week later, 705 persons landed at pier 54 of the Cunard line, New York. On their faces were the lines of tragic sorrow; their nerves were frayed by a terror that had left most of them shattered and helpless; on their lips the story of the greatest sea tragedy in maritime history, a tragedy that committed the great Titanic to historical oblivion.

Heroism and cowardice

Into the history of those who go down to the sea in ships is this catastrophe writ large. Beneath those two words, “Titanic sank,” is the tale of a tragedy that gave birth instantly to heroism and cowardice; to manly action and to knave-like conduct; to deeds of womanhood that were wonderful and stand forth in a heroic light, and deeds of men that showed the craven, painted into colors that will always stand for time to keep as a heritage of hate.

>> Titanic: New York Tribune front page

One hour and forty minutes was the time in which this disaster was staged. Into those few brief, fleeting moments were crowded stories that will live forever, and tales that can never die.

To relate them in detail is the work of a historian; to set them forth in simplicity is the necessity of a laborer.

To those 705 survivors, comprehending every type of ocean traveler, the name of Newfoundland must stand with a significance that will cause a shudder to shiver its way over them when they hear the name of that country spoken.

For 1,000 miles away from the famous Grand Banks, the Titanic found her grave. A giant iceberg, relic of the great icecap that barricades Greenland from the essential invasion of summer, swept away from its moorings. Moving slowly along in that majestic fashion typical of giants of the seas, the tremendous bulk of ice reached a spot 41.10 north latitude.

With majestic sweep

Moving with that majestic sweep, the Titanic was churning her way through the waters. The spume that she tossed up, as she kicked her bridal heels in glee of conquest, fell away, sparkling in the moonlight. It was a glorious night.

The stars studded heavens that were bathed in the mellow moonlight. Each gem of the celestial system seemed to be a crystal. The moon was clear, without a single blemish of cloud or haze. The Titanic, plowing along with First Officer Murdoch on the bridge, looked like some great giantess, her black sides standing forth in startling relief against the beauty of the night.

On board the great ship was a scene such as wealth and position lends to any place. Into the grand saloon of the Titanic, the common ground of which maritime society seeks its common level, had gathered the beauty, the wealth, the elect and elite, as well as some of the chivalry of those who formed the population of that floating village.

Finance lent the name of a Guggenheim and an Astor to give hallmark to that phase of the Titanic’s trip. Literature loaned Stead and Futrelle. One a veteran publicist and journalist, known and respected for forty years; the other, a youngster in the fertile fields to which he had escaped after hum-drumming in a newspaper, and in which he was steadily mounting the ladder of success. There was a national character to the assemblage, for Major Archibald Willingham Butt, aid to President Taft, was returning to America from Rome, where he had been commissioned with a message to he delivered at the Vatican.

England’s coronets found a representative in Lord Cosmo Gordon, who, with his wife, Lady Duff Gordon, was returning to America after a Parisian trip.

Isidor Straus, one of the greatest philanthropists and merchant princes of the era, was aboard, and with him was Mrs Straus.

Saloon a gay scene

Within the saloon, there was such a scene as society always given to her fetes. Jewels worth a king’s ransom flashed from women who seemed carved of marble. The hair of the daughters of wealth seemed to be alive, us the lights brought forth the sparkle of the gems that they wore in the coiffures. Huge ropes of pearls that formed a priceless collar for necks that rivaled the swan’s. In their contour were seen, smashing for the nonce the ever-brilliant sparkle of diamonds, diamonds, and more diamonds. Twenty million dollars’ worth of wealth flashed and sparkled and shimmered and shone in that saloon, while women, fair and beautiful, saw languidly in that great surcease from care and trouble, the handsomely appointed chairs of an ocean liner.

Society was disporting itself in its varied ways and according to its varied moods. The orchestra was playing its usual nocturnal concert, the strains running all musical gamuts, from the lilting “rag” to the exquisite sonata. Society listened either in languid interest or passionate devotion to the God of Harmony.

Not all the concourse that made that saloon a living, vital thing dallied with either the music or wooed the muses.

Small tables, covered with the badge of the game, the green baize, were scattered at convenient distance from one another. Here the evening-clothed millionaire played bridge and matched his cards and his science against the twin factors possessed by the traveling man with a bankroll or one of his own set who was endeavoring, too, to find a satisfactory pastime — one that held financial interest as well as individual pleasure.

Women, too, women whose names adorn the social register of the elect, took their hazard in the inevitable game of bridge whist. They played with all the zest and zeal of typical and inordinate gamesters, and the scenes around these tables, where the players quietly and studiously employed their time in the game, were in marked contrast to those about.

 

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