Time Watch: Titanic
Today we are continuing with our Titanic documentary blogging. Today is an episode of Time Watch about the Titanic called “Myths of Titanic.” Over the years, there have been more devastating shipwrecks including the Atlantic, Empress of Ireland, Lusitania, and the Wilhelm Gustloff. The first myth of Titanic was that it was unsinkable. However, when she hit the iceberg and sank she captured everyone’s imagination.
The Edwardian Period has captured everyone’s imagination. The rich passengers also captured the imagination of the people. The Astor’s, Guggenheim’s, Strauss, and nobility lived lives that ordinary people could only dream of. There were severe divides between the classes. Everybody knew their place on board the ship.
The Countess of Rothes was making her way to America. Her husband was there and she wanted to reunite with him. Molly Brown was high society, her family was self-made after discovering the richest vein of silver in the country. However, the old-established money treated her poorly. It was only after the Titanic’s sinking she was welcomed into upper society.
There was a nip in the air outside, however, it was warm in the ship. Sunday services were just held and the passengers took a stroll around the deck. It was a peaceful voyage. At least until the telegraph operators received warnings of ice ahead. These messages were passed to Captain Smith, who regarded icebergs as a natural hazard. The crows' nest suddenly spotted a large iceberg and radioed the bridge. However it was too late, the iceberg had sliced open the Titanic.
Titanic myths immediately started. One of the earliest stories was that the Titanic did not hit the iceberg and that all passengers were safe. Other stories included the rich men helping women and children into the lifeboats. The Countess of Rothes was in her cabin when the iceberg hit. She made her way to the deck but did not worry that the ship was sinking.
It was a story where the first-class men and officers had a monopoly on heroism. The press described the third-class men as animals who had to be beaten back by the officers. More men from First Class survived than children from third class. Captain Smith was regarded as a hero because he went down with his ship. It is hard to challenge that myth, the myth factory generated the story about this brave man. He had songs written about him. He had a bronze statue. However, with time and reflection, Captain Smith is shown to have failed his passengers. He ignored ice warnings.
Hollywood also developed more myths about the Titanic. Titanic which came out in the 1950s said if you died on the Titanic you were a hero. It was a fictional story about an aristocratic man who redeems himself by saving his American wife and children. By sacrificing himself, he had saved his marriage. American values were on full display in the movie. Another British Titanic movie put Officer Lightoller at the forefront and myths about him grew from there.
Then there is J. Bruce Ismay, who is the villain of the story. He got into a lifeboat and got away. William Randolph Hearst made sure that Ismay’s reputation was destroyed. The media said that he was responsible for the lack of lifeboats or ordering the Titanic to keep the speeds up. That he dressed like a woman to get off. The passengers even said that they overheard Ismay order the ship to speed up. He was known as “J. Brute Ismay.” His crime was that he survived and would spend the rest of his life being haunted by what happened.
To continue to learn more about the myths about Titanic continue to watch the documentary.
You can access the YouTube video here.
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