The Titanic set out from Southampton, England on April 10th 1912. Two stops were made at Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown, Ireland to pick up more passengers prior to the Titanic’s final departure to New York. There were 2,240 souls on board on April 11th. She sailed the most direct route to New York through the North Atlantic and made good time until she reached a point about 400 miles south of the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland. The Titanic was equipped with a telegraph, a relatively recent addition to ships and had been advised that there were icebergs in the vicinity, but the messages were mostly unheeded.1 After all, the ship was “unsinkable.”
The Titanic carried some of the most important and influential people in the world. Priority use of the telegraph was one of the luxuries provided for first class passengers, and Titanic crew were overwhelmed by the constant traffic into the telegraph office. Accommodation of first class passengers was a distraction which inadvertently took priority over the safety of the ship. The Titanic maintained her speed of over 20 knots (approx. 22 mph) through that dark night.2 The ship was, after all, unsinkable.
Captain Smith posted a watch of two crewmen in the crow's nest, but neither man was able to locate the binoculars needed to increase their range of view. It was a dark moonless night and the iceberg had “turtled;” it had turned over so that the typical white snowy surface of the iceberg was replaced with a dark opaque surface which did not reflect light. There were no waves breaking on the iceberg. As a result the birds nest crew did not see the iceberg until it was very close. This combination of events caused the lookout to telephone the bridge with the warning “iceberg dead ahead” when the Titanic had very little time to react. Reaction time was short, and the ship was going way too fast.3 But after all, it was unsinkable.
The command came to turn hard to port (left). At first it looked as if they had missed colliding with the iceberg, but at 11:40 pm Sunday evening, April 14, 1912 below the surface of the water the ship struck the iceberg. Three-quarters of the iceberg was below the surface, and as the massive ship brushed past it, it sliced the starboard side of the bow like a giant can opener. The opening was over ¼ inch wide and 300 feet long. Six of the forward watertight compartments immediately began to fill with ocean water. The ship had 16 watertight compartments and could stay afloat with up to four of them flooded. The compartments, however, were not water tight at the top. As each filled the water passed over the top to an adjacent compartment, similar to an ice cube tray. Eventually they would all be filled. Was the Titanic unsinkable?
The ship miraculously stayed afloat for approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes. It sank at 2:20 am on April 15, 1912. Many more lives could have been saved during that amount time if there had been more thought given to an emergency evacuation plan and having enough lifeboats for the amount of passengers on board. The engineers and builders had included many new safety features like the watertight compartments and the double hull of the ship. Everyone else seemed to be convinced that the ship was unsinkable. This attitude alone made the ship extremely vulnerable.
The Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship of its time. It “represented all the power, wealth, luxury and arrogance of its age.”4 It was built at the height of the Industrial Age. It is reported that an unidentified crew member boldly told an embarking female passenger that, “God Himself could not sink this ship.” How foolish! Though irrational, that was the prevailing attitude of all the people on board. “The wireless operators ignored or made light of repeated warnings of icebergs in the ship's path. Even Captain Edward Smith with more than 40 years of experience, seemed complacent.”5
The huge vessel sped too fast towards the North Atlantic ice fields because the ship’s owners wanted to set an Atlantic crossing speed record. The reckless, arrogant, and deceptive belief that God could not sink the ship was the ultimate contributing factor to the Titanic tragedy that dreadful night. “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Proverbs 16:18 NASB). How foolish and dangerous to challenge God! “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Matthew 4:7)
Pride blinds us to our need for God and our ability to see things as they really are. Pride ends lives and destroys relationships. “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
When a couple comes for marriage counseling often one or both of them are prideful. They come thinking that the main problem is the other one. Irv and I work with them and try to help them understand that a prideful attitude will sink their marriage. They first need to be open, transparent and humble enough to acknowledge that they need help. True character is revealed during a crisis as it was that dreadful night on the Titanic. Proud hearts think they don't need God. Humble hearts cry out to Him.
Imagine what the 1500 souls on the Titanic’s main deck were thinking after all lifeboats had been lowered and the last distress flare had been launched. Many fell to their knees in prayer while others cursed God in anger. They all faced eternity and ultimately realized what and who were really important.