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Lessons From the Titanic | The Nation

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Lessons From the Titanic

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The terrible tragedy of the Titanic was entirely preventable.

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Rarely has an ocean tragedy so appalled the imagination as has the disaster to the Titanic. But let us put away the horror of the event and think of the vital lesson it enforces. Those 1,300 lives were flung away because the White Star Line, like the other steamship companies, has persistently refused, with the connivance of the steamboat authorities in this country, to carry sufficient life-boats and rafts to accommodate those whose passage money they took, to say nothing of the crews they employed. The sea was smooth enough off Cape Race to get every boat away from the Titanic and to transfer the women and children, after perhaps eight hours spent in the boats, to the Carpathia. This, the largest of modern leviathans of the sea, is said to have carried but twenty boats! Yet the need of a number of boats sufficient to carry passengers and crew has been much before the public.

We are familiar with the opposing arguments on behalf of the steamships. If a ship were to go down, she would probably sink like the Elbe, before more than one or two boats could be properly launched; in a very high sea no small boat could live; not sufficient boats could be carried on the davits in any event; moreover, the strength of the modern ship, the use of the wireless, all made for the safety of the new vessels etc., etc., etc. Not one of these arguments goes to the point. If an accident occurs in a bad storm at sea no boats, it is true, avail; if a ship sinks quickly, boats "nested" on an upper deck, like the dories of a Gloucester fisherman, will probably go down unused. But in three great accidents that quickly come to mind--the sinking of the Oregon, the Republic, and the Titanic--there was time to save all. There were no lives lost on the Oregon and Republic, because rescuing ships arrived in time; had they not come, hundreds must have perished then as they did on the Titanic. Yet none of these disasters carried a single lesson to the builders and owners of these steamships. And our country has connived at their neglect. Nor is there any question of the ability of a ship to carry boats enough, even when she takes four thousand people to sea. If it is a matter of weights, then let the companies take out the elevators, the swimming tanks, the gymnasiums, some of the other hundred and one luxuries. The terrible and unnecessary sacrifice of human beings on the Titanic should put an end to a negligence which hereafter could only be called criminal. And this sentiment should he enforced by adequate legal prescription.

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