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100 year anniversary lecture comes to Porterville College
In 1912 the Titanic on its maiden Atlantic voyage hit an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. and within three hours sank into the sea. 100 years later the event is still important.
“It is a snapshot into history. A test of hubris and a sad comment on placing profits as a priority over safety,” said Professor Terry Crewse of the Mathematics department at Porterville College who presented an hour-long look into some of the lesser-known aspects of the Titanic on Wednesday inside the PC Theater. Part history and part judgement the lecture consisted of bits of information on the White Star Line which owned the Titanic, the Cunard Line, White Star’s competition and some unknown information on some of the passengers.
Thomas Andrews, the designer of the ship, Captain Edward John Smith, Molly Brown, known as the ‘unsinkable’ Molly Brown and Bruce Ismay, head of the White Star Line, are all historical figures that played a part in the Titanic saga. However, Crewse introduced the audience to some of the lesser-known figures like that of Captain Stanley Lord, Commander Charles Herbert Lightoller and Sir Arthur Henry Rostron.
Lord was the captain of the Californian, a Leyland Liner, which was about six miles away.
“Stanley Lord had shut off the Morse code system and both the operator and the captain were in bed. The officer on watch noticed that the lights [of the Titanic] had changed. They saw the lights and then no lights and then the ship had stopped with her lights on,” said Crewse who added that once rockets were fired into the air the captain was awakened. When told about the rockets he asked what color the smoke was. When the crew told him they did not know he told them to go back to bed. The Californian did not help with any of the evacuations.
Lightoller was the most senior officer on the ship and took the command from Captain Smith to the very brink.
“There is evidence to suggest he was a liar and a murderer. He took the command of women and children first to mean women and children only, even if there was empty space on the lifeboat,” explained Crewse who added that Lightoller was a very interesting character.
As to Rostron, Crewse summed it up best.
“This is the hero of the night,” stated Crewse. Rostron was the Captain of the S.S. Carpathia which received a C.Q.D. or come quickly message. Rostron ordered his crew to start the boilers, turn off the hot water and put his own ship in peril to save the passengers of the R.M.S. Titanic as he raced to her aid. According to Crewse, he was later awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by the U.S. Congress and was appointed Knight Order of the British Empire after Word War I.
Crewse also talked about the technical design of the Titanic.
After the presentation the audience had many questions.
One man wanted to know about Molly Brown.
“Molly Brown was an earthy character, a frontiers person and was very rich. High society shunned her and treated her poorly. However, after the sinking she took command of a lifeboat and was celebrated for her leadership during the crisis,” said Crewse.
Another person asked about Bruce Ismay.
“He was publicly ostracized, resigned his post at White Star Line, but his reputation was destroyed,” added Crewse.
Finally, someone asked what had happened to the White Star Line.
“It was only a bump in the road in their history. The next year they set record profits. They still thrived,” said Crewse.
A “Titianiac,” or Titanic enthusiast he has seen the Titanic exhibit in San Francisco and has also toured the small exhibit on the Queen Mary. He believes that this kind of catastrophic event will be repeated.
“In time we stop learning. The Challenger blew up, we got slack on September 11. I don’t think we’ll ever learn,” stated Crewse who added that the event was supposed to educate the public.
The event was sponsored by the Cultural Historical Awareness Program (C.H.A.P.) at Porterville College.