TITANIC THE REAL LIFE STORY
The sea was as smooth as glass on Sunday, April 14, 1912, the Titanic’s fourth day at sea. At 10:30 in the morning, passengers from all classes gathered in the first-class dining room for Divine Services. Captain Smith led the shipboard congregation, reading from the White Star Line’s own prayer book. Although Sunday services were usually followed by a lifeboat drill for passengers and crew, Captain Smith elected to forgo this formality on Titanic’s first Sabbath day at sea.
Things, however, were hectic in the Titanic’s wireless room. Ice warnings had continued to come in over the wireless throughout the day and into the evening while the ship’s Marconi, John Phillips and his young assistant Harold Bride, were receiving and transmitting private telegrams across the ocean for the Titanic’s wealthy guests.
At nine o’clock in the morning, the Carolina had signalled: “Bergs, growlers and field ice.” At 11:40 AM, the Noordam informed the Titanic of “Much Ice.” At 7:30 PM, another caution from the nearby Californian was intercepted reporting that she was completely blocked by ice. Annoyed at the radio intrusion, Phillips signalled back, “Shut up. Shut up. I am busy.” Rebuffed, the tired Marconi operator on the Californian turned off his receiver and went to bed.
The last ice warning was received at 9:40 PM from the Mesaba, “Ice warning, saw much heavy pack ice and a great number of large icebergs; also field ice.” Captain Smith never received this navigational warning because he was the guest of honour at a dinner party.
Suddenly, Officer Fleet frantically jerked the warning bell three times and telephoned the bridge, sputtering, “Iceberg, right ahead!” The ship’s engines stopped, reversed, then turned hard-a-port and instantly shut the ship’s fifteen watertight doors. The lookouts clung on as the Titanic’s bow swerved slowly to port instead of smashing into the towering berg head on.
A spur of ice jutting from the iceberg below the waterline had scraped along the Titanic’s underside for 300 feet, damaging the ship’s inch thick plates in at least five and perhaps six of her watertight compartments. Sea water was now rushing into the ship’s first five compartments and had already climbed fourteen feet above the keel, and the Titanic was incapable of floating with more than the first four compartments flooded. “How long have we?” Captain Smith asked Thomas Andrews, the ship’s designer. “An hour and a half…” The Titanic, they knew with terrifying certainty, was doomed.
UNAWARE OF THE DANGER
Large chunks of ice from the iceberg had spilled over onto the main deck. Some passengers collected the ice for a pick-up soccer game. In the smoking room, one of the card players pointed to his whiskey glass and jokingly suggested that someone run out on deck for ice to chill his drink. On board the sinking ship, as water crept up foot by foot, the gymnasium instructor was incredibly still helping passengers on the mechanical exercise equipment. The orchestra continued to calm the crowd with waltzes, ragtime, and music hall tunes, and last drinks were “on the house” in the first-class smoking room.
Three ladies who had been walking the deck, arm in arm, singing to the other guests who were more alarmed by the inconvenience, ignored the stem warnings to board the lifeboats to escape pending danger. “What do they need of lifeboats?” one woman asked. “This ship could smash a hundred icebergs and not feel it.” “Ridiculous!” she announced. Everyone seemed confident that the ship was all right.
PREPARE THE LIFEBOATS
Shortly after midnight, Captain Smith ordered sailors to make the sixteen lifeboats and four collapsible boats ready, although he was fully aware that there was only enough lifeboat space to evacuate half the passengers and crew on board. Soon, Officer Lightoller shouted to the captain for permission to load the women and children into the boats. Captain Smith nodded his assent, then retreated into the wireless room.
Depsite the best efforts of the crew, many were reluctant to leave. Quartermaster George Rowe began firing distress rockets every five or six minutes and with that, at last many passengers began sensing the danger they were in.
Shortly before two o’clock, the last wooden lifeboat, number 4, was being readied. It was lowered only 15 feet to the water, instead of the usual 70 foot drop. At 2:05 collapsible D got away as a Frenchman passed his two little boys, Michel and Edmond, to the crew. At that moment the captain told his crew that they had done their duty and should look to their own safety. At 2:17 AM, the Titanic’s stem abruptly rose out of the water, pivoted, and stopped in a vertical position. The ship’s lights went out and within three minutes the ship was gone. Of the 2,228 ship’s passengers and crew, only 705 survived and 1,523 men, women and children had lost their lives.
Many more lives could have been spared that night if the passengers and crew were willing to listen to the warnings. All day long the crew received messages from six other ships out at sea, but these warnings were ignored. The crew pleaded with the passengers to escape the danger, but these warnings were not taken seriously. As a result many perished needlessly.
The ship’s captain delivered the final Sunday sermon to the congregation on board. There is no record of the topic of his final message, or the verses of Scripture he used. He may have selected one of many verses that provide serious warnings. He may have warned them about the brevity of life:
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit;’ Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James4:13-14)
COULD HAVE RECEIVED WARNINGS
He could have warned them that every individual would stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an account of his life:
“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27) “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Romans 14:10)
He could have warned that God has kept a record of:
“Every deed” (Romans 2:6)
“Every word spoken” (Matthew 12:36)
“The thoughts and intents of the heart (1 Corinthians 3:20)
and that this record would be used in its entirety at the judgment. He could have warned that a single transgression of God’s law (commandments) is enough evidence to reach a guilty verdict:
“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty- of all.” (James 2:10)
and he could have warned that the rejection of salvation offered through the One who made payment for sin, would result in the wrath of God and a banning of that individual from the presence of God for all eternity:
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already.” (John 3:18)
Captain Smith may have reminded them that any individual who would reject this provision of salvation would hear the words:
“Depart from Me I never knew you.” (Mathew 25:41-46)
It is likely that whatever warnings were given that day were ignored and everyone on board assumed that on April 15th they would be one day closer to New York City. “I would have reacted differently,” may be your reaction to the obvious danger in which they found themselves. Yet, we receive and ignore warnings every day. Perhaps you have had a friend or family member who just seems “different” since they announced they now have a “personal relationship with the Lord.” And they ask you to consider making a decision to place your trust in Christ.
WHAT HAS BEEN OUR RESPONSE
It may have been the signs you see on the television screen while watching Monday Night Football games that says, “John 3:16,” encouraging people to open their Bibles and read the good news that says:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John3:16-17)
Or it may be that, while you were flipping through the channels of your television set, you paused briefly to hear the evangelist Bill Graham discussing the life and death of Jesus Christ while proclaiming, “He (Jesus) He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name,” (John 1:11-12) while asking the question, “Have you received Him?” and warning about the consequences that await those who have not received Him.
We have received warnings about eternal decisions that need to be made. And I ask, what has been our response? Do we believe that “even God could not sink this ship,” or do we laugh as the passengers did? Have we been tempted to tell others to “shut up” as the ship’s Marconi did, as others have spoken their concern about eternal matters?
To the 705 survivors of the Titanic, “saved” is the most accurate word to use to describe their escape. Perhaps the best message Captain Smith could have delivered that Sunday morning would have been about the need for salvation. He could have selected as his text the following verses:
“That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
If you are to be saved; if you are to have eternal life; if you are to go to Heaven when you die, you must:
Acknowledge that you are a sinner
By faith accept Christ as your Substitute and Saviour.
Invite Him to come into your life, forgive your sins and take control.
Why not receive Him now, just as you are, right where you are? The Bible makes the warnings clear. Read them, take heed to them and be saved.
Acknowledgement: Gospel Folio Press 304 Killaly Street West, Port Colborne, ON L3K 6A6, Canada
PHOTO by M. E. Head