A Titanic Legacy
Further advancements were set in place with regard to marine protocol after the tragedy. International Ice Patrols (ICPs) now constantly monitor the north Atlantic for icebergs. Of course, modern-day ship communications operate via computer systems, so reporting danger is quicker and much more efficient than at the time of the Titanic.
Another innovation—or law, to be precise—was that all passenger ships MUST have enough lifeboats for everyone aboard. The Titanic only had enough for 1,200 people, a little over half of the 2,200 people the ship carried. The White Star Line owners placed luxury over safety, figuring any dangers or threats to human well being would be minimal to non-existent. She was the largest ship in the world at the time, after all, at 883 feet in length. No one at the time ever said the Titanic was “unsinkable,” but such an assumption was likely a popular and prevalent one just the same.
Her sister ship, the Britannic, would later be redesigned with bulkheads going up to B-deck. This was considered a safety effort resulting as a lesson learned from the Titanic tragedy a few years earlier. The latter’s bulkheads rose only to E-deck, which wasn’t high enough. Water spilled over the top of each compartment wall in “ice tray” fashion until the weight imbalance created the stress needed to cause the break. The Britannic, which served as a hospital ship during World War I, foundered in 1916 as a result of a mine or some other unsubstantiated explosive in the bow holds. The damage this ship incurred was far more severe than that inflicted on the Titanic, but the raised bulkheads gave the crew time to disembark before the ship sank. Had the bulkheads not gone as high as B-deck, the death toll would have been far greater than the 30 it was.
Jacques Cousteau had explored the Britannic wreck nine years prior to Ballard’s discovery of the Titanic, but the circumstances weren’t the same between them. The hospital ship rested nowhere near the depth of the Titanic, so access was easier and less costly. Even in 1985, the idea of looking for something that deep was considered risky—only a desire, a hope and a dream that, with ongoing diligence, paid off. This shows that research success is due as much to human ambition and ingenuity as it is to capability. The drive creates the need, which in turn brings about research insight and advancement.
The Titanic’s demise spurred new forms of research. Technological developments improved research capabilities, since explorers would not have found the Titanic without them. What was achieved pushed research capabilities at the time of the ship’s discovery.
My research methodology has expanded as well. Years ago, I merely “looked up” information to broaden knowledge. Since, I have learned to ask questions, generate queries, and critically think about things. This process is the only way we can increase our breadth of learning. We shouldn’t settle with what we are merely told, even that which is based on current findings. As researchers, we should think for ourselves and form our own conclusions. Diversity adds to the research as well as to the growing body and understanding of knowledge.
This doesn’t demand we disbelieve or disregard available knowledge, just we don’t accept it as “the all and the end” of what we can learn. It is a necessary base. Always go further. What I have discovered as a Titanic researcher is that there IS no end.