Posts tagged ‘Titanic’

April 21, 2012

Stunned Into Apathy Say Women: Assured Until The Last Titanic Couldn’t Sink.

by Aaron Dunlop

One hundred years ago today (21st April 1912) the following article appeared in the Los Angeles Times. It is the testimony of Miss Jessie Leitch, the niece of Rev. John Harper, the minister who died witnessing for Christ during the sinking of Titanic (see other article). A slightly edited version appeared in the June edition of The Monthly Evangel under the title “Beautiful In The Morning.”

About midnight Mr. Harper, the Rev. Dr. John Harper, came to my stateroom and told me that the vessel had struck an iceberg. While I was dreaming he went to learn further particulars and returned to say that orders had been given to put on the lifebelts. I did so. Picking up Nana, his daughter, in his arms he took her up to the deck. There, the women were ordered to the upper deck. I had to climb a vertical iron ladder, and Mr. Harper brought Nana after me up the ladder and the men at the top lifted her up to me again.

There was no opportunity for farewell and, in fact: even then we did not realize the danger, as we were assured again and again that the vessel could not sink, that the Olympic would be alongside at any minute and that the women and children were to be put into the boats first and the men to follow and that there were boats sufficient enough for all. Our boat was well manned and it was the eleventh to leave the vessel.

After about half an hour, the Titanic went down. We were about a mile away, but even then I hoped and expected that Mr. Harper was on one of the other boats. Many of which reached the Carpathia before ours did. How eagerly I looked for his face on the deck as we approached that vessel, but when all the boat-loads had come aboard I feared the worst.

The last day we spent on the Titanic was Sunday. Mr. Harper asked me to read the chapter at our morning family prayers and later we went to the Sunday morning services. The day was quietly and pleasantly spent and when Nana and I went to look for Mr. Harper at about 6 o’clock to go to dinner, I found him earnestly talking to a young Englishman whom he was seeking to lead to Christ. That evening before we retired, we went on deck, and there was still a glint of red in the west.

I remember Mr. Harper saying, “It will be beautiful in the morning.” We then went down to the staterooms. He read from the Bible and prayed and so he left us.

How many people have been lost believing that they had time, that there is no judgment and no hell! How many people have died anticipating another opportunity—stunned into apathy. The Bible says “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2) and again, speaking of the Israelites in the wilderness, “Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness” (Hebrews 3:8)

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April 21, 2012

The Titanic: A Morality Play

by Aaron Dunlop

On the 14th April 1912 at 11.40 p.m. on its maiden voyage, the maritime marvel RMS Titanic struck an iceberg off the coast of Nova Scotia. In less than ten seconds over 300 feet of the hull was damaged below the waterline and the ship began to take on water. At 12.00 a.m. Thomas Andrews, the ship’s architect informed Captain Smith that the ship was doomed and the order was given to uncover the lifeboats and to wake up passengers and the distress signal was transmitted. At 12.45 the first life boat was lowered with only 28 people on board with space for thirty more. At 2.05 the last life boat was lowered leaving 1500 people remaining on the sinking ship. At 2.20 a.m. on 15th April the Titanic broke in two at one of the expansion joints; the stern tilted upward and sank with the remaining passengers being plunged into the frigid waters of the Atlantic.

Such was the embarrassment, hurt, grief, and disappointment of the whole affair that for many years after the disaster it was not talked about. But in 1985 Robert Ballard revealed that he had found the wreck of the Titanic, bringing to the surface the romance, grandeur, and intrigue of the ill-fated ocean liner. Since then interest in the Titanic has grown exponentially until today a multimillion pound memorial marks the site where it was built in Belfast, pilgrimages are made to its ports-of-call—Southampton, Cherbourg, and Cobh (then Queenstown)—and a memorial cruise traced the route of the maiden voyage to the location of its sinking.

The question that comes up continually is why was this disaster any more remembered than other disasters? Belfast is celebrating the building of the magnificent piece of machinery, unrivalled in its day, and there is good reason to remember those who worked on the Titanic, to recognise the craftsmanship that went into the building of it, and to admire the sheer beauty of the vessel. New York, where the ship was destined, also remembers—it was there that the enquiry was held into the sinking. Canada also has reason to remember for it was in Halifax where 300 bodies that were recovered from the seas on that fateful night were buried on 30th April.

But there is something more about the luxurious ocean liner than its aesthetic beauty, architectural genius, and maritime prowess that has captivated the hearts of people across the world for so long. Robert Ballard, the man who discovered the site of the Titanic in the 1980s and who interviewed the then 24 survivors of the disaster says that it is the human story that has so captivated the hearts of millions. He says,

[The Titanic] didn’t sink right away. Other ships as magnificent as the Titanic have gone to the bottom…. In the case of the Titanic, it was a beautiful night, the sky was clear, the sea was calm, the band was playing. The deck of the Titanic become a morality play.

Gallantry, courage, and loyalty were seen on the decks of Titanic that morning as her doom was imminent, but so also were cowardice, panic, and fear in the face of death. It is indeed this human side that has gripped the minds of so many. As Robert Ballard says many today imagine themselves on the deck of the sinking ship and ask themselves, what would I have done in that situation? Are my morals deep enough and my convictions strong enough to sustain me in such circumstances? Of course there is a difference between what one would do and what one would like to do. At the time of the disaster Thomas Andrews was hailed the hero of Titanic as he gave place to others and went down with the ship he had designed. On the other hand Joseph Bruce Ismay, the chairman of the White Star Line, saved his life and was later dubbed Joseph “Brute” Ismay and was the subject of much criticism. He retreated to Scotland exhausted from the ordeal of the disaster, his life shattered.

There are many stories that have been brought to the surface from the tragedy of the sunken Titanic—among them one of unlikely and enduring friendship between survivors. On life-boat number 8 thirty-two-year-old Able Seaman Tommy Jones, in charge of the boat, met a young first class passenger. The young woman was the Countess of Rothes in Scotland, who, it is thought, was traveling with her cousin to Vancouver. The Countess helped row and steer the boat for eight hours as they made their way to the RMS Carpathia. To help maintain morale on the life-boat for so long the survivors sang, but when the Carpathia came into view they stopped singing and began to pray. While they never met again after the disaster, the friendship of these two survivors remained strong throughout their lives.

But there is another story that is almost forgotten, lost in the flurry of secular history and sentimentalism.

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