TITANIC—WHO WAS SHE, AND WHAT DO THE NAMES AND NUMBERS MEAN?
Olympic and Titanic, Harland & Wolff job numbers “400” and “401” respectively, were identical twins even though Titanic ended up being 1,000 tons heavier (meaning “larger”) than her sister. Titanic was heavier because her B-Deck promenade (a sea-facing walkway on each side of the ship) was replaced with lavish staterooms and a French sidewalk café. Externally, these alterations were evident by the uneven window spacing on Titanic’s B-Deck. Also, the forward half of Titanic’s A-Deck promenade was enclosed with glass windows—Olympic’s was left open. Olympic’s keel was laid on December 16, 1908 and Titanic’s was laid on March 31, 1909.
Both ships took their names from Greek Mythology:
Gaea, the earth mother, gave birth to the starry sky called Uranus. She then married Uranus and they parented three monstrous children called the Hundred-handed giants. They were named Briareüs (strong), Gyes (earthborn), and Cottus. Uranus feared the power of these children and confined them to the Underworld to live their life in darkness. Consequently, the Hundred-handed giants hated their father passionately.
After that, Gaea gave birth to three Cyclopes. They were named Arges (brightness), Steropes (lightning), and Brontes (thunder). They, too, were sent to the Underworld by their father.
Then Gaea bore Uranus the first generation of immortal gods. (Uranus later named these thirteen children “Titans” (“Stretchers”) when they stretched their power and overthrew his control.) But Gaea could never forgive Uranus for his cruelty to their first six children.
Eventually, Gaea persuaded her youngest son Cronus, one of the Titans, to mutilate Uranus with a huge sickle she had made. The Titans, now in control of the universe, liberated their six brothers from the Underworld. But Cronus immediately imprisoned them again.
For ten years, Cronus’s children (called the “gods”) fought him and some of the other Titans for control of the universe. Gaea, meanwhile, was still sad that her first six children remain imprisoned. She convinced her grandchildren that they would be able to defeat the Titans with the help of their six powerful uncles. So, brothers Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades descended into the Underworld, killed the guard, and freed the Hundred-handed giants and the Cyclopes. Ultimately, the Titans were defeated and subsequently imprisoned.
On Gaea’s advice, the gods chose Zeus as their king—the Lord of Olympus. Zeus also became the Lord of the Sky—and had power of far seeing. Poseidon became the Lord of the Sea and taught mankind how to build ships and how to tame horses. Dark Hades became the Lord of the Underworld and taught mankind to respect the dead. Zeus then rewarded his sisters—Hestia became goddess of the hearth and home, and she taught mortals how to build houses. Demeter became the goddess of grain harvests and the fertility of the earth, and she taught mortal men how to sow and cultivate corn. Upon marrying her brother Zeus, Hera became the goddess of marriage and childbirth and the Queen of Mount Olympus. These and subsequent Olympian gods helped mankind learn to lead a better life.
These two White Star Liners were built for comfort, not speed—Cunard Line already had the “greyhounds of the sea”; they were Lusitania and Mauretania (790 feet long), slim and fast. Unfortunately, the two Cunarders’ narrow breadth and top speed of 26 knots came with penalties—Lucy and Maurie rattled terribly (initially), rolled badly in heavy seas, and devoured coal like there was no tomorrow. In Olympic and Titanic (882¾ feet long), White Star Line had two large, solid, luxurious ships that were capable of 21 knots (41 km/h) but used coal conservatively thanks to the combination of two gigantic four-cylinder triple-expansion reciprocating engines driving the wing propellers (at a typical maximum of 77 RPM) and then exhausting their steam into a large low-pressure turbine driving the centre propeller (at a maximum of 170 RPM).
(During her years of service, Olympic regularly achieved 22 knots until, in November 1932, White Star Line imposed a 21-knot speed limit to extend the life of her old, weary hull.)
Before each ship entered service (Olympic on June 14, 1911, Titanic ten months later), she was issued an “Official Number” by the Board of Trade. Olympic’s Official Number was 131,346; Titanic’s was 131,428. The reader can make what they want of the fact that ‘131346’ plied the North Atlantic for 25 years, and ‘131428’ went to the bottom of the ocean on her maiden voyage. (The “NO POPE” reflection story is a fabrication. Firstly, there is no known link between Titanic and any existence of the number “3909 04” Secondly, no numbers were embossed on the ship’s bow. Thirdly, reflected on a horizontal surface such as water, the number becomes upside-down—not back-to-front.)
Shortly after Olympic’s sea trials (in which she performed splendidly, knocking out 21¾ knots), “THE SHIPBUILDER” magazine published a special edition (“VOL. VI. MIDSUMMER, 1911. SPECIAL NUMBER.”), titled: The White Star Liners “Olympic” and “Titanic.”. In the section “Building of the Hulls” and under the sub-heading “Watertight Subdivision.”, the magazine stated, “The watertight subdivision of the Olympic and Titanic is very complete, and is so arranged that any two main compartments may be flooded without in any way involving the safety of the ship.” and “The watertight doors giving communication between the various boiler rooms and engine rooms are arranged, as is usual in White Star vessels, on the drop system.” and finally “Each door is held in the open position by a suitable friction clutch, which can be instantly released by means of a powerful electro-magnet controlled from the captain’s bridge, so that in the event of accident, or at any time when it may be considered advisable, the captain can, by simply moving an electric switch, instantly close the doors throughout and make the vessel practically unsinkable.”
White Star Line publicised that Olympic and Titanic had been “…designed to be unsinkable.” Harland & Wolff Limited, however, never used the word “unsinkable”; their publicity simply stated, “Builders of the “OLYMPIC” and “TITANIC,” the largest steamers in the World, 45,000 tons each.”
The 12 large watertight doors at the bottom of the ship could be closed manually by a lever as well as electrically from the Bridge. Also, in the two-foot-high cavity (the tank-top) between the top of the double-bottom and the floor plates was a float assembly, which would trip the door if water rose to the floor plates. The doors could be wound back up by a handle; this required two or three men. From the Engine Room, all the doors forward could only be opened from the aft side—going forward through them. Also from this room, all the doors aft could only be opened from the forward side—going aft through them. Each compartment also had escape ladders leading up.
Why did a 1910-era giant four-stacker need masts—one forward and one aft? Firstly, they were needed for the long antenna—a series of wires strung between the two masts. Secondly, it was still believed that having lookouts high up made a significant difference to how far they could see at night. And so the foremast contained a ‘crows nest’, slightly higher than the level of the Bridge, in which sight-gifted lookouts would work shifts in pairs.