Good Reading : June 2011
JUNE 2011 ı goodreading 25 Ask anyone on the streets of a major city anywhere in the world -- London, New York, Paris, Tokyo, Sydney -- to name a famous ship and the answer you are most likely to hear (providing you immediately discount the Star Ship Enterprise) is the Titanic. The multitude of books, films and TV specials about the sinking of the Titanic means that most of those people on the streets will be able to tell you that the world's most luxurious liner struck an iceberg and sank carrying some of the richest (and poorest) people ever to cross the Atlantic. They may even be able to tell you that the disaster happened during her maiden voyage, but ask them when it happened and you will hear guesses of anywhere from the late 19th century up to the beginning of the Second World War. I know -- I've asked around. Not quite as far afield as New York and Tokyo, but enough people from enough places to realise that, while people know the legend of the Titanic's short life, they don't really know the story of the Titanic. While so many know a little about her demise, relatively few know the story of the Titanic's birth in the Belfast shipyard of Harland & Wolff; yet the story of the building of the Titanic is integral to that of her tragic destruction. The Titanic was launched in 1912, the year when, in America, William Taft was replaced by Woodrow Wilson as President, and Arizona and New Mexico became states, bringing the total of the United States up to 48. In Britain, Herbert Asquith was Prime Minister and Captain Scott raced Amundsen to the South Pole. King George V was on the throne, speaking English with a pronounced Ger man accent and retaining the family name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, despite ever worsening relationships between both Britain and Ger many, and King George and his cousin the Kaiser. While war was brewing in Europe, so too was the situation in Ireland sliding inevitably towards armed conflict. The country was divided along religious and political lines, between Protestants and Catholics, loyalists and republicans. The Titanic, hailed as a moder n-day marvel, was created in a country riven by strife that dated back centuries. The Titanic could be described as a bridge between two different ages. She was the most moder n ship afloat with radio, electric lighting, elevators, a fully This photograph shows work being carried out on the Titanic’s starboard propeller shaft and was taken by Robert J Welch for Harland & Wolff. In order to better show the dimension of the shaft and to balance the photograph more evenly, the photographer has doctored the photographic negative to remove one of the workmen who was standing second from the right. This created a ‘ghost’ image. The workman standing on the right gives some idea of the size of one of the Titanic’s main reciprocating engines, seen here under construction.