Four days after setting off from Southampton, England, during its maiden voyage across the Atlantic, the Titanic was well on its way to its destination of New York on the night of the night of April 14, 1912. Passengers felt secure in their berths, comforted by the assurance that the ship was unsinkable. Then the unimaginable happened – the liner hit an iceberg. Little more than two-and-a-half hours later, the liner sank to the bottom of the ocean with the loss of over 1,500 lives.
The Titanic disaster has generated millions of words, many films and countless books. In 2019, it entered the headlines yet again. The first film of the ship taken in 14 years was released, rekindling our fascination with the disaster. One of the most compelling questions about the great ocean liner is – just what was life like onboard before tragedy struck?
Titanic’s owners, the White Star Line, were determined to make their ship the most luxurious ever to sail the seas, at least for first-class passengers. Their aim was to duplicate the experience of staying in one of the world’s top hotels. There was even a Parisian style café where menu items included such delicacies as sirloin of beef, oysters and peaches in Chartreuse jelly. Other amenities included a Turkish bath, a gym and a swimming pool.
However, although the most opulent surroundings were reserved for the wealthy who could afford first-class passage, those in third-class were far from neglected. In fact, the facilities for the poorest travellers were better than those offered by most other shipping lines. Cabins came with electricity and heating and there were communal spaces where passengers could socialize and children could play.
Sadly, the fact that the Titanic could be sunk by a collision with an iceberg means that her luxurious trappings are now lost to the ocean. And the latest footage of the ship from 2019 reveals a sorry picture of decay. The depredations of salt water, powerful ocean currents and metal-eating bacteria are gradually destroying the remains of this once proud ship. As researcher Parks Stephenson told the BBC, “Titanic is returning to nature.”