In Memoriam: RMS Titanic
Daniel Burnham once said, "Make no small plans. They lack the fire to stir men's dreams." Lord Pirrie and Bruce Ismay must have heard him from across the ocean, for they made the largest, most luxurious ocean liners that ever sailed. From the perspective of our age, the construction of the Titanic and her two sister ships was not all that difficult. We have computers to generate the business case for their construction and operation. We have computers to help in the design and construction of almost everthing. We also extensively use computers to help run massive ships, such as this. However, this was not the case in 1912.
On a summer's evening in 1907, Bruce Ismay, Managing Director of The White Star Line, and his wife Florence attended dinner at Downshire House, the London residence of Lord James Pirrie, a partner in the firm of Harland and Wolff, the Belfast shipbuilder who had constructed all of White Star's vessels. Cunard's new liner, the Lusitania, was the talk of the town. About to make her maiden voyage, she was expected to shatter the speed record for an Atlantic crossing and cement Cunard's lead in the race of the superliners. With their existing ships, White Star could not hope to compete.
Pirrie and Ismay devised a plan to regain White Star's supremacy. They would not compete with speed, rather, they would build a pair of floating palaces, the like of which the world had never seen. A third ship would follow. These twin sister would be the largest vessels afloat and the most complex objects built by man. They would be so large that Harland and Wolff would have to build special gantries for their construction and the New York Harbor Board would be forced to build extra long piers to accommodate their arrival. An army of draughtsman and engineers worked tirelessly to create the drawings and specifications for everything from the massive four story tall engines to the place settings in the First Class Dining Room. Nearly eighteen months had passed since that dinner. On December 16, 1908, the first keel plate was laid for the Hull 400, later called the Olympic. Hull 401, the Titanic, was started on March 31, 1909. Construction of the legends had begun.
Copyright © 1995-1998 Michael Disabato.