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Is captain Smith responsible for the great loss of life with the sinking of the Titanic.

 Captain Smith is responsible for the great loss of life with the sinking of the Titanic, how far do you agree with this statement?


                The Titanic was on one of the most luxurious ship ever built and was supposed to be unsinkable, but the exact opposite came true and the bad luck is not here to blame. Building the Titanic was finished in 1912 and in the same year this “Dream Ship” set off on its first voyage, which enrolled to the history as one of the biggest catastrophes ever.  Everybody knows a lot of stories about passengers, who died or conversely survived, but not many people know that bad luck was not the main reason why the Titanic hit the iceberg, however one of the reasons of this catastrophe was the Captain Smith himself. At first in this essay, I am going to explore reasons why the Titanic even hit the iceberg and later, I will be analysing reasons, why so many people died.

One of the main reasons why this catastrophe took place, were bad priorities of the crew and mainly of the captain. Despite the fact Captain Smith received several warnings about icebergs[1], he continued travelling at the top speed in the moonless and windless night just to beat the record and to reach the coast of New York earlier in order to get the blue ribbon. Generally, his selfish behaviour cost lives more than 1500 people.

                However, there are other aspects, which influenced this catastrophe. Another person responsible for crashing into an iceberg is Frederic Fleet –member of the crew–, who was on the lookout in the fatal night. There was no moonlight in the night on the 14th April, so there was almost no visibility and in addition there also was no wind, consequently the waves did not break over the icebergs, so it was much harder to see them.  Despite all these facts Fleet did not ask for binoculars and in addition, he was not even paying more attention, when it was still getting colder and colder, so he saw the iceberg late. We know this fact from Charles Lightoller’s testimony during the British inquiry. Because the crew was warn late, the ship had not enough time to change its direction or turn around and for this reason the Titanic hit the iceberg at 11:40 pm by its side.

                Finally, the last person to be blamed for hitting the iceberg is Jack Philips, wireless operator of the Titanic. He did not take seriously warnings, which the other ships –notably Californian[2]– were sending and on the contrary his priority was just dealing with passenger’s messages.  Besides, he did not give a very last urgent warning to the captain. Finally, he was rude to the Californian wireless and because of that, they switched their radio off and therefore, the Titanic was not able to send them a SOS message, when they were already sinking.

Although the Titanic hit the iceberg, there still was a possibility to at least save the passengers, but because of underestimated preparation, it did not happen. The very first people responsible for the great loss of lives on the sinking ship were Bruce Ismay and Alexander Carlisle – one of the owners of White Star Line and a designer–. They spent just about five minutes discussing the lifeboats and moreover, they decided to reduce the number of them, because they did not want the first class deck to be full of lifeboats as they also thought the ship was unsinkable. They reduced the number of lifeboats to twenty, although the Titanic needed at least sixteen times more of the boats to carry all the passengers in the time of need.  The reducing was the reason why many people did not find place in them during the evacuation. The worse thing is that some people could prevent this disaster, but their decision let the Titanic pass with not enough lifeboats. It was a British inspection, named Board of trade, which checked the Titanic before its voyage and owing to an old law about number of lifeboats, they agreed on twenty of them, which led to the great loss of life. Furthermore, Ismay and Carlisle decided to make the watertight compartments smaller in order to have more space for passenger’s luggage and thus the Titanic was not able to float, when they were flooded. For this reason, Titanic sank very quickly and there was no chance for Carpathia or some other ship to save the passengers, who were not in the lifeboats.

                The passengers could be rescued if the Titanic was able to float even though its chamber were flooded, but it did not happen, because in the five of them was already water and the ship could float only with water in four of them. This is a fault of Harland and Wolf company, which was building the Titanic. They decided to use one of the cheapest rivets[3] and as a result the rivets broke during the collision and the water got into the chambers. It is proven that if the steel rivets were used for every section of the ship, it could withstand more force. Also they use very thin plates, which just could not stand the strain of the iceberg and the latest test showed that it could be better for the Titanic to hit the iceberg straight by its fore. These are the reasons why the Titanic sank so quickly with no chance for Carpathia to get to the sinking ship on time to save more than 1,500 on board.

                It is natural that such a large catastrophe is followed by a lot of panic and confusion, but the biggest mistake on the sinking Titanic was a confusion of the crew. There was more than an hour delay in evacuation of the passengers, because not even the crew actually knew if the ship is really sinking. The passengers and also the crew thought it is just a drill or even some kind of joke, so they rather stayed inside the ship instead of standing on the cold deck. When it finally got to the filling and launching the lifeboats, the crew totally failed. Mostly only the first class passengers were allowed to the lifeboats and in addition, one of the member of the crew said that only women and children are allowed to be launched in the lifeboats, but the true is that the captain said:”Women and children first.” Furthermore, the crew was not able to properly launch the lifeboats, because they thought they were not enough strong to carry 65 people, therefore the boats were launched half-empty. However, the boats were tested with 70 men in them. Moreover, one of the lifeboats floated into the sea upside down and it could not be used anymore. This confusion could be prevent if the Captain Smith would not cancelled the prepared drill of filling the lifeboats in order to allow people to go to church. The last failure of the crew was when the saved members in the lifeboats were afraid of possible vortex after the Titanic sank, so they did not return for the people in the cold water.

                In conclusion, my opinion is that Captain Smith is definitely to be blamed for hitting the iceberg and just slightly for the loss of lives, however he is not the only one. As I mentioned, there are people such as Fredric Fleet and Jack Philips, which we can blame for their selfish behaviour, distraction, rudeness and bad priorities. In addition, there are lot of natural aspects why the Titanic hit the iceberg like no wind, no moonlight, el Niño effect etcetera, which can be classified just as a bad luck. Although Captain Smith is responsible for the collision, he is not responsible for a great loss of lives. There are people such as Bruce Ismay, Alexander Carlisle, Board of trade, Harland and Wolf or even the crew to be blamed. Instead of being too ambitious and caring just about their outstanding reputation, great appearance of the ship and in the main about money, they should better prepared the whole Titanic, including the ship itself and also the crew and the passengers to possibility of emergency situations. All in all, the Titanic catastrophe is an important and sad example in our history how the bad priorities and bad character trades of people can cause a disaster and I am sure that the people should not forget about it and they should learn from their mistakes and never let something like this happen again.  


British Wreck commissioner’s inquiry. Testimony from Charles Lightoller, Published on 20th May 1912

Cheap rivets blamed for massive loss of life as Titanic sank, article by D. Usborne , Published in the NY on 16th April 1912

The Washington times, Published on 2nd May 1912

Documentary film – the unsinkable Titanic





(1 505 words)



[1] Iceberg-large piece of freshwater ice

[2] Californian – the ship nearest to the Titanic

[3] Rivet-is a permanent mechanical fastener



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