“We have absolute faith in the Titanic. We believe that the boat is non-sinkable….”
These were the first words spoken in public by Phillip Franklin, the head of the White Star Line in the United States, in response to a series of alarming rumours that were beginning to circulate in New York and other cities.
Those rumours stated that the brand new Titanic, flagship of the White Star Line, had struck an iceberg en route to New York on her maiden voyage.
No one at first believed it. Wireless was in its infancy in those days. The last distress calls from the damaged liner had been cut off abruptly. The silence thereafter was deafening.
Gradually, a narrative gained momentum; the Titanic had, indeed, struck an iceberg, but all of the passengers had been put off safely in the boats. The Titanic herself was being towed by the Allan liner, Virginian, to the port of Halifax in Nova Scotia.
The White Star Line swept into action; a special train was hired to travel from New York, so that families of the passengers could be ushered quickly to Halifax to be reunited with their inbound loved ones. It set off full of hopeful, relieved souls.
Halfway through the Maine woods, the train was flagged down and stopped. By now, the world knew the awful truth.
The Titanic had gone down in the freezing Atlantic. Her only known survivors- some 700 souls- were aboard the Carpathia, and were actually en route to New York. The great liner had already been at the bottom for hours when Franklin made his hopeful, fatuous boast to an incredulous media.
The shock effect was seismic. Fifty seven millionaires had been on board, and now most of them were gone. The cold water culling of this group of platinum chip plutocrats had the inevitable knock on effect. The New York stock exchange almost followed the Titanic to the bottom.
Ironically, the simple, concise truth about what had befallen the ‘non-sinkable’ Titanic came, finally, from none other than her twin sister ship, the Olympic.