Death at her launch
Even before the Titanic set out on her maiden voyage a little known tragedy occurred, just prior to the great ship’s launch. On the 31st of May, 1911, the foremen of the Harland & Wolff shipyard blew their whistles and shouted for everyone to ” stand clear”. All the workers had rushed out from under the hull except for one. James Dobbins was pinned under a large wooden post. After a headcount, his fellow workers returned to look for Dobbins. He was dragged from under the post but died later from his injuries. He became the second worker to die during the Titanic’s construction.
Almost A collision
The big vessel also had a touch of evil fortune before she cleared the harbor of Southampton. As she passed downstream her immense bulk (she displaced 66,000 tons) drew the waters after her with an irresistible suction tore the American liner New York from her moorings; seven steel hawsers were snapped like twine. The New York floated towards the Titanic and would have rammed the new ship had it not been for the tugs Vulcan and Neptune, who stopped her and towed her back to the quay.
Fire in the Coal Bunkers
Unknown to the passengers, the Titanic was on fire from the day she sailed from Southampton. Her officers and crew knew it, for they had fought the fire for days.
This story was told for the first time by the survivors of the crew and was one of the many thrilling tales of the fateful first voyage.
“The Titanic sailed from Southampton on Wednesday, April 10th, at noon,” said J.Dilley, fireman on the Titanic.
“I was assigned to the Titanic from the Oceanic, where I had served as a fireman. From the day we sailed the Titanic was on fire, and my sole duty, together with eleven other men, had been to fight that fire. We had made no headway against it.”
“Of course,” he went on, ” the passengers knew nothing of the fire. Do you think we’d have let them know about it? No, sir. The fire started in bunker No.6. There were hundreds of tons of coal stored there. The coal on top of the bunker was wet, as all the coal should have been, but down at the bottom of the bunker the coal had been permitted to get dry. The dry coal at the bottom of the pile took fire and smoldered for days. The wet coal on top kept the flames from coming through, but down in the bottom of the bunkers the flames were raging. Two men from each watch of stokers were tolled off, to fight that fire. The stokers worked 4 hours at a time, so twelve of us were fighting flames from the day we put out of Southampton until we hit the iceberg. No, we didn’t get that fire out, and among the stokers, there was talk that we’d have to empty the big coal bunkers after we’d put our passengers off in New York, and then call on the fire-boats there to help us put out the fire. The stokers were alarmed over it, but the officers told us to keep our mouths shut – they didn’t want to alarm the passengers.”