From Chapter 1 of All That Remains
On 31 March 1909, in Belfast, Ireland, Harland and Wolff Shipyard began working on the largest and, certainly, the most luxurious passenger liner ever built in its time.
RMS Titanic was owned by the White Star Line and was completed 31 March 1912. She was 882 feet and 9 inches long and weighed in at 46,328 tons. The first sea trials took place on 2 April 1912. An Agreement and Account of Voyages and Crew was signed by Mr. Francis Carruthers, who deemed the Titanic to be seaworthy.
Titanic began her maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean on 10 April 1912 with Captain Edward J. Smith in command. She left Southampton, England bound for the United States. She never made it.
Everyone would hear the story of a rogue iceberg striking the starboard side and sending Titanic to her grave. But, in fact, there were several iceberg warnings preceding the night of the sinking, and they had caused Captain Smith to alter his original course.
An iceberg may have contributed to the sinking of RMS Titanic, but it was arrogance, ignorance, and incompetence that led up to the disaster.
As Titanic left her berth on 10 April 1912, one family in particular watched her wake as her enormous displacement caused the SS New York, which was docked nearby, to break away from her moorings. Mr. Victor Carnelius Kotter, his wife Elizabeth, and their four-year-old son, Jack, were watching with excitement as crewmen scrambled on deck to try to keep the two massive ships from colliding.
After a four-hour delay, Titanic continued on, making several stops, including Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland, in order to pick up more passengers.
Victor Kotter happened to be in England on a business trip and had brought along his wife and son with a plan to be part of the maiden voyage on their way back to the United States. Victor had some shares tied into the shipping industry and into imports and exports. He traveled to England in order to strengthen his position with other shareholders, and at the same time, took his family on vacation.
After a week of agonizing over the rising cost of shipping freight, the Kotter family boarded Titanic en route to New York. Although Victor wasn’t considered wealthy, he was a well-to-do businessman, which earned him the privilege of conversing with passengers such as Macy’s co-owner Isidor Straus, industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim, millionaire John Astor, and other wealthy businessmen on board for the maiden voyage. Also on board was Denver millionaire Margaret Brown, who often enjoyed the company of Elizabeth and Jack.
Day hours were considered family time and spent with Elizabeth and Jack, but the evening hours, after dinner, Victor had the honor of lounging with the business class and talking shop. Usual subjects included banking, stocks, and whatever happened to be in the business section of The Wall Street Journal. Elizabeth and Jack would usually wander the ship in amazement at all the new technologies then make their way back to sit with the ladies.
On 14 April 1912, as the Kotter family lay sleeping, RMS Titanic struck an iceberg. As ice fell on the starboard deck, the massive ship shook and rumbled as First Officer Murdoch ordered “hard to starboard” and “full reverse.” The incident awoke the Kotters and many other passengers, so they made their way out of their rooms and up on deck. Many of the businessmen took advantage of the opportunity and went to the lounge area for drinks.
After being awakened by the impact, Captain Smith arrived on the bridge and gave the order “full stop.” As Elizabeth and Jack sat with friends, Victor leaned over and kissed Elizabeth on the cheek. He then gave Jack a smile and quietly slipped away to find out what happened.
As rumors spread throughout the ship, some passengers began to panic. Shortly after midnight, Thomas Andrews, a naval architect who helped design the ship, and ship officers conducted an inspection of the damage. Titanic was designed to stay afloat with up to four watertight compartments flooded, but because water was rushing into at least five compartments and was also rising from the ship’s bottom, which no one could account for, it was soon realized RMS Titanic would eventually sink.