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Violet Jessop, the 20th Century Lady Jonah: Part 3 – Ice Warnings for the The RMS Titanic


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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Violet Jessop said that it was her habit to breathe in fresh air on deck before retiring for the night. Regarding the fourth day of sailing on Titanic she wrote:

If the sun did fail to shine so brightly on the fourth day out, and if the little cold nip crept into the air as evening set in, it only served to emphasize the warmth and luxuriousness within.

Titanic in ice field (Artist: Ken Marschall)
Titanic in ice field (Artist: Ken Marschall)

From the second day on, after leaving Southampton on its maiden voyage, RMS Titanic received reports of ice from ships passing through, or stopped due to heavy ice in the region she would be sailing to New York. On the 11th she received six warnings, on 12th five, on 13th three, and on 14th six. As a matter of fact, the Marconi room of RMS Titanic relayed some of the warnings to the shore.

As a routine, all these messages would have been logged in the radio book as they were received or intercepted and passed on to the officers on the bridge. So, it is unlikely that Captain Edward Smith and his officers, would have been unaware of the dangerous ice that was lying directly in the path of the ship.

Here are the messages received or intercepted on Sunday, April 14, 1912 – four days into the crossing:

At 9:00 am  (“Titanic” time), RMS Caronia (call sign MSF), a Cunard Line ocean liner, Eastbound New York to Liverpool, sent an ice warning message to RMS Titanic:

“Captain, ‘Titanic.’ – Westbound steamers report bergs, growlers and field ice in 42°N from 49° to 51°W, 12th April. Compliments. – Barr.”

Action taken: This message referred to bergs, growlers and field ice sighted on April 12, 1912 – at least 48 hours before the time of transmitting the message. At the time this message was received RMS Titanic was at 43°35’N, 43°50’W. Captain Smith acknowledged the receipt of this message and posted it for his officers to read.

At about 8 am on April 14, 1912, Greek steamer Athinai (call sign MTI) belonging to the Hellenic Transatlantic Steam Navigation Company, Westbound from Piraues and Mediterranean ports to New York, encountered a large ice field containing several large bergs. During the morning she sent an ice advisory to RMS Baltic, an ocean liner of the White Star Line, Eastbound New York to Liverpool.

At 1:42 pm, RMS Baltic (call sign MBC) relayed this report to its sister ship RMS Titanic:

“Captain Smith, ‘Titanic.’ – Have had moderate, variable winds and clear, fine weather since leaving. Greek steamer ‘Athinai’ reports passing icebergs and large quantities of field ice today in lat. 41°51′ N., long. 49° 52′ W. Last night we spoke German oiltank steamer ‘Deutschland,’ Stettin to Philadelphia, not under control, short of coal, lat. 40° 42′ N., long. 55° 11′ W. Wishes to be reported to New York and other steamers. Wish you and ‘Titanic’ all success. – Commander.”

Action taken: At the time this message was received the RMS Titanic was at about 42°35’N, 45°50W. Captain Edward Smith acknowledged the receipt of this message.

J. Bruce IsmayCaptain Smith showed the message to J. Bruce Ismay, the Managing Director of the White Star Line, on board the RMS Titanic on her maiden voyage to let him know that ice was to be expected that night. The latter pocketed the message and showed it later to two ladies; and of course many people on board became aware of its contents. At 7:15 pm, Captain Smith asked for its return, when it was finally posted in the chart room.

At 11:20 am, the German steamer SS Amerika, belonging to the Hamburg America Line of Germany, Eastbound, New York to Hamburg sent an ice advisory telegram message to the Hydrographic Office in Washington, DC via RMS Titanic because Titanic was nearer to Cape Race, to which station it had to be relayed to reach Washington. Here is a facsimile of the message:

File copy from Samuel Barr of the telegram from SS Amerika via SS Titanic on location of two large icebergs 14 April 1912. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
File copy from Samuel Barr of the telegram from SS Amerika via SS Titanic on location of two large icebergs 14 April 1912. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips

Action taken: The location of the bergs 41°27’N, 50°08’W was 12.5 miles from where the RMS Titanic later sank. The message does not mention at what hour the bergs had been observed. However, as a message affecting navigation, it should have been taken to the bridge. The two Marconi operators on board Titanic were 25-year-old John George Phillips, better known as “Jack Phillips”, and his Deputy, 22-year-old Harold Sydney Bride. Maybe Phillips waited until the ship would be within call of Cape Race (at about 8:00 or 8:30 pm). No one on board the RMS Titanic knew about this message outside the Marconi room.

The SS Californian, a tramp steamer of The Leyland Line, transporting cargo to whichever port wanted it, commanded by Captain Stanley Lord, left London on April 5, 1912, and was on her way to Boston, Massachusetts. Although she was certified to carry up to 47 passengers, she carried none during this trip. She had a crew of 55 men. At 6:30 pm she sighted three bergs to her southward, 15 miles (24 km) north of the course the RMS Titanic was heading.

At 7:30 pm, Cyril Evans, the only wireless operator of the SS Californian (call sign MWL), sent a wireless message of the ship’s position to their sister ship SS Antillian:

“To Captain, ‘Antillian’, 6.30 pm apparent ship’s time; lat. 42°3’N, long. 49°9’W. Three large bergs five miles to southward of us. Regards. – Lord.”

Action taken: Harold Bride, the other wireless operator on RMS Titanic intercepted the message, but delivered it to the ship’s bridge only at 10:20 pm. Later, Bride said that he could not remember to whom he delivered this message.

.At 9:40 pm, the Marconi station of the MV Mesaba (call sign MMU) belonging to the Atlantic Transport Line sent the following message:

“From ‘Mesaba’ to ‘Titanic’ and all eastbound ships. Ice report in lat. 42°N to 41°25’N, long. 49° to long. 50°30’W. Saw much heavy pack ice and great number large icebergs. Also field ice. Weather good, clear.”

Action taken: This message clearly indicated the presence of ice in the immediate vicinity of the RMS Titanic and was not  delivered to the deck or to any of the officers.

Harold Bride
Harold Bride

This message never left the Titanic’s radio room because the wireless set had broken down the day before, resulting in a backlog of messages that the two radio operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride were trying to clear. At the time time this message reached Titanic’s radio room an exhausted radio operator Harold Bride was getting some much needed sleep. Phillips may have failed to grasp the significance of the message as he was preoccupied with transmitting and receiving messages for passengers via the relay station at Cape Race, Newfoundland.

At Longitude 42°05’N, 50°07’W, a position to the south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, SS Californian was confronted by a large ice field. Captain Stanley Lord decided to halt the ship at 10:21 pm and wait until morning to proceed further.

Officers of SS Californian.  Front row, left to right: Captain Lord, Chief Officer Stewart. Back row, left to right: 2nd  Officer Stone, 3rd Officer Groves
Officers of SS Californian. Front row, left to right: Captain Lord, Chief Officer Stewart. Back row, left to right: 2nd Officer Stone, 3rd Officer Groves.

Around 11 pm, Lord saw a light in the east, but thought it could be a rising star.

At 11:10 pm Third Officer C.V. Groves on deck, also saw the lights of a ship 10 or 12 miles away. To him, it was clearly a large liner as he saw brightly lit multiple decks. Fifteen minutes later Groves informed Captain Lord of what he saw.

They tried to contact the other ship using a Morse lamp, but did not see any reciprocal reply. The Captain then asked his wireless operator Evans if he knew of any ships in the area. Evans said: “only the Titanic.” Captain Lord instructed Evans to call RMS Titanic and inform her that the Californian was stopped, surrounded by ice.

When Evans tried to convey the message the RMS Titanic‘s on-duty wireless operator, Jack Phillips, was busy working on a large backlog of personal messages sent and received from the wireless station at Cape Race, Newfoundland. The relative proximity of SS Californian made signals sent from it loud in Phillips’ headphones. So, Phillips rebuked Evans with: “Shut up, shut up! I am busy; I am working Cape Race!

Evans waited and at 11:30 pm when he did not receive any reply from Phillips he switched off the wireless and went to bed.

Praying the Rosary

Violet Jessop was a firm believer in the power of prayer. As a devout Catholic she always had a rosary in her apron. In her memoirs, Violet says she had taken along with her belongings a copy of a translated Hebrew prayer that an old Irish woman had given her. On that fateful day, after settling down in her bunk she read the strangely worded prayer supposed to protect one who read it against fire and water. Then, she persuaded her roommate, a stewardess (according to editor John Maxtone- Graham, possibly Elizabeth Leather) to read it.

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 Previous: Part 2 – Aboard the RMS Titanic

Next → Part 4 – Sinking of the RMS Titanic

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Violet Jessop, the 20th Century Lady Jonah: Part 2 – Aboard the RMS Titanic


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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Titanic - A painting by Ken Marschall
Titanic – A painting by Ken Marschall

In 1911, RMS Titanic was the second of three Olympic class ocean liners owned and operated by the White Star Line of steamships. It was the largest ocean cruiser afloat at the time it entered service.

Harland and Wolff built the ship in their shipyard on Queen’s Island, now known as the Titanic Quarter, in Belfast Harbour. Thomas Andrew, the managing director and head of the drafting department for the shipbuilding company was her naval architect in charge of the plans for the ocean liner. It took about 26 months to build it. Although RMS Titanic was virtually identical to the class lead ship RMS Olympic, a few modifications were made to differentiate the two ships.

RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912. Author: F.G.O. Stuart (1843-1923)
RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912. Author: F.G.O. Stuart (1843-1923)

RMS Titanic was launched at 12:15 pm on May 31, 1911 in the presence of Lord William Pirrie  a leading Irish shipbuilder and businessman, J. Pierpoint Morgan  an American financier and banker, and J. Bruce Ismay (son of Thomas  Henry Ismay)  chairman and managing director of the White Star Line of steamships, and 100,000 onlookers. It is alleged that 22 tons of soap and tallow were spread on the slipway to lubricate the vessel’s passage into the River Lagan.

Captain Edward John Smith, RD, RNR

Captain Edward John Smith, RD, RNR
Captain Edward John Smith, RD, RNR

Edward John Smith, RD, RNR (January 27, 1850 – April 15, 1912) joined the White Star Line in March 1880 as the Fourth Officer of SS Celtic. He served aboard the company’s liners to Australia and to New York City and quickly rose in status. In 1887, he received his first White Star command, the SS Republic. From 1895 on, Smith was captain of SS Majestic for nine years.

He gained a reputation among his passengers and crew members for his quiet pomposity. Most England’s elite preferred to traverse the Atlantic only in a ship captained by him, thus he became known as the “Millionaires’ Captain“.

From 1904 on, Smith commanded the White Star Line’s newest ships on their maiden voyages. In 1904, he was given command of the then-largest ship in the world, the RMS Baltic. Her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York, that set sail on June 29, 1904, went without incident. After three years with RMS Baltic, Smith was given his second new big ship, the RMS Adriatic and once again the maiden voyage went without any untoward incident.

On board the RMS Titanic

Violet Jessop was one of the happiest stewardesses while working on the Olympic. But, after the Hawke incident, she was apprehensive in joining as a stewardess on any ship. However, her friends persuaded her to join the heavily advertised ‘unsinkable’ Titanic as they thought it would be a ‘wonderful experience’ to serve on her.

On April 10, 1912, Violet, ‘dressed in a new ankle-length brown suit’ set out in a horse-drawn Hansom cab to join the brand new ship as a stewardess at her berth in Southampton. The same day RMS Titanic left Southampton on its maiden voyage to New York.

Bruce Ismay usually accompanied his ships on their maiden voyages, and the Titanic was one of them.

There were 908 crew members, including Violet Jessop on board the RMS Titanic under the command of Captain Edward Smith. Most of the crew members were not seamen. They were divided into three principal departments: Deck, Engine, and Victualling. Of these crew members only 23 were female, mainly stewardesses.

Also among the crew were bakers, chefs, butchers, fishmongers, dishwashers, stewards, gymnasium instructors, laundrymen, waiters, bed-makers, cleaners, etc. The ship even had a printer, who produced a daily newspaper for passengers called the Atlantic Daily Bulletin with the latest news received by the ship’s wireless operators.

Southampton is a major port and the largest city on the south coast of England. Out of the 908 crew members, 699 of the crew came from Southampton, and 40% were natives of the city. Most of the crew signed on in Southampton on April 6, 1912.

Some specialist crew members were self-employed or were subcontractors. There were: five postal clerks, who worked for the Royal Mail and the United States Post Office Department; the staff of the First Class À La Carte Restaurant and the Café Parisien; the radio operators, employed by Marconi; and the eight musicians employed by an agency and travelling as second-class passengers. Violet says she became a friend of the Scottish violinist Jock Hume.

The pay of crew members varied greatly. Captain Edward Smith was paid £105 a month. Violet Jessop and the other stewardesses were paid £3 10s. The lower-paid victualling staff were allowed to supplement their wages through tips from passengers.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, millions of Europeans immigrated to the United States and Canada. White Star was among the first shipping lines to have passenger ships with inexpensive accommodation for third-class passengers, in addition to luxury first-class and second-class berths. The White Star Line’s quartet of revolutionary liners had the largest carrying capacity for third-class passengers: RMS Celtic of 1901 had a capacity for 2,352 passengers; RMS Cedric of 1903 and RMS Baltic of 1904 had a capacity for 2,000 passengers each; and RMS Adriatic of 1907 had a capacity for 1,900 passengers.

The passengers on RMS Titanic included some of the wealthiest people in the world: 325 first-class and 285 second-class passengers, as well as 706 third-class passengers – mostly emigrants from Great Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia and from countries throughout Europe seeking a new life in North America.

The following photos are from scenes enacted by actors for the play TITANIC at the Barrow-Civic Theatre, at 1223 Liberty Street, Franklin, Pennsylvania, USA.

TITANIC - First Class Passengers. (Source: titanic-bct.blogspot.in)
TITANIC – First Class Passengers. (Source: titanic-bct.blogspot.in)

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TITANIC - Second Class Passengers. (Source: titanic-bct.blogspot.in)
TITANIC – Second Class Passengers. (Source: titanic-bct.blogspot.in)

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TITANIC - Third Class Irish Immigrants (Source: titanic-bct.blogspot.in)
TITANIC – Third Class Irish Immigrants (Source: titanic-bct.blogspot.in)

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The proud serivce staff of the RMS TITANIC (from left to right) Stewardess Annie Robinson, Stewardess Violet Jessop, Head Steward Henry Etches, Mrs. Latimer, and Stewardess Mary Hutchinson. (Source: titanic-bct.blogspot.in)
The proud serivce staff of the RMS TITANIC (from left to right) Stewardess Annie Robinson, Stewardess Violet Jessop, Head Steward Henry Etches, Mrs. Latimer, and Stewardess Mary Hutchinson. (Source: titanic-bct.blogspot.in)

On April 10, 1912, at noon RMS Titanic left Southampton on its maiden voyage to New York. She called at Cherbourg in France at 6:35 pm. After disembarking 15 first and seven second class passengers, the ship took aboard 142 first, 30 second and 102 third class passengers. It left Cherbourg at 8:10 pm for Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland.

The ship reached Queenstown at 11:30 am. After disembarking and embarking passengers, she set out at 1:30 pm on her fatal voyage towards New York with a total of 2,224 people: 908 crew members, 325 first class, 285 second class and 706 third class passengers.

RMS Titanic, painted by 16-year-old Ken Marschall (Source : greenwichworkshop.com)
RMS Titanic, painted by 16-year-old Ken Marschall (Source : greenwichworkshop.com)

In her memoirs, Violet Jessop mentions Thomas Andrews, the naval architect in charge of the plans for the ocean liner RMS Titanic. Like all other crew members, she too greatly admired him for he was the only person who heeded the requests of the crew for improvements in their quarters. She wrote:

“Often during our rounds we came upon our beloved designer going about unobtrusively with a tired face but a satisfied air. He never failed to stop for a cheerful word, his only regret that we were ‘getting further from home.‘ We all knew
the love he had for that Irish home of his and suspected that he longed to get back to the peace of its atmosphere for a much needed rest and to forget ship designing for awhile.”

During the voyage, Bruce Ismay talked about a possible test of speed if time permitted.

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 Previous: Part 1 – Aboard the RMS Titanic

Next → Part 3 – Ice Warnings for the The RMS Titanic 

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Violet Jessop, the 20th Century Lady Jonah: Part 1 – Aboard the RMS Olympic


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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Jonah

The Biblical narrative of Jonah in the Old Testament, set in or around the 8th century BC, concerns the disobedient prophet Jonah. God orders Jonah: “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it; for their wickedness has come before me.

But Jonah chose to flee “away from the LORD” to Tarshish by sea, geographically in the opposite direction. He went down to Joppa, found a ship going to Tarshish. The LORD, however, hurled a great wind upon the sea, and the storm was so great that the ship was about to break up. Then, the sailors were afraid and each one cried to his god. To lighten the ship they threw its cargo into the sea. The sailors cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Jonah admitted his disobedience to God.

The sailors asked, “What shall we do with you, that the sea may calm down for us?

Jonah responded, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea and then the sea will calm down for you. For I know that this great storm has come upon you because of me.”

Since the sea was growing more and more stormy they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea stopped raging. But the LORD sent a great fish to swallow Jonah, and he remained in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah prayed to God in his affliction. God commanded the fish to spew Jonah out.

Violet Constance Jessop (October 2, 1887 – May 5, 1971)
Violet Constance Jessop (October 2, 1887 – May 5, 1971)

Violet Constance Jessop (October 2, 1887 – May 5, 1971) was an ocean liner stewardess and nurse notable for surviving the disasters associated with the British White Star Line’s trio of Olympic-class liners: RMS Olympic, RMS Titanic and HMHS Britannic.

Was Violet Jessop a 20th century Lady Jonah?

In the mid 1880s, her father, William Jessop immigrated to the Argentine Republic from Dublin to try his hand at sheep farming. In 1886, his fiancée, Katherine Kelly from Dublin joined him.

Violet Jessop was the first of nine children born to them. Violet contracted tuberculosis at an early age. However, she survived even though her doctor predicted that she would succumb to the illness. Despite a delayed education, Violet benefited from an American schooling in Argentina.

SS Orinoco (Source: clydesite.co.uk)
SS Orinoco (Source: clydesite.co.uk)

After William Jessop died in Mendoza, Katherine Kelly moved to Great Britain with her children where she found a job as a stewardess for the Royal Mail Line. Violet attended a convent school under the tutelage of Breton nuns in Kent.

When Katherine became ill, Violet left school at an early age to act as a parental surrogate to four younger brothers. Like her mother, Violet decided to become a ship stewardess.

In the early 20th century, most women working as stewardesses were middle-aged, but Violet just 21-years-old and looked beautiful which proved to be a disadvantage in finding a position as a stewardess because Employers believed that her youth and good looks would cause problems with the crew and passengers. Violet solved the problem by making herself look homely by wearing old clothes and no makeup while attending interviews.

In 1908, Violet joined as a stewardess aboard the Royal Mail Line’s passenger-cargo vessel the SS Orinoco that plied between Southampton and the West Indies. From then on, her seagoing career continued with few interruptions for 42 years.

Titanic Survivor

John Maxtone-Graham the editor of “Titanic Survivor: The Newly Discovered Memoirs of Violet Jessop Who Survived both the Titanic and Britannic Disasters,” said her beauty increased her troubles with the “philandering captains and pursers, loquacious or insufferable fellow stewardesses, and an array of sometimes horrifying passengers.”

During her career as a stewardess on various ships, at least three men proposed to her, of while one was an incredibly wealthy first-class passenger.

The White Star Line and Harland & Wolff

Harland & Wolff Heavy Industries Limited in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is a Northern Irish heavy industrial company, specializing in shipbuilding and offshore construction. The company was formed in 1861 by Edward James Harland and Hamburg-born Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, who lived in the United Kingdom from age 14.

The Belfast shipbuilders had a long-established relationship dating back to 1867 with the White Star Line founded in Liverpool, England, by John Pilkington and Henry Wilson in 1845.

White Star Line concentrated on the Liverpool to New York shipping services. They financed their heavy investment in new ships by borrowing from the Royal Bank of Liverpool. The bank failed in October 1867 leaving White Star Line with an overwhelming debt of £527,000 (£39,510,442 as of 2014) and forced into bankruptcy.

White Star Line vector logo

On January 18, 1868, Thomas Henry Ismay, a director of the National Line, purchased the house flag, trade name and goodwill of the bankrupt company for £1,000, (£76,182 as of 2014) intending to operate large ships on the North Atlantic service.

Thomas Ismay was president of White Star Line till 1899 and had several ships under his authority. Most of these ships were chartered.

Gustav Christian Schwabe, a prominent Liverpool merchant, and his nephew, Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, approached Thomas Ismay during a game of billiards. Schwabe offered to finance the new line if Ismay had his ships built by Wolff’s company, Harland & Wolff.

Thomas Ismay agreed, and established a partnership with the agreement with the stipulation that the shipbuilders would not build any vessels for the rivals of White Star Line. Harland and Wolff were given a great deal of latitude in designing ships for the White Star Line. Cost considerations were relatively low on the agenda and the shipbuilders were authorized to spend whatever on the ships and would be paid cost plus a fixed five percent profit margin.

White Star Line placed their first order with Harland & Wolff on July 30, 1869 and began operating again in 1871 between New York and Liverpool, with a call at Queenstown.

It has long been a custom with many shipping lines to have a common theme for the names of their ships. White Star Line named their ships ending in –ic.

In the late 19th century, White Star Line sought to fund construction of two ships, SS Majestic and SS Teutonic through the British government. The government accepted the proposition with the stipulation that the Royal Navy would have access to the two ocean liners in a time of war.

SS Majestic (1890)
SS Majestic (1890)

Harland & Wolff built SS Majestic for White Star Line and launched her on June 29, 1889. After fitting the ship during the next nine months, it was delivered to White Star Line in March, 1890. On April 2, 1890, SS Majestic left Liverpool on her maiden voyage to New York.

In 1895, 45-year-old English naval reserve officer Edward John Smith, who years later would gain lasting fame as the captain of the RMS Titanic was given command of SS Majestic. He served as her captain for nine years. When the Boer War started in 1899, SS Majestic under Smith’s command transported troops to Cape Colony. The ship made two trips to South Africa, in December 1899 and in February 1900, without any adverse incident.

Thomas Ismay died on November 23, 1899 and his son J. Bruce Ismay succeeded him as the chairman of White Star Line. He decided to build four ocean liners to surpass the RMS Oceanic built by his father: the ships were dubbed the ‘Big Four’: RMS Celtic, RMS Cedric, RMS Baltic, and RMS Adriatic. These vessels were designed more for luxury and for speed than safety.

In 1902, J.P. Morgan & Co., was organizing the formation of the International Mercantile Marine Company (IMM). It was an Atlantic shipping combine which absorbed several major American and British lines. Bruce Ismay negotiated the sale of the White Star Line to J.P. Morgan&Co. The White Star Line became one of the IMM operating companies. In February 1904, Bruce Ismay became president of the IMM, with the support of Morgan.

Violet Jessop’s Career with White Star Line

After a brief assignment aboard SS Orinoco, Violet Jessop was hired by the White Star Line as a stewardess aboard SS Majestic.

In the early 20th century, the Harland & Wolff shipyard built a trio of ocean liners for the White Star Line, which were popularly called the Olympic-class ocean liners. They were: RMS Olympic, RMS Titanic and RMS Britannic.

The designs for both Olympic and Titanic were on the board at the same time. However, to ease pressures on the shipyard, construction of the Olympic began three months before Titanic. Several years would pass before Britannic would be launched.

In 1912, the trio were by far the largest vessels of the White Star Line’s fleet of 29 steamers and tenders.

The RMS Olympic

RMS Olympic built by Harland & Wolff was the lead ship and the namesake of the White Star Line’s trio of Olympic-class liners. Launched on October 20, 1910, it was the largest civilian transatlantic luxury ocean liner at that time – nearly 100 feet (30 meters) longer than any other ship. Edward Smith, who had earned the reputation as one of the world’s most experienced sea captains was given the first command of the lead ship.

RMS Olympic arriving at New York on her maiden voyage in June 1911.
RMS Olympic arriving at New York on her maiden voyage in June 1911.

The maiden voyage of RMS Olympic from Southampton to New York concluded successfully on June 21, 1911. However, as the ship was docking at Pier 59 in New York harbor under the command of Captain Smith with the assistance of a harbor pilot, one of the 12 assisting tugs got caught in the backwash of Olympic, collided with the ship, and for a brief moment was trapped under Olympic‘s stern. Eventually, the tug managed to free itself and limped to the docks.

During World War I, RMS Olympic served as a troop ship and was fondly remembered as the “Old Reliable“. After the war, it returned to civilian service. Throughout the 1920s and in the first half of the 1930s, she served as an ocean liner. She was in service for 24 years from 1911 to 1935. After 1930, the slump in trade during the Great Depression, and increased competition, made her operation increasingly unprofitable for the White Star Line.

On June 14, 1911, the 23-year-old Violet Jessop boarded the RMS Olympic to work as a stewardess on it.

Three months later, on September 20, 1911, shortly after leaving Southampton at the start of her planned fifth voyage to New York, RMS Olympic collided with the old protected Royal Navy cruiser HMS Hawke off the Isle of Wight, the largest island of England in the English Channel.

At the time of this incident Violet Jessop was on board the RMS Olympic.

Satellite image showing the Solent, separating the Isle of Wight from mainland England (Source: Earth Sciences and Image Analysis, NASA-Johnson Space Center)
Satellite image showing the Solent, separating the Isle of Wight from mainland England (Source: Earth Sciences and Image Analysis, NASA-Johnson Space Center)

The collision took place as RMS Olympic and HMS Hawke were running parallel to each other through the Solent. The wide radius taken by RMS Olympic to turn to starboard took the commander of the HMS Hawke by surprise and its bow designed to sink ships by ramming, tore two large gashes on the RMS Olympic‘s starboard side, one above and one below the waterline resulting in the flooding of two of her watertight compartments and a twisted propeller shaft.

The damage to RMS Olympic (Source: Popular Mechanics Magazine December 1911)
The damage to RMS Olympic and HMS Hawke (Source: Popular Mechanics Magazine December 1911)

HMS Hawke nearly capsized after she sustained severe damage to her bow.

Despite the heavy damage to both vessels, there were no casualties and none seriously injured.

Both vessels managed to steam back to Southampton for repairs. The fifth voyage of RMS Olympic to New York was cancelled.

After two weeks of temporary repairs in Southampton, RMS Olympic returned to Belfast for further repairs. On 30th November 1911, she returned to active service.

Though Violet Jessop survived the collision of RMS Olympic with the HMS Hawke, she was slated for more traumatic experience a year later on RMS Titanic and on the RMS Britannic in 1916.

 

Next Part 2 – Aboard the RMS Titanic

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Chinese Coaches Torture Kids to Create Olympic Champions


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Chinese child gymnastics - 04
A Chinese child gymnast cries in pain during “training”.

The 16-year-old, Ye Shiwen of China known as the ‘Mandarin Mermaid’ swam faster than US superstar Ryan Lochte. “It was pretty impressive. And, it was a female. She’s fast. If she was there with me, I don’t know, she might have beaten me” Lochte said.

Ye Shiwen - 02
Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen won gold medals in the 400 metres and 200 metres individual medley, setting the world record in the 400m event and the 2012 Olympic record in the 200m event.

Ye Shiwen said her extraordinary swim was the result of “hard work and training”.

In an effort to transform China into a global athletic power, the state-run athletics programs with a single-minded fixation on winning gold medals, earmark potential champions at a young age. Then, they haul those children away to camps and subject them to gruel training with its tough Soviet-style fitness programs.

Chinese Divers - 01
Chinese divers He Zi and Wu Minxia won the gold in the 3-meter synchronized springboard event at the London Olympics.

At the London Olympics China’s star diver, 26-year-old Wu Minxia became the first diver ever to win golds at three consecutive games in the 3-meter synchronized springboard. She sacrificed her school education and family life to win the gold for her country.

Wu Minxia of China - took the gold in the 3-meter synchronized springboard event at the London Olympics
Gold medalists Wu Minxia

Since the age of six, Wu trained daily at a diving camp and at 16 she had to move away from her family to live in a state-financed sports academy where training is grueling. She did not attend school. She had to dive all day for more than 10 years.

Wu Minxia rarely met her family members. Her parents followed her on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site akin to a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook. In London, they could not meet her in person before the event. They watched their daughter perform from the stands. They had to withhold the news of her grandparents’ death for over a year. She was not even told that her mother had contracted cancer eight years ago. “We have known for years that our daughter did not belong to us anymore,” said Wu Yuming, her father.

Lin won a gold medal in men’s weight lifting. His father who had not seen him for six and a half years. He  told reporters that he did not recognize his 23-year-old son until he heard his name mentioned on television.

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Note: This five-part video presentation titled “How China trains (read: tortures!) its kids to become Olympic champions!” It vividly expounds the gruesome methods adopted by the Chinese coaches in training potential champions at a young age.

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Ellie May Challis vs Oscar ‘Blade Runner’ Pistorius


Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Oscar Leonard Carl Pistorius, born 22 November 1986, is a South African sprinter. He is known as the “Blade Runner” and “the fastest man with no legs.”

When Pistorius was just 11 months old doctors found that he had no fibula in both his legs. He was amputated below the knees.

Pistorius, now aged 25, is a world record holding sprinter. He runs with the aid of Cheetah Flex-Foot carbon fibre transtibial artificial limbs made by Össur, Reykjavík, Iceland.

He competes in T44 (single below knee amputees) events though he is actually classified in T43 (double below knee amputee). He is the world record holder for T44 in the 100, 200 and 400 metres events.

In 2007, Pistorius took part in his first international competitions for able-bodied athletes. Many claimed that his artificial lower legs, provides him an unfair advantage over able-bodied runners. After monitoring his track performances and carrying out tests, scientists took the view that he enjoyed considerable advantages over athletes without prosthetic limbs. On the strength of these findings the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) amended its competition rules. It banned the use of

“any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides a user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device.”

The IAAF claimed that the amendment was not specifically aimed at Pistorius. However, on January 14, 2008 the IAAF ruled him ineligible for competitions conducted under its rules. That included the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Pistorius sought the help of sports lawyer Jeffrey L. Kessler, who has represented the NFL and NBA Players Associations. On May 16, 2008 the ruling of the IAAF was reversed by the Tribunal Arbitral du Sport. The Court ruled that overall there was no evidence to show that Pistorius had any net advantage over able-bodied athletes. Pistorius was given back his right to compete in the Olympics.

Although eligible to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, he did not qualify for the South African team. On 16 July 2008 he achieved third place and a personal best time of 46.25 seconds in the 400 metres in Lucerne, Switzerland. But this was short of the Olympic qualification time of 45.55 seconds. And for the 4 x 400 metres relay there were four other runners who achieved better timing.

At the 2008 Summer Paralympics, he won gold medals in the 100, 200 and 400 metres (T44) sprints.

Oscar "Blade Runner" Pistorius at London 2012 olympics
Oscar “Blade Runner” Pistorius at London 2012 olympics

He is now representing his country at the London 2012 Olympics.

A few months ago, Oscar ‘Blade Runner’ Pistorius met the chirpy 8-year-old Ellie May Challis.

Baby Ellie May Challis

Ellie May Challis was born in Essex, England in 2004. When she was just 16 months old, she was struck down with a near fatal case of meningitis. She survived; but the effect of the deadly septicemia bacteria was so severe that both her arms and legs had to be amputated.

Ellie was originally fitted with standard prosthetic legs. She found it difficult keeping up with her siblings (twin sister, Sophie and older siblings Tai-la,9 and Connor, 11) and other children her age.

Ellie May Challis
Ellie May with her siblings (twin sister, Sophie and older siblings Tai-la,9 and Connor, 11)

Ellie’s community loved the little girl. They raised enough money for new carbon fiber prosthetic legs, same as those used by Paralympic sprinters. This makes Ellie the youngest person ever to have carbon fiber prosthetic legs.

On the first day to her school, Ellie walked on her own in her new carbon fiber prosthetic legs.

There are several advantages of using carbon fiber over fiberglass or Kevlar. Carbon fiber is extremely strong. It is much more lightweight and could be turned into very thin sheets. A major disadvantage, however, is that carbon fiber, when bent to a great extent, can break.

Ellie loves her new limbs. Within seconds of having them on, she was off. They will have to be replaced every two years as she continues to grow.

Here’s a video of Ellie learning to walk using the new carbon fiber legs:

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When Oscar Pistorius and Ellie May met, knowing that both have been fitted with prosthetic limbs, they decided to challenge each other to a few races. Pistorius seemed to have underestimated Ellie. Just mere weeks after learning to walk with her new carbon fiber prosthetic legs, Ellie was able to beat Pistorius in all four of their 15-meter races!

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