Saturday, August 18, 2012

New research points to Gala Fundraising Dinner as cause for Titanic sinking

A new study is suggesting the RMS Titanic sank because of a Gala Fundraising event that took place onboard the night it hit an iceberg.

The Titanic sank the night of  April 15, 1912 after colliding with an iceberg. More than 1,500 people died.

The study was based on new research in the White Star Lines archives in Liverpool. Scientists from the University of Southern Northumbria in the UK discovered that the Titanic was speeding through the North Atlantic that fateful night because of a fundraising gala being held by the Ladies Temperance League of London.

The League, which included the wives of some of London’s most famous financiers and public officials, was one of Britain’s biggest charities at the time. Their largest fundraising event of the year was an annual cruise and gala dinner. In Spring of 1912, the League decided to hold their event on the newly-built “unsinkable” RMS Titanic.

Lady Constance
“The League had held successful gala fundraisers on a number of liners in the previous years,” said leader research Dr. Dibble Brewer. “When the Titanic was launched, they approached White Star Line chairman, J. Bruce Ismay, about holding their event onboard her maiden voyage. He readily agreed.”

Marketing materials the League used to announce the fundraising event and sell tickets was discovered by researchers in the White Star Archives in an old shoe box labeled “Biscuits, as well as important Titanic papers”. Brewer says they were shocked to find out that the gala organizers had plans to hold a 50-50 draw the night of the dinner to see who could guess how quickly the Titanic could reach New York.

“They had a silent auction, a few speeches and a band as their entertainment. But the big star of the show was the draw to see who could predict when the ship would dock in New York City,” said Brewer.

League President, Lady Constance Snidely, asked Captain Edward Smith to help collect tickets. In her speaking notes, an early draft copy of which were found in the archives, Snidely intended to ask Captain Smith to increase speed that very night in order to make the draw “more of a game”. The notes include a telegram from Ismay dated a week before the voyage saying that he had already ordered Smith to disregard the guidelines for steaming at night in the North Atlantic and “pour on the speed” in order to meet the fundraising needs of the League’s 50-50 draw.
“Your fundraising gala is more important than some silly regulations,” wrote Ismay in the telegram.

Lady Constance and most of the League’s board drowned when the Titanic sank. They were in the hold of the ship counting the money from the gala fundraising event when the ship hit the iceberg.

Brewer said their research found that, ironically, the showpiece of the dinner that evening was a high ten foot high ice sculpture depicting the Titanic sailing into New York Harbor.