Now imagine doing it blindly and with very little real preparation, clutching a few paltry possessions and a half-promise of a job, leaving your loved ones an ocean behind. That’s just one of the stories you’ll find in “Voyagers of the Titanic” by Richard Davenport-Hines.
One hundred winters ago, the Arctic temperature was milder than normal, which created a higher number of icebergs from the glaciers near Greenland’s coast. These icebergs floated down into the Atlantic Ocean, right into shipping lanes for cargo ships and luxury liners.
One of the liners was the Titanic.
Eleven stories high, weighing nearly 47,000 pounds, the Titanic was massive. She carried 2,240 passengers and crew, gems and spices, books, a car, fine fabric, mail and more. There were fine dining rooms onboard, a swimming pool, library, and quarters for pampered first-class dogs.
Most of the crew of the Titanic was new to this ship, although they were an experienced lot. An overwhelming majority of them were British and included stewards, a linen keeper, and a slew of men whose backbreaking job was to fill 190 steel furnaces with coal every 20 minutes.
Their captain was on the verge of retirement.
Third class passengers, who constituted most of those onboard, were likewise mostly British, but they also hailed from Ireland, Croatia, Norway, and elsewhere.
Second-class passengers were largely working-class folks, social up-and-comers, and small business owners. They counted among them a single black man, the only one on board.
First class passengers were the kind who might board the Titanic on a whim, or just as quickly cancel the trip to pursue another fancy. Some of them, in fact, did so.
Others, tragically, did not.
Step into any bookish place these days, and you’re likely to be faced with dozens of tomes marking the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. This one, though, has a different feel to it.
“Voyagers of the Titanic” begins in an unusual place, and one can almost feel the doom in author Richard Davenport-Hines’ words. For reasons you’ll soon see, the ship was ill-fated when first setting sail and – knowing what you know – you almost want to warn someone as you’re reading. Davenport-Hines then goes on to tell about each group of people onboard, and there are even further surprises here. I’ve read a lot of Titanic books over the years and I’ve seen even more, but I truly enjoyed this multifaceted take on the story.
In the next few weeks, you may be especially tempted to read up on the Titanic. That’s a good idea, and so is this book. For you, “Voyagers of the Titanic” will be quite moving.
Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with two dogs and more than 9,500 books.