When the Titanic launched in 1912, one White Star Line employee noted “God himself could not sink this ship.”
At the time, Titanic was the largest, most luxurious cruise liner to hit the seven seas. The White Star Line was a company owned by J.P. Morgan, one of the wealthiest men to ever live. Initially, Morgan himself was supposed to be on the ship, but he fell ill. Titanic was the epitome of class, wealth, and privilege. Third class tickets were the equivalent of $31,000 today. Which means first class tickets were about $124,000. With its incredible accommodation, sheer size, and beautiful architectural appointments, it must’ve seemed that God Himself had actually built the boat . The idea that it could land at the bottom of the ice-cold Atlantic only a few days after leaving port was unthinkable.
Yet, that’s where the Titanic is today—as we all know. At the bottom of the ocean. All of those fine appointments and marvels brought low by an iceberg and structural engineering failures.
And those people who shelled out thousands of dollars to travel aboard her? Fifteen hundred of them, over half of the ship, died because of poor planning by the parent company. Only twenty lifeboats out of a were on board, enough to accommodate only half of the passengers, after the owners and builders rejected plans for having up to sixty-four lifeboats.
I know what you’re thinking: “I saw Titanic too.”
To which I say: “But did anyone really watch the movie?”
I mean, surely, now, over one-hundred years and one super-blockbuster movie later, we have learned our lesson about hubris. Certainly, we have studied the mistakes of the past and will definitely listen to experts about structural and safety issues.
Yet, just last week, over the grave site that is the Titanic’s resting place, we once again see history repeating a lesson until it is learned.
The Titan submersible, carried five people on board who paid—wait for it—about $250,000 a piece (earlier trips of the submersible charged passengers about $110,000)—generally equivalent to a Titanic first class ticket. There were two billionaires on board. Again, this is similar to the passengers aboard the Titanic, which had a wide representation of millionaires, including John Jacob Astor, Margaret “Molly” Brown, Charles Melville Hays, and J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line.
The Titan, again like the Titanic, lacked significant safety features. In an earlier Titan venture, Bavarian entrepreneur and passenger Arthur Loibl noted the bracket of the stabilization tube was “reattached with zip ties.” According to the BBC, Stockton Rush, OceanGate CEO, said he was tired of “industry players who try to use a safety argument to stop innovation.”
In the end, all of the Titan passengers, including Rush, died in a horrific—yet completely preventable—way.
The owners and passengers were so busy trying to look at the remnants of the ship that they forgot to look at the story of the ship, which is its true legacy…not the metallic bones so far below the surface.
Caught up in “innovation” and even pageantry—look what my money can buy—they failed to realize they were caught in a poorly written movie sequel. Once again, this small section of the northern Atlantic refused to truck with arrogance and poor foresight.
God Himself doesn’t have to sink ships, we manage it well enough on our own. And the real tragedy of both of these situations, in my opinion, is that we never seem to learn that lesson.