Never An Absolution

Thirty-eight years, I, Edward J. Smith, Senior Captain of the White Star Line, sailed across boundless oceans. I was renowned for my natural leadership and popularity among passengers and crew. I also took great pride in my impeccable safety record. Nothing gave me greater satisfaction than to see my passengers marvel at the wonder of the Sea and then on arrival at their destination, exclaim at the new sights that encompassed them.

Thirty-eight years of service was enough. I decided that the Titanic would be my final voyage. I was honoured to command this great ocean liner. I had commanded many a ship but there certainly was nothing as luxurious as the Titanic. It truly was the biggest ship in the world, and I was the Captain. Upon being asked, I could not get my head around the idea. But everyone believed I deserved it. I was told it would be a fitting tribute to a long and illustrious career. It truly was an accomplishment, and I felt a sense of closure with my upcoming retirement.

Thirty-eight years serving on ships and even I was in awe on sailing day. The rich were impressed and it was obvious that nothing compared to this experience for the second and third class. The exclamations were plenty as people boarded the “Unsinkable Ship of Dreams”, and the atmosphere was electric. I felt so young again, and though I didn’t show it very much, as I had to stick to the business side of matters, I could not have been happier.

Thirty-eight years of sailing the oceans and one moment changed everything. In that second the iceberg ripped through the starboard bow, I was reminded that no spectacle of human intelligence can ever surpass the force of nature. I was reminded that though I had been Captain of so many ships, I was not, and never would be, Captain of the Sea.

Thirty-eight years of sailing experience, and yet my knowledge foundered me, as I painfully learnt on that fateful night. I knew there had been icebergs in the vicinity, but my sense had somewhat evaded me. I had been influenced to go faster so as to make headlines, and unlike my usual self, I had obeyed. In my heart, I knew Titanic could sink if the situation presented itself, but I had got too caught up in the notion that she was indeed unsinkable. An error that haunts my conscience forever.

Thirty-eight years of skill and knowledge could never have prepared me for the situation at hand when I was first informed the ship would sink. A feeling of dread washed over me. My reasoning also returned, albeit too late. For the first time, I felt truly helpless. In a few hours, the remains of this luxurious ship would be at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. At the time, it seemed inconceivable, but it was a very real fate, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was defeated.

Thirty-eight years of leadership and command, and in the ship’s final moments, I locked myself away from the screaming masses in my room, ashamed and guilty, awaiting my end. I thought I knew the ocean. I was wrong. As the pressure surmounted against the windows which were prolonging my life, all the colour in my face drained. Not because I knew that death was moments away, but because I had finally realised what power really was. I was staring it right in the face.

Thirty-eight years of constantly viewing the power of the waves. Many times I had marvelled at the multiple personalities of the Sea. One time, she was your friend, a mirror of peace and serenity, stretching for miles on end without a ripple in sight, disturbed only by the propellers of the sailing ship. Other times, she was fierce and frightening, looming overhead as a liquid tower during some gusty storm. But never had I seen the full force of the ocean until the second right before it consumed me. One moment, the depths of the ocean surrounded me, towering over me and glaring at me in dark blue shades. The next, the pressure exploded and I was drowned in an instant. I can only hope that death was as quick for the others, and that when the water washed over them, they were soothed into an eternal sleep.

Thirty-eight years of excellent safety were destroyed by one fatal mistake. It cost me my life and the lives of over 1500 others. So many souls had expected to reach the shores of America, believing that when they stepped aboard the Titanic, their journey across the Sea would last only a few days. Instead, they were sent to their watery graves, where they would rest for an eternity. So many souls were robbed of their hopes and dreams, which drowned on contact with the icy waters of the Atlantic. I was meant to ensure this never happened. It was my duty to protect my passengers. I failed.

Thirty-eight years of acclaim, yet I would be recognised in history only as the Captain of the ill-fated Titanic. No-one would remember any of my other voyages, they would only remember that I was in charge of the greatest ship of the world, which never made it passed her maiden voyage. My honourable career would forever be tarnished by the fate of the Titanic. At least one thing did not change. My voyage on the Titanic was indeed my final journey.

Thirty-eight years of experience turned against me. How?

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