Tuesday, April 12, 2005

True Titanic Tales: Captain Smith

Sixty two year old Edward John Smith had been working for the White Star line for 38 years. He commanded his first ship in 1887, and quickly earned the reputation as one of the very best captains sailing the seas. It was common in those days for the regular passengers to follow a well-respected captain on their voyages, rather than booking on a favorite ship. Captain Smith had a large following, and an excellent record, so it became a given that he would command all of White Star's new ships. He captained the Olympic, (Titanic's sister ship), and had decided to make the Titanic's maiden voyage his last. He was to retire after returning Titanic back to Southampton in April of 1912.

In an interview about his many years at sea, Captain Smith was quoted as saying, "I will say that I cannot imagine any condition which could cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that." You may think this is a sad comment on the times, but you must remember that he was one of the best in his field. The world had never seen an incident like the one that would befall the Titanic. Hindsight is always twenty twenty.

Sadly Captain Smith never got to return Titanic safely to her home port. Many legends and rumors surround his final moments. Of course we can never know the truth, but given the survivor accounts and knowledge we have, it is almost certain that he did not committ suicide in the final moments. He was not that kind of a man. One survivor thinks he remembers a man who could have been Captain Smith hold on to capsized Collapsabe B before wishing all the others balancing on the upside-down hull good luck, and letting go. Was it him? Good question.

His body was never found. He left behind a wife, Eleanor Smith, and a fourteen year old daughter, Helen Melville Smith.

Special thanks to Encyclopedia Titanica for helping me fill in all the facts.

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