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The Britannic, sister ship to the Titanic, sinks in the Aegean Sea on November 21, 1916, killing 30 people. More than 1,000 others were rescued.
In the wake of the Titanic disaster on April 14, 1912, the White Star Line made several modifications in the construction of its already-planned sister ship. First, the name was changed from Gigantic to Britannic (probably because it seemed more humble) and the design of the hull was altered to make it less vulnerable to icebergs. In addition, it was mandated that there be enough lifeboats on board to accommodate all passengers, which had not been the case with the Titanic.
The nearly 50,000-ton luxury vessel, the largest in the world, was launched in 1914, but was requisitioned soon afterward by the British government to serve as a hospital ship during World War I. In this capacity, Captain Charlie Bartlett led the Britannic on five successful voyages bringing wounded British troops back to England from various ports around the world.
WATCH: Titanic's Tragic Sister Ship
On November 21, the Britannic was on its way to pick up more wounded soldiers near the Gulf of Athens, when at 8:12 a.m., a violent explosion rocked the ship. Captain Bartlett ordered the closure of the watertight doors and sent out a distress signal. However, the blast had already managed to flood six whole compartments—even more extensive damage than that which had sunk the Titanic. Still, the Britannic had been prepared for such a disaster and would have stayed afloat except for two critical matters.
First, Captain Bartlett decided to try to run the Britannic aground on the nearby island of Kea. This might have been successful, but, earlier, the ship’s nursing staff had opened the portholes to air out the sick wards. Water poured in through the portholes as the Britannic headed toward Kea. Second, the disaster was compounded when some of the crew attempted to launch lifeboats without orders. Since the ship was still moving as fast as it could, the boats were sucked into the propellers, killing those on board.
Less than 30 minutes later, Bartlett realized that the ship was going to sink and ordered it abandoned. The lifeboats were launched and even though the Britannic sank at 9:07, less than an hour after the explosion, nearly 1,100 people managed to make it off the ship. In fact, most of the 30 people who died were in the prematurely launched lifeboats. In 1976, famed ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau found the Britannic lying on its side 400 feet below the surface of the Aegean. The cause of the explosion remains unknown, but many believe that the Britannic hit a mine.
READ MORE: The Titanic: Before and After Photos
Violet Jessop: The nurse who survived all three disasters aboard the sister ships: The Titanic, Britannic, and Olympic
White Star Line was a prominent British shipping company, famous for their luxurious liners. Founded in 1845, the company had their first liner, the Oceanic, built in 1870.
The ship had a successful run it was taking passengers across the Pacific until 1895 when it was decommissioned and sold for scrap. Encouraged by this success, White Star Line ordered three more vessels from Harland & Wolff, the same company that built the Oceanic. The new trio of luxurious ships were named Olympic-class ocean liners, which were constructed in the period from 1908 to 1914, and one of those ships later became the most famous vessel of all time.
The three sister ships were all constructed in Belfast, Ireland. The first ship built was named Olympic, and it operated from 1911 until 1935. It was the only ship of the Olympic-class trio not to have an ill-fated end, although it did have two accidents. The Olympic collided twice with other ships during its long run, but none of the accidents were too severe.
The second ship was given the name Titanic, started its maiden voyage on 10 April 1912 and sank only five days later after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean. The third and the largest of all three ships was proudly named Britannic. It began operating in 1915, but its operational life lasted for only one year. In 1916, the Britannic hit a mine in the Aegean Sea, planted by a German submarine during World War One. Together, the two unfortunate ships took the lives of 1533 people. However, many survived as well, and there’s one person who survived both the sinking of the Titanic and the Britannic. Not only that, but she was also aboard the Olympic when it had one of its accidents. This woman’s name is Violet Jessop.
During the First World War, Violet Jessop was one of the survivors of the sinking of the Britannic on November 21, 1916
Violet was born on 2 October 1887 in Argentina to Irish parents. Violet defied death even as a child. At a young age, she contracted tuberculosis, but despite the pessimistic opinions of the doctors, she managed to survive.
After losing her father when she was only 16 years old, Violet moved to England with her family, where she started school. At the same time, she had to take care of her younger siblings, as her mother was working as a stewardess on cruise ships and spent a lot of time at sea. When her mother became sick, young Violet left school and in 1908, at age 21, she started working as a stewardess for the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company.
A panel from a painting by German painter Willy Store expresses the moment of the sinking of the largest ship in the world in 1912
Violet had had a hard time finding a job. Most of the women working on the ships were middle-aged, and Violet was young and attractive. Employers considered this to be a disadvantage, so the young lady was forced to wear old clothes and use no makeup, all to make herself less attractive looking.
Her efforts were, however, in vain and she still received three marriage proposals while working as a stewardess.
Violet enjoyed working on a cruise ship, even though the salary was minimal. In 1910, she became an employee of White Star Line and started working on the biggest civilian vessel of that time, the Olympic. On 20 September 1911, the Olympic collided with HMS Hawke, a British warship, specially designed to ram into other ships and sink them. The Olympic had its hull breached but still managed to sail into port. Violet Jessop was not harmed in the accident.
Depiction of the damage caused by the collision between RMS Olympic of White Star Line and the British warship HMS Hawk
Several months after the Olympic mishap, Violet joined the crew of the RMS Titanic. The luxurious and now biggest ship in the world left Southampton on 10 April 1912 and struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean four days later. Two hours after the accident, the ship sank, and 1503 passengers lost their lives.
The young stewardess boarded lifeboat 16 and was later rescued by RMS Carpathia, together with many other passengers. While on the lifeboat, Violet was given a baby to hold by one of the Titanic’s officers. She took care of the baby until the next morning, when the baby’s mother took if from her arms. Miss Jessop was 25 years old when she survived the second ship accident.
After the war, Jessop served on the Red Star Line Belgenland.
When WWI began, the third of the Olympic-class luxurious ocean liners was employed by the British naval authorities as a hospital ship. On 13 November 1915, the Britannic was renamed as HMHS (His Majesty’s Hospital Ship) and was put under the command of Captain Charles Bartlett. The ship transported wounded soldiers from the Mediterranean back to Great Britain, and Violet Jessop was working as a nurse at the mobile hospital. The ship completed five successful voyages on this route, before suffering a tragic destiny similar to that of her sister, the Titanic. On 21 November 1916, the Britannic was in the Aegean Sea when she hit a mine planted by a German submarine. 57 minutes after that, the grandiose ship was already at the bottom of the sea.
There were 1605 passengers on board, and 30 lost their lives. Having learned the lesson from the Titanic tragedy, the Harland & Wolff company installed more lifeboats on the Britannic, hence the significantly smaller number of casualties. Violet Jessop found her way into one of those lifeboats and was nearly killed when a piece of the ship’s propeller hit her in the head. She suffered a head injury but still managed to survive her third maritime disaster.
Lifeboats are launched into the sea as the Titanic sinks.
When the war was over, Violet continued her employment at White Star Line. Before retiring in 1950, she worked for two more cruise companies: the Red Star Line, and again with the Royal Mail Line. She traveled around the world twice and had a short marriage.
When she retired from her job as a stewardess, she settled down in Suffolk. A few years later, Jessop received a strange phone call from an unkown woman who asked if Violet was the savior of a baby during the Titanic tragedy. Violet confirmed, and the woman then said that she was the baby Violet saved and hung up the phone. Violet told her friend and biographer John Maxtone-Graham that she never told the story about the baby to anyone, denying his claims that it was a prank call from the local children. Violet earned the nickname “Miss Unsinkable” and died in 1971, at the age of 84, due to a heart failure.
Britannic: A Century After Being Lost to the Waves, Opened to Divers
The HMHS Britannic hit a mine off the Greek island of Kea in the Aegean Sea and French underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau was credited with her discovery in 1975.
The sister ship of the Titanic, sunk in 1916 is to be freed from legislation prohibiting access to its final resting place on the seabed.
His Majesty’s Hospital Ship (HMHS) Britannic
Legislation was brought in by the Greek government in a bid to stop looting of wrecks in its waters but has recently come under pressure to update the law to help in the creation of what has been called an under-sea dive park.
Wrecks from a period spanning from 1860 to 1970 are expected to be opened up for dive enthusiasts.
Local diving instructor Yannis Tzavelakos has stated his support saying that, “such initiatives can only facilitate innovative projects.”
The HMHS Britannic was the third in the series of Olympic class steamships built for the White Star Line.
Gantry towering above Britannic, circa 1914
Intended for service as a transatlantic passenger ship she was launched in 1914, having undergone design changes and modifications following the tragic loss of the Titanic.
Laid up in Belfast at the Harland and Wolf shipyard she was requisitioned for the war effort and served as a hospital ship from 1915, sailing between Britain and the Dardanelles.
She made three voyages in 1915-16 transporting the sick and injured from the Aegean including the evacuation of the Dardanelles in January 1916.
Her military service was to end in June 1916 and the Britannic returned to Harland and Wolf to undergo a refit at a cost to the British Government of £75,000.
Survivors of the sinking
The work was interrupted however when she was recalled by the Admiralty for further military service at the end of August and it was on her fifth trip that the Britannic’s luck changed, having survived storms and the usual dangers of wartime the crew had to be quarantined due to a food-borne sickness.
Later, on the 21 st , November, just after eight o’clock in the morning, while crossing the Kea Channel in the Aegean Sea, the Britannic struck a mine laid just a month before by SM U73 of the German Imperial Navy.
The submarine U 73
The ship was so huge that the effects of the explosion were not immediately obvious to all on board. However, Captain Bartlett and Chief Officer Hume, who were both on the bridge at the time, realised the gravity of the situation.
An SOS signal was sent out and received by the HMS Scourge and HMS Heroic, but the explosion had destroyed the ship’s radio receivers so that the Britannic had no knowledge that help might be on the way.
The crew made ready the lifeboats as the ship’s compartments below decks began to fill with water. It soon became apparent that the Britannic would not remain afloat.
At 09:00 Captain Bartlett gave the signal to abandon ship and watched from a collapsible lifeboat as his command rolled over to starboard and sank seven minutes later with the loss of thirty lives.
Titanic disaster survivor Violet Jessop, who also survived the collision of the RMS Olympic with HMS Hawke, described the Britannic’s final moments thus:
“…she took a fearful plunge, her stern rearing hundreds of feet into the air until with a final roar, she disappeared…”
She was the largest ship lost in the First World War and has been a magnet for exploration since her discovery in 1975, but such diving exploits have not been without their dangers.
In 2009 diver Carl Spencer was on his third mission to film a documentary for National Geographic on board the ship when he died due to problems with his equipment.
Ten years later, technical diver Tim Saville was also killed 120 metres down.
Despite the enthusiasm of local dive schools and politicians who see the possible change in legislation as an opportunity to develop tourist revenue in the area, the dangers of diving on war wrecks remain ever present.
By Pierre Kosmidis
The Titanic is a shipwreck that has attracted the interest of the audience for over 100 years, since its sinking back in 1912.
Few are aware though that her sister ship the Britannic, sunk during WW1 in the Aegean Sea, Greece, on November 21 st , 1916, with the loss of 30 persons out of the 1065 people on board and is now resting on the seabed in almost perfect condition.
A Greek diving mission brought, from a depth of 120 meters, images from a shipwreck resting in the Aegean for almost 100 years.
The “Greek Woman of the Abyss,” Lena Tsopouropoulou recorded through her lens images of a ship almost 260 meters long.
The strait between Makronissos and Kea islands, just a few miles from the Temple of Poseidon on the southern tip of Attica, is one of the busiest sea passages, since antiquity with a history of 2500 years of navigation.
“Victim” of the First World War, the Britannic was retrofitted into a hospital ship and sank after hitting a German mine that had been laid in late October by the German submarine U 73 and stayed for decades forgotten until the famous French oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau located and identified it in 1975.
Image colorised by Markos Danezis
Since then, several diving and scientific expeditions have visited the wreck, which is of great interest, both because of its almost perfect condition, almost 100 years after the sinking, and because of its historical and archaeological significance.
Unlike the “Titanic” that dragged more than 1,500 people at the bottom of the sea, the “Britannic” was more… merciful since just 30 people perished with her.
“The Britannic is a major wreck with a great history,” says Mrs. Lena Tsopouropoulou and adds:
“Diving the wreck is a unique experience, the size of the ship left me speechless. It took a while until I started taking pictures”.
Mrs. Lena Tsopouropoulou highlighted the technical difficulties that the project presented: “The conditions are very demanding, both technically and for photography. It is a great challenge to be able to capture photographically such a wreck and to be able to give an overall picture of the ship”.
The “identity” of the Britannic
The “Britannic”, one of three almost identical ocean liners of the shipping company “White Star”, (the other two being the “Titanic” which sank in 1912 and the “Olympic” which was sold for scrap in the 1920s) is synonymous with luxury transatlantic voyages in the early 20th century.
The Woman Who Survived the Titanic, Britannic, and Olympic Disasters
Today I Found Out about Violet Jessop, "Miss Unsinkable," the woman who survived the sinking of the sister ships the Titanic and the Britannic, and was also aboard the third of the trio of Olympic class vessels, the Olympic, when it had a major accident .
Violet Jessop enjoyed incredible "luck" from a young age. Born in 1887 in Argentina to Irish immigrants, she contracted tuberculosis as a young child and was given just a few months to live. Somehow, she managed to fight the disease and went on to live a long, healthy life.
When her father passed away, her mother moved the family to Britain, where she took a job as a stewardess on a ship. While her mother was working, Violet attended a convent school. Unfortunately, her mother became ill, and to provide for her siblings Violet decided to follow in her mother's footsteps and become a ship stewardess herself.
The first in a long line of struggles for Violet was finding a ship that would take her. She was just 21 years old at the time and most women working as stewardesses in the early 1900s were middle-aged. Employers believed that her youth and good looks would be a disadvantage to her, "causing problems" with the crew and passengers. (Over the course of her career, she did get at least three marriage proposals while working on various ships, one from an incredibly wealthy first-class passenger.
Eventually, Violet solved the problem by making herself look frumpy with old clothes and no make-up, and experienced more successful interviews after this. After a brief stint aboard the Orinoco, a Royal Mail Line steamer, in 1908, she was hired by the White Star Line.
Violet started out on the line's Magestic, switching to the Olympic in 1910. Despite the long hours and minimal pay (٠.10 every month or about 𧶀 today), she enjoyed working aboard the massive ship. She had initially had some concerns about the rough weather conditions while traveling across the Atlantic, but she reportedly liked that the Americans treated her more like a person while she served them.
It was just one year later when the trouble started. In 1911, the Olympic collided with theHMS Hawke (a ship designed to sink ships by ramming them). Both ships sustained considerable damage, including the Olympic having its hull breached below the water line, but miraculously didn't sink. They were able to make it back to port, and Violet disembarked without being harmed.
A couple of years later, the White Star Line was looking for crew to cater to the VIPs aboard the unsinkable ship, the Titanic. It took a while for her friends and family to convince her that it would be a wonderful experience, but Violet eventually decided to take a job on board the ship. As you already know, the Titanic struck an iceberg and sunk, killing more than 1500 people.
Violet was able to escape the disaster on lifeboat 16. In her memoir, she recalls,
As she was jumping into the lifeboat, she was handed a baby to care for. When they were rescued by the Carpathia, the baby's mother (or at least Jessop thought it must be) found her and whisked the baby away (literally grabbing the baby out of Jessop's arms and running off).
Once again, Violet lived to sail another day. Although, she did later state the first thing she missed after the Titanic sank was her toothbrush that she'd left on board.
You'd think she'd stop getting on ships at this point, or at least ships of the Olympic class, but not Violet. In the lead-up to World War I, she decided to serve as a nurse on board the Titanic's other sister ship,Britannic, which was operating in the Aegean Sea. Given her track record, you can probably guess what happened next. The Britannic ran into a mine that had been planted by a German U-boat. The ship sustained substantial damage and quickly started sinking.
This time, Violet wasn't lucky enough to jump into a lifeboat as the ship was sinking too fast. Instead, she jumped overboard. In her own words,
She joked that she only survived because of her thick hair, which cushioned the blow. She also stated this time she remembered to grab her toothbrush before evacuating, unlike with the Titanic.
Even this latest disaster was not enough to deter Violet. After the war, ships were becoming a more and more popular form of transport. Even cruise ships were starting to emerge. Violet left the White Star Line for the Red Star Line and worked on a ship doing world cruises for several years.
Luckily for Violet and everyone traveling on the ships she was aboard later, no such vessel she worked on ever sustained significant damage again. She did take a clerical job for a while after World War II, but went back to working on Royal Mail ships for a few years before she retired at the age of 61. The rest of her life was spent gardening and raising chickens. She died in 1971 of congestive heart failure at the ripe old age of 84.
A 'Titanic' curse that sank its sister ship
Most people are familiar with the story of the Titanic and its tragic sinking (thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet), but the sinking of its sister ship Britannic remains largely unknown.
The White Star Line shipping company had built three major 'Olympic grade' ocean-liners, of which HMHS Britannic was the final creation, as per Mark Chirnside in his book The Olympic Class Ships: Olympic, Titanic, Britannic. The first ship, the RMS Olympic, was the world's largest ocean-liner from 1911 to 1913 -- the crown was taken briefly during that tenure by the RMS Titanic in 1912.
Launched before the commencement of the First World War, the Britannic was the largest out of the three Olympic liners and served as a hospital ship. The ship was shaken by an explosion most likely from a naval mine and sunk near the Greek island of Kea at 8:21 am on Nov. 21, 1916. It was initially intended to serve as a passenger ship before being put to use as a hospital ship during the World War.
After the Titanic was wrecked by an iceberg, the builders modified Britannic and made design changes due to lessons learned from the sinking. The latter was considered to be their safest ship. 'Large crane-like davits - or safety arms' holding six lifeboats each were installed in the ship, said a report in The Sun. The hull's design was changed to make it less susceptible to icebergs, according to History.com.
After the explosion, the Britannic took just 55 minutes to sink completely, which was faster than the Titanic. The disaster killed 30 people, most of whom were in prematurely launched lifeboats and got sucked in by the fast-moving propellers of the ship. Water also gushed in from portholes that were open to allow air into the sick wards. In all, 1,035 survivors were rescued from the water and lifeboats.
In 1976, ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau found the Britannic lying on its side 400 feet below the surface of the Aegean Sea. The vessel is the largest passenger ship on the sea floor. It was also the largest ship lost in the First World War. Britannic had completed five successful journeys before its final voyage.
The Olympic Class Ships: Olympic, Titanic, Britannic
The Olympic Class Ships: Olympic, Titanic, Britannic by Mark Chirnside
Titanic is arguably the most famous ship in history, and her popularity has often come at the expense of her siblings. Yet she was but one of a trio of sister ships. The number of titles that have attempted to tell the story of all three liners in one volume is astonishingly short.
In this new book, Mark Chirnside has done the triplets proud, with a thoroughly researched history of each of these vessels. Like many new authors, he is still finding his voice. Some of his language is a bit stilted at times, and there are some places where his precise meaning isn’t clear. But these glitches are minor, and shouldn’t distract you from enjoying this book. In particular, if you are into the technical aspects of these ships, you are in for a treat.
The book opens with several introductory chapters that set the stage for the construction of the Olympic class. Chapters one and two cover in brief detail the history of the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company (better known as the White Star Line), and the shipbuilding firm Harland and Wolff. Because they figure large as the competition, there is also a short chapter on Cunard’s speed demons Lusitania and Mauretania.
With the introductions taken care of, the text jumps right into “The Birth of the Olympics”, the story of the planning, building and launching of Olympic and Titanic. This chapter is almost a mini Shipbuilder, with a surplus of specifications about this class of ships. Coverage in this chapter turns technical, going into detailed explanations of the deck arrangements and structure, machinery and equipment, watertight subdivisions, pumping abilities, even a detailed analysis of passenger access to the boat deck for all three classes. If this sort of technicality leaves you cold, you can probably skim most of this section. But for the rivet counters amongst you (and you know who you are), this chapter makes for fascinating reading. Passenger and crew accommodations aren’t ignored either, information on these subjects are well represented.
From here the book turns to the story of each ship individually. Olympic is first, of course, and has the most coverage, as she had the longest career. There is always a tradeoff in a work like this. You can’t tell everything there is to tell if you are trying to cover the history of three ships in one book. But the major events of her service are represented. What we don’t get in quantity, is more than made up for in quality, as the depth of detail goes beyond most other titles. Every book about Olympic goes over the story of the Hawke collision, for example, but few cover the material as thoroughly as Chirnside does. Aside from the highlights of her years of service, there is extensive information about the vessel’s various upgrades, repairs and refits as she voyaged on over the years. Also covered in more detail than I have ever seen before, are many examples of the ship’s crossing times at different points in her career.
No ship is an island, if I may mangle an old adage, and the Olympic chapter also features a wealth of information about many other liners that were afloat during her time at sea. Details about some of White Star’s other ships, before and after Olympic are covered, most notably about her post World War siblings. There is a solid amount of material on many of the competing lines’ ships as well, all weaving a rich tapestry of maritime history in peace and in war spanning several decades.
The Titanic chapter is substantial in size, almost as long as Olympic’s. The author makes liberal use of survivor testimony throughout, giving the reader a real you-are-there sense to the story. There is not a lot of groundbreaking material in the Titanic chapter, but the details are covered with the same thoroughness as was found in the one on Olympic. It begins with the ship loading at Southampton in preparation for embarkation. The maiden voyage is covered including various information about passengers and crew. There are discussions of the ship’s speed and engine revolutions, as well as a good record of the ice warnings received.
The mechanics of what happened just prior to, during, and immediately after the collision are only lightly touched upon, but the drama of the sinking is covered very well, as is the launching of the lifeboats. One new theory that intrigued me was the author’s belief that it was not boiler room five’s bulkhead that collapsed, but rather merely the bunker door that gave way. Chirnside’s argument for his conclusion seems reasonable.
Carpathia’s part is covered with the usual commentary, and there are brief accounts of the aftermath, and the ships sent out to collect the bodies of the victims. Another nice touch is a three page documentation of all the wireless messages Phillips sent out during the sinking. There are also substantially detailed overviews of both the American and British inquiries, again packed with testimony. This is a highlight, and probably the best overview of the inquiries I have read to date.
The section on Britannic is the shortest of the three, but still manages to cover the high points of her career. Aside from the huge, new lifeboat davits, many readers probably don’t know that this ship differed from her siblings in many appreciable ways. The author corrects this popular misunderstanding by going into extensive detail about just how different she really was, taking up almost the entire first third of the chapter. He explains the many ways she was structurally altered after the Titanic disaster to make her a safer vessel. All the updates, additions and alterations to her equipment and accommodations are also explained in thorough detail.
There follows a brief, but concise section on Britannic’s launch and her first five voyages as a hospital ship during the First World War. The final third of this chapter covers her disastrous sixth voyage, when the ship was sunk after striking a mine in the Aegean sea. As with the Titanic chapter, Chirnside turns to the survivor’s own words to tell the story of the sinking and the rescue.
There are no less than eleven appendices exploring a wide range of related topics including the fictional story Wreck of the Titan, a comparison of Britannic and Aquitania, Olympic’s new sisters after the First World War, the Californian, Titanic’s legacy and more. Of these, by far the most interesting is Chirnside’s research into the amount of coal Titanic had on her maiden voyage. He presents a strong case that, rather than short on coal, as has been the accepted belief, Titanic actually had more coal aboard for her maiden voyage than Olympic had on her’s.
There are eleven pages of footnotes, and a two page bibliography. My only real gripe is the embarrassingly short, one page index. Completely insufficient for the volume of information to be found in this book.
If you are primarily interested in a social history of these vessels, this book may not be your cup of tea. Not that such material is lacking, there is plenty of history packed into these pages, the actual amount varying for each vessel. There is quite a lot of technical information about Olympic and Britannic not as much in the Titanic chapter, which focuses more on the drama of the tragedy. Overall, the author manages to balance the two types of material effectively. But it is definitely in the technical side of the story that the author has uncovered the most original research. The volume of technical data he has collected on the Olympic class has rarely, if ever, been equaled.
Has the ultimate history of the Olympic class trio been achieved in this book? Maybe. Maybe not. But Chirnside has come closer to hitting the bulls eye than any writer before him.
One Hundred Years Ago, the Titanic’s Sister Ship Exploded While Transporting Injured WWI Soldiers
On April 14, 1912, in a perfect storm of engineering flaws, hubris and simple bad luck, the RMS Titanic descended into the depths of the North Atlantic Ocean roughly 400 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada. But while the Titanic has gone down in history, it wasn’t the only ship of its line to meet a watery end. In fact, 100 years ago today, its sister ship the HMHS Britannic also met its doom at sea.
As the sinking of the “unsinkable ship” made headlines, its owners at the White Circle Line already had its next Olympic-class counterpart in production. Originally called the Gigantic, its owners renamed the passenger liner with the slightly more humble name Britannic shortly after its predecessor sunk, according to History.com.
In the wake of the inquiries into how its predecessor failed so spectacularly, the Britannic underwent some big changes, including a thicker hull to protect against icebergs and the addition of enough lifeboats to accommodate everyone on board, according to History.com. However, it didn’t get much of a chance to redeem its sister ship as a passenger liner—shortly after the Britannic launched in 1914, the British government requisitioned it for use as a hospital ship in the early days of World War I.
As the largest of the British fleet, the Britannic wasn’t a bad place for soldiers to rest up and heal before heading back to the front lines. The ship’s ranking surgeon, a Dr. J.C.H. Beaumont, called it "the most wonderful hospital ship that ever sailed the seas," and with the capacity to carry and treat as many as 3,309 patients at once, British military officials figured the former passenger ship would be a great aid to the war effort, according to PBS.
On November 21, 1916, the Britannic was heading through the Aegean Sea to pick up wounded soldiers. But at 8:12 am, its venture came to an end with a blast. The source of the explosion is still unknown, but many believe the ship struck a mine left by a German U-boat.
The blast caused more extensive damage to the ship than even the Titanic had experienced, PBS reports. Only this time, thanks to the improvements made in the wake of that tragedy and the preparedness of the crew, many more lives were saved.
“The explosion occurred when we were at breakfast. We heard something, but had no idea the ship had been hit or was going down,” the Britannic’s matron, E.A. Dowse, told The New York Times a few days after the disaster. "Without alarm we went on deck and awaited the launching of the boats. The whole staff behaved most splendidly, waiting calmly lined up on deck. The Germans, however, could not have chosen a better time for giving us an opportunity to save those aboard, for we had all risen. We were near land, and the sea was perfectly smooth.”
The evacuation, however, was not perfectly smooth, according to History.com. The ship's captain directed the boat towards the nearest land with the goal of running her aground. But as the ship charged ahead, the crew attempted to launch several lifeboats unbidden. The ship's spinning propellers quickly sucked them in, killing those aboard the rafts. Even so, over 1,000 passengers escaped with their lives and the 30 people who died in the sinking of the Britannic stands in stark contrast to the more than 1,500 lives lost aboard the Titanic.
The disasters that befell the Britannic, the Titanic, and the pair's older sister, the Olympic, all had something (or someone) in common, Emily Upton writes for Today I Found Out—a woman named Violet Jessop. As a crew member and nurse, Jessop worked on all three ships, and miraculously escaped each one alive even though the incidents left two of the vessels nestled on the ocean floor. Having cheated death three times, Jessop eventually passed away in 1971 at the age of 84.
About Danny Lewis
Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.
Preparedness Notes for Saturday — November 21, 2020
On November 21, 1916, Britannic, the sister ship to the Titanic, sinks in the Aegean Sea, killing 30 people. In the wake of the Titanic disaster, the White Star line had made significant modifications to the design of the ship, but on its way to pick up wounded soldiers near the Gulf of Athens, it was rocked by an explosion causing even more damage than that which had sunk the Titanic. Many of the dead were from some of the crew who attempted to launch lifeboats while the Captain tried to run the ship aground. The lifeboats were sucked up into the propellers, killing all of those on board. The cause of the explosion is still unknown, but many suspect it hit a mine.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
Today we present another entry for Round 91 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:
- The photovoltaic power specialists at Quantum Harvest LLC are providing a store-wide 10% off coupon. Depending on the model chosen, this could be worth more than $2000.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any of their one, two, or three-day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three-day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (a $1,100 value), in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Resources (a $350 value), from Sunflower Ammo,
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Front SightLifetime Diamond Membership, providing lifetime free training at any Front Sight Nevada course, with no limit on repeating classes. This prize is courtesy of a SurvivalBlog reader who prefers to be anonymous.
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, that have a combined retail value of $589,
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
- Naturally Cozy is donating a “Prepper Pack” Menstrual Kit. This kit contains 18 pads and it comes vacuum-sealed for long term storage or slips easily into a bugout bag. The value of this kit is $220.
- An assortment of products along with a one-hour consultation on health and wellness from Pruitt’s Tree Resin (a $265 value).
- Three sets each of made-in-USA regular and wide-mouth reusable canning lids. (This is a total of 300 lids and 600 gaskets.) This prize is courtesy of Harvest Guard (a $270 value)
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- A transferable $150 purchase credit from Elk Creek Company, toward the purchase of any pre-1899 antique gun. There is no paperwork required for delivery of pre-1899 guns into most states, making them the last bastion of firearms purchasing privacy!
Round 91 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how-to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.
“Arguably the American country class’ principal mistake between 2016 and 2020 was to suppose that the Left was actually after Trump, rather than set about crushing them and killing the American regime.”
Huge and wonderful breaking news found on Matt Bracken’s gab page. Too much to summarize, you gotta hear this for yourself:
Here is what Bracken had to say about it:
“Calling All LawDogs! Start Howling! AH-WOOOOHHH.
Trump just reassigned all circuit court judges.
The Supreme Court Justices have just bee reassigned
MICHIGAN will now be overseen by Brett Kavanaugh.
WISCONSIN will now be overseen by Amy Coney Barrett
PENNSLVANIA will now be overseen by Sam Alito!
(Remember, Alito gave them orders about ballots and PA DemSocRats gave him the middle finger?)
And Justice Clarence Thomas gets….GEORGIA!
(copying from the link)
This saves major time, effort, stress and headache.
“Sweet, Caroline…bam bam bam…. Trump has never looked so good…..”
[trying to paraphrase, PLEASE find the link, share it, share it, share it. ”
“THE ELECTION IS FALLING APART!”
Dominion Execs are not testifying, instead, they are LAWYERING UP, fleeing, and erasing their social media fingerprings.
BIDEN is begging for money, while “Dominion Lawyers” are flying to Belize and Patagonia!
OMG, PLEASE LISTEN TO THIS GUY!
[It’s too fast for me to type, just listen to this. ]”
I tried, but it’s on fbk, and I don’t do fbk. With that said, keep up the good work sharing important news with us!
God-willing it’s true. I don’t know what to believe these days.
It appears that he is not entirely accurate about the reassignment part, but this, along with other progress is encouraging.
Daily Post Archives
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JWR is a journalist, technical writer, and novelist. His survivalist novel Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse, is a modern classic that reached #3 on the New York Times bestsellers list. Two of his other novels have also been best New York Times bestsellers.
Jim is the originator of the American Redoubt movement and a frequent talk show guest on shows such as Alex Jones. He is also a retreat consultant specializing in off-grid living, rural relocation, and survival preparedness.
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21/11/1916: Tàu Britannic chìm ở Biển Aegean
Vào ngày này năm 1916, Britannic, con tàu cùng hãng với Titanic, đã chìm ở Biển Aegean. Đã có 30 người thiệt mạng và hơn 1.000 người khác được giải cứu.
Sau thảm họa Titanic vào ngày 14/04/1912, hãng White Star Line đã thực hiện một số sửa đổi trong quá trình đóng con tàu tiếp theo trong kế hoạch của mình. Thứ nhất, tên của con tàu đã được đổi từ Gigantic thành Britannic (có lẽ vì tên gọi này có vẻ khiêm tốn hơn), và thiết kế của thân tàu đã được điều chỉnh để ít bị ảnh hưởng bởi các tảng băng trôi hơn. Ngoài ra, người ta bắt buộc phải có đủ thuyền cứu sinh trên tàu để chứa tất cả hành khách, điều đã không xảy ra với trường hợp Titanic.
Con tàu sang trọng nặng gần 50.000 tấn, lớn nhất thế giới, hạ thủy vào năm 1914, nhưng ngay sau đó đã được chính phủ Anh trưng dụng để làm tàu bệnh viện trong Thế chiến I. Trong thời gian này, Thuyền trưởng Charlie Bartlett đã chỉ huy con tàu suốt năm chuyến đi, đưa thành công những người lính Anh bị thương trở về quê nhà từ nhiều cảng khác nhau trên thế giới.
Ngày 21/11, tàu Britannic đang trên đường đến đón thêm nhiều binh sĩ bị thương gần Vịnh Athens thì vào lúc 8:12 sáng, một vụ nổ dữ dội đã làm rung chuyển con tàu. Thuyền trưởng Bartlett đã ra lệnh đóng kín các cửa để ngăn nước tràn vào và phát tín hiệu cấp cứu. Tuy nhiên, vụ nổ đã nhanh chóng gây ngập toàn bộ 6 khoang — thậm chí thiệt hại còn lớn hơn thứ đã đánh chìm tàu Titanic. Tuy nhiên, Britannic đã được chuẩn bị sẵn sàng cho một thảm họa như vậy và có lẽ nó đã tiếp tục nổi nếu không xảy ra hai chuyện quan trọng.
Đầu tiên, Bartlett quyết định cố gắng đưa tàu Britannic mắc cạn trên Đảo Kea ở gần đó. Điều này có thể đã thành công, nhưng trước đó, nhân viên điều dưỡng của con tàu lại cho mở các cửa nhỏ để thoát khí cho bệnh nhân. Nước tràn vào qua các lỗ cửa khi tàu Britannic tiến về phía Kea. Thứ hai, tình hình càng tồi tệ thêm khi một số thủy thủ cố gắng thả xuồng cứu sinh khi chưa nhận được mệnh lệnh. Vì con tàu vẫn đang di chuyển nhanh hết mức có thể, thuyền cứu sinh đã bị hút vào chân vịt, giết chết tất thảy những ai ở trên đó.
Chưa đầy 30 phút sau, Bartlett nhận ra rằng con tàu sắp chìm và ra lệnh mọi người phải rời đi. Thuyền cứu sinh đã được hạ thủy và mặc dù tàu Britannic chìm lúc 9 giờ 07 phút, chưa đầy một giờ sau vụ nổ, gần 1.100 người đã kịp ra khỏi tàu. Quả thật, hầu hết trong số 30 người xấu số thiệt mạng đều ở trên những thuyền cứu sinh được thả quá sớm. Năm 1976, nhà thám hiểm đại dương nổi tiếng Jacques Cousteau đã tìm thấy chiếc Britannic nằm nghiêng cách mặt Biển Aegean khoảng 122m. Hiện vẫn chưa rõ nguyên nhân gây ra vụ nổ nhưng nhiều người tin rằng Britannic đã trúng mìn.
Exploring the Britannic wreck, Titanic's sister ship
Sister ship to the Titanic, Britannic is the world’s largest civilian shipwreck. In 2016, 100 years after her sinking, an expedition has used the latest underwater technology to reveal her secrets.
Sunk by a German mine in November 1916, the Britannic was the largest of the three Olympic class luxury liners built by the White Star Line at Belfast's Harland &amp Wolff shipyards. She was commissioned as a transatlantic passenger liner and underwent crucial design changes after the disastrous sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and the subsequent accident inquiries. These safety alterations included the raising of some watertight bulkheads to B deck, introducing a double hull at the engine room and boiler room levels and changing the design of the lifeboat launch system. The number of lifeboats was also increased.
Launched in 1914 just before the outbreak of the First World War, the vast four-funnelled ship was repainted in hospital colours - white with a green stripe and prominent red crosses on her side - when she was refitted. Britannic entered service in December 1915 under the command of Captain Charles Bartlett. She had cost over &pound1.9m and was the largest ship in the world in active service. Her early deployments involved the evacuation of wounded men during the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign in the Eastern Mediterranean, and her work continued as casualties on the Macedonian front mounted rapidly.
On her sixth and final voyage on 21&nbspNovember 1916, with 1,065 people on board, the ship was transiting a narrow strait south of the Greek port of Piraeus, near the island of Kea. At 8.12am a large explosion was heard and initial reports suggested the cause was either a mine or a torpedo. In October, a German U-boat U-73 had laid mines in the area, but the German Navy claimed the sinking as a torpedo hit. It took until the 1990s to confirm definitively that the ship was sunk by a mine. Although damage was extensive, only six of the watertight compartments flooded and the ship remained afloat, but as it listed, water began to enter open portholes on the starboard side.
In an attempt to beach the ship off Kea, Capt. Charles Bartlett ordered full speed ahead. The movement, however, caused more water to enter, and Bartlett quickly ordered the engines stopped. At approximately 9.07am the Britannic sank. Breached in the bow section just forward of the bridge, she went down far faster than the Titanic, in just 55 minutes, but with much less loss of life. Thirty people died when the Britannic sank. Those critical design changes helped, as she was equipped with lifeboats for 3,500 people, her maximum load on return from the front with casualties. Much warmer waters would have helped the survival rate too. The grand liner now sits on the seabed, 120m below the surface of the Aegean Sea.
The underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau rediscovered Britannic in 1975. The French team was joined by MIT's Dr Harold Edgerton, whose recently-developed side-scan sonar helped to locate the wreck. Cousteau later explored Britannic using a submersible named Denise, recovering the ship&rsquos engraved sextant. The ensuing documentary included a visit to her former workplace by 86-year-old Mrs Sheila Macbeth, who had been 26 and a serving nurse on the ship at the time of her sinking.
Visiting the Britannic
British filmmaker and maritime historian Simon Mills has owned the UK government's legal title to the wreck since 1996. Mills has been visiting the Britannic since 1995, when he accompanied the marine explorer Bob Ballard to her final resting place. That first visit took place in a US Navy nuclear submarine. "It's a far better preserved example of the Olympic class liner than the Titanic," says the author of several books about the sister ships."She lies in 120m of water and is relatively intact apart from structural damage at the bow section".
"The sheer length of the 50,000-tonne ship meant that her bow hit the bottom while her stern was still above the surface and the huge pressure further cracked the bow like an eggshell in the area of the mine strike. The impact buried part of the bow section under the seabed." Mills added that "judging from the imagery shot over that time, we've all aged more than the Britannic", explaining that the curse of the Titanic - iron-eating bacteria - is much less prevalent on the Britannic, probably because she is in much warmer, more oxygenated, shallower water and is covered by a more diverse ecosystem of organisms that compete with the destructive rust-feeders.
The 25m support vessel U-Boat Navigator that the team operates in the Kea channel above the wreck is equipped with two Triton manned submersibles: one three-man vessel and a one-man sub. Dmitri Tomashov is one of the sub pilots. He has been visiting and filming the wreck for a documentary series since 2013 and has logged 65 hours on the Britannic since then. "Our main goal is filming and surveying the whole ship, so both subs are equipped with 6K Red Dragon cameras and powerful LED lighting, the secret to high quality underwater filming at depth," he explains.
The addition of the second Triton this year is an added element of safety and each Triton can film the other working, or they can shoot the same subject simultaneously from two different angles. Another advantage of these Tritons, which are depth-rated to 1,000m, is the viewing sphere made of optical glass allowing filming at desirable angles without distorting the image.
"There is nothing else out there right now that can outperform the Tritons," says Tomashov. "I can be in the water for seven or eight hours at a time, though there is a limit because concentration has to be absolute and over time you do get pretty exhausted, even though comfort for both the pilot and the passengers is at a high level in these machines." The U-Boat Navigator is also equipped with an Ageotec Perseo remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and the one-man Triton can deploy a tiny ROV of its own for close inspection of particular areas that the subs cannot approach.
Her depth at 120m places the wreck just inside the depth limits for exploration by human divers. "Britannic lies in that sweet spot where we can use technical divers, ROVs and manned submersibles to explore the exterior of the ship. The 2016 expedition has pretty much completed what we need in terms of exterior surveys. We've done as much imaging as we reasonably can," says Mills. The next phase will be penetration of the wreck to identify, retrieve and conserve selected artefacts. However, that is now in the hands of the diplomats from the UK Foreign Office and the Greek Ministry of Culture, as no historic artefacts may be removed from Greek territory without the permission of the Minister of Culture.
Marine exploration technology has massively improved since the mid-1990s, especially on the technical diving front. The advances have been in the development of closed-circuit rebreather (CCR) technology where the diver&rsquos exhaled air is first chemically scrubbed of carbon dioxide, before being topped up with a small amount of additional oxygen.
A CCR operates in much the same way as an astronaut&rsquos backpack and uses the same technology as the life-support systems of the submarines. As the name suggests, they emit virtually no excess gas. This is important for the next stage of exploration in the wreck. Bubbles or pools of exhaled gases would disrupt the delicate marine ecology of the interior, speeding up the degradation of fragile wood panelling, for example.
The depth is near the limit for even experienced technical divers and their time at the bottom is limited to 40 minutes or so. Even that short dive time on a gas mix of helium, oxygen and nitrogen requires a slow decompression of over five hours to reach the surface safely. Oxygen levels are reduced in the mix breathed at depth to prevent the very real dangers of oxygen toxicity - the gas can trigger convulsions and deaths at increased pressures at depth.
Nitrogen levels are also reduced relative to normal air and replaced with helium to avoid the dangers of nitrogen narcosis, a "rapture of the deep" that impairs judgement and incurs penalties in the divers' bodies as nitrogen bubbles form in the tissues. These dangers are reduced by a long, slow ascent to the surface, stopping at precise depths and changing gas mixes until the divers are breathing air in the shallows.
Evan Kovacs is a technical diver and director of underwater photography at the Advanced Imaging Lab, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. He has dived on the Britannic many times over four expeditions in 2006, 2009, 2015 and 2016. Kovacs explored the Titanic in 2005 with the History Channel and opted to visit the Britannic in 2006 to see if they could learn something about the Titanic by looking at the differences in construction and the changes made to her sister ship.
"Britannic is a magnificent ship, beautiful to look at and massive in all ways. Unlike the Titanic she is almost intact she is one of my favourite long-term projects," he says. "This year we were using the U-Boat Navigator as a support vessel. It's the best in the world in my view, just brilliantly designed and perfectly equipped for this kind of work."
One of the big advantages for the divers and image makers in 2016 was the presence of a wet bell. This is a platform with a breathable air bubble supplied with hot water and communications from the surface. "We can pump down unlimited gases to a diver in distress, which is a huge safety bonus. Plus it's easy to keep hydrated and to be able to eat and listen to our iPods during the long hours of decompression. The only thing missing is a cup of hot tea," he jokes.
To get around this huge wreck in the limited time - only 45 minutes - that the divers have at depth, they use underwater scooters. Even with rigorous safety measures in place, the sea is still unpredictable, especially at these depths. Britannic claimed the life of world-renowned technical diver Carl Spencer in 2013 and Kovacs says that it's not uncommon to hear the explosions of illegal fishermen nearby.
Kovacs' holy grail for this wreck is a rivet-accurate blended acoustic and optical model of the entire exterior yielding a hugely accurate picture of the bulkheads. What this means in practice is a 3D volumetric model. The acoustic images have been taken with multibeam and side-scan sonar from the Perseo ROV and these will be overlaid with the optical results from the divers.
On land, this is not such a difficult proposition, but underwater there is a classic mosaicking problem. It is impossible to go super-wide to gain the entire perspective - underwater visibility prevents that on a structure of this scale. The team must first build an acoustic model to ground-truth the optics. Currents, camera lenses and pitch and yaw of the diver&rsquos attitude all introduce errors where it is important to run a straight line. "If we can do this and in real time, then this has huge implications not just for marine archaeology, but also the oil and gas industries, where the results from visual pipeline inspection robots could be overlaid on an acoustic examination for faults and leaks," says Kovacs.
While owner Simon Mills has been offered the opportunity to dive to the wreck, he has declined "I am a recreational diver," he says. "What these technical guys do is a different ballgame. The next phase is to enter the wreck with the permission of the Greek government and retrieve and conserve artefacts by deploying small ROVs and manned dives. I prefer to remain on the surface and communicate with the divers, who have the dexterity and ability to weigh up the hazards that no robot can ever have, while ROVs can continue to work safely after the divers have exceeded their safe bottom times. I hope that we will be back in 2017."
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