On this day in 1873, early in the morning, the RMS Atlantic sank just to the west of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Of the 957 crew and passengers, at least 545 people died — this included all of the women and children. Interestingly, the Atlantic was White Star Line, which also owned the RMS Titanic. But there’s a big difference here. The sinking of the Titanic was due to stupidity and hubris. The sinking of the Atlantic was the result of bad luck and the simple fact that travel by sea has always been a very dangerous business. Or at least that’s the way I see it.
RMS Atlantic was on its way to New York. But they were running low on coal, so the captain diverted the ship to Halifax to refuel. Visibility was poor and in hindsight, the captain should have stayed off the shore. But then, he did not know that the ship was several miles off course. In the end, he was blamed for the tragedy. But to me, his errors are the sorts of things that are to be expected. Everyone wants someone to blame when something like this happens.
I remember many years ago reading The Perfect Storm. I loved the beginning of it because it was filled with these old stories of Gloucester fishermen. These were tough men doing an incredibly hard job. And they died — a lot. And when they didn’t die, they were beaten halfway there. So I don’t like to go around second guessing and criticizing people who make their livings in this way.
When word got to shore about the RMS Atlantic and its troubles, the local people got into their boats and helped in the rescue. It’s very touching, but understandable. People who live that life understand what it is all about, and how we all have to help each other in times of need.