On the Brink of Disaster

“There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death” Proverbs 16:25

On April 12, 1912, a steamship in England’s White Star Line set out on its maiden voyage with 2227 enthusiastic passengers and crew members on board for the historic trip from Southampton, England, to New York City. It was a grand event. The ship was one of the largest movable objects ever built. It was 264.9 metres long, 27.6 metres wide, 31.2 metres high from keel to bridge, and had a displacement of 41,695 metric tons. It boasted electric elevators, a swimming pool, a squash court, a Turkish bath, and a gymnasium with a mechanical horse and a mechanical camel. No expense had been spared. An unprecedented seven and a half million dollars were poured into its design, construction, and fittings (equivalent to more than $400 million today). Its manufacturer, confident in their creation, referred to it as the “unsinkable” ocean liner. Little wonder that first class passengers were prepared to pay $4,350 for a parlour suite (equivalent to $50,000 today). For it was a vessel second to none and anybody who was somebody wanted to be on board.

But then, most people considered the Titanic to be the flagship of all ships. It was an engineering marvel – the pinnacle of maritime achievement. The creme de la creme of ship building excellence. So when it slipped its mooring ropes the last thing on anyone’s mind was the possibility of disaster. No one foresaw the tragedy that would soon unfold. Not even Nostradamus could have guessed what would soon happen when, a few days later, in the early hours of April 15, the ship had a fatal collision with an iceberg about 531 km southeast of Newfoundland, Canada.

Although it had taken three years to build, it took only two hours and forty minutes for the Titanic to sink and drop 3.75 km to the ocean floor. For unknown to the ship builders, there was a flaw in the steel plates of the bow. They had been incorrectly annealed. The steel was brittle, and instead of absorbing the impact of the ice they tore open and allowed the sea to rush in. In addition, although the ship was designed to hold 32 lifeboats, there were only 20 on board because the White Star management was concerned that too many boats would sully the aesthetic beauty of the ship. The end result – only 705 people survived.

No wonder it still captures our attention today, for among other things, Titanic reminds us that man’s greatest achievements don’t guarantee success. That perceived profits can quickly become astronomical loses. That life is fragile and death overtakes us when we least suspect it. That everything can appear safe yet disaster may be imminent. And that, “there is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death” Proverbs 16:25. Yes, Titanic reminds us that a man can sail in search of everything this world has to offer yet end up smashing into the iceberg of death and forfeiting his soul.

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