Natural and Man-Made Disasters


What effect did the sinking of the Titanichave on sea travel?

The sinking of the Titanic brought about new regulations to increase the safety of sea travel. First, and perhaps most simply, all ships are required to carry enough lifeboats such that there is one spot for each person on board. (When Titanic sailed, the number of required lifeboats was based on the ship’s tonnage, not on the number of passengers and crew.) Also, new rules required lifeboat drills to be held soon after a ship sails.

Shipping lanes were moved farther south, away from the ice fields, and are monitored by a patrol. Ships approaching ice fields are required to slow their speed or alter their course.

Until 1912 most ships employed only one wireless operator. Such was the case on the California, which was less than 20 miles from Titanic when wireless operator Jack Phillips sent out the distress signal. However, the operator on the California was not on duty at that hour. Phillips stayed at his station, desperately trying to reach a nearby ship, and eventually went down with Titanic. In the aftermath of the disaster, the U.S. Congress moved quickly to pass the Radio Act of 1912, which required that radios be manned day and night, that they have an alternate energy source (besides the ship’s engine), and that they have a range of at least 100 miles. Further, operators must be licensed, adhere to certain bandwidths, and observe a strict protocol for receiving distress signals. (This was the beginning of the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC.) These measures were meant to rid the airwaves of those amateur operators who had confused official operators the night of April 15, 1912. One erroneous wireless message transmitted by amateurs that night had the Titanic moving safely toward Halifax, Nova Scotia.


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