April 10, 2012
What Sank the Titanic a Century Ago?
One hundred years ago on April 11th, a Thursday, the Titanic started its maiden voyage toward New York. On board were 2,200 passengers and crew. By Sunday all but 705 of them were dead. The shocking accident was news around the world because celebrities, millionaires, and royalty had been on board the ship. How did a brand new, state-of-the-art, "unsinkable" ship take 1,500 people to their deaths in the icy North Atlantic Ocean a century ago?
Young readers can find out in my just released book, What Sank the World's Biggest Ship? And Other Questions About the Titanic. It's the first title in Sterling Publishing's new Good Question! series, books about history for younger readers in a captivating question and answer format. Questions tackled in the book vary from: Why did everyone think the Titanic was unsinkable? and Did cheap parts help sink the Titanic? to What happened to the stranded passengers? and Did anyone get into trouble? Probably my favorite question is: After 100 years, why do people still care?
I always learn a lot when I research and write a book. This seems to be especially true about the history books I've written, since that's less my specialty than science. This Titanic title was no different. And while I combed through the controversies over messages sent, orders ignored, lifeboat numbers, and locked hallways I always came back to that final question: Why do people still care so much about this ship and its tragic accident? Movies and dramatic deep-sea expeditions have regularly revived interest, for sure. And there are dozens of Titanic museums around the world. Is it the mysteries that remain that keep the story alive, or the fact that we can never entirely know what happened that cold night 100 years ago?
There are lots of ways to engage students during this Titanic Centennial season. Here's a activity that allows students to investigate the science behind the phrase "tip of the iceberg."