Titanic Denial

In early April 1912, 2,223 people boarded the largest, safest, most luxurious passenger steamship in the world for a trip from Europe to America.

The British White Star Line ocean liner Titanic, making its very first voyage, was advertised as a technological wonder. Its planners, architects, and engineers had incorporated into it all the latest improvements in ship-building, making it, according to the publicity of the time, virtually unsinkable.

Over 100 years later, as a result of numerous best-selling books and movies (and endless documentaries on television) about the Titanic’s first—and last—voyage , the vast majority of  Americans know that those planners, architects, and engineers were wrong. For shortly before midnight on April 14, just east of Newfoundland, the ship struck an iceberg and sank in less than three hours.

And the people on board were forced to trade the luxurious surroundings of the elegant state rooms, the Turkish baths, the swimming pool, the sumptuous lounges and dining rooms, and the magnificent ball room for the slim hope of bobbing about in tiny lifeboats in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.

Most didn’t even have that hope—those  planners, architects, and engineers were so sure of the safety of the craft that they didn’t think it necessary (and the British government didn’t require them) to provide enough lifeboats to match the number of passengers and crew. The twenty lifeboats on board only had a capacity of 1,178, and most weren’t even full of passengers when launched after the collision with the iceberg.      

Titanic survivors approach the Carpathia   

Over 1,500 people died that night. Barely 700 were rescued a few hours later when another ship, the Carpathia, arrived to pluck the survivors from the water.

The deaths included both poor immigrants who bought tickets for the third class accommodations on the boat, and some of the wealthiest people in America, who had been enjoying the finest of first class amenities.

The richest man on the ship, millionaire John Jacob Astor IV (founder of New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel) went to the same watery grave as the poorest peasant family who had hoped to start a new life in America. As women and children were being loaded onto the few lifeboats first, Astor had asked if he could accompany his 19-year-old new wife Madeleine because she was pregnant and would particularly need care, but he was denied. He was reported by survivors to have calmly stepped back, tossed his gloves to his wife in the boat, lit a cigarette, and watched as she disappeared into the night. Less than two hours later, he was dead. All his millions could not save him.

(You can read more fascinating details about that tragic event on one of my websites.)

In the first few minutes after the Titanic hit the iceberg, few on board would have been worried about it sinking. They would have been in total denial, because the publicity about its massive strength and stability was so convincing. Even though it sank within three hours of hitting the iceberg, at the point that the crew was positive it would sink, and began launching lifeboats, it didn’t look like it was in immediate danger. Therefore many passengers were reluctant to leave a massive ship that looked so safe, and climb into pathetically small little lifeboats bobbing around in the frozen North Atlantic.

The White Star Line claimed after the disaster that it had never advertised that the ship was unsinkable. But documentation from the time shows that it did little to dissuade the public from thinking that it was! And White Star publicity brochures are still available from 1910 that declare about the Titanic and its sister ship Olympia, under construction at the time, “… as far as it is possible to do so, these two wonderful vessels are designed to be unsinkable.”


“It seems incredible to us today that anyone could believe that 70,000 tonnes of steel could be unsinkable, but that was exactly what people in 1912 believed. …

The shipbuilders Harland and Wolff insist that the Titanic was never advertised as an unsinkable ship. They claim that the ‘unsinkable’ myth was the result of people’s interpretations of articles in the Irish News and the Shipbuilder magazine. They also claim that the myth grew after the disaster.

Yet, when the New York office of the White Star Line was informed that Titanic was in trouble, White Star Line Vice President P.A.S. Franklin announced “We place absolute confidence in the Titanic. We believe the boat is unsinkable.” By the time Franklin spoke those words Titanic was at the bottom of the ocean. It would seem that the White Star Line President was also influenced by the ‘myth’.”

In many ways, our human minds seem to be “built for denial.” Although there are some pessimistic people who always expect the worst, as a matter of fact research shows that the “average” person has what a recent Time magazine article calls “The Optimism Bias.

Even when things “go wrong,” our minds are “hardwired” to figure a way to find the silver lining in every  cloud. That can range all the way from denying that a cloud exists, to insisting that it is the best possible cloud that could be encountered. Some scientists are convinced if we didn’t have this predisposition, which they have even tracked to control centers in certain parts of the brain, all of mankind would be in perpetual depression.

This bias doesn’t help in a drastic real world situation such as the sinking of the Titanic. No amount of optimism that the ship wouldn’t sink helped any of the victims or survivors. The ship went down. Period. The 1500+ who were not able to get on a lifeboat died. Period. Over 700+ who did get on a lifeboat survived. Leaving the ship was the only alternative that had hope of working.

But most of life’s circumstances are not this black and white. Denial is thus able to work as a coping mechanism far more often than not. And nowhere is this more evident than in the world of End Times Prophecy pundits and their followers. Case in point:  The May 21 End of the World publicity campaign of Harold Camping and his followers.

Earlier Panic Button entries have chronicled the beginnings of this campaign. For details see:

Long-time Family Radio Network preacher Harold Camping had dogmatically and adamantly proclaimed that May 21, 2011 would be Judgment Day, when all chance of salvation would end. At 6 PM on that date, a gigantic earthquake—or a “rolling sequence” of earthquakes, starting at the International Dateline in the South Pacific and moving across the world’s time zones hour by hour—would devastate the whole Earth. As the earthquakes progressed, the true Christians from throughout history would be resurrected from the dead, and together with the true Christians of the present would be “raptured” to Heaven. (The estimate was that about 200 million would thus be “saved” out of all the billions who have ever lived.) This would be followed by a five month period of chaos and calamity on the Earth, during which those left on Earth would wish they could die—but wouldn’t be able to. On October 21, the whole Earth and “the heavens” would be destroyed and all Humankind totally annihilated.

These were no “educated guesses” from Camping’s point of view. Nor from his loyal followers’ point of view. As he put it on his website, “…these dates are 100% accurate and beyond dispute.”  And as he told numerous interviewers, “The Bible guarantees it.”

Camping’s supporters had helped him in a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign, spreading his message of impending doom around the world. In the final weeks preceding the date, three thousand billboards bearing his message were erected in the US and a few other countries, a fleet of vehicles plastered with Judgment Day announcements criss-crossed the US, and believers all around the world passed out printed tracts with the message in public gathering places. Strangely enough, the purpose of all these messages was not to get people to “repent of their sins” and “accept Jesus as Savior,” so that they could escape from the Wrath that was coming. Camping and his followers accept a theology that says that God totally predestined, before their birth, all who were to be saved, and predestined the rest to be doomed. So the messages weren’t a “plea” to anyone … they were merely an announcement.

The flurry of activity built up to a climax on Friday afternoon, May 20, when planes flew banners with the messages of doom in the skies over 42 US cities and over Vancouver in Canada.

By late afternoon on Friday, Harold Camping himself was ensconced in a motel room somewhere in California with his wife, waiting to watch the news channels begin reporting the earthquakes as they started at Christmas Island (the closest inhabited spot on earth west of the International Date Line), moved to create major havoc in New Zealand, and then continued to march west around the world as time zone after time zone reached 6 PM May 21.

Out on the Internet, I had discovered on that Friday a “Yahoogroups” forum of Camping followers from around the world. I logged on to the forum just as their excitement was building up to a fever pitch. Posts were coming fast and furious by evening. Some were posting links to “seismic activity” websites so forumites could keep tabs on the earthquakes as they happened. Others posted links to “live webcams” from New Zealand, so they could actually watch the devastation as it happened, long before it reached their own time zone … except for the few members who WERE from New Zealand or nearby Australia. The first earthquake effect was expected to be just after midnight US Eastern Time, in the Christmas Island area, reaching New Zealand about two hours later.

Some folks were posting their “goodbyes” on the forum, expecting the next time they heard from the other participants they would all be winging their way to Heaven together in the Rapture.

You could almost “hear” everyone holding their breath as the Zero Hour approached!

** From the forum archives of May 20, 2011

11:29 PM:  S__: Well it’s about 1/2 hour untill judgment day in New Zealand.


2:04 AM: W__: Greetings from Sydney. Not too long until we are taken home by our Father. I have to admit I’m excited and a bit scared. I trust in God yet fear still seeps in. I just hope that my bit of fear doesn’t prevent me from joining you all. I’m with large group of Brothers and Sisters that have come together for the momentous occasion right now. We are all prepared to shed our flesh ascend to be with The Father. Bless you all my brethren! And if it be God’s will I will see you soon!

4:09  AM: W__: From Sydney… Again. As of 42 minutes ago there were 36 missing persons reports filed in Masterton [New Zealand]. My friend J__ from that area told me that people are growing very concerned. And Councilman H__ has been trying to take a role call of all of the local government officials and several are not answering. It seems that some of our brother may have already taken Flight. I can’t verify any of this though, I can only take my other brothers at their word. But it’s exciting to think that us Folk may hear Heaven’s Music soon.


And then … nothing. Seismic activity sites showed just the usual minor earthquakes in scattered locations around the world. Live webcams showed that it was a ho-hum Saturday night in New Zealand, with no earthquake devastation in sight. Including in Masterton, where evidently most of the missing people were eventually found. (I checked the local Masterton news for that date on their newspaper’s website, and no missing persons were reported.) News channels around the US reported nothing more exciting than the latest celebrity scandals or sports scores or military skirmishes in the Middle East.

As the hours passed, it became obvious that the speculation that The Action would start at the  International Dateline, at 6 PM there, was in error. But all this did was cause a quick re-grouping of thought, and an insistence that Harold had never actually said that the 6 PM time there was “guaranteed.” It was speculation. Other speculation had suggested all along that MAYBE it would start at 6 PM Jerusalem time, or even midnight at the end of May 21 Jerusalem time.  Which would be much later in New Zealand than 6 PM local time.

**  Back to the forum, now on May 21  …

4:34 AM: E__: Now, if a day is to be reckoned from sunset to sunset (~ 6pm), then the rapture will occur at about 6pm on May 21 which would mark the beginning of the 1st day of judgment immediately AFTER the tribulation of those days. On the other hand, if a day is reckoned from midnight to midnight, then the rapture will occur at about 11:59:59PM on May 21st Jerusalem time when the day transitions from the last day of salvation to the first day of judgment.

If we go with the latter suggestion of a midnight to midnight reckoning of a day as suggested by Robert F, then salvation is possible right up until the last minute of May 21st Jerusalem time.

Certainly, 2 Peter 3:4 is being fulfilled. Sadly, many have been willingly ignorant of the details involving the day(s) of judgment and so the scoffing and mocking is exploding as they question “where is the promise of His coming?”

5:17 AM: D__:  Amen E__,

I think you summed it up well.  Judgment will probably come at either sunset or midnight Jerusalem time.  If I recall correctly, some of us were entertaining this idea before Mr. Camping introduced the New Zealand time-line.

Wonderfully, God has given us a few hours to soak this in.  It’s really ironic that judgment day will still come as a thief in the night to the world even though they heard the May 21 warning.

Fear God and give glory to Him


But as is obvious now, weeks later, 6 PM and 12 Midnight came in Jerusalem on May 21, and still nothing happened. This did not deter the forumites, however. Most still clung eventually to the thought that the “speculation” on the exact timing was just off. Surely the “right” time was actually at midnight at the END of May 21 at the LAST time zone before the International Dateline. After all, it was the date that was Guaranteed in the Bible… not the time of day. Or night.

And yet that “latest possible” time came and went also, and there was no more May 21 anywhere in the world. Harold Camping and his followers created and launched their Titanic Theory, it finally crashed into an iceberg of reality, and it sank. But of course an abstract “time” is not the same as a tangible boat. So they didn’t “go down with the boat.” They just sank … deeper down into Titanic Denial.  And … the saga continued.

Stay tuned for the Rest of the Story in the next Panic Button blog entry:

Titanic Denial Part 2 

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4 Responses to Titanic Denial

  1. Pingback: Titanic Denial | Currently StaRRing …

  2. Doug Young says:

    Off the subject a bit, but I am reading “Mayflower” by Nathaniel Philbrick and he has this account as to what motivated the Pilgrims to sail to America: “In the end, all arguments for and against emigrating to America ended with the conviction that God wanted them to go. The world, they believed, was on the verge of the millennium — the thousand-year rule of the saints predicted in the book of Revelation. In 1618, a comet appeared in the skies over Europe, signaling, many thought, the final, apocalyptic battle of good against evil.”

  3. Pingback: Titanic Denial, Part 2 | Prophecy Panic Button

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