National Geographic : 1985 Dec
HE GRAND first-class entrance hall and stair case (below right) col lapsed under the massive strains suffered by portions of the hull. The camera looks past twisted steel bulkheads (bottom) into the gaping hole once covered by the ornate glass dome. We saw no evi dence of the elaborate stairway panel and clock, described at the time as representing "Hon or and Glory crowning Time." Titanic was not only the largest ship of her day-882 feet 9 inches in length and 66,000 tons displacement-she was also the most expensive. One-way passage in the finest of her first-class suites cost $4,350, the equivalent of near ly $50,000 in today's funds. Unfortunately, when disas ter struck, wealth sometimes made the difference between survival and death. First-class passengers were generally housed amidships nearest the lifeboats, while third class was quartered forward or aft far below. In some cases ship's personnel prevented third class passengers from climbing topside until most of the boats had been loaded and launched. The photographs opposite call to mind Titanic's most famous passenger, one whose enormous wealth proved no advantage. Refused space in a lifeboat with his wife, U. S. millionaire John Jacob Astor is said to have made his way to the starboard wing bridge, identical to one (opposite, lower left) aboard Titanic'ssis ter ship, Olympic. There, ac cording to survivors, Astor was standing when the forward fun nel smashed across the bridge. Our photograph of the same area (right)confirms the total destruction of the wing bridge, as detailed in the diagram at lower right. All three bulk heads of the bridge have been wrenched apart and flattened as though by a giant steam roller, yet by some fluke the overhead light remains at tached to the roof. No human could have survived such a cataclysm, and in fact Astor's body was found afloat but horribly mangled a week after the sinking.