In today’s New York Times, John Williams calls Titanic: First Accounts “the loveliest of the bunch” of Titanic-related books published around the centennial of the disaster in April. The collection includes accounts and testimonies by survivors and eye-witnesses, including Lawrence Beesley, Margaret Brown, Archibald Gracie, and Carlos F. Hurd.
We asked our cover artist, Max Ellis—who was trained as a precision engineer—to describe some of the details he included in his masterful illustration. You can read all of Ellis’s explanations on his process, fascination, and research (and zoom in on the cover with a magnifer) here by clicking on “see the full cover up close.” Below are a few choice details matched to the above blow-ups.
The meat freezer
There was ample refrigerated storage on the orlop deck to supply the kitchens. 75,000 pounds of meat were taken on board for her maiden voyage.
The coal rooms
The engines, boilers and coal rooms were probably my favorite part of the ship while I was working on it. I work for a UK dive magazine and have illustrated over 130 wrecks and often the only recognizable part of the ship will be the engines and boilers, around which are usually strewn piles of coal. Its not until you see the size of the boilers, and realize that there are rows of five of them you really get a scale for the Titanic. The coal bunkers were immense, running the entire width of the ship and some 30 feet high. They had to be this large to feed the hungry furnaces consuming 825 tons of coal per day. It took 24 hours to store the 6300 tons of coal before her maiden voyage.
The swimming pool
Another of my favorite parts of the ship. I had to piece my image of the baths together from several old black-and-white stills I found online. It seems somehow exotic to have a swimming pool below decks on a boat. I wonder how much the water slopped about in rough seas!
The squash court
The first class squash racquet court was reserved for first class passengers who were charged 2 shillings for an hour’s play. There was very little information on the court, and I could find only a couple of dingy stills online. Luckily a helpful member of one of the several Titanic forums that helped me in my research for this image had found video of passengers playing in the court on Titanic’s sister ship the RMS Olympic. Even then no drawings or reference exists of the parts of the court not visible in the recording or where the light sources were so I had to guestimate those bits. The other fact that was left to speculation was the construction of the floor of the court. It is in the bow section of the ship and sloped upward over its 30 foot length (All of these large liners had sloping decks up from the center section to give the ship stability) I decided it should have a false floor to give the players a level playing field.
This was great fun to build. I loved seeing how the flues from the stoves joined the main vent. It was very hard to find the reference for this and took quite a while to get my head around how it all interlinked.
The steam pipes
Along with the engines, the huge steam and engine fume pipes were one of my favorite parts to research and build. I loved the fact that this huge beautiful vessel had these enormous spaces to allow it to breathe. The forward three funnels lead down to the boilers and vent the fumes through huge upside down pipes creating a tree of branching funnels. The fourth funnel actually carried no exhaust fumes and was included for aesthetic reasons, actually letting light down into the lower sections of the ship. It did, however, carry the waste gasses and smoke from the kitchens.
Obviously Titanic’s first class passengers had to bring their first class transport aboard ship, and Titanic was equipped with car storage space in the bow section. Cars where lowered down the number two hatch using the enormous electric cranes. It was a lot of fun going through the old photographs to find reference for the beautiful cars that went down with the ship. I wonder how intact they must be, protected as they are in the fairly intact bow section of the wreck.