On April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic set out on its maiden voyage and five days later sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The “unsinkable ship” was a luxury boat whose passengers included some of the world’s wealthiest people when it hit an iceberg. The tragedy has since become an historic disaster taught to children at school. The story of the Titanic was even more popularized thanks to the 1997 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio. But many people don’t know the story of Violet Jessop.
Violet Jessop was a very special Irish woman who was clearly meant to be on this earth. Either that or she was literally the luckiest person on the planet. Violet survived three of the most disastrous shipwrecks of the 20th century. In addition to the Titanic catastrophe, White Star Line created two more ships that didn’t have the greatest fate either. The RMS Olympic crashed in 1911, and the Britannic sank in 1916.
Jessop was on all three boats at the time of each disaster.
Death Waits for No One… Except for Violet Jessop
Violet Jessop grew up dealing with a serious illness, and not only did she overcome that, but she survived three-ship crashes. Jessop was born in Argentina back in 1887, which basically means she came out of the womb beating the odds. She was one of six surviving children born to her Irish immigrant parents, who had nine kids.
It would have been even more devastating to lose another child, and that was nearly the case. At an extremely young age, Jessop contracted a case of tuberculosis that should have killed her. In fact, it was a miracle that she lived. Fate had other plans for her.
A Career at Sea
Those “other plans” included the most famous ship disasters of all time. At the ripe age of 23 years old, Violet decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps and begin a career at sea. She got a job as a stewardess with the famed White Star Line. Violet boarded the RMS Olympic in 1910, and everything was going fine until the Olympic crashed into a British warship called the HMS Hawke.
Thankfully, neither ship sunk. Both made it to port safely before anything really disastrous took place. Still, it was a scary experience, and I would completely understand if Violet decided to never set foot on a boat again, let alone continue to work on one.
Not a Quitter
Well, that wasn’t the case with Violet. It turns out, she was too courageous to quit. That’s why, when the RMS Titanic (otherwise known as The Unsinkable Ship or The Ship That’s Ten-Thousand Irishmen Built) needed a stewardess, Violet Jessop eagerly signed up for the job. The last thing she thought she had to worry about was another crash.
I mean, the Olympic accident could have been much worse, and it didn’t traumatize Jessop the way it would have scarred me. She was clearly a brave woman to join the Titanic on its maiden voyage. She never expected what was about to happen. After all, the Titanic was considered “unsinkable.”
Her Heart Goes On and On
On the eerie evening of April 14, 1912, the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, making it the most infamous shipwreck of all time. Luckily, chivalry still existed back in 1912, and the rule was “women and children first,” allowing Violet Jessop to hop on a lifeboat.
She got on lucky lifeboat number 16 with a stranger’s baby in her arms. Thankfully, Jessop and company were rescued by the Carpathia. While on the Carpathia, a woman retrieved her baby from Violet. She managed to survive such an intense tragedy, but that’s enough! The ocean is a dangerous place.
Escaping Death, Yet Again
After surviving the near-sinking of the Olympic, and the actual sinking of the Titanic, Jessop took another job on a shipboard. This time, it was White Star Line’s HMHS Britannic. You would think she had learned her lesson by now. I would be terrified of the ocean if I were in her shoes.
The HMHS Britannic was a boat that was converted into a hospital ship during WWI. Sadly, the poor ship didn’t even last an hour. After 55 minutes, there was an unexplained explosion (or the Violet Jessop curse) that sank the Britannic, killing 30 out of the 1,066 passengers on board. That definitely could have gone way worse, but guess who survived? That’s right, 29-year-old Violet Jessop was safe.
Her first six years on the job were eventful, at the very least. But, surprisingly, that didn’t discourage her. Jessop continued to work on large ships for another 34 years. She eventually retired at age 63. I don’t know if she needed the money or was passionate about her job. Either way, if workman’s comp was a thing, she would have been set after the first crash.
So what do you think? Is the unsinkable Violet Jessop the luckiest ship stewardess in the world? Or the unluckiest? I guess it really depends on how you look at it. My advice? If you are ever on a boat with a woman named Violet Jessop, bring a life jacket… you’ll thank me later.
The Curse of White Star Line
It has been more than a century since the Titanic sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in the early hours of April 15, 1912. With over 1,500 deaths, it was the biggest civil maritime tragedy and is the sad reason why the Titanic remains the most famous ship in history. Although the story has been passed down for generations, there are still details people aren’t aware of.
First of all, the Titanic had two nearly identical sister ships – the Olympic and the Britannic. Even though their ends weren’t as disastrous as the Titanic’s, they were hardly less dramatic, as they all seemed to have a similar fate. White Star Line was the boat company that created the ships as their Olympic class liners, and many people believe that the string of bad luck may be related to some sort of curse.
This is the little-known story about the White Star Line Curse.
The RMS Olympic
The first of the three luxurious boats by White Star Line was the RMS (Royal Mail Steamer) Olympic. Construction on her began in December 1908 in Belfast (Northern Island), where the next two ships would eventually be built as well. At the time, White Star Line was in the running for the title of the fastest and biggest ocean liner on the planet.
Before the RMS Olympic claimed the name, “The Biggest Ocean Liner,” title had been given to seven other ships. The Olympic took the 8th title from the RMS Mauretania of the Cunard line. But contrary to popular belief, the Olympic class liners with 23Kn were not the fastest ships and weren’t meant to be. They were designed to be luxurious boats, mainly focused on size and travel comfort. As a result, the RMS Mauretania held the blue ribbon for the fastest ship until 1929.
JP Morgan’s Investment
The goal wasn’t to just build the first ship over 40000 GRT (Gross Register Tons) but to build multiple ones. This was a huge financial risk, even for an established company like White Star Line. Famed financial tycoon JP Morgan helped with the necessary funds for this giant project. Although he is known as one of the wealthiest and most influential bankers of all time, JP Morgan indirectly (but technically) bought White Star Line in 1902.
On October 20, 1910, the Olympic set out to sea for the first time. Following White Star Line tradition, there was no christening ceremony performed beforehand. After completing her maiden voyage from South Hampton to New York successfully on June 21, 1911, the boat attracted attention from the press and curiosity from the public.
In New York alone, tens of thousands of people came to see the biggest ship in the world. Everything seemed to be going according to plan until disaster struck. On September 20, 1911, three months into her career, the Olympic was involved in a collision with the cruiser ship HMS Hawke, under the command of Captain Edward Smith.
The Hawke was sucked into the side of the Olympic near the stern, as they passed each other in the Osborne Bay. The collision was likely caused by the suction generated by the much larger Olympic after she started to turn.
The HMS Hawke
The Hawke contained a bow to sink ships by ramming them. This caused a massive hole in the Olympic which flooded two of the watertight compartments. Despite the accident, the Olympic didn’t sink, which only reinforced the Olympic class liner’s reputation of being “unsinkable.”
The Hawke, on the other hand, didn’t seem to live up to its reputation at all. I mean, for a boat that was designed to sink ships, it didn’t do a very good job when it came to the Olympic. Even though the accident was technically the Olympic’s fault, it was later found that Captain Edward Smith’s actions were not to blame.
The Olympic returned to Belfast and required an expensive repair that would take about three months. As it was being fixed, the Titanic was still under final construction, and her completion was also delayed by several weeks. Although the fault of the accident was never definitively proven, the Royal Navy blamed the Olympic and gained a court verdict in its favor.
This meant that White Star Line had to cover the cost themselves, which amounted to over 25,000 dollars, the number of forecasted profits for two years of the Olympic’s service. After the Titanic tragedy, the Olympic underwent some repairs and safety improvements like installing the double hull, reinforced bulkheads, and 44 additional lifeboats.
White Star Line’s Reputation
Similar changes were made to the RMS Britannic, the third installment of the Olympic class, which was still being constructed in Belfast. Despite these improvements, the company’s reputation declined after the Titanic sunk and resulted in fewer passengers than expected in the following years. This was a massive financial disaster for White Star Line, and the company was never able to recover from it.
On top of all that, in 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, submarine attacks became a real danger, and bookings decreased even more. Unfortunately, by the end of that year, White Star Line was forced to withdraw Olympic from commercial service.
To the Royal Navy
Because of ship shortages, in May 1915, the Olympic was requisitioned by the Royal Navy for moving troops. The ship was armed with 12-pounders and 4.7-inch guns. With about 6,000 troops on board, the Olympic sailed on journeys to Greece, Turkey, and other eastern Mediterranean countries.
One memorable event during this was when the Olympic picked up survivors next to CAPA Matapan from the French Provincia, which was sunk by a German U-boat on October 1, 1915. Olympic’s best defense against the U-boat attack was her speed. Therefore, Captain Hayes was harshly criticized for stopping and risking the ship for only 34 souls. The French, on the other hand, honored him with a medal of honor.
By 1916, the Olympic was charted by Canada to move troops from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Britain. For transferring them, she wore a dazzle camouflage to make it difficult for the enemy to judge her speed and size. The following year, her many safe crossings made her a favorite symbol in Halifax. Even today, places like Olympic Garden or the Olympic Hall Community Centre are named in her honor.
The United States entered the war in 1917. The Olympic also helped transport American troops to Europe. In May 1918, during one of these journeys, Captain Hayes noticed a surfaced German submarine that was preparing to torpedo them but appeared to be experiencing some technical difficulties. He immediately ordered his crew to ram the submarine, and it sank before it was able to fire. He was later awarded the DSO (Distinguished Service Order), a United Kingdom military decoration.
Reportedly, the Olympic carried up to 200,000 troops and other personnel throughout the war, which restored her reputation and earned her the nickname “Old Reliable.” When the war came to an end in 1918, she went back to Belfast to be renovated and restored. She was modernized before returning to civilian service.
After the war, the Olympic became a popular ship, carrying thousands of passengers a year on the intercontinental route, including rich and famous individuals like Charlie Chaplin and Prince Edward. However, this didn’t change the fact that the Olympic was a financial disaster that White Star Line never recovered from.
More Bad Luck
During the Great Depression, White Star Line agreed to fuse with its main competitor, Cunard Line, so both companies could earn some much-needed subsidies from the British government. As a result of the merger and with a new flagship, the RMS Queen Mary, almost finished, the fleet of older liners gradually retired. But, the Olympic’s terrible luck returned for the last time.
On May 15, just one year before she was withdrawn from the last transatlantic service, Olympic was sailing in some bad weather. Covered in heavy fog, it rammed a lightship named Nantucket, one of the ships that marked the path into the New York harbor, destroying it and eventually sinking it.
The unfortunate collision killed 7 of the 11 crew members on board the lightship. The following year on April 5, 1935, Olympic left New York to return to Britain for one last time. She was finally demolished in 1937, 26 years after her maiden voyage, along with the RMS Mauretania, her biggest rival at the beginning of her career.
The Olympic transported about 430,000 passengers on 257 round trips across the Atlantic on her commercial voyages, with a total travel time of more than 2.8 million kilometers. Despite her long service, the Olympic never got as much recognition as her infamous sister boat.
The RMS Titanic Lasted Four Days
After the Olympic and the HMS Hawke crashed, there was an internal investigation. They found that it wasn’t the fault of Edward Smith’s actions, so as a gesture of trust, they reappointed him to command the newest ship, the Titanic, on her maiden voyage on April 10, 1912. Rumor has it that this was meant to be his last trip before retiring- and, in a spooky sense, it was.
On April 15, 1912, he went down with the ship and at least 1,500 other victims. 70% of people on board tragically lost their lives, making the event one of the deadliest commercial peacetime maritime disasters in modern history. It cost approximately 1.5 pounds (150 million US dollars in today’s money) to build, and its maiden voyage was its last voyage, making the Titanic White Star Line’s second financial disaster in six months.
The Fateful Collision
When the Titanic hit the iceberg, the Olympic was 930 km southwest on her way back to England. As soon as the Olympic began getting distress calls, they immediately set course to help, but they were too far away. They were still 190 km away when the survivors were rescued.
The Olympic offered to take on the survivors, but captain Rostron of the RMS Carpathia, who was at the scene, refused. He was worried it would cause panic among the survivors to see a mirror image of the Titanic appear and tell them to get on. I can definitely understand that. It was way too soon for flashbacks of the boat that nearly killed them.
Halifax and the Titanic
But the Olympic isn’t the only connection between the Halifax and the Titanic. In fact, Halifax is just 1,100 km west of the location where the Titanic sank, and many of the missing bodies were later found there and sent to families for identification and proper burial. Therefore, Halifax became the final grave for more Titanic victims than any other place.
One hundred fifty dead bodies from the Titanic are buried in Halifax, including a man named J. Dawson, sound familiar? As we know, Jack Dawson is a fictional character beautifully portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 1997’s movie Titanic. He is not based on the actual victim Joseph Dawson, who was a coal shipper on the Titanic.
J. Dawson’s Grave
Even though the character wasn’t based on any victim, in particular, the name confused people. Since the name on the tombstone simply reads J. Dawson, many people think it’s the character from the beloved movie. The misunderstanding made Joseph Dawson’s grave the most visited of all Titanic victims.
Apparently, after the release of the movie, numerous fathers brought their mourning daughters to his grave, which must have been comforting. They would often leave flowers and love notes. Maybe we shouldn’t tell them that this is a random victim, and not at all the character that Leonardo DiCaprio played.
HMHS Britannic Served for 11 Months
The HMHS (His Majesty Hospital Ship) Britannic was the third and final installment of White Star Line’s Olympic class steamships and was meant to enter its service as a transatlantic passenger liner. But before she was finished being built, the war had already started, and she was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and made was made into a hospital ship in 1915. She was repainted white with big red crosses.
The Britannic was doing well and completed five successful voyages to the Mediterranean Sea and back to the United Kingdom, transporting the sick and wounded. However, in November 1916, the Britannic struck a mine in the Kea Channel, Greece. Even though she had the same improved safety features that were installed on the Olympic, the Britannic didn’t make it.
The ship sunk faster than the Titanic, and within an hour, the Britannic had disappeared completely. Eerily, she shared the same fate as her sister, making it the biggest ship that was lost in World War I. But thanks to the higher water temperature, more lifeboats were available to help fast and saved 1006 of the 1036 people on board.
It should be noted that most of the 30 deaths came as a result of two lifeboats that were launched without permission. They were sucked into the propellers that were still running and tore apart the boats as well as the people on them. That sounds like a painful way to go. Just the thought of it makes me cringe.
Violet Jessop’s Luck
Violet Jessop was one of the few occupants of those lifeboats, but miraculously, she was able to jump out of her boat just in time. So if the fact that she was on the Olympic during its collision with the Hawke, the Titanic when it sunk, and the Britannic during this accident wasn’t strange enough, she also escaped death from the propellers.
The Britannic was a requisitioned ship that was in service of the Crown as it sank, meaning the wreck of the Britannic belonged to the British government for the next 80 years! In 1996, it was finally sold for 15,000 pounds to a renowned British maritime historian Simon Wills. Despite serving for 23 years, the RMS Olympic and her youngest sister, the Britannic, are both less famous than the renowned Titanic.
Titanic stories are so incredibly fascinating; do you ever wonder what happened to the survivors? Here are just a few of their heartwarming stories.