iceberg

On September 1, 1985 a ship that had been missing in the North Atlantic since 1912…the RMS Titanic…was finally located, but the way in which it was found was not what it seemed to be. Everyone knows the story of Titanic, either from personal loss, history, or from recent movies on the subject, that romanticized it and endeared the ship to the world. The Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, after sailing headlong into an iceberg, while traveling at an unsafe speed, against protocol. The disaster took 1500 people to a watery grave, and changed the protocols concerning the radio room, speeds in iceberg prone areas, and radar to warn the ships about obstacles in the area.

Oceanographer, Robert Ballard successfully found the Titanic while on a scientific mission for, of all people, the US Navy. The Navy had no interest in the Titanic, but Ballard had long wanted to find it, and he decided that the current mission would be the perfect chance to hunt for the Titanic, as well as the two submarines, USS Thresher and USS Scorpion, both of which had gone down in the North Atlantic and both of which were carrying powerful nuclear reactors. The Navy wanted to know if the Soviets had shot down the submarined and if their nuclear material still remained 15,000 feet beneath the surface.

Ballard asked the Navy to fund a project called Argo in the early 1980s. Argo was a submarine that could photograph the underwater to a depth of 20,000 feet. He wanted to find Titanic, but the Navy wanted to us the Argo to find the Thresher and the Scorpion. They agreed provided that he search for all three. In 1985 Ballard set out on a covert Cold War Mission, but publicly he was looking for Titanic. Ballard found the USS Scorpion, and then had just 12 days left to find Titanic. It was not going to be easy. Twelve days to find a ship that the French Research Institute couldn’t locate in five weeks.

While it seemed unlikely that the team would find the Titanic in the short amount of time they had left, their worry about the project’s success would prove unfounded. Around 2am on September 1, 1985, after over a week of taking pictures and finding nothing, the on-duty watch team called for Ballard. The Argo had spotted something unusual on the seafloor. As the team peered at a grainy image before realizing that they were looking at the boiler from the Titanic. The team was ecstatic, as the popped champagne for a toast. Then they realized that it was almost the exact time that Titanic went down 73 years earlier. The team felt almost as if they were violating the sanctity of a grave, even if it was well below them. Ballard later wrote, “It was one thing to have won – to have found the ship. It was another thing to be there. That was the spooky part. I could see the Titanic as she slipped nose first into the glassy water. Around me were the ghostly shapes of the lifeboats and the piercing shouts and screams of people freezing to death in the water.”

On April 10, 1912, Titanic set sail from Southampton. Titanic called at Cherbourg in France and Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland before heading west to New York. For the passengers and crew, Titanic was the ultimate in luxury, and to be on it was the ultimate thrill. The ship was the most luxurious ship of its day, and to add to their sense of excitement, it was unsinkable. The passengers were assured that the ship had so many fail-safes in place that the builders didn’t even think the lifeboats were necessary, and any that were considered to be in the way, were removed, in what would prove to be a fatal mistake. In the end, there were 20 lifeboats on board the ship, when she was supposed to have 64 lifeboats. Each had a capacity of 65 people. Most lifeboats were lowered to the water with less than half their actual capacity.

The night of April 14, 1912 was very cold, and the route Titanic was on was littered with icebergs. Other ships in the area tried to warn Titanic, but the radio operator of Titanic did not take the warnings seriously. He was operating under the mistaken idea that Titanic could sail right through any ice field she might come upon, and have no problems whatsoever. The radio operator was wrong. Nevertheless, he shut of the radio after the 6th warning transmission. The iceberg strike came at 11:40 pm…but the first distress call was sent almost an hour later and even then the ships receiving the calls could did not believe it could be real. Finally, at 12:40 am, Carpathia’s radio operator gave the call to head for Titanic’s last known position.

Help would come too late for Titanic. By 2:20 am on April 15, 1912, Titanic sank, but she was not without her heroes. As the Titanic was sinking, the deck crew began loading passengers onto lifeboats. The engineering crew stayed at their posts to work the pumps, controlling flooding as much as possible. This action ensured the power stayed on during the evacuation and allowed the wireless radio system to keep sending distress calls. These men bravely kept at their work and helped save more than 700 people…even though it would cost them their own lives. When Titanic went down, she took with her 1500 people. of those, 688 were crew members, including all 25 of the engineers who worked tirelessly, at their own peril to buy what little bit of time they could for the passengers in their care. Many of the crew members forfeited their lives so that the passengers might live. Were serious mistakes made…yes, of course, but by the same token, the sinking of Titanic saw some of the most amazing bravery ever.

My niece, Ashley Parmely, who joined our family when she married my husband’s nephew, Eric Parmely in 2011, is a girl of many talents, and amazing patience. When Eric first brought her to meet us, we liked her instantly, and then as we watched their pictures on Facebook, we could see that Ashley was raised in the country with horses. I thought that was cool, but that was really the tip of The Ashley Iceberg. Ashley loves all things country living. She loves all the animals, from chickens to ducks, from goats to horses, and of course, you have to throw in cats and dogs, but lots of people love animals. Ashley takes that one step further, in that she works hard to help her animals have babies, because that is a great way to grow your farm…and after all, babies are great, and according to Ashley, it doesn’t matter if they are human or animal. Yes, all babies are great, and Ashley loves each and every one of them.

And speaking of babies, Eric and Ashley have three of their own…daughters, Reagan and Hattie, and son, Bowen. If Ashley’s life wasn’t full before, putting three children in the mix has filled her home with love and laughter. Ashley is such a great mom. She is patient and loving with the kids, and they are well behaved little sweethearts, who have great imaginations, and who aren’t afraid of hard work…even if it’s cleaning up after the animals. These kids will be capable country kids who share their parents’ love of animals and don’t mind the work that goes along with it. When children are raised around animals, they naturally develop a love for them…they are like family. Ashley is passing on the things she grew up with, and the family, including her husband, Eric, are thriving on it. Some people just seem to love country living, and for Ashley, it is just the tip of the iceberg. Nevertheless, with all the love in her home, I’m surprised the iceberg isn’t melting, but there’s still more to it.

Sometimes, I have to wonder if Ashley’s life is largely chaos, and I’m sure that sometimes it really is, but Ashley is such a patient person, and somehow, I think she thrives on the chaos around her. It’s almost like having so many babies is like having a house full of love…even if only three of the babies are human. As I said, for Ashley, babies are babies. And Ashley, like an iceberg, is not just what you see on the outside, but is rather a deep person with many talents, that she is sharing with her family, and what a blessing that is. Today is Ashley’s birthday. Happy birthday Ashley!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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