On A Sea of Glass & Part-Time Explorer 112th Anniversary Titanic Livestream 2024

On A Sea of Glass & Part-Time Explorer 112th Anniversary Titanic Livestream 2024

I am honoured to have been invited to participate in the On A Sea of Glass and Part-Time Explorer 112th Anniversary Titanic Livestream, which will be broadcast on Thomas Lynskey’s Part-Time Explorer channel on YouTube.  It starts at 9.30 p.m. Eastern Time (United States) on Sunday 14 April 2024 / 2.30 a.m. (United Kingdom) on Monday 15 April 2024.  The livestream will also be recorded and available to replay afterwards.

Hosted by Thomas Lynskey, it includes special guests Alex Moeller and Levi Rourke; historians and On A Sea of Glass co-authors Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton and Bill Wormstedt; and guest historians George Behe, Don Lynch, Ken Marschall and I. 




Tourist Class: Majestic, 1932

Tourist Class: Majestic, 1932

Although it was primarily their magnificent first class public rooms which hit the headlines, Albert Ballin made sure that second class passengers were not neglected.  His three enormous liners, as well as Cunard’s Aquitania, made significant advances in second class accommodation.  There was an increased variety of public rooms compared to Olympic.

Their accommodation was not enough to impress Cunard’s naval architect Leonard Peskett, who wrote in 1913 that Imperator‘s second class public rooms were: ‘All a long way behind that arranged for Aquitania‘.  He thought that the second class staterooms were of the same standard as other German liners ‘with the exception that all ceilings (in cabins that could be seen) are panelled’.  He noted that the gymnasium was a ‘new feature’ in second class (White Star also added a gymnasium to Britannic‘s second class accommodation).

Nonetheless, Majestic‘s second class passengers had a smoking room and writing room available to them; a gymnasium; the main lounge and reading and writing room.  These were facilities which were not necessarily available to first class passengers onboard liners a few years earlier.  From the mid 1920s she carried second class passengers as well as tourist third cabin, but these classes were later merged to form a single ‘tourist class’.  In 1932, a lavish brochure was printed to show off the tourist class passenger accommodation.  The colour-coded deck plans showed all of the public rooms and stateroom accommodation available and are included in the new edition of RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’ which was released earlier this month.

Below: we see on the right the former second class public rooms in their tourist configuration and the dance floor added in the main first class companionway; to the left, the deckhouse with the large lounge further aft on B-deck was originally part of the third class accommodation; at the far left, we see part of the deck above and the veranda which was now available for tourist class passengers.  (The deck designations are those used in the latter part of her career.)


Man Overboard: Majestic, October 1926

Man Overboard: Majestic, October 1926

In the early hours of 13 October 1926, Majestic was experiencing stormy weather during one of her many crossings of the North Atlantic.  First class passenger David P. Davis and a younger female companion, Lucile Gehring, had been together since dinner the previous evening.  They were sat talking in the sitting room of Davis’ suite, D42, while Davis’ ten year old son George lay asleep in the bedroom, D44, next door.

One of Majestic’s first-class ‘suite of rooms’ on the port side of D-deck, comprising a bedroom (D44) and sitting room (D42), wardrobe room and private bathroom facilities. The location of the sofa and the two portholes is clearly visible in the sitting room. (The deck designation later changed from D-deck to B-deck, as shown on this 1933 deckplan, so that B42 became D42 and B44 became D44). (Author’s collection)


They ‘had an occasional drink’ (a quart bottle of champagne between them) and Davis drank ‘half a bottle of rye whiskey’. Lucile ‘tried to leave on three separate occasions but he pulled her back after she had reached the door’. (Night watchman R.W. Tyrell ‘did not intervene as there was no violence and he knew the parties to be friends, who sat late as a rule’.)  Davis remarked: ‘If you go away and leave me, I’ll go through there,’ and pointed through the porthole. She thought it was ‘bravado’. He put his money on the table and ‘told her to keep it as she’d need it’. He ‘sat for a time in the recess of the port with his feet on the sofa’. She was ‘somewhat confused’ what happened next. He said ‘catch me honey, I’m slipping’ and ‘goodbye dearie here I go’.

She ‘caught his arm for a second’ but ‘almost before realising it he was gone’. She was ‘sure he slipped’. Her scream alerted Tyrell, who ‘immediately responded and reported to the bridge’. It was 5 a.m.: ‘The ship was immediately turned round, two lighted life buoys thrown overboard, emergency boats manned, officers and men stationed to keep a lookout…’ Majestic steamed 1½ miles to the westward of the buoys and circled slowly for an hour, but he could not be found. There was a ‘strong wind … accompanied by heavy rain and rough sea’.

This and other incidents, forming a rich social history of life onboard, are included RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’ , released later this month.

FAQ: Majestic’s ‘Record’ Passenger List

Did Majestic Carry the White Star Line’s Highest Ever Number of Passengers in September 1923?

It has sometimes been reported that Majestic set a record in September 1923, carrying the White Star Line’s ‘highest ever’ passenger list of 2,625 passengers. There are several discrepancies. The statement, or a variation of it taken from several websites, appears to be traceable to Duncan Haws’ Merchant Fleets Volume 19: White Star Line (Starling Press Ltd; 1990), page 90:

1923 Sept: Fastest then crossing 5 days 5 hours 21 minutes. Average 24.75 knots. Only Mauretania was faster. On one crossing carried 480 first, 736 second, 1,409 third = 2,625, the company’s highest ever.

The first problem is that Majestic only made one westbound departure from Southampton that month, on 12 September 1923. She carried 1,774 passengers, including 815 in first class (her highest that year, westbound). She did, however, make two eastbound departures from New York – on 1 September and 22 September 1923 – with passenger lists in all three classes totalling 607 and 657, respectively. None of these three September departures had such a record list, although they did include the best first class passenger list that year for the westbound crossing, and (eastbound) Majestic carried 853 in first class on her 23 June 1923 New York departure.

The report appears to refer to the 26 October 1923 westbound departure, when Majestic carried 475 first class, 731 second class, and 1,416 third class passengers for a total of 2,622 passengers, her highest that year in either direction.  When Majestic arrived in New York on 1 November 1923, the figures given in America by the North Atlantic Passenger Conference were:

  • 480 first class
  • 736 second class
  • 1,411 third class

That total was 2,627 passengers, which is also very close to the ‘record’.  (Any of the figures represented a record for Majestic herself.)  If Majestic did carry that many passengers, albeit the following month, was it right to claim it was the highest passenger list of a White Star Line vessel?

No. We know that Celtic carried 2,957 passengers in September 1904.  That appears to be the highest passenger list ever recorded for a White Star liner.



RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’ is available for pre-order!

The RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’ second edition is available to pre-order!

RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’  is being released as a revised and expanded edition by the History Press.  It is scheduled to be published on 14 March 2024.

When the original edition was released by Tempus Publishing in November 2006, it was the first book to focus solely on her history.  Lots of material and illustrations were published for the first time.  Critics loved it:

 ‘Mark Chirnside has once again delivered a book that not only tells a story, but also makes that story come alive – Majestic is no longer a mere footnote. RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’ is a book that fills the need for a comprehensive look at the White Star Line’s last flagship.’

Now, you can *pre-order* signed copies of the revised and expanded edition through this website.  The page count has been expanded 50 percent, from 96 to 144 pages.  It includes about 180 images (about 50 in colour), the majority of which are new (about a quarter appeared in the original edition). All in all, the revised and expanded edition is virtually a new book.  Highlights include previously unpublished information about

  • Cunard’s naval architect, Leonard Peskett, who set about examining Imperator when she entered service in 1913;
  • details of Edward Wilding’s role as he supported Bismarck/Majestic‘s completion and went about the unenviable task of liaising between Blohm & Voss, Harland & Wolff, White Star and the British Board of Trade (in particular, the struggle to get certain features accepted under British regulations as opposed to the German standards);
  • accounts about life onboard during the Roaring Twenties, including fights among the crew, drunken passengers falling overboard and getting into mischief;
  • life onboard HMS Caledonia for boys undergoing their training between 1937 and 1939;
  • data rich appendices, including a comparison of Imperator/Berengaria and Bismarck/Majestic‘s earnings throughout their careers. 

Other new features exclusive to the new edition include lavish deck plans of first and tourist class accommodation in full colour; a rare Italian brochure produced for third class passengers; detailed plans of the boiler and engine rooms drawn by the talented Lionel Codus; photos of life onboard in the 1920s and 1930s; and photos of her as HMS Caledonia, featuring areas such as the former first class dining saloon converted to a mess hall and boys undergoing training onboard.

To see page previews from inside the book and pre-order your own signed copy, checkout the Majestic book page .  Secure payment can be made by card or PayPal using the payment button (make sure you select your location – if your country is not listed, please contact Mark).  If you have a specific personal inscription you would like, make sure to include it with your order; if not, your copy will have the author’s signature and date. All pre-orders received by 14 March 2024 will be shipped as soon as the book is released. 

Signed  copies also come with a Mark Chirnside’s Reception Room bookmark, so you won’t lose your place.  That means no excuses for using dog ears, which will damage the book!











Big Ships and Small Boats

New Article: Big Ships and Small Boats

A new article, ‘Big Ships and Small Boats’ has been uploaded.

In the years leading up to the Titanic disaster, ships were getting significantly larger.  A lot of comment at the time and up to the present day has focused on the increasing size of ships in relation to the lifeboats they needed to carry under the law.  However, this overlooks the fact that the size of a ship was not necessarily a reliable indicator of how many passengers and crew she could carry.  This article provides a snapshot comparison between Olympic and Carpathia in April 1912 and some comparative British government data looking at the largest foreign-going passenger steamers, their passenger and crew capacity and lifeboat provision.

It was first published in the Titanic International Society’s Voyage September 2022: Pages 3-4.



‘Olympic: Thomas Andrews’ Notes from a Successful Maiden Voyage’

It was great to be able to present my lecture about Thomas Andrews and the observations he made during Olympic‘s maiden voyage in June 1911.  I spoke at PRONI, in a lecture jointly supported by PRONI and the Belfast Titanic Society:

‘Olympic: Thomas Andrews’ Notes from a Successful Maiden Voyage”’
(September 2023)

In June 1911, Thomas Andrews was onboard Olympic during her maiden voyage to observe how she performed under normal operating conditions at sea; to monitor her progress; and make all sorts of notes. His comments were wide ranging and went beyond matters of shipbuilding in a number of cases.  These included recommendations for changing particular operating procedures or improving the working practices of the ship’s crew; improving aspects of the ship’s passenger accommodation and increasing her earning power, such as by adding additional staterooms; or in making economies (he saw no need to provide both linoleum tiles and carpeting in the captain’s sitting room).  He made a particular recommendation to try and help keep third class female passengers safe from unwanted attention. Andrews’ notes included many aspects where Titanic‘s design was improved compared to Olympic‘s.  They show a remarkable attention to detail, demonstrating the concerns of a knowledgeable professional who was intent on improving her design in even the slightest way. 



RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’

RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’ second edition

RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’  was published by Tempus Publishing in November 2006.  Unfortunately, the initial print run soon sold out and, following a change of ownership of the publisher, it was never reprinted.  For years, it has been rare to come across a second hand copy.  One was even advertised on Amazon UK for the grand total of £3,827.24 (plus postage) in 2014!

The good news is that this much sought after book is being released as a revised and expanded edition by the History Press.  The original book consisted of 96 pages and this has been increased to 144 pages, with new information and rare illustrations (particularly relating to her time as the naval training ship HMS Caledonia). There is an extensive colour section with previously unpublished images and deck plans. It is anticipated that the new edition will be available in spring 2024.

We will keep you posted. This blog will be updated as soon as signed copies are directly available, so stay tuned.



10 March 2023: Titanic Talkline

Titanic Talkline Podcast

My Titanic Talkline podcast (Season 1, Episode 17) is available online: ‘Mark Chirnside comes aboard this week for a great chat about the Titanic and her sister ships, Olympic and Britannic, as well as the Harland and Wolff shipyards!’ Thanks to Alexia Thirumalai for inviting me and hosting.


7 February 2023

New Article: ‘”The Old Rules…Are Entirely Obsolete”: British Lifeboat Regulation in the 1880s’

A new article, ‘”The Old Rules…Are Entirely Obsolete”: British Lifeboat Regulation in the 1880s’, explores lifeboat regulations in the 1880s. They were comparatively worse than the rules in force when Titanic foundered in 1912, but a senior official argued  ‘you can make ships perfectly safe by [watertight] subdivision’.


6 January 2023: Website Redesign

Mark Chirnside’s Reception Room has been overhauled to improve the user experience on mobile devices, make it easier to order books and generally refresh it for the 2020s. All credit for the work goes to TMB Studios!  






RMS Olympic: Titanic’s Sister

The revised and expanded edition of RMS Olympic: Titanic’s Sister is released by the History Press in the next few days.  Thoroughly improved and expanded from the original edition that was published in 2004, the new volume has been expanded from 320 to 352 pages, with a revised colour section.  Despite all this additional material, the new edition is being sold for the same price as the original was eleven years ago!


8 November 2007: Website Redesign

The website has been completely overhauled for easier navigation and cross-browser compatibility. Credit for all these changes must go to the talented J. Kent Layton and TMB studios.