Photography: 98for98 -The century in photographs - Today 1912
Wednesday 21 January 1998
With the knowledge of what was to overshadow Europe in the coming years, it's hard not to subscribe to the myth of pre-war innocence that images like the one above suggest. Swimming lessons for the children of the well- to-do on the Thames at Wallingford were but a small part of Britain's burgeoning leisure industry which was flourishing, thanks to relatively inexpensive, mass produced buses, cars and bikes.
The year began with a dent for British pride. In January, the heroic Captain Scott's efforts to conquer one of the natural world's remaining frontiers met with failure. One month after Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had reached the South Pole, the five-man British team found enough evidence of their rival to realize that they had been defeated.
March saw the militant campaign for women's suffrage stepped up. At a given signal on the first of the month, activists throughout the West End of London embarked on a 20-minute window-smashing rampage with stones and hammers secreted in mufflers.
1912's most notorious event took place on the icy seas of the North Atlantic. Not only did the owners of the world's largest passenger liner claim she was unsinkable, but White Star also wanted the SS Titanic to be unbeatable. It was the prestigious Blue Riband for the fastest Atlantic crossing that the Titanic was pursuing as she sped towards her undoing. White Star had claimed that 16 watertight tanks would prevent exactly the disaster which befell the Titanic when she hit an iceberg. Within hours she was resting on the bed of the North Atlantic at the cost of over 1,500 of her 2,340 passengers.
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