When the Titanic fatefully set sail for New York in 1912, Captain Edward J. Smith was the White Star Line's most senior captain. The principle of seniority determined that he would take command of each lead ship on her maiden voyage. His appointment as captain of the Titanic, therefore, was entirely in keeping with established convention.
Smith also had the reputation as a safe pair of hands, a reliable seaman who could always be counted on to bring ships safely home without incident. On the face of it, it seemed that Captain Smith had all the right credentials for such an important job. As Ballard acknowledges in the book, Smith had served the White Star Line for thirty-eight years and had an impeccable safety record. His captaincy of the Titanic was intended to be his swan song, a final send-off after a lifetime's service as a respected, hardworking sailor.