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The RMS Titanic, a luxury steamship, sank in the early hours of April 15, 1912, off the coast of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic after sideswiping an iceberg during its maiden voyage. Of the 2,240 passengers and crew on board, more than 1,500 lost their lives in the disaster. Titanic has inspired countless books, articles and films (including the 1997 “Titanic” movie starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio), and the ships story has entered the public consciousness as a cautionary tale about the perils of human hubris.
Watch the two-part series Titanic on HISTORY Vault
The Building of the RMS Titanic
The Titanic was the product of intense competition among rival shipping lines in the first half of the 20th century. In particular, the White Star Line found itself in a battle for steamship primacy with Cunard, a venerable British firm with two standout ships that ranked among the most sophisticated and luxurious of their time.
Cunard’s Mauretania began service in 1907 and quickly set a speed record for the fastest average speed during a transatlantic crossing (23.69 knots or 27.26 mph), a title that it held for 22 years.
Cunard’s other masterpiece, Lusitania, launched the same year and was lauded for its spectacular interiors. Lusitania met its tragic end on May 7, 1915, when a torpedo fired by a German U-boat sunk the ship, killing nearly 1,200 of the 1,959 people on board and precipitating the United States’ entry into World War I.
The same year that Cunard unveiled its two magnificent liners, J. Bruce Ismay, chief executive of White Star, discussed the construction of three large ships with William J. Pirrie, chairman of the shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff. Part of a new “Olympic” class of liners, each ship would measure 882 feet in length and 92.5 feet at their broadest point, making them the largest of their time.
In March 1909, work began in the massive Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland, on the second of these three ocean liners, Titanic, and continued nonstop for two years.
On May 31, 1911, Titanic’s immense hull–the largest movable manmade object in the world at the time–made its way down the slipways and into the River Lagan in Belfast. More than 100,000 people attended the launching, which took just over a minute and went off without a hitch.
The hull was immediately towed to a mammoth fitting-out dock where thousands of workers would spend most of the next year building the ship’s decks, constructing her lavish interiors and installing the 29 giant boilers that would power her two main steam engines.
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‘Unsinkable’ Titanic’s Fatal Flaws
According to some hypotheses, Titanic was doomed from the start by a design that many lauded as state-of-the-art. The Olympic-class ships featured a double bottom and 15 watertight bulkhead compartments equipped with electric watertight doors that could be operated individually or simultaneously by a switch on the bridge.
It was these watertight bulkheads that inspired Shipbuilder magazine, in a special issue devoted to the Olympic liners, to deem them “practically unsinkable.”
But the watertight compartment design contained a flaw that was a critical factor in Titanic’s sinking: While the individual bulkheads were indeed watertight, the walls separating the bulkheads extended only a few feet above the water line, so water could pour from one compartment into another, especially if the ship began to list or pitch forward.
The second critical safety lapse that contributed to the loss of so many lives was the inadequate number of lifeboats carried on Titanic. A mere 16 boats, plus four Engelhardt “collapsibles,” could accommodate just 1,178 people. Titanic could carry up to 2,435 passengers, and a crew of approximately 900 brought her capacity to more than 3,300 people.
As a result, even if the lifeboats were loaded to full capacity during an emergency evacuation, there were available seats for only one-third of those on board. While unthinkably inadequate by today’s standards, Titanic’s supply of lifeboats actually exceeded the British Board of Trade’s requirements.
READ MORE: Titanic by the Numbers: From Construction to Disaster to Discovery
Passengers on the Titanic
Titanic created quite a stir when it departed for its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912. After stops in Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown (now known as Cobh), Ireland, the ship set sail for New York with 2,240 passengers and crew—or “souls,” the expression then used in the shipping industry, usually in connection with a sinking—on board.
As befitting the first transatlantic crossing of the world’s most celebrated ship, many of these souls were high-ranking officials, wealthy industrialists, dignitaries and celebrities. First and foremost was the White Star Line’s managing director, J. Bruce Ismay, accompanied by Thomas Andrews, the ship’s builder from Harland and Wolff.
Absent was financier J.P. Morgan, whose International Mercantile Marine shipping trust controlled the White Star Line and who had selected Ismay as a company officer. Morgan had planned to join his associates on Titanic but canceled at the last minute when some business matters delayed him.
The wealthiest passenger was John Jacob Astor IV, heir to the Astor family fortune, who had made waves a year earlier by marrying 18-year-old Madeleine Talmadge Force, a young woman 29 years his junior, shortly after divorcing his first wife.
Other notable passengers included the elderly owner of Macy’s, Isidor Straus, and his wife Ida; industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim, accompanied by his mistress, valet and chauffeur; and widow and heiress Margaret “Molly” Brown, who would earn her nickname “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” by helping to maintain calm and order while the lifeboats were being loaded and boosting the spirits of her fellow survivors.
The employees attending to this collection of First Class luminaries were mostly traveling Second Class, along with academics, tourists, journalists and others who would enjoy a level of service and accommodations equivalent to First Class on most other ships.
But by far the largest group of passengers was in Third Class: more than 700, exceeding the other two levels combined. Some had paid less than $20 to make the crossing. It was Third Class that was the major source of profit for shipping lines like White Star, and Titanic was designed to offer these passengers accommodations and amenities superior to those found in Third Class on any other ship of that era.
READ MORE: Molly Brown and 11 Other Famous Titanic Passengers
Titanic Sets Sail
Titanic’s departure from Southampton on April 10 was not without some oddities. A small coal fire was discovered in one of her bunkers–an alarming but not uncommon occurrence on steamships of the day. Stokers hosed down the smoldering coal and shoveled it aside to reach the base of the blaze.
After assessing the situation, the captain and chief engineer concluded that it was unlikely it had caused any damage that could affect the hull structure, and the stokers were ordered to continue controlling the fire at sea.
According to a theory put forth by a small number of Titanic experts, the fire became uncontrollable after the ship left Southampton, forcing the crew to attempt a full-speed crossing; moving at such a fast pace, they were unable to avoid the fatal collision with the iceberg.
Another unsettling event took place when Titanic left the Southampton dock. As she got underway, she narrowly escaped a collision with the America Line’s S.S. New York. Superstitious Titanic buffs sometimes point to this as the worst kind of omen for a ship departing on her maiden voyage.
The Titanic Strikes an Iceberg
On April 14, after four days of uneventful sailing, Titanic received sporadic reports of ice from other ships, but she was sailing on calm seas under a moonless, clear sky.
At about 11:30 p.m., a lookout saw an iceberg coming out of a slight haze dead ahead, then rang the warning bell and telephoned the bridge. The engines were quickly reversed and the ship was turned sharply—instead of making direct impact, Titanic seemed to graze along the side of the berg, sprinkling ice fragments on the forward deck.
Sensing no collision, the lookouts were relieved. They had no idea that the iceberg had a jagged underwater spur, which slashed a 300-foot gash in the hull below the ship’s waterline.
By the time the captain toured the damaged area with Harland and Wolff’s Thomas Andrews, five compartments were already filling with seawater, and the bow of the doomed ship was alarmingly pitched downward, allowing seawater to pour from one bulkhead into the neighboring compartment.
Andrews did a quick calculation and estimated that Titanic might remain afloat for an hour and a half, perhaps slightly more. At that point the captain, who had already instructed his wireless operator to call for help, ordered the lifeboats to be loaded.
A little more than an hour after contact with the iceberg, a largely disorganized and haphazard evacuation began with the lowering of the first lifeboat. The craft was designed to hold 65 people; it left with only 28 aboard.
Tragically, this was to be the norm: During the confusion and chaos during the precious hours before Titanic plunged into the sea, nearly every lifeboat would be launched woefully under-filled, some with only a handful of passengers.
In compliance with the law of the sea, women and children boarded the boats first; only when there were no women or children nearby were men permitted to board. Yet many of the victims were in fact women and children, the result of disorderly procedures that failed to get them to the boats in the first place.
Exceeding Andrews’ prediction, Titanic stubbornly stayed afloat for close to three hours. Those hours witnessed acts of craven cowardice and extraordinary bravery.
Hundreds of human dramas unfolded between the order to load the lifeboats and the ship’s final plunge: Men saw off wives and children, families were separated in the confusion and selfless individuals gave up their spots to remain with loved ones or allow a more vulnerable passenger to escape. In the end, 706 people survived the sinking of the Titanic.
The ship’s most illustrious passengers each responded to the circumstances with conduct that has become an integral part of the Titanic legend. Ismay, the White Star managing director, helped load some of the boats and later stepped onto a collapsible as it was being lowered. Although no women or children were in the vicinity when he abandoned ship, he would never live down the ignominy of surviving the disaster while so many others perished.
Thomas Andrews, Titanic’s chief designer, was last seen in the First Class smoking room, staring blankly at a painting of a ship on the wall. Astor deposited his wife Madeleine into a lifeboat and, remarking that she was pregnant, asked if he could accompany her; refused entry, he managed to kiss her goodbye just before the boat was lowered away.
Although offered a seat on account of his age, Isidor Straus refused any special consideration, and his wife Ida would not leave her husband behind. The couple retired to their cabin and perished together.
Benjamin Guggenheim and his valet returned to their rooms and changed into formal evening dress; emerging onto the deck, he famously declared, “We are dressed in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.”
Molly Brown helped load the boats and finally was forced into one of the last to leave. She implored its crewmen to turn back for survivors, but they refused, fearing they would be swamped by desperate people trying to escape the icy seas.
Titanic, nearly perpendicular and with many of her lights still aglow, finally dove beneath the ocean’s surface at about 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912. Throughout the morning, Cunard’s Carpathia, after receiving Titanic’s distress call at midnight and steaming at full speed while dodging ice floes all night, rounded up all of the lifeboats. They contained only 705 survivors.
READ MORE: The Titanic: Before and After Photos
Aftermath of the Titanic Catastrophe
At least five separate boards of inquiry on both sides of the Atlantic conducted comprehensive hearings on Titanic’s sinking, interviewing dozens of witnesses and consulting with many maritime experts. Every conceivable subject was investigated, from the conduct of the officers and crew to the construction of the ship. Titanic conspiracy theories abounded.
While it has always been assumed that the ship sank as a result of the gash that caused the bulkhead compartments to flood, various other theories have emerged over the decades, including that the ship’s steel plates were too brittle for the near-freezing Atlantic waters, that the impact caused rivets to pop and that the expansion joints failed, among others.
Technological aspects of the catastrophe aside, Titanic’s demise has taken on a deeper, almost mythic, meaning in popular culture. Many view the tragedy as a morality play about the dangers of human hubris: Titanic’s creators believed they had built an unsinkable ship that could not be defeated by the laws of nature.
This same overconfidence explains the electrifying impact Titanic’s sinking had on the public when she was lost. There was widespread disbelief that the ship could not possibly have sunk, and, due to the era’s slow and unreliable means of communication, misinformation abounded. Newspapers initially reported that the ship had collided with an iceberg but remained afloat and was being towed to port with everyone on board.
It took many hours for accurate accounts to become widely available, and even then people had trouble accepting that this paragon of modern technology could sink on her maiden voyage, taking more than 1,500 souls with her.
The ship historian John Maxtone-Graham has compared Titanic’s story to the Challenger space shuttle disaster of 1986. In that case, the world reeled at the notion that one of the most sophisticated inventions ever created could explode into oblivion along with its crew. Both tragedies triggered a sudden collapse in confidence, revealing that we remain subject to human frailties and error, despite our hubris and a belief in technological infallibility.
Titanic: Before and After
During the 26 month construction of the Titanic at the Harland and Wolff Shipyard in Belfast, 28 serious accidents and 218 minor accidents were recorded. 8 workers were killed.
This was a smaller number than expected for the time, which was one death for every £100,000 spent. As the Titanic cost £1.5 million to build, 15 deaths could have been anticipated.
Most of the 8 were killed by injuries sustained from falling either from the ship or the staging surrounding it.
A 43-year-old shipwright, James Dobbin, was actually killed on the day of the Titanic’s launch. At 12:10 on 31 May 1911, an estimated 10,000 people watched as the massive ship slid from the yard onto the River Lagan.
Dobbin was crushed during the process of removing the timber stays which had been holding the ship upright.
The RMS Titanic ready for launch, 1911 (Credit: Public Domain)
The Titanic was one of the modern marvels in vessel construction for her time. A masterpiece in size and craftsmanship, the Titanic remains one of the most famous ships known throughout the world. Most individuals know the story of the Titanic and her tragic end at the hands of an iceberg in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. Here are some more quick Titanic facts that readers may not already know.
Titanic Facts: The Construction
-March 31, 1909 in Belfast (Ireland)
-The Titanic was constructed by the Harland & Wolff company
– Titanic construction took about 3 years and $7.5 million to complete
– It took around 3000 laborers to construct the Titanic
– The vessel featured 16 watertight compartments with steel doors designed to close within 25 seconds, keep any flooding out of the ship’s interior
– Nearly 3 million rivets were used in the Titanic construction
Titanic Facts: Lifeboats
-The Titanic was supplied with only enough life boats to accommodate about half of its maximum number of passengers
-Some of the Titanic lifeboats lowered into the water were only half full
-A few Titanic lifeboats drifted off to sea before they could even be properly deployed
A model of a Titanic lifeboat
Titanic Passengers Facts
– Of the 2, 227 people aboard the Titanic, only 705 survived
– Many Titanic survivor diaries were discovered and illustrated the despair involved with the Titanic
– The death of Captain Edward Smith is a topic of debate many think the Titanic could have been saved if he acted differently, some think not
– Molly Brown was one of the most famous figures on the Titanic, the wife of a Colorado silver mine entrepreneur was the only woman to row a Titanic lifeboat to safety
– One of the most famous stories was about a wealthy elderly couple name the Straus’. When Mrs. Straus learned men could not board the Titanic lifeboats, she opted to stay with her husband although she knew it meant certain death
– Here is a Titanic survivor list and other Titanic passenger facts
Passengers boarding RMS Titanic
Titanic Facts: The Sinking
– The Titanic struck an iceberg in the Atlant ocean near the coast of Newfoundland shortly before Midnight, April 14, 1912
– Impact with the berg caused the hull to buckle and the vessel began taking on water
– Carpathia picked up the Titanic’s S.O.S. signal and eventually rescued the Titanic survivors, but they were too far away to save most of them
– Neighboring ships in the area had reported ice floes, but the Titanic continued to travel at top speed
– The band really did keep playing as the ship sank
The Heroic Musicians of the Titanic
Titanic Movie Facts
– The Titanic movie was nominated for 14 Oscars and won 11 of them making it the first film to win that many
– In 1997 it became the highest grossing film of all time, it now ranks 6th in North America
– No individuals with the same name as Leonardo DiCaprio (Jack Dawson) and Kate Winslett (Rose DeWitt Bukater) were on the ship
– There were characters modeled after individuals aboard the Titanic including builder of the Titanic Thomas Andrews, Molly Brown, woman who took control of her lifeboat and rescued survivors, Edward Smith, captain of the Titanic, John Jacob Astor, first class passenger of the Titanic, and Titanic band leader Wallace Hartley.
The Sad Story
Under the command of Edward Smith, the ship leaved Southampton with 2224 passengers aboard, including some of the wealthiest people in the world, as well as hundreds of poor emigrants from Europe seeking a new life in North America. The ship had advanced safety features, but there were not enough lifeboats to accommodate all of those aboard. Only 1,178 people can be carried in lifeboats.
Four days into the crossing and about 375 miles (600 km) south of Newfoundland, she hit an iceberg at 11:40 pm ship's time. The glancing collision caused Titanic's hull plates to buckle inwards along her starboard side and opened five of her sixteen watertight compartments to the sea the ship gradually filled with water. Meanwhile, passengers and some crew members were evacuated in lifeboats, many of which were launched only partly loaded.
By 2:20 AM, the giant ship broke apart and foundered, with over 1000 people still aboard. Just under two hours after the sinking, the Cunard liner RMS Carpathia arrived and brought aboard about 705 survivors.
74: The number of years it took to find the wreck of the Ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
Titanic Facts : True And Tragic
Titanic facts are some of the most fascinating of all shipwrecks in maritime history. Perhaps it is because of the number of lives that were lost, or the fact that the entire tragedy could have been avoided, but there is no denying the mysterious allure this ill fated ocean liner still holds, even today.
As the years have passed a number of legends have grown up around the sinking of the legendary Titanic. Some of these legends contain authentic Titanic facts and others are merely myth. The 'unsinkable Molly Brown' is an example of one of the Titanic ship facts. The wealthy socialite is said to have personally rowed one of the lifeboats to safety for a period of time well over 7 hours the only woman among the passengers to have done so. Some historians have scoffed at the legend and concluded that this tale was made up by Molly years later to impress her socialite friends. Regardless of whether this is a myth or actually one of many interesting Titanic facts the legend continues to circulate almost one hundred years later.
Tragic Facts about the Sinking of the Titanic
The Titanic disaster is one of the worst sea accidents the world has had to painfully live with owing to the tragic nature of the stories that emerged on that day. More than a century has elapsed since the ship went down (in 1912) with 1500 lives but Titanic’s fame keeps soaring due to some chilly and tragic facts stated below.
The Number of Lifeboats was Significantly Insufficient
Lifeboats are designed to carry passengers away from a sinking ship. For a big ship such as the Titanic with roughly 2224 people, there were supposed to be enough lifeboats (about 32) for everybody on board. But the huge ocean liner only had 20 lifeboats. Each lifeboat was supposed to carry about 68 people. Basic math shows that 68 * 20 = 1360 people. Technically, this number is roughly equal to half of the 2224 persons that were on board the ship that day. Therefore, insufficient lifeboats largely contributed to the death of over 1500 people.
Some Lifeboats were not Full
Who would have thought that the stranded ship crew wouldn’t make good use of the available lifeboats? It is shocking to learn that the leadership (crew) became disorganized in the face of the disaster. Due to a flawed women and children policy, as well as the ensuing chaotic scenes, some lifeboats (mostly the first ones) were launched with few women and children on board. Instead of loading them full to their sitting capacity of 68 people each, some lifeboats departed half-full. The ship’s captain, Edward Smith, failed to supervise the launching of the boats he shirked his responsibilities.
The Women and Children First Policy
When it became clear to the crew that Titanic couldn’t survive the iceberg impact, the disorganized crew managed to conceive a great priority idea an order came that women and children would board the lifeboats first. Sadly, this order was somehow misinterpreted to mean “women and children only”. As a result of this misconstrued directive, some boats left half-loaded with only women and children, even though there were some spaces for men. Men who made attempts to board the semi-empty boats were initially turned away until the last minutes.
The Ship Was Deemed Unsinkable
There is a famous myth of “unsinkability” of the Titanic. Some passengers, crew, and manufacturers believed that Titanic was a state-of-the-art ship with enough safety features to stay afloat in marine waters for long. Yes, it’s true that luxurious facilities (swimming pools, gym, restaurants, etc.) were incorporated into the Titanic. The ship’s builder – Harland & Wolff – boasted that the Titanic had 16 watertight compartments which were good enough to keep the ship afloat (even if 4 compartments were punctured in an accident). Unfortunately, the iceberg destroyed 6 compartments. The destruction of the compartments doomed the tag of “Unsinkable Titanic”. The Titanic’s captain Smith himself never believed that Titanic could perish in water he trusted the engineering work that went into the ship’s construction.
It’s believed that an anonymous Titanic crew member once opined that “Not Even the Almighty God Could Sink the Titanic”. The vice president of the White Star shipping line, Philip Franklin, also boasted the same way that, the Titanic was beyond sinking. Well, until the last minutes, many passengers still held onto that myth. The Titanic did stay afloat for 3 hours before sinking, but the design flaws gave into the gushing in of cold ocean waters.
Design Flaws of the Titanic
The ship was deemed Unsinkable, but for God’s sake, the Titanic had deep flaws in its design! The bulkhead (vertical airtight partitions of the ship’s hull) weren’t high enough. The designers placed them at 10 feet (3 meters), just above the waterline of the ship. This height was too low and it explained why the ship couldn’t survive more than 3 hours. When some 5-6 compartments were punctured by the iceberg, water rushed in and dipped the ship. The dip allowed water to invade the other compartments. After the disaster, the ship’s builders raised the height of the bulkheads of the sister ships (RMS Olympic and the Britannic). The rivets and the steel plates of the ship were also found to be structurally weak. This explained why they couldn’t resist the impact forces of the iceberg.
The Titanic Was a Brand New Ship
Titanic had been in operation for less than a year before the iceberg sank it in mid-April 1912. Launched on 31st May 1911, Titanic’s length measured 882 feet (268 meters). At that time, it was the largest artificial moving object on earth. There were tests cruises before the new ship began its maiden voyage on 10th April.
Captain Smith Sped the Ship, Despite Iceberg Warnings
Traveling in the midnight, the ship received 6 iceberg warnings from other neighboring ships. On 14th April, the radio operators of the ship were notified of icy conditions in her surroundings. But the radiomen did a very terrible job as they failed to relay all the warnings to the captain they also couldn’t be bothered much about the weather. Nearby ships such as SS Californian, SS Amerika, RMS Baltic, and RMS Caronia all sent warnings to Titanic.
Some of the warnings did reach the Titanic crew, but Captain Smith changed course and kept cruising at near the ship’s maximum speed. The goal was to reach New York City in time and set some historic records. By the time the Titanic’s own crew had spotted the iceberg, it was too late to swerve – the ship tried dodging, but she couldn’t complete her turning. Titanic rammed into the iceberg and broke down.
Survival Rate Favored First and Second Class Passengers
Titanic had 3 passenger sections (1st, 2nd and 3rd classes). When the crew enforced the safety of women and children first, 60%, 42%, and 25% of first, second and third classes passengers survived respectively.
Titanic’s Distress Signals were not Attended to in Time
Titanic crew sent many distress signals to nearby ships, but no ship attended to them early. They fired signal rockets to the skies, but their meanings weren’t clear to the nearby ships. The rescue ship – RMS Carpathia – arrived at the scene hours after the sinking.
The world's interest in the fascinating history of Titanic has endured for almost 100 years. April 15, 2005 will mark the 93rd anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic ship and although it has been nearly a century since the infamous luxury liner sank in the Atlantic Ocean, there continues to be a thirst for information regarding Titanic facts, myths and legends.
No other ship in the history of ocean travel has demanded as much interest as the Titanic. Volumes of books and reels of film have been produced regarding the most infamous shipwreck in history. We have attempted to provide here a brief introduction to some of the more fascinating facts, legends and myths regarding the sinking of the ship that was labeled 'unsinkable' before her disastrous maiden voyage in April of 1912.
History of the Titanic - The history of Titanic has endured for nearly a century. Find out more about the most fascinating ship and shipwreck in the world and how the tragedy of the ship continues to affect us today.
April 15, 1912, The Sinking of the Titanic - When the Titanic embarked on her maiden voyage the world was filled with hope and awe. In just a few short days those emotions turned to horror and grief. Find out what really happened that day in 1912: the sinking of the Titanic.
Passengers on the Titanic- One of the most fascinating aspects about the tragic history of the Titanic, is the eclectic mix of passengers onboard the ill fated luxury liner. When the ship sank, the lives of both the famous and the unknown were lost as well. Spend a few moments learning about the famous and not so famous passengers on the Titanic. Look here for a Titanic passenger list with the names of first, second and third
class passengers and survivors.
Titanic Ship - While the Titanic ship initially earned fame as the largest luxury liner on the open seas, she would obtain enduring distinction for the tragedy that took the ship to her watery grave. Return to the Titanic and discover the surprising facts that led to the ship's destruction from the moment she set sail.
Titanic Facts - It has been almost 100 years since the Titanic sank. During that time a number of myths and legends have grown up around the sinking of the now infamous ship. Take a few moments to read about some of the more interesting and true Titanic facts.
Titanic Movie -The 1997 release of 'Titanic' renewed the world's interest in a bygone era and the fate of the Titanic's maiden voyage. Find out more about the Titanic movie that captured the world's interest and won a ton of Academy Awards.
Titanic Pictures - For years the world pondered what the 'ship of dreams' might have really looked like and wondered if any part of the ship still remained to be seen somewhere below the icy depths of the Atlantic Ocean. In 1985 the first pictures of the wreck were taken. Immerse yourself in pictures of the Titanic's grave and find out what role those pictures have made in discovering the truth about the ship's tragic end.
Titanic Construction - The White Star Line billed the Titanic as 'unsinkable' months before the ship ever embarked on her maiden voyage. Her construction was reputed to have been the best of the best. So, why did she sink and did the ship's construction have anything to do with the tragedy?
Titanic Manifest - The manifest of the maiden, and only, voyage of the Titanic provides a fascinating look into life aboard the famous luxury liner during her brief few days at sea. Find out why the Titanic was called 'the ship of dreams'.
Titanic Wreck - Following the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, various groups and individuals searched for the Titanic wreck for decades. Many had started to believe the ship's grave would never be found. Become immersed in the search for the Titanic wreck.
Titanic Artifacts - The artifacts recovered from the Titanic wreck are a sad reminder of what happened that April morning of 1912.
Menus, clothes, jewelry, bottles of wine, letters from passengers on the Titanic, etc. were salvaged from the depths of the ocean and put on display in museums and exhibits or auctioned.
Questions and Answers About the Titanic - Questions and answers regarding the ship that was labeled 'unsinkable.'
April 19 to May 25, 1912: The United States Senate holds hearings about the disaster the Senate findings include questions about why there were not more lifeboats on the Titanic.
May 2 to July 3, 1912: The British Board of Trade holds an inquiry into the Titanic disaster. It was discovered during this inquiry that the last ice message was the only one that warned of an iceberg directly in the path of the Titanic, and it was believed that if the captain had gotten the warning that he would have changed course in time for the disaster to be avoided.
Sinking of the Titanic
14 - the number of years prior to the disaster that US author Morgan Robertson wrote the novel Futility, in which an ocean liner named Titan strikes an iceberg on her maiden voyage.
2,179,594 - the number of passengers carried by the White Star Line in the previous 10 years.
2 - the number of White Star Line passengers killed during that 10 year period.
4 - the number of days into the Titanic maiden voyage when the collision occurred.
Above: Sinking of the Titanic drawn by Henry Reuterdahl, 1912.
6 - the number of ice warnings the Titanic received before the collision.
22.5 - the ship's speed in knots whilst traveling amid iceberg laden waters, just .5 knots below the top speed of 23 knots.
30 seconds - the length of time between the first sighting of the iceberg to the impact. As the berg came into view, lookout Frederick Fleet called the bridge to announce "Iceberg, right ahead!"
4 - the number of forward compartments that could flood without risk of the Titanic sinking.
6 - the number of forward compartments that were ruptured in the collision.
From the very day that she was designed she was almost doomed. this [the use of iron rivets] was almost the Achilles heel of the Titanic.
- Paul Louden-Brown, White Star Line Archivist
400 miles - the ship's distance from land (640 km), when the iceberg was struck.
160 minutes - the time it took the Titanic to sink after hitting the iceberg (2 hours and 40 minutes).
60 minutes - the delay between the collision and the first Titanic lifeboatslaunching.
220 to 245 feet - the estimated length of the gash caused by the collision (minimum to maximum length).
12 - the actual estimated size of the opening, in cubic feet.
Did You Know?
The Titanic, like her sister ship Olympic, had not been fitted with any form of public address system.
400 tons - the approximate amount of water the Titanic took on per minute after the collision.
58 miles - distance of the rescue vessel Carpathia, at the time of the distress call.
38,000 tons - the approximate volume of water that filled the bow of the Titanic. This volume of water lifted the ship's stern out of the water, before it finally broke away, splitting just in front of the third funnel.
Did You Know?
The Titanic is not the worst maritime disaster in history. On 30 January 1945, in the final year of the Second World War, the German flagship MV Wilhelm Gustloff was torpedoed off the coast of Poland with the loss of more than 9,000 people, many of whom were refugees.
11° - the estimated angle at which the stern is believed to have broken away.
5-10 minutes - the approximate time it took the two major sections of the Titanic - bow and stern - to reach the sea bottom.
56 km/h - the estimated speed that the bow section was travelling when it hit the bottom (35 mph).
80 km/h - the estimated speed that the stern section travelled on its way down (50 mph), spiralling as it descended and with sections breaking off from the ship, resulting in much more visible damage to this section than the bow.
I heard a graphic account of how the Titanic up-ended herself and remained poised like some colossal nightmare of a fish, her tail high in the air, her nose deep in the water, until she dived finally from human sight.
- Arthur Rostron, Captain of the rescue ship Carpathia (in 'Home From The Sea', 1931)
-2°C - the temperature of the sea water (around 28°F).
15-45 minutes - the typical maximum life expectancy of the Titanic victimsin the water.
Striking the water was like a thousand knives being driven into one's body. The temperature was 28 degrees, four degrees below freezing.
- Charles Lightoller, Titanic Second Officer
30 knots - the estimated speed at which the bow of the Titanic would have hit the ocean floor (around 35 mph / 56 km/h).
20° - the angle at which the bow hit the bottom.
5mm - the minimum amount of movement that could occur between the steel plates of the hull before the wrought iron rivets used to join the curved sections would fail (see Did You Know? below).
Did You Know?
Due to access difficulties in using a pneumatic riveting machine to construct the curved sections of the hull, these steel plates needed to be joined together using wrought iron rivets rather than the stronger steel rivets that were used elsewhere (iron rivets were easier to hammer into place). As shipbuilding moved to using steel instead of iron plates in the construction of hulls, this practice was widespread. However, forensic tests undertaken in 1996 by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore revealed that, in the case of the Titanic, these iron rivets would fail with just a 5mm movement between the steel plates they were meant to secure.
Above: Wireless operator Harold Thomas Coffin being questioned at the US Senate inquiry, held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, 29 May 1912.
Largely Speaking, The Supporting Characters In Titanic Were Historically Accurate
While the main characters in Titanic were concocted by the filmmaker, James Cameron's attention to accuracy can definitely be seen in some of the prominent supporting characters, many of whom follow what we know about these perished people's shortened lives. For instance, Thomas Andrews (Victor Garber), i.e. the Chief Designer for the Titanic, is seen in the First Class smoking room staring at a painting of the Titanic on the wall. By many accounts, this is accurate to how he died on the ship. Similarly, Molly Brown (Kathy Bates) did help people board lifeboats, worked to keep them calm and tried to get the lifeboats to retrieve as many passengers as possible as the historic ship kept plunging deeper into the dark recesses of the sea.
There is also a scene in Titanic where an elderly couple hold each other's hands on their beds and cry while their room fills with water. This is based on a real-life couple, Isidor Straus (i.e. the owner of Macy's) and Ida Straus, who, according to reports, refused special treatment. His wife did not want to leave him, so they went to their room together, which was their final resting place. It's a touching, quietly humane detail that James Cameron rightfully thought would add emotional tenderness to his gigantic cinematic experience. While we're primarily focused on the tale of Jack and Rose as the ship sinks into the bottom of the sea, Cameron's added touches in these moving moments help bring a fine sense of authenticity.
The Titanic: Sinking and Facts - HISTORY
O n April 10, 1912, the Titanic, largest ship afloat, left Southampton, England on her maiden voyage to New York City. The White Star Line had spared no expense in assuring her luxury. A legend even before she sailed, her passengers were a mixture of the world's wealthiest basking in the elegance of first class accommodations and immigrants packed into steerage.
The Washington Post announces the disaster
Four days into her journey, at 11:40 P.M. on the night of April 14, she struck an iceberg. Her fireman compared the sound of the impact to "the tearing of calico, nothing more." However, the collision was fatal and the icy water soon poured through the ship.
It became obvious that many would not find safety in a lifeboat. Each passenger was issued a life jacket but life expectancy would be short when exposed to water four degrees below freezing. As the forward portion of the ship sank deeper, passengers scrambled to the stern. John Thayer witnessed the sinking from a lifeboat. "We could see groups of the almost fifteen hundred people still aboard, clinging in clusters or bunches, like swarming bees only to fall in masses, pairs or singly, as the great after part of the ship, two hundred and fifty feet of it, rose into the sky, till it reached a sixty-five or seventy degree angle." The great ship slowly slid beneath the waters two hours and forty minutes after the collision
The next morning, the liner Carpathia rescued 705 survivors. One thousand five hundred twenty-two passengers and crew were lost. Subsequent inquiries attributed the high loss of life to an insufficient number of lifeboats and inadequate training in their use.
End of a Splendid Journey
Elizabeth Shutes, aged 40, was governess to nineteen-year-old Margaret Graham who was traveling with her parents. As Shutes and her charge sit in their First Class cabin they feel a shudder travel through the ship. At first comforted by her belief in the safety of the ship, Elizabeth's composure is soon shattered by the realization of the imminent tragedy:
No confusion, no noise of any kind, one could believe no danger imminent. Our stewardess came and said she could learn nothing. Looking out into the companionway I saw heads appearing asking questions from half-closed doors. All sepulchrally still, no excitement. I sat down again. My friend was by this time dressed still her daughter and I talked on, Margaret pretending to eat a sandwich. Her hand shook so that the bread kept parting company from the chicken. Then I saw she was frightened, and for the first time I was too, but why get dressed, as no one had given the slightest hint of any possible danger? An officer's cap passed the door. I asked: 'Is there an accident or danger of any kind? 'None, so far as I know', was his courteous answer, spoken quietly and most kindly. This same officer then entered a cabin a little distance down the companionway and, by this time distrustful of everything, I listened intently, and distinctly heard, 'We can keep the water out for a while.' Then, and not until then, did I realize the horror of an accident at sea. Now it was too late to dress no time for a waist, but a coat and skirt were soon on slippers were quicker than shoes the stewardess put on our life-preservers, and we were just ready when Mr Roebling came to tell us he would take us to our friend's mother, who was waiting above .
Two lifeboats approach
the Carpathia April 15, 1912
Our lifeboat, with thirty-six in it, began lowering to the sea. This was done amid the greatest confusion. Rough seamen all giving different orders. No officer aboard. As only one side of the ropes worked, the lifeboat at one time was in such a position that it seemed we must capsize in mid-air. At last the ropes worked together, and we drew nearer and nearer the black, oily water. The first touch of our lifeboat on that black sea came to me as a last good-bye to life, and so we put off - a tiny boat on a great sea - rowed away from what had been a safe home for five days.
The first wish on the part of all was to stay near the Titanic. We all felt so much safer near the ship. Surely such a vessel could not sink. I thought the danger must be exaggerated, and we could all be taken aboard again. But surely the outline of that great, good ship was growing less. The bow of the boat was getting black. Light after light was disappearing, and now those rough seamen put to their oars and we were told to hunt under seats, any place, anywhere, for a lantern, a light of any kind. Every place was empty. There was no water - no stimulant of any kind. Not a biscuit - nothing to keep us alive had we drifted long.
Sitting by me in the lifeboat were a mother and daughter. The mother had left a husband on the Titanic, and the daughter a father
Survivors on the deck
of the Carpathia
. The stars slowly disappeared, and in their place came the faint pink glow of another day. Then I heard, 'A light, a ship.' I could not, would not, look while there was a bit of doubt, but kept my eyes away. All night long I had heard, 'A light!' Each time it proved to be one of our other lifeboats, someone lighting a piece of paper, anything they could find to burn, and now I could not believe. Someone found a newspaper it was lighted and held up. Then I looked and saw a ship. A ship bright with lights strong and steady she waited, and we were to be saved. A straw hat was offered it would burn longer. That same ship that had come to save us might run us down. But no she is still. The two, the ship and the dawn, came together, a living painting."
Elizabeth Shutes' account first appeared in: Gracie, Archibold, The Truth About the Titanic (1913), reprinted in: Foster, John Wilson (editor), The Titanic Reader (1999) Lord, Walter, A Night to Remember (1955) Davie, Michael, Titanic: The Death and Life of a Legend (1986).