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"Titanic" redirects here. For the film, see Titanic (1997 film). For all other uses, see Titanic (disambiguation).
RMS Titanic departing Southampton on 10April 1912
White Star Line
Port of registry:
Liverpool, United Kingdom
Southampton to New York City
17 September 1908
Harland and Wolff, Belfast
31 March 1909
31 May 1911
2 April 1912
10 April 1912 (101 years ago)
10–15 April 1912
Radio call sign "MGY"
Hit an iceberg 11:40 pm (ship's time) 14 April 1912 on it's maiden voyage and sank 2h 40m later
Class & type:
Olympic-class ocean liner
175ft (53.3m) (keel to top of funnels)
24 double-ended and 5 single-ended boilers feeding two reciprocating steam engines for the wing propellers and a low-pressure turbine for the center propeller; output: 46,000 HP
Two 3-blade wing propellers and one 4-blade centre propeller
Cruising: 21kn (39km/h; 24mph). Max: 24kn (44km/h; 28mph)
Passengers:2,435, crew:892. Total: 3,327
Lifeboats: 20 for 1,178 people
RMS Titanic was a British passenger liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on 15April 1912 after colliding with an iceberg during its maiden voyage from Southampton, UK to New York City, US. The sinking of Titanic caused the deaths of 1,502 people in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in modern history. The RMS Titanic was the largest ship afloat at the time of it entered service. The Titanic was the second of three Olympic class ocean liners operated by the White Star Line, and was built by the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast with Thomas Andrews as her naval architect, Andrews was also lost during the sinking. On her maiden voyage, she carried 2,224 passengers and crew.
Under the command of Edward Smith, the ship's passengers included some of the wealthiest people in the world, as well as hundreds of emigrants from Great Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia
and elsewhere throughout Europe seeking a new life in North America.
The ship was designed to be the last word in comfort and luxury, with an
on-board gymnasium, swimming pool, libraries, high-class restaurants
and opulent cabins. A wireless telegraph provided for the convenience of
passengers as well as for operational use. Though Titanic had advanced
safety features such as watertight compartments and remotely activated
watertight doors, there was not enough lifeboats
to accommodate all of those aboard due to outdated maritime safety
regulations. Titanic only carried enough lifeboats for
1,178people—slightly more than half of the number on board, and
one-third her total capacity.
After leaving Southampton on 10April 1912, Titanic called at Cherbourg in France and Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland before heading westwards towards New York. On 14 April 1912, four days into the crossing and about 375miles (600km) south of Newfoundland, she hit an iceberg at 11:40pm 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. A
disproportionate number of men were left aboard because of a "women and children first" protocol followed by some of the officers loading the lifeboats. By 2:20 AM, she broke apart and foundered, with well over one thousand people still aboard. Just under two hours after the Titanic foundered, the Cunard liner RMS Carpathia arrived on the scene of the sinking, where she brought aboard an estimated 705 survivors.
The disaster was greeted with worldwide shock and outrage at the huge
loss of life and the regulatory and operational failures that had led
to it. Public inquiries in Britain and the United States led to major improvements in maritime safety. One of their most important legacies was the establishment in 1914 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea
(SOLAS), which still governs maritime safety today. Additionally,
several new wireless regulations were passed around the world in an
effort to learn from the many missteps in wireless communications—which
could have saved many more passengers.
Many of the survivors lost all of their money and possessions and were
left destitute; many families, particularly those of crew members from
Southampton, lost their primary bread-winners. They were helped by an
outpouring of public sympathy and charitable donations. Some of the male
survivors were accused of cowardice for leaving the ship while people
were still on board; the White Star Line's chairman, J. Bruce Ismay, faced social ostracism for the rest of his life.
The wreck of the Titanic
remains on the seabed, split in two and gradually disintegrating at a
depth of 12,415 feet (3,784m). Since its discovery in 1985, thousands
of artefacts have been recovered and put on display at museums around
the world. Titanic has become one of the most famous ships in history, her memory kept alive by numerous books, folk songs, films, exhibits, and memorials.
2 Dimensions and layout
3.3 Passenger facilities
3.4 Mail and cargo
4 Building and preparing the ship
4.1 Construction, launch and fitting-out
4.2 Sea trials
5 Maiden voyage
5.3 Collecting passengers
5.4 Atlantic crossing
6 Aftermath of sinking
6.1 Arrival of Carpathia in New York
6.2 Investigations into the disaster
6.2.1 Role of the SS Californian
6.3 Survivors and victims
6.4 Retrieval and burial of the dead
10 See also
14 External links
Built in Belfast, Ireland, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (as it then was), the RMS Titanic was the second of the three Olympic-class ocean liners—the first was the RMS Olympic and the third was the HMHS Britannic. They were by far the largest vessels of the British shipping company White Star Line's fleet, which comprised 29 steamers and tenders in 1912. The three ships had their genesis in a discussion in mid-1907 between the White Star Line's chairman, J. Bruce Ismay, and the American financier J. P. Morgan, who controlled the White Star Line's parent corporation, the International Mercantile Marine Co..
The White Star Line faced a growing challenge from its main rivals Cunard, which had just launched the Lusitania and the Mauretania— the fastest passenger ships then in service — and the German lines Hamburg America and Norddeutscher Lloyd.
Ismay preferred to compete on size rather than speed and proposed to
commission a new class of liners that would be bigger than anything that
had gone before as well as being the last word in comfort and luxury.
The company sought an upgrade in their fleet primarily in response to
the Cunard giants but also to replace their oldest pair of passenger
ships still in service, being the SS Teutonic of 1889 and SS Majestic of 1890. The Teutonic was replaced by Olympic while Majestic was replaced by Titanic. Majestic would be brought back into her old spot on White Star's New York service after Titanic's loss.
The ships were constructed by the Belfast shipbuilders Harland and Wolff, who had a long-established relationship with the White Star Line dating back to 1867.
Harland and Wolff were given a great deal of latitude in designing
ships for the White Star Line; the usual approach was for the latter to
sketch out a general concept which the former would take away and turn
into a ship design. Cost considerations were relatively low on the
agenda and Harland and Wolff was authorised to spend what it needed on
the ships, plus a five percent profit margin. In the case of the Olympic-class ships, a cost of £3 million for the first two ships was agreed plus "extras to contract" and the usual five percent fee.
Harland and Wolff put their leading designers to work designing the Olympic-class vessels. The design was overseen by Lord Pirrie, a director of both Harland and Wolff and the White Star Line; naval architect Thomas Andrews,
the managing director of Harland and Wolff's design department; Edward
Wilding, Andrews' deputy and responsible for calculating the ship's
design, stability and trim; and Alexander Carlisle, the shipyard's chief draughtsman and general manager.
Carlisle's responsibilities included the decorations, equipment and all
general arrangements, including the implementation of an efficient lifeboat davit design.[a]
On 29July 1908, Harland and Wolff presented the drawings to J. Bruce
Ismay and other White Star Line executives. Ismay approved the design
and signed three "letters of agreement" two days later authorising the
start of construction. At this point the first ship—which was later to become Olympic—had no name, but was referred to simply as "Number 400", as it was Harland and Wolff's four hundredth hull. Titanic was based on a revised version of the same design and was given the number 401.
Dimensions and layout
Side plan of RMS Titanic
Titanic was 882feet 9inches (269.06m) long with a maximum
breadth of 92feet 6inches (28.19m). Her total height, measured from
the base of the keel to the top of the bridge, was 104 feet (32m). She measured 46,328 gross register tons and with a draught of 34feet 7inches (10.54m), she displaced 52,310 tons.
All three of the Olympic-class ships had ten decks (excluding
the top of the officers' quarters), eight of which were for passenger
use. From top to bottom, the decks were:
Cutaway diagram of Titanic's midship section
The Boat Deck, on which the lifeboats were positioned. It was from here in the early hours of 15April 1912 that Titanic's
lifeboats were lowered into the North Atlantic. The bridge and
wheelhouse were at the forward end, in front of the captain's and
officers' quarters. The bridge stood 8 feet (2.4m) above the deck,
extending out to either side so that the ship could be controlled while
docking. The wheelhouse stood directly behind and above the bridge. The
entrance to the First Class Grand Staircase
and gymnasium were located midships along with the raised roof of the
First Class lounge, while at the rear of the deck were the roof of the
First Class smoke room and the relatively modest Second Class entrance.
The wood-covered deck was divided into four segregated promenades; for
officers, First Class passengers, engineers and Second Class passengers
respectively. Lifeboats lined the side of the deck except in the First
Class area, where there was a gap so that the view would not be spoiled.
A Deck, also called the Promenade Deck, extended along
the entire 546 feet (166m) length of the superstructure. It was
reserved exclusively for First Class passengers and contained First
Class cabins, the First Class lounge, smoke room, reading and writing
rooms and Palm Court.
B Deck, the Bridge Deck, was the top weight-bearing
deck and the uppermost level of the hull. More First Class passenger
accommodation was located here with six palatial staterooms (cabins)
featuring their own private promenades. On Titanic, the A La Carte
Restaurant and the Café Parisien provided luxury dining facilities to
First Class passengers. Both were run by subcontracted chefs and their
staff; all were lost in the disaster. The Second Class smoking room and
entrance hall were both located on this deck. The raised forecastle of
the ship was forward of the Bridge Deck, accommodating Number 1 hatch
(the main hatch through to the cargo holds), various pieces of machinery
and the anchor housings.[b]
Aft of the Bridge Deck was the raised Poop Deck, 106 feet (32m) long,
used as a promenade by Third Class passengers. It was where many of Titanic's
passengers and crew made their last stand as the ship sank. The
forecastle and Poop Deck were separated from the Bridge Deck by well decks.
C Deck, the Shelter Deck, was the highest deck to run
uninterrupted from stem to stern. It included the two well decks; the
aft one served as part of the Third Class promenade. Crew cabins were
located under the forecastle and Third Class public rooms were situated
under the Poop Deck. In between were the majority of First Class cabins
and the Second Class library.
D Deck, the Saloon Deck, was dominated by three large
public rooms—the First Class Reception Room, the First Class Dining
Saloon and the Second Class Dining Saloon. An open space was provided
for Third Class passengers. First, Second and Third Class passengers had
cabins on this deck, with berths for firemen located in the bow. It was
the highest level reached by the ship's watertight bulkheads (though
only by eight of the fifteen bulkheads).
E Deck, the Upper Deck, was predominantly used for
passenger accommodation for all three classes plus berths for cooks,
seamen, stewards and trimmers. Along its length ran a long passageway
nicknamed Scotland Road, in reference to a famous street in Liverpool. Scotland Road was used by Third Class passengers and crew members. 
F Deck, the Middle Deck, was the last complete deck
and mainly accommodated Second and Third Class passengers and several
departments of the crew. The Third Class dining saloon was located here,
as were the swimming pool and Turkish bath.
G Deck, the Lower Deck, was the lowest complete deck
that carried passengers, and had the lowest portholes, just above the
waterline. The squash court was located here along with the travelling
post office where mail clerks sorted letters and parcels so that they
would be ready for delivery when the ship docked. Food was also stored
here. The deck was interrupted at several points by orlop (partial) decks over the boiler, engine and turbine rooms.
The Orlop Decks and the Tank Top were on the lowest
level of the ship, below the waterline. The orlop decks were used as
cargo spaces, while the Tank Top—the inner bottom of the ship's
hull—provided the platform on which the ship's boilers, engines,
turbines and electrical generators rested. This part of the ship was
dominated by the engine and boiler rooms, areas which would generally
never be seen by passengers. They were connected with higher levels of
the ship by flights of stairs; twin spiral stairways near the bow gave
access up to D Deck.
Rudder with central and port wing propellers;[c] man at bottom.
Titanic was equipped with three main engines—two reciprocating four-cylinder, triple-expansion steam engines and one centrally placed low-pressure Parsons turbine—each driving a propeller. The two reciprocating engines had a combined output of 30,000hp and a further 16,000hp was contributed by the turbine. The White Star Line had used the same combination of engines on an earlier liner, the SS Laurentic, where it had been a great success.
It provided a good combination of performance and speed; reciprocating
engines by themselves were not powerful enough to propel an Olympic-class
liner at the desired speeds, while turbines were sufficiently powerful
but caused uncomfortable vibrations, a problem that affected the
all-turbine Cunard liners Lusitania and Mauretania.
By combining reciprocating engines with a turbine, fuel usage could be
reduced and motive power increased, while using the same amount of
The two reciprocating engines were each 63 feet (19m) long and
weighed 720 tons, with their bedplates contributing a further 195 tons.
They were powered by steam produced in 29 boilers, 24 of which were
double-ended and 5 single-ended, which contained a total of 159
The boilers were 15feet 9inches (4.80m) in diameter and 20 feet
(6.1m) long, each weighing 91.5 tons and capable of holding 48.5 tons
They were heated by burning coal, 6,611 tons of which could be carried in Titanic's
bunkers with a further 1,092 tons in Hold 3. The furnaces required over
600 tons of coal a day to be shovelled into them by hand, requiring the
services of 176 firemen working around the clock. 100 tons of ash a day had to be disposed of by ejecting it into the sea. The work was relentless, dirty and dangerous, and although firemen were paid relatively generously there was a high suicide rate among those who worked in that capacity.
Exhaust steam leaving the reciprocating engines was fed into the
turbine, which was situated aft. From there it passed into a condenser,
to increase the efficiency of the turbine and so that the steam could be
condensed back into water and reused.
The engines were attached directly to long shafts which drove the
propellers. There were three, one for each engine; the outer (or wing)
propellers were the largest, each carrying three blades of
manganese-bronze alloy with a total diameter of 23.5 feet (7.2m). The middle propeller was slightly smaller at 17 feet (5.2m) in diameter, and could be stopped but not reversed.
Titanic's electrical plant was capable of producing more power than an average city power station of the time.
Immediately aft of the turbine engine were four 400kW steam-driven
electric generators, used to provide electrical power to the ship, plus
two 30kW auxiliary generators for emergency use. Their location in the stern of the ship meant that they remained operational until the last few minutes before the ship sank.
The interiors of the Olympic-class ships were subdivided into
sixteen primary compartments divided by fifteen bulkheads which extended
well above the waterline. Eleven vertically closing watertight doors
could seal off the compartments in the event of an emergency. The ships' exposed decking was made of pine and teak, while interior ceilings were covered in painted granulated cork to combat condensation. Standing above the decks were four funnels, each painted buff
with black tops, though only three were functional—the last one was a
dummy, installed for aesthetic purposes—and two masts, each 155 feet
(47m) high, which supported derricks for working cargo.
Titanic's rudder was
large enough—at 78feet 8inches (23.98m) high and 15feet 3inches
(4.65m) long, weighing over 100 tons—that it required steering engines
to move it. Two steam-powered steering engines were installed though
only one was used at any one time, with the other one kept in reserve.
They were connected to the short tiller through stiff springs, to isolate the steering engines from any shocks in heavy seas or during fast changes of direction. As a last resort, the tiller could be moved by ropes connected to two steam capstans. The capstans were also used to raise and lower the ship's five anchors (one port, one starboard, one in the centreline and two kedging anchors).
The ship was equipped with her own waterworks, capable of heating and
pumping water to all parts of the vessel via a complex network of pipes
and valves. The main water supply was taken aboard while Titanic
was in port, but in an emergency the ship could also distil fresh water
from seawater, though this was not a straightforward process as the
distillation plant quickly became clogged by salt deposits. A network of
insulated ducts conveyed warm air, driven by electric fans, around the
ship, and First Class cabins were fitted with additional electric
Titanic was equipped with two 1.5kW spark-gap wireless telegraphs
located in the radio room on the Boat Deck, in the Officers' quarters.
One set was used for transmitting messages and the other, located in a
soundproofed booth called the "Silent Room", for receiving them. The
signals were transmitted through two parallel wires strung between the
ship's masts, 50 feet (15m) above the funnels to avoid the corrosive
smoke. The system was one of the most powerful in the world, with a range of up to 1,000 miles. It was owned and operated by the Marconi Company
rather than the White Star Line, and was intended primarily for
passengers rather than ship operations. The function of the two wireless
operators—both Marconi employees—was to operate a 24-hour service
sending and receiving wireless telegrams for passengers. They did,
however, also pass on professional ship messages such as weather reports
and ice warnings.
Further information: First class facilities of the RMS Titanic
Gymnasium on the Boat Deck, which was equipped with the latest exercise machines.
The famous Grand Staircase, which connected Boat Deck and E Deck.
The A La Carte restaurant on B Deck, run as a concession by Italian-born chef Gaspare Gatti.
The passenger facilities aboard Titanic aimed to meet the highest standards of luxury. According to the Titanic's
general arrangement plans, the ship could accommodate 833 First Class
Passengers, 614 in Second Class and 1,006 in Third Class, totaling to a
combined passenger capacity of 2,453. In addition, her capacity for crew
members exceeded 900, as most documents of her original configuration
have stated that her full carrying capacity for both passengers and crew
was approximately 3,547. Her interior design was a departure from that
of other passenger liners, which had typically been decorated in the
rather heavy style of a manor house or an English country house. Titanic was laid out in a much lighter style similar to that of contemporary high-class hotels—the Ritz Hotel was a reference point—with First Class cabins finished in the Empire style. A variety of other decorative styles, ranging from the Renaissance to Victorian style,
were used to decorate cabins and public rooms in First and Second Class
areas of the ship. The aim was to convey an impression that the
passengers were in a floating hotel rather than a ship; as one passenger
recalled, on entering the ship's interior a passenger would "at once
lose the feeling that we are on board ship, and seem instead to be
entering the hall of some great house on shore".
Passengers could use an on-board telephone system, a lending library and a large barber shop. The First Class section had a swimming pool, a gymnasium, a squash court, a Turkish bath, an electric bath and a Verandah Cafe.
First Class common rooms were adorned with ornate wood panelling,
expensive furniture and other decorations, while the Third Class general
room had pine panelling and sturdy teak furniture. The Café Parisien was located on a sunlit veranda fitted with trellis decorations and offered the best French haute cuisine for the First Class passengers.
Third Class passengers were not treated as luxuriously as those in
First Class, but even so they were better off than their counterparts on
many other ships of the time. Third Class accommodations aboard Titanic
were greatly representative of the shift in standards to which the
White Star Line had taken in terms of catering to Trans-Atlantic
immigrant and lower-class travel. On most other passenger ships seen on
the North Atlantic at the time, Third Class accommodations, also
commonly referred to as Steerage, consisted of little more than vast,
open dormitories in which hundreds of people were housed within, often
without adequate food or facilities, confined within compartments within
the forward end of the vessels. The White Star Line had long since
taken to the challenge of breaking that mold. As seen aboard Titanic,
all White Star Line passenger ships divided their Third Class
accommodations into two sections, always at opposite ends of the vessel
from one another. The established arrangement was that single men were
quartered in the forward areas, while single women, married couples and
families were quartered aft. In addition, while other ships provided
only open berth sleeping arrangements, White Star Line vessels provided
their Third Class passengers with private, small but comfortable cabins
capable of accommodating two, four, six, eight and ten passengers. Third
Class accommodations also included their own dining rooms, as well as
public gathering areas including adequate open deck space, which aboard
the Titanic included the Forecastle Deck forward, the Poop Deck
aft, both well decks and a large open space on D Deck which could be
used as a social hall. This was supplemented by the addition of a
smoking room for men and a reading room for women, and although they
were not as glamorous in design as spaces seen in upper class
accommodations, they were still far above average for the period.
Leisure facilities were provided for all three classes to pass the
time. As well as making use of the indoor amenities such as the library,
smoking rooms, and gymnasium, it was also customary for passengers to
socialise on the open deck, promenading or relaxing in hired deck chairs
or wooden benches. A passenger list was published before the sailing to
inform the public which members of the great and good were on board,
and it was not uncommon for ambitious mothers to use the list to
identify rich bachelors to whom they could introduce their marriageable
daughters during the voyage.
One of Titanic's most distinctive features was her First Class staircase, known as the Grand Staircase
or Grand Stairway. This descended through seven decks of the ship, from
the Boat Deck to E deck in the elegant style depicted in photographs
and movies, and then as a more functional and less elegant staircase
from there down to F deck.
It was capped with a dome of wrought iron and glass that admitted
natural light. Each landing off the staircase gave access to ornate
entrance halls lit by gold-plated light fixtures.
At the uppermost landing was a large carved wooden panel containing a
clock, with figures of "Honour and Glory Crowning Time" flanking the
clock face. The Grand Staircase was destroyed in Titanic's sinking and is now just a void in the ship which modern explorers have used to access the lower decks. During the filming of James Cameron's Titanic
in 1997, his replica of the Grand Staircase was ripped from its
foundations by the force of the inrushing water on the set. It has been
suggested that during the real event, the entire Grand Staircase was
ejected upwards through the dome.
Mail and cargo
Although Titanic was primarily a passenger liner, she also carried a substantial amount of cargo. Her designation as a Royal Mail Ship (RMS) indicated that she carried mail under contract with the Royal Mail (and also for the United States Post Office Department). For the storage of letters, parcels and specie (bullion, coins and other valuables) 26,800 cubic feet (760m3)
of space in her holds was allocated. The Sea Post Office on G Deck was
manned by five postal clerks, three Americans and two Britons, who
worked thirteen hours a day, seven days a week sorting up to 60,000
The ship's passengers brought with them a huge amount of baggage; another 19,455 cubic feet (550.9m3)
was taken up by first- and second-class baggage. In addition, there was
a considerable quantity of regular cargo, ranging from furniture to
foodstuffs and even motor cars. Despite later myths, the cargo on Titanic's maiden voyage was fairly mundane; there was no gold, exotic minerals or diamonds, and one of the more famous items lost in the shipwreck, a jewelled copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, was valued at only £405 (£29,717 today). Titanic
was equipped with eight electric cranes, four electric winches and
three steam winches to lift cargo and baggage in and out of the hold. It
is estimated that the ship used some 415 tons of coal whilst in
Southampton, simply generating steam to operate the cargo winches and
provide heat and light.
Main article: Lifeboats of the RMS Titanic
A collapsible lifeboat with canvas sides.
Titanic carried a total of 20 lifeboats: 14 standard wooden
Harland and Wolff lifeboats with a capacity of 65people each and four
Englehardt "collapsible" (wooden bottom, collapsible canvas sides)
lifeboats (identified as A to D) with a capacity of 47people each. In
addition, she had two emergency cutters with a capacity of 40people each.[d] Olympic
herself did not even carry the four collapsibles A-D in the 1911–12
season. All of the lifeboats were stowed securely on the boat deck and,
except for collapsible lifeboatsA and B, connected to davits
by ropes. Those on the starboard side were odd-numbered 1–15 from bow
to stern, while those on the port side were even-numbered 2–16 from bow
to stern. The two cutters were kept swung out, hanging from the davits,
ready for immediate use, while collapsible lifeboatsC and D were stowed
on the boat deck (connected to davits) immediately inboard of boats1
and 2 respectively. A and B were stored on the roof of the officers'
quarters, on either side of number1 funnel. There were no davits to
lower them and their weight would make them challenging to launch.
Each boat carried (among other things) food, water, blankets, and a
spare life belt. Lifeline ropes on the boats' sides enabled them to save
additional people from the water if necessary.
Titanic had 16 sets of davits, each able to handle 4 lifeboats. This gave Titanic the ability to carry up to 64 wooden lifeboats
which would have been enough for 4,000people—considerably more than
her actual capacity. However, the White Star Line decided that only 16
wooden lifeboats and four collapsibles would be carried, which could
accommodate 1,178people, only one-third of Titanic's
total capacity. At the time, the Board of Trade's regulations required
British vessels over 10,000tons to carry 16lifeboats with a capacity
of 990 occupants. Therefore, the White Star Line actually provided more lifeboat accommodation than was legally required.[e]
At the time, lifeboats were intended to ferry survivors from a sinking
ship to a rescuing ship—not keep afloat the whole population or power
them to shore. Had the SS Californian responded to the Titanic's distress calls, the lifeboats would have been adequate to ferry the passengers to safety as planned.
Building and preparing the ship
Construction, launch and fitting-out
1. Construction in gantry, 1909-11. 2. Launch, 1911. 3. Fitting-out, 1911-12
The sheer size of Titanic and her sister ships posed a major
engineering challenge for Harland and Wolff; no shipbuilder had ever
before attempted to construct vessels this large. The ships were
constructed on Queen's Island, now known as the Titanic Quarter, in Belfast Harbour. Harland and Wolff had to demolish three existing slipways and build two new ones, the biggest ever constructed up to that time, to accommodate the giant ships. Their construction was facilitated by an enormous gantry built by Sir William Arrol & Co., a Scottish firm responsible for the building of the Forth Bridge and London's Tower Bridge.
The Arrol Gantry stood 228 feet (69m) high, was 270 feet (82m) wide
and 840 feet (260m) long, and weighed more than 6,000 tons. It
accommodated a number of mobile cranes. A separate floating crane,
capable of lifting 200 tons, was brought in from Germany.
The construction of Titanic and Olympic took place virtually in parallel, with Olympic's hull laid down first on 16December 1908 and Titanic's on 31March 1909.
Both ships took about 26 months to build and followed much the same
construction process. They were designed essentially as an enormous
floating box girder, with the keel
acting as a backbone and the frames of the hull forming the ribs. At
the base of the ships, a double bottom 5feet 3inches (1.60m) deep
supported 300 frames, each between 24 inches (61cm) and 36 inches
(91cm) apart and measuring up to about 66 feet (20m) long. They
terminated at the bridge deck (B Deck) and were covered with steel
plates which formed the outer skin of the ships.
The 2,000 hull plates were single pieces of rolled steel, mostly up
to 6 feet (1.8m) wide and 30 feet (9.1m) long and weighing between 2.5
and 3 tons. Their thickness varied from 1 inch (2.5cm) to 1.5 inches (3.8cm). The plates were laid in a clinkered (overlapping) fashion from the keel to the bilge. Above that point they were laid in the "in and out" fashion, where strake plating was applied in bands (the "in strakes") with the gaps covered by the "out strakes", overlapping on the edges. Steel welding was still in its infancy so the structure had to be held together with over three million iron and steel rivets which by themselves weighed over 1,200 tons. They were fitted using hydraulic machines or were hammered in by hand.
The work of constructing the ships was difficult and dangerous. For the 15,000 men who worked at Harland and Wolff at the time,
safety precautions were rudimentary at best; a lot of the work was
dangerous and was carried out without any safety equipment like hard
hats or hand guards on machinery. As a result, deaths and injuries were
to be expected. During Titanic's
construction, 246 injuries were recorded, 28 of them "severe", such as
arms severed by machines or legs crushed under falling pieces of steel.
Six people died on the ship herself while she was being constructed and
fitted out and another two died in the shipyard workshops and sheds. Just before the launch a worker was killed when a piece of wood fell on him.
Titanic was launched at 12:15pm on 31 May 1911 in the
presence of Lord Pirrie, J. Pierpoint Morgan and J. Bruce Ismay and
100,000 onlookers. 22 tons of soap and tallow were spread on the slipway to lubricate the ship's passage into the River Lagan. In keeping with the White Star Line's traditional policy, the ship was not formally named or christened with champagne.
The ship was towed to a fitting-out berth where, over the course of the
next year, her engines, funnels and superstructure were installed and
her interior was fitted out.
Although Titanic was virtually similar to the classes lead ship Olympic, a few changes were made to differentiate the two ships. The most noticeable of these was that Titanic (and the third vessel in class Britannic)
had a steel screen with sliding windows installed along the forward
half of the A Deck promenade. This was installed as a last minute change
at the personal request of Bruce Ismay, and was intended to provide
additional shelter to first class passengers. These changes made Titanic
marginally heavier than her sister, and thus she could claim to be the
largest ship afloat. The work took longer than expected due to design
changes ordered by Ismay and a temporary pause in work occasioned by the
need to repair Olympic, which had been in a collision in September 1911. Had Titanic been finished earlier, she might well have missed her collision with an iceberg.
Titanic leaving Belfast for her sea trials on 2 April 1912
Titanic's sea trials began at 6am on Monday, 2April 1912,
just two days after her fitting out was finished and eight days before
she was due to leave Southampton on her maiden voyage. The trials were delayed for a day due to bad weather, but by Monday morning it was clear and fair.
Aboard were 78 stokers, greasers and firemen, and 41members of crew.
No domestic staff appear to have been aboard. Representatives of various
companies travelled on Titanic's
sea trials, Thomas Andrews and Edward Wilding of Harland and Wolff and
Harold A. Sanderson of IMM. Bruce Ismay and Lord Pirrie were too ill to
attend. Jack Phillips and Harold Bride
served as radio operators, and performed fine-tuning of the Marconi
equipment. Francis Carruthers, a surveyor from the Board of Trade, was
also present to see that everything worked, and that the ship was fit to
The sea trials consisted of a number of tests of her handling characteristics, carried out first in Belfast Lough and then in the open waters of the Irish Sea. Over the course of about twelve hours, Titanic
was driven at different speeds, her turning ability was tested and a
"crash stop" was performed in which the engines were reversed full ahead
to full astern, bringing her to a stop in 850yd (777m) or 3 minutes
and 15 seconds.
The ship covered a distance of about 80 nautical miles (92mi; 150km),
averaging 18 knots (21mph; 33km/h) and reaching a maximum speed of
just under 21 knots (24mph; 39km/h).
On returning to Belfast at about 7pm, the surveyor signed an
"Agreement and Account of Voyages and Crew", valid for twelve months,
which declared the ship seaworthy. An hour later, Titanic left
Belfast again—as it turned out, for the last time—to head to
Southampton, a voyage of about 570 nautical miles (660mi; 1,060km).
After a journey lasting about 28 hours she arrived about midnight on 4
April and was towed to the port's Berth 44, ready for the arrival of her
passengers and the remainder of her crew.
Titanic at Southampton docks, prior to departure
Both the Olympic and the Titanic registered Liverpool
as their home port. The offices of the White Star Line as well as
Cunard were in Liverpool and up until the introduction of the Olympic most British oceanliners for both Cunard and White Star, such as the Lusitania and Mauretania, sailed out of Liverpool followed by a port of call in Ireland. However, the Olympic
class liners were to sail out of the port of Southampton on England's
southern coast. Southampton had many advantages to Liverpool, the first
being its closer proximity to London. In addition Southampton, being on
England's southern coast, allowed ships to easily cross the English Channel and make a port of call in northern France, usually at the port of Cherbourg.
This allowed British ships to pick up clientele from continental Europe
before recrossing the channel and picking up passengers in southern
Ireland. The Southampton-Cherbourg-New York run would become so popular that most British oceanliners began using the port after World War I.
Though out of respect for Liverpool ships would continue to be
registered there, a practice that would last until the early 1960s. The Queen Elizabeth 2 would be one of the first ships to be registered in Southampton when introduced into service by Cunard in 1969.
Display ad for Titanic's first but never made sailing from New York on April 20, 1912.
voyage was intended to be the first of many cross-Atlantic journeys
between Southampton in England, Cherbourg in France, Queenstown in
Ireland and New York in the United States, returning via Plymouth in England on the eastbound leg. Indeed, her entire schedule of voyages through to December 1912 still exists. The White Star Line intended to operate three ships on that route: Titanic, Olympic and the smaller RMS Oceanic.
Each would sail once every three weeks from Southampton and New York,
usually leaving at noon each Wednesday from Southampton and each
Saturday from New York, thus enabling the White Star Line to offer
weekly sailings in each direction. Special trains were scheduled from
London and Paris to convey passengers to Southampton and Cherbourg
respectively. The deep-water dock at Southampton, then known as the "White Star Dock" had been specially constructed to accommodate the new Olympic-class liners, and had opened in 1911.
Main article: Crew of the RMS Titanic
Edward Smith, captain of Titanic, in 1911
Titanic had around 885 crew members on board for her maiden voyage.
Like other vessels of her time, she did not have a permanent crew, and
the vast majority of crew members were casual workers who only came
aboard the ship a few hours before she sailed from Southampton.
The process of signing up recruits had begun on 23March and some had
been sent to Belfast, where they served as a skeleton crew during Titanic's sea trials and passage to England at the start of April.
Captain Edward John Smith, the most senior of the White Star Line's captains, was transferred from Olympic to take command of Titanic. Henry Tingle Wilde also came across from Olympic to take the post of Chief Mate. Titanic's previously designated Chief Mate and First Officer, William McMaster Murdoch and Charles Lightoller, were bumped down to the ranks of First and Second Officer respectively. The original Second Officer, David Blair, was dropped altogether.[f]
Titanic's crew were divided into three principal departments: Deck, with 66 crew; Engine, with 325; and Victualling, with 494.
The vast majority of the crew were thus not seamen, but were either
engineers, firemen or stokers, responsible for looking after the
engines, or stewards and galley staff, responsible for the passengers. Of these, over 97% were male; just 23 of the crew were female, mainly stewardesses.
The rest represented a great variety of professions—bakers, chefs,
butchers, fishmongers, dishwashers, stewards, gymnasium instructors,
laundrymen, waiters, bed-makers, cleaners and even a printer, who produced a daily newspaper for passengers called the Atlantic Daily Bulletin with the latest news received by the ship's wireless operators.[g]
Most of the crew signed on in Southampton on 6April; in all, 699 of the crew came from there, and 40 percent were natives of the town.
A few specialist staff were self-employed or were subcontractors. These
included the five postal clerks, who worked for the Royal Mail and the
United States Post Office Department, the staff of the First Class A La Carte
Restaurant and the Café Parisien, the radio operators (who were
employed by Marconi) and the eight musicians, who were employed by an
agency and travelled as second-class passengers. Crew pay varied greatly, from Captain Smith's £105 a month (equivalent to £7,704 today) to the £3 10s
(£257 today) that stewardesses earned. The lower-paid victualling staff
could, however, supplement their wages substantially through tips from
Main article: Passengers of the RMS Titanic
John Jacob Astor IV in 1909. He was the wealthiest person aboard Titanic.
numbered around 1,317people: 324 in First Class, 284 in Second Class
and 709 in Third Class. 869 (66%) were male and 447 (34%) female. There
were 107 children aboard, the largest number of which were in Third
The ship was considerably under capacity on her maiden voyage, as she
could accommodate 2,566 passengers—1,034 First Class, 510 Second Class
and 1,022 Third Class.
Usually, a high prestige vessel like Titanic could expect to be fully booked on its maiden voyage. However, a national coal strike
in the U.K. had caused considerable disruption to shipping schedules in
the spring of 1912, causing many crossings to be cancelled. Many
would-be passengers chose to postpone their travel plans until the
strike was over. The strike had finished a few days before Titanic sailed; however, that was too late to have much of an effect. Titanic
was able to sail on the scheduled date only because coal was
transferred from other vessels which were tied up at Southampton, such
as City of New York and Oceanic as well as coal Olympic had brought back from a previous voyage to New York and which had been stored at the White Star Dock.
Some of the most prominent people of the day booked a passage aboard Titanic, travelling in First Class. Among them were the American millionaire John Jacob Astor IV and his wife Madeleine Force Astor, industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim, Macy's owner Isidor Straus and his wife Ida, Denver millionairess Margaret "Molly" Brown,[h] Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and his wife, couturière Lucy (Lady Duff-Gordon), cricketer and businessman John Borland Thayer with his wife Marian together with their son Jack, the Countess of Rothes, author and socialite Helen Churchill Candee, journalist and social reformer William Thomas Stead, author Jacques Futrelle with his wife May, and silent film actress Dorothy Gibson, among others. Titanic's owner J. P. Morgan was scheduled to travel on the maiden voyage, but cancelled at the last minute. Also aboard the ship were the White Star Line's managing director J. Bruce Ismay and Titanic's designer Thomas Andrews, who was on board to observe any problems and assess the general performance of the new ship.
The exact number of people aboard is not known as not all of those
who had booked tickets made it to the ship; about fifty people cancelled
for various reasons, and not all of those who boarded stayed aboard for the entire journey. Fares varied depending on class and season. Third Class fares from London, Southampton or Queenstown cost £7 5s (equivalent to £532 today) while the cheapest First Class fares cost £23 (£1,688 today). The most expensive First Class suites were to have cost up to £870 in high season (£63,837 today).
On Wednesday 10April 1912 the Titanic's maiden voyage began. Following the embarkation of the crew the passengers began arriving from 9.30am when the London and South Western Railway's boat train from London Waterloo station reached Southampton Terminus railway station on the quayside, right alongside Titanic's berth.
The large number of Third Class passengers meant that they were the
first to board, with First and Second Class passengers following up to
within an hour of departure. Stewards showed them to their cabins and
First Class passengers were personally greeted by Captain Smith on
Third Class passengers were inspected for ailments and physical
impairments that might lead to them being refused entry to the United
States—not a prospect that the White Star Line wished to see, as it
would have to carry them back across the Atlantic. 922 passengers were recorded as having embarked Titanic at Southampton. Further passengers were picked up at Cherbourg and Queenstown.
Titanic (right) after the near-collision with New York (left, with Oceanic).
The maiden voyage began on time at noon. An accident was narrowly averted only a few minutes later as Titanic passed the moored liners SS City of New York and Oceanic. Her huge displacement caused both of the smaller ships to be lifted by a bulge of water, then dropped into a trough. New York's mooring cables could not take the sudden strain and snapped, swinging her around stern-first towards Titanic. A nearby tugboat, Vulcan, came to the rescue by taking New York under tow and Captain Smith ordered Titanic's engines to be put "full astern". The two ships avoided a collision by a matter of about 4 feet (1.2m). The incident delayed Titanic's departure for about an hour while the drifting New York was brought under control.
Titanic in Cork harbour, 11 April 1912.
After making it safely through the complex tides and channels of Southampton Water and the Solent, Titanic headed out into the English Channel. She headed for the French port of Cherbourg, a journey of 77 nautical miles (89mi; 143km). The weather was windy, very fine but cold and overcast. Because Cherbourg lacked docking facilities for a ship the size of Titanic, tenders had to be used to transfer passengers from shore to ship. The White Star Line operated two at Cherbourg, the SS Traffic and the SS Nomadic. Both had been designed specifically as tenders for the Olympic-class liners and were launched shortly after Titanic. (Nomadic is today the only White Star Line ship still afloat.) Four hours after Titanic left Southampton, she arrived at Cherbourg and was met by the tenders. 274 more passengers boarded Titanic and 24 left aboard the tenders to be conveyed to shore. The process was completed within only 90 minutes and at 8pm Titanic weighed anchor and left for Queenstown with the weather continuing cold and windy.
At 11.30am on Thursday 11April, Titanic arrived at Cork Harbour on the south coast of Ireland. It was a partly cloudy but relatively warm day with a brisk wind.
Again, the dock facilities were not suitable for a ship of her size,
and tenders were used to bring passengers aboard. 113 Third Class and
seven Second Class passengers came aboard, while seven passengers left.
Among the departures was Father Francis Browne, a Jesuit trainee, who was a keen photographer and took many photographs aboard Titanic,
including the last-ever known photograph of the ship. A decidedly
unofficial departure was that of a crew member, stoker John Coffey, a
native of Queenstown who sneaked off the ship by hiding under mail bags
being transported to shore. Titanic weighed anchor for the last time at 1.30pm and departed on her westward journey across the Atlantic.
After leaving Queenstown Titanic followed the Irish coast as far as Fastnet Rock,
a distance of some 55 nautical miles (63mi; 102km). From there she
travelled 1,620 nautical miles (1,860mi; 3,000km) along a Great Circle
route across the North Atlantic to reach a spot in the ocean known as
"the corner" south-east of Newfoundland, where westbound steamers
carried out a change of course. Titanic sailed only a few hours past the corner on a rhumb line leg of 1,023 nautical miles (1,177mi; 1,895km) to Nantucket Shoals Light when she made her fatal contact with an iceberg. The final leg of the journey would have been 193 nautical miles (222mi; 357km) to Ambrose Light and finally to New York Harbor.
The route of Titanic's maiden voyage, with the coordinates of her sinking.
The first three days of the voyage from Queenstown passed without incident. From 11April to local apparent noon the next day, Titanic
covered 484 nautical miles (557mi; 896km); the following day, 519
nautical miles (597mi; 961km); and by noon on the final day of her
voyage, 546 nautical miles (628mi; 1,011km). From then until the time
of her sinking she travelled another 258 nautical miles (297mi;
478km), averaging about 21 knots (24mph; 39km/h).
The weather cleared as she left Ireland under cloudy skies with a
headwind. Temperatures remained fairly mild on Saturday 13April, but
the following day Titanic crossed a cold weather front
with strong winds and waves of up to 8 feet (2.4m). These died down as
the day progressed until, by the evening of Sunday 14April, it became
clear, calm and very cold.
Titanic received a series of warnings from other ships of drifting ice in the area of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Nonetheless the ship continued to steam at full speed, which was standard practice at the time.
It was generally believed that ice posed little danger to large vessels
and Captain Smith himself had declared that he could not "imagine any
condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has
gone beyond that."[i]
Main article: Sinking of the RMS Titanic
"Untergang der Titanic", conception by Willy Stöwer, 1912
At 11.40pm on 14 April (ship's time), lookout Frederick Fleet spotted an iceberg immediately ahead of Titanic and alerted the bridge. First Officer William Murdoch ordered the ship to be steered around the obstacle and the engines to be put in reverse, but it was too late; the starboard side of Titanic
struck the iceberg, creating a series of holes below the waterline.
Five of the ship's watertight compartments were breached. It soon became
clear that the ship was doomed, as she could not survive more than four
compartments being flooded. Titanic began sinking bow-first, with water spilling from compartment to compartment as her angle in the water became steeper.
Those aboard Titanic were ill-prepared for such an emergency.
The ship's lifeboats had only enough space to carry about half of those
on board; if the ship had carried her full complement of about 3,339
passengers and crew, only about a third could have been accommodated in
The crew had not been trained adequately in carrying out an evacuation.
The officers did not know how many they could safely put aboard the
lifeboats and launched many of them barely half-full.
Third-class passengers were largely left to fend for themselves,
causing many of them to become trapped below decks as the ship filled
with water. The "women and children first" protocol was generally followed for the loading of the lifeboats and most of the male passengers and crew were left aboard.
Two hours and forty minutes after Titanic struck the iceberg,
her rate of sinking suddenly increased as her forward deck dipped
underwater and the sea poured in through open hatches and grates.
As her unsupported stern rose out of the water, exposing the
propellers, the ship split apart between the third and fourth funnels
due to the immense strain on the keel.
The stern remained afloat for a few minutes longer, rising to a nearly
vertical angle with hundreds of people still clinging to it.
At 2:20am, she sank, breaking loose from the bow section. The
remaining passengers and crew were plunged into lethally cold water with
a temperature of only 28 °F (−2°C). Almost all of those in the water died of hypothermia, cardiac arrest, or drowning within minutes. Only 13 of them were helped into the lifeboats though these had room for almost 500 more people.
Distress signals were sent by wireless, rockets and lamp, but none of
the ships that responded was near enough to reach her before she sank. A nearby ship, the Californian, which was the last to have been in contact with her before the collision, saw her flares but failed to assist. Around 4am, RMS Carpathia arrived on the scene in response to Titanic's earlier distress calls. About 710people survived the disaster and were conveyed by Carpathia to New York, Titanic's original destination, while 1,500people lost their lives.
Aftermath of sinking
Arrival of Carpathia in New York
Arrival of Titanic's survivors at New York (artist concept)[j]
took three days to reach New York after leaving the scene of the
disaster. Her journey was slowed by pack ice, fog, thunderstorms and
She was, however, able to pass news to the outside world by wireless
about what had happened. The initial reports were confused, leading the
American press to report erroneously on 15April that Titanic was being towed to port by the SS Virginian.
Later that day, confirmation came through that Titanic had been lost and that most of her passengers and crew had died. The news attracted crowds of people to the White Star Line's offices in London, New York, Montreal, Southampton, Liverpool and Belfast. It hit hardest in Southampton, whose people suffered the greatest losses from the sinking. 4 out of 5 crew members came from this town.[k]
Carpathia docked at 9.30pm on 18April at New York's Pier 54 and was greeted by some 40,000people waiting at the quayside in heavy rain. Immediate relief in the form of clothing and transportation to shelters was provided by the Women's Relief Committee, the Travelers Aid Society of New York, and the Council of Jewish Women, among other organisations. Many of Titanic's
surviving passengers did not linger in New York but headed onwards
immediately to relatives' homes. Some of the wealthier survivors
chartered private trains to take them home, and the Pennsylvania Railroad laid on a special train free of charge to take survivors to Philadelphia. Titanic's 214 surviving crew members were taken to the Red Star Line's steamer SS Lapland, where they were accommodated in passenger cabins. Carpathia was hurriedly restocked with food and provisions before resuming her journey to Fiume, Austria-Hungary. Her crew were given a bonus of a month's wages by Cunard as a reward for their actions, and some of Titanic's passengers joined together to give them an additional bonus of nearly £900 (£66,038 today), divided among the crew members.
Carpathia's captain Arthur Rostron awarded for his effort by Margaret Brown.
The ship's arrival in New York led to a frenzy of press interest,
with newspapers competing to be the first to report the survivors'
stories. Some reporters bribed their way aboard the pilot boat New York, which guided Carpathia into harbour, and one even managed to get onto Carpathia before she docked. Crowds gathered outside newspaper offices to see the latest reports being posted in the windows or on billboards.
It took another four days for a complete list of casualties to be
compiled and released, adding to the agony of relatives waiting for news
of those who had been aboard Titanic.[l]
Many charities were set up to help the victims and their families,
many of whom lost their sole breadwinner, or, in the case of many Third
Class survivors, everything they owned. On 29April opera stars Enrico Caruso and Mary Garden and members of the Metropolitan Opera
raised $12,000 in benefits for victims of the disaster by giving
special concerts in which versions of "Autumn" and "Nearer My God To
Thee" were part of the program. In Britain, relief funds were organised for the families of Titanic's lost crew members, raising nearly £450,000 (£33,018,954 today). One such fund was still in operation as late as the 1960s.
Investigations into the disaster
Main articles: United States Senate inquiry into the sinking of the RMS Titanic and British Wreck Commissioner's inquiry into the sinking of the RMS Titanic
"The Margin of Safety Is Too Narrow!", a 1912 cartoon, showing the public demanding answers from the shipping companies
Even before the survivors arrived in New York, investigations were
being planned to discover what had happened, and what could be done to
prevent a recurrence. The United States Senate initiated an inquiry into the disaster on 19April, a day after Carpathia arrived in New York.
The chairman of the inquiry, Senator William Alden Smith,
wanted to gather accounts from passengers and crew while the events
were still fresh in their minds. Smith also needed to subpoena all
surviving British passengers and crew while they were still on American
soil, which prevented them from returning to the UK before the American
inquiry was completed on 25May.
The British press condemned Smith as an opportunist, insensitively
forcing an inquiry as a means of gaining political prestige and seizing
"his moment to stand on the world stage". Smith, however, already had a
reputation as a campaigner for safety on U.S. railroads, and wanted to
investigate any possible malpractices by railroad tycoon J.P.Morgan, Titanic's ultimate owner.
Lord Mersey was appointed to head the British Board of Trade's inquiry into the disaster, which took place between 2May and 3July. Each inquiry took testimony from both passengers and crew of Titanic, crew members of Leyland Line's Californian, Captain Arthur Rostron of Carpathia and other experts.
The two inquiries reached broadly similar conclusions; the regulations
on the number of lifeboats that ships had to carry were out of date and
inadequate, Captain Smith had failed to take proper heed of ice warnings,
the lifeboats had not been properly filled or crewed, and the collision
was the direct result of steaming into a dangerous area at too high a
The recommendations included major changes in maritime regulations to
implement new safety measures, such as ensuring that more lifeboats
were provided, that lifeboat drills were properly carried out and that
wireless equipment on passenger ships was manned around the clock. An International Ice Patrol
was set up to monitor the presence of icebergs in the North Atlantic,
and maritime safety regulations were harmonised internationally through
the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea; both measures are still in force today.
Role of the SS Californian
SS Californian, which had tried to warn Titanic of the danger from pack-ice
One of the most controversial issues examined by the inquiries was the role played by the SSCalifornian, which had been only a few miles from Titanic but had not picked up her distress calls or responded to her signal rockets. Californian had warned the Titanic by radio of the pack ice that was the reason Californian had stopped for the night, but was rebuked by Titanic's senior wireless operator, Jack Phillips.
Testimony before the British inquiry revealed that at 10:10pm, Californian observed the lights of a ship to the south; it was later agreed between Captain Stanley Lord and Third Officer C.V. Groves (who had relieved Lord of duty at 11:10pm) that this was a passenger liner.
At 11:50pm, the officer had watched that ship's lights flash out, as
if she had shut down or turned sharply, and that the port light was now
visible. Morse light signals to the ship, upon Lord's order, were made between 11:30pm and 1:00am, but were not acknowledged.
If the Titanic were as far from the Californian as Lord claimed, then
he knew, or should have known, that Morse signals would not be visible. A
reasonable and prudent course of action would have been to awaken the
wireless operator and to instruct him to attempt to the contact the
Titanic by that method. Had Lord done so, it is possible that he could
have reached the Titanic in time to save additional lives.
Captain Lord had gone to the chartroom at 11:00pm to spend the night;
however, Second Officer Herbert Stone, now on duty, notified Lord at
1:10am that the ship had fired 5 rockets. Lord wanted to know if they
were company signals, that is, coloured flares used for identification.
Stone said that he did not know and that the rockets were all white.
Captain Lord instructed the crew to continue to signal the other vessel
with the morse lamp, and went back to sleep. Three more rockets were
observed at 1:50am and Stone noted that the ship looked strange in the
water, as if she were listing. At 2:15am, Lord was notified that the
ship could no longer be seen. Lord asked again if the lights had had any
colours in them, and he was informed that they were all white.
Californian eventually responded. At around 5:30am, Chief Officer George Stewart awakened wireless operator Cyril Furmstone Evans,
informed him that rockets had been seen during the night, and asked
that he try to communicate with any ship. He got news of the Titanic's loss, Captain Lord was notified, and the ship set out to render assistance. She arrived well after Carpathia had already picked up all the survivors.
The inquiries found that the ship seen by the Californian was in fact the Titanic and that it would have been possible for the Californian to come to her rescue; therefore, Captain Lord had acted improperly in failing to do so.[m]
Survivors and victims
Main article: List of Titanic passengers
The number of casualties of the sinking is unclear, due to a number
of factors. These include confusion over the passenger list, which
included some names of people who cancelled their trip at the last
minute, and the fact that several passengers travelled under aliases for
various reasons and were therefore double-counted on the casualty
lists. The death toll has been put at between 1,490 and 1,635people. The figures below are from the British Board of Trade report on the disaster.
Children, First Class
Children, Second Class
Children, Third Class
Women, First Class
Women, Second Class
Women, Third Class
Men, First Class
Men, Second Class
Men, Third Class
Less than a third of those aboard Titanic survived the
disaster. Some survivors died shortly afterwards; injuries and the
effects of exposure caused the deaths of several of those brought aboard
Carpathia. The figures show stark differences in the survival rates of the different classes aboard Titanic.
Although only 3percent of first-class women were lost, 54percent of
those in third class died. Similarly, five of six first-class and all
second-class children survived, but 52 of the 79 in third class
perished. The last living survivor, Millvina Dean from England, who at only nine weeks old was the youngest passenger on board, died aged 97 on 31 May 2009. A special survivor was crew member Violet Jessop who survived the sinkings of both Titanic and Britannic and further was onboard Olympic when she was rammed in 1911.
Retrieval and burial of the dead
Once the massive loss of life became known, White Star Line chartered the cable ship CS Mackay-Bennett from Halifax, Nova Scotia to retrieve bodies. Three other Canadian ships followed in the search: the cable ship Minia, lighthouse supply ship Montmagny and sealing vessel Algerine.
Each ship left with embalming supplies, undertakers, and clergy. Of the
333 victims that were eventually recovered, 328 were retrieved by the
Canadian ships and five more by passing North Atlantic steamships.[n]
The first ship to reach the site of the sinking, the cable ship CSMackay-Bennett
found so many bodies that the embalming supplies aboard were quickly
exhausted. Health regulations required that only embalmed bodies could
be returned to port. Captain Larnder of the Mackay-Bennett
and undertakers aboard decided to preserve only the bodies of first
class passengers, justifying their decision by the need to visually
identify wealthy men to resolve any disputes over large estates. As a
result, many third class passengers and crew were buried at sea. Larnder
himself claimed that as a mariner, he would expect to be buried at sea.
Bodies recovered were preserved for transport to Halifax, the closest
city to the sinking with direct rail and steamship connections. The
Halifax coroner, John Henry Barnstead,
developed a detailed system to identify bodies and safeguard personal
possessions. Relatives from across North America came to identify and
claim bodies. A large temporary morgue was set up in a curling rink and undertakers were called in from all across Eastern Canada to assist.
Some bodies were shipped to be buried in their home towns across North
America and Europe. About two-thirds of the bodies were identified.
Unidentified victims were buried with simple numbers based on the order
in which their bodies were discovered. The majority of recovered
victims, 150bodies, were buried in three Halifax cemeteries, the
largest being Fairview Lawn Cemetery followed by the nearby Mount Olivet and Baron de Hirsch cemeteries.
In mid-May 1912, RMSOceanic
recovered three bodies over 200 miles (320km) from the site of the
sinking who were among the original occupants of CollapsibleA. When
Fifth Officer Harold Lowe
and six crewmen returned to the wreck site sometime after the sinking
in a lifeboat to pick up survivors, they rescued a dozen males and one
female from CollapsibleA, but left the dead bodies of three of its
occupants.[o] After their retrieval from CollapsibleA by Oceanic, the bodies were buried at sea.
The last Titanic body recovered was steward James McGrady, Body No. 330, found by the chartered Newfoundland sealing vessel Algerine on May 22 and buried at Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax on June 12.
Only 333 bodies of Titanic victims were recovered, one in five
of the over 1500 victims. Some bodies sank with the ship while currents
quickly dispersed bodies and wreckage across hundreds of miles making
them difficult to recover. By June one of the last search ships reported
that life jackets supporting bodies were coming apart and releasing
bodies to sink.
Main article: Wreck of the RMS Titanic
The bow of the wrecked RMS Titanic, photographed in June 2004
Titanic was long thought to have sunk in one piece and, over
the years, many schemes were put forward for raising the wreck. None
came to fruition.
The fundamental problem was the sheer difficulty of finding and
reaching a wreck that lies over 12,000 feet (3,700m) below the surface,
in a location where the water pressure is over 6,500 pounds per square
inch. A number of expeditions were mounted to find Titanic but it was not until 1 September 1985 that a Franco-American expedition succeeded.
The team discovered that Titanic had in fact split apart,
probably near or at the surface, before sinking to the seabed. The
separated bow and stern sections lie about a third of a mile (0.6km)
apart in a canyon on the continental shelf off the coast of Newfoundland. They are located 13.2 miles (21.2km) from the inaccurate coordinates given by Titanic's radio operators on the night of her sinking,
and approximately 715 miles (1,150km) from Halifax and 1,250 miles
(2,000km) from New York. Both sections hit the sea bed at considerable
speed, causing the bow to crumple and the stern to collapse entirely.
The bow is by far the more intact section and still contains some
surprisingly intact interiors. In contrast, the stern is completely
wrecked; its decks have pancaked down on top of each other and much of
the hull plating was torn off and lies scattered across the sea floor.
The much greater level of damage to the stern is probably due to
structural damage incurred during the sinking. Thus weakened, the
remainder of the stern was flattened by the impact with the sea bed.
The two sections are surrounded by a debris field measuring approximately 5 by 3 miles (8.0km ×4.8km).
It contains hundreds of thousands of items, such as pieces of the ship,
furniture, dinnerware and personal items, which fell from the ship as
she sank or were ejected when the bow and stern impacted on the sea
floor. The debris field was also the last resting place of a number of Titanic's
victims. Most of the bodies and clothes were consumed by sea creatures
and bacteria, leaving pairs of shoes and boots—which have proved to be
inedible—as the only sign that bodies once lay there.
Since its discovery, the wreck of Titanic has been revisited
numerous times by explorers, scientists, filmmakers, tourists and
salvagers, who have recovered thousands of items from the debris field
for conservation and public display. The ship's condition has
deteriorated significantly in recent years, partly due to accidental
damage caused by submersibles but mainly because of an accelerating rate
of growth of iron-eating bacteria on the hull. It has been estimated that within the next 50 years the hull and structure of Titanic
will collapse entirely, eventually leaving only the more durable
interior fittings of the ship intermingled with a pile of rust on the
Many artefacts from Titanic have been recovered from the sea
bed by RMS Titanic Inc., which exhibits them in touring exhibitions
around the world and in a permanent exhibition at the Luxor Las Vegas hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
A number of other museums exhibit artefacts either donated by survivors
or retrieved from the floating bodies of victims of the disaster.
On 16 April 2012, a day after the 100th anniversary of the sinking,
photos were released showing possible human remains resting on the ocean
floor. The photos, taken by Robert Ballard during an expedition led by NOAA
in 2004, show a boot and a coat close to Titanic's stern which experts
called "compelling evidence" that it's the spot where somebody came to
rest, and that human remains could be buried in the sediment beneath
The ship's wreckage now comes under the cover of the "United Nations"
cultural body that protects ship wrecks, but the United States is not a
signatory to the convention, introduced in 2001 to safeguard underwater
Ice patrol aircraft inspecting an iceberg
After the disaster, recommendations were made by both the British and
American Boards of Inquiry stating, that ships would carry enough
lifeboats for all aboard, mandated lifeboat drills would be implemented,
lifeboat inspections would be conducted, etc. Many of these
recommendations were incorporated into the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea passed in 1914. The convention has been updated by periodic amendments, with a completely new version adopted in 1974.
Signatories to the convention followed up with national legislation to
implement the new standards. For example in Britain, new “Rules for Life
Saving Appliances” were passed by the Board of Trade on May 8, 1914 and then applied at a meeting of British steamship companies in Liverpool in June 1914.
Further, United States government passed the Radio Act of 1912.
This act, along with the International Convention for the Safety of
Life at Sea, stated that radio communications on passenger ships would
be operated 24 hours along with a secondary power supply, so as not to
miss distress calls. Also, the Radio Act of 1912 required ships to
maintain contact with vessels in their vicinity as well as coastal
onshore radio stations.
In addition, it was agreed in the International Convention for the
Safety of Life at Sea that the firing of red rockets from a ship must be
interpreted as a sign of help. Once the Radio Act of 1912 was passed it
was agreed that rockets at sea would be interpreted as distress signals
only, thus removing any possible misinterpretation from other ships.
Finally, the disaster led to the formation and international funding of the International Ice Patrol,
an agency of the United States Coast Guard that to the present day
monitors and reports on the location of North Atlantic Ocean icebergs
that could pose a threat to transatlantic sea traffic. Coast Guard
aircraft conduct the primary reconnaissance. In addition, information is
collected from ships operating in or passing through the ice area.
Except for the years of the two World Wars, the International Ice Patrol
has worked each season since 1913. During the period there has not been
a single reported loss of life or property due to collision with an
iceberg in the patrol area.
Main article: Cultural legacy of RMS Titanic
Titanic Belfast, 2012
The Titanic has gone down in history as the ship that was called unsinkable.[p]
For more than 100 years she has been the inspiration of fiction and
non-fiction. She is commemorated by monuments for the dead and by
museums exhibiting artifacts from the wreck. Just after the sinking
memorial postcards sold in huge numbers together with memorabilia ranging from tin candy boxes to plates, whiskey jiggers, and even black mourning teddy bears. Several survivors wrote books about their experiences but it was not until 1955 the first historical accurate book A Night to Remember was published. The first film about the disaster, Saved from the Titanic, was released only 29 days after the ship sank and had an actual survivor as its star—the silent film actress Dorothy Gibson. The British film A Night to Remember (1958) is still widely regarded as the most historically accurate movie portrayal of the sinking, but the most successful by far has been James Cameron's Titanic (1997), which became the highest-grossing film in history up to that time.
The Titanic disaster was commemorated through a variety of
memorials and monuments to the victims, erected in several
English-speaking countries and in particular in cities that had suffered
notable losses. These included Southampton, Liverpool and Belfast in
the United Kingdom; New York and Washington, D.C. in the United States;
and Cobh (formerly Queenstown) in Ireland. A number of museums around the world have displays on Titanic. In Northern Ireland, the ship is commemorated by the Titanic Belfast visitor attraction, opened on 31 March 2012, that stands on the site of the shipyard where Titanic was built. RMS Titanic Inc., which is authorised to salvage the wreck site, has a permanent Titanic exhibition at the Luxor Las Vegas hotel and casino in Nevada which features a 22-ton slab of the ship's hull. It also runs an exhibition which travels around the world. In Nova Scotia, Halifax's Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
displays items that were recovered from the sea a few days after the
disaster. They include pieces of woodwork such as panelling from the
ship's First Class Lounge and an original deckchair, as well as objects removed from the victims.
In 2012 the centenary was marked by plays, radio programmes, parades,
exhibition and special trips to the site of the sinking together with
commemorative stamps and coins.