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The Titanic arriving at Cobh harbour on 11 April 1912.
Career British Blue Ensign
Owners: White Star Line
Builders: Harland and Wolff shipyard, Belfast
Captain: Edward John Smith
Laid down: 31 March 1909
Christened: Not christened
Maiden voyage (First Trip): 10 April 1912
Fate: Hit iceberg at 11:40 PM on 14 April 1912. Sank on 15 April 1912, at 2:20 AM; wreck discovered in 1985 by Robert Ballard.
Current Location: 41°43′55″N 49°56′45″W / 41.73194°N 49.94583°W / 41.73194; -49.94583
Expense: $7,500,000 ($223,537,886.60)
General characteristics
Gross tonnage (weight): 46,328 GRT
Displacement: 52,310 Long Tons
Length: 882 foot 9 inches (269 m)
Beam: 92 foot 6 inches (28 m)
Draught: 34 foot 7 inches (10.5 m)
Power: Able to reach speeds of 26 miles per hour
Propulsion (energy): Two bronze triple-blade side propellers. One bronze triple-blade central propeller.
Speed: 23 knots (26.5 mph; 42.6 km/h)
Passengers and crew (first voyage):
  • First Class: 324
  • Second Class: 285
  • Third Class: 708
  • Crew: 908
    • Passengers and crew who survived: Unknown precisely but estimates place the figure at just over 700
    • Passengers and crew who died: Unknown precisely but estimates place the figure at about 1,500 casualties.
    • Total number of passengers: Unknown precisely but estimates place the figure around 2,220 to 2,240 passengers.

The RMS Titanic[1] was a British passenger ship. It was built by Harland and Wolff ship builders, in Belfast, for the White Star Line company. It sank during the first trip at sea.

Before the Titanic sailed, many people thought it would be almost impossible for ships of this design to sink.[2]

Sinking on[change | change source]

Titanic at Southampton docks, prior to its departure, 10 April 1912.
The Titanic leaving Southampton on 10 April 1912.

At 11:40 PM on 14 April 1912, during the Titanic's first trip, it hit an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean. The iceberg broke the Titanic's hull (bottom), letting water into the ship. The Titanic sank two hours and forty minutes later at 2:20 AM on 15 April.

As it sank, the Titanic split in two. The wreck killed over 1,500 people. Only around 705 people survived.[3] It was one of the worst shipwrecks that was not during a war.

Titanic-New York Herald front page. Wrong numbers were posted the first days after the accident.

One reason why so many people died was that the ship did not have enough lifeboats for everyone on board. The Titanic had 20 lifeboats with room for 1,178 passengers, only a third of the number of passengers the ship could carry. It actually had more lifeboats than was needed by law (it needed 16 with room for 990 passengers). This was because the laws in the UK were out of date. They did not say that a ship needed enough lifeboats for all passengers. They only said that a ship weighing more than 10,000 tons needed 16 lifeboats (the Titanic weighed 46,000 tons). Furthermore, the White Star Line believed that the lifeboats on the Titanic would only be needed to take passengers a short distance to a rescue ship.

Higher class women and children were allowed on the lifeboats first, and passengers who sailed in first class (which meant that they paid for better rooms on the ship) were allowed on before other passengers. Few of the poorer people who had paid less (called second class and third class passengers) got out safely.

Another reason so few people survived was that the radio was off on the SS Californian, the ship closest to the Titanic. The Californian crew did not hear about the accident.[4] Also, the Titanic did have flares but they were white. Back then (and still now), red meant emergency and other colors were used for identification (White = White Star Line). The Californian and other ships saw the flares but they didn't think of the flares as distress signals.[5] Another ship, the SS Carpathia, did hear about the accident and collected all 705 survivors.[6]

This had several reasons:

  • There was no information. The ship didn't have an alarm system (like the common ones, where sirens could be sounded). This means that the crew had to tell each passenger to go and evacuate the ship. There was less crew for second and third class, and there were much more people.
  • People who paid less had no access to certain decks.
  • There was a clear separation between the classes. The passage between decks of different classes could be locked. This was especially a problem in the first phase of the evacuation. According to some survivors, some passages were not opened even when the ship started sinking.
  • Many people travelling in third class were foreigners. Their language skills were limited.

Many of those who died didn't die because they couldn't leave the ship before it sank. They died of hypothermia, while they were floating in the cold water (which was only a bit over the freezing point at that time).[7] When the MS. Carpathia arrived, at 4.10 ship's time, they were floating dead bodies in the water. Many lifeboats rowed away from those who were in the water shouting for help. The people in the lifeboats were afraid the lifeboat would capsize when people entered it from the water. Only lifeboat Number four returned to the shouting people in the water. Five people could be rescued, but two of them died in the lifeboat. Around 3 am ship's time, 40 minutes after the sinking, the last calls for help ceased. After 3am, lifeboat number 14, commanded by Officer Harold Lowe returned. He could save another three people. He had emptied the lifeboat and let the people in the boat enter other boats beforehand.

The following table gives a listing of those who died and those who survived, grouped by age, gender and ships class. Children are those up to age 12. It is taken from a report to British parliament of 1912.[8] There are other lists, with slightly different numbers.

Victims and people rescued
Group Total Rescued percentage Victims Percentage
Children, 2nd class 24 24 100 % 0 0 %
Women, first class 144 140 97 % 4 3 %
Women, crew 23 20 87 % 3 13 %
Women, 2nd class 93 80 86 % 13 14 %
Children, first class 6 5 83 % 1 17 %
Women, 3rd class 165 76 46 % 89 54 %
Children, 3rd class 79 27 34 % 52 66 %
Men, first class 175 57 32 % 118 68 %
Men, crew 885 192 22 % 693 78 %
Men, 3rd class 462 75 16 % 387 84 %
Men, 2nd class 168 14 8 % 154 92 %
Women total 425 316 74 % 109 26 %
Children, total 109 56 51 % 53 49 %
Men, total 1690 338 20 % 1352 80 %
first class, total 325 202 62 % 123 38 %
second class, total 285 118 41 % 167 59 %
third class, total 706 178 25 % 528 75 %
Crew, total 908 214 23 % 694 76 %
Total 2,240 710 31 % 1,514 69 %

Last survivor[change | change source]

The last survivor of the Titanic disaster to die was a woman named Millvina Dean. She was the youngest passenger on board, as she was then a baby of only nine weeks old. She died in Ashhurst, Hampshire, England on 21 May 2009 aged 97.[9]

Changes after the accident[change | change source]

The Titanic disaster changed many maritime ship laws. Because so many people died, authorities felt that laws should be put into place to make ship travel safer. Changes included requiring all ships to carry enough lifeboats for everyone on the ship, and emergency materials such as flares. Someone must be at the ship's radio all the time.

Alexander Brehm, a German physicist, was shocked when he heard about the disaster. He wanted to invent a technology that would be able to detect icebergs. He wasn't able to achieve that goal until his death, but he was granted patents relating to the measurement of the depth at sea, using sound. Today, this is known as echo sounding.[10]

Discovery[change | change source]

Titanic's bow, photographed in 2004.

The wreck was found by a French and American team, led by Robert Ballard, on September 1, 1985 early that morning.

In 1986, Ballard returned to the wreck with a submarine. He took many photos and made lots of films.

In 1987, a French team salvaged 900 objects and took them to the surface.

Culture[change | change source]

The story of the sinking has been made into several movies. The most popular film version is a 1997 film starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio called Titanic. It won 11 Academy Awards, tying Ben-Hur for the record for the most Academy Awards won by one movie.

Other movie versions of the story include the 1958 film A Night to Remember, the 1953 film Titanic, the 1979 film S.O.S. Titanic and the 1996 movie Titanic.

In the 1980 film Raise the Titanic, directed by Jerry Lameson, salvagers raise the shipwreck from the bottom of the ocean to the surface. However, this is impossible to do in reality. The Titanic broke in two, and the wreck is partially stuck in the bottom, buried under more than a yard (1 m) of mud in some spots. The ship has been on the ocean floor for more than 100 years, and would shatter into many more pieces if disturbed. Worms and other animals have eaten away much of the wood and many other parts.

References[change | change source]

  1. RMS is an acronym. RMS stands for Royal Mail Ship or Steamer. RMS is a ship prefix for vessels that carry mail under contract to the British Royal Mail.
  2. "FACT CHECK: The Unsinkable Titanic". Snopes.com.
  3. "Kids' Games, Animals, Photos, Stories, and More -- National Geographic Kids". Kids.
  4. Brett, Allan. "Radio Story".
  5. Google, retrieved 2020-04-13
  6. National Geographic (2012-04-05). "How Titanic Sank" (video). Youtube.
  7. D. J. Spitz: Investigation of Bodies in Water. In: W. U. Spitz, D. J. Spitz (Hrsg.): Spitz and Fisher’s Medicolegal Investigation of Death. Guideline for the Application of Pathology to Crime Investigations (Fourth edition). Charles C. Thomas, Springfield (Illinois) 2006, S. 846–881.
  8. British Parliamentary Papers, Shipping Casualties (Loss of the Steamship “Titanic”), 1912, cmd. 6352, ‘Report of a Formal Investigation into the circumstances attending the foundering on the 15th April, 1912, of the British Steamship “Titanic”, of Liverpool, after striking ice in or near Latitude 41°46'N. Longitude 50°14'W., North Atlantic Ocean, whereby loss of life ensued.’ (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1912), page 42, korrigiert um die nachweislich verstorbene 3-jährige Lorraine Allison (1. Klasse)
  9. "Millvina Dean – Obituary" The Independent, 16 June 2009, Nearly made to the 100th anniversary of the Titanic she did!!! p37
  10. Franz Neumann (1925). "Die Entstehung des Echolots und sein Erfinder". Polytechnisches Journal. 340: 44–45. Archived from the original on 2021-08-31. Retrieved 2020-08-16.

Other websites[change | change source]

Media related to Titanic (ship, 1912) at Wikimedia Commons