Updated: May 31
In March 1909, construction of RMS Titanic began in Queens Island, Belfast. The new ship was a design collaboration between Bruce Ismay’s White Star Line and William Pirrie’s ship building company, Harland and Wolff who had the largest shipyard in the world at that time.
She was launched on May 31, 1911.
On June 1, 1911, Irish newspapers printed an article describing in detail the system of watertight compartments and electronic watertight doors on board and determined that
"Titanic was almost unsinkable”
Harland and Wolff would later claim that Titanic had not been advertised as an unsinkable ship, and that the myth came about after misinterpretations of the newspaper article.
However, when the New York office of the White Star Line was informed that Titanic had hit an iceberg, the Vice President P.A.S. Franklin announced
” We place absolute confidence in the Titanic. We believe the boat is unsinkable.”
On completion the RMS Titanic was the most luxurious ocean liner in the world. She was also the largest man-made moving object in the world. She measured 269 metres (882 feet) in length, and a gross tonnage of 45,000 ton. It had taken about 3,000 men almost three years to build her.
On April 10th, 1912, there were 2,225 souls. (1,317 passengers and 908 crew). on board for the Maiden voyage, under the command of Captain Edward Smith, who had 26 years’ experience of crossing the North Atlantic. Titanic was sailing from Southampton to New York via France and Ireland with some of the wealthiest people in the world on board.
“There were 10,000 bottles of wine on board, plus 15,000 bottles of beer. The first-class passengers last supper consisted of 11 courses - including consommé, cream of barley soup, a fish course, two meat courses, foie gras, three desserts, and a cheeseboard”
In April 1912, there were around three hundred icebergs spotted in the North Atlantic shipping lanes, the highest number noted in 50 years, and would not have been forecast by Captain Smith. At 11.40, ships time, on April 14th, Titanic hit an iceberg which damaged five of 16 purportedly watertight compartments which were specifically designed to hold water in case of a breach to the hull.
Repeated distress calls were sent, and flares were launched into the cold dark sky.
12:17 am, “Titanic to Any Ship: “CQD CQD SOS Titanic Position 41.44 N 50.24 W. Require immediate assistance. Come at once. We struck an iceberg. Sinking.”
12:20 am Titanic to Carpathia: “Come at once. We have struck a berg. It’s a CQD, old man. Position 41.46 N 50.14 W”
12:40 a.m. Captain Smith gave the order to “uncover the lifeboats and evacuate women and children”
12:40 am, Titanic to Carpathia: “SOS Titanic sinking by the head. We are about all down. Sinking. . .”
12:45 a.m. The first lifeboat was launched. It had the capacity to hold 65 people. Only 28 people were on board.
There were not enough lifeboats for all the passengers due to out-of-date maritime safety regulations. The owners of Macy’s store in New York, Isidor and Ida Straus refused to be parted. Ida refused to leave Isidor and would not get into a lifeboat without him, allegedly stating, "I will not be separated from my husband. As we have lived, so will we die, together." Isidor was offered a seat in a lifeboat, but he refused because there were still women and children on board.
By 2.20am, less than three hours from impact, the ship was sliding to its final resting place deep beneath the waves. The ink black icy ocean was filled with screaming, terrified people, debris in the form of pillows, tables, chairs, doors, clothes… and bodies.
It took two hours for the RMS Carpathia to arrive at the scene to start rescuing people from the icy water, providing survivors with clothes and hot coffee. Only 713 souls survived, 340 bodies were recovered. Approximately 1,600 bodies remain lost.
The sinking of RMS Titanic was one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters in history and quickly became a catalyst for changes to be made to improve safety at sea.
Jacqueline Heron Wray, 2019.
Victims and Survivors: Courtesy of CNN Library. There were 324 1st class passengers aboard. 201 survived.
There were 277 2nd class passengers aboard. 118 survived.
There were 708 3rd class passengers aboard. 181 survived.
There were 885 crew members aboard. 212 survived.
There were 13 postmen and musicians on board. None of them survived.
Captain Smith went down with the ship, and his body was never recovered.
Frederick Fleet, one of the crew members who first alerted Captain Smith to the iceberg, was rescued and survived.
Notable Passengers: Survived - - The "Unsinkable" Margaret (Molly) Brown - wife of a silver mine manager, helped command a lifeboat and nursed injured survivors of the Titanic. - J. Bruce Ismay, managing director of the International Mercantile Marine and one of the Titanic's owners. - Henry S. Harper, of the firm Harper & Bros.
Died - - Colonel John Jacob Astor, member of the Astor family. - Isidor Straus, merchant and banker, co-owner of Macy's. - Benjamin Guggenheim, member of the Guggenheim family. - George D. Widener, son of P.A.B. Widener, Philadelphia businessman. - Washington Roebling, whose uncle was a builder of the Brooklyn Bridge. - Charles Melville Hays, general manager of the Grand Trunk Railway. - William Thomas Stead, famous journalist and publicist. - Jacques Futrelle, journalist. - Henry Harris, theatrical manager. - Major Archibald Butt, military aide to President Taft and President Roosevelt. - Francis Davis Millet, American painter.