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Titanic Timeline to Disaster


"Iceberg, Right Ahead!!"

It was 11:40 pm on April 14, 1912, when those fateful words rung out on the bridge of the Titanic.

Reacting quickly, First Officer Murdoch ordered an abrupt turn to port and full speed astern, which reversed the engines driving the outer propellers

Thanks to the sharp turn, the ship's starboard side clearly missed the visible part of the iceberg.  However beneath the water, the massive iceberg was much wider. 

The underside of the Titanic brushed against the deadly edges of the iceberg.  This buckled the hull in several places and popped out rivets below the waterline. The glancing blow created a total of six leaks in the first five watertight compartments. Murdoch then ordered hard right rudder, which swung Titanic's stern away from the iceberg.

The fifth compartment was breached for only 10-15 feet, but this was the killer blow.  The watertight doors were shut as water started filling the five compartments - one more than Titanic could stay afloat with.

Two and a half hours later, the Titanic would disappear beneath the freezing waters of the Northern Atlantic.

The Titanic carried 20 lifeboats with a total capacity of 1,178 persons.  There were 2,223 people on boardThis meant that automatically over a thousand people were surely doomed to die.  However, due to extreme incompetence on the part of the staff in dealing with the lifeboats, the death total was far worse.  Of a total of 2,223 people, only 706 survived; 1,517 perished. 

Thanks to James Cameron's Oscar-winning 1997 movie, most of us are keenly aware of the extent of the tragedy.

"It is unsinkable!  God Himself couldn't sink this ship!!"

Titanic was the largest passenger steamship ever built at the time.  Thanks to improvements in engineering design, the ship was said to be unsinkable.  Sadly the iceberg proved that theory incorrect.  The shock of hearing the Titanic had sunk was so profound that now a hundred years later, every time something goes wrong, we refer to it as "Titanic Disaster" or a "Titanic Upset".  The Titanic simply wasn't supposed to vulnerable.

It was an important event because so many people died when the ship sank, due mainly to the lack of lifeboats.  After the sinking, no ship was ever again allowed to set sail unless there were enough lifeboats for everyone on the ship.  The sinking of the Titanic is still considered the deadliest peacetime ocean disasters of all time.


On the night of April 14-15, 1912, Titanic struck an iceberg and sank.

In casualties alone, this disaster ranks as one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters in history.

In terms of significance and drama, the Titanic is the most famous disaster in modern history.

Built in Belfast, Ireland, the Titanic was the largest passenger steamship in the world at the time of her sinking. 

During Titanic's maiden voyage from England to New York, she struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on Sunday evening April 14, 1912. 

Two hours and forty minutes later, the enormous ship split into two pieces and sunk at 2:20 a.m. Monday morning, April 15.


The irony behind this horrible accident was that the Titanic was considered to be a pinnacle of naval architecture and technological achievement.   In an article prior to its voyage, Shipbuilder Magazine labeled the Titanic "practically unsinkable."   Titanic's design used some of the most advanced technology available at the time.  Therefore it was a great shock that, despite the advanced technology and experienced crew, Titanic sank with a great loss of life.

She was divided into 16 compartments by doors, which could be closed by means of a switch on the bridge.  However, the ship had at least one weakness.  The watertight bulkheads did not reach the entire height of the decks, only going up as far as E-Deck.

This meant the Titanic could stay afloat with any two of her compartments flooded, or with eleven of fourteen possible combinations of three compartments flooded, or with the first/last four compartments flooded: any more and the ship would sink. 

It was practically impossible to conceive of a scenario whereby this many compartments might be compromised. In fact, some say the ship might have survived if she had hit the iceberg head on because her design took this possibility into account.  By turning the ship in a last minute attempt to avoid it, the ship sailed right beside iceberg which allowed it to tear not a deep hole, but a long hole in practically the worst spot of all - right in the middle of the ship's side.

The Titanic carried 2,223 people on its maiden voyage. 

In the accident, more than two-thirds of these people lost their life. 

It makes you wonder why the Titanic was considered the world’s safest ship at the time.

Besides its ‘unsinkable status’, another factor that added to the sensation of this tragic event is that the Titanic carried a veritable “Who’s Who” aboard its ill-fated first trip. Some of the most prominent people in America were on board in first class.

These included millionaire John Jacob Astor IV and his pregnant wife Madeleine; industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim; Macy's department store owner Isidor Straus and his wife Ida; Denver millionaire Margaret "Molly" Brown and many others. 

Also traveling in first class were White Star Line's managing director J. Bruce Ismay, who survived, and the ship's builder Thomas Andrews, who was on board to observe any problems and assess the general performance of the new ship.

It could have been even worse. Two of the country’s most famous businessmen, J.P. Morgan and Milton Hershey, had plans to travel on the Titanic but cancelled their reservations before the voyage.

There were many factors that have made the Titanic Tragedy persistently famous in the years since.  To begin with, there were the improbable odds against the ship sinking and the unusually high percentage of people who died.  Thanks to the media frenzy about Titanic's famous victims, this story became well-documented thanks to the survivors.

When one factors in
the legends about what happened on board the ship including the heroes and the selfish, the drama was elevated to the level of a Greek Tragedy. This story literally drips with irony due to the insanity of the lifeboat situation plus the cruel negligence of a nearby ship which could have come to the rescue.

In the mid part of the Twentieth Century, the story finally began to fade in memories.  However, the 1955 publication of Walter Lord's "A Night to Remember" brought the story back to forefront.  Thanks to Lord's extensive interviews with many of the survivors plus an excellent job of retelling the story, new details came to light.  When this excellent account of the tragedy was made into a movie by the same name in 1958, public interest in the Titanic tragedy quickly came back to life.

25 years later, just when interest began to wane again, the drama surrounding Robert Ballard's discovery of the wreck location in 1985 brought all the fascination right back to the surface. 

Twelve years after Ballard's discovery, the hoopla surrounding James Cameron's sensational movie was all it took to bring this story front and center to a modern audience.  Combining the fictional romance of Jack and Rose with riveting scenes recreating the horror of the sinking in unbelievable detail, Cameron's Titanic made the doomed ship practically a household word at the start of the new Millennium.

In April 2012, two cruise ships, one departing from Southampton, UK, and one from New York City, sailed to the North Atlantic.  Meeting at the ocean grave site of the Titanic on 100th anniversary of the disaster, not were the passengers able to show their respects, but the accompanying media beamed images of the Memorial ceremony around the world.

Today there is no question the Titanic Disaster remains the most famous disaster of all time. 


Titanic Timeline to Disaster

1:45 PM - Amerika iceberg warning

On the night of Sunday, April 14, 1912, the temperature had dropped to near freezing and the ocean was completely calm. There was no moon and the sky was clear.  Surviving 2nd Officer Charles Lightoller later wrote, "the sea was like glass".  

Captain Edward Smith, perhaps in response to iceberg warnings received by wireless over the previous few days, had altered Titanic's course around 10 miles (18 km) south of the normal shipping route. That Sunday at 1:45 p.m., a message from the steamer SS Amerika warned that large icebergs lay south of Titanic's path but the warning was addressed to the USN Hydrographic office and was never relayed to the bridge.

Iceberg warnings were received throughout the day and were quite normal for the time of year. Later that evening at 9:30 pm, another report of numerous, large icebergs in Titanic's path was received by Jack Phillips and Harold Bride in the radio room, this time from the Mesaba, but this report also did not reach the bridge.

Although there were warnings, there were no operational or safety reasons to slow down or alter course. The Titanic had three teams of two lookouts high up in the "Crow's nest" who were rotated every two hours.  On any other night it is almost certain they would have seen the iceberg in time.

However, a combination of factors worked against them: with no moon, no wind and the dark side of the berg facing the ship, the lookouts were powerless. Had they spotted the iceberg 10 seconds later or 10 seconds earlier, or even had the ship simply hit it straight on, it is likely that Titanic would not have foundered. 

But as Lightoller stated at the American inquiry, "Everything was against us that night.

11:40 PM - "Iceberg, right ahead!"

At 11:40 p.m. while sailing south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, lookouts Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee spotted a large iceberg directly ahead of the ship. Fleet sounded the ship's bell three times and telephoned the bridge.

Sixth Officer Moody answered, "Yes, what do you see?",

He heard Fleet exclaiming, "Iceberg, right ahead!"

Moody responded "Thank you". 

He then informed First Officer Murdoch of the call. Murdoch (who had now already seen the iceberg) ordered an abrupt turn to port and full speed astern, which reversed the engines driving the outer propellers (the turbine driving the centre propeller was not reversible).

30 seconds passed. Thanks to the sharp turn, the ship's starboard side clearly missed the visible part of the iceberg.  However beneath the water, the massive iceberg was much wider. 


The underside of the Titanic brushed against the deadly edges of the iceberg.  This buckled the hull in several places and popped out rivets below the waterline. The glancing blow created a total of six leaks in the first five watertight compartments. Murdoch then ordered hard right rudder, which swung Titanic's stern away from the iceberg.

The fifth compartment was breached for only 10-15 feet, but that was the killer blow.  The watertight doors were shut as water started filling the five compartments - one more than Titanic could stay afloat with.

Within 10 minutes, six watertight compartments flood, sealing the ship's fate.

At 11:50 pm, the ship's mail department down on G deck in the forward part of the ship now stands in two feet of water.  Five postal clerks struggle mightily to transfer the ship's voluminous amount of mail coming to America from Europe to the boat deck for loading into a lifeboat.


Captain Smith, alerted by the jolt of the impact, ordered "all-stop" once he arrived on the bridge. Smith asks Thomas Andrews, the man most familiar with the Titanic's design, to go down and inspect the damage.

Following an inspection by the ship's senior officers, the ship's carpenter and Thomas Andrews, which included a survey of the half-flooded two-deck postal room, it was apparent that the Titanic would sink.  At Midnight, Andrews reports to Smith the ship has about two hours till sinking.

At 12:02 am, Smith orders Chief Officer Wilde and Second Officer Lightoller to uncover the lifeboats and prepare for loading.

At 12:14 am, Captain Smith informs wireless operater Phillips, "We've struck an iceberg," and asks him to send a CQD distress call.  Cape Race Newfoundland hears MGY, Titanic's call letters, giving her position.

At 12:25 am, Harold Cottam, Carpathia's wireless operator receives the Titanic's distress call. It says "Come at once. We have struck a berg. It's a CQD-OM Position 41.46 N, 50.14 W".  

Cottam immediately notifies Captain Arthur Rostron, commander of the Cunard liner which is headed for the Mediterranean with 743 passgengers. Rostron calculates that the Titanic is 58 miles away and orders the crew to change course and prepare the ship for survivors.  The vessel's normal running speed of 12.5 knots steams to an incredible 17.5

At 12:30 am, 50 minutes after the collision, Captain Smith ordered the lifeboats prepared for boarding.

At 12:47, Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall fired the first white distress rocket. Seven more will be discharged at five to ten minute intervals.  The last rocket is fired is fired at 1:40 am.  This is a desperate attempt to alert the nearly Californian of the Titanic's distress; alas it is all in vain.


12:45 AM - First lifeboat lowered

At 12:45 am, on the starboard side forward, the first lifeboat, Boat #7, is lowered only half-full with 32 passengers.  The Titanic carried 20 lifeboats with a capacity of 1,178.   There were 2,223 people on board.  Automatically 1,000 people were doomed to die.

What were they thinking?  Thirty-two lifeboats had been originally specified, but management decided the doubled-up boats spoiled the sight lines of the luxury ship. Their conceit about the invincibility of the Titanic prevented them from conceiving this kind of a disaster.  They assumed that in case of an accident, the Titanic would float long enough to permit an organized rescue.

Sixteen lifeboats, indicated by number, were in the davits; and four canvas-sided collapsibles, indicated by letter, stowed on the roof of the officers' quarters or on the forward Boat Deck to be launched in empty davits.

With only enough space for a little more than half the passengers and crew, Titanic carried more boats than required by the British Board of Trade. At the time, the number of lifeboats required was determined by a ship's gross tonnage, rather than its human capacity. The regulations concerning lifeboat capacity had last been updated in 1894, when the largest ships afloat measured about 10,000 gross tons, compared to Titanic's 46,328 tons.

Once the passengers realized the Titanic had no chance to stay afloat, there was a great deal of panic.  First and second-class passengers had easy access to the lifeboats with staircases that led right up to the boat deck, but third-class passengers found it much harder. Many found the corridors leading from the lower sections of the ship difficult to navigate and had trouble making their way up to the lifeboats. Some gates separating the third-class section of the ship from the other areas, like the one leading from the aft well deck to the second-class section, are known to have been locked.

While the majority of first and second-class women and children survived the sinking, more third-class women and children were lost than saved. The locked 3rd class gates were the result of miscommunication between the boat deck and F-G decks.

Titanic history tells us that gates did exist which barred the third class passengers from the other passengers. However, these gates weren't in place to stop a third class passenger from taking a first class passenger's seat on a lifeboat. Instead, the gates were in place as a regulatory measure to prevent the "less cleanly" third class passengers from transmitting diseases and infections to the others. This would save time when the ship arrived in New York, as only the third class passengers would need a health inspection.

At the time of the sinking, some stewards kept gates locked waiting for instructions, while others allowed women and children to the upper decks. As a result of poor communication from the upper decks, the dire reality of the situation was never conveyed. The crew failed to search for passengers in the cabins and common areas, and the fact that some third class passengers did not speak English, also presented a problem. As a result, many of the third class passengers were left to fend for themselves. Only 25 percent of the third class passengers survived the disaster.

At 1:30 am, Boat #15, the last lifeboat on the starboard side aft, is lowered.  It is filled mainly with Third Class passengers and eleven crewmen.

Lifeboats were supposed to be lowered with women and children from the boat deck and then subsequently to pick up F-G deck women and children from open gangways. Unfortunately, with no boat drill or training for the seamen, the boats were simply lowered into the water without stopping.

Titanic continued to report its position.  Wireless operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride were busy sending out distress signals. The message was "SOS-MGY, sinking, need immediate assistance."

At 12:50 am, the White Star Celtic reported receiving the signal.

At 1:25 am, the Titanic's sister ship Olympic was in contact.  Several ships responded, including Mount Temple and Frankfurt, but none were close enough to make it in time. The Olympic was over 500 nautical miles away.

The closest ship to respond was Cunard Line's RMS Carpathia.  Unfortunately it was too far away to save the day completely. 

At 58 nautical miles (107 km) away, it would arrive in about four hours, too late to get to Titanic in time to save the many passengers who stayed on the ship or those who died in the frozen waters.


A Tragic Missed Opportunity

Two land–based locations received the distress call from Titanic. One was the wireless station at Cape Race, Newfoundland, and the other was a Marconi telegraph station on top of the Wanamaker's department store in New York City.

Shortly after the distress signal was sent, a radio drama ensued as the signals were transmitted from ship to ship, through Halifax to New York, throughout the country. People began to show up at White Star Line offices in New York almost immediately.

From the bridge, the lights of a ship could be seen off the starboard side approximately 10-15 miles away. Since it was not responding to wireless, nor to the distress rockets being launched every 15 minutes or so, Fourth Officer Boxhall and Quartermaster Rowe attempted signaling the ship with a Morse lamp, but the ship never appeared to respond. 

This was the SS Californian, the ship whose negligence added to the immensity of the tragedy.

The Californian was nearby the Titanic. The ship had dropped anchor for the night because of ice. Its wireless was turned off because the wireless operator had gone to bed for the night. 

The Titanic's wireless set had broken down earlier that day. Jack Phillips and Harold Bride had spent most of the day fixing it. As a result, they were extremely backlogged in their sending of messages. Finally they got it working again.  Now with the set fixed and a strong signal available from the Halifax station, Phillips was getting some work done.

Just before he went to bed at around 11:00 p.m., Californian's radio operator Cyril Evans attempted to warn Titanic that there was a large field of ice ahead. But he was cut off by an exhausted Jack Phillips aboard the Titanic, who sent back, "Shut up, shut up!  I am busy, I am working Cape Race."

Minutes later, two officers on the Californian, 2nd Officer Stone and Apprentice Gibson, noticed a ship approaching at around 11:00 pm.  They noticed her stop and then about an hour later noticed her beginning to send up rockets. They informed Californian Captain Stanley Lord.

The rockets Titanic sent up had the color of distress rockets for White Star Line.  However, due to a lack of uniformity in Naval regulations at that time, Captain Lord was confused. He did not know they were distress rockets. Instead he said "Keep watching it" and then went back to sleep.  Even though there was much discussion about the mysterious ship, which the officers on duty thought to be moving away before disappearing, the crew of Californian did not wake its wireless operator until morning.


2:00 AM - Waterline reaches forward boat deck

The first lifeboat was lowered shortly after 12:45 a.m. on the starboard side.  There were only 28 people on board out of a maximum capacity of 65.

At first, passengers were reluctant to leave the warm, well-lit and ostensibly safe Titanic.  The ship initially showed no outward signs of being in imminent danger which made them reluctant to board small, unlit, open lifeboats. This was one of the reasons most of the boats were launched partially empty: they were pressed for time and it was hoped that many people would eventually jump into the water and swim to the boats later on. 

Obviously the flaw in this thinking is that the boats quickly moved to a safe distance from the Titanic in case of an explosion.

Also important was an uncertainty regarding the boats' structural integrity; it was feared that the boats might break if they were fully loaded before being set in the water. Captain Smith ordered the lifeboats be lowered half empty in the hope the boats would come back to save people in the water, and some boats were given orders to do just that. 

One boat, boat number one, meant to hold 40 people, left Titanic with only 12 people on board. It was rumored that Lord and Lady Duff Gorden bribed 7 crew members to take them and their 3 companions off the ship.

Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star Line, left on Collapsible Boat C.

Ismay was later criticized by both the American and British Inquiries for not going down with the ship.

As the ship's tilt became more apparent, people started to become nervous. Now some of the lifeboats began leaving fully loaded.

"Women and children first" remained the imperative for loading the boats. In reality, despite this slogan, a higher proportion of First-Class men survived than Third-class women and children, many of whom remained trapped below.

Shortly after 2:00 a.m. the waterline reached the bridge and forward boat deck.  All the lifeboats, save for the awkwardly located Collapsibles A and B, had been lowered. Collapsible D, with 44 of its 47 seats filled, was the last lifeboat to be lowered from the davits.

The total number of vacancies in the lifeboats was estimated at close to 475.

2:10 AM - The stern rises out of water

Around 2:10 a.m., the stern rose out of the water, exposing the propellers, and the forward boat deck was flooding.

Water had begun to pour into the ship, drowning many of the people still trapped on the lower decks.

The last two lifeboats floated right off the deck as the ocean reached them: collapsible lifeboat B upside down, and collapsible lifeboat A half-filled with water.

Shortly afterwards the first funnel fell forward, crushing part of the bridge and many of those struggling in the water.

On deck, people scrambled towards the stern or jumped overboard in hopes of reaching a lifeboat.

As the ship's stern continued to slowly rise into the air, everything not secured crashed towards the bow. The electrical system finally failed and the lights, which had until now burned brightly, went out.

Titanic's second funnel broke off and fell into the water, and Titanic herself tore apart.

2:20 AM - The Titanic sinks

Stress on the hull caused Titanic to break apart into two large pieces, between the third and fourth funnels, and the bow section went completely under. The stern section briefly righted itself on the water before rising back up vertically. After a few moments, the stern section also sank into the ocean about two hours and forty minutes after the collision with the iceberg.

White Star attempted to persuade surviving crewmen not to state that the hull broke in half. The company believed that this information would cast doubts upon the integrity of their vessels.

In fact, the stresses inflicted on the hull when it was almost vertical (bow down and stern in the air) were well beyond the design limits of the structure and no legitimate engineer could have fairly criticized the work of the shipbuilders in that regard.

As the ship sank into the depths, the two sections ended their final plunges very differently. The streamlined bow planed off approximately 2,000 feet (600 m) below the surface and slowed somewhat, landing relatively gently. The stern fell fairly straight down towards the ocean floor, possibly rotating as it sank, with the air trapped inside causing implosions.

It was already half-crushed when it hit bottom at high speed; the shock caused everything still loose to fall off. The bow section however, having been opened up by the iceberg and having sunk slowly, had little air left in it as it sank and therefore remained relatively intact during its descent.

4:10 AM - Carpathia picks up first lifeboat
Unfortunately, it is too late to help most of the victims.

Two hours after Titanic sank, RMS Carpathia, commanded by Captain Arthur Henry Rostron, arrived on scene. It picked up the first lifeboat at 4:10 AM.

Even though the Californian was much closer, their wireless operator had gone to bed for the night. As a result the crew was largely (but not totally) ignorant of the tragedy unfolding just six miles away.

Over the next hours, the remainder of the survivors were rescued.  Among the survivors were several dogs brought aboard in the hands of the first class passengers.  They were found in the lifeboat sitting in the laps of their owners.

On board Carpathia, a short prayer service for the rescued and a memorial for the people who lost their lives was held, and at 8:50 a.m. Carpathia left for New York, arriving on April 18.

Once the loss of life was verified, White Star Line chartered the ship MacKay-Bennett to retrieve bodies.  The Mackay-Bennett sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia at 12:28 p.m. on Wednesday, 17 April 1912. 

Upon reaching the wreck site, it quickly became apparent that there were far more bodies floating in the ocean than anyone had ever expected.  It did not take long for White Star Line officials to conclude that a second vessel would be required and arrangements were made to charter the cable steamer Minia to assist the Mackay-Bennett.

A total of 328 bodies were eventually recovered. Many of the bodies were taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia where the majority of the unclaimed were buried in Fairview Cemetery.


Death Toll

Only 12 survivors were recovered from the water by the Carpathia.

The majority of deaths were caused by victims succumbing to hypothermia in the 28 °F (-2 °C) water.

The selfishness of the survivors didn’t help.  Only one lifeboat in 20 came back to the scene of the sinking to attempt to rescue survivors.  Lifeboat 4 was close by and picked up eight crewmen, two of whom later died.

There were some arguments in some of the other lifeboats about going back, but many survivors were afraid of being swamped by people trying to climb into the lifeboat or being pulled down by the anticipated suction from the sinking ship, though this turned out not to be severe.

Another boat helped as well.  Close to an hour later, after tying 3 or 4 lifeboats together on the open sea (a difficult task), Lifeboat 14 went back looking for survivors and rescued four people. Sadly, one of the 14 died afterwards from exposure to the cold water.

Of a total of 2,223 people, only 706 survived; 1,517 perished. 

If the lifeboats had been filled to capacity, 1,178 people could have been saved.

Of the First Class, 199 were saved (60%) and 130 died.
Of the Second Class, 119 (44%) were saved and 166 were lost.

Of the Third Class, 174 were saved (25%) and 536 perished.
Of the crew, 214 were saved (24%) and 685 perished.
1,347 men (80%) died, and 103 women (26%) died.
53 children (about 50%) also died.

Of particular note, the entire complement of the Engineering Department remained at their posts to keep the ship's electrical systems running.  They all drowned.

Lifeboat Collapsible B was the last boat to be launched during the sinking of the TitanicThe boat is famous for carrying, among others, Charles Lightoller, second officer and the most senior crewmember to survive the sinking; wireless operators Harold Bride and Jack Phillips (who would later die on board the collapsible), and Sid Daniels, the last surviving crewmember of the RMS Titanic.

Approximately 30 men were ready to make a last-ditch effort to escape.  However, just moments before they were ready to launch, the Titanic's bow went down into the sea and created a large wave.  The wave washed the boat away from deck and into the sea while several of the men clung desperately to it.  Once the boat stabilized in the water, several men climbed on top of the upside-down vessel.

Collapsable B stayed upended all night.  It began with 30 people, but by the time the Carpathia arrived the next morning, only 13-14 remained.

The men aboard spent several hours in the freezing waters of the Atlantic Ocean and remained motionless waiting for rescue. Because of their position laying on top of the turtled lifeboat, any movement at all would have swamped the collapsible.

As they waited for someone to pick them up from the ocean, Lightoller organized a group prayer and they decided to say the Lord's Prayer. They recited the prayer and remained in silence for several hours.

Their rescue proved to be one of the few bright spots of the tragic night.



Arrival of Carpathia in New York

The Carpathia docked at Pier 54 at Little West 12th Street in New York with the survivors. It arrived at night and was greeted by thousands of people. The Titanic had been headed for Pier 59 at 20th Street. The Carpathia dropped off the Titanic lifeboats at Pier 59 before unloading the survivors at Pier 54.

As news of the disaster spread, many people were shocked that Titanic could sink with such great loss of life despite all of her technological advances. Newspapers were filled with stories and descriptions of the disaster and were eager to get the latest information. Many charities were set up to help the victims and their families, many of whom lost their sole breadwinner, or, in the case of third-class survivors, lost everything they owned.

The town of Southampton, England, was hard hit.  This town was home to many of the crew members. According to the Hampshire Chronicle on April 20, 1912, almost 1,000 local families were directly affected. Almost every street in the Chapel district of the town lost more than one resident and over 500 households lost a member.


Before the survivors even arrived in New York, investigations were being planned to discover what had happened to Titanic, and what could be done to prevent a recurrence. The United States Senate initiated an inquiry into the Titanic disaster on April 19, a day after Carpathia arrived in New York.

Carpathia docked at Pier 54 in New York following the rescue. 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 the British citizens while they were still on American soil. The American inquiry lasted until May 25.

Lord Mersey was appointed to head the British Board of Trade's inquiry into the disaster. The British inquiry took place between May 2 and July 3. Each inquiry took testimony from both passengers and crew of Titanic, crewmembers of Leyland Line's The Californian, Captain Arthur Rostron of the Carpathia and other experts.

The investigations found that many safety rules were simply out of date and new laws were recommended. Numerous safety improvements for ocean-going vessels were implemented, including improved hull and bulkhead design, access throughout the ship for egress of passengers, lifeboat requirements, life-vest design, safety drills, better passenger notification, radio communications laws, etc. The investigators also learned that the Titanic had sufficient lifeboat space for all First-Class passengers, but not for the lower classes. In fact, most Third-Class, or Steerage, passengers had no idea where the lifeboats were, much less any way of getting up to the higher decks where the lifeboats were kept. (According to the report published by Lloyd's, a higher proportion of First-Class men survived than of Third-Class women or children.

Titanic's rudder and turning ability

Although Titanic's rudder was not legally too small for a ship its size, the rudder's design was hardly state-of-the-art. According to researchers with the Titanic Historical Society: "Titanic's long, thin rudder was a copy of a 19th-century steel sailing ship. Compared with the rudder design of the Cunard's Mauretania or Lusitania, Titanic's was a fraction of the size. Apparently no account was made for advances in scale, and little thought given to how a ship 882½ feet (269 m) in length might turn in an emergency, or avoid a collision with an iceberg. This was Titanic's Achilles' heel. 

Perhaps more fatal to the Titanic was her triple-screw engine configuration, which had reciprocating steam engines driving its wing propellers, and a steam turbine driving its center propeller. The reciprocating engines were reversible, while the turbine was not. When First Officer Murdoch gave the order to reverse engines to avoid the iceberg, he inadvertently handicapped the turning ability of the ship. Since the centre turbine could not reverse during the "full speed astern" maneuver, it simply stopped turning. Furthermore, the centre propeller was positioned forward of the ship's rudder, diminishing the turning effectiveness of the rudder.

Had Murdoch reversed the port engine, and reduced speed while maintaining the forward motion of the other two propellers (as recommended in the training procedures for this type of ship), experts theorize that the Titanic may have been able to navigate around the berg without a collision. However, given the closing distance between the ship and the berg at the time the bridge was notified, this may not have been possible.

Additionally, Titanic experts have hypothesized that if Titanic had not altered its course at all and had run head on into the iceberg, the damage would only have affected the first or, at most, the first two compartments. However, other experts have argued that this might also have doomed the ship, since a direct head-on collision with an iceberg would have stopped the ship as abruptly and as violently, possibly compromising its structural integrity and possibly causing the large, heavy boilers to dislodge and possibly crush through the ship's bottom hull.

Titanic's Band - "And the Band Played On"

One of the most famous stories of Titanic is of the band.  The entirety of the Ship's band was lost thanks in large part to their heroic effort to calm the passengers. Led by bandleader Wallace Hartley, they played music on the boat deck of the Titanic throughout the night right up to the bitter end. It is rumored that they played the hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee" as their finale.

Titanic's eight-member band, led by Wallace Hartley, had assembled in the first-class lounge in an effort to keep passengers calm and upbeat. Later they would move on to the forward half of the boat deck. The band continued playing music even when it became apparent the ship was going to sink.
There has been much speculation about what their last song was.  

Since none of the band members survived the sinking, this is mostly guesswork. Some witnesses said the final song played was the hymn "Nearer, my God, to Thee." However, there are three versions of this song in existence and no one really knows which version, if any, was played.

Hartley reportedly said to a friend if he was on a sinking ship "Nearer, My God, to Thee" would be one of the songs he would play.

Walter Lord's book A Night to Remember popularized wireless operator Harold Bride’s account that he heard the song "Autumn" before the ship sank.

It is considered Bride either meant the hymn called "Autumn" or "Songe d'Automne," a popular ragtime song of the time. Others claimed they heard "Roll out the Barrel."

The sad plight of Hartley and the entire band is one of the most enduring images of the Titanic story. Their grace and extreme nobility is recognized by everyone as a magnificent display of character.

Hartley's story is particularly poignant because he was engaged to be married at the end of the trip.  Certainly her face had to be in his imagination as he played on during the tragedy.

Whilst serving on the Mauretania, the employment of Cunard musicians was transferred to the music agency C.W. & F.N. Black, which supplied musicians for Cunard and the White Star Line. This transfer changed Hartley's onboard status, as he was no longer counted as a member of the crew, but rather as a passenger, albeit one accommodated in second-class accommodation at the agency's expense. It later transpired that neither the shipping company nor the music agency had insured the musicians, with each claiming it was the other's responsibility.

In April 1912, Hartley was assigned to be the bandmaster for the White Star Line ship RMS Titanic.  He was at first hesitant to again leave his fiancée, Maria Robinson, to whom he had recently proposed, but Hartley decided that working on the maiden voyage of the Titanic would give him possible contacts for future work.

Hartley's body was one of those recovered and identified. Considered a hero, his funeral in England was attended by thousands.

One of the musician's family got billed after the disaster for the clothes he wore that horrible day. The total cost came to 14 shillings, 7 pence. That's $3.50 in American money, approximately $58.75 today.  This was the final insult.  After the bravery displayed by the band, the company's disrespect was difficult to fathom. 


No single aspect regarding the huge loss of life from the Titanic disaster has provoked more outrage than the fact that the ship did not carry enough lifeboats for all her passengers and crew. This is partially due to the fact that an outdated trade law required a minimum of 16 lifeboats for ships of the Titanic's size—meaning that the ship was legally required to carry only enough lifeboats for less than half of its capacity. Actually, White Star Line exceeded the regulations by including four more collapsible lifeboats—making room for slightly more than half the capacity.

It was anticipated during the design of the ship that the British Board of Trade might require an increase in the number of lifeboats at some future date. Therefore lifeboat davits capable of handling up to four boats per pair of davits were designed and installed, to give a total potential capacity of 64 boats. The additional boats were never fitted. It is often alleged that J. Bruce Ismay, the President of White Star, personally stopped the installation of these additional boats to maximize passenger promenade area on the boat deck.

Of course all readers continue to stare at the shortage of lifeboats with incredulity.  The only way to make any sense is to understand the thinking of that age.  The Titanic was assumed to be so superior in its design that not only was it considered "unsinkable", if something truly catastrophic did happen, it wasn't supposed to sink as fast as it did.

At the time, the belief in the shipbuilding industry was that lifeboats would simply be used to ferry passengers to another ship and disembark them, then return to a stricken liner for more passengers.

The lack of lifeboats was not the only cause of the tragic loss of lives. After the collision with the iceberg, one hour was spent to evaluate the damages, recognize what was going to happen, inform first class passengers, and lower the first lifeboat. Afterward, the crew worked quite efficiently, taking a total of 80 minutes to lower all 16 lifeboats. Since the crew was divided in two teams, one on each side of the ship, an average of 10 minutes of work was necessary for a team to fill a lifeboat with passengers and lower it. Only 10 minutes after the last lifeboat was lowered, the stern rose out of water, suggesting that it would not have been possible to lower any more lifeboats, if any were remaining.

Yet another factor in the high death toll that related to the lifeboats was the reluctance of the passengers to board the lifeboats. They were, after all, on a ship deemed to be unsinkable. Because of this, some lifeboats were launched with far less than capacity, the most notable being Lifeboat 1, with a capacity of 40, launched with only twelve people aboard, with only two women and no children.

The Senseless Loss of Life

Amidst the hype surrounding the launch of this new super ship, the phrase rang out:

"The Titanic is unsinkable!  Even God Himself couldn't sink this ship!!"

Titanic was the largest passenger steamship ever built at the time.  Thanks to improvements in engineering design, the ship was said to be unsinkable.  Sadly the iceberg proved that assumption incorrect.  The shock of hearing the invincible Titanic had sunk was profound.  People could not comprehend the enormity of impossible outcome.

The enormity of the surprise was so that the Titanic became a symbol of failure when failure is impossible. 

The disaster became part of our language, today one hundred years later, every time something goes wrong, we refer to it as a "Titanic Disaster".  When a sports team loses a game when it is heavily favored, we call it a "Titanic Upset". 

The sinking of the Titanic was a double tragedy.  As if the loss of the ship wasn't enough, there was a second tragedy waiting to happen.

When it became apparent the Titanic was in serious trouble, the passengers rushed to the lifeboats.  At the time, they had no idea there weren't enough lifeboats on board.  Nor were any of the officers revealing the truth.  They didn't want a riot on their hands.

At a point when about half the lifeboats were lowered, the passengers began to count the remaining lifeboats. They began to wonder how they were going to fit all those passengers into what was left. 

They stared at the remaining lifeboats in disbelief and growing horror.  It slowly began to dawn on them that there weren't enough lifeboats to save everyone. Something was wrong here.  Very wrong.

The Titanic carried only 20 lifeboats.  These lifeboats had a total capacity of 1,178 persons.  There were 2,223 people on boardThis meant 1,045 people were automatically doomed to die

As this grim reality took hold, it created a serious unfolding drama.  Some passengers accepted their fate with grace and nobility.  Other passengers did whatever they could to get on the lifeboats.  Several men resorted to covering their heads with women's shawls. 

Adding to the tragedy, the death toll turned out to be much worse than it should have been.  1,045 people were doomed to die, but due to the ridiculous decision to release several boats only half-full, 1,517 people would perish.

Due to incompetence on the part of the ship's staff in dealing with the lifeboat situation, 472 more lives were lost than necessary. 

This needless sacrifice of life absolutely shocked the world.  It was one thing to be told this ship couldn't sink under any circumstances, but to discover there weren't enough lifeboats as well created a world-wide outrage.

The utter senselessness of the shortage has continued to mystify people ever since.  Over the years, people have asked countless times, "Why weren't there enough lifeboats?"

There were two reasons for the shortage.  First of all, the Titanic wasn't supposed to sink.  It was invulnerable so why bother carrying extra lifeboats?  Thanks to a short-sighted decision on the part of J. Bruce Ismay, president of the White Star line, the extra lifeboats proposed by Thomas Andrews, the designer, were scrimped to make more room for luxury cabins and beautiful sightlines of the ocean.

No one stood up to Ismay.  They shrugged their shoulders and figured it didn't make much difference anyway.  People were so certain of the Titanic's majestic strength, no one seemed to question the appalling lack of lifeboats.  Like some high-wire acts, the Titanic was allowed to make its maiden voyage lacking an appropriate safety net.

Oddly enough, this situation was "legal" at the time.  British shipping officials permitted this situation even though deep down they knew quite well there was no such thing as an unsinkable ship. 

Shipping Industry insiders understood that the hype wasn't true.  Yes, under certain circumstances, the Titanic could sink.  For example, if it was hit by a torpedo in just the right place, the ship could sink. 

So the ship was designed to deal with this threat.  By creating 16 separate compartments, theoretically they could seal off the area damaged by a torpedo and still stay afloat.  Or in a worst case scenario, the ship would take its sweet time sinking.  It would be days before the Titanic finally went under.

In this case, there would be plenty of time for another ship to come to the Titanic's rescue.  20 lifeboats would be more than sufficient to ferry the passengers back and forth to the rescue ship.

Now you understand the thinking behind the limited number of lifeboats.  In the unlikely event of an accident, the Titanic was supposed to sink slowly... "Even God himself couldn't sink this ship, but if He did, he couldn't do it fast!"

The tragic collision with the iceberg made it clear that this line of thinking was absurd.  After the sinking, no ship was ever again allowed to set sail unless there were enough lifeboats for everyone on the ship. 

However, it wasn't just the immensity of the lifeboat situation or the strange one-in-a-million nature of the accident that took down the ship.  There were all sorts of curious circumstances surrounding the tragedy that left people hungry for more details.  For example, why couldn't the Titanic have simply sailed around the iceberg?  When they learned the ship was going too fast, people felt puzzled.  When they further learned they were going fast at night without any kind of light thanks to a new moon, they were even more perplexed.

When it finally revealed the Titanic had received over 20 different warnings of ice from different ships about a gigantic ice field and monster icebergs, people were incredulous.  Weren't the officers of the Titanic professionals?  If so, why didn't they have the sense to slow down?  As these details and other curious facts emerged, the mystery deepened.  Nothing made any sense at all.

As it stands, the individual stories are so poignant and the cosmic themes surrounding the disaster are so profound that even after 100 years people still find their imaginations riveted.  No one can read the story of the Titanic without a sense of incredulity. 

It wasn't supposed to happen... but it did.

Like the Biblical fall of Goliath and the Mythological fall of Achilles, the Titanic instantly became an enduring symbol for the value of caution and common sense.  The Titanic became a grim reminder to all of humanity to never take anything for granted again.  


The Curious Story of Captain Lord

There is a very sad story from this night that is not well-known.  Almost everyone on the Titanic could have been saved were it not for the appalling negligence of a certain Captain Lord.  He was the captain of a ship anchored just six miles away that did nothing to help the wounded ship despite an entire series of warning signals sent by the Titanic.

Inquiries into the disaster found that the Californian and its captain, Stanley Lord, failed to give proper assistance to Titanic.

Testimony before the inquiry revealed that at 10:10 pm, members of the Californian observed lights of a ship to the south.  It was later agreed between Captain Lord and the third officer (who had relieved Lord of duty at 10:10) that this was a passenger liner.

There was a tragic sequence that night.  At 11 pm the Californian's wireless operator warned the Titanic by radio of nearby pack ice, explaining this was the reason the Californian had stopped for the night.  

However the Titanic's wireless operator, Jack Phillips, was distracted.  He brushed off the warning due to a backlog of wires he was trying to send out.  Moments later, the Californian's wireless operator went to bed.  He had no backup, so the Californian could no longer be reached in case of distress.  40 minutes later, the Titanic struck the iceberg.

At 11:50 pm, the officer had watched this ship's lights flash out, as if the ship had shut down or turned sharply, and that the port light was now observed.  Upon Lord's order, 5 Morse signals were sent to the Titanic between 11:30pm and 1:00am. None of them were acknowledged. (In testimony, it was stated that Californian's Morse lamp had a range of about four miles.)  Unfortunately it was later determined that the Titanic was six miles away, so the Morse signals did no good.

Captain Lord retired at 11:30 pm.  At 1:15 am, the second officer, now on duty, notified Lord that the mystery ship had fired a rocket, followed by four more.  Lord wanted to know if they were "company signals," that is, colored flares used for identification. The second officer said that he "didn't know," adding 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 1:50 and the second officer noted that the ship looked strange in the water, as if she were listing. At 2:15 am, Lord was notified that the ship could no longer be seen. Lord asked again if the lights had had any colors in them, and he was informed that they were all white.

It was not till three hours later that the Californian finally responded.  At 5:30 am, the first officer awakened the radio operator, informed him that rockets had been seen during the night, and asked that he try to communicate with any ships. The Frankfurt notified the operator of Titanic's loss, Captain Lord was notified, and the ship set out for assistance.

The inquiries found that Californian was much closer to Titanic than the 19½ miles (36 km) that Captain Lord had believedIn fact, the Californian was likely to have been no further than six miles away.

It was the conclusion of the board that Lord was at fault.  At a minimum,
Lord should have awakened the wireless operator the moment the presence of the rockets were first reported to him and tried to make contact

Captain Lord could have acted sensibly to prevent a loss of life, but he did not.  He lost his job and spent the rest of his life trying to clear his name, an effort that proved to be futile.  He went down in history as the major scapegoat of the night.

Rick Archer's Note: There is one other fact about Captain Stanley Lord that should be taken into consideration. 

On the night of 14 April 1912, as the Californian approached a large ice field, Captain Lord decided to stop around 10:21 PM and survey the situation. This ice field, as it turned out, contained the particular iceberg that would sink the Titanic.  Captain Lord decided it was far too dangerous to sail through such a dangerous pack of ice in total darkness.  So he ordered the Californian to drop anchor and wait till morning before trying again in the daylight.

As mentioned above, before turning in for the night, he ordered his sole wireless operator, Cyril Evans, to warn other ships in the area about the ice. When reaching the Titanic, Evans tapped out "I say old man, we are stopped and surrounded by ice."

The Californian was so close to the Titanic that the message was very loud in the ears of Titanic First Wireless Operator Jack Phillips, who angrily replied "Shut up! Shut up! I am busy. I am working Cape Race."

Earlier in the day the wireless equipment aboard the Titanic had broken down and Phillips, along with Second Wireless Operator Harold Bride, had spent the better part of the day trying to repair it.

Now the Titanic wireless operators were swamped with outgoing messages that had piled up during the day. Phillips was exhausted after such a long day. Evans listened in for a while longer as Phillips sent routine traffic through the Cape Race relaying station before finally turning in for bed after a very long day at around 11:30 PM.

Given the fact that Captain Lord had made such a prudent decision to stop for the night while Captain Smith of Titanic plunged through the identical ice field and the fact that Captain Lord made a diligent effort to warn every other ship in the area of the extreme, it seems a shame that the public decided to make him the scapegoat for the tragedy. 

It is a shame that Lord wasn't more curious about those flares, but it seems to me that the man was treated far more harshly than he deserved.  Life can be very unfair sometimes.


J Bruce Ismay

Joseph Bruce Ismay was an English businessman who served as chairman and managing director of the White Star Line of steamships. He came to international attention as the highest-ranking White Star official among the 706 survivors.

Ismay may have survived the disaster, but his reputation didn't.

After being picked up by the Carpathia, Ismay was led to the cabin belonging to the ship's doctor.  He stayed there for the entire journey back to New York. He ate nothing solid, received only a single visitor, and was kept under the influence of opiates.[

After the disaster, Ismay was savaged by both the American and the British press for deserting the ship while women and children were still on board. Some papers called him the "Coward Of The Titanic" or "J. Brute Ismay".  It was suggested that the White Star flag be changed to a yellow liver.

Some ran negative cartoons depicting him deserting the ship. The writer Ben Hecht, then a young newspaperman in Chicago, wrote a scathing poem contrasting the actions of Capt. Smith and Ismay.

 The final verse reads: "To hold your place in the ghastly face of death on the sea at night is a seaman's job, but to flee with the mob, is an owner's noble right."

Some maintain Ismay followed the "women and children first" principle, having assisted many women and children himself. He and first-class passenger William Carter said they boarded Collapsible C after there were no more women and children near that particular lifeboat.

Carter's own behavior and reliability, however, were criticized by Mrs. Carter, who sued him for divorce in 1914; she testified Carter had left her and their children to fend for themselves after the crash and accused him of "cruel and barbarous treatment and indignities to the person."

London society ostracized Ismay and labeled him one of the biggest cowards in history. Strong negative press came particularly from newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst, who some claimed fostered a personal vendetta.

Ismay's reputation was irreparably damaged.  Unwilling to face further public scorn, he maintained a low public profile after the disaster.

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