|Owner||White Star Line|
|Home port||Liverpool, England|
|Shipyard||Harland & Wolff, Belfast|
April 14, 1912
|Draft||34 ft. 7 in.|
|Speed|| cruising:21 knots |
|Passengers|| 1,317 (maiden voyage)|
R.M.S. Titanic was a luxury passenger liner which sank after striking an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912, while on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City, resulting in the deaths of 1,517 passengers and crew. Men allowed women and children to go first in filling the lifeboats, and the men in second class sacrificed their lives in greater percentage of all. This disaster has been the subject of films, plays, literature, and scientific scrutiny.
Titanic was built to sail the highly-competitive North Atlantic route by White Star Line. Its chief competitor was Cunard, whose vessels recently garnered attention for their speed and luxury. Designed and built by the Belfast firm Harland and Wolff, Titanic was at the time of her launch and outfitting the largest ship afloat: its gross tonnage was 46,329 tons, and displaced 66,000 tons fully-laden; it was 882.5 feet long and 92.5 feet across the beam. For safety it was built with a double-bottom hull, which was further divided into sixteen watertight compartments, which would not affect the ship's stability if four were flooded.
British merchant vessels normally fly the Red Ensign. However, as the captain and at least 12 crew were members of the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR), a special warrant was issued to fly the Blue Ensign.
Titanic left Southampton on April 10, 1912, picking up additional passengers at Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland, before heading out into the Atlantic. At 11:40 pm on April 14, the ship was about 400 miles south of Newfoundland when it collided with an iceberg, rupturing six watertight compartments on the starboard side, resulting in flooding of the bow, and eventually flooding each watertight compartment aft until the ship broke apart at the surface and sank at 2:20 am on April 15. The 706 survivors were rescued by the Cunard liner Carpathia, which was more than 50 miles away when it first heard the distress calls; she arrived some eighty minutes after the Titanic went down.
Several of the wealthiest and most prominent persons in the world were passengers on the Titanic for its prestigious maiden voyage. To their credit, they voluntarily went down with the ship and died rather than take a spot on a lifeboat from others.
A full passenger list is available that highlights who survived and who did not.
Prominent Americans who went down with the ship included Mr. Benjamin Guggenheim, of the family that donated the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Major Archibald Butt, a military aide to President Taft, and Colonel J. J. Astor, whose great grandfather was the wealthiest American prior to the Civil War. Colonel J. J. Astor was an inventor and science fiction writer who helped build three great hotels in New York City: the Astoria (now the Waldorf-Astoria), the Knickerbocker, and the St. Regis.
Inquiries conducted in both Great Britain and the United States determined a number of factors which contributed to the loss of the ship and passengers.
The watertight compartments were designed without capping at the top; water filling the six ruptured compartments pulled the bow of the ship down far enough that water spilled over the top of the next compartment in line. Titanic also had 16 standard lifeboats and 4 collapsibles, with enough combined space to carry 1,178 passengers, far short of the 2,224 persons aboard; many of the lifeboats were lowered down the side only partialy filled with passengers (many of those remaining on board initially believed the ship to be "unsinkable"). Although the number of lifeboats was determined to be inadequate, the Titanic had in actuality exceeded the British Board of Trade's lifeboat regulations, which had been written down for much smaller ships.
Both inquiries also determined that part of the blame for the high loss of passengers rested with Captain Stanley Lord of the liner Californian, which was stopped for the night by an ice field some twenty miles from Titanic. The board members alleged that Californian could have aided Titanic had its radio operator been on duty after 11:00 pm, and able to hear its distress signals. Indeed, it was determined that officers on the bridge of the Californian had seen distress lights from what they considered to be a "large passenger steamer", keeping under observation until the lights vanished after 2:00 am, but doing nothing further than that.
Of the passengers who went into the water, only six were pulled out alive, and only by efforts of surviving officers in several boats going through a sea of bodies. Hypothermia killed the remainder, as the water was about 29 degrees Fahrenheit. Many of those who perished came from wealthy, prominent families in Europe and America, among them the heirs to the Straus fortune and the owners of Macy's department store in New York City. The disaster also had its heroes, such as the ship's band assembled on the stern in order to keep remaining passengers calm; and the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown, who forcibly took the tiller away from a rowboat crewman and forced everyone in her lifeboat to go back for people in the water. 
As a result of the loss of Titanic, in 1913 the first International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea was opened in London, England. Among the rules drawn up were requirements that each voyage hold lifeboat drills; that every ship have lifeboat space for each person onboard; and ships maintain a 24-hour radio watch. The International Ice Patrol was also created to keep watch on North Atlantic sea lanes and give ships adequate warnings of icebergs found. The United States Congress also passed the Wireless Ship Act in 1912; it stipulated that all vessels carrying more than 50 people and traveling more than two hundred miles off the coast carry a wireless capable of at least a 100-mile range.
The wreck was found on September 1, 1985 at 41°46′ N 50°14′ W, under 13,000 feet of water, by an American/French team led by Dr. Robert Ballard of Woods Hole Institute and Jean-Louis Michel of Ifremer. Remote submersibles photographed the wreckage, which was in two pieces lying upright, confirming some witness accounts of the ship breaking in two at the surface. Further explorations by Ballard and Ifremer could not find evidence of a long gash caused by the iceberg and cited on the original reports; instead it was postulated that a series of rivet popping combined with separation of seams and brittle fracturing in the hull plating allowed the water to rush in.
In Popular Culture
Books and novels have been written about the Titanic ever since its infamous sinking. The most well-known of these novels is A Night to Remember. In 1997, director James Cameron produced the highest-grossing film in history, Titanic. However, this film is inaccurate in several areas. For one thing, it depicted the men on board as cowardly. In real life, most of them willingly stood aside while the women and children got into the lifeboats.[Citation Needed] In the film, they had to be held back at gunpoint, and two were killed. It also showed an officer shooting himself in the head to avoid freezing to death. It also depicts Captain Edward Smith dying in the wheel room. This also is inaccurate, because several survivor accounts actually mention him swimming in the water, encouraging those clinging to a nearby capsized lifeboat before drowning.
Olympic and Titanic were virtually identical. For Britannic many changes to the design were made, because of the sinking of Titanic.
- Ballard, Robert D. The Discovery of the Titanic Warner Books, New York, (1995)
- Butler, Daniel Allen. Unsinkable: The Full Story of RMS Titanic, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA (1998).
- Collins, L. M. The Sinking of the Titanic: The Mystery Solved Souvenir Press, London (2003)
- Gardener, R & van der Vat, D The Riddle of the Titanic Orion, London (1995)
- Kentley, Eric. Discover the Titanic, DK Inc, New York (1997)
- Lord, Walter. A Night to Remember, Bantam, New York (1997).
- Lynch, Donald and Marschall, Ken. Titanic: An Illustrated History, Hyperion, New York (1995)
- Marcus, Geoffrey. The Maiden Voyage, Buccaneer Books, New York (1991)
- Pellegrino, Charles R. Her Name, Titanic Avon, New York (1990)
- Wade, Wyn Craig. The Titanic: End of a Dream. Penguin Books, New York (1986)
- Wels, Susan. Titanic: Legacy of the World's Greatest Ocean Liner, Time-Life, New York (1997)
- United States inquiry
- Great Britain inquiry
- Titanic Historical Society
- Titanic essays and links
- Titanic Archive
- RMS Titanic, Inc The official Titanic archive.
- Titanic Home at Atlantic Liners.
- Titanic News Headlines
- Encyclopedia Titanica