Sinking of the RMS Titanic

Sinking of the RMS Titanic
Painting of a ship sinking by the bow, with people rowing a lifeboat in the foreground and other people in the water. Icebergs are visible in the background
Untergang der Titanic ("Sinking of the Titanic")
by Willy Stöwer, 1912
Date14–15 April 1912; 106 years ago (1912-04-15)
Time23:40 – 02:20[a]
LocationNorth Atlantic Ocean
CauseCollision with an iceberg on 14 April 1912
Participants
Outcome

RMS Titanic sank in the early morning of 15 April 1912 in the North Atlantic Ocean, four days into the ship's maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. The largest passenger liner in service at the time, Titanic had an estimated 2,224 people on board when she struck an iceberg at around 23:40 (ship's time)[a] on Sunday, 14 April 1912. Her sinking two hours and forty minutes later at 02:20 (05:18 GMT) on Monday, 15 April, resulted in the deaths of more than 1,500 people, which made it one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.

Titanic received six warnings of sea ice on 14 April but was travelling near her maximum speed when her lookouts sighted the iceberg. Unable to turn quickly enough, the ship suffered a glancing blow that buckled her starboard side and opened five of her sixteen compartments to the sea. Titanic had been designed to stay afloat with four of her forward compartments flooded but no more, and the crew soon realised that the ship would sink. They used distress flares and radio (wireless) messages to attract help as the passengers were put into lifeboats. In accordance with existing practice, Titanic's lifeboat system was designed to ferry passengers to nearby rescue vessels, not to hold everyone on board simultaneously; therefore, with the ship sinking rapidly and help still hours away, there was no safe refuge for many of the passengers and crew. Compounding this, poor management of the evacuation meant many boats were launched before they were completely full.

As a result, when Titanic sank, over a thousand passengers and crew were still on board. Almost all those who jumped or fell into the water either drowned or died within minutes due to the effects of cold water immersion. RMS Carpathia arrived on the scene about an hour and a half after the sinking and rescued the last of the survivors by 09:15 on 15 April, some nine and a half hours after the collision. The disaster shocked the world and caused widespread outrage over the lack of lifeboats, lax regulations, and the unequal treatment of the three passenger classes during the evacuation. Subsequent inquiries recommended sweeping changes to maritime regulations, leading to the establishment in 1914 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), which still governs maritime safety today.

Background

Titanic on her sea trials, 2 April 1912

At the time of her entry into service on 2 April 1912, Royal Mail Ship (RMS) Titanic was the second of three[b] Olympic-class ocean liner sister ships, and was the largest ship in the world. She and her sister, RMS Olympic, were almost one and half times the gross register tonnage of Cunard's RMS Lusitania and RMS Mauretania, the previous record holders, and were nearly 100 feet (30 m) longer.[2] Titanic could carry 3,547 people in speed and comfort,[3] and was built on a hitherto unprecedented scale. Her reciprocating engines were the largest that had ever been built, standing 40 feet (12 m) high and with cylinders 9 feet (2.7 m) in diameter requiring the burning of 600 long tons (610 t) of coal per day.[3]

Her passenger accommodation, especially the First Class section, was said to be "of unrivalled extent and magnificence",[4] indicated by the fares that First Class accommodation commanded. The Parlour Suites (the most expensive and most luxurious suites on the ship) with private promenade cost over US$4,350 (equivalent to $110,310 in 2017) for a one-way transatlantic passage. Even Third Class, though considerably less luxurious than Second and First Classes, was unusually comfortable by contemporary standards and was supplied with plentiful quantities of good food, providing its passengers with better conditions than many of them had experienced at home.[4]

Titanic's maiden voyage began shortly after noon on 10 April 1912 when she left Southampton on the first leg of her journey to New York.[5] A few hours later she called at Cherbourg in northern France, a journey of 80 nautical miles (148 km; 92 mi), where she took on passengers.[6] Her next port of call was Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland, which she reached around midday on 11 April.[7] She left in the afternoon after taking on more passengers and stores.[8]

By the time she departed westwards across the Atlantic she was carrying 892 crew members and 1,320 passengers. This was only about half of her full passenger capacity of 2,435,[9] as it was the low season and shipping from the UK had been disrupted by a coal miners' strike.[10] Her passengers were a cross-section of Edwardian society, from millionaires such as John Jacob Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim,[11] to poor emigrants from countries as disparate as Armenia, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Syria and Russia seeking a new life in America.[12]

Route of Titanic's maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City, the point where she sank marked in yellow

The ship was commanded by 62-year-old Captain Edward John Smith, the most senior of the White Star Line's captains. He had four decades of seafaring experience and had served as captain of RMS Olympic, from which he was transferred to command Titanic.[13] The vast majority of the crew who served under him were not trained sailors, but were either engineers, firemen, or stokers, responsible for looking after the engines; or stewards and galley staff, responsible for the passengers. The six watch officers and 39 able seamen constituted only around five percent of the crew,[9] and most of these had been taken on at Southampton so had not had time to familiarise themselves with the ship.[14]

The ice conditions were attributed to a mild winter that caused large numbers of icebergs to shift off the west coast of Greenland.[15]

A fire had begun in one of Titanic's coal bunkers approximately 10 days prior to the ship's departure, and continued to burn for several days into the voyage, but it was over on 14 April.[16][17] The weather improved significantly during the course of the day, from brisk winds and moderate seas in the morning to a crystal-clear calm by evening, as the ship's path took it beneath an arctic high pressure system.[18]

The waning crescent moon had set a few seconds after 15:00 on 14 April and would not rise again until 04:37 (ship's time) on 15 April, shortly after the arrival of the Carpathia.

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