The History of the Titanic

The Titanic Background

The Year was 1912 and the impossible happened--the unsinkable ship, the RMS Titanic, hit an iceberg. It’s one of the greatest tragedies (and biggest blockbusters) of the 20th century: The world’s greatest ship sank on its maiden voyage. More than 1,500 lives were lost. Here’s the story of the Titanic.

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The name Titanic comes from Greek mythology – fitting for a ship that is now mythical itself.

Building the Titanic

Work began on the RMS Titanic in 1909, the ship was a luxury cruise liner and Royal Mail Steamer owned by JP Morgan and the White Star Line. It was designed to carry passengers, cargo, and mail between Europe and North America. The Titanic was constructed in the shipyards of Belfast in Northern Ireland alongside it’s virtually identical sister ship, the Olympic. It was fitted with 16 watertight compartments which were advanced safety measures that were supposed to keep it from sinking. After the hull was built, 22 tons of soap were used to slip the Titanic out to sea. 

The hull was then scuttled to England where the remaining accessories, luxury accommodations and the latest radiotelegraph technology were added to the ship. Lastly, the Titanic was also fitted with an anchor weighing over 15 tons, the largest ever built at the time.

And boy was it luxurious – at least for its many wealthy passengers. First-class accommodations included a swimming pool, library and impressive cabins. Even third-class passengers, many immigrating to America, were given superior service to compared to other ships. 

At the last minute, the owners added a steel windscreen to protect the first class passengers from the elements. The addition made the Titanic heavier than the Olympic, giving her the title of largest ship.

The ship was large for 1912, but would be dwarfed by ships today. But back then, the Titanic’s size created some problems. The Titanic set sail from Southampton, England on April 10, 1912 bound for New York and immediately hit issues. Her huge waves knocked the SS New York off her dock and caused the ship to float within 4 feet of the Titanic. A tugboat saved the Titanic from damage. Ironically, many viewed this as an instance of dark foreshadowing and bad luck. And as you know, the Titanic never did reach New York.

The Titanic Hits An Iceberg

None the less, she continued onward stopping in France and Ireland to pick up passengers. Four days later, on the night of April 14, the Titanic hit an iceberg 375 miles from the coast of Newfoundland. The ship's hull plates buckled, and six of its 16 watertight compartments were ripped open to the cold waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. The ship could only survive four compartments flooding.

Crew sent distress calls and fired flares – but the only ship close by, the Californian, didn’t respond.

The Ship was sinking.

The crew began launching the lifeboats, with women and children given priority, but unfortunately the titanic only had 20 lifeboats… meaning they could only carry 1178 or their 2224 passengers. Due to confusion, not even that many people were saved.

The Sinking of the Titanic

In the early hours of April 15, the Titanic listed and broke apart in the icy waters. The Titanic’s band continued to play as the ship sank. The estimated 706 survivors were cast adrift in the freezing night until the arrival of the RMS Carpathia. News of the tragedy was radioed to New York and some 40,000 people gathered at the dock to greet the traumatized survivors and offer them shelter, food and clothing.

The Today: At the Bottom of the OCean

The sinking of the Titanic led to huge improvements in global maritime safety. Regulations around lifeboats were boosted, and ships were ordered to be in radio communication at all times. The International Ice Patrol was even set up to monitor the area and warn ships.

Many myths were sparked by the ship’s sinking. It was said that the ship’s owners had declared the Titanic ‘unsinkable’. It was also said to be the first time that an SOS signal was used. Neither claim is true.

The Titanic still lies on the ocean bed. It was rediscovered in 1985, and is the second largest shipwreck in the world. It is broken in two, and gradually disintegrating.