The Titanic, the world’s largest passenger ship, collides with an iceberg and sinks. The tragedy serves as a reminder of the limits of human technology and hubris.
Senior wireless operator Jack Phillips receives iceberg warnings from other ships. Captain Smith orders the lifeboats lowered, women and children first. Men see off spouses and children as they board boats.
The building of the titanic timeline was a massive project that took years to complete. It was the largest movable object man had ever built, and it caused a revolution in shipbuilding. The huge vessel was designed to provide unimaginable luxury for the social elite. It was touted as “unsinkable” and was meant to transport people from one end of the world to another in record time.
Construction began on the Titanic at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland. It required three of the dockyard’s existing slipways to accommodate its immense size. The project was incredibly ambitious, and the launching of the hull drew a crowd of 100,000 spectators.
After the hull was constructed, workers began installing equipment and fitting out the interiors. The process of outfitting the Titanic took over a year and involved thousands of workers. They installed 29 giant boilers, made sure all the decks were welded together and worked on the luxurious cabins.
In April, the Titanic departed Southampton on its fateful voyage to New York City. As she set sail, the senior wireless operator Jack Phillips received several warnings of icebergs from ships further west. The icebergs were spotted in an area a day’s sailing away.
On the night of April 14, the Titanic struck an iceberg. At 11:40 PM, lookout Frederick Fleet saw the huge floating mass ahead of the ship. The iceberg scraped the starboard side of the Titanic’s bow and ripped open at least five of her supposedly watertight compartments. Soon thereafter, the bridge was informed that the mail room was filling with water and Captain Edward Smith ordered the engines reversed and the doors to the supposedly watertight compartments closed.
The hull of the Titanic is pushed down the slipways and into the River Lagan in Belfast. At the time, it was the largest movable manmade object. Over 100,000 people turn out to watch as the enormous ship sets sail, waving handkerchiefs and singing “Rule Britannia.”
April 11, Thursday morning: Captain Smith takes Titanic through some additional practice turns en route to Queenstown (now Cobh) to test her maneuverability.
At 10:00 am, the iceberg warnings start coming in: First a wireless message from Baltic, reporting large quantities of field ice and icebergs at 42o N, from 49o to 51o W; then one from SS Caronia, reporting icebergs in latitude 41o 27′ N, longitude 50o 08′ W; and finally another one from German liner Amerika, reporting 2 large icebergs in the area. Senior wireless operator Jack Phillips passes the messages on to Captain Smith.
Around 1:00 pm, the port-side lifeboat No. 12 is lowered with 40 women and children; two seamen are put in charge. Boat 13 is loaded next; then 14, and later collapsible D. In the end, boats 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 12 are overloaded; but even so they’re still able to rescue most of the survivors in the water.
The White Star liner SS Minia is dispatched from Halifax to help overtaxed Mackay-Bennett, which has recovered 306 bodies. It picks up 17 more. Several other ships join in the search, including the Montmagny from St. John’s, Newfoundland. The RMS Carpathia eventually arrives to take the survivors off the Titanic. It will later recover a further 3,500 bodies. It’s a sobering reminder of the futility of the Titanic’s maiden voyage, which ended on April 15 with the ship sinking on her way to the bottom of the North Atlantic.
The Titanic is sailing toward its final destination of New York City, after stops in Cherbourg, France and Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland. It is nearly 400 miles south of Newfoundland on April 14 when watchmen spot an iceberg. The ship strikes it, puncturing six of its 16 water-tight compartments. Experts believe that had only four of those compartments flooded, the ship might have survived.
Throughout the day, senior radio operator Jack Phillips receives several warning messages about drifting ice from other ships in the area. One such missive, sent by the SS Caronia, mentions “bergs, growlers and field ice” some two days’ sailing away. However, the message is not prefixed with the letters ‘MSG’ to indicate that it is for Titanic’s captain, and Phillips fails to act on it.
At 9:30 pm, the lookout on Titanic’s starboard side, Frederick Fleet, calls out a loud ‘Iceberg!’ The crew rushes to close the ship’s watertight doors. Then, First Officer Murdoch informs Captain Smith that the ship has struck an iceberg. He asks Fourth Officer Boxhall to inspect the forward area of the hull.
At 2:20 am, the stern of Titanic begins to tilt upwards as it fills with water, slowly sinking. The iceberg it struck had a hole in it that allowed the water to flood the decks. People in the water soon froze to death. The iceberg also created a gas pocket that filled the air with poisonous carbon monoxide. Then, the stern settled back down into the sea. The Titanic’s last lifeboat was lowered at 3:10 am. Carpathia arrives in New York with 705 survivors. The following year, the Managing Director of White Star Line, J Bruce Ismay, moves to establish an International Ice Patrol to monitor North Atlantic shipping lanes.
The morning of April 14 begins with brisk northwesterly winds and a cold front over the North Atlantic. But such rapid weather changes are not unusual in the area and do nothing to signal what is to come.
Around noon, Titanic receives a wireless message from the British liner Caronia warning of field ice and icebergs in 42o N and from 49o to 51o W. It’s delivered to Captain Smith, but is not acted upon by the bridge.
By 12:30 p.m., the first lifeboat is lowered into the water. Number 7, on the starboard side, leaves with only 27 people aboard, although it can hold 65.
Soon after, Titanic hits an iceberg. Bits of ice rain down on the deck; passengers, still unaware of the seriousness of the situation, use chunks of ice to play soccer. Designer Thomas Andrews survey the damage and determines that the ship can remain afloat only if four watertight compartments are flooded. He believes the Titanic will sink within two hours.
Around 2:05 a.m., Titanic is tilting forward and the bow starts to submerge. The first of the rescue boats is lowered; it has room for only 47 people, including women and children. To prevent a rush, Lightoller waves (and possibly fires) his pistol into the air and crew members form a circle with their arms locked together. Only those with women or children on board are allowed to enter. The boat is numbered 12, but it’s later identified as collapsible D.
The captain orders that the lifeboats be loaded, women and children first. By this time, the Carpathia is about 58 miles away and he calls for a CQD distress signal. (SOS was to be the standard call for help, but several ships used CQ instead.)
The Titanic hits an iceberg and begins to sink. The iceberg causes the ship to fill with water, flooding all the compartments below the water line. Many people are rescued by the RMS Carpathia, but 706 passengers and crew perished.
April 11, 1912: The Titanic leaves port at Southampton to begin its fateful maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. Throughout the day, several iceberg warnings are received in the radio room but none reach the bridge. At about 11 p.m., lookouts on the Titanic spot a large patch of ice dead ahead. They sound the ship’s bell three times and telephone the warning up to the bridge: “Iceberg right ahead!” Sixth officer William Murdoch receives the message, calls “hard-a-starboard” to the helmsman and activates levers to close watertight doors below the waterline.
The iceberg rips open four of the ship’s 16 watertight compartments and five more are flooded by water rushing in from the bow. Although some of the ship’s passengers have already been assigned to lifeboats, captain Edward Smith and senior radio operator Jack Phillips decide to continue sending a backlog of passenger telegrams instead of treating the warning with the utmost urgency. Phillips also neglects to order that the ship’s iceberg beacons be turned on.
The Titanic’s ill-fated maiden voyage in 1912 marked a tragic chapter in maritime history. Its sinking, resulting in the loss of over 1,500 lives, exposed the need for improved safety regulations at sea. Despite the disaster, the Titanic’s legacy endures as a reminder of the importance of prioritizing passenger safety in all future voyages.
- How did the Titanic sink? The Titanic struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912, causing extensive damage to its hull. Water flooded multiple compartments, causing the ship to gradually sink over the course of a few hours. Despite efforts to evacuate passengers, the lack of lifeboats contributed to the high loss of life.
- Were there any survivors from the Titanic? Yes, there were survivors. Approximately 705 people out of the estimated 2,224 passengers and crew on board managed to make it into lifeboats and were eventually rescued by the RMS Carpathia, which arrived on the scene several hours after the Titanic’s sinking.