The Story of the Titanic.
The Titanic was launched on May 31, 1911 at the specially built Harland and Wolff Shipyard in Belfast Ireland. She and her older sister, Olympic were the largest ships in the world when they were built and were considered to be high tech in their time. A third ship, the Britannic, was finished after the Titanic. The White Star line built the ships to compete with Cunard line's Lusitania and Maritania. They were able to carry 3,550 people including the crew in elegant style.
The 45,000 ton Titanic was 882 1/2 feet (269 meters) long , 92 1/2 feet (28 meters) wide and about 10 stories tall, more with the smoke stacks. She had 24 boilers to power her reciprocating steam engines and turbines which pushed her through the water at as much as 24 knots (27 1/2 miles per hour.)
Passengers had their choice of accommodations, ranging from clean but crowded third class to luxurious first class. The small third class cabins had bunk beds enough for a family with room for some luggage under the lower bunks and a sink. First class staterooms were quite large and were decorated with carved paneling and wall paper. First class passengers had comfortable beds, bureaus, tables and chairs couches as well as a sink. First class passengers could choose to have their meals at the first class dining room, at the a la carte (Ritz) restaurant or at the Cafe Parisien. They also had a gym with exercise equipment, a smoking room, Turkish baths, a swimming pool and a lounge.
After sea trials, the Titanic loaded passengers at South Hampton England. At noon, Wednesday, April 10, 1912, the Titanic, with Captain Edward Smith in command, let go her mooring lines and maneuvered toward the open sea. As she approached two smaller liners tied to a pier, the mooring lines on one, the New York, snapped and the ship drifted into the path of the departing super-liner. Quick work narrowly avoided a collision. One passenger was overheard saying the near collision was a bad omen.
The Titanic stopped at Cherbourg, France and Queenstown Ireland to pickup more passengers. In Queenstown she anchored because there was no dock big enough for the ship; passengers were ferried to the ship by White Star Line boats. She departed in the afternoon Thursday on her maiden voyage to New York.
The passengers enjoyed a pleasant journey with fine weather and calm seas. The crew was happy with the performance of the ship's machinery and was expecting to beat the Olympics speed to New York on her maiden voyage.
Sunday evening, the 14th, started with wonderful meals, music and perhaps a stroll on deck to watch the spectacular sunset. Jack Phillips in the radio room had received warnings of icebergs in the area from several ships, which were not relayed to the bridge. At 11:30 p.m., most of the passengers had returned to their cabins. Frederick Fleet was stationed as the lookout up in the crow's nest, First officer William Murdoch and sixth officer Moody were in on the bridge. A few minutes later Mr. Fleet saw an iceberg in the dark right ahead. He reported it by sounding the bell beside him and talking to Mr. Moody in the wheel house by telephone. Mr. Murdoch who had also seen the iceberg ordered the engines to full speed astern (backing the propeller to slow the ship) and the wheel turned "hard a starboard" to turn the ship to port (left). Mr. Fleet watched the bow slowly start to turn and thought the ship would miss the iceberg until he heard scraping of ice against iron.
Mr. Mudoch, knowing the ship may have been damaged ordered the water tight doors closed. Captain Smith, who had not been on the bridge, rushed in to find out what had happened. At this point few people knew the effects of the collision. Down in boiler room five, the men saw the results first hand; water was pouring into the boiler room through a two foot wide gash. They just escaped through the closing water tight doors. The damage to the ship extended through six water tight compartments. With over two hundred feet of the ship flooding , the Titanic's fate was sealed.
Many of the First Class passengers didn't believe the ship was sinking because the force of the shock had seemed mild, but the Third class passengers in the forward cabins knew the truth. First Class women and children were the first to be lead to the lifeboats. Many wanted to stay on the ship thinking it was safer. The life boats were launched with fewer people than they could hold. The ship's lights were all brightly shining and the band was playing as the crew gathered people into the boats. Some of the third class passengers were prevented from reaching the boats by locked doors and some of the crew. Of the 2,222 passengers and crew onboard 703 were rescued.
As the bow of the Titanic settled into the cold calm sea, the lights continued to shine. The radio operator sent out continuous SOS calls. Distress rockets were fired to attract the attention of a ship who's lights could be seen only several miles distant. That ship never responded. The Carpathia did. She received the SOS call and rushed to the scene. She arrived around 4:00 am. an hour and a half after the Titanic broke in two and sank. The icy cold sea had frozen most of the people who didn't get into lifeboats. The Carpathia picked up all the lifeboats and gave the people hot drinks and blankets. She then took them to New York.
The Titanic disaster was a shock to the world. It has spawned many books and movies. It has lead to improvements in ship design and how ships are operated, from more lifeboats, improved watertight compartments to improved ice and weather prediction.
The Olympic returned to Belfast for improvements including a double skin and many extra lifeboats. The Olympic served as a troop transport in World War One then continued Trans-Atlantic service. She was known as "Old Reliable" until 1935 when competition from newer ships and the great depression ended her career. The Britannic was still being built when the titanic sank and also received improvements but she never saw service as a luxury liner. She was enlisted into war service as a hospital ship and was sunk by a mine in 1916.
On July 14, 1986, Dr. Robert Ballard, working with the Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institution descended to the wreck of the Titanic in the tiny research submarine Alvin. He took photographs and film of the broken liner as she lay spread across the bottom of the Atlantic about 400 miles from Newfoundland.