RMS Titanic

The sinking of the RMS Titanic occurred on the night of 14 April 1912 when she struck an iceberg at 23:40 (ship’s time) on Sunday, 14 April and sank two hours and forty minutes later at 02:20 (05:18 GMT) on Monday, 15 April, in the north Atlantic Ocean, four days into her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City resulting in the deaths of 1,514 people. The ice conditions at the time were attributed to a mild winter which caused large numbers of icebergs to break away from the west coast of Greenland. In addition, it is now known that in January 1912, the Moon came closer to the Earth than at any time in the previous 1,400 years. This caused exceptionally high tides that may have resulted in a larger number of icebergs than usual reaching the shipping lanes a few months later.

At the time of her entry into service on 2 April 1912, RMS Titanic was the largest ship in the world and had an estimated 2,224 people on board when she began her maiden voyage shortly after noon on 10 April 1912. Commanded by 62-year-old Captain Edward John Smith, the most senior of the White Star Line’s captains, she left Southampton on the first leg of her journey to New York. A few hours later she reached Cherbourg in France where she took on more passengers. Her next port of call was Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland, which she reached around midday on 11 April. She left in the afternoon after taking on more passengers and stores. Her passenger accommodation was said to be “of unrivalled extent and magnificence”. First Class accommodation included the most expensive seagoing real estate ever, with promenade suites costing $4,350 ($104,760 at 2012 prices) for a one-way passage. Even Third Class 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. Her passengers ranged from millionaires such as John Jacob Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, to poor emigrants from countries as disparate as Armenia, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Syria and Russia seeking a new life in America.

Despite radio operators receiving several warnings of sea ice during 14th April, Titanic was travelling near her maximum speed in waters where ice had been reported when she collided with the iceberg and . 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 flooded compartments but not five, and the crew soon realised that the ship was going to sink. They used rocket flares and radio (“wireless”) messages to attract help as the passengers were put into lifeboats. However, there were far too few lifeboats available and many were not filled to their capacity due to a poorly managed evacuation.

The ship broke up as she sank with over a thousand passengers and crew members still aboard. Almost all those who jumped or fell into the water died from hypothermia within minutes. RMS Carpathia arrived on the scene about an hour and a half after the sinking and had rescued the last of the survivors in the lifeboats by 09:15 on 15 April, little more than 24 hours after Titanic’s crew had received their first warnings of drifting ice. The disaster caused widespread public outrage over the lack of lifeboats, lax shipping regulations, and the unequal treatment of the different passenger classes aboard the ship made it one of the worst maritime disasters in history. Enquiries set up in the wake of the disaster recommended sweeping changes to maritime regulations. This led in 1914 to the establishment of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), which still governs maritime safety today.

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