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The RMS Titanic was an Olympic-class passenger liner of the White Star Line.  She sank on her maiden voyage after she hit an iceberg on the night of 14 April 1912.  1,517 people were killed.

Construction and Features of the Titanic

Construction of the RMS Titanic began on 31 March 1909, under the aegis of J.P. Morgan’s International Mercantile Marine Co.  The hull was launched on 31 May 1911, and the outfitting finished on 31 March 1912.  The RMS Titanic was 882 ft 9 in (269.1 m) long and 92 ft (28m) wide, with a Gross Register Tonnage of 46,328 long tons.  She had a height from water line to deck of 59 ft (18m), and was powered by two reciprocating four-cylinder triple expansion inverted steam engines.  A low-pressure Parsons turbine powered the RMS Titanic’s three propellers.  29 boilers fired by 159 coal furnaces powered the RMS Titanic’s steam engines, giving her a top speed of 23 knots (43 km/h; 28 mph).  She had a capacity of 3547 including passengers and crew. 

The RMS Titanic was a luxury vessel, the largest passenger steamship of her time.  She boasted such amenities as a swimming pool, a gym, and a Turkish bath.  Her top-of-the-line technology included ship wide electric  lights powered by a steam generator and two Marconis radios, operated by two men working in shifts for twenty-four hour contact. 

Disaster on the Maiden Voyage

The RMS Titanic began her maiden voyage on 10 April 1912.  She left Southampton, England, and stopped in Cherbourg, France, and Cobh, Ireland, to pick up more passengers.  She departed Ireland for New York with a total of 2,240 passengers aboard, and Captain Edward J. Smith at the helm.

On the night of 14 April Captain Smith changed the Titanic’s course in response to warnings of icebergs in the course ahead.  However, he didn’t know that the Marconi radio operators, Jack Phillips and Harold Bride received at least two messages that day warning of a large iceberg directly in front of the ship.  Neither Phillips nor Bride relayed these warnings to the bridge

At 23:40 lookouts Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee spotted a large iceberg directly in the ship’s path.  They sounded the warning and First Officer Murdoch ordered an abrupt turn to port (left) and a full reverse on the engines.  The Titanic brushed the iceberg, which buckled the hull and popped out rivets below the waterline over a length of 299 ft (90 m). 

The Titanic had a system of compartments in the bulkhead, which, in the event of compromise by hull breach, would seal themselves with watertight doors.  The watertight doors operated correctly but too many of the watertight compartments were compromised.  She was designed to remain afloat with four compartments full; the iceberg breached five compartments and, as the Titanic floundered, water poured into the remaining compartments and she began to sink.

Captain Smith ordered a full stop.  Lifeboats were ordered to be readied and an SOS was sent out shortly after midnight, but no other ship was close enough to respond.

The first lifeboat was launched at 00:40.  The RMS Titanic had  20 lifeboats with a total capacity of 1,178.  Board of Trade regulations required British ships to carry sufficient lifeboats for 50% of passengers; with enough for 52%, the RMS Titanic surpassed legal minimums.  Many lifeboats departed at partial capacity because passengers did not understand the danger, and were reluctant to leave the  ship. 

By 02:05, the entire bow was submerged.  All but two lifeboats had been deployed. 

At 02:10, the stern rose out of the water, exposing the propellers.  By 02:17 the water had reached the deck.  The stern rose into the air; the electrical system failed and the lights went out.  Stress on the hull cause the Titanic to break in half between the last two funnels.  The bow sunk; the stern righted itself and then rose vertically; it sank at 02:20.  Only two of the 18 deployed lifeboats returned to rescue survivors; together, they rescued nine, three of whom died.


On 18 April, the Carpathia docked at Pier 54 on West 12th Street in New York City.  She was carrying the survivors of the RMS Titanic.

Of the 2,240 people aboard, only 706 survived.  Most of the dead were men and members of the lower class.

Investigations into the sinking of the RMS Titanic found that many safety laws regarding sea liners were out of date.  New laws were implemented, improving standards for hull and bulkhead design, requiring clearly marked safety exits throughout the ship, and implementing lifeboat requirements based on human capacity rather than on the weight of the ship.  Life-vest designs were improved; safety drills and enhanced passenger notification were implemented, and radio communication laws were revised.

The sinking of the RMS Titanic remains one of the deadliest peacetime maritime accidents in history.


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