Almost everyone has heard about the Titanic in some form or the other. People have acted out some of the scenes that led to the disaster, commemorated their loved ones in song and written about the tragedy, but how much do you know about this incident that has shaped many a life? Here’s what you need to know about this unfortunate happening:
The Titanic ship goes by a myriad of titles, among them The Millionaire’s Special, the RMS Titanic, and the Royal Mail Ship Titanic. Any of the above names point to this ship.
Onboard, the ship had 2,200 people in total, with 1,300 of these accounting for the passengers. In it, there were many famous people, including but not limited to Benjamin Guggenheim, who was an American businessman, William Thomas Stead who worked as a British journalist and Isidor Straus who partly owned Macy’s. Isidor’s wife was also onboard, alongside Andrews and Ismay, who had crafted the ideas for the liner.
When was it built?
Towards the beginning of the twentieth century, shipbuilding was a big deal as investors in the trade raked in lots of revenue. The passenger trade along the transatlantic path was a viable investment option as tons of companies lined up in a bid to transport immigrants and wealthy travelers over the sea. The most notable participants in the trade were the Cunard and the White Star.
Cunard was ready to increase its portion of the market share, and it embarked on the introduction of two new ships to its fleet. They were known as the Lusitania and the Mauretania. The latter was set to enter the trade towards the end of 1907, and the excitement surrounding this introduction was high. The two ships did not disappoint as they boasted of sturdy builds that enabled them to cross the Atlantic at record speeds which set the bar high for the competition in the industry. Thus, the company attracted more clients, and this got the attention of J. Bruce Ismay, who was the chairman of the White Star.
Bruce met with the firm in charge of constructing vessels for his company, and together, they crafted a strategy that would see his fleet overdo those of the Cunard. However, instead of focusing on speed which was what the Cunard was all about, Bruce and his team set out to construct liners that would boast of comfort, which would attract wealthy travelers who enjoyed the finer things in life. After much consideration, they decided to introduce three ships into the market, namely the Britannic, the Titanic, and the Olympic.
The Olympic was the first of the line to get constructed, and as work on it continued, the team set out to work on the Titanic, whose keel got laid towards the start of 1909. They were large ships, and they thus required adequate space for the construction team to work on them side by side. They were sister ships, which were the brainchild of Thomas Andrews, who came up with their designs.
The Titanic featured ornate decorations which were set to tease the eyes, as well as an elegant dining saloon from where the travelers could enjoy tantalizing meals as they sailed across the sea. What’s more, the ship had four elevators to allow easy access to the upper levels as well as a swimming pool on the deck where the travelers could sunbathe and enjoy the fee; of being out at sea.
The ship was of such high-quality that its second-class rooms compared to what other companies referred to as first-class on their fleets. You can thus see what a difference this ship made in the industry. People could also opt to enjoy the third-class facilities, which though not as good as those in the first and second classes, were more comfortable than most second-class accommodations in other fleets.
Safety was of importance in the making of the luxurious ship and as such the design team including 16 chambers in the plans. The chambers were inclusive of doors such that if the hull got breached, the doors could get closed from the bridge, thus ensuring that water got contained. The team considered the compartments to be watertight and they did not cap the bulkheads at the top. The reason for this was that flooding could take place in four of the chambers without compromising the buoyancy of the ship. So good was the system in place that many claimed that the ship was unsinkable.
It took two good years for the construction of the ship to come to an end, and towards the start of 1911, the team was able to launch the liner, which was after installation of the main structure and the completion of the hull. Once the launch took place, it was now time for the fittings to begin. Thus, machinery loading began, and the interior décor teams started working on the finishing. The fitting-out did not take much time, and a month after launching, the ship’s maiden voyage took place, which was in June that year. After the ship had a successful sailing, the team embarked on some changes to make it more efficient at sea as well as to increase the comfort in play. The modifications took place over ten months, and it was not until April 1912 that the ship underwent further trials at sea, bringing the total construction time to three years. After this voyage, the team had confidence that the liner was seaworthy.
At this time, the Titanic was not only one of the largest but also one of the most elegant liners in the world. It had a gross carrying capacity of more than forty thousand tons, and when fully loaded, the ship had a displaced weight of more than fifty thousand tons. It measured two hundred and sixty-nine meters in length with a width of twenty-eight point two meters at its broadest point. It was a sight to behold, and people could not wait to get a chance to board this fantastic liner.
The Maiden Voyage
Now that the construction had come to an end and the team had expressed confidence in the liner’s ability to set sail, it was not long before the maiden voyage came into the picture, which was on April 10, 1912. The ship would set sail from Southampton in New England and was to dock at New York City. At this time, it was not uncommon to hear people regard it as the Millionaire’s Special, as it was a nickname that was fitting for the grandeur of the liner. Edward J Smith was the captain of the ship and given his excellent relations with wealthy passengers; he also went by the nickname, The Millionaire’s Captain.
The voyage did not start smoothly as the suction from the Titanic caused the New York, which was in the dock, to swing into the liner’s path. The journey, thus, almost started with a collision but with some maneuvering underway, the ship was able to set sail in an hour.
As the ship made its way to New York City, the wireless radio operators, Harold Bride, and Jack Phillips received warnings as to the presence of icebergs along their path. They would relay these messages to the bridge so that the crew onboard would take necessary measures to keep the passengers safe during the voyage. The operators worked for the Marconi company and most of their duties revolved around passing messages in the ship, including those from passengers.
Towards the evening of April 14th, the liner neared a region which was known for having iceberg. Knowing that there had been prior warnings on the same, the captain decided to alter the course of the voyage to head down a bit south to avoid any collisions. He maintained the speed at about 22 knots, and the journey continued. At around 9:40 that night, the operators received a warning about an ice field from the Mesaba. The operators’ task was to relay the message to the bridge as they had done in the past, but this time around, they did not. Later on, that night at around 10:55, the Californian relayed a message that it had come to a stop, having come to a region surrounded by ice. Phillips responded by scolding the operator on the other side, for having interrupted him while he was relaying passenger messages.
There were two lookouts on the ship that night, Reginald Lee and Frederick Fleet. They were at the crow’s nest from where they could spot icebergs in the sea. However, this night was different as the water was calm. As such, the water would not break much at the base and sighting an iceberg was, therefore, a difficult task. What’s more, their binoculars were missing that night, and they thus had to rely on what they got from the operators and what they could see with their naked eyes.
Another hour went by, and at 11:40, when the ship was approximately seven hundred and forty kilometers south of Newfoundland in Canada, there was an iceberg sighting. There was communication to the bridge on the same. William Murdoch, who was the First Officer, ordered a reversal in engines as well as 'hard a starboard.' The latter move would ensure that the ship turned to port. As the liner started rotating, the starboard side scrapped the iceberg as the liner had been too close to avoid any impact — five of the sixteen watertight compartments which were towards the bow burst on collision. Andrews went in to assess the damage caused by the crash and, he figured that the front compartments would start filling with water which would cause the bow to sink deeper into the ocean. As this took place, the water in the damaged compartments would get into the other compartments, and this subsequent flooding would sink the ship. The reversal of the engines also slowed down the speed of the ship. Many people feel that the ship would have been sturdy if it had hit the iceberg as it would have moved at its original ship, as opposed to that with which it moved following the turn.
The captain thus ordered the operators to send out distress signals to other vessels in the area, and one of these reached the Carpathia at around twenty minutes past midnight on April 15th, and the ship set out to the direction of the liner. Unfortunately, the ship was 107 kilometers away from the liner, and it would take a good three hours for it to get there. Other vessels also received the signals, but they were too far away to do anything. There was a ship in the area, but the operators were unable to communicate with the team on that side. The Californian was also close-by, but its wireless communications were off for the night.
As the operators attempted to make communications with other vessels, launching of the lifeboats began, with women and children getting priority. The ship had 20 boats, which was more than was required by the Board of Trade. However, they could only carry 1,178 people, which was much less than the 2,200 people who needed the means to reach safety. What’s more, the crewmen had no idea that the boats could carry at full capacity as the scheduled drill for the same had not taken place. Thus, the boats carried a third of their ability, managing to rescue only 705 people. As people entered the boats, musicians who had been in the lounge came to the deck, and they sang until the ship sank, with none of them surviving.
As the stern began to rise from the water, the captain released the crew telling them that it was every man for himself. His last sighting was at the bridge. At around 2:18 that night, the lights in the ship went out, and it broke in two. One part went down fast and was at the bottom of the ocean in under six minutes. The other remained vertical for a while before sinking and exploding owing to air pressure. The people in the boats hesitated to go back to the scene for fear of getting swamped, and when they finally reached the place of collision, most of the people in the water had died. Some people stated that owing to the hesitation by the captain to sound a general alarm, many people in the third-class facilities had no idea how dire the situation was. Most women also refused to board the rescue ships without their husbands and sons, which added to the number of fatalities.
The Carpathia reached the scene an hour after the sinking and picked up the survivors, with Ismay sending out a message to the liner’s offices about the incident. The ship docked in New York and in the times that followed, inquiries into the sinking took place, with some receiving hero status and others getting vilified.
Many theories as to what happened came about, with people trying to make sense of the unfortunate accident. Most bodies did not get found, and there is still a mystery surrounding who was at fault and what difference a single move could have made in the incident.