The largest steam ship ever built, Titanic, sets sail on its maiden voyage. It is full of passengers, including six with connections to King County. A lookout spots an iceberg straight ahead. Captain Smith tries to slow down, but the ship strikes the iceberg. Its designer, Thomas Andrews, surveys the damage and predicts that the ship will only stay afloat for two hours.
1. The Construction Of The Ship
A century after the titanic timeline sank, its tragic story continues to fascinate people. It has inspired books, songs, TV shows and movies, including one of the highest-grossing films of all time. The story begins with the construction of the massive ship at Harland and Wolff’s shipyard in Belfast, Ireland. The ship’s designer, Bruce Ismay, and senior partner and chairman of the White Star Line, Lord Pirrie, conspired to build a liner that was bigger and better than their rivals at Cunard Line.
The construction of the Titanic took 26 months and cost about $6 million (about $100 million today). Over 15,000 men worked on the project. They built the keel, which was the backbone of the ship, and then the hull, or watertight steel body. They added thousands of rolled steel plates to the structure, which was almost 200 feet wide and over 600 feet long. The ship sported four 20-foot funnels and was the largest man-made moving object ever to sail the oceans.
On April 14, 1912, the Titanic was sailing about 400 miles south of Newfoundland when lookout Frederick Fleet spotted an iceberg. It was only about 37 seconds before the ship struck it. The collision punctured six of the Titanic’s 16 watertight compartments and caused them to fill with water. Experts believe the ship could have stayed afloat for up to two hours if only two compartments had been flooded.
Captain Edward Smith cancels a scheduled lifeboat drill and changes the ship’s course to head slightly south. He receives iceberg warnings from the Mesaba, but the wireless operator on duty, Jack Phillips, does not pass them on to the bridge.
At about 11 p.m., the first officer, Lt. William McMaster Murdoch, sees the iceberg and orders the engines to be put into reverse. The ship swerves to avoid the iceberg, but the starboard bow scrapes against it. The captain then sends a signal for assistance, but the nearest ship, the Californian, turns off its wireless after receiving a curt response from Phillips earlier in the evening. The next lifeboat, Number 5, is lowered, but two passengers jump into it and injure one of the women.
2. The First Voyage
Despite its size and luxurious amenities, the Titanic is plagued with problems from the start of her maiden voyage. On April 14, 1912, the luxury liner strikes an iceberg during her journey across the Atlantic Ocean to New York City, and soon after sinks in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. The tragic event is one of the most famous maritime disasters in history and has inspired numerous stories, films, and even a musical. This timeline outlines the key events in the life of the Titanic, from its construction in a shipyard to its final resting place at the bottom of the sea.
The Titanic begins its voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City. The luxury liner is filled with wealthy passengers and crew. Almost two hours into the trip, lookout Frederick Fleet spots an iceberg. However, the warning does not reach the bridge and the ship continues on full speed ahead.
At 12:40 a.m., the captain, Edward Smith, orders the lifeboats to be lowered. The first boat lowered, Number 8, is only half-full, with first-class passenger Lucy Noel Martha, countess of Rothes and Isidor Straus taking the seats. Several other boats are lowered well below capacity as the passengers are reluctant to leave their belongings and fear that the davits cannot hold a fully-loaded lifeboat.
A rescue ship, the Californian, is spotted less than 10 nautical miles (18 km) away, but the Titanic’s crew fails to communicate with it using either telegraph or Morse lamp. The ship also fires off eight distress rockets, but they do not produce a response.
At 1:30 a.m., the Titanic docks at Cherbourg, France. Her tender ships, SS Nomadic and SS Traffic, ferry passengers from the luxury liner to shore. Those aboard the Titanic will find that their stay at Cherbourg will be short-lived as they are soon to encounter much more danger. During this time, hundreds of stories of bravery and cowardice are told as men saw off their wives and children to board the lifeboats, while others, like Joseph Bruce Ismay, gave up their places in the lifeboats to allow women and children to escape first.
3. The Collision With The Iceberg
Exactly one hundred years ago, the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic. In just two and a half hours, 1,500 people would die on the ocean liner. The tragedy led to new safety regulations on ships. This timeline tracks the events that led to the disaster, hour by hour.
The ship leaves Southampton and heads for New York. Several iceberg warnings are received throughout the day, but Captain Edward Smith ignores them. He cancels a planned lifeboat drill.
Senior radio operator Jack Phillips receives a message from the Mesaba, warning of heavy pack ice and multiple large icebergs. But because the message isn’t prefixed ‘MSG,’ he misunderstands it and doesn’t pass it on to the Titanic’s bridge.
Lookout Frederick Fleet spots an iceberg directly ahead of the ship. First officer Murdoch orders a hard starboard (left) turn, but the Titanic hits the iceberg on the right side. It rips a hole in the keel and fills with water, rising 14 feet in just 10 minutes.
The front of the ship starts to submerge, pushing water in through open port holes and deck hatches. The stern rises out of the water, lifting the bow up and creating a dangerous wave that sweeps people into the ocean.
At this point, many people are still asleep and unaware of what’s happening. Those who do wake up hear a scraping noise and a thud as the iceberg smashes into the Titanic.
A few of the crew awaken to find that the ship is listing badly. They try to re-establish contact with the rudder, but it’s too late. Water is pouring into the ship through the smashed bow, causing the keel to rise even further. The hull isn’t strong enough to hold the additional weight, and the ship will soon break apart. A few of the lifeboats are lowered, but they’re woefully under-filled. Some only have 28 passengers aboard, while others have more than 60 people. The Carpathia, a rescue ship nearby, picks up the survivors. More ships travel to the area to retrieve bodies.
4. The Sinking
On April 15, 1912, the Titanic, the most luxurious ocean liner of its time, sank in the North Atlantic. The “unsinkable” vessel had hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage, and the resulting disaster claimed the lives of more than 1,500 people. The sinking of the Titanic remains one of the most significant maritime tragedies in history. The infamous ship continues to capture the imagination of people around the world, and its last moments are remembered with horror and reverence.
The day after the collision, senior wireless operator Jack Phillips begins receiving iceberg warnings from other ships. The first came from the liner Baltic, which reported icebergs and “growlers” (smaller icebergs that are harder to see) in an area a day’s sailing away. Phillips passes this information to Captain Edward John Smith.
At 8:00 pm, the Titanic changes course to avoid the iceberg region reported by the Baltic. However, this change also puts the ship on a collision course with an iceberg. Captain Smith decides to change the ship’s course again at 10:20 pm, this time to the west. He hopes to steer into an area of the gulf stream free of icebergs.
When the lifeboats are readied, they have enough space for only 1,178 passengers and crew. The order is given to load women and children into the boats first, with men following. In the chaos that follows, many men are separated from their loved ones, and a number of selfless acts take place as people give up their seats in the lifeboats to help others escape.
As the Titanic sinks, her stern rises out of the water for several hours, placing tremendous stress on its midsection. The bow section eventually breaks in half, and the Titanic sinks to the bottom of the ocean.
The disaster prompted a series of government inquiries and public safety campaigns. In the decades that followed, lessons learned from the Titanic have helped to improve ship design and safety standards. The wreck itself is a popular tourist attraction, and the site is protected as a maritime graveyard. In addition, the film Titanic, released in 1997 by director James Cameron, reignited interest in the Titanic and ushered it into modern pop culture.
The Titanic’s ill-fated journey in 1912 remains an enduring symbol of human triumphs and tragedies. From its grand departure to the tragic sinking, the Titanic’s timeline encapsulates the indomitable spirit of exploration and the lessons learned from disaster. Its legacy continues to evoke empathy and fascination, reminding us of the fragility of human endeavors.
- What caused the sinking of the Titanic? The Titanic struck an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912, which caused extensive damage to its hull. The ship’s design lacked sufficient safety measures, leading to the flooding of multiple compartments and eventual sinking in the early hours of April 15.
- How many people survived the Titanic disaster? Out of the estimated 2,224 passengers and crew aboard the Titanic, around 710 survived. The limited number of lifeboats and the lack of effective evacuation procedures contributed to the high casualty rate. The disaster prompted significant improvements in maritime safety regulations.