The sinking of the Titanic was a major disaster that affected the whole world, and made
many people think twice before they got on another ship. At the time, the Titanic was the
biggest ship in the world. The creators of the ship said that it was unsinkable, and that God
himself couldn’t sink it, which was probably their downfall. There is also a lot of controversy
surrounding whose fault the tragedy really was.
The tragedy happened on the Titanic’s very first ocean crossing. The Titanic was the
biggest, and considered one of the most luxurious ships afloat. The Titanic had a total number of
2,207 people on board (1,309 passengers, and 896 crew members). The Titanic was 882 feet and
8 inches long, and weighed 46,328 tons. The Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic, was identical in
length to the Titanic, but extra features on the Titanic added extra weight (Norris 39-44). The
Titanic was considered unsinkable because of its watertight compartment. The Titanic had 16
compartments, and would still be able to float unless five of those compartments would be
punctured (Bromer 1-3).
The Titanic’s keel was laid down in Belfast, Ireland at the Harland and Wolff Shipyard
on March 31, 1909. On May 31, 1911, the Titanic was slid from her dry-dock into the water.
The unusual thing about the launching of the Titanic was that it never had a christening
ceremony, which after the tragedy was considered one of the causes for bad luck. The Titanic
was actually launched before the propellers, smokestacks, or even the engines were added to the
ship. What was interesting about the ship was that only three of the four smokestacks were
operational, the fourth was added to make the Titanic look even more massive and impressive.
The Titanic had massive chandeliers, and there was a lot of stained glass and carved wood
decorations in the ship. The decks were cushioned with lush, thick carpet. While on the ship,
passengers could enjoy time in a swimming pole, a gymnasium, a squash court, one of several
libraries, a Turkish bath, comfortable lounges, or a replica Parisian sidewalk cafe. Over all, the
Titanic was considered a floating palace, and could cross the Atlantic Ocean in as little as four
days. The ship was commanded by Edward John Smith, and held many important people as well
as many millionaires (Norris 39-44).
On April 10, 1912 the Titanic left for Southampton and the ship was so large that suction
it created pulled the ship, New York, from its moorings. The New York was on a collision
course with the Titanic. The engines on the Titanic were reversed, and two tug boats rushed out
to the New York. The quick action of all the crew members on the different ships prevented a
serious collision, but looking back, if there would have been a collision, the Titanic probably
wouldn’t have collided with the iceberg that ended up sinking the ship (Norris 39-44).
At 11 p.m. on April 14, a radio message came into the radiomen on the Titanic that came
from the California warning that ice had drifted into the shipping lanes. When the message came
through, the radioman on the Titanic was sending out messages, and since he wasn’t planning on
receiving any messages, he accidently had the volume on his headset turned up to loud, so the
warning almost defended him and it made him very mad, so he told the radioman on the
California to shut up. At the time that the message was sent, the California was estimated to be
only ten miles from the Titanic (Norris 39-44).
About forty minutes after the Titanic had received the warning from the California, the
Titanic struck an iceberg. Right before the impact, a seaman in the crow’s nest noticed
something in front of the ship. What the seaman actually saw was the iceberg that sent the
Titanic to its watery grave. As soon as the seaman saw the iceberg, he pulled the alarm cord
three times which signaled an emergency. After the bridge had been warned of the impending
danger, First Office Williams Murdoch ordered that the Titanic be turned away from the iceberg
and that the engines be reversed so they could avoid a collision (in hind sight, reversing the
engines on the Titanic did not help the situation at all). Just 37 seconds after the seaman on the
crow’s nest alerted the bridge of the danger, the Titanic struck the iceberg (Norris 39-44). At the
time of impact, the Titanic was travelling about 22.5 knots (about 26 miles-per-hour). When the
ship hit the iceberg, it did not hit it head-on, but the Titanic sideswiped an underwater part of the
iceberg. The collision made a 300 foot gash that popped rivets, and buckled plates on the
underside of the Titanic. The long gash on the underside of the Titanic punctured five of the
sixteen watertight compartments. If the only four of the compartments had been punctured, the
Titanic would have still been seaworthy (Bromer 1-3). Immediately two boiler rooms were
flooded, and the pumps soon became overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the water (Brown 1).
It did not take the crewman long to determine that the ship was doomed. At five minutes past
midnight, Captain Smith had given orders to uncover the lifeboats and also to start gathering the
passengers on the upper deck to get ready to abandon the doomed ship. Many of the passengers
were awakened by stewards knocking on all of the doors, and many were crowded on the deck in
their fancy clothes, in old clothes, or whatever they could throw over themselves in their haste to
get to the upper deck (Norris 39-44).
At 12:15, the captain told the wireless radio operators to start transmitting distress
signals (Norris 39-44). The radio operator on the Titanic expected to pick up the California (the
ship that warned the Titanic of the ice) quickly because they weren’t very fall from each other.
As it turned out, the radio operator on the California had just gone to bed after switching off the
radio equipment (Bromer 1-3). There were several ships within range of the powerful
transmitter aboard the Titanic. The ship with the best chance of coming to the rescue of the
Titanic was the Carpathia. At the time radio contact was made with the Carpathia, the ship was
about 60 miles from the crash site (Norris 39-44). Besides the Carpathia, the radio operators also
made contact with the Olympic, the Baltic, and a German boat (Bromer 1-3). At 12:25, the
captain ordered that the life boats be filled with women and children. The inexperienced crew on
the Titanic was only filling the lifeboats half full, because they were concerned that the lifeboats
might buckle or sink from being completely filled (Norris 39-44). The Titanic carried 20
lifeboats, and if all of them were filled, they would have been able to hold 1,178 people, instead
of the mere 712 people that were saved (Brown 1). Also, some passengers refused to get on the
lifeboats because they still didn’t believe that the Titanic was going to sink, so they didn’t want
to spend hours in an uncomfortable little boat. After, many of the lifeboats were launched, the
crew on the Titanic launched distress rockets into the sky, with hopes that another ship would see
them. The crew on the California did in fact see the rockets, but since there was no universal
agreement on what color and type the rockets should be, the crew on the California had no idea
what they meant. As the Titanic sank lower into the water, and started to rise into the air, panic
broke loose, and caused chaos on the deck. At 2:18, the ships lights went out, and also anything
that was not secured to the floor was sent tumbling toward the end of the ship that was sinking
into the water. After the lights finally went out, the boat snapped in half between the third and
fourth smoke stack (Norris 39-44).
At the time the Titanic sank, the temperature of the water was 29° F. The water was so
cold, that many of the people in the water died within a few minutes. It was about 4:00 when the
Carpathia finally arrived to pick up the survivors. Altogether, the Carpathia saved 712 people
from the freezing water below. Unfortunately there were many false reports concerning the fate
of the Titanic. The false reports were traced back to static, interference, garbled wireless
messages, and multiple radio transmissions at the same time. Some of the false reports include
that “no lives were lost,” “the ship sank, but only after all of the passengers were placed in
lifeboats,” “the Titanic was coming into port under her own power,” and “the Titanic was
damaged, and was being towed into port by the Carpathia.” With all of the false reports, it is
easy to see why so many people were disappointed when they found out what really happened to
the Titanic. The reports showed that there were 1,490 to 1,523 people died, but the widely
accepted number is 1,496 deaths (Norris 39-44). Almost all of the men on the ship were missing,
805 of the 951 men drowned. Many millionaires who heard what had happened to the Titanic,
wanted the officials of the Titanic’s company, the White Star line, to do something more, but
their response was “We have done all we could, money can do no more.” What also didn’t help
matters at all, was that there were thunderstorms and fog in the area where the Titanic sank,
which would make it practically impossible to find any survivors still afloat (Sinking n.p.).
In 1985 while on a secret mission for the United States Navy, Robert Ballard discovered
the Titanic. The Titanic was at a depth of about 12,500 feet. There is now a company that that
recovers items from the Titanic on the ocean floor. By 1997, the company had already brought
up about 5,000 artifacts. The artifacts have been shown in many exhibitions throughout many
different countries. Some people have different feelings on collecting artifacts from the wreck.
Some people feel like bringing items to the surface and showing them will honor those who lost
their lives on that that terrible day, and some others feel like the wreck should be left alone, and
treated like a graveyard, not an archaeological site (Brown 1).
Even though the Titanic was a major disaster, some very beneficial things have come
from it. For example, when the Titanic was built, the number of lifeboats required was
determined by the weight of the vessel, but now a ship must carry enough lifeboats so everybody
onboard may fit onto them if needed. Also, before the sinking, there was not a standard for what
a distress rocket should be, in fact, if there would have been a standard before the Titanic had
sunk, the passengers most likely would have been saved. Now the radios on a ship must be
manned, and turned on 24 hours a day. Another beneficial thing that was created was the
International Ice Patrol, which was founded in 1914, was designed to monitor the icebergs in the
North Atlantic (Norris 39-44).
The fate of the Titanic proved than no ship, no matter how modern or advanced, is not
unsinkable. The Titanic disaster was a huge disaster that could have easily been avoided, but
because of the disaster, there are many new standards that improve the safety of the passengers
should they ever face a disaster similar to that of the Titanic. A very true statement about the
Titanic is; “The Titanic’s creation symbolized man’s achievement. Her sinking symbolized
Bromer, Rick. "Crewman Describes Wreck of the Titanic." Old News March 1992: 1-3. SIRS
Researcher. Web. 01 October, 2009. This talks about a crewman who was on the Titanic,
and gives a firsthand account of the disaster.
Brown, Donald. "Titanic: Voyage to Infamy." Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, FL) April
13, 1997: 1D+. SIRS Researcher. Web. 01 October, 2009. This article talks about general
information of the Titanic.
Norris, David A. "We Have Struck a Berg!"." History Magazine (Toronto, Canada) Vol. 9 No. 4
April/May 2008: 39-44. SIRS Researcher. Web. 30 September, 2009. This article talks
about almost every aspect of the Titanic disaster, from the building of the ship to its
appearance in pop-culture.
Unknown. "Sinking of the Titanic." UPI's 20th Century Top Stories April 16, 1912: n.p. SIRS
Researcher. Web. 01 October, 2009. This is a newspaper article from the time when the
Titanic was sunk.