1907, when Bruce Ismay, director of the White Star Line, decided to outmatch
Cunard’s Lusitania and Mauretania, he did not intend to only
build one or two vessels. The decision was that three vessels should be
constructed. The first two, built almost simultaneously should be followed
by a third. The three ships should be called Olympic, Titanic
Star Line, owners of these new ships had commissioned its first vessel
in 1871; the Oceanic. The company was British and was one of Britain’s
two prime ship companies. The other one was the Cunard Line. But in 1902,
when Bruce Ismay had been on White Star’s throne for three years, his company
was devoured by the ever-expanding American company I.M.M. (International
Mercantile Marine). The director of the I.M.M., J. P. Morgan wanted to
establish a monopoly on passenger trade on the Atlantic. The purchase of
the White Star Line was the largest affair ever for the I.M.M. But still,
all officers aboard the White Star vessels were to be British, and completely
controlled by the rather independent Ismay. It was for the glory of Britain
these ships were built, not for America’s. The enormous amount of money
that had to be raised in order to complete the three ships was not a problem;
I.M.M. was a wealthy company, and White Star did not have to go to the
British government for money, as Cunard had done with their prize tag for
the Lusitania and the Mauretania in 1907.
rather embarrassing for the White Star Line when Cunard’s Lusitania
and Mauretania entered service. Before that, White Star had had
the largest vessel in the world; the Baltic at almost 24,000 tons,
but with a service speed of only 16 knots. The
Lusitania was 8,000 tons
larger and could go 10 knots faster. The speed was not very concerning
for Bruce Ismay, because White Star had been the icon of comfort rather
than speed throughout its time, but the fact that Cunard had surpassed
Baltic, and the rest of White Star's quartet; the Big Four, in size
was not acceptable. His new ships would be roughly 45,000 gross tons large, and would have
a service speed of 21 knots. Not being in range of the Blue Riband of the
Atlantic, Ismay’s ships would at least be able to claim they were the largest in the
|The Titanic on
the stocks, awaiting her forthcoming launch.
construction of the Olympic started at Harland and Wolff’s shipyard
in Belfast, Ireland. Only months after, on March 31, 1909, the first steel
of the Titanic’s keel was laid. The two mammoth gantries where Olympic
and Titanic were built were originally constructed in order to handle
the building of three ships. But as White Star Line’s new ships reached
dimensions never dreamed of before, these three gantries had to be converted
into two. On April 6 that same year the Titanic had gone so far
in construction that she was fully framed and thanks to that the beautiful
shape of the vessel was now becoming apparent. The man responsible for
the Olympic-class’ exterior was Alexander Carlisle, a man that had
had that mission for several other White Star ships. On the 20th
October, 1910, the Olympic was successfully launched. By that time
the Titanic’s hull was entirely plated. The Olympic was entirely
completed on May 31, 1911, the very same day as the Titanic was
launched. Titanic’s launch was a complete success, as her communicating
flags at her stern spelled out.
was when she entered the Atlantic trade route the largest moving object
ever created by the hand of man in all history. She quickly became a very
popular ship amongst the passengers and the crew. This in spite of the
fact that the ship was lacking enormously in life preserving life boats
for all. Titanic was equipped with exactly the same inadequateness.
This was common on the seas though. There had not been a change in the
Board of Trade’s restrictions since the former century. Because in those
times there was not any ship exceeding 10,000 gross tons, there was no restrictions
concerning larger ships. As the Titanic was 46,328 gross tons large, she
needed many more lifeboats than she carried. She was allowed to carry nearly
3,500 passengers, but there was only room in the lifeboats for about 1,200. But
no man worried about this; the ship was the latest in the means of safety
and housed 16 strong bulkhead inside her hull, and had a double bottom
large enough for a man to stand straight in. Any two of her largest compartments
could be flooded at any time and still the ship would remain afloat. In
fact, all of the first four compartments could be filled without endangering
the ship’s floatability. A damage larger than that was not thinkable. Olympic
and Titanic, like so many other ships was rumoured to be unsinkable.
The White Star Line itself never made this claim. It was the Stone and
Lloyd (the company that made the
watertight doors in ship’s
bulkheads) that said that thanks to their material the new vessels were
‘practically unsinkable’. The public removed ‘practically’ and the vessels
|The launch of the Titanic.
Olympic and Titanic were constructed from the same drawings,
and were identical in most aspects, there were differences. On the Olympic
was a promenade deck stretching the entire length of B-deck, but Ismay
had noted that this area was hardly used by the passengers. The Titanic
was therefore changed in this detail, making room for more first class
cabins. Two of the parlour suites on this deck thus received a private
promenade deck on the Titanic. If you want to see what it looked
like, I recommend you to examine Rose’s cabin in the 1997 movie ‘Titanic’,
which is parlour suite B52-56.
was completed and dry-docked in Belfast Harbour Commissioners’ new graving
dock on February 3, 1912, her funnels, masts and machinery now all fitted
in place. Her maiden voyage was decided long before to occur on March 20,
1912. However, this did not happen. On September 20, 1911, the Olympic
had accidentally collided with a British cruiser outside of Southampton.
The cruiser was so badly damaged that she almost capsized, but managed
to stay afloat. The Olympic had not escaped the event unscratched
either. Her starboard side had been badly damaged and water had flooded
two compartments. All of her passengers had been transferred to smaller
vessels and brought back to shore. With the hole in her side mended with
wooden planks, the Olympic sailed at low speed back to Belfast for
reparations. Titanic was removed from her fitting out basin in favour
for the Olympic. This delayed the Titanic’s maiden voyage
and in an announcement in The London Times, October 11, 1911 the new date
was said to be April 10, 1912.
finally completed, the Titanic’s sea trials were to take place in
the Belfast Lough on April 1, 1912. But because of bad weather, the trials
were cancelled and moved to the next day. For the first time in her life,
the Titanic’s life system started to pound. With a crew eager to
see what the new ship was capable of, the Titanic went at high speed
and then turned, making a circle with 3,850 feet in diameter. She also
made a halt in 850 yards at 20 knots. The top speed clocked up to was 23.5
knots, much above her designed 21 knots. Had Lusitania and Mauretania
not been, the Olympic and the Titanic would perhaps have
taken the Blue Riband from Germany’s Deutschland. When trials completed,
the Titanic was made ready for her departure to Southampton, from
where she would sail eight days later to the New World.
3, the Titanic reached Southampton and was tied up shortly after
midnight at Berth 44. The following days, officers were installed in their
new working place, cargo were loaded and stewards learned the ship by heart
in order to help passengers when at sea. Everything went on just as it
should do, except for one thing. Since February there had been a coal strike
in Britain which stopped some ships from sailing. But because Titanic
had had delays before, the White Star Line did not want to postpone her
maiden voyage any further. Coal was scratched from the bottom of every
I.M.M. ship that should not sail, and finally the Titanic was fuelled
to the maximum. However, in order to save coal, only 25 of the 29 boilers
were decided to be used.
the sailing day came. The Titanic was scheduled to depart on midday.
Passengers and officers went around the ship looking like ants on their
anthill. On the land beside the Titanic stood all relatives and
friends who had come to say goodbye to their
loved ones. The ship towered
itself almost 70 feet from the water to the boat deck. To the top of one
of the four huge funnels it measured almost 150 feet. The funnels themselves
were about 75 feet high. One extraordinary thing a second class passenger
could do now was to visit all first class public rooms, and that was certainly
an opportunity one should have taken, because at sea the partition between
the classes was rigorous.
|The Titanic on
her first, and only, voyage.
Titanic’s assisting tugboats helped her out from her berth, and
when clear, Titanic’s reciprocating engines started, and her two
wing propellers started to revolve. Around her were numerous other vessels
with inadequate coal supplies. Behind her to the right were Majestic,
Philadelphia and St. Louis, all tied up along side each other.
Right ahead of the Titanic lay Oceanic and New York
whom the 46,000-tonner had to pass. When doing so, a sort of suction appeared
from the larger vessel's hull, and the New York was pulled towards
the Titanic, stern first. Of course, her mooring lines were securely
fastened, but Titanic’s enormous power made them snap, one by one.
The smaller ship’s stern approached closer and closer dangerously. But
Titanic’s captain, Edward John Smith, immediately ordered the port
propeller astern so that his ship would turn away from the New York.
As no one was on board the New York, she floated absolutely free,
unwittingly of the danger she caused. One of Titanic's tugboats, the Vulcan,
acted at once by throwing a mooring line on the New York and pulling
her out of Titanic’s way. The flagship of the White Star Line and
the world’s largest liner could at last begin her maiden voyage.
first port of call was Cherbourg, France. There passengers and further
cargo was to be loaded. The passengers were ferried out to Titanic
by two tenders built especially for Olympic and Titanic:
the Nomadic who took all first and second class passengers to the
ship and the Traffic who ferried all steerage passengers to their
temporary homes. Here John Jacob Astor, one of the richest men in America,
stepped on board together with his newly wedded wife Madeleine, and their
dog – an Airedale Terrier named Kitty. They had been on a honeymoon trip
throughout Europe, which ended in Egypt, and now they were going home.
Other famous persons that embarked here was Margaret ‘Maggie’ Brown, and
Mr. and Mrs. Cardeza who occupied the starboard side parlour suite on B-deck,
with its own private promenade deck. The port side mirror suite was occupied
by Bruce Ismay, and not by Caledon Hockley.
Cherbourg, Titanic steamed towards Queenstown, Ireland (today Cobh,
Cork). There several emigrants waited for her, and a few second class passengers,
but no one intended to travel in first class. Here one Reverend Brown disembarked,
taking with him many photographs he had taken on Titanic’s way from
Southampton to Queenstown. These photos are today valued very high amongst
many thankful Titanic-buffs. Since no footage exists from after
that (except for wreck photographs), this is extremely interesting.
the Titanic left the Old World in favour of the New. During these
days there was nothing special the passengers could do. The ship offered
numerous artefacts for spending time. But it was very odd for the emigrants,
who had worked every day since childhood, to only spend their time by eating,
sleeping and walking around. The weather was clear all the time, except
for a very brief time of fog. The temperature kept falling, and soon no
one could spend too much time up on deck. The Titanic's maiden voyage
was nearing its end as Sunday was about to turn into Monday.
on the North Atlantic between the 14th and 15th of
April 1912 was a cold one. The fifth day of Titanic’s maiden voyage
was coming to its end, and so far the weather had been good, although the
temperature had dropped during the last hours. The water was just above
freezing, and the air was getting colder too. In the wireless room, senior
wireless operator John Phillips was busy sending private messages to Cape
Race for relaying. The wireless equipment had been used extensively throughout
the voyage, and a few ice warnings from other ships had been received and
relayed. Although such warnings from the Nordaam, Empress of Britain,
La Tourine, Caronia and Athinai had been posted for
notice on the bridge, ice warnings from the Mesaba and Californian
went by unnoticed by the officers.
p.m., first Officer William M. Murdoch relieved second Officer Charles
H. Lightoller on the bridge. Lightoller informed Murdoch of the conditions
and gave him the orders of the night; to maintain speed and course and
keep a sharp lookout for ice. The
Titanic raced on
with a speed of approximately 22 knots.
|The First Class À
la Carte Restaurant on board the Titanic.
the lookouts Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee were waiting to be relieved
from their posts by 12.00, after having finished their two-hour shift.
The air had been clear all night, but by now a slight haze had settled
on the horizon. Both men were well aware of how difficult it could be to
spot icebergs, especially on a night like this one. There was no moon,
and therefore no reflections on the surface of the berg. In addition to
this, the sea was dead calm, and because of this there was no breaking
water at the iceberg’s base.
was now approaching 11.40, and suddenly in the calm night, a ghostly figure
appeared from the haze. Fleet would later describe it as ‘two tables put
together’. He immediately recognised it as a menacing iceberg.
reacted instinctively and signalled ‘Object right ahead’ by striking thrice
on the ship’s bell. He then reached for the electric telephone on his right
side that connected the crow’s nest with the bridge. There Sixth Officer
James Moody picked up the phone and asked Fleet what he had seen. The answer
was short; ‘Iceberg right ahead!’ Moody thanked him and then relayed the
message to first Officer Murdoch, who acted swiftly. He rushed to the engine
room telegraph and ordered the engines stopped and then ‘Full Astern’ so
that the ship would slow down. He then turned to quartermaster Robert Hitchens,
who was at the helm, and ordered ‘hard-a-starboard ‘. In reality, this
meant that the ship would turn to port. This might seem a little queer,
however this type of command dated back to the days of sail, where putting
the helm to starboard made the ship turn to port. Murdoch’s initial thought
was to ‘port-round’ the berg and then turn starboard to avoid impact in
the stern. As customary, Murdoch then turned to the panel where the controls
for the watertight doors were located. By simply pressing and holding an
electric button, Murdoch closed the doors that separated the sixteen compartments
from each other. At the same time, a loud warning bell rang in the boiler
rooms, far below in the ship's hull.
Hitchens quickly put the helm to port when ordered, and the ship slowly
began to turn. Up in the crow’s nest, Fleet and Lee held their breath.
The iceberg was coming closer and closer. Its peak was about the same height
as the boat deck, and its surface was somewhat dark, not bright white.
About half a minute later, the collision came, on the starboard side. The
berg scraped along 300 feet of the ship’s hull, making rivets pop and buckling
hullplates along the way. The impact, however, was not very violent. The
two lookouts hadn’t heard that much noise, and as the berg disappeared
in the night, Fleet turned to Lee and said: ‘That was a narrow shave!’
Smith, who had been asleep in his cabin, had felt the impact and soon appeared
on the bridge, just as fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall. Smith asked Murdoch
what the ship had hit. Murdoch explained what had happened and how he had
acted but that it had been too late. Captain Smith ordered the watertight
doors closed, but Murdoch had already done this. The two men went out on
the starboard bridge wing to try to get a sighting of the iceberg, but
it had already disappeared into the darkness.
on the bridge, Captain Smith ordered Boxhall to investigate the forward
part of the ship and then report back as quickly as possible with a damage
report. Boxhall did so, and a quarter of an hour later, he returned to
the bridge. He told Captain Smith that he had found no sign of any damage
above F-deck, but that Postal Clerk Smith had told him that the lower mail
room was flooding, and that the mail was being moved to a higher level.
Smith thanked Boxhall, and asked him to calculate the ship’s current position
in case they would be forced to call for assistance. Boxhall hurried to
the chart room, and by the stars, the ship’s course and his own estimate
of the speed, he roughly calculated the position. It was scribbled down
on a piece of paper, and handed to the master.
Andrews, the ship’s head constructor who was on board for the maiden voyage,
had spent most part of the evening in his cabin. He was called to the bridge,
and he arrived there a few minutes later. Smith asked him to accompany
him on an investigation round below decks. They left, and ten minutes later
they returned. Andrews explained the size of the damage. During the first
ten minutes since the collision water had risen 14 feet above the keel
in the foremost compartment. The iceberg had penetrated five and a half
of the watertight compartments, and the first five were now flooding. The
terrible truth now dawned on the men present on the bridge. The Titanic’s
unsinkability was based on that she could stay afloat with any of her two
compartments flooded. She would even stay afloat if her four foremost compartments
were breached, but with five compartments flooding simultaneously, she
could never be expected to stay afloat. The sheer weight of the water would
inevitably bring her down at the head. The water would then spill over
the top to the next compartment, filling it, and so on. The Titanic
lay quiet for a brief moment. Then, Captain Smith broke the silence with
a simple question: ‘How much time have we got?’ Andrews made a quick calculation
on a small piece of paper and then answered: ‘One hour. Possibly two.’
Smith then ordered the lifeboats to be uncovered.
was now a couple of minutes past midnight. Captain Smith went to the wireless
room and handed the ship’s position to Phillips, asking him to send the
distress signal CQD, along with Titanic’s call signal, MGY.
in the boiler rooms, there was much activity. Since the collision water
had been rushing in through the hull. The engines
were stopped and the furnaces
were now being raked out, to avoid a possible explosion. In the foremost
boiler rooms, firemen had to abandon their posts immediately because of
the quick flooding of these.
|A Titanic feature
not available on the Olympic - one of the two private promenade
areas on B-deck.
had experienced the collision in many different ways, according to in which
class they were travelling. Among the single male passengers in third class,
who were located down below in the ship’s bow, the impact had been very
violent and water was now entering their cabins. As a complete opposite,
people in first class didn’t notice the collision that much, if they even
did at all. In the smoking room several men were gathered, and most of
these experienced the impact as a grinding, less alarming sound. Some went
out on the promenade space on A-deck out of curiosity but there was nothing
to see, the iceberg was already gone.
Beesley, a teacher travelling in second class, had been up reading when
the collision occurred. He felt as if the engines were speeded up and the
vibration in his mattress increased. The thought of an accident didn’t
occur to him. But after a while he noticed that the engines were stopped,
and this made him curious. He went up on deck to ask what was the matter.
But the decks were quiet and deserted and he decided to go back to his
cabin. On his way down he noticed that the stairs was tilting. This was
also noticed on the bridge where the commutator showed a list of two degrees
towards the bow and five degrees to the starboard side.
Officer Boxhall had now noticed a ship that was visible on the horizon
on a distance of about five miles. He told Captain Smith about this, and
was given permission to start firing rockets. Boxhall ordered Quartermaster
George Rowe to fire a rocket every fifth minute, and so the first rocket
was fired at about 12.45 a.m.
Rowe was probably the last crewman onboard to be notified of the accident.
He was on watch on the docking bridge, situated on the poop deck, at the
time of the collision. As he suddenly saw a great mass passing the ship
on the starboard side, his first thought was that they had encountered
a large sailing vessel in mid-ocean. Then, as the first lifeboat was lowered
about an hour after the collision, Rowe was surprised. Why was one of the
ship’s lifeboats in the water? Using the electric telephone that connected
him to the bridge, he reported that one of the lifeboats was adrift. On
the bridge, it was suddenly realised that Rowe had been forgotten, and
he was immediately ordered to report to the bridge. There, he was informed
of the situation.
same time, wireless operators John Phillips and Harold Bride were busy
sending distress calls into the night. Several ships
replied, but they were
all too far away to be of any assistance. The closest ship that had been
heard from so far was the Cunarder Carpathia, but she was still
a considerable 58 miles off. The Carpathia was an older vessel on
her way from New York to the Mediterranean with a speed of 14 knots when
she intercepted the Titanic’s signals. The ship’s only wireless
operator, Thomas Cottam, was actually about to turn in for the night when
he suddenly heard the distress calls from the stricken Titanic.
At first, he couldn’t believe what he heard, but soon he realised what
was happening. He wrote down the message and the Titanic’s position,
and then quickly made his way to the Carpathia’s bridge. There he
met First Officer Dean, and together they hurried to the master’s cabin.
In the rush, they entered without knocking on the door first, and Captain
Arthur Rostron was very upset about this insolence. However, when told
of the situation, he immediately realised that crewmen who neglected to
knock before entering his cabin was the least of his concerns at the moment.
He quickly ordered the ship turned around, to head north for the Titanic’s
given position. Although his ship was in travelling in ice-infested waters,
he ordered ‘Full Ahead’, knowing that many lives could be at stake.
deadly encounter with ice on that cold April night 1912. (Painting by Ken
ahead was an understatement. All the exhaust steam was pressed into the
old engines. The hot water was turned off, and almost all the energy produced
contributed to the ship’s propulsion. That now-famous night, the Carpathia
managed to keep an average speed of between 17 and 18 knots, a speed she
wasn’t really designed - or thought - to obtain. Knowing what a great risk
he was taking when driving his ship at such high speed through icy waters,
Rostron took every precautions that came to his mind, and posted extra
lookouts on the forecastle of the ship. When en route for the Titanic’s
position, Rostron asked Cottam to contact the stricken liner and inform
them that the Carpathia was on her way - she would be with them
in about four hours...
the Titanic, passengers were now ordered to put their lifebelts
on and come up to the boat deck. Captain Smith knew that his vessel had
lifeboats for just about half of the people on board, and in the ice-cold
water, he knew that no one could survive for long. The master was also
aware of the importance of avoiding panic to break out. Therefore, passengers
were asked to come to the boat deck, but they were not told of any danger.
passengers began crowding the deck, mostly from first and second class.
People in third class found their way to third class promenade spaces at
most, and these were located on the bow and the stern. Getting up to the
boat deck proved to be a problem for many of these people, on one hand
because they simply never had been there and on the other because many
of them didn’t speak English. On the boat deck, the lifeboats were being
uncovered. A task that was harder than one might think, because exhaust
steam was being ventilated through the funnels, and the noise it created
made communication between the crewmembers almost impossible. After a while
though, the exhaust steam was gone, and the noised stopped.
the boats had been made ready, the order was ‘Women and children first’.
First Officer Murdoch was in charge of the lowering of the boats on the
starboard side, all with odd numbers, and second Officer Lightoller handled
the port side boats, these with even numbers. No matter what side, people
were still reluctant to enter the lifeboats. On this great ship, it was
hard to see that something was wrong, and few wanted to swap this lighted,
seemingly safe ship for a relatively small wooden craft on the dark and
cold North Atlantic.
was no organised handling of the lifeboats. Very few of the crewmembers
knew to which boat station they were posted, and the only boat drill that
had been carried out was in Southampton, before the passengers embarked.
This drill had been very simple; boats number 11 and 15 had been lowered
and raised, simply to see if the lowering equipment was in order.
a.m., the first lifeboat was lowered under the supervision of first Officer
Murdoch and fifth Officer Lowe. It was number 7,
on the starboard side. With
a total capacity of carrying 65 people, this boat contained only 28, all
being first class passengers except for three crewmen. At the same time,
Fourth Officer Boxhall was desperately trying to contact the ship he could
see on the horizon with a Morse lamp. But the ship did not reply, and Boxhall
could see the ship slowly tuning away, and disappearing out of sight.
|The lifeboats being lowered
from the stricken Titanic.
now 12.55 a.m. The bow of the Titanic was not notably deeper in
the water, and the first boat from the port side, number 6, was lowered.
Second Officer Lightoller, who was in charge of the lowering was very firm
in following the order ‘Women and children first’, and let very few men
enter the boats even if there were was room for them and no women could
be seen close by. But as boat number 6 was being lowered, the women on
board it discovered that there was only one man present in the boat. They
called up to the boat deck, and Lightoller allowed first class passenger
Major Arthur Peuchen to lower himself into the boat on one of the falls.
Boat number 6 left the Titanic with 28 people.
at the same time, boat number 5 was lowered from the starboard side. Being
able of 65 people, this boat held 43. Third Officer Pitman, who was responsible
for the loading of the boat, let several men into the boat, as he could
see no women on the decks. Bruce Ismay, the chairman of the White Star
Line, stood by one of the davits and waved on of his arms ferociously whilst
loudly telling the crewmen to lower the boat. Fifth Officer Lowe, who probably
didn’t recognise his employer, told Ismay to shut up; he was disturbing
the procedure. Ismay quietly walked away from the scene.
a.m. boat number 3 was lowered from the starboard side, carrying 32 people.
A few minutes later, boat number 8 went down the port side with 39 onboard.
Both boats had a capacity of 65. Isidor Straus, owner of the Macys department
store, and his wife Ida were offered room in boat number 8. However, Mr.
Straus refused to leave the ship before every woman was safe, and Mrs.
Straus refused to leave her husband. They stayed onboard, and eventually,
they perished together.
a.m., it was time for boat number 1, situated on the starboard side near
the bridge, to be lowered. In the aftermath of the tragedy, this boat was
to become the most debated one. With a capacity of 40 people, this boat
left the Titanic with only 12 in it, among these Millionaire Sir
Cosmo Duff Gordon, his wife, her maid and seven crewmen.
boat deck, the ship’s band with leader Wallace Hartley had gathered, and
they were now playing cheerful ragtime tunes to calm the passengers. The
boats were one by one still being lowered. At about 1.20 a.m., boats number
9, 10, 12 and 14 were lowered. The tilt towards the bow was now more apparent,
and people were now beginning to realise that the Titanic would
founder. Therefore, boats were now being loaded with more people, but none
of them was completely filled. Some now began to jump into the water from
the ship’s side in hope of being rescued by one of the boats already afloat.
The officers had all been handed a pistol, and Fifth Officer Lowe was now
forced to fire warning shots down the ship’s side as a group of panicking
men tried to enter a life boat by force. Fortunately, Lowe was able to
keep the men at a distance. Millionaire and playboy Benjamin Guggenheim
went to change in to evening clothes. He is reported to have said; ‘We
have dressed in our best, and are prepared to go down as gentlemen’.
wireless room, the two operators were still sending distress calls. Although
the situation was now very serious, none of the replying ships actually
understood that the Titanic would sink. By 1.25 a.m. Titanic’s
sister ship, the Olympic, who was far off, answered one of the calls:
you turning and coming to us, or should we come to you?’ To this, Phillips
simply answered ‘We are putting the women into the boats’.
engine room, the engineers were working to keep the steam up in boiler
rooms number 2 and 3, to keep electricity running for the lights and pumps.
It was now 1.30 a.m., and the bow of the ship was disappearing in the icy
water. People were now panicking, and boat number 11 was now lowered, carrying
five people more than it was designed for, a total of 70. Close by, a near-accident
took place. Boat 13, with 64 people onboard, reached the water but its
passengers were unable to detach the falls. The boat drifted alongside,
towards the stern of the Titanic and ended up just below boat number
15, which was being lowered. In boat 13, in which Lawrence Beesley was
present, someone managed to produce a pocketknife and was able to cut the
falls so that the boat could come clear of the danger above.
George Rowe had now fired the last of the eight distress rockets. But in
the wireless room, signals were still being sent, although now more desperate
ones. By now, the new distress signal, SOS, was also used as well as the
neared 1.40 a.m. and boat number 16 was lowered with about 45 people onboard.
Now there was only two regular lifeboats left, namely number 2 and 4. But
in addition to her sixteen life boats, Titanic also carried four
so-called Engelhardt collapsibles, numbered A, B, D and C. These were boats
with wooden bottoms, and canvas sides that was raised when the boats were
to be used. Collapsible C was now hanging by the davits originally occupied
by boat number 1, on the starboard side. Chief Officer Henry Wilde supervised
the boat, and when his calls for more women were unanswered, Bruce Ismay
stepped into the boat. Although he had helped in the loading of several
boats throughout the night, he would later be very criticised for entering
a boat and
thereby saving his own life
when so many others were lost.
|Just before the Titanic
broke in half, her stern rose high in the air, the lights still gleaming
in the night. (Painting by Ken Marschall)
a.m. boat number 2 left Titanic with about 20 people, among them
Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall. Ten minutes later, boat number 4 was lowered,
carrying numerous passengers from first class. Among them was 19 year-old
Madeleine Astor, the wife of real estate-tycoon John Jacob Astor. As Mrs.
Astor was pregnant, Mr. Astor asked Lightoller if he could accompany her
into the boat. Allowing no men into the boats, Lightoller told him no.
Accepting this, Mr. Astor stepped back and waved his young bride off in
the two-thirds full lifeboat. Now, there were only three boats left, collapsible
A, B and D, together with about 1,500 people. Collapsible D was now suspended
in the davits earlier used to lower boat number 2. To avoid a rush to the
boat, Lightoller ordered some crewmen to form a circle around it and to
only let women and children through. By 2.05 a.m., the boat was lowered
carrying 44 people. The only boats now left were collapsibles A and B,
and they were still lying on the roof of the officer’s quarters.
bow was now completely submerged. Captain Smith made his way to the wireless
room, and relieved the two operators from their duty. Phillips continued
to send signals for a little while, but the power was now weak, and the
range of the wireless apparatus was greatly decreased. Nothing more could
be done from here, and the two men left their post to try to save themselves.
What happened to Captain Smith will forever be a mystery.
roof of the officer’s quarters, just by the base of the foremost funnel,
Murdoch and Lightoller, together with several crewmen, were busy trying
to get the two remaining collapsibles readied for loading. But at that
moment, the ship made a great dive, causing a massive wave flowing over
the bridge. Lightoller was unfortunate with boat B, which was turned over
and washed away along with numerous people, among them Lightoller himself.
Murdoch had been able to get boat A loose, but also this boat was washed
off. Although partially flooded, it managed to stay afloat, and a few people
managed to climb onboard. Murdoch was never seen again. Some testimonies
claim that he shot himself, but it is more probable that he drowned or
froze to death in the cold water.
of the water in the now flooded bow made the expansion joint between the
first and second funnel give slightly away. The wires that held the first
funnel could not bare this strain, and snapped one by one. The tall funnel
crashed forward and crushed the bridge wing on the port side and many people
who happened to be in the surrounding waters. The wave made by this enormous
construction falling into the water managed to wash collapsible B away
from the sinking liner.
boat deck, the band played on. The last tune that was played has been the
topic of much debate throughout the years. The classic myth is of course
that the hymn ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ was played, but others say different.
Junior wireless operator Harold Bride testified that the band played a
melody called ‘Songe d’Automne’, and others said that ragtime tunes were
played until the very end. None of the musicians survived, and they were
eventually made the immortal heroes of the disaster.
the two and a half hours that had now passed since the fatal collision,
everything happened very quickly. With 1,500 people still onboard, the
Titanic’s stern rose higher and higher into the cold night air.
At 2.17 a.m., the light that had been burning flawlessly the whole night
flickered once, and then went out completely. It became pitch dark, and
people in the lifeboats could only make out a giant dark silhouette against
the night sky. Then, a terrible noise sounded, and many people now understood
that the end was nigh. The hull of the Titanic, broke in two between
the third and the fourth funnel, and a large portion in this area was literary
was here that the heavy machinery
was located, and this, combined with the weight of the stern that rose
up in the air, was more than the hull could take. The stern fell back into
the water, and some of the survivors later said that it looked like the
ship was coming back. But as the bow, still attached to the stern by the
keel, started to sink to the bottom, the stern was again pulled up in an
almost pendicular position before it detached from the bow. The stern stood
on end like this, and bobbed like a cork for a minute or so but then, it
too started its final descent. The water rushing in quickly and violently
pressed the air out of the stern. It was smashed from the inside.
|Lifeboats approach the
Cunarder Carpathia as day breaks.
the Titanic slipped beneath the surface. It was now 2.20 a.m., April
15th, and the only thing left of the once so proud liner was
20 small lifeboats, and 1,500 people who were now freezing to death in
the ice-cold water.
was now, was silence. It was a very calm night on the North Atlantic. The
last sounds heard from the Titanic had been muffled explosions from
the depths, and soon another sound echoed through the night. This was the
cries of the people left in the water, and they were now freeing to death.
This sound would haunt many of the survivors throughout their whole lives.
in the surrounding waters lay the 20 lifeboats. Many of them were only
half-filled, but they all lay still in the water. Eventually the cries
from the dying died out, and now one lifeboat made it back to the scene.
It was number 14, under the command of Fifth Officer Lowe. Having moved
women and children into other boats, Lowe order the boat turned for the
wreck site. Hundreds of bodies floated in the waters, together with wreckage
from the Titanic. Four people were pulled out of the water, but
one of them died later from exposure. Lowe also encountered the half-flooded
collapsible boat A, in which twelve men and a woman stood with water up
to their knees. They were transferred to collapsible D, and this was taken
in tow by boat 14. Collapsible A, still carrying three bodies was set adrift,
at it was later recovered by the White Star liner Oceanic about
30 miles from the wreck site. The three bodies were then buried at sea.
the 700 occupants of the lifeboats could do nothing but wait. It was in
the middle of the night, and not many knew if help was on the way or not.
the Carpathia swiftly made her way through the night. Preparations
to receive the survivors was made; coffee, tea and hot soup was prepared
for those who suffered from exposure, and every area of the ship was made
ready to accommodate the extra passengers. The davits were swung out to
raise the Titanic’s lifeboats. The passengers of the little Cunarder
had been alarmed when so much activity was going on in the middle of the
night. Therefore, crewmen were told to inform the passengers that the Carpathia
was on her way to assist a stricken vessel, there was no danger of the
ship’s own safety.
a.m., according to the clock on board the Carpathia, a small, green
light was sighted on the horizon. This was a signal flare brought into
one of the lifeboats. Half an hour later, Captain Rostron ordered rockets
to be fired every fifteen minutes. By 3.35 a.m., the Carpathia was
so close to the Titanic’s given position, that the Titanic
would have been visible, had she still been afloat. Here and there, green
lights were sighted, but these were so close to the water, that they could
only come from very small boats. There was no longer any hope of finding
the Titanic still afloat.
a.m., the first lifeboat was sighted from the bridge of the Carpathia.
It was number 2, with 25 people onboard. Ten minutes later, the first survivors
were climbing ladders up the side of the Carpathia. The boat contained
only women, except for the man in charge, Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall.
Captain Rostron sent for Boxhall, and still soaking wet, Boxhall reported
to the bridge. There he informed Captain Rostron that the Titanic
had foundered at 2.20 a.m.
continued to search the waters, stopping by each lifeboat to recover the
survivors. Some of them, mostly women and children, were hoisted up the
sides in canvas bags by the ship’s crew. Most of the men had to climb the
ladders that had been suspended down the ship’s sides. When on board, people
were brought below decks where they were given food and blankets. The ship
surgeon, Dr. McGee, examined the most shocked survivors.
went on into the dawn and the morning. By 6.15 a.m., survivors from collapsible
C was recovered. At 7 a.m., boat 14 with collapsible D in tow, was spotted.
On the upturned collapsible B, second Officer Lightoller stood, along with
other men. Throughout the night, they had been forced to stand up and lean
to the right and left on Lightoller’s command to keep the boat in balance.
The boat was almost completely under water, and Lightoller had to use his
whistle to make the crew on the Carpathia even notice them.
B was the last boat to reach the Carpathia, at about 8.30 a.m. Second
Officer Lightoller was the last survivor to board the rescue ship. It was
now understood how many lives that had been lost during the night. Out
of the Titanic’s 2,200 passengers and crew, only 700 had been rescued.
In a last attempt to find any more survivors, the Carpathia circled
the waters. As the ship passed over the Titanic’s given position,
Captain Rostron held a memorial service in the ship’s dining room.
deck, the Titanic’s lifeboats were salvaged. Thirteen were hauled
aboard, and the remaining six; number 4, 14, 15, B, C and D were set adrift.
As the last lifeboat was recovered, the ship Californian appeared
in the west. At 5.50 a.m. they had been told by other ships what had happened
over the night. The Californian, which had been lying still all
night, had then headed towards the Titanic’s position. Now, Rostron
informed the Californian’s master, Stanley Lord, what had happened.
the Carpathia made a final turn over the wreck site. There was not
much wreckage anymore, just a few deck chairs, lifebelts and numerous every-day
objects. As a lonesome reminder of all those perished, a body was seen
floating with its face down in the water. The Carpathia’s search
for survivors was called off, and she set her course for New York.
as the 705 survivors were brought into shore by Cunard’s Carpathia
on April 18th, many of them were called to an American Senate
Investigation. Bruce Ismay, who fortunately had managed to escape from
the Titanic, was not allowed to sail back to Britain immediately
with the Cedric, which had been his intention. In spite of his weary
condition, he was cross-examined for several days by a Mr. William Alden
Smith, who lengthened the disaster hearings by not knowing a thing about
ships or the life at sea. When the hearings finally were over, a new British
one started off in London. Though being better than the American one, many
of the witnesses was tired and wanted to forget.
both hearings were over it was concluded that the Board of Trade’s restrictions
should be changed. There should always be lifeboats for all aboard. No
one was really blamed for the disaster, so a sinner had to be found. He
was Captain Stanley Lord of the Californian, who had turned his
radio equipment off during the night, because his only wireless operator
had to sleep. Since the Californian was the vessel that lay closest
to the Titanic (about 20 miles), Lord was the perfect sinner. Arthur
Rostron, the captain of
the Carpathia, the ship
that had saved the 705 people in the boats, was 58 miles from the Titanic
when he got the distress call.
the wreck of the Titanic stands as a monument of a lost era.
and several other ships were immediately fitted with enough lifeboats and
underwent major changes in the hull structure. Germany’s new Imperator
was launched only a month after the disaster, and you could see how fast
her over 80 lifeboats was fitted.
went on sailing without her sister for a couple of years, but eventually
the Britannic (supposed to be Gigantic, but changed after
the disaster) was launched. Unfortunately, World War 1 broke out and the
Britannic was turned into a hospital ship, and sunk by a mine in
the Mediterranean in 1916. White Star’s three ship service from Southampton
to New York was not established until the early twenties when the 56,000-tonner
Majestic (the ex-Bismarck) replaced the Britannic
and the 35,000-tonner Homeric (the ex-Columbus) replaced
the Titanic. By the early forties all of these ships had gone to
the scrap yard as requirements for the Depression. In the 1950s,
a new interest in the old liners of the Olympic-class vessels arose,
when Walter Lord’s ‘A Night to Remember’ was published. A few years later
a movie, based on the book came out. Several societies were founded, among
them ‘The Titanic Enthusiasts of America’, later renamed ‘Titanic Historical
a Franco-American expedition under the command of Dr. Robert D. Ballard
located Titanic’s wreck at 12,000 feet of water, south-east of Newfoundland.
Her condition is in a sad state. She is, like so many survivors had said,
broken in two between the third and the fourth funnel. The funnels themselves
are gone and only fragments of them were found on the ocean floor. In spite
of this, lots of her upperworks are intact. This first expedition did not
touch anything, but later expeditions have brought numerous artefacts to
the surface. In 1998, a large piece of Titanic’s hull from C-deck
was raised and preserved. The largest thing made recently concerning the
Titanic is James Cameron’s blockbuster film ‘Titanic’. Cameron was
scrupulous about details; there is hardly anything you can find that is
incorrect in the film. Of course, the main characters in the film; Jack
Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) is fictional,
though. Thanks to this movie, the number of Titanic-buffs seems to increase
more and more as time goes by. In many ways, the Titanic has never been more alive
than she is now.
||882.9 feet (269.68
||92.6 feet (28 m)
||46,328 gross tons
||34.6 feet (10.8 m)
powering two wing-propellers and one exhaust steam turbine powering the