This Week in History | The Titanic



Artist Rendering of Titanic Sinking
Artist Rendering of the Sinking of the Titanic


A Tragedy at Sea

The sinking of the Titanic is one of the most famous shipwrecks in history, occurring early in the morning of April 15, 1912, and resulting in over 1,500 deaths due to improper safety regulations. The Titanic’s construction lasted two full years, spanning from 1909 to 1911, and was heralded as the most advanced ship to date, a true luxury vessel. It contained new technology, such as watertight bulkhead compartments, and could carry nearly 2,500 passengers each trip with almost 900 crew members. So what went wrong?


The Titanic departed from Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912. It was set to make several stops along the way to its destination of New York and was all the buzz, being the largest ship ever built. Many of those aboard the Titanic were wealthy elites, officials and celebrities, though out of the three classes, the third class passengers made up the bulk of the riders, totaling over 700. When it departed, the number of souls on board, crew included, was about 2,240.

Spotting the ice

The first three days of the voyage were calm and presented little problems. It was not until April 14 that the Titanic crew began to receive reports about ice from nearby ships. Around 11:30, out of the fog, the crew spotted a large iceberg and sounded the alarms. The ship made a quick turn, and to the passengers on the deck, it appeared that the danger had been narrowly avoided. Unfortunately, beneath the surface of the water, the iceberg had caused a nearly 300-foot wide slash below the waterline of the ship.When the captain and crew went to investigate the damage and saw what had happened, evacuation began.

Evacuation was haphazard and poorly planned. There were 16 lifeboats and four inflatables on the ship, which could only carry 1,100 passengers if loaded to full capacity, which was far less than the number of passengers on the ship. Despite it being woefully inadequate, this did surpass British safety requirements at the time. The first lifeboat was lowered with a mere 28 people out of the 65 it was designed to fit and multiple boats after also faced similar capacity problems. The captain estimated that the boat would only stay afloat one and a half hours maximum, but luckily for those on board, it floated for three.

Safety Hazards

The Titanic’s state-of-the-art watertight bulkheads were faulty, as the walls that separate compartments from one another were only a few feet above water level, meaning that if the ship tipped, water would pour over the top of one wall and into the next compartment. The front of the ship became unbalanced when this exact scenario occurred and began to sink faster than the rest of the ship. At 2:20 am, the ship finally sank with some crew still left aboard and many of the lower class passengers having never escaped to the lifeboats. When those who had escaped to the lifeboats were rescued, only 705 survived. The Titanic serves as a sad reminder of human error and the importance of safety standards and regulations.

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