Titanic 4

The Stern of Titanic as seen in the 1997 film

RMS Titanic was a passenger liner that struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City, and sank on 15 April 1912, resulting in the deaths of 1,517 people in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.

The largest passenger steamship in the world at the time, the Olympic-class Royal Mail Ship RMS Titanic was owned by the White Star Line and constructed at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland, UK. After setting sail for New York City on 10 April 1912 with 2,223 people on board, she hit an iceberg four days into the crossing, at 11:39 PM on 14 April 1912, and sank at 2:25 AM on the morning of 15 April. The high casualty rate resulting from the sinking was due in part to the fact that, although complying with the regulations of the time, the ship carried lifeboats for only 1,178 people. A disproportionate number of men died due to the "women and children first" protocol that was enforced by the ship's crew.

Titanic was designed by experienced engineers, using some of the most advanced technologies and extensive safety features of the time. The sinking of a passenger liner on her maiden voyage, the high loss of life and media frenzy over Titanic's famous victims, the legends about the sinking, the resulting changes in maritime law, and the discovery of the wreck have all contributed to the enduring interest in Titanic.


Titanic was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland and designed to compete with the rival Cunard Line's Lusitania and Mauretania. Titanic, along with her Olympic-class sisters, Olympic and the soon-to-be-built Britannic (originally named Gigantic), were intended to be the largest, most luxurious ships ever to sail. The designers were Lord Pirrie,a director of both Harland and Wolff and White Star, naval architect Thomas Andrews, Harland and Wolff's construction manager and head of their design department,and the Right Honourable Alexander Carlisle, the shipyard's chief draughtsman and general manager.Carlisle's responsibilities included the decorations, equipment and all general arrangements, including the implementation of an efficient lifeboat davit design. Carlisle would leave the project in 1910, before the ships were launched, when he became a shareholder in Welin Davit & Engineering Company Ltd, the firm making the davits.

Construction of RMS Titanic, funded by the American J.P. Morgan and his International Mercantile Marine Co., began on 31 March 1909.Titanic's hull was launched at 12:13 on 31 May 1911,and her outfitting was completed by 31 March the following year. Her length overall was 882 feet 9 inches (269.1 m), the moulded breadth (max. width) 92 feet (28 m),the tonnage 46,328 GRT, and the height, from the water line to the boat deck, 59 feet (18 m). She was equipped with two reciprocating four-cylinder, triple-expansion steam engines and one low-pressure Parsons turbine, each driving a propeller. There were 29 boilers fired by 159 coal burning furnaces that made possible a top speed of 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph). Only three of the four 62 foot (19 m) funnels were functional: the fourth, which only provided ventilation, was added to make the ship look more impressive. The ship was licensed to carry 3547 persons, passengers and crew.

Of the two steam-powered steering engines installed, one was kept in use and one kept in reserve; the engines could be slid away and disengaged when not required. A quarter-circle rack-and-pinion drive was connected to the short tiller through stiff springs, to isolate the engines from any shocks in heavy seas or during fast changes of direction. As a last resort, the tiller could be moved by ropes connected to two steam capstans.


The Titanic's design and construction featured luxury and opulence. There was a telephone system, a lending
Turkesh baths

Reconstruction of the Turkesh Baths

library and a large barber shop on the ship. The first-class section had a swimming pool, a gymnasium, squash court, Turkish bath, electric bath and a Verandah Cafe. First-class common rooms were adorned with ornate wood panelling, expensive furniture and other decorations while the third class general room had pine panelling and sturdy teak furniture.The Café Parisien offered cuisine for the first-class passengers, with a sunlit veranda fitted with trellis decorations.The ship incorporated technologically advanced features for the period, including three electric lifts in first class and one in second class. She also had an extensive electrical system powered by steam-driven generators, ship-wide wiring for electric lights and two Marconi radios. One 5,000-watt set was manned by two Marconi Company operators working in shifts sending and receiving passenger messages. First-class passengers paid a hefty fee for such amenities; the most expensive one-way trans-Atlantic passage was £870(equivalent to £63,837 as of 2012), or $1,363 ($30,917 as of 2012).


Out of the many controversies surrounding the Titanic disaster, few have stood out more than the number of lifeboats she carried at the time of her demise. For her maiden voyage, Titanic carried a total of 20 lifeboats of three different varieties:

  • Lifeboats 1 and 2: emergency wooden cutters: 25 ft (7.62 m) 2 in long by 7 ft (2.13 m) 2 in wide by 3 ft (0.91 m) 2 in deep; capacity 326.6 cubic feet (9.25 m3) or 40 people.
  • Lifeboats 3 to 16: wooden lifeboats: 30' long by 9'1" wide by 4' deep; capacity 655.2 cubic feet (18.55 m3) or 65 people.
  • Lifeboats A, B, C and D: Englehardt "collapsible" lifeboats: 27'5" long by 8' wide by 3' deep; capacity 376.6 cubic feet (10.66 m3) or 47 people.

Almost all of the lifeboats were stowed securely on the boat deck, connected to davits by ropes. All of the lifeboats, including the collapsibles, were placed on the ship by the giant gantry crane at Belfast. Those on the starboard side were odd-numbered 1–15 from bow to stern, while those on the port side were even-numbered 2–16 from bow to stern. Boats 1 and 2, the "emergency cutters", were kept swung out, hanging from the davits, ready for immediate use, while collapsible lifeboats C and D were stowed on the boat deck immediately in-board of boats 1 and 2 respectively. Collapsible lifeboats A and B were stored on the roof of the officers' quarters, on either side of number 1 funnel. There were no davits mounted on the officers' quarters to lower collapsibles A and B, and they weighed a considerable amount empty. During the sinking, lowering collapsibles A and B proved difficult as it was first necessary to slide the boats on timbers and/or oars down to the boat deck. During this procedure, collapsible B capsized and subsequently floated off the ship upside down.

In the design stage, Carlisle suggested that Titanic use a new, larger type of davit, manufactured by the Welin Davit & Engineering Co Ltd, each of which could handle four lifeboats. Sixteen sets of these davits were installed, giving Titanic the ability to carry 64 wooden lifeboats—a total capacity of over 4,000 people, compared with Titanic's total carrying capacity of about 3,600 passengers and crew. The White Star Line, while agreeing to the new davits, decided that only 16 wooden lifeboats (the minimum required by the Board of Trade, based on Titanic's projected tonnage and passenger manifests from Olympic's 1911 voyages which were usually no more than 1100 people per passage) and four collapsibles (folding lifeboats) would be carried, which could accommodate only 1,178 people (one-third of Titanic's total capacity). At the time, the Board of Trade's regulations required British vessels over 10,000 tons to carry 16 lifeboats with a capacity of 5,500 cubic feet (160 m3), plus enough capacity in rafts and floats for 75% (50% for vessels with watertight bulkheads) of that in the lifeboats. In principle, the White Star line could even have made use of the exception for vessels with watertight bulkheads, which would have reduced the legal requirements to a capacity of 756 persons only. Therefore, the White Star Line actually provided much more lifeboat accommodation than was legally required.

Since 1894, when the largest passenger ship under consideration was the Cunard Line's 13,000 ton Lucania, the Board of Trade had made no provision to increase the existing scale regarding the number of required lifeboats for larger ships, such as the 46,000 ton Titanic. Sir Alfred Chalmers, nautical adviser to the Board of Trade from 1896 to 1911, had considered the matter of adjusting the scale "from time to time", but because he not only assumed that experienced sailors would need to be carried "uselessly" aboard ship only to lower and man the extra lifeboats, but also anticipated the difficulty in getting away a greater number than 16 boats in any emergency, he "did not consider it necessary to increase [the scale]".

Carlisle told the official inquiry that he had discussed the matter with J. Bruce Ismay, White Star's Managing Director, but in his testimony Ismay denied that he had ever heard of this, nor did he recollect noticing such provision in the plans of the ship he had inspected. Ten days before the maiden voyage Axel Welin, the maker of Titanic's lifeboat davits, announced that his machinery had been installed because the vessel's owners were aware of forthcoming changes in official regulations. However, Harold Sanderson, vice-president of the International Mercantile Marine and former general manager of the White Star Line, denied that this had been the intention.


Titanic was fitted with five ballast and bilge pumps used for trimming the vessel, and three other bilge pumps with a capacity of 150 tons per hour each.Two 10-inch (250 mm) main ballast pipes ran the length of the ship and valves controlling the distribution of water were operated from the bulkhead deck above. The total discharge capacity from all eight pumps operating together was 1,700 tons or 425,000 imperial gallons (1,930 m3) per hour.During the disaster, the engineers reported that the pumps succeeded in slowing the flooding of No. 6 boiler room in the first ten minutes after the collision, while also keeping pace with the flooding in No. 5 boiler room. These pumps could not have maintained the vessel's buoyancy indefinitely, but as long as they had steam to power them, the flooding could at least be slowed. At 23:50 pm on the night of the sinking, these sections were flooded and the inrush of water overwhelmed the pumps, at which point Titanic foundered.

Comparisons with the OlympicEdit

'Titanic closely resembled her older sister Olympic. Although she enclosed more space and therefore had a larger gross register tonnage, the hull was the same length as Olympic's. Three of the most noticeable differences from Olympic were that half of Titanic's forward promenade A-Deck (below the boat deck) was enclosed against outside weather, her B-Deck configuration was different, and Olympic also did not have the equivalent of Titanic's Café Parisien. Some of the flaws found on Olympic, such as the creaking of the aft expansion joint, were corrected on Titanic. The skid lights that provided night time illumination on A-deck were round, while on Olympic they were oval, and Titanic's wheelhouse was made narrower and longer than Olympic's.These, and other modifications, made Titanic 1,004 gross register tons larger than Olympic and thus the largest ship in the world during her maiden voyage in April 1912.

As a result of Titanic's sinking, Olympic's 1913 refit included raising the height of her watertight compartment bulkheads, the addition of an outer skin to her hull, and a full complement of lifeboats. With the addition of both the Café Parisien and additional parlour suites, Olympic's overall gross tonnage rose to 46,359 tons—31 tons more than Titanic. After the sinking of the Britannic in 1916, the Olympic would hold the distinction of being the largest British-built vessel afloat until the RMS Queen Mary entered service in 1936.

Ship historyEdit

Sea trialsEdit

Titanic's sea trials began at 6 am on Monday, 2 April, shortly after she was fitted out at Harland & Wolff shipyard, and just eight days before she was due to leave Southampton on her maiden voyage.

Aboard Titanic were 78 stokers, greasers and firemen, and 41 members of crew. No domestic staff appear to have been aboard. Representatives of various companies travelled on Titanic's sea trials, including Harold A. Sanderson of I.M.M and Thomas Andrews and Edward Wilding of Harland and Wolff. Bruce Ismay and Lord Pirrie were too ill to attend. Jack Phillips and Harold Bride served as radio operators, and performed fine-tuning of the Marconi equipment. Mr Francis Carruthers, a surveyor from the Board of Trade, was also present to see that everything worked, and that the ship was fit to carry passengers. After the trial, he signed an 'Agreement and Account of Voyages and Crew', valid for twelve months, which deemed the ship sea-worthy.

After six hours of sea trials, Titanic left Belfast at noon for the 550-mile journey to Southampton, under the command of Captain Herbert Haddock.