Titanic had received a number of warnings of sea ice during 14 April but was travelling at nearly her maximum speed when she collided with the iceberg. The ship suffered a glancing blow that buckled her starboard (right) side and opened five of her sixteen compartments to the sea. Titanic had been designed to stay afloat with four flooded compartments but not five, and it was soon realised that the ship was going to sink. Rocket flares and wireless messages were used to make distress calls as the passengers were put into lifeboats. The high casualty rate resulting from the sinking was due in part to the fact that, although complying with the regulations of the time, Titanic carried lifeboats for only 1,178 people – barely half the number of people aboard. Many of the lifeboats left only partly full and a disproportionate number of men were left aboard the ship due to the "women and children first" protocol that was enforced by the ship's crew.
The ship sank with hundreds of passengers and crew members still aboard. Almost all of those who jumped or fell into the water soon died from hypothermia; RMS Carpathia rescued the survivors in the lifeboats at 09:15 on 15 April, little more than 24 hours after Titanic's crew had received their first warnings of drifting ice.
The maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic began shortly after noon on 10 April 1912 when she left Southampton on the first leg of her journey to New York. A few hours later she reached Cherbourg in France, 80 miles away, where she took on passengers. Her next port of call was Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland, which she reached around midday the following day. She left in the afternoon having taken on more passengers and supplies. By the time she departed westwards across the Atlantic, she was carrying 892 crew members and 1,320 passengers. She was only carrying about half of her full passenger capacity of 2,435 people, due to a combination of the low season and ongoing transport disruption caused by a coal miners' strike in the UK. Her passengers were a cross-section of Edwardian society, from millionaires such as John Jacob Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, to middle-class travellers, to poor immigrants who had travelled from as far afield as Armenia, Italy, Syria, Russia, Scandinavia, and Ireland to seek a new life in America.
The ship was commanded by 62-year-old Captain Edward John Smith, the most senior of the White Star Line's captains. He had 49 years of seafaring experience, beginning his career at the age of 13. He had previously captained Titanic's sister ship, the RMS Olympic, and was transferred from there to command Titanic. The vast majority of the crew who served under him were not seamen – a fact that was to weigh heavily in the disaster that followed – but were either engineers, firemen or stokers, responsible for looking after the engines, or stewards and galley staff, responsible for the passengers. Most had been taken on at Southampton and had not previously served on the ship. Apart from the captain, there were six watch officers, in addition to 39 able-bodied seamen. The entire Deck Department consisted of 76 men, comprising less than 9% of the crew.
09:00–23:00 – Iceberg warningsEdit
During 14 April 1912, Titanic's crew received six wireless messages from other ships warning of drifting ice, which passengers on Titanic began to notice during the afternoon. The ice conditions in the North Atlantic were the worst for any April in the last fifty years, due to a mild winter causing large numbers of icebergs to break away from the west coast of Greenland.
The first warning came at 09:00 from RMS Caronia reporting "bergs, growlers and field ice". Captain Smith acknowledged receipt of the message. At 13:42, RMS Baltic relayed a report from the Greek ship Athenia that she had been "passing icebergs and large quantities of field ice". This too was acknowledged by Smith, who gave the report to J. Bruce Ismay, the chairman of the White Star Line, aboard Titanic for her maiden voyage. Smith ordered the crew to set a course further south, which they interpreted as a bid to avoid the ice.At 13:45, Titanic relayed a message from the German ship SS Amerika, which was a short distance to the south, stating that the German vessel had "passed two large icebergs". The message never reached Titanic's bridge. It is unclear why, but it may have been forgotten about due to the wireless operators having to fix faulty equipment.
SS Californian reported "three large bergs" at 19:30, and at 21:40 the steamer Mesaba reported: "Saw much heavy pack ice and great number large icebergs. Also field ice." This message never reached the bridge either; the British inquiry after the disaster reported that it was probable that the wireless operator, Jack Phillips, had been so busy transmitting messages for passengers via the relay station at Cape Race, Newfoundland, that he had "failed to grasp the significance of the message".A final warning message was received at 22:30 from the Californian, which had stopped for the night in an ice field some miles away, but Phillips cut it off and signalled back: "Shut up! Shut up! I’m working Cape Race."
Although the crew were aware of ice in the vicinity of Titanic, the ship's speed was not reduced and she continued to steam at 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph), only a little short of her maximum speed. Despite later myth, Titanic was not attempting to obtain a transatlantic speed record; the White Star Line had made a conscious decision not to compete with their rivals Cunard on speed but instead focused on size and luxury. Titanic's high speed in waters where ice had been reported was later criticised as reckless but it reflected standard maritime practice at the time. According to Fifth Officer Harold Lowe, the custom was "to go ahead and depend upon the lookouts in the crow's nest and the watch on the bridge to 'pick up' the ice in time to avoid hitting it." The North Atlantic liners prioritised time-keeping above all other considerations, sticking rigidly to a schedule that would guarantee their arrival at a predetermined time. They were constantly driven at full speed, treating hazard warnings as advisories rather than calls to action. It was widely believed that ice posed little risk; near misses were not uncommon, and even head-on collisions were not disastrous. In 1907 SS Kronprinz Wilhelm, a German liner, had rammed an iceberg but was able to complete its voyage despite suffering a crushed bow. That same year, Titanic's future captain, Edward Smith, declared in an interview that he could not "imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that."
23:40 – "Iceberg, right ahead!"Edit
As Titanic approached her fatal crash, most passengers had gone to bed and command of the bridge had passed from Second Officer Charles Lightoller to First Officer William Murdoch. Lookouts Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee were occupying the crow's nest 29 metres (95 ft) above the deck. Due to a mix-up at Southampton the lookouts had no binoculars, though due to the relatively poor quality of optics at this time they would probably not have been much help. The air temperature had dropped to near freezing and the ocean was completely calm. Colonel Archibald Gracie, one of the survivors of the disaster, later wrote that "the sea was like glass, so smooth that the stars were clearly reflected." Although the air was clear, there was no moon and with no swell, there was nothing to give away the position of the nearby icebergs. The lookouts were well aware of the ice hazard, as Lightoller had ordered them and other crew members to "keep a sharp look-out for ice, particularly small ice and growlers", but they were unaware that they were about to steam at full speed into a line of drifting ice several miles wide and many miles long.
At 23:40, Fleet spotted an iceberg in Titanic's path, rang the ship's bell three times and telephoned the bridge to inform Sixth Officer James Moody, who asked: "What do you see?" Fleet replied: "Iceberg right ahead." After thanking Fleet, Moody relayed the message to Murdoch, who ordered Quartermaster Robert Hitchens to change the ship's course. Murdoch is generally said to have given an order of "Hard a'starboard" which would result in the ship's tiller being moved all the way to starboard (the right side of the ship) in an attempt turn the ship to port (left). He also signalled "Full Astern" on the ship's telegraphs. Judging from his words after the collision, when he told Captain Smith that he was attempting to "hard-a-port around it", he appears to have been attempting a manoeuvre called a "port around" to first swing the bows around the obstacle, then swing the stern so that both ends of the ship would avoid a collision. There was a delay before either order went into effect; the steam-powered steering mechanism took up to thirty seconds to turn the ship's tiller, and the complex task of setting the engines into reverse would also have taken some time to accomplish.The ship's course changed only a few seconds before impact, causing Titanic to strike the iceberg with a glancing blow rather than a head-on collision. As the starboard side of the ship scraped along the iceberg, chunks of dislodged ice fell onto her forward decks.
Effects of the collisionEdit
The impact with the iceberg was long thought to have produced a huge tear in Titanic's hull, "not less than 300 feet (91 m) in length, 10 feet (3.0 m) above the level of the keel", as one writer later put it. Titanic's discoverer Dr. Robert Ballard has commented that this assumption was "a byproduct of the mystique of the Titanic. No one could believe that the great ship was sunk by a little sliver." Ultrasound surveys of the wreck have found that the damage consisted of six thin openings and the damaged area covered only about 12 to 13 square feet (1.1 m² to 1.2 m²). According to Paul K. Matthias, who made the measurements, the damage consisted of a "series of deformations in the starboard side that start and stop along the hull ... about 10 feet above the bottom of the ship." The gaps, the longest of which measures about 39 feet (12 m) long, appear to have followed the line of the hull plates. This suggests that the iron rivets along the plate seams snapped off or popped open to create narrow gaps through which water flooded in. An engineer from Titanic's builders, Harland and Wolff, suggested this scenario at a British inquiry following the disaster but his view was discounted. Faults in the ship's hull may have been a contributing factor. Recovered pieces of the Titanic's hull plates appeared to have shattered on impact with the iceberg, without bending. The steel plates have been found to be far weaker than comparable modern steel due to high levels of impurities and larger grain sizes. The rivets also had a high level of slag inclusions, making them more brittle and prone to snapping when put under stress.
Above the waterline, there was little evidence of the collision. The stewards in the First Class Dining Room noticed a shudder, which they thought might have been caused by the ship shedding a propeller blade. Many of the passengers felt a bump or shudder but did not know what it was. Those on the lowest decks, nearest the site of the collision, felt it much more directly. Engine Oiler Walter Hurst recalled being "awakened by a grinding crash along the starboard side no one was very much alarmed but knew we had struck something". Fireman George Kemish heard a "heavy thud and grinding tearing sound" from the starboard hull. The ship began to flood immediately, with water pouring in at an estimated rate of seven tons a second. Second Engineer J.H. Hesketh and Leading Stoker Frederick Barrett were hit by a jet of icy water in No. 6 boiler room and escaped just before the room's watertight door closed.
Titanic's lower decks were divided into sixteen compartments separated by fifteen transverse bulkheads, each of which had a watertight door that could be closed remotely by the bridge. Although the bulkheads extended well above the water line, they were not sealed at the top. If too many compartments were flooded the weight of water would cause the ship to list, spilling water from one compartment to the next in sequence rather like water spilling across the top of an ice cube tray. This was what now began to happen to Titanic, which had suffered damage to the forepeak tank, the three forward holds and No. 6 boiler room. The ship could have survived the holing of four compartments but not five.
Captain Smith felt the collision in his cabin and came immediately to the bridge. Having been informed of the situation, Smith summoned Thomas Andrews, the builder of Titanic, who was on board as part of a party of engineers from Harland and Wolff who were observing the ship's first passenger voyage. The ship was listing five degrees to starboard and was two degrees down by the head within only a few minutes of the collision.Smith and Andrews went below and found that the forward cargo holds, the mailroom and the squash court were flooded, while No. 6 boiler room was already filled to a depth of 14 feet (4.3 m). Water was spilling over into No. 5 boiler room, from where crewmen were battling to pump it out. Andrews informed the captain that the ship was doomed and that it could remain afloat for no longer than about two more hours.
00:05–00:45 – Preparing to evacuateEdit
At 00:05, Captain Smith ordered the ship's lifeboats to be uncovered and the passengers to be mustered. He also ordered the wireless operators to begin sending distress calls, directing rescuers to a set of coordinates which turned out to be inaccurate by about 13.5 miles, wrongly placing the ship on the west side of the ice belt. Below decks, water was pouring into the lowest levels of the ship. The mail sorters were engaged in an ultimately futile attempt to save the 400,000 items of mail being carried aboard Titanic, and the firemen in the forepeak could hear the hissing of air being forced out by inrushing water. Above them, stewards went from door to door, rousing sleeping passengers and crew – Titanic did not have a public address system – and told them to go to the Boat Deck. The thoroughness of the muster was heavily dependent on the class of the passengers; the first-class stewards were in charge of only a few cabins, while those responsible for the second and third-class passengers had to manage large numbers of people. The first-class stewards provided (literally) hands-on assistance, helping their charges to get dressed and bringing them onto the deck. The stewards lower down had to manage a far larger number of people and mostly confined their efforts to throwing open doors and telling passengers to put on lifebelts and come up top. In third class, passengers were largely left to their own devices after being informed of the need to come on deck.
Many passengers and crew were reluctant to comply, either refusing to believe that there was a problem or preferring the warmth of the ship's interior to the bitterly cold night air. The passengers were not told that the ship was sinking, though a few noticed that she was visibly listing. Around 00:15, the stewards began ordering the passengers to put on their lifebelts, though again, many passengers treated the orders as a joke; some set about playing an impromptu game of football with the ice chunks that were now strewn across the foredeck. It was difficult to hear over the noise of high-pressure steam being vented from the stopped engines. Laurence Beesley described the sound as "a harsh, deafening boom that made conversation difficult; if one imagines twenty locomotives blowing off steam in a low key it would give some idea of the unpleasant sound that met us as we climbed out on the top deck." It was so noisy that the crew had to rely on hand signals to communicate on the deck.
Captain Smith was now faced with the fact that there were too few lifeboats to save everyone aboard. Titanic had a total of twenty lifeboats, comprising sixteen wooden boats on davits, eight on either side of the ship, and four collapsible boats with wooden bottoms and canvas sides. The collapsibles were stored upside down with the sides folded in; they would have to be assembled and moved to the davits for launching. Two were stored under the wooden boats and the other two were lashed atop the officers' quarters. The position of the latter two would make them extremely difficult to launch, as they weighed several tons each and had to be manhandled down to the Boat Deck. On average the lifeboats could take up to 68 people each, but collectively they could only accommodate 1,178 people, barely half the number on board and only a third of the number had the ship been fully occupied. The shortage of lifeboats was not because of a shortage of space – Titanic had been designed to accommodate up to 68 lifeboats – nor was it because of cost, as an extra 32 lifeboats would only have cost $16,000, a tiny fraction of Titanic's $7.5 million cost. Instead, the White Star Line had wished to have a wide promenade deck with uninterrupted views out to sea, which would have been obstructed if there had been a continuous row of lifeboats. The company never envisaged that all of the crew and passengers would have to be evacuated at once, as Titanic was considered to be almost unsinkable. The lifeboats were instead intended to be used in the event of an emergency to transfer passengers off the ship and onto a nearby vessel providing assistance. Titanic had more lifeboats than the outdated British regulations required, and it was commonplace for liners to have far fewer lifeboats than needed to accommodate all their passengers and crew. Out of 39 British liners of the time of over 10,000 tons, 33 had too few lifeboat places for their full complements.
Smith was a very experienced sailor, having spent forty years at sea with 27 years of command. He would certainly have known that even if the boats were fully occupied, a thousand people would remain on the ship as she went down. As the enormity of what was about to happen sank in, he appears to have become paralysed by indecision. He did not issue a general call for evacuation, failed to order his officers to load the lifeboats, did not adequately organise the crew, withheld crucial information from his officers and crewmen, and gave sometimes ambiguous and impractical orders. Even some of his bridge officers were unaware for some time after the collision that the ship was sinking; Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall did not find out until 01:15, barely an hour before the ship went down, while Quartermaster George Rowe was so unaware of the emergency that after the evacuation had started, he phoned the bridge from his watch station to ask why he had just seen a lifeboat go past. Smith appears to have kept to himself the knowledge (shared only by J. Bruce Ismay and Thomas Andrews) that the ship did not have enough lifeboats to save everyone. He did not supervise the loading of the lifeboats and seemingly made no effort to find out if his orders were being followed.
The crew was likewise unprepared for the emergency, as training for such an event had been minimal. Only one lifeboat drill had been carried out while the ship was docked. It was a cursory effort, consisting of two lifeboats being lowered, each manned by one officer and four men, who proceeded to row around the dock for a few minutes before returning to the ship. The boats were supposed to be stocked with emergency supplies but Titanic's passengers later found that they had only been partially provisioned. No lifeboat or fire drills had been carried out since Titanic left Southampton. A lifeboat drill had been scheduled for the morning before the ship sank, but was cancelled for unknown reasons by Captain Smith. Lists had been posted on the ship detailing crew members to particular lifeboat stations, but few appeared to have read them or known what they were supposed to do. Most of the crew were, in any case, not seamen. Even some of those who were had no prior experience of rowing a boat. They were now faced with the complex task of coordinating the lowering of 20 boats carrying 1,100 people into the North Atlantic, 70 feet (21 m) down the sides of the ship. One historian of the disaster has commented that the evacuation was so badly organised that "even if they had the number [of] lifeboats they needed, it is impossible to see how they could have launched them" given the lack of time and poor leadership.
By about 00:20, forty minutes after the collision, the loading of the lifeboats was under way, though it was perhaps symptomatic of Captain Smith's apparent indecisiveness that it was at the suggestion of Second Officer Lightoller. As the latter recalled afterwards, "I yelled at the top of my voice, 'Hadn't we better get the women and children into the boats, sir?' He heard me and nodded reply." Smith ordered Lightoller to put the "women and children in and lower away". Lightoller took charge of the boats on the port side and Murdoch took those on the starboard side. The two officers interpreted the evacuation order differently; Murdoch took it to mean women and children first while Lightoller thought it meant women and children only. Lightoller lowered lifeboats with empty seats if there were no women and children waiting to board, while Murdoch allowed a limited number of men to board if all the nearby women and children had embarked. Neither officer knew how many people could safely be carried in the boats as they were lowered and erred on the side of caution by not filling them. They could have been lowered quite safely with their full complement of 68 people. Had this been done, an extra 500 people could have been saved; instead, hundreds of people, predominately men, were left on board as lifeboats were launched with many seats empty.
00:15-02:05 – Departure of the lifeboatsEdit
The officers in charge of the evacuation found it hard at first to persuade passengers to board the lifeboats. The millionaire John Jacob Astor declared: "We are safer here than in that little boat." Some passengers refused flatly to embark. J. Bruce Ismay, realizing the need for urgency, roamed the starboard deck urging passengers and crew to evacuate Titanic. A trickle of women, couples and single men were persuaded to board starboard lifeboat No. 7, which became the first lifeboat to be lowered into the water. It rowed away with 28 passengers (despite a capacity of 65) at about 00:15, half an hour after Titanic had struck the iceberg and little more than 90 minutes before it sank.
Lifeboat No. 6, on the port side, was lowered at 00:55. It also had 28 people aboard, among them the famously "unsinkable" Margaret "Molly" Brown, who was dropped in from the deck as the boat was being lowered. Lightoller realised there was only one seaman aboard and called for volunteers. Major Arthur Godfrey Peuchen of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club stepped up and climbed down a rope into the lifeboat; he was the only male passenger Lightoller allowed into a lifeboat. Peuchen's role highlighted a key problem during the evacuation: there were hardly any seamen to man the boats. Some had been sent below to open gangway doors to allow more passengers to be evacuated, but they never returned and were presumably trapped and drowned by the rising water below decks.Meanwhile, unseen by those topside, crewmen below decks were already fighting for their lives – and in some cases losing them – as water continued to pour into the ship. The engineers and firemen struggled desperately to keep the steam up in the boiler rooms to relieve pressure in order to prevent a boiler explosion, as well as set up and operated extra pumps in the flooding forward compartments, and kept the generators running in the two engine rooms to maintain lights and power throughout the ship. Steward F. Dent Ray narrowly avoided being swept away when a wooden wall between his quarters and third-class accommodation on E deck collapsed, submerging him waist-deep in water. In boiler room No. 5, assistant engineer F. Dent Harvey was swept away and drowned along with an injured colleague, Third Engineer Shepherd, when the bulkhead separating it from the flooded No. 6 boiler room collapsed at around 00:45 flooding the boiler room within minutes. In boiler room No. 4, at around 01:20, water began flooding in from below, possibly indicating that the bottom of the ship had also been holed by the iceberg. The flow of water soon overwhelmed the pumps and forced the firemen to evacuate the forward boiler rooms. Further aft, Chief Engineer William Bell and his engineering colleagues along with a handful of firemen and greasers who volunteered to stay behind to help out, continued working in No. 1, 2 and 3 boiler rooms and in the engine rooms to keep the generators supplied with steam to keep the ship's lights working and to maintain electrical power for as long as possible in order for ship's distress signals to get out. They apparently remained at their posts until the very end, ensuring that the lights remained on until the final minutes of the sinking; none of the ship's engineers survived. Titanic's five postal clerks were last seen struggling to save the mail bags they had rescued from the flooded mail room but were caught by the rising water somewhere on D deck.
The lifeboats were now being lowered every few minutes on each side, but most of the boats were greatly under-filled. No 5 left with 41 aboard, No. 3 had 32 aboard, No. 8 left with 39 and No. 1 left with just 12 out of a capacity of 40. The evacuation did not go smoothly and passengers suffered accidents and injuries as it progressed. One woman fell between lifeboat No. 10 and the side of the ship but someone caught her by the ankle and hauled her back onto the promenade deck, where she made a second successful attempt at boarding. First-class passenger Annie Stengel broke several ribs when an overweight German-American doctor and his brother jumped into No. 5, squashing her and knocking her unconscious. The lifeboats' descent was likewise risky. No. 6 was nearly flooded during the descent by water pouring out of a scupper on the ship but successfully made it away from the ship. No. 3 came close to disaster when one of the davits jammed, threatening to pitch the passengers out of the lifeboat and into the sea, though in the end the problem was fixed.
By 01:20, the seriousness of the situation was now apparent to the passengers above decks, who began saying their goodbyes, with husbands escorting their wives and children to the lifeboats. Distress rockets were being fired every few minutes to attract the attention of nearby ships and the wireless operators were sending the distress signal CQD. Wireless operator Harold Bride suggested to his colleague Jack Phillips that he should use the new SOS signal, as it "may be your last chance to send it". As the evacuation was proceeding, Titanic's wireless operators contacted other ships to ask for assistance. Several responded, of which RMS Carpathia was the closest, 58 miles away. She was a much slower vessel than Titanic and, even driven at her maximum speed of 17 kn (20 mph; 31 km/h), would take about four hours to reach the sinking ship. Much nearer was the SS Californian, which had warned Titanic of ice a few hours earlier. Her captain had decided at about 22:00 to stop for the night and find a way through the icefield during daylight. At 23:30, only 10 minutes before Titanic hit the iceberg, Californian's sole wireless operator shut his set down for the night and went to bed. Up on the bridge her Third Officer, Charles Groves, saw a large vessel to starboard around ten to twelve miles away. It made a sudden turn to port and stopped. A little over an hour later, Second Officer Herbert Stone saw five white rockets exploding above the stopped ship. Unsure what the rockets meant, he called Californian's captain, Stanley Lord, who was resting in the chartroom, and reported the sighting. Lord did not act on the report, but Stone was perturbed; "A ship is not going to fire rockets at sea for nothing," he told a colleague.
By now it was clear to those on Titanic that the ship was indeed sinking and there would not be enough lifeboat places for everyone, although some still clung to the hope that the worst would not happen. Lucien Smith told his wife, "It is only a matter of form to have women and children first. The ship is thoroughly equipped and everyone on her will be saved." Charlotte Colyer's husband Harvey called to his wife as she was being put in a lifeboat, "Go, Lottie! For God's sake, be brave and go! I'll get a seat in another boat!" Other couples refused to be separated. Ida Straus, the wife of Macy's department store co-owner Isidor Straus, told her husband: "We have been living together for many years. Where you go, I go." They sat down in a pair of deck chairs and waited for the end. The industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim changed out of his life vest and sweater into top hat and evening dress, declaring that he wanted to go down with the ship like a gentleman.
The vast majority of those who had boarded so far were first and second-class passengers. Few third-class (steerage) passengers had made it on deck and most were still lost in the ship's maze of corridors or trapped behind barriers and partitions which segregated the accommodation for the steerage passengers from the first and second-class areas. This segregation was not simply for social reasons but was a requirement of United States immigration laws, which mandated that third-class passengers be segregated to control immigration and prevent the spread of infectious diseases. First and second-class passengers on transatlantic liners disembarked at the main piers in Manhattan, but steerage passengers had to go through health checks and processing at Ellis Island. In at least some places, Titanic's crew appear to have actively hindered the steerage passengers' escape. Some of the barriers were locked and guarded by crew members, apparently to prevent the steerage passengers rushing the lifeboats. Irish survivor Margaret Murphy wrote in May 1912: Before all the steerage passengers had even a chance of their lives, the Titanic's sailors fastened the doors and companionways leading up from the third-class section ... A crowd of men was trying to get up to a higher deck and were fighting the sailors; all striking and scuffling and swearing. Women and some children were there praying and crying. Then the sailors fastened down the hatchways leading to the third-class section. They said they wanted to keep the air down there so the vessel could stay up longer. It meant all hope was gone for those still down there. A long and winding route had to be taken to reach topside; the steerage-class accommodation, located on decks C through G, was at the extreme ends of the decks and so was furthest away from the lifeboats. By contrast, the first-class accommodation was located on the upper decks and so was nearest. Proximity to the lifeboats thus became a key factor in determining who got in them. To add to the difficulty, many of the steerage passengers did not understand English. It was perhaps no coincidence that English-speaking Irish immigrants were disproportionately represented among the steerage passengers who survived. Most of those who did survive owed their lives to third-class steward John Edward Hart, who organised three trips into the ship's interior to escort groups of third-class passengers up to the Boat Deck. Others made their way through open barriers or climbed emergency ladders. Some, perhaps overwhelmed by it all, made no attempt to escape and stayed in their cabins or congregated in prayer in the third-class dining room. Leading Fireman Charles Hendrickson saw crowds of third-class passengers below decks with their trunks and possessions, sitting around as if waiting for someone to direct them. August Wennerström, one of the relatively few male steerage passengers to survive, commented later that many of his companions had made no effort to save themselves; psychologist Wynn Craig Wade attributes this to "stoic passivity" produced by generations of being told what to do by social superiors.
Launching of the last lifeboatsEdit
By 01:30, Titanic was well down by the head and had developed a heavy list to port. The deteriorating situation was reflected in the tone of increasing desperation in the messages being sent by the ship's wireless operators: "We are putting the women off in the boats" at 01:25, "Engine room getting flooded" at 01:35 and "Engine room full up to boilers" at 01:45. The latter was Titanic's last intelligible signal, as the ship's electrical system was beginning to fail, and subsequent messages were jumbled and broken. The operators nonetheless continued sending out distress messages almost up to the very end. The remaining boats were now being filled much closer to capacity and in an increasing rush. No. 11 was filled with five people more than its rated capacity. As it was lowered, it was nearly flooded by water being pumped out of the ship, but made it safely to the sea. No. 13 narrowly avoided the same problem but those aboard were unable to release the ropes from which the boat had been lowered. It drifted astern, directly under No. 15, which was being lowered. The ropes were cut in time and both boats made it away safely.
The first signs of panic began to be manifested when a group of passengers attempted to rush port-side lifeboat No. 14 as it was being lowered with 40 people aboard. Fifth Officer Lowe fired warning shots in the air to restrain the crowd, without causing injuries. No. 16 was lowered five minutes later. Among those aboard was stewardess Violet Jessop, who was to repeat the experience four years later when she survived the sinking of Titanic's sister ship, Britannic. Collapsible boat "C" was launched at 01:40 from a now largely deserted area of the deck, as most of those on deck had moved to the stern of the ship. It was aboard this boat that J. Bruce Ismay, Titanic's most controversial survivor, made his escape from the ship, for which he was later reviled for a perceived act of cowardice. At 01:45, lifeboat No. 2 was lowered. While it was still on the deck Lightoller had found the boat occupied by a number of men who, he wrote later, "weren't British, nor of the English-speaking race ... [but of] the broad category known to sailors as 'Dagoes'." After he evicted them by threatening them with his revolver, he was unable to find enough women and children to fill the boat and lowered it with only 25 people on board out of a possible capacity of 40. John Jacob Astor saw his wife off to safety in No. 4 boat at 01:55 but was refused entry by Lightoller, even though 20 of the 60 seats aboard were unoccupied.
The last boat to be launched was collapsible "D", which left at 02:05 with 44 people aboard. By now the sea was reaching the forecastle. Captain Smith came into the wireless room, telling the wireless operators: "Now it's every man for himself." Smith then left the wireless room and Bride heard the band as he left the wireless cabin, which was by now awash, in the company of the other wireless operator, Jack Phillips. He had just had a fight with a man who Bride thought was "a stoker, or someone from below decks", who had attempted to steal Phillips' lifebelt. Bride wrote later: "I did my duty. I hope I finished [the man]. I don't know. We left him on the cabin floor of the wireless room, and he was not moving." The two wireless operators went in opposite directions, Phillips aft and Bride forward towards collapsible lifeboat "B".
Archibald Gracie was also heading aft, but as he made his way towards the stern he found his path blocked by "a mass of humanity several lines deep, covering the Boat Deck, facing us" – hundreds of steerage passengers, who had finally made it to the deck just as the last lifeboats departed. He gave up on the idea of going aft and jumped into the water to get away from the crowd. Others made no attempt to escape.
As the water reached the forecastle, Captain Smith gave the last order though his megaphone:
“Abandon Ship! Every man for himself!”
At that, people panicked and scrambled up the boat deck towards the stern of the ship fearful for their lives, where Father Thomas Byles was giving absolutions and hearing confessions, and Smith walked onto the bridge still clutching his megaphone. He entered the open bridge and stood there looking at the water. Murdoch arrived on the bridge and tried to convince Smith that he should leave his ship, but Smith refused and decided that he would not let the Titanic die alone and that he would share her fate. Murdoch then left to help with the collapsible boats and Smith walked out of the bridge leaving the megaphone on the helm of the wheel and stood on the deck again watching people running towards the stern while others tired to lauch the two collapsible boats. As the water was coming onto the boat deck, he walked onto the bridge again, this time to await his fate. He saw the water flooding the open bridge where his megaphone was resting on the helm.
The band which had been playing all night stopped and said goodbye to each other and walked off. Band Leader, Wallace Hartley, picked up his violin and started to play “Nearer My God To Thee” and the rest of the band joined him.
Officer Moody stood inside the flooding open bridge, he then jumped over the bridge wing into the icy water. Smith saw Moody jump and Smith knew that he would be washed overboard when the open bridge went under so he knew that the wheelhouse would be his final resting place and started to walk towards it.
Several passengers joined in with the band and began to sing softly along with the hymn.
Smith opened the door to the wheelhouse. His hands were trembling with fear. He knew that from the time the Titanic hit the iceberg that his ship was doomed and so was he. He closed the door to the wheelhouse, locked it with a key and headed to close the other door, when he saw James McGann, a fireman standing outside the bridge looking at him.
McGann saw that Smith was trying to keep himself from crying and felt tears in his eyes as he looked at Smith.
Suddenly Smith shouted: 'Well boys, you've done your duty and done it well. I ask no more of you. I release you. You know the rule of the sea.
“It's every man for himself now, and God bless you'.
Smith closed the door shut, locked it and silently dropped the key. He stood there looking at the rising water engulfing his ship.
When the water covered the bridge, Murdoch was helping untangle Collapsible lifeboat A, when a large wave washed the boat off the deck and it pushed Murdoch into the water. The First Officer found himself up to his neck in water and saw Moody nearby unable to swim properly and swam towards his rescue.
Watching from inside the wheelhouse, Smith saw his megaphone go under as the water reached the helm of the open bridge, he unbuttoned his Navy Blue uniform and took out of his pocket the portrait photograph of his wife and daughter.
“Forgive me” were the last words he uttered as the water rose higher and higher around the bridge and pushed against the glass of the windows in the wheelhouse, he put the photograph back in his pocket and buttoned up his uniform and put both hands on the wheel.
Second Officer Lightoller was on the deck unknotting Collapsible Lifeboat C on the starboard side of the ship when he jumped into the water. He was sucked under by water being sucked into the ship through the ventilation turret behind the brifdge abnd down into the boiler rooms, and held against the flimsy grating for about ten seconds and as he was letting go of life, the suction gave way and he was released. He came to the surface and was pulled down again against another grating. He will never knew how he got away but he did, he came to the surface again, he was freezing and the water seemed like a thousand sharp knives sticking into him. He realized he might die, so he started to swim for the overturned Collapsible lifeboat that he was helping get down off the roof of the bridge.
With that the glass of the wheelhouse shattered and the water swept into the wheelhouse sweeping Captain Smith against the back wall of the wheelhouse, Smith managed to swim back to the wheel and grab onto to it again. He made one final salute as the water engulfed the wheelhouse, that was the last known of the one of the greatest sea Captains the world had known, Edward John Smith, RD, TM, RNR. It was 02:13.
“Nearer My God To Thee” then ended as the water came up to the feet of the musicians, three of them were washed off while the other five held on to the railing on top the Grand Staircase's deckhouse. Hartley upon seeing that the end was near exclaimed, "Gentlemen, I bid you farewell!" and then he and his fellow musicians went under and were dragged down with the bow.
02:15–02:20 – SinkingEditAt about 02:15, Titanic began to sink as the rising water reached the boat deck, causing the ship's inclination to increase rapidly. Her sudden motion caused what one survivor called a "giant wave" to wash along the ship from the forward end of the boat deck, sweeping many people into the sea. Members of the crew were swept away along with collapsible lifeboat "B", which floated away upside-down with Harold Bride trapped underneath it.
In the water, Murdoch was holding onto Moody and telling him that the boats will return when they hear the lines of the funnel snapping and turned around to see the funnel starting to fall. Upon seeing this, Murdoch instantly pulled Moody along with himself under the water to avoid being crushed.
The forward funnel collapsed under its own weight, crushing several people as it fell into the water and only narrowly missing the upside down lifeboat. It closely missed Lightoller, Murdoch and Moody and created a wave that washed the boat fifty yards clear of the sinking ship. Those still on Titanic felt her structure shuddering as it underwent immense stresses, as Jack Thayer described: Occasionally there had been a muffled thud or deadened explosion within the ship. Now, without warning she seemed to start forward, moving forward and into the water at an angle of about fifteen degrees. This movement with the water rushing up toward us was accompanied by a rumbling roar, mixed with more muffled explosions. It was like standing under a steel railway bridge while an express train passes overhead mingled with the noise of a pressed steel factory and wholesale breakage of china."Eyewitnesses saw Titanic's stern lifting high into the air as the ship pivoted down in the water. According to eyewitnesses it reached an angle of 45 degrees, "revolving apparently around a centre of gravity just astern of midships," as Archibald Gracie later put it. Many survivors described how they heard a great noise, which some attributed to the boilers exploding. Gracie described it as "partly a groan, partly a rattle, and partly a smash, and it was not a sudden roar as an explosion would be: it went on successively for some seconds, possibly fifteen to twenty". He attributed it to "the engines and machinery coming loose from their bolts and bearings, and falling through the compartments, smashing everything in their way". The lights suddenly went out, plunging Titanic into darkness. Jack Thayer recalled seeing "groups of the fifteen hundred people still aboard, clinging in clusters or bunches, like swarming bees; only to fall in masses, pairs or singly as the great afterpart of the ship, two hundred fifty feet of it, rose into the sky."
At 02:17, the RMS Titanic’s huge body lunge out of the water at a 45 degree angle and started its final deaths throws. The second Smokestack ripped from its casing and the cable holding it lashed out across the decks killing people it hit. The funnel fell and crushed about 100 people. The third funnel also came away from its moorings and fell off. The ship rose further out of the water and suddenly there was a violent crashing sound as the Titanic broke in two parts spilling the contents of the ship into the water. The ship rose higher, the bow broke away and the stern section from the fourth funnel back crashed back on the surface of the water.
People had clambered onto the Poop Deck of the ship and were frantically trying to get to the back railing. People jumped off the stern, many to their deaths and some narrowly missing the port wing propeller.
After about a minute the flooding took over once more and the stern rose up to 30 degrees and started to sink again. As the water reached the windows of the smoking room, Andrews who was holding onto the mantle to keep himself from falling took out his pocket watch and opened it, gazing at the picture of his lovely family and kissed it. With that the glass windows shattered and the water swept into the smoking room slamming Andrews against the mantle and knocking him unconscious. The water flooded the smoking room separating both Andrews and his family photograph apart, and the photograph went floating away with the raging waters, throughout the smoking room, while the unconscious Andrews went floating away with the raging water and went straight up out the smoking room, into the dining room. That was the last known of him. 'Chief Baker, Charles Joughin had drunk a full bottle of whiskey through out the sinking and was on the stern as it sank. He walked off the back into the water without getting his hair wet. He swam away from the wreckage and bobbed in the water drunk.
At 2:20, the stern of the Titanic plunged at an 35 degree angle under the dark cold waves of the North Atlantic. Over 1500 people were left in the water. The scene was horrific.
After they went under the bow and stern took only twelve minutes to descend 3,795 metres (12,451 ft), spilling a trail of heavy machinery, tons of coal and great quantities of debris from Titanic's interior. The two parts of the ship landed about 600 metres (2,000 ft) apart on a gently undulating area of the seabed. The streamlined bow section continued to descend at about the angle it had taken on the surface, striking the seabed prow-first at a shallow angle at an estimated speed of 25–30 mph (40–48 km/h). Its momentum caused it to dig a deep gouge into the seabed and buried the section up to 20 metres (66 ft) deep in sediment before it came to an abrupt halt. The sudden deceleration caused the bow's structure to buckle downwards by several degrees just forward of the bridge. The decks at the rear end of the bow section, which had already been weakened during the break-up, collapsed one atop another. The stern section seems to have descended almost vertically, probably rotating as it fell. Pockets of air still trapped in the hull imploded as it descended, tearing open the structure and ripping off the poop deck. The section landed with such force that it buried itself about 15 metres (49 ft) deep at the rudder. The decks pancaked down on top of each other and the hull plating splayed out to the sides. Debris continued to rain down across the seabed in the vicinity of the wreck for several hours after the sinking.
02:20–04:10 – Adrift in the waterEdit
In the immediate aftermath of the sinking, hundreds of passengers and crew were left dying in the water, surrounded by debris from the ship. Titanic's disintegration during its descent to the seabed caused buoyant chunks of debris – timber beams, wooden doors, furniture, panelling and chunks of cork from the bulkheads – to rocket to the surface. They injured and possibly killed some of the swimmers; others used the debris to try to keep themselves afloat. The water was lethally and painfully cold with a temperature of only 28 °F (−2 °C). Second Officer Lightoller described the feeling of "a thousand knives" being driven into his body as he entered the sea. Some of those in the water would have died almost immediately from heart attacks caused by the sudden stress on their cardiovascular systems. Others progressed through the classic symptoms of hypothermia: extreme shivering at first, followed by a slowing and weakening pulse as body temperature dropped, before finally losing consciousness and dying.
They did not go quietly. Those in the lifeboats were horrified to hear the sound of what Lawrence Beesley called "every possible emotion of human fear, despair, agony, fierce resentment & blind anger mingled – I am certain of those – with notes of infinite surprise, as though each one were saying, 'How is it possible that this awful thing is happening to me? That I should be caught in this death trap?'" Jack Thayer compared it to the sound of "locusts on a summer night", while George Rheims, who jumped moments before Titanic sank, described it as "a dismal moaning sound which I won't ever forget; it came from those poor people who were floating around, calling for help. It was horrifying, mysterious, supernatural." The noise was a tremendous shock to the occupants of the lifeboats, many of whom had up to that moment believed that everyone had escaped before the ship sank. As Beesley later wrote, the cries "came as a thunderbolt, unexpected, inconceivable, incredible. No one in any of the boats standing off a few hundred yards away can have escaped the paralysing shock of knowing that so short a distance away a tragedy, unbelievable in its magnitude, was being enacted, which we, helpless, could in no way avert or diminish."
Only a few of those in the water survived. Among them were Archibald Gracie, Jack Thayer and Charles Lightoller, who made it to the capsized collapsible boat "B" but Murdoch and Moody perished in the water. About 35 men climbed aboard the upturned hull and clung on precariously, trying to keep their balance and avoid being tipped off by the mass of swimmers around them. They paddled slowly away, turning away the pleas of dozens of swimmers to be allowed on board. Collapsible boat "A" was upright but partly flooded, as its sides had not been properly raised, and its occupants had to sit for hours in a foot of freezing water. Further out, the other eighteen lifeboats – most of which had empty seats – drifted as the occupants debated what, if anything, they should do to rescue the swimmers. No. 4 boat seems to have been closest to the swimmers; this enabled several to swim over and be picked up. A few more were pulled from the water, though two later died. In all of the other boats, the occupants eventually decided against returning, probably out of fear that they would be capsized in the attempt. Some put their objections more bluntly; Quartermaster Hitchens, commanding lifeboat No. 6, told the women aboard his boat that there was no point returning as there were "only a lot of stiffs there."
After about twenty minutes, the cries faded as the swimmers lapsed into unconsciousness and death. Fifth Officer Lowe, in charge of No. 14 lifeboat, "waited until the yells and shrieks had subsided for the people to thin out" before mounting the night's sole attempt to rescue those in the water. He gathered together five of the lifeboats and transferred occupants between them to free up room in No. 14. The operation took about three-quarters of an hour. By the time No. 14 headed back to the site of the sinking, almost all of those in the water were already dead and only a few voices could still be heard. Lowe and his crew found four men still alive, one of whom died shortly afterwards. Otherwise all they could see were "hundreds of bodies and lifebelts"; the dead "seemed as if they had perished with the cold as their limbs were all cramped up."
There was now nothing more the survivors could do but to await the arrival of rescue ships. The air was bitterly cold and several of the boats had taken on water. The survivors could not find any food or drinkable water in the boats, and most had no lights. The situation was much worse aboard collapsible "B", which was only kept afloat by a diminishing air pocket in the upturned hull. As dawn approached, the wind rose and the sea became increasingly choppy. Those aboard had to stand up to balance the lifeboat. Some, exhausted by the ordeal, fell off into the sea and were drowned. It became steadily harder for the rest to keep their balance on the hull, with waves washing across it, and the likelihood of their survival must have seemed increasingly remote.
04:10–09:15 – Rescue and departureEdit
Titanic's survivors were finally rescued around 04:00 on 15 April by the RMS Carpathia, which had steamed through the night at high speed and at considerable risk, as the ship had to dodge between numerous icebergs en route. Carpathia's lights were first spotted around 03:30, greatly cheering the survivors, though it took several more hours for everyone to be brought aboard. The men on collapsible "B" finally managed to transfer to two other lifeboats, but one survivor died just before the transfer was made. Collapsible "A" was also in trouble and was now nearly flush with the water; more than half of those aboard had died overnight. The remainder were transferred into another lifeboat, leaving behind three bodies in the boat, which was left to drift away. It was only recovered a month later by the White Star liner Oceanic, with the bodies still aboard.
The survivors and those on Carpathia were startled by the scene that greeted them as the sun came up: "fields of ice on which, like points on the landscape, rested innumerable pyramids of ice." Captain Arthur Rostron of Carpathia saw ice all around, including twenty large bergs measuring up to 200 feet (61 m) high and numerous smaller bergs, as well as ice floes and debris from Titanic drifting in the water. It appeared to Carpathia's passengers that their ship was in the middle of a vast white plain of ice, studded with icebergs appearing like hills in the distance.
As the lifeboats were brought alongside Carpathia, the survivors came aboard by various means. Some were strong enough to climb aboard on rope ladders; others were hoisted up in slings, and the children were hoisted aboard in mail sacks. The last lifeboat to reach the ship was Lightoller's boat No. 12, with 74 people aboard in a boat designed to carry 65. They were all aboard by 09:00. There were scenes of joy on Carpathia as some families and friends were reunited, but in most cases hopes were dashed as loved ones failed to reappear. Carpathia was bound for Fiume, Austria-Hungary (now Rijeka, Croatia) but it was immediately apparent that she had neither the supplies nor the medical facilities aboard to cater for the survivors. Rostron ordered a course to be calculated to return the ship to her starting point, New York, where the survivors could be properly looked after. At 09:15, two more ships appeared on the scene – Mount Temple and Californian, which had finally learned of the disaster a few hours earlier when her wireless operator returned to duty – but by then there were no more survivors to be rescued. Carpathia set sail for New York, leaving the other ships to carry out a final, fruitless search for a couple more hours.
Carpathia arrived at Pier 34 in New York on the evening of 18 April after a difficult voyage through pack ice, fog, thunderstorms and rough seas. 40,000 people stood on the waterfront, alerted to the disaster by a stream of wireless messages from Carpathia and other ships. Due to communications difficulties, it was only after Carpathia docked – a full three days after Titanic's sinking – that the events of the disaster became public knowledge. The news hit hardest in Southampton in England, where most of the crew came from; 699 members of the crew gave Southampton addresses, and 549 Southampton residents, almost all crew, were lost in the disaster.
Even before Carpathia had arrived in New York, efforts were getting underway to retrieve the dead. Four ships chartered by the White Star Line succeeded in retrieving 328 bodies. 119 were buried at sea, while the remaining 209 were brought ashore to the Canadian port of Halifax, Nova Scotia, where 150 of them were buried. Memorials were raised to the dead in various places – New York, Washington D.C., Southampton, Liverpool, Belfast and Lichfield, among others – and ceremonies were held on both sides of the Atlantic to commemorate the dead and raise funds to aid the survivors. The bodies of most of Titanic's victims were never recovered and the only evidence of their deaths was found 73 years later among the debris on the seabed: pairs of shoes lying side by side, where bodies had once lain before being devoured by sea creatures and dissolved by sea water and steady currents.
In the aftermath of the sinking, enquiries were set up in Britain and the United States. The US enquiry began on 19 April under the chairmanship of Senator William Alden Smith, while the British enquiry commenced in London under Lord Mersey in May–June 1912. They reached broadly similar conclusions; the regulations on the number of lifeboats that ships had to carry were out of date and inadequate, Captain Smith had failed to take proper heed of ice warnings, the lifeboats had not been properly filled or crewed, and the collision was the direct result of steaming into a danger area at too high a speed. Captain Lord of the Californian was strongly criticised by both enquiries for failing to render assistance to Titanic. The disaster led to major changes in maritime regulations to implement new safety measures, such as ensuring that there were enough lifeboats, that lifeboat drills were properly carried out, and that wireless equipment was manned around the clock, which had not been required prior to the disaster.
The wreck of the Titanic remains at the bottom of the North Atlantic. Its location was unknown until a joint US-French expedition led by Dr. Robert Ballard found it on 1 September 1985. The ship's rediscovery led to an explosion of interest in Titanic's story and the launching of numerous expeditions to film the wreck and, controversially, to salvage objects from the debris field. Titanic, in the meantime, continues to decay as rust-eating bacteria consume its hull at a rate estimated at 100 kilograms (220 lb) a day. Her structure will eventually collapse, reducing Titanic to a pile of disintegrated iron and ultimately to a patch of rust on the seabed, interspersed with the more durable parts of the ship's fittings.
Casualties and survivorsEdit
The number of casualties of the sinking is unclear, due to a number of factors, including confusion over the passenger list, which included the names of people who cancelled their trip at the last minute, and the fact that several passengers travelled under aliases for various reasons and were double-counted on the casualty lists. The death toll has been put at between 1,490 and 1,635 people. The figures below are from the US Senate report on the disaster.
|Passenger category||Number aboard||Percentage saved||Percentage lost||Number saved||Number lost|
|Children, First Class||6||83%||17%||5||1|
|Children, Second Class||24||100%||0%||24||0|
|Children, Third Class||79||34%||66%||27||52|
|Women, First Class||144||97%||3%||140||4|
|Women, Second Class||93||86%||14%||80||13|
|Women, Third Class||165||46%||54%||76||89|
|Men, First Class||175||33%||67%||57||118|
|Men, Second Class||168||8%||92%||14||154|
|Men, Third Class||462||16%||84%||75||387|
Less than a third of those aboard Titanic survived the disaster. Some survivors died shortly afterwards; injuries and the effects of exposure caused the deaths of several of those brought aboard Carpathia. The figures show stark differences in the survival rates of the different classes aboard Titanic. Although only 3 per cent of first-class women were lost, 54 percent of those in third class died. Similarly, only one first-class child died and none in second-class, but 52 of the 79 in third class perished. Proportionately the heaviest losses were suffered by the second-class men, of whom 92% died. James Cameron, the director of the 1997 blockbuster film Titanic, notes: "A third-class male stood about a one-in-eight chance ... If you were a first-class male ... it was about 50-50. If you were a first-class female, it was 98 percent in your favour. If you were a third-class female, it was about 50-50, and if you were a third-class male, it was 10 to 15 percent." It was for this reason that he chose to centre his film on a love affair between a first-class female and a third-class male, individuals with respectively the greatest and least chance of survival.