The sinking of the RMS Titanic caused the deaths of 1,517 of its 2,229 passengers and crew (official numbers vary slightly) in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history. The 712 survivors were taken aboard the RMS Carpathia. Few disasters have had such resonance and far-reaching effects on the fabric of society as the sinking of the Titanic. It affected attitudes toward social injustice, altered the way the North Atlantic passenger trade was conducted, changed the regulations for numbers of lifeboats carried aboard passenger vessels and created an International Ice Patrol (where commercial ships crossing the North Atlantic still, today, radio in their positions and ice sightings). The 1985 discovery of the Titanic wreck on the ocean floor marked a turning point for public awareness of the ocean and for the development of new areas of science and technology. April 14, 2012 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster. It has become one of the most famous ships in history, her memory kept alive by numerous books, films, exhibits and memorials. —
Constructed at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland, the Titanic was the largest passenger steamship in the world at the time. Nearly 14,000 laborers contributed to her construction, at a cost of nearly $8 million. (Compare this to the cost of making Cameron’s 1997 movie “Titanic,” with a production price tag of over $200 million.)
The ship was four city blocks long and weighed 46,329 tons. Three million rivets held the hull together. On launch day, 44,000 pounds (19,958 kg) of soap, grease and oil were required to slide the massive craft into the water. Twenty-nine boilers fueled the 159 coal-burning furnaces.
The coolers were stocked with 75,000 pounds (34,019 kg) of fresh meat, 11,000 pounds (4,989- kg) -f fresh fish, 36,000 oranges; 40,000 eggs, 6,000 pounds (2,721 kg) of butter and 1,500 gallons (6,819 1) of milk. The cupboards were filled with 12,000 dinner plates, 3,000 teacups, 300 nutcrackers, 6,000 tablecloths and 45,000 napkins.
Although designed and licensed to carry 3,50( passengers, only 2,223 people were on board including millionaire John Jacob Astor, mining magnate Benjamin Guggenheim and Macy’ department store owners Isidor and Ida Straus, The most elegant first-class suites were price.5 at $4,350, which translates to about $75,000 in today’s money. Second-class fares were $1,750 ($24,000 today), and third class steerage was available for $30, about $350 today. First-class passengers ate their meals from fine china edged in 22k gold
The final evening meal served on the Titanic consisted of 11 different courses, including raw oysters as an hors d’oeuvre, cream of barley soup, cold asparagus vinaigrette and roast duckling.
Four days into the Atlantic crossing, the ship struck an iceberg, one estimated at 500,000 tons, with 50 feet (15.2 m) above the water and seven-eighths of its bulk below. Icebergs are typically at their worst during April, because warmer spring temperatures melt the thick ice of the sea that has held the icebergs in place, releasing them to float free. The ship’s wireless operators received seven telegraphed ice warnings that fateful night. The final message, placed under a paperweight, was never delivered to those on the ship’s bridge; The ice field the Titanic encountered was close to 80 miles (128 1cm) long.
The ship was equipped with lifeboats for 1,178 of the more than 2,200 people on board. The death toll was 1,517, of which only 306 bodies were recovered. Although a lifeboat could hold 65 people, the first one was launched with only 28 on board. Had the crew loaded the existing lifeboats to capacity, 500 more lives could have been saved.
The original plans called for an additional 12 lifeboats on the deck, but the White Star Line’s management ditched the idea, claiming the deck would “look too cluttered.”
It was not a large gash in the hull of the Titanic that caused her to sink; rather the force of the impact caused the steel rivets to pop, buckling the steel plates of the hull. Based on the ship’s speed of about 22 knots, if the iceberg had been sighted only 30 seconds sooner, the collision could have been avoided. With one knot equal to 1.5 16 mph (2.44 km/h), 22 knots was close to the highest speed the ship had ever reached.
It took only two hours and 40 minutes for the Titanic to sink after striking the iceberg. The ship that responded immediately to the distress calls was the Carpathia, 58 miles (93 km) away. Unfortunately, it took four hours for the ship to reach the Titanic. The Carpathia carried the 700-plus survivors into New York harbor, where the ship was met by over 40,000 people.
Most of the victims froze to death rather than drowned in the 28° F (-2° C) water, where death occurred in as little as 15 minutes. When James Cameron produced his 1997 movie blockbuster, he instructed cast members on the stages of hypothermia in order to make their scenes more realistic. Cameron advised his cast, “It’s supposedly a very peaceful feeling.” The actors’ icy frozen hair was created by coating hair with colored wax.
Of the 306 bodies recovered, 150 were never claimed. Those unclaimed were buried in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Captain Edward Smith had plans of retiring after safely navigating the Titanic to New York City, wrapping up 38 years with the white Star line.
The wreck of the Titanic was discovered in September 1985, on an expedition led by Robert Ballard. She lay approximately 400 miles (644 1cm) off the coast of Newfoundland, 1,191 miles (1,917 km) from New York City, 12,460 feet (3,798 m) below the ocean’s surface. The bow and the stem were 1,970 feet (600 m) apart. During Ballard’s expedition, more than 20,000 photos were shot in four days.
Producer James Cameron made 12 trips to the actual wreckage site to conduct research for his 1997 film. His movie contains actual footage from these trips, shot on location. A replica of the ship was constructed for the film, and it was sunk in an immense tank filled with 17 million gallons of water. A hydraulic lift was used to tilt the tank and raise and lower the ship.
Several items recovered from the wreckage now reside in a Philadelphia museum, including Mrs. John Jacob Astor’s lifebelt, a menu from the dining room, a deck chair and a piece of wood from a lifeboat.
The youngest passenger on the ship was Millvina Dean, just nine weeks old. Her parents were emigrating to Wichita, Kansas, where they had family and friends. Millvina, along with her mother and brother, were some of the first steerage passengers to be loaded into lifeboats. Her 25-year-old father did not survive. Millvina was also the last living survivor, passing away in May 2009, at the age of 97. Her ashes were scattered off the Southampton dock, where the Titanic had been launched. Strangely enough, her brother died on the 80th anniversary of the sinking.
In this April 10, 1912 photo the Titanic leaves Southampton, England. The tragic sinking of the Titanic nearly a century ago can be blamed, some believe, on low grade rivets that the ship’s builders used on some parts of the ill-fated liner.