The RMS Titanic strikes an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean and sinks on April 15, 1912, just two days into her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. Over 1,500 people died in what was then the deadliest peacetime maritime disaster.
A haphazard evacuation begins with the lowering of the first lifeboat. It leaves with only 28 people aboard – far short of the capacity it could have held.
Several of titanic timeline most notable passengers have arrived at the port. They are spending their last few days acquainting themselves with the ship’s opulent public rooms and hallways before embarking on their maiden voyage. American multi-millionaire J Bruce Ismay and his wife Madeleine are traveling with their daughter; artist Frank Millet is touring Rome’s Villa Aurelia; and multi-millionaire John Jacob Astor and his second wife, Madeleine, are spending Easter at the family estate near Naples.
Titanic’s captain, Edward J. Smith, is aboard, as well as White Star Line chairman Ismay and the company’s vice president, Phillip Franklin. The crew is busy finishing up final preparations for the crossing. Carpets are being laid and decorators are putting the final touches on furnishings. Local Southampton florist Frank Bealing and his son bring aboard extensive floral arrangements, as the liner is decorated in flags to salute her home city.
At 9 p.m., Titanic reaches the corner of her track toward New York. Captain Smith ignores earlier ice warnings and continues on a longer steamer route, which may be his way of avoiding icebergs.
The ship’s lifeboats pass a seaworthiness test. Titanic carries 16 wooden lifeboats under davits and four collapsible boats. These are rated to hold less than half of the passenger and crew capacity.
At 11 a.m., the opulent ocean liner receives its first of many iceberg warnings. It comes from the nearby British cruiser SS Caronia.
April 11: Captain Smith takes Titanic through practice turns en route to Queenstown to test her maneuverability. 114 third-class passengers disembark; seven second-class passengers remain aboard.
April 14: The ship covers 519 miles in fine weather as she heads north. A number of ice warnings are received by wireless but not all reach the bridge. At 10:30 PM first officer Murdoch orders a hard starboard turn but the ship hits a large chunk of field ice, bending one side to an alarming degree and damaging the hull.
The ice is a distraction as Titanic’s chief architect, Thomas Andrews, surveys the damage and reports that five of the forward compartments are flooded. He warns Smith that the ship isn’t unsinkable.
By this time the first lifeboats are ready and stewards move rapidly through the cabins, banging on doors to wake occupants and guiding them to decks. Due to outdated regulations Titanic has room in her lifeboats for less than half of the passengers and crew. The stewards are instructed to load women and children into the boats first.
Several ships hear the Titanic’s distress call, including her sister Olympic, which is 500 miles away. The icebreaker Carpathia, southeast of the disaster area some 58 miles, is notified and starts to head toward it at full speed.
Meanwhile, a crew member of the Mackay-Bennett, which has recovered 306 bodies so far, refuses to work on another voyage because the White Star Line does not have enough lifeboats. 285 crew members desert the ship. The surviving 13 lifeboats from the Carpathia are picked up but cleaned of their name plates. They are stored in the second-floor loft of the Titanic’s pier and are later used on other White Star liners.
After receiving ice warnings throughout the day, Captain Smith cancels a scheduled lifeboat drill and decides to alter the ship’s course. He also sends wireless operator Jack Phillips on the White Star line a message about a large area of heavy pack ice and many bergs, but Philips is unable to pass the information on to the Titanic’s bridge. The shift changes on the bridge, with First Officer William Murdoch taking over from Second Officer Charles Lightoller.
Lifeboats are lowered, but many are launched well below capacity. This is partially due to the crew’s worries that the davits will not support fully-loaded lifeboats, and partly because of the passengers’ refusal to leave the ship, believing it to be unsinkable. The first boat lowered is Number 8, on the port side. It carries some 28 people, including Countess of Rothess Lucy Noel Martha and White Star chairman Isidor Straus. Although the couple is offered seats in a collapsible, they refuse, with Isidor reportedly saying, “Where you go, I will go.”
On the bridge, Captain Smith asks Thomas Andrews and ship carpenter First Officer Boxhall to “sound the ship” (inspect its damage). They find that the Orlop deck forward of the fourth watertight bulkhead is flooded. They advise Smith that the ship will stay afloat for at most two hours.
During the night, Titanic collides with an iceberg. The lookouts spot the iceberg, which towers about 60 feet high. They sound the emergency signal, three sharp rings, and call down to the bridge. Sixth Officer Moody acknowledges the message, orders a stop signal to the engine room and “Full Astern” to the helmsman. He then activates a lever to close watertight doors below the waterline and spins the wheel as hard as he can.
The Iceberg Collision
A large chunk of ice breaks off from a glacier in southwest Greenland and drifts toward the Titanic, traveling at 22.5 knots. A number of iceberg warnings are received, but none reach the bridge.
At 11:40 p.m., lookouts spot an iceberg in the ship’s path. First Officer Murdoch orders a hard starboard turn, but the liner only avoids collision by less than 30 seconds. The iceberg scrapes the starboard side of the Titanic, flooding several rooms and causing the deck to tilt at an alarming angle.
People rush to lifeboats, including a group of male passengers who try to force their way into boat No. 14, which is manned by two seamen. They are restrained by shots fired by Fifth Officer Harold Lowe. The occupants of the port-side boat are rescued in the early hours of the morning, as are many survivors from collapsible D.
Six of the Titanic’s twelve watertight compartments are now flooded, and its crew can handle only four of them. The ship will sink in about two hours, with some 1,500 people aboard, about half the passengers and the rest crew.
The public’s fascination with the Titanic grows almost immediately after the disaster, and books and films glamorize the story and romanticize the victims. A few years after the sinking, American author Morgan Robertson publishes a fictional ship called Futility that hits an iceberg and sinks on her maiden voyage in 1912 without enough lifeboats to save everyone.
The Final Plunge
With nearly 1,500 people still on board, the last lifeboat is lowered into the Atlantic. The tilt of Titanic’s deck grows steeper, and those in the water freeze to death slowly.
01:30: The ship takes on water at an alarming rate, as ports and hatches are opened and closed. A group of men tries to rush lifeboat No 14 as it’s being lowered, but three shots fired from the crow’s nest by Fifth Officer Harold Lowe halt the attack.
Captain Smith orders all passengers and crew to prepare for a rescue. The first lifeboats are lowered into the water, and women and children go into them first. Despite the fact that there isn’t enough room on any of the lifeboats to accommodate everyone aboard, many people will have to swim to nearby ships or the shore.
The iceberg that collided with Titanic had been discovered by a crewman on the SS Californian earlier that evening, and its location relayed to the Titanic by RMS Baltic via a radio signal. Senior radio operator Jack Phillips receives the warning, but because it isn’t prefixed with the letters ‘MSG,’ he doesn’t treat it as urgent and instead continues to dispatch passenger telegrams.
As Titanic continues to take on water, a wave causes the front of her funnel to collapse and crush several people to death. The ship also begins to split in half, and her stern rises up out of the water, lifting bodies into the air. The rescue ship Carpathia arrives at the scene, and the surviving passengers and crew are taken onboard. In all, some 705 people survived the disaster. The harrowing journey took 16 hours.
Titanic Timeline Conclusion
The Titanic’s ill-fated maiden voyage in 1912 remains a tragic reminder of human hubris and the consequences of complacency. The ship’s sinking, with the loss of over 1,500 lives, led to significant advancements in maritime safety regulations and technological improvements, shaping the future of ocean travel.
- What caused the Titanic to sink? The Titanic struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912, puncturing its hull and causing flooding in several compartments. The ship’s design lacked adequate watertight compartments and lifeboats, which contributed to its rapid sinking within a few hours.
How did the Titanic disaster impact maritime safety? The Titanic disaster had a profound impact on maritime safety regulations. It led to the creation of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) in 1914, which introduced new safety measures, such as lifeboat requirements, radio procedures, and iceberg patrols, significantly improving passenger ship safety worldwide.