Due to situations beyond our control, we regret that this trip has been canceled.

History of the Titanic

History of the Titanic

No shipwreck evokes more emotion and awe than the Titanic. The circumstances of her tragic loss traumatized both sides of the Atlantic and spawned a legend.

At the heart of the tragedy was an extraordinary ship, unparalleled in size and luxury, impressive even by modern standards. Today she rests deep in the North Atlantic, shrouded by darkness and almost completely inaccessible.

One-sixth of a mile long (882 feet) and displacing 46,000 tons, Titanic was not only the largest moving object ever built, she was also the most opulent. More than 14,000 laborers and craftsmen poured their hearts and souls into her construction and appointment, toiling on her for four long years at the Harland & Wolff shipyard. So mighty was Titanic, with her sheer size and cutting-edge design, she was widely considered ‘unsinkable’.

The mystique surrounding the Titanic disaster has diminished little over time. Each generation has held the memory close, preserving it in books, music and movies. Today, the story stands as modern myth: a luxurious dream ship brimming with the Gilded Age's celebrities, coexisting with her struggling steerage class, for whom Titanic represented hope and an escape to a better life.

Add to that the tragic elements of hubris, human error and the inexorable power of nature and the tale of Titanic, with its myriad stories of heartbreak and heroism, is a poignant chapter in humanity's collective history.

Anatomy of a Disaster

The Titanic's Past

April 10, 1912, Southampton, England. Sailing Day. Passengers arrive at the White Star docks and board Titanic between 9:30 - 11:30 am. Titanic casts off at noon. Her maiden voyage has begun.

Titanic made two stops before heading off into the Atlantic. The first was at Cherbourg, France, where she picked up Trans-Atlantic mail and 274 more passengers. The following day she stopped at Queenstown, Ireland, to take on more mail and a further 120 passengers.

A small number of passengers left the ship at Queenstown, including crewmember, John Coffey who smuggled himself ashore amongst the mail sacks. It is ucertain whether Queenstown-born Coffey was having second thoughts about the ship or whether he had signed on with Titanic with the sole intention of getting a free ride home.

While in Queenstown Titanic's chief officer, Henry Wilde, sent a letter to his sister expressing his misgivings and saying, "I still don't like this ship, I have a queer feeling about it". Henry Wilde was to lose his life three days later.

Icebergs In 1912 ship to shore wireless was in its infancy and, whilst used on ship, was considered a convenience rather than a neccesity. Today it seems incredible that the wireless operators, Harold Bride and John Phillips, were not employed by White Star but for the Marconi Wireless Company. Whilst the operators came under the Captain's command when transmitting and receiving messages of importance to the ship, their main employment was tending to the passengers, sending and receiving telegrams on their behalf. Putting these paying customers first, communications concerning weather reports and ship-to-ship telegrams came a poor second.

On the second day of the voyage, the wireless operators began to receive iceberg warnings from other ships in the North Atlantic shipping lanes, with some ships reporting that they had been forced to stop due to the dense ice fields and bergs. Despite these warnings, Captain Smith continued to power on using the full force of Titanic's mighty 30,000 horsepower engines.

Tragically not all the ice warnings reached the bridge. On the Friday night the wireless had broken down and, whilst the operators struggled to fix it, a backlog of unsent passenger messages began to build up. Once the radio was fixed, the wireless room worked hard to clear the backlog – mostly messages from wealthy passengers enthusing about their trip to friends and relations. Because the operators concentrated on these passenger messages, late ice warnings were never delivered to Captain Smith or his officers.

Indeed, a near-by ship, the Californian, had attempted to make contact not ten minutes before the Titanic hit the iceberg - at 11.40 p.m. - but was told to "shut up" by the busy wireless operators, in what could be the singular most tragic mistake of the night.

To spot icebergs, lookouts relied on moonlight lighting up the white foam of waves breaking against the ice. Unluckily 14th April was a remarkably clear night with a moonless sky. The sea was flat calm, so there were no waves to spot at the base of the icebergs. And to make matters worse the binoculars in the crows-nest were missing.

Lookout, Frederick Fleet, first saw that fatal iceberg as a small mass one mile away, immediately rang the three-bell alarm and telephoned the bridge. First officer Murdoch ordered, "Hard a starboard and full speed astern". The crew tried in vain to turn the ship which was slow to react partly because its rudder was far too small for a ship of Titanic's size, and partly because the engines were switched to reverse: hindsight suggests that Titanic's engines should have been kept at full speed in order to turn her more quickly. An alternative view was that the ship should have been directed to hit the iceberg head on and hopefully damage only one of the 16 watertight compartments. Instead Titanic was turned only slightly allowing the ice to scrape open its side with water gushing into six compartments.

Most passengers felt only a minor jar or heard a scrape as Titanic hit the iceberg and silently came to a halt. Only a few miles away, the California was stopped in the ice but unfortunately its wireless wasn't staffed round the clock. Having earlier been abused when trying to warn Titanic of the ice, California 's wireless operator had closed down his set and retired to bed, just minutes before Titanic sent its desperate and unheard cries for help. Water gushed into Titanic ten times faster than could be pumped out. Because the watertight bulkheads only went half way up the hull to E deck, as the compartments filled with water, the bow of the ship was pulled down. Water overflowed from one compartment to the next and the ship's fate was sealed. Titanic was sinking. Captain Smith ordered for distress signals to be sent by wireless and, whilst no general alarm was sounded, the stewards began to urge passengers to dress and put on their life vests.

The Sinking

Titanic carried more lifeboats than was required by the law of the day and exceeded board of trade requirements by 17%. However, in reality this proved totally inadequate. The total of 20 (16 regular boats and four canvas collapsible boats) lifeboats could carry a maximum of 1,178 people, roughly half of the 2,228 passengers and crewmembers on board.

Confusion reigned. The crew, many unfamiliar with ship procedures, began to lower the lifeboats and passengers were reluctant to leave the warm, well-lit, ship for the small boats. On the port side, only women and children were allowed into the boats with men and boys being turned away, often by gunpoint. However the boats on the starboard allowed men to board from the beginning of the evacuation.

Poor planning and communication coupled with crew uncertainty meant that most boats were lowered whilst less than half full and, once lowered, most boats did not heed the instructions to stay nearby to pick up more people. Lifeboat 1 with its 40-person capacity actually held just 12, of which seven were crewmen.

At 1.10 a.m. with the ship clearly sinking, panic took hold. Many third class passengers found the way to the upper decks barred and could do little more than huddle in prayer.

At 1.15 a.m. the bow plunged below the water and, by 2.00 a.m., the water had reached within 10 feet of the promenade deck. All this time those left on board struggled to reach the lifeboats.

At 2.17 a.m. the Titanic's huge stern heaved up into the air and the propellers could clearly be seen as the ship became vertical in the sea. The lights flickered and went out. Suddenly Titanic broke apart and began to plunge to the ocean floor.

The lifeboats departed with only 650 passengers and crew leaving 1,558 on the decks of the sinking liner. Those in the lifeboats fearing being swamped, refused to pick up the thousand people freezing in the waters nearby and some occupants took to singing in an attempt to drown out the agonising cries of the drowning people. Only another 55 people survived the icy waters, bringing the total number of lives saved to seven hundred and five.








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