RMS Titanic

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File:Titanic-New York Herald front page.jpeg
The New York Herald reports the disaster.

RMS Titanic (also SS Titanic) was the second of a trio of superliners intended to dominate the transatlantic travel business.[1] Owned by the White Star Line and built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland, the Titanic was the largest passenger steamship in the world at the time of its launching. During Titanic's maiden voyage, it struck an iceberg at 11:40 PM (ship's time) on Sunday evening April 14, 1912, and sank two hours and forty minutes later at 2:20 AM Monday morning.

The sinking resulted in the deaths of more than 1,500 people[2], ranking it as one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters in history and by far the most famous. The Titanic used some of the most advanced technology available at the time and was popularly believed to be "unsinkable". It came as a great shock to many people that despite the advanced technology and experienced crew, the Titanic still sank with a great loss of life. The media frenzy about Titanic's famous victims, the legends about what happened on board the ship, the resulting changes to maritime law, and the discovery of the wreck in 1985 by a team led by Robert Ballard and Jean-Louis Michel have made Titanic persistently famous in the years since.


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RMS Titanic (left) undergoes sea trials on 2 April 1912.

The Titanic was a White Star Line ocean liner built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland, and was designed to compete with rival company Cunard Line's Lusitania and Mauretania. The Titanic, along with its Olympic-class sisters, the Olympic and the soon to be built Britannic (originally named Gigantic [3]), were intended to be the largest, most luxurious ships ever to operate. The Titanic was designed by Harland and Wolff chairman Lord Pirrie, head of Harland and Wolff's design department Thomas Andrews and general manager Alexander Carlisle, with the plans regularly sent to White Star Line's managing director J. Bruce Ismay for suggestions and approval. Construction of the RMS Titanic, funded by the American J.P. Morgan and his International Mercantile Marine Co., began on March 31, 1909. Titanic's hull was launched two years and two months later on May 31, 1911, the same day that the Olympic would begin its maiden voyage. Titanic's outfitting was completed March 31 the following year. Titanic was 882 ft 9 in (269 m) long and 92 ft 6 in (28 m) at its beam, it had a gross tonnage of 46,328 tons, and a height from the water line to the boat deck of 60 ft (18 m). Although it enclosed more space and therefore had a larger gross tonnage, the hull was exactly the same length as Titanic's sister ship Olympic. Titanic contained two reciprocating four-cylinder, triple expansion, inverted steam engines and one low pressure Parsons turbine which powered three propellers. There were 29 boilers fired by 159 coal burning furnaces that made possible a top speed of 23 knots (43 km/h). Only three of the four 63 feet (19 m) tall funnels were functional; the fourth funnel, which only served as a vent, was added to make the ship look more impressive. The ship could hold a total of 3,547 passengers and crew and, because it carried mail, its name was given the prefix RMS (Royal Mail Steamer) as well as SS (Steam Ship).

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RMS Titanic in the final stages of construction at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Ireland

For its time, the ship was unsurpassed in its luxury and opulence. The ship offered an onboard swimming pool, gymnasium, a Turkish bath, library and squash court. First-class common rooms were ornately decorated with elaborate wood panelling, expensive furniture and other elegant decorations. The ship offered three lifts for use of first-class passengers and, as an innovation, offered one lift for second-class passengers.

Titanic was considered a pinnacle of naval architecture and technological achievement. It was thought by The Shipbuilder magazine to be "practically unsinkable." Titanic was divided into 16 watertight compartments with doors that were held by a magnetic latch and would fall by moving a switch on the bridge; however, the bulkheads did not traverse the entire height of the decks (only going as far as E-Deck). The Titanic could stay afloat with any two of the middle compartments flooded or the first four compartments flooded; any more and the ship would sink.

Maiden voyage

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Capt. Edward J. Smith, master of the Titanic.

The ship began its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, bound for New York City, New York, on Wednesday, April 10, 1912, with Captain Edward J. Smith in command. As the Titanic left its berth, the powerful suction created by the ship's propellers caused the liner New York, which was docked nearby, to break away from its moorings and was drawn dangerously close (about 4 feet) to the Titanic before a tugboat towed the New York away. The near accident delayed the departure for one hour. After crossing the English Channel, the Titanic stopped at Cherbourg, France, to disembark and board additional passengers, and stopped again the next day at Queenstown (known today as Cobh), Ireland, before continuing towards New York with 2,223 people aboard.[4]

The Titanic had three class sections segregating the passengers. Third class, also known as steerage, comprising small cabins on the lower decks, was occupied mostly by immigrants hoping for a better life in America. Second-class cabins and common rooms, located towards the stern, were equal to first-class accommodations on other ships. Many second-class passengers were originally booked first class on other ships but, because of a coal strike, transferred to the Titanic. First class was by far the most luxurious part of the ship.

Some of the most prominent people in the world were travelling in first class. These included millionaire John Jacob Astor and his wife Madeleine; industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim; Macy's department store owner Isidor Straus and his wife Ida; Denver millionairess Margaret "Molly" Brown; Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and his wife couturiere Lady Lucille Duff Gordon; George Elkins Widener and his wife Eleanor; John Borland Thayer, his wife Marian and their seventeen-year-old son, Jack; journalist William Thomas Stead; the Countess of Rothes; United States presidential aide Archibald Butt; author and socialite Helen Churchill Candee; author Jacques Futrelle, his wife May, and their friends, Broadway producers Henry and Irene Harris; silent film actress Dorothy Gibson; and others. Both J.P. Morgan and Milton Hershey[5] had plans to travel on the Titanic but canceled their reservations before the voyage. Also travelling in first class were White Star Line's managing director J. Bruce Ismay who came up with the idea for Titanic, and the ship's builder Thomas Andrews, who was on board to observe any problems and assess the general performance of the new ship.


On the night of Sunday, April 14, the temperature had dropped to near freezing and the ocean was completely calm. There was no moon out and the sky was clear. Captain Smith, in response to iceberg warnings received via wireless over the last few days, had altered the Titanic's course around 10 miles (20 km) south of the normal shipping route. That Sunday at 1:45 PM, a message from the steamer Amerika warned that large icebergs lay in the Titanic's path, but inexplicably, the warning was never relayed to the bridge. Later that evening, another report of numerous, large icebergs in Titanic's path, this time from the Mesaba, also failed to reach the bridge.

At 11:40 PM while sailing south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, lookouts Fredrick Fleet and Reginald Lee spotted a large iceberg directly ahead of the ship. Fleet sounded the ship's bell three times and telephoned the bridge exclaiming, "Iceberg, right ahead!" First Officer Murdoch ordered an abrupt turn to port (left) and full speed astern, which stopped and then reversed the ship's engines. A collision turned out to be inevitable, and the iceberg brushed the ship's starboard (right) side, buckling the hull in several places and popping out rivets below the waterline over a length of 300 ft (90 m). The watertight doors were shut as water started filling the first five watertight compartments, one more than the Titanic could stay afloat with. The weight of five watertight compartments filling with water weighed the ship down past the top of the watertight bulkheads, allowing water to flow into the other compartments. Captain Smith, alerted by the jolt of the impact, arrived on the bridge and ordered a full stop. Following an inspection by the ship's officers and Thomas Andrews, it was apparent that the Titanic would sink, and shortly after midnight on April 15, lifeboats were ordered to be readied and a distress signal sent out.

The first lifeboat launched, boat 7, was lowered shortly after 12:40 AM on the starboard side with 28 people on board. The Titanic carried 20 lifeboats with a total capacity of 1,178 persons; while only enough for a little more than half the passengers and crew, the Titanic carried more boats than required by the British Board of Trade. At the time, the number of lifeboats required was determined by a ship's gross tonnage, rather than its human capacity. The regulations concerning lifeboat capacity had last been updated in 1894, when the largest ships afloat weighed approximately 10,000 tons. By about 1:15 AM the water had reached the ship's nameplate on the bow, and from the lifeboats, the Titanic was visibly sinking.

First and second-class passengers had easy access to the lifeboats with staircases that led right up to the boat deck, but third-class passengers found it more difficult. Many found the corridors leading from the lower sections of the ship difficult to navigate and had trouble making their way up to the lifeboats. Not helping third-class passengers were gates kept locked by crew members waiting for orders to let the passengers up to the deck.

The Titanic reported its location at 41° 46′ N, 50° 14′ W. The wreck was found at 41° 43′ N, 49° 56′ W.

Wireless operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride were busy sending out distress signals. Several ships responded, including the Mount Temple, the Frankfurt and Titanic's sister ship, the Olympic, but none were close enough to make it in time. The closest ship to respond was Cunard Line's RMS Carpathia, and at 58 miles (93 km) away it would arrive in about four hours, still too late to get to Titanic in time. The only land–based location that received the distress call from the Titanic was the wireless station at Cape Race, Newfoundland.

From the bridge, the lights of a nearby ship could be seen off the port side. Not responding to wireless, Fourth Officer Boxhall and Quartermaster Rowe attempted signalling the ship with a Morse lamp and later with distress rockets, but the ship never appeared to respond. The SS Californian, which was nearby and stopped for the night because of ice, also saw lights of a ship in the distance. The Californian's wireless was turned off, and the wireless operator had gone to bed for the night. Just before he went to bed at around 11:00 PM the Californian's radio operator attempted to warn the Titanic that there was ice ahead, but he was cut off by an exhausted Jack Phillips, who sent back, "Shut up, shut up! I am busy, I am working Cape Race." When the Californian's officers first saw the ship, they tried signalling it with their Morse lamp, but also never appeared to receive a response. Later, they noticed the Titanic's distress signals over the lights and informed Captain Stanley Lord. Even though there was much discussion about the mysterious ship, which to the officers on duty appeared to be moving away before disappearing, the Californian did not wake its wireless operator until morning.

At first, passengers were reluctant to leave the ostensibly safe Titanic, which showed no outward signs of being in imminent danger, and board small lifeboats. As a result, most of the boats launched partially empty; one boat, boat number one, meant to hold 40 people, left the Titanic with only 12 people on board. With "Women and children first" the imperative (see origin of phrase) for loading lifeboats, Second Officer Lightoller, who was loading boats on the port side, allowed men on only if oarsmen were needed and for no other reason, even if there was room. First Officer Murdoch, who was loading boats on the starboard side, let men on board if women were absent. As the ship's tilt became more apparent, people started to become nervous, and some lifeboats began leaving fully loaded. Shortly after 2:00 AM the waterline had reached the forward boat deck, and all the lifeboats, save for two, had been lowered.

Around 2:10 AM, the stern rose out of the water exposing the propellers and the forward boat deck was flooding. Events began to transpire rapidly as the last two lifeboats floated right off the deck, collapsible lifeboat B upside down, and collapsible lifeboat A half-filled with water. Shortly afterwards the forwardmost funnel collapsed, crushing part of the bridge and people in the water. On deck, people were scrambling towards the stern or jumping overboard in hopes of reaching a lifeboat. The ship's stern slowly rose into the air, and everything not secured crashed towards the bow. While the stern rose, the electrical system finally failed and the lights went out. Shortly thereafter the stress on the hull caused Titanic to break apart between the third and fourth funnels, and the bow section went completely under. The stern section briefly righted itself on the water before rising back up vertically. After a few moments, at 2:20 AM, the stern section also sank into the ocean.

Of a total of 2,223 people, only 706 survived; 1,517 perished.[6] The majority of deaths were caused by victims succumbing to hypothermia in the 28 °F (−2 °C) water. Out of the 18 lifeboats launched only two rescued people out of the water after the ship sank. Lifeboat 4 was close by and picked up five people, two of whom later died. Close to an hour later Lifeboat 14 went back and rescued four people, one of whom died afterwards. Other people managed to climb onto the lifeboats that floated off the deck. There were some arguments in some of the other lifeboats about going back, but many survivors were afraid of being swamped by people trying to climb into the lifeboat or getting pulled down by the suction from the sinking Titanic, though it turned out that there had been very little suction.

Survivors aboard a lifeboat.

As the ship fell into the depths, the two sections ended their final plunges very differently. The streamlined bow planed off approximately 2,000 feet (600 m) below the surface and slowed somewhat, landing relatively gently. The stern, however, fell fairly straight down towards the ocean floor, possibly rotating as it sank, with the air trapped inside causing implosions. The bow section, having been opened up by the iceberg, had no air left in it when it sank.


Almost two hours after Titanic sank, the RMS Carpathia arrived on scene and picked up its first lifeboat. Over the next several hours, the remainder of the survivors were rescued. On board the Carpathia, a short prayer service for the rescued and a memorial for the people who lost their lives was held, and at 8:50 AM, Carpathia left for New York, arriving on April 18. Once the loss of life was verified, White Star Line chartered the ship MacKay-Bennett to retrieve bodies. A total of 328 bodies were eventually recovered. Many of the bodies were taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia where the majority of the unclaimed were buried in Fairview Cemetery.

Aftermath and consequences

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Extract from US Navy memorandum concerning Titanic.

As news of the disaster spread, many people were shocked that the Titanic could sink with such great loss of life despite all of its technological advances. Newspapers were filled with stories and descriptions of the disaster and were eager to get the latest information. Many charities were set up to help the victims and their families, many of whom lost their sole breadwinner, or, in the case of third class survivors, lost everything they owned. The people of Southampton were deeply affected by the sinking. According to the Hampshire Chronicle on April 20 1912, almost 1,000 local families were directly affected. Almost every street in the Chapel district of the town lost more than one resident and over 500 households lost a member.

Before the survivors even arrived in New York, investigations were being planned to discover what had happened to Titanic, and what could be done to prevent a recurrence. The United States Senate initiated an inquiry into the Titanic disaster on April 19, a day after the Carpathia arrived in New York with the survivors. The chairman of the inquiry, Senator William Alden Smith, wanted to gather accounts from passengers and crew while the events were still fresh in their minds. Smith also needed to subpoena the British citizens while they were still on American soil. The American inquiry lasted until May 25. Lord Mersey was appointed to head the British Board of Trade's inquiry into the disaster. The British inquiry took place between May 2 and July 3. Each inquiry took testimony from both passengers and crew of Titanic, members of Californian's crew, and other experts.

The investigations found that many safety rules were out of date and as a result numerous safety measures were enacted. Both inquiries into the disaster found the Californian and its captain failed to give proper assistance to the Titanic. The inquiries found that the Californian was closer to the Titanic than the 19½ miles (31 km) that Captain Lord had figured and that Lord should have awakened the wireless operator after the rockets were first reported to him. As a result of Californian's off duty wireless officer, 29 nations ratified the Radio Act of 1912, which streamlined radio communications, especially in the event of emergencies.

The disaster also led to the convening of the first International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea in London, England, on November 12, 1913. On January 20, 1915, a treaty was signed by the conference and resulted in the formation and international funding of the International Ice Patrol, an agency of the United States Coast Guard that to the present day monitors and reports on the location of North Atlantic Ocean icebergs that could pose a threat to transatlantic sea lane traffic. It was also agreed in the new regulations that all passenger vessels would have sufficient lifeboats for everyone on board, that appropriate safety drills would be conducted, and that radio communications would be operated 24 hours a day along with a secondary power supply, so as not to miss distress calls. In addition, it was agreed that the firing of red rockets from a ship must be interpreted as a distress signal.

The sinking of the Titanic also changed the way passenger ships were designed, and caused many existing ships, like the RMS Olympic, to be refitted for increased safety. Besides increasing the number of lifeboats on board, improvements included extending the height of the watertight bulkheads. The bulkheads on the Titanic extended 10 feet (3 m) above the waterline, and after Titanic sank the bulkheads on other ships were extended higher to prevent the water from spilling into other watertight compartments as it did on Titanic. In addition, the Titanic had a double–plated bottom, but the rest of ship's hull was not reinforced. Some older steamships had double hulls, which could prevent water from flowing into a ship after being damaged, but many modern ships at the time had just a single hull which saved costs and space. After the Titanic sank, many existing ships' double bottoms were extended up the sides of the hull to a point above the waterline, and newer ships were designed with double hulls.

Legends, myths, and controversy

Use of SOS

Despite popular belief, the sinking of Titanic was not the first time the internationally recognised Morse code distress signal "SOS" was used. The SOS signal was first proposed at the International Conference on Wireless Communication at Sea in Berlin in 1906. It was ratified by the international community in 1908 and had been in widespread use since then. The SOS signal was, however, rarely used by British wireless operators, who preferred the older CQD code. First Wireless Operator Jack Phillips began transmitting CQD until Second Wireless Operator Harold Bride suggested half jokingly, "Send SOS; it's the new call, and this may be your last chance to send it." Phillips, who perished in the disaster, then began to intersperse SOS with the traditional CQD call.

Titanic's rudder and the ship's turning ability

The memorial to the Titanic's engineers in Southampton.

Although Titanic's rudder was not legally too small for a ship its size, the rudder's design was hardly state-of-the-art. According to researchers with the Titanic Historical Society: "Titanic's long, thin rudder was a copy of a 19th-century steel sailing ship. Compared with the rudder design of the Cunard's Mauretania or Lusitania, Titanic's was a fraction of the size. Apparently no account was made for advances in scale, and little thought given to how a ship 882 1/2 feet (269 m) in length might turn in an emergency, or avoid a collision with an iceberg. This was Titanic's Achilles' heel."[7]

Perhaps more fatal to the design of the Titanic was its triple screw engine configuration, which had reciprocating steam engines driving its wing propellers, and a steam turbine driving its centre propeller. The reciprocating engines were reversible, while the turbine was not. When First Officer Murdoch gave the order to reverse engines to avoid the iceberg, he inadvertently handicapped the turning ability of the ship. Since the centre turbine could not reverse during the "full speed astern" manoeuvre, it simply stopped turning. Furthermore, since the centre propeller was positioned forward of the ship's rudder, the effectiveness of the rudder would have been greatly reduced. Had Murdoch simply turned the ship while maintaining its forward speed, the Titanic might have missed the iceberg entirely.

It has also been speculated that the ship could have been saved if it had rammed the iceberg head on. It is hypothesised that if Titanic had not altered its course at all and had run head on into the iceberg, the damage would only have affected the first or, at most, first two compartments. This would have disabled it severely, but was something that the Titanic would most likely survive, since Titanic was designed to float with the first four compartments flooded.

Titanic's band

One of the most famous stories of Titanic is of the band. On 15 April, Titanic's eight-member band, led by Wallace Hartley, had assembled in the first-class lounge in an effort to keep passengers calm and upbeat. Later they would move on to the forward half of the boat deck. The band continued playing music even when it became apparent the ship was going to sink.

None of the band members survived the sinking, and there has been much speculation about what their last song was. Some witnesses said the final song played was the hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee." Hartley reportedly said to a friend if he was on a sinking ship "Nearer, My God, to Thee" would be one of the songs he would play. Walter Lord’s book A Night to Remember popularised wireless operator Harold Bride’s account that he heard the song "Autumn" before the ship sank. It is considered Bride either meant the hymn called "Autumn" or "Songe d'Automne," a popular song at the time.

David Sarnoff

An often-quoted story that has been blurred between fact and fiction states that the first person to receive news of the sinking was David Sarnoff, who would later found media giant RCA. Sarnoff was not the first to hear the news (though Sarnoff willingly promoted this notion), but he and others did man the Marconi wireless station atop the Wanamaker Department Store in New York City, and for three days relayed news of the disaster and names of survivors to people waiting outside.[8]

Alternate theories and curses

Main article: Titanic alternate theories

As with many famous events, many alternate theories about the sinking of the Titanic have appeared over the years. Theories that it was not an iceberg that sank the ship or that a curse caused the disaster have been popular reading in newspapers and books. Most of these theories have been debunked by Titanic experts, citing inaccurate or incomplete facts which the theories are based on.

The rediscovery of Titanic

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Titanic's bow as seen from the Russian MIR I submersible.

The idea of finding the wreck of Titanic, and even raising the ship from the ocean floor, had been around since shortly after the ship sank. No attempts were successful until September 1, 1985, when a joint American-French expedition, led by Jean-Louis Michel of IFREMER and Dr. Robert Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, located the wreck using the video camera sled Argo. It was found at a depth of 2 miles (3,800 m), south-east of Newfoundland at Template:Coor dms, 13 miles (22 km) from where Titanic was originally thought to rest.

The most notable discovery the team made was that the ship had split apart, the stern section lying 1,970 feet (600 m) from the bow section and facing opposite directions. There had been conflicting witness accounts of whether the ship broke apart or not, and both the American and British inquires found that the ship sank intact. Up until the discovery of the wreck, it was generally assumed the ship did not break apart.

The bow section had embedded itself 60 feet (18 m) into the silt on the ocean floor. Besides parts of the hull having buckled, the bow was mostly intact, as the water inside had equalised with the increasing water pressure. The stern section was in much worse condition. As the stern section sank, water pushed out the air inside tearing apart the hull and decks. The speed at which the stern hit the ocean floor caused even more damage. Surrounding the wreck is a large debris field with pieces of the ship, furniture, dinnerware and personal items scattered over one square mile (2.6 km²). Softer materials, like wood and carpet, were devoured by undersea organisms. Human remains suffered a similar fate.

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The iceberg buckled Titanic's hull allowing water to flow into the ship.

Originally, historians thought the iceberg had cut a gash into Titanic's hull. Since the part of the ship the iceberg damaged was buried, scientists used sonar to examine the area and discovered the iceberg had caused the hull to buckle, allowing water to enter Titanic between its steel plates. During subsequent dives, scientists retrieved small pieces of Titanic's hull. A detailed analysis of the pieces revealed the ship's steel plating was of a variety that loses its elasticity and becomes brittle in cold or icy water, leaving it vulnerable to dent-induced ruptures. Furthermore, the rivets holding the hull together were much more fragile than once thought. It is unknown if stronger steel or rivets could have saved the ship.

The samples of steel rescued from the wrecked hull were found to have very high content of phosphorus and sulphur (four times and two times as high as common for modern steels), with a manganese-sulphur ratio of 6.8:1 (compare with over 200:1 ratio for modern steels). High content of phosphorus initiates fractures, sulphur forms grains of iron sulphide that facilitate propagation of cracks, and lack of manganese makes the steel less ductile. The recovered samples were found to be undergoing ductile-brittle transition in temperatures of 32 °C (for longitudinal samples) and 56 °C (for transversal samples—compare with transition temperature of −27 °C common for modern steels—modern steel would become as brittle between −60 and −70 °C). The anisotropy was likely caused by hot rolling influencing the orientation of the sulphide stringer inclusions. The steel was probably produced in the acid-lined, open-hearth furnaces in Glasgow, which would explain the high content of phosphorus and sulphur, even for the times.[9]

Dr. Ballard and his team did not bring up any artefacts from the site, considering it to be tantamount to grave robbing. Under international maritime law, however, the recovery of artefacts is necessary to establish salvage rights to a shipwreck. In the years after the find, Titanic has been the object of a number of court cases concerning ownership of artefacts and the wreck site itself. In 1994 RMS Titanic, Inc. was awarded ownership and salvaging rights of the wreck.

Approximately 6,000 artefacts have been removed from the wreck. Many of these were put on display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, and later as part of a travelling museum exhibit.

Current condition of the wreck

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Speculation on the rate of decay of the wreck.

Many scientists, including Robert Ballard, are concerned that visits by tourists in submersibles and the recovery of artefacts are hastening the decay of the wreck. Underwater microbes have been eating away at Titanic's iron since the ship sank, but because of the extra damage visitors have caused, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that "the hull and structure of the ship may collapse to the ocean floor within the next 50 years."

Ballard's book Return to Titanic, published by the National Geographic Society, includes photographs depicting the deterioration of the promenade deck and damage caused by submersibles landing on the ship. The mast has almost completely deteriorated and has been stripped of its bell and brass light. Other damage includes a gash on the bow section where block letters once spelled Titanic, and part of the brass telemotor which once held the ship's wooden wheel is now twisted. Even the memorial plaque left by Ballard on his second trip to the wreck had been removed, however Ballard replaced the plaque in 2004. Recent expeditions, notably by James Cameron, have been diving on the wreck to learn more about the site and explore previous unexplored parts of the ship before the Titanic decays completely.

Comparable maritime disasters

The Titanic was at the time one of the worst maritime disasters in history in terms of loss of life, a similar disaster of this scale having never happened out on the heavily travelled North Atlantic route. However, Titanic's death toll was exceeded by the explosion and sinking of the steamboat Sultana on the Mississippi River in 1865, where 1,700 died.

The worst peacetime maritime disaster happened on 21 December, 1987, when the passenger ferry Doña Paz sank in the Philippines after colliding with the oil tanker Vector and catching fire. The sinking of Doña Paz claimed between 1,500 and 4,000 lives. However, the worst maritime disasters happened during wartime. The three worst were German ships. The SS Cap Arcona was sunk by the Royal Air Force on May 3, 1945, with an estimated death toll of more than 7,700, the Goya was sunk with an estimated 7,000 dead, and the Wilhelm Gustloff with an estimated death toll between 6,000 and 9,000, the latter two by Soviet submarines in 1945.

The Titanic was not the first White Star Line ship to sink with loss of life. The RMS Tayleur, which has been compared to the sinking of the Titanic, sank after running aground in Ireland. The Tayleur was also technically innovative when it sank on its maiden voyage in 1854. Of its 558 passengers and crew, 276 were lost. Also similar to the Titanic was the Hans Hedtoft. In January 1959 the Hans Hedtoft, a Danish liner sailing from Greenland, struck an iceberg and sank. The Hans Hedtoft was also on its maiden voyage and was boasted to be "unsinkable" because of its strong design.

It has been noted that two-thirds of the passengers and crew were lost on the Titanic. The ratio has been repeated with the sinking of the RMS Lusitania and the sinking of the RMS Leinster.[10] Both were sunk by German U-Boats in World War One.

Popular culture

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Willy Stöwer: Untergang der Titanic (Sinking of the Titanic)

The sinking of Titanic has been the basis for many novels describing fictionalised events on board the ship. Many reference books about the disaster have also been written since the Titanic sank, the first of these appearing within months of the sinking. Survivors like Second Officer Lightoller and passenger Jack Thayer have written books describing their experiences. Some like Walter Lord, who wrote the popular A Night to Remember, did independent research and interviews to describe the events that happened on board the ship.

Morgan Robertson's 1898 novella Futility, which was written 14 years before RMS Titanic's ill-fated voyage, was found to have many parallels with the Titanic disaster; Robertson's work concerned a fictional state-of-the-art ocean liner called Titan, which eventually collides with an iceberg on a calm April night whilst en route to New York. Huge amounts of people died because of the lack of lifeboats. Both Titan itself and the manner of its demise bore many striking similarities to the eventual fate of Titanic, and Robertson's novella remains in print today as an unnerving curiosity.

Titanic has featured in a large number of films and TV movies, most notably:

The most widely viewed is the 1997 film Titanic, directed by James Cameron and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. It became the highest-grossing film in history. It also won 11 Academy Awards out of 14 nominations, tying with Ben-Hur (1959) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) for the most awards won.

The story was also made into a Broadway musical, Titanic, written by Peter Stone with music by Maury Yeston. Titanic ran from 1998 to 2000. The 1960 Broadway musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown tells survivor Margaret Brown's life story, which included the events onboard the Titanic. The musical was written by Richard Morris with music by Meredith Willson. A film version starring Debbie Reynolds was released in 1964.

Other media include Titanic: Adventure Out of Time which was a 1996 computer game that took place on the Titanic. Starship Titanic was another computer game that takes place in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy universe and was a parody of the Titanic disaster. Many television shows have also referenced the Titanic disaster. The show The Time Tunnel featured a visit to the ship on its first episode, a character on the British drama Upstairs, Downstairs died on the Titanic, and the animated series Futurama did a parody where it had the cast boarding a space–faring vessel called Titanic. The spaceship was torn in half by a black hole on its maiden voyage. In movies like Time Bandits and Cavalcade the Titanic has had brief appearances, and in Ghostbusters 2 the Titanic briefly appeared as a ghost ship.

Using the Titanic as humour has not been exclusive to popular entertainment. The Intel Itanium microprocessor has often been jokingly called "Itanic," since (as of 2005) its sales have fallen far short of expectations.


  1. ^  Daniel Allen Butler (1998). Unsinkable: The Full Story of RMS Titanic, Stackpole Books. ISBN 081171814X. Read this book on Google Print
  2. ^  Randolph W Hall (2003). Handbook of Transportation Science, Springer. ISBN 1402072465. Read this book on Google Print
  3. ^  The Britannic was originally named Gigantic, its name was changed after the Titanic sank. Bonner, Kit & Bonner, Carolyn (2003). Great Ship Disasters, pp.60, MBI Publishing Company. ISBN 0760313369. Read this book on Google Print
  4. ^  ^  The exact number of casualties is unknown, because the only complete passenger and crew list was lost. These numbers were taken from the final report by the U.S. Senate Inquiry.
  5. ^  Hinkle, Marla, "Behind The Chocolate Curtain". The Morning News, Febuary 8, 2004.
  6. ^  Edward Kamuda, Karen Kamuda, and Paul Louden-Brown, comps., "Titanic Myths," The Titanic Historical Society.
  7. ^  "More About Sarnoff, Part One," PBS.
  8. ^  Katherine Felkins, A. Jankovic, and H.P. Leighly, Jr.,The Royal Mail Ship Titanic: Did a Metallurgical Failure Cause a Night to Remember?; Alan Bruzel, Analysis of Steel from the Titanic
  9. ^  Roy Stokes, Death in the Irish Sea: The Sinking of the RMS Leinster (Chester Springs, PA: Dufour Editions, 1999).


  • Brander, Roy. The RMS Titanic and its Times: When Accountants Ruled the Waves. Elias P. Kline Memorial Lecture, October 1998. http://www.cuug.ab.ca/~branderr/risk_essay/Kline_lecture.html
  • Eaton, John P. and Haas, Charles A. Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy (2nd ed.). W.W. Norton & Company, 1995 ISBN 0393036979
  • Lynch, Donald and Marschall, Ken. Titanic: An Illustrated History. Hyperion, 1995 ISBN 1562829181
  • O'Donnell, E. E. Father Browne's Titanic Album. Wolfhound Press, 1997. ISBN 0863277586
  • Quinn, Paul J. Titanic at Two A.M.: An Illustrated Narrative with Survivor Accounts. Fantail, 1997 ISBN 0965520935

See also

External links

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