The tragic maiden voyage of the Titanic. Why is the sinking of this ship so famous?

Pre-University Paper, 1998

35 Pages

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The Meaning of Atlantic Ferries in the 19th and 20th Century

The Birth of a Legend
A closer look at Titanic
The Technique

Why was Titanic so famous

The People on Board Titanic
The Captain
The Crew
The Guests

The Preparations for the Maiden Voyage of Titanic

The Leaving in Southampton

The Journey

Travelling into the Ice

The Crash

The Sinking and the Tragedy Being Rescued

What Happened after this Tragedy

Why is the Sinking of this Ship so Famous

The Fate of Titanic's sisters
The Unlucky Britannic / Gigantic
The Olympic - the Reliable Old Woman

The Finding of Titanic

The Future of Titanic


The "shopping list" for Titanic's Maiden Voyage Cross-section of Titanic

The Band, that played till the End




"Ocean liner Titanic sunk on it's maiden voyage - over 1500 Souls lost !"

How could this disaster happen ? The answer is difficult to get . Let us first see the meaning of Cross Atlantic Voyages in the past.

The Meaning of Atlantic Ferries in the 19th and 20thCentury

The first ones to cross the Atlantic with steam-operated ships were the Americans. It was a little ship called "Savannah" in the year 1818, which was only about 98 feet long. Steam was only used to help getting forward, when there was no wind. It took 27 Days and 11 hours to get from Savannah, USA to Liverpool. In the year 1838 the "Great Western" started a flow of shipping between Great Britain and New York. This was the first time man spoke of "the Atlantic Ferry", because it operated with a great continuity.

The same company, the "Great Western Steamship Company", owned the first ship with an all-iron hull, the "Great Western" in 1843. Yet this company hasnever earned as much pride as the Cunard Line.

Cunard Line won a government contract to establish a mail line across the North Atlantic. So it launched in 1840 four paddle steamers, the Acadia, the Britannia, the Columbia and the Caledonia, which became leaders in safety and speed on the North Atlantic for a long time. The Acadia even won the Blue Ribbon, a trophy given for the speediest crossing of the route New York - Liverpool. In 1851 this trophy passed to the fastest ship of this period, the "Pacific" for an average speed of 13 knots. During the Civil War the shipping became merely unimportant. About 1865 the propeller was invented and succeeded the paddles. In the late 1890s the North German Lloyd Steamship entered the high-class passenger shipping by constructing a Blue Ribbon Class Liner. The "Kaiser Wilhelm der Große", sized to carry 1,749 passengers, was 655 feet long and displaced 23,760 tons won the blue ribbon in 1897. This started a real race on the North Atlantic route.

28 % of the passengers that landed in New York were handled by North German Lloyd. To compete this, Cunard ordered two giant liners, which were planned to be the largest ships ever built. In 1906 the Lusitania and the Mauretania were launched. Especially the Mauretania, which won the blue ribbon in 1907 and held it for 22 years was probably the most popular ship of this period. This was the time for White Star Lines to react. So they started planning ships that were larger than all ships of this period.

The birth of a Legend

The White Star Line had been purchased in 1867 by Thomas Henry Ismay for £ 1,000. He intended to redirect his new, bankrupt company's attention from Australian trade to the North Atlantic passenger trade. He got support from Gustav Schwabe, a Liverpool financier and uncle of Gustav Wolff, junior partner of the wharf Harland and Wolff. He promised to give him financial help, if White Star Line gets it new ships from his nephew's wharf.

In the year 1869 the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company Ltd. was registered with £ 400,000. The first ship, called "Oceanic" was so successful that five sisterships were built, obviously at the wharf of Harland and Wolff. In 1891 J. Bruce Ismay and his younger brother James succeeded their father. Their decision was probably the most striking point in the history of White Star Line. They decided to build all future vessels with comfort and luxury rather than speed. In 1902 White Star Line was bought for £ 10,000,000 by the International Mercantile Marine Company (IMM), created by J. Piermont Morgan, one of the richest mans of his period. Bruce Ismay remained not only president of White Star Line, he also became President and managing director of IMM in 1904 - so he had unlimited power. William J. Pirrie, managing director and chairman of Harland and Wolff soon joined White Star Line.

In 1907, five years before Titanic would set sail for her maiden voyage, Bruce Ismay met Lord J. Pirrie for dinner in the house of Pirrie in London . In that August night the main theme was the new ship of Cunard Line the "Lusitania" and the sistership "Mauretania" which were going to be the fastest and the largest ships in the world. It was obvious that White Star Line had to act. So the two men discussed plans for three new liners that would be like nothing the world had ever seen before. As comfort and luxury were the philosophy of White Star Line the flagships would have both reciprocating steam engines, the standard of this time and a turbine engine to power the center propeller of the three propellers. It was for comfort reasons to choose this engine configuration, although the turbine engines were faster, the reciprocating engines were more comfortable. Moreover, a double plated hull and a complicated and refined system of watertight compartments provided the highest standard of security. The three Royal Mail Steamships were to be called Olympic , Titanic and Gigantic. The suffix "ic" in the names of the ships stems to the tradition , of the White Star Line. They were to be virtually identical in size and structure, but Titanic was to be the star.

Harland and Wolff built an own hall for the construction team of these superliners, to get the best conditions for the drawings of the blueprints for these giant liners. The docks also had to be redone. The three old docks were converted into two new docks to hold the new giant ships that were nearly a sixth of a mile long. The building of the third ship "Gigantic", meanwhile renamed to "Britannic", was to be built later, due to the shortness of space. On December 16th 1908, the keel plate for the first giant liner, the "Olympic" was laid in Belfast, Ireland. While the work on the "Olympic" proceeded, keel plate for "Titanic" was laid three months later, on March 31 1909,. The construction of "Titanic" started. Meanwhile IMM was having some trouble to get the permission for lengthening the White Star piers. This permission was needed for the new giant liners, which were much longer than the longest ships of their period. The New York Harbour Control resisted in giving that permission. It took a lot of difficult conversations and a lot of money for Lord Pirrie to persuade the Harbour Control of the benefit of these new giant ships.

For over a year more than 15.000 Irishmen worked very hard on these two ships, as they laid side by side in their docks. Nearly two years after her construction started, "Olympic" was launched. It was the largest moving object in the whole world, created by the hands of human beings. Titanic should follow her later, profiting from modifications and improvements based on the experience won by the construction of Olympic. Olympic was launched on October 10th 1910.

Seven months later, on May 31st 1911, Lord J. Pirrie and his wife, Bruce Ismay and his daughter and J. P. Morgan stood together on the tribune in front of the hull of Titanic. There were three more tribunes, two for paying customers and one for more than one hundred reporters. Most of the press had arrived with the steamer "Duke of Agryll", chartered by White Star Line just for this occasion, from England to Belfast. The whole morning, extra trains of the Belfast Railway were carrying the thousands of visitors to the Harland and Wolff wharf . Even the close, huge Albert Quay was crowded with people. Plenty of visitors, who had come to Belfast to see this spectacle framed the River Lagan, which had been digged out. Otherwise the new huge ships would have hit ground, due to their draft of 33 feet. As usual at Harland and Wolff and at White Star Line, the ship christening was skipped. At 12:05 two rockets were launched, followed by another one five minutes later. At 12:13 Titanic was released and slipped due to her own weight and the help of 23 tons of soap and suet. It slipped with a maximum speed of twelve knots, being stopped by six anchors and two brake chains, weighing 80 tons, each. At the same day, Harland and Wolff handed over the completed and fitted out Olympic. Ismay and the others travelled home to Liverpool onboard the new Olympic, starting a new chapter in the race across the Atlantic. Titanic came into Harland and Wolff's fitting out basin.

There she got the four funnels. The fourth funnel was set on only for aesthetic reasons, technically three would have been enough. The mounting of the engines and the transforming of an empty iron hull into a floating palace took ten months and several million hours of work. On April 2nd1912 Titanic left the harbour of Belfast for tests.

A closer look at the Titanic shows what has been so revolutionary.

The accommodations were superior to any vessel of that time. Even the third class was fitted out like the second class on many other luxury liners. The Titanic featured quite comfortable cabins for families, separated cabins for men and women, who were travelling alone, clean facilities and individual chairs instead of benches in dining saloons, that were like a restaurant. This was very unusual for a third class on a vessel and raised up the standards of the future. As expected, Titanic's second class was superior to any first class on other liners. The public rooms and the cabins featured no less than five different types of luxurious wood. Passengers of first and second class were separated from the third class passengers. However, most spectacular about travelling on the Titanic was the revolutionary first class.

The furniture was more than equal to the accommodations of the finest first-class hotels on the shore. All the features of the finest hotels were available onboard Titanic : E.g. a gymnasium, tennis courts, a dark room for photographers, a dozen different styled VIP- Rooms, kennels for the dogs, Turkish baths, a swimming pool (the first onboard a ship), private enclosed promenades and even elevators (the first time this technique has been used onboard a liner).

So the title "floating palace" was given to the Titanic legitimately. First class passengers had more than ten different Cafés to choose. Each Café featured a different style. E.g. The Café Parisien, which had been inspired by an sidewalk in Paris. The waiters were real Frenchmen, everything has been copied in detail. One of the most famous furniture pieces of Titanic was the first class forward grand staircase , which has been often interpreted in Hotels like the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, USA.

The Technique also brought some striking news:

This vessel had triple screws, the center screw has been operated by an turbine engine, the two other propellers were driven by reciprocating steam engines. The reciprocating steam engines were favoured instead of the modern turbine engines for their comfort. Although the turbine engine was faster, the reciprocating engine was more comfortable, but slower. The engines had a power of 46,000 HP, enough power to speed up the colossus Titanic with a displacement of 46,000 tons to a speed of 21 knots. Titanic had a complex system of sixteen watertight compartments conducted by watertight doors. With these doors shut, she could stay afloat with two of her sixteen compartments flooded, or even with four of the five bow compartments flooded. Also pumps were installed to save time in case of sinking. A double-iron hull offered additional protection. These features were absolutely unique for this time and made people consider Titanic to be the "unsinkable ship". Maybe that's why this vessel has been fitted out with only twenty lifeboats, which had a capacity of 60 persons each. So there were only lifeboats for 1200 people which was required by the law. But Titanic has been designed to carry more than three times this number of persons. The space required for additional lifeboats was used to provide more deck-chairs. Aboard Titanic a whole new radio generation was used, called the "Marconi wireless". The radio on board Titanic was the most powerful communication device used on a passenger vessel in these days. It allowed the operator to set up distress calls in case of an unexpected emergency. It was not only an safety feature, it was also used to transmit personal messages of the guests.

Why was Titanic so famous ?

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A comparison between Titanic, Mauretania, her biggest opponent and the MS United States, a ship built nearly 50 years later shows, how revolutionary giant Titanic was :

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This table shows that Titanic was the biggest ship until the end of World War II. Titanic was larger than the highest buildings in the world of her time. She was also too large for many harbours of this period. So this vessel was really revolutionary in size, technique and comfort. The expectations of the people to this vessel were obviously enormous and her maiden voyage had to proof her status as the number one ship in the world.

The People on Board of the Titanic

The Captain

James Edward Smith had been commander of White Star liners for 26 years and had over two million miles at the sea logged. So he was the most notable and experienced captain of White Star. He was celebrated as well of crew members as of the passengers. His nickname, given to him by his first-class passengers was "E.J." or the "Millionaire's captain". Smith came over from the Olympic, the sister of Titanic. At the age of 62 years he expected this maiden voyage of Titanic to be his last voyage before his retirement after nearly 40 years at the sea. He had great confidence in the ship and his own experience. When he was asked by the Shipbuilder Magazine about his career, he absurdly responded: "When anyone asks me how I can best describe my experiences of nearly forty years at sea, I merely say uneventful. I have never been in an accident of any sort worth speaking about ... I never saw a wreck and have never been wrecked, nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort." (J. Edward Smith in the Shipbuilder Magazine, 1912) . It was a lie. He was captain of the Germanic, which overturned in the harbour of New York on February 16th 1899, due to being overwhelmed by Ice loading. And he also had the command over the Olympic when she collided with the cruiser Hawke in September 1911. Both ships were badly injured, but stayed afloat and could return into the harbour of the Isle of Wrigth by their own power. In June 1911 he damaged a tug in the harbour of New York due to the suction of the giant screws. It seems, he had some problems with the enlargement of the size of the ships like many of his colleagues. Many Captains feared the giant ships, because they were said to be hard to steer. But Smith was still one of the best captains of his time.

The Crew

The Titanic had a gigantic crew of nearly nine hundred people. Most of them were from Southampton, a few from London, Liverpool or Belfast. "A British crew for a British ship" as some people mentioned. They had their cabins spread over the whole ship, always close to their work. All were anxious to get back to work. The coal strike made many sailors unemployed. Although it was the maiden voyage, which meant trouble for the crew, the brand new Titanic and the fact that Captain Smith was known as a familiar captain, the Titanic has been very attractive for the sailors and firemen in Southampton to work on. Not everybody who worked onboard Titanic has been noted in the crew books.

People like the five post-office clerks or the 8 musicians were noted as second class passengers, although they had no chance to use the comfort of the second class. Some Workers from Harland and Wolff were listed as guests, although they had to work. The two radio operators, John Phillips and Harold Bride were not employed by White Star, but stood under the command of Captain Smith. Just like the staff of the Italian a la carte Restaurant which came from London of the two luxury Restaurants of Luigi Gatti. They got a symbolic shilling as payment for this journey.

The guests

On Board of the Titanic, there were a lot of the most important persons of this period. E.g. James Bruce Ismay, president of White Star and proud ship owner of Titanic. Or Thomas Andrews, a nephew of Lord Pirrie, was director of Harland and Wolff and also the leader of the developing branch of this firm. Without him, Titanic would never have come so far. He was the man to transform the idea of Titanic into a floating reality, a respectable effort for a man who had not reached the age of forty. He was probably the man who knew the ship better than any other man in the whole world. He wanted to explore the ship and remove occurring errors with the nine workers of Harland and Wolff, who were under his command. Also he was noting improvements that could be made in Idea to form a whole ship class out of the Titanic. Accommodated in the first class there were some of the wealthiest people in the world like John Jacob, who was famous due to his yacht crashes during almost every regatta, he was returning with his wife from a European voyage.

Also, Isidor Straus was on board, he was director of Macy's department store and returned from a tour through the south of France together with his wife Ida. William Stead, a famous author, and George Wildener, one of the richest men in Philadelphia, USA, were also joining Titanic's maiden voyage. Benjamin Guggenheim, who was known as a notorious playboy, was travelling with his mistress, Madame Aubert from Paris on Titanic, although he was married. Margaret Brown was called due to her silhouette "Molly Brown". She was married to a millionaire in Colorado, USA, but travelled alone. It was her, who fought in the lifeboat for rescuing people out of the icy water.

Second class accommodated also some important persons like Lawrence Beesley, a British school teacher, who delivered a book about the events surrounding Titanic's sinking. He wrote about the motions being in danger and being rescued. The third class contained mainly Scandinavian passengers. White Star did a lot of advertisement in Norway and Sweden, where it had built up a net of ticket agencies. In SouthEurope, White Star was competing with Cunard Line for emigrants on the routes Genoa- Boston and Trieste -Boston. In 1912 many of the emigrants of Scandinavia preferred liners of White Star to emigrate via Liverpool or Southampton to the USA. But most of the emigrants just wanted to take the next liner, which has been Titanic.

The Preparations for the Maiden Voyage of Titanic

On the morning of April 3 rd,Titanic arrived in the new constructed White Star dock in Southampton. This dock was especially built to accommodate giants like Titanic and Olympic . To guide her into the harbour of Southampton five tugs had to be used. Southampton was the main point of crew embarkation . For this ship there were 885 crew members to board. As she was a "R.M.S", which means "Royal Mail Steamer", a ship, legally commissioned by the British Monarchy and the government of the USA to carry mail , thousands of sacks of mail had to be stored in the freight compartments. The list of the enormous food amount is too long to be written down here, except an excerption: To accommodate 2,000 passengers for nearly a week, giant amounts of food were boarded. E.g. 15,000 bottles of mineral water, 75,000 pounds of meat, 40,000 eggs, 6825 litres of milk and 2.75 tons of tomatoes . (See table XX)

A problem, which nearly delayed the voyage, was a heavy strike of the coal miners that ended on April 6th. But it was not early enough to supply Titanic with enough "fuel". So White Star bought the coal stock of five other ships and the rest of coal Olympic had left as she started her voyage on April 3 rd. That way, the coal stock of Titanic rose from 1880 tons to 6300 tons. It took 24 hours to store the coal in the coal bunkers and to clean up the gantries and the decks. During the week in the Harbour of Southampton, Titanic consumed 415 tons to power the crane and to produce electricity. Also, general cargo was loaded, almost 560 tons including 11,254 pieces. ( A Jumbo jet is able to carry only 100 tons of cargo) . However, not only in Southampton preparations for Titanic's voyage have been made, but also in Cherbourg, France , in Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland and in New York, USA . In Cherbourg and in Queenstown tenders had to be built due to the small harbours. In New York the re-constructed and enlarged White Star dock was ready and Titanic had been expected.

The Leaving in Southampton

After seven days, all preparations for the begin of Titanic's maiden voyage were done. Most of the officers, the radio operators, some stokers and a few other members of the crew, made up the "skeleton crew" and stayed on board since Tuesday, April 9th. Captain Smith preferred to stay in a hotel. The crew started boarding at 6 o'clock in the morning of Wednesday, April 10th. Captain Smith got on board his ship at half past seven. Ismay checked in right after breakfast which he had with his family in the South Western Hotel in Southampton and not on board Titanic. As his family was not joining him on this voyage, he showed them Titanic as long as they were in town. Thomas Andrews was staying on Board since the arrival in Southampton on April 4th. He was supervising all actions happening around "his" vessel and the last-minute changes that had to be taken.

Between half past nine and half past eleven three trains were arriving. These trains were the White Star boat-trains and carried the passengers booked on Titanic from London-Waterloo to the docks in Southampton. Each class had its own train. The pilot, Captain George Boyer got on board. The pilot flag was hissed immediately. Some minutes before noon, the blue Pete was hissed as an optic signal for the immediate leaving. All visitors from shore, shore staff and harbour workers left Titanic. At noon, Captain Smith horned the enormous pipe three times, what drowned everything in Southampton. Everybody knew, Titanic was leaving.

Nobody knew it would be the last time this ship would be in the harbour of their town. Titanic casted off from the shore and was towed away from the dock by the five tugs Ajax, Hector, Neptune, Hercules and Vulcan. Especially Vulcan played an important role by saving Titanic from the collision with the New York in the harbour. As the tugs had Titanic towed into the river Test and left her in the right position and facing the right course, the propellers of Titanic were activated. She slowly accelerated up the river. The giant ship caused heavy turbulences in the water. On the left side of the vessel, the waves were harmless, because the river Test absorbed the waves. But on the right side was the dock wall, where the Oceanic and the New York were tied on, due to the coal strike. The giant waves were too heavy for the New York and all of the six mooring ropes snapped. As the accelerating Titanic pulled enormous amounts after her , the stern of New York turned around toward Titanic due to the suction. The New York was dangerously close to Titanic. Luckily, Captain Gale, commander of the tug Vulcan, managed to catch two ropes of New York's stern, which was only about three feet away of Titanic . On the bridge of Titanic a fast reaction of the Captain and the pilot prevented a disaster, by ordering "Full Power back". Titanic slowed down and passed the New York dangerously close, but Vulcan had her under control. The other ship, the Oceanic was secured by additional ropes, to prevent a repetition. So the departure of Titanic has been delayed for more than one hour, which meant no good start and was a bad omen for many people of this period. Would Titanic be an ever delayed and unhappy vessel for ever ? Time should give an answer - maybe.

The Journey

Titanic now made her voyage down the Ocean Channel, passing the Isle of Wright to the lightship Nab , where the pilot left. With best wishes and an announcement to meet again after 14 days, "Uncle George" left the Titanic. Titanic headed for Cherbourg, France. It was only a 70 mile trip through the channel. She arrived half past five p.m. and set anchor fully illuminated. As the docks of the harbour of Cherbourg were too small, Titanic had to wait off the docks.

The 274 passengers were brought on board Titanic by 2 tenders, Nomadic (first and second class) and Traffic (third class), built only for this occasion for White Star by Harland and Wolff. All of the passengers were carried to Cherbourg by the Train Transatlantique, which was in time after six hours of journey from Paris to the Atlantic Coast. Twenty-two persons left Titanic, having just booked a channel passage. Within ninety minutes, Titanic was ready for departure and so, for the second time, her pipe cut the silence of this beautiful evening, announcing for miles Titanic being ready for departure. At ten minutes past eight the enormous anchor was raised and Titanic left Cherbourg for the last time, heading for Queenstown, Ireland. Crossing the channel and passing the British coast, she reached the Irish Coast under a beautiful sunrise. At half past eleven, Titanic set the giant anchor for the last time, two miles away from the harbour of Queenstown. The two tenders America and Ireland boarded 120 passengers and 1385 sacks of mail were loaded. At half past one p.m., for the last time ever, the pipe of Titanic whistled and the giant anchor was raised. Titanic set sail for New York and the journey finally began. This was the last time a man from the shore had seen Titanic.

Travelling into the Ice

The winter of the year 1912 has been one of the mildest for the last three decades. So giant icefields, ice floats and icebergs were drifting around more south than normal. Otherwise, the winter had been strong enough to prevent a melting of the ice through the Gulf stream. Far more icebergs and ice floats from Greenland rushed into the North Atlantic. Some of these huge creatures reminded on mountains or giant buildings, but some looked like ships.

Four fifths of an iceberg are covered underwater. Than more of an iceberg is melting away, than worse moves the center of gravity, until the whole iceberg turns over and changes his look completely. If this happens, the part of an iceberg, which is over water gets dark and is harder to recognise at night. If the upper part melts away, the iceberg turns back to white. Although it is a big risk to approach an iceberg. Close to the waterline, the iceberg is as sharp as a razor blade and could slice up a ship like a can .

All ships, most of them without radio equipment, that reached their harbours after the sinking of Titanic, reported of a giant icefield between 46° N to 41° 31' N and 46° 18' W to 50° 40' W, moving to South and West. This was exactly on the standard west Transatlantic route (42°N, 47°W) . There were a lot ice-warnings. On April 11th, five ships reported ice. Four more ice-warnings were reported on April 12th . Three more the next day and finally, Sunday April 14th brought seven more ice-warnings. All ships stopped due to the ice, and all icefields that were reported were on the course of Titanic. But neither Captain Smith nor White Star Line thought about slowing down or changing the course.

The Crash

So Titanic made her voyage constantly, taking more than 500 miles of her route per day. She was running out in the Atlantic at fine, cold weather with an speed of 21 knots. Not all boilers had been lit. White Star always ran their ships on their first voyages at reduced speed. Due to this fact, Titanic was running very smooth. She ran without vibrations and behaved with an respectable steadiness although the speed was increasing. On Saturday April 13th, the fire in boiler room number 6 had been finally extinguished. But the watertight doors of this compartment had been severe damaged by the heat of that fire. On Sunday April 14 th, Titanic continued the voyage at fine weather. While many passengers of this ship watched the sunset for the last time in their life, Captain Smith corrected the course of Titanic slightly to south and west of its normal route, perhaps as a precaution to avoid contact with the ice of which many ships warned. But there were no orders given to decrease speed, in fact, at that time, Titanic's speed was increasing. At half past eight, three ice-warnings were given to Titanic by the Californian indicating that ice was only 50 miles ahead. Captain Smith retired for night around half past nine giving the unusual order to rouse him "if it becomes doubtful at all". So the first officer Lightoller remembered the lookouts Fleet and Lee to watch out for ice very carefully until morning. Altogether, the ice-warnings given to Titanic on that day showed a huge icefield that was 78 miles long and directly in front of the Titanic. Fatefully, these warnings were ignored.

At eleven o'clock p.m. the Californian is stopped by ice only 10 - 19 miles north of Titanic and sent out ice-warnings to all ships in that area. Titanic radio operators responded the warnings very unfriendly. Phillip responded with the famous reply "Keep out ! Shut up ! You're jamming my signal. I'm working Cape Race". After that derogative message, the radio operator of the Californian shut down his set for that night, not knowing that it has been their last contact with Titanic. At this time, Titanic was running over 22 knots and 24 of the 29 boilers were fired.

Titanic was never going faster than that speed. At half past eleven, the lookouts saw a slight haze appearing directly ahead. At eleven-forty Fleet saw a large iceberg directly ahead and alarmed the bridge. The alarm was recognised on the bridge by sixth officer Moody, who handed over to Murdoch. Murdoch gave an instinctive order. He ordered Titanic to keep "hard starboard", gave the command "Stop, full astern" to the engine room and let the fifteen watertight doors close at the same time. But it was too late. Although Titanic drifted to port she scrapped the iceberg for a length of over 300 feet. Only a few persons on board Titanic noticed this collision. This fateful contact of 10 seconds with the ice sliced up the iron hull under the water line. It opened up five compartments fully to the sea. The coal bunker servicing boiler number nine was also flooded. Five minutes before midnight, only fifteen minutes after the collision, the "G" deck has been already flooded. After a quick inspection of the damage taken by the collision, Wilde, Boxhall and Andrews came to a terrible conclusion. After having had the report of them, Captain Smith knew that the unexpected happened. Titanic was sinking and the more than two thousand two hundred people were in extreme danger, having only slightly more than two hours left. With a heavy heart, Smith personally took Titanic's last position, worked out by Boxhall, to the radio room. Handing his paper over to Phillips shortly after midnight, he ordered a call for assistance. Phillip tapped out the distress signal CQD...MGY...CQD...MGY... (CQD means Come Quick Danger; MGY was the shortage for Titanic).

The Sinking and the Tragedy

Although Titanic was constructed to be unsinkable, this vessel in fact could sink and did. But how could that happen ?

Titanic was lost from the moment the fifth compartment was flooded. She could stay afloat with four of the five bow compartments. Only the first compartment reached up to the highest deck (C-Deck), compartments two and eleven to fifteen reached only up to the second highest deck (D-Deck), while the other compartments reached only up to the third highest deck (EDeck). The first four compartments would have kept the water in it, preventing a flooding of the niveau of D-Deck. But the flooded fifth compartment (boiler room number six) reached only up to the E-Deck. This caused a flow over into compartment number six, which pushed down the hull until the bitter end had come and ground was reached.

Shortly after midnight, the Squash court, 32 feet above keel, has already been flooded. The majority of the boilers had been extinguished by the incoming water and so huge clouds of steam came out of the security vents aside of the funnels. Captain Smith ordered to uncover the lifeboats and to muster the crew and the passengers, knowing that there would be only room for 1,178 people out of estimated 2,227 people on board, if every boat was filled up to it's maximum capacity. Between 10 minutes past midnight and ten minutes to two o'clock in the morning, the crew of the Californian, which had been only 19 miles away, close enough to give quick aid, noticed the distress rockets fired up by Titanic. But the Crew did not react, thinking it would just have been some fireworks. A lot of ships had received Titanic's distress calls and were approaching to help, but they were too far away. The Cunard liner Carpathia was the vessel that was closest, but had still been 59 miles away. The Captain of the Carpathia, Arthur Roston, had already been asleep as he had been waken by his radio operator. He ran up to the bridge and set direct course to Titanic. He also woke his crew, to prepare his ship for rescuing the people, knowing that not much time has been left. So the crew started overheating the ten year old boilers to let their ship go faster than ever. Carpathia was riding along with more than 17 knots, much faster than her registered 14.5 knots. Roston behaved like it is taught in every marine schoolbook. Cabins and dining rooms were prepared, hot coffee and a hot soup were cooked, nets and lights were fixed to the outside of the vessel, the gangway and some special devices for fishing out persons were prepared, and even oil was kept ready for taming the wild sea. Meanwhile, twenty-five minutes past midnight the first lifeboats on board Titanic had been loaded with women and children and were lowered away, filled up with only 28 persons, able to carry 65. Nobody really believed Titanic could be sinking. Many passengers told their maids to boil hot water, thinking of having a cup of tea after returning from that "test". At the same time the first distress rocket was fired. These rockets soared 800 feet up in the air and exploded into twelve brilliant white stars under a loud report. Officer Boxhall saw a ship appear and then disappear after having tried to contact it with a Morse lamp. At a quarter past one o'clock, Titanic had only one hour left, the name on the bow was already covered by water and she began listing to port. By that time already seven boats have been lowered filled up only with far fewer passengers and crew than rated capacity. While the chaos on deck was growing, the boats began to be more fully loaded, starting with the starboard lifeboat number 9, that was lowered at twenty minutes past nine, when only less than one hour had been left. At that time, the Titanic had developed a heavy list to starboard. At half past one, as only half of an hour was left to live, signs of panic occurred as port lifeboat number 14 had been lowered, keeping 60 people, including fifth officer Lowe.

He was forced to fire three warning shots along the side of the vessel to stop a group of unruly passengers jumping into the full lifeboat. J. Bruce Ismay left at 1:40 a.m. on a collapsible boat filled up with 39 persons. He was disliked for having left his own ship and leaving more than thousand people on a sinking ship. At this time the water was only ten feet below the promenade deck. Wallace Hartley, the leader of the band, chose the band's final song "Nearer, My God to Thee!". Hartley had always said it would be the hymn he would select for his funeral. At two o'clock, as Titanic had only minutes left, there were about 1,500 persons left on board and there was only space for 47 passengers in the last collapsible lifeboat. Lightoller gave instructions to the crew to lock arms and to form a circle around the last lifeboat, allowing only women and children to get into the last lifeboat.

At five minutes past two the last lifeboat, collapsible boat "D" left Titanic with only 44 instead of 47 possible persons on board. At this time, the A deck was already under water, and Titanic's tilt was getting steeper and steeper. Smith went up to the radio cabin and released the radio operators Phillips and Bride by telling them that they had "done their duty". On his way back to his bridge, Captain Smith told several members of the crew that everybody had to fight for his own life ("It's every man for himself"). His last thoughts were probably bound to his wife Eleanor and his daughter Helen.

The stern began to lift clear of the water and the passengers moved further and further to the back of the ship. At 2:17 a.m. the bow of Titanic was completely under water. Father Thomas Byles, a prayer on board Titanic, gave confessional advice to the passengers, mostly 2nd and 3rd class, at the back of the boat deck. One minute later a huge roar went through the hull of Titanic when all movable objects slid down to the submerged bow. Suddenly the lights blinked once and then shut down for ever, leaving Titanic as an dark silhouette against the clear sky full of stars. The iron hull broke between the third and the fourth funnel. The stern of the ship settled back, digging some hundreds of swimming persons under itself. Then, the stern achieved for several minutes a completely perpendicular position. At twenty minutes past ten it slid into the ice- cold ocean down to the bed of the North Atlantic some 13,000 feet below water line. About 1,522 passengers and crew members lost their life. Most of them were passengers of the third class. As the third class was separated form first and second class, lattices locked the stair cases leading to the promenade deck, where the lifeboats have been boarded. Most of the third class passengers had no chance to escape from their decks and had to drown like rats. But also some important first class passengers died.

Benjamin Guggenheim preferred to die giving his place to women and children. As he heard about the fate of Titanic, he went with his manservant into his cabin, putting on their best suits. Then they sat waiting in the Grand Saloon. He explained their behaviour with the famous sentence "We've dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen". Also, Isidor Straus preferred to die, helping a pregnant woman getting into the lifeboat where he should take place. John Astor set his wife into the lifeboat and stayed on board like many other men, behaving like a gentleman. Many passengers jumped over board. They all died, either being smashed on the water, as the stern of the ship was nearly 100 feet out of the water, or they died in the ice-cold water, which had no more than 2° C.

Being Rescued

Captain Roston navigated his 540 feet long vessel at full speed through the icefield. At half past two, all preparations for rescuing the survivors had been done. From three o'clock on, Roston ordered to fire up rockets every quarter of an hour. At 3:35, the Carpathia reached the position where Titanic should have been, but there was no ship, only ice. At four o'clock Carpathia stopped her engines, and soon a green position lamp has been expected. About ten minutes later, the first survivors climbed on board Carpathia. By 5:30 a.m. the Californian was informed by the Frankfort of the loss of Titanic and set course for the disaster's site. She arrived at 8:30 a.m., just as the last boat had been picked up by the Carpathia. True to his rules, Lightoller as the highest surviving officer came as the last survivor on board Carpathia. At ten minutes to nine, the California continued to search for survivors, and the Carpathia set course for New York. As she carried 705 survivors, 1522 persons had been lost. So J. Bruce Ismay sent out the following message to White Star's New York office : "Deeply regret advise you Titanic sank this morning after collision with iceberg, resulting in serious loss of life. Full particulars later." During their voyage to New York, the radio operators neglected any information about the things that happened last night. No matter if the questions were private or official. Even a personal question of President Taft about his close friend Major Archibald Butt remained unanswered. It was a big problem to transmit the names of the survivors, because the radio communication was of bad quality. So president Taft forbid all radio contacts, except the contact between Carpathia and New York. Later, even the Navy Cruiser Chester was ordered to give company to Carpathia and to help her with his powerful radio equipment. On April 17th, as Carpathia has been approaching New York, the 705 names of the survivors were known. On April 18th, 4 days after the collision, Carpathia arrived in the harbour of New York in pouring rain about half past eight in the evening. She was escorted by ships crowded with reporters. On the White Star piers 59 and 60, where Titanic's voyage should have ended, she dropped the thirteen lifeboats of Titanic. These lifeboats were the only thing left of the most giant liner in the world and were kept for a long time at these pier, until they were rotten or damaged by souvenirhunters. At half past nine, Carpathia reached her pier and the survivors could leave the vessel. The 174 survivors of the third class left the ship at about eleven p.m., long time after all the other passengers. Most of them had lost everything they owned. White Star line gave immediate aid, supported by many local caritative aid stations.

What Happened after this Tragedy ?

On April 15th, White Star chartered a little ship called Mackay-Bennet, a cable building ship under the command of Captain F.H. Lardner, to search for dead bodies in the region where Titanic had sunk. More than 40 specialists came to help; they all were getting a doubled payment for their unpleasant work . On April 17th all needful things - tons of ice, devices for mummifying the dead bodies and more than 100 coffins - were stored on board Mackay-Bennet. At noon they left the harbour of Halifax. On April 20th the Mackay-Bennet reached her destination and began to work. After a week the capacity of the Mackay-Bennet had been reached and so a second ship, the Minia, came to help. The departure of the Minia was delayed by an shortage of coffins. Soon the Mackay-Bennet returned to Halifax, carrying 190 dead bodies, 100 in coffins, the rest hulled in sails, after having found 306 dead bodies. They buried 116 dead bodies at the sea. Most of the dead bodies were buried at grave-yards in Halifax. Most of the victims died due to the cold water, they were frozen to death. Only 15 of the dead bodies had water in their lungs, a sign for being drowned. All in all 328 dead bodies had been found, 128 have never been identified. For 1314 dead bodies the Titanic and the cold sea became a grave-yard.

The heroes and heroines, such like the American millionaire Margaret "Molly" Brown, who fought for the lives of the people in the water, were identified and celebrated by the press. J. Bruce Ismay had to stand a lot of scorn. He was celebrated in the press as a coward.

On the day after the arrival in New York, a trial in front of the marine court was held in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Striking questions were the behaviour of the crew, the insufficient number of lifeboats and the mysterious ship that drove between Titanic and Californian. As a result of this disaster the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea was held in London in May. The convention made up new rules, requiring that every ship is to have a lifeboat space for every person embarked (not like Titanic's 1,178 spaces for 2,228 persons), that lifeboat drills had to be held during each voyage, and because the Californian had not received Titanic's distress signal, although she was closest to the disaster, that ships have to maintain a 24-hour radio watch. The International Ice Patrol, which was also established these days to warn ships of icebergs in the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic. As there were American people under the victims and the owner of Titanic has been an American company and the destination of Titanic had been New York, it was obvious for American senator William Alden Smith to make up a trial against the owners of Titanic.

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There has been a catalogue of 25,622 open questions that filled 959

pages. On July 30 th, the commission presented their report : "The cause of the collision of

Titanic with an iceberg has been the too high velocity. There were no sufficient lookouts. The lifeboats were lowered correctly, but have not been filled up correctly. The Californian could have reached the Titanic if they had tried. The course had been safe if enough care would have been taken. During the rescue the passengers of third class had been discriminated against." J. Bruce Ismay and Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon were released, being acquitted of all guilt. The following trials were about regulating the financial damage. The acquisitors wanted to get a sum of about 16,084,112 US-Dollars. White Star was willing to pay only 97,772.02 US-Dollars matching the worth of the 13 used lifeboats and pre-paid cargo. In 1916, 4 years after this tragedy, a deal had been made up by judge Mayer, that ended all trials. White Star had to pay 663,000 Dollars.

Why is the Sinking of this Ship so Famous ?

So many ships hit the ground due to a collision with an iceberg, or were sunk by a torpedo. But why did the Titanic become so famous ?

Titanic has been the most modern ship of that period. Among the guests there were a lot of prominent people. So you can compare it with the following scenery : Imagine a new plane is developed, more giant than the state of the art Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. It is to be the safest plane in the whole world. On its maiden flight, this plane is filled up with Hollywood stars and famous sport stars. Then it suddenly crashes and most of the people die due to insufficient safety devices. This would be a modern version of the Titanic disaster. Also most of the people could have been saved, if there had been enough lifeboats. There are also many open questions and mystic theories :

- Where had the binoculars of the lookout gone ? Equipped with binoculars, the iceberg would have been seen earlier and Titanic would have had enough time to avoid the collision. · If she had turned around just one second earlier, she would have passed the iceberg. · If she had turned around just one second later, she would have hit the iceberg with her front and could have stayed afloat.

- A cursed mummy should have been on board of the Titanic. In fact a mummy as described in these stories is today in the British National Museum in London. (It is property number 22542).
- Were there really too many bad omens ?
- The serial number 390904 read in a mirror seen "no pope".
- A horoscope read danger, combined with the co-ordinates of Belfast and the date of birth of Titanic.

The Fate of Titanic's sisters

The Unlucky Britannic / Gigantic

The construction of the biggest of the three superliners had just begun, as work had to be stopped until the report of the commission of Titanic has been delivered. As work had to be continued, the plans had to be redone and the whole ship had to be dated up. Even the name Gigantic has been changed into Britannic. For instance the new vessel had a doubled hull, so it became two feet wider. The watertight compartments have been stretched up to the B deck. Also, huge lifeboat-Davits have been installed. Britannic had been launched on February 26th 1914 and White Star announced that this vessel was to be set on duty on the line Southampton - New York. But then suddenly World War I started. So the nearly finished interior was converted into a clinic. On December 12th, the ship with a whole new painting - white and on the sides a green stripe and red crosses - left Belfast for war services. On November 21st 1916, Britannic was steaming in the Aegean Sea, coming from Saloniki, heading for the Channel of Kéa. Suddenly, an enormous explosion shook the body of the ship, and within one hour, she sunk. 30 out of the 1100 passengers were killed. Jaques Costeau explored the wreck of Britannic in the year 1976 and found a vessel that was nearly undamaged.

The Olympic - the Reliable Old Woman

Only one of the three superliners, planned 1907 during the dinner at Lord Pirrie, met the expectations set to such a ship. This Ship has been Olympic. In contrast to her short-lived sisters Titanic and Britannic, which sunk after a short time, Olympic cruised nearly a quarter of a decade across the oceans. After the Titanic disaster, Olympic had to be rebuilt for almost half a year. That way, Olympic also received a doubled hull and the number of lifeboats was increased rapidly. In spring of 1913 Olympic has been used for transatlantic service again. Even after the breakout of the first World War, Olympic served a long time civil routes. From September 1915 on, she had been used for military services and carried soldiers to the front during the following years of war. After the end of World War I, she has been generally renovated and was released in July 1920. During the following 15 years, she did a large number of Atlantic crossings without any problems. Just once, on May 15th 1934, she had a collision as she rammed a lightship in thick fog . Seven of the eleven crew members of the little lightship died. In the same year, White Star fused together with their biggest opponent Cunard forming a new number one ship line in the world. As the Olympic lost more and more passengers to newer, modern ships, she did a last voyage to New York in the year 1935. Later she has been sold, stripped and was wrecked in Scotia. Many items of the furniture can be found in old barns, or being built into some hotels or houses.

The Finding of Titanic

The dream of raising the Titanic has been created at the same time as she sunk. There were immense treasures on board of the Titanic. So some enthusiasts created the idea of raising Titanic in the twenties. They just thought of putting Ping-Pong balls into the wreck or pumping oxygen into the hull to raise the giant. But even with modern state of the art technique it is impossible to lift the heavy wreck of Titanic. Little parts have already been lifted up. After a huge number of unsuccessful attempts, a group of scientists localised the wreck of Titanic in the year 1985. It has been found by an expedition with the Navy cruiser "Knorr", with two remote controlled camerasystems, called ANGUS and ARGO. On September 1st 1985, after more than 73 years on the ground, the first photo has been taken of Titanic by Robert Ballard. He also was the first man to go down to Titanic to the ground in the year 1986. The research vessel Atlantis II carried the little submarine Alwin to the position of the wreck. From Alwin, a remote controllable robot had been set out, called Jason jr. or "JJ". On Sunday, July 13th, the first time for 74 years, human beings saw Titanic lie in front of them. In the year 1987, a giant expedition to Titanic took place. Between July 22nd and September 11th 1987, 32 dives were done to lift up more than 1800 items of Titanic. In October 1989, a huge exposition about Titanic took place in Paris. This exposition travelled around in Europe. In the summer of 1991 an independent film team visited Titanic, doing an IMAX movie. The most striking point is the fact, that Titanic became the grave of more than thousand persons. So the big question is : Is it right to break into that grave and save parts of Titanic from corrosion or is it grave plundering ? That is why an American court condemned the firms that collected items out of Titanic to fines of about 60,000 US-Dollars. The money was collected by the R.M.S. Titanic Inc. This foundation gave all the items of the exhibition into the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and wants to protect Titanic from being plundered.

The Future of Titanic

The future of Titanic is not looking good. The pressure in the depth of more than 13,000 feet is enormous and the corrosion in the salty water is destroying many parts of the vessel. Maybe in ten years nothing will be left of the Titanic. It is planned to do some more dives down to Titanic to explore everything before it will be gone forever. In the year 1998 a new film about Titanic created a real boom. Everybody wanted to know everything about Titanic. Titanic Inc. sold merchandise products in every variation. An own swimming museum is planned to be built in Southampton, giving the exhibition about Titanic the kind of home that it well deserves. A Swiss firm plans to build an exact copy of Titanic in the near future, with all the luxury of the old liner, but equipped with modern safety standards to prevent a second disaster. The costs are estimated to be about 500 Million US-Dollars. The Maiden Voyage is planned to take place on the 90th anniversary, April 12th2002.

Appendix 1:

The "shopping list" for Titanic's Maiden Voyage:

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The Band that played on board Titanic till the bitter end had come.

Bibliography :

"Titanic - Untergang einer Legende", Buch und Zeit Verlag, ISBN 3-8166-0447-1

Donald Lynch, Ken Marshall, "Titanic" Bertelsmann Verlag 1992 Buch Nr. 104380

Langenscheidts Schulwörterbuch Englisch, Langenscheidt Verlag ISBN 3-468-13122-4

Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, Cornelsen & Oxford Verlag Buch Nr. 112233

Englisch - Grundfertigkeiten des Schreibens, Stark Lernhilfen ISBN 3-89449-324-0


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The tragic maiden voyage of the Titanic. Why is the sinking of this ship so famous?
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Florian Hund (Author), 1998, The tragic maiden voyage of the Titanic. Why is the sinking of this ship so famous?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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