The Ship of Dreams

Titanic began her maiden voyage on April 10, 1912 sailing from Southampton to New York. She carried passengers full of dreams and hope who were sailing to America to make new lives and more prosperous futures. Unfortunately, due to unforseen circumstances, she never made it to New York's port.

The Origin of Titanic

The RMS Titanic was built by White Star line, a competitor to another shipbuilding company, Cunard. In 1907, Cunard made major waves by building the Lusitania and the Mauretania, which set speed records crossing the Atlantic. In order to compete, White Star Line decided to build several large vessels known for their comfort instead of their speed, the Olympic, the Titanic and the Britannic.

When Titanic was built, she was the largest moving human-made object in the world. She had many new features, including remotely sealable compartments, which led to her being refered to as "unsinkable."

Titanic's Creation

The Titanic was completed in 1912 at a cost of $7.5 million. She was built in Belfast, Ireland (which is now known as Northern Ireland). It took more than two years to build the huge vessel. The ship was 882 feet (270 meters) long, or more than four city blocks, and more than 92 feet (28 m) in height. She weighed an incredible 46,000 tons. The luxurious liner was the ship of dreams, to sail the atlantic in luxoury and comfort. She was White Star Line's hope that this ship would put them ahead of their competition.

Her Maiden Voyage

The Titanic began her journey in Southampton, England, and then sailed to Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown, Ireland (now known as Cobh). She then went west toward New York on April 10, 1912. She was carrying a total of 1,316 passengers and 885 crew members. Her passengers were a mixture of wealthy individuals as well as immigrants from Ireland, Germany and other European countries.

On April 14, a nearby ship, the Californian, sent a warning message at 10:55 p.m.: "Ice report: We are stopped and surrounded by ice." Unfortunately the captain of the Titanic, Edward Smith, and First Officer William Murdoch did not heed these warnings, steaming ahead near full-speed. It was common during that time for captains to continue at full speed until they detected a problem requiring them to slow down in order to make it to their destination in a timely manner. No one could have forseen that following procedure would unltimately lead them to their demise.

The Sinking of Titanic

At 11:40 p.m. ship's time, watchmen aboard the ship spotted an iceberg. The ship made a sudden turn to the left, causing it to sideswipe the iceberg. The ice punched holes in the starboard (or right side) of the ship, tearing a nearly 300-foot (90 m) gash in her metal plating, which caused her to quickly began filling with water. Six of the ship's 16 water-tight compartments flooded with water, which was enough to cause her to begin to sink, at which point the water had flowed to the top of the supposed water tight compartments. This caused her other compartments to also begin filling with water. Modern estimates suggest that the ship could have possibly limped to shore with only four breached compartments. But the gash in her side was too much, and her six flooded compartments caused her to lose buoyancy in order to remain afloat. Titanic took almost three hours to sink, which was longer than her engineer had given her — when he heard that six compartments were leaking, he predicted it would only stay afloat for 1 to 1.5 hours. She was quite a strong ship for the era she was built in.

As the front of the ship filled with water and sunk into the ocean, the back lifted out of the water, according to analysis by James Cameron and eyewitness accounts. This placed tremendous pressure on the middle section of the boat. She eventually cracked, and the front of the ship crashed back into the ocean; she sank at 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912.

What Caused Titanic To Sink?

Many have speculated as to what led the Titanic to hit the iceberg. Titanic expert Parks Stephenson said there was likely an atmospheric effect called a "cold air mirage," at the time, which is relatively common in the North Atlantic, and helped prevent the crew from seeing the iceberg until it was too late. This effect may have also prevented nearby ships from seeing the Titanic's warning flares, or from discerning that they were signals of distress. It has also been speculated that the iceburg had turned over revealing its black underbelly, which would have made it difficult to detect in the dark waters at night.

The Titanic carried only 16 lifeboats as well as four "collapsibles," which in total could only accommodate a third of her total passengers if she were completely full. With the amount of passengers she did carry, she could only accommodate half the passengers aboard. While this may seem unforgiveable by today's standards, the Titanic actually carried more lifeboats than necessary under the law at the time. In the aftermath of the sinking, laws were put in place to prevent this from happening again and required ships to carry enough lifeboats to accommodate all passengers aboard.

Titanics Survivors

All of the Titanic's survivors were rescued by the Carpathia, which received the Titanic's distress signal and immediately set off. It didn't get there until about 4 a.m., however. Of the 2,224 people on board, 1,514 lost their lives, while 710 survived. First-class passengers fared much better than those in third class. For example, only 3 percent of first-class women died, whereas 54 percent of third class women perished.

Some of Titanic's passengers were prominent people, including John Jacob Astor IV, one of the wealthiest men in the world during that time. So were Ida and Isidor Straus, who were the co-owners of Macy's department store. And of course, there was "Unsinkable" Molly Brown, a socialite who became famous when she exhorted her lifeboat to return to look for survivors, and ultimately survived the ordeal herself.

Jacob Astor did not survive. He didn't take the reports seriously that Titanic was sinking, and later wasn't allowed onto a lifeboat due to a "women and children first" policy. His pregnant wife did survive, however. Ida Straus initially boarded a lifeboat but returned to her husband. "Where you go, I go," she reportedly said. The couple would die together. He was 67, she was 63.

Titanic's wreck was discovered by Bob Ballard on September 1, 1985. He used his underwater craft Argo to follow a trail of debris that lead him to the ship's hull.