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Anatomy of the RMS Titanic Disaster

The Sinking of the Titanic

The Sinking of the Titanic. As the mortally wounded liner neared the last moments of her death-struggle, the inrush of water to her forward compartments depressed her bow, leaving her stern clear of the water. Our artist depicts her as she appeared to the horrified survivors in the lifeboats just before she took her final plunge. 1,635 persons went to their death with her (according to the official estimate of the white star management) or perished afterward from exposure and shock, 705 persons survived the disaster, according to the most trustworthy figures available as the “weekly” goes to press. Drawn from descriptions of eyewitnesses by l. A. Shafer. Harper's Weekly (27 April 1912) p. 34-35. GGA Image ID # 109dc2a899

Explore the events, ship, and personalities that made this particular disaster the most written about the marine disaster of all time. From being touted as "Unsinkable" to it chilling dive to the bottom five days into its maiden voyage. After reading these incredible and sometimes incredulous stories, one might wonder if this was a vortex of the Bermuda Triangle.

Timeline of the RMS Titanic Disaster - 1912

New York American Latest News on the White Star Liner "Titanic."

New York American Latest News on the White Star Liner "Titanic." Photograph Showing Crowd of People Surrounding the Building on 15 April 1912. GGA Image ID # 1628bc838f

April 10.—The new White Star liner Titanic, the largest vessel ever constructed, sails on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.

April 15.-The steamer Titanic, 1 150 miles east of New York, founders four hours after striking an iceberg, carrying 1595 persons down with her; 745 of the passengers and crew, all that the life boats would hold, are afterward picked up by the Carpathia, which had been summoned by wireless.

April 15.—The White Star liner Titanic. on her maiden voyage to New York. is sunk by an iceberg 400 miles southeast of Cape Race. 0f the 2.181 on board 705 are rescued by the Cunard liner Carpalhia, and 1,476 are lost. according to the estimate of the Carpathia's officers.

April 16.—The cable steamer Mackay-Bennet, chartered by the White Star Line to search for bodies at the scene of the disaster, left Halifax, NS. The Canadian Government steamer Minia, dispatched on a similar errand, returned 6 May with 15 bodies, among them that of Mr. Hays, having buried two at sea.

April 17–The Senate orders an investigation into the causes which led to the wreck of the Titanic. Mayor Gaynor of New York starts a relief fund for sufferers from the sinking of the Titanic.

April 17.—The Senate passes a resolution calling for an official investigation of the cause of the sinking of the steamship Titanic. Mayor Gaynor of New York starts a relief fund for sufferers from the sinking of the Titanic.

April 18.-The steamer Carpathia arrives at New York with 495 of the passengers and 2 Io of the crew of the wrecked steamer Titanic.

April 18.—-The liner Carpathia arrives in New York with the passengers and members of the crew picked up after the sinking of the Titanic

April 19.-The Senate passes the Dillingham Immigration bill, making ability to read and write a condition of entrance into this country. . . . The House adjourns in respect to those who lost their lives on the Titanic. A Congressional inquiry into the causes leading to the wreck of the Titanic is begun by Senators Smith and Newlands at New York. A memorial service for those who lost their lives on the Titanic is held in St. Paul's Cathedral.

April 20. - It is announced that hereafter steamers of the International Mercantile Marine will carry lifeboats and rafts sufficient for all passengers
and crew.

April 21.— Memorial services for the Titanic dead are held in many churches throughout the British Empire and the United States. Abraham ("Bram") Stoker, the English author and theatrical manager, dies at age 54.

April 24.—The steamer Olympic is unable to sail from Southampton because of the objection of firemen and oilers to its life-boat equipment.

April 30.-The cable ship Mackay-Bennett brings into Halifax 190 bodies picked up from the sea near the place where the Titanic foundered.

May 2.—The British commission under Lord Mersey begins its investigation of the causes leading to the wreck of the Titanic.

May 2.—The British inquiry into the Titanic disaster is begun.

May 3.—Fifty-nine unidentified bodies of Titanic victims recovered by the Mackay-Bennett are buried at Halifax.

May 6.—The will of John Jacob Astor, made public at New York, leaves the bulk of his estate of more than $100,000.000 to his twenty-year-old son, William Vincent Astor. . . . The cable ship Minia arrives at Halifax with the bodies of fifteen Titanic victims.

May 28—The Senate committee which investigated the sinking of the Titanic reports its findings and makes many recommendations for the safeguarding of life at sea. Congress, in a joint resolution. thanks the oflicers and crew of the liner Carpalhia for the rescue of Titanic survivors.

July 10—President Taft signed the joint resolution extending the thanks of Congress to Captain Arthur Henry Rostrum of the Carpathia and appropriating 1,000 for a gold medal to he presented to him for his action in going to the rescue of the Titanic passengers.

July 30—Lord Mersey delivered the judgment of the British Board of Trade Court of Inquiry into the disaster to the White Star Line steamship Titanic, which sank with a loss of 1,517 lives after collision with an iceberg on 15 April.

Sixteen Hundred Lives Lost on the “Titanic”

The Ill-Fated Steamship “Titanic " (Vessel With Four Funnels) Leaving Southampton, England, on Her Maiden Voyage

The Ill-Fated Steamship “Titanic " (Vessel With Four Funnels) Leaving Southampton, England, on Her Maiden Voyage, Which Ended With Disaster off Newfoundland. Some Idea of the Magnitude of This Leviathan of the Ocean May Be Gained From the Fact That as She Was Drawing Away From Her Dock at Southampton, and Before She Had Attained Anything Like Her Maximum Speed, Which Was Twenty-Six or More Miles an Hour, the Tremendous Suction Caused by Her Great Displacement and Momentum Dragged the Steamship " New York ” (Vessel With Two Funnels ) From Her Moorings, Tearing Her Enormous Hawsers Apart as Though They Were Mere Threads. A Serious Collision Was Narrowly Averted by the Tugs in Attendance Upon the Larger Vessel. GGA Image ID # 17049466cc

The full measure of the horrors that marked the sinking of the Titanic, as well as stories of heroism that are not surpassed in the world’s records of the fearless and intrepid acts of men in dire emergency, was made known on the arrival in New York, on April 18th, of the ship of rescue, the Carpathia.

The Titanic Rescue Ship, RMS Carpathia of the Cunard Line. Leslie's Weekly 2 May 1912.

The Titanic Rescue Ship, RMS Carpathia of the Cunard Line. Leslie's Weekly 2 May 1912. GGA Image ID # 1705c510c8

This Cunard liner bore 705 persons—a majority of them women and children—saved from the lifeboats of the Titanic found drifting in the ice floes after the great steamship, mortally stricken, had disappeared in the deep. The rescuers found that many of the women and children in the boats were unconscious from the combined agony of their experiences and the freezing atmosphere, and four members of the Titanic’s crew, among those told off to man the boats, were dragged to the decks of the Carpathia lifeless. They had been frozen to death, and their homy hands were stiffened about the oars.

No imagination can picture the mental suffering of these survivors of the calamity. Wives had parted from husbands, children from fathers, at first believing in the ultimate safety of the dear ones left behind. But even while the lifeboats, cruising about aimlessly for a time, were within sight of the doomed vessel, she sank with more than sixteen hundred unfortunates to the bottom of the sea.

Illustration of the RMS Titanic Striking an Iceberg in the North Atlantic on 15 April 1912. Leslie's Weekly, 2 May 1912.

Illustration of the RMS Titanic Striking an Iceberg in the North Atlantic on 15 April 1912. Leslie's Weekly, 2 May 1912. GGA Image ID # 1706936f01

From stories told by the survivors, it was learned that the Titanic was running in a fair sea when she crushed into a submerged iceberg. The shock was not generally alarming. It was near midnight, and a majority were in their cabins. The band was still playing, for many had not retired. The ship’s crew ran about to allay any fear that might be felt. Some passengers who had emerged to the decks returned to their quarters. The engines slowed up and assurances of safety were repeated.

Suddenly the great ship began to list. There were cries of authority from officers. Passengers were ordered to the decks with life belts, and then confusion began, for the masses of men and women realized that danger was imminent. The alarm that spread was increased in those who saw the sailors working with expert speed at the lifeboats.

All at once came the order, "Women and children to the boats!" As the boats were filled and lowered—the sailors helping those nearest to this means of safety —excitement grew. Yet some men stood about unconcerned, jesting, seemingly assured that the great ship could never go down.

The Titanic continued to list to port, and fear and excitement soon became general. Women and children were rushed to the lifeboats, which were lowered as quickly as possible, while officers and crew thrust aside men who, in the confusion that ensued, lost their reason. Other men revealed the noblest heroism. Husbands forced their wives into the boats, and some of them at the same time fought off men who tried to save themselves at the expense of the weak. The scenes grew more terrible as the moments passed.

Only sixteen lifeboats were floated with their precious freight. The last to be launched, a collapsible boat, overturned, but was used as a raft, upon which a number of men and women were finally saved. While a great number of women were rescued, many were ingulfed with the ship. These were of the poorer class in the steerage, unable to reach the upper decks, many in the cabins who refused to leave their husbands, and servants of families left in the frenzied haste of the last few moments of the preliminaries of rescue. Some of these, with many of the ill-fated men who had remained below with a feeling of security which nothing, but the listing of the ship could dissipate, were seen frantic upon the decks just before the climax to the catastrophe.

As stories of individual heroism were telling, the rescue of a comparatively large number of men was not understood until it was learned that, while the earlier lifeboats were being launched, few women had appeared to fill them, and men present were forced into them. When it became apparent to all who remained that the Titanic was doomed, frenzy and riot marked the lowering of the latest boats. This was largely due to an accession of stokers and men from the steerage, who fought their way to the upper decks and engaged with cabin passengers in a struggle for precedence.

Officers of the ship—as noble a body of men as ever crossed the sea—stood by and continued to enforce the law as to women and children by the exercise of the only type of force that could be effective. They calmly shot down the foremost who sought to leap into boats already loaded to the limit. First Officer Murdock, who was on the bridge when the Titanic struck, shot himself when he realized the ship was doomed. Captain Smith leaped Into the sea and fought off a cook of the vessel, who sought to drag him into a boat, sinking before the Titanic finally went down.

Colonel John Jacob Astor died a hero's death, standing calmly on the deck and awaiting his fate after seeing his young wife to safety in a boat. The ship’s barber, Alfred Whitman, who jumped from the ship and was taken aboard a lifeboat, was the last to speak with Astor, whom he besought to leap overboard. “No, thank you,” was the reply. “I think I’ll have to stick.”

Isidor Straus and Mrs. Straus did not appear on deck until a second alarming order had been given below. Mrs. Straus refused to enter a boat, preferring to risk her life with her husband, and they were seen calmly awaiting their fate together. Major Butt, President Taft’s aid, was said to have been seen at a critical moment with an iron bar in his hands, repelling the attempts of stokers and steerage men to enter a boat, to the danger of women.

Distinguished Dead Among the “Titanic’s ” Heroes. Leslie's Weekly 2 May 1912.

Distinguished Dead Among the “Titanic’s ” Heroes. Leslie's Weekly 2 May 1912. GGA Image ID # 1705104474

The Titanic’s passenger list included a very large number of persons of great distinction and prominence, an appalling number of whom are among the lost. Included with the hundreds of the dead are Colonel John Jacob Astor, one of the wealthiest of Americans; Jacques Futrelle, popular American novelist; Charles M. Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Railway Company; Henry R. Harris, one of the most prominent of American theatrical managers; Major Archibald Butt, military aid to President Taft; William T. Stead, the famous English journalist and reformer; Benjamin Guggenheim, of the noted family of capitalists; F. D. Millet, a celebrated artist; Isidor Straus, the merchant and philanthropist of New York, and his wife; John B. Thayer, vice-president of the Pennsylvania Railroad; Colonel Washington Roebling, of the family of distinguished engineers; G. D. Widener, of the prominent Philadelphia family, and his young son; Washington Dodge, Clarence Moore, H. S. Harper, Dr. Henry W. Frauenthal, J. G. Reuchlin, managing director of the Holland-American Steamship Line, and others.

It is known now that, out of 390 first-cabin passengers, 202 were saved, 164 of whom were women and children. In the second cabin, 116 out of 270 were saved, 102 of them women and children. Only 178 out of the 800 steerage passengers survive, of whom 83 are women and children. Of 985 officers and crew, 210, of whom 22 are stewardesses and maids, are now alive. The total number on board the Titanic was 2,181 of whom 1,635 are dead.

The passengers who were interviewed just after the Carpathia had landed her sad and pitifully small complement of survivors agreed that, almost without exception, the men of the Titanic, passengers and sailors, had totally effaced selfishness that the women and children might live.

Drawings of the RMS Titanic Aftermath. Leslie's Weekly 2 May 1912.

Drawings of the RMS Titanic Aftermath. Leslie's Weekly 2 May 1912. GGA Image ID # 170652f9c5

At first the putting off of the women and children into the small boats was considered by many as a joke. Husbands kissed their wives good-by with an “I’ll see you in half an hour,” “You’ll have to come back here soon.” and "I think I’d rather stick to the ship.’’ Only the ship’s officers and crew and some of the intuitively keen among the women knew at first the real menace and how hard hit the Titanic must be for the passengers to be ordered to the small boats.

That so many men from among the passengers were saved, with the exception of one or two to whom, as has been well established, self-consideration was paramount, is due to the different instructions of the officers in charge of the port and starboard boat loading. On the port side only the women and children and sailors enough to man the boats were allowed overboard. On the starboard side all the husbands who came up to the boats with their wives were not only permitted but encouraged to enter them.

Almost without exception, however, the men of the Titanic were men. As they came to realize, with the gradual settling of the ship and an ever-increasing list to port, that they were indeed doomed, they stopped their pacing of the deck and gathered in little knots along the rail, looking out over the ice-dotted ocean at the cockleshell boats in which their loved ones were moving to safety.

Gradually the Titanic sank deeper and deeper, one deck after another being submerged, those left aboard mounting ever upward as the water crept upon them. About two hours after the Titanic had rammed the iceberg, the ship’s band appeared with its instruments on the wave-lapped boat deck. Erect, with bared heads, they played “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” The passengers aboard the ship took up the hymn.

Those in the small boats, helpless themselves, heard the song. From apparently the same emotion, everyone in the lifeboats refrained from singing, while they listened, in choking inability to aid, the “Morituri, te salutamus” of their loved ones still aboard the stricken liner. With the eyes of many in the boats fixed upon her in anguish and terror, the Titanic plunged to her ocean bed, 12,000 feet below.

Three of the survivors died on the Carpathia on the way to New York. Many on arrival were seriously ill, and several had continued in a hysterical condition for days. Among the survivors picked up were several babies, thrown overboard from the Slavic by their frenzied parents and picked up by the boats. Their identity may never be known.

Among the survivors were thirty women who had been widowed by the disaster. The men rescued all had their wives with them. The scenes as the Carpathia landed with the survivors wrung the hearts even of spectators drawn to the pier by curiosity.

J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the board of directors of the International Mercantile Marine and managing director of the White Star line, was among the saved. Upon arrival In New York he was at once summoned to testify before a congressional committee investigating the disaster.

All stories told of the catastrophe dwell upon the great bravery of the noted men who lost their lives.

Colonel Astor, after his wife had been placed in a lifeboat, was busy assisting women to safety, and he placed a woman's hat, lying on the deck, on the head of a boy to disguise him as a girl that he might be taken aboard.

Major Butt was, in effect, made an officer of the doomed ship by Captain Smith after she struck, and steadily rendered valuable aid in preserving order and aiding women to escape.

The story of the Spartan-like conduct of Isidor Straus and his wife is reiterated again and again. Benjamin Guggenheim, with his secretary, an Armenian named Giglio, were active on deck and bravely met their fate. One report was that, just before the ship plunged to the bottom, Colonel Astor and William T. Stead leaped into the sea and caught on to wreckage, but were finally so benumbed by the cold that they relaxed their hold and sank.

The material losses by the disaster have been estimated at $16,000,000, of which sum $8,000,000 represents the cost of the Titanic. The Post-office Department reports the loss of 3,460 bags of mail matter.

Again—and more strikingly than ever —has been demonstrated the incalculable value of wireless telegraphy in marine emergency. To that alone was due the saving of the 706 persons who were picked up by the Carpathia. Howard Thomas Cottam, the wireless operator on the Carpathia, had finished his work on that vessel for the night, but went back to his instrument before retiring, from curiosity as to general news that might be in the air, and caught the call of the Titanic's operator for help. The Carpathia at once sped on her way to the stricken ship. Phillips, the head wireless operator on the Titanic, went to his death on duty. Harold Bride, a subordinate operator on the ill-fated ship, was rescued. Upon arrival in New York, he was removed to St. Vincent's Hospital.

The Mackay-Bennett, a cable steamer, sent from Halifax to search for bodies, carried ministers, undertakers, embalmers and coffins. She recovered sixty-four bodies that were identifiable. Other bodies past identification were buried at sea. The bodies were recovered about sixty miles from the spot where the Titanic disappeared.

Fourth Officer Boxhall, of the Titanic, stated that shortly before the Titanic sank he saw the red side lights of a ship five miles away coming toward the liner. He signaled with rockets and by Morse to the ship, which veered off without answering.

It is said that six of the lifeboats, with a combined capacity of 390 persons, put off from the Titanic with but 192 persons in them, and that many more might have been saved had the crew of the ship shown adequate training. The crew were picked men, but it is apparent that they had not been drilled in emergency duties.

The disaster has demonstrated that the ship carried too few boats for the safety of its passengers, although it had the usual complement of ocean liners of the day. Already, in response to public demand, ship companies are increasing their lifeboat capacity. Moreover, the more prominent transatlantic companies have agreed to change the ship lanes to more southern courses at this season of the year, making the ocean trip from 160 to 200 miles longer.

Loss of the White Star Liner "Titanic" - 1913

The last photograph of the Titanic taken as she was leaving Southampton on her Maiden Voyage.

The last photograph of the Titanic taken as she was leaving Southampton on her Maiden Voyage. The Unsinkable Titanic (1912) p,. 117. GGA Image ID # 100a8db716

Loss of the White Star Liner “Titanic”

Date: April 15, 1912.
Place: Atlantic Ocean, lat. 41:16 North, long. 50:14 West.

The following table, showing the number of persons on board the Titanic, the number saved, and the number lost, is from the senate committee’s official report:

Table of RMS Titanic Passengers and Crew, Saved or Lost.

Table of RMS Titanic Passengers and Crew, Saved or Lost. © GG Archives 2019. GGA Image ID # 105dd9c0c4

  • Persons Aboard: 2,223
  • Lives Lost: 1,517
  • Persons Saved: 706
  • Cause of Disaster: Collision with Iceberg.

The White Star liner Titanic, the newest, finest and largest steamship in existence at the time, collided with an iceberg at 11:46 p. m. Sunday, April 14, 1912, and sank at 2:20 a. m. Monday, April 15, causing the loss of 1,517 lives.

Seven hundred and six persons, mostly women and children, were saved by means of lifeboats and rafts. These survivors were picked up by the steamship Carpathia, which, in response to a call by wireless for assistance, arrived at the scene of the disaster at 4 o'clock in the morning and conveyed them to New York, that port being reached on the evening of Thursday, April 18.

The Titanic was making its first voyage across the Atlantic, having left the hands of its builders in Belfast April 2. It sailed from Southampton April 10, and, after calling at Cherbourg, France, the same day, and Queenstown, Ireland, the following day, it proceeded toward New York, taking the usual southerly spring course.

Notable Passengers and Crew

There was a large number of passengers aboard, many of them attracted by a desire to witness the performance of the gigantic vessel on its initial trip and to share in its comforts and luxuries.

One of these was:

  • J. Bruce Ismay, chairman and managing director of the White Star line and president of the International Mercantile Marine company;
  • William T. Stead, the widely known London editor;
  • John Jacob Astor, the New York capitalist;
  • Charles M.  Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Railroad company;
  • Frank D. Millet, artist;
  • Lord and Lady Duff-Gordon of England;
  • Maj. Archibald Butt, military aid to President Taft;
  • J. B. Thayer, second vice-president of the Pennsylvania Railroad company;
  • Washington A. Roebling, bridge engineer, Trenton, N. J.;
  • Isidor Straus and Benjamin Guggenheim, New York capitalists;
  • George D. Widener, son of P. A. B. Widener of Philadelphia;
  • Jacques Futrelle, author, and Henry B. Harris, theatrical manager, were also among the persons of note included in the passenger list.
  • Capt. E. J. Smith was in command of the ship.

The voyage at the start was uneventful. The sea was calm and the weather clear, though rather cold. The wind was westerly to southwesterly.  As usual with new ships, the speed was being gradually increased from day to day.

According to a statement made afterward by Mr. Ismay, the distance covered on the first day was 464 miles, on the second 519 miles and on the third about 546 miles.  No attempt, he said, was made to reach the full speed of which the vessel was capable, as it was not intended to reach New York until Wednesday morning.

Ice Warnings Received

Sunday the wireless operators aboard the Titanic received three warnings that icebergs were in or near the course of the vessel. The first came from the Baltic at noon, the second from the Californian of the Leyland line about 7 o'clock in the evening and the third about an hour before the collision.

Sixty-Nine Miles Long and from Three to Twelve Miles Wide: The Great Ice-Floe Encountered by the Ill-Fated Titanic.

Sixty-Nine Miles Long and from Three to Twelve Miles Wide: The Great Ice-Floe Encountered by the Ill-Fated Titanic. The Illustrated London News (18 May 1912) p. 741. GGA Image ID # 100a4107e8

This was also from the Californian, the message reading: "We are stopped and surrounded by ice."   To this last message, the operator on the Titanic is reported to have replied: "Shut up. I am busy, I am working Cape Race."

The Baltic's operator overheard ice reports going to the Titanic from the Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm and from the Amerika, while the Carpathia on the same day overheard the Parisian talking with other ships about ice.

No special attention was paid to these warnings by the officers of the Titanic, except that one of them instructed the lookouts to keep "a sharp lookout for ice."

Capt. Smith remarked to Second Officer Charles S. Lightoller, who was on duty on the bridge until 10 o'clock Sunday evening, "If it is in the slightest degree hazy, we shall have to go very slowly. If in the least degree doubtful let me know." There was no haze and the ship's speed of 21 knots, or 24 1/4 miles an hour, was not reduced.

Collision with Iceberg

At 11:46 p. m. the lookout signaled the bridge and telephoned the officer of the watch, "Iceberg right ahead." The officer of the watch, First Officer W. M. Murdoch, immediately ordered the quartermaster at the wheel to put the helm "hard a-star board," and reversed the engines, but while the sixth officer, J. P. Moody, standing behind the quartermaster at the wheel, reported to Officer Murdoch "The helm is hard a-starboard," the Titanic struck the ice.

The Titanic struck a glancing blow against an under-water shelf of the iceberg, opening up five compartments.

The Titanic struck a glancing blow against an under-water shelf of the iceberg, opening up five compartments. Had She been provided with a watertight deck at or near the water Line, the water which entered the ship would have been confined below that deck, and the buoyancy of that portion of the ship above water would have kept her afloat. As it was, the water rose through openings in the decks and destroyed the reserve buoyancy. The Unsinkable Titanic (1912) p. 125. GGA Image ID # 100a665876

The impact, while not violent enough to disturb the passengers or crew or to arrest the ship's progress, rolled the vessel slightly and tore the steel plating above the turn of the bilge. A few of the passengers came on deck to find out what the trouble was, but there was no alarm.

Immediately after the collision, air was heard whistling or hissing from the overflow pipe to the forepeak tank, indicating the escape of air from that tank because of the inrush of water.

Practically at once, the first three compartments in the hold and the forward boiler room, as well as the forepeak tank, filled with water and reports of the situation were made from the mail and trunk room in No. 3 hold and the firemen's quarters in No. 1 hold.

Leading Fireman Barrett saw the water rushing into the forward fireroom from a tear about two feet above the stokehold floor plates and about twenty feet below the waterline, the tear extending two feet into the coal bunker at the forward end of the second fireroom.

The reports received by Capt. Smith, after various inspections of the ship must have acquainted him promptly with its serious condition and when interrogated by Mr. Ismay, he so expressed himself. 

It is believed also that this serious condition was promptly realized by the chief engineer, J. Bell, and by the builders' representative, Thomas Andrews, both of whom perished.

Under the added weight of water, the bow of the ship sank deeper and deeper and through the open hatch leading from the mail room and through other openings the water overflowed E deck, below which the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth transverse bulkheads ended, and thus flooded the compartments abaft No. 3 hold.

The Titanic was fitted with fifteen transverse watertight bulkheads, but only one of them extended to the uppermost continuous deck, C. The others extended only to decks D and E.

The bulkheads having their openings through deck E were not actually watertight, as it was subsequently shown that the flooding of that deck contributed largely to the sinking of the ship.

Theoretically, any two of the sixteen main watertight compartments might be flooded without involving the safety of the ship. As already stated, the five extreme forward compartments were flooded almost at once by reason of the nonwatertight character of the deck at which the transverse bulkheads ended and the sinking of the vessel was inevitable.

Transverse (Amidship) Section of the Titanic.

Transverse (Amidship) Section of the Titanic. Loss of the Steamship Titanic (1912) p. 89. GGA Image ID # 100b7d712b

  • S: Sundeck
  • A: Upper Promenade Deck
  • C: Upper Deck
  • D: Saloon Deck
  • E: Main Deck
  • F: Middle Deck
  • G: Lower Deck (cargo, coal, bunkers, boilers, engines)
    • a): Welin Davits with lifeboats
    • b): Bilge
    • c): Double bottom

Call for Help

No general alarm was sounded, no whistle blown, and no systematic warning was given the passengers. Within fifteen or twenty minutes, Capt. Smith visited the wireless room and instructed the operators, J. G. Phillips and Harold S. Bride, to call for assistance by sending out the distress signal, "C. Q. D." At the time the call was sent out there were eight vessels within reach of the Titanic's wireless apparatus.

These were the Californian, west bound, 19% miles (or less) to the north; the Mount Temple of the Canadian Pacific line, west bound, 49 miles to the west; the Carpathia of the Cunard line, east bound, to the southeast; the Birma, a Russian ship, 70 miles distant; the Frankfurt of the North German Lloyd line, east bound, 153 miles to the southeast; the Virginian of the Allan line, about 170 miles distant; the Baltic of the White Star line, east bound, 343 miles to the southeast, and the Olympic, sister ship of the Titanic, east bound, 512 miles to the westward. The Caronia, some 800 miles to the eastward, also overheard the Titanic's call for aid.

The distress call was heard by the wireless station at Cape Race, together with the report that the vessel had struck an iceberg, and from this station the news of the accident, which at first was not thought to have involved the loss of life, was given to the world.

The C. Q. D. signal was also heard by the Mount Temple, the Frankfurt, the Baltic, the Carpathia, the Virginian and was relayed by them to other vessels. At an investigation undertaken by a committee of the United States senate, from whose official report this account of the disaster is largely taken, sixteen witnesses from the Titanic, including officers, seamen and passengers, testified to seeing the lights of a vessel in the distance, just after the collision.

The Titanic fired distress rockets and attempted to signal by electric lamp and Morse code to this vessel. At about the same time the officers of the Californian saw rockets in the general direction of the Titanic and, according to the testimony subsequently given by them, they displayed a powerful Morse lamp.

Several of the crew of the Californian testified before the senate committee that the side lights of a large vessel going at full speed were plainly visible from the lower deck of their ship at 11:30 p. m., or just before the accident.

The wireless operator on the Californian was not aroused until early on the morning of the 15th, when he was directed to find out what the rockets, seen hours before, meant. It was then learned that the Titanic bad sunk, but it was too late to give any assistance.

The senate committee in its report expressed the opinion that the Californian was much nearer the Titanic than the nineteen miles reported by the captain, and that it might have had the distinction of saving the lives of the passengers and crew of the sinking liner.

The Frankfurt replied to the distress call, but failed to give its own position, and when it later asked the Titanic, "What is the matter?" one of the operators on the disabled ship told the Frankfurt operator that he was a fool.

Notwithstanding this, the captain of the Frankfurt said he would go to the Titanic's assistance. Owing to the delay, however, he was unable to be of any service.

Carpathia to the Rescue

At the time of the collision the Titanic was in latitude 41:16 north and longitude 50:14 west. This is approximately 450 miles south of Cape Race 1,191 miles east of New York and 1,799 west of Queenstown.

The Cunard steamship Carpathia, which was the only vessel to come to the rescue in time, was on its way to Mediterranean ports with a considerable number of excursionists.

It was fifty-eight miles to the southeast of the Titanic when at 12:30 o'clock in the morning of the 15th its wireless operator, Thomas Cottam, who was just about to go off duty, heard the distress signal from the White Star liner. He verified it and notified Capt. Arthur H. Rostron at 12:35 a. m.

The latter at once put his ship about, ordered his crew and doctors to get everything in readiness for receiving a large number of shipwrecked persons aboard and proceeded at full speed in the direction of the disabled vessel, the exact position of which had been given in the call for help.

Operator Cottam remained in communication with the Titanic, giving the position of the Carpathia and saying that it was hurrying to the rescue. The last message he received from the Titanic was: "Come quick; our engine room is filling up to the boilers."

Loading the Lifeboats

Having sent out calls for assistance and ordered the firing of distress rockets at frequent intervals, Capt. Smith and his officers took steps to notify the passengers of the danger and to place as many of them as possible in safety.

Messengers were sent to the various decks shouting, "All passengers on deck with life preservers on." The order was obeyed quietly and quickly and so far, as known all were aroused and equipped with life preservers.

The testimony is that there was a total absence of panic and but little appearance of excitement. The ship was absolutely still and, except for a slight tilt forward, rode on an even keel. By the captain's orders the lifeboats were uncovered and made ready to be lowered into the water. The senate report says:

"The lack of preparation at this time was most noticeable. There was no system adopted for loading the boats; there was great indecision as to the deck from which the boats were to be lowered; there was wide diversity of opinion as to the number of the crew necessary to man each boat; there was no direction whatever as to the number of passengers to be carried by each boat and no uniformity in loading them.

On one side, only women and children were put into the boats, while on the other side there was an almost equal proportion of men and women put into the boats, the women and children being given the preference in all cases. 

The failure to utilize all lifeboats to their recognized capacity for safety unquestionably resulted in the needless sacrifice of several hundred lives which might otherwise have been saved.

"The vessel was provided with lifeboats for 1,176 persons, while but 706 were saved. Only a few of the ship's lifeboats were fully loaded, while others were only partially filled. Some were loaded at the boat deck and some at A deck, and these were successfully lowered to the water.

The twentieth boat was washed overboard when the forward part of the ship was submerged, and in its overturned condition served as a life raft for about thirty people, including Second Officer Lightoller, Wireless Operators Bride and Phillips the latter dying before rescue - Col. Archibald Gracie and Jack Thayer, passengers, and others of the crew who climbed upon it from the water at about the time the ship disappeared.

The Titanic’s boats were too far from the water.

The Titanic’s boats were too far from the water. Had the sea been rough, it is questionable whether any of the lifeboats of the Titanic would have reached the water without being damaged or destroyed. The point of suspension of the boats was about seventy feet above the level of the sea. Had the ship been rolling heavily the lifeboats, as they were lowered, would have swung out from the side of the ship as it rolled toward them and on the return, roll would have swung back and crashed against its side. The Illustrated London News (11 May 1912) p. 688. GGA Image ID # 100aab983f

"The testimony is definite that, except in isolated instances, there was no panic. In loading boats no distinction was made between first, second, and third-class passengers, although the proportion of lost was larger among the third-class passengers than in either of the other classes. Women and children without discrimination were given preference.

Women Entering a Life-Boat from B Deck of the Titanic.

After the Order “All Men Stand Back Away from the Boats, All Ladies Retire to the Next Deck below ", Women Entering a Life-Boat from B Deck of the "Titanic." The Illustrated London News (18 May 1912) p. 755. GGA Image ID # 100acff1a2

Women and Children First

Second Officer Lightoller had charge of the loading of six of the lifeboats and he complied strictly with the "rule of the sea" that women and children should be cared for first.

There were altogether fourteen lifeboats, capable of holding sixty- five persons each; two emergency sea boats to hold thirty-five persons each and four collapsible boats with a capacity of forty-nine persons each.

In the steerage, there was some crowding by the men, but it was checked by the officers and the crew, who obeyed the captain's injunction to "act like British men."

The men, whether millionaires or paupers, were as a rule equally heroic. They either stood back while the boats were being loaded or helped in the work. This was notably the case with Maj. Archibald Butt, John Jacob Astor, Isidor Straus, Jacques Futrelle and Henry B. Harris, all of whom perished.

Isidor Straus resolutely refused to enter a lifeboat, though asked to do so. "As long as there is a woman on this vessel," he is reported to have said, "I will not leave. When the women are safe then come the men."

Mrs. Straus was entreated to get in with the other women, but she refused to leave her husband and died with him. There were other instances of the same kind.

There was evidently a feeling that the ship was in no immediate peril and most of the married women went aboard the lifeboats under the impression that their husbands would soon follow them in other boats. Nothing was seen of William T. Stead. He is supposed to have remained in his room and gone down with the ship.

Band Plays as Ship Sinks

In the meantime, the Titanic was steadily sinking by the head and the water was rising from deck to deck. The hundreds left on the ship were preparing to go down with it or -jump into the sea.

A few men were struggling to launch a boat that had become jammed, but otherwise nothing was being done. The eight musicians of the ship, who had come together while the lifeboats were being launched, continued playing to give the imperiled passengers confidence.

Even as the vessel was about to take its final plunge the strains of "Nearer, My God to Thee," were heard. It was the most dramatic feature of the great tragedy.

It was 2:20 o'clock in the morning when the ship finally went down. Just as it was about to disappear, two explosions were heard, and to some it appeared as though the vessel broke in two amidships.

The preponderance of evidence, however, is that when it went down it assumed an almost end on position and sank intact. The people in the nearest lifeboats heard loud screaming and moaning for what seemed to be several minutes and then all was still.

Col. Gracie was one of the last persons on the ship as it sank. He was drawn under the water by the suction, but some explosion in the vessel sent him and others to the surface.

He clung to a piece of wreckage until he recovered his breath and then he discovered the overturned lifeboat, which he managed to reach. He and another man helped others upon the craft and at daylight there were thirty men standing upon it.

They were knee deep in water and afraid to move lest they upset and drown. Besides those mentioned in the senate report, quoted in a preceding paragraph, H. J. Pitman, third officer; J. G. Boxhall, fourth officer, and H. C. Lowe, fifth officer, were rescued in this manner.

First Officer Murdoch perished, as did Capt. E. J. Smith. The exact manner of their death is not known. It was reported, but not verified, that the former shot himself before the vessel sank.

The same was said of the captain, but this was declared to be untrue. Some of the passengers claimed to have seen him take a child in his arms and jump into the sea. A sailor said the child was taken aboard a lifeboat, but that the captain sank. 

J. Bruce Ismay entered one of the lifeboats before the ship went down and was saved. He claimed that no women were in sight at the time and that there was room for him.

After lowering, several of the lifeboats rowed many hours in the direction of the lights supposed to have been displayed by the Californian. Other boats lay on their oars in the vicinity of the sinking ship, a few survivors being rescued from the water.

The sea was glassy smooth, the stars were shining, and the night was clear. It was cold, however, and those who were wet suffered severely. Many of the rescued were thinly clad and some of them, including women, were glad to take part in the rowing to keep warm. One or more seamen had been assigned to each boat to take charge of it.

After distributing his passengers among four other boats which he bad brought together and after the cries of distress had died away, Fifth Officer Lowe, in boat No. 14, went to the scene of the wreck and rescued four living passengers from the water, one of whom afterward died in the boat.  The men who had taken refuge on the overturned lifeboat were taken off by lifeboats Nos. 4 and 12.

The fourth collapsible lifeboat contained twenty-eight women and children, mostly third-class passengers, three firemen, one steward, four Filipinos, J. Bruce Ismay and W. E. Carter of Philadelphia, and was in charge of Quartermaster Rowe.

RMS Carpathia To The Rescue

Brought across the Seas by Wireless to Aid the “Titanic”, the Cunarder “Carpathia”

Brought across the Seas by Wireless to Aid the “Titanic”, the Cunarder “Carpathia”, Which Picked up the Only Passengers of the Ill-Fated Liner. The Illustrated London News (11 May 1912) p. 697. GGA Image ID # 100c056ad4

Mr. Cottam, the Wireless Operator of the “Carpathia” as a Student.

The Man Who Saved over 700 Lives through Sitting up a Little Later Than Usual: Mr. Cottam, the Wireless Operator of the “Carpathia” as a Student. The Illustrated London News (18 May 1912) p. 760. GGA Image ID # 100c3ae183

It will be remembered that the "Titanic‘s" wireless call for help was received by the "Carpathia" sometime after the hour at which the latter's operator, Mr. Cottam, usually retired. Had he gone to bed that night at his usual time, it is said, the all would not have been hard, and probably few, if any, of the "Titania's" people would have been saved.

Alter the wreck, Mr. Cottam worked for days without sleep under extra. The photograph shows him as a student at the British School of Telegraphy in Clapham Road, where Mr. Harold Bride also studied.

Captain Arthur Henry Rostron Next to the Silver Loving Cup Presented to Him in May 1912 by Survivors of the Titanic in Recognition of His Heroism in Their Rescue.

Captain Arthur Henry Rostron Next to the Silver Loving Cup Presented to Him in May 1912 by Survivors of the Titanic in Recognition of His Heroism in Their Rescue. Library of Congress (LC-DIG-ggbain-10426). GGA Image ID # 100cc5cbfb

Hand-Written Account by Captain A. H. Rostron of the R.M.S. Carpathia Describing His Response to the Distress Signal of the Titanic on 15 April 1912.

Photocopy of Hand-Written Account by Captain A. H. Rostron of the R.M.S. Carpathia Describing His Response to the Distress Signal of the Titanic on 15 April 1912. Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-64157). GGA Image ID # 100d7296d0

Mrs. J.J. Brown Presenting Trophy Cup Award to Capt. Arthur Henry Roston, for His Service in the Rescue of the Titanic.

Mrs. J.J. Brown Presenting Trophy Cup Award to Capt. Arthur Henry Roston, for His Service in the Rescue of the Titanic. Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-121013). GGA Image ID # 100c6a1f54

Rescued Titanic Survivors on the Carpathia

Group of Survivors of the Titanic Disaster Aboard the Carpathia after Being Rescued.

Group of Survivors of the Titanic Disaster Aboard the Carpathia after Being Rescued. Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99341). GGA Image ID # 100d18f317

Stuart Collett - One of the Titanic Survivors Arriving on the Carpathia.

Stuart Collett - One of the Titanic Survivors Arriving on the Carpathia. Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-85391). GGA Image ID # 100d8af71a

Succouring the Saved: Women Passengers on the Carpathia Sewing for the Titanic Survivors and Distributing Clothes.

Succouring the Saved: Women Passengers on the Carpathia Sewing for the Titanic Survivors and Distributing Clothes. The Illustrated London News (18 May 1912) p. 731. GGA Image ID # 100e2d545e

Rescued Titanic Passengers Aboard the Carpathia

Rescued Titanic Passengers Aboard the Carpathia: Mr. George A. Harder, Who Was the Only Man Saved of Eleven Honeymoon Couples. Mr. & Mrs. G. A. Harder and Mrs. Charles M. Hayes Talking Whose Husband Was Lost. Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-56452). GGA Image ID # 100dc7846f

Photograph taken aboard the "Carpathia" by Miss Bernice Palmer. Mr. Harder was the only man saved out of eleven honeymoon couples aboard the "Titanic." 

Mr. and Mrs. Harder were in the concert-room listening to the music when the collision occurred. They heard the cry to man the life-boats and for fun, believing there was no danger, jumped into the first boat—very fortunately as it turned out for themselves.

Mrs. Charles M. Hays who was rescued lost her husband, the President of the Grand Trunk Railway. His body was afterwards picked up by the cable-steamer "Minia" near the scene of the disaster.

Groups of Titanic Survivors Aboard Rescue Ship Carpathia: Unidentified Group on Deck.

Groups of Titanic Survivors Aboard Rescue Ship Carpathia: Unidentified Group on Deck. Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-56453). GGA Image ID # 100e939fef

The Rescue of Titanic Survivors

At 4 o'clock in the morning, the lights of the Carpathia were seen and all the boats rowed in the direction of the approaching steamer. The Cunarder had made good time, though forced to alter its course several times on account of icebergs. At 4:10 a. m. the first lifeboat was picked up and at 8:30 a. m. the last of the survivors were aboard.

Day was breaking when the first boat was unloaded and after that the surface of the ocean for miles around was visible. Thirteen of the lifeboats were picked up and taken to New York. Capt. Rostron, in his official report, said that at this time his ship was surrounded by icebergs, large and small, and that three miles to the northwest was a huge field of drift ice with large and small bergs in it.

At 8 o'clock, the Californian came up and was requested to continue the search for survivors or bodies. The Mount Temple also reached the scene in the morning and assisted in the search, but no bodies were found. It is believed that those subsequently picked up had been carried by strong currents away from the spot where the Titanic went down or were hidden by the extensive ice.

At 8:30 a. m., the Carpathia started directly for New York. While the rescue work was in progress a clergyman aboard offered a prayer of thankfulness for those saved and performed a short burial service for the dead. Everything possible was done for the survivors of the wreck, passengers and officers giving up their rooms and providing articles of clothing for those needing them.

The wireless equipment of the Carpathia was not of the best and more or less trouble was had in sending messages ashore or to other ships. The regular operator, Thomas Cottam, was assisted by Harold S. Bride of the Titanic, who was saved in a crippled condition.

They confined themselves to sending official and private messages and the names of the rescued, paying no attention to requests for details of the disaster, or even to the efforts of the operators on the United States scout cruiser Salem, who tried to get information as to the fate of Maj. Archibald Butt for President Taft.

The operators on the Carpathia excused themselves later on the ground that the wireless men on the warship were incompetent and that it was a waste of time to reply to them. Because of this lack of definite information, the arrival of the Carpathia was awaited with much anxiety.

When the ship finally reached its dock in New York at 9:30 p. m., Thursday, April 18, it was met by a large number of people eager to welcome the survivors and to make inquiries about the missing. Those of the rescued who were ill or disabled were taken to hospitals, while others went to their homes or to hotels to proceed to their destinations on the following day.

Statement of Passengers from the Titanic

Upon the arrival of the Carpathia a statement signed by a committee of twenty-five of the Titanic' s passengers, with Samuel Goldenberg as chairman, was given to the press. After detailing briefly the facts of the wreck and giving approximately the number of persons on board, the number saved, and the number lost, the statement concluded:

"We feel it our duty to call the attention of the public to what we consider the inadequate supply of life saving appliances provided for on modern passenger steamships and recommend that immediate steps be taken to compel passenger steamers to carry sufficient boats to accommodate the maximum number of people carried on board.

The following facts were observed and should be considered in this connection:

  • The insufficiency of lifeboats, rafts, etc.
  • Lack of trained seamen to man the same (stokers, stewards, etc., are not efficient boat handlers).
  • Not enough officers to carry out emergency orders on the bridge and superintend the launching and control of lifeboats.
  • Absence of searchlights.
  • The board of trade rules allow for entirely too many people in each boat to permit the same to be properly handled.
  • On the Titanic the boat deck was about seventy-five feet above water and consequently the passengers were required to embark before lowering the boats, thus endangering the operation and preventing the taking on of the maximum, number the boats would hold.
  • Boats at all times should be properly equipped with provisions, water, lamps, compasses, lights, etc.
  • Life saving boat drills should be more frequent and thoroughly carried out and officers should be armed at boat drills.
  • Great reduction should be made in speed in fog and ice, as damage, if collision actually occurs, is liable to be less.
  • In conclusion we suggest that an international conference be called to recommend the passage of identical laws providing for the safety of all at sea and we urge the United States government to take the initiative as soon as possible.

The Titanic Disaster of 1912

The Titanic Disaster of 1912

The Titanic Lost at Sea on 15 April 1912. Nelson's Encyclopedia (1907-1912) p. 87. GGA Image ID # 105df14124

On Sunday, April 14. 1912, at 11:40 P.M. ship's time (10:45 p.m. New York time), the British steamship Titanic, of the White Star Line, struck an iceberg in lat. 41.46 N. and long. 50.14 w. (about 50O miles south of Newfoundland and 1,600 miles east of New York), and sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later, with a loss of about 1,500 lives.

The Titanic was on her maiden trip across the Atlantic Ocean, and was in command of Capt. E. J. Smith. The night was clear and starlit, but it is claimed that the iceberg was so nearly the color of the water that it was not observed until only a quarter of a mile distant.

By a quick turn to port a head-on collision was avoided; but the starboard side of the ship scraped along the sharp submerged ridge of the berg for a large part of her length, and her hold rapidly filled with water.

The shock is described as slight, and at first some of the officers, as well as most of the passengers, did not believe the accident serious. In half an hour, however.

Captain Smith ordered the lifeboats lowered, to receive the women and children. There was little confusion. The general confidence that the giant vessel was unsinkable caused the first boats to depart without their full complement.

The later ones were overcrowded. Wireless distress signals were sent from the Titanic, beginning about ten minutes after the collision, and continuing until the water had reached the wireless room.

Messages were received by the Carpathia of the Cunard Line (en route to the Mediterranean), the Virginian of the Allan Line, the Olympic and the Baltic of the White Star Line, and other vessels.

The Carpathia (58 miles distant), the Frankfurt, the Baltic, the Virginian, and the Californian headed under full steam for the scene of the disaster.

The Titanic began to settle at the head soon after the collision; and those who got off in the boats saw the lights extinguished on one deck after another as the water crept up.

When the bow was completely submerged, the stern rose high in the air throwing off  hundreds from its crowded decks, and then swiftly disappeared. Several witnesses assert that there were explosions just before the end and that the vessel parted amidships.

One of the lifeboats, returning to the spot where the ship sank, picked up a number of men clinging to rafts or wreckage.

The Carpathia reached the scene of the wreck about four o'clock on the morning of April 15, and four hours later had picked up the occupants of the fifteen lifeboats. 

She then turned back to New York with her load of survivors. The other vessels speeding to the rescue, hearing from the Carpathia that they were too late to be of service, proceeded on their courses.

News of the disaster reached New York on Monday night, April 15; and during the next three days, lists of the rescued were furnished by wireless communication.

The U.S. cruisers Chester and Salem were ordered by President Taft to convoy the Carpathia, but the latter changed her course to avoid the danger of icebergs.

The Carpathia reached her dock at New York at 9.35 on Thursday evening, April 18— the usual immigration and customs inspections having been waived.

The steerage passengers were cared for by a special relief committee, together with various other relief agencies; and public subscriptions were started by the mayors of London and New York.

The number on board the Titanic, when she cleared the port of Southampton on April 10, was officially reported as 2,208. Of these, the first cabin passengers totaled 325; the second cabin, 285; the steerage, 708; and the crew, 890.

Of the number rescued, 202 were from the first cabin, 115 from the second cabin. 178 from the steerage, besides 4 officers and 206 of the crew. The number lost is estimated at 1,503.

Of the 705 saved, the great majority were women; while of the men who survived, more than half belonged to the crews that manned the lifeboats.

Notable Titanic Passengers, Saved and Lost.

Notable Titanic Passengers, Saved and Lost. The Illustrated London News (11 May 1912) p. 687. GGA Image ID # 1014e1e3ab.

Among the prominent persons who perished were Col. John Jacob Astor, head of the American branch of the Astor family; Major Archibald Butt, personal aide to President Taft; Jacques Futrelle. Author; Benjamin Guggenheim, member of the well- known Guggenheim family; Charles M. Hays, president of the Canadian Grand Trunk Pacific Railway; Henry B. Harris, theatrical manager; Frank D. Millet, artist; Washington A. Roebling, 2d. of the noted family of bridge builders; William T. Stead, the London editor; Isidor Straus, millionaire merchant and philanthropist, and Mrs. Straus, who refused to accept a rescue in which her husband could not share; John B. Thayer, vice-president of the Pennsylvania Railroad; George D. Widener and Harry B. Widener, of Philadelphia. Captain Smith and First Officer Murdoch went down with their ship.

Among those who were saved were the wives of many of the notable men who perished, including Mesdames John Jacob Astor, Jacques Futrelle, Charles M. Hays, Henry B. Harris, John B. Thayer, and George D. Widener. Others among the rescued were Col. Archibald Gracie, Countess de Rothes. Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and Lady Gordon, J. Bruce Ismay, and Henry S. Harper and Mrs. Harper.

The cable ship Mackay-Bennett, chartered by the White Star Line to cruise in the neighborhood of the wreck and search for bodies, arrived at Halifax on April 30, with 190 bodies on board, including those of Colonel Astor and Isidor Straus. In all, 300 dead were found, of which 116, chiefly members of the crew, were buried at sea.

On May 13, the Oceanic reported the finding of a collapsible boat of the Titanic, containing the bodies of three men. Public attention was directed by the Titanic disaster to the dangers run by liners in the ice fields, and to the inadequacy of the lifeboat facilities required by law.

A course 270 miles south of the southerly route previously followed was agreed upon by the principal transatlantic lines on April 19. Legislative steps were also taken in Great Britain and the United States to compel steamship companies to provide adequate protection for every person on board their vessels.

Courts of Inquiry

A subcommittee of the U. S. Senate Committee on Commerce, appointed to investigate the causes of and responsibility for the tragedy, under the presidency of Senator William A. Smith, commenced its sessions in New York on Friday, April 19, and adjourned to Washington on April 22.

The witnesses subpoenaed included J. Bruce Ismay, managing director, and P. A. S. Franklin, vice-president of the White Star Line; the wireless operators of the Titanic and the Carpathia; the four surviving officers, 24 of the crew, and a number of the passengers of the Titanic.

The testimony indicated that several warnings of ice had been received by the Titanic from other vessels—the latest from the Californian at five o'clock on Sunday afternoon; and that the ship was traveling at 21 knots (about 24 miles) an hour when she struck the iceberg.

It was further elicited that the Titanic did not carry sufficient lifeboats; that the boats left the ship only partially filled; and that no general alarm was sounded to warn passengers at the time of the accident. It was also shown that the supposedly watertight compartments were not watertight.

The Senate Committee in its report, presented May 28, blamed Captain Smith for ignoring repeated warnings as to the proximity of ice and blamed the management for its failure to provide proper life-saving apparatus.

It also censured Captain Lord, of the Californian, for failing to go to the assistance of the Titanic. The British Board of Trade was censured for lax regulations and inadequate inspection.

The Committee recommended that boat accommodation be provided for everyone on all seagoing ships and that ships be constructed with absolutely water-tight bulkheads.

A court of inquiry appointed by the British Government to investigate the Titanic disaster opened on May 2, under the presidency of Lord Mersey, the Wreck Commissioner.

Among the witnesses were Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon, Bruce Ismay, Captain Rostron of the Carpathia, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Mr. Peskett. Naval architect to the Cunard line, several officers, sailors, and passengers of the Titanic, and the chief officer of the Californian.

The main facts elicited at the American inquiry were confirmed; but the report of the British court, presented on July 30, was less severe in its censure than that of the American committee.

It exonerated Captain Smith; blamed the Board of Trade for failing to revise its rules, and criticized its methods of inspection; and made recommendations as to lifeboats and water-tight bulkheads.

The matter of the neglect of the Californian to render aid was exhaustively investigated at the inquiry, but the report did not pronounce definitely on the culpability of her captain.

Details of the ' Titanic'

The Titanic, the largest ocean steamer ever built, a sister ship to the Olympic, was constructed by Harland A Wolff at Belfast, Ireland, where she was launched in May 1911.

She was 882 feet 9 inches in length, 92 feet 6 inches beam, and 94 feet in depth. Above the casings, the funnels towered 62 feet, making the to tall height from the keel to the top of the funnels 165 feet; and the height of the top of the funnels above the grate bars of the furnaces, 150 feet.

The Titanic carried 16 lifeboats and 4 collapsible boats but was provided with davits and launching gear for 48. The shell plates were of steel, 11 inches in thickness.

There were 11 steel decks, and 15 transverse bulkheads, forming 16 watertight compartments when the bulkhead doors were closed. These doors were arranged to slide downward, and were operated by hydraulic pistons under a pressure of 800 pounds per square inch.

When released by a control on the captain's bridge they closed in 20 seconds. The Titanic had a draught, when loaded, of 34 feet 6 inches. Her registered tonnage was 46,000, and her displacement 66,000 tons—1,000 tons greater than the Olympic.

She was propelled by three screws, the two outer ones driven by compound reciprocating engines, each of 15,000 horsepower, and the central one by a Parsons turbine of 17,000 horsepower.

The cylinders of the reciprocating engines were 54-inch. 84-inch, and two of 97-inch, with a stroke of 75-inches. They were built to run at 77 revolutions per minute, with a boiler pressure of 215 pounds per square inch.

The turbine was run by the exhaust steam from the reciprocating engines and was not reversible. The reversing lever in one movement cut off the supply of steam to the turbines while reversing the reciprocating engines. The steam was supplied by 29 boilers, 24 of which were double-ended.

The interior of the vessel was fitted up as a hotel, with every luxury of modern life. Elevators connected the upper nine stories, which were also reached by spacious balustrade stairways.

There was a theatre; a swimming pool with nine feet of water; a palm garden and restaurant; squash and tennis courts, and a miniature golf links on the topmost deck.

Some of the suites of apartments were of the most elegant description, with a private promenade deck extending to the rail, and one commanded a rental of $4,350 for a single trip. The Titanic had accommodations for over 3,000 passengers.

The vessel cost upward of $5,000,000, and her fittings and furnishings nearly $3,000,000 more. She was insured for $3,700,000, of which her owners carried $750,000. The freight carried on the trip was but 1,500 tons. The total money loss of the disaster was estimated at not less than $27,000,000.

The Staggaring Loss from the Titanic Disaster. In 2018, the relative values of $27,000,000.00 from 1912 ranges from $517,000,000.00 to $14,700,000,000.00. Samuel H. Williamson, "Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1790 to present," MeasuringWorth, 2019.

Lessons of the Disaster

It was clearly shown by the Titanic disaster that, while vessels are now built beyond risk of foundering by wind or sea, there are accidents still liable to occur which require passengers to leave the vessel regardless of the condition of the sea.

The ever-present dangers of this sort are fire, collision with other moving vessels, and with icebergs or derelicts. The larger the vessel, the stronger she is locally, and the greater the weight that can be spared to subdivide with a view to prevent the spread of fire.

Of course, local strength is of great protection in case of collision with a derelict. Assuming, however, that disastrous results will accompany accidents such as this, every precaution must be taken to avoid the accidents; but if they do occur, in spite of proper precautions, the evil of the loss of life must be made as slight as possible.

The one paramount lesson of the Titanic wreck is that many lives could have been saved had there been more boats.

Although the stowing of boats is not a simple problem, at least twelve more could have been carried along the boat deck — six on each side in the space between the forward and after boats as carried.

It is not easy to stow them between decks, owing to the difficulty of swinging them out, and to the fact that the davits will interfere with the lowering of the boats above.

The davits could run out with the boats, and as soon as the latter are free be drawn back out of the way of the boats above. Not only the space, but the manner of supporting, lowering, and disengaging the lifeboats must be considered.

They must be dropped before reaching the water, and in this operation, both ends must let go at the same instant. The problems of getting the passengers into the boats and of the number of seamen available to handle them must also be considered.

What are called the small boats are really great, bulky, heavy craft that must be handled by experts in order to be lowered safely in any sort of sea. Modern deckhands are not so capable of handling boats as the men of the sailing-boat and smaller-ship era.

This does not mean that they are not good men, but that those required for the manning of a great steamship are selected mainly for a different sort of service.

Boats should be already fastened to their davits by falls, as such heavy objects cannot be handled by hand in an emergency. In case boats are stowed all the way across the deck, they might be made much larger than at present, and decked over by an ark-like top.

After passengers had been put into such boats, the opening could be temporarily closed. Then the boat could be lifted by a derrick and dropped clear of the side. Such boats should have motors.

In fact, since it has been found advisable to use motors in the life-saving service on shore, it follows that in the end they will be installed on ship's lifeboats.

There is probably always a larger percentage of passengers, nowadays, who can handle an automobile engine than of the crew who can handle efficiently an oar in a seaway.

Some part of the vessel built as a pontoon in which passengers can be placed, and which can be launched overboard, or which will float off if the vessel is sunk, will meet many of the objections to small boats, which, had there been a sea on, would have saved but few of the Titanic's crew.

In a fog, warning is usually given by the ship's whistle sounding blasts at intervals. The echo from a berg of a ship's whistle can be heard and located with the geophone, and it is certain that some noise can be made which can be echoed from below water, and the berg causing the echo located in direction by the present submarine bell apparatus on all modern vessels. 

For the inventor, a well-known authority on shipbuilding has suggested the development of a small wireless apparatus of greatly different tension from the regular wireless outfit, by which vessels can feel one another out within twenty miles.

Also, a needle that will place itself in line with rays sent out from another vessel—as they radiate in straight lines—and thus be able to indicate exact directions.

A Boynton suit, rented like a deck chair, would enable passengers to stay afloat in comparative safety for some time. With the great height of ships' sides, making a leap into the water dangerous, there should be shutes that could be lowered like gangplanks for safe descent.

The supplying of more boats would not necessarily ensure safety; but under circumstances similar to those of the Titanic disaster it would give some a chance who did not get it, and who are entitled to such chance.

Government can do much for the promotion of all these ends by proper regulation, and so can the insurance companies.

The Wreck of a Titan - 1912

A Drawing by G. A. Coffin of the Sinking of the Titanic last Monday Morning at Three O'Clock.

A Drawing by G. A. Coffin of the Sinking of the Titanic last Monday Morning at Three O'Clock. The New York Observer (18 April 1912) p.488. GGA Image ID # 100e9f1152

Two  thousand fathoms beneath the waves of that part of the Atlantic which spreads itself in a waste of wintry waters to the eastward of Cape Race lies the great White Star Liner Titanic, sent helplessly to her ocean grave by one of those grim, uncharted terrors of northern seas—a giant iceberg. With her, too, lie buried 1,400 of the 2,200 souls with which she set out from Southampton on her maiden voyage to the West.

At this writing, a Cunard boat, the Carpathia, is steaming toward New York having aboard 800 of the survivors of the most appalling disaster ever recorded in the maritime history of the world.

The majority of those rescued are women, indicating that the men have gone down with the ship. The survivors were picked up by the Carpathia from the doomed liner's boats after hours of exposure in an ice-flowed sea.

All hopes that any other vessel had been able to rescue any of the Titanic's passengers were practically abandoned Wednesday when it was definitely announced that neither the Parisian or the Virginian, which on receipt of wireless calls for aid had been speeding toward the scene of the colossal tragedy, had anyone on board.

Thus, for the moment, are we left in awed and sorrowful contemplation of as fearsome a story as ever the dark annals of the deep disclosed—one at which a man might stand appalled, and a woman weep.

All day Wednesday, New York lay under the pall of an obsessing sense of desolation. As from the sea news come spluttering in by dots and dashes, confirming and piecing out the details of the awful disaster, men and women stood aghast, forgetting for a moment their immediate concerns, and talked of nothing but the wreck.

Even the revelers on Broadway were silenced, the tavern-haunters sobered into abstinence. Perhaps not within living memory has news laid so restraining a hand on the unceasing movement of Manhattan as this story of a giant liner gone to her irrevocable doom.

Around the White Star offices, a great crowd gathered. Some were impelled by curiosity, some by sympathy. Others there were stricken through with apprehensive fear and who sought with anxious inquiry and bursting hearts some scant message from the relentless sea.

In the presence of that awful happening on the banks of Newfound land, the sophistries, and veneer of life, considerations of social position, influence, affluence, fell away as would an unloosed garment.

That crowd of almost frenzied inquirers was nothing more, nothing less, than sorrow-stricken men and women—waiting for news—just a scrap of news.

Outside the published list of survivors, all the authentic information yet to hand could be easily compressed into the limits of a single newspaper column. The story of the wireless has been necessarily fragmentary, intermittent, sufficient only to fill those for whom it meant most with alternate hope and despair.

But from the flashes of the Marconi grams and the brief accounts relayed by skippers of vessels who strove, yet vainly, to reach in time the sinking leviathan, something of the appalling disaster of Sunday to the Titanic, may with reasonableness be written.

Especially, perhaps, for those who have traversed the great ocean highways—who have gone down to the sea in ships— it should not be difficult to frame at least some vague, qualified mind-picture of the scenes enacted aboard the Titanic during those last few hours of her brief, ill-fated life.

It was Sunday night. A day had gone down over the broad expanse of wintry waters—for hundreds of the Titanic's passengers the last they were destined to know this side of the resurrection morning.

Later, service would be held in the saloons, and voices raised in the singing of some familiar hymn loved of seagoing folk. Then over the throbbing liner would settle the comparative quiet of a Sabbath evening at sea.

Down in the steerage, maybe, some Hungarian mother crooned a lullaby learned in the Austrian Tyrol, to the fretful babe at her breast, or a blue-eyed Irish colleen sat with elbows on her knees and her face resting on her hands, thinking with tender memories of the green isle she had left behind her, dreaming of the great new land toward which her face was turned.

No thought, not even a suggestion of coming terror, no presentment or premonition of the coming disaster—everybody resting in that extraordinary sense of security which pervades a trans-Atlantic liner.

Then like a crash of echoing thunder would come that awful shock, flinging men and women from their berths, and wrenching down the sumptuous fittings of that floating palace from their bearings and scattering them like leaves smitten by an angry gale.

Then the hurried scrutiny made by Captain Smith and his officers, the realization that the queenly vessel which a moment before rode the waters of the Atlantic so proudly, had been dealt her death blow, the allaying, as far as possible, the terror of bewildered passengers by the devoted crew.

All this we know would happen, as British courage and discipline did what little could be done in the face of inevitable death. Then would come the inky darkness into which the doomed vessel would be plunged as the inrushing waters, and failing dynamos blotted out her electric system.

Aided only by the feeble light of torch and lantern every man would be at his post, lowering the lifeboats, and placing in them the women and children. And what of those harrowing scenes of parting, as man and wife, sweetheart and lover, parent and child, kissed a lingering, sobbing, the last goodbye? God pity them all! It almost breaks the heart to conjure up the scene.

Then, with no light in heaven save, perhaps, a few faint stars, the boats fared forth into the darkness, the white, sobbing women waving farewells to their men standing dimly outlined against the liner's rail.

Girt by formidable waves, with their present hope but little better than what it had been, holding only a slender belief in being able to reach the shore, the survivors drew away from the rapidly sinking vessel.

It is not difficult to imagine how with tense, strained ears they would listen, in the darkness, for sounds which would tell them that the Titanic had taken her final plunge, carrying with her into the caverns of the Atlantic those they held so dear; how they would shrink and shiver in the drenching of that long, dark night and hopeless dawn, until picked up by the friendly Carpathia and headed for home.

But what of those left on the sinking Titanic?  Imagine that awful pause, dividing life and death—that wintry sea, dark, heaving, boundless, the image of eternity.

Then the plunge, when the sea yawned around the giant liner like hell, and sucked her 'neath its whirling waves. Here and there, on the lip of the maelstrom, some strong swimmer, in his agony, would live a while—the rest were silent all.

Yet it is here that one finds a ray of slender light straggling through this dark scene of sorrow. These men died bravely, never faltering, upholding the best tradition of the Anglo-Saxon race, saving the women and children, dying themselves cheerfully, defending their honor, though at a price extremely dear.

It was no ignoble way to die, and the eyes of the world will turn in tender contemplation toward the lonely grave of the men of the Titanic, over which forever sweeps the unebbing sea.

Editorial Notes : The Titanic Inquiry

At more than one of its sittings, Senator Smith's Titanic committee gave indications that had somebody or other possessing some little knowledge of maritime affairs been employed to ask sensible questions, the dignity, if not the usefulness of those sittings would have been materially advanced.

Nevertheless, certain well-established points were made, some pretty definite conclusions reached. Among them were that the Titanic was running at almost her full speed when she struck the iceberg; that she had received ample warning of the nearness of the ice fields; that she had practically disregarded this warning; that there had been next to no test of the safety appliances before starting on the ill-fated voyage; that the number of lifeboats were sadly inadequate to meet the appalling situation created.

This much has been practically determined. With regard to the outcome of the investigation, it will lead, we trust, to a worldwide standardization of life-saving appliances aboard ships of all nations; the standardization of wireless service by international agreement; the formulation of a code of procedure for wireless operators in case of disaster, and the fixing of much more rigid standards of inspection of steamships by American inspectors in American ports.

The United States is practically in a position to arbitrarily fix these standards of safety for all the world by insisting that no vessels be allowed to dock in American ports, except those adequately provided with lifesaving appliances and apparatus.


"Sixteen Hundred Lives Lost on the TItanic -- With Photos," in Leslie's Illustrated Weekly: The People's Weekly. The Oldest Illustrated Weekly in the United States -- All the News in Pictures. New York: The Leslie-Judge Company, Publishers, Vol. CXIV, No. 2956, Thursday, 2 May 1912, p.506.

A. T. Merrick, "April 14, 1912. 11:45 p.m., Latitude 41 Degrees, 46 Minutes, Longitude 50 Degrees, 14 Minutes -- Drawing," in Leslie's Illustrated Weekly: The People's Weekly. The Oldest Illustrated Weekly in the United States -- All the News in Pictures. New York: The Leslie-Judge Company, Publishers, Vol. CXIV, No. 2956, Thursday, 2 May 1912, p. 502.

Henryk Arctowski, "The Deadly Meanace of the Iceberg -- With Photos," in Leslie's Illustrated Weekly: The People's Weekly. The Oldest Illustrated Weekly in the United States -- All the News in Pictures. New York: The Leslie-Judge Company, Publishers, Vol. CXIV, No. 2956, Thursday, 2 May 1912, p. 507.

James Langland, M.A. (Compiled by), "Loss of the White Star Liner Titanic," in the Chicago Daily News Almanac and Year-Book for 1913, Chicago: The Chicago Daily News Company, 29th Year, p. 151-155.

James Langland, M.A., (Compiled by), "The Rescue," and "Statement of Passengers," in the Chicago Daily News Almanac and Year-Book for 1913, Chicago: The Chicago Daily News Company, p. 153-154.

"Titanic Disaster." Nelson's Encyclopaedia: Everybody's Book of Reference. Vol. XII. London-Edinburgh-Dublin: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1912. 87A-88.

Nelson's Perpetual Loose-Leaf Encyclopedia was updated on a regular basis and the ©1907 included more recent entries such as the Titanic Disaster.

"The Wreck of a Titan," and "Editorial Notes: Titanic Inquiry," in The New York Observer, Vol. XC, No. 16, Whole No. 4641, Thursday, 18 April 1912, p. 483, 580.

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