Facts About the Titanic: History, Sinking & Survivors

Instructor: Mark Bound

Mark has taught graduate level political science and sociology and has a Ph.D. in International Conflict Analysis and Resolution

This lesson offers a brief examination of elements of the sinking of the Titanic. The ships short history and a chronology of the sinking will be covered. We'll also look at some of the survivors of the tragedy

History and Construction of the Titanic

RMS Titanic 1912
RMS Tatanic

In this lesson, we'll examine the history of the RMS Titanic, including a look at her manufacturing process and specifications. We'll also talk a bit about the sinking of the Titanic and some of the survivors. Let's start at the beginning with the manufacturing of the ship.

The Titanic under construction
Titanic Construction

The White Star Line, was one of Great Britain's largest shipping companies and commissioned the construction the Titanic. The Titanic, and her sister ships, Olympic and Britannic, were conceived as White Star's response to the newly launched Cunard Line vessels, Lusitania and Mauretania. The Cunard vessels were the fastest passenger ships in service at the time. White Star decided to counter the speed of the new Cunard Liners by offering more luxurious, grander vessels. The company was banking that luxury would be more marketable than speed.

Titanics designer Thomas Andrews
Thomas Andrews

The responsibility for designing and building the Titanic was given to Harland and Wolff Shipbuilders, of Belfast Ireland. Thomas Andrews, Harland and Wolff's chief naval architect, oversaw the ship's design and construction. Construction began in March of 1909 and was completed 25 months later. In April of 1912, Titanic successfully underwent her sea trials and was certified fit to carry passengers.

Titanic's Specifications

For the period, the Titanic was, as the Greek translation of her name indicated, gigantic. At over 882 feet long and 92 feet wide at her maximum, Titanic measured over 46,000 gross tons. Comprised of 10 decks, Titanic measured 104 feet from keel to the top of the bridge. The technology used in the construction of the Titanic was state of the art for the time, including advanced engines, communications, and steering capabilities.

The Sinking of the Titanic

The ill-fated maiden voyage of the Titanic began on April 10, 1912. The first three days of the voyage experienced no incident other than strong winds and high seas on the morning of April 14th. By the afternoon of the 14th, both winds and seas had calmed. Throughout the day, though, Titanic had also received numerous reports from other ships warning of icebergs in the area. However these warnings were generally seen as advisory, and the Titanic continued on its course at full speed.

Just before midnight on the 14th, Titanic's lookouts spotted the giant iceberg to the right of the ship and alerted the bridge. Despite evasive maneuvers and a full reversal of the engines, Titanic's size worked against he and she could not maneuver fast enough to avoid a collision. She struck the iceberg and took on heavy damage.

The Titanic began sinking bow (front) first, and within three hours, the forward deck had sunk below the ocean surface. As more water now could enter through the now submerged and open hatches, the rate of sinking increased as the massive bow, now completely filled with water, lifted the stern of the ship from the water. The pressure of these forces would eventually splint Titanic in half, separating the bow from the stern allowing the still air filled stern to bob on the surface like a cork, before finally sinking to the bottom. The entire sinking of the unsinkable Titanic took less than three hours.

Titanic Survivors

The combined number of passengers and crew onboard Titanic at the time of her sinking was around 2200 souls. Of those onboard, approximately 700 were eventually saved. Much of the loss of life was attributed to the icy water conditions, the slow response by nearby vessels, and the limited number of life boats available. The largest percentage of souls lost were those of the crew. Of the passengers, third class had the greatest loss of life.

One of the most famous survivors of the Titanic disaster was, Denver millionaires Margaret Brown, who would be given the nickname, the Unsinkable Molly Brown. One report praised the socialite for her insistence that the lifeboat crew in which she was a passenger return to the site to look for survivors.

The youngest passenger of the Titanic, Milvina Dean of England, was also the last living survivor. Milvina was only nine weeks old at the time of the Titanic sinking. She died at age 97 in May 2009.

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