Titanic Sinking


Beginning in Southampton, England and bound for New York, New York, the Titanic was deemed virtually unsinkable. The largest vessel at the, she was equipped with the finest luxuries and latest technology of her time. On her maiden voyage, the Titanic left with 2,240 passengers and made its way across the Atlantic ocean toward its destination. Temperatures began dropping during the voyage and captain Edward J. Smith had received iceberg warnings over the radio and adjusted the course of the Titanic slightly South. Marconi radio operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride had received iceberg warnings via wireless radio, but since they were employed by Marconi and given the task to relay messages to and from passengers, they were not focused on relaying ice messages to the bridge. At 23:40 sailing near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, lookouts Fredrick Fleet and Reginald Lee spotted an iceberg directly ahead of the Titanic. What happened next would forever change history.

Titanic Sinking

On September 20, 1911, while leaving port the Olympic (Titanic's sister ship) collided with the HMS Hawke, ripping a large hole into the Olympic's side.

First Officer Murdoch gave the order “hard-a-starboard” using the traditional to turn to port (left). He adjusted the engines via telegraph for either ‘full reverse’ or ‘stop’, though the actual testimony is unclear. The iceberg had caused the hull to buckle in multiple places, shooting out the rivets and causing the first five watertight compartments to flood.

The weight from the filling compartments weighed the ship down so that more compartments began to flood. Shortly after midnight on April 15, the Titanic lifeboats were ordered to be released and a distress call was sent out. Operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride sent out CQD distress signals. Ships including Mount Temple, Frankfurt, and Titanic sister ship Olympic received the signals, but weren’t close enough to rescue the Titanic. The closest ship was the Carpathia which was about four hours away-too late to rescue all of the Titanic’s passengers.

A nearby vessel could be seen off of the port side of the Titanic, but the ship’s identity remains a mystery to this day. Theories suggest that the ship was either the Californian or a sealer called the Sampson.

The ship off in the distance wasn’t responding to the wireless, so Fourth Officer Boxall and Quartermaster Rowe attempted signaling the ship with a Morse lamp and distress rockets. Despite their attempts, the ship never responded.

Titanic Sinking Underwater

Titanic Lifeboats

The first lifeboat launched was Lifeboat 7 on the starboard side with 28 people on board out of a possible 65. Lifeboat 6 and 5 were launched shortly after or at least this is what is believed by the British Inquiry. Lifeboat 1 was the fifth lifeboat, Lifeboat 11 was overloaded with 70 people.

A strict women and children first policy was enacted and men were only allowed to board if oarsmen were needed. Many individuals were reluctant to get onto tiny lifeboats, leaving the false sense of security of remaining on the Titanic. As a result of this, many of the lifeboats weren’t filled to capacity before being deployed. By 2:05 am the entire bow of the boat was underwater and all the lifeboats beside two had been launched.

Around 2:10, the stern rose out of the water, exposing the propellers and the last two lifeboats floated off the deck, one upside down and the other filled with water.

Titanic Sinking - The Lifeboats

Women And Children First The Sphere, 4 May, 1912 (Gouache on Board/Lithograph)

The Titanic Sinks

Shortly after the two final lifeboats were lost, the forward funnel collapsed and crushed part of the bridge and people in the water. People on deck began jumping overboard in hopes of reaching a lifeboat. The Titanic’s stern rose into the air and everything not connected crashed into the ocean. The electrical system failed, the ship broke into two pieces, and the bow went under. A few minutes later at about 2:20am on April 15, the stern stank into the ocean.

For those who jumped overboard in hopes of being rescued by a lifeboat, hope was dim. Only two of the 18 lifeboats launched picked people up after the rescue. 5 were saved by lifeboat 4, and lifeboat 14 went back and rescued four people, one who died afterward.

The two severed pieces of the glorious titanic acted very differently as they plummeted toward the ocean floor. The bow sunk relatively peacefully, as it was already filled with water. The bow of the Titanic is now embedded 60 feet in the bottom of the ocean floor. The stern’s decent was a little more violent as the pressure differential caused implosion as the bow sank into the ocean.

Just under four hours after the disaster the RMS Carpathia arrived in the area and began rescuing survivors. At 8:30 she picked up the last lifeboat with survivors and left the area bound for New York.

The Titanic Sinks - Before and After.  Titanic by Craig Fraser

Titanic by Craig Fraser

Possible Reasons for the Titanic Sinking

Titanic Construction

One of the possible reasons for the Titanic sinking may have been the materials used in the construction of the Titanic. It was initially thought that the iceberg had cut a hole in the side of the Titanic, but further research shows that it had actually caused the hull to buckle in multiple places allowing water to enter between her steel plates. Analysis of the plating from the Titanic wreck found that it was of a metallurgy that loses its elasticity and becomes brittle in icy water.

Another factor may have been the quality of the rivets holding the hull together. Scientists found that the rivets contained a high concentration of slag. A side product of smelting, slag can make rivets brittle and the company had a shortage of skilled riveters, a trade that took great skill.

Turning Ability

Construction of the rudders on the Titanic met the requirements of a ship her size, but the design was far from revolutionary. BBC History research showed that the rudder of the Titanic was an exact copy of an 18-century sailing ship showing a great lack of technical development. Little thought was put into how a ship of the size of the Titanic would maneuver out of the way of something like an iceberg for example.

Another factor contributing to the limited maneuverability of the Titanic was her triple screw engine configuration. This setup had steam engines driving her wing propellers and a steam turbine driving her central propeller. The turbine engine was not reversible although the steam engines were. Accounts state that a telegraph had been sent to the engine room ordering to set the engines in reverse in order to avoid the iceberg crippling the ship’s ability to turn.

Orientation of Impact

Many believe that the Titanic could have been saved if she had hit the iceberg head on. The bow of the Titanic was naturally stronger and that the impact would have only affected one or two of the watertight compartments (the ship could stay afloat with as many as 4 flooded). The buckling in the side of the hull resulted in five compartments to be flooded which eventually sunk the ship. Another faulty design was the single pump design that the Titanic was equipped with. Multiple pumps may have saved the ship when multiple compartments were being flooded.

Weather Conditions

An obvious possible reason for the Titanic sinking is the weather on the Atlantic during the time of the tragedy. The ocean was unusual because of the calm sea without wind or swell. Under normal conditions the waves would have broken over the base of the iceberg giving lookouts sooner warning.


The official report to the Titanic tragedy dictated that the cause for the Titanic sinking was due to collision with an iceberg, brought about by excessive speed in which the ship was being navigated. It is said that if the Titanic had maintained a lower cruising speed (she was at about 22 knots which was 2 less than her 24 knots top speed) that the iceberg could have been avoided.

A graphic depiction of the sinking of the Titanic