The Titanic Timeline


-Thomas Henry Ismay purchases White Star Line, a collection of sailing vessels originally founded in 1850. The line was originally centered on Australian goldfields.


-Ismay forms the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company in order to make White Star Line a passenger steamship service.

-The first passenger ships for are built by the Harland & Wolff shipyard.


-J. Bruce Ismay becomes a partner of White Star line and takes over White Star Lines after his father’s death in 1899.


-William J. Pirrie becomes chairman of Harland & Wolff.


-White Star Line is purchased by the International Mercantile Marine Company, a trust headed by American J. Pierpont Morgan. The ships still fly the British flag but are now controlled by American interests.


-A 41 J. Bruce Ismay is made director of the International Mercantile Marine Company with the full support of J.P. Morgan. Harland & Wolff chairman J. Pirrie also becomes a director of International Mercantile Marine.


-Ismay discusses the construction of two large cruise ships with one to be added later. These ships were intended to compete with other luxury lines. Intended to outcompete the Cunard Line, they were to be known as the Olympic class of liners.


-White Star approves the Olympic class liners. The ships are scheduled to be built by the Harland & Wolff shipyard under the direct supervision of Lord Pirrie with the assistance of his nephew Thomas Andrews.

-A contract is signed for construction in the Belfast shipyard for the Olympic, Titanic, and a third ship to follow. All design decisions are made by J. Bruce Ismay. The size of the ships needed a special gantry in order to support their weight.

-Keel is laid down for Harland & Wolff number 400 and the construction of the Olympic begins.


-Olympic hull is launched


Titanic hull is launched in front of 100,000 viewers and becomes the largest man-made object ever moved. Twenty tons of tallow, soap, and train oil were used to grease the slipway bed in order to protect the hull.

-Olympic makes her maiden voyage.

-White Star and Harland & Wolff agree on the date of the Titanic’s maiden voyage – March 20, 1912.

-Titanic’s maiden voyage is postponed after the Olympic collides with the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Hawke. The postponement occurs due to workers needing to focus on Olympic repairs.

-White Star announces the new date for the Titanic maiden voyage in the London Times – April 10, 1912.


-Sixteen lifeboats are installed on the Titanic. Additional lifeboats are suggested as an economic decision rather than a safety concern and are ultimately passed on. Outdated British Board of Trade regulations made the Titanic’s 20 lifeboats actually exceed safety regulations by ten percent.

-Titanic is successfully dry-docked and at Belfast’s Thompson Graving Dock.

-Engineering crew begins to assemble in Belfast, many of which were living on the ship itself.

-March 31 – Except for minor details in staterooms, the Titanic outfitting is finished. She has more staterooms than the Olympic despite being the same size which makes her heavier. The Titanic is the biggest ship in the world.

-April 2 – Sea trials begin. All equipment is tested including her wireless. Speed and handling are tested and involve a variety of turns as well as starting and stopping exercises. The Titanic passes the tests and meets Board of Trade standards.

-April 3 – Titanic arrives at Southampton after staffing and provisioning for her maiden voyage.

-April 5 – The ship is ‘dressed’ with flags and pennants to salute the people of Southampton. This marks the only time that the ship is dressed.

-April 8 – Final preparations are made for the Titanic’s maiden voyage.

-April 10 – Sailing day

-7:30 am – Capitan Edward J. Smith boards with his crew. Smith receives sailing report from Chief Officer Wilde.

-8:00 am – Entire crew mustered followed by a lifeboat drill with lifeboats 11 and 15.

-9:30 am – 11:30 am – Second and third class guests arrive and board the Titanic.

-11:30 am – First class shuttle arrives from London and first class passengers are escorted to their cabins.

-12:00 pm – Titanic casts off and is towed from its dock by tugboats. Departure is delayed for an hour after a near collision. Water displacement from the Titanic causes all six of its mooring ropes to break.

-1:00 pm – The Titanic resumes its course toward Cherbourg, France.

-4:00 pm – 5:30 pm – Shuttle boat in Cherbourg is delayed and Cherbourg passengers wait to be ferried out to the Titanic.

-8:10 pm – Anchor is raised and the ship continues its journey toward Queenstown, Ireland.

-April 11

-Captain Smith takes the Titanic through a few maneuverability runs on the way to Queenstown.

-11:30 am – Titanic drops anchor in Queenstown and 113 third class and seven second class passengers board with 1385 bags of mail. Seven passengers disembark.

-April 11 and 12

-Titanic covers 386 miles in calm weather.

-April 12 and 13

-Titanic covers another 519 miles in calm weather. Various iceberg warnings are received which is not uncommon for ships sailing the Atlantic during the season.

-April 13 10:30 pm – Titanic receives ice pack warning from a passing ship by the name of the Rappahannock which has sustained damage while passing through the ice field.

-April 14

-9:00 am – Titanic picks up wireless message from Caronia of ice fields and icebergs in their area.

-11:40 am – Dutch liner Noordam reports ‘much ice’ in the same location as the Caronia did.

-1:42 pm – Iceberg warning via the Baltic reported 250 miles ahead of the Titanic. The message is relayed to captain Smith and then to J. Bruce Ismay who puts it in his pocket.

-1:45 pm – Large iceberg warning sent from German liner Amerika. The message is not relayed to the bridge.

-5:50 pm – Capitan Smith alters course slightly possibly as a precautionary measure.

– 7:30 pm – Three iceberg warnings intercepted from the Californian while the captain is attending a dinner party. Ice is reported to be 50 miles ahead.

– 9:40 pm – Heavy ice pack and iceberg warnings received from the Mesaba. Message is overlooked as wireless operators are busy handling passenger traffic. All ice warnings throughout the day point to heavy ice traffic 78 miles ahead.

– 10:55 pm – The Californian is stopped in the middle of an ice field and sends out warnings to all ships in the area. A call from the Californian to the Titanic is cut short after the Titanic wireless operator tells him to ‘Shut up’ and ‘Keep out’. The wireless operator for the Californian listens to the Titanic’s wireless until 11:30 pm and then retires for the night.

– 11:30 pm – Lookouts Fleet and Lee spot a haze from the crow’s nest directly ahead of the Titanic.

– 11:40 pm – Lookouts see an iceberg dead ahead towering 55-60 feet above the water. They sound the warning and sixth officer Moody relays the message to Murdoch who orders the watertight containers to be closed. The helmsman spins the wheel as far as it will go and the ship begins to veer port. The iceberg strikes the starboard side of the Titanic.

– 12:00 am – 24 feet above the keel, water begins to take on enough water to make mail bags float. Thomas Andrews calculates that the ship will only be able to stay afloat for two and a half hours.

– April 15

– 12:05 am – The crew is ordered to ready the lifeboats and get passengers and crew assembled on deck.

– 12:10 am – 1:50 am – Several members of the Californian, which is about 10-19 miles away attempt to signal the Titanic with a Morse lamp. Rockets are observed but do not look like distress signals and no concern is taken. The two ships drift out of view.

– 12:15 – 2:17 am – Numerous ships hear the Titanic’s distress call and prepare to come to her aid.

– 12:15 am – The Titanic band begins playing ragtime tunes and relocates from the first class lounge on A-Deck to the Grand Staircase.

– 12:20 am – Orders are given to start loading lifeboats with women and children.

– 12:25 am – The Carpathia receives the distress call and begins full steam ahead to come to the Titanic’s rescue.

– 12:45 am – The first lifeboat number 7 is lowered with 28 people aboard. The lifeboat’s capacity is 65. Eight distress rockets are fired.

– 12:55 am – Port side lifeboat 6 is lowered with 28 passengers on board including Molly Brown. Starboard no. 5 is lowered with 41 aboard and room for 24 more.

– 1:00 am – Starboard no. 3 is lowered with 32 people aboard including 11 crew.

– 1:30 am – Panic begins to set in and the ‘women and children first’ rule is determined to not be able to last.

– 2:10 am – Captain Smith relieves wireless operators of their duty.

– 2:18 am – The Titanic breaks in two.

– 2:20 am – Over 1,500 people are lost in the ‘greatest maritime disaster in history’.

– 4:10 am – First Titanic lifeboat is picked up by the Carpathia.

– 8:30 am – Last lifeboat is picked up by Carpathia.

– 8:50 am – Carpathia leaves for New York carrying 705 survivors.

– April 17

– The Mackay-Bennett is hired by White Star to search for survivors.

-April 18

– The Carpathia arrives in New York.

-April 19 – 25

– Investigation into the Titanic disaster is undertaken by the United States Senate Inquiry. Headed by Senator William A. Smith, 82 witnesses are called.