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RMS Titanic

12115420_167247850283972_3918852698498763835_nProbably one of the most famous ships of all time the RMS Titanic was at the time (before she tragically sank) a modern marvel, being the largest ship afloat. Her name Titanic was derived from Greek mythology and meant gigantic. Built in Belfast, Ireland, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Titanic was the second of three, the RMS Olympic was the first and the third was the HMHS Britannic. The Britannic would also tragically sink in 1916, after hitting a mine or torpedo laid by the German minelayer submarine U79 in a barrier off Kea during World War I (another post). They were by far the largest vessels of the British shipping company White Star Line. The company was being challenged for business by Cunard, which had just launched the Lusitania and the Mauretania—the fastest passenger ships then in service—and the German lines Hamburg America and Norddeutscher Lloyd. White Star wanted to compete in size rather than speed and proposed to commission a new class of liners that would be bigger than anything that had gone before as well as being the last word in comfort and luxury. The company sought an upgrade in their fleet primarily in response to the Cunard’s ships, but also to replace their oldest pair of passenger ships still in service, being the SS Teutonic of 1889 and SS Majestic of 1890. Teutonic was replaced by Olympic while Majestic was replaced by Titanic. Oddly enough, Majestic would be brought back into her old spot on White Star’s New York service after Titanic’s loss.

Titanic was built by the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast with Thomas Andrews as her naval architect. Andrews was among those lost in the sinking.Titanic was 882 feet 9 inches (269.06 m) long with a maximum breadth of 92 feet 6 inches (28.19 m). Her total height, measured from the base of the keel to the top of the bridge, was 104 feet (32 m). She measured 46,328 gross register tons and with a draught of 34 feet 7 inches (10.54 m), she displaced 52,310 tons. All three of the Olympic-class ships had ten decks (excluding the top of the officers’ quarters), eight of which were for passenger use. The Titanic had advanced safety features such as watertight compartments and remotely activated watertight doors, there were not enough lifeboats to accommodate all of those aboard due to outdated maritime safety regulations.Titanic only carried enough lifeboats for 1,178 people slightly more than half of the number on board, and one-third her total capacity

During Titanic’s construction, 246 injuries were recorded, 28 of them “severe”, such as arms severed by machines or legs crushed under falling pieces of steel. Six people died on the ship herself while she was being constructed and fitted out, and another two died in the shipyard workshops and sheds. Just before the launch a worker was killed when a piece of wood fell on him. Titanic was completed and launched on May 31,1911 .

On April 10, 1912 her fateful maiden voyage began, the Titanic carried 2,224 passengers and crew. Under the command of Edward Smith, the ship’s passengers including hundreds of immigrants from Great Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia and elsewhere throughout Europe seeking a new life in North America. Some of the most prominent people of the day booked a passage aboard Titanic, travelling in First Class. Among them were the American millionaire John Jacob Astor IV and his wife Madeleine Force Astor, industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim, Macy’s owner Isidor Straus and his wife Ida, Denver millionairess Margaret “Molly” Brown, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and his wife, couturière Lucy (Lady Duff-Gordon), cricketer and businessman John Borland Thayer with his wife Marian together with their son Jack, the Countess of Rothes, author and socialite Helen Churchill Candee, journalist and social reformer William Thomas Stead, author Jacques Futrelle with his wife May, and silent film actress Dorothy Gibson, among others.Titanic’s owner J. P. Morgan was scheduled to travel on the maiden voyage, but cancelled at the last minute. Also aboard the ship were the White Star Line’s managing director J. Bruce Ismay and Titanic’s designer Thomas Andrews, who was on board to observe any problems and assess the general performance of the new ship. The exact number of people aboard is not known as not all of those who had booked tickets made it to the ship; about fifty people cancelled for various reasons, and not all of those who boarded stayed aboard for the entire journey.12036497_167247913617299_2267462114477103359_n

As Titanic travelled towards her destination she did receive a series of warnings from other ships of drifting ice in the area of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Nonetheless the ship continued to steam at full speed, which was standard practice at the time. Although the ship was not trying to set a speed record, time keeping was a priority, and under prevailing maritime practices, ships were often operated at close to full speed, with ice warnings seen as advisories and reliance placed upon lookouts and the watch on the bridge. It was generally believed that ice posed little danger to large vessels. Close calls with ice were not uncommon, and even head-on collisions had not been disastrous. In 1907 SS Kronprinz Wilhelm, a German liner, had rammed an iceberg but still been able to complete her voyage, and Captain Smith himself had declared in 1907 that he could not “imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.

At 11:40 p.m. on April 14 (ship’s time), lookout Frederick Fleet spotted an iceberg immediately ahead of Titanic and alerted the bridge. First Officer William Murdoch ordered the ship to be steered around the obstacle and the engines to be put in reverse, but it was too late; the starboard side of Titanic struck the iceberg. The collision caused the ship’s hull plates to buckle inwards along her starboard side and opened five of her sixteen watertight compartments to the sea; the ship gradually filled with water, as the watertight doors only went so far up, leaving a void near the top, below the roof of the deck above, thus enabling the water to work its way over and backwards. The ship could only stay afloat with four compartments flooded. The crew had not been trained adequately in carrying out an evacuation. The officers did not know how many they could safely put aboard the lifeboats and launched many of them barely half-full. A test prior to launch had concluded that each lifeboat could easily carry 65 fully grown men, which later estimates concluded would equal around 100 women and children per boat, before the stability began to be compromised. Third-class passengers were largely left to fend for themselves, causing many of them to become trapped below decks as the ship filled with water. disproportionate number of men were left aboard because of a “women and children first” protocol followed by some of the officers loading the lifeboats.

By 2:20 a.m. April 15 Titanic broke apart and foundered, with well over one thousand people still aboard. All remaining passengers and crew were plunged into lethally cold water with a temperature of 28 °F (−2 °C). Almost all of those in the water died of cardiac arrest or other causes within 15–30 minutes. Only 13 of them were helped into the lifeboats though these had room for almost 500 more people. Distress signals were sent by wireless, rockets and lamp, but none of the ships that responded was near enough to reach her before she sank. Just under two hours after Titanic foundered, the Cunard liner RMS Carpathia arrived on the scene of the sinking, where she brought aboard an estimated 705 survivors. Fewer than a third of those aboard Titanic survived the disaster. Some survivors died shortly afterwards; injuries and the effects of exposure caused the deaths of several of those brought aboard Carpathia. The figures show stark differences in the survival rates of the different classes aboard Titanic. Although only 3 percent of first-class women were lost, 54 percent of those in third class died. Similarly, five of six first-class and all second-class children survived, but 52 of the 79 in third class perished.

Public inquiries in Britain and the United States led to major improvements in maritime safety. One of their most important measures was the establishment in 1914 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), which still governs maritime safety today. Additionally, several new wireless regulations were passed around the world in an effort to learn from the many missteps in wireless communications which could have saved many more passengers. Some of the recovered bodies were returned to be buried in their home towns across North America and Europe. About two-thirds of the bodies were identified. Unidentified victims were buried with simple numbers based on the order in which their bodies were discovered. The majority of recovered victims, 150 bodies, were buried in three Halifax cemeteries, the largest being Fairview Lawn Cemetery followed by the nearby Mount Olivet and Baron de Hirsch cemeteries.

The last living survivor, Millvina Dean from England, who at only nine weeks old was the youngest passenger on board, died aged 97 on May 31, 2009. A special survivor was crew member Violet Jessop who survived the sinkings of both Titanic and Britannic and was aboard Olympic when she was rammed in 1911. The Olympic did not sink and would go on to have a career spanning 24 years and was eventually retired in 1934 and was later sold for scrap around 1935.

The wreck of Titanic remains on the seabed, split in two and gradually disintegrating at a depth of 12,415 feet (3,784 m).The ship’s condition has deteriorated significantly in recent years, partly due to accidental damage caused by submersibles but mainly because of an accelerating rate of growth of iron-eating bacteria on the hull. It has been estimated that within the next 50 years the hull and structure of Titanic will collapse entirely, eventually leaving only the more durable interior fittings of the ship intermingled with a pile of rust on the sea floor. Since her discovery in 1985, thousands of artifacts have been recovered and put on display at museums around the world. Titanic has become one of the most famous ships in history. The sinking resulted in the loss of more than 1,500 passengers and crew making it one of the deadliest commercial peacetime maritime disasters in modern history.