More than a century has passed since Royal Mail Ship (RMS) Titanic started its ill-fated maiden journey from Southampton, UK, only to sink in the North Atlantic, which turned into the ship’s frigid graveyard. The grand ocean liner collided with an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912 and collision caused the ship to sink on April 15, resulting in more than 1,500 people losing their lives.
It was one of the biggest maritime disasters in history and with the 109th anniversary of the disaster knocking at the door, read through to know about little-known facts and the final moments of the ship, once called a ‘floating city.’
The Titanic was built during a golden age of sea travel and the ship was designed to compete with other cruise liners who were catering to a growing number of immigrants and wealthy passengers during the early 20th century for business from Europe to New York. British shipping company White Star Line commissioned the building of three ‘Olympic Class’ liners. Construction of the Titanic began on March 31, 1909 and it took four years to finish it at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Construction of the Titanic costed close to USD 7.5 million in total, around $192 million in today’s money. With 16 watertight compartments (known as bulkheads) that could be shut to prevent flooding, the costs were quite lavish at the time.
After working non-stop for two years, over 3,000 workers toiled to finish building the Titanic. On May 31, 1911, the ship’s gigantic hull made its way and the event was witnessed by over 10,000 people. Despite many setbacks, the RMS Titanic sailed on its maiden voyage from Southampton, UK with over 2,200 passengers and crew. Since it was a Royal Mail Ship, it was also carrying over 3,000 bags of mails.
While at the time it was the largest ship afloat, the appeal wasn’t just her size. Thomas Andrews, the chief designer of the ship, left no stone unturned to awe the passengers once onboard and it featured a wrought-iron and glass domed ceiling and oak panelling among others. Among several of its super rich passengers – John Jacob Astor IV, the owner of the Astoria hotel, Isidor and Ida Straus, the owners of Macy’s department store, were onboard. Unfortunately, they all lost their lives.
“Iceberg, right ahead”—three famous words changed the Titanic’s history. Four days into its maiden voyage, the opulent ship met a watery end when, at 11.40pm on April 14, it collided with an iceberg.
Even though the ship’s lookout raised an alarm, it was too late before the engines were quickly reversed and the ship was turned sharply. By then, the iceberg had grazed the sides of the cruise liner. A frantic evacuation operation ensued, women and children were first lowered in the lifeboats. Sadly, the ship had just 20 lifeboats onboard.
Roughly three hours after the accident, at around 2:20 AM of April 15, the ship finally plunged into the sea.
Several passengers, who couldn’t find a seat on the lifeboats, slowly froze to death and at around 4.10 AM, RMS Carpathia arrived and picked up the survivors of the first lifeboat. A little over 700 survived the tragedy out of over 2,200 passengers.