The Titanic was intended to be the second of the Olympic-class liners. No one could have predicted, however, that she would end her career only five days into her maiden voyage, and that she would become the most famous Atlantic liner of the twentieth century.
She started life as Harland & Wolff Hull No. 401, and was built alongside her older sister. At the time of her launch, on May 31, 1911, she was virtually indistinguishable from the Olympic. During her fitting-out process, however, some changes were made to her design that made her slightly larger in enclosed space than the Olympic (some 1,004 tons, to be exact). Her B Deck staterooms were increased in number, effacing the Enclosed First Class Promenades and changing her exterior window configuration. Her First Class Restaurant was increased in size due to the popularity of the Olympic's Restaurant. A new French sidewalk cafe termed the "Cafe Parisian" was installed on the starboard side of the Restaurant. Down below, on D Deck, the First Class Reception Room was enlarged. Above, on A Deck, the ship's forward Promenade Deck was screened off with square sliding windows to protect passengers from the elements. To prevent foul weather and winds from funneling down the length of the deck, a bulwark was erected just under the port and starboard Bridge wings which contained both a door and window each.
The Titanic's fitting-out was interrupted twice by the Olympic, and this eventually delayed her maiden voyage from March 20 to April 10, 1912. Her sea trials were scheduled to take place on April 1, but due to bad weather these were delayed to April 2. They were carried out over the course of several hours, and the ship passed with flying colors. Her passenger certificate was signed, 'good for one year' - and this despite the fact that the ship carried enough lifeboats for only 1/3 of her potential full capacity of passengers and crew.
The ship sailed down to Southampton that evening. Over the course of the following days, final preparations were made to complete the ship and ready her for the maiden trip. This included ensuring that she had enough coal for her trip, a difficulty since a coal strike that had nearly crippled the British shipping industry had only just ended. The Titanic had a normal coal-carrying capacity of 6,611 tons (an additional 1,092 tons could be carried in a reserve coal bunker). By the time the Titanic left, those in charge of the matter had managed to provide her with 5,892 tons of coal. This meant that the ship had 89.12% of her ordinary coal carrying capacity on board when she left Southampton on April 10. These calculations finally lay to rest the myth that the Titanic was short of coal during that abortive voyage.
During the morning of Wednesday, April 10, the ship took on her first - and, it would turn out, her only - batch of passengers and crew. She left shortly after noon, and the maiden voyage nearly ended before it even began; as she passed the tied up liner New York, the suction from her passage through the water drew the smaller liner away from her pier, parted her lines and almost made her collide with the behemoth. Only quick action by the Harbor Pilot and Captain, as well as tugboats on the scene, prevented the collision.
That this collision was averted turned out, in the long run, to be a tragedy in and of itself.
The ship called briefly at Cherbourg, France that evening, to off-load some cross-channel passengers and to pick up more passengers and mail, and then called at Queenstown (now Cobh) Ireland the next morning.
By the time the Titanic left Queenstown that afternoon, there were 2,208 passengers and crew aboard (my sincerest thanks to Mr. Lester Mitcham for his extensive research on this subject.)
As she progressed westward, her speed was gradually increased. Her daily runs were as follows:
484 miles, noon Thursday to noon Friday
519 miles, noon Friday to noon Saturday
549 miles, noon Saturday to noon Sunday
Although no run was officially taken from noon Sunday to noon Monday (for obvious reasons), it is quite clear from passenger testimony that by Sunday evening, the ship had sped up again. According to those on duty at the time of the collision, all 24 of her 'main' boilers were operating at full pressure, and the ship was making about 22 1/2 knots according to the Cherub Log. A 'full speed' test had been agreed upon for Monday by the ship's Captain and White Star's Managing Director, J. Bruce Ismay, and there is clear evidence (see monograph below) to show that there was a plan to - weather permitting - bring the ship into New York on Tuesday night rather than Wednesday morning.
Especially during Sunday, April 14, numerous ice warnings came into the ship via wireless. Even so, there was no diminution of speed. The results were predictable, if catastrophic: at 11:40 p.m., the ship struck an iceberg. Six small ruptures were punched in her forward, starboard hull plates, and water began entering her forward six compartments. Her forward five compartments were flooding uncontrollably, and her designer, Thomas Andrews predicted that she would be able to remain afloat for an hour or possibly two.
Work quickly began on lowering the lifeboats, but only just over 700 were safely evacuated before the ship sank at 2:20 a.m. the following morning. Over 1,500 perished in the icy seas that night.
The wreck of the Titanic was discovered on September 1, 1985 by Dr. Robert D. Ballard in a joint U.S.-French expedition. Over subsequent years, salvage efforts have recovered hundreds of items from the site, and three expeditions by film director James Cameron have added immeasurably to the collective wealth of knowledge about the Titanic. Sadly, it has become clear that the wreck is beginning to give way to the elements and is deteriorating rapidly.
A renewed wave of interest in the Titanic followed the December 19, 1997 release of James Cameron's film "Titanic" which shows very little signs of letting up; there is just no quenching the public's thirst for knowledge about the now-legendary liner. In October of 2005, Cameron released a Special Edition DVD which included many of the historical deleted scenes from the '97 film.
One of the biggest questions which still surrounds the maiden voyage of the Titanic is this: when was Captain Smith planning on arriving in New York? In the summer of 2005, this question came up among some fellow Titanic enthusiasts, and there were highly differing opinions. I decided to take the time to present a full-scale analysis of the point, which has been finished as a monograph. This article was recently picked up by the Titanic International Society and printed in their quarterly journal, Voyage. The article was fully illustrated in the pages of the two back-to-back issues it was presented in (Voyage Nos. 54 & 55.) Click below to read a text version the article.
The Arrival That Never Took Place
May 31, 1911, afternoon. The hull of the White Star liner Titanic is towed from the River Lagan to her outfitting wharf. It will be ten full months before she is ready for her maiden voyage. ~ Author's Collection. The Olympic & Titanic together at Belfast in early 1912. The Olympic is returning for a propeller replacement, and the Titanic's fitting-out has been interrupted. Sketch Ã‚Â©2004/2005 by Chris Mazzella. Not for re-use without permission.
The Titanic at Southampton between April 3 and 10, 1912. Final preparations for her maiden voyage are under way. Sketch Ã‚Â©2004/2005 by Chris Mazzella. Not for re-use without permission. The tender Traffic at Cherbourg, France. Purpose built to service the Olympic-class liners, she serviced the Titanic only once, in the evening of April 10, 1912. Sketch Ã‚Â©2004/2005 by Chris Mazzella. Not for re-use without permission.
The Cunard liner Carpathia, which rescued survivors from the Titanic disaster in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912. Sketch Ã‚Â©2004/2005 by Chris Mazzella. Not for re-use without permission. It is April 2, 1912. The world's largest liner, R.M.S. Titanic, departs Belfast to undergo trials before her maiden voyage - a voyage she would never complete. Less than two weeks later, she would rest on the bottom of the North Atlantic. ~ Author's Collection.
Commanding Officers of the Titanic, April 10-15, 1912:
Captain Edward John Smith, R.N.R.
Chief Officer Henry T. Wilde
First Officer William McMaster Murdoch
Second Officer Charles H. Lightoller
Third Officer Herbert J. Pitman
Fourth Officer Joseph G. Boxhall
Fifth Officer Harold Godfrey Lowe
Sixth Officer James P. Moody
There always have been and always will be questions about what really happened on the night that the Titanic met her horrible fate. Many of these questions have been answered by the two formal investigations into the disaster, or over the years by various historians and scientists, who all add their findings into the collective story of the shipÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s loss. Other questions can only be answered with new scientific discoveries and forensic analysis made on the wreck today by various organizations and science teams. Many more are not answerable, and we only have a few tantalizing clues as to the truth about what took place.
However, it one carefully pieces the evidence from numerous eyewitness accounts and recent scientific discoveries together, it is surprising how much can actually be ascertained about some of these matters. The truth that one discovers in the process can sometimes be just as surprising.
Please follow the hyperlinks below to the articles on each of the different controversial points.
Article: Mysteries - The Iceberg Damage
Article: Mysteries - Music to Drown By
Article: Mysteries - Shots in the Dark
Article: Mysteries - The Californian Incident
Article: Mysteries - The Californian Incident, Part Two
Article: Mysteries - The Californian Incident, Part Three
Perhaps all of these controversial matters, and all of the what-ifs associated with the great ship and her sinking are a part of the reason why the ship has fascinated so many for nearly a full century. Even now, there is a massive interest in the ship and in the people that sailed aboard her. Certainly, the Titanic disaster has become legendary